Fallen: Chapter 4 My Immortal

I'm so tired of being here
Suppressed by all my childish fears

Grissom stood in the waiting room's doorway and looked in uncomfortably noting the other occupants of the room as he did. A couple of off-duty detectives and lab techs along with a few of the kids from the youth center that Warrick and MJ ran took up chairs. However, it was the sight of Meg that surprised him.

For as long as he had known her, Meghan Jessica Davis-Brown had never seemed to be anything but strong. There had been times when cases had gotten to her. When she had been hurt or felt the pain of someone she cared about being hurt, or worse, but she had never appeared so broken to him. He supposed, on some level, he was surprised that she could be.

Catching Jim's eye, he nodded as he continued into the room and moved towards where they sat, or rather where Jim sat with Meg curled up on the chair next to him, his blazer over her and her head in his lap. "She doesn't look too comfortable," Gil remarked as he stopped next to them.

"She cried herself to sleep, Gil," the older man answered softly as he tried to shift his position slightly without waking her. "I've never seen her cry before."

"I wonder if even Warrick has," Gris mused.

Jim only nodded as he stroked back the hair that fell over her forehead. "Dane called me."

"I'm assuming he's agreed to help out with the money."

"And he's more than a little annoyed about the situation," Brass sighed, then paused and looked down at Natalie and back to Grissom. "You thinking what I'm thinking?" he asked.

"Would fit," Grissom shrugged. "So the question is: do we trust him?"

"Can we afford not to?" Brass asked as Natalie turned slightly.

"If he did make that call, well, there are worse people to trust," he answered as Natalie started to sit up tiredly.

"Than who? Me?" she asked tiredly, but Grissom and Brass's answers were cut off by Dr. Holden's entrance.

"Mrs. Brown," he started as he crossed to her.

"How is he?" she asked as she pushed up, causing Brass's coat to fall to the floor as she swung her legs in front of her and rose.

Picking up the coat from the floor, Grissom watched them as Brass rose, both men trying to get a read on the situation. In the meantime, the other occupants in the room also rose, with some of them coming towards them. Unsettled, Steve Holden looked at Natalie. "We could do this in private if you prefer," he told her, indicating the people around them.

"No. They need to know too," she answered stiffly as she wrung her hands.

"Fine. If that's what you want," he replied as he signaled that she should sit.

At his expression, she sunk into the chair, "it's bad isn't it?" she asked softly as Brass sat back down next to her and shared a concerned look with Grissom.

"The damage to his shoulder wasn't quite as extensive as we though it would be. However. . ."

"However what? Is he. . ." she started, but was unable to continue the thought.

"No," he reassured quickly as he reached out a hand, a motion that was mirrored by the older man sitting next to her. "We've relieved most of the intracranial pressure. However, your husband has slipped into a coma. Until he wakes up we can't be sure if there is any permanent damage."

"Until he wakes up?" Natalie asked on a hollow laugh. "You can't guarantee that he will."

"No, but. . ."

"I don't want false hope, Doctor Holden."

"All right. Your husband's condition is critical. He may wake up tomorrow or. . ."

"Never," she interrupted. "Or he may wake up for a short time and slip back into a comatose state."

"That's a possibility."

Nodding, she rose as she fought back tears. "Thank you for being honest," she started tiredly as she wrapped her arms across her chest, wishing for her husband's instead. "Is he back in his room?"

"I believe so."

"I'd like to see him now," she added as she started to go past him.

"All right, but I can't guarantee that he'll know."

At that, she paused and looked over her shoulder at the doctor who looked so much like her dead friend, but who didn't have his manner at all. Al would've known better than to make a comment like that, she couldn't help but think, as she stared at him and answered with the only words she could: "maybe not, but I will."

Turning away, she once more started towards the door, only to stumble slightly. Righting herself, she forced herself to continue, only to find that her steps were now being matched. Looking to her right she saw her boss and she bit back a sharp comment at the expression on his face. Stumbling once more, she was righted by his hand on her arm.

Quietly, they continued down the hallway to Warrick's room. At the door Grissom dropped his hand and stepped back. Turning slightly, Natalie looked at him directly for the first time since telling him the truth about who she had been and gave a watery smile, "thanks," was all she could say to him because she wasn't sure how to express what she was thankful for.

But of course, Grissom being Grissom, he had to ask: "for what?"

"For being the first one to not tell me it will be OK," she admitted as she looked away and to the door of the room where her husband was hanging onto life.

"MJ. . ."

"Don't, Gil," she chided quietly as she shook her head, refusing to look at him.

It was then that understanding dawned on him. She was thanking him because he was the first one to allow her her feelings of dread. Even though she couldn't see him do it, he nodded. "Take your time. When you're almost ready to leave, call me at the lab and I'll come get you."

"You don't have to. Besides, I don't want to leave," she argued as she turned her head enough to look at him.

