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 30

Sara didn't know how long she simply sat upon the sofa with Lindy's slight weight upon her lap as she wept for their murdered friend. Sara felt her own eyes well in tears. Alex had been a good friend to both of them and an on-and-off again lover to Lindy.

No one had any answers why the young red head was slain. Why her killer felt it necessary to cut out her uterus, why her throat was slit or a whole clip of a .45 emptied into her heart. No one had a voice to speak of their shock, their despair, their forlorn hearts.

"Sar...." Lindy turned her head so she might speak but she didn't sit nor turn to look at Sara. . "Find the fucker that did this."

Sara looked down to her friend closing her dark eyes. "I....I couldn't even if I wasn't on medical leave, Linds. I'm too close. Grissom would yank me from the case. Catherine told me Warrick and Nick are on it. They won't let you down Lindy. They won't let me down. They'll find justice for Alex."

"But you...Sara! We were all friends. Sticking up for one another, she deserves the best. The three of us.... we've gone through a lot… for this to happen.....Sara there was no reason for her to die, None! It was just dumb. I don't understand it. Sara she would have wanted you to solve this, you have to catch her killer." This time Lindy did sit up. "This is Alex, we're talking about! God you should have seen her! There was nothing left of her chest. Someone thought... Shit Sara they shot her heart out! Some big cannon, riddled her heart with bullets, they fucking nearly decapitated her. I didn't see it but fuck there was blood staining that white sheet, they covered her with. Blood over her crotch. They cut her Sara. God Sara they cut her open and ripped her apart!"

"I know...I know....okay? I know," Sara almost shouted. "I know," this time it was a whisper.

Lindy looked at the pained expression on Sara's face wincing. "I'm sorry."

"Yeah me too," the brunette answered. "For a lot of reasons."

Lindy sat side by side with Sara careful as she leaned her smaller body next to her life long friend...her would be sister, the woman she loved. "She wasn't dating anyone, not me either. Your buddies asked. They think it's a hate crime. With all that happened.... You know the dyke who turned down some punk and he ripped her up for it," Lindy swallowed hard. "They took finger prints of the cast and crew of the show, swabbed our mouths for DNA. That Warrick guy, had a thing for shoe prints," Lindy shrugged as if to cast off the thought forming in her mind.

"To rule out suspects so they can narrow the field of the search," Sara said.

"To try to see if one of us did it," Lindy countered.

"That too," Sara would not deny it.

"Of course I have an un-refutable alibi. I was in your CSI building talking with Catherine about....well your attack, when Alex was killed. I got a page, I thought it was about some cast meeting, only Darien paged me because Alex had been killed."

"She had said you were concerned about what happened. Said you got mediaeval. Thanks for looking out for me." Sara winked. "What can you tell me about what you know about Alex. She into something… deep? Enemies? Rivals at the show?"

"Nothing," Lindy barely managed to keep her voice controlled without falling into another fit of tears. "That's just it Sara, there is just no reason why anyone would want to kill her on the crew or the cast. Fuck most the guys are gay and all but two of the woman are family. She's been to a few girl bars, and she's been seeing a stripper...Lisa Tokada from Paradise Garden, but only off and on, but you know Alex, she likes to play.

"Ted Beaton runs that joint....an angle Catherine might know. This stripper think it was more serious than what Alex had in mind? A crime of passion?"

"Your buddies asked that too. No Lisa didn't think it was more than what it was, play," Lindy said. "They even asked if I was pissed Alex was playing the field because I said we had a few flings. You know shooting her in the heart, her womb.... crimes of passion and all."

"You and Alex play because you're bored and horny," Sara rolled her eyes. "Or you both had had too much to drink and you're horny."

Lindy chuckled softly, " Alex is....was fun. She even wanted to play with you until you told Alex, sex wasn't a sport to you. Of course you're fun to date. Remember March of '93? You and Kendra Fuller in an airplane bathroom. Ken came out all smiles and red faced and you giggling. God I had to sit near you two until we landed, bragging we're now a part of the Mile High Club. Alex and I.... did the same thing last year. But I was always happy when she had a girlfriend. The steadier the better."

