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 38

It would not be a mistake to say that Lady Heather had unprecedented power within her realm, it would be an error to say she was not affected by the butchery that befell young Alexandria Montague. As she had with investigation of Mona Taylor, the dominatrix opened her castle to the CSI's, not requiring a search warrant for she stood by her statement she had nothing to hide. Lady Heather knew as much about man and his pathetic glory as anyone with a degree in psychiatry, her insight was valuable.

It was Warrick and O'Riley who were to interview the dominatrix, for Nick was terrified of her though he would never admit it, therefore he volunteered to start the task to process the chamber reserved for Alex's brand of domination.

Looking at the photo of Hank Peddigrew, the green eyes took in the details of the blonde man. "He was here a few times, though he did not understand the language spoken here doesn't translate well out there. Even for Las Vegas this is an alien environment, your co-worker Nicolas has the typical reaction most offer." The dominatrix offered a smile that would befit a fox. "Hank sought liberation, he was confused as to which role he fit the submissive or the dominator. He played the switch. One session he was the submissive, the next he would become the dominator. I suggested he bring his girlfriend here but he said this was something she would never understand."

Lady Heather set the picture down on the table in front of her but her eyes never left Warrick's.

"His profession as an EMT places him in high stress situations. It is after troublesome shifts, when the paramedics are called too late and he can do nothing for his patients that he needs to be the dominator. He does so, so he can feel in control of life rather than pleading for it to keep death away. When his life saving techniques managed to save lives he submits."

"Has he ever crossed the line when he dominates? Like not listening to a safe word, tried to force himself on your employees?" Warrick asked.

"No." Lady Heather shook her red head. "I always direct the first few sessions of domination and submission. When I told him he was ready for his first session alone with his submissive he refused."

"Did he ask for you to continue your supervision?"

"He did, and I remained. I instructed him the only way he would have true liberation was to take his sessions without supervision, he only did so with his own submission."

Warrick concluded, "What about Alex? Did they ever meet here?"

"They did, he liked the idea of being "captured" by a pirate. When he learned that she was for females only he withdrew for a time."

O'Riley perked up, but it was Warrick who spoke, "Lady Heather do you think he took her rejection and yours a little to close to heart?"

"You want me to tell you Hank Peddigrew is capable of the butchery you showed me. He has the skills yes, but you already knew that. Does he have the will?" the dominatrix gave a long pause of thought, "Perhaps, but he would need an audience. Audiences know what to expect and that is all they are prepared to believe in."

"Audience? Or a surrogate you?" Warrick pressed.

A trace of a smile graced the fullness of Lady Heather lips; it was not one of joviality but one of grave slighted amusement. "That would be very neatly wrapped up for you wouldn't it Mr. Brown? It would explain the aberrant behavior in your suspect. Hank Peddigrew wants to be liberated, he has sexual issues he sought to cure here. He was unable to go into a session and be the dominator without my presence to guide him. Do I think he could have conjured my image up in his mind so he could carry out this act? That is a possibility."

"What about motive?" Now it was O'Riley who spoke. "You told him he was ready to face a session of being the dominant alone and he was refused Alex, do you think this is a revenge thing? Maybe he thought that to take Alex from you was to punish you for making him submit to being alone as the dominator."

Again the green eyes betrayed the dominatrix. The idea Alex that was so brutally murdered and raped because Lady Heather insisted the young woman was forbidden fruit truly upset the vibrant woman.

"That is something of a possibility." a heartbeat passed before Lady Heather spoke once more. "Where was she killed?"

"The body was found behind stage-set at Pirates of the Caribbean." O'Riley answered the question. "He could have easily found out she worked there as well."

"But she wasn't killed there." It was not a question.

"No." O'Riley shook his beefy head, "I'm sorry Lady Heather, but we can't give you more details, its still an ongoing investigation."

"I understand detective. I'm sure you have much work ahead of you, I'll let you be on your way." It was a clear dismissal, "You may take what you need from Alex's area, if anything there will help you solve her murder." Lady Heather's voice purred not seductively, but because it was a natural part of whom she was.

