DISCLAIMER: Jerry Bruckheimer, CBS and various others own CSI, not me. I just played in their sandpit for a while.
SPOILERS: Set between 'King Baby' and the end of 'Committed' (season 5).
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Family We Make
By Celievamp


Heat haze shimmered the tarmac making the road surface appear liquid. The white concrete expanse dazzled, the smoke blackened windows shielding what lay within. Her eyes similarly shaded from the sun Sofia Curtis did her walk through, taking pictures every now and then of anything that might be remotely out of place. As usual she kept up her running commentary fixing in her mind the salient points of the case. The fresh rubber from the tyre tracks had taken up her first dozen shots. The tyre tread was clearly visible, probably good enough to get a match when they found the vehicle concerned. Whoever had driven away had done so at speed and in some panic. A dumpster was askew, one edge stove in, fresh paint streaks visible where the car had winged it in passing. More evidence. The car was silver. Putting the tread and the paint together might be enough for Greg or Nick to get her a make, model and year, narrow the field a little.

It was damned hot, pushing one-ten and it was only a little after nine in the morning. Even though she was in the sun Sofia was still glad that she had drawn outside duty this time rather than being stuck in the crime scene. With the electrics shot and the residual heat from the fire – not to mention the stench – it had to be a hell hole in there.

It had been called in about an hour before the end of night shift. A fire and a suspicious death at a residence in Northview, right on the edge of the city. Indeed, after the road and a thin strip of dying desert palm trees all there was desert. This particular development had run into financial difficulties when only about a third of the properties were built. Times being what they were no one had stepped in to complete the project. These people were right on the edge of civilisation.

In more ways than one.

The man inside the house had been brutally killed. The bedroom was a slaughterhouse, blood spatter everywhere. He was on the bed, face up and cruciform, no sign of any restraints at wrists or ankles. He was completely naked. Wounds were carved into his face and chest, his belly opened up from the bottom of his rib cage to the base of his penis, his internal organs drawn out and arranged on his bare chest and the bloodsoaked sheet on which he lay; bone-deep slashes across his arms and legs, damage to his genitals, all presumably inflicted before his throat had been cut so deeply that his head was almost severed. He had still been alive at that point.

Whoever had done this had to be covered in blood. The walls had been liberally and literally decorated in it, the pale walls covered in symbols that obviously had some arcane significance for the killer, mirroring some of the wounds carved into the man's flesh. Even though the room was stifling Sofia had still felt curiously chilled and was only too happy to draw outside duty.

The fire had been set in the kitchen area, the killer obviously hoping that the fire would take and hide his – or her – tracks. They had been lucky that an internal door had shut keeping the flames away from the bedroom. There was a little smoke damage and the heat had accelerated decomposition but the body and the main scene were relatively intact. The kitchen and main living area was just about destroyed by the fire, the rest of the house was badly smoke damaged. Grissom and Sara were working inside the house with Greg. Brass was at the roadside organising the canvass of the surrounding properties, not that he was particularly hopeful of any kind of result.

Sofia made another pass over the tarmac to the front of the house, noting a fleck of something on the edge of the step up to the doorway. It could be mud, it could be dried blood. Either way… she photographed it in situ and then collected the fleck, placing it in an evidence bag and noting the location.

She stood at the front of the house looking out over the drive and beyond. A glimmer caught her eye, high up. It was a CCTV camera. With any luck it might actually be working. Brass with his usual sixth sense looked across at her at that moment and she pointed, directing his attention to the camera. He gave her one of his almost-smiles and nodded. A few seconds later he was on the phone. If there was any footage from that camera they would know in a couple of minutes.

Something moved in her peripheral vision. She turned her head to see Sara appear. She looked pale. The strongest of stomachs would have quailed at the sight – and smell – of that bedroom. As she watched the younger woman took a series of deep, cleansing breaths and closed her eyes, raising her face to the sun. Sofia took advantage of the moment to admire – in silence - the clean lines of the other woman, the soft pale skin, the strong oval face framed with dark straight hair. She had to keep her mind on the 'in silence' maxim. The drawback of her way of working, the almost stream of consciousness litany of observation, description and supposition as she processed a scene was that sometimes it was hard to turn it off. Inside thoughts and outside thoughts. She just had to keep it clear in her head. And her observations, descriptions and suppositions about Sara Sidle were most definitely inside thoughts. Sofia had heard the breakroom gossip about Sara and Catherine Willows, how their relationship had gone from acrimony to affection and back to acrimony again. At the moment it seemed the two women could not stand to be in the same building never mind the same room. That very public disagreement in the halls over the Svetlana Melton case was only the tip of the iceberg. Sofia hastily looked away as Sara opened her eyes and turned to look at her again.

"Hey," she said softly.

"Hey yourself," Sofia smiled at her co-worker. "How's it going in there?"

"So-so. The perp cleaned themselves off in the ensuite bathroom before they left, probably took a shower. I'm gonna have to take the plumbing apart, see if there's any trace down there but by the smell they dumped a bucket load of bleach down the drain afterwards so chances are any DNA evidence is denaturing as we speak. The drawers in the bedroom are disturbed. Either they were looking for something or they took a change of clothes from the house. We're taking more samples in the hope that some of the blood might be the perp rather than the vic – not that there's any sign that the vic fought back."

"Which means the perp might have dumped the bloodstained clothes…" Sofia turned to look back at the dumpster with the paint flakes on the side. It had been on her list of things to check out but had just got itself bumped up the priority list. Dumpster-diving on the hottest day of the year. Just perfect. Maybe she could persuade Greg…

"They might have taken the clothes with them. Disposed of them elsewhere. That would have been the rational thing to do. But…"

"Nothing about the way that man was killed speaks to rationality. I know."

Brass came over to join them. "Can we move the body yet? The M.E.'s van a-waiting and the press have got wind of it. And we've got a line and a confirmed ID on our vic. Turns out he's a very minor celebrity in certain circles. And a friend of an old friend."

It always intrigued Brass that Lady Heather opened her own front door. The tall woman smiled politely at him and then turned curious (and Brass noticed, appreciative) eyes on Sofia.

"Detective Brass. You disappoint me that this isn't a social call."

"Not this time," Brass smiled uncomfortably. "May I introduce CSI Sofia Curtis. This is the Lady Heather." The two women nodded politely at each other.

"We'd like to ask you some questions about a man called Irving Pharro, if we may," Sofia said, sizing up this woman who had almost legendary status among the CSIs.

Lady Heather nodded, stood aside to let them inside her 'domain'. "Of course. You can ask me anything, Detective Brass, you should know that by now. You are new to the department, Miss Curtis? Our paths have not crossed before."

"I was recently transferred to Night Shift," Sofia said. "I'd been working day shift before that. I've been with the department a little over two years. Before that I was with the Los Angeles Police Department."

"So you work with Catherine Willows?" Lady Heather asked.