Slipping his hands into his pockets, he shrugged. "You're going to have to," he told her, then reminding himself that he was talking to her as a family friend and not her boss he softened his tone. "Your brother will be here soon."

"Joey's coming?" she asked, surprised. A touch of hope finally shining in her eyes.

"Nick convinced him to."

"Did he tell him why?"

Catching her drift, he shook his head: "I haven't explained your situation to Nick."

Hope dimming out of her eyes once again, she shrugged: "its better this way. He wouldn't have come if he knew the truth," she said with a disappointed ease that surprised him.

Unable to verbalize anything further, he watched her turn and enter the hospital room, wondering if he should've countered her feelings on that part, yet knowing that he didn't have a good enough understanding of her family's dynamics to give a good counter argument. . .

I would give every breath from my chest

A few hours later, Natalie washed her face in the locker room sink, trying to destroy the evidence of the tears that she couldn't stop from falling. Straightening, she stared at the reflection in the mirror taking in the red puffy eyes set in a pale face as she tried to find some semblance of the woman she had thought she was, but failing to. Shakily, she wiped her face with the rough institutional paper towel before inhaling. Crumbling the used towel with one hand, she reached with the other for the make-up bag she had taken from her locker earlier. With little thought she started to apply her make-up, wondering if it was even worth the effort.

From the doorway, Catherine watched her jerky movements with concern. Slowly moving towards the younger woman, she vowed to help her deal with what was happening to her. She's not Sara. She doesn't deserve for you to take out old frustrations on her, an inner voice reminded as she came to a stop a few feet away from MJ. "I bought you a change of clothes," she told Natalie softly as the younger woman put down the make-up sponge she was using.

"I don't need them," Natalie said stiffly as she put the cap on her bottle of foundation and reached for her eye make up.

"You can't," Catherine started as she moved closer to her, only to stop as Natalie turned towards her and she realized that the younger woman had already changed and that what she had changed into was one of her husband's extra shirts.

"Taking on the job of fashion police too?" Nat snarked.

"I'm sorry . . . I didn't realized that you had already changed."

"It's the closest I'm going to get to him holding me for a while."

"Grissom said that the doctors are optimistic."

"That doesn't mean they're being realistic. We both know the reality here. What more than likely will be," Natalie replied sadly as she turned back to the mirror and the task of trying to hide the fact that she had been crying.

"Our jobs tend to make us pessimistic. That doesn't mean we can't hold out hope," Catherine countered as she moved to stand behind Natalie so that she could watch her in the mirror.

"It's not the job that's made me like this, Catherine. Life has," Natalie answered as she put down the make up brush and met the older woman's eyes in the mirror. "No one who's accepted me. . . loved me. . . has ever stayed around. That's my reality. Optimistic was believing that it would be different with Warrick and Tina," she finished as she broke eye contact and picked up eye liner.

"But your brother's coming."

"And he doesn't know why or for who," she explained as she once more connected eyes with the other woman's reflection. "A part of me doesn't believe that he would have come if he knew. Again, not pessimistic, just realistic," she shrugged as she fought back a new round of tears and finished applying her make up. . .

To give you all the things
That my mind couldn't bear

Reverend Joseph Buchanan knocked on the door that separated his room from that of his brother's now former fiancé. With a slight frown the brunette opened the door as she toweled dry her hair and turned back towards her bed. "You going to be ready soon?" he asked her.

"Your friend called, huh?" she asked as she flipped her hair.

"Yeah. His boss picked his co-worker up at the hospital a little while ago. They wanted to give her some time to shower and change before I got there."

"You mean we don't you?" she challenged as she brushed her hair quickly, letting it fall against her shoulders, uncaring of the curls that would come to it.

"Unless you want me to take a cab," he shrugged as she put her brush into her makeup case.

"Where are we going?" she asked impatiently.

Stuffing his hands into his pockets, he felt around before extracting a piece of paper.

Checking it, he recited the information, glancing up to notice his companion's stiffening. "You recognize the address?"

"Yeah. It's the building that houses the Las Vegas Crime Lab," the shaking her head, she shrugged. "Of course other offices are also there."

"Well, I guess it makes sense. He's bound to be involved in law enforcement somehow," Joe shrugged as he walked towards the door.

"Why's that?" she asked as she grabbed her purse and followed him.

"His family is."

"Oh," she sighed as she pulled the door closed behind her, trying to ignore the feeling that she was going to be pulled back into her past.

And if you have to leave
I wish that you would just leave

Sara made the drive to the Crime Lab on automatic pilot, trying to convince herself that it was just a coincidence, even though the evidence pointed elsewhere. Which lead her to wondering who could possibly have called for Joe. It's probably not even someone I know. Staff has probably changed drastically over the years that I have been gone, she tried to convince herself as she parked and in a visitor's spot and they exited the car and walked towards the building.

