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.
WARNING: its going to get dark. Physical and sexual abuse issued are heavily discussed. Rating M for Mature, subject mater is very much on emotional up-setting level but it is nothing we haven't' seen on the show itself or LAO / SVU.
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 31

Warrick and Nick had joined Doc Robertson in the morgue, on the slab was a once-beautiful woman, for a long moment, all three men could only stare at the woman - slender, young, dark-haired, pale skinned – each transfixed by her familiarity and haunting similarity to someone they knew. Now her skin was a chalky white, her lips blue, her face sunken and hollow.

"You got more than the preliminary, Doc?" Stokes asked, "Seems pretty concrete to me."

"Actually I have the cause of death, though it was hard to decipher considering the vic's injuries. She's exsanguinated time of death is anybody's guess. Rigor's past, so it's over twenty-four hours. Deep incised wound of the anterior and lateral neck, transecting both carotids and the anterior trachea. Definite lack of lividity. She must have bled out. The strange thing is the puncture marks in both arms, an IV was inserted drawing the blood out. You might want to check blood banks for recent quantified donations. Evidence of exsanguinating hemorrhage around her abdominal wall indicates she was cut before she was shot. The compressed lungs show she was sat on as he was cutting her. She was Burked. And she was shot post-mortem."

"This reminds me of that wacked out chick, Susan Hillridge, who used her cujo as a weapon then cut up people to eat their livers, spleens...." Warrick did not hide his cynicism. "She called herself a doctor."

"But then so did, Jack the Ripper," Nick muttered.

Robinson nodded again, "Well like the Ripper cases, the, uh, uterus was cleanly removed, with perverse precision. You're dealing with a killer with knowledge of anatomy whose tool is a scalpel. Your butcher certainly has medical knowledge. The shots to the heart, they are grouped together with military precision. Cop, NRA member, military, well anyone in law enforcement that carries a gun, would be able to do something like that," the white haired coroner said, his blue eyes for a moment going to the guns both Nick and Warrick wore on their hips.

All field CSI's carried a side arm and required regular training.

"Exsanguination before she was shot, there was no arterial bleeding. But uh....her uterus, it was removed when she was still alive." Robinson lowered his voice, even after all these years as a coroner he could still be amazed by the inhumanity brought to him.

"Oh god," Nick paled. "She was alive when he cut her?"

Robinson nodded grimly. "She couldn't scream out, but she felt everything he did to her. Before she bled out. The shooting might be a signature, I don't know, that's your job."

The men stayed silent for a moment, their minds had reconstructed the scene:

A man's hand coming around Alex's body. Her attacker grabs her from behind, hooking his arm around her shoulders, ripping the scalpel violently across her neck. Blood sprays on the wall. The highest gush of blood has the most volume. Needles were inserted into both arms, blood being leached away from her body. Alex still alive though barely, flails like a fish out of water, the killer sits on her body, the scalpel biting deep into her lower abdomen.

A silent scream. The butchery begins. The focus of his rage, her womb and her heart. Ten shots ring out into the night as he empties his clip into her dead heart.

"Dead heart," Nick said. "That's what it was, a dead heart, she didn't feel anything for him, so he took the centers of a woman's passion, her heart.. And her..womb... no heart, no sex.

The meds Sara had been taking and the stress over her friends death, together with the added worry over Lindy had nearly K.O'd the young CSI. It shocked her, when she had fallen asleep around eleven thirty at night. Normally right about now she was working a case either in the field or in the lab. Now she was sacked out on her bed, sleeping soundly. Well as sound as sound could be for the young woman.

Sara heard a soft mewling sound coming from the guest...no....from Janet's bedroom. Casting aside her own coverlets she swung her legs over the edge of her bed, her feet landing on the cold hardwood floor. In the time it took to take a breath, Sara was in the small child's room.

"Honey?" she asked as she approached the curled form on the bed that bore too bitter a memory of the past. In a scant heartbeat, Sara was now on the bed, her hand gingerly stroking the back of the child as not to spook her. "Baby...." she tried again, "I'm right here. It's Sara, honey."

"Sara?" Janet mumbled unsure that the soft tenderness was aimed at her.

"Yeah. I'm right here. Come here, sweety."

"I....I....I..... can't."

Sara figured why the Janet was reluctant to move. When the tall brunette had entered the room she had been struck with the strong smell of ammonia. The girl had wet the bed. Not an uncommon occurrence in a heavily sleeping child or one locked in a nightmare, or both.

"Hey, no big deal. We'll change your sheets in the morning, right now, lets get you into a warm bath, changed and you can sleep with me."

"You...you're not mad!?" the brown eyes became doe-eye wide in shocked astonishment.

"Hey accidents happen. That's why they are called accidents," Sara smiled wanting to touch the child's cheek but uncertain of the heavily abused girl's reaction. Slowly she reached for the girl and found that Janet leaned into the caress. "Come on little one, we'll fix everything."

Janet moved off the bed still looking incredibly embarrassed.