"Not exactly," Sofia said. "Ms Willows and I more or less swapped assignments. She works one of the other shifts now – it's more convenient for her."

"Of course, with her daughter to consider," Lady Heather nodded. "I'm glad that the department has not lost her expertise. So it's Sara Sidle that you partner. Interesting."

Sofia decided that even though she really wanted to know what Lady Heather meant by that statement, it was more than time to bring the discussion back to Irving Pharro. She really did not need anyone else extolling to her the many virtues of Catherine Willows. And Lady Heather was taking more of an interest in her than she was comfortable with. "As I said, we'd like to ask you some questions about a man called Irving Pharro."

"We have to inform you that Mr Pharro's body was discovered at his home this morning. We are treating his death as murder," Brass said.

"I see," Lady Heather ushered them into her sitting room. "I presume you're here to interview me because Irving was a long-time business associate of mine and a principal investor in my online operations."


"When did you last see Mr Pharro," Sofia asked.

"About five days ago," Lady Heather said. "We had a business meeting here. He stayed for supper and… visited with some of my staff. I don't know exactly when he left but it will be in the house records."

She crossed to her desk and powered up the sleek laptop that sat on the mahogany surface. A few minutes later and she gestured them over. "Yes, here it is in my daybook for Friday. Irving arrived at three p.m., we met here going over some financial arrangements until about six thirty then he joined me for supper…" She opened up another spreadsheet. "Here are the records for that evening. He was in the company of Natasha and Erin in the Master Bedroom from nine p.m. until just after two thirty a.m. when he left. His driver took him back to his house, dropping him there at a little after three. She reported back here at three thirty five."

"Why did she report back here if she was his driver?" Brass asked.

"Oh, I'm sorry, I could have phrased that better," Lady Heather said. "The in-house driver that was assigned Irving Pharro that evening. Our latest innovation. I now offer a door to door limousine service for clients. For those that like to maintain a more discreet profile."

"We'll need to talk to both of the girls he was with and the driver," Brass said. "And maybe take a look at the car as well."

"That vehicle has been used twice more since Mr Pharro was a passenger and has been thoroughly valeted after each occasion," Lady Heather said. "The chances of any physical evidence of Mr Pharro remaining…"

"Well, we'd still like to take a look," Sofia smiled politely. The woman could charm, certainly, but there was no way she was getting the upper hand here.

"Of course. The car – and anything else you require is at your disposal," Lady Heather smiled. "As always I can assure you of the full co-operation of myself and my staff. Detective Brass, as always, a pleasure. Miss Curtis, I hope to meet you again." She held out her hand and after a moment Sofia took it, almost mesmerised by the woman's remarkable green-hazel eyes.

"There is something strange," Chief Medical Examiner Al Robbins said. "There is very little sign that he struggled." He showed them the man's palms and forearms. "See – no defensive injuries at all. No sign of any ligature marks, no residue from tape…"

"Are you saying he just lay there and let someone carve chunks out of him?" Sara asked. "He doesn't seem to have been restrained at all – there are no ligature marks so he must have been heavily drugged."

"Well unless it was something esoteric, I would say not. The initial tox screen came back negative for the usual suspects anyway. Mr Pharro was a habitual abuser, principally of cocaine and ketamine but nothing that would have rendered him unconscious. He was conscious and aware when this was done to him."

"Was this… consensual?" Grissom frowned. Certain of the injuries inflicted on the victim had already struck him as having a ritualistic quality to them. A test of endurance. How much pain could a human take before he either fought back or passed out. Grissom was not an expert in such things but he had contacts who were. He was awaiting a call back from the FBI.

"At the beginning, maybe." Al Robbins indicated to his assistant, David, that he could continue photographing and measuring the injuries to the torso and genitals. "There is some healed scarring on his chest and back from previous cutting injuries- probably inflicted by a flail like instrument – but certainly nothing as extensive, certainly nothing as lethal. Some of it is years old, some of it only months. Once we've finished cataloguing the externals I'll make the Y incision – not that there's much left intact in the body cavity - let you know as soon as I can on stomach contents and the rest of the blood work."

"I'd like copies of the photos as soon as you can get them to me," Grissom told Robbins. "If this was a ritual killing there are some people I need to consult. Sara, I want you to start running comparisons with anything in the database. This was done by someone with precision; there are no hesitancy cuts, no botched attempts. This was done by someone who has killed before – and gained some satisfaction from the act."

He met Sara's gaze, his eyes narrowing as he took note of her pallor. "Sara, I'll finish up here if you want to get started on the comparisons." She nodded silently, left the room without another word – highly uncharacteristic behaviour for the young CSI.

"Ones like this you pray you never get used to," Robbins said softly. His assistant, David nodded jerkily in agreement. "There's a distinct whiff of sulphur about this one, Gil."

Grissom found Sara in her lab, setting the parameter of her computer search. "I didn't realise the significance of the date at first," she said. "Is that why you're so sure that it was a ritual killing?"

"The timing made me think it, yes. Irving Pharro was killed on the night of one of the great Esbats," Grissom said. "And the manner of his death."

"Are you telling me that you believe in all that stuff?" Sara asked.

"Doesn't matter whether I do or not. What matters is that Irving Pharro and whoever killed him did. And they want us to believe that."

"I want you to check the patterns of wounding on his body, work with Agent Reyes when she arrives. See if it matches any other cases on file – hers as well as ours. But don't make the mistake of getting hung up on that as the only lead we should follow. As we know well in this job appearances can by deceptive. The killer could have used the ritualistic aspects to cover his true motives." Grissom paused. "His injuries troubled you."

"I have a problem with how he got them. I can't understand how anyone can just let someone hurt them like that. Over and over again. Or how someone could do that to another human being," Sara said. The idea of physical pain, of mutilation sickened her. Of doing it to prove some point or fulfil a sick fantasy. The idea of pain as a religion terrified her. "He just lay there and let himself be eviscerated."

"A test of endurance or courage. Maybe of faith," Grissom said thoughtfully. "We know that Pharro went to Lady Heather's. He regularly saw dominatrix. Lady Heather's house rules don't allow for the kind of abuse we saw on his body. So he obviously frequented other places as well."

She didn't ask how he was so conversant with Lady Heather's house rules. Grissom knew a lot of things… it didn't necessarily mean anything. "I still don't get it though… how anyone could…" she swallowed convulsively.

"Everyone has their own way of dealing with the world and their place in it. Some are just more… extreme than others. Pharro was lucky in a way that he obviously found someone able to give him what he wanted. Trusted them too. Relationships of power are always personal," Grissom said. "The need to be face to face, to witness at first hand the reaction – otherwise what is the point?"

"You're talking about dominant and submissive?" Sara asked. She knew that the older man had pursued a relationship with Lady Heather for the last couple of years: the details of which she did not know and did not want to know.