Because your presence still lingers here

Once inside, they moved towards the reception area, Sara glanced around and noted how few things had changed. "Can I help you?" the woman at the reception desk asked as Joey finished signing in and Sara moved to do the same.

"Yeah, we're here to see. . ." Joe started, only to be interrupted. "Hey, Buchanan, glad to see you made it!" Turning, Joe smiled at the man approaching him, taking in the tired, worried expression on his face.

"I had help finding the place," he shrugged as he shook the man's hand. "So what's the story, Nick?" he asked as a younger man came towards them.

"Nick! Brass's looking for you. So's that FBI guy," he added as he hurried by his back to the desk.

"McBaine's just going to have to take a number," Nick sighed as Gregg knocked into Sara.

"Sorry," he said distractedly.

"S'ok, Gregg," she shrugged causing the younger man to do a double take.

"Sidle? Well, this is unexpected. But I'm glad to see you. We can sure use an extra set of hands."

"Why? What's going on?" she asked as Gregg's pager went off.

"Can't talk. DNA analysis is in on a case," he added as he hustled off.

"Great, guess I'll just ask Nick," she shrugged, only to turn and see that both he and Joe were gone. "Well, that's typical," she sighed as she put on a visitor's pass and headed towards the labs.

And it won't leave me alone

"McBaine?" Joe asked as he fell into step next to Nick. "Please tell me you didn't call me here because of John McBaine."

"Not directly, but he's investigating the case."

"Then why am I here?"

"To tell the truth, I'm not exactly sure. Grissom didn't elaborate," he shrugged as they stopped at the man's closed door. "But that's not unusual for him," he added as he knocked on the door. When no answer came, Nick slid the door open slightly and reached in to flick the light. "He has a hearing problem."

"Oh," Joe answered as Gris called out for them to enter.

Rising from the chair, the older man took off his reading glasses and looked at them with slight preplexion. "Reverend," he acknowledged as he extended a hand towards Joe.

"You seem a bit surprise," Joe signed and spoke as he shook the man's hand.

"A bit unaware," Grissom contradicted as he stepped back.

"So I guess one of my parishioners didn't ask for me?"

"Not exactly," he answered as he turned his attention to his subordinate. "Brass and McBaine are looking for you."

"So I heard. Do I really have to work with that guy?" he asked, his hands stumbling over the signs, even as his voiced words were harsh.

"Yes, you do."

"Gris. . ."

"One, we're not doing anything to endanger this case. Two, Mig trusts him."

"And a lot of others don't," Nick muttered.

"Since I know her, I'll take her version of things," Grissom answered as he pointed to the door.

Shaking his head, Nick turned towards it and started out, muttering as he did. "Nick, don't mutter. It's annoying."

Joey looked at the older man in confusion. "I thought. . ." he started, then let his voice trail off.

"I have a hereditary disorder that, at its present stage of progression, causes my hearing to fade in and out," he commented matter of factly as he rounded his desk and headed towards the door. "You sign very well, by the way."

"My cousin Sara's larynx was damaged due to an attempt on her life. She can't talk as a result, so the family has learned to sign," Joe explained as he followed him out of the room. "So, can you tell me why you asked me to come here?"

"What did Nick tell you?"

"That a colleague was hurt and his wife requested my presence. And there was something about a kid too."

"Warrick Brown, one of my senior CSIs, was apparently ambushed as he arrived home with his daughter, Christina. He's in critical condition. Christina was taken and there has been a ransom demand made," Grissom informed as they came to a stop outside an interrogation room.

"OK, then why am I here?"

"Because of 'Mig.'" Grissom answered using his hands as quotes at the use of the name.

"Excuse me?"

"'Mig' is our nickname for Warrick's wife. As for why you're here it's because she wanted you to come."

"Then why did Nick call me and not her?"

"Because she's not. . ." he paused and titled his head slightly as he posed a question. "How would you feel getting a call from a dead person?"

"I don't understand."

"It's part of the case that Nick doesn't know yet. 'Mig' used to be someone else. She. . . well, I suppose it would just be better if you saw for yourself."

"Why?. . " Joe started as Grissom reached over and opened the door, blocking his view momentarily.

"Mig, he's here," he called softly as he stepped back and motioned for Joey to step in.

These wounds won't seem to heal

At the build of the woman who stood with her back to him, Joe frowned. Only it wasn't the build alone that caught his attention. What pulled at him was the hair. Even with the older man's words, he couldn't allow his mind to accept what his heart was beginning to acknowledge.

"I'll be in my office," Grissom said softly as he stepped out and closed the door.

At the click, 'Mig' turned. "Hey, Joe," she pushed past the lump in her throat.

"Long time. . . " she started, unable to hold back her tears. "No. . . see. . ." she finished as her older brother crossed the room and pulled her into his arms for a tight hug. . .