"Okay, first let's get you out of this yucky cold and wet clothing and we'll get you into a warm bath," said Sara. The child only nodded at her foster-mother's words. "Hang onto my shoulders and I'll help you step out of the wet pj bottoms"

The damp bottoms and then top followed suit, as did the Power Puff girl under-roos. Wrapping Janet's little robe around the child so she could have her all important sense of modesty, Sara led the girl into the bathroom and started a warm bath. Sara smiled as she added bubblegum scented bubble bath. A thoughtful gift from Catherine and Lindy no doubt.

"Okay in you go."

Janet did as she was told feeling the new warmth surrounded her, she and Sara both giggled as a plume of bubbles went into the air.

"Now look if the water gets too high give me a call and I'll turn it off."

"Sara, I know how to turn off a faucet," Janet chided.

"Well, I know that. I just don't want you to get scalded okay? The hot is left one and the right is cold turn off the left first."

"Okay," Janet felt the need to reassure Sara she could handle things. It was so different from her old life with Cheryl. Sara was almost always worrying about her, and always so protective. Sometimes Sara made her feel like a baby, even cutting up her food for her into tiny bit-sized pieces. But Janet liked it, she felt loved and cared for. The small child felt that she mattered. Janet no longer felt as if she was less than nothing like Cheryl said she was.

"I'm going to take care of the bedclothes, and we'll air out the mattress with Fabreeze tonight. Tomorrow we'll flip the mattress over for you. Tonight, you can have a sleep-over in my bedroom okay?"

"I don't have to sleep on the floor?"

Sara knew of course why this question was being asked. Despite the heartache she felt for the girl, Sara turned the question around. "Well Janet, you don't have fur, four legs and a waggy tail and you don't bark; soooo nope."

"Saaaaaaaarrrra." Janet sing-songed her name. "You're goofing."

The brunette smirked. "Be back in a flash, Little One."

"Sara?" Janet said softly. "Um...how...how can you flip the mattress if your ribs are broken, won't it hurt? I don't think Doctor Rothery will like it if you did that all by your lone-some."

"Damn..I mean darn..." Sara, berated herself, she'd have to learn to make her vernacular a little more PG when the kid was around. "Well maybe we can get Catherine or Greg to help with that. Anyway you can use the couch cushions and a sleeping bag and camp-out in my room, for now. Look Sweety things can be cleaned, and even if they couldn't be, things can be replaced. No big deal at all. So don't sweat it," Sara kissed her foster-daughter's forehead before leaving to clean up the messed bed-clothing and pajamas.

Awake, her first realization was of her utter helplessness, a figure behind her, standing literally in the shadows, backlit but the hallway's light. Maybe if she stayed so still 'he' wouldn't notice her. Wouldn't see her. She bit her lower lip as not to make a sound. She closed her eyes tight.

She could smell the stale whisky, the stink of 'grass' around him, she could hear the rasp in his lungs as they exhaled air through his mouth as he got closer. She tried not to cry out when she felt his hand on the back of her little neck.

"Gotta extra birthday present for you, my smart girl. So smart.....too smart," he said. "Not very pretty but you're smart. When you're older you'll have to settle for pity fucks. You know what a pity fuck is? Some loser .... is drunk enough to tickle your little cunt. That's what a pity fuck is. Pretty girls never have to worry about pity fucks. They can have anyone they want," his words were slurred now. Thin ropes of clear thick drool forming between thin lips, dripped slowly down yellowed teeth. His lips drew back in a fierce, but silent snarl and the shadowed man moved forward, slowly.

Sara forced herself to remain motionless, as she felt a weight settle near her. Maybe like last time he wouldn't be able to poke her, he would only beat her then and leave to go play with Laura. She would be limp, unmoving, her teeth biting her lower lip until she tasted the iron of blood.

"Bugs....That's your new nickname Bugs. Like the bunny. You know for that gap in your teeth, ugly little scrap of a girl. A twig. I got something for you....something special."

Sara felt the hand on her neck tighten, the pain striking throughout her frail body. Something hit her hard, no she hit something hard. The floor. She was yanked from her bed to the floor of her room. On her stomach, her bones aching, her lungs burning, her assailant sitting astride her backside, as the hands crunched down on her shoulders. Positioning her.

She couldn't help it, she wanted to keep so still, so still she would be ignored, but she squirmed. She could feel him hard against her. Starting to move against her. Hard, hot like flame. Ripping, tearing.... it hurt down into her body, he started to push into her.

His breath came in short, sucking grunts. The room reeked of his sweat, and the ripeness of his sex, and whisky. The ripping pressed into her, into her bones, against her bladder. So shamed, she felt her body contract in the pain. Warmth leaked down her legs.

"Fuck girl you pissed yourself!" He snarled, "Little whore, can't even keep it together, you're worthless. You think you're so smart? You're worthless, your little cunt will grow spider webs because no one will ever want your pussy or your ass. Seven years old and you piss yourself like a baby! You fucking disgust me! You pissed all over me!"

