DISCLAIMER: let’s be honest if i owned any of this i wouldn’t need to write these stories. this is done for fun not for profit.
SPOILERS/WARNING: This story picks up directly after the end of the ep Nesting Dolls so it is fairly spoiler heavy for that episode and hints at a few others but nothing else major. This story deals with Sara’s abusive past so it does have some descriptions of domestic violence. It also has scenes of intimate love between women. I hope all is handled and done well, if so enjoy. If not…
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Worst Part
--Grissom, I can't believe it was Grissom of all the people to show up on my doorstep and get me to talk about it. Amazing how something that can be so defining, can become this huge black emotional hole in my brain, and yet I still can't name it.--
Sara still sat curled up in her chair tears drying on her face, beer now warm on the table, in shock. The single most emotionally unavailable man she had ever tried to involve herself with had just come into her house and gotten her to reveal her deepest darkest secret. It's not exactly how she expected the story to come out. Then again she never really expected the story to come out. Of course, she hadn't really told him the worst part yet.
As Grissom was leaving Eklie's office and working his way to his own he could hear her coming after him. Her quick sure steps were catching up and he could almost feel that aura of strength, the one that entered a room before she did, hot on his heels. He really didn't want a Catherine ass chewing right now. He had already been through an emotional ringer tonight and being yelled at for not firing Sara was not going to make it any better.
Stopping short in the hallway he decided to end this before it could start. He turned to see Catherine stopping and fixing him with an angry glare, her hands on her hips and fire in her eyes.
"Catherine I "
"I don't want to hear it Grissom. You didn't do anything did you? Not a damn thing." Catherine stated with angry confidence.
"I went to Sara and I talked to her. Maybe before you make your assumptions you should try it," Grissom said knowing that they needed to settle this. "She will stay on suspension for the week and is already in therapy. You know she's too good for us to lose you just can't admit it to yourself. "
Catherine stood momentarily stunned that Grissom was laying this all out on the table. "Gil, I'm not Eklie I know you don't want to lose Sara but something's gotta be done and I really don't see what my talking to her is going to accomplish."
"Maybe nothing, but it's the least you could do. It's the least you would do for anyone else." With that Grissom turned and headed for his office. If Catherine was going to make a decision that was up to her, he was finished.
Catherine was again taken aback by Grissom's forcefulness and his bluntness. The truth was she knew he was right. When she and Nick had been working at cross purposes on a case she had been there to listen about why. Even recently with Warrick even though she had to be the boss she gave him the benefit of the doubt. She was even there for Greg. She had to admit it was different with Sara. Maybe it was time to change that. There had been periods of their tenuous relationship when they had actually been almost friends. Catherine was self-aware enough to know she played a major role in why those times never lasted very long. She was a volatile woman, no doubt about it, especially when she was trying to keep someone at arms length. She also knew why she pushed Sara away. As she walked down the hall heading for the parking garage she tried to figure a way to talk to Sara without opening that particular can of worms.
"Okay. I have got to do something," Sara said to her empty living room as she got up out of her chair. She knew if she just sat there thinking about her conversation with Grissom she would slowly go insane. Her beer was still sitting on the table and she reached for it to find it warm and no longer drinkable. For lack of anything else to do she took it to the kitchen sink and poured the bottle down the drain.
Sara headed for the fridge for a fresh brew only to end up standing there with the door open. "What the hell am I doing," she asked her mostly empty refrigerator.
-- I told my PEAP counselor I didn't have a drinking problem I had a me problem. I guess I had better make that true.
Standing up and closing the door Sara left the chilled bottles of beer for another time just as she heard a tentative knock on her door.
-- Freaking fabulous, God I hope that's not Grissom again I really don't think I could handle another one of those talks.
Catherine couldn't believe she had actually taken Grissom's advice on how to handle an extremely delicate emotional situation. She's standing outside Sara's door expecting to what; have a heart to heart with someone who barely trusts her, with someone she barely knows outside of work, someone she's fairly certain her daughter knows better than she does, someone she had the urge to slap more than once today.
--What the hell am I doing here
"What the hell are you doing here?" Sara asked with that edge of defensiveness creeping into her voice.
Suddenly surprised out of her own thoughts Catherine looked up to see a doorway full of angry brunette. Brunette who looked like she'd spent the better part of the day crying.
"Wow Sara, you look like shit," Catherine stated matter-of-factly.
"Thank you for the keen observation, again I ask, are you here for a reason?" Sara asked pushing her anger to the front of the emotional mess she'd been left with today. Hopefully that would protect her long enough for Catherine to leave. Maybe she should have had that beer after all.
"Yes I am here for a reason. But I've had more than my fair share of public battles with you today Sara. I'd really prefer not to have this one in the hallway." Catherine looked up at Sara with just a bit of a challenge in her eyes letting Sara know that she would have this conversation in the hall if forced to.
Sara stared back caught in a struggle. The last thing she wanted to do was let Catherine into her apartment so she could have her ass handed to her for their confrontation at work. However, the prospects of having that happen in the hallway are even less appealing. With a sigh and acceptance of the inevitable Sara lowered her eyes and moved aside allowing Catherine to pass through the doorway.
Sara closed the door and turned to face Catherine, waiting for the inevitable explosion, waiting for both barrels to unload. That was until she actually looked at Catherine and realized for the first time in her memory Catherine looked as uncomfortable as Sara usually felt. That was not exactly what she was expecting. Her trademark smirk started to sneak onto her face as she realized the uncomfortable silence may well be worse for Catherine than for her. Silence was safe for her, she's used to it, it worked in her favor. That being the case she would not, under any circumstances, break it.
As the silence extended Catherine realized another battle of wills was beginning. She also knew it was going to be up to her to start this. She was, after all, the genius who decided to take Grissom's advice and come over here to have this out.
