DISCLAIMER: CSI and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: First Sara/Sofia – actually, my first slash fic altogether, so there you go – let me know if I manage to miraculously pull this off.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

My One Shot
By lemonjelly


It was one of those terrible moments when you spot someone you recognise in a time or place you'd really rather not. There's that horrible pause in which two pairs of eyes lock and both of you are wondering if it's too late to turn around and pretend you never saw each other – that, Sara would later mark out, was probably the start of their relationship; Sofia identified more with the moment, a few hours later, when she kissed her in the car – that first flash of indecision and awkwardness was "so non-committal", she said.

After at least a-minute-and-a-half of frozen staring, it became painfully apparent that Sara (striding across the dance floor towards the bar) and Sofia (half-perched on a bar stool with her fourth (fifth, sixth?) beer in hand) had definitely seen each other. Then, with an unavoidable reluctance on both sides, Sofia forced a smile and Sara made her legs move again to sit beside the blonde detective.

"You've caught me at a bad time," Sofia said, breaking the difficult silence between them, and gestured to the bottle in her hand that had loosened her mouth enough to say it.

Sara laughed – a genuine laugh at Sofia's drunken forwardness – but couldn't think of anything to say; she was stone-cold sober and hating it. Det. Curtis had so kindly entirely screwed up Sara's plans for that night – go to the nearest bar and either indulge in an impassive, anonymous fuck with a total stranger or the steady consumption of a lot of alcohol – whichever came first – maybe both. But Sofia would probably tell Grissom – or tell someone else who would tell Grissom – and Sara would be back having those inane chats about her feelings and emotional wellbeing and whatever.

"You want one?" Sofia offered, holding up her now-empty beer bottle. What was this? Her fifth? Seventh? She really couldn't remember anymore.

Sara gazed at the peeling foil label – the beads of condensation still running down the smooth glass in Sofia's slender hand – and felt a longing there that she hated.

"No," she sighed eventually. "I can't."

But Sofia misunderstood – "Sure you can!" – and leant over the bar to order two more beers. The bartender leered down Sofia's blouse for a long minute before setting the two beers down on the surface with a grin.

"It's on me, Sara," Sofia prompted, seeing Sara glance apprehensively at the drink.

In the long pause that followed, Sara knew that 'just one' would never remain 'just one', but only remind her just how much she missed it – and Sofia, if she didn't already know, would eventually hear around the lab that Sara Sidle was an alcoholic – and this story would come out: Sara Sidle getting very drunk on a Wednesday night.

"Sorry, Sofia – I really can't," Sara muttered and pushed the drink towards the detective.

"Can't?" Sofia asked, one eyebrow raised.

Sara's fingers found a matchbook in the nearby ashtray and began to fretfully tap-tap it on the bar, for want of something to distract.

"I'm an alcoholic," she confessed and flipped the lid of the matchbook open-and-shut with her thumbnail. Open-and-shut. Open-and-shut. She didn't dare look at Sofia, wondering what she'd be thinking in the awkward silence between them.

"Oh – shit," muttered Sofia, finally. "I'm sorry; I can't be helping much right now."

And Sara laughed – half relieved, half enchanted by this light-hearted, honest side to Sofia that she'd never seen before.

"Actually, you probably are helping," she admitted and cast a sardonic smile sideways. "I mean – what's a recovering alcoholic doing in a bar, anyway?"

Realisation clicked into place in Sofia's expression – "Ah… falling off the wagon."

"Probably more like diving most spectacularly off it," Sara commented bleakly. Sofia didn't say anything. "I spent five hours of my shift today processing a six-year old girl's bedroom and clothing for semen – usually the kind of thing that makes me go and do something self-destructive."

"But...?" Sofia prompted.

Sara smiled softly. "But you're here."

The second time that night when their eyes locked was a lot less tense than the first. Sofia laughed slightly, almost nervously, and turned away, tucking a strand of blonde hair behind her ear. Sara's gaze lingered a little longer – long enough to travel the length of Sofia's pale neck – before she shook herself and ordered a lemonade from the bartender.

"So I've been suspended." Sofia later slurred down the bottle neck in a wry murmur.

Sara coughed, choking on the overly-sweet and cloying lemonade (God, how she wished it had been a beer) – "You've been what?"

"Suspended," Sofia repeated with a small smile. "Two weeks – unpaid." And, when Sara didn't say anything – only stared – Sofia looked with some fondness at the brunette's stunned expression and elaborated: "Office politics." She paused. "And I punched a lawyer."

