Rating: T (just to be on the safe side)

Pairing: Hodges/Wendy

Summary: Hodges life changes dramatically when tragedy strikes

Disclaimer: I don't own CSI – I am just borrowing the characters owned by CBS/Paramount, and making up a couple on my own.

A/N: There's not a lot out there about Hodges, so I'm making something up, and making him actually human.

Changing Lives

Chapter 1 – Who Are You?

I should have cleared it first, David Hodges thought, walking into the lab. Stopping off at the receptionist's desk, he asked Judy, "I have a couple of visitors. Do they need badges?"

Sitting at the tall desk, she hadn't seen Hodges walk in, and looking around, she didn't see any visitors, until she noticed him nervously looking down. Peering over the edge of the desk, she saw the infant in a car seat, and a little boy, maybe four or five years of age holding a blanket and sucking his thumb. Smiling, she said, "I don't think so. I think you're fine for those two."

Feeling tired, and all his age, he smiled grimly in return and picked up the car seat and made his way to his lab. While the baby slept on, the little boy tentatively said, "Uncle Dave, is this your work now?"

"Yeah, Davey, we're in my office now. This is where I work."

He hadn't seen the looks on everyone's faces as he'd carted the children down the hall to the Trace lab. Normally, he would have snuck them to his lair. Hell, normally I would never have them here, he thought Having been gone for several weeks, dealing with memorials, burials, and the hundreds of other details left to him by his sister and her husband, the emotional and mental fatigue pushed him off his game and he just felt too drained to care.

He knew he had to be at work – he'd taken too much time off already. It was his unlucky day, though, as the therapeutic babysitter he'd had lined up ended up with strep throat, and he had no idea what to do with the kids. So, as he checked the baby yet again, making sure she was snug in the pink blanket, he rubbed his eyes. It was going to be a long night, and he still had to contend with Grissom and Catherine, which wouldn't be easy. Sitting at his desk, he muttered to himself, contemplating the best way to steer any conversation in his favor. Looking at him, no one would even guess how close Hodges was to outright losing it.

When he felt a small tug on his sleeve, he looked at the little boy, and gently pulled the thumb from the boy's mouth thinking, he hasn't sucked his thumb for two years, and Emily had a hell of a time breaking that habit. "Davey, it's not good for your teeth to suck your thumb, okay?"

When the little boy's eyes welled, Hodges kissed his forehead, and asked, "Can you color me a picture?" Reaching into the baby's bag, he pulled out crayons and a couple of coloring books, and watched the little brown haired moppet grin.

Catherine watched the exchange from the hallway, surprised at how sweet and… gentle Hodges seemed to be with his young charge. Stepping forward, she quietly said, "Hodges," and signaled him to join her in the hall. Making sure he had sight of the children, he stepped out. "Who are they?" she asked, nodding towards the kids.

"Um… " he said, trying to figure out the best way out of this mess, "Trust me, they're nothing to worry about," he said nonchalantly, and tried to steer Catherine's attention away. Grabbing some papers off his desk, he tried to divert her by handing her some reports, saying, "I think these are yours, left by my fill-in. Let me know if you have any questions," and prayed his tone of dismissal would sink in.

It had absolutely no effect. Instead, she crossed her arms and said, "Hodges. I want you to explain who you have there, and why they're in the lab."

Blowing out a breath, Hodges averted his face, blinked his eyes to clear them, and drew in a rapid breath. Finally, he faced her an indifferently said, "The boy is David. The baby is Madeline – my niece and nephew."

"You can't babysit them in the office, Hodges," Catherine stated. "We can't have kids running around here."

"I don't have anything else I can do with them," he said, dejectedly, giving up. Softly, his voice barely audible, "I don't know what to do. The babysitter canceled."

Realizing something was more than off, Catherine looked at the usually obnoxious, ass-kissing Trace analyst and quietly asked, "What's going on, Hodges? Where are their parents?"

Catherine had seen eyes go bleak and empty before from shocking sorrow, but not in the manner Hodges' did in that moment – with such barren waves of grief. Shear blankness crossed through them, and her sudden feeling of dread became justified when he replied, "Dead. They're dead."

Holding back the tears, he looked at the ceiling and pushed down on the bile rising in his throat. Swallowing, and taking a couple of deep breaths to control the buzzing in his head, he finally met her eyes, feeling totally sober, attempting to disengage himself while he explained. "My sister and her husband were killed by a drunk driver several weeks ago. That's why I've been gone." Nodding toward the kids he said, "I had everything lined up, but my babysitter got sick tonight." His voice detached, his face restrained, he asked, "Just one day? I'll have them in my line of sight at all times. I'll figure something out for tomorrow night. I just… I need to work."

When he felt her hand on his shoulder, he flinched, expecting the worst and just not knowing what to do anymore. He was surprised to see the smile on her face, "They're cute kids, David. Keep them in the break room. We can't have them near the evidence." At his puzzled expression, she said, "We don't have a lot to do in Trace today, and I'll be around for paperwork then court. If anything comes in requiring your attention, page me. I'll watch them."

As Catherine walked away, David called, "Catherine?" When she turned her head to look at him, he asked, "Why? Why are you doing this?"

A sad smile on her face she replied, "I understand grief – sometimes the best way to handle it is on the job," leaving a confused Hodges in her wake. Looking through the window of the Trace lab, she watched the small dark haired boy color, and met Hodges' gaze again, and for the first time in weeks, he felt a small amount of the constant pressure in his chest hiss out as if a fissure had opened.

Making his way to crouch next to the little boy, he watched the baby's brown eyes pop open and her face scrunch a bit. Reaching out a hand to stroke her face, his eyes turned to meet the little boy's and he said, "We're going to go to another room. Can you carry your coloring stuff?" When the little boy nodded, Hodges picked up the now squirming bundle in her car seat and the trio made their way to the break room.