"We have to talk about what happened. If we are going to be able to work together in any capacity I can't wonder if you are going to go ballistic on me in the halls anytime I say something you don't like or ask the wrong question." That's it, Catherine, make sure the conversation was about her issues and was being steered far, far away from yours. Keep it all about work and you can make it out of here in one piece.
"Right, okay then, I promise not to make any observations about your judgment on a case or a suspect no matter how correct they may be. Satisfied?" Sara was keeping her anger up front like a shield to deflect any possibility of opening herself up twice in one day. She knew that the one person who would be able to get her to talk more about her childhood was the last person she expected to ever try. She also happened to be the person now standing determinedly in her living room. If she let Catherine into that locked down place in her heart she knew the secrets of her dark past wouldn't be all she let out.
Catherine knew Sara was trying to push her buttons to get her to fight back and it was damn close to working. Her anger at Sara's earlier accusations about the way she used her sexuality was not far under the surface. If Catherine were to admit it the only thing keeping her from launching into Sara was that every time she looked at her, just behind the anger in her eyes, was a look Catherine usually only saw in victims. There was a fragility to Sara that Catherine hadn't seen before today. Whatever it was she talked to Grissom about must have been major. The investigator in her wanted to know what happened. And, she realized, the woman in her never wanted Sara have that look again.
"Okay, I can see you are not going to make this easy. Not that I would expect you too, you are far too skilled at making things difficult. Let me lay this out there for you Sara. The question I asked you earlier today is still one I want an answer to. I want to know why whenever a case comes anywhere near domestic violence you go off the deep end. I want to know why anger is your first reaction whenever I call you on something. I want to know what the hell is going on with you."
Sara's voice took on a quiet, cold tone "Gee, you don't want much do you."
"No, I'm asking for a lot Sara. I know there's really not a history of openness between us and you probably don't trust me much but for the good of our working lives and the good of both our teams we have to have an understanding here." Catherine was fighting valiantly to keep this conversation in terms of work. She knew she was trying to get extremely personal information from Sara but she couldn't let herself talk about all the reasons she wanted to know what was going on.
"For the good of our working relationship, huh. That's one reason I suppose," Sara tossed back. You aren't getting in that easily Catherine. This was harder than Sara thought it would be, this keeping Catherine out. There was a big part of her that had wanted so desperately, for so long, for Catherine to reach out to her and want to know her. She couldn't just give in to that.
There was a reason she went after unavailable men. They were just that - unavailable and men, it was much easier not to get hurt when, ultimately, you weren't that attached in the first place. Open yourself up and there was the risk of pain, of hurt, of being rejected, of finding out that all along your father was right and you don't deserve love anyway. If she opened up now the safety would be gone and when it all turned out wrong the loneliness was so much worse.
"You think you know how much you are asking Catherine. You have no idea." Sara stated this clearly so there was no room for misunderstanding. She really had no idea how she managed to do it as she felt the tears she thought were done pressing at the back of her eyes. She turned from Catherine and went to the window breathing slowly to keep the tears at bay.
Not sure what was possessing her to take the most dangerous route possible Catherine took the few short steps across the room and reached out to touch Sara. Unable to stop herself her hand gently came to rest on Sara's shoulder. She felt the tension, the thinly controlled emotion, just under the surface. "Sara," she whispered, "please talk to me."
In the end it was probably the please that did it. The gentle little bit of civility in all of their barbs and snarky banter. It was the please that put the irreparable crack in Sara's walls. Whether she realized it or not this was the moment where everything started to change. All she knew right now was that she was sad and tired and the one person she had craved comfort from was right here offering it.
The next thing that happened was probably the last thing Catherine had ever expected. Sara crumbled, literally, she fell to her knees shoulders shaking as sobs wracked her body. Her weight fell firmly against Catherine's legs. In that moment the older woman did the only thing she could think to do. This was beyond her fear of reaching out, her own self preservation, there was only one choice. She sank to the floor and wrapped her arms around the sobbing brunette, rocking her slowly, mumbling soothing non-sense into her hair.
As Sara's tears began to abate she suddenly realized where she was, in Catherine's arms. How had she let this happen? She had been shielding herself with anger and defensiveness one minute and the next there was Catherine on the inside of the wall. Shit.
Catherine felt the shift in Sara's body as she stopped crying. She felt the tension return, the guarded energy was back almost immediately. She knew she had to do something and fast to stay in there where she might actually find out some of what was haunting Sara, some of what she desperately needed to know. There was no way she could let Sara go through this alone. "Sara, I " Catherine felt her voice caught in her throat. None of the methods she used for communicating with Sara were going to work here. That much was obvious considering most of her methods involved thinly veiled sarcasm or outright bitchiness.
Somehow she was suddenly in completely uncharted territory, territory she had been actively avoiding for years now. As terrifying as this place was she also knew there was no going back. Catherine had no idea where this would end up. The one thing she knew for sure was that now that there was hope, now that she saw a glimpse of the person Sara kept hidden from the world, she couldn't give that up. "Sara, let me help let me be here for you." Catherine's arms loosened around her, her hand resting softly on Sara's back. She somehow knew that if all of the physical contact was broken this spell that kept Sara from running would be too.
"I told Grissom," Sara said almost too quietly to hear, "I told him my deep dark secret at least some of it."
"Tell me, Sara," Catherine pleaded, her hand slowly rubbing Sara's back.
Sara knew she would never have this chance again. There would never be the opportunity to tell this story to this woman and somehow that was more important than anything else right now. It was more important than her fear, her privacy, her insecurity this was everything. Sara started telling her story. She started telling it the way she had told it to Grissom using all of the clinical, scientific words she had now and had not as a child. Phrases like cast-off, blood spatter words she would now use with little emotional attachment describing the death, the murder, of her father like she would any other crime scene. That's how she started to tell it, but she soon realized that wasn't the story she was going to tell today.
