DISCLAIMER: CSI and all characters are the property of CBS and Bruckheimer.
CHALLENGE: Submitted as part of the Sara/Sofia 'Let's Get Sassy' ficathon.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

You Don't Always Have To Be Strong
By Jenn


Sara sighed as she finished her third crime scene of her shift. This one was especially tedious due to the sheer amount of damage done to the shop. Nights like this she hated most. All of the crazies seemed to come out of the woodwork. As she loaded her kit into the back of her Denali, her phone rang. Grumpily thinking that it was Grissom calling her out to another scene, she tersely answered "Yes?" forgetting to look at the caller ID screen.

"Uh..Hello, is this a Miss Sara Sidle?" an unfamiliar voice asked.

Softening her tone some, she answered cautiously, "This is she."

"Ms. Sidle, my name is James Madden from Peoplefinders.com. I'm trying to track down the sister of my client, Stephen Xavier Sidle from Tamales Bay, California. Would that by any chance be you?"

Sara sucked in her breath as she contemplated what this meant. Stephen. Stephen, who had left her behind, was looking for her after 20 years. This thought froze her to the spot behind the Denali.

"And what if I am the woman you're looking for?" she asked tentatively.

"Well then, Ms. Sidle, I would like to provide this information to my client."

"Do you know why he hired you?" the investigator asked sounding more like she was interrogating a suspect.

"I was not informed of his personal reasons. He simply asked that we find you," the private investigator replied mildly.

"Well, you've succeeded. Tell him to contact me himself next time if he has the balls." And with that, she angrily closed her phone.

Climbing behind the wheel, her mind was a jumble of emotions. Anger, jealousy, hurt, and surprisingly, excitement. Driving back to the lab on autopilot, she continued to bounce between thoughts until she gave herself a headache.

Upon arriving at the lab, she wearily logged in all of her evidence and made sure that they arrived at the correct labs. When she finally caught sight of a clock, she noticed that it was now 4 hours past the end of her shift. 'Shit, Sofia's probably gonna be asleep by the time I get to her place,' she thought dejectedly.

Getting back into the Denali, she headed for Sofia's. As she drove, she reminisced fondly about her life and the events leading up to the start of their relationship. Nine months ago was when she decided to stop being a spectator in her personal life, simply watching the lives of those around her. The whole car fiasco with Grissom was the catalyst. Being trapped under the wreckage, scared out of her mind, gave her the chance to analyze her life. Out of that analysis came a realization and a major life change. After getting out of the hospital, and letting Grissom down gently, she mustered her courage and brashly asked Sofia out. Sofia agreed and the rest, as they say, is history. She must've done something right because she had practically been living out of Sofia's apartment for the better part of 2 months.

After parking the Denali, trotting up the stairs, and unlocking the door, Sara was finally able to throw the weight of her day off he shoulders as she crossed the threshold. Hearing soft sounds from the TV in the living room, she headed in that direction, hoping that Sofia was actually awake.

Upon seeing her lover curled up asleep on the couch, she broke in to her first smile of the night. She stayed, once again, frozen in her spot, watching the colors from the cheesy 70's sci-fi movie play across Sofia's face.

As if Sofia sensed that she was being watched, she groggily opened her eyes and squinted against the garish colors on screen.

"Hey, how long have you been there?" Sofia asked with a yawn.

"Not long," Sara replied with a crooked smile. "Do you know how adorable you are when you fall asleep like that?"

"If you think my drool is so adorable I can arrange for a batch with your name on it."

"Only if we move to the bed because I've had the day from hell," Sara replied.

At the suggestion of her tired girlfriend, Sofia rose from the couch, took her hand and led her to the bedroom. Both women changed quickly and settled into a comfortable cuddling position.

"You wanna talk about it?" Sofia asked tentatively.

It had taken several months for Sara to open up about her past. Sofia still didn't have all the pieces, but she was able to grasp the general sense of things. She also knew her lover well enough to know that very few things bothered her, except for cases that hit too close to what she experienced as a child. When Sara remained quiet, she tried another approach.

"Is it something about one of your cases tonight?"

"No, it's not that," Sara replied. "I got a call tonight from a private investigator."

"What would a private investigator want with you?"

"It seems that my brother Stephen is looking for me" Sara stated dully.

"Your brother?" Sofia asked, the shock in her voice evident.

"My older brother, Stephen."

Sofia looked at Sara expectantly and waited as Sara contemplated on where to begin.

"You know how I told you that my childhood wasn't exactly happy?"

Sofia silently nodded.

"And you know what ended up happening?"

Sofia again nodded, the protective part of her wishing that Sara hadn't had to witness her own mother stab her father to death.

"Well, Stephen had run away about a year before all of that happened. I've not heard from him in more than 20 years. As soon as he was 16, he left."

Taking a few deep breaths to steady her voice, Sara continued, "He knew what I was going through because he went through it too."

When no more information seemed to be forthcoming, Sofia -- trying her best to keep her tone neutral -- tentatively asked, "How does all of this make you feel?"

"I don't know. Honestly, I feel too many things. I'm angry that he wasn't there with me. I'm also angry because he didn't take me with him. I'm angry that he's just now trying to find me. It's been 20 years for god's sake!" Sara finished angrily.

Sofia kept quiet as her lover tried to calm herself.

"But there's a small part of me that wants to know how he's doing. I thought for sure that he was dead. I just don't know what to feel, you know? I'm exhausted, and on top of my case load tonight, I've had to deal with this…"

Sofia pulled Sara closer as she made a shushing sound.

