Title: On My Own

Spoilers: Minimal

Archiving: Sure, just let me know

Rating: PG-13 for mentions of sex and semi-strong language

Notes: This is meant to be a companion piece to my earlier songfic, "On My Own." See, this is what happens when the evil Insomnia Devil attacks – sequels (or prequels) start coming out of the woodwork! The song is "I Dreamed a Dream" again from Les Miserables. I don't own it or the production (dear god, I'd be rich if I did), nor do I own any of the characters of CSI (I'd be rich if I owned them too) or the show itself (even richer).

And here I am again in my dark corner of the park. I've been spending more and more time out here lately, reflecting on what's gone wrong in my life. Judging by the amount of time I spend thinking about it, there's a hell of a lot of "wrong" in there right now. But tonight, here and now, all the thoughts of past wrongs are catching up with me. I'll tell you something, and I'm sure it sounds whiny, but it's true, honestly. See, when I get to thinking about things like I'm doing now, I'd swear that nearly all my problems stem from that one summer: the summer before I graduated from Harvard.

College was a great time for me. Not that I was a social butterfly or anything, because we all know that would never happen, but it was the first time in my life that I was out of my parents' house and able to go somewhere that housed people like me. Well, at least, people more like me than Mom and Dad are.

I spent my last summer of college in Boston. My parents wanted me to come home, but I loved the area, so I kept putting them off until the summer was over. Actually, things would have been easier if I had really just put them off in the manner of a normal college student. Being me, though, I told them I was taking a summer course. It was the truth – I wouldn't lie about something that easy to disprove - but my parents always thought I spent too much time in school. They would have been happier if I'd said I was going to spend the summer drinking beer and picking up strange men, I think.

Well, one out of two ain't bad, and I'll give you a hint about which it is: I didn't spend a lot of money on beer that summer.

I'm falling back in time, and once again I feel a strange empathy for the women in my favorite musical. Fantine's story mirrors mine in so many ways, and I can rarely think about the past without thinking about her.

There was a time when men were kind,
When their voices were soft
And their words inviting.
There was a time when love was blind
And the world was a song
And the song was exciting.

See, I didn't really start dating until I went to college, so the whole thing was a new experience for me. It was exciting. Well, at least until I figured out the game and got disgusted. For a while, though, I was so sure that all the guys who hit on me wanted Sara, not just the brown-haired girl with the stacked body (I didn't make that line up – a friend once told that that's what the guys said about me).

By senior year, though, I'd figured it out. I was a trophy, really. The guy who managed to get me into bed would be the stud of the school. That last year, some of the frats had even started offering rewards among themselves. "Bang Sara Sidle and win a hundred bucks!" That sort of thing. Ugh, men.

But by that time, I didn't care. I had other things that occupied my mind and spirit.

There was a time
When it all went wrong.

This is what always gets to me when I start thinking about that summer. All the good memories come flooding back and I remember the fun I had during those four months. Then, just as I'm starting to smile, I remember the rest of it. Turn back the clock and you'll find that half of the time I'm about to tell you about is black. Just plain black.

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving.

The annoyances of college didn't matter to me that summer. I was twenty-one, full of idealism, and madly infatuated with the prof of my Entomology class. The class was really interesting, and the fact that the man up front was gorgeous didn't hurt matters at all. When things got boring, I'd just sit and daydream about how I could get him alone and what I would do if I did.

The professor was a little older than me. Ok, well, more than a little. He was thirty-six at the time – but he was just so captivating. He didn't look like what I would've called "middle-aged" back then. He had a great body and kind of reminded me of Indiana Jones. You know, boring professor by day, but put him in a ripped shirt with a whip and daaaaamn!

The farther into the summer we got, the more hung-up I got on the guy. I would bounce out of bed at 7:30, spend nearly an hour trying to make myself look good, then go to class at 8:15 and plant myself in the front row, hoping he'd notice me.

