DISCLAIMER: CSI and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS.
CHALLENGE: Submitted as part of the Sara/Sofia 'Let's Get Sassy' ficathon.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Monster in the Box and Unbearable.

Beginning of Doubt
By greenegret


"Euterpe. The muse of music." Grissom half-smiled up at Sara, turning the small Greek figure of a woman with a flute in his hands.

"One of nine," she responded, hoping to derail a digression into Greek mythology. The dark-haired CSI paused at a pile of books that looked less dusty than the rest. "This may be what she was working on most recently – it's cleaner, and closer to the typewriter. Who uses a typewriter?" she asked with mild bemusement.

"One elderly Greek professor who prefers the Classics, in every way. It does make it more difficult to investigate her life – this computer doesn't appear to have ever been used other than for email," Grissom handed his kit to the waiting tech, turning to his partner.

"Well, back to the lab – we can't do much more here now. We should see what Greg has gotten off of that student."

Sara accepted his hand up with an affectionate smile and followed him gratefully out of the musty office. She'd never enjoyed the years she'd been forced to take Latin, and the University of Las Vegas Classics department seemed like a smaller, more feeble clone of Harvard's.

Sara walked through the halls of the police station at shift change, weaving expertly through angry, anxious people, tired patrol officers, and battered furniture. She'd tried for three days to get a response from a patrol cop who had responded to a burglary call at the murdered Greek professor's office, only to finally be told that he was being transferred to a station in the Sun City retirement area of the Summerlin suburb. The man had offered to pull the records for her and talk to her, but it had to be at the station, and it had to be that evening.

"Curtis is a Jonah, dude! " came a brash California accent from around the corner. Sara's head jerked up and she paused to listen.

"Come on, man. She didn't shoot Bell, or gas that rookie." This voice was softer, tired, and more reasonable.

"Maybe not, but she was there, right? And she spends way too much time around those corpse geeks – I wouldn't want her for my partner. I'd be always watching for the bullet, or for the anvil to fall."

The other voice snorted in agreement, or at least acknowledgment.

Sara stood still, indignant – she was surprised at how angry hearing some relatively mild grousing from patrol cops made her on Sofia's behalf. It wasn't as if it mattered, after all – Sofia didn't work with a partner, and wasn't a beat cop anyway. She watched as a big blond man and a thinner black man walked past, instantly pegging the bigger man as both a surfer type and the loud mouth who'd been speaking.

Scowling, she continued on to where she'd been told to meet the officer who had worked her dead Greek professor's case the previous year.

A bare hour later, Sara left the station – the transferring officer had been little help, except to rule out a possibility. They'd caught the burglar the previous year, and he was already in prison, having had previous warrants out on him for theft.

A warm golden fall of hair under a street light and a familiar stance caught her eye in the parking lot as she walked out. Sofia Curtis herself, staring out at the city. Something about her stance seemed tired, defensive, almost hunched in on herself – much unlike her usual almost arrogant assertiveness. Sara hesitated, staring indecisively at the other woman. She started to walk towards her, not sure what she would do, or say, but Sofia pulled herself up tall and stalked away towards her car.

Sara watched her go, not sure what she was feeling, except that part of it was a mix of concern, and guilt. She'd never quite forgiven herself for the callous rejection that she'd blurted out when Sofia had come to the lab after Bell's shooting.

Sara watched through the glass as Grissom and Brass methodically laid out the evidence in front of the student they'd first suspected in the Greek professor's case. The miserable teenager – barely a sophomore – hadn't hid his crime very well. She'd been fairly sure that he had something to do with the case from the first, and she'd been right. The boy broke down sobbing about his GPA and his unsympathetic Greek professor, as she turned to leave. She yawned as she wandered towards the locker room to pick up her things on her way out – she was almost glad that she had the next two nights off, the first in nearly two weeks. Unfortunately, Grissom did not, so she would be without her lover again.

She thought about Sofia Curtis as she sorted through her things at the locker – the other woman had been on her mind at odd times ever since she'd seen her in the parking lot early that evening. The detective always managed to get a response from her, whether it was annoyance, indignation, or affection, and she respected her as both a detective and as a former CSI. Sara'd been surprised to find herself missing her when she'd transferred to Boulder, and she'd been happy to have her back.

