Author's Note. CSI, Sara, Sofia, Catherine and all the other characters named in this story are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS. I’m borrowing them for this fanfic but I promise to return them when I’ve finished playing. This is for fun and not for profit.
Sofia was exhausted, both physically and emotionally. It had been an incredibly, tense, fear-filled, stressful and frustrating day. Until just now that is; until they had found Sara. Sofia leant against the car immeasurably glad that it had been she who had found her. Well, she and Nick, anyway. She watched while the medics loaded Sara into the helicopter and then felt her exhaustion mingle with depression as Grissom followed them inside.
"She'll never be yours you know."
Sofia forced herself not to show any reaction as she turned to face the speaker. "Catherine," she acknowledged, "I'm not sure I know what..."
"Don't," Catherine interrupted her. "Don't pretend. I've been where you are and I know what it looks like. You might fool the others but you can't fool me."
"I'm sorry I don't under... wait, what do you mean, you've been here?"
"You're the detective. You figure it out"
"Are you telling me you and Sara...?"
"No. Not that."
"Long and complicated story. Come on, I'll drive you back to Vegas, you can sign out and I'll buy you a coffee and tell you all about it."
Catherine sat in the break room, idly flicking through the pages of a magazine as she waited for Sofia.
"Ready?" Sofia was leaning against the door-jamb, chewing on a toothpick.
Catherine looked up and felt her pulse race instantly. "You're doing it again. I'll swear you do it on purpose."
"Huh?" Sofia looked baffled. "Doing what?"
"Never mind. Let's go. I'm hungry. Could you eat? I'll buy."
Sofia pushed herself upright. "Sure. After you ma'am." She smiled and gave a half-bow as she gestured for Catherine to lead the way.
"Thank you," Catherine said as the waitress placed a plate in front of her.. She could almost feel her arteries hardening just looking at it. There wasn't a thing on it that hadn't been deep-fried until it begged for mercy, and then deep-fried some more. Briefly she contemplated adding salt and ketchup but decided not to add the risk of high blood-pressure and adult-acquired diabetes to the coronary that was an almost certain consequence of this meal. She glanced across the table at Sofia who had apparently decided to embrace the danger and was wielding the ketchup bottle with vigour.
Sofia became aware of Catherine's gaze. "What?"
Catherine raised one eyebrow, nodding in the direction of the ketchup which smothered the contents of the plate. Sofia shrugged and looked slightly sheepish. "I like ketchup."
Oh God, she's adorable. "So I see."
"So, about Sara."
"No, eat first. Talk after."
Their plates were pushed aside, the waitress had freshened their coffee, Sofia leant back and waited.
"She flirts. She can't help it. Most of the time she doesn't even know she's doing it. She flirts with Nick. She flirts with poor Gregg, who would love it to be serious. She flirts with me, when she's not screaming at me. And I expect she flirts with you."
"Yes," Sofia replied, although she didn't think Catherine needed her confirmation.
"I resented her when she first arrived. She was interfering in my case. I wasn't really nasty to her but I wasn't exactly welcoming. She pretty much ignored that though and worked with me. And she flirted. I flirted back. She seemed pretty light-hearted in those days, a lot like she is now. We became friends, getting along pretty good, you know. She teased, we joked, and she flirted. I really liked her. And it got to the stage where I wanted her enough to risk making a move."
Sofia interrupted her. "Wait. What? But you're... you were married, you had boyfriends..."
Catherine sighed. "Not you too. Dragons, leprechauns, pixies, bisexuals, one of these things is not like the others. One of these is not a myth. You've lived in Vegas all this time, you've met dozens of dancers, strippers and showgirls, you know how many of them swing both ways. And you still don't realise bisexuals exist?" She took a swig of her coffee.
Sofia had the grace to look embarrassed. "Sorry, I didn't mean to offend you. I wasn't thinking straight."
Catherine tried to laugh and swallow at the same time; the results were not good. She spent a painful few moments spluttering and coughing.
"You ok? Do you need a glass of water or something?" Sofia glanced around to see if she could spot their waitress.
