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 11

Surprised by Sara's reaction, Sofia started after her, but turned back to the viewing glass instead, her eyes focused on the room's door. After several minutes, the door remained stubbornly closed, and the detective set out to find the investigator. She was certain that Sara would've headed straight for the interrogation room.

The blonde was stopped several times in the hallways of the precinct by fellow officers asking her about the stabbing and wanting to know if Brass had discovered anything significant from the other homeless man. By the time she finally made it to the front entrance of the station, there was no sign of Sara anywhere.

Upset with herself for not going after the brunette the minute she'd bolted from the room, Sofia removed her cell from her belt and called a familiar number. Ending her conversation with Brass, she headed straight for CSI headquarters.

"Catherine, have you seen Sara?" The abrupt question was out of the detective's mouth before she'd even taken the time to properly greet the redheaded investigator, but Catherine didn't seem to be offended.

"No, and she's usually here by now. Grissom said she was ill yesterday. Perhaps, she's not coming in tonight."

"Um, no, I'm pretty sure she's planning on working tonight. She was just over at the station with me, and she left kind of upset. I was hoping she'd come here."

"Upset? What happened?" Catherine suddenly turned very serious at the implication that the detective might've said something to hurt her colleague's feelings. Yes, she and Sara got into it quite frequently, but this was something completely different. She'd be damned if she was going to let someone else get away with hurting the brunette.

"It's a really long story, Catherine, and, frankly, it's not my place to give any of the details. I just need to find Sara."

Blue eyes bore into blue eyes in a classic standoff until the CSI finally turned and started down the hallway, calling back, "C'mon. If she's hiding out, I know exactly where she'll be."

Sofia lengthened her pace to catch up with the redhead and, together, they headed towards the back of the building. The detective hesitated at the door to Sara's favorite lab, figuring there must be some back room she wasn't aware of, but Catherine kept moving forwards, heading directly for the back exit of the building.

With her hand on the doorknob, Catherine addressed the blonde. "There's an area around back where the air conditioning units are located. It's bricked in on three sides, and it's the perfect hiding place. I found Sara there one time by accident, and I promised to never divulge that I'd seen her crying or tell anyone about her hiding place. Don't make me regret telling you, Sofia."

The detective nodded in understanding and waiting for the investigator to open the door. Taking a deep breath, Catherine turned the knob and pulled the door towards her. She gestured to the right and started walking in the same direction.

"Sara? Are you out here?"

"Go away, Catherine. I don't want to talk to anyone right now. Tell Grissom I can't make it in tonight after all."

The pair made their way to the entrance of Sara's bricked sanctuary, and Sofia squinted into the darkness, looking for any sign of the dark headed woman.

"Damn it, Catherine," was shouted from the back of the unlit area.

"Look, Sara. Sofia was worried about you. She said you were upset. I had to tell her where you were."


"Hey, don't you bullshit me, Sara Sidle. We're both worried about you, damn it. Now, I don't know what's going on, and I'm not asking you to tell me, at least for now anyway. But, Sofia does know what's wrong, so I'm going to leave you two alone to hash it out. I'll take care of Grissom." Whispering to Sofia, she said, "Call me if you need me."

Sofia watched the redhead look into the darkened area one more time before she finally headed back towards the building. Catherine opened the door and nodded towards the blonde as a sign of encouragement just as she stepped into the building, leaving the detective alone to handle the devastated CSI.

"Sara? Can I come closer?"

"I'd rather you didn't."

"Okay, then I'll just stand here, but I'm not leaving, Sara."

No other words were forthcoming from the brunette, so Sofia took advantage of the quiet to express her feelings and concerns.

"Sara, I know you've got to be very upset, shocked, hurt, and even angry, finding out about your brother the way you did, but you do realize that there's a slight possibility he's not your brother."

A derisive snort came from the darkened space. "You've got to be kidding. Well, not about the way I'm feeling but, certainly, about that man not being my brother. If that's not Matt Sidle, then I don't know who is. The voice, the looks, the demeanor; it's him. I don't need a DNA test to prove what I already know."

"Okay, so what if it is. He's the one who left, Sara. He made his own choices in life. You had nothing to do with the way things turned out. His hardships are not your responsibility."

"I know that, but I can't help feeling the way I do."

Sara's voice suddenly sounded very close, and Sofia had to force herself to remain calm. She certainly didn't want to frighten the brunette, especially if she'd decided to come out of hiding.

"How do you feel, Sara? Let me help you; tell me how you feel."

The tear streaked faced stepped out of the confinement of the bricks, moving closer to the detective, almost as if Sara was drawn to the comforting presence.

"I feel incredibly sad, Sofia. So very, very sad."

Reaching for the trembling woman, Sofia pulled her into a tight embrace as sobs wracked the stillness of the night. Sara clung to the detective, hoping to draw from the strong arms the strength she'd need to face the next few days.

"Shh, I got you. We'll get through this together, Sara. You don't have to face this alone; not anymore, sweetie, not anymore."

The outside door quietly closed as Catherine made her way to the front of the building. Sofia would take care of Sara's emotional needs, but the redhead set her sights on what she and her team could do to help as well. It was time to find out what the hell was going on.


Chapter 12

A light mist began to fall as Sofia continued to hold Sara in an embrace. The detective pulled back from the investigator and looked into dark, sad eyes.

"Hey, it's starting to rain. Why don't you let me take you home? Catherine will take care of Grissom."

"What about you?"

"Well, I have to work tonight; we're already short-handed. I'll stay until you fall asleep, and then I'll come back in the morning to check on you. I'll have my cell with me, so you can call if you need me."

Pushing some damp hair behind Sara's ear, Sofia asked, "How does that sound?"

"Um, okay, I guess. I don't think I could concentrate on work tonight, so home sounds pretty good."

Smiling, Sofia fully released the investigator and took her hand, leading her towards the back door. Halfway down the sidewalk, Sara came to a complete stop, halting their progress.

"I don't want anyone to see me." Sara looked down at the cracked pavement, embarrassed by her confession.

A squeeze to her hand had her looking up into reassuring, blue eyes. "Okay, then we'll walk around the building."

Sara nodded in agreement and allowed the detective to change their course. The back door was completely avoided as the pair made their way around the far side of the lab.

Before long they were at Sara's home.

The brunette opened the apartment door and stepped inside with Sofia following right on her heels. Sara hadn't said very much on the ride over, but she seemed to be more in control than earlier; however, Sofia could see that she was still a long way from overcoming her sadness.

"Um, Sofia. You don't have to stay with me. I promise I'll be okay and, besides, you need to get back to work."

"Brass promised to catch the first scene tonight, so barring a separate crime scene at exactly the same time; I should be able to stay awhile."

The words were barely out of the detective's mouth when her cell chimed. Grimacing, she pulled it from her belt and checked the caller ID. LVPD's number flashed across the screen, and the blonde immediately realized that she'd just jinxed herself.

"Curtis....Okay, give me ten," she replied curtly and then, quickly closing her phone, she turned her attention to the investigator.

"Sara. I'm sorry about this. It's a single homicide, and ..."

"Stop, Sofia. I understand. I really will be okay."

"Alright, but don't forget, I'm just a phone call away."

Walking the detective to the door, Sara placed her hand on the doorknob, hesitating before opening the door.

"I know I've been saying this quite a bit lately, but thanks, Sofia. I truly don't know what I would've done without you."

"I'm just glad I could help," replied the detective, watching as Sara nervously looked away. "It's going to be okay, Sara."

Sofia pulled the brunette into a hug, holding on until Sara finally begin to relax. When she released the investigator, she was taken by surprise when a set of lips firmly affixed themselves to her own; however, the warmth disappeared almost as quickly as it had begun. The detective was just getting into the kiss when Sara suddenly released her lips and stepped back, embarrassment evident on her face.

"Shit. I'm sorry, Sofia. That was totally uncalled for; please, forgive me."