"That woman is something else," Warrick said as he made his way into the set of a pirate ship.

A set to be sure, designed like a black-box theater. The walls had been constructed with faux wooden planks and railings of the forecastle as to give it a ship-like appearance, complete with a cannon and rigging, a mast and though not accurate a helm.

Nick looked up to meet the green eyes of his co-worker. He didn't even pretend to hide his disgust. "I don't even get it. I get Grissom and Lady Heather, but O'Riley?

"A little out of his character?"

"I don't picture him here."

"Can anyone?" Warrick played back. "He's not someone I'd ever think of as being into S and M., the bondage and everything that entails." He didn't even try to suppress the shudder of disgust that overcame him. The native Nevadan couldn't wrap his mind around the idea of the portly Irishman as a client of Lady Heather's. But as they say it was Vegas, anything goes. "It could explain those rare days he's not so uptight and stodgy." he said at last.

Nick was decisively silent, best forget that little detail that came into their lives then try to analyze it as bit of evidence. Evidence however was what his life was about, and why he was here at Lady Heather's in the first place. "You know I've gone through this little 'playground', and I can't find anything probative that leads in the direction that Alex was killed here. Traces of vaginal contributions on the bunk, no semen clusters, no blood."

"Smells like pine-cleaner," stated Warrick.

"Lysol. Last year Catherine and I found several bottles of it in the trash where we found the latex that freak covered Mona Taylor with." Nick said. The young Texan showcased a spray bottle filled with what looked like clear water. "Luminal didn't light anything up. My guess the cleaner is used to try and sterilize sweat, so it doesn't smell like a locker-room and not disguise a crime scene."

"So what are the knowns?" Warrick asked as he took in the details of the room.

"Alex wasn't killed here. Well at least not in this room. Our prime suspect has had contact with the vic here, though limited."

"I still say Hank tried to get to Alex. He had to be cheesed that he couldn't have her, so he took it out on her on the streets. Killing her by draining her of her blood and tearing out her uterus, maybe a defiant act against Lady Heather. She was, after all, Alex's mistress."

"But why shoot her in the heart after she's dead?"

Nick looked at his companion, everything fit into the scenario save for the shooting of the heart, something that was most certainly deeply meaningful to the killer.

"Because he's a sick prick."

This whole event was spiraling out of control. That was the only way to describe it all. Mark hung back before the door in front of him. Janet's wails of terror cutting though him, not to his heart but to his patience. Sidle felt a quick anger rising in him. How could his baby cry when all he wanted to do was be her daddy?

Sara clutched the girl to her chest, shielding her from Mark's view as if she meant to protect her from him. As it happened the office was dark enough so that his own face was reflected back at him. History was replaying itself. It was not Sara but Laura protecting her little daughter from danger, using her own body as a shield against harm.

In the office the girl wept, her fear so clearly evident and history took captive his mind. It wasn't Janet held hostage by the terror of what was to come but four year old Sara who clutched her mother tightly.

Mark could not look at the distorted reflection in the window and not see his father staring back at him.

A flash of memory exerting itself into the mind's eye theater:

It was before she had completely snapped and started using heroin to numb her mind and pain, before the drugs and drink combined turned her from her children. In spite of the bottomless emptiness Laura felt since Matt's spiral into the crimson haze of too much alcohol, she used her own body to shield four-year-old Sara. The wee girl was only a babe in arms and yet already her eyes held knowledge and age she should not have for years to come. Now they held terror and grave sadness.

Clutching her mother for dear life, Sara didn't - wouldn't let go. "No… don't let hims get me! I was good, Mommy, I was!" Her small form trembling, her face buried in the nape of her mother's neck.

"I know." Laura said, her hands stroking the long back of her daughter in small circles. "You must run fast Baby, run and hide okay? Go hid in one of the empty rooms." Laura kissed her daughter's brow.

"LAURA!" the name was bellowed so loudly it seemed to shake the very walls of the house, the windows carried imagined vibrations.

