A/N: This is just a little Nick/Sara oneshot piece that takes place after 7x18, Empty Eyes :)
"It's good that you were there for her, Sara. She didn't have to die alone."
"We usually get there too late to meet the victim."
Her voice kept ringing through his ears and he couldn't sleep. Throughout the entire case she had been trying her hardest to keep it together, to not lose it and break down. She had to finish the case for Cammie. But he saw her struggling, and remembering her voice on the brink of breaking for the umpteenth time was enough to break his own heart.
And now he felt stupid; he felt stupid for not going to see her after the case. The case had hit everyone hard, but he knew it hit a little too close to home for Sara. She had never told him much about her past, other than a few things that she let slip out over the occasional beer or two. But there was something about this girl, something about Cammie that Sara had in common with her. Somehow, some way, Nick could tell she could relate.
He had spent the entire night trying to figure out what sort of connection they had. It was obvious they had never met or seen each other in their entire lives, so it had to be something else. Other than the scratch on Sara's face from Cammie's last few breaths of life, there was nothing else that connected them.
He got in his Tahoe after having an inner debate with himself; part of him didn't want to go over and disturb her, heck it was two in the morning. But the other part of him said he was a selfish bastard if he didn't. At least go over and check to make sure she's okay, he told himself. After she shoots you that cute little smile of hers and lectures you for being too protective of her you can go home and finally get some sleep, Stokes.
Time skipped and he found himself in front of her apartment door. Only one light was on outside, the one next to the door above the engraved numbers on the wall that read what unit was hers. He could tell there was life inside as light was shining through her thin red curtains in front of the windows. He couldn't stop himself from trying to peek through them; he felt it was an invasion of Sara's privacy and yet the one way he would be able to finally understand every intimate detail of who she was.
The air conditioning unit must've been on, Nick figured because the curtains were blowing in a small breeze from inside. Just as he was about to give up he saw her walk out of her bedroom wrapped in nothing but a towel, trying to dry her hair with another as she walked into the kitchen. He could hear the faint sound of a kettle whistling and watched as she turned the stove off and took the kettle off the burner, listening to the soft dying sound of the steam as the kettle cooled.
What he wasn't expecting was when she started sobbing and dropped to her knees, holding her head in her hands as her small frame wracked with each of her cries. Immediately Nick reached under her mat in front of the door for the spare key and slid it inside the door without another thought, letting himself in. "Sara?" he asked, looking around for her. She was still crumbled up on the floor of the kitchen and it hadn't appeared that she had even heard him come in.
"Sara, it's me," he whispered, taking a cautious step toward her. He didn't want to scare her. When she didn't make an acknowledgement that he was there he kneeled down in front of her. "Sar, please…" he softly said, putting a tender hand on her shoulder. "Talk to me…"
She immediately lunged at Nick and wrapped her arms tightly around his neck, crying into his shoulder. Nick was thrown off-guard but he quickly wrapped his arms around her back, temporarily forgetting that she was completely nude except the towel that was wrapped around her body. "It's okay Sara," he whispered.
"I can still hear her screams, Nick," Sara cried into his shoulder, "The son of a bitch doesn't feel a damned thing and I can hear her screaming!"
"Oh Sara," Nick whispered, gently rubbing her back with his hand.
"I was there when she died," she whispered, "I watched her die, Nick. There wasn't anything I could do, and I let her die!"
"No Sara, it wasn't your fault," Nick firmly told her. "You didn't kill her, Marlon Frost did," he said. "You were there for her Sara, and that's the most anyone could've done. I know I couldn't have handled that. You kept it together for her, and you showed her kindness."
That seemed to calm her tears a little as her breathing slowed, not quite regular yet but getting there. "She was talking to me, Nick," Sara whispered. "She was terrified… she was terrified, and I—"
"Shh," Nick whispered, holding her close. "Sara, listen to me," he murmured into her ear. "She was scared, but she didn't have to go through that alone. You helped her through it, Sara… you were there for her. You held her hand."
"And I told her it was going to be alright, Nick!" Sara angrily shouted, squeezing the loose ends of Nick's shirt with her fists. "I lied to her! I told her it was going to be okay!"
"You didn't lie to her, Sara," Nick calmly replied, reaching over and putting his thumb underneath her chin, moving her head so that he could gaze into her eyes. "You never lied. She went in peace."
Sara shook her head in protest but was quickly losing the battle as she got lost in his eyes. "She didn't even know me, Nick."
"It doesn't matter, Sar," Nick whispered back. "You know what I think?"
"What?" she whispered.
"I think that you were meant to find her," Nick gently told her, his other hand still rubbing up and down her back. "I think you were meant to find her, and tell her that everything would be okay. I think you were her guardian angel, Sar."
"…That's not possible," Sara choked back another sob.
