Don't own it, never will (sadly).

I got this idea from a fic called Fly. I forget who posted it, but this is pretty much a spin-off of that fic, so don't get pissed: I'm giving you due credit.

Zurrikan

Strength

1: Friends and Family

Sara walked out of Ecklie's office into a whirl of whispers and glares from her surrounding used-to-be coworkers. She was almost sure to be fired after she yelled at Catherine, again. She didn't care anymore. She had her own problems to worry about and she had no need for this. Nobody knew about her 'problems' with her past and she wanted to keep it that way. Maybe this job was getting to her. Maybe she should find a new profession. Maybe.

Grissom watched Sara leave the building and followed her, fully intending to speak with her, not argue or yell, just talk. She had opened up to him once, but never again, or to anyone else for that matter. She needed to know she had a friend. He watched her push herself onto the hood of her car and lean back, music floating his way. It wasn't the calm, soothing music he had heard when he went to her apartment, but loud, rough music. He winced at the vicious words that rolled from the car. He watched her for an entire song, then headed toward the car, only to stop short again when a young version of Sara popped up beside the car. They had the same dark hair and tall, thin build. He'd expect to see the same deep brown eyes and gap between her teeth if he were closer. Sara reached into the car and turned the music off, patting the metal beside her. The girl hopped up just as easily as Sara.

"How did you get here?" Sara asked absently.

"I walked," the girl shrugged. Sara snorted.

"Should've known. So, what's my favorite little niece doing here at such a late hour? I know you said you've accepted my hours, but I never thought you'd actually do it."

"Call it instinct. You're hurt. You need a friend, a sister."

"And you qualify Miss Carri Sidle, daughter of my brother, Michael Sidle?" Sara asked in skeptical sarcasm.

"Yup," Carri bobbed her head. Sara shrugged in acceptance.

"I'm gonna be fired." Sara was so blatantly angry and open, even Grissom didn't expect it. He was even more unprepared when he saw Sara lean on the girl and begin to sob. Carri wasn't. She reached out her hand and comforted her, gently rubbing her back and holding her close. She finally reached out and pulled Sara onto her lap, wrapping her arms around the weeping woman in a meager, but ever so touching gesture of comfort.

"If they fire you, will you come live with us? Cali isn't so bad, especially the weather. It's almost as hot as Nevada in the summer and almost as rainy as Seattle in the spring, recently, anyways. We all miss you." They both sat in silence for a few minutes until Grissom finally decided to go talk to Sara.

"Hello." Sara jumped at the sound of Grissom's voice, leaping off Carri's lap and back onto the car.

"Grissom," she acknowledged quietly. "Did you want to talk?"

"Just wondering how you're holding up. You were crying," he said, pointing to the tear tracks on her cheeks. She self-consciously wiped her eyes and shrugged.

"So? I'm fine."

"Who's your friend?" he asked, nodding to the girl. She snorted.

"You already know who I am, you were standing right over…there," Carri said, pointing to the exact spot. "Right by that red truck." He raised his eyebrows.

"Very observant."

"You were watching me!" Sara raged. She leapt off the car. "I don't believe you!"

"I only wanted to make sure you were okay," he said, throwing up his hands. "Catherine is moving to have you fired."
"Figures," she shrugged as Carri followed her and stood by her protectively.

"You aren't worried? If Ecklie and Catherine get you fired, they'll make sure that you don't get another job as a CSI, here or in California."

"Nope," Sara said nonchalantly, "I have to say, even though I would miss you all, after the hell Cath put me through, I'll be kinda happy to leave her."

"She has a home-," Carri started.

"Temporary home," Sara interjected.

"A permanent home, if I can help it, waiting for her in San Fran," she finished, looking pointedly at Sara.

"Well, we should know by the end of your suspension. I have to get back to work. Breakfast?" Grissom asked hopefully. Sara shook her head.

"The little one is my responsibility for the summer. I can't," Sara said, gesturing to the girl almost as tall as her standing beside her.

"Hey! I certainly hope you're talking about that alley cat that's hanging around your apartment," Carri warned. Sara was already getting into the car.

