DISCLAIMER: "CSI: Crime Scene Investigators," the characters, and situations depicted are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer Television, Alliance Atlantis, and CBS Productions. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes. Previously unrecognized characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author. This site is in no way affiliated with "CSI: Crime Scene Investigators," CBS, or any representatives of Jorja Fox or Marg Helgenberger.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This started out as a challenge of sorts from Ralst for the 5th anniversary of Passion & Perfection. She'd given me the prompt of "the anniversary of Sara's father's death." I'd thought about it for a while, then this idea just came to me. It was intended to be a one-shot. Yeah, my Sofia muse didn't go for that, so it became a trilogy. Go figure…
The second last paragraph of this story is a direct quote/prompt from Shatterpath, who knows me and my muses well enough to get us kick-started to finish this little piece. And she certainly knows just how much of a romantic I am, and found the perfect "quote" for me to let Sofia reveal her own hidden romantic side.
The cruise is based on what's offered at Lake Mead Cruises. It seemed appropriate. Also, there was supposed to be a mention of everyone having boutonnieres/corsages being made of sterling silver rosebuds, similar to the roses Sara gave Sofia in "Kindling the Present." I just didn't get it worked in like I'd wanted.
BETA: Many thanks to shatterpath, ctorres, celievamp, mrswoman, and ralst for beta-type commentary. It was muchly appreciated…
WEBSITE: ShatterStorm Productions – Frisked & Conquered.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
DEDICATION: My muses, for obvious reasons…


Thorns And All ::
Committing to the Future

By A. Magiluna Stormwriter


**one year later**

"I hate this," she muttered darkly.

I bit back a smirk, belatedly realizing she wouldn't see it over the phone. "I know you do," I replied. "I'm not exactly jumping for joy myself here, Sara. But it'll be worth it in the long run, right?" I eased back into the couch, taking a quick pull off my beer. Closing my eyes, I could picture her, pacing the length and breadth of her lab, cell phone pressed to her head, hair softly framing that prettily pouting face. Oh, how I longed to kiss that frown away, replace it with a dazzling smile to light up her face.

"Sofia, are you even listening to me?" Her half-irritated question brought me back from thoughts of just how I'd remove that frown. I felt the flush heating my face, and it wasn't just from the beers I'd been downing. "Sofia?"

"I'm still here, honey," I replied sheepishly. "Got caught up in fantasies of something I want to do."

"Oh?" Her tone completely changed from irritated to curious, causing me to chuckle softly. "What kind of fantasies?"

"I don't know that I should tell you right now. It might distract you from your work, and we both know that Gil will kick my ass if I distract you too much."

"Sofia," she groaned, almost a whine. "It's bad enough I won't see you until tomorrow. I don't know how I'm gonna sleep tonight."

"The same way you have in the past when we haven't been able to see each other." I took another pull off my beer, sighing internally that it was empty. Heading into the kitchen, I continued. "You know I'm not gonna sleep any better, but I'm willing to make the sacrifice. Besides, think of how much better tomorrow night will be."

She let out a sound that was part snort, part groan. But it was all Sara. "I can't wait," she replied, then started laughing. "You realize Nick's going to give us so much shit tomorrow."

"You mean he hasn't already?" I quipped. "If he's not careful, he's gonna find himself naked and handcuffed to the back of his truck in front of a leather bar, wearing a sign that says 'I'm hot for big boys.' That'll teach him a lesson or two."

"Oh my god!" Sara finally wheezed when she could breathe again after hysterical laughter. "You are such a devious bitch sometimes, Sofia Curtis! Thank god, I'm on your good side."

I smiled and debated another beer. "Tell you what," I replied in a husky voice. "Why don't you give me a call when you're off work? I'll talk to you while you fall asleep. How's that sound, honey?"

"I'd rather you do that while we're curled up together," she muttered before clearing her voice. "But we can't, I know. Why did I agree to do this again?"

"Because you can't tell me no?" I teased.

"Ha-ha," she said, then I heard muffled noises on the other side. "Um, I gotta go. I'll talk to you later, okay?"

"You got it, honey. Love you."

"Back atcha," she said before ending the call.

How was it that I missed her enough that I was willing to drive down to the lab just to say hello? But I wouldn't do it. It was my request to follow this one little tradition. I couldn't very well be the one to break it. She'd never let me live it down.

The knock at my door startled me. Curious, I headed out into the living room to check before yanking the door open. "Mom! What are you doing here?"

