DISCLAIMER: CSI and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS. No infringement intended.
WRITTEN: For the 'Fragments of Sappho' challenge on livejournal.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author
Abeyance of Guilt
The salt laid, encrusted, on the side of the glass, the contents of which had long since relinquished their autumnal beauty and been reduced to nothing more than a stagnant pool. Staring at it, through red-rimmed eyes, Sara allowed herself to wallow in the metaphor that could so easily be attributed to her own life. All that promise reduced to a shadow of a woman left forlorn and lonely, the taste of tequila souring her mouth.
She closed her eyes and, as had happened all night, it was the image of Sofia that greeted her inner view, the blonde's face contorted in pain and begging for understanding. It was a look she had dismissed at the time, too focused on protocol and jealousy, the anguish brushed aside and ignored. Until the moment she tried to sleep.
Sofia's face and the memory of her own failings haunted Sara and drove away any hope of rest. The alcohol deadened her eyes but could do nothing to vanquish the guilt. Its continual barrage left her both empty and full of self hatred, the contradiction another thing to worry her tired mind.
She reached for the phone, the handle already slick with her drunken fingerprints, and the dials warm with the much pressed numbers. Slowly, the ritual began once more, the first number, second, third, fourth and then the pause, as the doubt and shame demanded to be heard, before the fifth and sixth slammed down in quick succession. When, finally, the last number was reached, her finger strayed, traitorously, away from its face, as her mind fought to convince itself that what she was about to do was the right or the wrong thing. It was a fight she has both won and lost more times than she could count but each time it had ended with the phone resuming its place in the cradle.
The need for sleep overwhelmed her and before she realised the battle had even begun, she'd been defeated and the final number pressed. Her loss and victory one in the same.
The need to breathe made words impossible.
Her name, uttered in weary curiosity, was almost Sara's undoing.
"I've been thinking about you."
It was Sofia's turn to be silent. The quiet time before she has to commit to a response and decide their future.
"I've not thought of you." It was a lie they were both comfortable accepting. "What is it you want Sara?"
Asked that question on any other day of the week and she would have voiced a different answer. Yesterday it would have been 'nothing', the day before a simple 'space' and the week before that 'you'. At that moment, the answer wasn't as simple, or as sure.
"I don't know."
The conversation was happening in reverse, Sara knew, the questions posed by the wrong woman and touching nerves that should never have been exposed. She was meant to be offering comfort and apologies but instead she was the one in need of comfort. It was a feeling that sickened her.
Sara searched for a way back to the beginning. "You're not to blame."
"We don't know that."
She felt surer now. "You're not to blame."
Sofia neither wanted nor believed the assurance. It was a moot point. The truth would be uncovered soon and she'd learn to live with the consequences. She didn't need Sara's pity or her misplaced guilt.
"You were a bitch, earlier, and phone calls at two in the morning aren't going to change that." Sofia's sigh was tired, the sleepless nights eating away at her mind. "It's not important."
Sofia wielded her forced indifference like a sword.
"You're not important."
Sara's eyes closed and she silently accepted the truth that she'd long fought to deny. It was a calming moment, acceptance and grief washed together and smothered in the need for oblivion. She could stop now. No more fighting to be more than she was, no more distance to keep her hidden nothingness at bay, no more yearning for what she didn't deserve.
The silence that followed left Sofia feeling unsure. Her life had turned into a nightmare over the last few days and there she was, listening to Sara, and hearing another night terror work itself into existence. Only this time she wasn't sure which of them would be left sweat drenched and weeping in the middle of the night. Their friendship was nearly non-existent and their attraction mostly hidden, but the dissolution of one or banishing of the other would surely leave them both scarred in ways she couldn't quite imagine.
"I needed to talk to someone," Sofia admitted. "Anyone who'd listen."
The image of Sofia's face, distraught with grief, once again passed before Sara's eyes and her guilt was given form.
"You said." The pause only lasted a moment but it was enough for Sofia to decide their fate. "I don't want or need apologies. I just want someone to listen." She held her breath and allowed her defences to lower. "Can you do that for me?"
"I can try."
Sofia chuckled, the sound devoid of humour. "That's all any of us can do."
The phone re-cradled and her dishevelled appearance forced into abeyance, Sara began to clear away the evidence of her night's distress. The glass, her last port of call, tempted her with its promise of fortification against whatever trials the next few hours would bring but, she knew, the numbness of tequila wouldn't save her from Sofia or from herself. She had promised to try and she couldn't do that from the bottom of a liquor bottle, however tempting its solace seemed at that moment.
As the glass lost its contents to the soapy water, the doorbell chimed and the next stage in Sara's life began.
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