Another new story. I still haven't forgotten about Little Life or Rings and Things. I should be updating those within the week and then my schedule starts to get a little crazy for a while. Hope you enjoy the latest and greatest. :)
Tapping a pencil against the glass table in the break room didn't help the fact that Catherine Willows had gotten her way. It never changed. In the five years I'd known her, not once did Catherine lose control of the situation.
As I tapped the pencil, I watched her smiling while she had an animated conversation with Nick and Warrick. They carelessly approached the break room as if they had all the time in the world to catch criminals of all sorts. It drove me crazy. I knew the queen of sex appeal worked hard to kick the habit of sliding down a sticky pole and become a successful good guy at the crime lab, but that didn't give her an excuse to run me into the ground.
I knew her story. I knew how she made it from stripping to being a single mom and criminologist. I even took the time to think about all the struggles she went through to be the big bad wolf she is today, but I've been through a fair amount of shit and never whined a day about it like she did. And believe me, I had her beat when it came to life struggles.
"Where's Grissom," she asked with a steely tone directed at me as usual.
"Probably washing the stench of whore off him since you just talked to him," I snapped back with my word arsenal.
Catherine clenched her jaw and advanced toward me, but Warrick intervened.
"Hey, now," Warrick scrunched his face and stepped between us.
"Yeah, retract the claws, ladies," Nick defended Warrick's position on the issue.
Warrick gently pushed Catherine toward the farthest chair away from me at the table, but it didn't stop her from responding with a come-back.
"At least I'm not sleeping with him," she muttered, but we all heard her loud and clear.
I dropped the pencil on the table and ground my teeth as I got to my feet.
"Nick, Warrick," Grissom walked into the room with his head buried in the assignment slips. "You've got a suspicious circs in Henderson."
Nick stood up and took the slip for them. The boys looked down at the paper for the address, looked at each other, and then looked at Grissom, afraid of the next words out of his mouth.
I hadn't bothered to sit down when he walked into the room and I certainly hadn't relaxed much to throw him off the drama between Catherine and me.
"Sara...Catherine, you've got a possible four twenty-eight. Dispatch got a strange call and didn't know what to classify it as so...you'll have to find out."
He handed me the slip and I could already feel Catherine's eyes burning a hole into the side of my head. I clutched the tiny paper to keep my surfacing rage in check and the boys' eyes widened at the sight.
"You don't want to do that, Gris," Warrick said.
"It's fine. Do your job," he shrugged off the warning with the same expression he used to blow off criticism. The same expression that read, "If you think I'm nuts, you must not own a mirror, pal".
"Your funeral," Nick muttered as he and Warrick followed Grissom out.
"I hope you don't mind being driven around by a whore," Catherine callously said as she high tailed it toward the door and snatched the slip out of my hand, nearly giving me a paper cut in the process.
I blew out a sigh and prayed to any god that would listen to help me make it through shift. I guess they were all asleep because my prayers were far from answered.
The ride to the crime scene held no conversation as a tense and awkward silence filled the confinement of the SUV. That didn't matter, though, since I didn't want to talk to her anyway. I had nothing to say to the bitch and I hoped she knew that because I wasn't, by any means, going to state it.
We approached the house about a mile apart from each other as red and blue lights illuminated the eerily quiet residence. I furrowed my brow while the first responding officer headed down the front lawn toward us.
"Hey, Sidle," he started, his wobbling knees the loudest thing on the street as they knocked together. "It's...bad in there. When I got the call out, I thought maybe the guy raised a hand to his kid and things kind of escalated...turns out...it's worse."
I surveyed the area and saw a little girl sitting in the back of an ambulance. She looked terrified and pale and covered in blood. I couldn't tell if there was even a person under all the cuts and bruises on her, but I looked back at the officer and nodded.
"Thanks," I quickly said as I made a bee line toward the little girl. Within seconds, I stood in front of her with a small smile, hoping to show her the light at the end of the long tunnel she'd probably been lost in for years. "Hey. I'm Sara."
She didn't say anything, as I expected, and looked up at me with glassy eyes that told a story of pain and desperation. I recognized her story from the one my eyes told me whenever I looked in the mirror on the miserable days I relived my tragic past.
