DISCLAIMER: CSI and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The idea for the fic popped up in my head when I first saw 'a bullet runs through it'. Finally I found the time and muse to put it down.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
THANKS: to aj and pixie child for the beta.
Her feet met the hard concrete, the beat vibrating through her body. Her whole body was covered in sweat, drops from her forehead traveling down into her eyes, burning and veiling her view. She didn't stop, but used the sweatband that covered her wrist to wipe the offending liquid away. Instead of slowing down, giving her protesting body the necessarily break, Sofia sped up, consuming the last resources of her body as she ran through the backstreets of Las Vegas. Even though her body was near exhaustion, her mind refused to shut up and let her forget.
No matter how far she ran, she couldn't get rid of the image that haunted her.
Wherever she went, the image of Sara's lifeless body lying twisted on the ground followed her.
It was her fault.
Taking a deep breath, she tried to control her breathing when the image of Sara's ashen face flooded her mind. She stumbled and her hands reached out to the wire fence next to her. This time it wasn't sweat that burned in her eyes.
It had been an ordinary case, a homicide in the part of Las Vegas tourists never saw. Even though they had to be more careful in this part of town, it should have been routine nonetheless. She had been the leading detective, the police officers already waiting for her when she arrived. They had entered the house and had found the victim in the living room. The three bloody bullet-holes in his chest had told her that he was dead, but still she had followed protocol and had checked for a pulse. Of course there hadn't been one. Her trained eyes had surveyed the room, the small empty plastic bags on the table indicating that their 'victim' had been involved in drugs.
They had cleared the house and had secured the crime scene before she had called headquarters, requesting CSI and the coroner. David had arrived first, a black Denali of CSI following close.
Sofia smiled when she saw Sara stepping out of the car and heading over to her.
She lowered her glasses as she looked at the CSI. "You're working solo today?" the answer was obvious.
Sara shrugged. "I can handle it." With her eyes hidden behind her sunglasses it was hard for Sofia to decipher the mood the other woman was in. Even her voice didn't betray if she considered Sofia's question an insult to her professionalism or understood it as the harmless small-talk Sofia had intended.
She decided to play it safe and updated her on their current case.
The brunette just nodded and headed for the crime scene. At the front door she turned around. "If I need a hand, I'll call you," She lowered her glasses and a small smile graced her lips as she referred to their encounter at a telephone-booth not too long ago. "In the meantime enjoy your coffee." She tilted her head, motioning to the paper-cup Sofia had placed on the hood of the police car.
The detective took the mentioned object and raised it. "Will do," she answered with a smile of her own.
While Sara had processed the scene Sofia had interviewed bystanders and neighbors, always keeping the crime scene in view. Of course nobody had seen or heard anything. In this part of town she hadn't expected anything else.
After that, with nothing else to do than wait, she had looked at the house, hoping for a sign from Sara. For a moment she had considered joining her, offering her assistance, but she had dismissed that thought. A short distraction wasn't worth the risk of damaging the fragile friendship she and the brunette CSI had formed.
It had taken another thirty minutes before Sara had finally emerged at the front door again.
What happened next Sofia would never forget, no matter how hard she tried or how long she lived. The scene kept repeating itself in her mind over and over again, every time a little different, but always with the same horrific ending.
It always ended with Sara lying lifeless on the concrete.
She couldn't distinguish any longer what really had happened and what her mind had added and altered. But there were things that never changed. The shots still cut through the silence; their impact still threw Sara back as she just stepped out of the house.
Sofia looked down at her hands; they were shaking.
One moment her fingers had been playing with the empty paper cup while she mused if the brunette would join her for coffee later and the next moment she had been kneeling next to her still form, her fingers brushing away dark hair in search for a pulse.
These were the parts she remembered vividly, the rest was blurry.
Every fiber of her body hurt, her muscles cried out with every step she took, but it wasn't enough to atone for her failure. Slowly, pressing her hand against the stabbing pain in her side, she walked home, defeated.
