Sarah's tears are nearly as foreign as Rachel's ability to comfort. They are almost always angry; shed due to latent frustration, the inability to get her shit together, to be a mender the way Kira and Helena and the boys needed her to be. She doesn't see the point in crying when she's sad, doesn't have time for it.
But sometimes, they leak out anyway, of their own accord and it only serves to piss her off.
It wasn't the fact Rachel had come back that had surprised her so much as her reaction to it. She'd gotten her armor up, drew leather jacket clad shoulders back, steeling herself to argue with Fe or Kira, with any one of them who wanted to plead Rachel's case. She'd been prepared for three years now to feel indigency over the idea she'd ever show her face again. False bravado that Rachel would probably believe that they all owed her something and she'd preen, stand up real tall, and tell her to go straight to hell. Back under the rock she'd slithered out from.
It wouldn't be the first time.
She didn't feel any of those things. And Rachel, for her part, was just as defeated, just as broken down. The first time they laid eyes on each other, after Sarah had hesitantly permitted her to see Kira, get a glimpse of Helena's boys, it had struck her; the way she carried herself. No airs, no sense of entitlement.
It was vaguely unsettling until she stopped one day, dead in her tracks, watched as Donnie, the more tentative and cautious of the twins, crawled tiredly into Rachel's lap, on the floor, popping a thumb in, resting his head against her chest. It looked ridiculous because Rachel had quite obviously had never held a baby in her life. She had no idea what to do with her hands, settling for awkwardly patting his back, looking very much like a fish out of water.
It made sense, Sarah realized, ducking out of view so that Rachel couldn't see.
After all, when you're stripped entirely of who you thought you were, made to see that you aren't special or exemplary or of any real value, what's left?
Wherever she had been, Rachel had surely learned this to be so and she was brought down by it.
If circumstances were different, the knowledge might've made Sarah smug; if there was anyone who deserved to feel small, it was Rachel.
But it just made her sad.
Sarah's exhausted, constantly, there's not much room for much else and she can't find it in her to be resentful. Time had beaten it out of her. She has a job, and classes at the community college, a teenager to look after, toddlers to chase around. It's not what she'd envisioned but it's just boring enough to keep away the terror that something will come along to make the quiet life she'd carved out go horribly awry.
Then there was Rachel. Rachel, who hasn't ever quite managed to become one of them but they all treated with much more humanity than Rachel believed she deserved, Rachel, who made her own way in the art world, Rachel, who picked up after herself and did chores, and cooked.
Rachel, who'd come by one day and never left.
It's been a year and the idea of getting her own place comes up, now and again, tossed out over the dinner table, when they're all packed like sardines or after Felix's used the remainder of the hot water. No one takes it seriously. And Sarah suspects Rachel takes it the least seriously of all.
"You'd have more room," she argues coolly one evening, up to her elbows in soap suds. The sight, even after all of this time, is still slightly comical and Sarah bites down hard on her lower lip to contain the smirk.
"Nah. No rush, yeah?" Sarah grabs the pan from her, rinsing and drying it. "Sides, you're like a bloody fixture round here now. Like...a lightbulb or sumthin."
Rachel's eyebrow raises. "You're comparing me to a lightbulb?"
"Ya know what I mean," Sarah replies gruffly. "We're used to ya, is all. Stay as long as you want."
"Well, I'll certainly keep that in mind, Sarah. Thank you."
It's clipped and business like but she can see the faintest outline of a smile lifting up the corners of her mouth.
Late that night, Sarah wakes in a blind terror, her eyes shooting open as her heart pounds. The blackness of the room is about to swallow her whole and she stifles a scream, hand covering her mouth as though not to wake anybody.
The nightmares are few and far between now but when they strike, it's with an unrelenting vengeance, taking her completely off guard.
There's a soft rap at the door and quickly, she wipes her eyes, tries to pull herself together.
"I'm fine, Helena. Go back to bed."
Softly, she groans, pinching the bridge of her nose. "Then same goes for you, yeah?"
"May I come in?"
The woman may have lost some of her prickly edges but she was still as stubborn as hell and sighing, Sarah acquiesces, pulling the covers tightly around herself as Rachel enters.
"I was making myself a cup of tea when I heard you cry out." Knowingly, she regards her. "You were having a bad dream."
"Oh, so yer bloody Sherlock Holmes, now?" Sarah heaves a sigh again, "might as well sit. Since yer not gonna leave anyhow."
Ignoring her sass, Rachel perches on the edge of the mattress, setting her cup and saucer down on the nightstand. "I could make you one as well."
They sit in uncomfortable silence for a moment, Sarah crossing her arms rather defiantly over her chest.
"I have them sometimes, too," Rachel says after a while. "They wake me up out of a sound sleep. I know they can be quite frightening." She hesitates, "is there anything I can do to... help?"
Rachel's offer takes her off guard and she blinks rapidly, unsure what to make of it.
She starts to lie again, insist that she's perfectly fine but there is something in the depths of Rachel's eyes that draws a shred of honesty out of her.
"Sometimes, I can see faces. Other times, it's all black. But every time I have one, it's about somethin' comin' and I can't stop it. Can't keep anyone safe. I stand there and I'm stuck. Bloody powerless."
She can feel her throat close, like there's a hand around it and and without warning, the tears well up and spill over.
"I know it's not real," Sarah says, swiping angrily at her cheeks, "but what if it's like a warning, ya know? To keep watching my back, not get too comfortable, yeah? It's been three years, and I'm still always waitin' for the other bloody shoe to drop."
Somehow, she instinctively knows that she doesn't have to pretend with Rachel. That Rachel knows exactly what she means, knows what it's like to have the rug pulled out from underneath you, with no warning. She shields the others from her fear; she can't fall apart.
Rachel gets it. They they don't have to communicate for Sarah to realize that Rachel's the only other person to truly understand her.
"Perhaps it's time to stop waiting for the other shoe to drop, Sarah."
Her words are halted and Sarah knows that this isn't easy for her, that the act of comforting does not come innately but she sounds kind, even if it's just an imitation of what kindness would be like.
"Still don't know how to live like that," Sarah blurts through her tears. "You'd think by now, I would've learned."
"Well," Rachel says thoughtfully, "you've been walking around like someone is out to get to you most of your life. I imagine it's not an easy habit to break."
Sarah looks at her, smirks. "Didn't know you were so wise. You go on one of those dumb spiritual enlightenment things or whatever?"
There's a glimmer of a smile again. "Something like that."
"Bloody rip-off is what those are," Sarah swipes the palm of her hand down over her face, collecting the remaining moisture from her skin. "I'm all right now. Ya don't hafta stay if ya don't wanna."
"Isn't that contrary to what you told me after dinner? You said I could stay as long as I liked."
"Ah," Sarah grins crookedly, "a sense of humor, too? Wouldya look at that?"
"I think you'll find that I'm full of surprises, Sarah."
Sarah doesn't miss the underlying pieces of her tone and she swallows, turning back to Rachel within an indifferent shrug. "Well, suit yourself. I'm goin' back to bed. Go on and climb in if yer gonna stay. But be quiet, would ya?"
To her credit, Rachel follows directions, wordlessly, sliding underneath the covers.
Even though Sarah has her back to her, she can feel her warmth and watches her shoulder blades move up and down, so rhythmically, that allows her into sleep.
Neither of them mention the fact that in the morning, Sarah wakes up, curled around Rachel's body, Rachel's hands resting in the tangles of her hair.
Some things are better left unsaid.