Sara still felt badly about the way she'd snapped at the other woman on occasions, and at how cold she'd been when Bell died. The two weren't exactly friends, though they had made fits and starts in that direction, but Sofia had deserved better. She frowned, still annoyed at those two uniforms from the station. She sighed, mentally resolving to seek the other woman out when she next got the chance and see if she could revive the chances of a friendship.

Sara slammed the locker shut and marched out of the door towards the parking lot. She was thinking hard as she went, already full of doubts as to how to try to make better friends with Sofia, and slammed into a warm, firm body as she rounded the corner. Sara gasped and jerked back, looking up to snap at the other person.

"Whoa, Sara, where are you?" Sofia's arms came up to steady Sara, the blond detective looking with amused surprise at the CSI.

"Me? What are you doing?!" said Sara indignantly, staring back. She sighed and smiled, "sorry, Sofia. I was thinking too hard." She wasn't going to let herself peck at the object of her thoughts again, just because she'd been startled.

"Sara, you're always thinking too hard." Sofia reached up with amused affection and tugged at Sara's hair, which had fallen into loose ringlets today.

Sara frowned at her, then sighed and stuck out her tongue.

Sofia laughed in surprise, her tired eyes lighting up.

Sara smiled at her. "Hey, want to get breakfast?" This might be easier than she'd thought.

"Well… yes, I'd love to. I have somewhere I have to be at 9:30, though." Sofia looked a little surprised, but pleased. She's not used to invitations from me, Sara thought, a little guiltily. The other woman had asked her a few times, before she'd left for Boulder, but Sara'd mostly declined.

Sara smiled at the detective, asking, "where would you like to go?"

"Two Dogs Tavern? You're vegetarian, right?" the detective suggested, naming a popular restaurant that just served food from midnight to noon. It wasn't vegetarian, but it included vegetarian dishes.

"Sounds good. And yeah, I have been since an incident with one of Grissom's experiments and a pig." Sara smiled at Sofia's back as she followed her out into the parking lot, amazed that she'd remembered this when others who knew her better did not.

"Gil's a great guy, but he doesn't always understand how others may react to things."

"So, he was spazzed about his perfect GPA, and when Professor Panzarella gave him a D, he couldn't take it and bashed her with an amphora." Sara waved a forkful of mushroom frittata as she spoke and popped it into her mouth.

"Hmm. Well, we always knew those kids that we thought would do something like that…" Sofia fiddled with a piece of paper in her lap as she had been doing all morning. She'd finished her strawberry waffle but had seemed somewhat distracted, even as she and Sara had had one of their best and most friendly conversations.

"What is that? You've been playing with it all morning!" asked Sara, pointing towards Sofia's lap.

"Oh, this? Well. You have an M license right? Greg told me." Sofia had hesitated, and then leaned towards Sara, her eyes lighting up.

"Yes – he is such a gossip. I bought a car when I moved out here, but I have a bike, too." Sara looked at Sofia in mild exasperation – "so, why do you want to know?"

"I have been off my stride over the last few months, so I decided to do something different, something that I have been wanting to do. I got my M license, and I am buying a motorcycle," she smiled widely, excitement breaking through. "This is the paperwork – I pick her up at 9:30 from Pat Clark's."

"Whoa! That's great – congratulations. What model is it? Some kind of import, from Pat Clark's…" Sara smiled back – she loved motorcycles, and it was great to see a newbie getting into them. "Mine's a little Suzuki Katana."

"Ah, a crotch rocket." Sofia smirked teasingly at her.

"Hey!" Sara threw a grape at her tablemate. "So did you get one of those monster cruisers, then?"

"No, it is not a monster – it's a Triumph Bonneville T-100," she said the words lovingly, obviously overjoyed with her new purchase. "My granddad had a Bonnie, one of the old ones. They were the first that I looked at when I decided to get one."

"That's great – those are beautiful. " Sara swallowed a bite. She asked abruptly, "Want some company?", just as Sofia asked her if she'd like to come.

They both laughed, smiling at each other.

"Let's go drop your car and pick up my bike and ride it over to the dealership – we can take them both out for a ride, blow the dust out," Sara offered. Her earlier exhaustion had disappeared – she was being friendly with Sofia, and there was a new motorcycle in the offing.

Cars fell back, the late winter sun glinting off their windows as Sara followed Sofia's brand-new black and red Bonnie along the two lane highway, her blond hair falling loose under her helmet. She's going to have hellish tangles, Sara thought irrelevantly.

