Title: The Cabin – The Garden of Eden
Words: Around 4000
Pairing: Grissom/Sara, Sara
Disclaimer: I don't own CSI. Please don't sue me.
Spoilers: Season 8
Betas: A special thanks to Moo Marie and Seattlecsifan for their input on this. Any errors are my own.
Author's Note: This is a companion piece to The Cabin
Summary: Sara returns to her cabin to find peace and chance for reflection.
X X X
It had been several weeks since her last visit – since she last hiked in from the road, following the barely visible 'path', if you could call it that. Brush covered what looked to be a faint deer trail, but in reality, it was Sara's worn maze of steps that led to the one place where she always felt blessed peace.
From behind the last copse of trees, she spotted the logs of the cabin, and grinned. The crunch of her boots combined with a burst of energy that had her moving forward more rapidly than her sedate march in from where she'd parked the truck a mile back. Every nerve in her exposed arms came to life and she could feel wild anticipation thudding in her chest.
At the porch, she danced up the few steps and unceremoniously dumped everything next to the door. Digging out the key from her denim pocket, she pulled open the screen door, listening to the lovely familiar creak it made, and unlocked her own special home away from home. In no time, she shuffled her backpack and camping gear inside and inhaled deep. There was something comforting about the stale smell of the cabin when it had been closed up for awhile. The old scent of burnt logs seemed to combine with the musty odor of dust to create a glorious welcome.
Throwing open the curtains, Sara reveled in the sight of dust glittering in the air, illuminated by the sun bursting through the window panes. Chuckling, she looked around, as the energy of anticipation slowed, and she really took stock of the place. From just inside the door, she looked directly at her green couch against the left wall. A few feet from her couch and against the back wall sat the black cast-iron wood stove, with a pipe leading up through the roof. A door and shelves adorned the back wall, as well. Against the wall to the right lay the hideously ugly orange and floral cushioned bench that acted as a couch. Next to it was her bookshelf filled with classic treasures she and her foster father cherished.
The thrum of eagerness slowed to a small hum, and her nerves calmed as she continued her visual inspection. With that flame of energy dying down, Sara calmed. For a moment she struggled with the constant worry that made up her core.
The internal struggle gave her pause, pushing a frown across her face, until natural stubbornness stomped down and she muttered, "I'm here to relax… leave the rest behind."
She intended to do just that. In the cool southern Oregon evening, alone in her forest, Sara made her way to the wood stove, tossed in some kindling and a log, and set it all ablaze with the flick of a wooden match. It would be awhile, but eventually warmth would spread like a thick blanket settling over the entire room.
Crossing over the red carpet, she settled herself on the green lumpy pea-soup sofa, and mentally relaxed her muscles. In her mind she made a mental 'to do' list: Dust, inventory the food stock, replace the rotted railing on the front porch steps, sand down and coat the moldy logs with oil again.
Sara had made significant progress over the past few trips in bringing back to life a place she so loved. On her first trip, she'd chastised herself over the state of the logs – the dryness and mold eating away at the exterior – before shaking off the severe frown and beginning the process of restoration. In every task over the last months, she'd brought part of herself back to life, as well. The very feel of log oil on her hand, the ache in her shoulders as she'd replaced boards on the porch, the cleaning of every curtain and every surface by hand… all of it had combined with powerful smells of fir and pine to fill her with nostalgia and intense satisfaction.
Every moment alone in the cabin reminded Sara of a place far different than any other on earth, and of a time when even the complexity of her life was simple.
A small sigh escaped into the quiet, as she made her way to the bookshelf, scanned the old bindings, and pulled down her copy of The Secret Garden. Sinking once again into the green cushions and casually tossing a blanket across her legs, she fingered the worn, cloth-covered volume and admired the rough texture of the well-loved book. She flipped open to the first page, and began to read; but her attention was drawn away to the empty orange floral couch on the other side of the room – the place where her foster father Warren used to sleep.
For a moment, an aching sadness washed through her, and she was drawn back to when she was eighteen, and attending Harvard.
X X X
He'd been larger than life – a forever character in a book that she had intended to read over and over. When Eden had called the night before, Sara hadn't been home. She'd been in the library studying, and her roommate in the dorm had taken the message. The next morning, Sara had dialed the number, but hadn't expected to hear the normally calm, solid woman on the other end sobbing. He'd gone peacefully into the night.
That was how Sara found herself sitting on the airplane, waiting to go back to California – back to her life before Harvard. While she didn't mind flying, she wasn't overly fond of it either, and breathed a sigh of relief when the announcement came on that they were making their final descent into San Francisco International Airport. She knew her foster brother would be there waiting for her.
