DISCLAIMER: CSI and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Originally written for the Guns & Microscopes Ficathon at femslash_today. Thank you to piekid, for beta services.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
A Trick of the Eye
It's hard to be in the same room with you, Sara Sidle, thought Sofia Curtis, glancing at the dark head bent over some journal or another at the far end of the spartan room where Grissom's CSIs all consumed the caffeinated sludge that fueled their long nights. Sofia had heard rumors of a secret stash of Fair-Trade Organic but she didn't put too much stock in them. The rumors pegged Greg Sanders as the stash's owner and that was something too hard even for the pragmatic detective-cum-CSI to believe. She certainly hadn't ever been offered this holy elixir, so until she could prove its existence through time-tested evidentiary investigation techniques, she chose to treat the rumor the same way she'd been raised to view God: with a frankly skeptical eye topped off with a healthy dose of pure agnosticism.
Sara Sidle, on the other hand, demanded a non-linear approach and nothing was ever as it seemed with her. Sofia felt that if she were to peel the first and most obvious layer of Sara away; if she could somehow crack that steel shell of studied detachment, she would find something underneath that resembled bulletproof armor but in reality was only trompe l'oiel. Something painted over something else. Something intricate and intense, meant to distract and redirect rather than to protect and restrict.
In fact, Sofia suspected that underneath that impressive psychological paint was even more paint. Followed by wallpapers in confusing and grotesque patterns, experiments with tinted plaster, and maybe even old wood paneling, embarrassing in its obsolescence. A history of error detailing the young woman's attempts to spackle over some crack in the core of the structure, long ago buried but never completely out of mind. Sara was no builder; not into repair. Sofia speculated that the defect she worked so hard to obliterate was neither as ugly or as damaging as she probably believed it to be. That would be typical in cases like hers.
You left me waiting for hours by that phone booth, thought Sofia and she was surprised by the flash of pain that accompanied it. She was not the type to harbor hurt feelings or to make sport of grudges. She'd worked for Ecklie long enough to see what chaos could be wrought by the simple act of bitching out of turn and she avoided such displays like the plague. Not that disassociating one's self from office politics didn't also have its sticky parts, but she preferred those by far to knives in her back. She--like so many others--had learned that the hard way.
But here she stood, hurt by Sara's disregard. Remembering the start of her second hour of exile in the wasteland back alleys of Vegas and the sharp breeze that brought the stench of garbage and urine to her nostrils, Sofia had no difficulty understanding why she had thought that fingerprinting the booth would be a good idea. What she didn't understand was why she had enjoyed the CSI's barely concealed exasperation so damned much when she'd given her the preliminary report on her findings.
It was as much that confusion as anything else that had brought her down the corridor to this particular door. Where she stood silently, studying Sara Sidle as if she were one of Grissom's bugs under glass.
Maybe she is. The thought was both unwelcome and unsurprising. Grissom's way of categorizing the world into neat little boxes extended even to those who'd worked with him for years. Sofia had ignored that at first; focusing instead on his superior investigative techniques and his relentless belief in the evidence. Ecklie, after all, was at his heart a bureaucrat. Grissom was a scientist. Brilliant, yes, but one whose scientific curiosity knew no bounds. One who catalogued even those who would call him friend.
They all had them: metaphorical straight pins driven through their chests, holding them to the whiteboard of his conclusions about them no matter how hard they squirmed. Sofia imagined that the tag on Sara's pin read chrysalis. And Sara never squirmed.
She'd heard those rumors, too. Sara in love with Grissom. Grissom by turns either clueless or cruelly dismissive, depending on who was relating the story.
Sofia knew Sara wasn't really in love with Grissom. Those elements, if ever combined, would be as non-reactive as distilled water. What Sara liked was the sensation of being known better than she knew herself. What drew her was the misinterpretation of the meaning behind the effort of such an undertaking.
Layers. Angles. Shields. Armor.
A person could be driven mad trying to unearth Sara Sidle if they went about it like an archaeologist.
But I'm not a camelhair dust brush and a pair of tweezers, thought Sofia. I'm a crowbar. And Sofia understood, finally, the appeal of Sara Sidle; the why behind her uncharacteristic zing of schadenfreude earlier outside the phone booth.
The force of the realization hit Sofia--hard--in her gut and she was still recovering when Sara stood, tossed her forensics journal onto the rest of the stack by the coffee machine, and headed toward the door. The slightly taller, more intensely packaged woman stopped directly in front of Sofia and her mouth twisted into a wry smirk. She did not look surprised by Sofia's presence.
"Something you need or you planning to stand here for the rest of the morning?" The cold glint of challenge was unmistakable in Sara's hardening eyes.
Sofia's dispassion evaporated. A conflagration of volatility rushed to fill the emptiness left behind.
"Don't you ever leave me waiting like that again." Her low growl surprised even herself. "I will not be ignored by you."
Sara's smirk faltered as surprise invaded her earthen-colored eyes. The surprise was followed by a flare of interest and sparks of appreciation and admiration that were quickly snuffed out by Sara's patented blank gaze and the slight crease of a frown between her delicate brows. She said nothing and instead pushed past Sofia in the doorway, jostling her carelessly and without apology.
Sofia watched appreciatively as Sara Sidle walked away. Then she wondered.
Wondered if the nascent heat she'd seen in the brunette's eyes was something true or if it had only been a trick of the eye.
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