When I was her age, all I wanted to do was escape, just as I was sure she wanted to do the same. And at that moment, when she reached out to touch me, I felt my fragile state shatter like glass on a tile floor. She wrapped her tiny arms around my waist and clung to me as though she wasn't ever going to let go.
"It's okay. You're okay now," the words instinctively poured out of my mouth.
I placed one hand on her back and the other on her head. I ran my hand through her hair and tried to make her feel safe in my arms. I could feel myself becoming emotionally attached, but I wasn't going to give up the case, especially when I didn't even know what had happened yet.
"She still needs to be processed. We collected most of the evidence, on the surface at least," one of the EMT's informed me. "But you'll still need an SAE kit."
"Does she have an advocate or someone to go to the hospital with her?"
"No," he shook his head once, sympathy written all over his face.
"Make room," I commanded.
As I let go of the little girl and climbed into the ambulance, I looked back to see Catherine with one of her most unpleasant attitudes at the wheel. The EMT slammed the door and hovered over the front seat.
"Let's go," he said to the driver before he took his seat in the back with the girl and me.
I knew I was going to pay for ditching Catherine at a scene like that, but I cared too much for the girl to worry about what Catherine had planned for me the next time we crossed paths.
The girl took my hand as we walked into the hospital and squeezed as we passed several men. I noticed she didn't even trust the EMT that had been sweet to her. It didn't take someone as perfect as Catherine Willows to sum up what screwed up this little girl.
"It's going to be uncomfortable, but I'm going to be here the whole time, okay?"
She nodded with tears forming in her eyes. I wished I could make it easier on her, but I knew from experience that nothing could lessen the effects of abuse.
"Tell you what...any time you feel weird or sick, like you're going to throw up...squeeze my hand."
She nodded again as she laid back in her hospital gown. The female nurse did the rest and tried to go slow. She saw that I was coaching the girl and felt there wasn't much reason to explain what was going on. She did, however, talk to the girl a bit to help make her feel more relaxed with us strangers.
After the SAE kit was collected, I thanked the nurse and stayed with the girl.
"Are you okay? Do you still feel sick?"
She shook her head after a beat as she adjusted herself.
"I bet you feel pretty dumb in that thing, right," I asked as I pinched the gown.
"Well, now that you're all done, you can go in the bathroom over there and change into the clothes that nice nurse got for you," I pointed to the ajar door across the room.
She followed my finger to the direction of the bathroom then back at me. She shook her head and gulped before she looked down at her dangling feet.
"What's wrong, sweetie?"
She took a deep breath and fought back some tears. A few moments later, she lifted her head again and looked me straight in the eyes.
"Do you want me to go in with you?"
She moved her lips in playful ways as she avoided my question.
"Okay...why don't you change out here," I asked as I sensed she feared small spaces. "I promise not to look and I'll make sure no one comes inside. How does that sound?"
She bit her bottom lip and, after a few seconds of decision making, nodded.
"All right," I said, happy to make progress.
I walked over to the door and guarded it. I didn't dare lock it, afraid to set her off. From what I gathered, I assumed she'd think the walls were closing in on her if she heard the lock click in place.
I heard her moving around as she pulled her shirt over her head and slowly jumped her way into her jeans.
"Is it okay for me to look now," I asked.
"Yeah," she softly said.
I turned around and looked down at her, a faint smile forming on my face.
"I know you're going to feel different in these clothes, but I thought maybe you'd like a fresh outfit."
"I-I like it," she continued to speak only a decibel above a whisper.
"Well, that's good," my smile widened. "So...are you hungry?"
She slowly nodded.
"Do you want to come with me to the cafeteria to get something to eat?"
She nodded again.
Immediately, she took my hand and I escorted her downstairs to the hospital cafeteria. Her tiny, cold fingers felt so foreign in my hand, but I hoped my presence helped her cope with the trauma she'd endured. I know I had appreciated the woman from Social Services taking my hand when she brought me back to her office when I was young.
Once the girl and I arrived at the line, I looked between her and the food before I started asking her more questions.
