Title: The Beauty Of Uncertainty
Summary: It was only then that she realized that the more she tried to pull herself away from Sara, the closer she inevitably brought them.
Spoilers: 8x07 Goodbye and Good Luck
Disclaimer: I don't own CSI or any of its properties or affiliates. I am but a lowly fanfiction writer.
A/N: This story is one I'm actually very happy with considering it took me a few days to write (I had to work out some of the kinks). It revolves around Catherine and how Sara's departure is starting to affect her. Despite that, this story is only a Cath/Sara friendship with GSR overtones. It's kind of long, but I hope you guys will stick with it and let me know what you think :) I hope you guys enjoy it!
One week earlier...
"Nice office. Bet this was expensive."
"Thank you. Now, why don't we discuss why you're really here."
"Nice paintings. Is that a Van Gogh?"
"Thank you. A friend of mine actually painted it, I'm sure that would be a big compliment for him. Now onto--"
"Nice shoes. My ex had a pair like that."
This was going nowhere fast.
"Catherine, you know, it's all right to admit that you miss someone."
"Yeah, but you didn't know Sara."
Of all the places to spend your day off-- a shrink's office? Really? Why was she even here? She could be at home spending time with Lindsey, or even catching up on lost sleep. But no, she was sitting in some small hole-in-the-wall office that smelled like stale coffee and moth balls.
And why? Because she couldn't get a certain 5'8" brunette out of her mind.
It was Sara's fault, she decided. It was all her fault.
Ever since Sara had left, the lab felt empty. Catherine knew it and everyone else knew it. Everyone figured she would be the person to miss Sara the least, given their oil-and-water tendencies, and to be truthful she felt the same. It's not like she and Sara were ever really that close.
It started as just a thought one night when she was lying in bed. She was able to brush it aside, but the next night it became incessant and was constantly trying to poke its way into her subconscious. She tried to remind herself of the times they argued and would mutter things like "I'm glad she's gone" or "Thank god I don't have to put up with her attitude" before tossing and turning to try and get comfortable. It was only now that she realized those words couldn't be further from the truth.
It was only then that she realized that the more she tried to pull herself away from Sara, the closer she inevitably brought them.
"Then why don't you tell me a little more about Sara to help me understand."
Catherine snorted back a laugh. "That's a laugh. You can't summarize Sara Sidle in words; believe me, I've tried. She's an enigma."
Catherine let out a frustrated sigh, brushing a strand of hair away from her face. This guy just wasn't letting up. "Because you just can't. I don't know; everything the woman does is shrouded in a giant cloud of who-the-hell-knows."
"You sound bitter toward your coworker, Catherine. Did you two not get along?"
"Bitter? You're damn right I'm bitter! She just upped and left in the dead of night without saying anything." Catherine took a deep breath to calm herself. "And to answer your question, no, we didn't get along... at least at first."
"Why is that?"
"She was brought in to investigate the death of one of our own. I guess I felt threatened by her presence. Anyways, long story short, I was a complete bitch to her until I finally realized that she wasn't there to make my job and life any harder than they already were."
"So what changed?"
"You could say that we both did," Catherine replied. "We just started becoming more friendly with each other. I think she finally started to let her walls down around me, and I tried to do the same. I would offer to take her out for a drink after shift, or grab an early dinner. We became casual..." Friends? Were she and Sara really friends?
"You became casual what, Catherine? Acquaintances? Friends?"
"Funny you should mention that word," Catherine sighed. "The thing is, I'm not sure. I'm not sure if Sara and I ever really were friends, nor if she ever really wanted us to be."
"Why would you say that?"
Catherine tried not to roll her eyes. Who asked this many questions? Oh, right, a shrink. She was in a shrink's office. "Because it just seemed like whenever things were good between Sara and I, we got into an argument over something. Like when Eddie died-- Sara took over the case. I know she tried her hardest, but at the time I was just so confused and hurt and angry... and god was I worried about Lindsey. I just took all of my frustration and anger out on her.
"I never really apologized for that. It's funny, it seems every time we got into an argument, neither one of us ever actually got around to the apologizing stage. I guess you could blame that on our stubborn personalities."
"So what about Sara? Did she ever start an argument with you?"
