DISCLAIMER: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and other related entities are owned, trademarked, and copyrighted by Anthony E. Zuiker, Jerry Bruckheimer Television, CBS Worldwide Inc., Alliance Atlantis Corporation, CSI Productions and CBS Productions. This is fanfiction and is written purely for the fun and enjoyment of the fans without profits being made what so ever.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This idea came after watching "You've Got Male" and the phone call Sara made asking the other person on the other end of the line if they wanted to do something. I came up with the someone. I also thought of the hell Catherine was going through in "Outside the Box" about what a lousy way it was to find out Sam Braun was her father.
SPOILERS: Season Two, most specifically "You've Got Male"
THANKS: many, many thanks to Lewis for being my beta.
ARCHIVE: Only with the permission of the author.

6 Degrees
By Elizabeth Carter

Chapter 27

Janet Sullivan was registered for a twenty-four hour stay in the hospital for observation and for emergency malnutrition care. Knowing just how intimidating hospitals could be at such a young age, Sara would not be moved from the girl's room. Rothery agreed: another day in her care could only benefit the very stubborn woman on the road to recovery.

Already on her way to pick Sara up, it came of no surprise the call to process a victim and Desert Palms was rerouted to her. Granted she was off shift but the blonde CSI made an exception. She always did when it came to children. Grissom had told her over the phone, that she had a special interest in this child. Brass had confirmed that he had SVU rescue little Janet. Despite Lindsey's connection to the child, Grissom wanted his 2IC on the case. Catherine couldn't have been more grateful that she had been called on the case. It meant that Janet was going to be safe.

Catherine arrived at the hospital loaded with a kit ready for special processing. Giving her name at the station she was greeted by Connie Bellevue from Child Social Services. Children evacuated from hostile situations were often delivered to Sunview, until they could find a foster home. It took anywhere from hours to days to even a month or two before an appropriate home could be found. Connie Bellevue, was often responsible for overseeing such evacuations.

"Ms. Willows," the social worker greeted the blonde CSI. "Can I assume you have the Sullivan case?"

"Sullivan case?" Catherine frowned at the impersonal manner in which Bellevue referred to Janet. But then again, Catherine had done so on many occasion, it was simple professional handling. But if felt different when it was close to you.

"Yeah. I am. If you're here so are you."

The woman nodded. "I already have her papers signed, to remand her to her foster caretaker once she's released from hospital care."

Catherine pulled back her emotions. Her almost argumentative side for Bellevue to hold off on any commitment because she knew Sara had wanted to take the child. To save Janet. Sidle had an almost voracious need to be Janet's savior. The investigator in Willows could almost guess why. Sara was viciously abused as a child, so much so it affected everything within her life. Everything she did, everything she touched, Sara was influenced by the past.

"Who?" Catherine demanded in a stronger voice than she had intended.

"I can't relay that information." Bellevue answered, her voice almost dismissive, "I am sure that wont keep you from finding out but I assure you the girl will be safe and in the best possible care."

Catherine snorted, ' the best possible care... yeah lose the girl in the system and shuffle her around. Still, better enrolled in Sunview than where she was.' Catherine shed her thoughts as her hand rose to rap upon the door opening to semi-private examining room. Somehow it didn't surprise the blonde woman to find Sara inside the child's room. The brunette would be there instantly upon hearing Janet was brought in. The tiny doctor stood by, a silent testament to the reason Sara was there, no doubt Rothery had told Sara of Janet's arrival.

"Hi, Ms. Willows." Janet smiled waving from her partially hidden view behind Sara's lanky body.

Catherine revealed her best possible friendly smile. One reserved for lost children. It was a smile that brought comfort to the fearful and downhearted. It was a smile that encouraged Sara, many a time though the blonde was ignorant of the fact, of the power she held over the younger woman.

"Hey girl," Catherine winked. "You doing okay?"

"Sara is here." Janet squeezed the 'spider slayer's' hand. "Officer Munoz got me out of the 'bad' room. It was stuffy and dark in the 'bad' room. Scary. But Sara is here, she's very brave. 'Member? Lindsey said Sara slew Shelob the great big spider in the Bug-Man's office."

Catherine smirked knowing her child's tendency to exaggerate a little. Obviously Sara's foray into Grissom's office to retrieve a bouncy ball from the tarantula's tank had escalated into a full scale epic battle. Hero versus monster. "Is that so?" Catherine had edged her way to the girl's bedside.

"Oh yes." Janet clung to Sara's bravery, as if it would prove to shield her from the anger of Cheryl's wrath. If Sara could do battle with a giant spider then Cheryl was no match. No match at all.

