DISCLAIMER: I do not own any of these characters. I do this only for my sanity.
NOTES 1: This is written for the Anniversary Challenge on Passion and Perfection, so, as it's for Ralst, it's my attempt at a Sara/Sofia story.
NOTES 2: However, those of you who know me will know I struggle to write CSI without Catherine, so this is really an ensemble piece with quite a bit of Catherine and more than enough Sara/Sofia ;-)
NOTES 3: As always it's thanks to my wonderful beta readers and to L for the entertaining encouragement.
CHALLENGE: Submitted for the 5th Anniversary Challenge.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
5 Days and a Little Light
Day One: Friday May 26th.
Catherine arrived back from court, royally pissed off; the case she thought a slam-dunk was now in tatters. After giving her evidence, defense counsel had called their first witness, an out of town police officer. He had taken the oath and then testified that the defendant couldn't have committed the rape and murder he was accused of; he was playing soccer that night 450 miles away in Reno.
The DA had managed to convince the judge that, since this was a new development - Gareth Waters had never mentioned an alibi in his interviews - the prosecution should be granted time to refute this claim. The judge had reluctantly agreed they could have the next day. Luckily for Catherine, it was a holiday weekend too, meaning she now had 5 days to prove or disprove her own theories.
She took a while to re-acquaint herself with the evidence and then descended on Gil's office to find him deep in conversation with some very unseemly looking bugs.
"How the hell a police officer can say he was 450 miles away in Reno is beyond me."
Grissom looked up, slightly perplexed. "I take it you mean Gareth Waters; your case that's just been trashed."
"Yeah, who else?"
Catherine didn't stop to think how Gil already knew about her court problems; she just took a seat opposite him and raised her eyebrows. Years of working together meant the two colleagues knew what each other were thinking without any words being spoken.
"Is your evidence still good?"
"Oh yeah!" Catherine began to recount in a monotone voice, it was evidence she had come to live.
"Megan Brown, raped with a foreign object then brutally slashed across the throat, dumped by the side of Lake Mead. On autopsy, Doc Robbins found wood splinters in her vagina matching a baseball bat found in Gareth Waters' car. He also found traces of soil in her nasal and throat passages; soil analyzed to be unique to the area of Lake Mead where she was dumped. Waters had a pair of shoes in his locker with traces of the same soil."
"Go on, we need to find something that's going to stick."
"Follow the evidence, huh?"
"Only way there is."
"Ok, let's see. The body " Catherine stopped herself saying 'Megan', knowing Gil would pick up on the emotion behind the victim having a name, " was wrapped in a white sheet, covered in her own blood and patches of the same soil. Fibers from the sheet were found in Waters' car. And, here's the clincher, a knife found in Waters tool box a couple of miles away from the body with the victim's blood and one partial fingerprint on the hilt. The fingerprint matched Waters."
"So yeah, as good as it was before. As far as I'm concerned Gareth Waters raped, killed and dumped Megan's body that night."
"Ok, in theory, we can prove he was in Vegas that night, we now need to prove he was not in Reno."
Gil looked at the exhaustion on his colleague's face.
"Go home, Cath, get some rest; you've another four days to pull things together. Use Sara, Warrick and maybe Sofia, if Jim can spare her. Sara's in the garage, Warrick's in trace, I think, go, send them home, get started tomorrow."
Catherine smiled gratefully at her friend, "What about you, Gil? Aren't you going home?"
"Um, I want to look at these guys, they were near the body, might give some clue to a definitive analysis of that soil."
Catherine looked towards the black beetles and grimaced. She turned on her heels and headed to the garage.
She walked slowly and turned into the lab, pulling up short she immediately stepped behind the doorframe.
Sara's feet were sticking out from beneath the car and Sofia was sitting on the dolly, her legs positioned either side of Sara's.
"So Sara, where shall we go next time?"
"You choose, your turn."
"Ok, how about Lake Mead? Jet skis maybe?"
"Sounds good, then what?"
Sofia's voice turned hopeful.
"Um, I thought maybe, back to my place."
