Title: A Glimpse of Something Real Author: Susan P. Feedback address: firstname.lastname@example.org Date in Calendar: 24 June 2006 Fandom: CSI Pairing: Sara/Sofia Rating: ages 13 and over Content warning: very vague references to violence against a child. Summary: After a difficult case, two weary souls manage to connect, in spite of themselves Advertisement: Written as a pinch-hit for the FemSlash Advent Calendar :: Dog Days of Summer 2006
Disclaimer: These characters belong to Jerry Bruckheimer, CBS, and I don't even know who else. This particular story is mine, and was written for fun, not for profit. So, don't sue, m'kay?
Sofia Curtis hesitated outside the locker room, hand hovering over the door handle a moment before gripping it firmly and pulling.
Sara Sidle was there, as Sofia knew she would be. As she had been for the past fifteen minutes, since Sofia had delivered the news about the Shipman case. It had started out as a kidnapping. They had found the boy, but not in time. She'd processed the scene along with Sara, among others. She'd seen the toll the case had taken on the CSI. It was clear in her eyes.
The case had been hard on Sofia, as well. She'd been part of the team that had taken Martin Shipman into custody. She had almost wished that he'd fought harder, given them--her--a reason to repay him for a fraction of the pain and suffering he'd meted out on his son.
It was almost noon, well past the end of her shift, and of Sara's. She should be home now, not hanging around the lab obsessing over a case that was, for the most part, over. Not obsessing over someone who was clearly going out of her way to avoid human contact, rather than seek it out.
And yet, here she was, five feet away from the alluring and elusive Sara Sidle, seeking some sense of connection, needing it more than she wanted to admit.
Sara showed no signs of having heard her; she just sat there on the bench, staring at her hands. Sofia stepped around the bench and walked over to Sara's side, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Sara."
The brunette flinched away from her as though struck, clearly startled. She tried to cover it by standing up and stammering, "um, yeah?"
Sofia tried to hide how hurt she was by the implied rejection. "Your shift's over?" she phrased it as a question even though she knew the answer.
Monosyllabic was only marginally better than unresponsive, so Sofia decided to proceed cautiously.
"You should go home."
"Yeah. I should."
The total lack of enthusiasm in Sara's response encouraged Sofia to pursue her original goal.
"Or...maybe you'd like to get a cup of coffee, or a stiff drink. We could talk, if you wanted?"
She was sure she didn't imagine the look of panic in Sara's eyes, but it was gone in a moment as the brunette struggled to adopt a neutral expression.
"Um, I should probably get some sleep. Some other time?"
"Sure." Sofia tried to hide her disappointment, and would have turned away then, if only to avoid the effort. She didn't have Sara's gift for pretense, and she was too damned tired to push all her emotions behind a mask and pretend to be fine. If it weren't absolutely clear to her that that was exactly what Sara was doing, she might've given up. As it was, she couldn't walk away without making one last attempt.
"Sara. You did all you could. We all did." She reached out to touch Sara's arm, only to be left hanging as Sara shied away from her, again.
Sofia dropped her hand and turned away quickly, knowing it was the only way she could hide her reaction to yet another rejection.
"Did it ever occur to you that you aren't the only one who's been affected by this case? That I might..." Sofia stopped short. She was tired. Tired of having to hold back in the face of Sara's reticence. Tired of all the pretense, and all the masks. Tired of trying to tiptoe around boundaries she barely understood and often couldn't see until she tripped over them.
She wondered what it would take to be able to share one honest moment with Sara. But more than anything else just then, she wanted to provoke some reaction--any reaction--in the other woman. She turned around to face Sara again and moved toward her, saying nothing, just staring into brown eyes, hoping to catch a glimpse of something real.
Once she was well within Sara's personal space, the brunette took a step back. It was a predictable reaction, but one that just fueled Sofia's determination. For every step backward Sara took, Sofia advanced one, until Sara eventually backed herself into the wall. Sofia stopped then, with barely a breath between them, but not touching. Sofia knew instinctively that it was a line she couldn't cross under the circumstances, but she was close enough to hear Sara's shallow breaths, to watch her pupils dilate, and to be certain that she had Sara's undivided attention, if only for that moment.
It might not have been the best she could've hoped for from the brunette, but it was something.
"I'm curious, Sara. If it hadn't been for this," she placed her hand on the wall the to right of Sara's head, "would you just have kept backing away from me indefinitely?" She didn't wait for an answer, knowing none would be forthcoming. "Can you imagine a scenario where you might actually move toward me, instead of away from me? If so..." Sofia took a step back then, while she still could. She pulled out one of her cards, and a pen to write her home number on the back. After doing so, she carefully slipped the card into the pocket of Sara's shirt, before turning to leave.