The hot shower cleaned her body, but it couldn't wash away her guilt, no matter how long she stayed under it. Finally she gave up and wrapped her fire-red body into a big towel. A change of clothes later and Sofia settled down in front of her TV set. She flipped through the channels and tried to avoid the countless court shows as they brought up memories of her interrogation; the second one in a year. Endless hours she had repeated what had happened, growing more and more frustrated. It hadn't been nearly enough to give them a lead. She could describe the car, even remembered the lack of a license plate, but she couldn't describe the shooter or the driver. She had been trained to stay calm in situations like this, to memorize every detail, but at the crime scene her first priority had been Sara, nothing else. She remembered how she had pulled her out of the line of fire, had searched for a pulse. Her own voice was still ringing in her ears, calling for an ambulance.
Afterwards Brass had come to her, assuring her that she had done everything right. But he hadn't been there, he didn't know.
On her way out she had passed the break room. Shift had been long over, but after what had happened they still had been there, no one eager to leave. Even Doc Robbins had left his morgue to join the night shift as they had tried to process what had happened.
They hadn't noticed her and for a second she had considered joining them, but she couldn't, she had no right. Sara had been her responsibility. She had failed her and with her every single CSI. Nevertheless she hadn't gone completely unnoticed as suddenly Nick had stormed out of the break room and had nearly bumped into her.
He had stared at her, looking like he was about to cry. "It wasn't her time," he had muttered in disbelief before he had hastened down the floor, heading to the locker room.
A knock on her door startled Sofia, waking her up from her restless sleep on her couch. She sat up, slightly disoriented, the image of blood still vividly in her mind. Sofia didn't want to see, even less talk, to anyone. With Bell's case it had been different. She had searched for someone to listen, someone who would tell her that it hadn't been her bullet that as long as she wasn't sure it was her who killed Bell there was still hope.
This time she didn't have the comfort of uncertainty. This time there was no doubt it was her fault.
She hadn't done her job properly and Sara had paid the price.
Again there were knocks at her door, this time louder and more urgent, declaring that whoever was outside, didn't plan on leaving her alone. With a sigh Sofia got up. She would make this short and get rid of this intruder as fast as possible.
As she opened the door, she wondered if she was still dreaming. "Sara?"
"Hi Sofia." Her dream answered, looking like it was the most normal thing to stand at the other side of her door.
"Can I come in? I brought coffee," Sara answered, raising the two paper cups with an insecure smile.
It took a moment before Sofia realized that she was still blocking her door and staring at the CSI. She stepped aside, following the CSI with her eyes as Sara walked past her and into her apartment. Her appearance didn't betray the earlier events, only the stiff way the brunette walked, indicated that the shooting had been bitter reality and no horrible dream.
Sara sat down and even though she tried to cover it, Sofia noticed the sharp intake of breath, how Sara's eyes closed for a moment.
"How are you?" she asked.
Sara leaned back and tried to get comfortable. "I'm okay." She eyed the big cushion that was out of her reach. Sofia followed her gaze and grabbed it, holding it out for the brunette. First Sara refused, not comfortable with confessing a weakness, but the blonde looked pointedly at her.
Finally Sara accepted the cushion. "Doesn't look okay," Sofia commented.
"Some bruises, but I'm alive." Sara smiled and leaned back into the cushion.
Contrary to Sara, Sofia couldn't see any humor in their situation. It was a miracle that the brunette was still alive and sitting only a few yards apart from her.
"You should be dead," Sofia whispered as she looked at her hands, her thumb brushing over her index-finger and her middle finger. They still tingled with Sara's pulse.
Sara's fingers covered hers. When Sofia looked up she said, "I'm not dead. It wasn't my time."
Sofia snorted and pulled her hand free. "That's bullshit. This wasn't fate or a higher plan. You were just damn lucky that you've worn your bullet proof vest."
"I just followed protocol."
"Well maybe then it was fate, because since when does Sara Sidle follow protocol?" Sofia tried to provoke the brunette, her calmness only adding to Sofia's anger. There had been a time when it didn't need much to cause the CSI to yell back, but even that had changed.
This time Sara just looked at her, her dark brown eyes unreadable. Finally she broke the contact and shook her head as she stood up. "I didn't come here for insults."
