Author's Note: And this is the final chapter of season 4. It may cause some of you to go, "Whaaaa?" But Sara was acting very oddly about the rape victim in this episode, and behaves very emotionally about the girl early in the fifth season, as well. This is my explanation.


What?

How many vacation days do you have on the books?

About…ten weeks, I guess. Why?

I think you should take a week or two.


I just stare at him. Of course. He wants me gone. He doesn't want to have to look at me anymore, now that I've forced his hand, now that he's chosen everything else in his life over me, just as he always has, just as I knew he would.

Ignorant bastard.


I-I'm still on the case. I just didn't do the interview for once in my life.


How can I explain it to him? He's never listened to me, not really. He thinks because he's older, because he's colder, that somehow he's got everything figured out and he's the example to follow. But he's clueless.

I don't think anyone deserves what Hank gave me.

I stare at Linley Parker, calmly describing a demon to a sketch artist. She's got balls, the kind I always imagined I would have in her place. Cool, collected, intelligent, helpful, despite being in agonizing physical and emotional pain.

When push came to shove, I hid in the closet and cried.


When was the last time you took vacation? Never, right?

…Okay.


He walks away. The one thing he has always been good at.


I try to keep my head in the case. I try to keep my cool. When Kevin Coombs appears out of nowhere, brandishing a gun, I yank my own and try to keep from shooting him, despite everything inside me screaming to kill him, kill him before he hurts me. Vartann saves Coombs' life just by being there. I'm sure of it.

But I can't get it out of my head. I've shoved it down for months, and all it took was one thoughtless sentence from Gil Grissom to dredge up my worst nightmare.

"You told her, didn't you? Bitch!"

He was lurching toward me, clearly intoxicated, his hair disheveled and his eyes wild. I was alone at the crime scene, packing up my kit, getting ready to follow Warrick and Nick back to the lab in the SUV with all the evidence. He appeared out of nowhere, able to track me down by the police radio, I imagined. I tried to keep my cool.

"What are you talking about? Told who what?"

"She left me," he slurred. "Few weeks after the accident. No way she finds out about you unless you said something. I was fucking discreet!"

"You're a liar and a cheat," I said coldly. "Women have a sixth sense about those things. You have no one to blame but yourself. Go home and sleep it off, Hank."

He drew his hand back and backhanded me so suddenly that I had no time to react, to even try to protect myself. "Bitch! Don't you fucking tell me what to do!"

My head struck the side of the SUV with enough force to make me dizzy. I slid to the ground, feeling my stomach rebel. "Hank! Stop it!"

"You had no right," he muttered, sinking to his knees beside me and shoving me down into the dirt. The area was deserted—a strip of desert in the middle of nowhere—and like an idiot, I'd told the cops to go on, I'd just be a minute. I was completely alone.

Except for him.

"No right," he continued, ripping open the blue blouse I wore beneath my vest. I screamed and tried to kick him, but he hit me again, so hard I almost blacked out. As I fought for consciousness, he yanked down my pants and underwear, grinning drunkenly.

"You need to learn your place, Sidle," he hissed, seeming almost coherent. "You need to learn that you can't just fuck with people's lives."

"Like you screwed with mine?" I demanded weakly, unable to keep from taunting him. His eyes blazed and he slapped me, bloodying my mouth.

"Shut up!" he howled. "Shut the hell up!"

His penis was out, engorged with adrenaline and alcohol-driven idiocy. He yanked my thighs apart, the color rising on his cheeks as I struggled. One more blow to the head, and I was too weak and dizzy to fight back. He shoved himself inside me. I felt something tear, the stinging and dampness of injury. I lay there and cried until he finished, pulling out and spilling himself on my stomach. As he shoved his penis back into his jeans, he spit on the smear of semen.

"Plenty of DNA, Sidle," he sneered. "But I'm warning you. A word to anyone, and I swear to god, I'll kill you with my bare hands."

He disappeared, stumbling, into the darkness.

I should have said something. I should have swabbed my own body, driven myself to the hospital, filed a police report. Anything. But I was too terrified. Not terrified that Hank would actually kill me. I might welcome it. Terrified that Grissom would reject me, and that would be it. I would never survive losing him again. So I went home and showered until the water went cold, scrubbing my body over and over. Then I wrapped myself in a blanket and curled up at the back of my closet.

Surprise. It didn't take the revelation of a rape to drive Grissom from me. Just took Grissom.


Come on. I'll drive you home.


"You've been drinking for…how long?"

His voice is gentle, but I refuse to look at him. I won't give him the benefit.

"Months now. I don't know how long, exactly."

"Because of what I said to Lurie in interrogation?"

I laugh, and we both seem surprised at the bitterness.

"Because of the promotion, too?"

He swings smoothly into a parking spot outside my apartment and shuts off the car. I continue to avoid his eyes.

"Sara, please."

"Do you really think I deserved it? What Hank did?"

He winces.

"No. I was hurt at the time, but I shouldn't have said it. No one deserves to be cheated on."

"Do they deserve to be raped?"

I don't mean to say it, but it comes out anyway. His eyes narrow.

"Of course not. Are you talking about Linley Parker?"

I laugh again. "Are you really this stupid?"