This pain is just too real

Sara walked down the hall with more confidence than when she had worked at the lab. Of course that was probably due in part to the fact that she was no longer a subordinate at one. Instead, she was now head of a crime lab and was responsible for taking it from one of the worse in the country to a mid level ranking.

Hands in her pockets, she took in all of her surroundings, not surprised to feel hemmed in by the memories of her time here. In her mind's eye she wasn't surprised to see the specters of the past watching her.

Rounding a corner, she caught sight of Grissom near a door that she remembered being one of the interrogation rooms. Stopping short, she watched him turn, their eyes locking.

She supposed she shouldn't have been hurt by the bemused expression that crossed his face or the fact that he broke eye contact and turned away.

But she was.

There's just too much that time cannot erase

Stepping out of one of the trace labs, Catherine Willows was surprised to see a figure she couldn't quite place in the hall. As the figure's shoulders slumped and head went down, she took a step towards it. It was then that she realized who it was.

Grissom's retreating form gave it away.

"Well, if it isn't Sara Sidle. To what do we owe this distinction?" she asked watching as the figure tensed and turned. "Although, I supposed you heard," she added, her voice softening slightly. "We could do with an extra set of hands even if they're yours. You are still able to work as a criminalist, aren't you?" she couldn't help but add haughtily.

"Actually, I direct a lab," Sara retorted defensively. "Which I'm sure disappoints you since you tried so hard to get me fired."

"You needed help."

"No. Actually, I didn't."

"You showed up at a scene drunk."

"Only because someone else was too busy getting laid to show up. If that person were to remember that night was supposed to by my night off. Besides, I had only had two beers, which didn't make me drunk."

"Sara, you endangered an investigation."

"Funny how no one ever said that about you. I mean, with me it was, what one? Maybe two, that I used questionable judgment on. The first I documented. And the drinking before shift I admitted to under oath. But you never admitted your mistakes. Tell me, how many conflicts of interest crossed your path? How many checks?"

Catherine shifted uncomfortably at that, "I never understood why you didn't throw those things in my face at the time. "Just because you were acting like a jealous bitch at the time didn't mean that I had to."

"I wasn't. . ." Catherine started, then sighed. "I don't know. Maybe I was."

"You're actually admitting it?" Sara asked surprised.

"Considering you're the second person to accuse me of those types of behaviors today, maybe I need to reevaluate things. I just know I didn't want to see Gil hurt."

"He wasn't the one who was. He wasn't the one who almost lost their career. He wasn't the one whose chance for advancement was sabotaged," Sara reminded hotly, then shrugged. "I don't know why I'm bringing this up. It was years ago."

Catherine flipped her hair and sighed: "Closure. We never discussed it. One day you were just gone."

"Yeah," she responded as she looked away and stuck her hands in her pocket.

"What are you doing here by the way?"

"Drove a friend."

"Really? Why?"

"I'm not sure. His presence was just requested," Sara shrugged. "Why? What did you think I was doing here? What should I have heard about?" she asked as one of the lab techs blew out of the ballistics labs.

"Willows, got a hit for you on the ballistics from the Brown case. Belongs to a guy by the name of Todd Manning."

"Brown case? Manning? What's going on?" Sara asked. "Is Warrick in trouble?"

"Warrick's in the hospital. He was ambushed outside his house and his daughter was kidnapped."

"Daughter? I knew he had gotten married, but. . ."

"Rick and Mig adopted her," Catherine answered as she looked over the report in her hand.

"When did all this happen?"

"About 12 hours ago, why?"

"Because if the Todd Manning that that tech was talking about is the one I'm thinking of he has an alibi."

Raising an eyebrow, Catherine looked at the information in her hand: "guy's from a town in PA."

"Landview," Sara provided. "And he spent a good portion of last night covering his nephew's fund raiser for the SUN."

"The Sun?"

"A newspaper he owns."

"And you know this how?"

"I attended the same fundraiser with only slightly more enthusiasm than Todd. I can make a couple of calls, see if he reported a gun stolen. Of course, it would help if I knew what type of guns I was looking for. Why the ballistics were already on file."

"Thanks, but I'll call the lab there myself."

"Fine. Do what you want. I just figured it would be easier for you to get through the red tape that Colson will throw at you having the head of Landview's crime lab doing the talking."

"Well, we really have gone up in the world," Catherine said sharply. "Unfortunately, I haven't. There's too much at stake on this case for me to just allow you to step in."

"You said you needed an extra set of hands."

"Yeah, night shift's down two CSIs. I just want to handle this right. You need to be officially. . ."

"Fine," Sara interrupted. "I'll go talk to Grissom," she added as she stalked down the hall.

"Sara, there's something. . . ." Catherine started to call. "You should know," she added as her voice level dropped. "Damnit, This is not going to be good."