In spite of her weariness and frustration, Sofia couldn't quite suppress her concern for the other woman. So, when she reached the door, she stopped a moment to add, "Go home, Sara. Try to get some rest."
Not knowing what else to say or do, Sofia pulled the door open and walked out.
Feet pounding the pavement, lungs burning, sweat trickling down her forehead and the back of her neck, Sofia rounded the corner that would take her to her apartment. She'd run a little farther, pushed a little harder than usual, trying to exorcise the demons. She cut across the parking lot to get to her unit. Focusing on her steps, she didn't notice the familiar face sitting at the top of the stairs until she was in the middle of stretching.
"Sara?" She looked up to see the brunette smirking at her.
"It's 'some other time,'" the brunette shrugged.
Sofia tried to control her breathing so as not to seem as winded as she was when she replied, "Yes, it is. How did you--"
Sara flashed Sofia's business card and smirked, "Trained..."
"Investigator," Sofia finished for her. "Of course." Simple enough to track down an address from a phone number, after all.
Sofia continued with her stretches, not only because her muscles needed it after the workout, but also because she needed the time to collect herself before having to deal with Sara. Exhausted and sweaty wasn't quite the picture she would have liked to present the next time she saw her favorite CSI, but it seemed to be the one she was stuck with. The least she could do was take a moment or two to catch her breath.
As Sofia started to climb the stairs leading to her door, Sara stood and held up a six-pack in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other.
"I, uh, wasn't sure of your preference," Sara shrugged.
Sofia smiled. "Just this moment? Water." She slipped past Sara and unlocked her door. "Come in."
She walked through the apartment into her kitchen, trusting Sara would follow. She made herself a glass of ice water and all but drained it in several swallows. She looked back to see Sara staring at her, then pointed to a nearby cabinet. "Glasses are in there, if you need one."
She walked back into the living room, Sara following. "Stereo's over there, along with the CD collection. TV's there. Feel free to take a look around. Make yourself at home." She indicated her sweaty clothes, saying, "I just need to shower. I'll make it quick."
Sara smiled back at her. "Take your time. I can wait."
This was a different Sara than the one she'd left a few hours before, and Sofia wasn't quite sure what to make of it. First things first, however: she'd have to figure it out after her shower.
After a quick, cold shower, Sofia put on a tank top and a pair of shorts, covered up by the oversized shirt she usually slept in. She ran a comb through her wet hair, and padded barefoot into her front room to find Sara lounging on her couch, an open beer in front of her on the coffee table, and one of Sofia's favorite CDs playing softly in the background.
She'd told Sara to make herself at home, and damned if the CSI didn't look as if she were. Sofia allowed herself a scant moment to indulge in the fantasy of Sara Sidle becoming a fixture in her apartment--in her life--before reminding herself that she had little clue as to Sara's intentions, and that it was far too soon to jump to any conclusions.
Sara just studied her silently, and she allowed the inspection a moment before walking into the kitchen to grab a beer for herself. When she reemerged, she was a little disconcerted to find Sara's eyes trained on her once again. She took a drink to try and cover her reaction as she made her way over to the couch.
It was Sara who broke the silence. "Did it help?"
"The shower?" Sofia asked as she joined Sara on the couch, at a respectable distance.
"Ah." Right to it, then. She ran a hand through her hair and turned to face the brunette, drawing one leg up in front of her, unconsciously mirroring Sara's position. "Not as much as I would've liked."
Sara nodded and took a swallow of her beer. "I couldn't sleep, either. Kept seeing Ronnie Shipman's body and all the evidence of what that bastard did to him in my head."
Sofia stifled the urge to reach out to Sara, not willing to risk yet another rejection.
"Hearing he'd been caught, knowing the evidence against him is solid, just isn't enough, somehow."
Sofia nodded, confessing, "I wanted to hurt him. I wanted Shipman to give me an excuse to hurt him. What does that make me?"
"Human." Sara's eyes shone with empathy. She didn't have to say she'd been there, it was clear in the depths of those brown eyes.
"Domestic cases have always been hard for me. I've never been able to understand how anyone could deliberately do such damage to someone they claim to love."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It wasn't an accusation, Sofia," Sara smiled softly. "It's good that you don't understand it. That you can't explain or justify it."
Sofia sensed that there was more and waited to see whether Sara would continue.
