DISCLAIMER: CSI and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS. No infringement intended.
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Silently slipping back into the bedroom, Sara lent back against the door frame, expression caught somewhere between a smile and a sigh as she allowed herself a few minutes more of the fantasy she'd fallen into before she left. She hadn't meant to come here at all, but she couldn't bring herself to regret it, regardless of all the heartache it might cause. Not when the midday sun flooded through the gap in the heavy drapes like that, bathing the bed and its remaining occupant in rivers of shadow and light. Long golden hair shimmered across pale shoulders, wrapping around subtle limbs as it tumbled onto the crisp cotton sheets, and Sara couldn't help but remember what it had felt like to run her hands through it. How it had fallen like a curtain of silk around them when they kissed, then whispered softly along her skin as her lover moved down her body. Cool and gentle, like the woman it belonged to; artless, but somehow deliberate in the way it had caressed her. Like nothing she'd ever felt before. Just something else to long for when she went back to the bed she'd made. The one that didn't have its expensive Egyptian linens twisted around the smooth calves of a naked, and very female, co-worker. The one that felt cold, and empty, despite the man she shared it with. At least she'd had these last few hours of joy.
Considering the way it had started, the morning could have been so much worse; for both of them.
After watching the Dell birthday video Grissom had retreated to his office to stare at the miniatures again. As if, having had one obsessive personality pour over every minute detail in their creation, it would take another doing the same to unlock their secrets. The theory was sound enough, she supposed, but it left her alone again. With Grissom spending more time on his 'relationship' with a serial killer than he did with her, she was forced to make do with his paperwork for company. The necessary, but hateful, task of compiling their forensic reports and interview notes on the Tallman case should have been his, or Catherine's; but Gill had never been very good at the bureaucratic requirements of his job, even when he wasn't distracted, and Catherine had responsibilities at home. IA was going to be breathing down their necks about Officer Kayman soon enough, so that left her. Still, the trip to the PD to hand the file over to whichever member of Homicide was still in the office at 6AM would help take her mind off being dropped for a fibre-optic borescope. Again.
The traffic had been awful; what should have been 10 minutes in the car turned into 40, mainly thanks to some jackass in a Ford Ranger who decided that Freemont Street was the best possible place to try his luck at outrunning a patrol car. To make things worse, when she finally made it up to the Homicide bullpen, there was nobody there. Just a single lit desk-lamp, and an abandoned suit jacket to let her know her journey hadn't been completely pointless. By this point, she'd been in no mood to sit and wait, so she'd set off in search of the missing detective.
After coming up empty in the break room and the locker room, she'd eventually found Sofia Curtis in the department gym. Determined to vent some of her frustration on the woman who'd forced her to wonder around the whole damn department looking for her, Sara stalked towards the occupied treadmill. Angry, and focused, her eyes burned into the detective's back until, half way to her destination, something made her stop. If she hadn't been staring so intently, she might not have noticed, but the closer she'd got the more convinced she'd become that something was wrong. Sara had seen Sofia run before, of course, and every time she'd been rendered speechless by the swish of golden hair across a strong back, and the elegant power of long honey coloured limbs.
Today there was none of that. Sofia's hair was messy and drenched in sweat, the beautifully toned muscles of her legs quivered from exhaustion, and her shoulders were tight and shaking. Above the whir of the treadmill, and the steady pounding of feet on rubber, Sara could just make out her jagged sobbing. She was running herself into the ground. Punishing herself for watching another fellow officer die, or just trying to forget the face she'd found under the cushion today.
Robbed of her own irritation, and not sure how she was supposed to react; Sara just stood there. She didn't want to intrude, but she couldn't make herself leave either, so she watched; silent and horrified; as one of the strongest people she knew broke apart in front of her. Sofia's shaking got worse. Sweat rolled down her neck and soaked through her thin top, pasting it to her back. She stumbled, and wretched, but she kept running. Her crying got louder, and more anguished, making it hard to breath, but she didn't stop. Sara saw it all, but she still couldn't move. Not until the detective's gorgeous legs finally collapsed and she started to fall.
