DISCLAIMER: CSI and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Special thanks to Debbie for her beta and her continued show of support in all my writing endeavors.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Exorcising Ghosts
By Ann


Chapter 1

Three co-workers sat in the corner booth of a local diner, discussing the events of the evening. Listening to their conversation, one wouldn't dream that each was highly qualified to investigate even the most difficult and challenging of crime scenes.

Nick talked of making cast after cast of tire impressions while Warrick complained of rummaging through three different dumpsters for most of the night. Now, Sara? Sara was the one who'd impress a potential eavesdropper with her talk of the uses of UV lighting, hemident blood testing, biohazard bags, fire bags, ABFO scales, and the list went on and on as the three discussed the brunette's apparent arson case.

Leaning back in his seat, Nick smiled and made an exaggerated wafting motion with his hand, saying, "Whoa, Warrick. You really need to sit downwind of the air conditioning vent."

Sara chuckled as Warrick punched his friend in the arm, but her attention was temporarily diverted to the entrance as the bell above the door tinkled with the arrival of a new customer, a man dressed in worn clothes with shoulder length brunette hair.

The CSI watched the man's progress as he moved to the breakfast bar and rummaged in his pocket looking for spare change. Slowly, he pulled out coin after coin, sliding the money to the side as he appeared to be keeping a running total. Satisfied with the amount, he sat down on the stool and beckoned a waitress forward.

The older woman scowled at the customer and made some comment, but the man merely gestured to the money lying on the bar. The bleached blonde nodded her head and quickly scooped up the change and, turning, she moved to the coffeepot where she poured a mug full of coffee.

Something about him seemed so familiar to Sara, but she was sure they'd never met. She continued to listen to her colleagues, adding a few comments here and there; however, she kept a close eye on the mysterious customer.

The bell chimed once again but, this time, Sara knew the newcomer. In fact, she knew her rather well. Smiling, she motioned Sofia over to join them.

As Sara stood to allow the detective to slide into the booth, she noticed the man had also risen. He took one more sip of his coffee and turned to leave, but not before his gaze fell on the tall brunette standing near a side booth.

Dark eyes bore into dark eyes as the two stared at each other in shock, almost as if they were each seeing a ghost. The man's mouth dropped open, revealing a tiny gap between his teeth, and he started to take a step forward, but his progress stopped as if there were some sort of invisible shield holding him back.

Sara was completely frozen in place, swept back to a time she never wanted to experience again, ever, and she silently questioned her sanity, asking, 'How could this be possible?'

He was dead; she'd seen him die. She'd seen the blood flow from the wound as he frantically tried to push it back into the gaping hole; the droplets betraying him as they slowly fell to the floor. She'd watched mesmerized as the red drops hit the wood floor and bounced upwards much like a spring rain on the sidewalks of the street.

When Sara didn't respond to Nick's teasing remark that the brunette should pick up the tab since she'd pulled the best case of the night, Sofia turned towards her friend, expecting to see one of those classic Sidle stares, and Sara was staring alright, only it was more catatonic in nature. Sliding out of the booth, Sofia softly called the investigator's name.

As a warm hand touched her arm, and a soft voice spoke her name, seemingly from somewhere far, far away, Sara tried to refocus on her surroundings and pull herself from her vivid memories, but the stubborn images wouldn't leave, clinging to her thoughts and refusing to let go. Closing her eyes, she let them take her away.

The glint from the steel of the knife had pulled Sara's focus off the droplets of blood, and she'd lifted her head to see her mother laughing manically as she'd plunged the knife into her father, again and again, until he'd finally slumped to the floor, his eyes wide and glassy.

He'd looked right at Sara as life slowly drained from his body. The young girl had stared back into her father's eyes, his fear palpable, and Sara had felt a pang of guilt for being glad that he was afraid.

The sensation of something cool pressed against her cheeks, and it slowly made its way across her forehead and down the other side of her face. Sara lifted her head, craving the soothing touch as the horrific memories faded into the darkness when the soft voice filtered into her consciousness.

"Sara, Sara? Can you hear me? Say something, please," Sofia pleaded, gently pressing the damp cloth on the brunette's pale cheeks.

"Sofia?" Sara answered hoarsely, finally opening her eyes, relieved to see clear blue ones staring back at her.

"Hey, how are you? You scared us back there. Nick wanted to call 911, but Warrick and I decided to move you into the manager's office," the detective explained, moving the cloth from the brunette's cheek and replacing it with her hand as she lightly stroked the smooth skin.

Sara moved to sit up, and Sofia quickly assisted the brunette, saying, "Easy, now. I don't want you fainting on me."

Getting her bearings, the investigator glanced around the room, noting a small desk and chair along with the love seat she was currently seated on. She and Sofia were the only two in the room.

"Where're Nick and Warrick?"

"Grissom paged them. He needed both of them back at the lab. He wanted you to go, too, but Nick told him you weren't feeling well. I promised to stay and make sure you got home okay," Sofia explained, removing her hand from Sara's cheek.

Immediately missing the warmth, Sara had to force herself not to lean forward, seeking the comfort it had provided. The brunette opened her mouth to thank the blonde for tending to her when she suddenly realized she had no idea what had happened.

"Sofia? How did I get in here?"

"Warrick and Nick carried you," the detective supplied. "Um…for lack of a better description, you just kind of spaced out. It was weird, Sara. One minute you're smiling, and the next you're zoned out."

The investigator frowned; she remembered arriving at the diner, ordering breakfast, joking with the guys, and being happy that Sofia had been able to make it for coffee. She'd invited the detective to join her before she left the crime scene. Sofia had helped load up the Denali and had teased that the investigator owed her a cup of coffee. Sara had surprised the blonde with an invitation to meet her after shift.

Allowing her memories to play out, Sara concentrated on her last recollection. Sofia had entered the diner in her usual commanding style and had smiled when she spotted the trio sitting in the booth. The brunette had returned the infectious smile and, just as she stood to allow the blonde to slide into the booth, she'd seen him.


Chapter 2

"Shit! Sofia, where did that guy go?"

"Guy? What guy?"

"The homeless looking guy sitting at the counter; he was getting up to leave when you got here," Sara explained, standing abruptly and startling the detective with her sudden move.

"Hey, don't be jumping around like that," Sofia scolded. "I can't pick you up by myself if you faint again."

Rolling her eyes, Sara replied, "I don't think I really fainted."

"Well then, what would you call it?" The detective asked, putting her hands on her hips, daring Sara to deny the truth; the brunette had literally dropped like a stone on the floor of the diner.

"Not fainting," the investigator answered cheekily, realizing she couldn't very well come out and tell the blonde that she'd suffered a mini-breakdown.

Sofia tilted her head and frowned as she ran through her limited options. Should she argue with the person who'd just recently been unresponsive, or should she count her blessings that the investigator seemed to be back to normal? Or, perhaps the detective should do what she did best, detect.

"Why are you so interested in this man? Is he a suspect in one of your cases?"

The table turned suddenly and, now, it was time for Sara to weigh her options. Should she trust Sofia with her innermost secrets or make up some feasible explanation? She really didn't want to lie to the blonde as the two had only recently started to become friends and, if Sara was honest with herself, she'd admit that she wouldn't mind one bit if their friendship just happened to turn into something a little more; however, for the time being, the brunette settled for a partial truth.

"I don't know who he is; I just know who he's not," Sara answered cryptically, wondering how she could possibly explain the not knowing part of her brief reply.

The detective bit her lower lip in thought; Sara never made anything easy, but this particular response was lacking even for a typical Sidle answer. The brunette usually managed to get her point across and, on most occasions, the point was rather sharp in nature; however, this time, there didn't seem to be a point at all.