The light dawns, slowly and heartbreakingly, across his face. "No," he breathes, and I can hear the agony. "Sara…"

"His girlfriend left him," I find myself saying. "He thought I must have told her he was cheating on her with me. I didn't, but he refused to believe me. I was all alone at the crime scene—I'd told Vartann and the others to go. He hit me until I nearly blacked out."

"Where's the file? The report? I never saw anything!"

"There's no file," I tell him numbly. "No report. No evidence."

"He used a condom? You didn't scratch him or tear his clothing?"

"He left his semen and saliva on my stomach. I washed it off in the shower. I scrubbed under my nails until they bled. I hid in the closet for two days."

Grissom turns to me with such rage that I cringe back into my seat. "You destroyed evidence? What the hell, Sara!"

"My body!" I scream at him. "My ex…my rape…my evidence! Fuck you!"

"So now you're an alcoholic? Now you drive away someone who loves you?"

"You don't love me!" I shriek, mindless of his hands grasping my upper arms, his body hovering close to mine. I thrash in his grip, sobbing. "Let me go! Leave me alone! I hate you! I hate you!"

He drags me from the car, crying and screaming, and hauls me bodily into my apartment, where he wrestles me into the bathroom. I pound at his chest, scratch at his arms, but he's too strong. He shoves me into the shower stall and turns the water on, icy and stinging. He forces me in, fully clothed, his body wrapped around mine and getting equally drenched.

The cold water shocks me back to coherency and quickly calms me, as he knew it would. I stare at him through dripping hair, knowing my eyes are wide and rimmed with red, clinging to him, trembling beneath the weight of my sopping clothes. "I didn't want you to know," I murmur, burying my face in his neck. "I thought you would leave me."

"Never," he whispers into my hair. "I wouldn't."

I couldn't do it.

"You don't love me."

"I do," he pants, reaching over to turn off the water, his own body shaking with cold. "I do. Why won't you believe me? Do I have to lose everything else in my life to be worthy of you?"

"I need you to prove it to me," I gasp out, digging my fingers into his shoulders. "I need something tangible."

He leans over, pressing his lips over the pulse fluttering wildly in my throat. "I don't know what else to do."

I pull him down the hall to my bedroom, both of us staggering in our heavy wet clothes. I strip him, running my hands over every inch of skin I reveal.

He tries to stop me, his hands wrapping, large and warm, around my wrists. "I don't think sex is the answer, Sara. God knows it's never worked before."

"I want you," I mutter, even though I have never felt more miserable and less sexy in my life. "I want to feel something, anything."

He stands in front of me, nude and slightly panicked, and cups his hands around my face. "Then let me help you. But not like this."

I give in, crying, breaking, and let him pull me onto the bed. He wraps himself around me, cradling my cold, wet body against his, stroking his fingers through my hair. He murmurs in my ear how much he loves me, how beautiful I am, how sorry he is for everything I went through and all the pain he caused. He tells me that I am worth more than anything to him, and that if I really want him to leave CSI or Vegas or anything else, he will. I listen to him, snuffling softly, until I finally drift off to sleep.

When I wake up, I am in a dry robe and the smell of coffee is wafting out from the kitchen. He is standing there in a robe as well, sipping from a huge mug. He offers another to me and I take it, smiling gingerly.

"I meant it, you know."

I look up at him questioningly.

"I will leave. I'll step down, I'll transfer to another shift, I'll find another job entirely. Whatever it takes. If this is what you need to believe that I do want you, that I want to be with you, then that's what I'll do." He shifts a little uncomfortably. "You've believed for months that what I said to Lurie about being unable to give up my career for someone was true. And maybe it has been. But it's not anymore."

I stare at him as tears well up in my eyes. "Seriously?"

He nods. "Seriously. I'll take out a fucking billboard announcing our relationship if—" His voice breaks a little. "If I can just please not lose you again."

I surge into his arms, coffee forgotten, and kiss every inch of his face I can before covering his mouth with mine. He devours my lips, parting them and tangling his tongue with mine. I can taste coffee and the faintest hint of tears, and I pull him so tightly against me that I cannot breathe.

"I don't need any of that," I gasp out, when we part for air. "I never needed you to do anything. I don't mind keeping my love life private. I just needed to know that you cared enough that you could."

He strokes my cheek, smiling faintly, and nods. "You're sure?"

"I'm sure." I flash him a smile. "Work wouldn't be the same without the bug guy."

He kisses me again, and I can feel the slightest hint of arousal against my hip. "Do you want to…" I murmur, sliding my hand down to caress his hip through terrycloth.

"Every minute of every day," he confesses. "But—we should probably—"

"No," I cut him off. "The Hank thing is over, done with. I can't prove that anything happened. I don't want to live in the past, dwelling on what I can't change. I just want to be with you."

He nods, although I can see his reluctance. "If that's what you want," he says finally.

"It is," I tell him emphatically. "That…" I let my voice drop into a tone he can't ignore. "That, and you."

I lead him down the hall to my bedroom, this time for more than comfort. He takes me gently, thoroughly, beautifully, with the intensity that only Grissom has ever been able to offer me. And when I come, shattering deliciously in his arms, it is with the exquisite knowledge that where I love, I am loved in return.