"You did, huh?" Sara teased.
"Oh yeah, need some way to work all that energy off."
"And we need to wait, huh?"
"Ah back to mine then?"
The husky way Sofia said the words left Catherine in no doubt as to what Sofia wanted.
Catherine's eyebrows rose, how could she have missed this development, right under her nose; Sofia, the woman she now called her closest friend and Sara, the woman she'd had a passionate relationship with for years, a non-sexual relationship definitely, but passionate never the less, were a couple.
Recently, Catherine thought, her relationship with Sara had improved to the point where she'd believed they might not going to happen now, she chided herself.
Watching the two women, she saw Sofia pull Sara from underneath the car, then smirked as Sofia leaned down and captured the brunette's lips in a kiss that could only be described as incendiary; who'd have thought Sara would act like that at work?
Catherine turned and left the garage; she'd go and find Warrick first. Her two friends deserved some good times, she wasn't going to interfere in that liaison. She was however going to grill Sofia as to why she hadn't mentioned this development during their regular coffee dates.
Day Two: Saturday May 27th
Sara woke slowly. After being sent home by Catherine, she and Sofia had wandered home to catch a few hours sleep. Of course things didn't always go to plan. She smiled at the heavy weight resting against her shoulder and nuzzled at the blonde hair strewn haphazardly over the pillows. She smiled, once again amazed at the feelings being wrought from her by this woman at her side.
She nudged Sofia gently, "Come on, Soph, it's time."
The blonde woke slowly and shared a soft smile with Sara. "Time for what? This " She kissed Sara soundly and was surprised when the brunette deepened the kiss further.
"Huh, Sara, I was joking woman, if you carry on like that we'll never get to work."
"Oh man, mood-killer or what. Can't I let my girlfriend know how much I enjoyed myself ?"
Sara's words were cut off by the incredulous look from Sofia.
"Yeah, is that ok?"
"Of course it is, you know that."
The two women kissed again; Sofia's ringing cell phone halting their progress this time. As Sofia spoke quietly Sara showered. When she had finished Sofia was already dressed and ready to leave. Sara raised her eyebrows.
"That was Catherine. Gareth Waters has agreed to another interview. It seems that now he thinks he has an alibi he's willing to talk. She's asked me to join her and we're going for coffee before to get our questions straight. Ok?"
Sara knew that Sofia and Catherine had struck up a close friendship following the friendly fire incident of months before; Catherine had been there for Sofia when she couldn't get her head out of her ass to do it herself. Sara wasn't inclined to put that friendship asunder because of her own petty jealousies, she'd done that too many times before. Anyway she wondered if it was a way that she too could become closer to her older colleague.
"Yeah, you go and enjoy your time. I'll catch you later at headquarters."
"Hey Sara, I'd like to tell Catherine about us, that ok?"
Sara's nod of acknowledgement thrilled Sofia more than all their lovemaking ever could.
Sofia grinned at Catherine, sitting with two large latté in front of her.
"Hey Cath! How're you doing?"
"Hey! Not bad, I got a few hours sleep. You?"
"Yeah a few hours."
Catherine dropped her head down and smiled to herself as a blush crept slowly up Sofia's neck; it was obvious that sleep wasn't all she'd had.
"So, what's all this about Waters' agreeing to another interview?"
"Um, yeah, Brass called me earlier to say his counsel had been in contact, they'd like to fill us in on the details of the alibi. It appears he'd forgotten where he'd been on that night until the lawyer found Officer Thoms who conveniently remembered Waters."
The sarcasm dripped from Cath's words and Sofia grinned once more.
"You don't believe him, huh?"
"Not one bit. There's something fishy going on here and I want to know what. Can you do some digging on this police officer when we've finished with the interview? There's got to be some reason he's covering for Waters because, as sure as I'm sitting here, Waters was dumping Megan's body at the same time as Officer Thoms was supposedly with him."
"Are you sure Waters was at Lake Mead?"
"Oh yeah. Megan was dumped in a type of soil exclusive to that part of Lake Mead; even Grissom's damn bugs say so." The two women chuckled. "That soil was then found on Waters' shoes."
