Author: Klee Wyck
Spoilers: Season 8
Disclaimer: Not mine, no how.
Summary: It's hard to move forward when you keep moving further and further away.
Continuation of Terminus.
Stasis: 1. The state of equilibrium or inactivity caused by opposing equal forces; a condition of balance among various forces; motionlessness.
The gods were once disputing whether it was possible for a living being to change its nature. Jupiter said, "Yes," but Venus said, "No." So, to try the question, Jupiter turned a Cat into a Maiden, and gave her to a young man for a wife. The wedding was duly performed and the young couple sat down to the wedding-feast. "See?" said Jupiter, to Venus. "How becomingly she behaves. Who could tell that yesterday she was but a Cat? Surely her nature is changed?"
"Wait a minute," replied Venus, and let loose a mouse into the room. No sooner did the bride see this than she jumped up from her seat and tried to pounce upon the mouse. "Ah, you see," said Venus,
"Nature will out."
It started out like any other day.
Almost, but not quite, and worse, actually, because she awoke to find herself alone in a bedroom she hadn't set foot in since she was 13 years old.
Thirteen and scared, alone, lost. Tough, bitter, angry, on the verge of either sobs and screams most of the time. Dark hair, dark eyes, dark thoughts. More frightened than she'd ever been in her life.
Well, until about six months ago, at least.
Thirteen with breasts but no bra, because her mother hadn't bothered to help her buy one yet.
Her favourite shirt so soaked in her father's blood it had been thrown in the garbage at the hospital when she wasn't looking. She'd wanted to keep it but when she'd returned from her physical it had been gone, gone along with her jeans, underwear, sneakers.
On the pale green hospital bed were some other kid's clothes, folded and faded, waiting for her to fill them with her long, pale, wounded limbs. She remembered those foreign clothes more clearly than she remembered her dying father's face as she'd knelt beside him, cradling his body, waiting for the ambulance she'd called to arrive.
Jeans: At least two years out of style and too short, of course, for her long, bruised, gangly legs.
T-shirt: Pink with a fluffy white kitten emblazoned on it. She'd never owned an item of pink clothing in her life. Or anything with a kitten on it.
Sweatshirt: Grey hoodie with a butterfly-shaped stain on the right shoulder. Oil? Grease? Blood? She never did figure it out.
Socks: Mismatched. Polyester. Itchy.
Shoes: Ugly, ugly. Too small. Ugly.
She'd felt too small and ugly and so unlike herself, dressed in those clothes. She'd arrived at her first foster home dressed like a freak, she felt, and she wondered if she'd ever recovered from that.
Freaky girl dressed in freaky clothes.
What was it about this house that made her think about things like that?
She rolled and pushed her face into the white pillowcase. It smelled like lemons. Her own sheets smelled like Grissom.
Early morning sun was streaming through the wide double windows above her head but the yellow light did little to brighten her mood.
Not thirteen anymore.
But more alone and sad and confused than she'd ever felt in her life.
This is going to be a nothing day, she thought.
And it was.
The house was perfect.
It was white. It was white and small with ivy crawling up one wall. There was a trellis, with morning glory, purple, and nasturtiums. Marigolds, gold in the morning sun.
Plants, trees, green and leafy.
Life, blooming, everywhere. Life.
It was perfect.
"I'm so glad you came," Stella said. She was sixty-something by now, Sara guessed, but she looked almost exactly as she remembered her: small, slim, compact, short sandy-coloured hair, kind, inquisitive face.
Her eyes: bright, bright blue and never missed a thing.
Her eyes reminded her of Grissom's she realized with a jolt that first morning as they sat drinking tea and eating toast at the small kitchen table.
"I'm glad, too," Sara said quietly, sipping tea from a ceramic mug. It was hand-made, probably given to Stella by a former client. People were always giving Stella gifts, things they had made or found, not bought usually. No one had any money and yet everyone she helped was so eager to give her something, something to show their gratitude.
There was silence then, because Sara had no idea what to say. She drank her tea and ate her toast and Stella watched her.
