Title: Shrouded by Life

Author: Kourion

Summary: The horrible sear of defeat registered when she saw the child's prone form.

Notes: This story was originally written in 2002. My original author's notes are as followed:

This story had been 'perking' in my mind for over a year now. I lost someone very close to me on May 10th, 2001, in a horrible, freak car accident and I find that writing helps me work through my emotions.

Rest in peace, Mads

April 1993 - May 2001

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The car clipped her side, and spun her around with such force that the air was expunged from her lungs almost instantaneously.

Her head connected with the concrete, and the blood began to climb down her face not unlike a waterfall rippling down the edge of an embankment.

Through her agony, she scanned the street, and the horrible sear of defeat registered when she saw the child's prone form - his face white.

He had been hit head on, despite her efforts, and another person - most likely his mother - had since run across the street.

Time had slowed down, and the blackness caught hold of her - had pierced her at a visceral level. She tried to shake off the increasing dizziness, and gasped when cool hands lifted up her shirt and pressed lightly against the small, rock hard mound of the hematoma.

Nick.

"Sara! C'mon, sweetie - listen to my voice."

She felt as if someone was waving a handkerchief - or a feather - over her face. It was distracting. Her vision was cloudy, and she rapidly blinked through the accumulating body fluids.

"Ambulance is coming. You've got to hold on a little longer darling."

What was that? Was someone speaking to her? The voice was froggy in her ears and her incoherent garble of a response resulted in the same cool hands moving up to her rib cage.

She felt a fizz of some warm substance on her lips, and turned her head.

Platinum blonde hair and osh-kosh-b'gosh overalls flashed in front of her vision. The woman cradled the toddler in her lap, screaming with such brash terror that Sara felt the horror rip through her system like lightening.

Her dying self was aware of when she had last cried like that.

For Amadeus - her beagle - after he had been crushed under the jaws of the garage doors. He had been nearly severed in two by the steel guillotine, and she had pulled on him in a panicked attempt to free him from the trap. In a rage against death, she had cradled him for hours after he had passed away.

Even at ten years of age, she had been aware of rigor mortis, but had massaged the dog's legs - the corpse's legs - trying to loosen death's grasp.

Her mother had come to find her daughter planting kisses on the dead animal. Blood had dried in her braids, and on her hands, and her uncle had restrained her when she cried out from the porch and tried to steal Amadeus back from the retreating adult.

The beagle's neck lay askew, and he had flopped like a rag doll in her mom's arms. His eyes were open, and he had glassily stared at the heartbroken child before he was covered in mire. His eyes glistened hollowly, but Sara, in the flash of a moment, thought she had seen him blink.

He had been buried that evening, despite her protests that they were going to suffocate him - HE'S STILL ALIVE! - and her father had locked up all the medicines and had stayed outside her door for 48 hours while Sara had worked through her grief.

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He was too small - even for the child-sized casket. Grissom frozenly placed the magnolia's atop his chest.

Even flowers seemed to be too heavy for the boy - the baby - and he wished he had the power to change the scenario - to remove the yellowed creations, and to re-plant them, and to have the awareness that they simply weren't needed anymore; that no little boy needed to be covered in them.

He retreated to the chapel, and found Nick breathing slowly - regulating his breathing not unlike a doctor regulates anesthetics.

"She wanted to be here today, Nick."

His friend's voice was hoarse and Nick shut his eyes.

"He was only 18 months, Grissom...", he spoke with a note of confusion.

Nicholas Stokes wasn't dealing very well, and Grissom lay his hand on the other man's shoulders as a way of trying to connect at a level beyond that of the verbal.

"Who named him?"

"Alice."

"She must have really loved you."

Nick nodded mutely, and looked up at his supervisor - his friend. Clearing his voice, he queried, "Is Sara going to come back to us?"

Grissom's exchange was in affirmation. "She woke up this morning. She doesn't appear to remember the accident."

Both men swallowed, before the elder ventured one last comment before retreating from the shaded temple.

"I'm sorry about your loss, Nick. But I do believe in God, and I believe he protects. Your nephew isn't in any more pain. Nicholi is free."

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She was doused in flowers - blue, purple, yellow... crimson. They swallowed her, and as they fell, the white light of day, of life, was blotted out.

Clawing through the mass, she pulled her hands backwards sharply as they started to burn.

