DISCLAIMER: CSI and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I like to express my gratitude to Ann (darandkerry), she has taught me a lot. Thank you, Ann, this one is for you.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
"Why is he pushing so hard?" Sofia wondered, watching her captain interrogate the latest suspect from behind the one-way mirror.
The detective glanced at Grissom, but couldn't find any confirmation for her undefined anxiety. He just stood next to her, as stoic as always. She knew that Jim liked to ruffle some feathers, but this time something was off, something was way off.
"Well, that was one hell of an interesting statement you made just now. A bit inconsistent though. So, let me present you with one of my theories," Brass snapped at Jason Green, the suspect sitting opposite to him. "And will you please have the decency to look at me when I talk to you?"
The tension in the room became palpable when the small, dark-haired man didn't look up, and the detective slammed his hand down hard on the table.
The fact that Green waived his right to have an attorney present suddenly started to bother Sofia, and she asked, "Gil, what do you think is going on with Brass? This is so not like him. Look at him."
Her concern not only went out for her boss. In her opinion, Brass wasn't the same since he'd started working after the 'Bell shooting', but now wasn't the time to linger on that thought. The detective was first and foremost concerned for the CSI sitting next to him. Sara hadn't said a single word during the entire questioning. She looked pale and sweaty, almost as if she was afraid of what was going on in the room.
"I'm not sure what you mean, Sofia," Grissom responded. "Sara found evidence that places Jason Green at the crime scene. Claire Jones was brutally assaulted backstage in Club Seven and was left to die. We don't know whether she's still alive even as we speak. All Jim needs to do is find a way in. And perhaps he's pushing a little harder than usual, if that's what you're implying."
'Christ,' Sofia cursed inwardly. 'What is the matter with this supposedly seasoned CSI. He looks, but does he see?' Truth be told, she also realized that her objectivity might be hindered because of the state the object of her attraction was currently in, and she focused more closely on the brunette as the suspect suddenly began to speak.
"I will look, but not at you," Green hissed.
Slowly shifting his glance to Sara, he stated, "I will look at her." Staring at Sara, he raised his voice. "I look into your eyes, and I see her. I see Claire."
The sweat stood out on the suspect's brow, and he was practically foaming at the mouth as he continued his tirade. "Claire looks through your eyes, and she speaks to me. She says I didn't do a thing. It was you, it was you, all the time, Miss CSI," Green shouted in a frantic voice, his maniacal laughter ripping through the air.
Sofia slammed her hand on the door and yanked the doorknob. "Jesus fucking Christ, all hell is breaking loose in there."
"Hey man, sit down, sit." Brass ordered, his voice lost in the screaming noise Jason Green produced as he lashed out at Sara.
Sofia paced up and down the hallway of the emergency room alone as Grissom was nowhere to be found. He was off somewhere, probably trying to find the doctor in charge in order to regain some sort of control of the situation. She and Grissom had been abruptly stopped by a nurse when Sara was being rushed in over two hours ago, and the detective was still in limbo regarding Sara's condition. Focusing down the hallway, she wondered what was taking so long.
"Miss Sidle, try to open your eyes, please."
Sara registered the request in the far distance, but her eyelids were too heavy, and she simply couldn't comply, drifting off to some unknown place.
In the waiting room, Sofia felt a rage run through her body as she reviewed the past few hours. She was furious with Brass and the way he'd conducted the interrogation. Was he in the right, the way he coerced Jason Green into confessing to matters that cried out for further examination?
The detective was equally cross with Grissom, and the fact that he hadn't interpreted Green's words, the way she's done. But most of all...
A stern voice pulled Sofia back into reality. It was the same nurse who so ungraciously shoved her away earlier this evening while she desperately tried to hold onto Sara's cold hand.
"How is she? Is she okay? She will be all right, won't she?"
In a nearby room, a faint light shone into dark eyes, and there was that voice again. "Come on now, Miss Sidle, you have to open up your eyes, you can do it."
With seemingly all her strength, Sara finally opened her eyes just as the nurse in the waiting room finally responded to Sofia's question.
"Your colleague will be fine." The petite nurse firmly stated to the detective.