"I don't know what I'm doing here," she blurted and her eyes filled with tears. She hadn't known she was going to say that. She hadn't known she was about to cry, either. Stella seemed unfazed. She smiled.
"That's all right." She drank some tea, looked out her kitchen window for a moment, then back at Sara. "Maybe I can help you figure that out."
For the first couple of days they didn't figure anything out, except how long she could stay.
"Thirty days," Stella said as they walked and walked. They did a lot of walking together, in those first few days. "I think that should be enough time to at least get a firm grasp on the issues, don't you? Give you some tools to take back with you."
She took Sara's arm, squeezed it.
"What do you think?"
Sara shrugged. She didn't know what she thought. About anything. Thirty days. Could be thirty minutes or thirty years. It made no difference to her.
She looked out at the ocean. So vast, so beautiful.
So far from home.
He'd never thought of himself as a needy person. He'd spent most of him life priding himself on not needing anyone.
Was missing the same as needing? He wondered.
He marked the days on the calendar, tiny red Xs filling the upper right hand corners.
He knew he'd reached a new low when he found himself calling her apartment just to hear her recorded voice, rather flat and tinny, but her voice just the same.
"Hey, it's Sara. Not here. Leave a message."
She'd left the townhouse, fine. She'd taken some things — not all of them, he reminded himself, daily. Not all of them — and okay, she'd flown to San Francisco to, what? Get some help. Right. Help. With the insomnia and the nightmares and the…not being able to eat. Or breathe.
With the not being able to be touched.
It was all right. She was going to be fine and she'd come back home and move back in and she'd be fine again and they'd be fine. Again.
When she came back.
"Hey, it's Sara. Not here. Leave a message."
"Hey, it's Sara—"
"What do you remember about me? When I came here the first time?"
Stella looked at her. It was late. She was drinking Chamomile tea and puttering around the kitchen before bed. Sara sat curled on the small loveseat, feet pulled under her.
"You were so young. Ready to bolt. The agency sent you to me between foster homes, afraid you were going to do something drastic, I think."
"Oh." She hadn't remembered that.
"I don't think you would have, but they can't take chances with minors."
"Why did you agree?"
"I was taking a sabbatical, for a year. I needed a break from the counseling but a friend of mine called in a favour. She was very worried about you, what you'd been through, your age. She asked me to take you for awhile and I did."
"It ended up being three months, I believe."
"I remember. I remember some of it. I liked it here. I liked you."
"Not at first," Stella laughed. "But I did like you, right away. Despite…everything. You were one tough kid, at first."
"I was so scared."
"I know," Stella said simply. "You had every reason to be."
"I didn't think I was going to make it. I thought I'd just…disappear." She pulled the throw pillow to her chest and smiled crookedly.
"But you didn't."
"Are you tired?"
"I haven't been sleeping so great."
"Yeah. I've been…having dreams. About what happened. You know?"
Stella shook her head, smiled.
"Actually, I'm not entirely sure." She lowered herself into the armchair across from Sara. "Why don't you tell me more about it?"
And so Sara talked. She talked about Natalie and the desert, cold and dark, wet and so cold, about feeling utterly lost and so terribly, completely alone. She talked until her voice gave out and the angry, buzzing noises in her head were finally stilled.
"Sara, are you familiar with the term Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?" Stella leaned back in her chair but her sharp, discerning eyes never left Sara's face.
"Of course. I encounter people suffering from it all the time in my line of work."
Stella nodded kindly. "You must."
Sara pulled her knees up to her chest, then realized how juvenile that looked, so she stretched them out in front of her. Stella was still watching. It was getting unnerving. "What?"
"Are you familiar with how it relates to you?"
"I know you're familiar with it in a rather detached, professional way, but think about this: symptoms can include general restlessness, insomnia, aggressiveness, depression, dissociation, emotional detachment, and nightmares. A potential symptom is memory loss about an aspect of the actual event."
"I remember everything."
"And the other symptoms?"
Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check and check.