Sofia didn't hesitate to move into the brunette and reclaim the lips she was being denied. The blonde truly believed words were often overrated, and sometimes she just needed to shut up and kiss the other woman. Sara seemed to wholeheartedly agree with Sofia's philosophy as she held onto the detective's hips and greedily took her fill. Both women became lost in the kiss as the sounds of soft moaning and heavy breathing punctuated their intense desire for each other.

When Sara began to struggle to pull the blonde's shirt free from her pants, Sofia reached for the brunette's hands, stilling them with her own; however, she had a much more difficult time releasing the sweet lips she had already become addicted to.

"Wait, Sara. We're going too fast here."

The investigator burrowed into the blonde's neck and exhaled deeply, trying to regain control of her uneven breathing. She'd never reacted so strongly to someone before.

"Sorry. I don't know what got into me. I didn't mean to attack you."

The voice was so soft and full of remorse, it nearly broke Sofia's heart. Lightly rubbing Sara's back, the detective attempted to reassure the other woman.

"You didn't attack me, Sara. In case you didn't notice, I kind of got carried away, too. I just don't want us to jump into this blind. We need to get through this situation with your brother, and then we can concentrate on making a go of things."

Sofia felt the ghost of a smile against her neck and knew she'd said just the right thing. Pulling away, she tilted Sara's chin up so that she could look her in the eye; she wanted the brunette to be sure of her intentions.

"When this is all over, I want this," a hand gestured between the two of them. "I want a relationship with you, Sara."

"Me, too." The whispered response brought a smile to Sofia's face just as her phone sounded once again. This time, both women laughed aloud at the interruption.

Ten minutes later, Sofia was on her way to her crime scene. She'd made Sara promise to lie down and had waited until the brunette had closed and locked her door. Only when she saw the lights go off in the den, did the detective slowly drive away from the complex.

"Hey Curtis, you're late." Catherine's voice sounded across the driveway, causing the detective to shake her head.

"Okay, let's reverse our roles then. What've you got, Catherine?"

"How's Sara?" The investigator ignored the question, looking around to be sure there were no eavesdroppers in the vicinity.

"She's okay. Now, what do you say we get through this crime scene and then you and I can talk?"

"Alright, but only because this should be an easy one; I don't think I could wait any longer. Besides, I've got some things to tell you."

Turning, Catherine walked away, leaving the detective to wonder if perhaps they should've had their conversation now instead of later.

Catherine and Nick quickly and efficiently collected the evidence in the garage of the home. The redheaded investigator had been right when she said it would be an easy case as the homeowner hadn't even made it inside. He'd been shot before he could step out of his car, and the smoking gun belonged to his wife.

Luckily, she'd confessed with preamble, saying simply, "He'll never cheat on me again."

Sofia watched as Catherine and Nick loaded the evidence in the back of the Denali and, when the investigator walked around to the passenger side of the truck, she just assumed that she'd talk to Catherine back at the precinct; however, as the detective put her car in gear, she looked up to see the Denali driving away and Catherine walking towards her car.

"Hey, Sofia, I told Nick I'm riding with you."

The detective nodded and, once Catherine had shut her door, pulled from the curb.

"Now, what've you got to tell me?" Sofia didn't waste anytime asking her question. Something about the way Catherine had delivered the line earlier had the blonde worried about the information but, more importantly, how the information would impact Sara.

"Greg went back to the alley behind the diner to check things out. Did you know there's a full moon tonight?"

"What? What does that have to do with anything?"

"Ah, Sofia. Haven't you ever been out on a bright, moonlit night? You don't even need streetlights to light your way."


"Okay, okay. You spoil all the fun. Anyway, as Greg was leaving the alley, he spotted something very shiny at the far end. The knife was stuck in-between two bricks about six feet from the ground."

"Murder weapon?"

"Yep, and guess what else?"

"C'mon, Catherine, just spit it out, please."

"There were three perfect prints on the hilt, and all three belonged to Matt Sidle."


Chapter 13

"What?" Sofia was stunned by Catherine's revelation. Sara's worst nightmare was becoming a reality.

"Matt Sidle. He's been in the system; aggravated robbery. Served his time and hasn't been in trouble since. Well, at least, he hasn't been caught since his release. So, how's he related to Sara?"

Without thought, Sofia immediately jumped to the brunette's defense. "What makes you think he's related to Sara?"

"Oh, c'mon, Sofia. Sidle's not your average name, and . . . well, I may have accidentally overheard your conversation with Sara when you were talking behind the building. I heard her mention his name. So, what is he? Her cousin?"

"You eavesdropped? I can't believe you, Catherine. I thought you wanted to help Sara."

Catherine grimaced slightly, but quickly regained her composure, ready with her explanation.

"I do want to help Sara, but I needed to know what was going on. I knew she wouldn't tell me, and I'd hoped she'd at least tell you. I only heard the tail end of the conversation; I was just coming back outside to ask if Sara wanted me to tell Grissom she needed a couple of days off instead of just tonight. When you seemed to have everything in control, I snuck back inside."

Sofia's mind was racing. She knew Sara deserved the truth, but she had no idea what the truth was. Had Matt Sidle killed his so-called friend? Had the other man pushed him too far? She needed to get to the bottom of this murder, and she needed to get to it fast. The detective had no other choice but to trust the redheaded investigator as well as the rest of her CSI team.

Her mind made up, Sofia explained as best she could, careful not to divulge any more information than was absolutely necessary.

"Matt Sidle is Sara's brother. She hasn't seen him since they were kids; he ran away and never tried to contact Sara. She had no idea he was in Vegas. Catherine, I need to be one hundred percent certain that he did it before I tell Sara."

"Well, it certainly doesn't look good for him, but I'll see what I can find out. You know you can't keep Sara from finding out for too long; Brass has already arrested him. In fact, he's probably already been booked. I'm surprised he hasn't called you."

The detective reached for her belt and grabbed her cell. Flipping it open, she quickly discovered the reason why her colleague hadn't contacted her. With everything that had happened, she'd forgotten to charge her phone.

Focusing on the current situation, Sofia fell back on an old habit, running through the different possibilities aloud.

"Okay. We know the suspect didn't care for the victim, but he was adamant that he didn't kill him. So, what if he came upon the body and hid the knife because he knew he would be the prime suspect?"

Catherine turned in her seat to listen to the detective, deciding to play the devil's advocate to the blonde's theories.

"Why hide the knife in the alley? Why not take it with him and hide it somewhere else?"

"Maybe something spooked him, or, maybe he planned to come back and get it later. You said Greg found it six feet above the ground, so Matt Sidle looks good in either role, killer or hider of evidence."

"Hider of evidence? Is that an official role?" Catherine teased the detective as the pair pulled into the CSI parking lot, narrowly missing a Denali which appeared to be in a very big hurry.

"Whoa! Who the hell drives like that?" Sofia glared in her rearview mirror, watching the truck turn into the street.

Frowning, Catherine looked over at the empty parking spaces. "I think that was Grissom, but he usually drives like an old woman."

Nick met the two as they climbed from Sofia's car. "Hey, have you guys heard the latest? Sara's brother has been arrested for the stabbing murder. Grissom's on his way to tell her now."

"Fuck," Sofia blurted, turning back to her car; she had to get to Sara. "Catherine, see if you can get Grissom on his cell or try the radio. Tell him not to dare say anything to Sara."

Before the redhead could agree, the detective had jumped into her car and placed her siren on the roof. She literally flew out of her space as she raced towards Sara's apartment, trying to catch the CSI night shift supervisor before he could deliver the news to Sara in his usual inept style, without any thought to how the brunette would react to such devastating news.

Three blocks from the apartment, Sofia turned off the siren, allowing the flashing light to alert cars to her presence. She hadn't caught up with Grissom and briefly wondered if he'd taken another route. Pushing down on the accelerator, she sped towards Sara.