Catherine threw her arms up in the air in some sort of mock "When hasn't she?" gesture. "Our worst argument ever... was initiated by Sara. We were working this case where we found two female bodies covered in tar. One of the victims had an abuse fracture and when we interviewed her husband, Sara just lost it and started mouthing off. I honestly couldn't believe what I was hearing.
"So we were talking in the middle of the hallway. She wanted to see if the husband's current wife had asked for help or had filed welfare checks and I kept explaining to her that there wasn't any probable cause. You couldn't see a mark on her. So finally I pulled her aside and asked her what her problem was. She accused me of using my sexuality to get what I want." Catherine rubbed her tired eyes with her hand. "I never thought I was going to forgive her for that one."
Catherine opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out. Finally she was able to speak again, "...What?"
"Have you forgiven her for what she said to you? For how she made you feel? Or do you still feel angry about it?" When Catherine didn't reply, the therapist continued, "Did you ever confront her about it?"
"...No, I guess I didn't," Catherine shook her head. "I... I guess I don't know if I've really forgiven her or not. I kind of stopped thinking about it after it happened. I had so many other things to worry about... and everything seemed fine between us afterwards, so I just forgot about it. I mean after it happened I contemplated going to her apartment to talk to her, but... I wasn't sure what I would say or do when I got there."
"Would you still like to talk to her about it?"
"Yes, but only at the right place at the right time," Catherine explained. "I wouldn't want to talk to her about it over the phone, and I wouldn't want to talk to her about it out in public. I think both of us would feel more comfortable discussing it in private, just the two of us."
The therapist nodded, writing a few things down before glancing up at Catherine. "How often do you think about Sara, Catherine?"
Catherine blinked, thinking she must not have heard right. "Excuse me?"
"How often do you think of Sara now that she's left Vegas? Often? Once or twice a week?"
"I don't really see what that has to do with anything," Catherine replied. "But I guess it's become pretty frequent. Sometimes I can't fall asleep at night. I lay awake wondering... wondering what would've happened if she and I had gotten along better. Maybe we would've been better friends... maybe she finally would've opened up to me, and maybe I would've finally have opened up to her."
The therapist nodded. "Catherine, I think what's happened here is that you feel that you don't have closure. You work with families of victims everyday trying to bring them closure, but I think in the process you've neglected to take a look at your own life in perspective and realize that you need it just as much as they do. And there's only one way to do it."
"Talk to Sara about it," Catherine finished his thought.
"Exactly. I think you and Sara both have a lot of unresolved issues between the two of you, and you need to work them out. I'm not going to tell you that it will be easy, because it won't be."
Catherine let out a long sigh, nodding her head. "I know. And I've thought about it before, I just..."
"You just what?"
"I guess I'm afraid of what could happen," Catherine explained, frustrated that she couldn't form her thoughts into words. "Or of what might not happen. Sara left for a reason; she needed to get away from Vegas. And not just the crimes, she needed to get away from the flashing lights, the hectic job and the people. She needed to get away from us too."
"So you think that by trying to contact her you would be disrupting her plan of escape?"
Catherine nodded. "When Gil tells us how she's doing, he always says that she's happy. I don't want to ruin that for her. She deserves to be happy."
"Has it ever occurred to you, Catherine, that you deserve to be as happy as Sara does?"
Catherine's eyes quickly glanced over in the therapist's direction. No, the thought had never actually occurred to her.
"I don't think you'll be able to rest easily until you settle this with her, Catherine. I can't do that for you. Only you can."
Present-- San Francisco, CA International Airport
Catherine threw away her empty Starbucks cup as she walked away from baggage claim with her luggage. She had been on a plane for what felt like several hours next to a screaming toddler and a businessman who just couldn't get to his destination fast enough, and all she wanted now was to check into her hotel and sleep.
She hadn't told Sara she was coming to visit. She knew if she called Sara she would never get to her to agree to this. By coming down anyways without any warning whatsoever ensured that Sara couldn't run away from their conversation this time.
This was long overdue. And after spending 500 for a round-trip ticket and hotel accommodations, Catherine Willows would be damned if she wasn't going to get some answers.
It wasn't just her wanting to apologize for her behavior in the past or wanting Sara to apologize for her own behavior. She wanted to know why she left Vegas, why she left the place and people who loved her the most behind without saying goodbye. She wanted to know what made her tick and what made her act the way she did.
