DISCLAIMER: CSI and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I think English teachers and committed followers of the rule, "never start a sentence with 'and'" will probably have a coronary reading this one. I do it fourteen times.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Stay
By lemonjelly


Of all the CSIs and cops trailing the area off Route 66 that April afternoon, Sara Sidle just had to be the one that wandered that bit further, didn't she? Sofia watched her sidestep down a steep slope, carefully studying the grass around her for any evidence that would help them find their missing person.

"You think she's dead?" Sofia called out. "Wow – the glass sure is half-empty with you."

"All I'm saying is," Sara's voice floated back up to her, "this girl's been missing for ten days. We know that whoever took her is probably obsessive – a stalker maybe. That doesn't suggest body dump – that suggests burial. More ceremony. And, in the area the Sheriff ordered us to search in, the ground's too dry and too hard to dig. Naomi Carver's abductor would take her to softer ground – closer to the lake."

Sofia paused, repeating Sara's thought process in her own mind. She breathed a laugh; the CSI's logic was relentlessly infallible. Getting mud on the shin of her pants, Sofia scrambled after the brunette as she headed off to earthier ground, denser plant life, cooler air.

"Yeah – but you're working under the assumption that Carver's already dead," Sofia jogged to catch up to her and Sara smiled to feel the blonde's breath against her cheek. "I mean – where's the optimism in that? Where's your sense of romanticism?"

Sara moved her sunglasses to the top of her head as the overhead trees started to block out the sunlight. "There is no romanticism in this job," she replied. "There's barely any in the whole of Vegas." Their feet crunched together on the twigs and fallen leaves – marking each others' steps in silence.

"And anyway," Sara added. "You were the one to turn down my offer of dinner last week."

The silence between them changed as Sofia remembered her awkward evasion of an answer to Sara's invitation.

It was not that she didn't want to, but… And there Sofia ran out of words. But what? She'd wanted to say yes, but her mouth turned dry and she'd just said nothing. Sara had been so casual about it – leant slightly back on the layout table – "You want to get some dinner with me sometime?" – just like that, with a shrug and a half-smile. Sofia froze up.

Sara asked her on a Tuesday and Sofia had failed to give any definite response save for a tense silence that carried itself on until the Friday, when Sara set a takeout coffee in front of the detective.

"No hard feelings," she'd said gently and walked away. It had been alright after that.

But the silence was back again and Sara felt it, along with a strange guilt for bringing it up.

"Sorry," she muttered and picked up the pace, striding ahead.


No reply. Sara disappeared further up ahead into the bushes. Rustling of leaves – and more difficult silence. Sofia cursed herself for being so stupid and went after her.


Sofia hung back. This was a bad idea, Sofia thought – she couldn't even hear the road anymore. They'd gone too far; there wouldn't be anything out here.

"Sara – I think maybe – "

"Hey – I've found something!"

Ahead of her, Sara crouched in a small clearing and snapped a picture. Of all the CSIs and cops trailing the area off Route 66 that April afternoon, Sara Sidle just had to be the one that broke the case on a hunch, didn't she?

"Come take a look at this," Sara called back to Sofia, having long-since forgotten the awkwardness. She click-click-clicked her camera lens at the ground in front of her: loose earth, shoe-prints leading to and from it, a bare foot poking out from the dirt in incomplete burial (female).

Sofia grinned to herself at Sara's complete absorption in her work. A little voice at the back of her head muttered darkly, "So why'd you clam up last Tuesday, then?", but she ignored it and began to stroll towards the brunette. Sara took a few more photographs, brushed the earth away and found herself looking into the stopped features of Naomi Carver.

"Sofia…" Sara began and threw a quick glance back in the detective's direction. Sofia stepping through the undergrowth – a downhill path – towards me. And then did a double-take, seeing something that froze the air in her lungs.

The next part happens like this, Sara later told Captain Brass as she tried to stop her hands from shaking. She frowned at the blur of memories in her head and tried to separate them out into pieces. Like this:

Sofia stepping through, slight smile on her face – (gentle twist in her hips, placing each sure foot down on sloping ground) – Sofia. Rustling of leaves. A shadow behind her. Then a bigger shadow – a person. And (this is where the chill starts to creep around her chest, matching its cold fingers to her ribs) the person – a man, Naomi's interrupted killer, unfinished gravedigger – raises an object in his hand. A stick? A bat? A shovel? A shovel – a shovel made sense – and Sara saw it more clearly, then, raised above his head. Sofia stepping – smile on her face, twisting her hips – the glint of dappled light on the metal shovel head. That noise.