After a moment, she did. "The abusers? I'll never be able to understand what drives them. How they can do what they do. But those that fight back...eventually...when they can't take it any more?" Sara's eyes slid away from hers, then. "Even if it doesn't make it right. Even if I can't quite forgive...them. I can understand it."
The way she'd said it, and what she hadn't said, made it clear that there was far more to Sara's story than she could've guessed.
Sara's eyes found hers again, saw the unasked questions there and dipped her head slightly. "It's…a long story."
"You don't have to tell me anything, Sara," Sofia assured her, "but you can. If and when you're ready."
They sat in silence a few moments, absently sipping their beers. Sofia found the silence was neither strained, nor uncomfortable, and was again struck by how different this encounter was from their earlier one.
She was startled out of her thoughts by the feel of Sara's fingertips on her left hand, and her eyes were immediately drawn to the sight of Sara's fingers entwining with hers, of Sara's palm sliding into place against her own. She continued staring for what she was sure was far too long, as though the visual were necessary to confirm the accompanying physical sensations of Sara's warm, soft skin against hers.
"Sorry?" Sofia blurted, a wealth of questions in that one word. She looked up into Sara's steady gaze, certain she'd missed something. Or several somethings, she thought as she stole another quick glance at their joined hands.
"For the way I behaved earlier. It wasn't that I didn't..." Sara shrugged. "It's just that… Sometimes compassion and understanding are the last things you want."
"And sometimes they're the first?" Sofia asked, not entirely sure she understood.
"So what changed? Between now and then, I mean."
"It wasn't just the Shipman case that got into my head."
Sara sighed, looking almost shy, for a moment. "Your face."
Sofia's breath caught, and she almost missed Sara's next words.
"The way you looked at me in the locker room. Your concern, your need," she grinned a moment, "your frustration," then turned serious again, "your..."
"Desire," Sofia supplied the word she suspected Sara was holding back. If Sara had read all that in her eyes, she wasn't fool enough to believe she'd managed to conceal that particular detail.
"Yeah." Sara's husky whisper sent a shiver through Sofia, but the brunette continued as though she hadn't noticed. "I couldn't give in to any of it then, because I was too close to falling apart and I...I didn't want permission. Not then. Not there."
Sofia noticed again the bloodshot eyes she'd attributed to Sara's exhaustion and wondered for the first time whether Sara hadn't allowed herself some emotional release after all.
"Anyway," Sara continued somewhat awkwardly, "I kept coming back to you and me. I...felt the pull between us. Have felt it. It's part of why I tried so hard to avoid it. I have a special talent for avoidance. It's what I do. You might've noticed," Sara chuckled nervously.
Sofia grinned slightly, "Yeah."
Sara sighed and ran a hand through her hair. "But I'm tired, too, you know. Tired of my own crap. Tired of having nothing in my life but work. Tired of working myself to exhaustion over cases like this that break my heart. And...when I was lying in bed, staring at the ceiling... I just kept wondering if maybe we could..."
Sara stopped and looked away a moment, seemingly embarrassed.
Sofia took a chance and prompted, "What, Sara?"
Sara took a long swallow from her bottle before turning to look at her again. "Help each other...sleep."
"Sleep?" Sofia asked reflexively, afraid to make any assumptions about what Sara was suggesting, and making quite a few in spite of herself.
"Sleep," Sara declared, grinning slightly at the look of disappointment Sofia couldn't quite hide. "I'm exhausted," Sara continued, "You must be, too. So...we should sleep."
"Sleep. Okay. So, what do you..."
Sara put her beer on the coffee table, and then did the same with Sofia's before standing up.
"...have in mind?" Sofia finished slowly, looking at their still-joined hands. One small tug from Sara and she rose from the couch.
"Bedroom?" Sofia stammered, again thrown off-balance. "Oh, now?"
"Yeah," Sara grinned, clearly enjoying her discomfort.
"Okay," Sofia tugged gently on Sara's hand and headed toward the bedroom, trying to appear less rattled than she was.
A straightforward seduction she could have dealt with, or so she believed. A sexual overture might've been more understandable given the emotional stress they'd both been struggling with--even coming out of the blue like this. Sofia felt like they were skipping more than a few steps, especially considering how distant Sara had been that morning, and she wasn't nearly as confident as Sara seemed to be in making the leap.
Sara might not be offering sexual intimacy, but it was clear she meant for them to do more than simply share a bed. Sadly, it might almost be easier to give in to the physical cravings, even if she wanted more from the relationship in the long run. Not to mention the fact that it would be difficult, at best, to be so close to Sara and not give in to said cravings.
Whatever doubts Sofia might have, however, Sara was here: asking for something she could give, offering her something she wanted. It was a gift. One she couldn't afford to throw away.