In short, she wanted to know everything she never knew about Sara and more.
God, Catherine thought to herself with a sigh. Where to begin?
Once outside, Catherine hailed a cab and jogged across the airport parking lot with her luggage trailing behind her.
Catherine had successfully checked into her room after dealing with stubborn hotel personnel and a pimply-nosed kid who insisted on calling her "Yes, Ma'am". The second she had walked into her room she nearly collapsed on her bed from exhaustion. Kicking her shoes off, she turned over onto her side to glance out the large window next to her bed framed by old mahogany-colored drapes.
She had a perfect view of the Golden Gate Bridge. All her life she had never actually been to San Francisco-- just passing through.
Catherine groaned, rolling over onto her back. As much as she wanted to sleep, she had to fight it off, even if just for a little longer. If she was going to talk to Sara, she needed to do it now before she got caught up in sleep and sight-seeing.
Reaching into her pants pocket, Catherine pulled out her cell phone and dialed Sara's number, suddenly feeling very nervous. What if Sara was angry at her for showing up unannounced? What if she yelled at her and told her she never wanted to speak to her again?
Catherine sighed, bringing her phone up to her ear. Those were just going to be risks she had to be willing to take.
Ring... ring... ring... ring...
Maybe she won't pick up, Catherine thought, almost hoping she wouldn't. Maybe she can't hear her phone ringing.
Ring... ring... ring... ring...
Dear God what phone rings this long? It should be going to voicemail by now!
Just as Catherine was about to hang up, there came a voice from the other end.
"Hello?" It was her. It was Sara.
"...Hey Sara!" Catherine forced herself to speak again. "It's Cath."
"Catherine?" She wasn't sure if the sound of disbelief in Sara's voice was a good sign or a bad sign. "Oh my god I haven't talked to any of you guys in so long! How are you doing? How's Lindsey?"
"We're doing good, Sara," Catherine couldn't help the smile cross her face. It felt good to hear her voice again. "How are you doing? Do you miss us yet?"
"More like everyday," Sara chuckled. Oh god, there was that magical Sara laugh she had come to miss so much. "It's been so boring without you guys around. How's everyone else doing?"
"Well Greg misses being able to flirt with you, Warrick's been a little mellow and Nicky's certainly missing you," Catherine told her. "It's definitely not the same without you."
"Aww, shucks, Cath." Catherine could almost see the grin on Sara's face. "You're making me blush."
"Don't get used to it, Sidle," Catherine smirked, "Soak up the sun while it lasts. I don't kiss anybody's ass."
"Of course you don't, it's not in your nature," Sara agreed.
"Good to know we're on the same page," Catherine laughed. "But... Sara, there's something I wanted to talk to you about."
The line instantly grew silent. Almost cautiously Sara spoke, "...Is everyone all right? No one's hurt, are they?"
"No, no Sara, nothing like that," Catherine quickly said. That was Sara for you, always worried about everyone but herself.
"Oh God, it's not Gil, is it?"
"No, Sara, I assure you, everyone's fine," Catherine told her.
Sara immediately thought the worst. "Oh Christ, Lindsey! Is she--"
"Sara," Catherine finally said, trying her hardest not to smile in amusement. "Honey, everyone's fine. I just needed to talk to you about something, just the two of us."
"Oh," Sara breathed a sigh of relief. "Good. So what is it, Cath?"
"That's the thing, Sara," Catherine started, "...I'm not sure we should discuss it over the phone. I'm here in California. In San Francisco. Right now."
Silence. After a few moments Catherine was afraid Sara might have hung up.
"Sara?" she asked. "Are you still there?"
"Uh, yeah. Sorry about that." She sounded flustered. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all. "So you came all the way to San Francisco to talk to me, huh?"
"Yes," Catherine replied, holding strong. "I really need to say some things to you, Sara. I just think it would be better if I did it in person."
"I think you're right." Catherine blinked in surprise. "When do you want to meet?"
"Whenever you're free," Catherine told her, almost unable to believe she was having this conversation with Sara.
"How about tomorrow at around noon? There's a small coffee shop downtown that serves great chowder."