"I'm fine, thanks. That was your fault."
"Huh? My fault? How did I make you to choke?" Sofia looked bewildered.
"You can't choke on a liquid, but it was totally your fault. You said you weren't thinking straight."
"Oh." Sofia grinned. "You know what I mean."
Catherine returned the grin. “Well, where was I? Yeah, we were getting along better. She'd been through that thing with the douche-bag who was cheating on his girlfriend with her, we went for a drink afterwards and got on well.
“We became pretty reasonable friends. Hung out after work a few times, went for breakfast, that kind of thing. And she flirted. And I fell for her. Not all the way, but far enough to ask her out. So I asked her to a movie. And she said 'why not?'.”
Catherine paused and took a sip of her, now cold, coffee. “The way she said it made me think she didn't get it, you know? So I made it clearer, I wasn't asking a friend to join me, I was asking for a date. The penny dropped. It wasn't pretty.”
Sara's expression froze, caught between embarrassment and horror. She took two steps backwards. “Catherine, I... I'm not...I'm str...I'm not like that. I'm flattered but not interested. I'm really sorry. I'm straight, always. I'm in love with Grissom. I always have been. I'm sorry.” And she turned and fled.
Catherine waved to their waitress, requesting more coffee. “Sara came to me later and apologised for her reaction. She said that she was ashamed of herself, that it had been a shock, that she was usually more understanding that that. I told her it was all right, but it wasn't. My feelings were hurt, and I turned into a total bitch to her. I sided with Ecklie against her, almost got her fired.” She shook her head sadly. “It took a long time to mend those fences. We didn't really begin to start to fix our friendship until Nicky was kidnapped. She got much happier after that, more relaxed. Of course we both know why that is.”
Sofia closed her eyes and slumped in her seat. She didn't want Catherine seeing the pain she knew would be visible there. Pointless. It would be written in every line of her face. She was broken and she knew it showed. “You're over her, right? How did you do it?”
“I fell for somebody else. Only this time I fell all the way.”
Sofia sat up and opened her eyes. “You did? Who?”
Catherine smiled wryly. “Are you sure you're a detective?”
“What? Oh. Oh! Me? Wow. Um. Catherine, you know how I feel about Sara, I can't offer you anything.”
“I know. But give me a chance, hey? Hang out, go to the movies, dinner, a drink. No pressure, no expectations.”
“Just hang out, huh? I can't make any promises. You're probably wasting your time waiting for more. But sure, why not, I could use a friend even if I can't be anything else.”
“It's my time to waste, I can wait. You're worth it.”
Sofia blushed and looked bashful causing a rush of emotion that Catherine struggled to contain. She loved the contrast between Sofia, the tough cop, wielding a shotgun and kicking down doors, and Sofia, the suddenly hesitant and vulnerable woman. She hoped she'd be able to keep to the “no expectations” rule.
“So – movies with me on Friday?” Catherine signalled for the tab.
“Sure. You choose.”
“Well, that was ...different.” Catherine slipped off her jacket as they walked from the air-conditioned theatre into the heat of the late afternoon.
“It sure was. I think bewildering is the best description I can come up with unless I drop the f-bomb.” Sofia grinned.
“Good choice. And what was that bit with the eyeball. And the razor blade. I thought I was back at work for a minute.”
“You tell me – you picked it. Next time let me choose, huh, I surely couldn't do worse.”
“Next time, hey? You got yourself a deal.” Catherine grinned. “Wanna grab a coffee. “ Slowly, she thought, take it nice and slow .
They stepped into the cool of the night, both temporarily stunned into silence. Finally Catherine too a deep breath. “And you complained about my choice?”
“Shit, I'm sorry, I had no idea it was that type of movie. The name didn't say so. It sounded like a western. I like westerns”
“Why does that not surprise me?”
“And what the hell was that woman doing with that snake?”
Catherine laughed. “Honey, if you don't know that by now then I'm not sure you're old enough to see one of those movies!”
“Oh God.” Sofia covered her face and peeked through her fingers. “You won't tell the guys, will you. Please.”