"How'd he explain it last time?"
"Um, his only defense, other than silence, was to say his car had been stolen while working across the border in Colorado the night before and he hadn't had chance to report it stolen. Yeah, right."
"So, questions to follow through on 1, where he was exactly on the night of the murder, 2, why he had soil on the soles of his shoe, 3, why didn't he report his car stolen, and 4, how did a knife with his fingerprint and Megan's blood on end up in his tool box? Anymore?"
"Yeah, I have a couple more." Catherine smirked. "You and Sara, how long have you been seeing each other?"
"Ah! Um, about 4 weeks."
"Are you uh you know?"
"Yeah you know that's it."
"Um, I hope so, Cath, I really do."
Catherine smiled at the look that crossed Sofia's face.
"I think so, yeah."
"So, why didn't you tell me?"
"I wanted to tell you but you know Sara."
"Yes, I do know Sara."
Something in Catherine's tone made Sofia look up sharply to catch a glimpse of something like jealousy in the expressive blue eyes.
"What? Oh, nothing, ignore me, huh? I'm happy for you both, ok."
"Come on, let's go do this."
Sofia followed Catherine out convinced there was something she was missing in Catherine's response.
Catherine walked into Gil's office.
"Thanks for confirming that soil is exclusive to Lake Mead, not sure how much help it'll be though."
"Interview didn't go well?"
"No, he just agreed with everything Officer Thoms claims. He was playing soccer 450 miles away in Reno on the night of Megan Brown's murder. His car had been stolen from Colorado the day before and, because of the extremely important soccer game, he had forgotten to report it stolen. The soil was on his shoes, but hey, soil is found all over the US "
Gil put his hand up and walked over to his library, pulling a book out.
"Damn, it doesn't say here. We need to prove he wasn't in Reno. Send Sara and Warrick, get them to collect a soil sample, get them to interview other team members, anything. Send Sofia; get her to delve into Officer Thoms' past. I don't know anything."
"Gil, it's a holiday weekend, the flights will be solid."
"Then improvise, Cath, I know you can do it."
Catherine looked at Gil, perplexed. He winked at her and with a knowing look tapped his copy of Catherine's personnel folder as he passed.
Day Three: Sunday May 28thth
Sara and Warrick wandered around the outside of a large soccer field in Reno, waiting for Sofia to return from investigating Officer Thoms' police record.
Sara watched Warrick from the corner of her eye as he called Catherine back at headquarters.
He told his colleague they had seen photographs of Gareth Waters adorning the locker room walls and seen the fixture list confirming that Reno Shooters had indeed played a soccer match on the night of the murder. Worse still, it was there in black and white that Gareth Waters was named to play in attack. Warrick sighed as he admitted that so far all the evidence pointed to the fact that Waters had been in Reno not Vegas.
Warrick motioned for Sara to lean in as Catherine asked them to stay around to ask a few more questions; maybe more of the team could throw light on Waters definite attendance at the match.
The two colleagues looked at each other as they heard the beginnings of defeat in Catherine's voice.
Warrick cut the connection and immediately voiced his concern.
"It's not like Cath to admit defeat so early, what's wrong with her?"
"Huh? It's just the evidence piling up in Waters' favor, I guess?"
"No! There's something else wrong. I've known Cath far longer than you, Sara, I'm telling you she's upset about something else. Maybe, when we get back, you could have a word with her."
"Me? She doesn't talk to me, Warrick, you know that, she just shouts."
"You're her friend too."
"Ah, but we've kinda drifted, what with Tina, you know, and you two've been getting on so much better just lately, we can all see it, just talk to her, huh? A woman's perspective might just do it?"
"Hmm, maybe I'll get Sofia to have a word with her."
"Yeah, sounds good, they're friends right?"
"Yeah, good ones."
"Good. And you and Sofia?"
"Yeah. We're friends too."
Warrick smiled as if he knew more than he should.
Suddenly, Sara grabbed hold of Warrick's arm and pointed to the ground.
