Stuck in a Moment, II.
Sara awoke slowly, fighting consciousness all the way. The meager light entering the room through the California shutters stabbed her eyelids, making her groan. The groan, of course, illustrated how parched and dry she was – she felt like someone had stuffed old socks down her throat.
Burying her head under the blankets in a vain attempt to hide from the light, she realized something was different. Her muddled brain struggled for a few minutes, piecing together the evidence, slowly coming to the realization that she wasn't in her own room.
Fighting back the sudden panic threatening to overwhelm her, Sara came to a few quick conclusions: she was hung-over, she wasn't in her own clothes, and she didn't know where she was.
She also didn't know what to do.
Casting frantically about in her mind for some hint – some memory – of what had happened last night didn't appear to help matters. Everything was foggy. She vaguely remembered leaving the lab and stopping at an out-of-the-way bar for a couple of beers. She remembered feeling sorry for herself, but couldn't quite remember why. She remembered someone…familiar…showing up and talking to her…dancing…if she strained really hard, she could almost remember a voice….
"Sara – you awake?"
Sara bolted upright, before collapsing back and shutting her eyes against the sudden bright light filling the room. Nick had opened the blinds, and was watching her intently as she threw her hand over her eyes.
"Turn off the sun," she muttered, even as she realized where she was.
Nick grinned, but lowered the blinds half way, "Sorry about that. How you feeling?"
"Like someone used the inside of my head for a bowling alley."
"I got some Tylenol here for you, and some water. If you think you can stomach something for breakfast, I can cook you up a mean vegetable omelet."
"Tylenol is great, but I don't know if I could eat," Sara lowered her arm and slowly opened her eyes again, pushing herself slowly up and sliding her legs out of the bed. "What am I doing here, Nick?"
"Looks like you're trying to get up," Nick offered good-naturedly. "Need a hand?"
Sara smiled grimly, "I might. Do you know where my clothes are?"
"I threw them in the washer for you last night – they smelled of beer and stale smoke. They're just in the dryer now." Nick stepped forward and held out a glass of cold water with a couple of pills, "Here, Sara – this should help."
"How'd I get here, Nick?" she asked quietly. "I don't really remember…"
"Didn't imagine you would," he cut in, taking the half empty glass back from her. "I've put some fresh towels in the bathroom if you want a shower. Why don't you freshen up and meet me in the kitchen before we talk, huh?"
* * * * *
The cold shower was refreshing, and did manage to clear her head somewhat. Grimacing at her reflection in the mirror, she ran her fingers through her hair and tried to remove the tangles. Nick had knocked on the bathroom door halfway through her shower, and told her her clothes were lying on the bed.
She could hear him banging around in the kitchen as she quickly dressed, enjoying the last traces of warmth from the dryer as she pulled her pants on. Casting a nervous glance at the bed, she nervously ran her hands across the front of her shirt, taking one final look into the mirror before stepping out into the hallway.
Nick's stereo was playing – she didn't recognize the song – but she heard Nick singing to himself as he worked in the kitchen. Willing her feet to move, she headed towards the sound of his voice. She recalled the first time she had ever been to his house – the night she and Warrick had brought him home from the hospital after Nigel Crane had pushed him out the window. She had thought it quite nice at the time – not the frat house she had expected, considering who owned it.
The second time she had been here, she had been working a crime scene. She shuddered as she remembered the large hole in his ceiling, and the dead body on the floor. She was actually surprised Nick hadn't moved – she knew she would have, after an experience like that.
When she had mentioned this to Nick, he had shrugged his shoulders. "If I move, Crane wins. Sometimes it's better to pick up the pieces and see what you can salvage, rather than just chuck everything and start over."
Sara didn't think she could be that brave. Holes in ceilings where easier to fix than holes in lives. She paused when she stepped into the open area of Nick's living room, smiling as she noticed the pillow and neatly folded blanket sitting on his sofa. At least, that was one question laid to rest. She knew Nick would never take advantage of her, but it was her nature to be suspicious. It was nice to have her faith in someone verified, for a change.
Nick spotted her and smiled, waving his hand to indicate she should sit down at the counter dividing the kitchen from his living room. "Feel better?"
"The shower definitely helped," Sara responded. She felt awkward as she sank onto a bar stool and looked at him. "My head feels a little clearer now."
"Think you could eat? Nothing big, just a nice omelet and some toast. And OJ."
Sara took an appreciative whiff, and was surprised when her stomach grumbled, "I think I could handle that. Do you have coffee?"
Nick grinned at her, and turned back to the stove, expertly flipping the omelet he was preparing, "Knew you'd ask that. Instant okay? I ran out of perc. yesterday."
Sara nodded, "Instant's fine."
Nick gave her a mug and a jar of Encore coffee, "The carafe against the counter there has hot water. You still drinking your coffee black?"
Sara nodded, "Especially today. Listen, Nick – about last night…" She paused, unsure how to continue. Nick looked at her silently as he handed her a plate and slid her meal onto it. "Why am I here?"
He shrugged, "Remember Todd Greene?"
Sara looked at him blankly. Nick sighed.
"Warrick and I used to play pick-up basketball with him and his partner, Glenn Harden. They were detectives – we worked with Todd on that case from a few years back, the one with the crack head who killed her dealer."
"His partner was killed last year, right?"
Nick nodded, "Caught doing surveillance by someone affiliated with the Marcisco family – shot in the head. Todd wasn't with him at the time, and IA investigated – wanted to know where Todd was, why Glenn was alone, etc. etc… Forced him to take early retirement."
"What does this have to do with last night?"