“What? That you took me to see a porno or that you couldn't work out the snake?” Catherine laughed again.
“Yes. Either. Both.”
“Don't worry, your secrets are safe with me.”
“Thank you.” Sofia gave an exaggerated sigh of relief. “Hey, the night's still young, you feel like going for a beer?”
Sofia studied the label she was steadily peeling from the bottle. “And that's when he told me, in that totally blunt way he does, 'Sofia, why are you in CSI? Deep in your bones you're a cop, you know it. Go tell your mother she's damned wrong. Be who you are.' So I took his advice. Left CSI and re-qualified for the force. He was right, of course.”
“He's a good man. We've had our differences, but he's a good friend to have. When he got shot, I think the whole shift was praying for him. He's always come through for us when it counted. Hell, sometimes I think he's even more of a friend than Gil, and Gil's a damned good friend. And yeah, he was right – you're a much better cop than you were a CSI and you were a pretty good CSI.”
Catherine waited for a couple of seconds and was rewarded with the bashful shrug she'd come to expect, and treasure, the look of pleased but embarrassed vulnerability that Sofia-the-cop still never gave a hint of.
“Want another? You need a new label to shred, that one's done.”
Sofia nodded. “My turn though. Same again?”
“Please.” Catherine turned slightly to enjoy the view as Sofia walked to the bar, those tight black pants were a delight to behold. Slowly, she mentally chastised herself. You're taking it slowly. “Damn, slowly sucks”, she muttered.
Brass looked up and whistled. “Looking good, Cath. Got a date?”
“Not really, Jim. Just a girls' movie night.”
“Uh-huh. Yeah. Sure it is.”
“Jim, if I could bottle that tone I could open my own branch of 'Sceptics R Us'.”
“I know you, Cath, remember.”
“So you do. But in this instance, no, not a date. It takes two people to make it a date, doesn't it.”
“Right. Sorry, Cath, he doesn't know what he's missing.”
“Ah, you're here. Give me two minutes to sign out and I'll be ready. Nice outfit, Catherine.” Sofia ducked back out of the doorway and disappeared down the corridor.
“Told you. Girls' movie night. See you, Jim.”
Brass waved without speaking. Only when Catherine had vanished from sight did he whistle again. “Yeah, sure it is. Uh-huh.”
Sofia leant back against the windscreen of Catherine's car. At least the engine had warmed up the hood. “Ok, so, you want to tell me why we're out here freezing our buns off, in the pitch black, in the desert, instead of in a nice, warm theatre, on our only night off for a month?”
“Wimp. It's only a little cold. Here.” She handed Sofia a Thermos.
“Thank you for that explanation, Einstein.” Sofia grinned. “What's inside the Thermos?”
“Well if you open it you'll find out. Actually it's hot soup, I thought you might need some.”
“That's very thoughtful, Catherine. Thank you. To get back to my original question, why are we here.”
“There. That's why.” Catherine pointed skywards. The sky was suddenly a mass of blazing trails. “The Perseids.”
They were both silent as they watched the meteor shower, remaining motionless of the car. Shortly before dawn it petered out.
“That was fantastic, thanks Cath. I've never seen such a mass of shooting stars before. Truly amazing.”
“No moon tonight, so it's a good time to see them at their best. Did you make a wish?”
“No,” Sofia sounded slightly regretful. “I didn't think to. Did you?”
“Not telling. Won't come true if I do.”
“What are you? Twelve?”
“What can I say? You make me feel young.” There it was, the hoped-for blush.
“You do that on purpose, just to make me blush, don't you?”
“Ah, caught out. No, actually I say those things because they're true, the blush is just a bonus.” Catherine grinned and held out a hand to steady Sofia as she rolled off the car. “Let's get you home or you'll get no sleep and then you'll be dead on your feet tonight.”
“Curtis, my office.”
“Sit.” Brass pointed to a chair and waited while Sofia sat. “Sofia, we have a hostage situation. I wanted you to hear this from me directly. Uniforms cleared a murder site in a motel just outside the city limits. Said there was no sign of the killer. CSI went in...” Sofia swallowed, she wasn't sure she wanted to hear the rest, she had a bad feeling about this. Brass continued, “They were wrong. The perp is still on site. We have two CSIs being held hostage. One is down, we don't know how bad.”