"Shit." Sofia pulled in next to the parked Denali and, looking towards the brunette's apartment, she spotted the supervisor half-way up the stairs. Jumping from her car, she raced to catch him.

"Grissom! Wait!"

Startled, the older CSI turned towards the voice, clearly surprised by the sudden appearance of the detective.

"Sofia? What are you doing here?"

"The better question is what are you doing here, Grissom?"

Frowning, he gestured towards Sara's apartment. "I thought Sara should know about her brother in person."

"You know, it seems to me that you were in a bit of a hurry to get over here, and I have to wonder why you couldn't wait to tell Sara news that will blow her world all to hell."

"I'm her supervisor. She should hear it from me." Grissom defended himself, his nervousness belying his reasoning.

Sofia started up the steps, shaking her head in disagreement. "No, I don't think that's why you're here. You want to comfort her when she falls apart."

"Sofia, you're wrong. I'm just doing my job. I'd never intentionally hurt Sara."

The words 'thou doest protest too much' lingered on the detective's lips, but she somehow managed to keep them in check.

"I'll talk to Sara, Grissom. I've been here for her since this whole thing started, and I intend to be here when it ends."

"It's not your place, Sofia. You've done your part, now let me do mine."

A voice from the top of the stairs interrupted the showdown between the two.

"What's going on? Why are you here, Grissom?" Sara glanced from Sofia to her supervisor and back again, looking for an answer to her questions.

"Sara..." Grissom began, only for Sofia to step past him as she moved towards the brunette.

"Something's come up involving Matt, Sara."

Grissom could hardly believe what he was hearing, wondering how Sofia could so easily refer to Sara's brother by name. It was almost as if she'd known all along that Sara had a brother.

"Come on in, Sofia. Grissom, I'll talk to you later."

The two women moved into the apartment, closing the door behind them and leaving the supervisor standing on the stairs without a clue as to what had just transpired. Turning, he made his way to the Denali, occasionally glancing back at Sara's closed door.

As Grissom pulled from his parking space, he mentally replayed the last few moments, certain that he'd seen Sofia take Sara into her arms before she closed the apartment door.


Chapter 14

Sara melted into Sofia, taking just a moment to savor the safe feeling the detective's touch gave to her. She'd never experienced such protectiveness; it was as if she was a precious metal, wrapped in a fine cloth for safekeeping. Closing her eyes, she cherished the special feeling.

The investigator was ever so grateful Sofia had arrived in time to stop Grissom from telling her whatever it was he'd come to tell her; she'd known the minute Sofia had mentioned Matt's name that things would soon be taking a turn for the worse as far as the Sidles were concerned. She had a strong feeling the news itself was going to be difficult enough for her to accept; hearing it from Grissom would've been unbearable, especially if he'd made an awkward attempt to hug her, and he would've, she had no doubt.

She easily recalled the last time she'd been upset in his presence. Grissom had been called when she got pulled over for driving under the influence because of some stupid rule about calling her supervisor. He'd clumsily leaned forward towards her in an attempt to offer comfort and support, but his bumbling only led to him grasping her hand. Sara pushed the image aside and leaned further into Sofia's welcomed embrace.

The detective held onto Sara tightly, running her hand gently up and down the brunette's spine and offering comfort in the only way she knew how as she bided her time until the investigator asked to know the truth. If only she could pack Sara up and take her away until the whole thing boiled over, but she knew that her plan would never work. First, the CSI would never agree to it and, second, the situation wasn't going away. It would still be here when they returned.

Sighing, Sara finally moved to pull away, and Sofia reluctantly let her go. "Okay, what's happened?"

The blonde gently took the other woman's hand and led her to the couch. Once they were comfortably seated, she explained everything Catherine had told her, making sure to include her theory that it was entirely possible that Matt's only crime was hiding the murder weapon.

"So, it's definitely Matt then?"

"Yes. Although, I'm not sure how Brass managed to talk him into giving up his prints so that Mandy could match them to the one's already in the system; he probably had no idea they'd found the knife, and I'm certain he didn't know that Brass already suspected who he was."

"What was he in for?" Sara stared out of her apartment window, dreading Sofia's reply and inwardly cursing her brother for choosing to make Vegas his new home.

Sofia watched the brunette physically brace herself, and she briefly wondered if this was how Sara lived her life all those years ago, always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

"Aggravated robbery; Catherine didn't give any details, but I can find out if you'd like."

Sara continued to look towards the window; however, she was no longer focused on what was beyond the glass. Instead, she'd turned introspective, remembering the last time she'd seen her brother.

Matt had taken an especially vicious beating from their father after Sara had purposively let it slip that he'd had a stash of weed hidden under his bed. She no longer remembered why she'd been so angry at Matt that she'd told her parents, but she vividly recalled the consequences of her actions. She hadn't meant for him to get hurt, and she'd certainly never wanted him to leave. But, he had. He'd stolen away in the darkness of the night, leaving her alone to fend off both their parents. After he'd left, her mother no longer tried to protect her, she'd blamed Sara for his leaving.

"Sara?" Sofia had waited for what she thought was an appropriate amount of time for the brunette to answer.

"Huh? Oh, sorry; just thinking."

The detective smiled in relief. Sara had finally broken away from her intense stare to turn towards the blonde.

"I think I'd like to research his case, not that I don't trust you. I'd just like to see it first hand. Um, Sofia? You mentioned Catherine; who else knows?

It was at this point that Sofia wished she could stick Grissom in the same room with Ecklie and the Undersheriff, lock the door behind her, and then throw away the key.

"I think the whole team knows. Nick met Catherine and me in the CSI parking lot and told us about it. That's when I raced to catch up with Grissom before he could tell you about Matt."

Sara looked down at the floor and nodded in understanding, realizing that Grissom must've told Nick, so he'd more than likely told the others as well. It was a hell of a time for the supervisor to suddenly become so talkative.

"I appreciate you cutting him off at the pass. It was easier to hear about Matt from you." The investigator squeezed Sofia's hand in silent thanks, her gesture easier than saying the actual words.

The detective looked into sad eyes and made a decision. Lifting a hand to Sara's face, she gently caressed the brunette's cheek. Ever so slowly, giving Sara every opportunity to stop her actions, Sofia leaned forward until their lips finally touched. This time, the kiss was slow and sweet, each woman reveling in the taste of the other. The blonde used great restraint to keep the kiss from escalating, her intent solely to offer her support to Sara and to reaffirm her commitment to build a relationship with the brunette. Sara graciously accepted the detective's offer as she returned the gesture with great enthusiasm.

After Sofia had initiated the kiss, she and Sara spent several minutes making out on the couch like a couple of teenagers. The detective hadn't felt so strongly about someone in a very long time, and she was beyond ecstatic to discover that Sara felt the same way. It seemed the two women had both admired the other for a long time but were too afraid to take the first step. Something drastic was needed to bring the pair together, and Sara's brother was the perfect catalyst.

The two had worked through all the possibilities of the case and had decided to wait until more evidence became available before making any decisions. It was too soon to determine Matt's guilt or innocence, so they'd just have to wait it out.

Even though she agreed that they should wait, Sara was now unsure as to whether she should visit her brother in jail. Unable to come to any concrete answers together, she'd told Sofia she'd think about it during the night and have a decision in the morning. She'd do some research from home, promising to call the detective if she had any questions or if she just needed to talk, and Sofia promised to be there bright and early with breakfast.

Then, with another kiss, Sara had sent the grinning Sofia on her way, smiling as the blonde practically skipped down the stairs. Closing the door, she'd made her way to her office.

As the detective turned into the LVPD parking lot, Sara placed trembling hands on the keyboard and began to type; the ghosts from her past just wouldn't go away.


Chapter 15

Catherine was waiting for the detective when the blonde entered the building, and the investigator quickly ushered the other woman into one of the empty interrogation rooms.

"Sofia, I'm sorry I couldn't get Grissom on the phone or the radio. I guess he must have switched them both off, or, maybe he just ignored them."