He finally did, and that day I felt like God was smiling down on me and the angels were singing. I always hung around after class, just to spend a few more minutes staring, and one morning in early June he came up to me and asked me a few questions to test whether I'd paid attention.

I had, of course, and seeing his eyes crinkle and his mouth split into a wide smile when I answered every single question correctly was worth the effort I'd put into the class. He seemed really pleased with me, and we got to talking. Before we knew it, students for the next class were walking in and there we were, sitting in the front row, two seats apart, staring at each other but pretending we weren't.

I went home that afternoon and practically danced around my apartment. Dr. Grissom had so noticed me, he'd hinted about us going out some time, but hadn't come out and asked, and I was sure that things were just going to get better from here. He'd get up the guts eventually.

I would've asked him out, instead, but I had major issues with how my peers saw me. They already thought I was a kiss-ass, and if they found out that I had asked the professor out? Well of course by the next day everyone would know that Sara Sidle was trying to sleep her way to an A. Ridiculous, I've never had to do anything underhanded to get an A in my life! Oops, but that's another issue.

So we spent a week or so dancing around each other. My daydreams turned into day fantasies and I'm embarrassed to tell you that I sat in the class like a lovesick puppy for the entire time we were dancing around that issue. Puppy love, hah. With Grissom, it was more like Sumatran Hissing Cockroach love. But I'll tell you, I was in romantic raptures over him, muttering things to my friends about "pure first love." It's a mortifying thought even now, ten years later.

Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used
And wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung
No wine untasted.

Not that I was pure and innocent by that point, though. I'd been played enough times to know the rules, and I'd taken delight in breaking them during Spring Break my junior year. Once I made sure that Ken Fuller didn't know anyone from the undergrad frat world, I figured, what the hell. Graduating college a virgin would suck.

So I took advantage of the opportunity, and Ken and I had a fun time for a few months. To tell the truth, I got as much pleasure out of watching the frat boys gape at us as I did from spending time with my supposed-boyfriend.

So, like I was saying, it wasn't like I was innocent when I met Gil Grissom. Ken and I had gone our separate ways by that point, and I saw absolutely nothing wrong with ogling the hot professor who taught my summer class.

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dream to shame.

The summer ended a lot different than it began. I've noticed lately that I always seem to have pockets of happiness in my life, surrounded by vast stretches of loneliness and depression. I wonder what that says about me?

I started out the summer so happy. I don't know if I've been that uncompromisingly happy since, in fact. I was a senior, I had the highest GPA in my major, and I was taking a disturbingly interesting course on bugs taught by a new professor with hypnotic eyes.

Like I said, though, the end sucked. Blew. Bit. Use whatever word you want, because I certainly will. It comes down to the fact that by the end, I felt worthless and empty. See, this is the point in my thinking where I start feeling the memories dragging me down.

I guess I'm not making much sense, even to myself. Everything's jumbled up, and as much as I don't want to, I feel compelled to sort it all out and relive the events as I walk. For you and me both, then, it's probably better to start at the beginning.

He slept a summer by my side
He filled my days
With endless wonder

I have to smile at this point in my thoughts, because now comes the good part. The happy part, and I bet you can guess why.

Yep, Dr. Grissom finally asked me out to dinner. It was one of those instant connections you feel with some people. We'd clicked the first time we talked, and we only got closer from there. So we went to dinner, we talked, we had a few drinks.

Grissom insisted on paying that night, which wasn't usually my style. I was so focused on making sure he liked me, though, that I let him. Hey, if paying for me to eat is what turns on someone as hot as Grissom, I was all for it.

After we had dessert, I invited him back to my apartment. And yeah, we did what you're thinking. It wasn't like first-date sex, though, honestly. I mean, it was sex on the first date, but neither of us took it lightly, or at least I thought so. It was the kind of sex that's addictive because it's so good.