Sara ran forward. There was no chance of crossing the distance before the other woman hit the floor, but she managed to call out "Sofia!" just in time for the blonde to turn her head towards her, and away from the metal bars of the treadmill.
Struggling to focus through stinging tears, Sofia wouldn't have recognised the dark shape hovering over her if she hadn't spoken. She would recognise Sara's voice anywhere. Dark and terse with an odd little drawl, it had followed her everywhere she went since the first time she'd heard it. It was the voice she longed to have whisper sinful things to her at night, and the sound she wanted to have rouse her from a blissful sleep. So far, however, she'd only heard scorn and sarcasm thrown her way. After the dry hostility she'd received the last time a fellow officer had died in front of her, she didn't dare hope for any form of comfort from Sara. Instead, she decided to meet the oncoming indifference with some of her own.
Dragging air into her burning lungs, she forced out what she hoped was a cool "What ..do you .. want, .Sara?"
A dangerous question. Sara's eyebrow quirked for a moment, but her amusement was short lived. It hurt to see what Sofia had done to herself. They'd left her alone again with no one to talk to; told themselves that she could tough it out, because no one really knew how to approach her. Sara had never known how to talk to her, and now she was bent over her, staring into wary, exhausted eyes, all she could do was feel. Guilt, compassion, worry, and longing all warred with something she didn't want to put a name to, and she reached forward without thinking to brush the damp hair out of Sofia's face. "It doesn't matter," she murmured softly, finally answering the other woman's question.
"Don't touch me, Sara" Sofia snapped, and forced herself to turn away.
"Why?" Sara asked, confused, and then panicked remembering the fall. "Are you hurt?"
"No, I watch people die . all the time without ..feeling a thing I really am that cold ..bitch you all think I am."
"I never thought " Sara started to say, but she knew it was a lie. "I'm sorry"
"You need to go home," A hospital would be better, but Sara knew enough about Sofia not to suggest it. Even for a cop, the blonde had an unusual aversion to the places. "I can take you," she offered, reaching out to touch the other woman again, on the shoulder this time.
"Don't," Sofia whispered roughly, but allowed the contact despite her words. If anything she seemed to sink back into Sara's hand. Her muscles trembled for a few more seconds under warm fingers and soaked cotton, then she slumped.
Lost in the feel of fine muscles fluttering in her grasp, and the sight of a sweet blonde curl clinging to a pale neck, it took Sara a while to realise what had happened. Sofia was unconscious.
"Shit, Sofia! You can't do this!" Guilty, and slightly panicked, she searched for a pulse, only to sigh in relief when she found it, beating strongly next to that stray curl.
Satisfied that the other woman was in no immediate danger, she sat back on her heals to watch her, wondering what she should do next. There was water and energy bars in her car, but she didn't think she'd be able to carry Sofia that far even if she managed to lift her, and she didn't want to leave her alone. She couldn't even force herself to stop touching her. One hand absently stroked over Sofia's pulse point for reassurance, while the other rested on her arm. It was the closest they'd been in three years, and one of them wasn't even awake. Faintly guilty at that thought, but oddly comfortable, Sara was relaxed enough on the floor of the PD gym to simply wait. And while she waited, she thought. She let her mind wonder, for once, away from everyday concerns and her job, and into unfamiliar territory.
Like, what she was doing risking a job she needed, the way other people needed eight hours sleep a night, sneaking around with a man who treated her like one of his more fascinating specimens. She knew he cared for her, but it seemed he liked to do it at a distance, only taking her out of her case to touch or admire on the rare occasions he was sure they wouldn't be disturbed. The rest of the time she was just a dependable employee. And her relationship with him had come at the expense of her others. The main casualties had been Greg, whom she'd had less and less time for, and the woman in front of her now.