"Sara? What the hell are you talking about?"

Running her hand through her dark hair, Sara replied, "I'm not sure of anything, Sofia. There's got to be a reasonable explanation for this guy's resemblance to . . . Oh, man. Is it possible?" The brunette suddenly began to pace, her mind whirling with her new theory.

Frustrated, Sofia stepped into the investigator's path and exclaimed, "Damn it, Sara. Tell me what the hell is going on."

"Um, it's entirely possible that he's my brother. I haven't seen him since he ran away from home as a teenager. He never tried to contact me, and I never went looking for him," Sara stated simply, honestly, and to the point.

Sofia was both surprised and pleased that Sara hadn't skirted around the truth or manufactured some story to explain her interest in the mystery man. The brunette had always been so guarded when it came to her personal life, and the blonde hoped with this admission that they were moving towards a closer friendship. Contemplating the possible change in their relationship, the detective realized a true friend would first and foremost be concerned with Sara's health. Everything else would just have to wait.

"Why don't I take you home so that you can get some rest? You can give me more details about this guy on the drive to your place, and then I can ask around and see if any of the uniforms have encountered anyone fitting his description on their patrols," Sofia suggested casually, trying to pacify the investigator by promising to pursue the matter further and hoping the brunette would take her up on her offer.

Sara had every intention of objecting to the detective's proposal; however, she readily accepted that she could use the time alone to conduct an internet search which would hopefully yield some answers, and if that didn't pan out, she could always accept Officer Karen Smith's invitation to go out for drinks in exchange for information from the LVPD computer operator.

As the pair left the room, Sofia expressed her gratitude to the owner for the use of his office while a red-faced Sara glanced around, avoiding eye contact with the man. She'd thank him personally the next time she visited the diner but, for now, she just wanted to get out of the place. She did force herself to manage a smile for the man as the two moved towards the exit.

Sara's nerves were rattled once again when the chiming bell above the door caused a shiver to run down her spine, but she gamely walked through, following Sofia to her car.

Pulling into an empty space in front of Sara's apartment building, the detective asked, "Sure you don't want me to come up with you? I could stay with you for awhile; you're still a little pale."

"Thanks, but I'm feeling okay now. Besides, you need to get some sleep. You're working tonight, aren't you?"

"Actually, I'm not. Brass asked me to trade with him," Sofia replied, grinning widely. "I think he's got a hot date tomorrow night."

Chuckling, Sara said, "Well, I hope so. It's good to know somebody's enjoying life."

"Yeah, I'm glad for him," Sofia concurred, her voice trailing off, wishing she were the one with the hopes of a new relationship. She was tired of living solely for the job.

A shrill ringing had both women reaching for their cells, and Sara smiled, holding hers up to indicate the illuminated display. Checking the caller ID, she flipped the phone open and greeted frostily, "Yes, Grissom?"

Sofia eavesdropped on the one-sided conversation, suppressing the laugh that threatened to break free. From the responses she was hearing, Grissom was insisting that Sara take the night off, but Sara didn't seem to think it was necessary.

"I'm not sick! I just had a little um, . . . sinking spell," Sara replied, wincing at her poor choice of words, but equally determined to hold her ground.

A brief silence ensued as the brunette listened carefully to her supervisor's reply, and Sara suddenly frowned as a decidedly worried look passed over her face. Finally, she took her turn to speak, protesting, "What? No, no, that's not necessary, Grissom."

Another long pause. "I won't let you in," Sara threatened and then added after a beat, "I said no."

The detective leaned back in her seat and watched Sara's expressions change as she became more irritated at her caller. Grissom and Sara bantered back and forth, neither willing to concede the argument until, all of a sudden, Sara just gave up.

"Fine. I promise not to stay by myself today, but I don't want you coming over. Sofia has already offered to play nurse," Sara replied, closing her phone without offering so much as a goodbye.

Folding her arms over her chest, the brunette closed her eyes and blew out a deep breath in an attempt to exhale her anger away. She didn't understand Grissom at all. One minute, he acted interested in her and her welfare, and the next, he was cool to her. She'd long ago given up hope that they'd ever get together. Besides, she'd finally come to the realization that two emotional cripples should never be in the same relationship.

In the driver's seat, Sofia bided her time, waiting patiently for Sara to calm down; she'd learned through working with the investigator that it wasn't wise to talk to her until she'd had time to cool down. The detective's previous use of sarcasm through the years had definitely not been the way to handle the brunette when she was angry.

Sara finally broke her silence as she reached for the door handle. "Sofia, I want to thank you for helping me out today. You don't really have to stay with me; I just had to tell Grissom something to get him off my back. I'd appreciate knowing if you find out anything about the man from the diner."

Noticing that the brunette hadn't referred to the man as her brother, Sofia wisely just nodded her head, offering, "I'm just glad I was there to help, but, Sara, I would feel better if you'd let me stay with you for just a bit." Teasing, she added, "I'd love to see the inside of the infamous Sidle refuge?"

Rolling her eyes, Sara opened the door and invited, "Well, if you insist. I'll even give you the V. I. P. tour."

Not waiting for the investigator to change her mind, Sofia quickly climbed from the car and followed the brunette up the short flight of stairs.

Just as Sara placed the key in the door, Sofia smiled and said, "You know, I've always wanted to play nurse."


Chapter 3

The key fell directly to the mat, and Sara almost hit her head on the doorknob trying to retrieve the fallen object. The images Sofia had just planted in her brain short-circuited any earlier thoughts, and the horrendous visuals of her father's death were supplanted by a vision of loveliness, or more aptly, the sexiest thing the investigator could've ever dreamed up. Sara knew her nightmare would return once again, but she planned on enjoying her current daydream for as long as possible.

Sofia smirked and patiently waited for Sara to gain purchase on the key. She was taking great pleasure in teasing the investigator, silently hoping that the playfulness would continue and that the brunette wouldn't suddenly clam up and slide into one of her silent moods.

Sara had a tendency to freeze up just when she'd started to relax and feel comfortable around the beautiful detective and, this time, Sofia hoped to keep the investigator from becoming so reticent.

Finally, Sara managed to slide the key in the lock and open the door. Red-faced, she motioned Sofia to enter the apartment first while she tried desperately to gain control of her emotions. The detective seemed to make her nervous every time they spent quality time together, and Sara didn't want to ruin the moment by saying or doing something foolish.

"Um…would you like something to drink?" The brunette asked, closing the door behind her and following the blonde into the den.

"No, I'm fine, but if you'd like something, please, allow me to get it for you," Sofia replied, gesturing toward the couch and adding, "Why don't you lie down, and then you can tell me what really happened to you in the diner?"

Sara's head snapped up at the detective's words. "I feel fine, and I told you…nothing happened at the diner!"

Sofia held up her hand in apology, and the investigator immediately regretted her tone.

"I'm sorry, Sofia. I'm just feeling a little out of sorts right now." Moving towards the couch, the brunette took a seat and said, "Maybe I do need to rest. Do you think you could get me a bottle of water? It's on the bottom shelf of the fridge."

"Sure," the detective replied, turning towards the small kitchenette. "You need anything else?"

"No, water's fine."

Nodding, Sofia made her way into the kitchen, giving both women a moment to collect their thoughts. The blonde chastised herself for being so blunt, and the brunette berated herself for losing her temper with the detective.

Upon her return, Sofia found the investigator stretched out on the couch with her arm resting over her eyes. The detective took the rare, unguarded moment to just study the brunette.

