DISCLAIMER: All legal disclaimers apply. I don't have the advantage of a first time offense anymore but then I hope CBS, Zuiker etc. will forgive me still. There's no money involved.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The story was written as a challenge response about how Sofia's mother comes to town on police business. It was supposed to be only a few pages long. Somehow it turned not only into a monster, keeping me busy for four weeks, but also into the third entry of the series that started with Beyound cause and effect Sofia and Looking past the evidence - Sara. Any opinions expressed on law enforcement personnel or law enforcement in general do not neccessarily represent my own views. Mostly they serve the purpose of characterization and moving the story along. So don't shoot me if you are a coroner.
SPOILERS: Minor spoilers for fifth season. If you know who Sofia is, you won't be spoiled.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
An Equivocation of Lies
Captain Jim Brass was walking down the corridors of the police department humming. It wasn't that the man was particularly known for his grouchiness but humming got a few heads turned. He smiled in greeting at the open mouthed look of the receptionist and walked over to the break room where a few of his officers were drinking coffee, engaged in idle conversation.
"Hi everyone." He greeted, not caring that lunch break had been over quite some time ago. The guys worked hard, a lot of overtime got clocked, so there was no harm in taking a longer break every now and then. He quickly scanned the room looking for one particular detective. When he saw her, he grinned. "Curtis? Would you mind stepping into my office for a moment?"
Normaly a sentence like that was preceding a reprimand but seeing the good mood her captain was in, Sofia just shrugged at the others and followed him into his office.
"Do you want me to close the door?" She asked upon entering. Brass was just about to sit down and shook his head. "No, no. It won't take long. Have a seat." He said and gestured towards the chair in front of him.
Sofia sat down, still not knowing what her boss was up to. Only his broad smile was somewhat infectious. She started smiling too. "So, Captain. What's up?"
"How would you like to have a little spare time the next couple of days?"
"Sir?" She didn't understand.
"Yeah. Working only half shifts, doing a little paperwork so to speak, leaving early. You got enough time on the clock. So that shouldn't be a problem." He winked at her.
"That's... really nice Jim, but... I still don't understand."
He picked up a fax that was lying in front of him. "Did you know that the Bally's Las Vegas Hotel is hosting this year's National Interdisciplinary Crime Force Conference in the next days?"
She chuckled. "Yeah, word got out on the streets that Vegas will be crawling with cops for a week. It's been really quiet recently."
"Good, good. But did you also know that Chief Whitman, the main speaker for the conference, has just become a father of twins and had to be replaced?"
"The Chief? At his age? No," Sofia answered still smiling, "but from the look on your face, I'm guessing you have been asked to replace him."
"Mmmh, not quite." He shook his head winking at her. "But I have been asked to help out a bit. Show his substitute around our department, explain how we live interdisciplinary work here in Vegas with the CSI. That sort of thing."
"That's all very nice, Jim. But what has that got to do with me?"
"Well, I thought you might help me a little. Seeing that the new main speaker at the conference is Captain Ann Curtis. Your mother."
Sofia was excited, waiting at arrivals at McCarran International Airport. Her mother was coming for a visit. Okay, so it was formal police business and Captain Curtis was staying at the conference hotel, but Sofia was still looking forward to it. Though her first reaction at Brass' office had been quite different. She had stopped smiling and gaped at him in shock. Which he somehow found very amusing. Then she was wondering what in God's name her mother had to do with interdisciplinary police work. Her thinking, as far as Sofia could remember, had always divided law enforcement into two categories: real cops and the others. The latter included crime scene investigators as much as coroners or medical examiners. But, as the captain had explained, it seemed as if a new program had been implemented at her mother's department a few months back based on a new work method of placing cops, CSI's, profilers and lab personnel into close knit teams to better communicate and solve cases. Since it showed promising success in just a short time span, Chief Whitman had been asked to share his experience, with Captain Curtis filling in on short notice. Now she was coming to Vegas a few days early for the conference because the LVPD chief of police had invited her to study their own team of successful investigators. Sofia was surprised. She hadn't known about this project, even so she and her mother talked somewhat regularly on the phone. And it wasn't that long ago that the captain had hated the scientific side of law enforcement even more than her daughter. "I wonder what changed." Sofia mused while staying on the look-out for the woman. "But then I guess, I'll find out over dinner."
The flight had been on time with Captain Curtis being more than happy of having her daughter pick her up. They shared a hug while making some inconsequential small talk on their way to the car. Before they could get into personal details though, they had to go over the schedule for the next days. First the captain had to check in at the hotel and make sure everything was set with the last minute changes to the program and the speaker list. Chief Whitman had been her boss for a long time and though the captain was familiar with his notes and the program of course, she still didn't like to go into the conference unprepared. So the schedule had to be changed from having her as the opening speaker to making the closing statements. While the rearranging took place, Sofia excused herself and drove back to work. The women had arranged to meet there later in the evening. They would go out to dinner and, if the older woman felt up to it, introduce her to graveyard.
The restaurant where Sofia and Ann Curtis met was stylish but not overly expensive. They were at a table a little off to the side at the windows, where they had a nice view over the night sky of Las Vegas. The waiter arrived with their menus and some water asking them for their drink order. Both women decided that they would indulge in a little white wine. While Captain Curtis ordered chicken breast with wild rice and safran sauce, Sofia asked for the vegetarian lasagna. Her mother waited until they were alone again, than she mocked. "Vegetarian? No wonder you are so thin, Sofia. Since when have you stopped eating meat?"
The younger woman just rolled her eyes. "I haven't stopped eating it, mother, just trying to cut back a little. And being a vegetarian doesn't automatically make you thin. Not when you still eat cheese and stuff."
A fleeting thought about a certain CSI's nicely curved body was quickly repressed again. Instead Sofia concentrated on the woman in front of her. "So, what brings you to Vegas, mom? Don't tell me you're only here because of the conference. Interdisciplinary law enforcement was never your strong suit."
Her mother gave her a disapproving look. "You don't believe that my view on the scientific side could have changed after your work here?"
"Mom," the blonde rolled her eyes, "you know as well as I do that you were very unhappy with my time as a CSI."
"So? That doesn't mean I don't respect the work those people are doing." Before Sofia could say anything, her mother continued. "I admit I understand not even half of the science that is involved. Comparing trace elements, doing blood work, sounds terribly boring to me. But that doesn't make it unimportant. And if you had grown up a different person, I would probably have been delighted for you to have this job."
Somewhat mollified by the sincerity in her mother's voice, Sofia took a sip of her water. "Okay, I buy that, but it still doesn't explain why Whitman send you of all people. There must have been somebody else more enthusiastic about this whole working together thing than you are."
The captain grinned. "There is. But somehow a rumour got around that he had a bit of a gambling problem, so Whitman thought it safer to send me to gambler's paradise."
"You didn't?" There was a twinkle in the older woman's eyes. "God, you didn't. I'll let you know that it's not very nice to tease your daughter on the first evening."
"Then I'll leave that for the next time we meet."
"How gracious of you. Now tell me, why are you really here?"
"I missed you. I wanted to see how you're doing." Captain Curtis turned more serious. "The last time we talked on the phone you did not sound very good."
"It was a tough time." Sofia said solemnly, thinking back to their phone conversation a few weeks after the shooting incident.
"Yes, I can understand that. I still remember the first time an officer got killed while I was on duty. It was the hardest time in my life."
"How did you cope?"
Ann Curtis sighed. "Your father was there. We had just been married a few months, I didn't know I was already pregnant then. His love and support got me through the worst. Then I got the news of having you, and I finally understood that life did go on."
"So you had somebody." There was a solemn tone in Sofia's voice.
"Yes. I was lucky. I don't know how I would have managed without him."
Sofia stared down at her empty plate. Thankfully the waiter arrived with their food and drinks. The distraction gave her time to regroup. She took the fork and poked at the hot lasagne, making little holes into the cheese coating to let the heat out. It was only when she had started tearing tiny pieces of cheese off without actually eating something that Captain Curtis had enough. "Tell me what this is really about." She pleaded. "I know you, if it was just the shooting, however horrible it made you feel, you still wouldn't be sitting here moping around, picking at your food."
Sofia sighed. Why did her mother always have to be so observant. Straight to the point like a good cop should. "There... is... was someone." She started.
"Have I met them?" In her head the older woman quickly went through all the men and women her daughter had ever mentioned with only one of them sticking out "It's not that Grissom guy, is it? I met him once. That man might be considered a genius but he seems as emotional as a dead fish."
That provoked a chuckle from Sofia. "No, it's not Gil. He's only a friend. Though he is part of the problem."
"Then who is? And what problem?"
The blonde took a deep breath. Seeing that her mother would find out anyway within the next days, she might as well tell her now. "Her name is Sara Sidle, she's a CSI three and you are going to meet her later tonight."
"Sidle? Sara Sidle? Isn't that the name of the woman you got along so well with before your transfer to Boulder City?" The older woman questioned.
"Past tense. It's been a long time since we got along." There was a tiny sigh that made Ann Curtis realize that her daughter hurt, but wasn't ready to divulge any more information.
"Well, then this little trip to Vegas is not going to be for nothing after all. I can't wait to meet this Sara Sidle, CSI."
"Did you hear that Sofia Curtis' mother is in Vegas?" The team of graveyard shift, consisting of Warrick, Nick and Sara had just entered the locker room. It was a little early for shift to start, but then Grissom had asked them to because he wanted to introduce everybody to someone. "I bet she is the one who is going to look over our shoulders in the next couple of days." Nick continued as he was tieing his shoe laces. Warrick Brown just shrugged his shoulders. "Not much to see at the moment." He said closing his locker. "With the NICFC people coming to town there is little to do. What do you think Sidle?"
"If crime takes a break, it's okay by me." Sara said, pushing her own locker close as well. "But people from out of town always disrupt things. I wonder what she's doing at graveyard though."
"Maybe Detective Curtis told her so much about us," Nick supplied, "that she got curious?"
"Hey." Greg shouted, entering the room in a hurry. "Did I miss her? Is she here?"
Warrick just shook his head. "What are you so excited about, Sanders?"
"It's Sofia's mother! Maybe we find out little funny stories about her when she was a child." The young man was so excited while getting changed, he almost put his shirt on backwards.
"It's not a social call, Greg. The captain is here on business. As are we, so you better hurry up, 'cause you're going to be late." The tall man said, opening the door to the locker room for his colleagues.
"At least we'll get to see what Detective Curtis will look like in thirty years or so. Or if she's a real blonde." Greg cried, hurrying after them.
"Dream on." Sara chuckled. As if women over fifty did not dye their hair anymore.
Captain Curtis did not have blonde hair, Sara noticed when they entered the meeting room. But she definitely used some colour. Her hair was a dark brown with few gray strands sprinkled in. Her age was hard to guess, somewhere inbetween fiftyfive and sixty maybe. And she was indeed a looker for her age. If Greg's theory is correct, Sofia is going to look fabulous when she gets older, Sara mused. Not that there is anything wrong with her now, she thought, throwing a quick glance at the attractive blonde standing next to her mother and Captain Brass, who was also present.
The room wasn't exactly packed with people but everyone from graveyard was here, including all lab personal, Doc Robbins and David Phillips. Grissom waited a few seconds for everyone to grab a seat, then he made a quick introduction and turned over to Brass.
"Okay guys." The Vegas captain started. "I know you're all kind of anxious to know why Captain Curtis is here. Let me start by saying that the main reason is because LVPD is very proud of their CSIs, especially graveyard."