"The soil here is nearly black; it's definitely different to Lake Mead."
Warrick nodded and immediately bent to take the sample they had traveled 450 miles to get.
Sitting aboard Sam Braun's private jet Sara, Sofia and Warrick discussed their findings so far.
"So girls how're we going to prove this John did it when all the evidence is piling up to say he didn't?"
Sara and Sofia swapped incredulous looks.
"Um, ladies, ah hell there's no way I'm calling you two ladies. Um, so Sara, Sofia "
The three friends laughed together.
"Well, I found another officer who claims Thoms has a gambling habit, so I'm on that when I get back. Otherwise no previous bad marks in Thoms' record would probably lead a jury to think he's a pretty upstanding guy. You two find anything?"
"The soil's definitely different but more than one team member swears blind Waters played that night."
Silence descended as they took on board the enormity of finding the burden of proof. Suddenly Warrick stood and headed towards the cockpit.
"I'm going to see if Catherine's favors will cover a call home to Tina, got to be some perks to having your own cockpit, maybe radio contact to the hospital, huh?"
Sara smiled at Warrick's need, glad the two of them were now comfortable in each other's friendship.
The remaining two women sat in quiet togetherness, both marveling at the easy relationship they had so quickly fallen in to. Sara pondered Warrick's words of earlier and decided now was as good a time as any to push Sofia towards talking with Catherine. She reached over and squeezed Sofia's hand to get her attention.
"Soph, do you know why Cath's giving up so easy on this one?"
"She's not, is she?"
"Warrick seems to think so, says she's been distracted and lost since day one."
"No, Cath doesn't give up like that, he's wrong."
A light bulb went off in Sofia's head, Catherine did give up sometimes. She looked at Sara.
"Can I ask you something?"
"Sure. You just did."
"Ha-ha. No, really, um You and Catherine?"
"You and Cath, did you ever "
"No, God no, it would be like pistols at dawn. You've heard us fight. It's only now, and you, we've even started sharing things."
Sofia watched Sara's brain working.
"So, you never "
Sara grabbed Sofia's hand and pulled her in for a long drawn out kiss, finally drawing back to whisper one word against her lips.
They kissed again.
"Do me a favor, talk to Catherine, huh?"
Sara sighed inwardly, what was it with these people thinking Cath would listen to her. As Warrick rejoined his companions, Sara nodded towards Sofia. If her lover thought it was necessary, it looked like she was going to be the one to talk to Catherine.
Day Four: Monday May 29th Memorial Day.
On returning from Reno, Warrick had told Catherine that four other team members had confirmed Water's attendance at the soccer match and, although Sofia had dredged up signs of a gambling habit from Officer Thoms' records, so far she had no concrete signs that he had had any previous contact other than socially with Gareth Waters.
The evidence was piling up in support of Waters and Catherine felt defeated. She knew in her gut that Waters was guilty but how to prove it was becoming hard to see.
Catherine stood looking at the white sheet that had been wrapped around Megan's body. She waited; waited for Sara to bring the Reno soil analysis results, waited for Sofia to come back from chasing up another snippet of information she'd got locally on Thoms, and waited for inspiration to hit. Something was missing, some piece of the puzzle; she could feel it.
Suddenly, she heard a sound behind her and turned to see Sara watching her with interest.
"Hey Sara, how are you, anything new?"
Sara shook her head.
"What're you doing?"
"Just looking, trying to play the scene in my head, you know, looking for something anything. Hey! Pin me down."
Smiling at Sara's raised eyebrow, Catherine got down on the sheet, and beckoned Sara on top. Sara gripped Catherine's wrists and held them over her head, realizing immediately that something was wrong; the dirt stain was to one side only. She changed to a single hand grip of both Catherine's wrists and then leaned backwards as if to get something from behind. As she did so, Catherine managed to wrestle one hand free, reaching up towards Sara's neck.
"She must have been struggling, so he reached back, grabbed some soil and pushed it deep into her mouth. Now, she can't breathe and he subdues her again "
Sara stopped talking as she felt Catherine shudder, realization dawning. She was transfixed by the sudden sparkle; she was drawn in.