At this, Sara couldn't contain her mirth and Sofia grinned to see Sara laughing openly beside her.

"I'm sorry," Sara spluttered, struggling to keep a straight face. "I'm sorry – it's not funny."

Sofia shrugged her shoulders and picked the foil label. "I don't know; I thought there was some humour in it."

It was strange, though, because she hadn't found it funny at all until now – that long and frustrating twenty-minutes sat being berated by Conrad Ecklie in the most humiliating school-principal fashion, only to have to apologise to that son-of-a-bitch lawyer as he smugly nursed his bruised cheek… The job drove her crazy, sometimes, what with the criminals she worked to put away and, worse, the overpaid professionals who worked against her every day. And yet, being told she would be suspended for two weeks was one of the most shattering things she'd ever been told. Two weeks? Her job was her life – what would she do with two whole goddamn weeks?

"What are you going to do now?" Sara asked.

"Apart from sit here and get drunk?" Sofia replied. "I don't know… I never realised how much I let my work take over my life."

Sara nodded emphatically and whisked the ice cubes around her glass with the plastic straw. "Oh, I've definitely been there."

"How do you get over it?" Sofia asked.

With a short, sharp laugh, Sara held up the lemonade to Sofia's face. "I'm really not the right person to ask, Sof," she told her.

Sofia chuckled with increasing bitterness until it was just a groan. What a fucking mess… She dipped her head to the surface of the bar and leant her cheek on the cool acrylic.

For a moment, she thought she felt Sara's hand reach out and rest on her shoulder, trail her fingers through her hair and briefly – very briefly – touch her fingertips to the skin of her neck – but when Sofia looked up to check, Sara's hand was only hovering above her. When their eyes met – third time – Sara's face flushed with something like embarrassment and she snatched her hand back.

"What would you be doing if I wasn't here?"

Sara blinked in surprise – she hadn't been expecting to have to answer this question and, as she formulated a neat evasive answer in her mind, she was even more surprised to find she'd already begun to speak.

"Drink, for a start – and not lemonade. I'd probably get very drunk," she told Sofia and then heard her words back. This wasn't the cagey, unrevealing response she usually spouted. She wasn't even drunk; why was she being so honest? But Sofia just looked at her, and didn't change her expression, didn't seem to judge. "And then probably indulge in some straight-forward, emotionless one-night stand. You know? Sex for the sake of sex – no strings attached."

And still Sofia didn't say anything. Sara laughed nervously.

"I'm a very psychologically healthy person, as you can probably tell," she muttered with a self-deprecating smile. She shuffled her heeled boots on the bar stool's rungs and subconsciously reached for the matchbook. Tap-tap-tap.

Sofia swirled the last inch of beer in the bottle – her eight, ninth, tenth? – and tipped it down her throat.

"I'd probably go for much of the same, myself," she said. "Which is sort of reassuring, actually." Sofia tucked back that same blonde strand. "You know, I never thought I'd ever really get that close to you, Sara – you always seemed so elusive… so eni… enig…" And her alcohol-dulled mind stumbled over it.

"Enigmatic." Sara offered and Sofia watched her lips say the word, forming the same shapes with her own.

"Yes," she murmured. "So enigmatic."

There was something in that symmetry, she thought, in the symmetry of rolling that one word off two tongues. It was a curiously commanding thought, and Sofia found she'd leant in towards the brunette, without even realising it – and they both faced one another with tentatively blinking eyes.

Whilst Sara's eyes stayed level – fixed on Sofia's flickering eyelashes and dilated pupils – Sofia's gaze, Sara noticed, darted all over her face. She felt it, almost physically, taking in the gentle arc of her eyebrow, the smooth contours of her cheek, the uncertain anticipation on her lips.

"I'd better drive you home," Sara announced in a voice she found surprisingly difficult to control. "It's late." And Sofia sighed, obediently allowing herself to be led out of the bar.

In the silent drive to Sofia's apartment, Sara kept her eyes on the road as overhead street lights zipped by and Sofia tried to gather enough coherent words and courage for what she wanted to say most of all. She pinched the bridge of her nose as Sara pulled up at her building and tried to translate blurred thoughts into speech – thoughts of long fingers flicking feverishly at the matchbook, the sweep of beautifully angular shoulders, Sara's palm at her back, her neck, her skin – she couldn't even remember what was real and what was fantasy anymore.