"Lindy, if any of her girlfriends ever found out you and Alex played, they might get jealous," Sara said ignoring the flight down memory lane and the Mile High Club.

"But Sara, we never ever played when Alex was in a relationship, or if I was in one myself." Lindy defended herself and Alex's connection. It really was a case of close friends with benefits.

"Cutting out her uterus is an attack on her ability to have children, indicating a male suspect, not a lesbian," Sara said more to herself than to Lindy. "Her heart being shot as it was… crime of passion, the slit throat..... your basic psychopath. This could be a hate crime against all lesbians, to prove some twisted point about the 'virtues' of leading a straight life." 'Of course if Grissom caught me theorizing over the evidence to make it fit an scenario, he'd go high and to the right,' Sara add the last bit but only to herself.

"Yeah the wages of sinning against bible thumpers," Lindy snarled. She rested her eyes on her friend, signed and spoke again, "How are you doing?"

"About Alex?"

"About everything. Alex, your ribs...your 'mini-me."

"Janet," Sara reasoned out the last item on Lindy's list. "I've taken her in as a fosterling. I saw...." Saw closed her eyes. "She brought back a lot of memories. I wanted to stop her from having those same memories when she grew up. Give her a chance at a decent life. She was half starving, a fractured wrist, beaten.... thank god she wasn't molested."

"Ever?" Lindy as well as Sara knew just how voracious and haunting those memories could be. The pain that always lingered even if you came to terms with it. A moment in a tender moment of passion could turn to a dark twist down memory lane.

"No, untouched," Sara offered a grateful but sad grin. "She doesn't need those memories as well," she closed her eyes willing those past visions away from her. Seven years old.... 'No! I'm not going to go there. I won't! I put that behind me....it was a long time ago.'

And yet that tiny child within her cried out in the night not to be touched, not to be hurt still echoed in dark corners of Sara's mind. In her heart. Whimpering and shuddering, wishing to be free. Only it took nine years for that to happen. But the child within the solemn woman still had terrible nightmares, unseen faces to the bodies that had hurt her for thirteen years.

"That's good at least," Lindy commented sinking back down upon the sofa, her shoulders slouched, her hands falling over her lap as she looked down to the floor. "I'm sorry you didn't have a 'Sara' to be there for you when you were Janet's age."

"I had you," Sara answered. She turned, padding into the kitchen to gather two bottles of water. One she took a sip out of, the other she would hand to Lindy once she returned to the livingroom.

"But, I couldn't stop what happened to you, just like..."the small blonde sniffed, "just like I couldn't stop what happened to Alex. Maybe if I had been there, I might have been able to do something."

"Yes like dying," Sara countered. "Whoever did this to Alex would have done the same thing to you, Linds. I'd be grieving a sister as well as a friend right now. I'm grateful for your protective streak and that you were with Catherine, instead of back at your loft."

"I'm moving as soon as your boys give me the clearance to go back. I don't think...I can...I don't want to go back there."

"Where you staying tonight?" Sara asked as she gingerly sat back down.

"The Rampart. When Pops found out about Alex, he insisted I stay at one of his places. This time I took him up on his offer. Hell he even gone as far as to tell me he's sending his crew to investigate Alex's death. I told him let you guys handle it, I dropped your's and Catherine's name. He seemed satisfied as soon as he heard, Catherine's."

"He knows Catherine from way back," Sara said. "Family friend."

"Yeah I seem to recall her saying something about that," Lindy said, "He like knew her mother or something. He's a family friend. She said something about it when I was with her at your work. Hell he was a 'family friend' to Ma. Then I came along. He still buzzed around Mom, afterwards. There were days when I was little he was in our house telling me it was too late for him to drive back or whatever and spent the night..... my mother to this day waits for his call. Never going to happen, though," Lindy gave a dry humorless laugh. "Wouldn't it be a kick in the head if Catherine was one of Pops' little lost kids? You know you kinda have to be careful of who you date this half of the country, could end up dating a half-sibling. Make for a real hickville-redneck-Greek tragedy thing. Pops got around. A lot. Could explain why he looked relieved when I told him no I wasn't dating Catherine when he asked. Of course I told him wasn't his business who I saw, or took to my bed."