"No problem, Catherine. I intercepted him before he made it to Sara's door. He actually tried to tell me it was his job to inform Sara about her brother, and I could just go. What's his problem anyway?"

Catherine harrumphed and shook her head. "The idiot's got a thing for Sara. I've told him to leave her alone, but he just won't let it go. Every time a situation arises where he can take advantage of her vulnerabilities, he jumps at it. It's really sad when you think about it."

"Well, Sara wasn't even aware that he had feelings towards her until I pointed it out the other day, so it seems his actions went unnoticed by her."

The investigator sighed and walked towards the nearby table, spreading out the contents of a file she'd held. Sofia followed silently and focused on the wealth of information Catherine had uncovered, her eyes opening wide as she read the top page.

Back at the apartment, Sara shut down her computer and stood on shaky legs. Closing her eyes, she tried to keep the wave of nausea at bay, but her efforts proved pointless as she turned and raced towards the bathroom.

Moments later, the brunette leaned over the sink, rinsing her mouth out and washing her face. Turning off the tap, she reached for a towel and slowly lifted up. Sara took a deep breath and forced herself to look into the mirror, her focus turning to the reflective image.

Her mother's resemblance looked back at her, and she frowned. Sara had known that she'd taken after her mother, but until she'd seen the mug shot on the computer, she hadn't realized that as she had aged, the resemblance was even more noticeable. Her mother's image captured so many years ago hadn't changed, but Sara's definitely had.

All those years, the brunette had avoided looking back at the past; there simply was no need to research what she'd already known; however, seeing the photos and the reports brought the old wounds to the surface. Unconsciously, Sara moved her hand to her wrist, rubbing one of her more prominent scars of her past.

A light knock on the apartment door pulled the brunette from her musings, and she gladly welcomed the intrusion. She'd even be willing to buy whatever was being sold if it would successfully distract her from her current thoughts. Glancing at the clock, she realized that it was much too early in the morning for anyone to be selling anything.

Sara peered through the peephole and quickly pulled away, moving her head to lean against the door.

"Fuck. What the hell is he doing here?"

Taking just a moment to compose herself, the investigator sighed and reached for the locks. Opening the door, she motioned her visitor inside.

"What can I do for you, Grissom?"

The nervous supervisor looked around the room before he moved his gaze back to the dark headed CSI. "Um, I just wanted to see how you're doing."

"Oh, really? Well, let's see. I find out that my brother may be in town, then I watch Brass interview him pretty much confirming that the guy is Matt. I listen while he details his last few weeks in Vegas and what he's done to get by. Oh, and then I find out that he's a suspect in the knifing murder. I'm just peachy, Grissom."

The older man visibly cringed with every word, incapable of coming up with any kind of supportive response. His pitiful expression and awkward stance blew the wind out of Sara's proverbial sails, and she invited him to take a seat in the den.

"My stomach's a bit uneasy, and I was just going to make some tea. Why don't you make yourself comfortable, and I'll be right out."

Grissom nodded in reply, walking over and sitting on the couch. Sara smiled sadly and headed towards the kitchen, deciding that even a stilted conversation with Grissom was better than dwelling on the information she'd discovered in her research.

An hour later, Sara led her supervisor to the door. Grissom had been able to give the investigator some information concerning the case and, although it didn't clear her brother, it certainly gave her some leads to follow.

"Thanks for stopping by, Grissom. It really wasn't necessary, but I appreciate the thought. I think I'll take you up on your offer for a few days vacation. There are some things I need to take care of."

The brunette opened the door before Grissom could reply, never noticing the blonde standing on the other side, her hand poised to knock; however, the newcomer's presence certainly didn't go unnoticed by the supervisor as he took a step back from the angry looking detective.

"Grissom. Care to explain what you're doing here?" Sofia glared at the man, purposely standing taller in an attempt to intimidate the CSI.

"Sofia! Hey, is something wrong?" Sara turned to the blonde, grateful for her arrival. Grissom had reached out a hand towards her before she staved off his attempt to initiate a hug by quickly opening the door. Now, she wouldn't have to endure the unwanted embrace.

The detective raised a couple of bags in answer to Sara's question. "I brought the breakfast I'd promised. I didn't realize you had company."

"Huh? Oh, Grissom was just leaving. He's given me the rest of the week off."

Sofia turned her gaze on the supervisor. "Well, that's very nice of you, Grissom. Now, if you'll excuse us, I don't want Sara's breakfast to get cold."

"Oh, um, . . . okay. I'll just be on my way. Take care of yourself, Sara." Nodding towards the two women, he quickly navigated the stairs and headed down the sidewalk towards the street where he'd parked the Denali.

The detective watched him leave, understanding now why she hadn't noticed his vehicle. The sly dog had parked around the corner and across the street. In her haste to get to Sara, she never noticed his truck.

"Sofia? Are you going to come in?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah, sorry. It's just that Grissom is starting to piss me off."

Sara smiled as the blonde stepped into the apartment and headed towards the kitchen. Closing the door, the investigator followed, pleased that Sofia seemed to feel comfortable in her apartment.

The detective pulled up short when she saw the kettle on the stove and the two mugs in the sink.

"So, how long was Grissom here?"

The note of disapproval was evident in the blonde's tone, and Sara felt a little guilty being happy that Sofia was jealous of the supervisor; however, just the thought that the detective was interested in her enough to display the emotion had her gladly pushing the guilt aside.

"About an hour. He filled me in on the case, we talked about possible scenarios, he gave me a list of herbs to take for my upset stomach, and then we discussed the need for me to take off a few days."

"Upset stomach?" Sofia removed the bagels from the bag.

"Yeah." Sara faltered. "Um, I found out quite a bit of information tonight."

Sofia placed their breakfast on a plate and walked towards the table, whispering under her breath, "So did I."

The two women decided to take just a moment to eat their breakfast in peace before exchanging information concerning the case; however, Sara barely managed to take two bites before she stood and raced towards the bathroom.

Sofia quickly followed the other woman and knelt beside her, holding the dark hair out of the way and rubbing the brunette's back in comforting circles. A few minutes later, Sara leaned back on her heels and closed her eyes. Sofia took advantage of the quiet moment to retrieve a wet washrag and, very gently, she wiped the cool cloth over the brunette's face.

"Have you been sick all night?"

"No, just since I concluded my research."

Not wanting to put off the inevitable, Sofia sat down behind the other woman and pulled Sara against her chest. The brunette didn't hesitate to take the comfort being offered as she leaned back, keeping her eyes closed.

"Sara? Catherine found out some things that we need to discuss, but there's something you need to know before we talk about anything else."

"I already know." Sara turned her head so that it was nestled under the blonde's neck.

Swallowing the lump forming in her throat, Sara elaborated on her brief statement with an even briefer one.

"Mother's dead."

Sofia leaned her head against the brunette's and held her tightly. No other words were spoken.

For the first time since she'd read the news, Sara finally allowed a single tear to escape.


Chapter 16

Catherine sat in Grissom's office, looking at the various specimens lining the supervisor's wall. Checking her watch, she wondered where the investigator could be and, right on cue, Grissom walked in.

"Catherine? What are you still doing here? Shift was over an hour ago."

The redhead turned in her seat to face the supervisor. She wasn't at all pleased that she now knew exactly how long she'd been waiting for him to make an appearance.

"Gil? Where have you been?"

The CSI walked around the desk and plopped in his chair. "I, ... um, well, I went to see how Sara was coping with things."

Catherine glared at the older man. "You didn't."

"Why is everyone so against me talking to Sara?"


"Well, Sofia and, now, you."

"Gil, you've got to let your feelings for Sara go. We both know you could never give her what she needs; you can barely give it to yourself. She needs someone who will always be there to give her love and support as well as comfort, and you can't do that. I know you want to, but you just can't. So, let Sofia handle her. She's done a marvelous job so far."