Sara saw it once, but heard it over and over again – this horrible crack – the fast swoop of the shovel, right down on Sofia's blonde head. Sofia winced then, just a little, like knocking her elbow on a doorframe or getting a paper-cut or something. Then she crumpled to the ground.

It's at this point where Sara's memories stop being distinct – she can't separate off the next bit. A rush of blood somewhere. She stopped remembering to breathe. Her arms – oddly heavy, but also very light at the same time (it's hard to explain) – reached to her own hips, where she remembered holstering her Glock, as usual, at the start of her shift. Numb fingers.

Then, she supposed, she raised the gun with straightened arms – like her training had made instinctive – and fired. That's what probably happened, she later considered, but she couldn't remember it as clearly as Sofia's blonde hair fallen across her face – her long legs curled awkwardly beneath her. Mud on the shin of her pants.

By this time, she told Brass, she wasn't really thinking and can't really remember and – damn it, Jim – Sofia was on the floor, unmoving – what would you have done?

When she finally remembered to breathe – when the shovel thumped to the dirt floor, when Sofia's attacker staggered backwards and collapsed, gunshots to the chest – she could hear her own rapid, shallow breaths rush in and out of her, pacing a panicked beat to the one thing going round and around her head – Sofia, Sofia, Sofia.

"Sofia," Sara felt the word fall from her lips: the most beautiful name she'd ever dreamt of tasting. Somewhere between watching her target fall and re-holstering her gun, Sara found that she'd dropped to her knees beside Sofia and touched her cheek gently.

Brushing her blonde hair away from her face, Sara watched Sofia's eyes slowly open – saw the confusion in her expression for a moment, trying to work out where she was. Waking up beside Sara Sidle…? And Sara then saw the horrified realisation dawn.

"Oh God," Sofia struggled against Sara's hands and sat up. "Oh God – Sara – are you alright? I heard… gunshots."

She looked around her and saw the body lying further up the path where he fell. Stumbling to her feet, Sofia stood over him, counted six bullet holes centred in his chest and swayed slightly – the back of her head throbbing.

"I'm so sorry, Sara…" Sofia began and felt the words coming out thickly, as though she'd been drinking. Strange…


"Defence is my job – you shouldn't have to have done this."

"Sofia – you need to sit back down –"

"You shouldn't have to use your gun – that's my job – I should've –"

Sofia felt Sara grab her shoulders, or maybe she stumbled back and fell into her? Either way, she could feel Sara's chest suddenly strong against her back, and felt Sara's voice against her ear, saying,

"Okay – okay, I've got you." and "Sofia, you're gonna have to sit down. You're bleeding."

Reaching a dazed hand to the back of her head, she touched a point that stung and felt oddly soft, oddly wet. When her hand swam back around in front of her face, there was blood running down her fingertips.


And Sofia's legs buckled suddenly, falling back against Sara. This could've been quite nice, under other circumstances, Sofia considered distantly – Sara's arms encircled her waist and held her tightly as she lowered the blonde to the floor. And then… And then…

Sofia had never heard quite so much cursing out of one person as she did, coming around to see Sara's brown eyes in front of her own.

"Thank God," Sara breathed. "Stay with me, Sofia, okay? Stay with me."

A smile crossed her lips. "I'd like that…"

Sara was rummaging around in her kit and yanking out as many paper towels as she could find, balling them up and clamping them with one hand to the back of Sofia's head.


"I'm sorry."

"Shit, Sara," Sofia said dryly. "Is this what happens to everyone who turns down dinner with you?" – as a joke, though. Just as a joke.

But as soon as she said it, Sofia regretted it, seeing Sara's face fall like that. "Sorry," she said, but they're already back in that painful silence. Sofia took a deep breath and her head spun. Suddenly, when she'd never before been troubled chasing armed suspects or looking eye-to-eye with serial killers, Sofia felt scared.

"If it means anything now," she said. "I wish I'd said yes. To you, I mean. I wanted to. I don't know why…"

… "I don't know…"

"It's okay – it's okay – stay with me, Sofia. It doesn't matter now – okay? None of that matters. Just stay with me."