When you cried I'd wipe away all of your tears
When you'd scream I'd fight away all of your fears
And I've held your hand through all of these years
But you still have, all of me

How long Joe stood there holding his sobbing sister tightly to him, he didn't know. It seemed as if everything had stopped. This couldn't be real, and yet it was.

As her tears started to subside, he pulled back and stared at her. "How is this even possible?" he questioned as he pulled out a handkerchief and handed it to her. "Where have you been? Why did you let us think that you were dead?"

"Because I thought it was better this way."

"How could it be?"

"Because Star and Marcie were almost killed because of me. Their car accident wasn't one and I couldn't let any one else be hurt because of me."

"So you faked your death?"

"The FBI did that. I didn't know it would be the route they'd take."

"McBaine put you up to this?"

"John was doing his job."

"Amazing how he always seems to get people hurt. I'm surprised at you though, you could've found some way to get in touch with us. To let us know that you were alive."

"And get one of you killed?" Natalie asked. "Yeah, that would've been helpful."

"Then why call now?" Joey asked, and then as the older man's description of why he was here sunk in as he made connections. "The ransom. You need money. That's why you called. Asa was right. It was just about the money with you," he accused.

Shaking, Natalie stared at him: "that's what you. . . you know what? I should've known this wouldn't. . . The door's behind you. Why don't you use it?" she threw back as she turned her back to him and crossed to the wall.

Breathing hard due to his agitation, Joey stared at her back. "What did you expect me to thing? To do? Damnit, Natalie! You let us believe that you were dead. It nearly killed. . . Then you suddenly decide to have someone call and get me to come here without telling me why and then the story I'm told. . ."

"I didn't suddenly decide anything, Joey!" she interrupted as she spun around. "I suddenly had my past show up at my house. My car, which my husband was driving because his was acting up this morning, was shot up. I lost count of the spent bullet casings that I saw on my lawn. My husband was hit multiple times and is in critical condition. My daughter is missing. One blood sample from the scene has been identified as belonging to her. I don't know if she's dead or alive. I received a ransom demand that there's no way in hell I can pay on my own.

That's what this is about! They're what this is about!

Believe me, I wouldn't have called if there was any other way.

Then, again, I can see that I shouldn't have!"

"I didn't mean. . ."

"Yeah, you did. Because everyone thinks that way about me. I guess that was the good thing about being someone else. I wasn't judged by Roxy or you anymore. No more pity or impossible standards."

"Why me? Why not Mom or Dad? Uncle Bo?"

"Because I thought you'd be the one to understand. To see. . . I guess I was wrong."

"Understand what? You haven't really explained anything."

"Forget it. Just forget it all," she sighed as she went to push past him.

"Don't," Joe protested as he reached out and grabbed her arm. At her look he let her go. "Help me understand."

"I don't know how to," she told him honestly. "I don't understand it myself."

Swallowing, Joe reached out and placed a hand on her shoulder: "let me help you."

"I'm not one of your parishioners, Joey."

"No. You're my sister," he said softly as he moved them towards the chair and tables that were behind them. "So, tell me what's going on. How you got to this point. About your husband. Your daughter."

"There's not a lot to tell," she shrugged as she sat down and watched him round the table to take a chair. "Christian had racked up some gambling debts."

"Chris gambled? That doesn't seem like him."

"No. I'm just making it up."

"I didn't mean it that way. I'm just surprised."

"I know. I just. . ." she stopped and shook her head.

"You're under a lot of stress."

"That's one way of putting it. Any way, he got in debt to the wrong people and they weren't happy that I didn't throw that match so they came after me."

"And McBaine made you join the Witness Protection Program and fake your death."

"He didn't make me do anything. He gave me an option. I didn't know that they'd fake my death."

"Would you have still done it if you had?"

"Honestly? I don't know."

"I see."

"No. I don't think you do. You have no idea how guilty I felt when Star and Marci were in that so called accident. Then when I realized that it was done purposefully."

"But Uncle Bo had said that the investigators hadn't found anything."

"Well, I guess Landview's crime lab was one of the worse in the country for a reason, wasn't it? Joe, I found the problems with the break lines myself."

"Maybe McBaine. . ."

"Joe, I got threats, OK? I'm not stupid. It wasn't John. Someone wanted me dead. I wouldn't take a chance with anyone else's life."

"But Christian? Are you sure it wasn't because of Roxy? That would make more sense."

Natalie bristled at that: "Yeah. I'm sure it was because of Christian. Any doubts were erased today."

"How?"

"A witness identified one of the shooters, or at least they were able to give a description to a sketch artist. Take a guess at who the picture came out looking like."

"No. Come on Nat. He's dead."

"Yeah, and so am I. What's your point?"

"I just. . . Considering what McBaine has done in the past, I just can't bring myself to trust him. And I don't understand how you can."

