DISCLAIMER: Characters obviously belong to Jerry Bruckheimer, CBS, because if I really owned them, CSI would be a LOT different. And way queer-er. Also, title comes from a song by the beautifully heartbreaking and highly recommended band Lucero.
SPOILERS: Set vaguely in season 6, when Sofia's back as a detective. Kinda AU-ish, as if the Grissom fiasco never happened.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

She Wakes When She Dreams
By Lafitte


The first time Sofia held Sara was in the locker room.

At the end of night shift, she entered to ask the CSI about some evidence when she saw the brunette hunched up on the bench, her eyes so hollow and haunted that something twinged inside Sofia's chest. Without thinking she strode over, sat down beside her, and placed a protective arm around Sara's slender shoulders. At first the woman almost flinched away, but when Sofia kept her close instead of letting go, Sara suddenly relaxed like a puppet with its strings sliced. They sat there, as Sara's body shook slightly--Sofia wasn't sure whether it was from silent tears or leftover adrenaline—within the circle of her strong arms.

"It's okay, Sara," was all that the blonde said. "It's okay."

Curled up like she was, the tall woman's head fit under Sofia's chin, and the detective couldn't resist brushing a hand over her dark, wavy hair.

"The Larkin case went to trial today," Sara murmured finally.

"So I heard," replied Sofia. She hadn't worked the case, but it still sickened her. Britney Larkin was a twelve-year-old girl who showed up at the emergency room with a broken wrist and signs of sexual assault; she told the CSIs that a man had attacked her in her bedroom, but was too traumatized to give any details about him. They found a hair on her clothes that matched her stepfather's DNA.

"He got away with it, the bastard." Sara practically spat the words out. "Just because we couldn't prove he was in the house that night. I spent hours combing over clothes and sheets, ran DNA twice and spliced the hair through three microscope slides--" Sometimes, even science couldn't provide the reassurance she needed.

"You did the best you could, Sara." It was the only consolation Sofia could offer, knowing all too well how frustrated the other woman felt. How many times had she berated herself when a criminal walked free on a technicality? Stroking Sara's forehead, Sofia pressed a kiss to the smooth skin there, and at the touch, a shuddering sigh left the brunette. It felt as though Sofia's lips could heal her, their warmth burning away the cold emptiness within.

The first time Sofia kissed Sara on the lips, it completely surprised both of them.

Granted, Sofia had thought about doing it a few times--okay, numerous times—ever since they'd started working together. And Sara had entertained the idea of kissing that smirk off the detective's face once or twice. But neither would have guessed their first kiss would take place in a dark alleyway next to a Dumpster.

Sara and Nick arrived to process a scene near a seedy strip mall, where a mugging had gone from bad to worse.

"Vic's in the ER with a stab wound, critical condition," Sofia informed them as they ducked beneath the yellow tape. From the quantity of blood in a shining pool on the pavement, they didn't need to ask how critical it was.

"Any witnesses?" asked Sara.

Despite the gruesome topic, Sofia's eyes met hers with a hint of warmth behind them. "Just a motorist who thought she saw two men leave an alley nearby." She pointed in its direction, away from the crime scene. "And we haven't found the attacker's weapon yet."

They set to work, Nick processing and tagging evidence near the blood pool while Sara examined the perimeter. Finding a thin trail of red drops, she followed it from the parking lot back towards the poorly-lit alley running behind the mall. She was so caught up in her investigation that she didn't notice her surroundings, or hear the sudden frenzied call on the police radios minutes later. Next to a Dumpster she spotted a metallic glint in the shadows and discovered a blood-slicked knife.

"Bingo," she murmured, and snapped some more pictures before bending to bag the weapon. She had just sealed the evidence bag when footsteps sounded behind her.

"Sara! Are you okay?" Sofia's voice was uncharacteristically sharp. She stood and turned to find the detective holding her gun at the ready, her body tensed for action. Sofia's muscled arms and assertive stance captured her gaze for a long moment before she managed to answer.

"Of course, I'm fine. Why?" Sara stuttered, as much perplexed by her own reaction as by Sofia's.