"Sure. I'll see you then."
Catherine hung up and let her phone drop on the bed beside her, falling back on the mattress with a sigh. "What did you just do?" she asked herself.
At about nine the next morning Catherine woke up and took a long shower. She was eager to see Sara. She never thought she would actually admit it, but she was really looking forward to seeing the younger woman today. It felt like she hadn't seen her in ages.
After her shower she dressed herself in a low-cut t-shirt and a pair of jeans. A splash of perfume was the final touch. She couldn't remember the last time she had ever been able to wear perfume. She never wore it at the lab or when she was working-- it interfered with the job. After slipping on a pair of comfortable low-heel shoes she was out the door.
It was now 11:30 (hey, no one said a woman getting ready was easy) and Catherine figured it was about time to head over to the coffee shop to meet Sara. Since she didn't have a car she called for a cab and finally arrived at the restaurant at a punctual 11:59.
After tipping the cab driver, Catherine took a deep breath as she slowly headed toward the restaurant. She was nervous- why was she nervous? It was just Sara. It's not like she was meeting a complete stranger. She and Sara knew each other, she and Sara were friends.
Friends. There was that word again.
With a sigh Catherine walked up the few steps to the front door of the coffee shop, pushing it open. Bells jingling announced her entrance and she looked around inside for any sign of Sara. Sara was never late for anything and almost always early, so she knew there was a good chance that she was already here.
"Can I help you, Miss?" a waitress asked Catherine. She was an older woman and looked like an employee that had been around since the beginning. She almost looked like she could've been Catherine's grandmother.
"Uh, actually I'm looking for someone," Catherine explained. "But she must not be here yet. She's tall and has brown hair--"
"Oh, Sara!" the old woman exclaimed, her eyes lighting up in recognition. Catherine nodded. "Honey, why didn't you just say so? I've known Sara since she was just a little girl!" Signaling Catherine to follow her, she led her through the restaurant toward the back where there were more booths. "Sara, your date has arrived!"
Catherine was about to start saying that they were just friends.
That was before Sara turned around.
Good god, she looked amazing. There was a twinkle in her brown eyes Catherine didn't think she had ever seen before. She looked healthy, a far cry from her usual look of malnourishment due to stress. Her brown hair extended past her shoulders as if she had let it grow out, and her lips curled into one of her famous gap-toothed smiles.
"Barb, stop it, you're embarrassing me in front of one of my friends," Sara chided the woman.
"Oh I can't help it," the old woman waved Sara's comment aside. "I'm not used to seeing you all grown-up, is all." Turning to Catherine, she asked, "Would you like something to drink, honey?"
"Uh, coffee, please," Catherine told her. With that the waitress turned and walked off.
"Are you going to sit down?" Sara asked her, a grin prickling at the corners of her mouth. "Just ignore Barb, she always does that. She's worse than my mother."
Catherine let out a small laugh, finally sitting down in the red vinyl-covered booth across from Sara. "It's really good to see you, Sara."
"Likewise," Sara smiled back. "You guys have all been in my thoughts."
"You've been in mine," Catherine replied. She knew immediately by the look on Sara's face that what she said just came out completely wrong. "What I mean is that we've all been thinking about you and wondering how you're doing, and..."
"Catherine, are you blushing?" Sara didn't bother to keep the giggle from escaping.
"Of course not!" Catherine shot back. But the red creeping up her neck was pretty obvious.
"I'm just kidding, Cath. I know what you meant," Sara grinned. "And thank you. That was sweet of you."
"Well we've all been worried about you, Sara," Catherine admitted. "I mean after everything that had happened with Natalie, we've all been trying to keep an eye on you. And then after Hannah showed up again and you just left without saying anything..." Catherine took a pause as if to allow her words to sink in. "We just didn't know what to say." She wanted to say it felt like a slap in the face after all they'd been through together, but she refrained from doing so for the time being.
Silence engulfed the two for a few moments before Sara took a sip of her lukewarm tea (herbal tea, that was a new one) and re-established eye contact. That was always a good start. "Listen, Catherine..." She let out a frustrated sigh at her sudden inability to form words. "I just... I don't know what to tell you. I don't know what to tell you because I honestly don't know the answer." Catherine could only offer a nod, clearly disappointed with her lame explanation. "But..." she started again, "What I can tell you is that I didn't leave because of you guys. Any of you guys," she added with particular emphasis.
