pg-13 | no warnings apply | post-ep for homebodies

There were moments when she forgot it had happened.

She felt oddly guilty, even though she knew, rationally, that images of that night couldn't occupy her every waking thought.

There were times when she'd smile and laugh at something Nick said, or banter with Warrick over a cup of coffee, or listen to Catherine talk about Lindsey and she would forget all about her and all the ones who came before her.

Then she would blink and the memories would return.

The brush pulls out strands of hair as she moves it over her scalp.

Normally, she didn't meet the victims before they died. She didn't get to feel their warm skin under her touch. She didn't get to hear their voice, explaining what happened to them. She didn't get to see the look of sheer terror in their eyes when they met their attacker face-to-face.

Death always affected her, regardless of race, lifestyle, or gender. In the early days of the job, she cried over every victim. There was a spot just outside the lab in San Francisco, a place where she could sit down and hide behind bushes and concrete. She would bury her head in her elbow and let the tears flow, muffling her sobs so no one would find her.

Her face is flushed from the hot water of the shower.

Even once she learned how to control herself, and she no longer wept openly for them, her heart broke whenever she was confronted with the horror of human cruelty. There were times when she thought she just couldn't do this job anymore. Then she would solve a case and put someone away, and her mind would focus on all the victims she could - and would - save if she kept at it.

But then there were the times when she failed.

She didn't know if he had seen her cry, and she really didn't care. He had seen her do it before, on several occasions.

He had been the one to find her secret hiding place, when he himself had gone off to vent after losing a suspect. His cursing had startled her into gasping, and he had followed the noise to find her.

That was back in the days when she thought he had normal human emotions.

The moisturizer is cold as she rubs it into her dry skin.

He knelt down just as he would so many years later, and he asked her in that soft voice of his if she was okay.

She tried to lie, but she wasn't as good at it back then. He just barely touched her arm and she lost it again, swearing in between her tears about the woman who was dead and her inability to put the killer behind bars.

He sat down next to her, apparently not caring about the dirt on the ground and the fact that he was wearing tan colored pants. He rambled on for a bit about the law, science, and history before stopping short and surprising her by putting his arm around her.

Her cotton pajama bottoms are soft as she slips them over her legs.

There were times after that when he saw her cry, but he never again offered to hold her.

She could feel his stare that night, the same way she could feel Brass's and Nick's. Three different men, but the same stare. Gazing at her as if they could somehow slip into her brain and discover the deep, dark secret that they were sure was there. They wouldn't ask her about it; they would just stare, letting their imaginations run wild.

She supposed she could tell them the truth. That the only big secret in her past was that her best friend cheated on her high school English exam in the twelfth grade. She knew, but never said anything, since it would have resulted in her friend's suspension. Even when Erin beat her out for valedictorian with that falsely obtained grade, she never breathed a word of it to anyone.

But if she denied being assaulted in the past, they would all just nod - that I-Don't-Believe-You-But-Obviously-You-Don't-Want-To-Share nod - and she wouldn't have accomplished anything.

Really wasn't any of their business, anyway.

Her computer dinged in the other room, letting her know she had a new email and reminding her to turn it off.

She was almost insulted by their silent insinuations. Did they really think her so callous that she couldn't empathize or be devastated by a victim's tragic circumstances unless they somehow reminded her of her own troubles?

She thought he knew her better by now. But maybe she thought wrong.

He had touched her arm, the same way he did that first time, and asked her if she was okay.

He kept asking. She kept lying. If he was okay with that arrangement, who was she to argue?

The hum of her computer disappeared into the silence as it shut down.

She had wanted to tell him she hated the beard, but didn't think that would be smart at that point in time.

He had let his thumb caress a small patch on her forearm. She said nothing, clenching her teeth and resolving to stay strong. It was a test - she was sure. He wanted to see if he still affected her.

There were times when she suspected he had known of her feelings all along.

There were times when she suspected he kept her around because she was just a boost to his male ego.

There were times when she hated him almost as much as she loved him.

And there were times when she could forget everything and she just wanted him to hold her again.

The pillow was cold as she rested her head on it.

He wasn't a stupid man. He had sensed her muscles tensing under his touch. And he pulled away, a slightly ashamed look on his face, as if he had done something wrong.

She just smiled, the ends of her mouth barely turning up.

She got the feeling he thought she was broken, somehow. She wanted to believe that she wasn't, but there were days when she didn't know anymore.

And then there were days when her personal problems seemed like nothing compared to the problems of others.

At least she was alive.

Light bounced off the phone on her bedside table as the curtains shifted. For the briefest of moments, she considered calling him. It was an idea that had crossed her mind many times, but this time she thought he might actually come if she asked.

She closed her eyes and rolled over, sighing silently.

The ringing of the phone startled her as she began to slip into unconsciousness.