DISCLAIMER: I don't own any of these characters. I do this only for my sanity.
CHALLENGE: Submitted as part of the Sara/Sofia 'Let's Get Sassy' ficathon.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
THANKS: As always to Ann and L.

Before and After
By Debbie


The Night Before

The bar was starting to fill nicely as Sofia entered. It was a bar she frequented rarely, usually on nights like this, when she was in desperate need of forgetting. She'd heard others call it a no-strings night out, but she didn't get that. Always, the morning afterwards, she hated the guilt and the self-loathing; the why-the-hell didn't I ring my mom instead thought. Not that she ever would, but that was another story.

Glancing at the clientele, she laughed evilly at her next thought; she was so damn good on nights like this, it was easy, sometimes too easy.

All the knowledge that tomorrow would feel like hell never stopped her from taking what she wanted; with that in mind, she swaggered her way across to the bar.

"A beer, Cal, when you can."

Cal, the bartender, smiled towards Sofia, immediately aware that she was after the same thing as the last time they'd crossed paths.

"Sofia. A bad one, I take it?"

The detective glanced sideways, nobody else appeared to be listening and she trusted Cal with her words, knew the man would keep it to himself whatever she let slip.

"Yeah, would you believe a child of eleven found hanged in his father's garage. You know why?"

No answer came from Cal, though he raised his eyebrow in gentle query.

"He couldn't read, he couldn't read. Fuck me, Cal, tell me again, why do I do it?"

"Because tomorrow, Babe, you'll love it again, huh?"

Sofia chuckled. "You might be right, you just might be right."

She indicated the table she was heading for and handed a C note over, knowing that tonight he knew exactly what she was looking for. As she began to walk, she halted as if she'd forgotten something, and then turned back, calling out, "Don't call me Babe, huh, it'll spoil my street rep."

Finally, sinking down into a booth, she rested her head back against the seating and began to trawl the crowds. 'No Man's Land' was a slight misnomer, as the appearance of Cal as bartender proved; although known as a high class lesbian bar, it was, in all truth, just a well run bar with an excellent entertainment policy.

Alongside its reputation was the knowledge that discretion was at the heart of its success. So, when she needed to forget, Sofia had no hesitation to sit quietly, beer in hand, watching the crowds, content in the fact that here, to all intents, she was just an anonymous blonde; content in the knowledge that soon she would have her oblivion.

The feeling of a pair of eyes staring at her pulled her up short. Carefully, she turned towards the left hand corner of the bar to be speared by the intense glare of a very angry looking Sara Sidle.

In the past she wasn't sure how many visits, she'd never crossed paths with a face she knew… until now. Sofia's glare in return was just as intense. How dare Sara look at her as if she was something not quite right, something out of place?

Sara strode over towards her table and sat down, not waiting for permission. Sofia nodded towards Cal who, getting the wrong idea, grinned broadly and rushed over with two more beers. The two women continued to glare at each other until Sofia could no longer stand the silence.

"What are you doing here, Sara? I didn't expect to see you in a place like this."

"And I expected to see you?"

"Yeah, okay; it's just I've been here a few times before and never ever seen your face around. So…"

Sofia almost missed Sara's mumbled answer as she dropped her head in what appeared to be embarrassment, "Maybe because I've never been here before."

"So, why are you here?" Sofia's voice was softer, more concerned than angry.

"I thought Catherine might be here."

"Oh my God; you're spying on her. Why don't you let it go, hon, it's over, you know."

"Yeah, I do know, it's just… I heard her talking to someone new, on the phone, and she looked so happy, I just had to find out why."

"Why what, Sara?"

"Why not me."

Sofia dared to reach across and put her hand over Sara's. It trembled beneath her grip. She'd heard about Sara and Catherine's on/off relationship while she was a CSI on the opposite shift, and she'd seen first hand the passion and the fight that drove their investigating excellence. She'd only realized in passing that the fights hid an actual relationship, and she'd assumed, wrongly it appeared, that it was only sexual.

"Sara, it's over. You, yourself, told me that, six months ago. You're friends now, even I can see that. You still work well together, very well. If she's moved on, then you should too."

