Title: Snow Man
Disclaimer: Still not mine, no matter what I try.
Summary: "You've picked yourself up a lot of times. But you were never able to just leave it behind."
A/N: The poem throughout is The Snow Man
by Wallace Stevens. I used to hate his guts as I wanted to do a
presentation on Hemingway and not him, but I can admit a mistake or
Many, many thanks again to gglovebug for being the bestest beta ever ;) and to anni2001 for the help and pointing out my stupid-ass mistakes.
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
The child fell. Hard on her knees and you wince in sympathy. A stunned look crossed her features momentarily as you looked on, marring the innocent expression in her wide-set blue eyes. But it was soon replaced by a radiant smile as the girl picked herself up and waddled into the waiting arms of her mother, the fall long forgotten amidst squeals of laughter.
So simple. Apparently so easy. No reflection upon what had happened, no fretting. Just being. The world according to a child – wants and needs and pure action. Just going forward, eager for new things, not encumbered by the pitfalls of life. You've stopped wondering when you lost that. Maybe you never had it in you to begin with.
You got up from the bench as the morning sun flitted through the sparse trees, a desert wind too hot for this time of day carrying dust and sand you could taste on your tongue. Not utterly unpleasant; at least you knew you could still taste something. The blue eyes looked up enquiringly as you passed her and you moved your facial muscles according to what you knew would anatomically produce a smile. The gaze turned away as the girl hid her head behind her mother's arm. Yeah, you really need to work on that smile. But she'd forget that in a minute or two, go on living. You could already hear more laughter as you opened the door of the car and climbed in. You've picked yourself up a lot of times. But you were never able to just leave it behind.
The laughter tugs at your memory and you try to keep it with you as you close the drawer in the morgue on yet another innocent soul fallen prey to the dark violence of the world you live your life in. It's your lifeline. You need that laughter. There might be nothing else there for you.
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
It's a bad one. They always are when you get called in from your way home and it's more apparent the moment you step out of the car, parked behind two police cruisers. You can basically taste it in the air, see it around the officers, who are more subdued than usual. The prickling on the back of your neck grows as you pick up your kit and stroll over to Brass with practiced casualness. He looks slumped, smaller in a way. Older. Sadder. The slight shake of his head the only thing you see as he turns away to hide his gaze and you give him some time by deciding to see for yourself first. The short trip to the opened front door of the shabby house has you sweating in what must be the worst heat wave Vegas has seen in years.
You think of ice cubes in the glass of scotch that you'll need after this call and you're not sure if it's the image of the cool, clinking ice catching a stray ray of light or the thought of what awaits you that makes you shiver. Then you try to not think of anything as you put on the gloves and step through the door.
Iron. The violence screams at you in the silence of the house. No matter what case and how often you've seen it, you've never been able to kill that clench of your stomach as the stingy smell of iron permeates your senses, heightened by the sweltering heat. Nothing good ever comes off the heat. You lick the roof of your mouth in a vain attempt to get rid of the metallic taste on your tongue and you smell it long before you see the blood. Not as much as you might have expected from the bleak aura outside, but the moment you lay your eyes on the source of the blood, you try to think of it as a case alone. A victim. A body. Something you can label neatly and work with. But you were never truly able to with cases like these, were you? You never could keep the faces from haunting your waking hours and definitely not in the hours you lay awake in your bedroom alone with your thoughts. Because you'll never be able to get over seeing a dead child.
Your eyes close momentarily out of their own volition, but the image is already burned into your retinas. And you pray to God or Buddha or whoever might listen that you never will stop feeling this. You stop trying to get rid of the tangy taste in your mouth; you deserve it. Work with it.
The soft intake of breath behind you shakes you out of your thoughts and you turn to see Sara, showing the pain you cannot show. You can't allow yourself to. Or maybe you're not able to by now, you don't know and you've stopped caring. But you realize once more that it truly may be all you're left with as she silently gets to work, trying hard to be like you. To not feel anything. You can only wish that were true in moments like these.
You take pictures, draw charts of the blood and position the body was found in. Brass is in and out of the house a couple of times, not able to stay on the inside for long and you can't blame him. The heat, he will say. He's from Jersey, he never got used to the days the desert decides to remind them where they live. You'll nod as you order another beer, equally good at not really facing the truth. But that's for later. Much later. Right now, you feel the sweat begin to pool at the small of your back and you hate the way your gloves stick to your skin.
Actually, you just hate your gloves today.
A soft clink, metal on hard ground. "I think I found the murder weapon." Sara holds up a steak knife and you nod slowly, pursing your mouth.
"Weapon of opportunity?"
She looks around and bags the knife before getting up, angling herself towards the small kitchen. "I'll check."
