DISCLAIMER: CSI and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS. Criminal Minds and its characters are also the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for the cross_my_heart International Day of Femslash Ficathon. Special thanks to amazing Debbie for yet another beta.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Dance of Death
By Ann


Sliding her sunglasses up over her brow to sit comfortably on top of her head, Detective Sofia Curtis crossed the luxuriously decorated lobby of the Wynn Hotel and moved toward a bank of elevators, the doors to the first car sliding open as if sensing her presence. Tiredly, she stepped inside and eased against the back wall, the pounding sensation behind her eyes not skipping a beat on the quiet ride to the thirty-eighth floor. She couldn't believe the irony – a murder on the same floor as the age she'd turned that very day. God certainly had a warped sense of humor sometimes.

To make matters worse, when she arrived at the crime scene, she was immediately met by a uniformed officer who looked to be half her age. It certainly didn't help that the rookie was filled with bubbly excitement at his first murder scene, and Sofia had to rein in her temper to keep from snapping at the overly exuberant young man. She could still remember the intensity of the moment when she'd happened upon a murder victim her second year on the force. Glancing at his nametag, she stepped past him and moved into the room.

"What've you got, Collins?"

His chest puffed out at the mention of his name, and he gestured toward the victim, lying near the dresser, a pool of blood staining the carpet beneath her head. "The housekeeper came across the body this morning and identified her as Mary Stevens. It seemed she'd been quite talkative the day before and had introduced herself." He purposefully looked down at his notebook. "Room is registered to Ms. Stevens. She checked in five days ago, with another woman, but there's only one suitcase and one bed."

Sofia passed a critical eye over the room, noting the rumpled appearance of the bed, a bottle of champagne, slanted as if carelessly placed back into the ice bucket, and two half-filled glasses of yellowish liquid that sat on the nightstand. A shiny gold trophy lay just inches from the victim, its base stained with red.

"They could've been traveling light; shared a suitcase." Sofia didn't wait for the officer's reaction to her words as she turned and made her way to the victim. She could easily recall trips she'd taken with Sara where they'd decided to travel as light as possible, using one suitcase between the both of them, and also learning early on how idiotic it was to book a room with two beds just to keep up appearances. If they were only going to use one bed, it might as well be a king size one. She sighed and crouched down beside the slain woman, pushing the memories aside. Those days were long gone.

"So, think the trophy's the murder weapon?" asked the officer who'd slipped in next to Sofia without her notice. She was pleased that the policeman had moved on from his theory that the two women couldn't have possibly stayed together; she turned her gaze on the victim and studied her body.

Except for the formal white coat, with tails no less, the woman was naked, her pale skin showing signs of bruising around her neck and breasts. A flash of another's creamy white skin, peppered here and there by purplish marks, shot through her mind as did the correlation of the similar markings to the victim. She was certain that the bruising was not caused by a struggle, but rather by a very energetic round of lovemaking. Focusing on the blonde's flawless face, she wondered what could have possibly gone wrong.

"More than likely, but we won't know for certain until Doc Robbins has had a look at her," said Sofia, tilting her head to get a better view of the trophy. The words etched near its bloodied base slowly came into focus, '2008 Salsa Championship – 1st Place – Las Vegas, Nevada.' Sofia made a mental note to check to see for dance competitions in the city during the past week. The murder weapon could turn out to be the most significant evidence in the investigation. She hoped that it would lead her directly to the killer.

"Detective?" A voice from the doorway filtered into the room, and Sofia pivoted around, still in a crouched position, to find a large uniformed man, wearing black pants and a white long sleeved shirt, the latter of which held triangular patches on the upper part of his sleeves. She zoomed in on the insignia near the shirt's pocket and spotted the security tag.

"Yes?" Sofia pushed to her feet and made her way over to the door, careful not to disturb any of the physical evidence. She nodded at the man. "I'm Detective Curtis."

"Johnson, hotel security," he returned her nod and continued, "the elevator's surveillance camera picked up on something I think you'd be interested in."

Sofia smiled; usually it wasn't this easy. "Lead on, Johnson." She'd only taken a couple of steps when Catherine rounded the corner and stepped into the room, her eyes sweeping the area and spotting the same things Sofia had. She grinned when she spied the two glasses. Fingerprinting a hotel room was close to impossible, but with the champagne glasses, she'd have something with which to compare her other samples.

"Sofia, care to fill me in?"