"I don't have very linear memories of my childhood. They come in bits and pieces like a shuffled deck of cards. I'm sure they once had order but they don't anymore. I remember the sounds so clearly. I figured everyone knew what a bone sounded like breaking snapping under the pressure of someone's hands the sick pop of a dislocating joint. The sounds of screaming in anger and pleading for mercy where none could be found I remember all of those sounds. He only hit her in the face once he gave her a black eye and nearly broke her nose he had really lost it that time lost it enough to leave marks where someone could see. He was usually smarter than that more devious. A lot of the time he didn't have to hit at all to inflict his damage words worked and they never left marks."
Catherine watched Sara as she spoke, watched as her dark, fathomless eyes got further and further away. She had to remind herself to keep breathing as Sara talked. She had to keep breathing or the anger would take over. The anger that any child had to live like that the anger she felt listening to any victim tell their tale and the anger that was all for Sara, the sudden blinding realization that she was truly glad Sara's father was already dead. Glad because it had saved Sara years more of abuse and glad because she didn't have to hunt the bastard down herself. She continued breathing and slowly stroking Sara's back as the words just kept flowing from her.
"I remember the day she killed him. I remember every word he said that day. He told me I was a worthless cunt just like my mother, just another hole for a man to fill and that I better understand that that is the most I would ever be. He was preparing me for being a woman you see he just had to make sure I knew my place in the world. He made me repeat it all back to him, how worthless and useless I was. How all the brains in the world weren't worth shit if they were wasted on a pathetic piece of shit girl like me. All the while I could see my mother over his shoulder her back turned to us making dinner she would come into the room occasionally to bring my father another drink as soon as he had an empty glass. I think now she was trying to get him to pass out. I was so angry with her at the time because we both knew it was always worse when he was drunk. I kept watching her as his diatribe wore on and being so angry with her for her silence, for her fear, for her complacency. I didn't get it at the time. I got it later. Later when I heard the struggle the sounds again and then I heard it the silence silence like I had never heard in my life. I pushed open the door to their room and I saw him lying there on the bed covered in so much blood and I saw her huddled in the corner blood coating her arms, her hair, crying. I backed out of the room and called the police. They asked me some questions I didn't know how to answer I was still afraid of him I knew he was dead but I was still afraid."
Sara's voice seemed to fade in her throat as she remembered the fear in that moment. She turned her brown eyes up to meet blue. She was almost surprised to see Catherine still there. She was even more surprised to see what was in her eyes. Where she had expected to see pity she saw tears and fire and anger and just a hint of something Sara never thought she would see, not in Catherine's eyes at least, but it was enough of a hint to give her the strength to tell the last part of the story.
"I was so afraid to tell the police the things that went on in my house. I knew what I should tell them. I knew all the things that had happened that would save my mother, but I did nothing. All of the things I hated about my mother I did. I was silent, I was fearful, I was complacent. I let them drag her away and put her in jail and I said nothing. All I ever wanted was for her to stand up for one moment and protect me from that bastard. I expected her to do it. I needed it from her but I could not offer the same thing. When it came down too it I was the bigger coward. All of his words came back to me when the police would sit me down. I was worthless and my words were useless, nothing I had to say mattered anyway. In the end I let him win; I let him beat us both. It's not as though I thought what she did was wrong, just the opposite, I was glad he was dead. For years after I could barely look in mirrors because of the parts of him that still lived in me, my height, my hair, my eyes. They all belonged to him first he gave them to me." Sara's voice was muffled as she placed her head in her hands a fresh wave of tears running silently down her face.
Catherine didn't know when it was that her own tears had started, she only noticed them when she pulled Sara close again and felt the wetness of her own cheek as she pressed it to Sara's hair. God where the hell was she supposed to go from here? She had expected to come over and have a knock down drag out with Sara about their power dynamic at work. She figured she'd find something out to explain Sara's problems with authority. She never dreamed she would end up on the floor cradling a weeping, vulnerable woman being overwhelmed by the desire to offer well anything just to make it a little better.
Neither woman was sure how much time had passed as they sat in a huddled ball in Sara's living room and neither of them really had any clue what to do now. Catherine always being the more verbal of the two wanted to say something anything to keep Sara talking. Catherine needed Sara to feel safe and protected right now needed her to let every bit of it out, but was at a loss as to where to go. With few options at her disposal Catherine fell back on the simplest method she gently, quietly said the first coherent thing her mind grabbed onto. "Give me the rest, Sara. What else is in there?"
Sara was actually surprised by the question. She had really expected this to be the point where Catherine tried to find ways to get as far away from this situation as was humanly possible. She was so surprised in fact she found herself unable to keep from answering. Sara didn't have any way to stop. Her defenses were gone, useless, lying around her in a shambles. All she was left with was her voice, her words that seemed to pour out of her.
"I was in the system for months. The only relative I had was an aunt I had never met, my mother's sister, it took them forever to find her. She hadn't spoken to my mother in years. She and her partner lived in San Francisco but my father hadn't allowed my mother to contact her. He didn't want 'that dyke' anywhere near his family, you see. My father demanded control fed off of it. Anything, anyone, who might give us the opportunity to feel alive free that just wasn't an option. He owned us. He was the master of our world. There was nothing without him. We were nothing without him. He taught me that lesson well enough to fail my mother. In the end he failed too. Someone, foolishly, thought I was something. She stood up, she talked, she convinced them to let her take me in. After everything the first real gentleness I ever received was from my aunt. Her name is was Robin. She gave me the first real home I'd ever had. All the sounds there were different. She gave me quiet, not silence, but quiet. She gave me books. She gave me a place to use the one thing he hadn't given me. The good part of me that didn't look like him, or feel like him, the one thing he had always resented, my mind. Robin and Annie, they gave me the one thing I never thought I'd have a chance. They were " Sara was running out of words, she had said more in the last hour than she had in any time in recent memory, but she knew this wasn't over. Not yet. That would be too simple. She knew she shouldn't ask. She knew she didn't really want the answer but she felt the fear and the question rising in her throat before she could stop them. She had to ask.