There was some chuckling and laughter, a mumbled "does Ecklie know?" answered by "hear, hear" from several corners. Brass raised his hands in a calming gesture. "I know, I know. But the truth is that we at LVPD are very privileged to be able to work the way we do. You people have the best and latest equipment law enforcement owns outside of Quantico and what's more, in Vegas cops, MEs and CSI work closely together as a team. We," he pointed to himself and Detective Curtis, "try not to step on the evidence and you are playing detective much more often than you should. Which gives us more time at the doughnut shop, so we're not complaining." There was more laughter. "But seriously. Working together this closely, communicating and respecting each other, has improved the solvement rate of the cases immensely over the years. This is what interdisciplinary law enforcement is all about." He made a slight pause letting everyone take in that this was indeed the exception not the rule. Working in a surrounding like theirs for years often made them forget that they were priviliged. When he was sure he had their undivided attention, he continued. "That is where Captain Curtis comes in. She's from another department which has just opened up their structure to try following in our footsteps. Now... she's not here to interfere with your work. She'll not bother you or ask unnecessary questions. We'll try to keep interference to a minimum. But Captain Curtis is here to learn how we work together and, if everything turns out right, to promote us a little at this years NICFC where she'll be a guest speaker." He smiled, looking at the woman in question. "Maybe she'll even get us an invitation to the ball they're holding on Friday. Free drinks and food, isn't that true Captain?"
Captain Curtis picked up on his teasing. "If your people behave... that might be arranged, Captain." She smiled at the small crowd that had gathered around them. "As Captain Brass just said, I'm not here to interfere with your work. I'm not here to test you, evaluate what you do or be otherwise a nuisance. Dr. Grissom and I have already decided that only one of you is going to show me around and answer any questions I should have. But let me assure you that I appreciate all of your help. So if there is anything you'd like to share, feel free to do so."
There was some appreciative murmur and when it was obvious that the meeting had ended, everyone got up, nodding towards the two captains and slowly leaving the room. Sara was one of the last to leave since she had been sitting in the back corner. She was just about to turn towards the door when Grissom held her back. "Sara. Would you mind staying a bit longer." He said, turning back to quickly say goodbye to Jim Brass, Sofia and Captain Curtis who were just leaving as well. When he turned back, Sara sat on the edge of a table, waiting for him.
"Gil, if you think that I'm going to babysit that woman for the next few days, you are sadly mistaken." She said, defensively crossing her arms over her chest. He simply inclined his head, studying her for a moment. And if there was one thing Sara Sidle hated more than being questioned it was not being questioned. "I'm serious, Grissom. Let Greg do it, he would be delighted to play tour guy. Or Nick, he can probably handle all that charme better than me. Hell, even Catherine is a better diplomat than I am."
"I don't need a diplomat, I need a scientist." He simply answered. When she just gave him a frustrated look, he continued. "Sara. When the captain said we were priviliged, he was right. We work closely as a team and sometimes the lines between a cop and a CSI get blurred, but there is a difference. Captain Curtis needs to understand where that line is. She knows what cops are, but she has no idea about being a scientist. I need you to show her."
She looked at him, exasperated. Not only did she already hate the woman for getting her into this situation. Sara would have enjoyed the quiet of her lab much more than teaching a cop about science. No, it also had to be Sofia Curtis' mother, the only person inside and outside of CSI who constantly challenged her confidence. "Why are you doing this to me, Gil?" She asked.
Grissom looked at her and took off his glasses. Then he gave her one of his enigmatic half-smiles. "It'll be fun."
Sara pulled up at the station feeling like she had to drag herself after doing a triple shift. The brunette couldn't even remember when the last time had been that she wasn't looking forward to going to work. Usually she couldn't wait to start, being considerably early to for her shifts most of the time. Today she was late, which was not only unusual but also a bit rude, considering that she had to meet with Captain Curtis at the lab. But then it had taken her the better part of an hour to decide what to wear. "Make her take science seriously." Huh. What a stupid idea from Gil. How did one dress as a scientist? She wished she wore glasses at least, but then her eyesight was above average and wearing sun glasses was not an option in the dark of the lab. Sara had gone through her closet in search of something bland and unobtrusive but came up empty. Why is it that everything I own seems to make me look pregnant all of a sudden? In the end she decided to not give a damn and dress like usual. Dark trousers, a long sleeved T that accentuated her cleavage with a low neckline, hopefully hidden below a comfortable blazer. Entering the building Sara still felt like a slut.
The captain was waiting in Grissom's office. They were having a somewhat stilted conversation when Sara entered. "Sorry I'm late. Traffic." She supplied shrugging. Grissom gave her a look that told her he knew she had been stalling, but didn't comment on it. Instead he made the introductions. "Captain Curtis. I would like you to meet Sara Sidle, one of our most dedicated investigators here at graveyard. Sara. This is Captain Ann Curtis."
"Nice to meet you, Captain." Sara would have preferred to not shake the offered hand, but couldn't very well refuse.
"Miss Sidle." There was a strange look in the older woman's eyes. A look that made Sara feel as if she was put under scrutinization. Damn, that woman looked intense. It was going to be a very long few days. Gil was of course totally oblivious to the slight tension that had already built in his office. He motioned for them both to take a seat. "Shall we get started then?"
The meeting had been brief but intense. First of all they had decided on which departments to look at and which parts of the work were the most promising in terms of scientific investigation. They had decided not to disturb the daily work, which exempted a visit to a break and enter that had occured while they were sitting together. Sara would have preferred to work the scene, hopefully forgetting the older woman who was being very polite but still gave her the chills, but Grissom put Warrick and Nick on the case, while she was to lead the captain around the labs, explaining equipment and procedure.
Not knowing how to start this "tour" the young brunette offered to visit the morgue first. They went down the corridors and stairs in silence and Sara already cursed Grissom again, for giving her this stupid assignment. What did one talk about with the mother of the woman one avoided most of the time. She could feel the discreet glances thrown in her direction every now and then. Though for the most part, Captain Curtis just smiled at her politely. Sara did not feel very comfortable. It would have given her a somewhat perverse pleasure, knowing that Ann Curtis had never been a friend of the smell and sterility of the morgue, but then the captain showed no hesitation upon her idea and Sara was mainly glad that she would have Doc Robbins for company. They were in luck. He was in and at work.
"Sara. I didn't expect you here. I thought Jane Doe 324 was Catherine's case."
"It is." Sara said stepping closer to the body on the table, taking a curious peek. "I'm here to show Captain Curtis the lab. I didn't know you had company."
"Well, she won't mind a few more minutes." He answered, giving a polite nod towards the dead body and turning towards the two women. "Captain Curtis. Nice to meet you again. How can I help you?"
"Doctor. I don't want to intrude." The older woman acknowledged coming at a bad time.
"It's okay, Captain. I'm always happy to have someone walk in here on their own two feet. Not that we ever get lonely with all the people trampling in and out of here as if this was Grand Central, not being able to wait for their autopsy reports." He threw a mock glance in the CSI's direction. "Present company not included of course."
Sara smiled tightly, but relieved that the doctor had picked up on her tension. "What can I do for you then?"
"Doctor Robbins..." The older woman started, "from your title I presume that you are not merely a coroner."
"No, I'm not." He answered a bit roughly. "You have to excuse me, Captain Curtis. Nothing against coroners, but I believe that institution is an old hat, that should have been abolished a long time ago."
"At most police departments a coroner is mainly a person interested in dead bodies without the need for any actual physiological or medical knowledge. That might have been enough in the nineteenth century when death was viewed more anxiously and people dealing with the dead were frowned upon and often outcast. But nowadays medicine knows too much about the human body in all it's forms, dead or alive, that merely being interested isn't enough. Here..." he said, moving towards the head of the unfortunate woman lying on the slab. "... let me show you something."
The captain as well as Sara moved forward, closely examining the still body. Doc Robbins pointed towards the head, carefully prying the eyelids open. "What do you see?"
"There's petechia in her eye balls." Sara provided thoughtfully. "One can clearly make out the little red dots where the blood vessels have popped."
"That's correct." The doctor answered, just as respectfully closing the poor dead woman's eyelids again. "And what does that tell you?"
"Petechia is usually a sign of a struggle while dying. Asphyxation, maybe drowning? Have you found water in her lungs?" Curiosity got the better of Sara. She really wished this was her case.
He shook his head. "I haven't opened her yet. But that is beside the point. What else can petechia be a sign for?" he asked, clearly enjoying the little learning session that was thrown into his usually busy routine.
"An epeleptic seizure." Captain Curtis supplied. Sara was surprised the woman had even listened, let alone joined their little Q&A session. The doctor was surprised too and gave an appreciative nod. "That's true. A seizure also leads to these typical signs. It needn't even be a major one. People could die in their sleep having a seizure, while the person next to them doesn't even notice. How did you know that, Captain?" He was genuinely curious.
"We had a case last year." The captain answered. "A woman found her husband dead in bed one morning. She was about to get a divorce and there was a major struggle because of money and the kids, that's why we at first thought, she had killed him in his sleep with a pillow. Turned out the death was natural cause after all."
"A good example, Captain." He stated, smiling slightly. "How did you find out it was a seizure not asphyxiation?"
"We didn't at first. Our coroner held the autopsy. It was only when the wife's lawyers started to claim wrongful procedure. That a second opinion was needed. We brought in a ME from state who made the discovery. It was a bitch getting those lawyers off our back after that."
"I can imagine." The doc sympathized with the captain. "I wouldn't want to trade jobs with you, Captain. Dead people at least don't sue or talk back."
Sara was surprised at the conversation. She hadn't expected self-criticism from the older woman. She turned towards her to ask a question of her own. "What happened to the coroner who made the wrong diagnosis?"
"He was fired." Ann Curtis answered. When she noticed the contemptuous look in the young woman's eyes, she explained. "Department politics. Somebody had to be blamed. It was the easy way out."
"I couldn't have been easy for that coroner." Sara tried her hardest to stay polite.
"It wasn't easy for us too. He was a well-liked man but that didn't make his work any better." Curtis turned toward Doc Robbins. "After he was gone, we had the ME re-examine all of his cases. There were more slip-ups, though nothing as bad as this one."
"Which illustrates my point." After a very long career in law enforcement, the doc could imagine the fall-out the captain had had to take after such an incident and was more understanding than Sara. "I take it you have hired a fully trained ME after that case?"
"We did. We hired two actually." The woman smiled at him. "Cost the department a shit-load of money, but they are worth every penny. Autopsy reports are a lot more detailed and accurate now which does help a lot."
"Well, tell that to our department head and maybe David and I'll get a raise." He joked back. She laughed with him. Then she held out her hand. "Thank you very much for your time Doctor Robbins. I wish I could say I liked being here, but present company is a bit too stiff for my taste." Sara watched her throwing a look in the general direction of the corpse, a fleeting glance meeting herself. "Will I see you Friday at the ball? I might even reserve you a dance."
"Wouldn't miss it, Captain. Though I have to pass on the dancing." He gently knocked his cane against his leg.
"We'll see." Ann Curtis said, smiling at him. "Thank you again for your time."
After their visit to the lab Sara decided to go upstairs to meet with Wendy in DNA. The lively lab tech should be able to counteract the "stiff" atmosphere, Captain Curtis had complained about. Hopefully she was at work and not currently enjoying one of her gossip sessions with Greg.
She had no such luck. Captain Curtis and her were just about to round the corner to the genetic science office, when Sara already overheard Sander's youthful enthusiasm. "Doesn't she look great though for a woman of her age? More like a showgirl than a police captain. How old do you think she is?" Having his back to the door, he didn't even notice the woman in question approaching. Nor did he take particular notice of Wendy's hectic wriggling of eyebrows and embarrassed smile to warn him. "I wonder if she dances as good as she looks. I wouldn't mind showing her a few steps of my patented Astaire routine," he continued, turning into a pirouette that had him stumbling into the nearest wall, when an amused voice made him jump. "Thank you for the compliment, Mr. Sanders. I might take you up on that offer if you promise not to ask a lady about her age again."
"Sir, Ma'am, uh, Captain Curtis." The young man stuttered, turning beet red. Sara would have felt for him, but then it had been his own fault. "I didn't know you were here."
"Obviously." The older woman went over his embarassement like a breeze. "So this is the genetics lab, I presume." She turned around, looking at the computers and equipment orderly arranged in an easily accessible fashion. "Which one of you works here then?"