"Yes, though that is a somewhat simplistic description," Grissom said. "I would imagine that having the power of life or death over another can be a transformative experience, probably highly addictive. A different kind of adrenaline rush. The opportunity or ability to bend someone to your will, someone who in other circumstances is in a position of power or privilege. The psychological dynamic is everything. That might seem easy to understand but it is a lot more difficult to comprehend."

"I think I understand," Sara said softly. "I'm just not sure that I ever want to comprehend." She wondered which Grissom was, the dominant or the submissive. Or was he like her, a switch, the role depending on the partner? With some she had always had to be in control, particularly with the few men she had had a relationship with. She did not trust that they would not hurt her. Her father had taught her that much about herself. And even though he had been dead for twenty years, he still had a long reach. But in her brief liaison with Catherine, she had allowed the redhead to dominate, in the sexual side of their relationship at least. It was when that domination had started to spill over into their professional life that Sara had ended their relationship. Her work was her realm, everything she wanted to be in life. She would allow nothing to jeopardise that. For the same reason she had never allowed her feelings for Grissom to get beyond wishful thinking and the occasional heated fantasy.

"It's not just compliance to the will of another; it's the act of voluntarily giving all responsibility for yourself, your actions to another person, knowing that they will ask things of you that you would not ordinarily contemplate. And you submit yourself; submerge yourself in their will, their desires, because that is your desire."

"Which is why the submissive always has the power," Sara said, nodding. It was one of her fantasies, the giving up of control. Finding someone she could trust that deeply, so completely. A long held dream, a woman drawing slender hands down over Sara's bound arms leaning in to whisper instruction into Sara's ear. Long golden limbs wrapped around her pale body. In her dreams she never saw the woman's face, just the bright fall of her hair. For a long time Sara had thought the woman was Catherine. Now she wasn't so sure. Throughout their short relationship Sara had let the older woman take the lead on when and what was to happen between them. But Sara had not found it as satisfying as she thought she might. Once the 'sex' was done, there was little emotional engagement between them. Some essential element was missing.

"A submissive first and foremost has complete self control, absolute vision of what they want out of a relationship. Submission must come from a place of power – that's a defining precept. It's like a powerful knight before his queen. A knight is a noble figure, but he lays those skills down at the feet of whomever he serves."

"But what do you believe the submissive gets out of it?" Sara asked.

"A sense of self-worth, I suppose, of value. After all, there's no satisfaction in breaking somebody who's already broken, or conquering someone who's already weak. They have proven themselves worthy of the battle; they have something of value to lay at the feet of the one they desire." Grissom's expression was unusually unfathomable, even for him. He was speaking some personal truths here, Sara realised.

"Inner validation," Sara nodded, "and on your own terms. I can see how that would work." Again, she could not help but think back to her own relationships. In most, if not all, she had been in the subordinate role, in the beginning because she did not know any other way to be. It had come as a great surprise to her to find out after her father's death when she was in her early teens that domestic violence was not the 'norm', that there were other ways to live. And yet every relationship she had had since had been with someone who wanted to be 'controlling', not necessarily physically abusive but usually psychologically and emotionally dominating. Catherine Willows had been no exception.

Yet part of her wanted it. Her dreams certainly put her in that situation. It would probably have worked with Catherine if the woman hadn't tried to control her in the work environment as well. That was one forum where Sara knew her own worth and bowed to no one, except perhaps Gil Grissom. But Catherine had only seemed capable of dealing with her on the one level.

Sara knew that the older woman was as frustrated by this situation as she was. Neither of them handled failure very well. Unfortunately the split had led to a return to the antagonistic relationship that marked Sara's early years with the department and the personnel changes that had occurred at around about the same time had only exacerbated the problem and widened the rift between the two women.

It would take them both some time to adjust, to find a balance between them again. Sara really hoped it would happen – for the sake of the team as well as herself. It was one of the good reasons against mixing professional and personal relationships Sara supposed. So why was she considering doing just that again?

Sofia handed off most of the samples she had taken at the scene to Trace or DNA, depending on what they were. Greg was still going through the contents of the dumpster but had reported finding bloodstained clothing which he had tagged and bagged. Sara and Grissom were still at Forensic Autopsy with Pharro's body.

There was a knock at the door, it was Archie. "Brass sent over a tape – footage from the CCTV camera overlooking Pharro's house. It needed a little cleaning up, I think the tape must have been reused a couple of thousand times but you're gonna want to see this."

"Okay." Briefly, she considered waiting for Grissom and Sara to return but if there was truly anything useful on the tape they could view it when they got back from Autopsy. They wouldn't mind, unlike some colleagues she could name. Sofia still hadn't fully forgiven Catherine Willows for her attitude during the Bruce Eiger case when they had not waited for her before conducting the autopsy. She had accused both Sofia and Gil Grissom of an unprofessional attitude but in Sofia's view it was Catherine Willows who was all attitude.

"Catherine, it wasn't personal. The body was posted. We didn't think you'd be back for a few hours…"

"Just stay out of this…"

And the woman had proceeded to lay into Grissom as if she wasn't even there.

Relations between the two women were still fairly frosty. Whilst Sofia didn't personally bear the other woman any ill will, she wasn't about to bend over backwards to accommodate her either. Catherine Willows seemed to think that she was god's gift to CSI but in truth she made just as many screw ups and errors of judgement as everyone else. She got on better with the male members of her team: she seemed to regard any woman on her territory as a direct threat. Her fights with Sara Sidle had taken on almost legendary status. Sara wasn't the easiest person to get to know, that much was true, but in the few months that they had been working together Sofia had experienced none of the problems she had been obliquely warned to expect from the other woman. In fact, she would go as far as to say that they had developed an excellent working relationship.

What Sofia had not quite decided yet was whether she wanted more than a working relationship with the slim dark haired woman. Sara Sidle fascinated her; she made no bones about it. There was a quality to her that intrigued; perhaps it was that she kept so much of herself hidden. That air of silent melancholy, that dark quiet desperation, her fire when faced with injustice, with cruelty. Her slow sweet smile and dry wit when something amused her. That cool enigmatic gaze… oh yes, Sofia Curtis was under no illusion. She could get quite serious about Sara Sidle.

And more than once in recent weeks she got the distinct impression that Sara Sidle might just feel something the same for her.

She followed Archie into his AV lab. A picture was frozen on the screen. She recognised it a view up the driveway up to the late Irving Pharro's house. The picture was grainy and the focus wasn't perfect but it was enough to make out what was going on.

"There's about eight hours of footage," Archie said. "Nothing of interest until here, about two hours before the estimated time of death."

A silver coloured car turned into the drive and parked up. A man came to the door of the house: Irving Pharro. He stood waiting as a man exited from the car. He was wearing a long dark coat and a hat that shadowed his face. In his hand he was carrying a dark holdall that looked as if it was quite heavy. The man turned, pressing the automatic locking device on his key chain and then followed Pharro into the house. As the man turned they got a clear left profile of his face.