“Sofia - the two CSIs are Ronnie and Cath. We don't know which has been shot.”
“Sof, I'm sorry.”
“Jim, why are you...”
“I'm a detective, I'm a damned good one. Do you think I don't see how it is with my officers? I'm glad you finally got over your crush on Sidle. And if it was any other day I'd be telling you how damned lucky you are and warning you not to hurt her, but instead I'm saying hang in there, kid. We''ll get her back safe.”
“I'm not... I didn't... shit. I am. Jim, I need to be there.”
“Figured you would, come on, you're riding with me.
Crouching behind the squad car, Sofia thought she'd never felt so hopeless, not even when Sara had been kidnapped last year. At least then she'd been able to do something. Now she could only wait and worry.
Brass shuffled up beside her. “Teams are in position. Team A will fire smoke grenades, Team B will go in through the back, Team C will knock in the front door. You will stay with me. We follow Team C. And put your vest on. You hear me, Curtis?”
“Sofia, she'll be ok, she's tough. And if she's awake and can talk then she'll be talking to him. She's good with people. By the time we get there he'll be telling her his life story, crying and calling her 'mom'. You know she's calm in a crisis. Did she ever tell you about the case with the finger?”
“No, but you did. I hear you. I'm good.”
Brass lifted his radio. On three guys. One, Two, Three go.”
There was a series of dull thuds as the grenades exploded, smoke billowed from the broken windows. Sofia was on her feet and running even as the door went in.
“Curtis, wait damn you!”
She stopped, Brass caught up to her. “Don't ever fucking do that again. Get your damned vest on, now!” He held it out. She obeyed, shocked at her own behaviour. She tried to say something, to apologise, he waved it away. “It's all right. I understand. But I don't want to face Cath if I'm the one responsible for letting you get killed.” Sofia nodded. They turned and followed Team C into the building.
It was the usual chaos inside. Smoke. Shouting. Voices crying, “Clear,” as each room was searched and found empty. And then a single shot from an upstairs room.
Team B could be heard breaking another door down. Then the team's sergeant on the radio. “Perp's dead. Ate his gun. Need an ambulance, one CSI down, gunshot wound, unconscious, not looking good. Second CSI bound and gagged but appears unharmed.”
Sofia felt time slow, she was positive her heart had stopped beating. She began to climb the stairs, which suddenly seemed to stretch upwards for miles. She cleared the door and looked at the huddled form of the injured CSI.
Time sped up and her heart started again. It was Ronnie. She looked across the room to where Catherine, now freed from the duck-tape was being helped to her feet. Sofia had always thought that 'stung with unshed tears' was a stupid cliché, for the first time in her life she knew how it felt.
She walked towards Catherine. “Hey there. I am so fucking glad to see you.”
“Me too, you. How's Ronnie?”
“Not good. Paramedics are here. She'll be ok, Cath. Come on, we need to get you checked out too.”
“Yes. Sofia please, I'm only bruised. I'm fine, truly.”
Sofia hovered anxiously. “Are you sure.” She'd brought Catherine home from the hospital and settled her comfortably on the sofa. She'd fetched a glass of juice, and some advil, and now she was shifting restlessly, worried in case she'd forgotten something.
“I'm fine. Please. Sit. You're making me nervous”.
“Sorry.” Sofia sat, abruptly.
Catherine smiled in spite of her aches.
“They think Ronnie will be ok. Grissom said she'll be out for a couple of months, but that she should make a good recovery. Medics got to her in plenty of time. She wasn't as bad as the first cop on scene thought.“ Sofia was pleased to see that Cath relaxed as she finished.
“Thank God for that.”
“Yeah. And thank God for more than that.” She paused. “Probably not a good time but...”
“You can quit waiting.”
“What?” Cath was baffled.
“You don't have to waste any more time.”
“What? Are you saying you don't want to go... wait... are you saying you do want to...”
“Shut up and kiss me.”