"Do you really believe that?" Nick asked her. "Because it's what I think. I really think that's the truth, Sara."
She broke down completely and sunk against him, crying into his chest and dampening his shirt. But he didn't care. This was what she needed to do, and he was going to be there for her as long as she needed him. He sat there for fifteen minutes just running his hand through her hair and whispering soothing things to her as she finally let it all out.
Finally Sara was able to find her breath enough to speak. "…I was about Cammie's age when it happened," she whispered.
"When what happened?" Nick gently prodded her, tucking a strand of drying brown hair behind her ear.
She let out a shaky sigh, but she smiled some when he squeezed her shoulder as gentle reassurance. "It was my second year in college and I was coming back to my dorm late one night after studying in the library," she started. "I had a big test the next day, and it was one of my classes I was sort of struggling in…"
"Sara Sidle, struggling for you is an A-," Nick teased her, shooting her his signature Texan grin.
She giggled as she swatted at his arm playfully. "B-, to be precise."
"Wow, that teacher really had it in for you, didn't they?" he asked her.
"Oh stop it," she grinned up at him and he immediately shut his mouth after laughing one more time.
"I never liked to be out of my dorms at night, I was always too paranoid about things. But my roommates weren't exactly the type that would sit and let a girl study…" Sara trailed off. "The library was like my second home. Everyone knew my name there; the woman who worked at the front desk was always really nice."
"I bet you were her best customer," Nick added.
Sara nodded absent-mindedly, playing with Nick's watch on his wrist. "I wasn't thinking about it that night, though. I was exhausted and I had to get up in four hours to go to class, so I just wanted to get in and get as much sleep as I could." Sara, ever the nocturnal woman, Nick thought. "I was about halfway there when I heard something."
Nick continued to gently rub her back for support as he raised an eyebrow. "What was it?"
"I wasn't sure," Sara whispered, blankly staring at the wall. "It sounded like a woman's voice, but I wasn't sure. I thought maybe it was just my mind playing tricks on me because I was tired, but then I heard another voice…"
"God don't you ever shut up you're going to give me a headache you whiny bitch!"
"I knew something, somewhere was wrong," she said.
Nick slid his eyes closed, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly as he started to realize where this story was going. "You went to go check it out?"
"Yeah," she nodded stiffly, "And that was when everything went to hell in a hand-basket."
"What happened?" Nick asked her.
She let out a shaky sigh, crawling further into his lap, seeking warmth that was quickly escaping her body. She was content when he wrapped his arms more securely around her. "They saw me. I couldn't see them, it was dark… I had gone around one of the classrooms where I heard the girl's voice. I thought I heard crying…" she whispered. "I went to see if she was okay, and then I felt someone put a hand over my mouth. I tried to fight it, but they must've slipped me something, because…" she trailed off, her voice beginning to break again.
"Oh Sara," Nick whispered, drawing her to him again as she began to cry once more. "I'm so sorry."
"I woke up in my dorm room the next morning," she whispered, "My clothes were torn and… and I had bruises all over me. On top of that I missed the test I had been studying for," she tried to laugh.
"Sara, I'm so sorry," Nick whispered, holding her against him as tightly as he could. "I never knew you had to go through all that…"
"Its okay," Sara whispered, "It wasn't your fault."
"Well then Cammie definitely wasn't your fault," Nick whispered to her. "I really think you were meant to find her, Sara. You had already experienced the same sort of thing… you were there to let her know everything was going to be okay. That she didn't have to be scared."
There was silence and for a moment Nick thought he had said something wrong. But when she sat up and shot him a small smile, one of her first smiles of the night, he knew he must've done something right. "I like that," Sara whispered. "A lot. You know just what to say, don't you?"
Nick chuckled, leaning over and pressing a gentle kiss against her cheek, right next to the scratch she had gotten. "I wouldn't say that, now," he told her. "I can say some pretty dumb things."
"I highly doubt that," Sara grinned, moving to get up. Once she was up and had stretched all her stiff muscles, she moved into the kitchen and set the kettle back on the stove. "Would you like some tea?" she asked.
"I would love some, thanks," Nick nodded, getting to his feet and dusting off his pants. When she moved to bend down he made himself turn away, ever the gentleman. "Sar would you like to go change?" he asked, unable to hide his grin.
Sara immediately straightened up when she remembered she was only wearing a towel that was two short for her anyways because of her long legs. Turning a bright shade of red, she wrapped the towel around herself self-consciously, shyly moving back down the hallway to get dressed. "Yeah, thanks…" she murmured. "Can you keep an eye on the kettle?"
"Sure," Nick told her, already moving into the kitchen.
"Oh, and Nick?" Sara asked before she disappeared around the corner. He immediately turned around and looked over at her. She shot him a small smile. "Thanks. Really."
"Don't mention it, Sar," Nick smiled at her. "Now go get dressed before I pounce on you."