dipenates: (Nick - wistful)
[personal profile] dipenates
Title: Passing Judgment on my Life
Fandom: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Rating:  R
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Icon: [livejournal.com profile] bflyw 
Characters:  Greg, Sara and Nick friendship. Nick and Greg pre-slash.
Warning:  Contains references to sexual abuse and rape. Please stay safe when reading this fic.
Summary: Sara and Nick are forced to look at their pasts as they investigate an assault on a child. Started life as a post-ep for 6X05: Gum Drops.

Chapter 1

Sara had finished processing the Daniels’ knife and shoes and was in the locker room when Nick returned from interviewing Cassie McBride. He looked as tired as she was; his skin grey under the strip lighting that illuminated the lockers and benches.

He paused for a moment between stowing his jacket in his locker and taking out his street shoes, and looked her up and down. She knew that the dark circles under his eyes were twins of his own, and that her shoulders were slumped with fatigue and misery.

His voice broke into her thoughts. “Sara, would you like to join me for breakfast?”

Sara fought a wave of longing so intense it nearly made her knees buckle. The McBride case had awakened some ghosts and a coil of fear and tension and desperation was lying heavy in her stomach.

Every time a case involving a child came up she could tell from the looks of her colleagues that they suspected that it might have personal resonance for her. Warwick’s eyes full of gentleness and compassion. Nick’s and Greg’s courteously speculative, protecting her as best they could from the worst horrors of each individual case. Catherine’s wary and impatient.

Sara knew that Catherine found her occasional outbursts to be histrionic and that she had more than hinted to Grissom that Sara needed to be gently confronted about her response to cases involving violence against women and children.

Sara’s objective side could understand Catherine’s perspective, and even applaud its unsentimental kindness. Nick, Greg and Warrick’s avuncular protectiveness sometimes came off as patronising. The hurt, scared Sara, though, felt exposed and ashamed by Catherine’s judgment of her inability to rip the band-aid off, and found herself unable to curtail her brusqueness around the redhead.

Sara had thought for a long time that Nick might have ghosts of his own. She had a pretty decent spider sense when it came to childhood trauma and Nick was, after all, remorseless when it came to chasing down child abusers and killers. She had rejected that hypothesis eventually, and reminded herself that all decent, normal people felt protective toward children and did not need a movie-of-the-week back-story to feel outrage at innocence harmed.

For a while, though, she had wondered if his invitations to breakfast after a brutal case with a minor victim might lead to mutual confession and commiseration.

She thought of how delicious it would be to have Nick’s concerned eyes turned on her while she purged herself of some clammy, anxious memories. He was capable of enormous warmth and kindness, and she craved the comfort that might bring. But even as she could imagine the sense of warmth and giddy liberty that speaking to Nick would elicit, she could foresee the sucking wave of shame that would break over her afterwards.

She stashed her work jacket in her locker as her throat ached with unshed tears; reminding her of the days when she played Tori Amos and sucked down countless Marlboros in a bid to forget.

She wished someone would ask the question that had been hanging in the air like smoke since soon after her arrival in the Vegas crime lab; the question to which she was too afraid to volunteer the answer. She was exhausted by the constant cycle of remembering and forgetting and she knew that the McBride case would provoke nightmares, sleeplessness and that queasy sense of foreboding that would plague her for at least a week.

She closed her locker door, resting her palm and forehead against the cool metal.

“Sara?” Nick asked. He had put on his shoes and was leaning forward to lace them up.

Sara felt her stomach roil, tasted the bile rising in her throat. She straightened up and slung her bag over her shoulder.

“No thanks, Nick,” she said, as brightly as she could. “Some other time.”

Nick watched Sara walk through the locker-room door in the direction of the lab’s exit, and wished that he felt less relieved to see her go.

He could see the childhood trauma written on her face and body as clearly as if she had spoken the words aloud. He saw her eyes flash with barely-suppressed rage when she interrogated a suspected child molester; the stiffening of her spine when one of her colleagues got within touching distance; the pulse in her jaw when a rookie cop laughed too loud at a scene while a rape victim was loaded into an ambulance; and the way she tried to shield photos of the evidence of sexual violence from her male colleagues.