"I do." Greg and Wendy said at the same time, instantly staring at each other. "She does, I did." Greg quickly corrected himself, turning back to Captain Curtis excitedly. "This used to be my lab, but I'm a fully trained CSI now. I took my exam a few months ago. But I can still show you around, Captain. Genetics is a fascinating subject. We can determine who somebody is from just a pinpoint of their blood or the roots of a hair. As long as the nucleus is still intact, we know everything. We can even get DNA if maggots have already digested the body. You just slice open their stomachs and..."
"Lovely image, I am sure." Captain Curtis remarked, looking a bit disgusted. "But what I'd rather like to know is, why you left this..." she looked around, "...lab of yours."
"Well, genetics is fascinating and everything, but there's no mystery in it. It's strictly a logical combination of aminoacids.You see," Greg picked up a print out that was lying on Wendy's desk, showing it to the Captain. "Human DNA strands are mainly composed of four bases known as Adenyne, Cytosine, Thymine and Guanine, also known as A, C, T and G. These bases are always built in pairs of either A and T or C and G. One such pair is called a nucleotide. Any single cell is built out of three billion such nucleotides. How many and which ones are sitting on a single strand is different every time. There are infinite combinations possible, like here, see. You have CG, CG, CG, AT which is a completely different sequence from CG, CG, AT, CG of course, making it unique in this particular strand of DNA." He noticed that the Captain was not following what he was saying at all. "It's not that complicated really, once you get the hang of it. Just like I said: no mystery."
"And investigating a crime scene is mysterious?" There was a sceptical look on the police officer's face.
"Not when you follow procedure." Sara interjected a bit forcefully before Greg could make an even bigger ass of himself. The woman must think we are freaks, she thought, throwing her young colleague a threatening look. Thankfully, he picked up on it. "Not the investigation, no. That's strictly logic and methodology. But you never know what you will find. And even with all evidence accounted for, you'll never know how a crime was committed before you talk to the suspects and put all the pieces together."
"Isn't that a detective's work though? The interrogation? Putting together the pieces of the puzzle? Figuring out what exactly happened and why?" The question was directed at Sara, who, after her little outburst, had tried to make herself invisible. "In parts, I guess," she answered. When it was obvious that the captain expected a little more, she continued hesitantly. "We can only determine what happened to whom, when, where and how. The rest is up to you." She finished.
"That does not sound as if you leave a lot to the police." There was a slight pause and that look again. "What about you, Miss Simms. Any notion of leaving the lab as well?"
Wendy threw the older woman a look, deciding not to answer. Captain Curtis smirked, acknowledging her decision to stay out of this debate. She turned back to Sara, who was discreetly looking at her watch. Captain Curtis shook her head, amused. "I think that is all I can take in tonight." She said, turning to Greg and Wendy, who had gone back to work. "Mr. Sanders, Miss Simms. Thank you very much for your time. It was very... enlightening."
She gave Greg one last look, chuckling slightly and then turned towards the door, making her exit. "Miss Sidle. You coming?"
Sara closed her eyes briefly, taking a breath as well. "Yes, Captain." Hopefully she would just have to take the woman outside to get a cab back to the hotel.
When she joined Captain Curtis in the corridor, her hope was quickly shattered. "Do you happen to know where my daughter's office is, Miss Sidle?" The charming tone she had used with Greg was gone, instead replaced by something more somber.
"Sure. You just follow this corridor, take a left turn at the end, up the stairs and..." There was a rather condescending look on the older woman's face. "Perhaps I should take you there myself."
Again they walked side by side, not speaking. Sara couldn't make out if this was because of the animosity on Sofia's mother's side or if the woman was just not very talkative. But then she had seen the way she got along with the others, which made her realize, that the silence did indeed have to do with herself. Which only increased her nervousness.
They arrived at Detective Curtis' office only a few minutes later. The blonde was sitting behind her desk, typing up something on her computer. From the looks of it, she was catching up on reports. When there was a knock at her door, she looked up, her face lighting up upon recognizing her visitor. "Mom. What are you doing here?"
"Miss Sidle has just shown me round her lab and now that we are finished for the night, I'd thought we'd take a break and have some coffee and sandwiches."
Sofia only now noticed that the younger brunette was waiting outside her office. Body held a bit too straight, but still a vision of understated sexuality with her tight t-shirt and low neckline. Like always it made Sofia's stomach flutter. She gave Sara a quick smile in greeting, but the CSI only nodded back. Not good. What had her mother done? "Did you like it?" she asked the older woman, still keeping one eye on Sara, gauging her reaction.
"It was interesting. We can talk about that over lunch. Can you get away from your reports long enough to join us?"
"Sure." Sofia pushed a few papers together, turned off her monitor and got up. "Captain Brass told me to take it light this week and spend as much time with you as possible."
"The captain must be a wise man then. Probably has a daughter himself he sees too little of."
"I can ask him."
"No, that's quite alright. You just join us at your cafeteria or wherever you usually eat something."
"We don't have a cafeteria, mom."
"You don't?" The woman turned to Sara who was still standing at the office door, not coming in. She was shaking her head in confirmation
"But... where do you normally eat then?"
"Uhm," Sara didn't know what to say really. "I usually bring something with me."
"You two never go out?" It was a very strange way of formulating that question. "No wonder[,] you are too thin. Are you also a vegetarian, Miss Sidle?"
Sara was a bit suprised. "I don't know what you mean by 'also' but, yes, I am."
"Ah." There was a smug smile on Captain Curtis' lips, glancing over at her daughter and then back to the brunette. It was very confusing. Sara felt as if she had just taken a test and... passed? Failed? Whatever it was, she wished she could just leave. The blonde detective seemed to come to the same conclusion. "Mother, I think Sara would really like to go back to her lab now. But we two can go to a nice bar and restaurant, just a couple of blocks away."
"Nonsense, of course she will join us. Your friend Grissom gave her an assignment to help me with any questions I have concerning the work here." She turned to Sara again. "And I still have a lot of questions."
While the three women made their way over to the bar a couple of blocks down the road, it dawned on Sara that Sofia's mother made captain for a reason. Underneath that deceptively charming exterior lay a dogged determination to get what she wanted. Dragging a few feet behind mother and daughter, she compared the way they appeared. Sofia was a good two inches taller than her mother. Her gait was much more relaxed, though straight forward. Captain Curtis on the other hand walked as if she was Commander in Chief in high heels. While Sofia was wearing black chinos and a fitting shirt, her mother was all dressed up in an elegant grey skirt suit. But where Sofia was soft and feminine, her mother looked... hard to describe really. She was neither stocky, nor overtly thin. She had a certain grace, but underneath the flesh there was a hint of steel. Like a lion tamer in a show girl outfit. Sara shook her head. I'm starting to sound like Greg, she mused. Every now and then either Captain Curtis or Sofia turned their heads as if to check if she was still following. As if Sara had any means to escape. You owe me, Gil. She thought. You owe me big time.
They found a nice secluded booth at the end of the bar. The place wasn't exactly packed, but considering the late hour, there were still a lot of customers. Most of them cops, since this was the nearest place to the precinct and a lot of them came round to either eat or unwind after shift.
Captain Curtis ordered a burger for herself and some coffee, while both Sara and Sofia chose the house salad and a soda. After the waitress had picked up their orders and brought the coffee, the captain excused herself to go to the ladies room. After she left, there was an uncomfortable silence at the table.
"So..." Sara tried, not really knowing what to say, "...that's your mother."
"Yup." Sofia answered, playing with her napkin.
"How do you..." No, it was probably presumptuous to ask how one could get along with such a person. "Is she always like that?"
Sofia looked up, wariness in her eyes. "Like what?"
"I don't know." Sara only now realized that she didn't even know, what she wanted to say. There was a lull in their conversation as the waitress brought their drinks. Sofia would have inquired further what the brunette thought, but Sara did not look like she wanted to pursue this topic. "We went to the morgue." She commented instead. "Your mother had a long conversation with Doc Robbins."
Monosylabic. That was how it had been for over two months now. Whenever the blonde tried to strike up a conversation that wasn't work related, Sara answered with fewer and fewer words, until the blonde had simply stopped trying. Frustratedly Sofia took a sip of her drink. If having dinner with Sara was as bad as this, maybe she should be thankful they never went on an actual date. Like pulling teeth, she thought. Just without the kinky white smock.
"Did you know that your mother has been almost sued for wrongful procedure last year?"
"No," Sofia was surprised. Not only by the information but that Sara was actually talking again. "I knew there was some trouble with the local press about some case, but I didn't know that."
"I think that's why they restructured the department."
"Did she tell you that?" There was a slightly hurt tone in the detective's voice. But then it did hurt that the CSI might know something Sofia didn't.
Sara shook her head. "I assumed from the discussion the captain had with Doc Robbins." She threw Sofia a quick glance. "We didn't really talk."
'Neither do we.' Sofia thought, but didn't say anything. Instead she took another sip of her soda. There was another silence that stretched uncomfortably.
"I think she hates me." The remark was supposed to sound casual, but came out a bit edgy.
Sofia put her glass down staring at Sara. "Why do you say that?"
"Just..." She's your mother, you tell me... "I don't know."
The blonde eyed her sceptically. "You can't think that she hates you and not know."
Sara closed her eyes. Why had she even said anything. "I think she hates what I'm doing. She thinks I'm interfering with police work and..." When she noticed the questioning look on Sofia's face, Sara interrupted herself. "Forget it."
"No, what did you want to say?" There was a hint of something in the detective's voice, the brunette couldn't decipher, but didn't trust. She tried a different approach. "You two have a lot in common."
This time it was obvious what the blonde felt. Anger. "If you think that I hate you too...," there was a dangerous pause, "...the jury's still out on that one."
"That's not what I meant."
"Then what is?" Sofia shot back.
Sara closed her eyes, sighing. She hated this. Talking, emotions, talking about emotions. Not really her strong side. Seems she never found the right words. "I don't..."
"...know. Yes, we've established that." The blonde detective finished her sentence furiously, looking at Sara. "Is there anything you do know, Sara?"
Before the brunette could answer, Captain Curtis came back to their table sitting down. She looked at both younger women, noticing the tension that had built since she had been gone. What is going on here, she wondered. Promising herself she would get to the bottom of this.
"So, mom" Sofia tried steering her mother away from the tension at the table. "How do you like your visit so far?"
"It's interesting. There's a lot of detail to pay attention to."
"Procedure mostly..." Captain Curtis smiled at the younger brunette sitting opposite of her. "There is one question you still haven't answered though, Miss Sidle. With all the when, what, who, how, you so meticulously and scientifically unravel... what exactly do you leave for the detectives to do?"
Sara considered the question. It was asked innocently enough, but the wary look on Sofia's face made her hesitate. "Maybe you should ask your daughter that question, Captain Curtis. She is the one doing the work."
"But I already know what my daughter has to say." The older woman replied, stopping her daughter from saying anything with a glance. "What I am interested in... is your opinion." She smiled sweetly, taking a sip of her coffee. "Do you respect the work my daughter is doing, Miss Sidle?"
Sara looked at Sofia. She couldn't shake off the feeling there had to be a trap somewhere, but couldn't quite put her finger on it. When the blonde made no attempt to help her, she carefully answered. "I prefer the scientific side of law enforcement, if that is what you are asking, but I do respect what the police is doing as well."
"But you don't like it." Ann Curtis' remarked conversationally.
"I see." There was another smile. "What part of a detective's work don't you like, Miss Sidle?"
"I don't understand?"
"Is it the investigative part, the reports, the surveillance, testifying before court? I'm only wondering because everything you and your colleague Mr. Sanders have told me so far doesn't sound that much different from what a police officer is doing. Except for the expensive gadgets you get to play with of course."
"That's not what I meant." Sara tried to explain.
