60 – Better Angels

As a CSI in Vegas, Sara’s seen a lot of people’s worser devils over the years, but Sean Becker’s life – and death – serve to remind her that while people are certainly capable of much hate and destruction in this life, they can be capable of much love too.

And that, as she knows from her own life, makes all the difference.

Takes place post episode 10×19 “World’s End,” circa April 2010.


There were just some things Sara hated about being a CSI.

It wasn’t necessarily being surrounded by death everyday. The dead seldom bothered her. It was the living she had problems with, and the evil that men seemed unable to keep themselves from inflicting upon each other. It was the hate and the anger and the fear and destruction and the pointless waste of it all.

And these days, it felt like she was always coming back from being away to the worst assignments. Although it seemed equally true that she was always leaving right after the same too.

Which wasn’t all that surprising really. Vegas was Vegas after all.

At least they’d been able to catch Sean Becker’s killer reasonably quickly. Even if the resolution of the case had been anything but satisfactory really. After nearly fifteen years in hiding, Matthew Babajide might finally be on his way to The Hague to stand trial for the war crimes he helped orchestrate as part of the Hutu Power Movement during the Rwandan Genocide, and perhaps that was justice, but it didn’t quite take away the sense that Becker’s death had still been a waste.

True, during his short life he’d been a fiercely violent white supremacist fascinated with killing, a person whom most people who’d met him thought the world was a better place without. Still, to die the way he did, so unloved and unmourned and so young and for what? It was senseless.

Sara had been finishing cataloguing the last of Sean’s personal effects before they went into long-term evidence storage, something she’d done countless times over the years without a second thought or moment’s pause, when she found herself stopping to linger over the photograph of the two African women the young man had been carrying in his wallet when he died.

Strange, how such a simple thing ended up saying so much in the end.

A soft smile fluttered on her lips at this proof positive of the possibilities of change.

As more often than not, all they ever found was evidence of people’s worser devils, it was reassuring to see that there were as yet sometimes still better angels to be found, no matter how angry, hurt, bitter or broken the person might be. That no one, not even the Sean Beckers of the world, were ever really a lost cause.

Not a lost cause. She’d said as much to Grissom not that long ago, reassured him that he’d never had been, and over the years, he’d shown her in whatever ways he could or knew how that she wasn’t one either.

As for Becker, even if she couldn’t deny that there had been far more to her volunteering to join Brass on his next of kin notification than just her wanting to know where haters came from, Sara really had wanted to understand, attempt at least to understand how Sean’s life had created such a powerful hate.

Even if she really hadn’t wanted to descend down into the dark and the wet just yet, not even if it had been nearly three years now, she’d known that with all the rain, most of any real evidence of the actual crime was likely to have long been washed away, so there would have been no point in her getting down and dirty as Brass had termed it, in the sewers with the guys. Instead, she’d gone to poke around Becker’s home, hoping, perhaps against hope, that how the young man lived might be able to shed some light on just how he died.

Although once Catherine had filled her in on the results of her interview with Phil Carpenter, the Jefferson High School principal, Sara had a pretty good idea why the kid had been so angry, and understood it perhaps more than she would have liked to admit.

For all her teenage self-absorption, Lindsey had been right in her assessment. Sean had had a rough life. Truth was though, Sara’s childhood hadn’t been all the different. They’d both come from homes with abusive, emotionally unstable parents, had grown up never really knowing or understanding what home was really supposed to be.

And while Sean may have worn all his anger on the outside, carried it in his very visible scars, conveyed it in all the violence he took and meted out over the years, Sara had kept hers tightly bound up inside. Or tried to at least.

Langston could have been speaking of her when he’d spoken of how some people turned all their hate and anger inward. Even as an adult, she’d been self-destructive, and not just in her attempts to drown out her problems and her past with alcohol and overwork. Between that and her very real problems with authority, her me problem, had almost succeeded in costing her everything and more than once.

Sara knew her own battle with her frustrations and anger would never truly be over, that she would always still be fighting that fight, but it was different now. Been different for a while, but particularly now. She’d been fortunate, so fortunate, that there had been someone who loved and cared, who worried about her and wouldn’t just let her destroy herself.