Glancing around desperately, she backed up, looking around for protection for them both- - a way out. But her husband had stalked and cornered them, the only way out was for Laura to put her body in the way of the anger so that her child may find safety. Mark had already taken a back hand to the head and lay in the living room huddled and fearful. He wished he was brave, wished he could do more than cover himself up with the afghan. He peeked through the holes in the yarn blanket, watching as his mother held tightly onto a whimpering Sara.

'Don't make a sound, Sara. You know he hates it when you cry. Oh please shut up! Shut up! He's going to hit you, just shut up and become small.' Mark pleaded, though he kept his voice to himself.

Why was he doing it? Why wasn't he going away?

"LAURA! I hear that little spawn of yours! LAURA! You better do something to shut that little scab up, or I will."

Mark covered his ears with his hands, squeezed his eyes shut tightly, he didn't want to hear, to see what was coming.

Sara's hands clutched her mother's shirt tightly unwilling to let go. "Mommy, he will hurt us."

"Not you, if you run fast Sara. You must run very fast, I'll distract him, I know what he wants. You go hide and don't come out no matter what you hear. Understand?" Laura peeled her daughter's hands from their death-grip so that she could remove her peasant blouse leaving only her bra to cover her. She didn't bother with the hemp-made skirt, Matt always loved to take her with it still on, it gave him easy access and he wouldn't have to bother with the time of undressing his wife.

The little dark head nodded. She was still so young but she knew what was going to happen to her mother. Matt was going to touch her in the bad ways and make the hurt. Laura would whimper, plea, beg and moan because Matt demanded it. It was always worse if she made no sound and he lost his errection. He would take his stolen lust out on Laura in other ways, making her scream. If he couldn't take her with his own body, there were always something else, an object close at hand he would use to violate his wife. It was a sound Sara knew even at four would forever stay in her ears.

The door to the kitchen slammed open Laura made a dash for Matt almost tackling him to the floor. But Matt was ready for her, he snatched his wife in his thick arms, holding her fast. Sara ran past him darting between her father's legs into the living room past the shivering cowering lump on the sofa, down the hallway and up the stairs.

Mark cringed on the sofa still trying to hide and make himself invisible. Opening one eye he saw his father strike his mother on face with such force she spun around, sending her to the floor sprawled upon her hands and knees. Mark tried not to watch as he saw his father remove his pants, kneel before his mother backside and started to pump into her with grunts of force. Mark knew his father would be too distracted with fucking his mother to even notice that he had moved from the couch and sprinted up the stairs.

He was fourteen and nearly as large as his father, but his fear was greater still yes, he might have been able to save his mother that night, the night she changed. Years later, Mark knew the night of her rape had changed Laura Sidle forever, she had saved the life of her daughter that night buying her safety with her soul. A night Mark had never forgiven himself for, for if he had been brave that night, had he stopped the brutal raping things would have been different.

Haunted by the vastness of memory, Sara felt herself propelled forward out of the fog of the past: and its dark nightmare-time. After that night she had to call mommy by her name, if she didn't she was struck, often with a pillowcase filled with oranges. Mommy - Laura started to drink heavily as if to rid herself of Matt's touch; what he had done to her that night. He had forced her to take PCP and then raped her. Repeatedly. Laura's drinking never quite worked out the way she wanted, the memories always of that night dogged her in an acid-trip-like-flashback, time and again. When it did she would turn on her children. Her drunken-drug-twisted brain blamed not Matt but Sara. Sara the spawn, for it was all her fault for the punishment Matt had forced upon her. Sara took the brunt of her anger; Mark had avoided much of it by running away leaving his sister to become a ghost.

Sara hung tightly to the child she loved, a child she wanted for her own daughter that indeed her heart did call daughter. Kissing Janet's brow. Sara tried to calm the girl down. Her little lungs hiccupped gasping breaths of oxygen. "I won't let it happen, Janet." Sara vowed, her hands rubbing little circles upon the girls back. "I'll fight for you, baby. I'll do everything I can so I can be your mommy. I love you baby."