"Then what do you mean, Miss Sidle?" The Captain went in for the kill. "And don't insult my intelligence by saying the guns and the car chases. As a criminal scientist working closely with the police you should know that those opinions are mostly based on misconceptions and prejudices presented on television."
Dinner went downhill from that. Between Ann Curtis' provocative and prying questions and Sara's half-hearted atempts to elucidate her work, Sofia felt more than uncomfortable. It's not that the brunette hadn't tried to explain what she and the team at CSI did exactly. But whenever she did, using cases they had solved as examples, Sofia's mother reacted the same. That's all very well, but what did the detectives do? In the end, it seemed as if Sara's prejudices were personally responsible for frustrated police officers quitting their jobs. And the way she put it, Sofia felt that way too.
"I'm not doing it again." Sara stormed into Grissom's office, not caring that Catherine Willows was already there.
"What are you not doing again?" Gil took off his glasses, confused.
"Babysitting that woman."
"That bad?" Catherine chuckled. She had heard about Greg's little dance routine earlier and how embarassed Sara had been by it, but other than that the rumour mill had been quiet. "Does she consider us a bunch of freaks?"
"No." Sara really didn't care the other woman was there. "She hates me."
"I wonder why." The mumbled comment earned Catherine an annoyed glance from the brunette, which made her smile ever broader. Turning to Grissom Sara demanded. "Can we talk about this alone?"
"There's nothing to talk about."
"No but, Sara. I gave you that assignment because I trust in your abilities." Grissom was unphased by her outburst. "Now if you'd excuse us, Catherine and I have a case to take care off."
Stunned the young woman looked at the man, she had once had a crush on. How could he be so indifferent? Without another word she turned. It was only one more night anyway.
When she was gone, Catherine looked at Grissom, still amused.
"What?" He questioned.
"What are you up to, Gil? That was positively cruel towards Sara."
"You could at least have told her that Captain Curtis asked especially for her."
He shrugged. "She'll find out sooner or later. Now where were we?"
"You're not helping, mom." Sara was not the only one who was angry because of last night's discussion. Sofia sat on the edge of her desk, glaring at her mother. "We barely get along as it is."
"And I'm beginning to see why. That woman needs to get layed, if you ask me. She's wound tighter than a spring." Ann Curtis supplied, finding the mixture of anger and embarassement on her daughter's face somewhat amusing.
Sofia's blushed, but tried to ignore that remark. "After you practically insulted her integrity and work ethics half the night," she continued, "I was surprised, she stayed so calm."
Which gave the blonde detective pause to think. Why did Sara stay so calm? The two of them had exchanged words over lesser subjects. Okay, they hadn't actually fought. Most of the time Sara had just stopped talking, looked at her and walked away. Or, if walking away wasn't an option, had changed the subject.
"Well, I wasn't." Captain Curtis interrupted her daughter's line of thought.
"Would you get into a fight with her mother if she had been watching?"
"But that's different."
"I'm attracted to her and wouldn't want to alienate her."
"Ah huh!" There was a smug grin on Ann Curtis' face.
Sofia just gaped at the woman as if she had grown another head. "You're wrong."
There was a long pause, in which the captain gave her daughter time to think. Finally she added. "I still don't know what you see in that woman, Sofia. But... if there is one thing I have learned in my years as a police officer it's to observe people. And if my observation skills haven't failed me completely, I can tell you: she is definitely attracted to you."
What do you do when your mother is too direct and too nosy? You either yell at her or ignore it. Sofia felt like doing both and hugging her at the same time. Okay, their conversation hadn't exactly been fun. But still, there was some merit to Ann's observation. From nobody else Sara would have taken that kind of insult to her integrity. Yes, she had been tense, had taken deep breaths as if to avoid exploding, but she had managed to stay polite, no matter how much Ann Curtis had provoked her. For which Sofia was sure she should apologize. The question was: could they manage to get past their tension and finally talk?
"Got a minute?" Between last night's discussion, the brush off from Grissom and not really looking forward to another round of Ann Curtis' provocations, the last thing Sara needed was a visit from the blonde detective. "Sure." She sighed, turning towards the door of the break room, facing Sofia.
The blonde stepped closer, looking uncomfortable. "I... um," she started. This was really difficult. Sara was sitting at the table, arms crossed over her chest, staring at her impatiently. Why did she have to look so damn sexy when she's angry, Sofia thought. "Look, I'm sorry." There, she said it. "It's all my fault."
Your fault? That your mother is a bitch? That I'm stuck with her? That she hates me? "You told her." It wasn't a question.
"She's my mother." Sofia stared at the brunette, gauging her reaction. "I needed to tell someone."
Sara shrugged, uncrossing her arms and picking up the papers she'd been reading. "You could have picked someone else."
"We are not having that discussion again." Sofia was angry now. How could the woman she had so passionately made love to only a few months ago be suddenly so indifferent? Even Grissom shows more feelings than you do, she thought. "Well...", she sighed, when no reaction was forthcoming. "...guess I should leave you alone again."
"Guess you should." The finality of that remark hurt. Before Sara had a chance to say anything more or see the tears starting to built in Sofia's eyes, the blonde left.
It was only when she was sure of being alone again, that Sara's cool facade dropped.Why did everything have to be so difficult? Her thoughts turned back to the weekend she and the blonde had shared some time ago. They got close, too close. Sara knew that it hadn't been Sofia's fault it hadn't worked out. The blonde had a way of getting under her skin that terrified the CSI. She thought of all the times she had trusted someone and been disappointed. Not this time. Her attraction to the passionate detective was too strong. If she opened up and got hurt again... Sara was not sure if she could cope. "I'm sorry." She whispered more to herself than the blonde, who was long gone.
Surprisingly the second night with Captain Curtis went much better than the first. As if an unspoken truce had been made, the captain was polite and avoided any provocative questions. Instead the two women tried to focus on the pros and cons of close cooperation between scientific investigators and the more traditional police officers. They visited the different labs, the garage and interrogation rooms, every now and then talking to some of the people working there. It was on the subject of witness interviews and suspect interrogations they finally met. Sara was good at making the captain see where physical evidence led to more information about how a crime had been conducted. But when it came to actually using the evidence to nail down a suspect, she bailed. Captain Curtis was a bit surprised. "You don't interrogate the suspects?"
Sara shook her head. "Catherine does, she's good at it, as is Grissom. Though I think he mainly listens, but I'm trying to avoid it as much as I can."
Now that was interesting. "Why?" Ann Curtis was curious. It had been one of her main critiques towards the interdisciplinary work of Las Vegas CSI. Too much meddling where they lacked the training. To suddenly have Sara Sidle admit that she didn't like interrogations was a surprise.
"It's... just me, I guess. Getting a suspect to talk, seeing through their lies... Physical evidence does not lie."
"No, but then physical evidence has no emotions either. There is always a story behind a crime, one of passion, of hate, greed or pain. Sometimes we have to have compassion, not only for the victims but for the perps as well. In the end we not only decide over guilt but over sentence."
"That's not for me to decide though. We have a whole system of people whose job it is to ask themselves these questions. The court, the jury, lawyers, DAs."
"On whose opinion? Have you ever testified before court, Miss Sidle?"
"Yes, several times."
"And have you witnessed testimonies by police officers?"
Sara closed her eyes. Of course she had. Patrol officers, detectives, they all had made statements in the case against her mother. They helped create the picture of an abusive, disturbing household where violence reigned. Based partly on facts, partly on interpretation. The picture hadn't even come close to the truth. Blinking she tried to push the images back. "I'm sorry. What did you say?"
Captain Curtis knew that look. Something she had said had hit a nerve with the young woman. If this had been an interrogation, the captain would have pushed further. Instead she shook her head. "Nothing important."
Sara nodded, still not quite back, relieved that the older woman was much more open and understanding tonight. On impulse she said. "It's late. We should call it a night. Do you want me to drive you back to your hotel?"
It was difficult to hide her surprise, but Captain Curtis managed. "I would love that."
The two women got into the Denali and fastened their seatbelts. Sara had not planned on playing chauffeur, but since everyone including Sofia was out on a case the offer had just slipped her mouth. They drove off in silence, the Captain only asking if she could turn on the radio to which Sara nodded. The station played some mellow country music, not particularly Sara's taste but it was okay for the drive.
"Miss Sidle?" They had been driving for a good ten minutes and the brunette had almost forgotten she wasn't alone in the car.
"Captain, I... I would really appreciate if you would stop calling me 'Miss Sidle'. My name is Sara."
"Sara." Captain Curtis repeated slowly. "That's a nice name, Sara." It felt strange to hear a voice so similar to Sofia's saying that. "May I ask you a personal question, Sara?"
If it had been twentyfour hours earlier, she would have said no. "Yes."
"Why do you dislike my daughter?" The question was asked in a neutral tone, but Sara still remembered last night. Carefully she replied. "I don't."
"Interesting." There was no hint of what the older woman was thinking. "She thinks you hate her."
They drove on for another mile with no further comment from the Captain. After a while Sara felt the need to elaborate. "I don't know Sofia well enough."
"No, you probably don't, do you." Captain Curtis answered. "You two never speak outside of work. I wonder why that is." The last bit seemed to be directed more at herself than her driving companion. Sara still thought about it. "We're different."
"How so?" There was genuine interest in Sofia's mother's voice.
Sara surprised herself by answering. "Isn't it obvious? I'm a scientist, she's a detective. I like to rationalize things. Collect evidence, reconstruct what happened and how. She likes to question people..."
"... and emotions. Sorting through lies to find the truth." Captain Curtis finished. "Sofia can be very inquisitive, can't she?"
"I can see how that would frighten you."
"I'm... I'm not frightened." Sara was too perplexed by the turn the conversation had taken to not reply. Still there must have been something in her tone to make the other woman apologize. "I'm sorry. That was too personal." Conversationally she added. "The truth is but an equivocation of lies. Something my daughter and I both have in common: too much interest in other people's emotions. Sometimes we overstep the limits when a person fascinates us."
They continued in silence for a few more minutes. It struck Sara as odd that Captain Curtis would actually ask about her apprehension of Sofia. She knew what had happened, that much was clear from her brief encounter with Sofia in the break room. At least part of it. But wasn't the usual behaviour towards somebody who dumped your daughter to be angry? Why wasn't she? It sounded almost as if the captain was genuinely trying to understand what had happened. Last night's behaviour made a lot more sense than the polite curiosity of tonight. What had changed? What did Sofia tell her? And why? Sara continued this line of thinking for a few more minutes, until she couldn't keep it inside any longer. She had to know. "Why did you ask? About Sofia and me?"
"See. You do question motive too. Not so different after all." The other woman teased briefly. "My daughter is under the impression you're in love with that boss of yours."
"That is ridiculous." It came out more forceful than Sara would have wished.
"I met the man. I believe you. But she doesn't." Captain Curtis seemed to find the outburst pretty interesting. She continued on a more serious note. "For reasons I'm only now beginning to understand Sofia is very fond of you, Sara Sidle." She threw the younger woman a look. "I would appreciate if you could straighten this mess out before it get's even worse."
Sara didn't know what to say. "I'm not sure I understand."
"Yes, you do, Sara." The woman stated finally upon reaching their destination. They were already entering the parking lot of the Bally's. Sara found a parking space near the entrance and stopped the car. Captain Curtis got out, but held the door open. She looked at Sara as if to size her up. Then she gave her a tiny smile. "You can lie to yourself, Sara Sidle. You can even lie to me." She said. "But please stop lying to my daughter. She's been through too much lately."
"I'll... try." Sara shrugged, understanding finally making her insecure.
"I know you will." For a moment it looked as if the Captain would simply leave, but then a hand was offered, which Sara took without hesitation.
"Goodnight Captain Curtis."
Sara looked at the woman. So much like her daughter and yet so different. Maybe she should stop lying to herself. "Goodnight... Ann."
"I hear our Jane Doe has been identified?" Catherine was standing in Detective Curtis' office who was just about to shut down her computer.