Sara was a classic beauty. Tall, but not gangly; her facial features weren't perfect, yet, they were; she was thin, but not gaunt, and she could exude sexuality like no other when she wanted to. To Sofia, she was perfect.

Sighing softly, the detective made her way to the couch. She'd brought two bottles of water, one for Sara and one for herself. Not wanting to startle the brunette, she said softly, "Sara? I've got your water."

The investigator stretched her length against the couch and removed her arm from her face. Sitting up, she took the water from the blonde and smiled. "Thanks, Sofia; and not just for the water, thanks for staying."

"It's not a problem, Sara," the detective replied, taking a seat in the nearby chair, and offering, "I'm here if you need to talk. I promise to keep anything you say in confidence. Sometimes, it just helps to talk to someone."

Fiddling with the bottle cap, Sara said, "I appreciate the offer, and I'll keep it in mind, but for now, I'm not comfortable talking about it. Um, … but, do you think you could make that call and ask about the guy from the diner? I can give you a pretty good description."

Sofia nodded and listened as Sara described the man, immediately noting the brunette staring at the floor as she gave her very detailed description. It was almost as if the investigator were looking at a picture the way she was able to describe him so perfectly.

Excusing herself, the detective moved towards the front window and made her call. Sara lay back on the couch and closed her eyes as she listened intently to the blonde; she couldn't believe she was actually looking for her brother. He'd left her in that hell hole knowing the kind of abuse she'd had to endure. She'd never forgiven him for not taking her with him.

When Sofia returned to her chair, Sara was once again lying perfectly still; however, this time, her breathing had evened out. The brunette was sound asleep. Smiling, the detective slipped off her shoes and settled into the chair. Closing her eyes, she joined the investigator in slumber.

An hour later, a piercing scream pulled the detective from her sweet dreams, and she quickly turned towards the source of obvious pain to find Sara holding up her hands in front of her, as if warding off some impending evil as she pleaded, "No, please stop. Please."

The blonde slowly moved towards the couch, saying softly, "Sara. Sara, c'mon now; you need to wake up." Kneeling next to the distraught woman, Sofia gently touched the brunette's arm and continued to speak in soft tones.

In Sara's dreams, the scene played out as it always did; her father looking at her in shock while her mother laughed. Through the years, she'd managed to skip over this particular portion of the dream without calling out in her sleep but, when her mother turned towards her with the knife in hand, she was pulled back to the fear she'd had on that dreadful day. She truly thought her mother was going to use the knife on her, and she always screamed and pleaded for mercy.

A soft voice filtered into the brunette's nightmare, and she desperately tried to run towards her savior as her mother's sick laughter followed closely behind. No matter how fast she ran, the laugh kept up with her, seemingly gaining ground instead of losing it; however, the images and voices stopped immediately when something touched her.

In her mind's eye, her mother had finally caught her, and she struggled mightily to get away.

Sofia was just able to block the arm swinging towards her, but she wisely allowed the brunette to follow through and didn't attempt to grab hold of the flying appendage. Sara was definitely trying to fight her way out of a situation, and the detective knew it would be fruitless to try to completely stop the investigator from fleeing the nightmare she was trapped in. It would only serve to make the brunette increase her efforts, so the blonde allowed herself to be knocked backwards onto the floor.

At the moment of contact, Sara sat straight up on the couch, drenched in sweat and breathing heavily. She opened her eyes and focused on the lamp at the end of the couch, instant relief flooding her senses; she was home, she was safe.

The respite only lasted briefly, and the brunette soon realized that, although she was safe from her mother's clutches, she wasn't alone. Sofia's voice came through loud and clear.



Chapter 4

Turning slowly towards the voice, Sara spied the detective sitting on the floor, looking back at her with a mixture of shock and concern, and the brunette grimaced when she realized just how the blonde had come to be in her current position. In the past, she was aware that she'd knocked pillows off the bed and, on occasion, something from the nightstand would go flying, but to her knowledge, she'd never hit another person. Of course, she'd always been alone when she'd awakened from the horrible nightmares that had plagued her since her youth.

Sara found herself wanting to crawl into a really deep hole but, instead, she realized that she needed to say something, so she softly asked, "Um...I didn't hurt you, did I?"

It was glaringly obvious to the detective that the investigator was embarrassed that she'd hit her and, even more so, Sara seemed absolutely mortified that Sofia had witnessed her reaction to the frightful nightmare.

Biding her time for an answer, Sofia rocked forward and pushed upward, standing in one smooth motion, and Sara had to force herself not to focus on the blonde's strong, firm legs. She could hardly believe that her libido was making an appearance at such an awkward moment, especially so soon after she'd been scared half to death by the images of her dream.

Sofia treaded lightly with her response, teasing, "Trust me; I've been hit harder; on more than one occasion, in fact. I used to get knocked on my ass all the time at the academy."

Despite the unpleasantness of the situation, Sara smiled at the detective's words. The blonde had left the door wide open for the brunette to address the nightmare or sweep it under the rug, and the investigator took advantage of her friend's offer and grabbed for the nearest broom.

"Um, were you able to find out anything when you called the precinct?" Sara asked, deflecting the conversation back to their earlier one and, specifically, Sofia's offer to help her locate the man from the diner who she strongly suspected to be her brother.

Retaking her seat in the chair next to the couch, the detective replied, "No, but I talked to Brass. He has more connections than I do, and he promised to talk to a few officers."

Sara immediately paled at the thought of more people being privy to her search. She'd only trusted Sofia because she basically had to, and she certainly didn't want to have to answer to anyone else concerning the reason for her inquiry.

Noting the brunette's change of expression at her news, Sofia quickly added, "I didn't tell Brass why I was asking about the guy. Jim just thinks he's a person of interest in one of my cases. I would never betray your confidence, Sara."

The investigator just nodded her head, grateful for Sofia's discretion in the matter, and the two women sat in silence, both seemingly content just to be in each other's presence as they each mulled over the last few moments. The detective immediately set her sights on how to find more information on the mystery man, and Sara slowly came to terms with the fact that Sofia could be trusted as a friend and confidante.

Soon, it became apparent that each woman was warding off sleep and fighting to stay awake. Sara was terrified that she'd fall into another nightmare, and Sofia was determined to stay alert in case the investigator needed her; however, it was Sara who addressed the fact that they were totally exhausted and in dire need of rest.

"Hey, Sofia? Why don't you go crawl in my bed and get some sleep? I'll stretch out on the couch and do the same."

Smiling, the detective replied, "I'll go for the sleep part of your deal, but I'll take the couch. If Grissom finds out that I kicked you out of your own bed, I'll never get my temporary nursing license."

Chuckling, Sara agreed, "Alright, but only because I'm too tired to argue. Besides, who am I to stand in the way of your new career?" Smiling, she added, "Let me get you a blanket and pillow. I'll be right back." The investigator retreated into her bedroom, leaving a smug Sofia behind to pat herself on the back for successfully outmaneuvering the brunette.

Thirty minutes later, both women were settled on their respective pillow, sleeping soundly. Sara had tossed and turned in her bed for the first ten minutes until she finally realized she'd never get any rest if she was worried about calling out in her sleep. She'd silently crept out of bed and quietly shut her door and, safely ensconced behind closed doors, the brunette had fallen asleep the minute her head hit her pillow.

Sofia, on the other hand, was out like a light in a matter of minutes. She hadn't slept very well the past two nights, and her long shift was taking its toll. She didn't worry about nodding off since she'd always been a light sleeper, so she'd figured she would be able to hear Sara if she woke from a bad dream.