"Catherine, why are you still here?"
"What?" Catherine was taken aback by the question. It came so out of the blue she wasn't prepared with a quick, evasive answer. At the same time she could not yet vocalize the real answer. How was she supposed to tell Sara she's here because about an hour back her heart finally refused to let her be anywhere else.
The longer she waited for an answer the more fearful Sara became. It was entirely possible that she had just made the biggest mistake of her life. Catherine had no reason to care about any of this. She had no reason to hear any of this as something other than excuses for her volatile behavior. This was it. This was the moment that she would pay for opening up. She tensed up waiting for that crushing blow, the emotional grenade that would blow her world apart all over again.
Instead something entirely different happened. Something Sara never saw coming. She was drawn out of her fearful reverie by the softest hand on her cheek, slowly turning her face until her haunted dark eyes met the most amazing sight she had ever witnessed. She saw Catherine's beautiful blue eyes bright with unshed tears and full of compassion and tenderness and that other thing. That thing again, the one thing Sara needed most but couldn't let herself see. That thing in Catherine's eyes that should have been pity or disgust or rejection or any of the thousands of things Sara had come to expect and thought she was prepared to deal with. But it wasn't any of those things and Catherine wasn't letting her look away from it. The brightness of it was so intense Sara couldn't take it, it was too much.
With a quick turn of her head and violent jerk of her body Sara got up from her spot on the floor searching for anywhere to run. "Christ Catherine, what the hell are you playing at here?" Please Catherine just storm out. Just take my fucked up story and leave. Get out. Tell me you can't deal with this and take off never to speak to me again. I can deal with that. I know what that is. I can cope with that I expect that, not this. Please, I can't deal with this.
"I'm not playing at anything Sara." Catherine said fighting to keep the tears out of her voice. Wanting nothing more than to hold her again, to offer some sort of reassurance she stood up and took a tentative step toward a terrified Sara.
"Yes you are. You have to be. This isn't you. This isn't us. This isn't how this happens. You don't come here and take care of me. You don't offer me a shoulder to cry on, a safe place to fight my demons. You sure as hell don't look at me with those eyes. Not in real life. You just don't." Sara's voice was taking on an edge of panic. As she was speaking she crossed her arms around herself and started pacing back and forth desperation settling in all around her.
Catherine quickly realized things were heading to a very bad place very quickly. She had to stop this now. She immediately put herself in Sara's path reaching out both hands to grip her arms just below the shoulders stopping the terrified woman in her tracks. "Sara. Stop." Catherine's tone was firm and left little room for argument and her firmly planted, compact body directly in Sara's path left the younger woman with no real escape route. So Sara stopped. She stood, arms still crossed, staring at the floor refusing to look back into those eyes that held her salvation and her destruction.
"Sara, look at me. I'm right here. I'm real and I'm not going anywhere. This is real." Catherine's tone grew more insistent. "Sara, look at me."
Catherine felt her breath still in her chest. She suddenly realized what was happening. Her entire life as she knew it was hinging on Sara's next choice. If Sara looked up she would see everything, all of the things Catherine had been hiding from herself and from Sara. As the pieces started to fall into place in Catherine's thoughts she knew what she had been denying Sara, what she had been denying herself for so long. She had a laundry list of reasons she kept Sara at a distance all of which were rational, logical, and, ultimately, crap. She was afraid. She had been afraid of this. Afraid of letting herself feel everything. Letting herself open to the possibility of truly loving someone. Loving them enough to stand down their demons with them. Loving them enough to stand here and risk having every bit of your heart broken. Catherine's heart was in the balance. If Sara looked into her eyes and saw all that was there everything would change. For both of them.
Sara had no idea what to do. This wasn't supposed to be happening to her. Nothing in her life had prepared her for this. She had just bared the darkest corners of her soul. The parts of herself she couldn't even stand to look at. She had done all of that and Catherine was still here. This amazing, strong, powerful, beautiful woman was standing there. She wasn't running, she wasn't full of pity and false sympathy, she was just here. Sara had no context for this, this feeling. She had seen it, she knew she had. She had seen love in Catherine's eyes. Her most secret heart had dreamt of that look, that light. She had dreamt of returning that light, had wished for the courage to risk herself. But she knew, knew in every part of her rational brain that it would never happen. Love didn't happen for people like Sara. Her heart and her soul were too scarred to be of value to anyone. Who would want to fight through the mess that was Sara Sidle to get to them? She kept them protected. Locked down. Yet here was this stubborn, pushy, incredible woman refusing to be turned away.
Sara had no choice but to look into Catherine's eyes. Everything else had been stripped away. Her rationalizations, her excuses, her angry defenses all crumbled at her feet. Her head slowly came up. And there was Catherine waiting right where she said she'd be and there were those eyes offering everything Sara had dreamed of if she had the courage to take it.
As she looked into Catherine's eyes Sara knew her courage had not failed her. For the first time in years, maybe ever, she hadn't taken the coward's way out. She had chosen the path her heart demanded rather than the path of least emotional resistance. She was feeling so many things all at once. God, she was terrified, terrified of how much she had let Catherine know, of what would happen to her heart if she gave it away, of what was going to happen five minutes from now. She had never let anyone see so much of her. If this failed Sara knew her heart would be locked away forever.