Walking into baggage claim, Sara grabbed her hair up and rapidly slipped it into a messy ponytail as she headed for the carousel, and spotted Tom. Once she stood in front of the man, she held out her hand, and studied his face.
"It's good to see you again, Sara," he quietly said, leading her to a plastic seat where they would wait for her luggage. With her bag being one of the first out, they were soon on the road. As he drove, Sara watched Tom's face. In so many ways he was like Warren. Tom had most definitely gotten his mannerisms, his build, and his soft speech from his father. Tom's features combined to create a reminder of his father that settled as an ache in Sara's stomach, and she found herself averting her eyes to stare straight ahead at the road.
During the drive Tom filled her in – telling her of the memorial and funeral services planned. He told her she'd be staying with Eden, as was he. Apparently, Eden wasn't doing well.
Pulling into the drive, Tom unloaded Sara's bags and carried them into the foyer. Sara found Eden in the kitchen, trying to busy herself, and gave the woman an awkward hug. Never being one for open displays of affection, Sara always tended to shy away from the typical hugs and kisses between friends or family; but in an instant all the emotion Sara had been withholding welled up and she gave into a sob that turned to weeping, and she began to cling to Eden. For what seemed like a lifetime, as Eden's own weeping tore through her, the two women embraced and poured out the depths of their emotions on each others shoulders.
"I'm so happy you came, Sara," Eden whispered. "Warren would be glad, too."
Sniffing and roughly wiping at her eyes, Sara stepped away from Eden, but continued to hold the older woman's hand; as they settled at the small kitchen table. They stayed up most the night. Very little was said as they sipped at their coffee and sank into silence broken only by a moth batting at the light of the kitchen.
X X X
The memorial a couple of days later surprised Sara immensely. Warren had always been a calm man, who was rather loveably rough around the edges. He'd never been one to brag or boast, but always had been the first to offer help. In the two years Sara lived with them neither Warren nor Eden had ever really been the type to have friends over or go out much. Instead, what Sara had always admired, was their deep and abiding friendship. She'd always longed for a connection like the one her foster parents had developed over a lifetime.
So when nearly a hundred people showed up at the memorial and followed the coffin to the grave site for the funeral, Sara was given a glimpse into a side of the bear of a man for whom she'd held such a deep affection. Then after, when people had bid their farewell, they did what was expected and followed the procession to Eden's home.
People milled throughout the house after the services, speaking in hushed tones. The home that always seemed to have so much warmth and buzzing energy felt cold and distant, filled with men and women wearing stark black – a color Warren would have hated. Yet even Tom, Eden, and Sara had adorned themselves in such bleak clothes.
Eventually, Tom and Sara had shuffled people out the door, as they watched Eden slowly fade from fatigue and grief. After the last mourner left, Sara began to pick up, only to be touched on the arm by Tom. Looking up at him, she waited and watched as he scanned the multitude of cups and plates spread throughout the darkening living room. So much like his father, he was a man to take the time to choose his words.
"Let's sit for a spell," he eventually said, and led her to the porch, where the falling sun cast a contrasting warmth over the dark home's cream exterior.
Ensconced on the wooden slats of the swinging bench, they tilted back and forth in the stillness of the evening for awhile. Sara didn't lose herself so much in thought, but in her surroundings. A man she greatly admired and perhaps even loved was gone, but the pots of flowers on the porch continued to bloom and the smell of cut grass still permeated the air. Maybe everything seemed to hold less appeal in this pledge of grief, but it was there nonetheless. Life continued, whether it was wanted or not.
"Mom's not handling it well," Tom said, breaking her reverie. Sara switched her gaze to him and watched the worry drift through his eyes, until he added, "I don't know what to do for her."
He caught her eyes and held them long, studying her. A small smile of apology graced his face when he admitted, "I didn't know what to make of you when you showed up all those years ago. I didn't know if they should have taken on the responsibility of you." Her accepting nod seemed to give him the permission he needed to continue.
"I think your being here helps," he stated. With a slow shake of his head, he continued, "But even your being here isn't helping the lack of peace I see in my mom."
Sara stared down at her lap for a moment, as they continued to rock in silence. The sounds of life began to filter through, as birds chirped over the sound of the occasional car driving down the street. The familiarity of the place made her feel openly welcomed in this place, and she relaxed, thinking of the family she'd been given.
"Tomorrow, the lawyer's coming over to read the will," Tom stated, out of the blue. Immediately, Sara began to withdraw. That simple statement reminded Sara that while she'd been openly accepted into this home, she would never be a true member of this family. The lawyer and the reading of the will… that was about family. Inhaling deep, she shook off the feeling of disappointment and simply accepted reality.
"I'll make sure I'm off somewhere," she stated. "You and Eden should have your privacy for this."
Smiling gently, he laid his hand on hers and said, "Sara, he left you something. You need to be there."
