Disclaimer: Not mine.

Author's Note: Hi. Wrote this long before the finale of Season 6. I can still pretend that didn't happen.

Summary: She had made a vow to change herself. To be happier. To get out and live. Spoilers for Nesting Dolls, Committed, Grave Danger and a bit of Season 6, mostly Gum DropsNick/Sara

Autumn

by e-dog

Autumn. It was the season of change.

She had made a vow to move beyond it. To move past it. That was what she told her confidant. Her best friend. Her not-so-secret crush. A man who wouldn't risk his job for anything, let alone a broken woman desperate for attention.

She had made a vow to change herself. To be happier. To get out and live. To piece back together the shards of a vase she threw against the wall a week before. To clean up the beer bottles and throw away the cough drops.

She had a made a vow.

She looked back on his misfortune as if it were a dream. Fragments of some twisted movie plot playing out before her on a webcam. Suddenly, her life didn't seem so awful. She had years to work on herself. Years to get over her childhood traumas. Years to grow up. He was going to have to start all over again. He was going to have to become a man all over again in a much shorter time. Seeing his transformation. Watching his psyche fall apart, put itself back together than break again made her plight seem so trivial now.

So it was time to move on. To get over it. To change. It was time to be a Sidle and shift the entire meaning of the name. She was not a killer. She was not a sexual predator. She was not an abuser. She was not crazy.

But it wasn't that simple, was it? It was easy to tell oneself just forget the screams. Or forget the baseball bat that left your brother disfigured for a while. Forget the doctors bandaging you up and telling you to be more careful when those comments really should've been directed at the abusive parents. Forget those days when you were almost positive you would never take another breath. No, it would be impossible to forget those days. Those life changing events.

The abuse was real. The fights were real. Watching her mother plunge a sharp knife into the chest of her father was real. It would take a lifetime to get over that. To move beyond that. It would be the same for him, she supposed. The nightmares would haunt him just like they haunted her. They were both victims.

"I think we need to talk about what happened," she had told him. His face scrunched up, feigning ignorance for a while, but he quickly sobered up and admitted responsibility. He knew what he had done. Throwing that suspect into the wall was wrong.

Not that she didn't understand his motivations. She had been down that road before. The anger festering so deep inside, it hurt both physically and mentally. Always jumping at the bit to punish the next potential criminal of the latest case. Being so tangled up in the victim and the circumstances that it becomes impossible to let go. He was going through that now. She had been going through that for a long time.

She had made a vow to move past it. Maybe by helping him, she could help herself.

"Good morning, Sunshine."

If her eyes were open, she probably would've rolled them. They spent most of the morning puking, so she was pretty damn sure it wasn't morning any longer. It had to be at least 4 in the afternoon by now.

"Hey, I said good morning, Beautiful." His voice was gruff indicating some form of sarcasm. Maybe there was a hint of resentment in there too. What she couldn't understand was his sudden use of pet names. Sunshine? Beautiful? Maybe it was only something he did when he was drunk.

She imagined that his face was one of deep regret, however, so she kept her eyes closed to keep from seeing it. She wasn't sure what they did the night before and she was confident that she didn't want to know. Oh, wait. Now she could remember something.

After trying to move and feeling sweat drenched cotton rub against her skin, she determined that she was still fully clothed. That was a good sign. She was also wrapped up so tight in her sheets, she felt like a human burrito. When the hell did it get so hot in here?

She was nudged and he laughed, "I know you're awake, Sidle." Then he whined pathetically, "So stop ignoring me."

"Nick, go back to sleep. We have the day off," she mumbled. Why else would they both get plastered the night before? There was no way in hell she would drink that much before shift. She could admit there were times when she came dangerously close to working a scene stumbling over herself, but she was careful to never let that happen. Her image as a workaholic was bad enough. Adding alcoholic to that was not an option.

"I have to piss." He was still whining. God help her, but she was this close to kicking him out of her bed and out of her apartment. She felt his weight lifting up and off her bed. He shuffled out of her room and down the hall to her bathroom. It had been quite some time since she had to share a living space with a man, so she prayed to God he wouldn't miss and mark his territory all over her walls.

She dozed off, but felt him plop back down moments later and this woke her again. She heard him groan and it sounded so bleak and helpless, that she had to open her eyes to make sure he was okay. She was still afraid to face him, which was silly, because they obviously didn't do anything except drink too much. Her room came into focus first. It was dark, fragments of sunlight spitting through her closed blinds. Letting her eyes adjust, she finally took him in and groaned herself.

His hair was sticking out in every direction possible. He almost looked like Greg. He was nearly naked, clad in just his boxers and socks and he was looking at her like he just made the biggest mistake of his life. Wanting to say anything that would lighten the mood, she joked, "I wish I could wake up to this every morning."

Nick came to life and started laughing. His face and body turning all shades of red as he grabbed a pillow and covered as much of himself as he could. It was funny. He could strip down to almost nothing and walk around her place like he owned it, but now he couldn't seem to stop blushing. His eyes darted around and she knew he was looking for his clothes. She yawned and said, "I think your shirt is in my living room."

He glanced at her sidelong and she laughed to herself. It was clear to her she remembered more of last night than he did. His voice was suddenly child-like as he asked shyly, "Then where are my pants?"

He was adorable when first waking up, she could at least admit that much. Not to mention how cute it was that his Texas accent was more prominent when he was embarrassed. She finally began to untangle herself and attempted to look around. "I seem to recall you wearing them when we got into bed. . ." She cut herself off, shooting Nick a warning glance before he said anything immature. "You know what I meant."