And maybe it really was true, that sometimes the hardest thing in life really was to learn to love another person. Hell, she knew it took a heck of a lot of courage just to dare to love at all. To stay and love anyway, that was nothing short of miraculous.

But it was possible, of this Sara was certain. Love was possible. Even after a lifetime of anger and hate, or fear and uncertainty. It was.

Perhaps all it really took was another person to believe that you were capable of love and loving, to have that faith, to see the potential and possibility, before you could believe it of yourself.

As for what had initially sent Sean Becker to seek out Laurent Sdabo, they would probably never know, but he’d gone and wanted to know, wanted to understand, in some ways much like Sara and the others had, how a life consumed by anger and hate only led to death.

In the end, the how and why exactly Sean Becker had seemed to change his mind – and heart – was, like the love, inexplicable. Just was, and like the most remarkable things in life, defied explanation.

Yet he had. Had opened himself up to a love beyond himself and his own experience, and ultimately, it hadn’t been an act of hate on Sean’s part that had led to his death, but one of love.

For Sara, this had proven to be one of those cases where it had actually been good to be wrong. Like everyone who had spoken of Sean, she and the rest of the team had come to the investigation with their own assumptions on the why and how Becker had died.

Except Sean Becker hadn’t died a bitter, hatred-driven young man. He hadn’t died in hate.

The presence of that simple photograph proved that.

That he’d found, even as it was at the very end of his life, the capacity to love beyond his own hate, to feel something other than his own anger, to choose life and love instead of death and destruction.

Yes, it was good to be reminded that those capable of much evil could still be equally capable of much good. For Sean Becker, in his defense of Laurent Sdabo and his desire to track down information on the two women from his friend’s photograph, had proven to love as fiercely as he had once hated.

And that certainly had been something.

Not long after Sara had started the process of packing up Becker’s effects, Brass had stopped by the layout room to tell her what he and Langston had gotten out of Sdabo/Babajide about Sean’s death. That he maintained that he hadn’t meant to kill Sean. That it was the last thing he’d wanted to do, because while he’d never expected forgiveness, not even from God, for what he had done, he clung to the hope that if he could save one boy, one soul, he’d finally be able to finally save a part of himself. And while Brass hadn’t openly scoffed at the notion, neither had he quite seemed to believe it either.

There was nothing Babajide could do to expiate all the horrible things he’d done, any more than Sean’s newfound choices could have undone the hateful and hurtful crimes of his past. Besides, Brass had mused, what difference really could one life, one boy make after all those dead?

Sara knew exactly what Grissom would have said had he been there: Everything.

Only a handful of nights before, as the two of them had stood gazing out from the Piazza Garibaldi upon the vast panorama of Rome before them, he’d said nearly as much to her, although they’d been speaking of something far different at the time.


They weren’t even supposed to have been in Rome that night, she and Grissom. Except Sara hadn’t been able to make it to Paris on her latest visit back. She’d been lucky to make it to Europe at all. And for once, it hadn’t been work wrecking havoc on her plans and personal life. Instead, it had been the inopportune second eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland, which in the course of a few short hours having managed to shut down every major airport in Northern Europe, had also made short work of Sara’s original plans for how she and Grissom would spend part of his spring holidays from the Sorbonne. Not that anything they ever did ever went according to plan. Although Sara did have to admit, however reluctantly, that that wasn’t always such a bad thing. But they’d been able to meet up in the south of France to spend a few days exploring the rivers there before heading off to visit Rome together until she had to catch her flight out of Aeroporto Leonardo da Vinci in Fiumicina to return to Vegas.

Which had been how while on their passeggiata or postprandial stroll on their first night in Rome, after a long and not quite so relaxing hike through the zigzagging cobblestone streets of Trastevere and up the steep hill, they’d ended up at the summit of the Gianicolo, or the Janiculum Hill.

The belvedere, the beautiful view, there had certainly been more than worth the effort.

Despite the fact that the two of them had seen a great many vistas and cities at night, had long been used to seeing much of the world and life that way, there was something breathtaking about seeing the Seven Hills of the Eternal City spread out before them. There were no skyscrapers or high rises to lord over it all, only the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.