The detective motioned to Johnson to wait a moment and turned her attention to the CSI, quickly and efficiently explaining everything she currently knew about the situation. Catherine knelt down next to the body and opened her kit. The CSI slipped on a pair of gloves and checked the body for fibers and the possibility of skin underneath bright red fingernails.

". . . so, that's it for now." Sofia wrapped up her brief findings. "Will you give me a call if you come up with a name from the fingerprints?"

"Yeah, no problem," said Catherine, her attention moving to the probable murder weapon. She mirrored Sofia's early actions as she tilted her head and read the inscription. "Salsa, huh?" She looked up at Sofia. "I always thought it was a dance of celebration, not a dance of death."

"Perhaps," said Sofia, gesturing toward the bed and champagne, "but somewhere between the competition and early morning light, the dance turned deadly." With a wink, she followed the security officer out the door and left Catherine to follow the evidence.

Squinting at the video monitor, Sofia watched, for the third time, as the victim and another woman stepped into the elevator, the trophy clutched tightly in Mary Stevens' hand. Both women were wearing formal white coats, complete with tails, and what appeared to be very little underneath. She focused on the victim as the other woman had her back to the camera. A French-cut, black leotard covered a pair of black fishnet hose which, in turn, ended in high-heeled black pumps. The white coat covered most of the blonde's rather revealing outfit, and from all appearances, the brunette wore the exact same costume.

Sofia turned her gaze to the other woman and spoke her thoughts aloud. "It's almost as if she knows where the camera is – look how she's always got her back to it."

The security guard shifted nervously as he once again watched the video with the detective. When he'd gone to inform someone of the tape, he hadn't expected that someone to be a woman, and he certainly hadn't expected to have to watch the tape with her – again and again. He looked back at the video screen just as the elevator doors shut out the view of the lobby's entrance.

"Um, Detective Curtis? I'm going to go get a cup of coffee, would you like some?" Johnson already had his hand on the doorknob and was prepared to flee.

"No, thanks though," said Sofia, her eyes never leaving the screen in hopes that the woman would miraculously turn around this time. With a dejected sigh, she watched as the scene played out in exactly the same manner as before. She never heard Johnson leave the room; her eyes were on the suspect as the brunette pulled the victim close and slid her hands underneath the tails of the white coat, somehow managing to divest the blonde of her outer garment, while not missing a beat with her lips or her hands. Just as things were getting hot and heavy, the elevator door slid open, and the brunette stepped away, the camera still not able to pick up any facial features. With an obvious laugh, the victim started forward as the suspect swooped up the fallen coat from the floor of the elevator. She followed the blonde out of the car as the doors closed behind her.

Sofia hit pause and stared at the closed doors. "Who are you?" she whispered into the silent room as she hit rewind and waited to play the tape once more. She knew her only hope of finding the mysterious woman's identity was the possibility that Archie would be able to perform yet another one of his magic tricks and somehow catch at least a profile of the brunette.

Two hours later, Sofia strode through the doors of the building that housed the CSI division and headed directly for the fingerprint lab. Catherine had sent her a page requesting her presence with a sign-off, 'You're not going to believe this.' Sofia increased her stride and made a beeline for Mandy's lab, arriving just after Catherine.

"So, what've you got?" asked Sofia, glancing from Catherine to Mandy and back to Catherine again.

"The prints on the trophy came back," Catherine informed with a smug grin.

"And?" Sofia wasn't in the mood for games; her headache had gotten worse, and as of 10:37 a.m., she'd officially turned thirty eight years of age, neither of which made her very happy.

"Three sets, one belonging to the victim, Mandy wasn't able to match the second set, but the third one was a match to the second glass found at the scene, and . . ." Catherine paused dramatically, "is FBI."

Mandy motioned the stunned detective over to her computer screen, and Sofia covered the distance in three strides. She stared down at the brunette from the elevator, her eyes tracking to the name behind the face – Emily Prentiss of the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit. Her eyebrows scaled into her hairline.

"You're kidding."

If possible, Catherine's grin grew smugger. "Nope, and get this – she's staying in the same hotel – on the thirty-sixth floor."

Sofia couldn't take her eyes off the screen. The woman was absolutely gorgeous.

"Well then, I guess I'd better have a talk with Agent Prentiss."

Standing outside room 3612, Sofia focused on the door's peephole and let out an exhausted breath. She'd worked doubles many times during her career, but coupled with all the added complexities of the day, she felt especially tired this shift. And, she certainly didn't need a run-in with the FBI, especially in such a delicate situation. Emily Prentiss was probably the last person to have seen Mary Stevens alive.