"Sara's like that, taking on the big bad." Catherine was only half teasing. It was enough however to make Sara hang her head, slightly overcome by the great hero worship directed her way. "Sweety, to make sure everything is okay, Dr. Rothery and myself have to examine you. Okay?"

"Sara took pictures of my muscles and Dr. Rothery told a nurse to take pictures of my skeleton, its very neat stuff."

"I was here at the time, Catherine. I did recuse myself from the case. I tagged and bagged the film. I didn't process anything more."

The blonde nodded. "Okay. Sara...um...since you're not on the case I'm sorry but you have to leave."

"No!" Janet grasped Sara's hip tightly, unconsciously touching the tender ribs. The brunette bit back a strangled cry of pain. "Don't go!"

Sara looked to the blonde pleadingly as to how she could deal with the situation. Catherine shrugged, she was never comfortable leaving Lindsey when her daughter begged for her to stay. "Sweety, Catherine has to gather evidence okay, and because I want to help take care of you, I can't be here right now." Sara leaned in touching the child's cheek. "I promise I'll be right outside that door. I'll come back as soon as Catherine gives the okay."

"Will you come if I call you?" Large brown eyes locked on to an older set of ebony orbs.

Sara crossed her heart. "Absolutely."

Chewing the inside of her cheek, the child gave a long decisive look to her best friend's mother before she nodded, giving her consent. "Okay."

Catherine set her kit on the counter near the bed, and opened it to take out a small plastic pick used to clean under the fingernails to gather transfer evidence. Sara walked by placing a hand on the blonde's shoulder in a silent thank you.

"If you could, you would have processed her." Catherine said softly as an answer.

"No, I couldn't. Not if I want to take her. I signed the papers Catherine. I get to be the one to make her safe."

Catherine had not expected that. She had assumed that Bellevue had found someone else. It had never occurred to the CSI that it was Sara. 'Let the evidence speak to you.' Willows channeled Grissom. Surprise flittered across the older woman's face. 'Sara is taking custody of Janet!' She smiled. 'That's a big step, girlfriend. But I'll help you through it.'

Sara took the hesitance in Catherine's response to mean something of the negative. "I will make her safe, Catherine. I can do this, even if I don't' know how to deal with kids." her voice betraying her hurt that she after all didn't have her lover's support of belief.

"I know you can, Sara." Catherine reassured her young counterpart. "There is no doubt in my mind. I've seen you with Lindsey, and I know of little Brenda. I think you'll make a good mom."

Sara beamed at the unexpected praise. She turned to gaze back at the child sitting on the gurney and for a moment she saw herself sitting there. Her own large dark eyes wide with fear and uncertainty. How alike she was to this lost child. Only then did Sara truly see the physical semblance she shared with the girl. The same dark hair, the same shade of brown in the eyes, even the gap in the front teeth were identical. It was as if Sara was looking at a mirror of the past, a reflection of who she once was. That resemblance spooked Sara, just a little. The CSI knew she had never given birth, never donated eggs but still without a DNA test you could not tell that Janet wasn't Sara's natural born child.

Sara left the exam room with those thoughts and Catherine's voice in the background explaining to the girl what it was she was going to do with her fingernails.

Sara threw off the listlessness that had come over her as Catherine left the exam room, her dark eyes showing all the anxiety she felt in her heart. "What did you find?" Sara asked upon Catherine's immediate appearance. "I know she was beaten... was she raped? Molested? If I am going to be her foster mother I have to know."

Catherine's heart tightened at Sara's question. It was something they had talked about, but now having to face the possibility in the flesh so to speak, made the wishful thinking something very real.

"Sara, you know that it takes a bit of time to process the SAR's kit, but Dr. Rothery said there was no bruising to her cervix or pelvic regions from a tactile examination, Janet had never been molested. But she has suffered multiple contusions. The pictures you took should show more and the malnutrition isn't something new. Low iron and potassium - according to Rothery she's anemic because of the lack of nutrients. Sara, she was slowly starving to death."

Sara's rage filled her mind nearly drowning out her lover's words. Her own past, Janet's life brought back carefully hidden emotions. Sidle's thoughts turned vindictive, wanting justice for the child and in a sense for herself. It took Catherine's hand upon her back to bring her back to herself.

"Sara, I know we talked about this. I know your desire to help her, but are you sure about it?" Catherine asked as she placed the SARs kit and all the bindled items of evidence into her bag so she could further process it at the lab.

Sara's eyes darkened, lost in the fog of memory. "Cath, Lindsey blows out the candles of her cake and makes a wish right?"

The blonde shrugged. "Of course....and throws coins in wishing wells, so what every kid does."