She felt his hand come down against her shoulder blades, a burning slap against the side of her head. The pressure on her small back lifted. "Clean that up, Bugs. Wait until I tell your mother you pissed the floor. She'll tear that worthless hide from your back. You know she'll never believe it if you say anything about my little birthday present. You're fucking lucky I don't make you lick it up."

Sara dare not disobey him. Still hurting from what he had done early, her legs gave out making her slip on the surface of the wet floor boards, she could hear him laugh as she fell into her own mess. She crawled to her feet unable to lift her head, far too shamed to meet Matt Sidle's eyes.

"Clean that up, or I'm telling Laura what you did. She'll break your legs for that, just like she did when you were four for pissing in the bed."

Sara only nodded her head, but otherwise remained still until she heard her father leave the room.

When she felt a hand on her shoulder she cried out, her body shaking, wincing waiting to be hit, waiting for the pain. Tears slid down her face as she waited, she didn't want to cry, she wanted the smell of her urine to go away, she wanted the stink of Matt to leave her forever.

"Easy Small Fry, it's just me, Marky," The voice was similar to Matt's but kinder, softer. "Go take a bath, I'll clean that up," Mark said.

"I made a mess," Sara said in a water logged voice, "it was an accident."

"Well that's why they call it an accident, Small Fry," her brother said gently.

"I don't like the poking," Sara said suddenly. "Can you ask Matt not to...." she couldn't continue speaking she felt her voice tighten as her throat squeezed shut. "...it hurts, I told Laura once and she said bad words, and put me in the Thinking place." Sara felt a wave of shame wash over her once more. "It hurts so bad, Marky. My birthday wish...didn't come true. He still pokes me with his thing."

"I....know," Mark said, regret tainted his voice, "I'm sorry. If I ever get away from here, I'll take you with, okay? Look Small Fry, it won't last forever. He doesn't 'poke' me anymore. He might stop with you too. It's just the hitting that lasts longer and that isn't as bad now either for me."

"You're not little anymore, you're seventeen." Sara reasoned, "You're as big as Matt and Laura. When you're little you get hit and poked."

"You wont be little, forever, Small Fry."

"When I grow up, I'm never having kids, never be around 'em. I don't want to be ...Laura."

"Not all mommy and daddy's hit. Lindy's mom is cool, she never wacks her daughter, you can be like her. There doesn't even have to be a daddy. Things gotta get better Small Fry, in a few years you'll be big too and you'll never have to have to worry about hitting and that other stuff..."

"No, Mark it will last forever." Sara said fully convinced this was so. There was no evidence to the contrary, and so she had no hope in believing in her brother's words.

Sara forced the memory away from her mind as she cleaned the urine from the bed. The smell of it had brought it back, the darkness she had tried to shut away forever— and for a time she had. Until the next case dealing with rape, the next case dealing with domestic abuse. The cases drove her to find justice, vengeance, peace and safety for the victims, even if they were too tough to die. Sara had vowed to herself, to the heavens that once she was free she would fight the hurting ones, the dark ones. She would keep her promise.

Mark had never come for her, never rescued her, never kept his word. He had disappeared into the night, escaping the Thinking place. It was just after the incident with the hidden bag of weed. She and Lindy had been playing hide-and-go-seek with Mark and Sara hid under his bed, which was when she discovered his hidden stash. Sara had thought it a bag of dirt, and had showed it to her mother, because she thought it so strange and funny Marky would have dirt under his bed.

Sara had never meant for her big brother to get into trouble.

Mark had suffered a massive beating for stealing his parents stash and had been grounded for a year. After he had served his 'term', Mark had left home, never to look back. Matt and Laura wrote the teen off as dead, and told Sara she was now an only child and blamed the small girl for it. The beating had become worse after that. The punishments for the smallest infractions more severe. Trips to the hospitals more frequent, as were trips to the Thinking place. Days without food, just the sink for water, a small hole for the bathroom and no light. One summer it had gotten so bad that Sara's stomach had descended and become bloated and she had had a urinary infection on top of it.

"Stop it!" Sara demanded of herself, "It's over with. Matt's dead, Laura is in Cali.....and Mark...." of course Sara had no idea where Mark was or even if he was alive. "You can't be hurt by them any more. Matt's dead. Laura killed him. He can't hurt me," Sara commanded. "I'm not little anymore. And she's supposed to be locked away. She can't touch me. They can't hurt me anymore. They can't. I'm free...they can't hurt me anymore," Sara made herself believe it. Only she didn't really. Like the Sword of Damocles the memory of her parents, her family lingered over her head.

"Sara!" Janet's small voice broke through the memory where Sara's will could not. "I'm ready to get out." A child' need had rescued her from the past.

"I'll be right there," Sara answered back. She shook her head and headed for the bathroom and the little girl that had become her daughter. "So you all pruny yet?" came her greeting.

Janet held up had hands to show that yes in fact her skin had pruned.

"Well look at that you've become an old woman. Better put you in the old folks home." Sara held out a massive soft terry cloth beach towel that could easily go twice if not three times around the little girl.

