Puzzle of Shards

Disclaimer: Do I look like a large American TV channel? Nope, they're all CBS's and I ain't it.

Author's Note: Touches on events of season three as well as vaguely referring to Grave Dangerand my own invented timeline beyond.

For Anais, as asked for. Hope it gave you some of what you wanted at least.

II

Sometimes, you get tired of fighting your relationships. Sometimes, you just want to rest. And there Hank was; nothing like Grissom, nothing like the men I'd fallen for before and who had hurt me. What would be the harm in resting in him, just for a little while?

And still he ended up hurting me. A bleak irony, perhaps. And perhaps why I tried to pursue Grissom later, thinking that if the man I didn't really want had hurt me, maybe the man I did really want wouldn't.

Wisdom is purchased in pain, a puzzle of sharp shards that cut you as you piece them together.

Sometimes, I wish I was a little less wise.

II

When Hank touches her, just once, a flame creeps up her veins and reminds her of summer days between grass and sun, being defiantly alive before winter comes. She's forgotten the feel of it, here in Las Vegas, where winter is not a season, but a passing wind. There are no seasons, only the stillness of the desert and she wants a roar.

He smiles at her and she returns it, not with as much feeling as she should, but with feeling nevertheless.

He's handsome and young and uncomplicated and she knows already he's not what she wants, but maybe he can be what she needs.

II

Grissom doesn't speak about her deserving a life any more. He treads carefully around her, being cordial, yet distant. It is almost as if he feels she has left him for another man. Sometimes, she longs to feel that way too, for that would mean she and Grissom had something, something beyond long gazes and unexpected compliments.

Sometimes, she fantasies he'll try to win her back. Sometimes, she fantasies he'll succeed.

But reality is withdrawn and guarded and she fights back the guilt for being near Hank. Grissom doesn't deserve her feeling guilty, he hasn't earned that right.

She almost believes that.

II

Hank talks about his works and she half listens, feeling the pride he takes in it wash over her, steadying her. He understands dedication, understands the horrors humanity can inflict, understands the sight of blood. She doesn't feel only half human with him, doesn't feel stumped, having to keep her work away as she's had to with other men. She can be all her, all the human that is left in her, even if she feels awkward.

"It's hard for others to understand just what I see," he says and she can sense in him he's thinking of someone in particular. She thinks of Grissom and doesn't ask.

"Yes," she agrees and laces her hand with his, watching the entwined fingers.

His smile doesn't burn her heart, but she feels it thump on just a little bit faster.

II

Grissom is deep in another case and normally, she would submerge herself in it too, as if feeling what he did would bind them closer together. But she feels herself take a step away now, knowing it will drain her.

She's going away with Hank that night and she wants to have strength left to stand, to feel, to be with him. She can feel empathy tomorrow, fight for the victims and justice the next day. Tonight, she wants to be only herself.

As she leaves, she only vaguely feels Grissom's hurt look on her back. Always on her back, never to her eyes any more.

She tells herself she doesn't miss it and her longing body makes her a liar.

II

When Hank kisses her, his hair falls against her forehead and she fights the urge to push it back. His lips are just soft enough, just eager enough and it doesn't feel wrong, doesn't feel right, just feels. Her body arches into his, not a perfect fit, but she has long since learned nothing is. Humans are pieces of a puzzle that keeps changing and what seems to go together at first may suddenly not fit at all.

But that's tomorrow and when he strokes the lines of her neck, she sighs.

II

The lab buzzes with rumours and she feels them more than she sees them in Nick and Warrick's exchanged glances, Catherine's knowing smile, Grissom's cool. She knows they speculate what she sees in him, since she never says. Perhaps they look for evidence and try to draw conclusions from that.

She hopes they will tell her if they puzzle it out.

II

Hank sleeps lightly, no snores, no disgusting habits that would drive a woman to sleep elsewhere but in his arms. Yet she sits on the edge of the bed, watching the night outside while he sleeps.

It's not that it wasn't good. It's not that his touches weren't soft and seductive. It's not him, for he is attractive and attentive and clearly wants her, perhaps even understands parts of her.

It must be her.

She curls her legs up beneath her and sits, the night never sleeping around her.

II

The case should be like any other case, even if it involves a hurt Hank. But it is not and the deeper she sinks, the more she realises how much it is not any other case as she finds out who Hank was eating with that day.

Hank's girlfriend. Hank's girlfriend that is not Sara. Hank who doesn't deny, doesn't even attempt the lie. Hank, who is breaking her heart even if she never gave it to him. Hank, who offers a feeble excuse that excuses nothing. For a moment, she wishes him dead, gone, dust and ashes that can no longer touch her.

"I'll see you around," she says and lies.

The puzzle is broken, and she walks away, feeling the shards bleed her.

II

Catherine takes her out to beers, sharing stories of men who were pigs, offering various ways to get Hank back, offering understanding. Sara takes it, sipping cool beer and listening to the roar of life in the bar, wondering if she'll ever be one of them again.

"Bastard," she whispers and means it. "Bastard, bastard, bastard, bastard."

Her father. Frank. Jens. Ken. Hank.

"What did you see in him anyway?" Catherine asks, slurring slightly.

"I don't know."

It doesn't feel like a lie and she lets the beer drift the thought away.

II

Grissom has heard, she knows. She can feel it in his gaze, something almost like pity, driving her to madness. She doesn't want pity. She wants jealousy and rage and passion and him, threatening to tear Hank apart for daring to hurt her.

She wants Grissom still.