"What do you like? Do you want mac and cheese?"
She bit her lip again and shook her head. The woman behind the food smiled at me as she looked the girl and me over.
"How about some pudding," she asked, hoping she wasn't too far off base with the girl.
The woman smiled and walked over to the pudding cups. I dragged the girl along with me and followed the woman to the pudding.
"Chocolate," the woman asked the girl with a smile.
She nodded again.
"Okay," the woman said as she grabbed a chocolate pudding and handed it to me.
"Thanks," I said.
"No problem. ...Are you visiting someone?"
"Uh, no. I'm here for her," I peered down at the girl before I looked back at the woman.
"Oh," she said before she looked down at the girl. "Would you like a cookie?"
She looked at the woman and then at me. She stared into my eyes as though I was the one who made all of her decisions.
"It's up to you," I told her.
"I guess," she lowered her head to count the tiles on the floor.
"I've got a special stash for the faculty, but I'd love to make an exception for her," the woman smiled at me as she walked toward the kitchen and pulled out freshly baked cookies.
"Oh, thank you," I said.
"How old are you," the woman asked the girl.
"Six," the girl timidly answered.
"Six cookies it is," the woman continued to smile.
"That's too kind," I said.
"Nonsense. I don't expect her to eat them all right now, but if she wants a little snack later...she'll have one."
"As I've said before, no problem."
I took the girl to the register as I once again followed the woman.
"That'll be a dollar fifty," the woman said.
"I'm only charging you for the pudding. I'd let you take it all for free if I could, but the cookies are our little secret," she smiled again.
I lightly laughed.
"Thank you...so much."
I paid for the pudding, gave it to the girl, and held on to the cookies for her. I guided her to a table by the windows and smiled at her as she pulled the spoon out of the pudding for her first taste.
"Is it good?"
"Yeah," she made an attempt to smile. "Thanks for buying it for me."
"Don't worry about it. ...Someone from Social Services is going to come here to pick you up. I don't want you to get scared when some stranger asks you to go with them, okay? They're going to take you to a safe place for the night."
"I don't want to go with anyone else. Why can't I stay with you?"
"That's nice, honey...but I can't take you home with me. There's a process to this whole thing...but if I could, I'd take you with me in a heartbeat."
She frowned and stared into her pudding.
"So...what's your name? We've spent all this time together and I still don't know what your name is," I smiled to ease her pain.
"Kelsey. That's a pretty name."
We didn't talk much after that and a woman from Social Services came to pick up Kelsey as I knew she would. I didn't even realize I'd spent more than an hour with the little girl until I left the hospital a few minutes after the woman drove off with Kelsey.
I headed straight back to the lab. I predicted Catherine would need me there if she even wanted me within a hundred yards of her. I walked on egg shells as I entered the lab, hoping to avoid the conversation for as long as possible, but again, I had no such luck.
I stiffened as if on cue as I'd barely made it into the building in one piece. I slowly turned around to face my fire breathing superior and in one look, I knew she'd make me into toast when she was done scorching me.
"What the hell was that stunt you pulled? You left me at a crime scene! I don't care who you think you are, you don't do that. Ever!"
"I'm sorry. That girl-"
"Was not your immediate concern. Not without telling me you were going to the hospital with her first!"
"I didn't think there was much time," I mustered up any logical excuse.
"Bullshit! Next time you try something like that, I'll make sure you never set foot in this lab again."
I clenched my jaw. With Catherine around, I could never relax. As if I didn't have enough things to worry about, I had to deal with a five foot six woman with a fiery passion to hate me as red hot as her hair. At least before she started to age.
I smiled at my inward jab at her and finally started to loosen up on the muscular reigns I'd tightened at the sole sound of her voice.
"You're smiling. Great! Of all the people I had to work with. You must give Gil good head for him to have kept you on this team as long as he has," she growled.
I snapped out of my thoughts and darkness filled my eyes. Vengeance was my best friend at that moment and I intended to use her against my arch nemesis.
"The only person that would need to sleep her way up the latter would be you. Everyone knows about your stripper days and they know you never left them completely behind you. Face it, all you are is a whore with a kid to take care of and the only way you know how is to fuck people for a bigger paycheck," I did more than growl back in response.