"Saarraaa!" Janet smiled and rolled her dark eyes. "I'm only six! I 'am' not old."

"You sure about that? You're all shriveled up like a little old lady."

"You are too weird," Janet giggled, "but you're great, you know that?"

Sara blushed, "Thanks kiddo, you are too. Come on let's get you out of there before you freeze and shrivel up to nothing." The girl giggled again as her foster mother wrapped her up and gingerly patted the water away. "We need to get some sleep, you go back to school tomorrow, and I need to meet with your teacher and the principal. And from what Catherine and Lindsey tells me you have some special guests coming to your school. The fire department is coming with one of their rigs, I think. You'll love it. Those big ol' red fire trucks are pretty cool."

By this time the new family had wandered from the bathroom into Sara's room. "Here you go you can use one of my T-shirts for now okay?" Sara handed the girl a dark maroon cotton t-shirt with the crest of Harvard upon it. It looked like a dress on the tiny child but it would suit fine for a nightgown.

Gingerly Sara knelt before the make-shift bed, tucking her foster daughter in complete with the stuffed Bengal tiger. Sara pressed her soft lips to the child's forehead. "You going to be okay now?"

Janet nodded. Feeling as she would indeed be okay, the child looked up meeting dark eyes like her own. 'She can be my mommy. I hear what they say, the grown-ups, they think I'm her little girl...like she's my mommy for real.'

"Sara? What...what if I have another bad dream....and...and....I have another accident?"

Sara tucked a stray bit of hair behind the child's ear. "Well then its another bath for you, more laundry for me and we'll make up another bed, okay? But if you have a bad dream, its okay, you can wake me up and tell me. When I'm here nothing bad will happen to you. That tiger you hold, it will help you remember it okay? When you hold that tiger, remember I'm going to protect you like a tiger. Okay? And I'm just as cuddly as that stuffed animal."

"Okay," Janet said clutching the stuffed animal close to her chest. The girl thought for a moment feeling more confident than she had in very long time. Safe, warm. Loved. It happened then, she just blurted out the words as do children with honest hearts. "I love you Sara."

Sara hadn't expected to hear anything of the sort and she smiled in her confusion which was clear in her dark orbs. She kissed the child's brow once more. "You're pretty special to me too, sweety. I love you as well." It shocked Sara how easily the words had come, how truthful they were. "Get some sleep now, we have a big day ahead of us."

Morning came all too swiftly. For a young six year old, that is. Sara who slept sp little was up and downing her third cup of coffee, complements of Greg's get-well-gift so it was the good stuff. Sara knew the kid had to have dropped forty bucks for the specialty blend he had made for her. And Sara savored every sip as the rich brew hit her tongue.

Seven o'clock in the morning marked the time, Sara was to roust Janet from her slumber. By seven-thirty Sara had her foster daughter in her car and by seven-forty-five the brunettes were walking down the winding hallways of West Los Vegas elementary school; at eight am, the two were sitting in the principal's office, three minutes after the hour Miss Fox walked into the office slightly out of breath.

Dr. Annette Armstrong looked slightly agitated at the very young first grade teacher. "Miss Sidle, I'd like to introduce Christine Fox, she is Janet's teacher."

Sara turned and winced immediately 'damn it!' she cursed inwardly as her ribs roared in protest. Closing her eyes, Sara willed the pain down to a dullness so she might interact with Fox and Armstrong versus passing out from that same pain.

Miss Fox saw the beads of sweat forming above Sara's upper lip and brown. "Are you okay?"

"Yes, I ah....acquired an injury at work." Sara gave her excuse however lame it sounded.

"A bad guy jumped her. He's called a perp, Sara was questioning him and he went bonzo, but Captain Brass...what is that word?" Janet turned to Sara who was now crimson.

"I'm a CSI-3 with LVPD," Sara quickly interrupted on the child's accounting.

"CSI?" Fox smiled. "Forensics, wow that's really fascinating," and she meant it. "You were hurt on a case?"

"Sara's very brave she's the slayer of Shelob," Janet boasted.

"I thought Samwise Gamgee was the slayer of the great spider." Miss Fox flashed a curios smile as she rested her green eyes upon the lanky dark haired beauty.

Sara shrugged. "Long story. Kids exaggerate about stuff like that. I just rescued a ball from a tarantula's cage. And now I'm some sort of spider slayer. You can thank Lindsey Willows for it."

Both the administrator and teacher grinned.

Sara handed a manila folder to both of the other ladies, "Inside, you'll find notarized copies of the court ordered TRO against Cheryl Sullivan with Janet. Copies of the authorization of my new guardianship of Janet. I have also listed those who are authorized by myself and the Office of Social Services to pick Janet up in the event of an emergency. Catherine Willows, Lindsey's mother, Gil Grissom my supervisor, Greg Sanders also of the forensic department of LVPD.