"If she didn't kill her," whispered Sofia, raising her hand to knock on the door. With three quick raps, she took a step back and schooled her expression as she stared directly at the peephole. It took a little less than a minute for the sounds of the locks to be thrown back and the door to open. Sofia swallowed hard as her eyes drank in the sight before her – the agent must've been getting ready to try out the hotel's pool, judging from the red, form-fitting, one-piece suit and hotel towel draped over her arm.

"Agent Prentiss?"

Emily narrowed her eyes and appraised her visitor – blonde, about 5'7", gun slung low on her hip next to her detective shield, sunglasses perched atop her head, her stance wide as if confident, but the occasional shifting indicating nervousness, and blue eyes that had been awake for far too long, but damn if the woman wasn't beautiful.

"How do you know who I am?" Emily sidestepped the question nicely.

Sofia danced around the return question as well and gestured inside the room. "May I come in? I have a few questions I need to ask you."

Emily hesitated slightly, not wanting to give any ground until she knew exactly why a Las Vegas detective had shown up at her door. "Can't you just ask them here?"

"Yes, Ma'am, but I'd prefer not to be overheard," said Sofia, glancing at a couple who'd just left their room and were heading in their direction.

"Well, I was just going down to the pool. Why don't you ask your questions on the way?" Emily reached back for the door, gripping her key card in her hand. Sofia moved quickly, stepping forward and placing her hand on the wooden structure before it could close.

"Agent Prentiss, Mary Stevens has been murdered. Now, we can talk inside or down at the station, your choice." Sofia knew just how to get the agent's attention, plus the other woman's initial reaction to the news could be helpful.

Emily couldn't keep the stunned expression from her face. "What? Mary's dead?"

Sofia gestured inside once again. "May I?"

"Certainly," said Emily, her mind racing as she pushed the door open and walked further into the room, leaving Sofia to shut the door behind her. The detective followed the agent inside and pushed the door closed, but Emily rounded on the other woman before the bolt mechanism had settled in the strike plate.

"Am I a suspect?"

"We believe you were the last person to have seen the victim alive."

"You mean besides the killer, right?" Emily ran a nervous hand through her hair. This was the first vacation she'd taken in years, and death had still managed to follow her.

Sofia felt an instant pang of inexplicable concern and wanted so badly to inform the agent that they had another suspect, but the fact of the matter was Agent Prentiss was all they had. "How'd you meet Ms. Stevens?"

Emily moved to the sliding glass doors and stared out at the strip. "The day before yesterday, in the bar downstairs, she, um . . . came on to me."

"Was she with someone else, Agent Prentiss?" Sofia knew Mary had checked in with a redhead and hoped the agent would have some inside information on the other woman. She had a fairly good description, but no one seemed to know her name or where she'd disappeared to.

"Please, call me Emily," she called over her shoulder, turning her focus back to the street below. "But no, she wasn't with anyone, but someone came up later – a redhead, um Valerie Haynes, Mary's lover – or at least that's what she called herself."

Sofia smiled and scrawled the name into her notebook. They finally had a name to go with a face, but more importantly, a possible suspect. "So, why did Mary come on to you if she was with someone else?"

Emily turned and faced the detective, unconsciously folding her arms over her chest. If she'd profiled herself, she'd think she was hiding something, but truth be told, Mary's murder had unnerved her. She couldn't help but wonder if she'd somehow been responsible for her death.

"I can only tell you Mary's side of the story," she paused briefly to order her thoughts, before continuing, "Mary and Valerie came to Vegas for a dance contest, but they had a huge argument during rehearsal. Valerie stomped off and said Mary could just find another partner. I think Mary took her literally." Emily ran her fingers lightly across her forehead. "I had no idea the dancing partner Mary had referred to was also her lover when I agreed to rehearse with her the next morning. I tried to wheedle out of it, but I'd promised." A look of hurt came and went so quickly, Sofia thought she'd imagined it, almost missing Emily's next words which were spoken with strong conviction, tinged with a hint of pain. "I never go back on a promise."

Sofia nodded and didn't force the issue. Someone had hurt the agent deeply. "So, what happened next?"

"We agreed to meet at the Rampart, where the competition would be held, to practice. She paid for my drink, and we parted ways. I met her yesterday morning – I couldn't believe how well we worked together. It was as if we'd been dancing partners for years."

"So, you went ahead with the competition." Another thought crossed Sofia's mind as she glanced around the room. "What about the costumes?"