So we did it again! But not just that, of course. We started "seeing each other," to use the euphemism we batted back and forth. Classes were the same - it wasn't like he was suddenly going to start favoring me, and it wasn't like I was suddenly going to jump the teacher in the middle of class – but the nights and the weekends were amazing. We did all the typical couple stuff, like movies, the zoo, walking in the park while holding hands.

Yeah, it's the memory of walking in the park that always comes back to bite me in the ass on nights like these. Almost like my life's done a 180° since then.

He took my childhood in his stride
But he was gone when autumn came.

He always told me that our age difference didn't matter. Mentally, we were pretty much on the same level, and though he had some qualms about dating a student, the fact that I was fifteen years younger didn't seem to bother either of us.

I'd get upset sometimes that we had to keep everything so secret. It had to be secret because if anyone at school found out, he could be fired and I would be a pariah. So though we did go out, we spent a lot of time in our apartments just being together.

It got to me after a while. I was young, and though I was certainly more mature than most of my classmates, I was still a student. I wanted to go out to a bar every now and then, or have dinner at a trendy restaurant. Grissom was more of a homebody. He'd just shake his head and laugh when I brought up things like that. "I know, Sara," he'd say, "but we just can't risk it right now. Now c'mon and give me a kiss." And, of course, I would.

I was head over heels and I told myself that going out to a bar wasn't as important as being able to see Grissom. I actually scheduled my first course in crime-related forensics because he said I should. Not a good reason to take a class, I know, but it turned out to be the right choice. But seriously, I think I would've taken any class he'd suggested even if it had been "Interpretive Dance 101." That's how much I wanted to please him. I mean, I can't even describe to you how in love with him I was. I was sure that we'd stay together, that maybe one day we'd get married, settle down. White picket fences and puppies, the whole nine yards.

So when the summer started to wane, I didn't think much of it. It was just a change of season. Fall semester would start soon and things really wouldn't be that much different. Grissom would be teaching different courses, I would be taking different courses, but it would still be "Sara and Grissom" after hours. I never noticed that he said very little when I brought things like that up. I never noticed until it was too late. Everyone say it together, now: "Dumb, Sara."

And then the whole plan came crashing down on me. I'd built a house of cards on my own fantasies, never thinking that Grissom may not have wanted the same thing.

I went home the last week of summer to visit my parents and exchange some of my summer clothes for my winter clothes. The whole time I was there I was bouncing off the walls. My parents didn't know what was going on, but they certainly knew that something was going on with their daughter. I was so impatient to get back to Boston and Grissom. I was in love and when the last day of my vacation came, I wasn't at all sorry to leave my parents' home again.

There was a note slipped under my apartment door when I got back to Boston. It was the last thing I looked at that day, because I spent hours unpacking, humming to myself, and trying to imagine how Grissom would welcome me back. When I finally found time to read it, though, I literally collapsed. I nearly killed myself when I smacked my head into the corner of a table, and I have the scar on my forehead to prove it.

"Sara," it opened. Not "Dear Sara" or even "Hi Sara!" No, this was just plain "Sara." I should have known then that I was in trouble, but young skulls are thicker than they should be.

"I'm leaving this note on Thursday because I'm not sure when you'll be back. I, uh . . . this is hard to say, so I'll just write it quickly. I'm not coming back in the Fall. I resigned my professorship and I'm moving on to a job in the real world. I won't tell you where I'm going, and it's better that way. Don't hate me, Sara, because you'll soon realize that this is the best thing for both of us. You need to focus your time on becoming an adult and entering the real world, and me and you, well, we just wouldn't work. This was a wonderful summer and I'll never regret a minute of it, but it's time to move on.

Good luck, Grissom."

Like I said, I collapsed. The fall, coupled with my skull connecting with the coffee table, knocked me out. My last thought before I lost consciousness was that it was better for me to be passing out. When you're in that darkness, the world could crumble around you and you wouldn't know or care. And my world was definitely crumbling.

