Thank You: Melindotty (I hope I got it right cuz I don't have the Masquerade's review page open right now). You were right; it didn't go away. Thanks for encouraging me to follow my little imagination faery. ("What's that?" you say. Well, it's that little, weird thingy that keeps flying around my head saying "Write this, write that... Oh, no, not that...")

Dedication: This piece is dedicated to Steve 0yervidez, who doesn't even know me. Weird, now is it? *g* Why am I dedicating this to him? Because his Cupid fanfiction (go read it if you know what's good for you) is amazing and constantly urging me to try harder and be creative. His writing inspires me. Thank you, Steven, where ever you are. I doubt that you'll ever read this but... FINISH THE SERIES!!! Okay, I'm done here...

Within the Shelter of the Night...

They had all noticed it by now. The stiffing silence that filled the corridors, wrapped around the paused air hanging above the shoulders of the people wandering along the halls. To anyone who came to the building, anyone who was oblivious to the normal behavior, the normal routine of the lab, everything seemed normal. But the people living their everyday lives in that place, marching along the hard white hallways, and doing their best to proceed the evidence that flowed by them one after the other knew better than that. They couldn't quite put their finger on it but something had changed. Something in the atmosphere, in the air that wasn't missed by anyone. Something was out of place in the CSI lab of Las Vegas Police Department, and everybody could sense it.

The silence.

The days flowed by as usual, hour after an hour, day after a day, week after a week, constantly changing and not changing at all, but still passing. But the sudden, creeping silence had moved in, accommodated the space and made its nest into the heart of the lab. It seemed to have moved in for good. No matter how hard she tried, Sara couldn't shake that thought out of her head as she now strode towards the locker rooms in one of the many corridors of the lab. No one talked about it. No one mentioned it or wondered what it was all about, so she wasn't really even sure if she was only imagining it. At that moment, though, it felt very much alive, filling the air with suffocating toxic waste of emptiness, penetrating into her lungs and her mind. She felt a sudden shiver going down her spine as she thought about it. She had to stop, she decided. Imagination, that's what it was. Nothing, she told herself, nothing has changed.

Everything was just as usual.

Then she heard it. Something that broke through the cloak of silence. A muffled sound, as if someone was speaking behind a closed door. Even though she couldn't make out the words, the tone of the voice was clear in her ears. It sounded restrained, cautious. She stopped dead on her tracks, becoming curious. She listened for awhile, trying to figure out where it was coming from. Her brow wrinkled up as she realized where the sound was coming from; Ecklie's empty office.

Slowly, she softly stepped closer to the closed door a couple of feet away from her. Without even realizing it, her body leaned forward, her ears pressed closer to the door, almost touching its cold hard surface as she tried to listen.

As if sensing that someone was listening, the voice stopped speaking. Eagerly, Sara waited for another sound, anything at all - a foot step, a grunt, a breath. But, for some time, the only audible sound bouncing from the white walls was the sound of her own breathing cutting the air.

Maybe she'd been wrong. Maybe this silence, the everlasting silence that somehow had warped around all of them, had finally got through to her, making her so desperate of any kind of human sound that she was actually starting to hear things.

She was just about to reach for the door knob and take a peek inside as the sudden, angry exclaim made her jump. Her hand was left hanging in the air half way between her side and the door. Just barely, she understood what the voice had said. There's got to be something! The voice of the man behind the closed door, even though muffled, sounded familiar in her ears but she still couldn't quite recognize it. His frustrated sound pierced through her thoughts once again before she could think about it further. This time his tone was calmer, but only barely. I don't understand this. You said...

A long silence followed his words, leaving Sara to hold her breath. The frantic, almost desperate moan she heard through the door made her lean even closer, now fully pressing her ear against it. You said it was better. She wondered who the man was. It wasn't Ecklie, she knew it. She would've recognized his voice anywhere. It was someone else. No other voices were heard, just him, so she figured he must be talking on the phone. How had he gotten in there? No, I'm sorry. It just that... No, I understand. It's not your... This all is just very... His voice trailed off, as if at a loss for words. The tone had changed again, to softer this time, quieter, and she had to pinch to hear it through the door. Yes, thank you.

Suddenly she realized how stupid she was being. How stupid she must look standing, crouching there with her ear against the brown door. Her body darted up. What was she thinking? Eavesdropping like a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl. She felt the red heat rise up her neck as she glanced around warily, cautious if someone had seen her.

Just then the door flew open.

She blinked, not noticing to move as she was set face to face with a pair of brown eyes staring at her, wide and a bit startled. His mouth opened and closed as he tried to form the words to this woman who suddenly was just... there, obviously not going to move anytime soon. "Hi," he finally managed to mouth.

That one sound snapped Sara back from confusion. "Um... Hi, Greg..." All of a sudden feeling a bit nervous and stupid, she gave a little wave with her hand, gesturing at the air around her. "I was just... passing, and I heard someone..."

Greg's eyes glanced at the half open doorway behind him. He seemed a bit embarrassed to been caught red handed. "I would appreciate if you wouldn't -- if you wouldn't mention this to Ecklie. He'd get the wrong idea and all..."

"Sure," Sara mouthed, nodding still a bit bewildered.

With that, without any further explanations, he just nodded his wordless thank you and pushed by her, leaving her standing there in the doorway. As his footsteps stopped echoing in the air, disappearing behind the corner, the hallway was wrapped with silence once more.

It took a couple of second for Sara to gather her thoughts. Her face turned to look at the now empty space at the direction of where Greg had left, only to find him long gone. Her brow was in a thoughtful furrow. And all the words that she'd heard through the door wouldn't stop ringing in her ears.


A/N: I didn't dare to read it once I'd written it, I just needed to get it done and over with, so I here it just is. Maybe a little later.... A some kind of an sequel is forming in my mind, let's see... Oh, *takes a peek at her 'Stories' folder* so many unfinished stories, so little time... Damn, I should stop doing this...