Catherine felt air flood back into her lungs as she watched Sara lift her eyes, the breath she had been unconsciously holding returned only to catch again as Sara's deep brown eyes met and held with her baby blues. Catherine immediately saw so many emotions playing out in Sara. Things she had always kept so secret, so guarded were being laid out for Catherine and Catherine alone. There was fear, and guilt, and sadness, and pain but there was also hope, and gratitude, and shining brightest above all else there was heart stopping, soul healing love. Catherine was awestruck, and terrified, and happy beyond measure. She almost wanted to laugh at the extraordinary and completely unexpected way this day was turning out. If someone had told her this was where she would find herself she would have undoubtedly laughed in their face.
Sara continued to stare, unable to articulate anything she was feeling. She had no context for feeling this way; she had no easy method of describing what it meant to have Catherine here in this moment. This was more than she had ever dared dream about, this was her most secret wish suddenly answered. She couldn't say anything all she could do was drown in the endless sea of blue before her.
This was too incredible to be real. Sara needed some way to make this real, make sure Catherine was actually standing here. She felt herself move slightly, a tentative reaching out, her right hand tenderly cupping Catherine's cheek, her fingertips touching silky blond hair, her thumb lightly stroking the angle of the older woman's beautiful face. Catherine immediately leaned into the touch eyes fluttering shut at the contact.
"No, please, don't close your eyes," Sara quietly pleaded unable to find her full voice.
Catherine's eyes opened searching Sara's asking what she needed. Sara read the question there and wished she had some sort of clear answer. Catherine had already given her so much of what she needed, but had you asked her a few hours ago she would have told you she didn't need anything. She sure as hell hadn't needed this. Amazing how quickly things can change.
What did she need right now? She really had no answers. It was such a new question. All the convenient answers had been stripped away leaving her raw and vulnerable and frighteningly clueless.
Catherine could see Sara floundering, lost for where to go from here. She could relate. Her right hand slid down Sara's arm and into Sara's left hand holding it reassuringly. "Sara " Catherine started to speak not really knowing what she was going to say, "thank you."
Of all the things Sara thought she might hear from Catherine that was definitely low on the list. She had just dumped most of her incredibly messed up past all over this woman, had completely broken down, only to be wrapped in comfort and acceptance and Catherine was thanking her. This made no sense. Sara's confusion was evident in her voice as she responded, "What for?"
A smile found its way to Catherine's face for the first time since arriving at Sara's apartment. She wasn't at all surprised Sara didn't understand. "For letting me in, letting me see you without the armor." Catherine knew Sara well enough to appreciate that for the amazing gift it was.
"I'm not really sure how all of this happened." Sara felt dazed and tired. She had no real way to relate to this new Catherine, the gentle, caring woman who was holding her hand and offering her so much. She needed to sit down. Keeping their fingers entwined Sara turned and walked them to her sofa where she sat tugging Catherine's hand guiding her down next to her.
As they sat Catherine noticed how exhausted Sara looked. They had both just had a tremendously emotional ride and neither of them wanted to travel further down it right now. They both needed a rest. There was still so much to talk about, so much to process. What it all meant, where they were going, it was daunting to even think about much less tackle right now.
Seeing Sara's exhaustion and feeling her own Catherine figured she had to ask what could prove to be an extremely dangerous question. A question she wasn't sure she wanted the answer to. "Sara do you want me to leave you alone for awhile?"
"NO I mean I don't think I understand if you have to get home to Lindsey." I can be a big girl I swear. Sara knew this was all too new for her to make any requests but she wasn't ready to be alone with all of this; with her past, her present, and now possibly her future. Her strength was rapidly failing her.
"I don't have to be anywhere but here, Sara. Lindsey is staying with a friend tonight. I can stay as long as you need me." Relief washed over Catherine as she realized Sara still wanted her to stay to continue on this path whatever this path was.
"I can't talk anymore Catherine, but could you " Shit, Sara had no idea to ask for what she wanted not a fucking clue. She was exhausted. She just wanted to sleep, but how was she supposed to ask Catherine for that. Neither of them had spoken of the feelings they had, neither of them had mentioned anything about their relationship, but Sara wanted more than anything to be held in Catherine's arms and actually sleep.
Catherine could see Sara's trepidation about whatever it was she was about to ask for. She also knew without a doubt that whatever it was she would do it. "Anything, Sara, anything," Catherine said offering a reassuring squeeze to the hand she still held.
In the quietest, shyest voice Catherine had ever heard Sara use she asked, "I need to rest sleep can you just hold me while I sleep?"
"Of course," was the immediate answer. Catherine knew how scared Sara was and wanted more than anything, in this moment, to give her comfort. Catherine stood tugging Sara's hand to draw her up as well. Once standing she made room for Sara to take the lead. As much as Sara had been the one to initiate this Catherine was not about to pressure it in any direction. This had to be all Sara's decision. Sensing this opening Sara, still holding tight to Catherine's hand, led them to her bedroom.
Once there, Sara started to feel a nervousness settling in around her. She knew this was what she wanted needed but the reality of it was starting to present itself. She was about to lie down in her bed with Catherine. The level of intimacy she was craving from the other woman was something Sara had no real familiarity with. Sara had never needed anyone to make her safe the way she needed Catherine right now. It really was making her question the wisdom of this whole situation. "Are you sure this is okay?"