Her eyebrows rose in mild surprise. "Is that any way to greet your mother, Sofia?" she asked, barely covering her amusement.

I pulled her into a tight hug. "I'm sorry; I just wasn't expecting you until tomorrow morning."

"I know," she replied, pressing a kiss to my cheek. "I decided I'd rather have some time alone with you before your life is completely inundated with Sara." She stepped into the condo, looking around. "And where is your partner, Sofia?"

"Working," I replied a bit wistfully as I grabbed her suitcase and closed the door. "In fact, I was just talking to her before you got here."

She turned to gaze at me. I fiddled with the handle on her suitcase, but weathered the motherly scrutiny. "You always did wear your heart on your sleeve far more than you thought," she finally said, smiling gently. I echoed her smile and took her suitcase into the spare bedroom. When I came out, she was fingering the bouquets we'd had made. "These are lovely, Sofia. Where on earth did you get those pewter roses?"

"They're silver," I corrected without thinking. "Three of them are the ones Sara gave me almost a year ago. A part of me hated the thought of cutting them down for the bouquets, but then Jim came up with the idea of ribbons wrapped around the stems, so we could put the arrangements in vases afterwards."

Once again, my mother pinned me under that deliberate stare. I'd hated it as a child, but had tempered it into a version of my own when I became a cop. And then she started to chuckle. "You're rambling, dear," she teased lightly, chuckling again when I felt the flush of embarrassment heating my cheeks. She grabbed at my beer. "Am I to assume you're in no shape to drive, young lady?"

I considered protesting, but thought better of it. "I'd rather not take any chances, if that's what you mean. Why?"

"I thought we could go say hello to Sara and then go to dinner. But I suppose I can drive if you play navigator for me."

"But I made Sara promise--"

"Oh please, Sofia," she interrupted me. "You're stopping in to let your mother say hello, not to slam Sara against a wall and fuck her senseless." And that blush returned full force. I wasn't sure I'd ever learn to accept my mother's matter-of-fact attitude toward my sex life. It was one thing for me to have that attitude, completely another for my mother. "Besides, that kind of behavior is for your honeymoon, right?"

I grinned broadly at the thought of our honeymoon. "It most certainly is," I quipped and headed into the kitchen to put the rest of my beer in the fridge. I could always finish it when we got back. It would help with getting me to sleep. Grabbing up my keys on my way back to the living room, I tossed them at my mother. "I'm ready when you are. Thai?"

"I'm dying for Thai," she replied, following me out the door.

It was a relatively quiet trip to the lab. I felt a bit nervous in going to see Sara like this. One of the things we'd tried to do was stay as professional as possible at work. It was difficult, but we were mostly successful. Walking in, I noticed Sara's Denali was still in the parking lot and gave my mother the fifty cent tour of the lab at night. Gil and Jim were both exceedingly polite to my mother, but threw me amused glances. It seemed it was a pretty slow night, and they quickly pointed us in the direction of Sara's lab. I couldn't help the grin spreading across my face as we headed down the hall.

I slipped into the lab before my mother, moving behind my lover as quietly as possible. Just as I was about to wrap my arms around her waist, she spun around to stare at me. "What are you doing here?" she murmured. "I thought you said it was bad luck?" I shook my head and pressed a light kiss to her lips, pulling her closer, but quickly pulled back at my mother clearing her throat. Sara jumped and stared at her, flushing hotly. "Uh, Captain Curtis?" she squeaked.

Mom chuckled and moved to join us, giving Sara a hug. "We're going to dinner, but I wanted to stop in and say hello. How are you doing, Sara?"

"Okay, I suppose," she replied, glancing at me from the corner of her eye. "I'd be better if someone hadn't made me promise to stay apart tonight." I simply shrugged and pulled Sara closer for a moment, resting my chin on her shoulder. "I just hope it's worth it."

Mom smiled happily at us, patting each of our cheeks. "It will be, Sara. Trust me. It's just one night." And then my stomach rumbled loudly, causing us all to laugh. "And now I should get my daughter some food before her stomach takes over." She started toward the door. "Kiss your partner, Sofia, and let's get going."

I grinned sheepishly again and turned Sara toward me. "You realize this'll be the last kiss we share before the ceremony tomorrow?" I whispered huskily. She nodded and swallowed audibly, but leaned in with a tender kiss. I whimpered softly at the sensation, eyes fluttering shut. "I love you, Sara," I murmured when she pulled back.