Turning back to the task at hand, you swab more blood from the cold and cheap vinyl floor, using more swabs than you should, but no one will dare say anything. You want to be sure. Or avoid getting to the body for as long as possible.
Footsteps behind you as you keep working. "Five in the kitchen. Same make."
Who keeps five knives? You won't know for sure until you test it, of course, though statistics are on your side. But you stay silent, Sara knows as well as you do and the times when acknowledging this almost eerie sharing of minds brought a small smile to both your lips long gone. No one's smiling today. And you can't remember the last time you actually did smile; vaguely aware that this fact should somehow bother you, yet it doesn't.
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
You don't go home that day, which is nothing unusual. You pore over the crime scene photos for two hours before you decide you're obsessing. Then you look over the knife, but you still see the small face and the blood, so you might as well have stuck with the pictures. A print off the knife fails to improve your mood, the black coffee you sip almost making you retch. And you can't even blame it on the coffee; Greg had gotten out the good stuff yesterday before shift.
You check on Trace and you stalk Mandy in the DNA lab, the temperature apparently dropping a few degrees each time you step into a room. You haven't changed and you look like hell, but you need to keep going.
Later that day you punch the wall in the bathroom as all the blood comes back the victim's. But you take a few deep breaths, splash water on your face and you're back to being able to present your normally collected self the world has come to expect.
You almost punch the table as Jaqui hands you the report, but you hold yourself as tightly coiled as your voice when you call Brass. You need to go home and dull your senses before you can face the neighbor teen who plunged the knife into the defenseless seven-year-old kid that's lying on a slab in the morgue right now. You've long since stopped wondering why things happen. They just do and even the scotch can't kill the taste that still lingers on your tongue, nor can it make you close your eyes without feeling nauseous.
You round the corner to the PD the next evening and you're smack in the middle of a Bruce Willis movie. Five officers dragging a screaming suspect into the interview room while the other half of the cast is huddled around Brass.
"Tried to make a run for it. Idiot."
You look from Brass gingerly rubbing his chin where a bruise is beginning to show to the still yelling kid, gaze finally falling on the folder you're holding. "He can yell all he wants. Jaqui matched his prints to the knife Sara found in the house and Robbins confirmed it as the murder weapon."
A few barely suppressed hisses and it's amazing how you can feel the mood lift around you. You think of the six stab wounds in the child's body and the taste still clinging to your tongue and your mood doesn't lift a bit. You close the file and hold it out for Brass.
"Get some ice on your chin after you're done here."
"You not coming?"
You're turned already, leading the trek to the observation room. "No."
It is as slam-dunk as you can get with any case. It is the Michael Jordan of slam-dunk cases. You've never been much for basketball though, so that probably explains why you just feel miserable instead of elated as the rest of the team slap backs and share victorious smiles. Yes, it must be that; you've always preferred baseball after all. The crack of the bat hitting the ball as satisfying as looking over ERAs and stolen bases per game.
No one slaps your back, only curt nods as they would know about your sport preferences, of course. Arguing batting averages in the breakroom during a lull your only feeble attempt at bonding with Nick and Warrick on some level. That went about as well as the time you asked Catherine to take care of your tarantula as you were about to leave for a conference. So you never got around to telling them how you buried your baseball glove in the backyard during winter as a kid so it would be smooth come spring. And you remembered why you just didn't do that bonding thing.
You decline the offer of breakfast, no one even asking for a reason by now. Sara's gaze catches yours for a moment, but turn away before either of you can acknowledge it. You think office, but you end up in front of the morgue doors, pushing them open and stepping into the quiet inside. Usually a sense of peace settles over you down here, but not today. Not for a few days to come before you're able to push it all into the deep dark recesses of your mind where things like this go and fester in darkness.
Grateful for being alone, you run your hands over the cold metal of the drawer door for a moment, fingertips going numb. If anyone were to print the morgue, they'd find your prints on a lot of drawers. You were never able to answer yourself why you dwell on these things. Why you don't pick yourself up and go for breakfast, trying to shake it all. But you've always indulged in the pain, the only thing you let yourself wallow in. And you will do so again, though for now your focus belongs to the body in the drawer you slowly open.
Think of the laughter. Maybe it is worth it after all.
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
You recuse yourself from cases the next couple of days. Catherine's eyes burning into you neck though you ignore them. Sara's softer gaze flitting over your skin after you leave for your office the fourth night in a row harder to ignore. You always associate softness with her. Be it her gaze or her touch and you have to swallow at the pure need you haven't felt for a long time. Or maybe you've just grown weary of ignoring.
Of course it's Catherine who corners you after one shift. Some days you might bring yourself to be grateful for it. Some days.
"What's going on?" She crosses her arms in front of her chest, hair flung back in a quick movement of the head.
"Finished the report on your robbery." You hold the file up like a shield. "You did well."