"Baby, you don't have to deal with this right now. Let's just go to sleep. I know you need it after the night you've had."

With a sigh, Sara snuggled into Sofia's shoulder and drifted almost immediately to sleep. Sofia however was concerned for what the next few weeks would bring and as she kissed the top of Sara's head promised "I'm here for you, no matter what happens. I can be strong for you so you don't have to be." And with that final statement, sleep finally claimed her.

Weeks passed and there was no word from Sara's brother. Eventually, she wrote it off as a fluke and resigned herself to the idea that her brother would never meet her face to face. Then she heard her name over the lab's intercom system.

"Sara Sidle, please report to reception. You have a visitor."

She couldn't think of anyone who would be visiting her at work; Sofia could roam the halls freely and most of her friends were employees of the lab, so she headed towards the reception area with some hesitation.

Her shock was paralyzing when, upon her arrival, she saw the spitting image of her father nervously pacing the floor. He stopped suddenly when he noticed her entrance. The moments stretched on as they stood still in their respective places, not quite believing what they were seeing.

'I had almost forgotten that he had Mom's eyes,' Sara shook off a chill at the thought.

"Sara? Is that really you?" Stephen asked excitedly.

"Stephen?" Sara asked skeptically.

"Yes, Sara, it's me! I wanted to -- "

His sister interrupted him to say a terse, "Can we please take this outside? This is my work place."

"Uh, yeah. Of course," came the startled reply.

He headed for the exit as Sara told the receptionist to page her if anyone needed her, then she promptly headed the same direction.

When they reached the parking lot, Stephen awkwardly started trying to make conversation.

"So you're a crime scene investigator, huh?"

"Yes," Sara replied, not giving him much to work with.

"I'm a floor manager at a cabinet making company called McKeen and Sons. They're the third largest -- "

"Why are you here, exactly?" Sara interrupted once more.

"Well, you see, I'm in love with a wonderful woman. I don't want to end up like Mom and Dad. I know there's a real possibility that I could 'complete the cycle' as it were. So I'm doing this counseling thing."

"And what does this have to do with me?" came the flat reply.

"I want to reconnect with you. I want to know my little sister."

"You should've thought about that when you left me in that hell hole."

"Sara, I couldn't have taken you with me. I didn't know where I was headed. I was prepared to live on the streets, but I couldn't subject you to that."

"So you left me to watch as Dad beat Mom and as Mom murdered Dad?"

"I had no idea that was going to happen!" Stephen exclaimed. "If I had known…"

"If you had known, what would you have done?" Sara forced out.

"…I don't know, but I would've thought of something." Stephen stated with conviction.

At that tone, Sara softened somewhat and asked the question she'd been dying to ask since the moment Peoplefinders.com had contacted her.

"Have you visited Mom?" Sara asked quietly, intently keeping eye contact.

"No, I haven't." Stephen replied guiltily. "I followed the trial in the newspapers, but I…. It was just a little too unreal for me."

"Try living it," muttered Sara under her breath.

"Sara, I'm really trying here. I want you in my life. I know it won't be perfect, but I don't want to look back from my death bed and think that I should've tried…."

"Look, this is a little much for me to handle. You can't just waltz in here and expect everything to be like the goddamn Brady Bunch!" Sara vehemently spat.

"Look, I know you need time to process all of this. If you decide you don't want me in your life, I'll leave, but I want you to know that I really want you in mine," he said as his posture softened and he stepped toward his sister. "I'm in town for 5 days for this silly manager seminar. I'm staying at the Palermo, room 1210. If you want to talk, or just tell me off, that's where you can find me."

"I'll have to think about it," Sara replied coldly and turned to re-enter the lab.

"I can't believe you're still that stubborn!" he called after her as the door closed.

Feeling introspective and doing some brooding, Sara was certainly not watching where she was going. When she rounded the corner, she was caught by a slender pair of arms with a familiar scent.

"Woah, there. I've gotcha," Sofia said, barely holding herself and the brunette upright. "What's up? Is something wrong?"

"Sofia, I……He…..We….." Sara gasped.

"Shhh. Come on, lets find a place that's a little more private." Sofia calmly led her to the only place she knew they could be alone, the north stairwell.

Sitting side by side on the stairs, Sofia put her arm around Sara and told her to breathe. As Sara buried her face in the soft fabric of her companion's shirt, she started to explain the tense and awkward "reunion" with her brother.

"I just don't know what to do. I have to make a decision soon because he leaves in 5 days. I just don't know what I want…." Sara sobbed.

"Shh. Look at me," Sofia cooed as she hooked her finger under Sara's chin and brought them face to face. "You don't have to decide this right now. You have some time. He doesn't expect the two of you to be suddenly joined at the hip. So, right now, you just need to let it all out and do what you think is best. Whatever you decide, I'll support you on it," she reassured her friend, her sincerity lending strength to her words. "I'll even lend you my phone to tell him off, if that's what you decide to do," she said, trying to inject some humor into the conversation.

Looking at the intense blue eyes of her lover, Sara finally crumbled and gave in fully to her embrace.

"What do you say we go home, have a nice long bath, and pop in one of those silly movies you like so much?" Sofia asked after Sara had cried herself out.

Childlike, she replied, "Okay," and let Sofia take her through the side exit and out to her Charger, not letting go of her hand until she put Sara in the passenger seat.

"Let's go home," Sofia said gently as she pulled out of the parking lot.

She thought to herself on the drive home, 'Ultimately, it doesn't really matter what she chooses. I'm not going anywhere.'

The End

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