"Yeah. And they always believe in the power, don't they?" Sara's _expression did not change. "Year after year, the candles were blown out.... pennies, nickels, and quarters thrown into countless wells, falling stars, the first star seen at night, even if that star was actually Venus.....Tufts of dandelions blown into the wind, and four leaf clovers never made a single wish come true. I had one wish for years. Just the one. To be safe. I just wanted to be safe. I was sixteen when that wish came true, but at a great price. A murdered abusive father, a mother just as abusive put away supposedly for life. Funny how the parole boards work." Sara's voice became distant, she looked away unable to maintain her vision on Catherine. "I, was taken...away. I never let go of the hand of the woman who became my foster mother. ....it took sixteen years of wishing ....." the distant voice became hollow. "It won't take that long for Janet. She can take my hand and never let go."

"And you can have mine," came Catherine's response. She had no words to what she had only just learned. 'A murdered abusive father, a mother just as abusive put away supposedly for life. Funny how the parole boards work.' From what Lindy had said and Sara's plague of nightmares, Catherine knew just how abusive Sara's past had been. What she had not known, and the blonde could not help but wonder if Grissom knew about Matt Sidle being murdered, or that it had been Laura Sidle who had done it.

Murder in California was twenty-five to life, without the possibility for parole. But if what Sara hinted at, than Laura Sidle was free? How was that possible? Unless they deemed the murder was man-two or even man-three. It wasn't accidental but it was a murder in self-defense and in the heat of passion. That could be the only possible reason why Laura Sidle would now be free.

"You won't let go?" Sara's voice pulled Catherine back from her thoughts and ponderings.

"No, baby I won't. Gray days, black days and sunny days you've got me, babe."

Sara smiled at Catherine's vow. It was going to be something she clung to for a very long time. Her eyes fluttered closed when she felt Catherine's lips upon her own. The kiss: tender, sweet and reassuring were all conveyed in that single touch. They stayed like that for a moment as they had after their first true kiss in Catherine's darkened office. Their foreheads pressed together, arms around each other, even if Catherine's touch had to be soft, a phantom touch as not to bring harm to her lover.

"I will not let go," Catherine repeated.

"I don't want you to," came the answer.

With their foreheads still pressed together, Catherine's breath warm and heady against Sara's skin. "Can I hazard a guess I'm not taking you home tonight?"

Sara pulled away a little but only enough to clearly see Catherine's eyes. "I want to stay with Janet. She must be so frightened."

The blonde knew Sara was speaking from experience. "She has you to chase away the nightmares, Sara. She couldn't be in safer or more caring hands." The validation of a wonderful mother like Catherine did more for Sara's demonic insecurities than any other words the blonde could offer.

"Call me tomorrow when Janet can go home." Catherine kissed Sara's cheek. "Lindsey and I will go through her old clothes that don't fit her any more and give them to Janet. I'll even ask Nancy to go through some of Jeremy's clothing. Hopefully Janet isn't too discerning in genderized clothing."

"I think the idea of new clothes..." Sara made quotation marks in the air, "will be more exciting for her than to be concerned what is classified as girls' or boys' clothing." a genuine smile slipped onto Sara's face. "Thanks."

"Any time." Catherine responded. "I know they gathered most of her clothes but it is nice to have new clothes for a new life."

Sara nodded, recalling that Samantha had gathered new clothes for her during her own rescue. It made her feel as if she had indeed started a new life. Even if the clothes weren't new, they were to her. Sara knew that Janet would find the new clothing a privilege and something to treasure.

"Tell Lindsey thank you from me." Sara smiled, thinking of the very generous child who had given her the very expensive plush tiger.

"Sure thing." Catherine paused considering her next words very carefully. She wasn't quite sure how receptive the young woman would be to her next offering. "After you're released....well Janet is released, how about staying with us for a while."

Sara sighed heavily.

"I didn't mean to cross a line." Catherine back peddled quickly taking the sigh as an outward _expression of Sara retreat and rejection. "It was only an idea."

"Cath, as much as I appreciate it. And if it was just myself, I'd say maybe. But, I think it's best if Janet gets used to her new environment, her new home. We both need to settle."

Logic not rejection directed Sara's actions. A decision that Catherine agreed with. Being taken from a home, even an abusive one was trying for a child. She would need to find her base again. Janet needed to find a solid unmovable safeness. "Makes sense." Catherine commented making sure Sara heard her support. The feeling of hurt was all but fleeting and gone. "Any help, even down to the silliest smallest thing to what you might think of as large just give me a call, Sar. Anything. I'll pick up some groceries on my way home, for your place. Kids stuff." Catherine smirked. "I don't think kids are into tofu."