At her confused look, Tom smiled in a way that made his eyes sparkle much like his father's and said, "He left you the cabin."
X X X
Sara put down the book and dashed away the moisture gathering in her eyes. Realizing the warmth of the fire had begun to permeate the room she shucked off the blanket that lay across her legs, stood and stretched. Crossing to stand in front of the window, she looked out amongst the thick forest, and made a mental note of the steps to the pond not far from the cabin, barely out of sight behind the layer of trees.
Inhaling deep, she took in the scent of burning wood – a scent she'd learned to love over time. It didn't so much smell like smoke, but like the earth itself; sweet and hearty.
Stepping out onto the front porch, Sara pulled out her cell phone, flipped it open, and left a message. "Gil. I'm assuming you're asleep or at work. I made it in just fine. I'm going camping tomorrow, so you probably won't hear from me until the day after. Just call and leave me a message."
Snapping the phone closed and shutting it off, she sat on a porch step, and began to read… "When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen…"
Sara lost herself in The Secret Garden, until her eyes drooped. Leaning her head against a wobbly wooden rail, she let her eyelids close and lost herself in memory.
X X X
Each passing day, Tom and Sara watched more and more worriedly as Eden sank a little deeper into herself. The typically content woman, who could achieve anything she tried with an awkward grace, was fidgety, restless, and unhappy. Neither could figure out how to handle it.
A week had passed since Warren had been placed in the ground, and Eden had become withdrawn and depressed. Standing at the old kitchen sink, outlining a chip in the enamel of the white basin with her finger, Sara asked, "Can you hand me those cups?"
When she received no answer, the young woman turned to glance at the table, and found Eden staring off into space. In that instant, Sara realized something had to be done – someone needed to pull Eden out of herself and remind her to live. With an edge of impatience, Sara put a time limit on Eden's sinking grief, and knew what needed to be done.
Without hesitation, she excused herself to the living room and called Tom. Within a matter of minutes, arrangements had been made. Briskly moving back into the kitchen, Sara sat across from Eden, and grasped the older woman's hand.
When the older woman looked up, the blank look fled, and she gave a small smile.
"I'm taking you somewhere tomorrow," Sara softly stated. "We'll be leaving early."
The lack of response from Eden gave Sara confirmation of her foster mother's state of mind. Normally, Eden hated surprises. She'd coax details out with a smile and mischief. Instead, the both went to bed quietly that night, and woke before dawn. By six the next morning, they were heading north.
X X X
Sara slowly came awake on the front porch, and realized the afternoon had faded to deep evening, when shadows from the sun, sitting like massive light bulb on the horizon, cast shadows far and deep. Ambling back into the cabin, she pulled down a couple of lanterns and put them on low burn, while she prepared her meal.
Once she'd eaten and made her final trip to the outhouse, she pulled out the couch, grabbed some fresh sheets from her backpack, and got ready for sleep. Extinguishing one of the lanterns, she set the other on the tiny table next to her bed. Closing the curtains, she settled under the blankets comfortably, flipped off the kerosene flame, and fell asleep, dreaming of nothing but a beautiful meadow just a mile away, and a porch rail that desperately needed to be replaced.
She was awake by dawn the next morning, and anticipation washed over her that she hadn't felt in a very long time. Singing quietly to herself, Sara filled her backpack with emergency and non-emergency supplies. Grabbing The Secret Garden from the shelf, she placed it at the top of her hiking gear, and stood prepared, just as the sun peaked up over the horizon, bidding her good morning.
Smiling, eager as always to be on her way, she headed out. Through the dense underbrush it was hard to find her footing in several places. However, Sara still remembered the destination well, and knew how to get there. It was the place she and Eden had found… it was their bit of heaven on Earth.
It took nearly an hour to get there, but when she took that last step out of the tree line and into the meadow, she outright gasped. The meadow seemed to magically appear. While Sara liked to pretend it wasn't so, she'd always reveled at that last step, when the world of trees gave way to such an amazing sight.
On the edge of the forest, near a solitary fir tree, Sara found her old camping spot. The rough ring of stones that made up the fire pit was still intact, and the level ground still provided a great place to lay a tent. While she may not have camped for awhile, Sara happily found that putting up a tent was a lot like riding a bicycle. After a couple of false starts, it took her no time at all to have her shelter established, and a small fire going.
Leaning back against a tree, she grabbed her book and began to read; yet her gaze kept wandering back to the meadow and all those years before.
X X X
Sara had thought it would hurt more… seeing someone besides Warren on his obnoxious orange couch. Watching Eden sleep, Sara quietly dressed, not wanting to interrupt perhaps the first real sleep the older woman had gotten in the past weeks.
