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"Sara, I'm not "
"Gay, I know, you already said that. Me neither. Or maybe I am. I don't know, it doesn't matter. Categorisation won't help me with my feelings."
Sofia snorted. "And now you expect me to help you with that? The behaviour you displayed towards me last year certainly didn't hint at those feelings and didn't exactly merit applause, either. How would I possibly be able to know what's going on in Sara Sidle's head?" She crossed her arms in front of her chest and looked at Sara defiantly.
Sara shrunk back, stung by the harsh words. How could she explain that? How do you explain why you want something but do everything to not get it? She supposed it had something to do with her instinct of self-preservation. It was a common thing, especially for Sara Sidle: snap at people to hide your true feelings. And snapped she had at Sofia, many times. She had been on the run from her own feelings, not ready to face them, let alone reveal them. Pushing the other woman away had been the easiest way to live in denial. Sara could have dealt with Sofia's self-confident and restrained manner. It was the detective's empathy that scared her. Sofia had a way of sensing how others felt, and whenever those piercing blue eyes rested their gaze on Sara, she felt like the other woman could see right into her beaten soul. It was in those moments that she felt a particularly strong urge make a snide remark and put Sofia back into place. The wish to protect herself was so strong for Sara that she was willing to accept that doing so meant hurting the woman she loved. The hollow feeling it left in the pit of her stomach every time was one to be ignored. The one time when she'd had the chance to let things take a different course, she let it pass. After the Bell shooting she had seen Sofia's vulnerable, insecure side, and it would have been so easy to approach her. With her defenses down, the detective wouldn't have been a threat to Sara's own guard. Instead she had chosen to strike another blow, harder than ever before. Things had been chilly between them afterwards, only recently had Sara been making an effort to improve things, all leading up to this moment when she had finally mustered up the courage to be honest to Sofia. She hadn't expected much from it, it wasn't like her to expect things from people but she hadn't abandoned hope completely; yet she certainly hadn't anticipated having last year's events thrown back into her face and her mind. This brought her back to the question how she could make someone as straightforward as Sofia understand the twisted operating mode of her own mind. Sara sighed. "You wouldn't," she finally replied to the question Sofia had asked before Sara's mind had begun reeling. She just wanted her to know.
"Exactly," Sofia insisted. "You like someone, you show them. Declaring your undying love is not necessary but have civilised conversations with them, bring them coffee, whatever. That's how it works in my world."
Sara smiled sadly. "Seems like my world rotates the other way, huh? It's I don't know how to make this clear to you. I acted this way in order not to get hurt. You know how they say that those you care about most can hurt you worst? You have such power over me, Sofia, and you don't even know it. I was just trying to stay sane and keep my distance but all I achieved was to hurt both of us."
Sofia's expression softened. "Sara I can put what happened behind me, I have a long time ago. It just irritated me that I never figured out why you behaved the way you did. I felt I hadn't deserved it. She looked at Sara pensively for a moment before she added, "You know that you didn't screw things up between us, right? That I would have rejected you either way? Because I'm not "
"Yes," Sara cut her off, not wanting to hear it again,"I got that."
"It's good that you told me," Sofia continued, "and I admire your courage but all I can offer you is friendship. It's not much in a situation like this, I'm aware of that, but it's the best I can do." It was a helpless offer, but it was sincere.
"I know," Sara answered, trying to keep her gaze firm and her voice steady, not betraying the emptiness inside her that succeeded the last smothered spark of hope. "That's enough for me. Excuse me." She turned and left, overcome by the sudden need to be alone.
It wasn't enough. It would never be but she didn't have the right to put that burden on Sofia. It was hers alone to bear. After months of strategic planning, she had gone into a battle and emerged from it injured and defeated. It would never be enough. But she would take what was being offered and survive.
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