Sara made a move to stand still holding Janet to her, protecting her as best as she could. The little legs wrapped around Sara's waist, the arms tightly around her neck. "But your broken ribs, Sara." Janet protested "You're going to hurt them worser, if you don't put me down. I don't want to hurt'em."

"It's okay. I'll just pretend they don't hurt." Sara kissed the child's forehead. "I'm not going to let go of you. We're family now, you and I. You remember that, Sweety. Ok? No matter what happens, what comes I love you as if I gave birth to you. I did in my heart, Janet. I'll do everything I can to be your Mommy."

The door to the office opened, Janet hid her face in the nape of Sara's neck her body trembling. Hot tears falling, staining Sara's shirt. Her little hand gripping the cloth of that same shirt so tightly the knuckles had turned white.

For a moment Sara entertained the idea of having Janet run for Jim Brass, they might have returned to CSI HQ where Janet rested in Catherine's office but Brass had returned with her, he could protect Janet from Matt - no not Matt it was Mark. It was Mark's refection in the window, not that of her father and yet for a moment it was he not her brother who she saw standing in the doorway.

Janet whimpering grew louder.

One hand on her 'daughter's' bottom supporting her weight, Sara's right hand rested on the butt of her gun. "This time things are going to be different." Sara whispered. She kissed the child's temple giving her the opportunity to whisper to the girl so she might only hear the words.. "I will be your Mommy. And mommies protect their daughters. I'll protect you."

Matt stopped mid-step. His eyes drawn from the quivering girl to the hand on the .45. Sara's lips curled back ever so slightly. A tigress protecting her cub was not as dangerous. Mark had seen similar looks in the eyes of refugee women when the GI's set up base in Iraqi cities. Fear and loathing. Unthinking panic was filling Sara, she was losing the elusive hold on her righteous rage for the man who thought to steal her little girl. There was no doubt left in this man's mind nor heart. Sara would kill to protect the girl in her arms.

In the end, Laura Sidle had killed to protect her little girl. A girl she had long abused, had long neglected. In the end she was a mother protecting her young as she should have done all along. Now it was Sara Sidle who was protecting her own young, regardless if she gave birth to the girl or not. Mark saw his death reflected in his sister's eyes. No tour in the Gulf had brought him as close.

"Janet, Honey, this is the person I have to introduce you to." Sara said, her voice in cool reserve.

Have to. Not like to. Have to.

Mark started, not liking the introduction. He was deciding. Sara could see it in his eyes. Janet's life was in his eyes.

Suddenly it was like a light went on in the man's head.

"Janet, this is your - "

"Uncle. I'm your uncle."

Sara's grim eyes stayed on Mark as if asking 'what sort of game are you playing?'

'No Game. I mean it.' Dark eyes answered back.

Janet refused to look. If she looked the thing that wanted to take her away from her new mommy would be able to see her, take her. If she denied him, if she squeezed her eyes so tight it hurt, he couldn't see her, couldn't take her. Sara's arms, both of them wrapped around her small body.

He took a step closer, Sara's immediate reaction was to take a step back. Her hand now cupped the back of the girls head her body turning so she could use most of her body to shield her 'daughter' from the man who wanted to steal her away.

"Hey there little one, I'm Sara's big brother." He tried to flash a disarming smile, it might have worked save for his next words. "You shouldn't cry like that."

"If she wants to cry, she can." In as sharp and desperate a contradiction to her brother, Sara declared strongly, "'My' daughter never has to hide her emotions, make herself small or be quiet. She's allowed to be herself, Mark."

Only now did Janet dare risk a look to the man who was the owner of the voice she had heard. She gasped and pulled tighter into Sara's embrace. "He looks kinda like a boy you, Mommy." For the first time she was unrestrained in using the title of mother. Sara had called her daughter, had told her she was Mommy. Mommy was not a mythical creature that lived with unicorns, dragons, elves and hobbits. Mommy was real, she was Sara.