Catherine touched her fingers to Sara's lips and imperceptibly shook her head.
"So you and Sofia?"
Sara struggled to understand Catherine's short retort.
"Um, she said we needed to talk."
The two women looked at each other.
"Are you happy?"
Catherine raised her eyebrows in silent question.
Sara saw something like regret flicker in Catherine's intent gaze.
"The thing that makes a fantasy great, Sidle, is the possibility it might come true. When it disappears, it just kind of sucks."
Silence descended until Warrick popped his head around the door, grimacing at the charged atmosphere.
"Huh, Cath, Sara, I might have something. You free to come take a look?"
The two women shared a smile before Sara offered Catherine her hand pulling her sharply to her feet. They followed Warrick.
In the lay-out lab Warrick pointed to the most recent team sheet of the Reno Shooters. He had highlighted three names, Thoms, Gareth Waters and Dwayne Waters.
The gleam that had appeared in Catherine's eyes moments before doubled.
"You two follow that up, I'm off to find Sofia. I think I need another chat with Waters."
Catherine left the stunned CSI's in her wake.
"I thought you said she'd given up," teased Sara.
"Yeah, well a guy can't always be right, now can he?"
"No, he can't."
"So you talked to Catherine?"
"Um, yeah, I have no idea what about, but if she's happier, I'll claim the kudos."
Warrick laughed. "Ah sweet Sara, you have a lot to learn."
"Hey!" She punched his arm. "Come on let's have a look at this Dwayne guy."
The web-site of Reno Shooters was quite an illuminating package. It seemed Gareth and Dwayne were brothers and the team photographs showed they looked remarkably alike.
Sara reached out for the team-sheet from the night of the murder to find only Gareth had been picked to play.
The two CSI's grinned; the edges of the jigsaw were beginning to fall into place.
"Maybe, our doppelganger brother played soccer that night while Gareth did the dirty. We need to see if Sofia can give us the name of a decent police officer to do some digging for us."
"Either that or Catherine's going to owe Sam big-time, huh?"
Day Five: Tuesday May 29th.
Gil looked around the table at the four investigators; this was one of his great pleasures in life, listening to beautiful minds recanting evidence and then fueling each other to decipher the clues.
He glanced at Catherine; it was after all her case.
The blonde beamed; her whole demeanor barely recognizable from the day before. Gone was the flat mood, back was her kick-ass attitude. She was ready to nail some bastard to the floor, preferably Gareth Waters.
"Warrick, tell me Gareth Waters wasn't in Reno that night."
"Well it's certainly less concrete now. His younger brother, who by the way is the spitting image of Gareth, might have been the team player that night."
As Warrick showed the two senior CSI's the brother's photographs Sara took up the tale.
"We contacted Dwayne Waters' workplace and they confirmed he asked for the night off to get this play soccer."
"And I got a police officer to quickly show a photograph of Dwayne to the four team members who claimed Gareth played that night. Three of them said it was Gareth."
Catherine grinned at her three colleagues.
"Can we say reasonable doubt that Gareth Waters played soccer that night?"
Gil pushed some results into the middle of the table.
"And my little guys confirmed the soil at Lake Mead is pretty exclusive, what did your sample show?"
"The soil from the Reno Stadium is definitely not as exclusive. So Waters' shoes were somewhere in the vicinity of Vegas that night."
Suddenly a beeper went off. Five hands dropped to their respective waists; Sofia was the winner, rising quickly to take a call on a lead she was following.
Sara watched the blonde woman leave. As she turned back to the table, she caught the eyes of Catherine watching her. The older CSI winked discreetly and then offered a smile.
"Ok guys, I've got some new stuff that'll rock your socks."
Sara and Warrick chuckled at Catherine's choice of words.
"Yesterday, me and Sara staged a little re-enactment. Our victim was struggling so Waters stuffed her mouth with the distinctive soil. I got to thinking the soil was flying everywhere and Waters is a real fancy dude, as Greg would say, you know, turned back cuffs and links all the time. So, what if "
She showed pictures of the type of shirt she was describing.