Amazingly, the detective and investigator slept for six hours straight with no dreams or nightmares from either woman; however, Sofia was the first to wake, and she immediately went to check on the brunette, not at all happy to see the closed door.

Turning the knob, the blonde was pleased to see Sara sleeping peacefully with no signs of any distress now or, by all appearances, anytime during her slumber. Dark eyes opened and fastened on blue ones just as Sofia moved to shut the door.

"Hey," Sara said, her voice sounding hoarse and raspy.

Grinning, Sofia replied, "Hey. You look rested. Did you sleep well?"

"Yeah, and I sure could go for something to eat. How do you feel about Thai take-out?"

Shrugging, Sofia answered, "Sounds good to me. Do you want me to go out and get some?"

"Nah. I'll just call it in. Their delivery service is fairly prompt. Give me a second to throw some water on my face, and I'll give them a call."

The investigator pulled the covers back, revealing her tank and boxers and, as she moved to crawl out of the bed, Sofia turned a nice shade of red and immediately focused on the floor, offering, "I'll um . . . just wait for you in the den."

Retreating, she quickly left the room, and Sara smiled at the detective's nervous reaction, wondering if perhaps the interest she had in the blonde might be reciprocated after all.


Chapter 5

When Sara walked into the den, she found Sofia standing in front of the bookcase, reading the titles of the various books lining the shelves. The detective hadn't been one bit surprised to see how they'd been categorized by genre; she'd expect nothing less from the highly organized investigator, but what did garner the blonde's attention was the very eclectic collection of books.

Sofia was pleased to discover some new insight into Sara, especially when she caught sight of the numerous lesbian fictions sitting prominently on the middle shelf. The brunette hadn't made any attempt to hide the books amongst the others, and the detective smiled at the thought of Sara being comfortable enough with her sexuality to display the novels. Although, she did wonder if she were the only colleague who'd actually had the opportunity to view the investigator's collection.

"I've got the menu in the kitchen if you'd like to order now," Sara said, moving further into the room. She'd nervously watched the detective turn her head to the side in order to get a better view of the titles, and the brunette had frozen in place, waiting for Sofia to move her attention to the center of the bookcase. However, the investigator had relaxed somewhat when she'd noticed the smile that had graced the detective's face just as the blonde had focused on the novels nestled together on the middle shelf.

Startled, Sofia jumped slightly at the brunette's words and quickly turned towards the investigator, offering, "Um, I thought I'd look at your books while I waited."

Sara grinned mischievously and asked, "See anything you like?"

The detective glanced back at the center shelf and nodded as she gestured to the lesbian fiction. "I've got a couple of these myself," the blonde confessed, and then smiling, she asked, "Mind if I borrow one or two sometime?"

"No, be my guest," Sara said over her shoulder as she turned towards the kitchen. Sofia grinned widely and followed the brunette into the other room.

Thirty minutes later, the two women sat at the kitchen table, consuming their meal. Sara used a pair of chopsticks to eat her Khanom Chin Namya while Sofia opted for a fork to use on her shrimp Rad na. The blonde had tossed her chopsticks to the side only minutes after dropping her shrimp for the third time when she'd attempted to wrestle it into her mouth; her curses had been drowned out by Sara's rich laughter.

Quiet conversation accompanied the rest of the meal, and each women began to relax as they slowly got to know each other better; however, the topics concentrated solely on their likes and dislikes for the time being, neither venturing into anything that might cause the other to feel uncomfortable or possibly even clam up completely.

Just as Sofia had gotten up the nerve to casually ask about the man from the diner, Sara's cell chimed, and the brunette groaned when she noted the caller, mumbling, "Grissom."

The detective quickly reached across the table and snatched it from the investigator's hand; she flipped it open before Sara had time to even blink.

"This is the phone of Sara Sidle. May I take a message?" Sofia asked in a sickening sweet voice, making the brunette sitting across from her smile widely.

"Sofia? Is that you?" Grissom's voice questioned, surprise evident in his tone.

The blonde crossed her long legs and replied, "Grissom? Is something wrong?" Sara's muffled laughter almost made the detective lose her composure, but she gamely moved forward, asking, "Is there a reason for your call?"

"Er, yes. I was just, um... wondering how Sara was doing. Do you think I could talk to her?"

Sofia grinned and answered, "Actually, I personally tucked her into bed a few hours ago, and she's still sleeping."

Sara's eyes got huge at the reply, and she was very thankful that she hadn't just taken a drink of her water; otherwise, Sofia would've been the recipient of an impromptu shower. The sudden vision of the blonde having to change out of damp clothes filtered into the brunette's thoughts, and she missed the next part of the conversation, only returning back to the present at Sofia's closing words.

"I'll be sure to tell her," the detective promised, closing the cell and placing it on the table.

"Tell me what?" Sara asked, dreading the reason for the call, but desperately needing to know.

Sofia leaned back in her chair and replied, "He's worried about you. Of course, I had to practically drag it out of him. He's not exactly the most talkative of people, you know."

The investigator managed to put a halt to the grimace that was quickly forming as she drew an immediate parallel to her own lack of communication skills. Instead, she focused on the detective's explanation and questioned, "Worried? He's worried about me? What do you mean? Is he worried I won't be at work tomorrow night?"

"C'mon, Sara. I know he's fairly inept at interpersonal relationships, but don't tell me you haven't noticed his interest in you."

The look on the brunette's face told the detective everything she needed to know. Sara had no idea her superior had feelings for her and, judging from the investigator's expression, she was none too happy with the notion either.

"You're kidding me, right? Grissom? Me? Grissom and me?" Sara babbled question after question, hoping that the detective was just teasing her and that there was no truth in her words. How was she going to face Grissom now that she knew he had more than a friendly interest in her?

Before Sofia could make an attempt to calm the brunette, Sara put her head in her hands and muttered, "Fuck. What am I going to do now? I can't work with him on any cases anymore; I'll be constantly looking for little things he may say or do. Oh God, what would I have done if he'd come over to see about me?"

"Sara. Sara. Sara!" Sofia slowly increased her volume until the investigator finally looked up to acknowledge her. "Hey, I don't think he's in love with you or anything. I think he's just realized that he may want to pursue you is all."

"Oh, that's so much better," the brunette answered sarcastically, and then covering her face with her hands, she groaned pitifully.

Sofia once again opened her mouth to try to reassure the investigator, but her attention was diverted to the ring tone of her cell. Reaching for her hip, she removed the phone and answered, "Curtis."

Silence followed for several minutes while the detective listened intently to the caller, and Sara finally removed her hands and looked across the table at the blonde. The news was definitely not pleasant as Sofia began to frown.

"You sure?" Sofia asked, hoping for a different answer; however, the response remained the same, and she thanked the caller for keeping her informed.

Closing the phone, she sighed and turned her attention to the brunette who was sitting quietly, waiting for the detective to enlighten her about the call.

"Sara? That was Brass. He thinks he's found your mystery man," Sofia began, and the investigator sat straight up, the rhythm of her breathing increasing significantly.

Bolting from her seat, the brunette said excitedly, "Well, let's go. Did Brass bring him into the station?"

Sofia slowly rose from her chair and moved towards the investigator, motioning for her to retake her seat. "Sara, there's no rush. Let's sit for a few minutes."

Stubborn as ever, Sara stood her ground and replied, "I don't want to wait. I want to talk to this guy now."

"Sara, you can't talk to him," Sofia started to explain, but her words were cut off by the adamant brunette.

"Like hell, I can't. He may be my brother for fuck's sake. I have a right to talk to him," Sara shouted, clearly upset with the blonde.