Emily frowned. "That was the main reason for the argument between Mary and Valerie, although I suspect it was just the tip of the iceberg. Mary wanted to wear these white, long tailed coats, and Valerie wanted a more traditional outfit. She'd said the clothes reflected the mood. I didn't say anything, but I thought she was right. There was no way the judges would go for what Mary had in mind."

"But they evidently did, you won first place."

"How'd you . . ." Emily started but quickly put two and two together. "You saw the trophy. Yeah, I think our performance pushed us over the top. Mary was more proud of that trophy than the prize money." Emily smiled in memory. The blonde's face had lit up when she'd taken the trophy in her hands. It'd reminded her of another blonde, and perhaps, that memory was just the catalyst she'd needed when Mary had suggested they take their dance moves to the bedroom.

"Where's the outfit?" Sofia glanced toward the closet, not spotting the coat anywhere else in the room.

"I left it with Mary and wore one of those hotel bathrobes back to my room."

"How'd you get back to your room?" Sofia had viewed the security tapes and hadn't seen the agent return to the elevators after she'd gotten off with the victim.

"I used the stairwell. It was only two flights. My room is right next to the exit."

Sofia narrowed her brow in thought, her focus going back to the white coats. "I don't recall seeing a second coat in the room." She reached for her phone and called Catherine, the CSI quickly confirming her suspicion. The only white coat they'd found was the one worn by the victim.

Emily had listened intently to the conversation as she tried to remember where she'd left the coat. When they'd returned to Mary's room, they'd celebrated their victory with a glass of champagne and then the removal of clothing had become their priority. Once the coats had been peeled off, they couldn't care less where they landed. She waited until Sofia ended the call before voicing her question.

"Where's the other coat?"

Sofia grinned, her mind immediately formulating a theory as to the coat's whereabouts.

"The killer must have it. Want to help me find it?"

Standing outside yet another room of the Wynn hotel, Sofia raised her hand to knock, confidence exuding from every pore. Her hunches almost always proved to be right, and she was hoping this time wouldn't be an exception.

Emily stood beside the detective and noted the radical change in the other woman's demeanor. She'd practically swaggered down the hallway on the way to Valerie Haynes' room. The only person she'd ever seen that cocky had been Morgan. She bit down on the smile that threatened to escape and readied to play her part.

A few feet away, Catherine stood against the wall next to a couple of uniformed policemen and observed the two women. Sofia, with her cock-sure attitude, and Emily, cool and relaxed, with an air of sophistication, but it was the sheer magnetism between the two that caught her full attention. The smile the agent had leveled at Sofia when they'd reviewed the tapes of the previously unknown freight elevator and spotted Valerie Haynes getting off with a white coat rolled up under her arm had been electric. Catherine smiled.

"Yes, what can I do for you?" asked Valerie, her eyes tracking to Sofia's shield. She quickly pasted on a heartbroken expression that immediately morphed into one of pure rage when she spotted Emily. "What is *she* doing here? Why haven't you arrested her? She killed Mary!"

"Actually, Ms. Haynes, we need to search your room. If you'd kindly step back and allow us . . ." Sofia started, only to be cut off by a venomous reply.

"No way in hell – that woman killed my Mary. You're not going to pin this on me."

Sofia made a show of placing her hand on her gun, and Emily was just able to keep from pulling hers free. "I've got a warrant to search these premises. Now, step back, Ms. Haynes, or I'll have these officers," the two men stepped forward on cue, "place you in handcuffs."

The redhead glared at Sofia but wisely stepped back, moving to sit on the edge of the bed. Catherine eased around Sofia and slipped on her gloves, her eyes roaming around the room and settling on a suitcase that appeared to be packed and ready to go. She grinned.

"Going somewhere, Ms. Haynes?" Crossing the room, she used the tip of her boot to knock the suitcase over. Valerie now had someone else to direct her glare on, but Sofia stepped in her line of sight, cutting off her view of Catherine.

"We've been wondering about your white coat – the one you were supposed to wear for the competition."

Valerie swung her arm up and pointed at Emily. "She's the last one to wear it, just like she's the last one to see Mary alive."

The sounds of the suitcase clasps opening appeared to be louder then need be. Catherine grinned again. Sofia was playing the suspect beautifully.

"No, I don't think so. I think you went back to Mary's room and confronted her. What happened? Did she put on her coat and taunt you with the trophy? Was it too much for you?"

A loud thump signaled Catherine had flipped the suitcase open. She managed to focus on her search and still keep an ear on the conversation as Sofia continued to bait the other woman.

"Did she go on and on about how Emily was a better dancer?"