"I've already enhanced that, I'll see if we can get a match on the facial recognition system," Archie said. Sofia studied the enhanced frame. Their suspect looked to be in his late forties, thin faced with an aquiline nose. The hair that could be seen under his hat was either blonde or white but his eyebrows were dark. He looked… hard. She knew Pharro had been fairly short, around five feet ten. This man over topped him by a good five inches so they were looking for someone around six foot three tall, fairly slender. She focused on his hand. It looked long-fingered, bony, spectrally pale against the dark cloth of his coat. She blinked.

"Archie – is that a tattoo on the back of his hand, near his thumb?"

Archie highlighted and enhanced that area of the screen. "Resolution is just on the edge. I can try to clean it up but it could take a while," he said.

"Okay, lets see what else there is."

Archie moved to the next time index. "This is approximately forty minutes later. He either arrived on foot or was dropped off out of the camera's range."

This new arrival was young, male, dressed in dark jeans and a white or grey muscle shirt with a large number 5 emblazoned in red on the back. His long hair was tied back in a ponytail extending midway down his back. Unfortunately his back was to the camera for the entire time he was in frame and they never got a clear look at his face. He paused when he saw the car already in the driveway and they could see his stance change, becoming wary, maybe even angry. He fished a key from his pocket, opened and entered the front door without knocking. There was no hesitation about his movements, he was familiar with his surroundings, he felt he had every right to be there.

"Interesting…" Sofia breathed. They had found trace from several distinct individuals in the bedroom including some long blonde hairs. It looked likely that this young man was the donor. And from the places the hair had been found he was familiar not just with the house but with Irving Pharro himself.

The time index moved on another hour. Sofia pointed out the wisps of smoke at the edge of the image – the fire had been set inside the house. The door opened and the first man came out carrying the holdall which seemed appreciably heavier. He dumped it onto the back seat of the car. He went back into the house and emerged a moment or two later with two more bags, also bulging. He set them next to the first on the back seat of the car and then opened the hatchback before returning to the house. The smoke was getting thicker.

"He's not wearing the same clothes," Sofia said. "I think… I think he's wearing the young guy's clothes. And his hair is still wet… he showered."

"So what's the other guy wearing?" Archie asked.

They soon got their answer. The man emerged with a heavy bundle over his shoulder. Wrapped in a heavily bloodstained sheet one hand dangled free. The man dumped the body in the back of the car, closed it then got into the car and drove away, his nervousness showing as he clipped the dumpster on his way out.

"Great, so now we're looking for two bodies," Sofia sighed. On the upside they managed to get a clear shot of the car's number plate and she was already running it. The answer came back from the Vehicle Licensing database seconds later. Morgan Furlow. The photo-id matched the first guy on the CCTV pictures – the man possibly responsible for two murders. They needed to find that second body and ID it. "I'll tell Grissom the good news."

Furlow was in the system – he'd served time for extortion and armed robbery and was chief suspect in a couple of contract killings but the evidence hadn't stacked up and the witness had disappeared so the case against him had collapsed. Sara had lifted a partial print from a door handle and another from the bed frame that matched Furlow's record. Brass's team was tracking him down, but the man seemed to have done a disappearing act.

The trail was fast growing cold.

The next shift they were back at the scene. Greg was taking a wider sampling of the blood spatter so that he and Mia could check whether any of it had come from a second donor – the second man who had visited Pharro's house on the night of the murder and probably the body they had seen Furlow dumping into the car on the CCTV footage. Brass's men were on the look out for a body dump and the car – now identified as a Lexus RF Hybrid. Neither it nor Furlow had been seen since leaving the murder scene.

Grissom was taking a conference call with Agent Reyes discussing possible ritualistic elements to the killing even though he was personally beginning to discount this as probable window dressing by the killer. Sara's internet search hadn't thrown up anything definitive to link the case to any others and Agent Reyes regretted she couldn't be of much more help either but she would take a closer look at the autopsy and scene photos.

Sofia watched the footage over and over again looking for any further clues. Archie had cleaned it up as far as he could. The tattoo on the back of Furlow's hand was an eye. Archie had slowed the video right down until she was almost watching it frame by frame. And she saw it. Just before Furlow dumped the body into the boot of the car, she saw the visible fingers clench slightly as if in pain. Whoever he was, he wasn't quite dead yet when he was put into the car. Perhaps that was why they hadn't found the second body. There wasn't one.

They still had no idea who he was. The hair found at the scene did not have a follicle attached so they could not run DNA and the CCTV pictures did not show enough of his face to put his picture 'out there'. And so far no one had reported anyone missing that fit what they did know about the man.

There didn't seem to be anything more she could get from the CCTV pictures. Putting that to one side, Sofia began to go through the photographs she had taken of the inside of Pharro's house. Her memory accessed the commentary she had made to go with each picture she had taken. Several of the main rooms were extensively fire and smoke damaged but the master bedroom and the rooms adjacent to it had been relatively untouched.

"Hey, I've got something we might find useful," Sara said, entering the lab. She held a second sheaf of photographs in her hand. "Pharro's insurance company just gave us a copy of these. Pharro had an extensive collection of esoteric items, most of it one of a kind irreplaceable. He had to provide photographs for insurance purposes. He had these things all over the house so it's a pretty complete record. A 'before' picture."

"And this is the 'after'," Sofia grinned. The two women began to match up the locations on the photographs. It felt good to be working alongside Sara. At first she had felt she was intruding, encroaching on the other woman's territory – even though she technically had seniority over Sara. There was also the question of trust. Her prior 'close' relationship with Conrad Ecklie (who seemed to be universally despised on night shift) had predisposed her new colleagues against her. They did not entirely trust her and made no bones about letting her know. Grissom had at least been civil about it. Sara had just closed herself off.

Sofia had missed the trust. Along with having to get used to working with her new colleagues (who already had their own well established dynamic) and becoming a nocturnal creature she had to cope with 'new girl' syndrome when everything else was familiar to her. She had admitted as much to Sara:

"It took me a long time to get where I was, Sara. Now I feel like I'm starting from scratch. I miss sleeping at night. I miss my colleagues. I miss… being trusted."

She had left without giving Sara the chance to say anything in return. Now she found herself wondering what if anything Sara might have said in response to her outburst. Her feelings for the woman were complicated by the fact that Sara did not know just how much Sofia knew about her. When Ecklie had asked her to investigate Night Shift he had given her carte blanche to look at any records pertaining to the team, their previous work records, their personnel files.

She knew what Sara's childhood had been like, how the last vestiges of it had ended in the summer of 1984. She knew why Sara reacted so strongly to rape cases, cases involving battered wives and abused children. Every time she looked at their faces she saw herself, saw her mother. But Sara didn't know that she knew – and that was eating into Sofia day by day as she felt herself grow closer to the other woman.