"I love you, too." The words were so soft I barely heard them. Even after a year of being together, it was still so hard for her to say them. I treasured each and every time she was able to say them to me. They were more precious to me than anything else in the world, if only because I knew what it cost her to say them. "Now go, before I say to hell with tradition and beg you to stay."

Pressing another fleeing kiss to her lips, I blinked back tears and murmured, "'I'll see you tomorrow, honey." And then I blindly followed my mother out of the building.

Catherine and Lindsey had done a fabulous job in decorating the boat for the ceremony. It looked exactly like I'd hoped. And that thought made me wonder how Sara would look, standing next to me as we committed ourselves to a life together. Which in turn gave me the worst case of butterflies I ever had…outside of the night I'd asked Sara to share my life.

**three months earlier**

"You've been awfully quiet tonight, Sofia," Sara asked curiously as we lay curled up on the couch. She twisted around slightly to look at me. "Is something wrong?"

I shook my head and smiled. "Nothing's wrong, honey. I've just been thinking, that's all."

She flicked the remote, turning the television off. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the suddenly dark room. When I could see again, I watched her studying me. She stroked her fingers down the side of my face, mapping my features. "About what?" she whispered.

I hesitated then, unsure of her reaction if I told her the truth. It hurt to consider a negative reaction. But it hurt more to even consider lying to her. I shifted to sit up, then I got up and headed into the bedroom. I pulled out the box I'd had hidden from her and made my way back to the couch. Realizing the lights were on, I pocketed the box and lit a few candles around the room. I felt her stare on my back as I continued to light candles and flick off the light switch. Before I headed back to the couch, to her side, I grabbed for the vase holding the three silver roses she'd given me. Setting them on the coffee table, I took her hands in mine and pulled her close for a tender kiss.

"Sara, we've been together for, what, almost nine months now?" I asked her, looking deeply into her curious, frightened eyes. She nodded slowly, and I could see her eyes growing glassy with fearful tears. "No, honey, I'm not leaving you."

"Then what?" Her voice was already husky.

I pointed to the vase. "Do you remember the day you gave these to me?" She nodded, trying to nonchalantly wipe at her eyes. "It was one of the best days in my life. And that night? Making love for the first time? Indescribable."

"I remember," she murmured.

I reached for a rose from the vase and held it out in front of her. "This rose represents the pains of the past. The things and people that helped and hurt us, molding us into the women we've become." I pressed my lips to its petals and gave it to her, smiling when she repeated the gesture. Grabbing a second rose, I held it up. "This rose represents the discoveries of the present. The situations that have brought us together time and again, learning the ups and downs of what it means to be alive." Again I bestowed a kiss on the petals and offered the rose to her. As she also kissed it, I grabbed the third rose and considered it for a moment before meeting her gaze again. "This rose represents the possibilities of the future. The reality of a long life of shared moments, of unconditional love, of happiness and sadness." A last kiss of benediction upon the rose before Sara held all three in her hands.

I took a deep breath and rubbed my palms across my thighs. This was truly it, my moment of destiny. I cupped her face in my hands and smiled, blinking back a few tears. "Sara, I have never felt what I feel for you. You are the most incredible person I know. You've survived so much, and you do everything you can to help others escape the same things. You just…" I shook my head slightly and dug into my pocket. Pulling out the box, I set it in her hand. "Sara, I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life waking up next to you." Flipping up the lid on the box, I smiled at her. "Will you do me the honor of…" I hesitated, not sure if I had the right words.

She stared at the ring in the box for a long moment. So long that I began to fear I'd once again gone too far. Finally, she raised her eyes to meet mine, and I could see the tears. "You know," she replied huskily. "I've never believed in weddings, or true love, or anything like that. I always thought it was such bullshit. And then I met you. Things have changed. So, um, if you're asking me to be… My answer is yes."

The knock at the door brought me back to reality. "Come in," I called softly. "Unless you're Sara, that is." The answering chuckle as the door opened made me smile. "Hi, Gil."

"Hey, Sofia," he replied. "How're you holding up?"

"Oh, you know, nervous as hell, feeling like I'm about to pass out. The usual." I smoothed my hands through my hair again, needing something to do.

"You look lovely, so does Sara," he said gently, reaching for my hands. He guided me to the settee. "I don't know if I've ever told you this, but I'm really glad you and Sara got together. You've been so good for each other." He ruefully chuckled. "You know, there was a time I thought there might be something between you and me. But I can see that you found your perfect match, and I hope you two have a very long and happy life together."