Catherine raised an eyebrow. Was it possible that Sara had already caught onto her reason for being here? That she had been thinking along the same lines the entire time, that she knew their friendship-- okay, "friendship" was a stretch-- "working relationship" was strained? Had she already caught onto her so quickly?
"Why did you leave, Sara?" Catherine asked. "And please don't say stress, because you know as well as I do that you could've come to any of us to talk to. Warrick, Nick, Greg, heck you could've even have come to me to talk; Gil was right there and willing. Why didn't you just say something?"
Sara had suddenly become very fascinated by her tea cup and was tracing the outer edges with her index finger. "You know he asked me to marry him."
Wait a minute, what was that?
"Wait a minute," Catherine started, shaking her head and thinking she must've misheard. "What was that?"
"Gil," Sara clarified, still gazing down at her cup. "He asked me to marry him. Over one of his experiments, no less," she laughed.
Catherine's eyes went wide with shock. Okay, that definitely was not the answer to her question that she had been looking for, but suddenly all of that was forgotten, covered by a thick shroud of "Oh my gosh they're going to get married!" bliss.
"Gil asked you to marry him?" Catherine asked, still recovering from her initial shock. "Oh my god, Sara! What did you say?"
Sara finally looked up from her mesmerizing cup of tea to glance over at Catherine with a small smile. "I said yes."
Catherine's face immediately broke out into an instantaneous smile. "Oh Sara, I'm so happy for you two. Do you have a date yet?"
Sara's face instantly fell, her smile seeming to melt off of her face. "...That's the thing, Cath. He proposed, I said yes, and then less than two weeks later I wrote him my parting letter. I poured my heart out on some stupid piece of paper and read him the shitty sob story that is my life, and then I left without ever giving him a chance to say anything."
Catherine's face softened. "You think you ran away, don't you?"
"No, I don't think I ran away, I know I did," Sara shook her head. "I had everything I've ever wanted... a place I could call home with someone I loved, and then I ran away from it all." She rubbed at her forehead with her hands, trying to stop the migraine before it started. "I'm still trying to figure out why the hell I did it."
"...Well, Sara," Catherine sighed. "I'll tell you what I think, but I can't promise it'll be pleasant. I'm going to try and tell you how I see it."
"Go for it," Sara muttered.
"Okay," Catherine nodded. "Now I'm not going to sit here and tell you that you did not in fact run away, because the truth is-- when it all comes down to it-- you did." Sara flinched at hearing Catherine's harsh words. "But what I will tell you is that it's not too late to make things right. Your friends all love you as much as they did before you left, and I know that Gil does too. If anything he loves you more now that you're not there with him. I think Bugman is finally learning how to feel."
At hearing this Sara laughed, nodding in agreement. "I know... I know that, I really do. I guess I'm just... afraid."
"What are you afraid of, Sara?" Catherine asked.
Sara opened her mouth to speak but decided against it, glancing around the coffee shop for their waitress. "Barb, can we get the bill?" she called out. Then, leaning forward across the table to Catherine she whispered, "I think we should talk about this somewhere else. I've got an apartment just down the street."
Sara's apartment looked like Gil Grissom's townhouse with more distinctly female features. There were several forensic journals and crosswords on the coffee table (Gil had rubbed off on her, Catherine figured) and the unmistakable monkey palm sitting at her desk next to her laptop. The entire place seemed a little feng shui with all of its candles and incense lying around and there were large velvety-red drapes that framed the windows.
"Ugh, I'm sorry, it's a mess right now," Sara apologized as she set her things down by the door. "I haven't had a chance to clean lately, but make yourself at home."
Catherine looked around the small living area and there was not one object out of place. The tables didn't even have dust on them. "You call this unclean? You should see Lindsey's room at the end of the week."
Sara chuckled as she headed into the kitchenette, rummaging through one of the cupboards. "I'll put the kettle on for some tea. Do you drink tea?"
"Sure," Catherine nodded. "Why the sudden change? You used to practically live off of coffee."