"No. What's going on?" Her gaze doesn't waver.
Safety mechanism one having failed, you move on to the next one on your list. "I'm not sure I'm following you, Catherine."
The set of her mouth and the slight tightening of her eyes tell you she doesn't buy your act for a second and you sigh.
Neither of you say anything for some time and you see her gaze transform into one of concern. That hurts so you can only shrug.
"I will be fine." That's all the admission you're able to give. Not enough apparently.
"I see so many dead people, Gil, I don't want to see another. You're dying. A little bit, day by day. Not much and not easy to see, but you're still dying and I won't let you."
It angers you. You feel the cold, hard anger rise in you, but you push it down ruthlessly just as anything else. Recognize it, analyze it, label it, accept it, and then shelf it away. It has always worked like this for you, and it works now as you work your mouth into a smile and shake your head slowly at Catherine. "Just tired, Catherine. Nothing some good sleep can't fix." And you chose to ignore the doubt you see in her eyes, because you're good at that, too.
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
"I hear you."
You let that run through your mind for a bit, pondering. "What?"
"You don't need to say anything. I can practically hear you think nevertheless."
You look at her, but nothing more is forthcoming so you'll put it in the place for thoughts to be mulled over later. You don't remember how you ended up in this diner with her. You don't care to, you're just grateful. And for once you just let yourself feel it.
Maybe it was her hand brushing yours earlier that night - sans gloves for once. Maybe it was her not pressing you or questioning you like Catherine had days earlier. She always knew when you couldn't be pushed any further. Maybe it was the past couple days coming back to bite you in your ass with a vengeance. You used to be better at pushing things away.
The waitress brings your plates and you hadn't realized you hadn't really eaten anything in days, but Sara only looks on as you clean your plate in record time. Always perceptive. It used to scare you, but it doesn't today. And that does scare you. One more beer and you're gone, out the door. Things were entering dangerous territory you are not able, not willing to enter.
You look away and keep walking to your car, wind tugging at your shirt, her footsteps behind you, and then her hand on your shoulder.
"Sara, I…" You swallow. "I'm not good company right now. I can't…"
She's silent, which is your undoing.
"I have to go. I might do something rash otherwise."
She lets the wind carry that away and just looks at you for some time. "Don't you think that maybe it's time you did?"
The wind snatches that up too, but it gets tangled in the web of your mind the moment the words leave her mouth. The statement is blatant, bold even. Her stance relaxed and an arms length away, a counterpoint to her words. You always thought it would take something monumental, something that you couldn't ignore. Never did you think it would be like this - soft words spoken early one morning. You were fighting the wrong monsters all along.
So for once you just do it. You let yourself act on impulse. Pure wants and needs as you almost run a red light on your drive home, her hand on your arm your lifeline now.
You stop in the door to your home, the rush of everything making your mind swirl, thoughts tumbling around until you're dizzy and this isn't right. This complicated mess isn't right and she must have seen it in your eyes as you turn to speak, because she just leans in and silences you with a kiss.
And it really is as simple as that. One kiss. One simple, complicated kiss that leads to more bittersweet kisses, growing hungry and needy amidst shedding of clothes and stumbling to the bedroom. Kisses turning into licks and bites and soft moans filtering through the sounds of a never-resting city outside. Her pulse at her throat under your lips and she tastes like Sara and dust and you lap it up greedily in your need.
And it is one of those days, one of those moments where you can't do anything but let another person tear down your self-imposed walls and not fight it. Just forget all the pretenses and reasonings that have ruled you most of your life and just let yourself be pushed onto the bed, the kiss of cold fabric on your hot skin almost painful.
And it is Sara. There for herself or for you or with you; you can't tell and you don't care. Don't care for anything but the feeling of her slowly sinking down on you, enveloping you in her wet heat, softness all around you, taking you in and giving. Giving so much without asking for anything in return. Not out loud. Not now.
Sara. Slowly starting to move on you, the feel of her incredibly soft skin under your rough hands and the soft breeze from outside enveloping the both of you. The smell and taste and her nails scraping over your sweat-covered chest. Marking, taking, drawing a deep groan that rumbles through your chest as you grab her ass and start thrusting into her. Start to forget and think of nothing but Sara. Sara, always Sara. Fucking you or healing you, you don't know and for once you don't care to know.
Nothing but the slight twist of her hips that changes the angle and makes you go deeper and makes your goddamned brain stop working for a few blissful moments. Frees you of all and everything but Sara tensing on top of you and around you, throwing her head back and clawing at your arms. It hurts, but you relish the pain because it drives everything else out. Nothing but a few more sloppy thrusts and heaven moving closer to earth for a few precious moments and the scent of apples in her hair as you curl up behind her and finally lose yourself enough to live for a bit.