"Damn it, Sara. You can't talk to him. Brass said he's on his way to the morgue."

"Why would Brass go to the morgue?" Sara asked, wondering why the detective would take the man to the station, and then leave to go to the morgue.

Stepping closer to the brunette, Sofia softly explained, "Because the guy's dead, Sara. His body was found behind the diner. He'd been stabbed in the abdomen and left to die."


Chapter 6

Sara reached for the chair, missing the sturdy wooden back as she stumbled forwards, and only Sofia's quick reflexes kept the brunette from tumbling to the floor. The detective took hold of the investigator and gently steered her towards the chair.

"Sara, I need you to stay with me," Sofia said softly, finally getting the brunette seated as she urged the investigator to lean forward and place her head between her knees in the classic 'keep from fainting' position. Sara's total compliance coupled with her absolute silence was starting to scare the detective, and Sofia wondered if perhaps she should've withheld the part about the stabbing. The brunette's face had gone white at the mere mention of the word.

A few moments later, Sara released a cleansing breath and slowly lifted her head. Sofia had kept contact with the brunette, rubbing soothing circles on the investigator's back as she continued to whisper soothing words.

"Um, sorry, Sofia. You must think I'm a basket case, huh?" Sara offered, raising a shaky hand to push the hair out of her face.

The detective moved in front of the investigator and squatted down so that she was slightly below eye level with the brunette. Smiling encouragingly, she replied, "No, I don't think that at all. In fact, I think your reactions are perfectly normal for the experiences you've had today."

Sighing, Sara replied, "Well, I'm sorry anyway," and, forcing a smile, she added, "Now, I'd like to go to the morgue, but I don't think I should drive. Um, do you think you could take me?"

"Sure, I'm ready when you are," Sofia answered, slowly standing and extending her hand for the other woman to take.

Sara stared at the strong, steady hand as it patiently waited for her to take hold, never wavering or withdrawing like the others had in the past. The brunette hesitated briefly before reaching for the lifeline being offered and, for once in her life, she allowed someone else to help her, believing that Sofia was the one she'd been waiting for all along.

The two women drove directly to the lab; no other words had been spoken, but Sofia had only released the brunette's hand when the pair climbed into her car. Sara immediately reached for the blonde's hand the moment both doors had been shut. As long as she maintained contact with the detective, Sara knew she could get through the ordeal in one piece.

Brass met the women at the entrance to the morgue, citing that he wanted to give Sofia a rundown of the situation first hand, but the female detective knew he'd figured out that this case was personal in nature. His brusque personality was often mistaken for apathy, but Sofia knew it was all a front; when it came to protecting his own; there was no one fiercer than Jim Brass.

While Brass detailed the specifics of the case to his colleague, Sara eased her hand from Sofia's and walked towards the double doors of the morgue. She squinted as she looked through the paned window, searching every table until she finally spotted a body lying on the large autopsy slab. Taking a deep breath, she pushed the door inward and took a step inside.

The room was empty, save Sara and the corpse, and the lights were turned down low, making it difficult to see. The body was partially covered by a sheet and, from a distance, he appeared to be smaller than Sara remembered. Although, she'd only seen the guy briefly at the diner, he'd appeared to be the spitting image of her father, and as such, she'd believed him to be roughly six foot two.

Gathering her courage, Sara began to walk towards the table, taking in the man's features as she neared the body. She noted very few similarities from what she remembered of her father and, just as she reached out to touch the body, a voice called out, causing her to jump back in fear.

"Sara? What are you doing here?" Doc Robbins asked, moving towards the skittish investigator.

"Huh?" Sara replied, looking back and forth between the coroner and the body.

The brunette was saved from having to come up with a plausible excuse to explain her presence as another voice questioned her motive for entering the room alone.

"Sara? Why didn't you wait for me?" Sofia asked, walking into the room and stepping next to the investigator. Gently taking the other woman's hand, the detective waited for a reply, and Sara merely shrugged her shoulders and smiled sadly.

Doc Robbins watched the entire exchange and immediately realized that his questions could wait. Nodding at the detective, he turned and left the room without saying another word.

Sofia glanced down at the body, looking for any familiar features. Other than the dark hair and olive skin color, the detective couldn't find any other similarities between the man and the woman standing next to her.

"It's not him," Sara mumbled, moving her attention back to the body.

"I didn't think so, but the lighting in the diner could've changed his looks somewhat. I'm sure you've thought of how your brother might have looked though the years, and something about this guy probably seemed familiar to you," Sofia offered in explanation.

"No, you don't understand," Sara replied, looking into clear blue eyes.

"What's not to understand, Sara? This guy isn't your brother."

"Yes, that's true," Sara concurred as she glanced back at the man, continuing, "But that's not what I meant."

Confused, Sofia squeezed the hand she was holding and asked, "What did you mean then?"

"I meant that this isn't the guy from the diner. He was much taller and older looking. So, if this isn't the guy, then he's still out there somewhere," Sara supplied as another thought entered her mind, but it was so outlandish, so unbelievable, that she didn't dare speak it aloud, lest it be true.

Of course, Sofia hadn't become the detective she was today without her ability to read people, and Sara was fast becoming someone that the blonde had the inside track on. The brunette had let her guard down more times today than she had during the entire time she'd known the detective, and Sofia was making sure she took advantage of the opportunities she was given to better understand the investigator.

"Well, then, why don't I take you home? The night shift will start soon and, knowing you, you'll insist on staying and working," the detective teased, starting towards the door, pleased that Sara was allowing her to lead her away from the body.

Just as the pair stepped through the outside doors of the building, Grissom climbed from his car. "Sara, I told you to stay home tonight," the supervisor said, frowning when he saw the linked hands.

"I know, Grissom, but I just had to check on something," Sara replied and, chuckling, she added, "But, see? I brought my nurse along with me."

Grissom nodded and looked at the smiling detective. Something in her eyes warned him against saying anything else, so he just bid the two women goodnight and headed inside.

"That wasn't so bad. I think you may be wrong about him, Sofia. God, I hope you're wrong," Sara said as they continued to the detective's car.

Pulling into an empty space in front of Sara's apartment, Sofia turned off the ignition and turned to her passenger, asking, "You sure you don't want me to stay tonight?"

"No, I'll be okay. I promise to go straight to bed after I do a little internet research," Sara replied with a forced smile as she reached for the door handle.

Just as the brunette opened the door, Sofia suddenly reached over and put her hand on the investigator's arm. "Wait, Sara. There's something I want to ask you."

Sara partially closed the door and turned towards the detective, curious as to what the problem was; however, all Sofia could do was stare at the other woman.

"What?" Sara asked softly.

The gentle tone of the brunette gave the detective confidence to ask the question she'd been wondering ever since they'd left the morgue.

"Sara? When you were telling me that the dead man wasn't your brother, I sensed you were holding something back, something that seemed to unnerve you. I just wanted you to know that you can talk to me. I want to help you find this man, whether he's your brother or not. I don't want you always wondering if it was him."

Silence ensued, and Sara's walls seemed to go up right in front of the detective's eyes. Sofia mentally chastised herself for pushing the brunette too soon, but she knew Sara was bothered about something, and she wanted to help, she needed to help.

Looking away from the piercing eyes, Sara focused on the front of her apartment building. Sofia had stuck with her through thick and thin today, and she deserved a reply to her question. She'd proven that she truly did care and that she was willing to be there for her, but Sara couldn't help but wonder what the blonde would do or say if she found out what she'd been thinking. Staring at the iron railing of the stairs, the brunette finally made her decision.