Sara nodded, though she would offer no smile, her own mind was reeling in the shock of Mark's proclamation of his identity. Only an hour ago he had claimed the rights of fatherhood, that he had intended to take Janet back and give her a life he denied her by running away.

"I only meant - that she is such a beautiful little girl, and tears make your face red and puffy, it's not very attractive."

Janet clung to Sara watching, her eyes wearying waiting for the man who looked so much like her new Mommy it un-nerved her. So much more so because she didn't trust this man. Fear gave way to a boldness born from the protection of her mother's arms around her.

"Are you going to try and take me from my Mommy? You better not, she's with the cops and they will put you in jail." Janet was doing her best to sound confident, defiant.

"You're very bold." Mark complemented.

Janet bragged, "She'll get you too, if you try to take me away. She shot a big dog like Fluffy on Harry Potter who was trying to eat her; she makes monsters go away forever. I belong to Sara. My Mommy is the slayer of Shelob."

"Slayer of Shelob?" Mark didn't catch the reference to the Tolkien stories or the giant monstrous spider that dominated several chapters until Samwise Gamgee slew her with Sting.

"Long story." Came his only answer.

Sara studied her brother as any trace of found evidence collected at a scene. Waiting for something that would betray his motives for this turn of heart. the vagueness of his introduction was ominous, leaving Sara in anxious demand to know why he had this change of heart. She would never confess to being at a loss, lest she demoralize her daughter with the extent of her own abysmal ignorance.

Mark looked upon the woman his sister had become and the girl she held. Janet did indeed belong to Sara. There could be no doubt of that. Not now, not ever. He made a move to step back and found his way blocked not only by the red-headed blonde but by Lindy as well. Both had identical scowls upon their faces, both pairs of blue eyes carried seething hate for the man they held with their gaze. Had he taken Janet from Sara, there was no way he would have been allowed to leave the CSI HQ with her.

Kindly, warmly Mark, inquired, "Janet, how would you like to be stay with Sara forever?"

"She promised I could. She said I get to call her Mommy. She's adopting me."

"And what a lucky girl you are to have such a mommy." Mark confirmed proudly.

"Maybe you should make it rock solid and sign rights of custody over to Sara, right here, right now." Lindy demanded not attempting to disguise her agitation for the man who had put her spirit-sister and the girl through the torment he had.

'Sure we'll just ignore the last few minutes like they didn't exist and we can go back to being newly reunited brother and sister.' Sara thought sardonically – tolerantly amused, in spite of herself, by his easy, self-deprecating pretense. Mark Sidle proved to be a four-star shark. And her brother. She shook her head ruefully.

"Mark," She said dryly. Sobering, she asked, "Do you mean it? I won't play this game."

"I wanted the best, I wanted in her life. I can do that as her uncle."

His sincerity, behind all the pretense, made her uncomfortable. He loved Janet once, He did love her. He had said he was going to be her father, to take her with him, now a change of heart seemed too sudden and too unreal to be believed. "I'm not playing a game Sara."

She shook her head, "How can I be sure that in the next few hours you won't change your mind. Again?" Sara kept her voice soft even in anger; deliberate, with cadences more like poetry than like speech, indefinably an educated voice - not because the words were flowery or multisyllabic but because they were chosen, weighted, precise. A voice that didn't fool around with words, wasn't careless nor sloppy with them. No nervous ands-uhs or y'knows to fill up pauses. A voice to be believed; what it promises, it would do. Therefore the voice of a good ally to have; or of an enemy you'd hesitate to wish on your worst competition.

A voice he'd heard thickened to a wordless, feral snarling and raised a silent roar out of nightmare. But this was how she talked, when she talked. A moral voice that made judgments. And acted on them. It carried a pain Mark had been unprepared for and unguarded against. It hurt to know he had quite possible shattered any renewed trust he might have held with his baby sister. It hurt to have had that microscopic trust and have lost it.

Earnest, endearingly awkward, Mark responded, "Sara, I don't want to bring you or my - 'your' daughter further pain. I never wanted to in the first place. But I did. I can't do anything about what happened when we were young can I? But I can make a difference now. I thought that meant being… a father. A daddy. It doesn't. It means allowing you to be a mother." Almost, it was a question. And it waited a breath for answers, explanations, that didn't come. He added. "And I can't change how I feel about her."

