DISCLAIMER: CSI and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story would not have seen the day of light if it wasn’t for Ann, thank you, YOU rock!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Karin


Diplomacy wasn't the investigator's strongest suit, so she'd spoken plainly to her superior, and, as a result, Conrad Ecklie had left her no choice; counseling or losing her job. Since her job was her life, Sara had decided to make the best of a bad situation and had made an appointment with Jesse Watson, the department counselor.

Standing in front of the counselor's office door, Sara wiped her sweaty palms on her jeans and opened the door with a big sigh. The office and its occupant radiated such warmth and tranquility that the brunette was caught by a surprise. An intense looking red-haired woman made Sara feel very welcomed and, despite her initial resentment, the investigator started to relax a little.

Settling down in two very comfortable chairs opposite to one another, Dr. Watson asked thoughtfully, "Why are you here, Sara?"

"I'm here because two weeks ago I was shot in the leg," the investigator said in a matter-of-fact tone. "And since my superior questions my ability to do my job out in the field, it's your job to determine if that's actually the case," Sara concluded stoically.

"I'm very aware of my duty. Are you aware of yours?" the therapist replied nonjudgmentally, catching Sara's attention. "Would you care to elaborate on what this shooting means to you?" Jesse continued benevolently.

The redhead listened patiently to Sara's scientific explanation of how the bullet passed through her thigh, the amount of damage it had caused, the healing process of the tissues and, finally, the current condition of her leg.

"My, I've learned a lot about gunshot wounds," Jesse commented neutrally when Sara finished her story. "But can you tell me what this accident really means to you on a personal level?"

Sara wasn't quite sure what to say and avoided eye contact with the counselor. In her mind's eye, she wandered off to the actual moment she had been shot. Even now, the investigator still didn't know what had come over her; she'd acted recklessly and, as a result, her own life wasn't the only one she'd endangered.

Silence continued to fill the room and, after a few minutes, the analyst interrupted Sara's flow of thoughts by interjecting a slightly more pressing observation. "I sense that you're struggling with quite a few issues, and I think it's necessary we address some of them before I can advise your superior."

"She almost died because of me. Just a few more inches, and the bullet would've struck her in the head," Sara unexpectedly whispered in a low voice. "God, what's wrong with me?" the brunette exclaimed to no one in particular as she pushed herself to her feet and made her way to the door.

"I suggest we reschedule for the day after tomorrow at the same time," Jesse calmly offered, remaining firmly seated behind her desk.

Somehow, Sara managed to refocus on the situation at hand. "I'm very busy, but I'll call you," the brunette responded ambivalently, walking out the door without even offering a goodbye to the waiting counselor.

At her condo across town, a very weary Sofia stood in front of the window overlooking her small garden, slowly sipping her beer. The blonde immediately noted the condition of her garden and how it seemed to reflect her present life; its unkept, grown-over appearance revealing a state of perpetual turmoil.

Her previous altercation with Grissom earlier had tested the limits of her professional conduct. The detective had excused herself unyieldingly, barely preventing herself from slamming his office door.

Replaying the disagreement over in her mind, the blonde felt the same anger surfacing. The nerve Grissom had had by bluntly stating she had failed to protect his people, obviously referring to Sara's injury. First of all, Sara never should have entered the scene before it was cleared by her and, secondly, if it hadn't been for Sofia's quick reflexes, the situation might have turned deadly. Sara could've been killed.

Closing her eyes, she once again recalled the vivid images of that night; the sizzling sound of a bullet had passed her ear and, in a split second, she'd seen Sara entering the room and had leapt forward, pushing the investigator down to the floor. Another shot was fired, and Sara's dreadful squeal had filled the detective's ear. Lying on top of the brunette, Sofia had fumbled with her gun and, as a result, she'd become defenseless.

A series of confusing clatter had followed, and then two strong hands had lifted Sofia to her feet. An unfamiliar voice had reassured her that the situation was under control, and the bewildered detective had been pushed aside as another man had come rushing in to aid a wounded Sara.

Shaking off the image of Sara's blood-soaked pants, Sofia went into the kitchen and opened another bottle of beer. The blonde leaned against the kitchen counter, trying to analyze her incessant feeling of anger. She recognized that it had everything to do with Sara's demeanor which had suddenly gone way beyond her scope of comprehension.

For the longest time, Sara had held Sofia at bay but, more recently, the two women had formed a delicate bond of friendship. However, the last couple of weeks, the brunette's behavior had become more erratic and, consequently, their companionship had been greatly affected.

The detective moved back to her den and picked up her telephone, desperate to talk to someone about all that had transpired. After a brief moment of hesitation, she punched in a series of familiar numbers.