"Hey… I think we've got something here. Look at this bookcase…" Sara said. "And here… the blank spaces on this wall. You can see the paintwork has faded in places, but not in others as if something has been removed from the wall."

"It looks like there are several pictures and objects missing – and several volumes from the bookcase," Sofia said. "It was locked and glass fronted which should have protected the books but it looks like it was unlocked and open when the fire was started, the inside of the glass is dark with soot and the bindings on the books still in there are marked and the ones nearest the door are scorched."

"A lot of the books were rare first editions, related to witchcraft and the occult. There are a lot of collectors out there would give their eye teeth – or their first born – for something like that," Sara said. "Though from Pharro's autopsy one at least was probably used as a text book." She pointed out one of the illustrations visible in the photograph. "That was carved into his chest, I'm certain of it. Grissom's waiting on a call-back from the FBI on the autopsy results we sent them. Someone called Reyes. Apparently she's something of an expert in the bureau on occult related crime."

"He's not usually that keen on working with the Feds, or so I've heard," Sofia said. "Wasn't there some trouble once… they went over his head to use a CSI as bait for an escalating serial."

"That was me," Sara said. "I matched the victim profile pretty well. And it was my idea." She sighed. "I think I was trying to prove something to him."

"Ummm… I've heard rumors about the two of you," Sofia said. She did and did not want to know the truth.

"Well at a guess they're pretty similar to the rumors I've heard about you and Ecklie," Sara met Sofia's gaze candidly. "And have about as much foundation."

Sofia pulled a sour face. "I'm sure Ecklie started one or two of those rumors himself. Ugh. In his dreams… and that's really something I don't want to dwell on."

"Grissom's a mentor… a role model, I suppose," Sara said softly. "I did things – still do sometimes – because I wanted his approval, his interest. That was all, most of the time…" It was past time to be honest. "He wouldn't be good for me, I know that. And I'm a lot more… secure now. I don't need his approval any more. And I've come to realize that he's really not my type."

That just begged the question of who was her type but Sofia sensed from the set of her expressive mouth and the tension in her shoulders that she had got about as much personal revelation out of Sara Sidle as she was going to get for one day.

"You know… maybe we're coming at this occult thing from the wrong angle," she said, bringing them back to safer ground. "Perhaps the robbery was the real motive, the rest is just window dressing like Grissom thought. This stuff was probably stolen to order – I mean I doubt it's the sort of thing you can just advertise on Ebay…"

"The Feds probably have a list of people interested in this stuff. One of them is bound to roll over if they get too inquisitive, or if they figure what kind of a maniac this Furlow seems to be," Sara said. "Did Gris tell you that Lady Heather knew the name – he's banned from her domain because he cut up some girl he was with a couple of years back. She didn't know he was back in town. She…"

"Ladies, we got a call," Grissom said from the doorway. "A body in the woods. Firefighters discovered it whilst tackling a bushfire. We need to go now…"

And that was that. They moved on to the next case. The FBI agreed with their assessment that Pharro's death was staged to look like ritual murder and that the real motive had been robbery. Along with Brass's people they continued to look for Morgan Furlow and tipped collectors of such items that if Furlow or any one else approached them with any of the items known to be missing from Pharro's collection, they'd appreciate a call. The evidence and their findings and conclusions were boxed up and stored until such time as they might be needed if anyone was ever brought to trial for Pharro's murder.

It was a week later before Sofia got the chance to ask Sara more about her 'type'. They had taken Greg out for a drink after the conclusion of the Tara Matthews case. It had shaken them all but particularly Greg. He had stayed with them for a couple of drinks, ignoring the jibes and catcalls from some of his friends who were in the same bar about the 'hot' company he was keeping.

Sara had gone to the rest room when Greg caught Sofia's attention. "Look, tell me if I'm out of line here, but you like her, don't you."

Sofia stared at him, wondering if he had some sort of angle. Greg's puppydog crush on Sara was well known.

"You see, I think she likes you too. So I'm gonna excuse myself, let you two have some time alone…" He got up from his seat, laid down a neat pile of bills to pay his share of the tab. "The guys have got some sort of thing planned – a friend of a friends stag night, lots of action if you know what I mean. I promised I'd drop by."

Someone called his name from the doorway and he held up his hand to indicate he was coming. "One thing, Sofia… Sara – we think a lot of her, me, Warrick, Nick. She thinks of us as her brothers – and we love her like a sister. Don't hurt her is all I'm saying."

"I would never hurt her," Sofia said softly. "Thanks, Greg."

"Just take care of her, okay." He patted her on the shoulder and got up to go. Sara came out of the restroom in time to see him leave.

"Where'd he go?" she asked.

"He got a better offer," Sofia said. "Stag do. He was promised 'action'."

"Ah," Sara said, glancing at her watch. It was still fairly early.

"Look… do you want to go get something to eat, somewhere a bit quieter where we can talk without shouting?" Sofia asked.

Sara smiled. "Yeah, that would be nice."

There was an Italian restaurant with a good vegetarian selection just a little further down the Strip and though it was busy they were able to secure a table fairly quickly. Sara stuck with her club soda and Sofia switched to the house wine which turned out to be a pretty good Chardonnay.

By common consent they didn't talk about work. Sofia found herself telling Sara about her mother who had recently retired from the Force, after attaining the rank of Captain. "She transferred to the Homicide Division about ten years ago after serving in the Family Division and in Vice for a while after she made Detective. She would have transferred earlier but women with children weren't supposed to put themselves in a place like that. Especially single mothers like my mom." Sensing what Sara was about to ask her she shook her head. "My dad was pretty much a sperm donor, nothing more. He didn't stick around. I've met him… twice. Mom was the best though. There was just the two of us and I was always so proud of her. I just worshipped the ground she walked on. I thought she was so cool when I was growing up. Being a cop was all I ever wanted to do. And then I ended up here."

"Would you go back to being a cop?" Sara asked.

"In a heartbeat. Don't get me wrong, I like what I'm doing now, all that crap with Ecklie playing politics with my career soured me for a while but working with you and Greg and Grissom has been… special," Sofia said. "But… I have been applying to transfer back onto a squad and there's an opportunity in Boulder that's looking pretty good right now. It's only a six months posting initially but it'll get me back in the swing of things."

"I'll miss you," Sara said sincerely.

"Hey, it's not a done deal yet and it won't be for another three months at least. We've still got time to…"

"Time to what?" Sara was more than a little intrigued. It wasn't easy to tell in the dim light but she could swear that Sofia Curtis was blushing.

"Get to know each other better I suppose. I'd like to think we could be friends, Sara."