The two women had decided to drive out to Valley of Fire State Park, some 60 miles or so from Las Vegas. It was nearly noon by the time they had left, so they had stopped for lunch in the city, picking up two boxed lunches to have for dinner in the park.

Sara grinned, and sped up to pass Sofia's new bike.

Two hours later, the two women were hiking through the red rock foundations of the park, following a trail that would let them wander off alone to share their dinner. There were unusually few people around for winter, especially with such nice weather, but they didn't quite have the paths to themselves. They'd nodded at several hikers – the tourists obvious with their souvenir t-shirts and brand-new hats.

"I hope the bikes are truly safe there," Sofia fretted, looking back towards the trail to the parking lot.

"Don't worry – I've left mine here many, many times, with never a problem. It's safe near the visitor's center, and I've even left mine here overnight with no issues." Sara grinned at Sofia, amused at the way the detective had been fussing over her new bike like an anxious parent.

"Oh, I know, I know, but still… It seems odd to be celebrating a new bike by leaving it."

"You used it to get out here, and we wanted to talk, so... I know what you mean, though. When I got the Katana, I took it street-racing down south of San Francisco and almost turned it over. Fun, though."

"Almost turning it over while doing something illegal doesn't sound like fun to me, but to each her own." Sofia laughed a little. "My boyfriend when I was in college got a new bike and offered to teach me to ride it to celebrate it, but we ended up riding it facing each other. We put no miles on the bike, but some on each other."

"Whoa, that does sound more fun than turning it over. Not a great way to break it in, but great to christen it." Sara smiled at Sofia's back awkwardly – somehow she was a little surprised that Sofia had mentioned a boyfriend.

"Yes, well, we thought so." Sofia stopped to take a drink of water from a bottle. She looked at Sara slyly, from the side. "Do you think Gil would be into that if you got a new bike? He does like rollercoasters."

Sara choked on her own water and gave Sofia a dirty look. "Ha-hah. I think we're a little old for that." Sofia had found out that Sara and Grissom were seeing each other weeks ago. She'd been accepting, and hadn't told anyone, but it was obvious that she was a bit doubtful. Sara had thought at first that she was jealous – Sofia and Grissom were obviously friendly, and the other woman often went to visit Grissom socially alone – but she really just didn't get any kind of a jealous or sexual vibe towards Grissom. Besides, now that she actually had Grissom, she didn't feel nearly as possessive as she had before – something was different about her feelings, but she wasn't sure if she wanted to examine them. She was happy with him, after all.

"Maybe he is. You are at least 15 year younger than he is."

"Exactly 15. But he just doesn't seem like someone who would feel right christening a motorcycle like that – he's never even ridden mine." Sara thought about that for a few seconds. She did feel a little weighed down when with Grissom – there were some things that she'd just never think to do with him. Sofia, on the other hand, seemed as if she'd be fun to christen a motorcycle with like that - Sara flinched guiltily as the thought crossed her mind.

"Hmm-mm. Well, here's the turn-off – there's a beautiful perspective up there if you go off of the trail a bit. We can sit and have supper."

"So. Yes, I've heard them, the comments, about Bell and poor Kamen." Sofia swallowed and leaned back against the rockface, close to Sara. "Even though we all know whose bullet really took Bell, my name is tied to it. And with Officer Kamen…" She shuddered, hunching in on herself.

Sara leaned her head back against the rock they were sitting against, staring at Sofia, who was staring glumly out at the darkening desert. She hesitated, then forced herself to reach to take Sofia's hand. The other woman stilled, then tightened her grip on Sara.

"You know you could not have changed it. And you didn't hurt her – it was the Miniature Killer. Or whoever." Sara knew that her words would probably not help – it had never helped her when people had said similar things about her father's murder. But it had helped to know that other people cared enough to say something about it to her, as long as it was obvious they were sincere.

"You do not know, Sara. You just don't know." Sofia glared unseeingly at an innocent cactus, jerking her hand away.

Sara hesitated for a long moment, then decided. "Yes, I do know Sofia."

"You can't! Did you ever watch someone murdered while you did nothing to help! Someone who was trusting you to look out for her! And I did not even know." Sofia buried her head in her hands, tucked tight against her knees.