"Hello, mother," Sofia greeted feebly. "I need to talk to you. I don't know what I should do any longer." A barrier broke when the blonde heard herself say those words, and her suppressed tears began to stream down her cheeks as she roughly tried to wipe them away with the back of her hand.

Sofia rambled from one subject to another as she sobbed continuously, and Captain Maria Curtis listened apprehensively, withholding any comment. Her daughter never sought her advice and, despite all her own inhibitions, the mother in her surfaced without hesitation.

"You must love her very much," her mother offered soothingly when Sofia finally started to calm down. "Is she aware of your feelings, my darling?" she asked unprejudiced.

Even with the great distance between the two of them, Sofia experienced, for the first time in her adult life, the safe haven only a mother so naturally could offer.

"I really don't know," Sofia replied in a choked voice. "All I know is that I want to get away from here and leave everything behind." Her mother's offer to visit the family's Lake Tahoe cabin fulfilled every one of the detective's needs, and the two began to make plans to meet the next day.

In Grissom's office, the night shift supervisor studied a flushed Sara over the rim of his reading glasses as the brunette paced back and forth in his office, pleading to be reinstated to field work.

Three days had passed since her meeting with Jesse Watson, and Sara hadn't rescheduled with her counselor; instead, she'd gone straight to Grissom. In her own opinion, she believed she'd done her share of soul searching and, now, the investigator wanted out of the lab, desperately needing to return to the field.

"I will not grant your request to go speak to Ecklie on your behalf Sara," Grissom stated resolutely. "I just got off the phone with your counselor. According to Dr. Watson, you didn't stick to your agreement; you haven't called her to confirm or to make a new appointment," her supervisor continued unequivocally.

Sara tried to interrupt, but she was cut short when Grissom raised his hand, forcing her to hear him out. Clearing his throat, Grissom carried on, "Plus the fact that, a few days ago, I had an argument with Sofia over you. She made it very clear to me that your actions at the scene are open to question and that, Sara, is what really worries me."

The investigator slumped into a nearby chair and rubbed her eyes. She hadn't spoken with the detective since the shooting, but Sofia had unexpectedly kept her at a distance, and the brunette wasn't quite sure what to do about it. The news that Sofia had had a disagreement with her supervisor came as a shock, and Sara suddenly realized that perhaps it was time for her to make some radical changes.

"I think it's for the best that you take a few days off, effective immediately, Sara. You need to get your priorities straight," Grissom calmly concluded.

Sara took in Grissom's decision, carefully safeguarding her thoughts and her emotions. There was clearly nothing left for her to say to her supervisor; instead, her words needed to be addressed to the absent detective.

On the shore of Lake Tahoe, Sofia stood on the sun deck of the cabin, enjoying the beauty and serenity of the lake. She'd arrived four days ago in a very distressed state of mind but, the presence of her caring mother and the calmness of the magnificent surroundings, took all the pressure away, allowing the blonde to finally begin to relax.

Sofia and her mother spent hours talking while walking along the lake shore. It turned out the older woman was a very good listener and apparently very open-minded. As a result, the blonde told her everything, not holding back a single thought.

Deep down, Maria Curtis was shocked by her daughter's coming out but, seeing her child so upset over this mystery woman, she decided that now was not the time to discuss her personal feelings on the matter. Instead, she took Sofia by the hand and gently asked, "Tell me, Sofia. What makes her so special?"

"Oh, Mother, what's not special about Sara?" Sofia sighed deeply. "She's charismatic, and she actually captivated me by her smile, you know. She has this big gap between her front teeth, and I've never seen anything so cute and, yet, so sexy." Just the thought of Sara's smile brought an ever wider smile to the detective's face.

The blonde passionately enumerated, "She has the most beautiful chocolate brown eyes and hair, and she's a bit taller than I am. And, she has these endless legs and, oh Mother, her complexion looks so soft, but behind her appearance is so much concealed passion, and I'd like to be the one who sets those feelings free."

Seeing tears filling her daughter's eyes, Maria squeezed her daughter's hand and tenderly responded, "I do hope you'll be that person, Sofia, and I really hope to meet this Sara one day."

"I hope so, too," Sofia tearfully whispered as the two women continued to make their way along the shoreline.

With her mother being called away for work three days later, Sofia suddenly didn't mind the idea of being left alone. In fact, she actually enjoyed the thought of spending some time by herself before going back to Vegas; however, only an hour after her mother had driven away, a series of short knocks on the front door interrupted Sofia's contemplative frame of mind, and she curiously made her way to the door.

"What the hell are you doing here?" a baffled Sofia exclaimed when she found a shy-looking Sara standing on her doorstep. "How on earth did you find me?" the detective carried on.

The brunette stood motionless with her hands in her pockets; the sight of the dazzling detective making her speechless. Sofia observed the timid Sara, and she broke the awkward silence between them by extending her hand and inviting the investigator inside. "Don't just stand there, come in, please," the blonde suggested, struggling to get a handle on her emotions.

