Author's Note: This is a very belated Christmas fic for my friend Drakonlily.

.X.

My daughter lies dead before me.

Her body is emaciated, flesh hollow and pallid as though she has been exsanguinated. She does not look like the girl I used to hold at night when she could not sleep, nor does she look like the beautiful young woman that hugged me and cried the day she left for Harvard. This is an obscenity, flesh branded and body brutalized—this is a husk, a shell, a broken and tortured form that had once upon a time housed life. This isn't my daughter; it can't be …

The doctor stands a silent, grim vigil across from me, the corpse on the cold slab between us both. Though he says nothing, his empathy is almost radiating from him in waves and I hate him for it. I hate him for showing me this; I hate him for doing what he hasto do. When I finally speak it is a struggle to find my voice past the hard knot in my throat, and my words are husky with the suppression of my disbelief, my grief, my rage. "May I touch her?" I ask, and the doctor nods once.

Her skin beneath my fingers is hard and cold. My fingertips brush the line of her cheekbones—defined very clearly because of her emaciation—and then they find her lips, slightly parted and pale. And in that moment, feeling her dead flesh beneath the warmth of my own, it strikes me with sudden, brutal force what I have lost. My daughter. My child. My baby.

Zoe.

It harder now to speak, but I ask the question I must. The doctor does not know what happened to the child she carried, but there is evidence that it had been either aborted or delivered by Caesarean. At his answer the world swims around me, and it is suddenly very hard to keep upright. Mistress though I am, adept at punishment and pain, it is too hard to fathom all she suffered through, all she endured. Suddenly the weight of the doctor's gaze is too much, and I say something unintelligible. Apparently he understands, for he pulls the white sheet back up her body and covers her from me; this is the last time I will see her, and this last time will haunt me for the rest of my life. Almost blindly I make my way from the morgue and through halls filled with people moving, people alive. The only thing reverberating in my mind now is that whoever did this to my child must be found and must be made to suffer judgement. And as I think this, as I hold onto this thought for the strength it supplies me, I see Grissom approach quickly, and though I know he will do all he can to find the one who has done this I also know that he cannot—will not—understand my need for vengeance.

He softly offers me his sympathy, but I don't want it. I want to retaliate against this loss. I want blood. And as we stare at each other for a long moment made poignant by all the things not said and done between us once upon a time I know that Grissom knows what it is I need. Nothing is said, time snaps back into flow, and we move past each other. We both know that we'll be meeting again soon.

.X.

I have found him, the man that tortured my daughter. The man that took her from this world. And as my lips meet his in a punishing, bruising kiss, as his body shifts beneath the writhing of my hips there are two sides of me at war. Part of me is screaming at what I am doing, but the other part, the larger and stronger part, knows that this is the only way to obtain what I need. He whispers something in German as he grows towards climax, the words foreign, guttural. Staring down at him it is all I can do to restrain myself from shoving my thumbs in his eyes and pressing down until all I can hear are his screams. Instead all I hear is the quickened breathing of his impending release, the gasp as a shudder rocks his body. All I can think of is how he should be suffering torment like no one has ever known, and instead he's experiencing pleasure at the hands of the woman whose daughter he murdered. The irony brings an unhappy smile to my face, and I slip away from him with a murmur, taking care to secure what it is I need before I leave.

I am waiting for Grissom in the parkade two hours later, carrying the DNA of the man I had sex with simply for the purpose of revenge. As I suspected, Grissom isn't really surprised; he knows me better than he is willing to admit. It is part of why he shied from me back then, when I made an offer he was unwilling to accept. He takes the sample from me with a soft chastisement, but we both now it is beyond that now. There is only one thing I need, one thing I want, and I will see that it happens. I can see in his eyes that he realizes this, but I also see that he can't entirely understand it. It almost makes me smile. Instead I take my leave, knowing Grissom and his team will do their best but also knowing that it will not be enough.

Not for me.

.X.

He is surprised to see me again, the man that killed Zoe. Surprised enough that I am able strike him over the head with the pipe I had brought and thus render him unconscious. He reaches for me as he falls, his fingers closing around my cross; the necklace breaks under his grasp, falling to the floor with a soft clatter seconds after he crumples. I leave it there. I have what I came for.

Now we are beneath the clear, open sky of the desert, and I have bound him to the front grill of my vehicle. I leave the lights on so that I can see, and bathed in the harsh unforgiving light I stare at him as he comes slowly awake. He blinks slowly, trying to focus on me, and once he does I see clearly the confusion in his eyes. There is no fear there; I must remedy that.

"She was my daughter," I tell him, and I am surprised to find my voice cold and steady. I give him no time to answer. The fingers of my right hand are curled white-knuckled over the grip of my favourite tool of my trade, and with steady practiced ease I strike out with the whip. Blood appears on his flesh instantly; he makes a bleated, strangled cry as the leather slices through skin. He tries to say something but I cut him off.

"Zoe was my daughter," I say then, and the words tremble; I watch as comprehension dawns in the lines of his face. And suddenly there is fear in his eyes, and it makes me smile, a curving of the lips driven not by mirth but by desire for his pain. This time I do not strike once; this time I lash out with all I have been feeling since I saw the corpse of my daughter lying on a cold steel slab. I am lost in the sound of the flogging, of his grunts of pain, of the way the leather cracks against the air as I raise it time and time again. Blood is flying from him, dripping down him, and I wonder then how much it hurt for Zoe, how his agony compares with hers. Time ceases to have meaning until I hear my name shouted, and even then I don't stop, not until something catches the whip as I raise it for another blow. I turn then and find Grissom, hands fisted in the length of thick leather, keeping me from striking again. I try to wrench it from him but he won't let it go—goddamn him-

"Heather," he says my name repeatedly, to get me to focus, to get me to calm, "Heather, I'm saying stop."

He uses the safe word. It would have been what I wanted, once upon a time. By the time he reaches me I realize I am crying. The whip falls from my hand as he takes me in a careful, gentle embrace, and I cannot stem the tide any longer. I let him hold me as I cry, as I finally let myself grieve Zoe's death. I would have killed a man, if he'd only let me. I would have killed a man and felt nothing but savage satisfaction in the taking of one life for another. Grissom knows this, has known this all along.

It's why we are the way we are.

.X.