The blonde's radio buzzed with noise, and she yanked it from her belt to respond. "I've got CSI Sidle in the alley, she's all right. No sign of suspect." She clicked it off before returning her attention to Sara.

"What did you think you were doing?!" she exclaimed, holstering the weapon and radio.

Sara shrugged. "I found a blood trail, followed it here. And look what our muggers left behind," she announced, holding up the evidence bag with a smile.

This discovery didn't excite Sofia, who instead stepped closer to the brunette and stared at her. "And you didn't think to tell anyone where the hell you were going? You just disappeared from the crime scene?"

"I had to expand the search area. So what?"

"We received a call saying an armed man was in the area, possibly one of the muggers. When I couldn't find you—" Sofia just shook her head. "God, you could have been hurt or killed!"

"Look, it's no big deal," Sara muttered and tried to brush past her, but the detective held her ground, blocking her with her body.

"Yes it is, Sara! You can't just wander off on your own and put yourself in danger."

They stood toe-to-toe now, both too stubborn to give in. The CSI's voice was brittle as she said, "I don't need someone to tell me how to do my job."

"I'm not telling you what to do! But if something happened to you…I'm just concerned, that's all." Her blue eyes fixed desperately on Sara, trying to convey an unspoken message.

"Really?" For once Sara's sarcasm failed her, as she fell headlong into the detective's intense, sincere gaze. Then she recovered her wits and commented, "I didn't think you cared, now that you're not a CSI anymore."

"Dammit Sara, you know that's not true!"

Sara lifted her chin defiantly. "Prove it, then."

Sofia opened her mouth, then shut it. Frustrated and at a loss for words, she reached out and grabbed Sara by the shoulders. Before either of them knew it, the blonde's lips were on Sara's. The kiss was hard and far from smooth, but surprised them both with its sweetness. Sofia pulled away as soon as her mind caught up to her actions, and she rocked back as if the CSI had slapped her.

"I'm so sorry. I—I didn't mean to lose control like that. I just, uh…shit."

For a long moment Sara just stood there, eyebrows drawn together in confusion, bloody bagged knife still in hand. Then her observant eye took in Sofia's blush, the uncharacteristic nervousness in her posture, and the redness of her lips, mirrored by Sara's own warm cheeks and racing pulse. She smiled slowly.

"It's okay, Sofia. I don't mind," she said. Then her tone turned mischievous.

"That's some pretty convincing evidence, but I don't know if it'll stand up in court. If you really want to persuade me, I think you'll have to take me out to lunch or something, maybe conduct some repeat experiments." She winked and picked up her kit. It was the first time in Sofia's memory, since her arrival in Las Vegas, that Sara had flirted with her…and really meant it.

"Shall we head back?" With that, Sara turned and started walking out of the alley, leaving behind one very stunned detective.

The first time Sofia asked Sara out was about five hours later, when she invited her to breakfast after shift. It had taken her that long to recover from the shock and marshal her courage.

Unfortunately Nick overheard the invitation and took it to mean a team breakfast. They wound up bringing Nick, Greg, Jim Brass, and Catherine to the restaurant, and Sara had to content herself with sitting next to Sofia in the booth and "accidentally" touching her hand or shoulder every now and then. The rest of the team was oblivious, although Greg did remark on the fact that the detective's cheeks were rather red.

"Oh, yeah, it's just kinda hot in here," she replied.

"I'll say," Sara murmured, only loud enough for the blonde to hear.

Sofia turned even redder during dessert, when Sara brushed her fingers lightly up and down the detective's jeans-clad thigh beneath the table. But she made up for the teasing after breakfast, with a long make-out session in Sofia's car that left them both breathless and dazed.

"I know it's early, but do you want to…" Sofia started to ask.

"Yeah. Where?"

"My place?" the detective said. Then she remembered the take-out boxes and dirty laundry littering her bachelorette apartment. "Actually, how about yours?"

"Okay. I'll drive," Sara offered.

"No, it's all right—"

The brunette silenced her with a heated look. "I know all the shortcuts."

Without a word, Sofia handed her the keys.

The first time they made love, they were lucky to have made it as far as Sara's couch, and Sofia somehow managed to keep her socks on.