"Yes, we trailed one of the gas receipts. The men working there knew her. A Mrs. Martha Hubert." Sofia checked her pager, then put it away. "Seems she was a person of habit. Dropped by once a week on her way to the casinos."
Catherine noticed a tiredness in the other woman's voice. "I guess you're glad the case is closed then. You look beat."
Sofia gave the older woman a weary smile. "For taking it light, it's been quite a few days. Thankfully I have tomorrow off."
"Gonna spend it with your mother?"
"No, the conference starts tomorrow afternoon. After two nights at graveyard with Sara, she'll probably sleep and then head straight over."
"Ah." Catherine grinned as if remembering something. "Nights with Sara can be very intense."
"Speaking from experience?" Sofia couldn't help herself. There was a hint of jealousy in her voice.
Catherine stared at her blankly. It took two beats before she realized what she had said. "I'm not suicidal." She replied smirking. "I won't get in the line of that fire. That's your job, detective."
"What makes you say that?" Sofia carefully questioned.
Catherine just cocked her head. Not good. If Catherine knew, Grissom knew and if Grissom knew... Sofia rubbed the bridge of her nose. She was too tired to think about the implications. "Never mind." She said. "I'm going home now."
She started walking past Catherine but a hand on her shoulder stopped her. "Word of advice?"
"Why not." She sighed.
"Don't push her."
Sofia chuckled bitterly. "It's a little late for that."
"Oh." Catherine squinted at her. "I didn't know."
"No one does."
"Then..." Catherine tried to think of something appropriate to say. Instead she settled for a compassionate squeeze. "Good luck."
The drive home was uneventful. Traffic was low, which was good since Sofia was too tired to pay attention to any tourists making sudden u-turns or park-driving on the streets while looking for something. When she reached her apartment building, she didn't notice the black Denali parked across the street. It was only when she entered that a low "hey," startled her.
Sara. Under different circumstances she would have been happy to see the other woman[,] waiting next to her apartment door. But tonight all she wanted was some sleep and no fighting. Sofia unlocked the door, entering her apartment. She left the door ajar, so the brunette could follow. No need to leave her standing outside.
"Been waiting long?" She asked, simply to check if Sara had followed the unspoken invitation. The blonde took off her jacket and threw it over the couch, while clipping off her gun holster and cuffs, putting them into a kitchen drawer. Then she went into her bedroom to change.
Sofia had heard the faint clicking of the apartment door, right before Sara had replied. So she was still there. The blonde opened her closet, pulling out some t-shirt to sleep in, then taking off her clothes. She couldn't care less if Sara saw her or not. Hell, she's seen more of me than my naked back, she thought. When she turned around to enter the bathroom, Sara was standing in the doorway, staring holes in the ground. Sofia shook her head. "You can look now." She said, waiting until Sara looked up again, to pull down her t-shirt. The sudden blush on the CSI's face made Sofia hide a smirk. She went into the bathroom, closing the door this time. Intimate or not, there were some things you rather did alone. When she was finished, she opened the faucet to brush her teeth.
"Can we talk?" Came the muffled voice of Sara Sidle over the running water. Even with the interference Sofia could hear the desperation in the other woman's voice. Good. She rinsed her mouth and splashed cold water on her face. When she had dried off, she opened the door again, staring at her guest. "No."
Shock registered on Sara's face. She had not expected that. Okay, they weren't on the best of terms at the moment. But up til now, she had had the impression that Sofia would be thrilled by her offer. The cold brush off hurt. "Sofia, I..."
"No, Sara." The blonde said adamently, crawling into her bed. "I've been up for thirty hours straight, I'm bone tired and the last thing I need right now is another one of our 'talks'." She moved over to the right side of the bed, pulling up the blanket next to her. "If you really want to, we can talk in the morning. Before breakfast, if we have to. But right now we're going to sleep." And with that she turned off the light, leaving the other woman stunned. Internally Sofia counted to ten. No movement, no sounds except the rythmic breathing that told her Sara Sidle was still in the room. She smiled at herself. So that's how it works. She opened her eyes, even though she could see very little in the dark. Just a shadow where the other woman was looming beside the door. When Sofia saw her turning towards the bedroom door, she growled. "Come to bed, Sara."
There was a slight hesitation, then the rustle of clothes being taken off. Sofia's heart skipped a beat. She was quite awake now, wondering if she should turn the light back on. She would love to see the expression on Sara's face. Never mind her body. She felt rather than saw the CSI entering the other side of the bed. Carefully pulling up the blanket, so as not to touch the other woman, breathing more rapidly now. Sofia wondered if she should take advantage of the situation, but decided against it. Instead she just rolled on her left and wrapped an arm around Sara's waist, pulling the reluctant brunette closer. Cuddling up against the warm body, Sofia was fast asleep.
Sara was not that lucky. A sleepover was the last thing she had planned. Talking. Yes, talking had been foremost on her mind. For two hours she had waited outside the building in her car, knowing from a quick call to the station that Sofia was still at work. Thankful that she had had the chance to build up her courage first.
After dropping Ann Curtis off, Sara had been driving around for a bit until she found herself in front of Sofia's apartment building. She had parked the car and simply waited. Thoughts about her past relationships had gone through her head. Not the meaningless sexcapades of her youth, but real relationships. Grissom. Not a relationship as such, but then unrequited love could be so fulfilling. No responsibility, no unexpected heartbreaks, just a constant ache and longing she was already familiar with. Then there was Hank. Easy going, charming, a bit shallow. He was engaged of course. Having a last little fling on the side before the big step. For working in law enforcement, she could be very dense sometimes, Sara chastised herself. No home number, just a cell phone. No weekends, rather breakfast after shift and a quick roll in the hay every now and then. They never even went to his apartment. If she had really thought about it, she could have known from the start. At least the sex had been good. Not as 'good' as with Sofia, a tiny voice piped up, making her blush. Sara's thoughts went back to the weekend, she had spent at the blonde's place a few months ago. It hadn't been mindblowing. Or particularly original. Yet. They had still been strangers to each others bodies. Not secure in the knowledge what gave the most pleasure, what was needed, accepted and what wasn't. There had been potential though. Sara was sure that given the chance, Sofia would have simply asked her. But she never gave her that chance. The brunette had already felt too vulnerable, sharing parts of herself with the other woman, who got under her skin so easily. It did frighten her. Ann Curtis had been right on the spot. So she had backed off. Stopped any questions with kisses, silenced Sofia's interest with her body. Trying to reduce their love making to the physical act. Don't let her get too close, she'll only hurt you. When Sara had gone home that night, she had already made up her mind. Keeping the blonde at arm's length had been difficult at first. Sofia wasn't one to just accept without questioning the why and how. But Sara had had a lot of experience with distancing herself from people. In the end she had gotten what she wanted, with the blonde avoiding her as much as possible.
Then how come I'm lying in her bed again? She asked herself. Because you need to. Because even your rational mind told you that the only way you'll ever experience happiness is to let someone get close. Even if it's just for one night. Slowly turning in the embrace, so as not to disturb the sleeping woman, Sara just looked at her in the dark. Trying to figure out what was so special about Detective Sofia Curtis. They shared an interest in science, that much was obvious. Something the woman had in common with Grissom, but wasn't as particular about. The dry banter and flirting was fun too. Sara missed that, knowing it was her own fault. Then there was the cop thing. The problem with authority was it repulsed and fascinated her at the same time. Coming to terms with the blonde's choice of careers was still difficult. But then Ann had been right. It wasn't the guns that made a good detective. But most of all, Sofia seemed to have an implicit understanding of what Sara felt.
She sighed, taking a deep breath. Inhaling the soft scent of the woman in front of her. It invoked a sense of longing. Sara considered kissing Sofia, her lips only inches from her own. She leaned closer. Her mouth slightly open. Imagening how it would feel, how Sofia would react. Would she wake up? Annoyed? Angry? Or would she respond, letting her hands travel along Sara's body? The brunette tried to think back to the first time they had been in this bed. Sofia had been passionate, yet tender, as if holding back. Would she still be the same? Or would the underlying anger of being rejected for so long take control? Unleash something more... intense maybe? And would that be such a bad thing? Involuntarily Sara clenched her fist. Taking a deep breath to calm hersel, she lifted her hand, running it alongside the strands of blonde hair, the shoulders, down to the blonde's waist. Trying to experience the firm muscles, the soft skin without actually having to touch it and wake the blonde. Because if she did wake up... If I could only let go. Sara's breath quickened. So many possibilities. She tried concentrating. On anything but. Trying too much. Her imagination running wild. It became more and more difficult keeping her body from pressing closer against the sleeping woman. Her legs rubbing together slowly, forcing the ache under control. Not good. Stop thinking about it. Talking. Concentrate on talking. If you could talk to her now... where would you start?
It had been over a year ago, but Sara still remembered every detail. Devon Matlon. A five year old boy had been found dead, a victim of starvation. They had nothing to go on. He was John Doe minor, just another case file. Weeks, if not months of abuse etched into the boy's tiny body. They had all felt horrible about him, but she had been the only one losing sleep over it. After five years of working for Las Vegas CSI, Sara knew quite well to not let anybody see how personal these cases got for her. They never quite understood. Of course no one knew about her past then, not even Grissom. Therefor it came as a surprise when one person actually did care. And had tried to help. A person she least expected it from.
She had been sitting over CPS files for hours, trying to find a clue on who the young boy may have been, when the latest addition to graveyard had entered the lab. "I'll, uh... ran John Doe minor's DNA against the missing person's database." Sofia Curtis had said, looking a bit unsure. "I'm sorry, no hits."
"Yeah, I'm not surprised." Sara had tried to be somewhat nonchalant. "They didn't care enough to feed him, why would they report him missing?"
At that time, she had been distrustful of the attractive newcomer. Sofia had been Ecklie's right hand, was flirting with Grissom. There really hadn't been any reason to think, that she might be different from the others. But even then the blonde had had a certain determination not to be brushed aside by her new co-worker. "What's going on in here?"
"The victim had a prior abuse fracture." Stating the facts.
"And you're hoping Child Protective Services investigated?"
"Well, based on the age of the victim, the age of the fracture and the break pattern I found ten possible matches."
"Well, it's going to take you forever to go through these alone." Sofia had tried to help her. Selflessly. It hadn't even been her case. But Sara hadn't been ready then. "I'll get it done."
She still remembered the hurt look in Sofia's eyes. It had been the first time she had really looked at the other woman. Noticed the emotions the blonde had been so freely willing to share with her. Sara still remembered what Sofia had said. "It took me a long time to get where I was, Sara. Now I feel like I'm starting from scratch. I miss sleeping at night. I miss my colleagues. I miss..."
Trust. That's what it all came down to. Being trusted. Trusting someone else. Sara took a deep breath. "I'm willing to try." She mumbled, settling closer in Sofia's embrace. It was then, that sleep finally claimed her too.
It took a moment for Sara to realize that the question was not part of a dream. "Mmh." She mumbled, not quite able yet to give any other affirmation.
"I'll put it on the night stand." Sofia said, carefully placing the full mug next to the waking woman. "I'll be outside reading. You can come out when you're ready."
"What time is it?" Heavy curtains were draped before the bedroom windows. There was no way to tell the time by the light outside.
"Way before noon. We still got a lot of time before your shift starts." Sofia was already at the door. "Drink your coffee, get up and then we can talk."
'Oh yeah, talk.' Sara was wide awake now. Wondering how bad it would look to simply sneak out after downing her coffee. Very bad. Especially since it had been her idea in the first place.
She sat up in bed, taking a sip of the hot beverage, staring into space. Trying to regain the courage from last night, while the annoying inner voice started singing: ...the only way out is through...