A wicked glint in her eyes suddenly appeared and the masochist in me grinned. If the fight was good, the words harsh enough to disturb even our coworkers, I enjoyed whatever word bullets she had to shoot at me.
"You better watch yourself, Sidle," she said through half-gritted teeth. "I can do things to you so harmful, you won't even know what's happening to you until shit has officially hit the fan. And you know I won't hesitate to play dirty."
"Because it's the only way you know how to play," I carelessly said as she walked away.
She scoffed over her shoulder and I had a feeling she would make good on her threat sooner rather than later.
I sighed. I didn't want to have to watch my words around her to keep myself from getting fired. I knew Grissom stuck his neck out for me plenty of times before, especially when Ecklie wanted to fire me. I couldn't let him take the fall again because even though I wasn't sleeping with him, he was my friend. I wouldn't let anything happen to him, least of all whatever I indirectly brought on him. I wasn't his responsibility and I needed to start acting like it.
I followed in Catherine's direction, toward the locker room, and half-hoped she wouldn't be there. Of course, she was there and I was forced to do the right thing. I hated doing the right thing when my pride was on the line.
"Hey," I slowly and softly started. "I know I should've told you first. ...What can I help you with?"
She grabbed a new outfit from her locker and looked at me with icy eyes.
"I get it. You're angry with me and you don't want me to be anywhere near you, but I'm just trying to do my job. ...We both know you care as much about that girl's welfare as I do and you would've jumped in that ambulance the first chance you got. So why can't we work together on this?"
She let out a bigger sigh than I had and quickly changed into a clean shirt.
"Because you don't want to work with me on this. ...You're right. I would've gone with the girl, but you beat me to it. That's not the problem, though. You're defiant and like to work alone. If you really want to help me, you'll let me do the investigating and you can take the evidence I collect to the right techs to get analyzed. Are we clear?"
She said it so coolly and with so much confidence that I wanted to punch her. I could barely control my impulse and ended up doing something stupid, no matter how good it felt to finally do it.
I slapped her. I slapped Catherine Willows across the face. I slapped her hard enough to see my hand print mark her with a bright shade of red. I didn't smile, though I wanted to, and I didn't laugh, though it seemed so appealing. All I could do was watch her reaction in slow motion. The way she gently pressed her hand to her wounded cheek, the way she stared at me with anger and confusion, the way blood trickled from her bottom lip as I admired my handiwork. Of all the moments in my life, that would be the one I'd forever want to relive.
It was the first time our fights had ever gotten physical and I had started it. I didn't know if she was going to slap me back, but I didn't care. I still wanted to bask in the glory of seeing her with my hand print temporarily embedded into her silky skin.
Catherine did anything but get even, though. She looked down and grabbed her extra pair of jeans. She continued to change even though I towered over her with the ability to slap her as many times as I felt necessary. I watched her as she slipped in to her pants as all the sounds of the lab faded. I couldn't even hear the sound of my own breath as I breathed it and yet, Catherine powered on.
But the noise of the lab started to break through my concentrated filter as she stormed out of the locker room. She didn't shed a tear and she didn't bite my head off about hitting her. I didn't know what she was planning, if she was planning anything, but I knew it couldn't be good after what I'd done.
I took a deep breath and disappeared to the one room in the entire lab I thought to call my own. I hid there for a while and used the phone to call the woman from Social Services.
"Hi, Ms. Hensley? ...I'm Sara Sidle. I'm with the Las Vegas Crime Lab. ...I was at the hospital tonight with a little girl named Kelsey. I just wanted to check on her."
I looked up, through the glass window, and saw Greg pass by with a worried expression on his face. He seemed worried about me and what I was capable of. I wondered if Catherine told him about our altercation in the locker room. If she had, I was more than screwed.
"Okay. I...yes, I wanted to see how she was adjusting. I'm still not really sure what happened to her yet, but I know someone hurt her and she seemed a little scared when she left with you. ...I know it has nothing to do with you, I just...I know how hard this must be on her and I feel like I need to look out for her."
