Rated: T
Spoilers through 8x07

Sara shivered and pulled her knees closer, huddling away from the early morning chill. The rock she perched on was not yet warmed by the sun and the wind blew sea spray into her face as she watched the first rays of light begin to cast shadows onto the water. There was nobody to keep her company on the beach except a small shore bird hopping restlessly along the sand. She watched it's antics for a while before falling into silent contemplation.

When she'd been little, shortly before yelling had escalated to hitting, she'd been friends with a girl, Kristen, who lived a few houses away. She'd spent a lot of time at the house as much for the quiet as for the company. Once she'd even spent Christmas with Kristen's family when she'd gone home and found that her parents had disappeared. They'd taken her with them to a late Christmas Eve Mass. Kristen's family had moved away before the next Christmas and Sara had never been back, but the memory of the old Catholic church lit by candles and filled with softly joyful voices was still one of her favorites.

She also still remembered the slap she'd gotten for asking her father if she could go to the service on her own the next year. In the end she'd fled to her room and started her own Christmas ritual. Every year thereafter on Christmas morning, she'd wake early and scramble down to the beach to absorb the peace of the early morning and the promise of the new day before sneaking back into the house so she wouldn't be punished for going missing. It was a risk she'd only taken for the holiday. But today it didn't feel like Christmas.

The ritual no longer soothed her. Her years in Vegas and the new traditions she'd created with Gil had over-written the past. Like so many things in California, this no longer felt right. The answers she had fled Las Vegas seeking weren't here any more than they were there.

Yes, it was easier to access her records and her family's history here. A few of the people in the old neighborhood still recognized her name, as did the journalist who'd covered her father's death and her mother's court case and the social worker who'd placed her with her first foster family. She'd even been able to track down the foster family she'd remembered as having been the kindest. They'd all had stories, tales, and sympathy. None of them had been able to give her the answers she was really looking for and it was too late to go back to the source. Her mother hadn't survived long without her father, even in the asylum.

A sudden splash startled Sara out of her reverie. The incoming tide had begun to break upon her rock. She looked down at her clothing and decided against staying much longer. It was time to move on, try a different approach, look at new evidence. If outsiders couldn't provide her with the information or insight she needed, perhaps it was time to search within herself again; this time with help.

Sara looked about for the bird who had kept her company earlier and noted that it had flitted closer with her stillness. She stood and pulled out the muffin she had brought with her for breakfast. Dropping a few crumbs, she slid off her rock and began the walk away from the beach. As she crested the rise she turned back and watched as the bird launched itself from her rock, circled once, and flew off into the morning sun.