The scrapes were leaking blood, and the open wounds gave way to ash that coughed up from her inner being. Raspy breathing leaked up from beneath her - the smell atrocious.

"Sara. My friend, Sara. You protected me. I waited for you, and now you are with me again", the voice was bell-like, magical - unnatural.

The fur bristled against her ankle, and she could feel the tangled, bloodied hair of the puppy. Of the beagle...Amadeus. She tried to pull away in horror.

"You are with me. Stay. Please don't leave me."

All she could do was let the soot drain outwards into the pit as her human mouth opended, and the ashes were purged - and she rode on the ashes, used them to swim upwards to the light in a desperate attempt to avoid her fate.

"Please don't leave me! I'm lonely!"

Cool hands grasped her arm, hard, and the ashes now pulsed and bleed from her broken body.

"You killed me! I'm all alone!"

The tinkling of the bell had since ceased, and the voice now boomed - like a gong.

It had been sounded. Her sentencing had been determined.

"Sara!"

She screamed back against the rotten bisected body.

"I didn't mean to kill you! I'm sorry!"

"Sara! Wake up!"

And she did. Tremors rippled through her body.

"Catherine?"

"It's okay now, honey. The nightmare is over."

She could smell salt. Where had it come from? She turned in her bed, to determine the source, and a slow, agonizingly slow scream welled up in her throat.

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The toddler's hair was slicked with red, as were his eyes, and the red transferred to his mother - painting her clothes garishly with her son's life force. He became air hungry as death came nearer, holding him, craddling him; his small puckered mouth opened not unlike a fish's.

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The next time the hands clutched her, they were no longer cold - but instead, radiated warmth. It was an incredible sign - an indicator of life.

"Griss?"

He regarded her solemnly.

"You gave us quite a scare."

"I'm sorry", she coughed, and for a moment - for a flash of a moment - expected ashes to spew from her mouth.

"What do you remember, Sara?" he quizzed, anxious to determine the lasting physical effects of her ordeal.

"Him. Dying. He bleed to death before they ever arrived, didn't he?"

Grissom glanced down at his shirt. It was checkered - divided. One checker for one day, and the seams were torn.

He was simply exhausted.

"The baby - Nicholi - Nicholi died a few minutes after he was hit, Sara."

"Mmm. I saw him die. He broke my stare."

Grissom's brows now furrowed.

"You were unconscious, Sara. You couldn't have seen him at all. Nick told me you fell limp soon after he reached you", he spoke factually.

"I saw him Griss. He was gasping for air."

"It was a dream, Sara. Or a nightmare. Catherine's told me you've had quite a few, understandably."

Opening her eyes - almost fearfully - she caught his gaze. It was intense. It was penetrating.

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And their eyes locked. The two breathed in harmony - in sync - for the next minute - simply staring at one another wordlessly across the pavement. Soon after, he stiffened, and became enraptured with the rustling tree, and the wind.

She, too, turned and focused on the howling air.

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The inscription was simple, but beautiful, and Sara's ear began to ring as the wind blasted against her.

"Windy day, huh?" she addressed Nick.

"Just as then", he had remarked - to which she felt a chill go up her spine.

She changed the subject, feeling somewhat panicked by the wind itself; Grissom had tried to warn her about the psychological repercussions. She hadn't listened.

"Grissom visits a lot?"

"Fresh magnolia's every week since I started coming", his voice was soft, and she sighed.

Sara realized that her coat was torn. The autumn jacket was leaking stuffing.

When did that happen?

Yet she knew exactly when and how it had occurred, and battled down the next thoughts as viciously as a cave man with a club.

She was already at a child's gravesite, and had vowed to not cry - for Nick's sake, if not for her own.

"I didn't bring flowers. But this is for you."

From deep within her coat's pocket, she pulled out a battered collar.

"It looks like a dog's collar, Sara" Nick said, perplexed.

"It's a talisman. It will keep you safe."

He took it gently, understanding that it must have deep personal meaning to her, and he uttered a sotto thanks.

"Amadeus", he read.

"Beloved by God."

The sun now cut through the looming plants and trees that lined the cemetery grounds. Leaves shook from the gust, and the light splashed rhythmically against both of their faces.

One moment they were covered in light, and the next, they were shrouded in dark.

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fin