"Janet's recent medical files are there and a psychological evaluation. The wrist injury was from.... from a previous encounter with her former guardian," Sara didn't mask the disdain she held for Cheryl Sullivan. "If Janet needs me, I have given her a cell phone. I am on number one speed dial, the lab is two, Catherine Willows is three and the LVPD is on four. She has a list and there is a copy of the same phone numbers for each of you. I would like her to be able to talk to the school counsellor at anytime she feels the need to do so. And I want to meet this counsellor as well. Janet is in a very fragile state of heart and mind right now. The transition from her former place of residence to her new home has been relatively easy but I don't think it has all sunk in yet."

Armstrong and Fox had sat listening to Sara's dominant delivery of facts and both became astonished at the level of involvement Sidle was exhibiting. There were a few other kids with foster parents at the school but few had taken a ward in so completely as Sara obviously had. It was evident that Sara was extremely protective of her foster child. To their eyes it was refreshing.

"Miss Fox, I would also like a daily report on the sort of day Janet had, if it's not too much trouble. She needs to be eased back into her normal life, and the best way to do that is to let her academic routine continue." Sara further ordered.

"I don't think that will be a problem, I check their agendas everyday. Ms. Sullivan never took much of an interest in her daughter, it's refreshing to see Janet has someone who does."

Sara showed a small almost embarrassed smile. "I'm concerned. I care about her." The voice that was once demanding and confident was now edged with a tender shyness. "I...ah— will be on medical leave for the remainder of the week, but I normally work the graveyard shift. Actually I'm on the same team as Catherine Willows.

"I used to work a lot of double and triple shifts, with Janet priorities will change. But there are times when I need to be at the lab during the daylight hours. If I'm not home more than likely I'm at the lab. I have Janet to be concerned about now, so I doubt I'll be pulling a lot of double shifts anymore."

Sara Sidle and Cheryl Sullivan were polar opposites when it concerned one small girl's life. A teacher and an administrator took comfort that a lost child had been found and given sanctuary. By a guardian that seemed undaunted by perpetrators with crack addicted hell hounds, massively large spiders, and broken hearts.

The conference with the principal took another twenty minutes however both Miss Fox and Janet had returned to their classroom to start the day. Lindsey had been the first to welcome her and make sure her desk was ready for Janet.

Miss Fox had intently watched the girl throughout the day, looking at the child's body language. She seemed just as shy but far more happier than the twenty-three year old teacher had ever seen the girl.

Both Lindsey and Janet had whispered and chattered quietly during the day, normally Miss Fox would intervene and make the students amend the classroom infraction of talking out of turn but she let it slide considering it was Janet's first day back in several days. Knowing the two girls were best of friends they would know intimate details about each other's lives, and would feel the need to express their thoughts upon the subject.

It hadn't taken long before the time came to meet and greet the special guests of the day. Both the fire department and the EMT's had sent a unit to talk to the children about their careers. Kindergarten through the third grade had all gathered around on the bus ramp to listen to the captain of the firemen who was actually a woman with short blonde hair and the EMT representative another blonde but this one was a male.

Half the group of the assembled kids would take a tour with Fireman Sam, as the captain called herself and the other with EMT Hank. There were a couple of groans that they all couldn't go with the firefighters at the same time. They would of course switch once they had finished. Of course ninety-four percent of the kids were far more intrigued and captivated by the big red rig and the very beautiful captain than the ambulance.

Hank Peddigrew couldn't blame the kids, fire trucks were the bomb and Captain Samantha Tapping was blond, gorgeous, efficient and bossy. To the kids Fireman Sam was tight, in fact she too was the bomb. The young boys had an instant crush, again Hank couldn't blame them, he had been fixated by the blonde bombshell for quite some time, even if he preferred brunettes. The young girls of the school including Lindsey and Janet wanted to be her. Fireman Sam became an instant hit. Even the huge black guy who looked like he could bench press a Buick, who was referred to as Tee, (though not Mr. T), and the scrawny little guy nicked-named Probe had been popular with the kids. If Hank Peddigrew wanted a piece of the hero action he would have to do something spectacular for the children.

His blue eyes fell on two young girls sitting tailor style on the curb of the sidewalk trying to listen to him when all they wanted to go do was be with Fireman Sam and her insufferable charisma. That perfect wide white smile, those shimmering blue eyes. She was good, answering all the questions put to her easily and without hesitation. He could tell his group wanted to be with her.

"SO!" he bellowed gaining the attention of the thirty odd children gathered around his rig. "I'm sure you've all seen an ambulance on the road or even at the scene of an accident. And like Fireman Sam said… Who yes you'll get your turn to be with… said we are buddies with the firefighters."

A boy shot his hand up. "Do you get to work with Fireman Sam a lot?"

Hank grounded his teeth. It was always like this, the firefighters got the spot light and Captain Tapping the adoration of both teacher and student alike. The adoration that was of course rightfully his. 'God I hate that woman! Fucking dyke....' What he said aloud: "Yes I do get to work with her; the EMTs arrive to save lives of the people the firefighters pull out of fires. We are they to make sure they can be with their families. They might find and rescue people from a burning building, but it's the EMT's that keep people alive and get them to the hospital."