"Here kitty, kitty, kitty!" Sara called through the window. The girl shot around the car and tore the door open. Then, she reached out to Sara and, to Grissom's surprise yet again, began to tickle her. Both girls squirmed in the seat, laughing in unison. Grissom walked away, a small smile spreading across his face, and listened to the sounds of their laughter fade away as Sara pulled out of the lot.

2: No Regrets

Two weeks later Sara returned to work with a box ready in her car, along with her niece, sitting patiently and waiting for her aunt to call. Sara didn't know what the outcome of the situation and she didn't care, she only hoped that she was fired so she wouldn't have to explain to the team why she was leaving. Catherine, Ecklie, and Grissom waited for her in Grissom's office. She immediately began to punch in the numbers for Carri's cell phone that would alert her to the situation. Grissom's somber eyes and Catherine's bright ones confirmed her hopes. She waited for the words and had to work to put on a frown.

"Sidle, after going ov-," Ecklie began. Sara held up her hand to stop him.

"Am I fired or do I have to quit?" she asked, not bothering to keep the bitterness out of her tone. Even Ecklie was taken aback by her blunt statement. She raised her eyebrow in question.

"You've been fired."

"Thank you," Sara said, pushing the send button on her cell phone to punctuate her word. "C'mon in," she said into it.

"What are you doing?" Catherine asked slowly, her eyes narrowed in suspicion.

"Always the politician," Sara snorted.

"These days, that'll get you killed," said a voice from the door.

"That was fast," Sara said without turning around. "Down the hall to the right, 16, 33, 8. I have some things to do." The girl with the box nodded and walked away.

"Explain yourself Sidle. Who was that and why did you send her to the locker room?" Ecklie asked firmly.

"Well," Sara sighed, taking her position leaning against the doorframe, "even though I don't really have to, why not? That was my niece, my brother's daughter, Carri Sidle. She went to get my things from my locker. I figured you'd want to talk and I still have to say good bye to the boys."

"I don't know what there is to talk about. You've been fired for insubordination," Catherine said finally. A long pause followed.

"Why," Grissom cut the silence, "Why do you always lose it on domestic violence cases?"

"We already talked about it," Sara said to Grissom. "There is no point in telling them," she waved a hand at Ecklie and Catherine.

"You have to. In a way, you owe it to them," he said quietly. Sara shook her head, but now the other two were interested and she knew they wouldn't give up.

"Yes, Sara, tell us. What's the almighty workaholic's deep, dark secret?" Catherine taunted her. Sara was angry, Catherine could see it, but this woman wasn't her friend at the moment, she was an unruly coworker who had been fired and, now, had to spill. What she didn't see was the scared little girl that was peeking out through the tears in Sara's eyes. To Grissom, it was the afternoon in her apartment all over again.

"I don't know how you didn't figure it out, Cath," Sara began. "The bad temper, the dark looks, the obsessive work patterns, and all of it on domestic cases, too. But then again, I guess someone with a normal childhood wouldn't have the same… faults that I have. I-," Sara couldn't help it. She choked on her words as she struggled with the lump in her throat. After a few deep breaths she continued. "I wish I could say I only remember the good nights, but I can't because there were none. In my house, trips to the hospital were normal. If you took a few good X-rays you would see where the broken bones didn't heal normally. And if you really cared, I could show you the few scars that didn't heal when my father used sharp objects to beat my mother, my brother, and me. He beat us until my mother couldn't take it anymore…until she killed him." Sara was flat out sobbing now, her cheeks wet with tears that only Grissom had seen. "But you wouldn't understand b-because you never had that p-problem. I though everyone lived this w-way. When I was twelve, I learned th-that not only was I wr-wrong, but nobody in the s-seven foster homes I w-went to wanted a m-messed up kid…a kid l-like…like me." Sara sunk to the floor, but nobody moved to comfort her. They were too shocked. Carri came up the hall and saw the scene. She dropped the box she was carrying and knelt next to Sara. Grissom walked over to her and leaned down. He stroked her hair and whispered that everything would be okay, that she wasn't messed up. Carri murmured something into her ear and Sara nodded. She stood and placed her department issued stuff on the desk and walked out with the box. Grissom straightened and the surprisingly tall brunette glared at Catherine and Ecklie, her eyes alight with a fierce brown fire. Her ferocious look spoke volumes in itself.