She had reached the door, when Sofia's question stopped her. "Why did you come?"
Sara took a moment, her back still to Sofia, before she answered, "I didn't want to be alone."
"Why me? You never trusted me."
This caused the brunette to finally turn around. She furrowed her brows, before she remembered when she had heard the accusation for the first time. "That was nearly two years ago," she said incredulous. "You can't still hold this against me."
"You're right, it's not important. Not after what happened yesterday."
The brunette stepped closer and sat down on the coffee table, facing Sofia. "I trust you and yesterday doesn't change that. Professionally I always trusted you." They looked at each other in silence, till Sara got up and walked over to the window, wrapping her arms around herself. Her back to Sofia she continued, "I had some problems back then. I had to learn that things can happen and that sometimes you can't do anything about it. It took me some time to realize that."
"How long? How long did you need to understand?"
Sara turned around. "More than thirty years."
"And you expect me to learn it in one afternoon?"
"You're a smart girl, you learn fast."
Sofia laughed. "A compliment from Sara Sidle, it surely is a day full of miracles." This time there wasn't any menace behind her words.
The smirk Sara showed was the most beautiful thing Sofia had ever seen. She wanted to reach out, make sure that the woman in front of her was real and not part of some imagination.
"Sara....," Sofia stopped, unsure if she was crossing the line, but in the end she decided to continue. "You said you don't want to be alone."
The grin vanished, the tension now visible on the brunette's face.
It was all Sofia needed to understand. Even though Sara seemed carefree and untouched by the earlier events, she was as much scared as the blonde herself. Sofia made a decision then. She had failed her once; she would never fail her again. "See, that's something I can influence." She got up and walked over to the brunette, but made sure to not intrude her personal space. "I'm a detective and detectives are supposed to protect civilians."
"I am a CSI and no civilian." Sara's arms were still crossed in front of her, but her voice carried a hint of amusement.
"You're on paid leave for a week."
The amusement vanished from Sara's face as she realized that Sofia's offer was honest and not some joke. Other than that her face was unreadable, the façade Sara Sidle often wore at work covering her emotions and thoughts.
After a short eternity her arms went to her sides, accepting the offer. "So tell me detective, what do we do now?"
Sofia hadn't thought this far ahead. She looked at the two coffee cups on her table. "Drink your coffee and then we'll see." She brushed over her hair, realizing the disastrous state it was in after the little nap on the couch.
Sara's eyes had followed her action. "Bad dream?" she asked.
"Yeah, something like that," Sofia answered. "Give me a minute." Already on her way to the bathroom, she turned around. "Stay right there!"
A few brushes through her hair, some deodorant and a fresh shirt later, Sofia was ready to face her guest again.
When she emerged from her bathroom an empty room greeted her. Panic grabbed her, her heart beating fast at the thought that everything had been a dream, an illusion. That she had been talking to a ghost and that Sara really was dead.
Her head snapped around when she heard the sound of running water from her kitchen. The sound stopped and moments later Sara walked into the room, oblivious to the other woman's fears. "You owe me coffee," she commented, her hands hidden in the back pockets of her pants.
Sofia cleared her throat. "Do I?" she asked, trying to sound casual and relaxed.
"Over all these confessions our coffee got cold."
Sofia laughed. She didn't care that Sara looked skeptically at her, possibly thinking she had gone mad. Maybe she had, but right now she didn't care. Right now she wanted to feel alive.
"Forget the coffee. We should go out, celebrate."
Sofia shrugged. "Life, today, tomorrow? Whatever you want. Come on, even you have to eat sometimes."
When Sara still hesitated Sofia offered, "Dinner is on me."
A raised eyebrow was her answer. "Okay, but I want a real dinner, no cheap all-you-can-eat-buffet. You owe me more than that," Sara finally commented.
"You ruined my shirt when you dragged me all the way over the concrete."
"Shut up, Sidle. I just tried to save your life." Sofia chased the brunette out of her apartment.
"You should work on your social skills. When is your appointment with the PEAP counselor?"
"Do you always have to have the last word?"
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