Wordlessly, Sara followed the detective and allowed Sofia to guide her across the den to the sun deck. The brunette had rehearsed her opening lines over and over again on the drive to Lake Tahoe but, now, standing in front of the women she wanted to be with more than anything else in the world, Sara was at a loss for words.

"I'm sorry," the brunette tentatively started. "I'm so sorry; I don't know what happened to me." The expectant look on Sofia's face made Sara clam up completely, and the investigator turned away to face the lake.

This was not how Sara imagined it would be; she'd hoped the detective would be more forthcoming and make things easier for her, but she knew deep down she didn't deserve immediate absolution for her careless actions.

An internal debate ensued within Sara as she belittled herself, silently asking, 'Why would she forgive me so easily? Sofia wasn't at fault; she wasn't the one who fucked things up.'

Waiting for the brunette to continue, Sofia began to lose her patience as the silence prolonged. "That's it? You've traveled thousands of miles only to tell me you're sorry?" the blonde commented cynically. "I don't get you, Sara. One minute you're all friendly and sociable and, the next, you seem detached and start saying and doing stupid things, and then you shut me out altogether," the detective continued in anger.

"I ..., I know; I'm so sorry, I don't know what….," Sara stammered.

"What, Sara? What is it you want to say? What do you want from me? Tell me," Sofia exclaimed but, seeing the utter look of distress on the brunette's face, the blonde composed herself and said, "I'm playing your game, Sara, but you really should throw me the ball every now and then."

As Sofia started to walk away, Sara responded in a barely audible voice, "I'm scared, you know, scared of myself. I have this hole inside me, and I can't seem to fill it up. Then I say or do these stupid things; I know it doesn't work and, yet, I keep doing it."

Sara felt tears gather as she saw the caring look in Sofia's eyes, and she had to force herself to swallow her fear before making her ultimate confession. "I'm scared because of you, because you fill this gap so naturally, and you make me feel. You make me feel so much, Sofia. "

The blonde's heart broke as Sara started to sob and, with two long strides, Sofia closed the distance between them and pulled the weeping brunette closely to her.

"I've got you, sweetie, and I'm not letting you go, never again, baby," Sofia lovingly whispered, softly stroking Sara's silky hair and gathering her more firmly against her. Upon hearing the words she had longed for but never truly expected to hear, the brunette cried even harder as the blonde maintained her hold on the sobbing woman, continually whispering words of comfort and reassurance. Through all the upset and turmoil, they'd finally managed to turn the corner.

Three weeks had passed since Sara and Sofia had returned from Lake Tahoe and, today, the brunette was on her way to meet Jesse Watson, her counselor.

Jesse observed a completely different Sara than the one who walked into her office a couple of weeks ago and, smilingly, she mentioned, "You look so relaxed, Sara. What happened?"

Sitting on the edge of her chair, Sara grinned like a teenager and replied, "The best," and, settling herself more comfortably, the investigator continued, "I'm learning to accept that I, too, am worthy of the good things in life; to be cared for and even to be loved."

"Ah, care to tell me about this person?" the redhead countered somewhat teasingly in eager anticipation.

"I don't know where to start," the investigator responded, taking a deep breath. "She's absolutely gorgeous; she has the most beautiful blue eyes that I find myself drowning in. She's fascinating, charming, she makes me laugh, and she..., she loves me," Sara concluded a bit timidly.

"Scary, isn't it," Jesse understandingly offered. "But you just hang on and don't let go."

That was the one thing Sara was determined to do, despite the fact that Sofia's love still scared the hell out of her every now and then.

At the conclusion of their session, the therapist informed Sara that she'd released the investigator for active field duty, but the brunette barely recorded the news; she was already on her way out the door to meet her love.

When Sara exited the building, she spotted Sofia sitting on the hood of her car, her face tilted towards the sun. The detective looked stunning in her tight-fitting jeans, tucked in white tank top, and black belt and boots.

"You're staring," Sofia said lightly as she slid off the car. "I guess I must pass inspection."

'How did she know I was here,' Sara wondered silently and, blushing, she murmured aloud, "Sorry, it's just that you look so beautiful."

The detective pulled the brunette to her, slipping one arm over the investigator's shoulder while sliding her other hand under Sara's shirt, lightly rubbing the smooth skin.

"So do you. As always," Sofia whispered before her mouth was pulled to Sara's like a moth to a flame. The couple kissed hungrily, passionately and carefree, no longer caring what anyone else thought.

A lone bullet had almost succeeded in forever keeping the two from each other but, now that they were finally together, both women were bound and determined that nothing would ever stand in the way of their happiness again.

The End

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