At first it had been jealousy; of all that easy, competent grace, and Grissom's immediate acceptance and interest. Then, after first hushed rumours from day-shift, and then a crazy story from Greg had made her see how little of a threat Sofia really was for their supervisor's affections, it had become something else. The detective made her uneasy; and not because she spent her down time dancing with other women at the Wild Cherry Club and ending the evening making out with them on Greg's sofa. Sara had never cared either way about anybody else's sexual preference, but hearing things like that about Sofia had made her feel . Strange. Irritable, and slightly nauseous, like something was squeezing her stomach. Feelings that made her wonder just who she had been jealous of when she'd watched, closed off behind the lab's glass walls, as the other woman slid comfortably onto Grissom's desk and smiled at him. Typical that she'd only let herself see what she really wanted after she'd committed herself to her distraction.
"Sara?" Sofia's voice was so weak that Sara almost didn't hear it.
Forcing an awkward half-smile, the investigator looked down at the detective. "Let me take you home," she said. Whether the words came from concern, or something more selfish, she couldn't tell.
The drive was quiet. Sara concentrated on the road while Sofia alternated between napping and eating her way through her chauffeur's stash of energy bars. It was only when they got to Sofia's condo that the awkwardness started. Sofia needed help, but was too stubborn to ask for it, and Sara wasn't comfortable with all the reasons she wanted to see the other woman safely inside. She'd enjoyed the feel of Sofia's soft curves and firm muscles leaning into her a little too much on their trip from the gym to the car; not to mention the arm she'd pulled across her shoulder, and the hot, laboured breathing against her skin. It was probably the most intimate thing she'd experienced in a long time, and she felt guilty asking for a repeat. So they both sat there, in the parked car, looking at each other.
Sara tried not to notice the faint tremors in Sofia's hands as she unfastened the seatbelt, or how slow and uncomfortable her movements were as she reached over to open the door. She saw how much the other woman relied on the car as she levered herself out, but didn't say anything. She even sat still and silent as Sofia took her first shaking step towards the building. When gorgeous legs collapsed for the second time that morning, however, she practically leapt out of her seat, cursing at herself for allowing her 'me problem' to stop her helping in the first place.
Sofia'd almost made it to the door when she fell; fatigue and a loose flag on the sidewalk conspiring to overcome her shaky balance. Damn. A few more steps and she could have collapsed in private. Instead she found herself staring at the tops of Sara's imitation-leather boots again. Her fair skin flushed with embarrassment, but she made no attempt to hide it as she looked up.
She met Sara's concerned coffee-coloured eyes with an impish smile, and when she spoke her voice was light and teasing. "Looks like I can't stop falling at your feet this morning!" she joked
Sara's cheeks flamed too at the implications of that, but she recovered enough to fire back a sharp "All that running doesn't seem to have affected your sense of humour any," as she offered the other woman a hand up, "Pity!"
Sofia's smile grew impossibly wider "Hey! Watch it, Sidle!"
Now they were both on their feet, and Sara had her arms wrapped securely around the blonde's waist, she let herself smile back, and relax a bit into the familiar banter "Or you'll do what, exactly? Chase me down and teach me a lesson?"
Sofia's eyes were bright, but her smile quickly turned into a yawn as she draped her arms over Sara's shoulders and rested heavily against her. "No need," She flirted sleepily, "I've already got you where I want you,"
It occurred to Sara that she should have been uncomfortable with this much physical contact. She shouldn't be holding Sofia so closely where anyone could see them. She should be pulling away instead of leaning in and brushing her cheek against the fall of blonde hair. But she couldn't make herself care about any of that right now.
Instead, she chuckled, and whispered a warm "You need to go to bed," into Sofia's ear.
She'd felt, rather than heard Sofia's response; soft lips brushing against the skin of her neck in the shape of "Come with me, I don't think I can make it on my own,"
And so she had.
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