A red faced Grissom looked over the desk and into caring blue eyes. Despite everything, Catherine was his friend, and she knew him better than anyone else.

"I'll try, Catherine."

The CSI smiled her approval. Turning her attention back to the case, she reached for a folder and opened it so that her supervisor could read her findings. Grissom gladly accepted the file, pleased that his friend had dropped the subject so easily.

"I had Mandy check the knife again. The fingerprints on the hilt did indeed belong to Matt Sidle; however, they were inverted, so to speak; more along the lines of someone trying to pull the knife out instead of thrusting it in. Doc said the knife had to have come from below in an upwards thrust. The grip on the knife is all wrong for that kind of attack."

Grissom frowned as he read both Mandy's report and the coroner's. The way the grip appeared on the knife, Matt Sidle would've had to have attacked with a downward motion instead of an upwards one.

"Anything else we missed?" The supervisor turned his attention back to Catherine, wondering if his thoughts of wanting to offer comfort to Sara had caused him to miss such an obvious piece of evidence.

The investigator expanded on her findings. "I had Doc reexamine the victim's mouth. He found bruising in the back of the mouth consistent with oral sex, and he also found a pubic hair under Henry Charleston's tongue. It wasn't a match to Matt Sidle. We need to question him again, Gil."

Grissom nodded in agreement and immediately reached for the phone. "I'll call Sara and then call Brass to set up the interview."

Catherine gently placed her hand on top of her friend's. "Gil, just call Brass. Sofia already knows about the fingerprint evidence, let her tell Sara."

In a quiet apartment, miles away from the lab, Sofia continued to hold onto the brunette, offering support with a gentle embrace. Sara hadn't uttered a word since she'd acknowledged that she was aware of her mother's death, and Sofia patiently waited for the investigator to take the next step. The detective was perfectly content to keep Sara in her arms for as long as need be.

The peaceful solitude was suddenly broken with softly spoken words. "You know, I actually tried to visit her in prison twice. The first time when I got out of high school, and the second when I was leaving San Francisco to come to Vegas. She refused to see me."

Sofia pulled Sara closer. "Perhaps she just wanted you to get on with your life."

"Yeah, I guess, but I would still check in on her every now and then. The warden was very nice about answering my questions. She said Mom kept to herself and went about her daily schedule. According to Mrs. Powers, she always had a book; she loved to read."

"Um, Sara? Why do you suppose Mrs. Powers chose not to contact you concerning your mother's passing?"

A long pause ensued, and Sofia wasn't certain if Sara planned to answer, but the investigator finally let out a sad sigh. "I was so upset that my mother wouldn't agree to see me before I left the state that I never bothered calling back with my new information. In fact, once I got to Vegas, I never called again; I'd finally decided it was time to cut ties with her once and for all. It was what she wanted and, to be quite honest, I did, too. I guess deep down I always held out hope for some kind of closure but leave it to mother to get her way in the end."

"Oh, Sara. I'm so sorry things didn't turn out the way you wanted."

Sara loosened her grip on the other woman but nestled her head further into the crook of Sofia's neck. "Yeah, kind of the story of my life but, at least, I can rid myself of the guilt of not trying harder to visit her. Maybe her ghost will finally set me free."

The sound of the investigator's chuckle surprised the detective, but the words that followed put things into perspective. "One down, two to go. Now, if I can just get Dad's ghost to fade away, I can concentrate on the living one. Or, maybe I just need to get it over with and confront Matt face to face."

Sofia sat up and brought Sara with her as she turned towards the investigator while maintaining a firm grip on the brunette's hand. "About Matt. Catherine has found evidence that casts a huge shadow on his guilt."

The CSI sat quietly and listened intently as the detective laid out the discrepancies in the case, holding her tongue until Sofia had given a full report on the new findings.

"That doesn't make sense. Why didn't he say something? Why did he take the blame if he didn't do it? And, why did he hide the knife?"

The blonde shook her head. "I don't have any idea, Sara. Catherine wanted to interview him again. She planned to meet with Grissom and present the evidence to him. I'm sure they'll get Brass to set up another interrogation of your brother."

At the mention of the supervisor, Sara grimaced. With everything else that was being dumped on her, she certainly didn't need to be worried about the older man's feelings towards her.

Sofia noted the change of expression on the brunette's face, and the detective in her pinpointed the exact moment the change took place. Placing her free hand on Sara's cheek, she smiled and leaned forward, placing a gentle kiss on the soft lips.

"Hey, don't worry about Grissom. You need to concentrate on you and your brother right now. Catherine's promised to talk to him, so let's trust her to set him straight."

Sara's sudden burst of laughter prompted Sofia's question. "What?"

"If Catherine really had to set him straight, then I wouldn't be in this awkward situation in the first place."

Confused, Sofia tilted her head, completely missing the reason for Sara's sudden good humor. "What do you mean?"

Grinning, Sara gave a quick peck to the blonde's lips. "If he had to be set straight, then he'd be gay."

Sofia shook her head and joined in with the other woman's laughter. For just a moment, Sara seemed relaxed and carefree, her mother's ghost finally releasing her hold as her essence dissipated forever.


Chapter 17

"That felt good," Sara sighed. "I haven't laughed like that in a long time. I knew Grissom was good for something."

Sofia stifled a chuckle. "I'm sure being the butt of a joke wasn't exactly what he had in mind."

"Too bad. That's as close as he's getting to making me happy. Although, I am going to take a piece of advice he gave me when he was here earlier."

Struggling to maintain a nonchalant, carefree attitude, Sofia sat back against the tiled wall but maintained her hold on Sara's hand. "Oh, and what advice would that be?"

The detective couldn't keep the edge out of her voice. If Grissom had said anything to undermine the relationship she'd been building with Sara, she was going to literally kill him. She'd been a CSI; she knew how to cover her tracks.

"Let's move this conversation into the den where we can be more comfortable. I really don't want to talk about this on the bathroom floor, do you?"

"Um, are you sure you're not going to be sick again?" Sofia's tone turned soft and gentle, her concern for Sara outweighing her anger at Grissom.

"Yeah, I'm sure." Sara moved to stand, and Sofia reached out as both women used each other as leverage to push themselves to their feet.

Sara turned to walk away, but not before she smiled and held out her hand for the other woman to take, the simple gesture offering a bit of relief to the nervous detective. Sofia tightened her hold as they headed towards the den.

The investigator pulled Sofia directly to the couch and took a seat in the middle; tugging on the detective's hand, she forced the blonde to sit to her left, next to the end. Sofia had barely gotten settled when she suddenly became a pillow for Sara as the brunette plopped a sofa pillow in the blonde's lap, immediately followed by her head.

Sofia looked down at the grinning CSI. "Comfy?"

Sara wiggled her head back and forth and nodded. "Now, where were we? . . . Ah, yes, Grissom." The almost imperceptible narrowing of the blonde's eyes caught the astute investigator's attention.

"Grissom said . . ." The CSI faltered teasingly, watching Sofia's reactions carefully. The narrowing of her eyes, the wrinkling of her brow, and the pursing of her lips told Sara everything she needed to know. Sofia was definitely jealous.

Sara was so caught up in her study of the other woman's facial expression that more time elapsed than she'd realized; however, a very impatient Sofia called her attention to the oversight.

"What? What did he say?"

The ensuing laughter did nothing to calm the detective's frustration.

"Damn it, Sara. This isn't funny. Now, tell me what the snake-in-the-grass, double-crossing, no-good, sorry excuse for boyfriend material had to say."

Sara fell off the couch and onto the floor, her bruised elbow not deterring her for one second as tears streamed down her face amidst her continuous laughter. How she could go to such extremes in less than an hour was a mystery to her, but enjoying the moment, she just went with the flow.

Sofia, on the other hand, folded her arms across her chest and stared down at the amused investigator. Although pleased that Sara's problems and heartaches seemed to be temporarily sidelined, she wasn't at all happy that her jealous reaction to Grissom was apparently the catalyst.