"Bet that didn't go over well," Sara said. Catherine was the only other person Sara had only ever known that could confront Sam and get away without repercussions.

Lindy shook her head. "Nope. But he said he didn't expect anything less out of me, all fire, piss and vinegar. Seems to think I got it from him. That's when I agreed I'd stay in his hotel."

"You'll be safe there. He'll have his guys all over the place, I wouldn't put it past him to have a few in the audience every show, and following you every turn to keep his little girl safe. But there's a sofa here for you should you need it. Sorry, but the extra room is Janet's now, she needs to know it's hers and not bumped out of it because I have someone over."

"Don't be sorry, babe. She's a little doll," Lindy patted Sara's knee.

Sara smiled warmly thinking this is how Catherine must feel when someone complements Lindsey. It only flicked in the young woman's mind briefly that it was a little odd to take pride in someone you had no genetic connection to. Sara hadn't known Janet all that long, but still a mother's pride was there swelling in her heart, warming it.

"I...I um going to set up the arrangements soon, whenever the morgue lets her body go. Desert Haven mortuary. Alex like both of us wants ...wanted to be cremated," Lindy said softly.

"You're not going to do this alone, Linds. I'm going to help you out," Sara insisted. "We'll do this together, all the arrangements, the funeral expenses, the memorial, everything."

The smaller woman could only nod her gratitude.

For long moments after the two sat in silence, thinking of their lost friend. Mourning her absence in tears and memory.

Nick Stokes leaned against the back of the black chair in the break room, his coffee hours old in the mug he held in his hand. His mind marinating on his case. He couldn't get the image of the woman or rather what was left of the woman from his mind's eye.

Her throat had been slit, a clip of .45 slugs found in her heart, and to top it off her uterus had been cut out. No not just cut out, the vic's uterus had been according to Doc Robinson surgically removed with the precision of an emergency caesarian. Someone with medical knowledge had done this heinous crime.

Doctor, butcher, medic, nurse. The CSI's mind went to a morbid Dorothy in Oz 'oh my.' He reached around to the back of his neck kneading a knot that had formed itself. Over the years as a CSI he had seen plenty of inhumanity, death in various forms but what struck him hard was molested dead kids, and hate crimes.

Hate crimes had taken his best friend away from him in college Zac Birmingham had been the quarterback for the Longhorns, a fraternity brother. It came out he was gay and the team turned on him, using his diabetic needles filled with Windex and injected the acidic liquid into his veins. A forged suicide note and people assumed he had killed himself. Only Nick knew the truth, but he couldn't prove it, his frat brothers told him to leave it alone all for the good of the House, the Charter, or people might think Nicky the 'Good ol'boy' was Zac's lover. It was best to let Texas think Birmingham a suicide case. And Stokes had, what did a nineteen year old know anyway? Texas A&M wasn't exactly the safest place for gays. At least football playing gays.

The lesbians were okay what straight man didn't have the classic stereotyped lesbian fantasy? 'A straight man shot down by a lesbian.' Nick answered his own question. 'A shallow self-centered straight man shot down by a lesbian,' the man amended after all he had been shot down by a few lesbians and he brushed it off as no big deal. He was even friends with a would-be-date.

But someone hadn't brushed off Alexandra Burden's rejection. In fact they took it very very personal.

Nick took a sip of his coffee and promptly spat it back out into his mug. "Gaak!" he complained setting the mug into the small sink in the break room. Wiping his mouth with his sleeve the Texan sighed. "Follow the Trinity, Nicky that's why we don't follow hunches. Evidence, suspect, location....."

He gave a start when his cell-phone rang. Snapping it into his hands he flicked it open, "Stokes,"

'Nicky,' the voice on the other end was a bit lost but Stokes knew who it was.

"Hey Catherine. Where are you? Somewhere on the Strip?"

'Close...Chuck E. Cheese with Lindsey and Janet....' there was movement and soon it got slightly quieter, though children, the broken music box sounds of games and singing of animatronic characters could still be heard in the background. 'Look Nicky....this is important.'