And Rome, too, made its own golden hours. Long into the night, all over the city, the bright floodlights bathed the great monuments to antiquity in a gilded glow. From among the pine-lined avenues and terracotta rooftops, they been able to make out off in the distance the Forum’s Arch of Titus and Sacra Via, the stately towering columns of the Parthenon, the enormous curving ellipse of the Coliseum.

Time had seemed so very real that night. Had the whole day really. Admittedly, for Sara it had been strange to walk in places that had stood not just for centuries, but for millennia. In Vegas, change was constant, frenetic. When she’d returned the September before, with all the bigger, bolder, brighter that the city wasn’t necessarily all the better for, she’d barely recognized the Las Vegas she’d first arrived in ten years before.

But in Rome, time was almost palpable.

And it had been hard not to feel as small and insignificant as an ant under the great expanse of heaven. After all, what were the twenty, forty, sixty, eighty, even one hundred years that made up a single life but a blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things?

When she’d confessed to feeling as much to him, Grissom had asked in his usual curious manner, “Are we?”

“Insignificant?” Sara had queried in reply, then with a slight shrug said, “Certainly feels like it. What we do. Our lives. In the end, what do they really matter?

“A hundred, even fifty years from now, no one will know or remember or care who we were. We all can’t be Shakespeares, or Newtons, or Einsteins, you know,” she said with a rueful sort of smile.

Grissom had given her a long, thoughtful look, before saying, “I’m not so sure it’s that simple. In fact, I’m certain it isn’t. We can’t know how our lives intersect with others. What we end up leaving behind.”

Despite the inherent reverie of the moment, when he’d next begun, “There’s a verse in the Talmud,” Sara hadn’t been able to keep back her grin. Her husband’s quotations were legendary, and his ability to have them on hand at less than a moment’s notice was, at least to his wife, one of Grissom’s more endearing idiosyncrasies. But her fond amusement had soon morphed into the dumbfounded wide-eyed stupefaction his pronouncements so often seemed to induce as he’d continued, saying, “That speaks of how if you save one life you save the world entire. There’s nothing insignificant about that.”

Then covering her hand with his own, his thumb tracing the simple gold band on her ring finger, he’d said, “And Sara, you, your life, it’s anything but insignificant.”


Back in the lab’s layout room, as she with the due reverence it deserved, placed the photograph of the two young women in the box, Sara could still hear her husband saying, Save one life, you save the world entire.

And it was true. For that one person, it was the whole world.

It had been for her. For Grissom, too, she knew.


Sara had just replaced the lid and was smoothing the last of the crimson evidence tape into place when the phone on her hip buzzed to indicate she had a new text message.

Recognizing the sender, she quickly clicked to read her husband’s text.

Just home. Hank disappointed you weren’t there to pick him up. Rome and home not same without you, but then home never is when you’re away. Be safe.

Her smile broadened, particularly at his last two words, which she knew stood for so many things. She knew, had known, from when she used them herself when she’d been the one away and him the one in Vegas. They meant I love you. Miss you. Worry about you. Wish I could be with you. Keep you safe. And even though I can’t, know how much I want to.

Knowing, too, that there was no such thing as a private conversation in the lab, and that it wouldn’t be long before she finished up here and could head home (on time for once), Sara began to type.

Miss you, too. Can’t wait to hear what mischief you got into. Talk to you soon.

Her reply successfully sent, she clicked her phone shut, but she was as she did so, struck with the realization of something she was just starting to apprehend.

It was easy, perhaps too easy, doing what she did every day, to get bogged down with all the hate and pain and death, all the ugliness in the world; too easy to lose sight of the joy and love and life.

For while her work as a CSI had often reminded her of the truth that lay in the assertion she’d so often heard spoken: in the midst of life we are in death, she was just beginning to understand that the converse was also just as equally so: that in the midst of death we are in life.

And it was that life that made it, despite everything, all worthwhile.


Have a question or want to leave a comment or concern and don’t have a wordpress account? Please feel free to email me at kadhmercer@gmail.com

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. mbonthecorner
    May 13, 2010 @ 17:50:19

    Finally! The Icelandic volcano story! I enjoyed it very much. Just back from seeing WP in Endgame on Mothers Day. He was amazing, as always.

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