Wiping the tears from her face with the back of her hand, Sara rose to her knees still chuckling. "I'm sorry, Sofia. I can truthfully say I've never reacted like this before. I'd always wondered how someone could lose total control like I just did. Now, I know; they simply couldn't help it and, now, I can see how cathartic it can be. I feel absolutely wonderful."

"Good to hear. Just call me anytime you want to laugh yourself silly."

Sara moved to take the seat next to the detective. Taking her hand, she swallowed the last few chuckles and apologized. "I truly am sorry. I wasn't laughing at you, Sofia. Really, I wasn't."

Looking down at their joined hands, Sofia ran her thumb across the investigator's smooth skin, trying to regain control of her runaway emotions. She knew Sara wasn't interested in Grissom, but she simply couldn't stop the jealous feeling from rearing its ugly head.

"I know, and I apologize, too. I guess you lost control of your giggle box, and I lost control of my feelings. It's just that this is so new, you know?" Sofia raised their joined hands to make her point.

"Yes, I do know. I promise you, Sofia; nothing is going to stand in the way of this relationship. I want it as badly as you do."

Sofia smiled. "Good. Now that we're in agreement, what do you say you fill me in on the advice Grissom gave you?"

"He said that the next time I see my brother, it shouldn't be behind a one-way mirror. He's right, too. What kind of person am I if I hide behind the glass, allowing myself to see both our reflections? I've got the luxury of knowing we're both alive and in the same city. He only knows what he sees on his side of the glass. As far as he knows, he's totally alone in all of this. He has no idea that his sister is lurking behind the mirror, spying on him and listening as he pulls the demons out of his closet. It just isn't fair."

"Wow, Grissom said all that? I'm impressed."

"Well, actually, he just said that the next time I saw my brother, it should be face to face. I kind of added all that other stuff after I'd had some time to think about it."

Sofia squeezed the hand she held and nodded. "It sounds like you've worked some things out. Do you want me to arrange a meeting with Matt for you?"

Sara shook her head slowly. "No, I'm not quite ready to follow through just yet. Soon, though, but right now, you need to rest. Why don't you go crawl into my bed and get some sleep? I'm sure Catherine will call if she finds out anything."

"I should go home. You need your rest, too. I bet you didn't get a wink of sleep last night."

"No, I didn't, but I also wasn't working like you were. I could use some sleep, though." Hesitating, Sara focused on the pillow still lying on the floor where it had fallen a few moments ago, "Um, Sofia? Do you think ... Maybe, we could.... I mean, not to... Well, you know..."

"C'mon, let's go." Sofia stood and gently pulled Sara to her feet. Smiling reassuringly, she turned and walked towards the bedroom.


Chapter 18

Sofia woke hours later. A dark head lay on her shoulder and an arm rested in an almost possessive manner across her stomach. Slowly and gently, the detective managed to ease out from under Sara without waking her. She looked down at the brunette's relaxed features and smiled before turning and tiptoeing from the room.

Sometime later, a sleepy Sara shuffled into the kitchen and took a seat at the occupied table. Placing her head on the surface, she closed her eyes as Sofia rose and moved to the coffeepot. The detective had a feeling that Sara didn't function very well until she'd had her first cup of coffee.

Two mugs later, the investigator finally began to show signs of wakefulness, and Sofia began to relate the conversation she'd had with Catherine while the brunette had slept.

"Catherine called. Matt wouldn't tell them anything. She said he just sat and listened to the evidence surrounding the fingerprints on the knife and how she believed that he hadn't been the one to strike the blow, but rather that he'd probably removed the knife in an attempt to save Henry Charleston."

Sara sat perfectly still, listening intently, and Sofia imagined she more than likely gave the same appearance as Matt had to Catherine earlier. Clearing her voice, she continued.

"There's also the very strong possibility of a third man being at the scene. Doc found evidence that Mr. Charleston had engaged in oral sex. A pubic hair, not Matt's, was found under his tongue. Problem is we don't know who the other man is or if he was present at the time of death."

"Did Catherine mention the other man to Matt?"

Sofia shook her head. "I don't know, but I feel sure that she would have. Catherine likes the element of surprise, so I'm certain she would've dropped something like that on him."

"And he didn't say a word to anything that was said?"

"No, and Catherine doesn't think he ever will. Sara, if Matt doesn't help himself out, I don't know what else we can do."

Sara stood and walked over to the sink. Rinsing out her mug, she sighed. "Then I guess I'll have to talk to him."

Sofia watched the investigator's body language closely. Sara's posture had turned rigid and her low voice sounded flat. Rising, she moved to stand behind the brunette.

"Are you sure, Sara? Catherine can try again." Slowly placing her arms around Sara, Sofia was pleased when the other woman leaned back into her.

The brunette turned in the detective's arms. "You said yourself that Catherine doesn't think he's ever going to talk. Well, I think he'll talk to me."

"Okay, let's reverse the situation for just a moment. If Matt suddenly showed up in the interrogation room, and you had no idea he was going to be the one to interview you, would you open up to him?"

Sara paused. "I'm honestly not sure, but if I did decide to say something, even if it didn't help the investigation, it would be to him."

"Do you know what you're going to say?" Sofia moved her hands to rest on the other woman's hips, offering stability in the form of her touch.

Shrugging, Sara smiled sadly. "Um, no, not really. I just thought I'd wing it."

"Are you absolutely sure you want to do this?"

"Yeah, I am." Sara answered without one bit of hesitation.

Sofia leaned forward and lightly kissed Sara's lips. "Okay, let's do it. You go take your shower, and I'll call Brass and Catherine."

Sara patted the hands resting on her hips as she stepped out of the embrace. Stealing one last kiss, she headed for the bathroom. Sofia released a deep sigh and pulled her cell from her belt.

An hour later, Matt Sidle was once again seated in the interrogation room, staring at the mirror on the wall. Sara stood behind the glass, bracketed on each side by Sofia and Catherine, as she stared right back.

"How do you want to do this?" Catherine asked, glancing towards the quiet investigator.

Sara continued to look at her brother. "You and Sofia stay here. I want the guard out of the room. He can stand just outside, and if there's a problem, Sofia can let him know."

"Now, wait just a minute, Sara. I don't think you should be alone with a man you haven't laid eyes on since your childhood. I don't care if he is your brother; you have no idea how he'll react." Catherine voiced her objection, and Sofia was glad the redheaded investigator had beat her to the punch, judging from the expression on Sara's face at any rate.

Sara turned and faced her colleague. "He won't talk to me unless we're alone."

"Um, Sara? Is there a possibility that he'll become violent?" Sofia asked, not wanting to address the Sidle family history, especially knowing how worried Sara was about her genetics.

Their conversation was interrupted by the opening of the viewing room door as Brass and Grissom stepped inside, closing the door behind them. Brass looked at Sofia and shrugged in silent apology for not keeping the CSI out of the room just as Grissom voiced his objection.

"What's this I hear about Sara going in to interview the suspect?"

Sara narrowed her eyes. "I'm not going to interview him per se, Grissom. I'm just going to talk to him."

"You can't be involved in this case, Sara. You know that."

Catherine stepped forward and stood toe to toe with Grissom. "Gil, we're not getting anywhere. I say we give Sara a chance. Matt Sidle is the only one who knows what happened in that alley."

"The evidence . . ." Grissom began, only to be interrupted.

"Screw the evidence, Gil. We can't prove anything; we don't have anything. We've got zero, zilch, squat, nada, ... you name it, and we don't got it."

Brass stepped forward, adding his two cents. "Catherine's right. This guy's never going to crack, and I've got a feeling that there's more to this case than meets the eye or your evidence."

Grissom looked back and forth between Brass and Catherine before finally focusing on Sara. "Sara, I really don't think you should do this. You're not ready to face him."

Sofia opened her mouth to offer her thoughts on the supervisor's statement, but Sara's next words made her smile instead.