Sofia sat comfortably on her couch, pretending to read. Watching her, she seemed calm and relaxed, when in reality she was nervously listening to the sounds first from the bedroom, then from the bathroom. She's up. She put down the mug. She's in the bath. The shower is running. She's...singing? Sofia looked up from her book, listening more closely. 'Nice voice' she thought, grinning to herself, her nervousness gone. If Sara is singing, our talk can't get too bad. Sofia hadn't been just facetious last night. She really had been too tired. But telling Sara 'no' then asking her to stay had been a big risk. Now she was glad it had worked out. Maybe we'll work out our problems too.
It didn't take long for the brunette CSI to get ready, get dressed and enter the living room. At first the blonde seemed to ignore her, so she went over to help herself to more coffee.
"Alanis Morrisette?" The question came unexpected. "I hadn't pegged you for the singer/songwriter type."
"It seemed appropriate." Sara put sugar into her coffee, stirred, then made her way over to the couch. "Some things just stay in your mind."
"Like me?" Sofia looked up, putting her book aside. Sara smiled slightly. They sat in silence for a few minutes. Sofia forcing herself not to ask any questions. If Sara wanted to talk, it should be on her own terms. Instead she waited.
"Do you remember Devon Malton?"
That wasn't quite the topic Sofia expected. Confused she scrunched up her brow. "Wasn't that the dead kid whose brothers you saved?"
"I wouldn't say I saved them."
"Not per se, no. But if you hadn't been so determined to find out who Devon was, nobody would have made the connection and found them in time."
"Yeah, maybe", Sara felt uncomfortable. She'd never seen it that way. Kevin and Raymond had been saved. The how and why was of petty interest now. She steered back to her original thought. "There was one thing I always wondered about."
"Why..." Sara took a deep breath. "When I was going through those CPS files, you offered to help me, though it wasn't even your case. I've always wondered..."
"Why I would do that? When everybody else was busy with the other cases?" Sofia completed the question, while Sara simply nodded.
"Several reasons." Sofia paused for a moment, thinking back. "It was a kid, abused. I thought, I'd feel better, putting a name to him, a story. Maybe understand what had happened and why." She looked at Sara who stared at the mug in her hand, trying to lighten the mood. "Plus you looked really cute. So determined, all alone going through those heaps of files. I just wanted to be there for you. You didn't let me though."
"Not then, no."
"I understand that now. I was new." Sofia sighed. It had been a difficult time. First the demotion, then being distrusted because she was 'Ecklie's girl'. Few people had trusted her at first, Sara Sidle definetly not one of them. She could understand why Sara had picked that incident to get the conversation going. Trust was an issue between them.
"How about Svetlana Melton?" The unexpected change of subject threw Sofia for a loop. She wrecked her brain until she came up with a picture. "The russian mail-order-bride? You got suspended because of her case."
"I got into a fight with a supervisor."
"Catherine? I never did get that. She'd been your co-worker up until then. Probably fought with you often."
"I was out of line, told her she'd use sex to get what she wants while Ecklie was listening."
"Yeah, I remember the rumours." Sofia chuckled. "Not your smartest move. Though it took high and mighty Miss Willows down a notch. I still don't think it was reason enough to suspend you. I'm guessing you had your reasons?"
Sara didn't answer. If this hadn't be her but a suspect instead, Sofia would have started to become impatient. She had no clue where this conversation was going. Especially not after the other woman changed the subject again. "What about Adam Trent?"
"His mother called him 'angel'."
"Oh him. Yeah, I remember that too. It was the first time I got you to go out with me." Sofia smiled, thinking back to that night. "We had a fight over pizza."
"Yeah, we did." Sara smiled too. "That was the first time I let you be there for me."
There was a long silence. Not as uncomfortable as two days ago in the restaurant, but stretching out nevertheless. Sofia got the feeling that Sara expected something from her. As if she was feeding her clues, to avoid having to actually talk about whatever it was she wanted to talk about. "Sara, why are you telling me all this? Devon, Svetlana, Trent. I don't see the connection."
"I thought you were a detective. Go figure it out."
So her feeling had been correct. There was an underlying meaning.
"Okay." Sofia said, going into cop mode, thinking long and hard. "Devon was a child, abused by his hooker aunt. Svetlana was a mail-order-bride, whose husband treated her like shit and Trent... he was just a psycho with an even weirder mother. There's nothing...." Sofia stopped to think, staring at Sara, mentally going over Sara's reactions to those cases, comparing it to the reactions of the rest of the team, to other cases. Slowly putting the pieces together. "Abuse, that's what they had in common. Domestic violence and abuse by people who should have loved and protected them."
"I still don't see why ..." The question wasn't directed at Sara who could see the wheels turning in Sofia's brain. Strangely relieved, she had picked this approach of telling the blonde while watching Sofia, mumbling to herself. The thinking out loud thing obviously only worked when the detective was trying to distance herself. A somber calm settled on the blonde's face, when realization finally dawned on her. She looked back at Sara. "What happened?"
Sara shrugged, placing the empty mug down on the coffee table. "The usual, I guess."
A hand reached out, gently squeezing her shoulder. "Do you want to tell me?"
Sara hesitated. Her first instinct was to say 'no, she didn't'. Didn't need the memories right now. Didn't want to see the sympathy and horror in Sofia's eyes when she told her. But then what if she didn't tell her? Would the blonde feel betrayed? How could Sara explain that there was a huge difference between 'not telling' and 'not trusting'. "I... I don't know."
"You don't have to. I won't ask." The soft reassurance by the blonde was too much. With the pressure gone, all tension fell away from Sara's body. Tears were running down her cheeks and she sobbed silently. Sofia just pulled her close and held her, not knowing what to say. So that's why. All the anger, the closing up, the difficulties relating to other people. The constant fear of being hurt. There was no need to get into detail now. Sara would tell her, if and when she felt like it.
It didn't take long for the brunette to pull herself together again. Making the tears stop was easy for Sara. Leaving the comfortable embrace wasn't. But they had more topics to talk about.
"What did you tell your mother about me and Grissom?"
Defensively Sofia moved back a little, feeling a slight pain in her chest. Her jealousy was not something she liked to discuss. "Why do you want to know?"
It suprised Sara to see how tense the blonde suddenly became. "Because she asked me about it."
"She did?" Sofia muttered. "You were right, I never should have told her about us."
"No, it's okay. Just because I have problems talking about my emotions, I shouldn't impose the same rules on you."
"Yeah, well, what did she say then?"
"That you think I'm in love with Grissom." There. She said it. Now Sara was awaiting the blonde's reaction.
Just two words, but potentially dangerous. Sara didn't want to lie, but didn't want to get Sofia's hopes up too high as well. "I'm not saying that emotionally unavailable men no longer hold an attraction for me. It's easy to want what you cannot have." Sara gauged Sofia's reaction. So far so bad. "There will be times when I'll get scared again and might run away."
"You didn't answer my question." The blonde observed detached.
"No, I didn't."
They looked at each other, holding their gazes. Finally Sofia shrugged. "Okay."
Sara held her breath, waiting for the 'but'.
"I won't force you to make a commitment, but..." the seriousness in Sofia's voice was not softened by a smile, "... but at lease promise me one thing."
"If I can."
"In case he does get emotionally available at one point..." There was a sudden twinkle in her eyes. "...warn me, so I can plan his untimely demise."
"No guns. We'd catch you in seconds." Sara deadpanned.
"Poison?" Sofia leaned closer, studying the CSI's neckline.
"Classic trademark of the scorned female." The brunette whispered. "Aren't you a little too butch for that?"
"What if I just strangle him with my bare hands?" Placing both hands on Sara's shoulder, starting to caress the neck and throat.
"Trace and DNA." Sara sighed, closing her eyes, leaning further into the touch.
"How about a big blunt object then?"
"Do you own any?"
Sofia wiggled her eyebrows, outlining Sara's ear with the tip of her tongue. "Would you like to find out?"
Any reply that could have been made was swallowed up by needy kisses.
Before they could get comfortable though, Sofia's cell phone went off. The blonde gave Sara a peck on the cheek and went over to the kitchenette to take the call. Sara could only understand half of what was said, but soon figured out it wasn't work related. She grinned. That gave them a few more hours before she had to head home to change and get back to work again.
When Sofia shut off her phone, she too had a huge smile on her face. Grinning at Sara who was putting the magazine away she had picked up while waiting. "My mom says 'hi'."
"She was trying to get me over to have lunch with her, before the conference started at three."
"What did you tell her?"
"That I wasn't hungry because we just had breakfast."
"You haven't fed me yet."
"Well, I will now."
Grissom was already handing out assignments, when Sara rushed into his office. "Sorry, traffic again." She mumbled for the second time this week. This time it hadn't been a question of what to wear but when to get dressed.
"I bet." Catherine chuckled, earning a disapproving look from both Grissom and Sara, while Nick and Greg only looked at each other, confused.
"I spoke to Ecklie about our work schedule for tomorrow. Since the NICFC ball doesn't start until nine o'clock, swing shift will help out, but I need two volunteers to be on call. I'll take one pager myself."
"Fine with me." Nick supplied before Sara could volunteer to make up for her tardiness. "You guys have fun dancing."
"Well, now that's settled... Warrick, Greg, we have a 419 down at the strip. Looks like a hit and run, see what you can get. Sara, Nick... you take the break and enter at Los Compadres. Cath and I'll go over to the police department. There's a briefing on the conference security, then we'll be on call. Any questions?"
"Los Compadres? Isn't that a meat cutting service?" Sara asked. "Why would somebody break into that?"
"Maybe they fancied themselves a nice filet mignon. Now move people."
"Is that a hickey?" Nick observed, while he and Sara got their stuff and moved out to the car.
"Thirty seconds of intentional bruising caused by a sucking notion, the most primitive and pubescent way of saying 'that one's mine'?" Sara tried her best to sound annoyed. "How old do you think I am?"
"So it is a hickey!" He grinned, trying to move the scarf to the side that almost successfully hid the purplish mark. Good naturedly Sara slapped his hand away.
Nick started humming to himself. "...k-i-s-s-i-n-g, first comes love..."
"Shut up, Nick." Sara growled, but couldn't help grinning back. This was gonna be one long night again.
The break and enter hadn't simply been a homeless guy who was hungry. Several pallets of prime filet were missing, several thousand grands worth. Nick took the inside of the building, where the boxes had been in a freezer storage, ready to be delivered to restaurants and markets the next morning. Sara was busy outside, making photos and taking tire prints. Captain Brass was the officer on scene, interviewing the night supervisor and the operations manager who had been called out of bed. When he was finished he went outside, talking to Sara. "What have you got?"
"No sign of a forceful entry. I checked the locks. Everything's clean, but there are a few prints." She answered, getting up from the floor, stretching her back. "We need fingerprints from all personnel working here."
"Nick is already making a list." Brass nodded. "It's the same with the storage lock. Few prints, no sign of force. So it's an inside job."
"Looks like it. I've taken a good two dozens of tire marks. Whoever went in there had to have a truck to load the pallets on." She said, carefully placing another set of prints in a folder and marking evidence number and position where found. "Preferably one with a cooling unit. With the heat in the past few days, the meat will turn bad within hours if not properly stored. So we also need a list of all the trucks the company owns and a list of customer trucks who pick their meat up themselves."
"I'll get it." Brass was about to turn back again when he stopped to look at Sara. "How did the visit of Captain Curtis go? I've hadn't had a chance to talk to her again since Monday."
He raised an eyebrow. "Was there a problem?"
"No, it was good. We got off on the wrong foot at first," Sara elaborated, "but the second night went well."
"That's good to hear." Brass commented. "Ecklie's been a pain in the ass, since I arranged to have her visit graveyard and not his precious day shift. Especially since she asked for you to give her the tour."
"Ecklie's always a pain." Sara answered only now realizing what Brass had said. "Ann Curtis asked for me?"
"Yeah. Personally I would have chosen Catherine. No offense, I know how much you and Gil hate playing tour guide, but since you and Sophie are friends... anyway it's good to hear that everything went fine."
"Hey. You finished out here?" Nick was putting his gear back into the Denali, heading over to Sara and Brass.