Sofia hadn't realized she'd been holding her breath until she heard those relieving words, and with a big sigh, she slammed her tired body down in the only chair available in the corridor.
"I'm Nurse Taylor, by the way. We met, sort of, a few hours ago," the nurse continued with a dry smile.
Listing the facts while flipping some papers on a chart, she went on in a monotone voice. "Miss Sidle has a couple of bruised ribs, a sprained shoulder, and she's suffered a concussion. That's the reason she was unconscious when she was brought in. If you'll follow me, please, I'll take you to her."
Sofia was appalled at the news, but she wasn't going to waste any time to actually process it now. Instead, she jumped to her feet and hurried to catch up with "Nurse Efficiency."
A small voice replied from the bed, "Hey, Sofia."
Sara tried to steady her focus on the detective, but pain and nausea overtook her effort and she drifted off again. Sofia slowly walked to the bed, and the sight of the investigator so indescribably fragile, punched her in her stomach hard, just as hard as Jason Green had actually done when she'd desperately tried to free Sara.
Gently picking up Sara's delicate hand, she held it protectively and slowly began to stroke the soft skin. After a few minutes, Sofia found herself experiencing that same feeling of rage again. But this time, the detective realized she was angry at herself and for one reason only. When all was said and done, she wasn't able to protect Sara from getting hurt.
"Okay, the good news is that Claire Jones is recovering remarkable well," Brass said. "And, she was actually able to give detective Vega a detailed description of her assailant, one that doesn't resemble Jason Green at all."
"So, what's the bad news," Sofia asked, withholding any further comment.
"The bad news," using his fingers as quotation marks, Brass continued, "is that I will be taking a leave of absence."
A wall of silence forced Brass to continue. "You were right, Sofia, when you ever so delicately pointed out to me that I, quote, 'fucked up', unquote. After the Bell incident, I was even more determined to nail the bad guys, no matter the cost. A good investigator ending up in the hospital because of me is too high a price to pay."
"You're doing the right thing, Jim," Sofia gently replied. "See you in a few?"
"Yeah, see you, Sofie," Brass sighed, facing an empty room as his thoughts immediately shifting to the injured CSI.
Sara made a painful attempt to sit up in bed. Her body still protested to any form of exertion, but, thankfully, the sickening waves of nausea had disappeared. Her head still throbbed, especially when she tried to recall the events that led her to this hospital bed. Thus, she hadn't succeeded in filling in the gaps of her memory, and up to now, nobody else had filled them in for her. Closing her eyes, she wondered what was going on in the Jones case.
"Yes, this is she," Sofia replied, holding her cellphone in the crook of her neck. After a few minutes of listening in complete disbelief, the detective mumbled an inaudible 'thank you' as a way of ending the conversation.
Sofia shook her head sadly at the news. Jason Green had hanged himself with his own t-shirt at the barred window of his room, shortly after being admitted to a closed, psychiatric unit.
Meanwhile, Sara was finally leaning about the events which led to her injury. "You should have seen her, Sara," Nick excitedly said. "Sofia busted in that room like she was on fire, and she actually jumped on the guy's back. She grabbed his head and yanked it in a headlock," the Texan continued, chuckling and not paying any attention to Sara's reaction.
"Hey, man, you weren't even there," Warrick interrupted, watching Sara's face grow paler by the second.
"Is she okay? Was she hurt?" Sara dared to ask, painfully aware of a recurring headache.
"She's fine, Sara," Warrick replied. "She took a severe blow to her stomach, but, hey, she's as tough as nails." Gently patting Sara's arm, Warrick continued to reassure his colleague who'd started visibly at his words.
Later, in her apartment, Sofia sank back onto the sofa, softly stroking her ever painful stomach. What a terrible day, better yet, what a terrible week, she contemplated; too many events, too many different emotions, and too little time to process it all.
She replayed the conversation she'd had with Vega earlier today. Her colleague learned that Claire Jones and Jason Green were former lovers. He'd helped her to jump-start her singing career, and every now and then, he went out to see her perform. Green was probably there the night Claire was attacked, but sadly enough, Jason wouldn't be able to shed any further light on the matter.