"Okay..." Nick blinked as it suddenly occurred to him why Catherine could be calling. "Oh god...it's ...it's Sara! Something is wrong with Sara!" The young man jumped to conclusions.

"What happened to Sara?" the new voice belonged to Warrick. He had only just walked into the break room and had heard Nick's outburst. His green eyes flared with concern and worry.

Nick waved him off, trying to get what Catherine was saying. "Catherine, you're scaring me man, what's going on? Is Sara okay or not? Grissom said she's okay? Is she okay?"

'I don't think so,' Catherine answered. 'In fact.... that's why I'm calling.'

"Well?" Warwick demanded. "What's going on? What happened to Sara? A relapse? What?"

"Shush!" Nick scolded his partner, "Sorry Cath....lay it on me man, what's going on?"

'The case you're working on.... I need you to be absolutely thorough, go the distance.'

"Catherine, I always do ... "Nick started getting defensive.

'The vic was a close friend to Sara. She and Lindy, both,' Catherine clarified. 'Like three musketeers close.'

"Lindy? The vic's roommate?" Nick scrunched up his eyebrows. "Oh god."

Catherine had gone silent for a moment, 'Nicky, you and Rick, I know you'll do your best; you always do, but this hits close to home. Sara....she's....with all this shit that happened to her, she has a lot to deal with; treed by Cujo, then attacked by a perp, taking a foster daughter. Into her home...now this. She's hurting Nick.'

"We won't let her down, Catherine. If you talk to her before we do, tell her we miss her, and she has our promise we won't pull any stops," Nick vowed.

'Thanks guys.'

Warrick had enough of trying to be patient he slugged Nick in the arm demanding answers to his burning questions. His reward was a punch in the arm back. "Sara didn't have a relapse, but she isn't alright either." Nick flipped his phone shut and re-clipped it to his belt before he began to explain to Warrick the reason behind Catherine's call. "She was a close friend to the vic."

Sara could smell it from the hallway.

Veggie pizza from Chuck E Cheese pizzeria accompanied by the excited chatter of overly stimulated young girls. Their laughter could be heard no doubt several doors down. Probably a very alien sound for Sara's floor but not unwelcome.

Sara moved to the door even before presumably Catherine and the girls could knock, and opened it. "Sara we got you pizza." Lindsey declared boisterously. Catherine placed a hand on her child's shoulder. "Linds we talked about indoor voices when we got back. Sara and Lindy...."

"Lindy left about an hour ago," Sara cut the blonde off. "Besides, I could use a bout of good cheer." She moved so that the others could pass through. Her dark eyes took in the tacky plastic shopping bags the two young girls were carrying with a smiling mouse printed on the side in board-shorts, a purple tee-shirt a roller-blade helmet giving the thumbs up gesture.

"We won prizes." Janet said in a more subdued voice than her blonde counterpart.

"I see that," Sara responded. "That's pretty cool."

As far as the girls were concerned that was invitation enough to dump the prizes on the coffee table near the futon in the living room, so the children could reveal and boast about their hard won treasures.

Small stuffed animals including Sponge Bob Square Pants and Patrick, slinkies, yoyos, slide whistles, stickers, small posters of kittens, a dozen a assortment of overly large plastic jeweled rings, large bouncing balls just like the one that had bounced into Shelob's tank, stamps and pencils, and tumblers with Chuckie E Cheese on them, candy rings, necklaces and lollypops, and sports pendants with 51's logo the Roswell Grays and their colors of silver and blue on it.

"Wow, look at all this stuff," Sara commented. "That's a lot of treasures. I bet you can find a place to in your room for all of it."

"Come on Janet," Lindsey went to pull for her friend, before remembering the girl's sprained wrist. "You can have a few of my things too, I got loads of stuff. Only I'm keeping my stamps and stickers."

Janet looked to Sara for a moment waiting to see if she would be threatened as she would have been with Cheryl. It was beyond surreal to the girl that she wasn't stricken nor yelled at yet. All Sara did was wink and smile.

"Go on, Catherine and I need to do some 'Tall Talk', you and Lindsey can draw up some designs to paint your room, your own mural. The walls in there are kinda blaa."

"Snap!" Lindsey whooped. "That's tight. Mom can I..."