"I wondered if it was possible that he'd done it," Sara confessed in a whisper.

"Done what? And, who are you talking about, Sara?" Sofia replied just as softly, not wanting to spook the brunette now that she'd decided to explain what was bothering her.

A single tear slipped down the smooth cheek as Sara turned towards the detective.

"Sofia, do you believe there's such a thing as a murder gene?"


Chapter 7

The detective sat perfectly still, desperately trying to school her expression. Sara's question had come out of left field, and Sofia had no idea how she should answer. It would be helpful if she knew exactly what Sara was referring to, but she was sure that now wasn't the time to ask the investigator to elaborate.

Taking a fifty-fifty chance, Sofia went with her gut instinct and answered as honestly as she could. "No, Sara, I don't. People usually commit murder because they want to, pure and simple. In some cases, one's environment might influence how violent a person may become, but I truly believe it all comes down to one's own free will. Will they or won't they?"

More tears escaped, and Sofia reached over to capture the errant drops before they could roll off the brunette's chin. Sara leaned into the touch and, closing her eyes, she asked, "How can you be sure?"

"Sara? Can you tell me where all this is coming from?" Sofia asked gently, cupping the investigator's face with her hand and waiting patiently for a response. The question seemed to cause more turmoil for the brunette as she squeezed her eyes more tightly and clamped down on her jaw, almost as if she were wishing for some sort of divine intervention to take her away from the painful memories.

The silence was broken as a loud clap of thunder echoed in the background, and both women jumped in their seats, each turning their focus to the world outside. Neither of them had been paying attention to the streaks of lightning that were slowly drawing near.

Making a quick decision, Sofia suggested, "Let's get inside before the bottom drops out," and Sara nodded numbly, reaching for her door handle. The detective quickly climbed from the car and followed the investigator down the sidewalk towards the stairs leading to the apartment; however, just as the pair made it to the first step, the heavens opened up and the rain came teaming down. By the time they reached Sara's door, their clothes were soaked through and through.

Sara fumbled with the key, unable to get it into the keyhole with her unsteady hands, and Sofia gently took it from her, opening the door and ushering the investigator inside. The detective closed the door behind them, and they stood just inside the apartment, water dripping down their bodies onto the carpeted floor.

"You need to get out of those clothes before you catch a cold. You're already shaking like a leaf," Sofia noted, watching as Sara wrapped her arms around herself in an attempt to ward off the chill of the air-conditioned apartment.

"Wwhhaatt aaboout yoou?" Sara asked, no longer able to control her shivering; the combination of her emotional upset, soaking clothes, and the cool temperature of her apartment were simply too much for the brunette to overcome.

"I'll be fine. Now, why don't you go pull off those wet things while I draw you a hot bath? I'll change into something of yours once you get situated in the tub," Sofia suggested as she took Sara's arm and led her into the master bedroom, not giving the investigator any time to protest.

A few minutes later, Sofia shut the door to the bathroom, allowing Sara her privacy. While the blonde had been adjusting the temperature of the water, the brunette had shed her clothes and had put on a very short robe before making her way to the bathroom. Sofia had had her back to the investigator as she was turning off the water to the tub and, standing, the detective had almost fallen backwards into the bath water when she'd turned around to find Sara literally in her back pocket.

Her eyes had immediately been drawn to the front of the brunette's robe, and it was evident that Sara was still suffering from an inability to make her fingers work as the robe was barely closed. A poor attempt had been made to loosely tie the sash, leaving pretty much nothing to the imagination, and Sofia had almost stumbled, backing out of the room, as she'd informed the brunette to call if she needed her. By the time the detective had made it to the threshold, Sara had already shed her robe and was stepping into the tub, displaying a very firm backside to the blonde.

Sofia shut her eyes to the memory as she leaned against the closed door and exhaled a nervous breath. Soon, she regained control and pushed off the door, heading towards Sara's bedroom to look for a change of clothes.

Clad in a pair of old sweats, Sofia lounged on the couch, reading one of Sara's books. The brunette was still in the bathroom, and the blonde had decided to give her another few minutes before making sure that she hadn't drowned. A quiet clicking noise alerted the detective that Sara was finally exiting the room, but Sofia continued reading her novel, allowing the other woman to make the next move.

Softly shuffling into the room, Sara took a seat in the chair opposite the detective and, pulling her legs up on the leather, she wrapped her arms tightly around her shins as she turned towards the blonde.

"Um, thanks again, Sofia. I, um . . . seem to be saying that a lot today, but I really do mean it," Sara offered nervously, suddenly finding the worn threads of her sweat pants fascinating.

Placing the book on her lap, Sofia replied, "I'm just glad I was able to help, but I'd like to do more. I want to help you look for this man." Shifting so that she was facing the investigator, she added, "And, Sara? It's obvious something is eating away at you, and I think you need to talk to someone. I'd love for it to be me but, if not, you need to find someone you feel comfortable talking to before you're consumed by whatever it is."

Ironically, during her soak in the tub, Sara had already been contemplating whether or not she could confide in Sofia. She'd carefully reviewed her day with the blonde, and she'd realized that she trusted the detective. The thought itself had totally stunned the brunette as she'd only truly trusted one other person in her life, and she'd had that trust thrown back in her face when she'd discovered her first love had cheated on her.

But, times were different now. She was no longer desperate to have someone to confide in, and Sofia was different, too. She wasn't Sara's lover; she was her friend. The detective had taken the events of the day in stride and hadn't once blinked an eye as she'd stood steadily beside the investigator, offering comfort and support at a time when the brunette had so desperately needed it. Sara had always known Sofia was a woman of strong character, and today she'd proved it.

Pulling at the loose threads, Sara spoke in a soft monotone voice, the tone causing the detective to go perfectly still.

"My mother killed my father," Sara admitted calmly, and, if Sofia hadn't been so close to the brunette, she would've never heard the whispered confession. Even so, it took several seconds for the words to fully sink in.

Nothing could've prepared the detective for the unveiling of Sara's deep-seated secret, and she was very thankful that the investigator was focused on the worn spot of her sweats because Sofia suddenly lost her earlier ability of keeping her emotions intact as her shock was clearly evident on her face.


Chapter 8

The detective in Sofia finally took over as her mind played through the different scenarios of the investigator's disclosure. The brunette's question about a murder gene had Sofia immediately wondering how Sara's father had died and, just as she'd formulated a question to ask, Sara continued her explanation with an eerie clinical detachment.

"He'd regularly come home drunk, and the beatings would follow soon afterward. First me, then mom, always the same; he never deviated from his pattern. I'd just stand there, bracing myself for his fists and hoping he was too drunk to get in any good punches. One night he came in with his usual ranting and raving and, for some reason, I don't know why, I tried to run away. I sprinted into the kitchen, hoping to lock myself in the pantry closet before he could catch me. I remember brushing past mom in my haste to outrun the drunken bastard, and I caught sight of something shiny in her hand. I never registered what it was, I just kept moving forwards."

Pausing, Sara squinted as if she were actually seeing the described events playing out in front of her. Her voice lowered considerably as she detailed more of the macabre scene.

"He screamed in obvious pain, and I immediately turned around. To this day, I don't know if he accidentally ran into the knife, or, if my mother purposefully stabbed him. I do know that once she'd realized what had happened, she just laughed and laughed as she continued to plunge the knife into him, over and over again, until he finally fell. There was so much blood. It just poured out of him and dripped steadily onto the wooden floor."

Sofia had risen during the relating of the tale and had slowly moved closer to Sara, wanting to offer support if the brunette needed her; however, she'd maintained enough distance to keep from distracting the other woman, knowing how important is was for the investigator to say everything she needed to say.