He opened the back doors of the white and orange truck. "In here, is where all the magic happens. We can start someone's heart again if its stops beating, and we can even if absolutely necessary perform emergency surgical life-saving techniques."

"Like what?" Lindsey blurted out.

Hank flashed his most charming boyish grin. 'Perfect....' "My aren't you bold. What's your name?"

"Lindsey Willows," the tiny blonde belted out. "You guys work with the police too, right? Even CSI's?"

"CSI's?" Hank frowned slightly. "You know about the forensics department of the police?"

"Well dugh!" Lindsey rolled her blue eyes causing the other children to laugh.

"Lindsey!" Miss Fox scowled, "Manners."

The child chose to ignore the scolding though had the good sense to look abashed. "My mom and Janet's mom are CSI for the LVPD," Janet gave Lindsey a curious look, "Sara, is your mom now," Lindsey whispered to her companion, "I bet she'll let you call her that someday, if you ask."

Janet's lips pulled back into a massive grin of hope and pride. To be able to call Sara, mom would be the most wonderful thing in the world to this child.

"Is that right?" Hank smirked thinking he had now a wonderful 'in' to be the heroic figure. "Yes in fact we do work with the police, often helping them as much as we do the firefighters. A few weeks ago I was on the scene of a crime and saved the life of a CSI. She had been very injured while on duty, and it was because our rig was on the scene we were able to make sure that she remained alive."

"OHOHOH!" Lindsey was practically jumping up and down. "That was Sara! Sara got really really hurt. A giant dog was going to eat her, tear her up and she was in a tree with a witness and they came crashing down. The dog was as big as Fluffy in Harry Potter and just as monstrous, his teeth all big and sharp and he drooled goo and his eyes were red and he ate tons of people, his owner showed him how, he even tried to eat kids. That's why Sara went to face him. She hates things that hurt kids. Sara just showed him whose boss, and she slayed him too just like she did Shelob! She saved the guy's life. My mom said so. My mom never lies. And… and… and… then Sara got busted up and mom said her lungs fell in...cus' she had fallen from the big tree she was in, cus' the guy who she saved fell off and landed on her and they went SMACK on the ground, and she had to be taken to the hospital in ambulance. Sara's tight, she slayed Shelob the spider too, she faced him and rescued my birthday present. She's very brave. Then… then… then… a bad guy who owned the Fluffy dog with big yellow fangs and red glowing eyes, he's called the perp he he was...he ...was..he was... in the questioning room at the police station and he pounced on Sara and broke all of her ribs, cus' she killed the monster dog, and he was really po'ed about. I bet he wanted his monster dog to eat more people. He ate the girl that was in the news that got killed... my mom and Sara were on the case to find out who did the bad thing....Sara was in the hospital for two whole weeks! Mom said an ambulance picked her up too."

The kids had all turned their hard won attention from Hank to the young Willows girl. Now they all wanted to meet this hero, who must be just like Rogue from the X-men to have faced all of the dangers she had. The questions started to fly, Hank was losing the control over his audience. So he went to the cap, turned on the siren for a moment gaining the attention of the panicked and shocked faces of every child as they had heard the warning call of the ambulance. Turning it off, Hank returned to the group. Every eye was on his.

"That's quite the story."

"It's not a story! It's all true!" Lindsey was near tears to think anyone would think less of Sara than her hero deserved.

"She's right," Janet backed her friend up. Sara....mom...Sara was the greatest hero Janet had ever heard of. No one was as brave as she.

"Oh I believe you. Lindsey if you don't take a breath there girl, I'll have to put you on a respirator," Hank smiled. "Did you even breathe during all of that?" He gave a chilling dry laugh. "Actually that's quite the coincidence. This Sara? Her name is Sara Sidle?"

"Yeah!" Both Janet and Lindsey answered vigorously.

"Wow, how about that! She was the one on the WLVU that I had picked up and the same woman at the police station I brought to the hospital." He turned his blue eyes to the tiny dark haired girl. "That's your mom?"

Janet nodded very shyly. It wasn't exactly true, but Lindsey had a point, Sara was her mom now. "She saved me," Janet whispered, "from a witch who wanted me gone forever. She's the best. She's very brave." The girl's voice was still low and uncertain, and yet filled with undeniable pride.

"I'll bet she's even braver than Fireman Sam, over there." Hank added putting on the charm. "Say why don't you and your boisterous pal there help me out, and I can show you how we save the lives of heroes like your mom and even like fireman Sam."

Now he had the undivided attention of all the children in his group. Hank saved heroes. Heroes like Sara who was the Slayer of Shelob and Fluffy the big black monster dog who ate people, and faced down evil witches who wanted kids to disappear.

"Come on up here, and you can be my victims."

The girls didn't move.

"By victims I mean people I might rescue. You can be called assistants if you want," the blonde man smiled once more.