"We're friends," Sara grinned. "And it is nice, spending time like this. I never used to socialise much, you know. Grissom of all people was on at me all the time to get a life outside work. He was afraid I would burn out or something. And then I got a bit of a wake-up call – I was so stupid. Well – you know about that, you saw my personnel file when you evaluated the team for Ecklie." She paused, surprised at the look of guilt that flashed across Sofia's face. "What?" Realisation struck her. "Oh god, you know… you saw my whole file." She moved away from Sofia, almost hugging herself, her head bowed, hair concealing her face.

"I'm sorry," Sofia whispered. "Really, I am. I should have told you before…" She had blown it. She had blown it so badly. "I know what's in the official record," Sofia said. Daring, she reached out, laid her hand over Sara's. The other woman did not pull away, her fingers clenched slightly but she suffered the touch. "I can't begin to imagine how bad it must have been for you. And none of it went into my report to Ecklie, I promise you. It did help me understand you better, where you come from, what drives you… it just highlighted to me what a remarkable woman you are, Sara. I mean that."

"Grissom knows the truth… he's the only one. Catherine might have guessed some of it but I never told her anything, not even when we were… close. It's the past, I tend to like to keep it there, you know. I like to think I've moved beyond it all but then the line of work we're in. Some cases we see… it just brings home to me how damn fortunate I am to be alive and relatively well adjusted."

"That kid you talked to… the Devon Malton case. I saw how that got to you… "

"You don't know what it's like, living with strangers. Your fate being decided by social workers. I was in my teens when it happened, already damaged goods. I wasn't pretty enough, I was socially awkward - I couldn't see the point of being likeable and I'd learnt early that books were pretty much my only friend. But the social workers and the child psychologists all saw it as me withdrawing from the world. I wasn't outright forbidden to read but I was discouraged… and then I got a lucky break, a teacher who saw beyond the attitude and…" She smiled. "I mean, I still have my demons and my bad days but on the whole I'm doing okay, you know. I'm lucky."

"You're doing fine," Sofia whispered, reaching out to touch Sara's cheek. "And I'm sorry, I should have told you before now what I knew but… there never seemed to be the right time, you know."

"In a way, I'm glad you know. It's not half as bad as I thought it would be… it was so hard afterwards, you know. Trying to hide what had happened, trying to convince the social workers and the child psychologists that I was okay. What I really wanted to know was where the hell had they been all the years that my dad was beating up on me and my mom, why had no one ever taken notice, I mean we were in the emergency room three four times a year with broken bones and bruises and internal bleeding…" she shuddered, took a long sip of her club soda and shuddered. "I could really do with something stronger than that right now."

"You're not an alcoholic, Sara," Sofia said.

"But my mom was, by the end… and I know it doesn't mean that I will be too, but… it would be real easy, you know, to slip into that."

"It's not you," Sofia insisted.

"But it could be… and I'd rather not take the chance. That drink-driving thing last year was a real wake up call for me. One I promised Jim Brass I'd take heed of. I won't let him down on that." She smiled. "He's got into the habit of looking out for me… it's weird, after years of being on my own, even when I was still with my family, I seem to have acquired another family all of my own, a big sister, three big brothers and a little brother and even a 'dad'." She gazed at Sofia. "And you… but I don't know where you fit yet. I have to say… I have to tell you Sofia that you don't feel like a sister."

"Good…" Sofia said before backpedalling slightly. "I mean… if you do feel that way, I'm fine with that, as I said, I really want to get to know you better but… I want more too, Sara. My feelings for you are… not sisterly." Unable to resist the impulse, she started to laugh. "God, that sounds so corny!"

To her relief Sara started to giggle as well. "Yes it does, but it's a hell of a relief to hear you say it." She reached out to touch Sofia's face. "I want more than sisters as well, more than friends, much more." Sara leant in, slowing as she drew close to Sofia giving her time to pull away and then her lips touched Sofia's in what started out as a chaste kiss.

The moment Sara's lips touched her, Sofia knew. It was a moment of absolute clarity for her. This was it for her. This was the one. For good or for bad. Her eyes fluttered closed as the tip of Sara's tongue gently traced the edge of her lips. Sara's lips were so soft, the sensations thrilling her deeper and deeper with each touch.

They pulled away at the very last moment when oxygen was becoming an issue and just gazed at each other in silence for the longest time.

"I'm glad that you read my file," Sara whispered, smiling. "It's okay that you know. It's for the best. If we're going to make a go of this… you have to know everything. I don't want to have any secrets from you. If there's anything you want to know… just ask. Please, Sofia. You…" She ducked her head again.

Sofia gently placed her fingers under Sara's chin and raised her face until she could see her dark eyes. "Go on…"

"You don't know how much it means to me… you know… the darkness and you're still…" The dark eyes closed.

"I'm still here… I'm still interested… I'm still in love with you…"

It was the first time she had said it. Sara just stared at her for a moment and then her face broke into the most beautiful smile Sofia had ever seen. She realised that she would do pretty much anything to see that smile again.

By common consent they took it slow and they kept it to themselves. If Greg Sanders guessed that their relationship had changed, he kept it to himself, and they would never know what Gil Grissom thought until he chose to impart it himself. Neither woman wanted to rush into anything but Sofia's transfer to Boulder was still on the cards. Sara did not ask nor expect Sofia to put her career on hold for her.

Lifting a voice print from a pot was one of the weirdest yet coolest things Sofia had done in her time as a CSI. Yet beyond that she couldn't help but notice the pallor of Sara's face and the painful looking scratch on her throat. As Grissom carried away the precious pot Sofia took hold of Sara's hand and pulled her aside before she could follow him. "Something happened. Tell me."

"It's nothing, really. I'm okay… one of the inmates, Adam Trent, he… um… he, took me hostage for a little while. He… he threatened to kill me…" She shuddered, remembering.

Are you a spiritual person?

"The guy who made the pot, the guy who… God, Sara, you need to…" Sofia did not know what to do for the best. Sara was no shrinking violet but no one could be expected to walk away from a situation like that without a little emotional fallout. Human Resources were going to pitch a fit when they heard about this one. Her mind going a million miles a second thinking about the ramifications of this, luckily her body knew what to do. Instinctually, her arms went around Sara's slender body and after a momentary hesitation, Sara snuggled into her.

"I'm okay, Grissom wanted me to sign off as well but I want to finish off the case. He told me… Adam told me that bad things are there to teach us a karmic lesson." Sara's voice was only slightly muffled, her face buried in Sofia's shoulder. "He had a theory you see… he thought that all of our problems could be cured by tuning into a higher frequency. He had read this theory that illness, anxiety and fear all occur when people are vibrating at ten thousand cycles a second. He was holding a home made shiv to my throat by this time. He told me that if they could just get up to a hundred thousand cycles per second they'd be in the realm of sound and light and spirit and everything would be just fine. He thought… he thought that he was just vibrating at the wrong frequency." She took a deep shuddering sigh. Sofia found herself letting her fingers stroke down Sara's long, slender back. She felt Sara relax into her, her head growing heavier on Sofia's shoulder. Something made her look up then and she saw Grissom standing in the doorway, his expression inscrutable even for him. He watched them for a moment or two longer and then left.