"It was so surreal, Sofia," Sara whispered, acknowledging the detective's presence for the first time since she'd begun relating the events of so many years ago. "He just stared at me, silently begging me to help him. After everything he'd ever done to me, he wanted me to help him."

With tears glistening in her eyes, Sara looked directly at the blonde and quietly admitted, "I was glad, Sofia. I was so fucking glad he couldn't hurt me anymore."

"Oh, Sara. I'm so sorry. No child should ever have to suffer at the hands of his or her parent," Sofia offered, reaching out and placing an arm around the brunette's shoulders and, desperate for the contact, Sara leaned into the other woman's body.

"I lost both my parents that night. My mother was sent to an asylum to be evaluated, and my father, well . . .," Sara ended abruptly. There was no need to state the obvious, her father had met his end and, to a certain extent, so had Sara. Life as she'd known it had ceased to exist the moment her mother stabbed her father. She'd spent the rest of her childhood being shuffled from foster home to foster home; her hopes for a real family life dashed with each new move.

Clearing her throat, Sara said, "So, I think you can see why I'm concerned about my genetics, especially with the appearance of this man, who looks so much like my father it's frightening. And then, to have a murder, a stabbing death, the very day I see him, makes me wonder if perhaps he's responsible. Is he my brother? Did he kill that other man? Is this some kind of family curse?"

Sofia pulled Sara closer, replying, "I don't know if he's your brother or if he has anything to do with the murder at the diner, but I do know that if these suppositions turn out to be true, it has nothing to do with you. You've overcome such tragedy and adversity to get to where you are today that if there were such a thing as a murder gene, you would have strayed from your path long ago."

"You really think so?" Sara asked in an almost childlike voice, needing the detective's reassurance that her response wasn't just some token words spoken to make the investigator feel better.

"Yes, I do," Sofia asserted, pulling back from the brunette. The detective pushed a loose strand of hair behind the investigator's ear and offered a smile. "Sara, it's late, and you need to rest. We can talk about this more later but, for now, you need some sleep. Why don't you go crawl into bed? I'm going to camp out here on the couch tonight."

Sara glanced towards the window, noting the brilliant flashes of lightening coupled with the sounds of the trailing thunder. She really wanted to be by herself for awhile so that she could get her bearings back, but there was no way she was going to send Sofia out into the stormy weather.

"Um, okay. But are you sure you don't want to take the bed this time? I usually don't sleep for long periods anyway."

Smiling reassuringly, Sofia replied, "I'll be just fine. Your couch is actually pretty comfortable, and it's one of the few that are long enough so that I don't have to scrunch up to fit my body on it. Besides, I'll probably just watch television most of the night. I don't want to throw my schedule off too much."

Sara awkwardly untangled herself from the chair and stood.

"I'll just go and get you some bedding. Do you need anything else?"

"Nah, I think I'm good to go, but I may raid your refrigerator later," Sofia teased, pleased when Sara chuckled at the notion.

"Well, good luck with that. I haven't been to the store in over a week," the investigator replied as she walked towards her bedroom.

Sofia waited until Sara had left the room before she took a seat in the vacated chair. Sighing, she reviewed the short conversation that followed Sara's revelation. She hoped that she'd handled the situation in such a way that Sara had drawn some sort of reassurance from her few words, but only time would tell if she'd been able to help the brunette begin to come to terms with her demons.


Chapter 9

Lying on the couch and flipping through the channels, Sofia continued to surf for something to watch. Sara had gone back to her bedroom hours ago, and the blonde had made it a point to go check on the brunette about every thirty minutes. The detective was pleased to see the investigator resting and not tossing and turning each time she peeked into the room.

The same couldn't be said for Sofia. Every time she closed her eyes to take a cat nap, she'd see a terrified little brunette girl watching her mother stab her father. How Sara had survived the horrible ordeal was almost unfathomable; however, the detective now understood why Sara was so guarded and stoic.

A few minutes before dawn, Sofia finally fell into a dreamless sleep, curled on her side, and that's exactly how Sara found her when she walked into the den. The investigator took a couple of minutes to admire the detective before heading into the kitchen to put on a pot of coffee. Thoughts of perhaps asking the blonde out began to take root in her head, but she knew she needed to wait until this latest murder was solved and the mystery man was found.

The tantalizing aroma of coffee put a smile on Sofia's face as she began to slowly rouse. Opening her eyes, she focused on the TV and bookcase and immediately remembered where she was and why she was here. A slight groan escaped her lips as she swung her legs around and moved to a sitting position, and she cursed herself for not making use of the longer couch as she'd slept in an almost fetal position during her short nap.

Standing, she made her way to the kitchen where she found Sara pouring a mug of the wonderful smelling elixir.

"Morning, Sara," Sofia mumbled, traces of sleep causing her voice to sound a bit gravelly.

"How'd you sleep?" Sara asked, reaching for a second mug and placing hers to the side. "How do you take your coffee?"

"A little milk and a little sweetener, but I'll fix it."

"Well, you're going to have to settle for just sweetener. I have sugar, but I'm certain you'd have to spoon the milk out of the carton."

Grimacing, Sofia replied, "Ew, no thanks. Sugar will be just fine." Sara smiled and moved to the table, allowing the blonde to prepare her own coffee.

"So, you never said. Did you sleep okay?"

"When I finally got to sleep, yeah; however, it took me forever to relax," Sofia replied, not quite awake enough to realize how Sara might take her response.

Looking down into her mug, the investigator said sadly, "Yeah, I guess it would be pretty hard to relax after everything I dumped on you."

Sofia walked over and took a seat beside the other woman. Reaching out, she gently took Sara's hand, reassuring, "Hey, don't say that. I know how hard it was for you to confide in me, and I'm honored that you trusted me."

Sara nodded in reply, and Sofia squeezed the brunette's hand before releasing it. The two women sat in comfortable silence, sipping their coffee and wondering what the new day would bring.

Sofia took her leave a bit later when Sara insisted that the detective go home and get some proper rest. The investigator assured the other woman that she'd be okay, but Sofia was loathe to leave the brunette alone. The two had finally compromised with Sara pointing out that Sofia could check up on her later, especially since she'd need a ride to work. Sofia had chuckled and promised to come by a little early, citing that they both needed to get a bite to eat before shift.

The minute the detective left the apartment, Sara headed straight for her computer and, pulling up different search engines, she began the hunt for her brother. The brunette was hoping to get a hit on him somewhere far, far away but, after a couple of hours of searching, she would've settled on just getting a hit period.

Across town, Sofia gave Brass another call and, without divulging any confidences, she stressed the need to find the missing man. She even went so far as mentioning that it was possible the man had something to do with the stabbing murder behind the diner. For Sara's sake, she hoped that her made-up theory didn't hold any truth.

An hour before she was to pick up the investigator, Sofia stood outside Sara's apartment. She'd slept, washed a couple of loads of clothes, and tidied up her apartment. With nothing left to occupy her time, she'd found herself no longer able to stay away from the object of her thoughts.

Taking a deep breath, the detective lightly knocked on the door, nervously waiting for the investigator to answer. When the door swung open, Sofia grinned sheepishly and placed her hands deep into her pockets. Sara just smiled and shook her head as she stood back to allow the other woman to enter.

Since the pair had more time than they'd originally planned to get something to eat, they chose a slightly more upscale restaurant, one that catered to both their likes. A vegetarian menu afforded Sara with multiple choices, and the seafood menu appealed to Sofia's craving. Seated in a quiet corner, the two women enjoyed both the food and the company.