Janet recoiled instinctively, the man was supposed to be a good guy, but he made her feel as if her flesh was crawling all over with fire-ants. She wondered if she would be stung, just like when the red ants bit.

Lindsey however was braver of the two, the more bold and extroverted and she would not allow the opportunity to go to another. She grabbed Janet's good wrist and all but yanked the smaller child to her feet. "Snap! This is tight!" She smiled. "You can see what he did to save your mom."

Hesitant steps took Janet towards the rig and EMT Hank. She was far too curious to know how her hero had been saved to remain hidden amongst her peers and at the side of Miss Fox. His partner a fellow, Hank simply called Mackay helped him get out a gurney from the back of the van and explained its function in transporting a victim. Another tool used was the backboard.

"......... it immobilizes high risk patients, minimizing the chances of complications and further injuries. Janet, since it was your mom who got hurt, you can see what we did for her." Hank picked up the wee child who almost instantly became stiff, panic clear in her large brown eyes.

"Hey small fry, don't worry, I'm not going to hurt you. Okay? Now just lie down and pretend you got hurt." Hank softly reassured the girl.

Hesitantly Janet complied, too long abused by adult to even contemplate not obeying directions, too fearful of the outcome if she did. Every fiber in her being screamed at her this was wrong, something wasn't right, she wanted to run, but instead she lay on the gurney petrified.

"Stick your tongue out like on Pokemon when they get Ko-ed," Lindsey yelled out theatrical orders. "Go really limp and all soggy," she gave a demonstration, just as the perfect little drama queen should. And like all seven-year-old's she was the star in her own movie.

Janet complied - maybe if she did what her friend said to do she wouldn't feel so nervous. So hamming it up Janet stuck her tongue out and went all limp like an overly soggy noodle. "You know when we were there with your mom, she was about as limp as you were. She took a beating from that fall." Hank showed the kids a neck-brace. "We also put one of these on Miss Sidle's neck so if she had a back or neck injury she wouldn't further damage it. I'll show you how it works." He moved to put it on Janet but she flinched away. "Hey take it easy, it won't hurt you. Sara wore one just like this."

"Okay," came a meek reply.

Hank put the collar on explaining further its function. Janet didn't care if it stopped someone from a neck or back injury from becoming paralyzed, it felt too much like Cheryl's hand around her neck, panic started setting in. She wanted Sara to save her. She needed Sara. Light tears touched the corners of her eyes, as her fear gripped her further. No one seemed to notice.

"Sometimes a victim will have more problems than just a broken back or neck, sometimes their air passage will be blocked or crushed, in that case we have to perform a special procedure that is known as a tracheotomy. I would make a very small incision in the throat and use a respiration tube called a canule or a catheter so they can breathe." Hank made a cutting motion above Janet's throat. "We can still use the C-collar at the time, the tube will be taped in place and the collar can even help hold the canule."

Janet was almost hyperventilating. She wanted out of the bondage of the back-board and the confining grip of the c-collar. 'Sara!' her mind reeled. 'Help me Sara! Please!'

Miss Fox seemed to be the only one to notice Janet's panic the child was unnaturally frozen. She stepped past the kids to the rig. "Get her out of that, she doesn't like it."

Hank became irritated, but complied. Obviously the girl was no where near as brave as her mother. A mother that had shunned him. A woman that held a dead heart. Janet was free and all but bolted from the backboard to her teacher's side. Fox knelt down hugging the girl. "Hey you did a good job, you're okay now."

Janet nodded.

The kids clapped for Janet as they did all child volunteers.

"Sometimes it can be scary in those things," Hank said not wanting to lose his prestige with the children. Scaring one of them was not a good way to swing the popularity he wanted. He flashed a bucked-toothed grin, his blue eyes twinkling. "But sometimes it is what we need to do to make sure the victim remains out of danger and alive until we can get them to the ER." Hank turned to the girl who would not be moved from the teacher's side. "And for being such a good sport, I have a little something for you." the blonde EMT reached into the rig and pulled out a small black plastic bag. "It's a toy doctor's kit, see now you can be an EMT too."

Janet slowly reached out her hand and took the offered gift. Her brown eyes watching the man that still made her feel as if she were crawling with the biting fire ants. "I'm going to be a CSI," Janet said her voice now defiant. "I'm going to find things to put bad guys away."

Hank smiled, but somehow, it made the tiny child think of the hyenas on the Lion King. "Well good luck with that," he said. He turned his attention back to the class in front of him. He and Mackay started to explain more items in the rig. How IV's were inserted and liquids introduced into the body to keep them alive and how wounds were irrigated, cleaned and bandaged. How sometimes emergency surgery was needed, Hank even explained how he once had to do an emergency c-section to help a mother who was badly injured in a car accident. If he didn't get the baby out both mother and child would die. The caesarean had saved both lives, the little boy was even named after Hank. And that made him a hero. And he reminded the kids that he did heroic things all the time. He liked being a hero.