"Gris' orders," Sara informed her, taking down a small box of tea leaves. "He told me that I was drinking too much coffee and I wasn't getting enough sleep. He went on to tell me of all of the health benefits of green tea and I haven't touched coffee since."
Once the kettle was on the stove, Sara headed back into the living room and took a seat in one of the recliners so that she was sitting across from Catherine on the couch. "I'm sorry, I forgot what we were talking about at the coffee shop."
Catherine nodded. "It's okay, Sara. We were talking about what you were afraid of." Sara was trying to stall for time, she could tell, but she wasn't going to bite.
Sara let out a heavy sigh, drawing her knees to her chest. It was amazing how she was able to tuck her long limbs under her body on such a small cushion. "Right... about that..."
"...How about I start with telling you something that I'm afraid of," Catherine interrupted. She knew Sara didn't like being put on the spot, and in truth she didn't feel it was fair to make Sara pour her heart out and she not tell her anything in return. This way maybe she would feel more comfortable saying something.
"Okay," Sara agreed, the relief palpable on her face.
"Okay," Catherine echoed, nodding her head. "Well there are several things I'm afraid of, but my number one fear is something happening to Lindsey. I know it sounds kind of silly considering how much we've already gone through together. I mean I haven't done a very good job of protecting her thus far, have I? She's been kidnapped and almost killed a few times already."
"Cath, that wasn't..." Sara started, but Catherine stopped her.
"Don't, Sara. I know what you're about to say. It wasn't my fault, right? Well how do you figure that it wasn't my fault?" Catherine asked. "She was trapped in a sinking car because I wasn't able to keep close enough tabs on Eddie to know what he was doing. She lost her father for the same reason. Then she was kidnapped because some assholes wanted to get even with my father."
"But Cath, those things weren't your fault," Sara told her. "You need to understand that. You had no control over what Eddie chose to do. It wasn't your responsibility to babysit him every step of the way. And as for what happened to Sam... you know as well as I do that that wasn't your fault. They were trying to get even with Sam and they chose to go through you to do it because you were his daughter. They thought they would be striking a nerve by putting his daughter and granddaughter in danger."
Catherine couldn't help but smile at that and Sara smiled back. She didn't know how Sara did it, but every time she tried to give someone advice, everything she said made sense. "Okay, so now it's your turn. What's something you're afraid of?"
Just then the kettle whistled from the stove and Sara was already getting to her feet to get it. "Hey, sit back down," Catherine told her. "I'll go and get it." Once she was satisfied that Sara had sat back down and wouldn't be going anywhere, she headed into the kitchenette and turned off the stove, pulling the kettle off of the burner. "How many sugars do you want in your tea?" she called over her shoulder.
"Two," Sara answered.
Once the tea was fixed Catherine walked back into the living room and handed Sara one of the steaming mugs, sitting back down across from her on the couch. "Thank you," Sara told her, blowing the steam away from the top of the mug before taking a small sip.
"No problem," Catherine told her, setting her own mug down on the table. "So, what was it you were going to say?"
Sara set her mug down on the table beside Catherine's before gazing back up at her. "Promise you won't laugh?" Catherine nodded to indicate that she wouldn't. "Okay," she sighed. "I have this... fear. I guess it's more of a phobia, actually. I... I have this phobia of sharp objects. Knives specifically."
Catherine raised an eyebrow, but as promised she did not laugh. She was more confused than anything. "A fear of knives?" Sara nodded. "Well Sara, I hate spiders, so that's nothing to laugh at. Do you know why you're so afraid of them?"
Sara simply nodded, glancing down at the floor to avoid eye contact. She could still feel Catherine's eyes on her but at least it was better than looking straight at her. "But it's a long story."
"I'm not going anywhere," Catherine told her.
Sara glanced back up at Catherine, shooting her a small smile. Leaning back in her recliner, she rested her head atop her knees. "It hadn't bothered me for a while, it's sort of strange. It started to come back a few years ago after that incident at that mental institution with Adam Trent. Gil had to start processing all the evidence at scenes if it was anything sharp. It eventually got so bad that I had to lock my cutting block in the cabinet.
"I guess it all started when I was about 12. That's when my father died. You see Catherine, he was..." Sara couldn't finish her thought.
"He was what, Sara?" Catherine gently prodded her.