There were other priorities, however—namely, tugging Sara's shirt over her head while maintaining contact with her lips for as long as possible.

"You've done this before, haven't you?" Sofia asked as she felt the brunette's hands circle round her waist and cup her ass.

"Sex with a woman? A few times," breathed Sara as Sofia ran teasing fingers around a fabric-covered nipple. "You?"

The blonde murmured between kisses along Sara's collarbone and shoulder, pushing the bra straps out of the way. "I've mostly dated women since college."

"That means—" she nipped a particularly sensitive patch of skin, and Sara's breath caught for a moment, "--Warrick owes Greg ten bucks, then."

Sofia pulled away enough to look at her, raising an eyebrow in amusement. "They made a bet over whether I was gay?"

The brunette made an impatient noise and tugged her back, skimming her hands up Sofia's bare sides. "You had better odds than Catherine and Wendy."

"You weren't in the running?" Finally Sofia managed to get Sara's bra undone and tossed it somewhere in the direction of the coffee table.

"I threatened to shave off all of Greg's hair if he speculated about my sexuality." Sara bit her lower lip to stifle a moan as the blonde woman cupped her right breast, while her other hand drifted southward. "Sofia?"


"Will you stop talking and kiss me?"

Sofia complied, with vigor.

They made it to the bed in time for Sofia's first orgasm of the day and, after a few encores, eventually fell asleep with the rumpled sheets half-covering them. Sofia proceeded to hog the pillows, but Sara still slept better than she had in ages. Sunlight trickled over them from the blinds Sara had neglected to close, sparkling in Sofia's hair and slowly drying their sweat-slicked skin. While sleeping they both shifted until their legs were tangled together and Sara's head on Sofia's shoulder; Sara had never felt so safe before in her life.

The first time they went on an actual, official date, Sofia ended up being called in on an emergency and Sara had to go home on her own.

Despite understanding the situation, Sara felt a little disappointed, since it was her favorite Thai restaurant and they'd been planning the date for almost two weeks. Sofia was wearing a silver silk blouse with black pants and a wide, easy smile Sara didn't often see when they were at work.

The CSI was amazed how easy it was talking and flirting with each other, the inevitable initial awkwardness fading quickly. They had just finished the appetizer and discovered a shared fondness for bad sci-fi movies when Brass called on Sofia's cell phone. Blue eyes spoke a genuine apology, and Sara nodded sympathetically. She took her food to go and finished it at home.

But when she got up for work the next day, Sara found a DVD of Mystery Science Theater 3000 on her doorstep and a note reading, "Sorry about last night. I'd like to try it over again. How does breakfast tomorrow morning sound? Just us this time."

Sara smiled all the way to the crime lab.

(The second time they went on a date, Sofia bought Sara banana-walnut pancakes and watched her lick syrup off a fork in a way that was surprisingly sexy, given the IHOP atmosphere. The date was followed by another kiss, and Sofia thought she'd never tasted anything as sweet in her life.)

The first time they held hands in public, Sofia was so drunk she could barely feel Sara's slender fingers against her own.

"C'mon, let's get you out of here," Sara said, trying to hoist Sofia from her slumped position in the corner booth of the smoky bar.

The blonde resisted the pull on her arm, frowning into her nearly empty beer mug. "How'd you know where to find me?"

"Jim said you had a rough night, and it really got to you. You didn't answer your phone, so I've been checking every dive bar in a ten-minute radius of the lab."

"In Vegas? That's a lot of bars," observed Sofia. She was somewhat proud that her voice hardly sounded slurred at all, but she was also very aware of Sara's unwavering gaze watching her, cataloging her sunken posture and slow movements. She couldn't meet the brunette's eyes, didn't want to see the disgust and pity she expected to find there. Maybe if she just stayed still and didn't say anything, the CSI would go away—the same strategy they told you to use around wild bears in national parks.

She heard a sigh. Then Sara sat down across from her in the booth, still watching Sofia and still holding her free hand.

Okay, so maybe Sara wasn't like a wild bear.

Sofia almost laughed at her own drunken thought process, but hid her ill-timed mirth by staring into her mug. "You didn't have to come after me, you know."