"Grissom, to be quite honest, I'm not sure I'd ever be ready to face him. I just know that I have to. Now is as good a time as any. So, if you and Brass would kindly leave, we'll get on with it. I'm sure Matt's tired of waiting."

Brass escorted the protesting supervisor from the room and closed the door. Catherine glanced at Sofia and motioned towards the door. "I'll be outside when you're ready."

A few moments later, Sara and Sofia were standing alone in the viewing room.

Taking Sara's hand, Sofia gave a light squeeze. "Okay, now's the time to back out if you'd like; no one will think the worst of you if you decided not to go through with it."

"I can't; I'd always wonder if it would have made a difference. I have to face him, Sofia."

The detective nodded and glanced back towards the door. Satisfied that Catherine was keeping the others out, she pulled Sara to her and kissed her, pouring all her feelings and emotions into the single kiss. Sara parted her lips and willingly allowed the blonde to take control.

When the couple finally came up for air, Sara smiled and brushed her lips against Sofia's cheek and, squeezing the detective's hand one last time, she let go and walked towards the door.

Standing outside the interrogation room next to the guard, Sara took a deep breath. Catherine had promised not to let anyone else into the viewing room, so the only two people who'd be privy to her conversation with her brother were Catherine and Sofia. So, without any more worries other than the meeting itself, Sara pushed the door open and stepped inside.

Matt folded his arms across his chest and turned to greet his new visitor with his usual silent treatment, but he placed both hands on the tabletop when he set eyes on Sara. Noting the movement, Sofia raised the walkie-talkie, ready to alert the guard as she kept her focus on the suspect.

Slowly walking towards the table, Sara stopped at its edge. "Hello, Matt. It's me, Sara."


Chapter 19

The only sign that Sara had touched something in her brother was the slight widening of his eyes as he slowly leaned back in his chair and re-crossed his arms. Sofia breathed a sigh of relief and lowered the walkie-talkie to her side as Sara spoke again.

"So, what have you been up to for the past oh, twenty or so years?"

Matt looked at his sister and smirked. "I heard the old man met a nasty end. I didn't know Mom had it in her."

Catherine jumped at the sound of the male voice. She hadn't expected him to speak so quickly.

Sara pulled out a chair and took a seat. "I'd rather not talk about the parents if you don't mind. I'd like to know what you've been doing."

"Were you there? Did you see it happen? Did you help? I damn sure would've."

Sofia clenched her fist as she watched Sara flinch at her brother's words and, seemingly unfazed by his sister's brief reaction, Matt continued his verbal assault.

"That was you in the diner that day, wasn't it? You look just like Mom, you know. Well, except your hair is a little darker, and of course, the space between your teeth that we both got from dear ol' Daddy. By the way, did he squeal like the pig he was when she stuck him?"

Sara moved her hands to her thighs and squeezed tightly, trying to stay in control. She couldn't let him see how much she was unnerved by his words. Trying a different approach, she offered, "I tell you what, Matt. You fill me in on what you've been doing for the past five years, and I'll answer all your questions. Deal?"

The dark haired man shrugged. "Okay. What do you want to know?"

"For starters, tell me about the robbery charges."

Matt paused and bit his lip, and Sara recalled the familiar quirk her brother used whenever he was nervous. Every time their father taunted him, Matt always had the habit of biting his lower lip before answering. The action made Sara wonder if his attack on her was just a cover and that he was truly unsettled by her presence.

"I was setup to take the fall."

Sara stared at her brother. In her years as an investigator, she'd seldom come across someone who freely admitted their guilt. There was always some reason for their actions and, most times, the suspect tried to place the blame elsewhere.

"Who set you up?"

Matt glanced towards the mirror. "I'd rather not say."

"Oh, c'mon, Matt. You don't seriously think that I'm going to believe you if you won't give me any more information."

Looking directly at Sara, Matt replied, "It's for your own good that you not know."

"My own good? Did you give a damn about my own good when you left me alone with our parents, knowing what they were capable of?"

This time, it was Matt who visibly flinched; Sara had definitely hit a sore spot. Softening her tone, Sara changed tactics.

"What about your own good? I want to help you, Matt. I know that you didn't kill Henry Charleston, and I think you know who did. Why are you willing to take the rap for his murder? If what you say is true about the robbery, then this would be the second time you've allowed yourself to go to jail for a crime you didn't commit. Why would you do such a thing?"

Matt stood abruptly, and Sofia didn't bother with the walkie-talkie; she immediately turned to leave the viewing room. Catherine's hand on her arm stopped her progress.

"Wait, Sofia. Give Sara some more time."

"He's a time bomb, Catherine."

"Just wait one minute, okay?"

The detective glanced back at the glass and noted Sara's expression. The brunette hadn't moved from her chair, but Matt hadn't made a move towards her either. Instead, he began to pace. Nodding at Catherine, Sofia stepped back in front of the glass, but she made certain that she kept a firm grip on the walkie-talkie as Sara's voice filled the airwaves once again.

"Matt, you didn't kill him, did you?"

The nervous man ran a hand through his hair as he continued to pace. His appearance was so much like their father; Sara had to force herself to remain seated. Her father often paced back and forth, yelling all sorts of profanities and accusations, just before he beat the hell out of her.

The next words from Matt were spoken so softly, Sara had to lean forward in her chair to hear. "I'm sorry, Sara. I never should have left you with them. I was just so mad at you for telling them about my stash. I intended to come back, but I was scared. I really thought he'd kill me. He told me that if I ever stepped foot in the house again, he wouldn't hesitate to slit my throat, and then he swore he'd go after you. I was just a kid; a scared kid."

Sara sat frozen in her chair. Her dad had told her that her brother was never coming home. He'd said that Matt hated her and would never return because she'd betrayed him. He'd told her mother the same thing and, from that moment on, she'd given up on Sara.

The investigator tried to keep her focus on the case and her brother's motive for lying. "Did you kill him?"

Matt leaned against the far wall and looked down at the floor. Sara could just make out a single teardrop hanging precariously from an eyelash, the tear glistening in the light. No words were forthcoming, but Sara noticed the barely perceptible shake of the head, and she almost shouted for joy; her brother hadn't killed Henry Charleston. Perhaps, there wasn't a murder gene after all, or at the very least, it had skipped a generation.

Sara stood and slowly made her way towards her distraught brother. Now that he'd admitted his innocence, maybe together, they could get him out of this mess.

Sofia and Catherine watched as the investigator rose from the table. Neither woman had seen the tear or the silent answer to Sara's question.

"What the hell is she doing?" Sofia raised the walkie-talkie to her lips.

Once again, Catherine put her hand on the detective's arm, stopping her from calling the guard.

"She knows what she's doing, Sofia. We have to trust her."

"She damn well better," Sofia replied, tracking Sara's progress across the room.

The investigator moved slowly and deliberately, very cautious in her movement, while Matt continued to look at the floor and seemed totally unaware of his sister's approach. Sara stopped several feet from her brother, hoping she hadn't made a huge mistake.

Talking softly, she made her presence known. "Matt, you need to tell me what you know. I can help you."

Dark eyes swung up in surprise, and Sara wasn't sure if it was because he had no idea that she was so near or that he didn't believe she could help.

Her doubts were confirmed when Matt addressed the latter of the two possibilities. "You can't help me, Sara. I've really messed up this time, and there's no possible way out. I may as well have died in that alley with Henry because I'm as good as dead."


Chapter 20

Sara closed the distance and reached out to touch her brother for the first time in what seemed like a lifetime and, to both siblings, it pretty much had been. Matt watched the hand get closer and closer, and he slowly lifted his own to meet his sister's, grabbing hold and pulling Sara into a tight embrace. The two Sidles held onto each other as they both wept for what might have been had they not been separated so many years ago.

