DISCLAIMER: CSI and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS.
SPOILERS: A small one A Bullet Runs Through It, an even smaller one for Strip Strangler.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Many thanks to Debbie for the beta.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By Angela Umbrello
Catherine was the last person Sofia expected to see at her door Grissom maybe, or Brass even, but never Catherine. The older woman had made it clear in every subtle and not so subtle way that she had no use for the blonde. Any overtures of friendship, or hints that the detective would like something more, were met with disdain or outright rudeness from the CSI.
What could Catherine possibly want?
"Catherine," she said in terse greeting.
"Hey." Any hostility that remained from last year was absent from her voice and posture.
"Do I need to go back to the lab?" Sofia asked still perplexed. If they wanted her back for more questioning, why not call, or send an officer to escort her.
"No, this is personal. I wanted to check on you, make sure you're okay."
Catherine shrugged. "You looked like you could use a friend."
"But we're not friends," Sofia stated.
"I know that," Catherine said. "But you can't talk to Brass or Grissom because of the investigation. And from what I've seen the only other person you are even remotely friendly with, is Greg. I doubt very highly that he understands what it's like to be under investigation. I do. I know that our situations aren't anywhere near being alike, but I know what it's like to have to wait hours for IA to come down with a ruling. Doubt starts to creep into your head and you start questioning everything you've ever done."
Caught by surprise at the olive branch being offered, Sofia stared at Catherine in open suspicion for nearly a minute. A part of her wondered at a possible ulterior motive for this sudden change in attitude. Finding none, the blonde moved aside, indicating to the older woman a silent invitation to enter.
"If I'd known I was going to have company, I would have put on something decent," Sofia said a little nervously. Dressed in her jogging suit, sans make-up, she felt underdressed and uncomfortable, even though she was in her own home. Catherine, on the other hand, looked immaculate as she strode in as confidently, and gracefully as a cat returning home. Sofia closed the door and escorted her guest to the livingroom, and onto the couch.
After making herself comfortable, Catherine gave the detective a slow once over. A small smile played at the edges of her lips and her eyes held a mixture of kindness and good humor. "You look fine. Like I said before, this is a personal visit, so there's no need to get all dressed up. Why don't you just sit . . . so we can talk." She then gave the cushion a pat and waited for the blonde to comply.
Still a little dubious of the older woman's newfound friendliness, Sofia gave a nod before she took a seat. Allowing her thigh to rest against Catherine's, the detective took small comfort in the unexpected physical contact. With her head rested against the back of the sofa, the blonde heaved a sigh of sadness. She didn't want to think about Bell or Brass or anyone else right now. She just wanted to sit here and selfishly enjoy Catherine's company. She wanted to pretend that all was well, that a fellow officer was not lying in the morgue cold and dead, possibly because of her. She couldn't. Every time she closed her eyes, even for a second, images flashed as her mind forced her to live and relive those moments over and over again in brilliant technicolor.
Friendly fire, a pretty name that described a tragic act. It was as if the higher ups thought, that if they gave it a non-threatening label they could somehow expunge the ugliness from it. Make it less of a sin, less of an atrocity.
Without warning, Sofia got up and went to the kitchen. She didn't deserve the warmth and comfort of another human being, not if she was guilty. A shocked Catherine quickly followed behind.
"I'm sorry Catherine, but I think it's best if you leave. I'd rather be alone."
Catherine knew Sofia was lying, and didn't hesitate as she closed the distance and enveloped the distraught woman in a tight embrace. The blonde's hair was released from her ponytail and her head was forced to rest on the CSI's shoulder. The older woman's heart broke to see Sofia like this.
"It'll be okay Sofia. I promise sweetheart, everything will be just fine," Catherine whispered into her ear. She held the detective as close as possible with one arm as the other ran through her long, straight hair.
Surprised at the term of endearment, Sofia pulled her head back slightly, the better to look Catherine in the eyes. What she saw was even more of a surprise, there were kindness and sympathy and something else she dared not name.
"How do you know? What if I am the one who killed Bell?"
Catherine sighed, ran a thin pale hand down the detective's face and then gave her a small kiss on the cheek. Taking Sofia's hand, the strawberry blonde led her back to the sofa, where they both took a seat. "First off, you need to let the evidence do the talking. Sitting here, worrying yourself into a tizzy, is not going to help one bit."
Catherine's heart went out to the younger woman, as she pulled her back into an embrace. This time Sofia willingly laid her head on the older woman's shoulder and encircled the petite CSI's waist. "Whatever happens Sofia, good or bad I'll be right here by your side."
Sofia raised her head and returned Catherine's earlier kiss with one of her own, only it wasn't on cheek, but squarely on the lips. Catherine didn't balk or pull away, instead she closed her eyes and returned it, allowing the younger woman to set the pace. When she felt Sofia's tongue trace the seam of her lips, Catherine opened her mouth in silent invitation. Shyly, the blonde allowed her tongue to taste and explore, until finally she pulled away slightly breathless.
"Why are you doing this Catherine?" she finally asked. "I thought you didn't like me. Why do you care all of a sudden ?"
A small amused chuckle escaped from Catherine's kiss-swollen lips, before her expression grew solemn. She gathered Sofia into her arms so that the blonde's head rested right on her chest. It was an awkward position, but the detective didn't complain, she just waited patiently for an explanation.
"I know," Catherine acknowledged in a quiet voice. She stroked Sofia's hair and punctuated each sentence with a kiss on the crown of her head. "I've been mean to you without just cause, or reason. I was being a real bitch. I shouldn't have pushed you away. But I'm here now. I have no plans on leaving you. And if you'll let me, I'll make it up to you. I promise. Okay?"
"Okay. But you have to understand something, I don't do one night stands, or friends with benefits. And I sure as hell don't want a pity fuck. If you really are here, it's all or nothing. Do you understand? Because that's what I want from you. Do you think you can handle that?"
The strawberry blonde thought for several minutes on how best to answer, before she finally spoke. "Get up," she ordered. Sofia complied with a heavy heart, which quickly turned to confusion as she watched and wondered at the CSI's actions. Instead of leaving as the detective expected, Catherine rearranged the throw-pillows so that they were piled at the head of the sofa. As a final touch, she kicked her shoes off. She then lay down on the makeshift bed and held her arms open as she invited the blonde to lay with her. Only after they were settled and comfortable did Catherine answer Sofia's question with a chuckle and a peck on the nose. "I know I can handle that."
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