I gave him a watery smile. "Thank you, Gil, but if you make me cry and mess up my mascara, I'll have to hurt you."

His laugh was infectious and I felt a few of the butterflies escaping from my stomach. With a wry grin, he pulled something out of his pocket and placed it in my hand. "Do me a favor and wear this?"

I looked at it and saw it was a bow tie. "Gil, this is far too formal for what I'm wearing."

"I know that, but humor an old man? A very wise woman once gave this to me and told me I'd never know when I'd need it for a special occasion. Well, I think this is a pretty special occasion, don't you?"

Once again, I felt tears welling in my eyes and slipped the bow tie around my neck. "I'd be honored to wear this."

"I, Sofia, pledge my life and my heart to you, Sara, to be my partner for as long as we both wish it. I pledge to be honest, even when it might be painful. I pledge to be faithful to you and to the love we share. I pledge to be flexible and willing to work out any issues that may come our way. I love you, Sara," I said and slipped the ring on her finger, "and I never want to lose the thrill of knowing you're a part of my life."

As Sara repeated the same words, I found myself fixated upon my beautiful love. The friends and family surrounding us faded into a comfortable background hum next to the vibrant happiness emanating from Sara. The sensation of that ring sliding onto my finger brought a sense of homecoming that I hadn't realized I needed.

And then we were allowed our first kiss as a committed couple. I was instantly reminded of the very first kiss we'd shared. All of the ups and downs of the past year flashed before my eyes as we kissed, and I realized just how right this really was. It no longer mattered if neither of us had believed in marriage or true love before. All that mattered was that we'd found what we needed in each other, and I would be damned if I let that die.

The toasts were getting more and more amusing as each of our friends took their turn giving us quite a bit of shit before congratulating us. I knew I was certainly feeling the effects of adrenalin, love, and champagne. And then it was Sara's turn to speak. We'd decided to let everyone say something, since it was a small gathering, and they had informed us that meant we had to say a few words as well.

"You know, I never thought I'd get married," she started out, eyes on the ring glittering on her finger. "As Nick said before, I was so against marriage because it's almost always for the wrong reasons or ends up so badly. And then Sofia came into my life. And it wasn't until she asked me to spend our lives together that I realized I did want to commit myself to a lifetime with her, before my friends and family. Maybe it's a cliché, but I really have found a reason to get up every morning, a reason to smile. And I'm lucky enough to know that she feels the same way." And then she turned to look at me, with that smile that she saved just for me. "I love you, Sofia, more than I ever thought was possible."

I blinked back tears at her admission, ever so glad for Catherine's offer of waterproof mascara. Pressing a light kiss to her lips, I smiled broadly. My eyes traveled to each person who had joined us in our celebration, taking in the peacefulness of Lake Mead in the waning daylight.

"As my mother can attest to, I had all of the classic fairy tale wedding fantasies as a small girl," I said, smiling at my mother. "And when my father passed away, I lost some of those. I feared the whole idea of marriage because I didn't want to have to go through the rest of my life without my partner should they die like he did. And as passé as it sounds, I felt something when I first really met Sara and worked with her. I never expected it to amount to anything. Until that fateful day a year ago when she didn't come in to work. The day I had to go to her apartment and make sure she was all right. The day I learned about so much tragedy in her life." I felt Sara squeezing my hand, and I lifted our hands to brush my lips across her knuckles. "When I decided to ask Sara to be my wife, I knew I wanted to have our ceremony on this very day. As I'd explained it to her that night, I wanted Sara to have a reason to look forward to this day, rather than fear and loathe it. I wanted to make a good memory for her, and I think maybe I have." I met Sara's eyes again. "Sara, you mean more to me than I can express. I love you, honey."

We kissed again, giddy warmth spreading through my body at the comprehension that I'd gotten what I'd always wanted. It didn't take long for us to be separated by our friends, wanting dances or conversations with us. At one point, I felt her gaze on me, and I looked up to see her holding out a hand to me. I was helpless to resist the urge to join her, wandering away from a discussion with my mother that I already couldn't remember. I wrapped my arms around Sara's waist, holding her close as we swayed to a tune only we could hear.

In the fading desert light, she had never looked more beautiful. If there had ever been any doubt in mind or heart about spending my life with her, it fled with the last rays of sun.

I was home.

The End

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