"Since the sufferers are unable to process the extreme emotions brought about by the trauma, they are plagued by recurrent nightmares or daytime flashbacks, during which they graphically re-experience the trauma." Stella paused. "These re-experiences are characterized by high anxiety levels."
Recurrent nightmares. Flashbacks.
"PTSD is also characterized by a state of nervousness with the sufferer being prepared for "fight or flight." The typical hyperactive startle reaction, characterized by "jumpiness" in connection with high sounds or fast motions. Any of this sound familiar?"
Sara just nodded, afraid to speak.
"The hyperarousal and the intrusive symptoms are eventually so distressing that the individual strives to avoid contact with everything and everyone, even their own thoughts, which may arouse memories of the trauma and provoke the intrusive and hyperarousal states. The sufferers isolate themselves, becoming detached in their feelings with a restricted range of emotional response and can experience so-called emotional detachment."
She would have laughed if it hadn't all been so…true.
Fight or flight. Well, she'd done both, hadn't she?
Avoiding contact. With everyone.
"Does any of this help you?" Stella asked gently.
Sara closed her eyes and saw Grissom's face when she'd told him she was leaving. She opened them. Stella was watching her.
"I just want to know why bad things keep happening to me."
"Heard from Sara?" Catherine slammed three folders down on his desk and took a stance, prepared for battle.
He didn't look up.
"No, I haven't. Why?"
"Have you tried calling her?"
"No, I haven't. Why?"
She leaned down, put her hands on the edges of the desk. He could smell her perfume: She must have a date. Heavy, musky. So very different from anything Sara would wear.
"Don't you think you should? Try calling?"
He looked up then, struggling to keep his face a mask of utter calmness and serenity.
"I guess I should. I guess I would, Catherine, if I knew where she was."
She sat on the tiny porch, watching and listening, a paperback tossed carelessly on the table in front of her. She didn't feel like reading.
She remembered rain. The sound of it on metal, mostly. Here it sounded soft and soothing. It gathered in the eaves above her and fell.
Plop, plop, plop.
This was how she wanted to think of rain from now on.
Warm and mainly harmless.
Nothing was happening.
She didn't feel better, she didn't feel worse.
She missed her life, but she didn't pine for it.
She thought about Grissom every day, dreamed of him every night, but felt no sense of urgency to return to him, to the townhouse, to a life with him.
Stalemate, she thought. Equilibrium. Safe, for sure, but not overly productive.
Up, down, push, pull. Neither here nor there.
Six of one, half a dozen of the other.
And so on.
Stella's house was safe, a haven, a place to curl up into while she sucked her thumb and talked and talked and talked some more.
It was all fine and good, but then what?
It was hard to move forward when she kept moving further and further away.
He answered the phone midway through the second ring, slightly breathless. When she heard his voice, his beautifully familiar voice, utter the short, simple, staccato Hello, his image so filled her mind, blocking out every other sensation and feeling in her head for a moment, that she was left utterly floored, unable to speak or think or respond.
What am I doing here? she thought.
"Hello?" he said again, more sharply.
"Hi..Hi," she said, swallowing desperately past the dryness, the painful lump, hoping he wouldn't hang up, even if he did figure out who was on the other end.
"Sara?" he said, tentative, cautious, hopeful.
"You all right?"
She pushed two fingers into the corners of her eyes rather viciously, willing back tears. "Yeah."
"You still in…San Francisco?"
"I am. I'm still here."
She could almost hear him trying to figure out what to ask, what was safe, what was allowed.
"How…how are you?"
She pushed harder.
"I'm okay. I'm figuring some things out, I think."
"Well, that's good." Pause. "Right?"
"Yeah. It's good."
I miss you, so much, she thought. You have no idea. No idea at all.
She took a deep breath. "Well, I just wanted to…say hi."
"Everyone misses you here," he said suddenly, quickly. "I was supposed to tell you that…if you called."
She smiled in spite of herself, bit her lip, bit back tears. "Oh. Okay. I miss…everyone, too."
"Okay. I'll tell them."
She thought he might have tried to say something else, but she'd already hung up the phone.