"You happy now? Now that you destroyed her?" she spat bitterly. "I mean, you don't even have the decency to stop her, to comfort her. I think I understand why she wanted to quit now. You only care about yourselves and the people who help advance your career, like the kid down the street who got kidnapped, or the man who murdered his wife. You don't give a damn about their friends, or their kids, do you? The ones who are scarred for life, the ones who are forced to grow up too fast." Carri turned to leave, then looked up at Grissom. "Thank you," she said in a soft voice, "thanks for loving her," and she turned and left.

"My God," Catherine whispered aghast. "I had no idea."

"None of you did because none of you bothered to look at her, to see how tired, how empty she looked," Grissom said. "Did you talk to her during her suspension? Did you even wonder why she came back with such a heavy spirit? Did you see how much it hurt her when shift split, or when somebody criticized her? I did. I saw her at her apartment. She told me all of it and I listened. How do you expect people to feel, Cath, when you stop paying attention to them and their feelings? And you!" Grissom exclaimed, gesturing to Ecklie. "You don't even pay attention when one of your best CSI's has a problem! How do you expect to keep the lab running if you don't take care of it!"

"I do!" Ecklie exclaimed, standing suddenly. "I do care, but when that CSI won't cooperate with me, I can't do anything!" Grissom put a hand to his temple and shook his head.

"Just be careful. Nobody in swing or graveyard will stay cooperative under a tyranny. They all feel awful already because Sara's leaving."

"And how do you know that! You don't see or interact with us anymore!" Catherine said, her temper flaring.

"Because, no matter what, we're all still a family. A dysfunctional one, yes, but still a family, no matter what happens, and family looks out for its own," Grissom said, and with that he exited Ecklie's office to see both night and swing shifts with the lab techs, even some of the late working day shift, watching the disappearing backs of Sara and her niece. They were all near tears, if they weren't crying already.

The Happy Ending

3: Moving On

Dear Grissom,

I wanted to tell you that I have no regrets about what happened. I knew I couldn't stay, not with all of this tension. I forgive you for what you did. You were right, they needed to know. I wish I could say that it hasn't gotten to me, leaving I mean. I've received so many letters and emails from the rest of our little family, even Cath. I hope she hasn't given you too much trouble. I want you to know that I do still love you and that it will take a while for my heart to find its way back through the maze you left it in, but that you will always have a place in my life, if you want it.

Your CSI,

Sara Sidle

Grissom stared at the letter he had received, almost crying. He hadn't realized Sara still loved him or that she cared about him so much.

Dear Nicky,

I hope you don't hate me for leaving, but I couldn't stay and I think you understand. My secrets are too big for that tiny building and too heavy for some of the tiny hearts there to bear. You held me tight when I hurt, you supported me, you are the closest thing I have to a twin brother. Keep in touch and make sure the others stay strong, you hold us all together. I look forward to hearing your Texan twang soon, if you ever come out to Cali.

Your sister,

Sara Sidle

Nick smiled at Sara's little note. He knew he was always welcome wherever she was and that they would always be together in mind. He could hear her laughter, her voice telling him not to be worried or hurt. He could see her deep brown eyes and her silky hair, and he would never forget her gap toothed smile that lit up his days. Deep down, he knew that she would never forget him either.

Dear Warrick,

I know you and I didn't get off to a very good start, but eventually you grew on me and I really want you to know that I accept you as one of my best friends. You were always there for me to lean on and you can't possibly know how much it meant to me. You encouraged me to do my best and I'm ashamed to say that all I can do is thank you on a piece of paper.

Your little detective,

Sara Sidle

Warrick was actually touched by this expression of friendship on Sara's part. He even felt himself missing her, despite their rocky start. He hoped she would be alright in California.

Dear Greggo,

I have to say I'm truly sorry we never got to do that dinner at break. I miss your loud music, your jokes, hell, even your spiked hair. I definitely think that I missed out on an important experience. If you ever come out to Cali, look me up. Maybe we can do that dinner, or lunch, maybe even breakfast. Don't give up on your career as a CSI. You are making progress. I hope that I was a good influence and that I taught you enough to hold you over until you find a better mentor.

Your late dinner date,

Sara Sidle

Greg couldn't keep the silly grin off his face. She actually misses me! Then his face fell as he saw how humble she was being, for God's sake, she even complimented him! I could never have a better mentor. Greg hoped to the stars that he would be able to see her again. Maybe she'll have gotten over Grissom by then.