"I thought you might want some company," replied Sara evenly. "Or at least a designated driver."

"I'm fine."

"So 'fine' means drinking alternate rounds of beer and shots for two hours?" asked Sara, inferring from the numerous empty glasses on the table. To Sofia's surprise, however, she didn't sound accusing, just curious and a little sad.

Taking a long, slow drink from her beer, Sofia chanced a peek at Sara. "You gonna tell me to stop?"

Sara chuckled darkly. "I'm not in any position to do that, you know. Hell, I've been in the same place too many times myself, when things got to be…too much," she admitted while looking down at the table, the fake wood covered in concentric rings of condensation. "If it wasn't for Grissom and Jim, I probably would've gotten a couple of DUIs by now."

"So you're here to protect me from myself?" said the blonde bitterly.

"You're a cop, I figure you don't need any help with that," said Sara, smirking a little. Then she grew serious.

"I'm here to tell you you're not alone anymore." Sara lifted their still-joined hands, brought them close to her face, and brushed her lips across the blonde's fingers. Even drunk, Sofia felt the gentle touch like a benediction. "I might not be great with emotional stuff, but…well, if you want a driver, a drinking buddy, a shoulder to cry on, I'm here for you."

Sofia read the sincerity in her face and it made her breath catch to think this, this extraordinary woman, wanted to be with her.

"And if I want a girlfriend to take me home and convince me everything's all right?" she asked with suddenly sobered boldness.

The dark-haired CSI looked surprised for a second, before nodding. She spoke quietly, but the firmness of her fingers entwined with Sofia's left no doubt. "I could be that, too."

The first time Sara gave Sofia a massage, the detective thought she'd died and gone to heaven.

Or possibly hell, considering the fact that she was now incredibly turned on, but still stuck at work for several more hours. After they'd labored together to disassemble an entire burned-out SUV—Grissom's shift was short on hands, and the blonde knew how to work a power drill—Sofia had complained about her sore shoulders. It turned out Sara was almost as talented a masseuse as she was a crime scene investigator.

"Ohh yes, right there." Sofia didn't care that she was groaning now.

Sara smirked as she rubbed through the fabric of Sofia's coveralls. "Funny, you said the same thing last night."

"Bite me," the blonde retorted.

"That was three nights ago."

"Mmpf." Sofia bit her lip as the CSI's slender fingers worked on a knot just to the right of her vertebral column. She was perched on a stool in the vehicle lab, growing more relaxed and boneless by the minute. "Where did you learn to do this?"

"Harvard," replied Sara. "During finals the university sponsored this relaxation workshop, where they taught yoga and massage therapy to all the stressed-out science majors. I thought yoga was boring, but I got pretty good at giving massages."

"No kidding," the blonde mumbled, her eyes closed now. "God, you have magic hands."

Sara leaned close, so that her lips almost brushed Sofia's neck when she spoke. "How about you come back to my apartment later on and I use these magic hands in a different way?"

"Huh, I bet you used that pick-up line on all the girls you massaged in college, too," Sofia said in fake annoyance.

She felt Sara's chuckle against her tingling skin. "Is it working?"

"That depends on—ahh…" The CSI's hands shifted to attack another tense knot, and Sofia dissolved into an inarticulate puddle.

"Guess that means yes," Sara concluded. Her smile grew even wider.

The first time they had a fight, it was one of silence more than shouting, and it started inexplicably with a conversation about surfing.

On Sofia's day off, they went hiking around Lake Mead and ate a picnic lunch near the water. Sara tried to convince the blonde to go swimming, while she waded ankle-deep in the water, jeans rolled up to her knees. But after sticking a toe in Sofia refused adamantly.

"No way. I have no desire to get hypothermia."

Sara gave her a gap-toothed grin. "C'mon, it's not that bad! I've gone surfing in much colder water!"

"You know how to surf?" She was from California after all, Sofia realized; it shouldn't be much of a surprise. In fact, she could picture Sara in a formfitting bikini, her body sleek and strong as she rode the waves…The image alone made her knees a little wobbly.

"I learned when I was in high school. I used to go all the time when I lived in San Francisco, even during the winter sometimes. But there's not much chance to surf around here," the CSI added with a wry smile, glancing at the flat lake and desert surroundings.

