Prologue

"What are you doing?"

The girl froze at the hushed voice behind her. "Go back to sleep, Amy," she whispered back.

"Are you running away? They'll catch you, Katie!"

"Not if I'm fast enough," the first girl answered determinedly. Using her stolen butter knife, she pried the last nail out of the board that covered the obsolete laundry chute in the bathroom wall.

The dirt and grime surrounding the splintery board kept it glued firmly to the wall.

A soft shuffle of footsteps sounded from around the corner.

"Someone's coming!" Amy whispered anxiously. "You're gonna get caught!"

"Shush!" Katie scraped at the grime around the edges of the board. "I'll get caught anyway if you don't be quiet!"

"I'm sorry," Amy whimpered.

"Help me," Katie commanded. "I can't get the board loose."

Swallowing back another scared whimper, Amy pulled one edge while Katie pulled the other.

The board came off and crashed to the floor.

Wide eyed with fright, the two girls dared not breathe as they waited to be discovered and then punished.

When no one appeared to investigate the noise, they breathed a sigh of relief.

"Where you planning on going anyway?" Amy asked in curiosity. "Orphans like us don't have families."

"I'm not an orphan!" Katie corrected.

"Not an orphan?" Amy echoed mockingly. "Then whatcha doing in the orphanage?"

Noting the swift change in her roommate's mood, Katie realized with dread that Amy's other personality was quickly surfacing.

The evil personality...the one obsessed with fire.

Katie provided the other girl with no response. Desperate to escape the nightmare she was living, she took a deep breath and scooted, feet first, into the laundry chute. "Do me a favor and cover the hole?"

Amy bit her lip, undecided as to whether she wanted to help her roommate, or betray her.

"Please?" Katie pleaded.

Amy narrowed her eyes. "Maybe."

Katie didn't stick around to find out the answer. She shimmied down the laundry chute, thankful that the basement was only one level below her room.

She landed on her feet, brushing part of a spider web off her arm. After making sure the wad of hard-earned cash was still safe in her pocket, Katie searched for a way out.

She picked up an empty wooden crate, nearly dropping it when a mouse scurried across her shoe.

"Get a grip," Katie told herself, letting out a slow breath. She set the crate under a dirty window and stepped up, testing the integrity of the wood.

The crate squeaked a little, but held the girl's weight.

Hopping down from her makeshift ladder, Katie then looked around for something with which to break the window.

A discarded pipe did the trick, and soon the youth was on the other side of the freshly shattered window, ducking into the shadows.

The sun was just starting to rise as she followed the old dirt road into town. The first place she stopped at was a small, run-down Food Mart.

Katie brushed the dirt off her clothes and combed her fingers through her hair, attempting to look presentable.

She entered the Food Mart as casually and inconspicuously as possible. Her stomach growled as she eyed the shelf of chocolate bars.

Choosing a Butterfinger bar, she went to the register to pay.

"Can you tell me where the bus station is?" Katie inquired of the lady behind the counter.

The cashier, looking to be of the grandmotherly sort, gave her a yellow-toothed smile and answered, "It's at the other end of town, sweetie. Out that-a-way."

Katie looked where the woman was pointing. "That direction?" she clarified, praying it was the truth.

"Yep. Probably not open this time of morning, though."

"Thank you." Katie collected her change and exited the Food Mart, munching on her delicious candy bar and heading for the bus station.


Chapter 1

"Excuse me, mister."

The man looked down at the young girl who addressed him. "Hi there. Can I help you?"

The girl tucked a dark curl behind her ear. "I'm looking for Sara Sidle."

The man smiled. "So am I. Would you like to help me find her?"

The girl regarded him a moment. He seemed like a good guy. She nodded. "Okay."

They walked side by side down a corridor.

"My name is Nick," the man said.

"I'm Katie," the girl answered politely.

"Nice to meet you, Katie," Nick said with a smile. He wondered exactly who Katie was, and why she was looking for Sara.

Nick spotted Sara coming out of the DNA lab, with a smirk on her face and her hands on her hips.

"Page me when those results are in, Greg," Sara said over her shoulder.

"Don't I always?" Greg answered back with a cheeky grin.

"Hey, Sara!" Nick hollered.

Sara looked up when she heard her name. Turning around, she saw Nick. "Hey," she answered back.

Nick opened his mouth to give Sara a rundown of their current case information, when he suddenly witnessed the most unbelievable event.

The young girl beside him stopped dead in her tracks, her startlingly green eyes wide in recognition of the woman.

"Mom!" Katie shouted, launching herself at Sara.