Dear Cath,

I know we never really got along and that you probably don't even want to be reading this letter, but I had to send it, even if it just gets tossed in the trash. You and I never really matched, clashing personalities, ya know? Stay strong with Lindsey, she's a good kid. You've really rubbed off on her, in a good way. I know I'm not really in the position to ask for a favor, but if Ecklie's head ever gets too big, pop him for me, will ya? And don't forget the before and after pictures!

Your worst nightmare,

Sara Sidle

Catherine simply stared, unmoved on the outside. Inside she was laughing, screaming, and crying all at once. She was happy that Sara wasn't mad at her. Their clashing personalities hadn't stopped her from becoming attached to the strong brunette. She was angry that Sara was telling her how to deal with Lindsey, but then again, that was Sara, always trying to make others, or herself, even the world a better place. Her tears came from deep in her heart where she realized that she actually missed Sara. She was always there when Catherine's head got too big for herself and she always found a way to make Catherine seem small in her shadow, until she realized that Sara wasn't as smart as she pretended to be, and that she was only recognizing and controlling Catherine's arrogance. She would be missed by everyone.

Sara smiled at the stack of letters sitting in her new bedroom. She hadn't really left her friends behind. This was simply an obstacle to be overcome, just like the rest. The letters were a bridge across the gap between San Francisco and Las Vegas. Sure, the tears had come, but she had quickly realized that it was pointless to go on about. Moving on was never something she could do easily, but she was willing to risk being hurt to start a new life, in love and in general.

The Sad but Equally Satisfying Ending

3: Words and Writing

Grissom held the pages in trembling hands. He had called a meeting with both shifts at strictly 11:00 as Sara had written on the first paper. He didn't even tell them why.

Please read your respective note out loud. Everyone deserves to hear these words, but only you deserve to see the writing.

Dear Grissom,

I will always love you, even when I'm gone. Please give these letters to the others and read the short one together. Don't linger on my present or past, linger on your future. You have a great blonde working days. I just have one request: tell Ecklie to SHUT UP on some occasion. It is VERY satisfying, even for you Gris.

Your CSI,

Sara Sidle

Dear Nick,

I honestly don't know if you wanted a relationship or a sister, but I do know you can have any girl you want. I'll miss your Texan twang, but you'll find someone, you always do. Good luck becoming supervisor. Don't forget to lay a bet with Rick like last time.

Your sister,

Sara Sidle

Dear Warrick,

We got off to a rocky start, but in the end you were really my friend. I don't know whether I liked your encouragement or your roughness around the edges better. I've always hated perfect people. You are a great CSI and a great friend. Don't get too competitive with our Nicky.

Your little detective,

Sara Sidle

Dear Greg,

I'm sorry I missed the one chance I had at learning more about you, but I don't remember you asking me out one more time after that. I know I haven't been the best influence on you, what with my tantrums and my issues, but I hope I've made a good enough impression to burn that dark scowl off your face whenever you hear the words 'Greg, stay here' or something along those lines. Just be glad that you can feel like you make a difference. I never did. Don't forget, leggo my Greggo!

Your late dinner date,

Sara Sidle

Dear Catherine,

I know that you want to rip this paper into shreds, but I also know that you cared about me, even after our fights. You're too much of a mother to let your heart harden completely. Don't be too hard on the guys, Nick, Warrick, and Greg just want to have fun. Don't even ask me what our favorite bugman wants to do. I never could figure him out. Tell Lindsey that I'm gonna miss her. I think that she was the only kid outside my family that liked me. If you were actually following the directions on the top of the paper, you would know what I said to Grissom about Ecklie. I advise you to do that too, Cath.

Your worst nightmare,

Sara Sidle

Echo Ridge, 12:00, midnight for the last page.

Don't be early or late, I'll be waiting.

"The highest ridge close to Vegas, c'mon!" Nick said, glancing at his watch. "11:30…it'll take twenty minutes to get there, 10 minute hike to the top. I don't care about Ecklie!" he almost shouted as Catherine opened her mouth. She didn't back down.

"Let's get moving, then," she said, glaring at Nick.