He felt bad for her, bad enough to ask her for breakfast after the cases that made her set her shoulders resolutely even as the life faded from her eyes.

Mixed in with the empathy, though, was a sense of frustration that she seemed no closer to reaching out for help than she had on her first day.

He knew that it was hard to discuss the issues that she was facing. He remembered forcing his disclosure to Catherine out; deliberately choosing words that were non-specific because he was afraid he would break down and cry if he had to say molested or raped. He reflected that he would never have been able to manage even that stumbling, incomplete account if she hadn’t directly asked him what was going on with him.

Catherine said afterwards that he seemed perfectly calm and collected, but he could remember his terrible fear that Catherine would look at him with pity or, worse, disgust. She hadn’t, though, and nor had the therapist he had forced himself to see in the weeks that followed his disclosure, or the group for male survivors that he had eventually attended.

It had been grim, those months of wading through his pain and wondering if he would ever get to the other side of his anger and grief. He remembered how all-encompassing the process had been, how the abuse had magnified and filled his vision until it seemed to be all he was and all he would be. He could still recall the feeling of clinging to his bed, almost seasick with misery, as he prayed for an end to the memories and sensations.

It was fading, though. Assuming its proper proportion as something that had happened to him, something important and influential, but not the sum total of his life’s experience.

He’d spoken to Catherine once about how Sara would be a nicer person and a better colleague if she got some help. He thought he had been oblique enough in his approach to sound non-critical but Catherine had put him in his place with a comment about self-righteousness. She was right, Catherine, and he was aware that he was pushing therapy with the zeal of a convert. He also secretly admired the professionalism that kept Catherine from gossip, although his own standards were not so high. At the time he was so focused on his own childhood trauma that he was hopelessly intrigued by other people’s; searching for commonality, and a sense of being part of a group.

His fascination had eventually faded, and he no longer felt the overwhelming urge to discuss his abuse with everyone he shared a friendly drink with. He was thankful that he had managed to maintain some professional boundaries, and that Catherine was the only person in the crime lab who knew what had happened to him. He had divested himself of the shame that he had felt during the course of some hard therapy sessions, but there was a time and a place for personal revelations and however much he loved his colleagues he was glad that he had kept some privacy.

Greg probably knew. One day in the middle of spring he caught Nick looking at a website for male survivors of sexual abuse. He had made so little noise when he walked in to the lab in which Nick was using the computer over lunch, and the Texan had been too absorbed in reading about flashbacks to close the browser window in time to stop Greg seeing it. The lab tech hadn’t acknowledged what Nick was reading, just looked him in the eye while he let him know his Mom had called, although he had left the room and immediately returned with a rare cup of his gourmet coffee for Nick.

He was lucky, he reflected, and felt ashamed again at being so exasperated with Sara. For all he knew, she hadn’t had the same advantages of a childhood full of friends and family that loved him that had shaped the character to overcome his experiences. In a flash of realisation, he thought that in all likelihood it was someone in her family or group of friends who had hurt her.

Next time, he thought, he would just come out and ask.

(Part two)

Date: 2009-07-04 07:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] podga.livejournal.com
I started reading 'Find me in the River' and while you mention that it can stand alone, I was so intrigued by the references to previous stories that I decided to start from the beginning.

I wish I had time to read some more tonight! This looks like it will be truly excellent. I find the characterization spot on and I also like your style of writing. I look forward to continuing tomorrow and over the next few days.

May I friend you?

Date: 2009-07-04 08:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dipenates.livejournal.com
Thanks for the really nice comment. (And the time commitment!)

Of course you can friend me. Thanks.

Date: 2009-10-31 12:07 am (UTC)
not_so_logical: (Actor: Gale Harold)
From: [personal profile] not_so_logical
I am so glad to have run into this story, just reading this first part made me see how excellent of a writer you are. Your characterization is perfect and I really love the way you write. I cannot wait to read more.
=]

Date: 2009-11-11 09:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dipenates.livejournal.com
Thank you so much, Katelyn. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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March 2015

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