"He was..." Sara took a deep breath. "He was murdered. Stabbed to death sixteen times in the chest with a butcher knife."
Catherine's eyes instantly went wide in shock and she brought her hand up to her mouth so that she wouldn't gasp. "Oh my god... you weren't... I mean... you didn't see..." But the look on Sara's face confirmed Catherine's fear. "Oh my god, you saw it all happen, didn't you?"
Sara offered a weak nod of her head, biting her bottom lip. "I was the one who called the police. I can remember everything-- the patterns of blood spattered on the walls, the screaming, the crazed look in her eyes as she brought the knife down over and over and over..."
"Her?" Catherine asked, her face softening in understanding. "...It was your mother, wasn't it?"
Sara quickly wiped at her eyes to keep her tears from falling before Catherine saw. "I yelled at her to stop, but she wouldn't listen to me," she whispered. "Even after he was dead, she just wouldn't stop. She was so angry at him for everything he had ever done to us."
"He was abusive," Catherine stated rather than asked. It was all starting to fall into place now. Everything that she had ever wondered about Sara was now becoming clear. Why she acted so passionate about certain cases, why she had a tendency to blow up at her coworkers, everything.
Sara nodded. "When he drank he became this monster I didn't even recognize. The first night he ever went after my mother, I hid in my bedroom closet and cried. I should've helped her but I was too scared!" Before Catherine could tell her otherwise she continued, "As I got older I tried to make them stop. I would try and get in the middle of it before anyone got hurt, but each time I ended up in the ER."
Catherine felt sick. Not only did Sara have to witness her father being stabbed to death by her mother, but she was also beaten so severely by her father when she tried to break up the fights that she ended up in the hospital? "Sara... I honestly don't know what to say. I have no idea how you've managed to keep that inside this long."
"The night my father died she went after me too," Sara continued as if she hadn't even heard Catherine, her voice starting to break. "I... I hadn't even realized that she had stabbed me until..." The tears started flowing now and she couldn't stop them.
Catherine swallowed hard, unsure of whether or not to pry. "Until what, Sara?"
Sara wiped at her eyes again, ashamed that Catherine was witnessing her in such a weak and pathetic state. "When... when the police came, they took me outside to the ambulance. That was... when the EMT noticed the knife sticking out of my back."
Catherine felt moisture running down her cheeks, and it was then that she finally realized that she had been crying. Everything Sara had just told her sounded like a horror flick, except it was Sara's life. Her family fell apart before she was even old enough to drive and she had already seen more at age 12 than most people saw in their entire lifetime. She just wanted to hold her and never let go.
As Sara finally broke down and let her tears overtake her, Catherine got up from her place on the couch and slowly walked over to the shaking form in front of her. Kneeling down beside her she took her into a gentle embrace, hoping that somehow she could erase some of her pain. "I'm so sorry, Sara," she whispered, gently rubbing up and down her back with her hand to try and provide some sort of comfort.
Sara instantly buried herself against Catherine's chest in some sort of effort to hide. "Are... you... going to run away from me now?" she cried against her shirt, barely audible over he tears.
That just made Catherine hold her even tighter. "What are you talking about? Of course not, Sara," she soothingly added. "I'm just so sorry you had to deal with all of that, sweetheart. I can't even begin to imagine how hard that must've been for you all by yourself."
Sara was crying so hard now that Catherine wasn't sure if she was even breathing anymore. "It's... disgusting..." she managed to make out through her sobs. "The scar... so ugly..."
"What are you talking about, Sara?" Catherine softly asked her, still gently rubbing up and down her back. When her hand rubbed over a certain part of her back Catherine could feel Sara's muscles tense underneath her touch. "Is it right here?" she asked her, not moving her hand yet. All Sara could do was nod.
Without asking for permission, Catherine moved her hand to gently start to push up the fabric of her tank top over her bra to expose the skin underneath. What she saw made her gasp. In the very middle of Sara's back extending over her left shoulder blade was a scar that had to be at least seven or eight inches long. "Oh Sara..."
"It's so ugly," Sara continued to say, "So ugly..."
"Has Gil seen it?" Catherine asked her.
Sara nodded, letting out what sounded like a small laugh. "Yeah... he's seen it. He's seen all of them."