"Adam had locked the door – they couldn't get to me. Gris… Grissom tried to reason with him but Adam was beyond that. He threatened to kill me. They couldn't find the key… they couldn't get in to where he was holding me. The alarms went off and Adam lost it completely when Nurse McKay… his mom… showed up. I thought… I really thought he was going to kill me… and then he…" She was trembling so hard now that Sofia was having a hard time holding her. Without warning, Sara's knees buckled and Sofia followed her down to the floor, keeping a secure hold on her.

Sofia knew that Adam Trent had been admitted to the infirmary with serious self inflicted wounds to his throat. She had not realized the circumstances. "You're okay," she whispered. "I've got you, Sara, you're okay. You got through it." She could feel the growing dampness on her shirt from Sara's tears, the other woman's breath furnace hot against her skin.

"She had him so messed up," Sara whispered. "He didn't know what to do, I don't think he thought he would be strong enough to do it but he didn't know how to get out of it other than…"

"You think he was trying to commit suicide by cop?" Sofia asked.

Sara nodded. "I don't think he really would have hurt me he was just… he didn't really know what he was doing any more. And that place…"

Sofia put two and two together. "You've been somewhere like that before… Your mother?" What was Grissom thinking letting Sara continue on the case after what she had been through? Uncannily the other woman seemed to follow her train of thought.

"They got the door open and I just ran… the smell of blood was so strong and all I wanted to do was get away from it. I got to the end of the hallway but I couldn't get any further because of the security grate. But at least there I could smell the rain rather than the blood. Grissom came after me. He… he let me talk myself down, like you he guessed about my mom being in a place like that. She was sent there for evaluation. I guess it just hit me that it was like I'd gone back in time… the same colours, the same smells, the same people."

"He should have sent you home, Sara," Sofia said.

"He tried, he really did. But I wanted to see this through. Adam… he's as much a victim here as anyone. I needed to make this right. I still do."

"Okay, Sara, but when this is done, when we've got this bitch, promise me you'll take some time," Sofia said. "Promise me."

Dark eyes stared up at her. She had never seen such emotion in the other woman's face. Sofia found that her hand was on Sara's cheek. She marveled again at how soft her skin was, at the pale freckles along her cheekbones and across the bridge of her nose that she had never really noticed before. Their faces were so close together, it would only take the smallest of movements to…

Soft as her skin was, her lips were softer still, parting delicately at her touch. Their bodies molded together, kneeling on the cold tiles of the lab. It seemed to last forever but in reality only a couple of seconds passed before they reluctantly pulled apart.

"I promise to go home when we're done," Sara said softly. "But on one condition." At Sofia's presumably bemused expression her face broke into one of her rare full smiles. Sofia found herself grinning back.

"Name it," she said.

"You come with me," Sara's lips closed on hers again and they exchanged a long series of slow-burn kisses that left them both flushed and breathless – and aware of the precariousness of their location. Anyone could walk in on them and neither woman wanted to share just yet.

Sara saw through the case to its conclusion then asked Grissom for a couple of days leave. He granted her a week – more than she'd asked for but unusually for her she had no hesitation about taking it. Sofia was waiting for her when she came out of Grissom's office and they walked towards the parking lot together.

Catherine was walking towards them and it wasn't until she saw the slightly deer in headlights look on the other woman's face that Sara realized that she and Sofia were holding hands. That was that then. No more hiding.

"Hey Sar… I heard what happened at the hospital the other day – are you okay?" Catherine asked. She barely acknowledged Sofia's presence.

"Got a bit of a scare, but I'm fine," Sara said. "I've got a week's downtime. Sofia and I are heading out."

"My turn to cook," Sofia said. Sara didn't dare react to that. It wasn't Sofia's turn for anything – their relationship wasn't that advanced yet but if Sofia wanted to play her own head games with Catherine Willows that was fine with Sara. Past time she discovered that not everyone was at her beck and call.

Catherine nodded pleasantly. "Well, have a good time. I… I'm glad to see you're okay, Sara." She passed them and walked into the building.

"Well, that was awkward," Sofia breathed. "I'm sorry, Sara, but that woman just brings out my inner bitch sometimes."

"I've been working with her close on five years now and I still have no idea how to deal with her. I suspect I never will," Sara said. "You know we were close for a while. I thought, I thought we could be happy, we could be partners but… it got complicated. She never hurt me but… she always had to be in control."

"If I ever do or say anything that makes you uncomfortable, you'll tell me, right?" Sofia asked. "I don't want to mess this up, Sara."

"I promise you'll be the first to know," Sara said. "Now, I heard someone promise me home cooking."

"You got it," Sofia grinned.

Sara followed Sofia to her condo in her own car, parking up in the small visitors area of the communal car park. She had been here several times now, had even stayed over once or twice. She'd left some clothes here last time she stayed. She loved her own little apartment very much but liked Sofia's place as well. It had a nice atmosphere to it. If they did make this work there were going to be some hard decisions to make as to who was going to live where.

Sofia interrupted her thoughts. "Sara, I need to pop out to the store to get some groceries if I'm going to fulfill my promise. Make yourself comfortable, okay. I shouldn't be too long."

"Is it okay if I grab a shower?" Sara asked.

"Sure… oh wow, that mental picture is gonna provide some distraction for me as I go round the store," Sofia grinned.

"If you're quick, you can join me in there when you get back," Sara said, putting her arms around Sofia and drawing her close.

"Now that's a real incentive," Sofia snuggled for a moment. "If I can get some swordfish steaks at the market, I want to try out one of my mother's recipes on you if that's okay."

"Swordfish is good. I'm off meat permanently since babysitting Grissom's decaying pig, but I still eat fish," Sara said. "Brain food."

"Like you need more brains," Sofia scoffed. "Okay, swordfish it is. I'll be as quick as I can."

"I'll be waiting," Sara said softly. She laid her hand on Sofia's cheek and kissed her lightly on the lips. Sofia was spellbound for a moment, noticing how dark Sara's eyes were, warmed inside by the depth of feeling she had for this woman.

The shower was still running when she got back from the market. She quickly put the perishables in the fridge, left the other items on the counter and ran upstairs to the bathroom, undressing as she went.

For a moment she just gloried in the trim lines of Sara's body that she could make out in silhouette against the frosted glass of her shower cubicle. The air was steamy and she could smell one of her shower gel's – one that smelt of sandalwood and aloevera. She knew she'd always think of Sara when she smelt that in the future.