Catherine could sense Sara's need for reassurance far beyond the question she was asking. Hell, she needed some of her own. This wasn't exactly how she had ever imagined spending time in Sara's bed. Not that she had ever thought about spending time in Sara's bed much. The caretaker in her, the part that was Mama Catherine, wanted to make sure Sara had the comfort and safety she so desperately needed. The rest of her, the parts that wanted so much more than that with Sara, wanted to know this side of her wanted to hold her close, to know what it felt like. In the end, she was here for Sara and she would do whatever was asked of her. "I told you I would do anything you needed Sara."
"I just we're here and it's you and " real articulate Sidle. This was just such a far cry from where their relationship had been even hours before. Sara could not wrap her brain around this. She was exhausted and needed Catherine's comfort, probably more than she'd ever needed anyone's in her adult life, but she was having a very difficult time trusting this. She had never asked anyone to take care of her before. She led the world to believe she was entirely self-sufficient. She just needed this so badly. She needed this to be real and to still be here when she woke up.
"Sara, I know. This is hardly where I expected to be tonight. But I'm here, here for you." Catherine paused momentarily deciding what to say next. She opted for the practical figuring they were both about maxed out on the emotional. "So why don't you get into something more comfortable than those work clothes and lie down. We can talk about all of this after a good rest. Okay?"
Sara's relief was evident on her face. Catherine was here to comfort, no pressure, just offering whatever it was Sara needed while also letting her know this wasn't over when they woke up. This was just a break and a means to a fresh start. It was the possibility of everything. "Okay."
Catherine sat down on the edge of Sara's bed and watched her as she moved across the room to get her night clothes. It was the first time she had ever been able to watch Sara in her own environment. Even after everything that had happened today she moved with such quiet strength, as if nothing could get in. Catherine now knew that wasn't true she could get in, she had gotten in. Now she just needed to figure out how to stay there.
You really are a mystery Sara Sidle. I know more about you right now than I ever expected to know and yet I still have no clue what to make of you. You let me see so much of you today, so many of your emotions, including hints at the emotions you have for me. Damn, I hope I'm enough for you. For now I will give you my comfort and my shoulder and we'll deal with the rest of it later.
The idea of dealing with anything at all quickly allowed Catherine to realize she was equally as exhausted as Sara.
"Umm if you want I can loan you something to sleep in." Sara's words drew Catherine out of her thoughts.
"That would be great, thanks." Catherine reached out to take the soft t-shirt and shorts Sara was holding out for her. As she took them she brushed Sara's hand hoping to convey at least some of her gratitude at her thoughtfulness and her desire to take care of Sara.
As she took the clothes she realized she and the younger woman both needed to change. This was definitely a moment to add to the long list of awkward moments in their relationship. Catherine immediately tried to figure a quick way out of this to save them both from a situation neither was ready to tackle. "The uh bathroom is across the hall, right?" Catherine asked in hopes of letting Sara know she didn't plan on watching her undress.
"What? Oh, yeah just across." Sara answered realizing Catherine had rather easily diffused what could have been a moment neither of them were in any shape to deal with properly.
"I'll be right back." Catherine felt the need to let Sara know she wasn't going to take this chance to run. She was here for the duration, whatever that meant. She waited for a nod from Sara and then headed for the bathroom to change.
Sara quickly slipped out of her clothes and into her favorite soft white t-shirt and flannels. She then drew back the blankets and sat on the bed her head swimming with thoughts and emotions she had thought locked away for good until today. She had exposed her worst scars to someone she never thought would give a damn. As it turns out, Catherine seemed to give far more than a damn about Sara.
Sara was stopped from any more thought by a soft knock and an opening door. She felt her heart do a strange flutter in her chest as she looked up to see Catherine entering wearing sleep clothes about a size too big. Sara's clothes. Her bare feet treading silently toward Sara on the carpet. Sara didn't know what to make of the emotions rising in her. Her analytical mind wanted to evaluate and categorize them but she couldn't seem to sort them out. They were too big and she was too tired. Instead she went on instinct. She reached out from her spot on the edge of the bed and wrapped her arms around Catherine's waist pulling her close, burying her face in the smaller woman's stomach.
As she had walked into the room Catherine was drawn toward Sara. She looked so beautiful and vulnerable sitting there waiting, lost in her thoughts. She was caught by surprise when she felt strong arms pull her into a needful embrace. All she could do was return the gesture. Her hands immediately began stroking smooth, dark hair letting Sara know the embrace was welcomed.
Slowly, Sara lifted her head from its safe haven to once again meet Catherine's eyes. Catherine's hand glided from Sara's hair to lightly holding her chin making sure Sara wouldn't look away. She could see all of Sara's questions, all of her insecurities broadcast from those dark depths. She could only hope the answers she felt in her heart were as easy for Sara to read.
Sara wished she could ask all the things in her head. Wished she could express all the things in her heart. It was just too much for her to process right now. She felt everything. The safety of Catherine's embrace. The heat of her hand where it made contact with Sara's skin. The innumerable fears that this would all fall apart. The totally unexpected hope that it wouldn't. The desire to have Catherine this close. The desire to run as far and as fast as possible. There were no words to say any of this; all she had was the look in Catherine's eyes. The look that said everything would be okay, that she would be there, that she wanted to be there. That was all Sara had and, for now, it was enough.
"Lie down with me." Sara stated not as a question or a command just a gentle direction for them to proceed in. With those words Sara loosened her arms and lay back on the bed. As she did so Catherine willingly followed her lying next to Sara as she adjusted the blankets over them. Catherine then opened her arms to the other woman. Sara gladly accepted the invitation resting her head on Catherine's shoulder and her arm across her firm stomach.
They were both shocked at how right this felt as if each of them had been looking for this place forever without realizing it. Sara felt peace stealing over her bit by bit. Her demons were not vanquished but for this precious moment they were silent. "Thank you, Catherine, for this thank you." This was the last thought Sara had as she drifted into much deserved slumber.