4: Fly

They drove in silence, everyone packed into one car. They arrived at 11:48 and were met by an extremely unusual scene when they arrived. A page held down with a rock in the dusty wind and no Sara. Warrick stooped to pick it up and began to read it aloud.

Don't approach the top until I tell you!

I still have a few things to say.

I know you all care about me, no matter what you say. We're a family and a few arguments and shift splits aren't going to change that because we're dysfunctional, just like everyone else. None of this was your fault, I made my own decisions and that put me where I am.

Take a moment and remember all the suicide cases we've had. It seems that they all took the coward's way out, but you would be surprised at how much strength it takes. I know from previous experience. I would like to take this moment to thank Grissom for not mentioning the cuts on my wrists he saw when he came over to my apartment during my suspension. You all told me at one time or another, in some way, that I needed a release, that I worked too much. I do have a release. There're a few pages in my room, they'll explain it all. Even with that release, you all still had something that I didn't. Strength. It's why I never fought back at home, why I never talked about my problems, why I never felt the need to hang out, why I never wanted to sleep or eat, why I never vented completely at any time. There is one thing that I've always wanted to do. Fly. I always wanted to fly, to soar, but it takes a lot of strength to fly.

Don't think of this as a suicide note, think of it as a goodbye letter from a broken child without enough strength to say goodbye to the only friends she ever had.

Go ahead.

They all rushed to the top to see Sara's back, her hair gently ruffled by the breeze as it flowed past.

"Sara, how'd you get here?" Grissom asked. Her car hadn't been there.

"Bus," she said quietly.

"Don't do this, Sara, please," Greg pleaded. She turned around and smiled at them.

"This is what I want, Greg," she said. She licked her lips, as if afraid to continue. "I don't how to explain it, except as euphoria. I finally feel happy, happy that I'm going to be free!" Sara's smile was wide now, even though her eyes glinted with sadness. Nick carefully approached her and she took a step back. "I'm not crazy, Nick. I won't let you stop me."

"I don't want to," he said quietly. He wrapped his arms around her and whispered his goodbyes into her ear. He kissed her forehead, gently smoothing back her hair. She took a deep breath as Warrick came forward. He too snaked his arms around her and said his goodbyes. Catherine kissed her forehead as well and smiled at her, silently agreeing that all was forgiven. Grissom watched this and nodded. He had already said his goodbyes and Sara didn't need anymore, but still Greg hugged Sara's waist like a child.

"Don't leave me, mommy," he whined, one last attempt at a joke.

"I'll be watching over you," she whispered into his spiky hair. She kissed his cheek and gently pushed him back. The CSI's watched as Sara turned around, looking down at the 369 foot drop. She spread her arms and put her head back. She laughed out loud and leaned forward. Nothing could hold her back now. As she fell the wind whipped at her hair and clothes, tugging at her body, but she was weightless, untouchable, invincible. Grissom was the first one to recover from the shock. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number.

"Brass."

"Jim, there's a d-," he couldn't finish, choking on tears that he didn't know were there. "Get over here, there's a 419 at Echo Ridge. It's a suicide."

"I'll be right there. Is something wrong, Gil?" Brass sounded concerned.

"Just get over here," Grissom said and hung up.

"We can't process," Catherine said. "We might as well see her while she's in peace." She started down the slope, followed by the others.

Four months later, the night shift was handed to Warrick and the swing to Nick. Catherine and Grissom retired and took to getting regular jobs, but they didn't mourn their friend. She had told them not to and bad things happened to people who didn't do as Sara Sidle said. Greg had been sobbing in the break room a few weeks before and the hot coffees on the table that belonged to the rest of the shifts had, as they consoled him, fallen over at the same time and burned his lap. They all had a good laugh at that. Sara had been cremated and thrown into the wind on Echo Ridge in the same spot where she had jumped. They all believed that Sara still talked to them. That breeze of approval as Grissom walked through the park on his first date with Sophia or as Catherine helped Lindsey with homework. The small voice in their heads as Nick, Warrick, or Greg, now a full fledged CSI, and a good one at that, worked on a dead end case that gave them the inspiration, encouragement, or idea to solve it. No matter what happened, they all knew Sara was watching them and that she always would, and they all looked forward to the day when they would join her in the sky, soaring through the air with all the strength in the world.