The next time Sofia opened her eyes, she was still outside sitting on the grassy slope with mud on her shins. She blinked slowly and didn't feel it as much when Sara pressed a fresh wad of tissues to the back of her head. That's probably not a good sign… But she did catch sight of the saturated compress, as Sara tossed it aside – a flash of angry red in her peripheral vision. It made her feel a bit nauseous.

"You won't stop bleeding," Sara murmured.

Sofia smiled a little. "You really know how to make a person feel better, don't you?" And even Sara managed a smile back.

"I radioed for an EMT," she said. "They should be here soon."

But five minutes later, they were still waiting and Sara, knelt in the grass in front of Sofia, had mud on the shins of her pants and wouldn't stop cursing.

"Goddamnit, I shouldn't have wandered so far," she muttered. "I never fucking listen…"

"You found Naomi Carver, though."

Sara just looked at her – Sofia was worryingly pale – and suddenly, when she'd never before questioned herself or doubted her methods, Sara found herself wishing she'd stuck to the orders she'd been given. She could feel dampness soaking through the tissues again and could hear Sofia's breathing – long, tired sighs – against her neck. Fucking EMTs…

"Talk to me," Sara said suddenly, watching Sofia drift off and then back again. "Come on – talk to me – tell me things."

"I can't think of anything."

"Come on, Sofia – anything – tell me about your family." Sara tried to keep the desperation out of her voice and hoped that, failing that, Sofia wouldn't hear it.

"You're scared, aren't you?"

Shit. Sara didn't say anything but, glancing at the brunette's expression, Sofia already knew.

"I have two brothers," Sofia slurred, playing along. "Danny and Alex – one older, one younger. Danny teaches high school geography. Alex is an accountant, or something equally boring. My dad took early retirement and my mother – well, everyone knows my mother."

"What was it like, growing up with a cop for a mother?" Sara pressed.

"It was… it was okay," Sofia's weary reply. "She's tough, yknow? And some people find her intimidating – but I think she'd like you."



"Good. Hey – Sofia – Sofia?" Strands of Sofia's blonde hair were eerily, dusty red with blood and her hands were cold when Sara held them. "Sofia – stay with me."

Sofia's eyes opened again, closed again, opened again. "Only if you will," she said.

"If I will what?"

"Stay. With me."

Sara said nothing, but wrapped her arms around her – drew her close and held on. Sofia remembered later, just before the noisy EMTs arrived at the top of the grassy slope – yelling down to them and running, packing gauze to the back of her head and asking Sara to step back – before that, she remembered feeling Sara breathe a laugh, and whisper in her ear,

"Hey – nothing like a blunt force trauma to bring two people together, huh?"

Yelling at the top of the slope, then. Sara shifting slightly around her – but still keeps her close.

"Stay with me…"

And the EMTs ran down with medical kits in hand – Grissom, Nick and Brass spilling down the slope behind them, saying things like, Sara – what happened? How is she? Sofia couldn't really place it – scattered voices and sounds outside of Sara's arms. Ms. Sidle – can you step back, please?

And Sara's voice – a soft, alto vibration against her forehead – Sofia's cheek on her shoulder, lips beside her neck, saying: I want to stay with her. Something about Naomi Carver, about a suspect, shovel, Sofia – I radioed for help twenty minutes ago – and something about stepping, firing shots and staying – Let me stay with her, okay? I just… I want to stay with her.

And then…

"You look surprised."

Sofia was surprised, waking up beneath starched hospital sheets – Sara sitting by her bedside. The brunette smiled, half-shrugged a shoulder and idly stroked her knuckle along the back of Sofia's hand. After a moment's contemplation, she gently turned her hand over and pressed a kiss to the palm.

"You asked me to stay," Sara offered simply. "So I did."

Dinners were unnecessary, Sofia realised then – and dates were pointless. She could've said yes or no; it just wouldn't have mattered – Sara would still stay, if Sofia wanted her to, and hold her hand, kiss her cheeks and drive her home. Some things, Sofia pondered when lying there in Desert Palms, when watching Sara reading at the breakfast table, when holding her close after a long, long shift – some things just didn't need answers. Not when the questions were so easy.

The End

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