"You must miss the ocean. Do you ever go back home to visit?" asked Sofia. Sara almost never spoke about her childhood on the West Coast, and only occasionally mentioned her life before she came to Las Vegas. A shadow darkened Sara's face, though her gaze stayed on the scenery.

"Not really. I don't have any reason to."

Sofia heard the tightness in her voice and knew it wasn't a welcome topic. But she had been dying to learn more about her girlfriend's history, and her detective's curiosity overwhelmed her. "What about your family?"

Sara stiffened. "I'm not very close to my family."

Abruptly she left the water, wiped her feet dry, and started putting her socks and shoes back on. Sofia took it as a clear signal that the conversation was over, but she couldn't help feeling a bit hurt and confused by the brunette's abrupt coldness. When she asked whether Sara was ready to head home, only a curt nod answered her.

Together they packed up their trash and returned to the trail. It was a pleasant enough hike, winding through the low scrub, but Sara remained quiet and moody all the way back to the car. Sofia finger-tapped against the steering wheel for approximately sixteen miles before she sighed and glanced over at Sara, who was staring out the passenger side window.

"Listen, Sara…I don't know what I did wrong, but I wish you wouldn't get closed off like this."

"I'm not closed off." Her voice was crisp.

"Then why haven't you said a word for the past half hour?" said Sofia, exasperated.

Sara kept stubbornly staring out the window. "No reason, I just—I don't like talking about my family."

"How was I supposed to know that? You never mention them, I didn't know it was a touchy subject," the blonde defended.

"Look, not everyone has the perfect white-picket-fence family. I didn't exactly follow in my mom's footsteps."

Sofia glanced at her, own temper rising now. "You think I've had it easy? My mother was a workaholic cop, my dad split when I was eleven. I know what it's like to resent my own parents!"

"No, you really don't." Sara was smiling, but it was an expression of bitterness and irony rather than mirth.

During the rest of the trip, the silence only thickened, even after Sara turned on the radio. Sofia had sat through many interrogations, and she knew how to outlast reticent suspects. Now she set her detective skills to unravelling Sara's reaction. Sure, they had argued in the past, back when Sara thought she was trying to seduce Grissom and she thought Sara was just being weird and obsessive. Becoming lovers had obviously dispelled these notions, and over the past few months they had shared their interests and dreams. So why didn't Sara want to talk about her childhood?

If she were a suspect—and Sofia felt guilty even thinking that way, but couldn't help it—the blonde would guess something dark lurked there, something that continued to scare or shame her. In her line of work, that usually meant terrible things like molestation, accidental death of a sibling, abuse…And then it clicked: the way Sara reacted to domestic abuse cases, the connection she felt towards victims, especially children.

As she parked the car in Sara's driveway, Sofia pushed the car unlock button and turned to her girlfriend.

"Sara, whatever it is about your family, your past…you shouldn't ever feel pressured to tell me," she said firmly. "But you also shouldn't pull away from me just for asking and trying to be there for you. And I've done things I wasn't proud of—" she thought of the Officer Bell shooting, of winding up in that bar where Sara found her, "so it's not like I'm going to judge you."

Wordlessly Sara listened, and eventually nodded, but she said nothing as she got out of the car. She didn't want to tell Sofia, and risk seeing disgust or pity in those blue eyes; she wasn't sure which would be worse.

The silence broke two days later at work, when Sara walked into the detective's tiny, cluttered office and shut the door behind her.

The first words she spoke, without even saying hello, were, "I'm sorry, Sofia. I really am. Sometimes I hurt people because I, uh, don't want them to get too close to me."

She continued her apology, explaining that few previous relationships had gotten so far that family ever became an issue. Her voice was shadowed, her words halting, partly she hadn't slept much since they fought; she'd spent more time thinking about what Sofia said, and about her own fears and barriers. While speaking, she never broke eye contact with Sofia.

"The past couple of days I realized I was miserable, because I wasn't around you," she admitted. "I'm not ready to tell you everything about my family now. But I promise that I'll tell you someday, because it's something important and—well, you're important. You…you make me feel safe, Sofia."