Another waiting pause followed. Sara felt the weight of sadness, from the ungiving silence, growing in her face and surely Mark saw it. His face closed, unreadable. Without another word or glance he turned and left, his exit flanked by Sara's would be bodyguard a very petit blonde in almost military precision.

Sara sighed, reflecting that another Sidle male had upended her life. He was a master. He like their father succeeded in making her feel guilty, if not precisely sorry, for not giving into his demands. Not loving him as a good little sister should. Using his own real pain as a weapon to jab at her, unerringly finding her vulnerabilities and rousing her compassion. Dangerous.

Steeling herself to the barrage of questions that would undoubtedly flow from Janet, Sara made ready to answer them. She had her own questions. What a terrible game her brother was playing at if he thought to weaken Sara by his superior acting as the remorseful estranged father and brother. How could he imagine anyone would win?

"Mommy, I want to go home." Janet uttered her voice hesitant, not from fear but the lag of exhaustion. The emotional roller-coaster of nearly having her new mother ripped from her arms spiraled the girl backwards in her recovery. For this, forgiveness was something Sara would never give her brother. He had brought fear and harm to her little girl.

Gently disengaging, Sara set her child down on the floor and took her hand. The slight weight of the child had played havoc with her broken ribs, a pain Sara would not admit to. The sudden pressure of blood flow back into the shattered healing bones nearly took the woman to her knees.

Catherine was there to catch her. "I've got you, Baby." She wrapped her arm around Sara's bruised aching waist. "Come on you two, I need to take two of my three favorite girls home, and check on my own baby." Catherine as her nature dictated, took firm command of the situation at hand. She knew Sara was in no state to drive, and Janet was unlikely to let her new mother go in fear of losing her. Sara was just as unwilling to let her hold go of the girl who was by all accounts her daughter.

Mark had stopped in the hallway for some reason, Lindy still glaring at him. Sara did not know whether to acknowledge his presence or not. Her need to take her daughter home was overwhelming her.

"Mommy?" Janet's large doe eyes looked even larger as they rapidly filled with a child's concern, and love. "I hurt you. I made your ribs hurt worser."

"No." Sara denied the allegation. "No Babe, you didn't. I just overdid it, don't for a minute think this is your fault. It isn't."

"Ribs?" Mark for the first time took in the fact his baby sister carried injuries.

"Job hazard." Sara said. "Mark, I have to take 'my' daughter home. It's a school night. And it's been a very long night."

"Yeah - sure." his hand wrapped around his neck kneading a knot that had developed there. "Can we get together sometime? Maybe Circus Circus? Maybe see the white tigers at the Mirage?" Mark's eyes landed upon the detail of the stuffed white tiger clutched in a death's grip in the little girl's arms he had only now noticed. The plush animal was facing outward, its wonderfully detailed leather claws and teeth showing outward, perhaps to ward off the monster that had meant to take her from her mother.

"Sign those papers, pal and maybe Sara will entertain the idea." Lindy demanded curtly, glancing at her life long friend.

"You still have quite the loud bark for such a little mutt." Mark retorted. "You never had to have her fight your battles before…"

"Yeah and you would know because you stuck around all her life. She was just six years old and now you threatened to take her child. You're something you know that?" Lindy wasn't letting up; her voice brazen and filled with the malice Sara dare not use for her brother might just take Janet from her in spite. Under the defiance, there was a cool skepticism, almost insolence about the wiry actress.

"Mark, I don't need to fight. I'm going to trust what we had as children. Lindy is passionately protective of me because she cares. Even if she gets ahead of herself, I love her for it. But going out would be a perfect celebration for my adopting Janet." It was there judiciously laid out for all to see and hear.

Sara would not budge if she didn't have the legal rights secured concerning the custody of Janet Sullivan - no Janet Sidle - her daughter.

Part 39

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