"I don't. At least not completely. But, I do know I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him."

"We would have done whatever we could've. You could've gone to London or. . ."

"Or what? And then where would I be, Joe? And I don't mean physically here. If it weren't for John, I wouldn't have gone very far."

"Of course you would have!"

"Really? I wish I had your confidence. Because I don't think I would have. Do you remember who I was back then? Not who I let you see. Not who I pretended to be. But who I was. I mean, I dropped out of school to support Chris. Because we couldn't afford for both of us to go and g-d forbid that I used my money. That I touch the trust fund to do it. He didn't want to take money from the family, and I wanted to prove that I didn't care about the money. Hell, I didn't think that I was worth it."

"Natalie, you know that isn't true."

"I know that now. I know now that my relationship with Chris was bordering on being emotionally abusive. But then," she shrugged. "I was always in Jessica's shadow. Asa thought I was just after the money. I barely knew Kevin. I had met Clint what. . . three times, and most of those had more to do with Jess than me, and Cord, I've never met."

"Asa was coming around. Kevin cared. So did Clint."

"Maybe, but it wasn't just that. Do you know that I lost my scholastic scholarship not because of my grades, but because I was a Buchanan? They thought that it should go to someone whose family couldn't pay for their education."

"I didn't know that. I didn't even know that you had had one. You never told us."

"IT wouldn't have changed anything. John, well, he actually pushed me to be more than a waitress or beautician or nail technician. I didn't know what to do and he pointed out that I was the one to figure out the problem with my breaks. That I solved a chemical link in the Music Box case. He suggested that I look into forensics. Turns out that I'm good at it."

"You're good at a lot of things," Joey told her. "But what about the other things. Your husband? Daughter?"

"Warrick's a criminalist too. He and I met on the job. We didn't get along at first. But I guess some other people saw what we didn't."

"What do you mean?"

"He asked me out the first time because he was dared to."

"He told you that?"

"Considering that I thought it was odd that he was asking me out in the first place and decided to call him on it? Yeah, he told me. Although I still don't know which of five co-workers was the culprit."

"And you still went out with him?"

Natalie shrugged as she pushed her hair back as a slight smile appeared on her face: "I thought it was funny. We figured we'd prove our point that we were suited for each other. We ended up realizing that we had a lot in common, including the fact that we didn't mind fighting obstacles."

"Did you face a lot?"

"Joe, he's a little more than ten years older me, a Senior CSI, and he's African-American. Yeah, I'd say we faced some obstacles."

"And your daughter?"

"No comments on what I just said?" she asked, surprised that he had no reaction to the fact that Warrick was Black.

"Did you expect there to be?" Joe asked, then at her shrug, he added: "do you love him?"

"Of course!"

"Does he love you?"

"Joe. . ."

"Does he Natty?"

"Yes."

"Does he treat you well? Make you happy?"

"Yes to both."

"Then that's all I need to know for now."

"For now?"

Joe shrugged: "I'll get a better read for myself after I meet him. Now, what about your daughter. How old is she?"

"She just turned four."

"Really? I didn't expect her to be that old."

"Rick and I adopted her. Her mother and I cocktailed together when I first moved here and when she got pregnant with Christina we shared an apartment. Then she got sick."

"So she died?"

"She. . . she was terminal and. . . well, she made me promise that I would take care of Christina. I didn't think twice about make that promise. I knew it would be hard, but. . . anyway, we arrange to have the papers drawn up to name me her guardian. The day after they were finalized Warrick and I took Christina to the circus. When we got home. . . well, Manny was dead. A neighbor upstairs and heard her fall and called and. . . It was ruled a suicide. Manny her left a note saying that she couldn't take the pain any more and that she knew Tina would be safe with me. I guess she was wrong."

"I'm sure you're a wonderful mother."

"If I were how could this have happened? You know, Joe, Warrick and I are sooo careful Because of the job we do we are past overprotective. Her fingerprints are on file. We have updated photos. We keep copies of her dental records at home. Her school knows that there are only certain people that are allowed to pick her up. In fact they have directions that they can't even release her to a police officer unless they check with us or the department first, but because I switched cars with Warrick today, she's missing."

"Natalie, you had no way of knowing. You sound like you've done everything possible to keep her safe. You couldn't have stopped this."

"Maybe I could've. If I was there maybe I could've talked him out of taking her. If I was there Warrick wouldn't have been."

"And then what? Could your husband afford that ransom any more than you can? Would he have known who to call? And if they ask Mom and Dad to pay, do you think that they will thinking that you're dead?"

"But it would be me. It wouldn't be them. I'm the one it should've been, Joe. I'm the one who's responsible."

"No. Natalie. You're not. I know you won't let yourself believe that, but maybe someday you'll allow yourself to."

"Do me a favor and stop patronizing me."