After Greg passed by, I saw Grissom racing down the halls as though he were on a mission. Apparently, his mission involved me because he looked like a bull charging a red cloth when he locked eyes with me.
"Uh...thank you. I'll look into it. ...Have a nice night," I said before I hung up.
Grissom walked into the room as I placed the phone back in its cradle and he seemed less than pleased.
"Hey," I tried to smile my way into his good graces again.
"What's going on with you lately?"
"What do you mean?"
"You and Catherine. I know you two have never seen eye to eye, but slapping her? You are dangerously close to being fired and I won't be able to help you like I did last time."
"Did she tell you I slapped her," I tried to sound outraged, as though I hadn't done a damn thing wrong.
"She didn't have to. She walked past me while I was talking to Ecklie and a couple of the board members and the large impression on her left cheek said it all."
"I don't expect you to take the blame for this. It's not your fault."
"You're right. It's not. You need to fix this, Sara."
"I know. It's just...I didn't mean to slap her, but I really wanted to punch her so I settled for a slap. I'm sorry."
"An apology isn't going to make a difference. If you don't control your recent impulses...Ecklie's going to be all over you."
"Too late," Ecklie said as he appeared in the doorway. "Sara...my office. Now."
I looked from Grissom to Ecklie and wished the day would start over, but I knew that wasn't possible so I followed Ecklie to his office.
"You've done a lot of things, Sara, but getting violent with a coworker? That's a step too far. ...I tried to make Gil fire you a little less than a year ago, but he defended you. He's persistent when it comes to protecting you, but I can't understand why. You're a liability and yet, he chooses to keep you on his pay roll."
"We both know you're going to fire me now so why don't you get it over with. I want to clean out my locker as soon as possible instead of waste my time here, talking to you."
"Unbelievable. You don't even care that Gil is about to be thrown in a blender. After all that man has done for you, you still don't show any remorse."
"What are you talking about?"
"When the board members he and I were with saw Catherine's face, they asked us about her personal life."
"They asked us if she walked into the lab like that a lot, if she's got someone at home that beats her. They questioned her integrity."
"I still don't see what that has to do with Grissom."
"Well, he defended Catherine this time and promised the board members she would never let anyone abuse her like that. Then one of the members threw your name into the conversation, because he's read your file, and Gil couldn't deny that it was a possibility you had hit her. The two members told Gil he'd be under strict watch. He's going to be evaluated on how he deals with his team, Sara."
"They could fire him if they find anything wrong with his leadership," I worriedly said.
"And they've already got major doubts in their minds thanks to you."
"I'll apologize to Catherine. Will that help?"
"Not by a long shot. It might do you some good to say sorry to Catherine, but it won't do a thing to help Gil."
"This is wrong. They can't punish him for something I did."
"They can when the rest of the board members see your file. Last year, I recommended he replace you and he didn't, so now that you're acting out...the board can call his judgment in to question."
I shook my head.
"As for you...you get to sit tight while the board members decide what to do with you."
"Something you can control?"
"My input matters way more than Gil's ever would, yes."
"So they'll go by your recommendation, especially when they find out you wanted me gone before I did anything worse."
"You prick. You're going to screw everyone over like you always do. When I said all those things about you not being able to hack it in the field and lurking in the halls, waiting for us to screw up...I still mean it. Down to the last syllable."
"You're just tying your own noose, Sidle."
"Hell if I care. You can't do anything more to me than get rid of me. I'll just find another job and Grissom should be safe."
"I can't control what happens to Gil."
"You know what? I don't care anymore. Do whatever you want to me, but if you're done lecturing me...I'd like to do more important things than listen to the man that has an obvious crush on Catherine."
I started to leave without dismissal, but, once I'd opened his office door, I stopped myself to say one last remark, something that would guarantee I went out with a bang.
"I don't get what you see in Catherine anyway. ...She's not that hot."
I shut the door on my way out and headed back to the locker room to grab my things. I was as good as done as a CSI in that city and I'd finally outworn my welcome. Time to move on.
Thanks for reading. Please leave a review and I'll try my best to keep you happy. :)