"Sof? Are you okay?" Sara's voice in the quiet car. "We're here."

Oh, fuck eloquence, Sofia thought and turned to face Sara, clumsily saying – "Sara, have you ever slept with another woman?"

If Sara had been at all taken aback by the question, she hid it well, save for a brief flash of something indistinct. "Yes," Sara told her. "I've had a few girlfriends in the past…" She paused, letting the words sink into Sofia before asking, "Have you?"

"Nope," was Sofia's response. A pause. "Would you like to sleep with me?" And Sara couldn't stop the soft smile on her face as she imagined Sofia's inexperienced, drunken fumbling in the dark.

"Sofia…" Sara began but was instantly cut off by Sofia's lips pressed against her own. Surprise didn't last very long and was soon replaced in Sara by longing. Had she ached all night for a cold beer and quick fuck with a stranger? Or was this the ache that never went away? Was this the one she woke up with alone and hung-over, missing the touch of someone who really did know how it felt to desperately, destructively, search for an antidote to the slow creeping poison of a job that never sugar-coated the brutality of human nature?

Sofia was a good kisser. Who knew…?

"Sofia – you're drunk," Sara gasped eventually, gently pushing the blonde away from herself. Her hands grasped Sofia's shoulders and her chest ached with that longing as her fingers idly traced the blonde's clavicle beneath her thin cotton blouse.

"Of course I'm drunk," Sofia muttered and leant into her touch. "Why do we drink to escape and sleep with strangers? If I had the courage to do this while I was sober, I would never need to distract myself with stupid, pointless things like that. If I had the courage to do this whilst sober, I wouldn't need 'no-strings-attached'."

Sara sighed. It was so painfully true. Why do we drink to escape? Because introspection hurt too much too often. Why do we sleep with strangers? Because nothing needs to last until morning – nothing needs to get too close. She'd never let herself think about the viability of this plan in the long-term, but she'd always known; she couldn't keep this up much longer. She craved stability and familiarity – she craved genuine affection. It felt so pathetic.

"I'm sorry, Sofia…"

And the shoulders sank beneath her hands. "I really like you, Sara," Sofia mumbled sadly. "But I didn't think I'd ever get close enough to you to tell you."

"I know." Sara said and added with a smile, "I'm enigmatic." But Sofia didn't smile.

"Listen," Sara told her, raising her palm to caress Sofia's cheek and tilt her face gently towards her own. "Listen – I don't want you to be drunk for this. So if you still remember this tomorrow," – and she scrabbled for a pen in her purse and wrote out her cell phone number on the back of Sofia's hand – "and if you still feel like this tomorrow," – Sara touched her lips to Sofia's cheek, the tip of her nose, her mouth – "then you call me, and I promise… I promise…"

Sofia nodded against her palm and pressed another kiss to Sara's lips, never letting her say what she promised. Sara wasn't even sure how she would've finished that sentence, anyway. A promise of sex would hardly have sufficed – this would've been a promise to try, to really try this time, to make something with real feeling and closeness and permanence. More than that, it would've been a promise to try and learn what it was to let go and trust another person with all the things you'd feared losing or breaking ever since you could remember.

"I will… I will…"

And Sara could still feel the warmth of Sofia's lips against hers, even after the blonde had got out of the car and stumbled up the stairs to collapse in bed. Her hands shook as she drove away and she couldn't tell whether she felt excited or optimistic or just really fucking scared.

"Sidle," – Sara's standard clipped greeting the next evening at work, as she's trying to concentrate on blood spatter and not think about the blonde detective who might be waking up with a killer hangover anytime now. She holds her cell phone clamped between her ear and shoulder, her hands busy photographing arterial spray on a brick wall.

And Sofia's voice, hoarse from waking, says, "You didn't think I'd call, did you?"

A broad smile spreads across Sara's face. "I had my doubts," she replies, attempting nonchalance but unable to keep the joy from her voice; this must be what it feels like to not constantly yearn for what you don't have and don't know you need. "But I can be too pessimistic sometimes."

Sara can hear Sofia pause – can picture the smile playing on her lips, the frown occasionally darkening her face as she tries to block out her headache, sitting up in bed with the covers twisted about her feet and her hair falling over bare shoulders. I promise… I promise…

"Maybe that's something we can work on in my two weeks off."

The End

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