Still, when they entered her bedroom, the butterflies returned full-force.
"So, can I, um, get you something to sleep in?"
Sara shook her head and started unbuttoning her shirt, revealing the tank top underneath. "I can manage. But I don't suppose you have an extra toothbrush lying around?"
When Sara's hands moved to the zipper on her jeans, Sofia immediately averted her eyes and moved to turn down the bed.
"Actually, yes," Sofia was surprised at how seemingly normal her voice sounded. "Bathroom, second drawer."
"Thanks," Sara chuckled. "And, Sofia? We're talking boxer briefs, not a thong."
Sofia ducked her head slightly in embarrassment, but couldn't quite resist glancing over her shoulder to confirm that as Sara walked into the bathroom.
Once the brunette was out of sight, Sofia turned and sat down heavily on the side of the bed, trying to regain some sense of control over her reactions.
Sara reappeared in a couple minutes, saying, "Your turn."
Sofia rose and took a couple of steps, only to stop short when Sara stepped in front of her. Her breath caught as Sara reached out to undo the buttons of her shirt before pushing it gently over her shoulders and down her arms. She stood frozen as she felt the material slide down to the floor and she watched Sara's eyes travel down to her breasts, noting the telltale signs of her arousal.
She crossed her arms over her chest then. "You're enjoying this," she accused Sara, "Provoking me."
Sara grinned. "A little. I'm not used to seeing you so off-balance. It's kind of cute."
"Cute?" She felt vaguely insulted.
"Besides," Sara continued, "I kinda like knowing that I can provoke you."
Sofia rolled her eyes. It looked like it might be a long afternoon. She made no other reply, just slipped past Sara and into the bathroom to prepare for bed.
When she returned, Sara was perched on the side of the bed waiting for her.
"Which side do you usually sleep on?"
"I, uh, generally wind up somewhere in the middle." She'd found it made the bed seem less empty.
"Okay." Sara turned and crawled to sit in the middle of the bed, sliding her legs under the covers. Waiting.
Sofia took a deep breath and slid in beside Sara. She glanced over at her companion. "Do you honestly expect me to be able to sleep with you here, like this?"
Sara smiled softly. "Uh-huh. I expect us both to sleep."
Sofia sighed. "Okay. How do you…"
"Just lie down. On your left side, if that'll be comfortable."
Sofia did as requested and sighed when she felt Sara curl up behind her, fitting their bodies together. She had just started to relax into the feel of Sara's warm breath against her neck when the brunette rose up slightly.
"Hey, are you on tonight? Do you need to set the alarm?"
Sofia shook her head. "Not tonight. You?"
"Grissom left me a voice mail all but ordering me to take a personal day."
Sofia laughed, "And you're not going to go in anyway?"
She could feel Sara's answering smile, even if she couldn't see it.
"Not this time."
Sofia struggled to twist around so that she could see Sara's face, and the brunette moved to lean over her until their eyes met.
"Why, Sara Sidle, you are just full of surprises today!"
"Today," Sara sighed. "I'm not saying I'll make this easy on you."
"Thanks for the warning." Sofia smiled, trying to put Sara at ease.
"Just…try to be patient with me, okay?"
"You sure you're worth it?" Sofia teased, hoping to lighten the mood.
"I'm not, actually," Sara responded seriously. "I've been alone…a while."
"Well, then," Sofia reached up to cup Sara's cheek, "I'll be sure to let you know how you're doing as we go along."
Sara just nodded slightly and nuzzled into her palm.
"Now, we're supposed to be sleeping, right? So, no more analysis or worrying about things that haven't happened yet until after you've gotten some rest. Okay?"
Sara smiled down at her. "Okay."
Sofia reluctantly withdrew her hand and the two settled back into their original positions. Sara slid an arm around Sofia's waist to pull their bodies even closer together.
"This is nice," Sara murmured contentedly, already sounding sleepy.
"Yes. It is." Sofia didn't know which version of Sara she would awake next to, or what the future might hold for them, but she knew one thing: this felt right. More right than anything had in a long time.
It only took a few minutes for Sara's breath to settle into the slow and even rhythms of sleep, and Sofia lay wrapped in her embrace, still wide awake. Yet it wasn't awkward, as she had feared it would be. Having Sara's warmth wrapped around her was soothing, and comfortable, and she almost wanted to stay awake so she could savor the sensations.
But, eventually, the sense of peace she'd found in Sara's arms allowed her exhaustion to catch up with her, and she was lulled into sleep by the rhythm of Sara's breathing.