He doesn't want her and the rejection is a bitter darkness.

II

Hank calls her one day, out of the blue. It's over with Elaine, he's so, so sorry for all that has passed. Would she please call him?

She sits in the darkness and plays the message over and over, remembering his touches, his body, his quiet understanding. Not what she saw in him, but what she found in him, for a little while, before reality caught her.

Maybe, maybe, maybe...

She plays the message one more time and hears his voice and feels nothing.

The next day, she changes her number.

II

Days pass in the stillness and she thinks of him, sometimes, a fleeting thought before she sleeps in her empty bed. He doesn't haunt her, but he's not forgotten either, another man in the line of those who have hurt her, a line going all the way back to her father. A line stretching on to her grave. No puzzle, just a set pattern, filling her life.

Tomorrow is yesterday and she dreams of her father with the desert's stillness framing nightmares.

II

It is Hank she bumps into in the hospital as she's trying to find Nick's room and they stare at each other for a moment, his eyes bright as they capture her. His hair is shorter, but he largely is as she remembers him, still young, still attractive.

"You never called," he says, but without hurt.

"I never called," she agrees. "You hurt me."

"That the only reason?"

"No."

He nods, just once and she walks away again, as she was always meant to, still seeking the piece she fits together with.

II

She's sleeping in a hospital chair as a warm hand wakes her, and for a dreadful, wonderful moment, she thinks it her father. But it is not, it can never be her father again.

Grissom looks at her, hand lingering on her arm, as if clinging to her warmth. He looks serious, she can tell from his eyes he's seen Nick and it has pained him. As it pained her, as it pained all of them. But Nick will live, will puzzle his life back together and be strong again. Just a little less human from death's touch.

"I saw Hank in the hall earlier," Grissom says unexpectedly and she merely stares at him, thinking once more she will never quite be able to predict him.

"He's not here for me," she says evenly and strangely, she feels no hurt any more. "He never was."

"Then why..." He pauses, as if trying to pretend he's never started the question. For a moment, he seems to waver, then pushes on. "What did you see in him?"

She pauses and suddenly, she sees her own mind as through a glass, all the shards gathered. "I saw myself. With him, I found something in myself, a desire to be whole again."

She looks away, but she can feel Grissom's gaze on her, summer sun in the desert, beckoning her.

II

She and Warrick takes Nick out for beers, offering nothing but understanding, listening to his halted recounting of terror no one else can imagine. She can see he does not yet feel as one of them again, may not for a long time. She clinks her bottle against Nick's and Warrick's, silently toasting survival and feeling the beer fill her body with cool and haze.

When she's hazed enough, she leaves a message on Grissom's answering machine, telling him what a bastard he is.

She doesn't even regret it when she wakes up to find a simple reply on her own machine.

"I know."

II

When Grissom kisses her, his beard scratches her skin and she fights the urge to want to shave him. His lips are not gentle enough, devouring her rather than pleasuring her, but she doesn't care right now. His body presses hers against the wall, pinning her down. She understands his desire to know she will not flee him so clearly it aches in her bones. Humans are pieces of a puzzle that keeps changing and what seems to go together at first may suddenly not fit at all.

But for today, that may always be tomorrow and when she strokes the lines of his face, he sighs.

II

Hank is pale, hair no longer blond, soaked by blood and grime. His blood. His hands are stretching upwards and she thinks of all the times he's left his fingerprints on her skin. She can almost feel them, burning on her skin as they never did when he was alive. He hurt her, but he gave her something too, an illusion of humanity, normality, something beyond death. She felt alive.

Hank is dead.

Like her father is dead. Death, death, death. It can't be a pattern, can't be her life.

She turns blindly, tears like a firestorm ravaging her as she walks, walks, walks. There is nowhere she can go and yet she walks on, crashing into the walls of her mind before she crashes into Grissom and he holds her, everything roaring and being still at once.

II

She curls her legs up and sits on the edge of the bed, watching the night outside, life in the darkness, even now going on as Hank is not. No pause, no moment to mourn, except within her.

"Can't sleep?"

She hears the bed shift as Grissom sits up next to her, his naked skin seeming to cling to hers as he leans against her.

"No," she says, closing her eyes as his fingers stroke her shoulder, remembering the funeral just hours earlier. "I never wished him dead. I just wanted to be normal for a little while. To be whole."

"You are whole, you know," he says softly.

"Not wholly human," she replies, thinking of the deaths in her life. "I lost that a long time ago."

"You're wholly Sara and that is enough for me."

He means that, she feels, has always felt in every touch, every gaze, every word. She nestles her head under his chin and watches the wind rattle against the desert's stillness.

It fits.

II

Sometimes, you get tired of fighting your life. Sometimes, you just want to rest. And there Grissom was; nothing like Hank, very much like the men I'd fallen for before and who had hurt me. But what would be the harm in resting in him, just for a little while? Just for the rest of my life?

He will hurt me, has hurt me. Perhaps that's why I pursued Hank, thinking that if the man I really wanted hurt me, perhaps the man I didn't really want would not and I could feel whole for a while, unhurt, unbroken. A bleak irony, perhaps, that he hurt me deeply still.

Wisdom is purchased in pain, a puzzle of sharp shards that cut you as you piece them together. Sara and a father. Sara and a mother. Sara and Frank. Sara and Jens. Sara and Ken. Sara and Hank. Sara and Grissom.

Sometimes, I wish I was wiser, but what I know, I know.

In the end, it makes a whole.

FIN