She eased open the door and slipped inside. Sara pushed her wet hair out of her eyes and grinned at her. "Glad you could join me," she said, kissing her, turning them so that Sofia was directly under the spray. She picked up the bottle of showergel and squeezed some into her hands, working it into a foam for a moment. Sofia gasped as Sara drew her hands across her body, smoothing the scented foam across her skin. Her palms molded Sofia's breasts and Sofia felt her nipples respond to the gentle stimulation. She pressed herself against Sara's hands, seeking and receiving the first of a series of kisses.

They clung together under the warm spray, their skin fragrant with soap, wet hair clinging to scalps. Sara kissed her way along Sofia's shoulder blade. "I love you," she whispered. "I know I've never told you…and I'm sorry…"

"That's okay," Sofia said. It had been a few days since she had said the same to Sara, knowing the emotional baggage the other woman carried with her she had figured it might be some time before she felt secure enough to say it back. The warm feeling that those three words generated within her surpassed all of her expectations. "It means so much to me to hear you say it… Sara… you make me feel so wonderful."

"You make me feel…" Sara said. "You let me feel, you don't tell me what I should or should not be feeling, you let me be me. That means so much to me you know." Her hands slid over her lover's slick skin, passing over the dimple of her navel over down the shallow slope towards Sofia's cleft. Sofia clung to her almost dizzy as Sara's fingers found her centre. Fire sizzled through her as the brunette's thumb pressed against her clit, she gasped, turning her head away from the flow of water in case she swallowed some and choked. Sara lowered her head, her lips whispering across the rise of Sofia's breasts. Carefully, Sofia moved them so that she was braced against the tiled back wall of the shower. She was already feeling decidedly weak at the knees and Sara had hardly begun. She let her hand slide around Sara's hips, cupping her beautiful ass for a moment before traveling up to touch the dimpled recess at the base of her spine, feeling Sara shiver at her touch. Sara's fingers traced the edge of her labia and Sofia felt rather than heard her breath come out somewhere between a growl and a purr.

Then Sara did something to her clit and white fire scorched through her synapses. Her shoulders thudded against the tiles and she just managed to stop herself cracking the back of her skull against the wall. Butterfly kisses trailed across her breasts and down her sternum as she felt the muscles in her abdomen and thighs begin to quiver. She bit into Sara's shoulder, marking her. She was close… so close… so…


When she could see again she realized three things. The brunette was just about holding her up, and her face was sporting a smile so wide that it pretty much qualified as a Cheshire cat grin and the water was cooling rapidly. Exchanging kisses they rinsed themselves off then stepped out of the shower. More kisses were exchanged as they dried each other off. Sara changed into the sweats she had left last time and after putting her damp hair up, Sofia slipped into jeans and an old college shirt.

She took care of the swordfish steaks whilst Sara made the salad, the two working side by side in the small kitchen as if they'd been doing it for months. She persuaded Sara into a glass of wine with the meal and afterwards they settled down on the couch.

Sofia reached across to her desk and snagged an envelope, drawing out a sheet of paper handing it to Sara. "You need to read this."

Sara unfolded it, noted that the letter head was for Boulder PD. Sofia's reassignment had come through.

"I'm going down the end of the week to sort the final details. If all goes well I'll transfer at the end of the month. All Ecklie has to do is sign off on it and I don't think that'll be a problem. I haven't particularly endeared myself to him."

"Who has?" Sara tried to smile. In three weeks Sofia could be gone. She'd barely even have time to get used to them being together before they weren't any more.

"The job's in Boulder City, and I've agreed to six months, but there's openings in Vegas all the time. I'll transfer back to Vegas PD as soon as I can – Brass'll take me on in a heartbeat. That is… if you want me to."

"Of course I want you to come back," Sara said warmly, letting her fingers smooth through her lover's long blonde hair. "I know you've wanted to do this for a long time since Ecklie started messing us around."

"And then I fell in love with you, but I'd already put the transfer request in. It's hard being torn like this. I need to get back into regular police work, but I don't want to leave you."

"It'll only be for a few months. And Boulder's not that far away," Sara said. "And… I had an idea. Human Resources sent Grissom another memo about the amount of unused holiday I've accumulated. I can take a couple of weeks, help you get settled in out there."

Sofia smiled. "I'd like that." She rolled over so that she was on top. "I know long-distance relationships can be hard… but I really want this to work between us."

"So do I," Sara said softly. "You are by far the best thing to happen to me in… well, a very long time. I don't want to mess this up."

"You won't," Sofia said. She stood up, held out her hand. Sara took it, allowed herself to be led to the bedroom.

Sofia leant in for a kiss, and another, and a third. She loved the softness of Sara's lips, the unexpected lushness of her body. Sara gasped, her eyes fluttering closed as Sofia kissed her way down her throat, her tongue catlicking at the hollow of her throat for a moment, tasting the beads of sweat that had gathered there before continuing down the line of her sternum, the kisses butterfly light and quick. A childhood injury made Sara's sternum very sensitive to pressure and Sofia was a very quick learner and hated to cause anyone pain, particularly those she had grown to love. She lingered a little longer over her lover's belly, tracing her tongue and fingers over the sensitive skin around her navel, feeling the muscles flutter under the skin as Sara's breathing hitched and then deepened again. Sofia felt Sara's fingers tighten in her hair as she moved her own fingers to touch lightly between the brunette's legs. Her other hand curved around Sara's hip, her thumb gently stroking along the crease between belly and thigh as she nibbled for a moment at the underside of the gentle curve of Sara's belly, feeling rather than hearing Sara's soft moan of appreciation. Her fingers stroked deeper into the slick heat and as Sara began to buck her hips, pushing into her touch, Sofia took Sara's clit into her mouth, suckling it gently and rolling her tongue across its sensitive surface. One long leg wrapped itself around her torso as Sara arched her back. Her fingers were already slick and Sofia lowered her head again, intent on tasting her love. She pressed the flat of her tongue to Sara's centre then curled it, gathering the thick sweet juice. She thought she heard her name being called and raised her head to see Sara staring down at her, panting hard, her dark eyes almost black. "Don't… don't stop… wonderful," she gasped. Sofia grinned at her, then stuck out her tongue playfully before lowering her face again to nestle between Sara's strong toned thighs. Slowly, painstakingly she licked up the outer edges of Sara's centre, cleaning the soft folds of sensitive flesh of any trace of cum, before plunging her tongue into Sara's centre again, flicking it rapidly in and out. Sara's leg muscles started to quiver as she arched her back again, her hands tightening into fists in the bedclothes at either side of her body.

Sara knew from previous partners that she was quiet – too quiet – and did not know what to think when she heard herself scream out Sofia's name. Perhaps this was what she had been missing all this time and now she had found it there was the chance that she was going to lose it all again.

As she clung to Sofia Sara swore that was not going to happen. Whatever it took, she would do. If it meant that she had to follow Sofia to Boulder to be with her then she would do so. Las Vegas CSI had been her comfort zone for too long. Perhaps it was time to move on.

The End

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