In Sara-speak, 'safe' translated to 'loved', though not in so many words; Sofia understood that for the other woman, trust and safety were treasured commodities. This itself shed more light on her apparently painful childhood. She wished she could take Sara into her arms and kiss her right then and there, windowed doors and Ecklie be damned. Instead she contented herself with a nod and a smile.

"I'm happy to hear that. And I'm sorry for pushing you." She intended to say more, but then Brass appeared and opened the door.

"Hate to interrupt, but Sof, we've got a burglary-murder out in the suburbs," he told the blonde woman.

She stood, making sure she had her badge and gun, and slid on her jacket on the way towards the door. She paused when she reached Sara, briefly touching the brunette's arm.

"Whenever you want to talk, let me know," Sofia said quietly, aware that Brass was well within earshot. "And thanks for stopping by, Sara. I'll see you later, okay?"

Sara gave her that rare smile that lit up her brown eyes, making her seem years younger. "Okay."

The first time Sofia told anyone that she was seeing Sara happened in the car ten minutes later, on the way to the crime scene.

Once they were on the road, Brass glanced over at the younger detective. "I'm glad to see you and Sara are becoming friends," he observed.

There was a reason why Jim Brass regularly won large sums at inter-precinct poker games; right now Sofia couldn't tell whether he was sincere, or whether he knew there was more to the story and was being sarcastic. Then she saw a faint twitch of his eyebrow reflected in the rearview mirror, and she let out a sigh.

"How long have you known?"

"I guessed there was something up with you and Sara when she went searching for you a few weeks ago, after that ugly double homicide. You looked about to obliterate someone or yourself when you left, but the next day you came in smiling. So I figured someone was, ahem, improving your mood."

Sofia blushed and shot him a glare, but couldn't deny it.

"I wasn't sure exactly what was going on, but then yesterday you and Sara didn't speak to each other unless you had to and you looked like someone had shot your dog. Figuratively speaking, that is." He looked over at Sofia again as they turned a corner. "Do you even have a dog?"

"I'm more of a cat person," she answered absently, her mind racing ahead to more frightening prospects. "Listen, Ecklie and the guys on the force—"

"--Don't need to know about it unless you want to tell them," he finished for her. "The way I see it, you'd want your privacy no matter who you're dating, guy or girl."

Sofia was reminded why she respected Brass so much, despite his occasional cynicism. "And you're okay with this? With us?"

"Maybe fifteen years ago, I would've had a bit of a problem with it," he said frankly. "But then I got divorced and got shot at, and I started to figure that finding any kind of love is pretty damn rare. If you make each other happy, that's good enough for me. Besides," he added, shifting to a lighter tone again, "it was fairly obvious from the beginning that you weren't one hundred percent straight. With the way you walk and that toothpick, it's no damn wonder Sara has the hots for you…"

"Hey!" Sofia pretended to be scandalized, but couldn't hold back a smile.

They reached their destination, and Brass parked the car. After turning off the engine, though, he grew serious and turned to face Sofia fully.

"You do realize, though, that since Sara's like a daughter to me and her dad's not around, I feel obliged to give you the stern father speech? You know, the one that goes, 'If you break my little girl's heart, I know a hundred different ways to kill you slowly and hide the body'?"

Again Sofia wondered whether he was wearing his poker face. "I don't think it usually goes like that."

"Well, I'm a homicide cop," he retorted. "But you gotta understand, Sara can be her own worst enemy sometimes, when she tries to push others away…"

Sofia nodded. "I've just learned that, but I think we're mostly past it now," she said honestly. "And I would never try to hurt her."

Jim stared. "You're really in love with her, aren't you?"

Sofia thought back to the way she couldn't stop smiling after their first actual date, and to the last words Sara had spoken to her earlier that night. "Yeah, I am."

"Congratulations, Sofia. Now, stop daydreaming about your girlfriend and let's get ready for a crime scene," he said, opening the car door.

Sofia managed to swallow a laugh and put on her professional demeanor, but the twinkle in her eye lasted the rest of the shift.

The first and last time Sara gave Sofia flowers, she found out about the detective's severe allergy to goldenrod.