Norah Jones' "Not Too Late" filled the airwaves of the detective's room, and she finally started to unwind. Her mind immediately drifted to Sara. If only they could be friends, she would easily settle for that. However, the enigmatic Sara held her at distance, despite all her efforts over time. Was she tilting at windmills? Sofia wondered briefly, but sleep quickly overtook her final thought.
Across town, Sara closed her eyes and listened to the nurse who'd come by to check her vital signs. "You're being discharged tomorrow, Miss Sidle, you must be so pleased," the night nurse chatted. "Your Mr. Grissom will be picking you up, won't he?"
The nurse continued, mindlessly smoothing Sara's covers, "Come to think of it, I've hardly seen him the last few nights, contrary to, uh, what's her name? The blond detective?"
Before Sara could respond, the nurse answered her own question, "Curtis, that's it."
"Yes, Detective Curtis, she was here every night for the last six nights, asking me how you were doing. And sometimes, when you were sound asleep, she would sit next to you. And, ever so sweetly, she would hold your hand. Well, anyway, goodnight Miss Sidle. You take good care of yourself."
With those departing words the night nurse left Sara's room, softly closing her door.
Yes, Sara wondered, where was Gil? But her next thought startled her far more; Sofia being here with her, every night, holding her hand? The sound of the closing door suddenly reminded Sara of what Sofia once said to her when she bluntly rejected Sofia's offer to go out for a drink. She didn't understand at the time, but now it all became clear to her.
"You can close your door, Sara, but then you will never experience anything again."
"I presume you heard the news?" Sofia asked as a matter of fact.
Grissom raised his eyebrow, indicating he didn't know what she was referring to.
"Green, Jason Green, our former suspect, is dead, killed himself."
"Yes, Detective Vega informed me. He also informed me you have another suspect in custody."
Sofia refused to be diverted.
"He attacked Sara because he was sick. He killed himself because he was sick, Gil. Didn't you notice at the time? Jason Green experienced a severe psychotic episode. Five years ago, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. His former psychiatrist informed me that he hadn't been in contact with Jason for more than a year. It's reasonable to assume he stopped taking his medication which eventually led to these tragic events."
"You're probably right," Grissom replied gloomy. "And yes, I did disregard the fact that Green was an ill man, and I'll regret that more than you'll ever know." He continued to stare at Sofia, but she couldn't deduce the real implication of his final remark. Filing it away for later, she said her goodbyes and headed back to the precinct.
Sara leaned against the door frame of Brass's office, temporarily Sofia's, as she was informed at the front desk. Not wanting to startle the detective, she gave a short knock on the door.
"Hey, Sara, what are you doing here? Shouldn't you be home in bed?" A surprised Sofia asked.
"Probably, but I've heard about Green's suicide, and, well, I don't know "
"Take a seat, Sara, you look pale. Do you want some water, tea, anything?"
Sara meekly sat down in the offered chair, and Sofia took the seat next to her, looking worriedly at the brunette. Not only was Sara pale, she'd definitely lost weight as well.
"No, I'm fine. Just tell me what happened, please."
"Listen, Sara, I have a meeting with Vega in fifteen. We're about to question another suspect, so I'll have to cut our talk short."
Quickly, Sofia told her everything she'd told Grissom only just before, concluding, "But if it's any solace, Sara, he didn't attack you because of you. Green heard voices commenting on everything he did, ordering him what to do, and probably ordering him to strike you."
The brunette looked sad as tears filled her eyes, and Sofia had to fight the urge to offer her the safe shelter of her embrace.
Out of the blue, Sara said, "I made the biggest mistake ever, what do you think I should do?"
Sofia waited patiently for the brunette to finally look up. When her eyes locked onto Sara's, she offered, "Perhaps, you should bury it in your subconscious and simply forget about it."
The two women just looked at each other in utter silence, caught in this middle place.
Sofia slowly reached out, extending her hand and said, "You know, the place where I came from; we had these tornados ripping off the rooftops of our houses and destroying everything. But you know what the good part was? When the dust had settled, you had the chance to rebuild your life again."
Without any further hesitation, Sara took Sofia's hand and held it tightly with both of her own.
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