"Yeah, right. When we got into bed together," Nick smiled widely. "That's when I lost my pants."

A sharp pain resonated in her skull and she thought about the night before. She thought about drinking all that wine and losing all her inhibitions at the dance club. She thought about how Greg was the one to call them a cab and how she gave the cabbie her address. She thought about how she was really close to tearing the clothes off of Nick and she thought about how much that thought scared her. She thought all these things and loathed herself for almost using Nick in that way and she groaned again. "Shut-up, Nick."

"Oh, here they are," he announced, looking over the edge of the bed. He turned an even deeper shade of burgundy. "I guess I kicked them off in the middle of the night."

"Yeah, just like you decided to strip for me in my living room, but had to puke instead," she added wryly, and she suppressed a laugh at the shock on his face.

"I did what?"

"Swinging your shirt over your head and making cat calls," Sara recalled with a surprisingly vivid memory. "If you weren't so drunk, it might have turned me on."

"Oh God, no," he grunted, covering his face with his hands.

She finally crawled out of her bed, feet miraculously hitting the floor first. The room was spinning, but she could handle it. She left Nick to sort out his nakedness, entered the bathroom to hug her good friend the toilet bowl and puked for the umpteenth time in the last seven hours. Thankfully, there was no dry heaving to follow and she leaned against the wall of her bathroom to rest after such a major bodily upheaval. She rinsed her mouth, brushed her teeth and then exhaustion hit her again. She sunk to the floor and shut her eyes.

"Sara?"

She looked up from the floor and saw him standing there. He had enough sense to get his pants back on, but his shirt was still MIA. What scared her more was how sober he looked. Maybe telling him the story about the strip tease should've waited. He now seemed very awake and very abashed. He came into the bathroom with her and sat down in front of her. He ran a hand through his messy hair and he asked quietly, "Can we talk about last night?"

No, she didn't want to. Not when she was still hungover. With a shrug, she said, "Sure."

He didn't waste any time, "Why did you kiss me?"

Sara laughed for no reason other than to keep from answering right away. To prolong honesty, she opted for joking, "You mean that kiss before you nearly puked in my mouth? Or the one at the club, when Greg called us that cab?"

Nick's eyes widened and he repeated, "Greg? At the club? We kissed there? In front of everyone?"

"If by everyone you mean the entire graveyard shift, then yeah," Sara sighed, her voice lowering and losing that joking tone. "You kissed me in front of everyone."

He seemed to still be trying to shake off the fact that they swapped spit at the club, but he still wouldn't let the other kiss go. "But you kissed me, right?"

"Later. When we got here."

"Why did you kiss me?"

She countered with the same question, "Why did you kiss me?"

He shrugged, "I was drunk."

"So was I."

Silence overtook them and they avoided looking at each other. He played with the hem of his pant leg, then started chuckling. Soon it was outright laughing and it was contagious. She started laughing too, her body shaking. Nick tried to stop as he told her, "I can't believe . . . I tried to strip for you."

Sara wiped her eyes, her laughter subsiding some, "Trust me, I was just as surprised."

Nick released the last bit of his laughing, shaking his head as he wondered aloud, "What's everyone gonna think when we walk in tomorrow?"

The answer was obvious. She smiled, her heart feeling a little heavy and guilty. "That we slept together."

Nick nodded, because he was thinking the same thing. He rubbed the back of his neck and grinned at her, "I'm glad we didn't. I mean, I wanted to. . .but I'm glad we didn't. Our friendship means too much to me, Sara." She remained silent and he rubbed her knee with his hand, "Are you alright? What are you thinking?"

She placed her hand on top of his, her voice bittersweet, "I'm thinking I'm glad we didn't either. Because I wanted it too." Her fingers intertwined with his and she tugged on him to pull him toward her. She placed a chaste kiss on his lips and whispered, "You're gonna be okay. We'll both be okay."

He nodded. Getting drunk the night before wasn't all fun and games. It was a way to escape. It was a temporary fix, a way to forget the horrors they had both experienced in the past year. He knew this.

She was also sure he knew that the kiss she gave him was meant as closure. A way to say goodbye to what could've been, but even though she was sure he knew this, she watched him lean in again. She didn't stop him when his lips brushed against hers. He was still drunk, maybe. She responded in kind, opening her mouth to his. Okay, or maybe she was still drunk. His tongue teased hers and then she was convinced they were both still drunk.

Well, it didn't really matter who was drunk or not because either way, they were still making out in her bathroom, the aftertaste of vodka still lingering on their lips.

He pulled back slowly, his eyes searching hers for some sign that what he did was okay. She smiled softly, almost bashfully and he grinned back. He helped her to her feet and said, "I'm sorry...I had to know what it was like sober."

"I'm not sorry," she smiled, the back of her hand brushing against his cheek. He leaned in, gave her one more friendly kiss before grabbing her hand and leading her out of the bathroom. He was talking about breakfast or something and his voice was the happiest she had ever heard it. Her laughter at his enthusiasm was more genuine than she could ever remember it. They were both happy.

For the moment, they were both happy and that was a good thing.

As he burnt the toast and started the coffee, she gazed out the kitchen window and took in the beauty of the season. She had made a vow to change. To prove that she wasn't like her mother. That she wasn't a murderer and that she most certainly wasn't crazy. And as simply as the leaves changed color in autumn, Sara Sidle was changing too.

This was one vow that she could definitely keep.

The End