She'd thought it would make her feel better, knowing about what was happening to her, that it was common and normal and everything else Stella had told her, assured her of.
She'd thought once she knew, once she could put a word to her problems everything would be all right again. She'd be all right and if not happy, then at least relieved, maybe even ready to go back to Las Vegas, back to work.
Back to Grissom.
Instead she felt…nothing. Numb, perhaps, but not even that, really. She felt a great, overwhelming…nothingness.
Which, she supposed, was better than the great, overwhelming panic she'd felt for the past six months.
The day she found the beached whale was the day she knew she had to leave.
"Go for a drive," Stella urged her that Thursday morning, holding out her car keys. "It's a beautiful day. Your 30 days are almost up. Go see what you find."
What she found was a dying whale.
She drove down the coast, drove for hours and hours, stopping here and there, places she knew and other places she didn't.
She walked along the beach near Monterey and saw all the people, and the great mass near the water's edge.
"What's going on?" she asked.
"Baby California gray whale, beached itself," was the reply. She stood and watched, wanted to help, but what could she possibly do? She didn't feel like walked anymore.
It was almost dark when she returned home.
Not my home, she corrected herself.
But how easily that word had popped into her mind.
How easily she was slipping away.
She watched the news, watched the very scene where she'd been just hours before. Watched the whale as it struggled to live, confused, probably, in pain, most likely. Alone and lost.
There were a great many people around it, trying to help, but it died anyway.
Despite everything, it died, because sometimes that's what happened.
"I thought I was going to die, trapped there. I was drowning and freezing and I thought I was going to die. There. Without ever seeing anyone again. Without seeing Grissom again."
"And that…that thought scared me more than anything else. More than dying itself."
"This man…Grissom? How do you feel about him?"
Sara laughed. It seemed an absurd question, that. How to even begin to explain her feelings for him?
"He's…everything," she said and stopped. There was nothing else to say, really.
"Do you miss him?"
"Does he support your being here?"
She shrugged. She didn't know.
"I don't want to lose him."
"Do you think that might happen?"
"Anything can happen."
Stella nodded. "That's true. Anything good can happen, too."
"You've been through a lot."
"I mean I'm tired. Of getting hurt."
They didn't say anything else for awhile. Then:
"How do I get better? How do I recover from this?"
"Sara, you are. You're getting better and you are recovering. The fact that you even took steps to come out here, to reach out to someone who you thought could help, speaks volumes about your desire to heal. You're a very strong person."
"I don't feel strong. I feel…like I'm disappearing."
"You're not. And you won't."
"Promise?" She smiled faintly.
"You have my word. And you can call anytime you feel like you might."
"Despite everything…" Stella began. She stopped. "Despite it all, you have a lot of people who care for you, very much. People who love you. Bad things have happened to you, Sara, but you're still a good person."
Sara shook her head a little.
"I just need—"
"You just need to believe it."
A Doe had had the misfortune to lose one of her eyes, and could not see any one approaching her on that side. So to avoid any danger she always used to feed on a high cliff near the sea, with her sound eye looking towards the land. By this means she could see whenever the hunters approached her on land, and often escaped by this means. But the hunters found out that she was blind of one eye, and hiring a boat rowed under the cliff where she used to feed and shot her from the sea. "Ah," cried she with her dying voice,
"You cannot escape your fate."
She lay sprawled across the white bed, her face pressed into the white pillow case that smelled like lemons and not Grissom and she cried. She cried and cried, her body actually shaking and shuddering with the force of her tears.
When she was finally finished crying the sun had changed from yellow to deep golden and was changing again to dark amber and she didn't feel like crying anymore.
She swiped her hands across her eyes, scrubbed at her cheeks and knew it was finally time to go home.
Forehead against cool window pane, darkness, specks of light, rumble of motion, constant, ever-present noise. An airplane was never, ever quiet. The overweight man beside her was coughing, had been coughing for 25 minutes. Two rows behind her a baby cried fitfully. Reading lights clicked on and off, bells chimed for the flight attendants.