Sara was numb with shock. "Katie? Oh my god! Katie!" Her heart pounded furiously as she dropped to her knees and drew the young girl into her embrace.

Katie clung to Sara, wrapping small arms tightly around her neck. Her thick, dark hair bounced with each tremble that passed through her slight frame. "I missed you, Mommy," she sobbed in a desperate whisper.

Sara felt faint as she brushed Katie's dark curls aside to look at her wet, tear-streaked face. "Katie, honey, what are you doing here? How did you get here?"

Katie pulled away just enough to wipe away her tears. Her bright green eyes looked up at Sara. "I ran away. They hate me there!" Fresh tears came forth, and she buried her face against Sara's shirt again.

"Oh honey," Sara whispered, tears springing to her eyes. She wrapped her arms tighter around the girl's narrow shoulders and rubbed her back. "I thought you were gone forever!"

Katie sniffled loudly. "I couldn't stay there anymore! I just couldn't!"

Sara gently brushed Katie's tears away and looked up at Nick. He had witnessed the entire incident, and was now looking at Sara like she'd grown another head.

"Uh, Nick...I'll catch up with you, okay?" Sara stood up, not waiting for an answer. With an arm around Katie's shoulders, she led the child to the nearby break room and shut the door.

Nick snapped out of his daze. He tried to make his feet move, but they wouldn't.

He leaned heavily against the wall, his mind racing. Sara was a mom? Why had she kept that a secret?

Unaware of just how long he had been standing there, Nick's thoughts were interrupted by Grissom approaching with Catherine and Warrick in tow.

"Hey, Nick. You seen Sara?" Grissom questioned.

"Yeah. She's in the break room," Nick answered.

"Thanks." Grissom continued on towards the break room.

Nick suddenly remembered who had entered the break room previously. "Oh, Grissom! Wait!"

Grissom paid no attention. He opened the door and stopped abruptly.

Catherine, Nick, and Warrick nearly crashed into him, but he didn't even notice. His eyes were glued to the two females on the couch.

Sara resided on one end of the couch.

Katie was curled into a ball on her side, with her eyes closed and her head on Sara's lap.

Sara wiped at the tear streaks on her own face and silently stroked Katie's hair with her fingers.

Grissom suddenly felt like someone was squeezing the air out of his lungs. He took a step inside the room, and gasped, "Katie!"

Nick thought he was shocked before. He was completely unprepared for when Katie opened her eyes.

"Dad?" She sat up quickly, rubbed a fist over her eyes, and looked again. "Dad!" She shot up off the couch like a rocket.

Grissom's trembling arms held the young girl gently but firmly. "My god! Honey, I thought I'd never see you again," he whispered into her hair.

Nick, Catherine and Warrick stared at them, dumbfounded.

Grissom raised tear-filled eyes to Sara, who gave him a shaky smile. "Sara, what's she doing here?"

Sara stood and walked over to them. She ran her fingers through Katie's soft curls. "Grissom, we need to talk."

Grissom nodded numbly. He spoke to the three behind him, but kept his eyes on Sara. "Could you give us a few minutes, guys?"

"Yeah," Catherine was the first to recover, and answered for them. "Sure." She stepped into the hallway, dragging Warrick and Nick with her.

Nick closed the door behind him.

They watched through the door window in absolute shock.

Grissom guided Sara and Katie back to the couch, where they sat down with Katie between them.

Sara said something to Grissom, and fresh tears cascaded down her cheeks.

Grissom reached a hand up and cupped her cheek, his thumb gently brushing the tears away.

"What's going on here?" Catherine demanded. "Grissom has a daughter?"

"It seems that way," Warrick said gravely. "How come he never told us?"

"How come Sara knows her?" Catherine countered.

Nick watched Grissom and Sara for a minute. "Well...I think I know why Sara knows her."

Two pairs of eyes swung around to look at him.

Nick looked from Catherine to Warrick. "Not only did she call Grissom 'Dad'...but that girl also called Sara 'Mom'."

"What!"

"When?"

Nick told them about their reunion in the hallway. "We knew they shared a past," he added. "But I never imagined they shared a kid."

Catherine exhaled heavily and leaned into Warrick, who absently slipped a supportive arm around her shoulders.

Nick once again propped himself up against the wall.

Ten minutes later, the door opened and Grissom came out cradling a very sleepy-eyed child in his arms.

Sara appeared next to him, smoothing a few curls away from Katie's eyes. She addressed her colleagues, whom Grissom seemed to totally ignore. "Um, we're taking Katie to Grissom's office where she can take a nap. I guess we'll talk when we get back."