As she felt Sara's breathing slow almost immediately Catherine knew she was asleep and a small smile crept onto her face. "You are welcome sweet, sweet, Sara, more than you know." Catherine sealed her statement with a soft kiss to Sara's forehead. "Pleasant dreams, sweetheart." With that thought in her heart Catherine's own breathing slowed to match Sara's sleep embracing them both.
Catherine awoke wondering what the warm weight was on her chest. As her thoughts slowly sorted themselves out from sleep to wakefulness her memories of the prior evening brought the picture into focus. She was lying in Sara's bed. She had promised to hold her while she slept. And it would seem she had made good on her word. Sara's head was resting on Catherine's chest, her arm wrapped tightly around her waist, her leg thrown across Catherine's. It would seem in her sleep Sara was very comfortable turning Catherine into a human mattress. And it would seem Catherine didn't mind. The older woman's arm was wrapped around Sara's back holding her as close as possible.
Catherine was now fully awake, but had no desire to disturb the peacefully sleeping Sara. It was strange really. Strange that this didn't feel more wrong. Just yesterday Catherine had been running at breakneck speed away from her own emotions. She had been refusing to acknowledge her very real feelings, she had been unwilling to offer Sara even a little of the compassion she showed the other members of their team. And now hours later here she was. Damn, Catherine you don't do anything by halves do you.
Catherine hoped Sara would continue sleeping for awhile. She knew that was partly because Sara needed the rest, it was also because she didn't know what she was going to do when she woke up. It was quite easy to lie here enjoying the closeness and the comfort, but she knew talking about it wouldn't be. Sara had run the emotional gamut last night. She had let Catherine into her psyche in a way that was so honest and so very unexpected and Catherine had no way of knowing if that would last with the sunrise. Now Catherine was scared, terrified. She had let Sara know the feelings she had been hiding for so long and she knew she couldn't lie about how she felt. She had to give up the self-preservation she'd grown so comfortable with over the years.
She had a great deal of empathy for what it took for Sara to give everything she had given. She just hoped she would be brave enough to do the same. Catherine was very protective of her heart. Eddie was the last person she gave it to, and that had been such an excellent idea. She played around at relationships, she knew that. She also knew that playing would not work with Sara. She had to put herself out there, give everything she had. Her heart was in this for all the chips. Sara deserved the best she could give. Hell, they both deserved it. Catherine just hoped she knew how.
She also hoped Sara did too. There was no question after last night that Sara had traveled a long dark road to get where she was. The very thought of Catherine caring for her had sent her into a panic. Now Catherine knew it was up to her to stay inside Sara's walls. She knew Sara would try to push her out. It was inevitable. She just had to hope that they were both up for the challenge.
Catherine's thoughts were interrupted as she felt Sara stirring, her head lifting off the older woman's chest. Catherine watched as Sara's thoughts moved through sleepy confusion to waking understanding. As she saw realization dawn on Sara's face she felt coolness on her body where Sara had been pressed so tightly against her. Before Sara could pull away entirely Catherine caught her with the arm that was wrapped around her back. "Not so fast, Sara." Catherine firmly told her. "I'm not letting you get away that quickly."
Sara froze at Catherine's words as if caught between returning to the comfort of the blonde's embrace and fleeing as fast as she could. As she had woken up she was stunned to find herself comfortably and peacefully sprawled across Catherine's body. It had taken her a moment to realize she wasn't dreaming. That realization had brought with it a boatload of insecurities and a fair share of panic. "I wasn't I mean I'm " Sara found herself completely unable to explain to Catherine her need to pull away, her need to try and regain some of her personal space.
Catherine could feel Sara pulling away could see the panic rising in her eyes. This wasn't starting out quite as she had hoped. "Sara, look at me. Don't run look at me." Catherine's voice held in it a gentle firmness that was impossible to deny. Sara's frightened dark eyes met with Catherine's lighter ones and she froze. She was suddenly caught between what she saw there and the panicked voice in her head. The light from those eyes was telling her heart to settle back in but the words in her brain were quite different.
Sara knew all the things Catherine had said to her the night before, all the promises she had made of being here in the morning. However, her actual presence wasn't as reassuring as Sara would have thought. She felt trapped by the closeness, the comfort, the potential she felt all around them. She had just woken from the longest most restful sleep she had had in years and yet she couldn't accept what that meant. This wasn't supposed to happen for her. Something, at any moment, was going to go horribly awry.
Catherine could see the panic playing in Sara's eyes could see them darting back and forth as if looking, searching, for something. She had to get Sara to stop and focus on her and what she was saying. "Sara. Listen to me. I'm really here. I'm real. Look at me, Sara. See what I'm feeling. See it in my eyes, Sara."
Sara's voice came out thick weighted down with panic and fear. "I see it Catherine, I see you. That's what frightens me." How could Sara make her understand that she knew how to deal with rejection? If Catherine had run away at the first sign of Sara's messed up life she could deal with that. She would have been able to go back to work at the end of her suspension as if nothing had happened. The denial, the defenses, the world of pain Sara kept hidden all would have been precisely where they belonged.
Sara knew how to guard her heart she had no idea how to open it up. Every time she looked in Catherine's eyes her heart demanded to be let out. Sara wasn't used to listening to those demands. She lived in her head not her heart. This wasn't where she had planned on being. She should have been able to keep Catherine at a safe distance. This risk, this feeling, none of it was supposed to be happening to her. Yet, here she was caught in a war between her heart and her head.
Catherine could see the fear, the anguish, in Sara at this admission. She needed to help Sara understand that this wasn't just a disaster waiting to happen. That they had a real shot if they could get through this moment. Sara had already given so much of herself and Catherine knew it. She knew that Sara was caught between her worst demons and her best self. She needed to let Sara know how much she understood. "Sara, I know you are afraid. I know you don't think you deserve this " Catherine's well intentioned speech was suddenly cut off.