"I'll get the lists you asked for, then I think we can head back." The captain said, acknowledging the young man with a nod. "See you two at the ball tomorrow."
"Sure." Sara was still a bit lost in thought. When Brass was gone, Nick turned to his colleague. "Hey, you alright?"
"What? Yeah, fine."
He gazed at her sceptically. "You looked happier when we drove off."
"No, really it's fine." She smiled at him pleasantly. "Just something I need to ask Grissom about."
They went over to the car, Sara putting her stuff in the back and getting into the driver's seat.
"It's not him, is it?" Nick was a bit concerned. He considered Sara one of his closest friends and whished her all the happiness in the world. But if she was falling for Grissom again, heartache was bound to happen.
"No," she chuckled, pulling off. "It's most definetely not Gil. Quite the opposite."
"Don't be ridiculous." She laughed, picturing herself with the boyish CSI, shuddering. Like kissing your younger brother.
"Do I know him then?" Nick insisted, grinning himself.
Sara just smiled.
"Oh, come on, Sara." He whined. "You know all about my girlfriends too."
"So, you wanna know about mine? No deal."
He grinned. Gotcha. "I knew you'd make a great couple."
She just rolled her eyes. And while they were driving back to the lab, he again started singing under his breath. "Sara and Sofia sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s..." Which earned him another slap on the arm.
"Oh, shut up, Nick." But Sara couldn't stop smiling. Life was good.
Back at the lab, Grissom was sitting in his office, going over reports. He didn't look too happy. Being an administrator was not his favorite part of the job. The only reason why he had never envied Ecklie his position. It took him a moment, to realize that somebody was watching him. When he looked up, Sara was standing in the doorway, a dangerous sparkle in her eyes.
"Sara." He said, taking off his glasses. "How was the site?"
"Boring. Lot's of tire tracks. I'll spend the rest of the night scanning and running them through the computer."
"Good." He scanned his desk quickly, then pulled something out of a drawer. "Here. Captain Curtis came round earlier, to drop off the invitations for the ball tomorrow. I haven't gotten round to handing them out. Would you be so kind?"
He held up several envelopes, placing them on his desk. Sara stepped closer. "You set me up."
Grissom simply inclined his head.
"I don't need a diplomat, I need a scientist." She mimicked his comment from a few days back. "You could have told me."
"To what purpose?"
"As a warning. She was out to get me."
"That's what mothers do when they protect their cubs."
"She was trying to eat me alive."
"You look fine to me." He raised his eyebrow. "Except ..." Grissom pointed in the general direction of her scarf. "...that, uh, mark on your neck. But then I'm guessing you didn't get that from the captain."
Sara stared at him, blushing furiously. First Nick, now Grissom. Had it been that obvious? Before she could say anything, he put his glasses back on, going over his files again. "If you don't mind, I'd like to finish these."
"Sure." She sighed, picking the envelopes up and turning towards the door. "I'll deliver these."
She turned back.
"I'm happy for you... both." There was a sadness, but also honesty in his eyes. Sara nodded in understanding. "Thank you, Gil."
The rest of the night was spent scanning the tire marks. As soon as they were running through the computer, Sara used the time to deliver the invitations. She already had hers. Captain Curtis had come round Sofia's apartment earlier that evening to surprise her daughter and take her to dinner. What could have been an embarrassing moment went better than expected. Ann Curtis simply chose to ignore the fact that her daughter was more or less still in a state of undress, while her guest was obviously wearing the same clothes as the night before. Okay, it had been embarrassing, Sara admitted to herself. She was glad when Sofia's mother would be gone on Sunday. The week had been a bit too much for the normaly introverted woman.
Sara found Greg and Warrick in the garage going over a car that was probably involved in the hit and run they investigated. After a quick talk she handed over their invitations, then went to find Catherine and Wendy. Incidently she found both at the genetics lab. When she handed over their envelopes, Wendy was a bit surprised. "Hey, I didn't know I'd get one too. What am I supposed to wear?"
"I'm sure you'll figure something out." Sara shrugged smiling. She already had a dress in mind that she'd been window shopping for.
"Well, I think I'll try something a little risky."
"Be careful, Wendy." Sara grinned. "Drunken police officers are worse then octopi. 'Risky' might get a few heads turned."
"Well, they can look, if they touch... they'll find out what 'risky' really means."
"Catherine, what will you be wearing?"
"After what you just said?" Catherine laughed "I think I'll play it safe and opt for the classic black dress."
Wendy mused. "Mmmh, if you really want to play it safe, you shouldn't wear a dress at all."
"Uh... pant suit," Wendy quickly corrected herself, embarrased. "...that's what I meant, classic... black... uh, pant suit."
Sara nodded. Classic was definitely Catherine's style, whether in a suit or a dress. "Wendy's got a point there, Cath."
"I'll think about it." Catherine nooded, looking from one woman to the other. "Well, now that that's settled... can we go back to work?"
"Yeah. I still need to get into the morgue. I think Doc Robbins is looking forward to dancing with Captain Curtis."
With that Sara left the two women alone and went down to the morgue, handing over the invitations and getting back to work. Just another hour and she could call it a night. Tomorrow evening she had a ball to get ready for. The first real date with Sofia Curtis, whom she was supposed to pick up at eight thirty. Sara smiled to herself. In spite of everything, she was looking forward to it.
The ballroom at the Bally's was elobaretely decorated, a band was playing and even though it was still early, several couples were crowding the dance floor already. Some of the older police officers had come in dress uniform, most had borrowed a tux somewhere or gotten out their old dinner jackets. Even though law enforcement was still mainly a patriarchal society, several ladies were present as well, few as dates, most because they worked in the field too.
Grissom, Brass and Nick had arrived early. Grissom and Nick because they were on call and Brass because he was the designated date for Captain Curtis for the night. The four of them had met at the bar, having something to drink until the others arrived. First they were joined by Warrick, who insisted on not drinking and not staying for long. Marriage life kept him on a tight leash, but he seemed happy, so nobody teased him about it. Greg arrived a few minutes later, sporting a dinner jacket and matching trousers, looking surprisingly handsome and grown up. It was only when he insisted on having tied his bow himself that he lost a bit of his Bond-like charme. Still Captain Curtis made good on her promise to at least reserve one dance for him. While the couple was out on the dance floor, the others were joined by Doc Robbins. David was on call as well and as much as it pained him, he had felt more comfortable staying at the lab. They already had had a few drinks at their table, when Catherine and Wendy arrived fashionably late around nine thirty.
They were all having a great time dancing, laughing and drinking.
It was past ten when Greg excused himself, while Grissom and Doc Robbins decided that they'd rather have a quiet talk at the bar.
"Do you think, they're hoping on being paged?" Nick asked. He was enjoying himself immensely, but always kept an eye on his pager.
"I don't know." Catherine answered. "Maybe they just want to raid the buffet."
"Or they simply can't dance and are looking for an excuse." Captain Curtis had another practical approach.
"Well. I wouldn't mind another go at it." Brass smiled at the other captain. "How bout it, Captain?"
"I'd be delighted... Captain."
Jim Brass and Ann Curtis got up on the dancefloor, with the others being occupied in idle conversation.
A few minutes later, Greg came back to their table, out of breath and obviously very excited. "You won't believe what I just saw." He sat back at the table, getting his conspirational voice. Since Captain Brass and Captain Curtis were still out on the dancefloor, only his co-workers were left. "I was just in the men's room, innocently washing my hands..."
"Good to know you're potty trained." Nick teased his younger colleague, with the others chuckling as well.
"Yeah, yeah. Very funny. Anyway, I was standing there with the water running, when I heard heavy breathing coming from the ladies room. Sounded like either a make out session or like somebody in heavy pain. So... as the first class investigator I am, I go and take a look."
"You went into the ladies room?" Catherine raised one eyebrow. "Why do I find that not suprising."
"Well, with the sounds I was hearing, could have been someone was dying in there?" Greg was defending himself. "I'm always willing to help, you know."
"I bet." More chuckles all around.
"Now do you want to hear, what I have to say or play another round of 'insulting the Gregster'?"
"Yes." Wendy mocked. "To both questions."
"Okay, Sanders. Tell us." Warrick was starting to become impatient. "What did you see?"
"Well... I couldn't just walk in there of course. I mean, after all it is the ladies room, where you women go and do... whatever it is you're doing in there. So I just sort of stood by the door, which was slightly ajar and glanced inside. At first I didn't see much, but the sounds were getting louder and I was really worried..."
"Get to the point, Greg."
"So I carefully open the door another inch and I can see two dresses."
"Yup, they always go in pairs." Nick interjected knowingly. Catherine just rolled her eyes.
"One blonde in a red dress and one brunette in a blue dress. I couldn't see their faces, but they looked kind of hot with the contrast in colors and everything."
"It depends, was it more of a midnight blue or rather a lighter morning sky color?" Wendy was ever much the practical girl.
"More of a royal, but that's not the point." He replied irritated. "Anyway, the two dresses are rubbing up against each other, hands all over and I realize the two women are making out. So, no emergency right? Of course I wanted to leave immediately..."
"Of course." Catherine muttered, but leaned closer nevertheless to not miss a word of his story.
"... but... when I was just closing the door, they sort of broke off, to get some air or something. And I could see them:" He made a dramatic pause. "Guess what? It was Sara and Sofia Curtis, making out like teenagers. Those two are an item." He beamed at the others, proud of being the first to tell them.
"I know." Nick stated matter of factly, taking a sip of his drink.
"No news here." Catherine added, leaning back again, while Wendy shrugged. "Me too."
Greg was dumbfounded. "You knew?"
"I've worked in San Francisco. Your gaydar get's pretty fine tuned there." The lab tech said, throwing a glance at Catherine, who looked amazingly sexy in her black silk pant suit, without revealing too much skin. Greg just stared open mouthed.
"Well, I didn't." Warrick supplied, sipping from his drink as well. He wasn't impressed though. "But it doesn't suprise me."
"What's with you people? How come everybody knows except me?"
"What does everybody know?" The women in question had just walked over to the table. Sara's hair looked a bit disheveled, but Sofia was perfect as usual in her bright red dress. "Hi guys."
"Sanders here was just whining about the two of you getting together." Warrick explained. "Congratulations by the way."
"Thanks, I think." Sara gaped at the bunch of her sometimes friends. Working with science investigators could be a pain in the butt. No secret was safe for long.
"Never mind, Greg." Sofia was the first to recover. "I'm sure you'll get over it. Maybe Wendy is willing to help?"
"A tryst in the bathroom? That is so eighties." The lab tech was shaking her head.
"Uh." Sara blushed when she realized somebody must have seen them. Sofia took her hand, lifting it to her lips and kissing it in silent reassurance. No use in hiding anymore. "Well, next time we'll try something more up to date." She sat down, pulling Sara along, who was still a bit flustered by this unwanted attention.
"The interrogation room would be fine by me." Greg had finally overcome his shock and was already going through exciting possibilities in his mind. "Don't you just love the two-way mirrors?"
"Oh, I don't know." Wendy mused. "Voyeurism has it's advantages. Watching two beautiful women making out, kissing, touching each other... It is kind of hot." Staring dreamingly at the table cloth, drawing lazy circles with her fingers. "Though I'm more of a hands-on girl myself."
"Excuse me, I'll have to... go refresh my make-up." Catherine downed the last of her drink, then made a beeline for the ladies room.
"Wait, I'll join you."
Wendy was following quickly, with Nick just shaking his head. "See, always in pairs."
While the boys launched into a discussion on why women could never go alone, Sofia used the distraction to give Sara a tiny kiss on her earlobe, whispering. "I take it we're busted. You okay with that?"
"Do I have a choice?" The brunette answered without hesitation. She took their joint hands, placing a kiss on the back of Sofia's fingers. "Though I could live without the ribbing in the next few weeks."
The blonde smiled happily. "We'll be old news soon."
"You think so?"