"Oh man, I shouldn't have eaten so much. I'll probably be fighting sleep for most of the night," Sara groaned, holding her hand over her stomach to emphasize her point.

Chuckling, Sofia replied, "I know what you mean, but it was good, wasn't it?"

"We'll have to come back again when we don't have to worry about working afterwards," Sara casually mentioned, leaving the door open for the detective to either acknowledge or ignore her thinly veiled attempt to see if the other woman might be interested in going out again in a more 'date-oriented' atmosphere.

"I'd like that," was Sofia's reply and, coupled with a sweet smile from the blonde, had Sara vowing that she'd do everything in her power to make sure they made it back to the restaurant in the very near future.

The two women climbed into the detective's car, resigning themselves to their night of work; both secretly wishing they could spend more time alone with each other. A block from the station, Sofia reached down to grab her ringing cell off her belt.

"Curtis," the detective answered professionally as she listened to the caller's voice and, in a serious tone, she added, "We'll be right there."

Turning towards Sara, she said calmly, "Brass thinks he's got the real guy this time. He's in one of the interrogation rooms." Without another word, she reached for Sara's hand and gripped it tightly as she headed for her new destination, LVPD headquarters.

In the hallway, Sofia exchanged a few words with Brass while Sara stood nervously awaiting their decision. The lead detective nodded towards a side door and, offering a smile at the investigator, he turned and walked away.

Sofia once again reached for Sara's hand as she led her inside the viewing room. Closing the door behind them, she stepped between Sara and the glass, explaining, "Brass wants you to see if you can identify the man sitting at the table in the next room. The guy refused to give his name, and he didn't have any form of identification on him. Sara, if you don't want to do this, I can see if I can talk to him. Perhaps, he'll tell me who he is, or, maybe I can persuade him to take a DNA test."

The investigator shook her head, saying, "No. I want to do this. I have to see for myself."

"Okay, I understand, but I'll be right beside you if you need me."

Nodding her thanks, Sara released a breath and stepped towards the window. Sofia followed closely behind, making sure to maintain her hold on the brunette's hand.

The man sat at the table with his head resting on the surface, making it impossible to see any of his features. Sofia reached for the speaker to instruct him to look up but, as if he sensed their presence, he slowly raised his head and stared directly into the mirror.

For the second time in two days, Sara found herself looking into the past as the familiar face of her father once again stared back at her, his ghost finally finding a way to make an appearance outside her nightmares and into her reality.


Chapter 10

As Sara felt herself slipping into her memories, a squeeze to her hand alerted her to Sofia's presence, the small gesture keeping her grounded. This time, Sara stared back into the man's dark eyes, anchored with the knowledge that she now had someone offering her support, someone who was standing beside her, silently holding her hand.

"That's him. That's the man I saw in the diner. He's got to be Matt; he looks just like Dad."

Sofia studied the man behind the glass. His dark hair and dark eyes were almost identical to Sara's, but that's where the resemblance seemed to end. The dark complexion and round face were so dissimilar to the investigator that no one would ever suspect the two were even related, much less brother and sister.

"I look more like mother," Sara offered, almost as if she were reading the detective's mind. "We both got Dad's eye and hair color and, of course, that damn space between our front teeth."

Smiling at the thought of the adorable little gap, Sofia replied, "I kind of like that feature."

Despite the intensity of the situation, Sara couldn't help but chuckle, and the two women shared a smile just as a knock sounded on the door, followed by the appearance of Jim Brass.

"Well?" Brass asked, impatient to find out if Sara knew the man, but more importantly, how she knew the man.

Sara nodded slightly, giving Sofia permission to confide in her partner, and the detective smiled in return as she tightened her hold on the brunette's hand.

"Hey, Jim. Sara is pretty certain that the guy's her brother, so how do you want to handle his interrogation?"

Only a raise of an eyebrow alerted the two women to Brass' surprise as he looked past them and into the other room. Seemingly not deterred by the news, he said, "It's not really an interrogation, per se. We don't have any evidence linking him to the crime scene. I told him we needed to ask him some questions about the deceased. He voluntarily agreed to talk to us; he just refused to tell his name."

"Have you spoken to him yet?" Sofia asked, glancing back at the room to find the man once again resting his head on the table.

"No. I was waiting for you. I'd hoped to have some insight before I talked to him. So, should I bring up the brother angle?"

The grip immediately tightened on Sofia's hand, and the detective slowly ran her thumb along the base of Sara's in an effort to calm the other woman. "Why don't you hold off on that line of questioning and just see what he knows about the deceased for right now?"

"Gotcha; you two gonna stay and listen?"

"If you don't mind, just in case he says something that has some meaning to Sara."

Brass winked at the two women and turned to leave the room. As the door closed behind him, Sofia finally turned to the quiet Sara. "Hey, I figured you'd want to hear what he had to say about the murder before we tried to establish his true identity."

"Yeah, but to tell you the truth, I'm almost afraid to hear his voice. Looking like Dad is one thing . . ." Sara trailed off as she turned her focus back to the interrogation room.

Before Sofia could offer any kind of reply, Brass swept into the room, and his booming voice came through the viewing room's speakers loud and clear. "Sorry to keep you waiting, Mr. . . . Oh yeah, that's right. You don't have a name. Mind if I call you John, Mr. Doe?"

The dark headed man shrugged his reply and sat back in his chair, waiting for Brass to get on with the questioning. Grinning, the detective moved to the other side of the table and took a seat.

"So, John. Did you know Henry Charleston?"


Sara started at the response, the deep voice sounding eerily familiar. Taking a step closer to the window, she kept her eyes on the occupied chair across from Brass.

"Henry Charleston. He was a local homeless man who was found stabbed and left for dead behind the diner on 13th Street; the same diner you were seen in yesterday, the same diner where the waitress describes someone who looks remarkably like you frequenting the place quite often with ol' Henry here," Brass answered, gesturing to a photo and sliding it to the other side of the table.

"Okay, so I know the guy. So what? I didn't kill him. Knowing Henry, he probably offered to suck the wrong guy's dick."

"Ah, so were you and Henry close?"

Smirking, the dark haired man replied, "I only suck dick when I need money, Henry does it because he loves it. He's pretty damned good, too."

"So, you've been on the receiving end of Henry's . . . er, how should I say this . . . um, talent?"

"In the beginning, yeah; I certainly wasn't going to turn down an offer like that, but he wanted me to reciprocate and, well, no money, no action."

Sara stood at the window, listening carefully to every word. The voice and face were so similar to her father's it was difficult for her to concentrate on the words being said but, somehow, she managed to grasp the subject of the conversation. If this was indeed her brother, he'd sunk to the very bottom of human existence.

"Sara, are you okay?"

Sofia's voice pulled the investigator from her thoughts, and she quietly replied, "No, not really. I guess Matt didn't get away scot-free after all. I'd always thought he'd escaped all the horror and abuse when he ran away, but it looks like he ran straight towards it."

Brass' next question got both women's attention. "So, you and Henry trade tricks for money. What for? Hoping to score some coke or horse?"

Laughing, the dark headed man answered, "Of course. You don't think I'd get down on my knees if I wasn't going to get something out of it. The rush, man; I do it for the rush. And the best part is forgetting who you are and where you came from. Every stinking thing that ever happened to you fades away."

"Yeah, but that's only temporary."

"Until the next time, man; until the next time. That's why I keep doing it; I don't want to remember."

Tears began to well in Sara's eyes as she looked at the broken man. Choking back a sob, she pulled her hand from Sofia's and quickly fled the room.

Part 11

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