"He called me, around 3 in the morning. Saw you at the Spotted Owl, and thought someone should come and get you. You'd been drinking a lot."
"Why'd he call you?"
"Why not? He knows me, and he recognized you from the crime lab. He was just watching out for one of LVPDs finest."
"I'm not a cop," Sara replied.
"Doesn't matter. You work with cops, and I was a cop before CSI, and you work with me."
Sara looked skeptical, "Still – why you?"
"He knows we're friends, Sara. And he knows what can happen if rumors get started. What if someone had seen you? I've worked with you for over three years and if I hadn't seen you with my own eyes last night…" he paused, and looked at her closely. "How long have you been drinking, Sara?"
She glared at him. "Well, let's see…I'm 34 and became a legal adult when I was 21 – so that's 13 years."
Nick shook his head, "That's not what I meant, and you know it. Seriously, what's going on? What had you so upset you clocked out of work early and went on a bender at one of the sleaziest bars in Vegas?"
Sara looked at her fingers, "I don't remember. I don't remember hardly anything from last night." Taking a shaky breath, she looked at Nick and admitted, "When I woke up this morning, I had no idea where I was. I thought I had…you know…"
"Hooked up with someone for a wild one night stand?"
Sara flushed, and nodded guiltily.
"Where you disappointed when you found out it was only me?"
"No!" her response was immediate and adamant. "I was so relieved it was you, because I knew you would never take advantage of me. But I'm embarrassed too, because you found me like that and scared because I don't remember…"
"You drink a lot?" Nick's tone was non-judgmental, but he couldn't hide his concern.
Sara sighed, "More than I should."
"Never before. This was – a first."
Nick nodded, and walked around the counter to sit on the bar stool next to her. Her half eaten omelet was forgotten as he gently took her hand. "Do you have a drinking problem, Sara?"
"No. Maybe." Sara was flustered. "It could become one."
"Why are you drinking?"
"Why not?" she laughed, but there was no mirth in it. "I don't know. I'm just – I'm so angry, and depressed. I'll have a couple of beers after shift to help me relax. I can't seem to sleep otherwise."
"Last night was more than a couple of beers, Sara. And even though you weren't working, you were supposed to be. What happened?"
"I honestly don't remember."
"Why are you angry and depressed?"
"Just…everything lately seems to be getting me. I mean, every shift it's something new and even more disgusting. I feel so – ineffectual and alone. I still have nightmares about Suzanna Kirkwood. I guess work is getting to me, and I don't have anyone to talk to about it."
"You're talking to me now, Sara. You could talk to Grissom and…"
"No. I can't. Grissom and I don't – we're not really friends anymore, Nick. I don't know if we ever where."
Nick filed away that little bit of information to peruse later, noticing the wistfulness in her voice. "Well, who do you hang with outside work? Surely one of your friends…" Nick trailed off at Sara's blank expression. "Sara, tell me you know people outside the lab."
Sara shrugged, and Nick sighed. "You're telling me you don't talk to anyone else expect us? What do you do after work, or on your days off?"
Sara tried to smile, "I catch up on my reading, or watch TV. Sometimes I go to the movies. It's no biggie, Nick. I'm not very sociable. I don't need-"
"Bullshit! Bullshit! How can you say that? No wonder you're angry and depressed. Christ, some friend I am, huh? Why didn't you say anything, Sara?"
"It's not your fault. It's just – since that whole mess with Hank…and everything else..."
"Hank was a bastard. You're way too good for him. Listen, I'm here for you okay? Always. Don't ever think you can't talk to me, or call me when you're lonely. We'll get you through this, okay?"
Sara looked skeptical.
"I'm serious, Sara. I'm here for you. Promise me, no more drinking. Spend time with me and we'll work through this together."
"That's too much for me to ask -"
"You're not asking, I'm offering. Do you want to become an alcoholic? Do you want to burn out? Think of your career if nothing else. If anyone found out you were drinking -"
"Brass – he hinted that I had a problem a couple of weeks ago. Cough drops."
Nick looked at her blankly for a moment, before realization set in. "Fuck. Sara – I never even thought about it!"
"Why would you? Nick," Sara looked at him, "I swear to you, it's not a big problem."
"Blackouts are a problem, Sara. Coming to work hung-over is a problem!" He ran a hand through his short hair. "You need help."
"I'm not an alcoholic!"
Nick sighed, "Didn't say you were – yet. Listen, shift starts in two hours. Let's go get the Denali and head to your place. We can talk about this again later."
Sara mirrored his movements, "Fine. But I'm not a charity case. And I don't need your help – I can fix this by myself."
"Maybe you can, maybe you can't. But whether you want my help or not, you got it. Come on, let's head out."
I don't like what the writers are trying to do to Sara. I don't know what the reasoning is behind the hints that she has a drinking problem. I have no idea how they're going to pull that off without making a lot of viewers lose respect for her as a character. This is sort of my preemptive strike to some terrible spoilers I've heard. Sigh.
It sort off pisses me off, to be perfectly honest. I also don't like the marginalization of Nick this season, and the seemingly unending focus on Catherine. CSI has a talented cast – I wish the writers would start using everyone more. No offence to Catherine, who was a great character Seasons 1 and 2, but I'm getting sick of her and her single-mother-ex-stripper-ex-cokehead-illegitimate daughter of murdering father-pushing the ethical envelope person she has become the last two seasons. Bring back the old Catherine, and give us some real character growth for everyone!
In case you didn't guess from my mini-tirade, what I'm trying to let you all know is there won't be a lot of Catherine in this story. Please don't hate me.