She couldn't think. He head was pounding and she pushed it harder against the glass but she couldn't think.
She thought about asking the pilot to turn the plane around, take her back to the white house and the marigolds, the garden path and the lemony, white bed. But she realized she didn't want to go back. She didn't belong there. She was heading, inexorably, for Las Vegas. No turning back now, she realized.
She didn't want to land, ever.
She wanted to hover in the blackness without thinking, head pressed to cool glass, for years, until she could get her thoughts straight.
Years and years.
She wasn't into torture, she wasn't a sadist or a masochist, she didn't think, but she needed to see him. She needed him to see her, too, but in a work setting. She didn't want their first face-to-face meeting to be in a personal environment.
She didn't think either of them could handle that. Mostly her.
So she drove to work under the pretense of getting something from her locker — compact? Extra shirt? Chap Stick? — and hovered between the rows of lockers for a full 15 minutes before she emerged, faint and ghost-like, and moved like a sleepwalker through the hushed hallways to his office.
He was in there. She knew it before she saw him. She wondered if it was possible for one's heart to beat its way right out of one's chest.
She moved to the doorway.
He was bent over something, paperwork, she supposed, glasses low on his nose, looking like he did the night she told him she was leaving. Leaving him essentially. He sensed a presence and sighed, irritated, without looking up.
"Greg, I told you to ask Hodges—"
He looked up.
He didn't smile. At all.
Her ribs were starting to crack under the boom boom of pressure.
"You're back," he said. He stood there not blinking at her in the dimness.
She nodded. "I am. Flew in this morning."
"I see." He blinked. "How was your flight?"
"My flight?" She thought for a moment. Of course he would ask her that. "My flight was very…uneventful."
"Well, that's always good."
She nodded. "Three vodkas and Diet Cokes didn't hurt either."
Faint smile. Finally.
She shoved her hands into her jeans pockets hard, her hands balled into fists because all she wanted to do was throw her arms around him and bury her face in his neck and tell him everything.
But, she couldn't.
She still smelled like a dying whale and he was still staring at her like he'd just encountered a ghost. A very familiar very distant ghost.
She nodded, bit her lip, looked down. She could practically feel his eyes boring holes into her, willing her to look up. She did, finally, and regretted it. He looked…lost.
"But you're not…back. Right?"
She shook her hand, balled her hands tighter, nails digging into her slightly sweaty palms. Physical pain was preferable to anything Grissom might make her feel as he stood watching her, waiting for her to explain to him how she left him for more than a month, tried to get help, came back and still couldn't be with him.
She wondered if he was starting to not love her anymore. She couldn't blame him, really. It happened. People fell out of love every day, right? No big deal.
Except it was. And she still loved him, desperately, so much so that she was breaking the skin on her palms with her nails, little red, ragged crescents.
"I'm in my apartment, if that's what you mean," she said quietly.
"It is, kind of."
He opened his mouth like he was going to say something else but she couldn't bear it suddenly, she didn't think, couldn't bear to hear him ask her about the trip or Stella or the little white house, the talks, the whale, the stupid flight, for God's sakes.
When she might come back to him.
So, she cut him off with a smile and a little shrug, all very casual, all very distant.
"It's good to see you, really. I'm just exhausted. It's been…it's been hard. I'm gonna head, get some sleep."
She almost moved towards him, bridging the gigantic chasm between them, to give him a quick kiss on the cheek, but she knew, like she knew the feel of his hair under hand hands, the smell of his skin under her nose, the weight of him on her, that if she got that close to him, she'd never get away again.
She'd be lost and maybe she'd never be found this time.
"I'll see you later," she said. She walked away.
She got four steps away when he spoke her name.
Thousands of things, he thought. Thousands and thousands of things he could say.
"I'm glad you're back."
She smiled sadly, turned, left. This time he let her go.
It was very quiet in his office, but for the hiss of air vents and tick of his desk clock. If he screamed, he wondered if anyone would come running. He wondered if he still had any scotch left. He wondered if she still loved him, even a little bit.
"Sara?" he whispered. "I miss you."