Everyone was given a color book with ambulances and EMTs saving lives, as well as a small pack of eight crayons. And a small booklet of stickers of rescue personnel, rigs and equipment as well as a small bronze plastic EMT badge.

Janet kept her large dark eyes on the too charming EMT, she still felt the red-fire ants biting her. Her hand went around her neck were the trace touch of the c-collar had been. All that fell away when she came into the presence of a smiling angel. Fireman Sam.

"Hi everyone." the tall blonde smiled warmly, "I'm Captain Samantha Tapping, I'm a firefighter. And this is my crew on the truck. Firefighter Thomas Judge, we all call him Tee. Probationary firefighter Jonas Quinn, he's called Probie for short. Firefighter Jack Morrison."

The new group called out their cheers.

"Firefighters help people. That's why we do what we do. How is it that firefighters run into a burning building when everyone is running out? Courage. Oh we are all plenty scared. Some of us are even terrified, but see that's what makes courage, you look at scary things and you brave it. Now I don't want any of you, including you teachers going into a burning building. You have to be a firefighter to do that. Okay?"

The kids promised.

Sam gave them her angelic smile. "Good. But you can be brave and courageous by facing other things that scare you. Maybe something as scary as going to a doctor and getting your shots so you don't get sick or going to the dentist. I know I am afraid of the dentist even if they help me. And having friends and family covering your six, that means your back, makes things easier. A firefighter can't beat back the beast...the fire by his or herself. She has to have her crew at her side. We're a team, we all share a strong connection. And we're like a family. We laugh, we cry even bleed together. And we joke together, make practical jokes. But when the gong goes off all the joking stops and we become a serious team."

Again the kids cheer. Janet looked over her shoulder to see the EMT Hank start his lecture on the ambulance. He scared her. So did Cheryl but now she had Sara, Lindsey and Miss Catherine to cover....her six. She didn't have to be scared all by herself.

The kids paid close attention to Fireman Sam and what she was telling them of the rig. How hoses worked what the hoseman did, what being on the truck meant, or on the ladder. That there was a difference between Engine and Truck because they had different jobs. And yes the movie Ladder 49 was very close to the truth as was Backdraft. Fireman Sam even went on to explain why a backdraft happened. Apparently Fireman Sam having been a firefighter for thirteen years had done most of the jobs of a firefighter and was now on a ladder, search and rescue. She liked it best because she got to save people.

It was something deep and heartfelt, that she wanted to be a firefighter.

Lindsey put up her hand instead of blurting out her question this time. "Are you a hero?"

"Well I don't know if I am a hero. That's a pretty strong word to use. I just do what I do. I think the family of a firefighter are the brave ones. They never know if their daddy or mommy is in danger. And if a bad thing might happen. What we do sometimes can be very scary for our families. But they love us, and they support what we need to do so we can help others. It feels great to rescue others. It's a hard job. But it's a great job, from putting out a ten alarm fire, cutting someone out of a car to putting a band-aid on a little kid that skinned their knee."

"Oh our captain here, isn't telling the whole truth." Tee said, clapping the lanky blonde on the back. "She is a hero. She was given the Medal of Valor for her heroic deeds for rescuing the lives of eleven trapped kids in a burning building when she was stationed in New York during 911. She nearly died doing it. She stayed with them, kept them alive when there wasn't any hope they would make it out. But our Sam here made it happen."

The kids were astonished. Fireman Sam shrugged. "It's the job, any other firefighter would have done the same, many did. I just happened to be there."

The children and teachers alike were in awe. Most of the kids wanted her autograph. Sam grinned, her cheeks flushed. "Oh I have something better for all of you when we're finished," she looked like she wanted to belt her teammate, she never did like the feelings of adoration it made her extremely self conscious and still shocked that she was so acclaimed.

Just like the last bunch, the kids wouldn't let what Fireman Sam had done during 911 go. So she distracted them by running the sirens and alarms. Her whole crew took turns answering questions and showing how things worked and why certain things were done the way they were done.

Fireman Sam went on to explain fire prevention and how important it was to have escape plans in a house and know that the fire alarms worked and that each room should have one, that there should be at least two if not three current and up to code fire extinguishers. She further told them the difference between the fire extinguishers.

Afterwards as promised there were gifts another color book its theme of course fire prevention with Smoky the Bear as spokesman. A very small Smoky the Bear plush figure. Firefighter badges, and little plastic firefighter hats.

Sam and her crew were given a great round of applause and cheers. They all had but forgotten about Hank the EMT. Fireman Sam even had Lindsey and Janet thinking of becoming firefighters rather than CSIs. It was hard to compete with a big red fire-truck and a pole you got to slide down.

Hank Peddigrew EMT had not however forgotten the hero-worship that should have been his. His blue eyes watching the young Sidle kid. It suddenly dawned on him that this child was the same girl on the news. She wasn't a Sidle she was named...Sullivan. .... there had been that wacked out man who had spilled his beer once he had seen the child on the news.

Hank smirked. Strange how everything seemed connected. "Six degrees....." he whispered to none but his own ears.

Part 32

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