A handful of pollen-heavy sprigs left Sofia sneezing and watery-eyed, blowing her nose while Sara dumped the offending bouquet in the trashcan outside.

"I'm so sorry," she repeated over and over. "I didn't think you were allergic."

"Ig's oday," Sofia said between sneezes. The tall brunette looked so crestfallen and pitiful, it was almost funny. Finally her reaction began to subside, and she used the Kleenex that Sara had fetched her.

The CSI ran a hand through her dark hair, apologizing again, "I'm sorry. If I'd known—"

"Sara, it's all right. Really," insisted Sofia. "You couldn't have known, because I'd never told you. And I appreciate the thought."

She laid a hand on Sara's cheek to convince her that there were no hard feelings. The sniffle she didn't manage to suppress somewhat ruined the gesture, however, and Sara gave her a rueful smile.

"I was trying to be romantic. Guess I should've gone with something more creative." Then she glanced sideways at Sofia, a playful glint returning to her eyes. "You know, I heard about monster truck rally tickets on the radio the other day…"

The detective laughed. "Maybe you should stay away from romantic gifts." She stepped towards Sara, moved her hand down the brunette's jaw line and around to the back of her neck, and pulled her close. "Besides, I don't need flowers. You smell even better," she murmured, kissing Sara lightly, "and you don't make me sneeze."

The first time Sara kissed Sofia at work, the detective lost her toothpick.

They had been working a desert crime scene together and when they finally wrapped up, the other police officer and Warrick had already departed, leaving them alone. Sara settled her kit and evidence bags in the back of the Denali and walked to where Sofia was waiting next to the locked passenger door. Instead of opening the door, however, Sara leaned in, plucked the toothpick from her mouth, and replaced it with her own lips.

"God, I've been wanting to do that for three hours," she said when they broke apart at last. "Do you have any idea how sexy you look in those sunglasses?"

Sofia just smirked. "Why do you think I wear them around you?"

Sara's lips skimmed over her cheek as she breathed, "You're such a tease."

"You know you love it."

They kissed again, evidence and toothpick momentarily forgotten.

The first time Sara said "I love you," Sofia was asleep.

Or at least she appeared to be, blue eyes closed and breath moving softly across Sara's skin as they lay side-by-side in bed. Sara had meant it as a sort of rehearsal, before the real much-anticipated event. She really wasn't good at this 'feelings' business, although Sofia didn't seem to mind her bumbling excuses and geeky flirting. She felt the need to practice, so when the right time came those three words would roll off her tongue as if she were used to saying them, like brushing up on a foreign language she'd studied long ago. Sara didn't want it to be so obvious that talking about love scared the shit out of her, because in her experience, love was a flawed and broken thing.

Sofia was far from broken. Although she had her few flaws (including an unfortunate attachment to country music), from this close angle Sara couldn't see any of them. She gazed at the blonde's still face, barely resisting the urge to reach out a finger and trace the delicate eyebrows, the strong jaw and often-furrowed forehead. They were inches apart, close enough to share body heat in the air-conditioned room.

"Sofia," Sara whispered almost without sound. "I, um—"

It didn't quite work the first time, her tongue tripping over itself. She swallowed, breathed in Sofia's unique, comforting smell, and thought of pheromones and oxytocin and pair-bonding voles. Then she shook her head at herself. This overwhelming thing she felt, that made her heart stutter, was so much more than chemical reactions and physiological responses. She wasn't Grissom, with his neatly confined emotions and rationality, and she didn't want to be like him.

"I love you," she said before realizing she'd opened her mouth, and it was easier this time.

Nothing happened, at first. No fireworks exploded in the background, no magical light suddenly suffused the room, no cheesy music crescendoed. After a moment, though, Sofia shifted closer and threw an arm over Sara's hip, pulling her flush against her own body. She sighed contentedly, eyes still shut.

"I love you too, Sara," she mumbled into the brunette's shoulder, though loud enough to be heard. "Now will you go back to sleep?"

Sara smiled, closed her eyes. It didn't happen the way she'd planned, and felt a bit anticlimactic, but then their relationship was one of surprises from the beginning. She wouldn't have had it any other way.

The End

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