"Yes. I watched my mother kill my father while I was under the table."

Sara swallowed hard, hearing Sofia's gasp, as she continued. "He wasn't trusting me to help him – he'd decided I was worthless years before. And I did know he was being killed. But I was there, and I didn't try to help." She stared at Sofia's cactus, frozen, waiting for a response.

A hand crept into her field of vision, and Sofia reached to take hers. Sara turned her head to look at her. Sofia was staring at her, head still on her knees, but hand held out.

"How old were you?"

"Twelve. Almost thirteen."

"Tough age." Sofia offered weakly.

Sara snorted, "the toughest. But… I do understand. Some."

"You couldn't have stopped her – you were a child. They were supposed to protect you – not the other way around." Sofia said, moving closer to Sara as she fixed on this new facet of the other woman's character.

"That's what everyone has always said, and I know, now, that that's true. But… I was a tall kid. And my mother – he'd been hitting my mother for years, and me, but she killed him when he was beating on me. So it felt like I should have been able to help, and like it was my fault. It still does, sometimes." Sara leaned slightly into the warmth emanating from Sofia's near body, finally turning her head to look into somber blue eyes.

Sofia looked down, finally, blowing out a deep breath. "Most of them have told me I could never have known, or done anything for her – the ones who have not have not been people I respect. And I cannot think of how I could have known. But it feels like I should have been able to protect her – she was so young! And she trusted me to protect her from anyone who came. And others, too, who say nothing – I can tell that they also feel that I should have been able to keep her alive."

She buried her head in her hands, huddling small. "I keep thinking about her, making jokes before she went in there. And I had seen her playing darts with some of the other patrol officers before – she was always cheerful."

Sara stared sadly at the bent golden head. She didn't regret telling Sofia about her parents – it had been surprisingly easy, whether this was the result of talking about it with Grissom or the counselor she'd started to see a few years ago, or some sympathy she'd started to share with the cop after her own experiences. She hesitated, and then slowly reached to put an arm around Sofia, to pull her close against herself.

The detective sobbed once, and then pressed her head against Sara's shoulder, her breath warm and moist against the bare skin at Sara's collarbone. Sara's heart broke for her – Sofia was so strong and… solid most of the time that she hated to see her so hurt. She tugged her closer, putting both arms around her in a close embrace. Sara was surprised to find that Sofia was smaller than she was – she had such a strong presence that she'd never really registered that the detective was at least two inches shorter. She cuddled her, stroking her hair, until Sofia's breathing slowed, and tension went out of her body. She was asleep, snuggled between Sara's legs, pillowed on her shoulder and breast.

Sara smiled into the silky hair, and planted a kiss against it. She froze suddenly, realizing what she had just done. I'm holding Sofia Curtis, the most obnoxiously arrogant competent cop I know, who possibly wants my boyfriend, and I just kissed her, she thought. And I am completely comfortable holding her. I hate touching people. What the hell? She's so beautiful – just my type, physically, for women. But I'm dating Grissom, finally, after years, and I do love him. I'm just not sure I'm in love with him – it's been such a long time that I wanted him that I'm not sure the reasons are the same anymore. He's way less challenging than she is – if I were with her, I'd never be able to stay as separate. She'd push me… she'd be less comfortable. She's pretty comfortable right now, though. Sara looked down at the woman pressed against her.

Sara's first impulse when she realized just how much she liked holding Sofia was to wake her and push her away, but the woman also arose every protective instinct that Sara had. It was obvious that the detective had been down, and not sleeping well. She didn't want to risk their new friendship, or to risk Sofia's well-being, now that she had finally released some of the tension she'd been carrying for weeks, months really. Besides, she thought, we can't risk driving back to town on a new bike with a new driver when she's so wrung out. She doesn't know, and it doesn't matter – I'm with Grissom. And she knows that, so it wouldn't be an issue, if she even likes women.

Sofia mumbled something in her sleep, and nestled closer. Sara smirked – the blond obviously talked to herself even when she was asleep. Sofia sighed again, turning to nuzzle into Sara's breast, reaching to curl her hand around it. Sara froze again, reaching to ease the hand to a less intimate position. Apparently, the other woman did like women, at least when she slept. Sofia murmured a complaint, and Sara stroked her hair to settle her back into sleep. She stared sleeplessly into the dark desert, not letting herself think.

The End

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