"Sofia?" Catherine pulled a white coat out from under a couple of pair of jeans and held it up. It was stained with blood. Sofia studied the evidence, before turning her attention back to Valerie.

"I bet Mary said something else, too, didn't she? Something that set you off. What was it?"

Enraged, Valerie spat out her confession. "I went to her room, and she practically jumped me. We made love for hours. Afterwards, she wanted to dance, so we danced. We put on the white coats and Salsa'd around the room. She said that bitch was a better dancer, that we'd have never won the competition together. Then, Mary said…" she pointed at Emily, "… you were a better dancer in bed, too. She threw her head back and laughed at me. I just smiled and led her toward the dresser. I grabbed the trophy and hit her again and again." She grinned maniacally. "No one cheats on me. That whore has danced her last salsa."

Emily searched her mind, replaying the events of the previous night and settling on the precise moment she'd realized she was on the verge of making a huge mistake. She met Valerie's eyes and held them.

"I didn't sleep with Mary. She didn't cheat on you."

She waited just long enough to be certain the message had been received, before turning and walking out the door. Valerie's sobs followed her down the hallway.

Emily lay sideways across the bed, staring down at the muted-colored carpet. No matter how hard she tried, she still couldn't figure out why Mary had lied to her lover. Had their relationship been fraught with lies the entire time or was she just trying to get back at Valerie for quitting so close to the competition? There was no doubt in Emily's mind that Mary would have gone through with it – would've slept with her. She'd been upset when Emily had pulled away, and not because she'd be cheating on her lover, but because she didn't want her to stop.

"Stupid, Prentiss; you never should've let it get that far in the first place. What were you thinking?" She rolled onto her back and looked up at the ceiling, her feet dangling over the side of the bed. A knock at the door stopped any further self-chastisements, and with a pitiful groan, she rocked to her feet and shuffled to the door. She leaned her head against the wooden surface when she spied Sofia through the peephole, finally reaching for the locks and opening the door. For the second time that day, she walked back in the room and left the detective to follow.

"Are you okay?" asked Sofia, genuinely concerned. Valerie hadn't been the only one blown away by Emily's admission. She'd truly thought the agent had slept with Mary, and she was surprised to find herself ecstatic that she hadn't.

"About being an unknowing pawn in a murder? Oh, I'm just peachy." Emily fell face-first on the bed and didn't move. Sofia shifted nervously, not sure what she should do or say next. She did know that she wanted to spend more time with the agent, but the circumstances couldn't be worse.

"Would you like to have dinner with me?" The question was out before Sofia could call it back. She was perfectly aware that she should be trying to offer support to the other woman instead of asking her out, but her subconscious had other ideas. She briefly considered that perhaps she could do both. "Neither one of us has eaten today. We could talk over some pasta and wine. There's a quaint little Italian restaurant not far from here."

Emily rolled onto her side and looked up at the detective. "I don't think I'd be very good company."

Sofia stepped closer. "You've got to eat, and I really am a good listener."

"I don't know, Sofia, I . . ." Her words were interrupted when Sofia played her trump card.

"It's my birthday, and I'd rather not eat alone."

Emily's head snapped up, and she paused only a moment, before she moved to sit on the edge of the bed, her proper upbringing chasing her moroseness away. "Oh, happy birthday." She pushed to her feet and moved toward the dresser, her mind instantly made up. "No one should have to dine alone on his or her birthday." As she slipped on her shoes, she called up way too many of her own birthdays that she'd spent alone. There was no way she'd allow Sofia to do the same.

Sofia was pleased with the positive change in Emily's mood, but more so because the agent had accepted her invitation. She couldn't help the bright smile that broke out across her face. "You know what I think?"

"No," Emily grinned; Sofia's smile was infectious. The detective was just too cute.

"I think we should forget about the case. We should pretend we just met and enjoy good food, good wine, and good company." She purposely referred to Emily's earlier statement, knowing full well that the other woman would be good company even if she just sat across from her and said nothing.

Grabbing her purse from the dresser, Emily slipped the strap over her shoulder. "Well, what are you waiting for? I'm starving."

With a chuckle, Sofia moved to the door and held it open for the other woman. She'd have loved to have suggested they go dancing after dinner, but she knew she needed to give the agent time to deal with the aftermath of Mary Stevens' murder. Pulling the door closed, she placed her hand in the small of Emily's back and guided her toward the elevators, her thoughts straying to how hot Emily had looked in the red bathing suit and followed closely by an image of the agent in the white tails.

She smiled; tomorrow was another day.

The End

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