"It's not a matter of thinking Catherine. I know this isn't what happens to me." Sara stated this so succinctly, so matter of fact, Catherine was caught completely off guard. Sara suddenly looked so resigned, so serious it nearly made Catherine cry. She knew she had to get back in there and help Sara conquer the voice in her head that was telling her these things.
Catherine shifted her body to lie on her side so she could look directly at Sara. So she could tell her, possibly, the most important thing she had ever said. "What about what I deserve Sara, what about what I want. You and I have had a tenuous relationship, at best. We have kept each other on the periphery of our lives. Never getting too close, never taking any real risks with each other. Why do you think I did that? Do you think I kept you at arms length because I didn't care about you? Let me tell you, that was not the case. I was afraid Sara. Afraid of you, of your fire, your passion. Hell, I was afraid of the way I couldn't help staring at your ass in those black jeans you wear. I'm terrified of what this could mean. I haven't risked my heart in years Sara but when I saw you yesterday, the real you that you don't let anyone see, I couldn't stop it. My heart is already in this Sara. This is supposed to happen, but you have to let it."
Sara was caught speechless by Catherine's outpouring of emotion. She hadn't expected Catherine the fighter to show up, she really didn't know what she had expected. She was trying to absorb what the speech meant. Catherine couldn't really be serious about this. "I'm a risk not worth taking Catherine. Didn't what happened what I said last night mean anything?" Sara shot this back almost daring Catherine to argue with her. After Sara had shown Catherine so much of the baggage she carried she couldn't want to do this.
Catherine was never one to turn down a dare. Especially one that could get her that much closer to what she wanted. "Last night meant a lot of things Sara. It showed me your strength, your courage, your ability to survive, you showed me those things. You showed me your heart." Catherine's voice took on a tone of wonder and amazement at the last. She was truly amazed at all she saw in Sara, the emotional complexity, the vulnerability, all of it was incredible.
Sara's foundations were crumbling as Catherine refused to back down. She couldn't believe the way the older woman sounded when she talked about the weakness Sara felt she had shown last night. "My heart is not worth the risk. I'm messed up, you had to see that. You say you saw my strength and courage. You didn't. I was a coward Catherine. I still am."
At this statement Catherine almost smiled, she knew she had her in, "If you are such a coward Sara why are you still here?"
With that Sara became almost petulant. "Because you wouldn't let me run."
As Sara spoke the words Catherine let the arm she had around Sara's back fall to the bed. She didn't know if this would work or if her whole plan would fail miserably but she did know that if they were going to get anywhere Sara had to make the choice. Catherine began speaking in a quiet firm tone looking right in Sara's eyes. "There you go, Sara, I'm not holding you. You are free to get up, throw me out, go make coffee and pretend none of this ever happened. It's up to you, Sara. Are you really a coward? Or is what you feel for me right now worth the risk? What is your heart telling you?" Catherine's only hope in this moment was that Sara's heart was louder than her head.
Sara was stunned. She stared into Catherine's eyes, lost again in their light. She could see flashes in them with each sentence the other woman spoke. She could see the seriousness. She could also feel how cold she felt without Catherine's arm around her. She could feel the pull, the desire to have that embrace back. She could hear all the voices in her head telling her what a terrible idea this was and how much safer she was alone. She could hear the voice of her father explaining in great detail how girls like her didn't deserve love.
She also knew for the first time, with dawning clarity, that it was a lie. There was another voice. A voice she had worked for years to ignore. A voice that only led to trouble and complication and risk. The voice in her that cried out for care and companionship and love. The one that had let her open up to Catherine. The one that had led her here. Her better voice, her brave voice, her foolish romantic voice. That voice reminded her of what it had felt like to wake up in Catherine's arms. What it had felt like underneath the fear when she first noticed love in Catherine's eyes. Sara knew she was terrified of risking heartbreak, but she was realizing the pain of pushing Catherine away without taking the risk was worse far worse.
Sara had no words to explain all of this to the woman lying next to her waiting for an answer. She couldn't articulate what it felt like to realize she was worth this. She had no way to describe the knowledge that what they could have together was worth everything. Sara found herself doing something she never thought she'd have the courage to do. Before she could think about it, talk herself out of it, Sara found herself closing the gap between them. Her hand was sinking into the soft hair at the base of Catherine's neck pulling her close. This was it. This was everything.
Catherine's breathing had nearly stopped. She had watched emotion after emotion play across Sara's face. Had been hopeful when Sara hadn't immediately pulled away. She hadn't, however, been expecting the look of determination that had found its way into Sara's eyes. She really hadn't thought what came next would happen. She felt Sara's weight shift and come closer she felt Sara's long fingers tangle in her hair and suddenly they were only a breath apart and Catherine felt her heart stop only to start again at a frantic pace. Her own arms came up again to wrap around the younger woman.
As she felt Catherine's embrace again Sara did the only thing left for either of them. She closed the last inch of space between them. Sara's lips touched Catherine's softly yet with purpose. She felt the breath steal from her body at the contact. She tasted Catherine's sweetness with each brush of their lips. She felt as much as heard the low moan that escaped from one of them, she wasn't sure which. She lightly brushed her tongue across the older woman's lower lip asking to be invited further in, to let Catherine feel everything Sara was offering.
Catherine's entire body felt the request for entrance, the light brushing of Sara's tongue on her lip, and there was no hesitation. Catherine opened her mouth and Sara wasted no time. Her tongue darted out sliding along past Catherine's lips. Sara enveloped herself in Catherine's warmth exploring and tasting, pouring all she felt into this connection. She had no words but she had this.
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