Catherine ignored the urge to ask about the rest of her scars and instead wiped some of Sara's tears away from her face. "What did he say?"
Sara looked up at Catherine. "He said he thought it was beautiful."
"And you don't believe him?" Catherine asked her with a small smile. "Because I think he's right."
"How could you possibly think that?" Sara asked her in disbelief.
"Because it shows that you survived, Sara," Catherine told her. "You may not see it that way, but it's a reminder of how much you were able to survive and fight through at such a young age. How strong you are." When she saw the wheels in Sara's head turning Catherine beat her to the punch, "And don't you dare say you're not strong, Sara Sidle," she smirked. "How many people can get out of the bottom of a sinking car in the desert and live to tell the tale?"
Sara finally laughed, wiping at her eyes. "Okay, you've got me there. I just... I'm afraid of becoming her, Catherine."
"Your mother?" Catherine asked. Sara nodded. "Sara, you'll never do something like that. You're so kind and gentle that you'd never even dream of hurting anyone, let alone any of us. I bet you don't even kill bugs." This made Sara laugh and nod in agreement. "So don't worry about it, because you'd never do anything like that, certainly not to Gil."
After a few moments Sara managed to wipe the remainder of her tears away and compose herself, shooting Catherine a real smile. "Thank you, Catherine. I can't begin to tell you how much this means to me."
"Don't mention it, Sara," Catherine smiled. "And besides, now I think we're even for all of our arguments."
Sara chuckled. "Okay, deal. But there is one thing we're not square on."
"What's that?" Catherine blinked.
"You only told me two things that you're afraid of," Sara smirked, "Spiders and something happening to Lindsey. I told you three-- sharp objects, turning into my mother and hurting someone."
Catherine rolled her eyes, playfully swatting at Sara with her hand. "Alright, alright. Touche, Sidle. I'm afraid of snakes, too."
"Really?" Sara grinned. "Snakes?"
"Hey, wipe that grin off of your face!" Catherine laughed, "Yes, snakes! I've always hated them. I'm terrified of them."
As Sara's laughter grew louder Catherine couldn't help but join in.
She blamed it on Sara's laughter being infectious in nature, but the truth was she had never been happier to see Sara smiling.
Five days later...
"Do you have everything?" Sara asked Catherine as she finished packing up her suitcases. She had insisted that Catherine stay in the guest bedroom for the remainder of her stay so that she didn't have to spend more money on a hotel.
"Yeah, I think that's everything," Catherine nodded, lifting it off of the bed and setting it down on the floor. "Thanks again for letting me stay here, Sara. I really appreciate it."
"Hey, don't mention it," Sara smiled back. "After everything you've done for me, it was the least I could do."
"I was glad to help, Sara," Catherine told her. "And I'd do it again, too. Feel free to call me anytime."
"Thanks Cath," Sara replied. "Tell everyone at the lab I said hi, will you?"
"Definitely," Catherine nodded. "Is there anything you want me to say to Gil while I'm at it?"
"Oh!" Sara's face immediately lit up. "I almost forgot. I wanted to ask you if you could give him this for me." She left the room for a minute and came back with something wrapped in several layers of tissue paper. "It's very fragile," she warned Catherine as she handed it to her.
Catherine took it and gently unwrapped the layers of paper from it, raising an eyebrow when she saw it. "A stick?"
"He'll understand the sentiment," Sara grinned. "And it's not a stick, it's a butterfly larvae. Do you have any idea how hard that was to find?"
Catherine chuckled, wrapping the paper back around it. "I can imagine. I'll make sure to give it to him though, Sara."
"Thanks," Sara smiled. Just then she heard a car horn honk from outside. "I think that's your cab. You should get going before you miss the plane."
"Yeah, I guess I should," Catherine nodded, slinging her bag over her shoulder.
Sara led them both to the front door and opened it for her. "Thanks again for everything you've done for me, Catherine. I can't even begin to thank you."
"Hey, stop thanking me," Catherine wryly smiled. "It was nothing, Sara. That's what friends are for."
After one last friendly embrace Catherine walked outside to her cab. Once her luggage was loaded up she got in the backseat and waved goodbye to Sara as they drove off for the airport.
As Catherine was gazing out the window, she couldn't help but smile.
For the first time in a long time, that word felt right.