" What if he was wearing a shirt, and soil collected in the cuff? I pulled him in for another chat and Waters admitted in front of his brief that his stolen car had no shirts in it. Sofia meanwhile got a warrant to pull all Waters shirts. Would you believe, right there, embedded deep in the seams "
Once again she pointed to a photograph.
" Grains of that oh so beautiful soil. Greg rang just before I came in here; it's a goddamn match."
Sara grinned at Catherine; she hadn't had time to inform the blonde of her news.
"And I took the liberty of running said shirt under the AUL and there was the tiniest trace of blood spatter. Taking a chance I took a swab to that new DNA tech."
"Yeah. Anyway, she rushed it through and guess whose blood it's a match to?"
Three voices chimed out, "Megan's"
The smile that lit up Sara's face was answer enough.
"I'm feeling a slam-dunk returning team. Just need to find out why Thoms is so insistent that it was Gareth at the match. I'm going to find Sofia, see if that bleep was the answer to that question. Thanks you guys, I can't thank you enough, you do know that right?"
Seeing the nods around the table she got up to follow Sofia.
Sofia stood in the doorway of the lay-out lab pondering how many times she had watched Sara concentrating over pictures, watched her as something clicked into place and a light switched on behind her eyes. Enough times to know something was right between the two of them.
Sara could feel the heated gaze of her girlfriend and looked up to lock eyes with Sofia.
"Hey beautiful, I hear you cracked the case."
"Not really, it was already there, I think."
"Well Cath's pretty chuffed with you, so come on spill the case-breaker."
Sofia walked over to stand beside Sara.
"Do you remember Jack Davies?"
"That officer we went for a drink with?"
"Yeah, well he called me yesterday, said he'd heard I was asking questions about a Reno cop. It appears he'd pulled Thoms over for a DUI the week before Megan's murder, only to give him the benefit of the doubt when he'd found Thoms worked in Reno police enforcement. Guess who his passenger was that night?"
"So a little digging found CCTV of the two of them at Sam Braun's place, working up huge table debts, and smoking God knows what. I tell you, though I'd never admit it under oath, having Sam Braun as Cath's dad makes police work so much easier."
The two women shared a chuckle.
"Anyway, don't ask me how, but Sam pulled a few strings in Reno and we've got pictures of Thoms handing Waters some large sums of cash; blackmail is a sure fire way of getting a previously good cop to lie for you."
"So, you and Sam Braun are real friendly, huh?"
"He's Catherine's dad and I like Catherine."
"It's not a problem, is it?"
"No, you can be friends with who you please. I don't own you."
"Sara, Sara. Cath's good for me; she's good for you too, if you'd only realize."
"Yeah, I know. Only just made the connection but it's ok, I got it, thanks to you."
Sofia grabbed Sara's hand and held it to her chest.
"Just don't forget I'm here, huh?"
"Oh, there's no place else I'd rather be, don't you forget that, either."
Both women glanced over their shoulder before sharing a brief meaningful kiss.
"You talked to Cath."
"Do you think she'll be alright?"
"Oh yeah, she's too bloody-minded not to be. Anyway, have you seen that new DNA tech?"
"Brown hair, legs to die for, and come-to-bed eyes, oh yeah."
Sofia gently smacked the back of Sara's head.
Catherine watched the court proceedings from the back of the room, a sly smile on her face.
So far, the DA had expertly teased all the incriminating evidence against Waters out of Catherine and then, using Sofia's hard won evidence, refuted Officer Thoms' version of events. All that remained was for the judge to make her decision.
"Based on the evidence, I find sufficient probable cause to order the defendant, Gareth Waters, to stand trial for the sexual assault and murder of Megan Brown."
Her smile turning into a grin Catherine turned on her heels, pleased as never before.
Catherine yawned; suddenly fatigued she looked forward to having a quiet shift. However, the minute she walked through the door, her bleep wailed for attention.
Sighing, she glanced at the message.
'Results back in DNA. Wendy.'
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