Title: A Tiger Cannot Change Her Stripes
Author: smithar
Rating: G
Fandom: CSI
Pairing: none
Summary: Sara Sidle contemplates the kind of teenager she was and the kind of adult she is now.
Notes: Just a plain old Sara-centric fic. Not betaed.

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Sara Sidle thinks it's very revealing that her mind drifts back to being a teenager so often. What this fact is revealing of, she has no idea.

It happens at the most innocuous times, when she's analyzing acrylic fibers under a microscope or when she's swabbing blood spatter from bedroom sheets. Thoughts and images come to her unbidden, randomly, without logic or reason. It should theoretically bother her, considering she's a rational (albeit hot-headed, she does concede) person. But it doesn't bother her. She's doesn't try to figure out if these persistent thoughts are the pathology of something deeper and darker. She just accepts it as a part of her mental process. After all, she can't be one hundred percent rational all the time; she's not a robot.

She'll think back to when she entered her teenaged years, feeling unsure and completely out of touch with the world around her. Her life by that point had been far from easy. The pain of losing her parents so violently, of having to watch her mother waste away in a psych ward and then losing her completely, of being tossed around in the foster care system... it was a lot for a child to handle. Each successive traumatic event weighed her down like a stone on her shoulders, compounding to create a rather willful and unsociable young girl with a solemn face. Her life hung in a tenuous balance back in those days. Sometimes the other kids left her alone to sit in stony silence. Other times she became the object of their attention, and not the kind of special attention that she secretly longed for. Hell, she hadn't wanted any attention from derisive, petty peers who had nothing better to do than mock a girl for everything from her screwed up family to her fashion sense to the way she walked. Boys would dare each other to kiss her, because she was pretty enough that the doing the deed didn't shame them, but unpretty enough that the dare was appropriately humiliating. Girls were no better. In a way, they were even worse. They would circle her like sharks circling prey, smelling blood in the water, never to strike until the most opportune (and embarrassing) moment.

Sometimes it had been too much for Sara to take.

Those times where she lost control, screaming and kicking and scratching, were few and far between, but she was vicious enough. Eventually the other kids learned to leave her alone, which left her with more time to concentrate on the things that actually interested her. She found comfort in her books, in unraveling the mysteries of life. Even with all the ugliness of the world around her, there was something unmistakably beautiful about science. From x-rays of the DNA helix to the panoramic shots of a billion light year old nebula, she felt intimately drawn to discovering the nature of the world around her. Compounded with her desire to right wrongs and make criminals pay, it was no wonder Sara had gone into crime scene investigation. She was proud of her intelligence and skills. Not just anyone could go to Berkeley and Harvard. Not just anyone could solve the crimes that she did. Look at where she is now...

Sometimes when Sara walks into a crime scene and the searing Vegas sun is shining downwards, she feels perfectly confident with her life. Her childhood insecurities slowly melt away. She's aware of her knowledge and strength; her analytical skills are focused and sharp. She can smile and laugh and feel like everything is well in the world, because she gets along with her friends and coworkers, and she loves what she's doing with her life, making a difference like this. It's the one thing that keeps her sane. It's also the one thing that makes her absolutely crazy. Because there are other days, days when she feels the numbing cold and familiar anger of the past and the present meeting within her and seeping through her body. She looks at the sick excuse for a man who physically abused his formerly proud wife and she's filled with black rage.

She's the daughter of an abusive bastard and the daughter of a desperate murderer; the blood of irrationality runs through her veins, no matter how analytical she is. She can't deny her emotions. She never has been able to. Not when she was a child and filled with a desperate need to fit in, not now that's she's an adult with real responsibilities and endless walls built around herself for protection. Maybe that's why she drifts back to being a child: because nothing has really changed between then and now.

What if one day the rage wins out over rationality and she goes too far for what she believes in? What if she really is nothing more than a loose canon with gun in one hand and a beer in the other? Or maybe she is nothing more than a lost and lonely child, hopelessly searching for a way to let loose the fire that burns within her.

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