Joe shook his head, "that's not what I'm doing."

"Then what are you doing? Why are you still here?" she asked as she pushed away from the table and stood. "Why did you let me go on like I did?"

"Because I'm your brother and you needed to talk to someone," he answered as she watched her.

"I don't need any one. I can't afford to."

"That's not true."

"Yeah, it is," she answered forcefully as she wrapped her arms around her. "Chris was presumed dead because of me. Warrick might die because of me. Tina's hurt because of me. Hell, I couldn't even help Rex when we were kids! Everyone I 'need' gets hurt! Don't believe me? Ask Ben, wait a minute! You can't ask him either, can you?"

"You weren't. . ." he started and then exhaled, knowing he wouldn't get through to her if he went down that road. "Is it that you needed them or loved them?"

"It doesn't matter. It ends the same either way."

"It doesn't have to."

"Hasn't it already?"

"Is your husband a fighter?"

"Yes, but. . ."

"No buts," Joe interrupted as he went to her and put his hands on her shoulders. "You haven't lost him yet. And you regained us."

"Joey. . ."

"Listen. I'm going to call Mom and Dad and we'll do whatever we can to help you. . ." he started decisively, squeezing her shoulder before stepping back slightly.

"Joe, you can't," she ordered, panic in her tone. "You can't tell any one that I'm still alive."

You used to captivate me
By your resonating light
But now I'm bound by the life you left behind
Your face, it haunts my once pleasant dreams
Your voice it chased away all of the sanity in me

Sara knocked on the door of Grissom's office and when she didn't get a response slowly pushed it open. Quietly, she scanned the room and saw that not much had changed, not even the man who sat behind the desk appeared to. Inhaling a fortifying breath, she took a step in and started the speech she had rehearsed on her way down the hall: " Catherine told me what's going on. I want to help," she stated simply, knowing that with him it was the best course of action. "Come on, Grissom. I'm still a CSI. Besides, I have contacts that can help," she added as she seemingly ignored her and she went further into the room. "Damnit, Gris! You can't ignore me forever!" she added frustratedly.

"He's not," Willows said from the doorway as she reached over and flicked the lights. "He more than likely didn't hear you," she added as the man in question looked up and towards her. "She wants to help," Catherine informed him in sign as he looked at her.

Cocking his head slightly to the side he looked at her in confusion: "who?"

Rolling her eyes, she pointed to the direction of where the younger woman stood speechless. Following her motion, he looked towards Sara, surprise showing momentarily on his face before he masked it and turned back to Willows. "You ok with that?" he signed.

"It's not up to me," she signed back.

"I don't have time to mediate," he replied in sign.

Stomping her foot, Sara waited for him to turns towards her before she fired a retort at him in flawless sign: "You mediate? We're two professional women and we'll handle whatever it is we need to on our own."

"Like you did in the past?" Grissom wondered.

"And you mediated in the past?" she shot back.

"On that note," Catherine said/signed as she slid out of the room unnoticed by the other two occupants who were glaring at each other.

"I choose not to get in the middle," Grissom shrugged.

"You were the middle!" Sara signed in agitation.

"Sara. . ."

"No. Listen to me, for once, just shut the hell up and listen to what I have to say. I came to Vegas because you asked me to. I stayed because you asked me to, and yeah, because I thought that maybe we'd eventually have the chance we didn't have before. But, after a while I came to terms with the fact that you didn't want me. The only problem was that Catherine decided that I was a threat so she went about sabotaging my career."

"She didn't make you show up drunk that night."

Sara sighed, her signs slowing, "it was my night off. I had had two drinks. I. Wasn't. Drunk. And if you remember, she was the one who called out that night. You were the one who insisted I come in and take her place."

"Lindsey was sick!"

"Yeah, keep on believe that one," Sara muttered, her hands at her sides as she looked away.

"You know something different?" he asked, watching as her gaze shot back to his in surprise. "I have ostiocolosis, but I'm not completely deaf, yet. My hearing fades in and out."

"I see."

"Now, what was that comment about?"

"It doesn't matter now."

"Apparently it does. You've never said things that don't matter."

"Fine. Catherine wasn't home taking care of Lindsey. She was out on a hot date."

"Why didn't you say something at the time?"

"As much as I wanted to save my career, I wasn't going to destroy hers. Besides, how did I know you wouldn't have covered for her like you had in the past?"

"I wish you'd have given me the chance, I might have surprised you."

"I guess we'll never know," she shrugged. "So, what do you say? Can you use my help?"

"Your boss isn't going to mind?"

"I'm on vacation and since you'll need my lab's co-operation any way. . . I don't think that it will be a problem."

"Your lab?"

"I'm the head of a crime lab in PA."

"So, you're my counterpart there then."

"Yeah, I guess I am."

"Then call and set it up," Grissom said watching her move towards the door. "Oh, Sara?"