"Not only no, but hell no." Catherine answered.

"But you don't even know what I was going to ask." pouted the petulant miniature blonde.

"I can guess, you want to know if you can paint your room, the answer is no."

"Aw man! That's not fair. When I grow up, I'll 'let' my daughter paint her room."

"That's fine." Catherine retorted. "You can even paint your own rooms when you get your first apartment, but for now, no way Jose'."

Janet and Sara simply watched the other family. Janet of course waiting for to Catherine to lose her temper and hit Lindsey, after all that is what all mothers did. When it didn't happen Janet was baffled. She even looked to Sara for clarification.

"It's okay." Sara said reading in her foster daughter's eyes the silent question. Sidle had gone through similar experiences when she was thirteen and freshly freed from her parent's torments. How raised voices didn't result in someone hitting someone else mystified a very young Sara, and it was now puzzling to Janet.

Apparently Lindsey easily shrugged off her row with her mother, besides the young blonde thought she could con Sara into letting her paint with Janet and that was nearly as good. "Come on Janet, let's go plan this out. I'll help you paint when its time." Lindsey like her mother took charge of the situation and it seemed the friendship. Lindsey led, Janet followed.

"Um okay."

The girls disappeared leaving the adults alone.

"You okay?" Catherine turned to Sara. "How's Lindy?"

"I'm dealing. Lindy took it the hardest, they were not exactly an item, but....they had something... She's staying at her father's place. Seems you two have something in common. Sam Braun. I guess being her dad he was going to rush in and have his boys investigate, but she dropped your name and Braun backed off."

Catherine digested what she had heard, it still surprised her and it didn't that Braun had a daughter. Six degrees of separations, but in this case it was two. "Strange how small the world becomes in Vegas," Catherine answered.

Sara didn't answer, she closed her dark eyes soaking in the chipmunk-like laughter of the girls in the other room, letting it wash over her for a moment. And in that brief surcease from the days pain she had been allowed a moment of rest. "Small...." Sara echoed Catherine's earlier words. "When you're little you see the world as something so large that it will consume you. Eat you until you have nothing left, not even hope. A child should know it's okay to laugh. Don't you think so? A child should be able to laugh. They should know it's okay to smile."

"Sara..." Catherine uttered, her steps carefully taken as not to spook the other woman. She didn't want to admit Sara was terrifying her, and breaking her heart. "Janet knows. She knows she can laugh now, that she can smile now. You gave that to her Sara. You."

The giggling continued, soft lyrical sounds. Yet in the background Sara heard soft mewling sounds of a child who had known so little of the freedom of laughter, smiles and giggles.

Sara lifted her hand to her face unconsciously stroking the cheek that had been struck because a laugh had come bubbling out at the wrong moment. "A child should know it's okay to laugh." Sara whispered again. "It's okay you can be happy."

'Laura, what did you do to your little girl? Why didn't you protect her?' Catherine asked the phantom that lingered around the woman she loved. "You can laugh Sara. It's okay you can smile now. You can even giggle. It's okay." Catherine tried to give some validation to her lover to know it was her right to feel good.

Sara turned, her eyes brimming wet with tears. Defiantly she whipped them away, a voice mocking in the background, 'only babies cry, only the weak, you're a fucking Sidle, Sidles don't cry ever! Don't you dare cry you little cunt.'

"Sorry Cath," Sara swallowed hard. "It's been a hell of a week. It's just getting to me. Never mind...I was talking too much."

Catherine could almost visibly see the walls being rebuilt higher and thicker than before. Sara almost seemed to grow taller, her posture more rigid. Soon her face took on the mask she had shown at labs.

"I hate those damn meds, they make me wishy-washy." the brunette excused her lapse of emotional indulgence.

"Sara... Catherine started, but stopped to regroup her thoughts, it wouldn't do any good to try and convince this woman's heart that it was okay to feel human, to feel vulnerable. Sara Sidle had been conditioned at an earlier age to shut down when she felt too much. "I'm only a phone call away. Gaining a daughter, being assaulted by a suspect and losing a friend all in short period of time is going to have its effect even on the bravest of hearts. It's okay for you to feel, Sara."

Part 31

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