I woke up an hour later with my friend Jenna kneeling over me, scared to death. She'd called and become concerned when I didn't answer when she knew I should have been home, so she got my super to let her into my apartment. She asked me what was wrong, numerous times and more worriedly each time, but I didn't spill. The few friends who knew about me and Grissom had been telling me the whole time that it was a dumb thing to be doing, and I wasn't going to let them know how right they'd been.

So I stood up and shook my head a couple of times to clear it, smiled at her, and told her I'd tripped over the table leg and knocked myself out. She looked suspicious, but she backed off and left me alone.

For the next few years, I spent all my energy on getting my life back together. Believe me, that's harder than it sounds when your life's just lying in tiny, razor-sharp shards around you, but I managed. I managed just to spite Grissom, I think sometimes, and I managed very well, thankyouverymuch.

And still I dream he'll come to me
That we will live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms
We cannot weather…

And now, idiot that I am, I'm in Vegas with him because he crooked a finger and asked me to come. Almost ten years of trying to forget, all blown to hell with one phone call and a dumbass decision on my part.

Of course, try telling that to my unconscious, which never gave him up no matter how hard I tried. It's starting to get the better of me, and I've fallen for him again. How's that for the most insane thing you've ever heard? He used me as summer entertainment and broke my heart, and I'm still crazy about him.

True to form, Grissom has been ignoring me ever since he began to suspect that I felt that way. He looks frightened when he sees me now, like he's afraid that I'll put my gun to use on him. Or put my figure to use on him, for that matter. He hasn't assigned me to work a case with him since god knows when. In short, he's treating me like the pesky kid he apparently saw me as ten years ago.

I spend at least an hour a day trying to talk myself out of it. Intellectually, it's a no-brainer. Hello, Sara, he treated you like a little sex toy and dumped your sorry ass when you fell in love with him, and now you're offering yourself up for the same torture again?

It's taken three years of rejection, but my heart is starting to believe my head. I'm a strong person, I know that, and there's no reason for me to be doing this to myself. I have nothing to prove. Will I feel better if I can charm Grissom into a relationship and get dumped again? Of course not. But here I am tilting at Quixote's windmill, otherwise known as Dr. Gil Grissom, and getting knocked off my horse every time.

I made the final arrangements this afternoon. In fifteen days, I'm out of here. Out of Vegas, out of my misery, and into a new job in Miami. The CSIs there are wonderful, and better than that, I have absolutely zero interest in any of them.

I haven't told Grissom yet, or anyone else on the team. Their loyalties lie with him and if any of them found out, they'd run to tell him - and I don't believe that I owe him an explanation or even advance warning. I went over his head and gave my two-week notice to the Sheriff. He and Conrad Ecklie, the day shift supervisor, are respecting my request for secrecy and doing the interviews for my replacement themselves, and they'll just present him or her to Grissom the day after I leave. Serves him right. I'm a damn good CSI, and I hope he feels the pain of his lab slipping a little in the national ratings, since I'm sure he won't feel any pain over me being gone.

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed
The dream I dreamed.

Back then, I had stars in my eyes and my hopes were somewhere up in the clouds. Like Fantine in Les Mis, I had such a beautiful dream of what my next seventy years would look like, and like hers, my dreams were shattered by the callous treatment of the one man I trusted.

That pretty vision of the white picket fence and the puppy will never happen for me. I don't ever want to give a man that much control over my emotions again, and I doubt that I could allow myself to even if I wanted it. When I'm PMSing, I've been known to tell people that I wish all males would just drop off the earth. The life of every female I've ever known would be safer, better, and happier. No beatings, no being cheated on, and no being used and then thrown out with the trash.

Hell indeed, Fantine. Las Vegas is certainly hell to me. Hopefully I can get my act together again and move up to purgatory once I'm away from here. I certainly won't ever make it to heaven in this life, because the ugly knowledge of what he did to me is all still there in my mind.

I started out innocent and trusting, but the years have been cruel and now I'm like a pale imitation of what I was in those days. Experience has taught me my lesson, and it was a big one: don't dream. Dreams are never worth the pain.