Catherine and Sofia stood watching with tears in their eyes. Neither spoke a word, neither had to. They knew the significance of the reunion, and they both wished it were under much more pleasant circumstances. The pair stood in silence, patiently waiting to learn more from Matt Sidle.

Several minutes later, Sara released her brother and stepped away, wiping her tears with her fingertips. "Let's sit and you can explain to me what you meant by being as good as dead, and I want you to tell me about all the stuff you told Detective Brass."

Matt nodded his head and followed his sister to the conference table, only this time, the siblings sat in chairs on the same side of the table. Sara reached for his hand once again, and Matt looked down at the hand gripping his and began his story.

"Um, I lied to the detective; I didn't want the real story to come out. I did use drugs when I first left home, trying to dull my senses and forget about the beatings and abuse, but I never turned tricks. I cleaned myself up and moved to the east Coast. I got a job working in a casino in Atlantic City. That's where I met Henry; he was a bookkeeper for the owner. Anyway, to make a long story short, we hit it off. I'm sorry if that makes you uncomfortable."

Sara squeezed the hand she held and smiled. "Now, if it did, it would be very hypocritical of me."

Catherine looked at Sofia and grinned. Sofia just blushed and turned back to the glass.

"Um, okay. Well, we were both making good money and bought a condo just off the coastline. Things were going great, but, well, Henry had a bit of a gambling problem. I wasn't even aware that he was visiting the high stakes poker game a couple of nights a week. I just thought he was working late, but I found out very quickly when two goons showed up at our place demanding money. They beat the hell out of both of us and said that the next time we wouldn't be so lucky."

Sara nodded in understanding. "So you ran. But, Matt, why in the world did you come to Vegas if Henry had a gambling problem?"

"We didn't, at first. We actually went to San Francisco. We lived in the streets for weeks, scared shitless that the mob would track us down, but no one ever came for us. The one big mistake Henry made was to grab money out of the cash drawer at a convenience store. I, um, confessed to the robbery and spent my time in prison; Henry would've never survived behind bars. It did wake something up in Henry, though; he got a job and found a small, inexpensive apartment. When I was released, everything was wonderful again."

Matt looked over at the mirror and froze. He'd forgotten about everything else except for Sara. She'd managed to get him to relax for the first time since he'd come to Vegas.

Sara sensed his turmoil. "It's okay, Matt. Yes, someone is behind the glass, but I trust both of them implicitly. You can, too."

He hesitated and then nodded. "Anyway, Henry became restless. He wanted to come to Vegas for the weekend. I told him that it was a terrible idea, but he insisted. He said he'd go without me. So, what could I do? I had to go. Once we got here, he didn't want to leave."

"Matt, if you're blaming yourself for his gambling, stop. It's an addiction. Coming to Vegas was like putting a kid in a candy store. He was going to gamble no matter what. Besides, it was his decision to come here."

"Yeah, I know, but he mostly kept his word. He only played the dollar slots and stayed away from the rest of the games. Problem is he ran smack dab into Jimmy Cantalina."

Behind the glass, Catherine whistled. "He is in deep shit. Cantalina makes Sam look like an altar boy." Sofia frowned, but turned her focus back to the interrogation room.

"Who?" Sara asked confused. She'd been in Vegas for quite awhile and had never heard that name before.

"The guy from Atlantic City; the guy who killed Henry. I guess he must've been here on business. What are the odds, huh?"

"Matt did you actually see him stab Henry?"

Matt bit his lower lip and nodded. "I was coming out of the diner, and I saw Henry going into the alley. I followed him and, when I walked around the corner, Jimmy had his dick in Henry's mouth and a knife to his throat. I started towards them, and Jimmy just smiled at me. Then, he took the knife and he ..."

Clearing his throat, Matt continued, "He, um, stabbed Henry, and I ran. I made it around the block and hid behind the dumpster. Jimmy came out into the street looking for me, but a patrol car drove by, and Jimmy hightailed it to his car. I waited until he drove off before I went to check on Henry, but he was already dead. I pulled the knife out and tried to revive him before I realized it was too late. Someone walked past, and I panicked. I took the knife and hid it between some loose bricks and took off."

Silence filled the room, and Sara squeezed her brother's hand. Matt just stared at their joined hands while Sara glanced towards the mirror.

Sofia saw the hopeless look in Sara's eyes and turned towards Catherine. "Tell me about this Jimmy Cantalina."

An hour later, Sara sat on one side of her brother and Sofia on the other. Special Agent Carol Dawkins sat directly across from the trio.

"Mr. Sidle, I need your signature on this document. You must agree to the terms of the Witness Protection Program before I can formally place you in your new home. Mr. Cantalina is already in custody and a warrant has been issued for a sample of his DNA. If it's a match to the evidence collected from Mr. Charleston, you more than likely won't have to worry about testifying. You'll be free to live as you please."

Matt looked to Sara. "You've got a chance to start over with a new life. You've got to take the offer."

Reaching for the pen, Matt Sidle signed his name on the appropriate lines. The agent smiled and said, "Okay, Mr. Sidle. I'll give you ten minutes to say goodbye to your sister, and then we have to leave. I want you out of here as soon as possible."

Sofia stood and extended her hand to Sara's brother. "Matt, I wish you the best." The dark haired man smiled and shook the detective's hand. Turning to the agent, Sofia offered, "C'mon, I'll wait outside with you."

Sara remained in her chair and watched the two women walk through the door. Sofia reached for the handle and winked at Sara before she closed the door behind her.

The two Sidles sat with their heads close together as they said their final goodbyes.

A mentally exhausted Sara made her way up the steps and unlocked her door. Sofia reached over and pushed it inwards, motioning Sara inside. The brunette shuffled over to the sofa and plopped down, her head resting against its back as she stared up at the ceiling.

Sofia closed and locked the door before joining the other woman. As she took the seat next to the brunette, Sara immediately laid her head on the nearby shoulder and reached for Sofia's hand. The detective placed her free arm around the investigator and pulled her near.

"Helluva day."

"Yeah, but at least I know Matt's going to be okay."

Sofia pushed a loose strand behind Sara's ear. "You want to talk about it."

"You know, it's weird. All those years I'd wondered where he was, what he was doing, if he was okay, and now, I know; I just wish he hadn't had such a hard life."

"Your life wasn't exactly a bed of roses, so don't go feeling all guilty on me."

Sara smiled and leaned more heavily on the blonde. "I know. I guess I should be glad that he's okay now. At least I know he's alive and that he's got a second chance at life."

"True, I'm glad Carol was willing to help out."

Sofia suddenly found herself with a lapful of Sara Sidle, and she didn't even have time to protest as lips descended onto her own. The detective put her hands on the investigator's hips and returned the kiss with gusto. Endless minutes later, Sara pulled away and smiled.

"I never got the chance to thank you for setting everything up. So, thank you."

"Honey, if that's the way you say thanks, you can thank me anytime you feel the need."

Sara chuckled and scooted off the detective and off the couch. Standing, she extended her hand.

"C'mon, I think there's a bed calling our name."

"You sure? I don't want to impose."

"You're kidding, right? It's not like we haven't slept together before."

"Yeah, but, ..."

"But nothing, Sofia. Besides, I might need you to protect me against my nightmares."

Sofia took the offered hand and followed Sara to the bedroom.

"Sara? I don't think your ghosts will be bothering you anymore."

"I don't think they will either, but you never know. Just in case, I think we should err on the side of caution."

Sara slowly slipped out of her clothes, item by item, piece by piece, until she stood naked in front of the gawking detective. Smiling, the investigator slid under the covers.

"Um, yeah, caution sounds good." Sofia threw her clothes in every direction, not wasting any time in her quest to join Sara under the sheets. Grinning, Sara turned out the lamp and then reached for Sofia.

The moonlight shone through the window and onto the bed as the couple made love well into the night. Later, a very sated Sara closed her eyes and fell fast asleep in the safety of her lover's arms, her dreams filled with new love and promise. Her ghosts were finally gone for good.

The End

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