Sara smiled and squeezed the hand still resting on hers. "I know, I know, it's just this is the first time I've heard her arranging another date, and it hurt, so I thought I'd…

"… Spy on her."

"I am not spying." Sara's indignant tone rang out. Then, at Sofia's raised eyebrow, she laughed out loud. "Yeah, I guess I am spying. Aren't I the bad one?"

The two women shared a moment of laughter before Sara turned serious again. "So, I've admitted I'm here doing some illicit spying, what are you doing, and, if you don't mind me saying so, looking a bit worse for wear."

Sofia pointed towards a butch blonde that had glanced their way at the sound of laughter. The woman smiled. "You see that woman…" Her words drifted off as she nudged Sara in the ribs and smiled knowingly.

Sara sighed.

"Why, Sofia?"

"Why what? Why here? Why this? Because it's what I'm good at; it's what I do to forget. Some folks shout and scream, some folks drink, I… well, I… let's just say it's damn good for a few hours…"

"And then it still hurts?"

"Yeah, it does."

Before Sofia could elaborate further, Sara grabbed her hand and pulled her to her feet. "Okay, then. Come on, let's go."

Sofia pulled back, stunned. "Um, Sara, you know what I'm after? I don't want to leave yet."

"I know what you told me. Now come on."

Sofia glared at Sara, Sara stared at Sofia, and then the fireworks began. The two women were so intent on fighting their own silent battle, Sara dragging Sofia out without a word, Sofia pulling back and shouting her refusal, that neither saw the redhead with a scowl on her face pulling a dark haired woman away from the oncoming pair.

The Day After

Sofia made her way through the halls of CSI; it appeared Catherine had some important information to give her, seeing as how the message had been waiting on her cell even before she started her shift.

Her step was light, and she couldn't decide whether to laugh or simply smile. She wasn't a hundred per cent sure what had happened the previous night, but it had been good. At least until she'd woken to an empty apartment.

Sara had disappeared without waiting to say goodbye, but at least that had prevented any awkward exchanges not meant in the aftermath. She had, though, left a short note, saying she would see her later.

Lost in thought, Sofia knocked lightly on Catherine's office door and entered without bidding.

Catherine looked up and glared. "Close the door."

"Please, Sofia," muttered the detective. Suddenly, her day didn't seem so bright.

Catherine stood and walked around her desk, launching a short, sharp volley; so brutal, it stunned Sofia. "You fucked her, didn't you?"

"What?" Her reply was eloquent in its simplicity.

"You fucked Sara, and then left her to stew, didn't you?"

"I have no idea where you're coming from, Catherine, but what I do in my time is my business. Not yours."

"I saw you leave the bar last night - together."

"I don't care what you saw. What I do with my time is mine. If Sara is part of that, that's also my business."

Sofia stood her ground against the angry Catherine. She knew Catherine had a history with Sara, but it really wasn't her concern; she'd enjoyed her time with Sara, and she wanted it again.

Catherine was nothing but persistent. "Why, Sofia?"

"Catherine, this really has nothing to do with you, but, if you're so worried, I'll tell you Sara's fine… or she was the last time I saw her."

Her words, more truthful than she'd intended, had a definite calming effect on Catherine's anger.

"She left you to stew, didn't she?" Her smile was full of knowing.

Sofia turned on her heel and started to leave; she didn't need the hassle. As her hand touched the door knob, Catherine's softer tone drew her back into the office.

"I may not always like you, Curtis, but you're the only one I trust with my Sara."

Sofia shared an intense look with the other woman. She'd heard the possessive pronoun but could also hear unspoken words. She smiled.

Catherine smiled too. "Don't let her ignore this, Sofia. If you want her, really want her, don't let her forget. Go and get her."

With an almost imperceptible nod, the two women exchanged their own promise. This time, Sofia opened the door and left. A grin creased her face as Catherine's final play followed her down the corridor.

"Just be careful, okay?"

Sofia had no doubt that she would need to be, that she could, and, if she didn't, then she might have some answers to give.

Right now that seemed a small price to pay.

The End

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