Quietly starting a fire in the stove, she set the old percolator on top before making her way to the porch as the coffee brewed inside. Dawn broke over the horizon, and Sara smiled as birds began to chirp around her. There was something about the damp smell of wood, underbrush, and everything wild that woke up every sense. The glare of a harsh rising sun was always welcome through the purity of every scent and sound.
She didn't know how long she sat there, but the sun had been up for a bit before she heard Eden stirring inside. With a smile on her face, Sara went into the cabin and poured them both a cup of coffee.
"Good morning," Sara said, offering Eden a cup. Taking a deep breath, Sara quietly asked, "How are you feeling this morning?"
When after a few minutes Eden didn't respond, Sara gave a silent sigh and began to set up the table and chairs for breakfast. Moving to grab the sealed container of flour from the shelf to start a breakfast of half-burnt biscuits, she felt the older woman's hand on her arm. Slowly turning, she watched Eden's face… and the sweeping sadness that flowed over it.
"I'm feeling a little lost, Sara," Eden finally said. "I've lost Warren and nothing seems to be alive anymore."
Forgetting her task at hand, Sara reticently pulled Eden into an awkward hug, and felt the moisture of tears begin to seep through her cotton shirt as the older woman silently wept. Time stood still, and for awhile Sara gave Eden a shoulder on which to grieve.
X X X
It was noon before Sara convinced Eden to go hiking. Sara's foster mother hadn't wanted to do anything. Eden had sat listless through the morning, but eventually Sara had gotten through to her by asking, "Is this what Warren would have wanted? Would he have wanted his best girl to simply stand still when there's a world out there?"
So, with her compass in hand they began to hike. Sara would occasionally pull out a chart and mark their progress and direction. Warren had taught her how to navigate the forest, select landmarks, and leave markers for herself.
Glancing at Eden, she watched the woman, now sixty years old, slowly amble along at a sedate pace. A sense of pride filled Sara when she realized this woman who had taken such care of her as a young teenager, had handed over all control. Eden trusted Sara to take care of not getting lost. In essence, Eden trusted Sara to take care of her.
They unhurriedly made their way over fallen logs – some rotting out and providing much needed fertilizer for ferns and stinging nettles. At times they stopped to rest in the shade when one or the other became tired.
Sara was walking backward, regaling Eden with a fishing story as they slowly hiked, when the older woman simply stopped in her tracks. Following Eden's line of sight, Sara turned and sucked in a deep breath at the sight before her.
The meadow was a sea of blue and yellow, with hints of pink and dusty brown intermingled. Inhaling deep, Sara filled her senses with the scent of fir, until a soft breeze wafted over the aroma of grasses and flowers. Smiling to herself, she gazed at the clear blue sky. It was then she heard the small sound behind her.
Glancing back, Sara watched as Eden stepped forward and that small sound became a chuckle, and grew into something more. Eden's laughter didn't ring like that of joy, but more frantic and desperate. There was something unreal about it, until the laughter turned to sobs. When Eden reached her, Sara wrapped an arm around her foster mother's shoulder, and led her into the meadow. The two slowly walked into the ocean of wildflowers and grass, joined together in choking grief.
Crouching down, Sara held onto Eden, helped her sit in the middle of blooms, and hugged her foster mother tightly as the older woman's anguish pour out into the field. Eventually, Eden's weeping subsided, and she wiped at her face with aged, spotted hands; and then she blew out a long breath followed by a heavy sigh as she took in the panoramic view around her.
In an instant Sara watched everything in her foster mother change. As the gentle wind rippled across the meadow, a balm spread across its occupants seated in the middle of the waving flowers. Eden roughly wiped at her face and let out a huffing laugh, bringing a tender smile to Sara's face.
For a time, they merely sat, ensconced in the beauty of it all, until Eden used a hand to turn Sara's face to hers.
"Thank you for reminding me, Sara," she said, only to receive a questioning look from the brunette. Eden's smile grew when she said, "I met him in a field of flowers. He called it the Garden of Eden." While Eden averted her gaze to watch the wave of blooms, Sara began to smile.
X X X
Sara stood and stretched before tossing a couple of small branches on the fire. Walking out, she admired the flowers, and for a time she just felt… free. She slept well that night.
The next morning after packing up, Sara spent some time carefully cutting flowers of all sizes and colors into a bouquet. Tying the stems with cotton string, she carefully placed them to hang on her pack, and headed back to the cabin.
Later, as she admired the blooms she'd placed in a jar on the bookshelf, she turned her cell phone on and smiled at the three messages Grissom had left. Hitting speed dial, she chuckled when he picked up on the first ring.
"Hey," he said in way of answering. Smiling fondly once more at the bouquet she'd arranged, she asked, "Did I ever tell you about the Garden of Eden?"