"I know so. If you don't believe me, we could go back to the ladies room." Sofia leaned closer, inhaling the sweet scent that was Sara Sidle. "I have a funny feeling the eighties are making a comeback tonight."
As it turned out Sofia was right. The rest of the night was spent with idle conversation, laughter, drinks and a lot of dancing but the teasing stopped. It could have been because Nick and Grissom got paged after all. Or because Warrick left early. It might have been because Jim Brass, Captain Curtis and Doc Robbins returned to the table and couldn't care less about the new revelation. Or because Catherine was busy diverting attention from the subject. But the main reason was probably that Greg had gotten his fill of night time phantasies and was spending his pent up energy by leading every single female at the table to the dancefloor.
"Diversity." The closing statements of the NICFC had just begun when Grissom found his seat next to Sofia Curtis. She gave him a quick smile, instantly concentrating back on what her mother was saying on the podium. "Diversity is the subject I would like to talk about in my closing statements of this year's National Interdisciplinary Crime Fighting Conference. Diversity, not unity. For three days I have followed ideas on what interdisciplinary means. For three days I have attended panels, lectures and luncheons. I have listenend to subjects as controverse as "ARJIS - the Prospects of Digital Crime Fighting", as philosophic as "Strategic Thinking for Crime Control" or the much attended "Cutting Edge Technologies for Criminal Justice". For three days I have listened and observed. And after three days I'm still waiting for an answer: What does interdisciplinary crime fighting really mean?"
There was a slight pause, while Captain Curtis took a drink from her water, smiling at the audience. "Not that it wasn't entertaining to play with the latest gadgets and technical inventions. But for what purpose? I am not nor will I ever be a scientific investigator.
Because just as men and women are created different - however much feminists and others are working on blurring those distinctions between the sexes - the members of law enforcement are completely different. Blurring those differences is ultimately doomed. We are not equal. Cops are cops. Profilers are profilers and scientific investigators are not detectives."
There was some restless murmering in the audience. Frowning at her mother Sofia quickly glanced at Grissom. He was listening intently, not showing any emotions, just waiting for Captain Curtis to continue.
"I can hear you now: How can she say that. After we just spent days trying to find common grounds, looking for ways to bridge the gaps in our knowledge, our training, our way of viewing the law. To build cohesive, functional teams in order to fight crime, how can that woman stand there and deny the values of interdisciplinary work? Well, it's easy."
The Captain took her time studying her audience. When she found Sofia she continued. "I can see my daughter sitting back there in the last row, rolling her eyes. For two years she has worked as a CSI, has even been supervisor and is a detective with LVPD now. For years she has tried to teach me those values and now she must think: what for? My mother has learned nothing."
Sofia nodded involuntarily.
"But let me tell you, dear, on the contrary. I have learned. Interdisciplinary work is not a question of common grounds, but of accepting differences. It is not a question of being able to do the same, but of doing something special. Of understanding and respecting the work of our team mates. A CSI should not conduct witness interviews, while detectives start taking fingerprints. They both lack the training and will fail. But if different disciplines communicate with each other, respectfully and with an understanding for each other's knowledge, needs, ambitions even, they will allow us to benefit from the contributions that each of us has to make. That is where the goal of interdisciplinary law enforcement lies: strength in differences. Exploit the diversity of your teams. Get as many specialists to work together as you can. Different views will produce new ideas. Does ARJIS increase case clearances? No. Does technology increase case clearances? No. People increase case clearances. People like Dr. Grissom. People like Dr. Robbins. People like Captain Brass. People like us. Educated people who communicate and work together in order to reach a common goal: fighting crime."
Applause greated the ending of Captain Curtis' closing statements. Grissom joined in, expressing his approval. Sofia leaned closer to him, in order to be heard over the boisterous crowd. "Did you like it?"
He nodded. "Your mother is very artful in guiding her audience."
Sofia let out a short breath. "If that is a polite way of saying she is manipulative... I won't contradict you, Gil."
"Manipulation is the exertion of shrewd or devious influence in order to gain an advantage." He looked at her. "I simply think your mother has a way with words."
"Try being a teenager in her house." She shot back. "A 'way with words' is an understatement."
He smiled, imagining a young Sofia throwing temper tantrums, when she didn't get what she wanted. Surpressing the thought he asked. "How was last night? I'm sorry, I had to leave early and didn't see you."
"It was... fun." Sofia hesitated.
"That's what I heard." Grissom looked at Sofia with a half smile as if expecting something.
"Look, Gil..." She started.
"It's okay." He said. "Sara told me."
He simply nodded.
"Thank god, I was afraid, you've been talking to Greg."
"No, not yet. You think I should?"
"Better not." They got up from their seats, the conference host having thanked the speakers and officially declared the ending of this year's NICFC. They left the conference hall, waiting for Captain Curtis near the exit. "Will you join us for dinner?" Sofia asked when they were outside.
"No," he shook his head slightly. "I have to get back to the lab."
"Isn't it still a bit early? Your shift doesn't start for another three hours."
He inclined his head. "The conference is over, things are starting to get back to normal."
"Normal? You mean, we got DBs piling up already?" Captain Brass teased, coming out of the conference hall, together with Captain Curtis.
"Mom, hey. You were great." Sofia greated her mother with a hug. "Jim. I didn't see you in the audience. Were you there?"
"Wouldn't have missed it."
"And I wouldn't have let him." Captain Curtis insisted. "Dr. Grissom, so nice you could make it."
"It was most interesting, Captain."
"You will join us for dinner, won't you. It's my last evening in Vegas."
"I already asked him, but Gil is needed at the lab."
"I can't imagine." She shook her head. "You have a great team there, Dr. Grissom."
"Thank you Captain." Grissom acknowledged the compliment. "But sadly there is always the administrative side to take care of."
"I hear you. Dealing with pencil pushers is my favorite part too." Ann Curtis groaned. "Well, it was a pleasure meeting you, Dr. Grissom, and thank you very much for letting me visit the lab."
"The pleasure was all mine." He shook the offered hand, then nodded towards the others. "Jim, Sofia."
When he was gone, the three of them made their way over to the hotel's restaurant. Brass was due at work in a couple of hours, and Sofia was determined to make the most of the last evening with her mother.
Dinner was very relaxed. Every now and then other conference attendees came over to chat with Captain Curtis about her speech, but mostly they were left alone. Brass and the captain discussed differences in their departments and the challenges one met when dealing with department politics. After Captain Brass left for work a couple of hours later, Sofia was sorry to see him go. Even though they had mainly talked about work, the conversation had been interesting and amusing. Now she feared her mother would start probing her love life again. There was still the little incident from Thursday night to talk about. Having your mother catch you in the act was never fun, whether you were sixteen or thirtytwo.
"So." Ann Curtis smiled at her daughter, relaxed. "Alone at last."
"Yes." Sofia replied. "It's been a busy week for you."
"And for you." Ann winked. Sofia sighed. Here it comes. "I assume you and Sara are... getting along again?"
"As if you had to ask."
Ann simply shrugged. "Just because I caught you making out like rabbits doesn't mean the case is closed."
"Mom!" Sofia blushed. "Don't talk about my private life as if it's a problem to be solved."
"Mmmh, but then again, since you went public last night, I assume it's not just sex." Ann liked to make her daughter squirm with embarassment.
"I hate you." Sofia groaned, letting her head fall down into her hands. "I'm so glad you'll be gone tomorrow."
"And you'll miss me again the day after." The older woman smiled, patting Sofia's arm. "But seriously, honey. Are you sure it's going to be alright? I don't want to see you frustrated again in a couple of months."
"Yes." Sofia smiled back. "It'll still take some time, but we'll figure something out."
"An interdisciplinary love affair." Ann teased. "I'll better get used to it then."
"Well, like someone once said, there's strength in differences."
"I knew that one'd bite me in the ass some day." The captain laughed. "Okay, then. I better get back to my room. My flight leaves at eight tomorrow morning and I still have to pack."
They got up from the table, making their way over to the elevators. Sofia sighed. She was going to miss her mother. "Do you want me to drive you to the airport?"
Ann shook her head. "No, thanks, but it's too early. You sleep in, I'll take the hotel shuttle."
"Okay." Sofia pulled her mother into a long hug. "Don't forget to call when you're home again."
"I will, I promise." The elevator arrived and Ann stepped into it. "And tell Sara...," she started, thinking about the complicated woman who had captured her daughter's heart. What could she say? I like you now, but don't mess with my daughter again? "... just tell her I said 'hi'."
"I will, mom, I will."
It was way past ten in the morning when there was finally a knock at the apartment door. The scantily clad blonde jumped up from the couch to take a look through the spyhole, opening the door immediately. "I've been waiting for you." She said, leaning against the frame, staring at the woman in front of her.
"Sorry," The brunette said, standing in the hall sheepishly. "I headed out as soon as I finished the scene."
"Yeah?" The blonde was not impressed. "Cause... I left a voice mail hours ago."
"I know." The brunette tried to placate her opponent with a teasing smile. "I listened to it... twice."
"Only twice?" Sofia turned, leaving the door open for Sara. "Must work on my command presence then."
"Oh, you have presence all right," Sara chuckled, closing the door while taking off her shoes and following her girlfriend into the bedroom. "But it's a bit difficult to concentrate on a case when I keep thinking about you."
"I hope so." Sofia replied, climbing onto the bed, stretching her body languorously. "So? How was work? More teasing?"
"Surprisingly not." Sara pulled off her jacket slowly. "But then I did work with Catherine and she's a bit subdued since Friday."
"Is she now?" Sofia got up on her knees, moving closer to the brunette, tugging at her pants. "Maybe she's finally realized what's happening to her."
"You think so?" Sara playfully slapped the impatient hands away, casually opening the buttons of her blouse, one by one, while sensually gyrating her hips. "I think she still hasn't got a clue. Though even your mother noticed."
Pouting, Sofia relaxed back on the bed again, enjoying the show. "Mom's very observant. Which reminds me, she told me to say 'hi'"
"Thanks." Sara nodded, still dancing to some unheard rythm, moving onto the fly of her pants, while all the while keeping her eyes locked with Sofia's. "Don't get me wrong, but I'm glad she's a few thousand feet above us right now."
"You don't like surprise visits?" Sofia tried not to stare at the naked flesh that was gradually being revealed, her breath coming in short gasps now. She failed.
"Not when they involve me getting dressed in a hurry." Sara reached for the clasp of her bra, then decided against it. Instead she smirked, prowling onto the bed where Sofia was stretched out, her gaze unwavering. "I'm a CSI. I like going meticulously slow."
"Slow is good." Sofia agreed not very convincingly. She reached up to Sara's shoulders, removing the open blouse none too gently. When she advanced for the bra though, the brunette captured her hands, shaking her head. "Uh ah,...if slow is good... then very slow..." she drawled teasingly, "is very good."
Sofia closed her eyes for a moment, frustrated, but smiling nevertheless. "Then I just hope time won't run out on us again." She gazed at her lover again. All the teasing aside, she needed an answer to the unspoken question. Sara looked back, swallowing the taunting reply she was about to make. Instead she leaned closer, placing tiny kisses against Sofia's ear. "From now on," she whispered, "we have all the time in the world."
Author's note: Apart from the original challenge another one crept in too: how would their co-workers react if they caught them kissing? That was fun.
Parts of this story were inspired by what is called "The CSI Effect". A term which describes the impact forensic shows have on how people perceive law enforcement nowadays. There are upsides and downsides to this effect which has recently been subtly addressed in the show itself (episode 6.17 "I like to watch"). If you want to find out more, just google around.
ARJIS - Automated Regional Justice Information System, The ARJISNet secure intranet contains data on the San Diego regions crime cases, arrests, citations, field interviews, traffic accidents, fraudulent documents, photographs, gang information and stolen property. ARJIS is utilized for tactical analysis, investigations, statistical information and crime analysis.
For more information see www.arjis.org
Return to C.S.I. Fiction
Return to Main Page