"Yeah," she asked as she looked back over her shoulder at him.

"Don't leave without saying goodbye this time, ok?"

"All right," she agreed.

"All right," he nodded as he sat back down and started to look over reports. Shaking her head, she opened the door and stepped into the hallway. Pausing slightly, she couldn't help but ask herself what the hell she was doing. . .

These wounds won't seem to heal
This pain is just too real
There's just too much that time cannot erase
When you cried I'd wipe away all of your tears
When you'd scream I'd fight away all of your fears
And I've held your hand through all of these years
But you still have, all of me

Joey stared at his sister in confusion: "Why? Why can't I tell them? They deserve to know. And you need them right now. You shouldn't go through this without your family."

"You don't understand."

"My answer remains the same, Nat, make me."

"Fine. The problem is that I don't have my family," she answered sharply. "And even if that weren't true, they're not my family any more."

"Nat. . ."

"Joe, come on. You know I was never a real part of the Buchanan clan."

"You never gave us a chance to make you one. You always held back. You apparently still are."

"It was self-defense."

"From what?"

"Hello! You've met Roxie, right? That's gotta give you a clue. I mean, in your line of work I'm sure you know that neglect wasn't the only form of abuse I faced growing up. Besides, I was never good enough."

"That's not. . ."

"Don't. . . don't even finish that sentence! Don't diminish what I felt. You have no right to!

Further more, I have people who act as an extension of a family for Rick and I.

As for telling 'Mom' and Clint, I can't deal with them or any of the others right now. I can't deal with their questions and accusations. Not now."

"But. . ."

"Besides, there's another good reason why you can't.

"What's that?"

"I might not be for much longer."

I'd love to walk away
And pull myself out of the rain
But I cant leave without you

Joe stared at her in confusion. "Are you sick?"

"No. See, Joe, there's something I've realized that the others. . . well, they haven't yet. I don't know. It was something in the wording. . .I don't know. . . the thing is, Joe. The reason I'm so certain that this is my fault is because I'm part of the ransom. He wants me as well as the money."

Joe inhaled at her words and tried to grasp her words. Like so many other things that morning, it was beyond him. As always she was beyond him. "My G-d, you can't. . ."

"Can't I?"

"Natalie, you have to think about. . . I mean. . ."

"What? What do you mean, Joe? Tell me. And while you're at it, tell me what alternative I have. Any way you look at it, my life's over."

I'd love to live without
The constant fear and endless doubt
But I can't live without you

"Don't talk that way!"

"I have to. If I don't do this, Christina dies."

"You said you weren't even sure," he started, then stopped at the realization of what he was saying.

"Exactly. I'm not sure. And if she's. . . well, do you really think that I can live with that? If my being part of the ransom gives her a chance, then I have to take it."

"What about the other people who care about you? Your husband."

"If he survives?" she asked pointedly as she stared up at the ceiling, then back at him. "If he survives, Warrick knows me well enough to know that I couldn't have done this differently. Our friends--- colleagues--- they'll remind me of the stats, but I can't--- no, I won't--- let them change my mind. I think they'll know that.

And, if it's too late for Rick and Christina then my life's over any way."

Joey shook his head and bit back a hollow laugh. "And you claim that you're not a Buchanan? Don't you know how much like one you sound? How much like Mom?"

"Joey. . ."

"I'll agree not to tell them, but once things even out. Once all of this is settled. I want you to promise me that you'll let them know the truth."

"I can't promise that."

"Why not?"

"I just. . . they won't even care," she answered as she looked down at her feet and pulled at the edge of the shirt she wore.

"Of course they will."

"Don't, Joe. . ."

I can't believe that I'm doing this, he thought as he spoke words that were nearly unrecognizable to him: "the promise for the money."

"You can't. . . Damnit! How can you be so underhanded about this!"

"I learned from Asa."

"Fine, but I contact them when I'M ready. You don't blindside me with them. You promise me that and we have a deal."

"I wouldn't. . ."

"Yeah, well, I never would've thought that you'd do this."

"You have a point. Fine. Have it your way. But, one thing," he said as he came up next to her. "Even when you aren't ready for them. You're not pushing me away. I'm here and I'm staying for the long haul. Buchannans stick together, Nat, even if you don't want them to. . ."

"I don't know if I want to. I just. . . I don't know how to be one. . . how to. . ."

"That we'll deal with when this is over."

"Promise?" she asked him.

"Promise," he answered as he hugged her. "It's what big brothers do."

"What is?"

"Dry the tears. Make the monsters go away. Be there," he added as he looked down at her, "You were right to call me. Don't doubt that."

When you cried I'd wipe away all of your tears
When youd scream I'd fight away all of your fears
And I've held your hand through all of these years
But you still have all, of me

Song credit: My Immortal

Everanscance