"Peanut-butter and jelly. Right." Sara smiled. "Spaghetti-ohs, Cherrios and waffles, broccoli and cheese. You'll have to show me, Lindsey's menu." The brunette knew that Catherine was very conscientious of what the girl ate. Catherine did have 'fun' food stocked but for the most part Lindsey had a very nutritional diet.

"Not a problem." Catherine leaned in kissing Sara's lips. "Anything else you need?"

"Nothing you can buy at a store," came the playful answer.

Catherine's eyes showed a immediate reaction, dilating until the blue was nearly black. Damn the timing. Having to wait for Sara to be fully healed before they did anything that remotely resembled sexual activity. Of course she could always amuse herself, but that wasn't nearly as much fun. Having made love with Sara only through their eyes and thoughts, Catherine had yet to feel the other woman's touch. And by god she wanted to.

The blonde gingerly touched Sara's waist, "As soon as you're able to, I promise you that." She nipped Sara's earlobe causing the young CSI to groan in her own desire.

"You're a cruel woman, Cath."

"I know." Catherine said.

Her face became a little more serious. She knew she could be a true bitch. She had been to Sara, since the arrival of the younger woman. '....not until the spirit moves you. And in your case, Sara I'd say never.' She looked at the deep brown eyes, how could she had ever say something like that to this woman? 'I'm going to make it up to you. Every cruel word. Every cruel look.'

"Good thing I love you." Sara's soft smoky voice filtered into Catherine's thoughts.

"It certainly is." Catherine answered, her lips delivering little pecks against Sara's neck. "I love you too, Sara. You have my number, call me. Anything. Whatever. Got that?"

Sara nodded, saying nothing, content for the moment just to be held and loved. She took hold of Catherine's hand and she didn't let go.

The hand squeezed her own, tightly. Offering comfort and security. Brown eyes fluttered open, terrified, lost and uncertain.

"It's okay, sweety I am right here." Sara soothingly whispered, her free hand feathering the child's now clean hair. "You're safe. You're safe now."

"Hospital?" Janet's tiny voice struggled, as she recalled now that she was taken from her home and placed in a hospital. Sara...Sara the Spider Slayer; destroyer of Shelob had come to rescue her.

"Yes sweety, you're in a hospital." Sara confirmed. "But you're safe. You're not going back there. Back to Cheryl." Sara leaned close whispering to the child. "I know its kinda scary. I know a big part of you wants to go back to her. I know because I did with Laura. But we can't go back, Honey. I know you feel you have to protect your mom. That feeling doesn't really ever go away." Sara tried smiling, tried reassuring Janet. "But you will be safe, I promise you that."

"Cheryl will look for me," Janet said wanting to believe Sara.

The tall brunette shook her head. "Not this time. The police are going to get her help.....put her away for a very long time."

"Jail!" Janet's eyes widened. "But ....but...I don't want bad things to happen to her."

"I know you don't," Sara kissed Janet's cheek. "Nothing will happen to her. But Cheryl....she's a little sick in the head. She does things in jail they might be able to help her to stop doing those things."

"When she gets better do, I have to go back?" again a fearful answer.

"No, baby." Sara said. "You'll stay with me. Would you like that?" Sara's own fears crept into her voice, wondering if after all her careful planning that the child in the end would reject her.

"Janet, listen to me, okay? I'd like it very much if you would stay with me. Do you know what foster care is?"

The child nodded. "Emily at school, she and her brother Jake are foster kids. They have parents that take care of them but they're not related. Emily says it's 'the System'. Social worker ladies took them away from their daddy, they don't have a mommy on account she ran away. Their daddy gambles and drinks too much and forgets about them. He doesn't hit 'em. He has to go to a place called rehab, he gets to visit them, though. Emily says she wants to go back to her daddy." Janet looked into Sara's eyes. "If Cheryl goes to rehab, I don't want to go back."

"You don't have to, Janet." Sara reassured her. "My point is, you can stay with me. I'd be your foster mom." Her voice wavered still unsure of the girl's reaction, fearful of rejection from such a little heart. Sara longed, yearned to pay what kindness her own foster mother had given her forward. She wanted to be someone else's safe place, that warm place you knew nothing would harm you.

"For always?" Hope filled the girl.

"Is that what you want?" Sara asked.

Janet nodded eagerly.

Sara visibly sighed and felt a weight lift from her shoulders. "Oh, good because that's what I want. I'm going to keep you safe baby. As long as I'm able to, I will keep you safe." Sara echoed the words spoken to her so long ago. "No one will ever hurt you like that again."

It was a vow, that in all her young life, Janet would forever believe.

Part 28

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