Over the next twenty minutes, nearly every lab tech and CSI made their way into the break room purportedly for coffee refills, but Hodges knew better. The gossip had spread, and everyone wanted a peek, although everyone left him alone. His stance alone was enough to shout 'Stay the hell away from us'. Eventually, he was paged to Trace, and called upon Catherine's aide.

Walking into the break room, she asked, "Is there anything special I should know?"

"Maddie is sleeping off and on. I just changed her, so she should be fine. She'll want to eat in a couple of hours. Davey finally passed out on the couch, but he may wake up and be disoriented and upset," Hodges said. Running his hand over the little boy's short hair, he added, "He doesn't sleep well anymore, so if he wakes up please let me know right away." With one last look, he headed to his lab.

He was in the midst of processing some fibers an hour later when he heard screaming. Running down the hall, he rammed into Grissom, grunted and spun, and made his way rapidly inside the break room. When Davey saw him, his struggles against Catherine became more intense. Looking up, she let go of the little boy and watched him launch at Hodges.

Picking him up, Hodges spoke in hushed tones, cooing to the boy, and whispering words of comfort, until the sobs broke and the boy's breathing evened out. It was the devastation she saw in man and little boy that had Catherine laying a hand on Hodges' shoulder again – in an attempt to sooth. "He woke up screaming for his mom. When I told him she wasn't here, he went ballistic," she told him.

Nodding, Hodges closed his eyes and responded, "It's not the first time." Laying the little boy back on the couch, he said, "Davey, it's sleep time, okay? Close your eyes." Slowly, he rubbed small circles on the boy's stomach, until Davey's eyes closed. For several minutes, Hodges sat next to his nephew, with a hand on the boy's chest, feeling the breath even out and deepen to a rhythmic sleep.

Still crouched, Hodges laid his head in his hands as sheer exhaustion swept over him, and he muttered, "Maybe I shouldn't be here. I don't know. God, maybe I made a mistake." He murmured softly to himself, "Maybe I'm not good enough to raise them."

When she responded, "Sure you are, David," he winced and wrapped his arms around himself, feeling like an idiot, thinking I'm such a damn moron. I can't seem to keep my mouth shut.

Catherine had a feeling she was seeing the real David Hodges for the first time, and pulled up a chair. Indicating for him to sit she asked, "Were you named guardian in their will?" At his nod, she continued, "Then it seems they thought you were good enough."

A mirthless laugh passing his lips as a feeling of abstract failure overwhelmed him, Hodges replied, "I know what people think of me around here. I'm not stupid or deaf." Glancing over his shoulder, he watched as techs blushed and moved away from the break room door and down the hall to their labs – except Wendy who stood unobtrusively on the other side of the hall from the doorway, leaning against a wall.

"I never expected to have them," he told Catherine, indicating the sleeping children. A sudden smile on his lips and softness in his eyes, he added, "I love them more than anything, though. I'd do anything for them."

The frown overtook his face and he muttered, "How am I going to give them a good life?"

"Believe it or not, David, everyone around here respects what you do," Grissom said standing just inside the break room. He realized he'd never actually said that to any of his employees who worked so hard to process the CSI evidence. "Rapid changes take time. So does grief."

A grin quirking her lips up, Catherine added, "Your sense of humor could use a little work, but… I think you'll do okay by these two."

Glancing at the clock, he smiled. At Catherine's questioning gaze, he said, "She'll be waking up in less than an hour to eat."

"I've got my paperwork with me, so I'm good for a couple of hours," Catherine said. "If you show me where her bottle is, I'll feed her when she stirs."

"No. Please," Hodges stammered, blushing slightly. In a soft murmur, he said, "Page me. I like feeding her. It's our uncle/niece time together."

Glancing over at Davey, she asked, "Will he wake up like that again?"

"No, I don't think so," Hodges smiled sadly, kissing the little boy's head. "He'll probably sleep through the night now. He usually wakes up once in the middle of the night to check and make sure Maddie and I are okay – that I haven't disappeared into the ground and taken his sister with me."

"How old are they?" Catherine asked, and watched the Trace tech's pale face gain some color.

"Davey's almost five. Maddie's five months," he replied. "Emily – my sister – they were her miracles. After every doctor told her she couldn't have kids, she had these two." Laughing, he added, "She and Bryce were thrilled with Davey, who they named after me. They were stunned by Maddie, who they named after our baby sister."

Meeting Catherine's gaze, he soberly stated, "I can't thank you enough for this. It's gotten hard to be at home. I need to be busy, but then everything fell apart tonight, and I needed to bring them with me."

As Hodges was about to exit into the hall, Catherine quietly asked, "Have you thought about counseling?" and she nodded toward Davey.

The stressed smile indicated the emotion coursing through him, when Hodges replied, "He's already in counseling. The babysitter specializes in trauma therapy, which he needs." At her questioning look, he murmured, "He was in the car. He watched them die." On a long sigh, he turned to head back to his lab.

Walking past Grissom, he muttered, "Sorry for running into you," to hear the reply, "Hodges, if you need more time off… just let me know." Unsure of what else to say to him, Grissom watched Hodges make his way down to his lab, as Wendy followed him at a sedate pace.

In his lab, Hodges laid his head on his arms, squeezed his eyes shut in an attempt to clear the blurriness, and let out a long breath. He jumped when he felt the hand rest on the back of his neck, and spun in his chair, nearly knocking Wendy over.

"Are you okay?" Wendy asked.

"Of course. Don't you have work to do?" he retorted, turning and pretending to be busy.

Ignoring the obvious dismissal in his voice, she said, "Hey – I said it before and I'll say it again. You're pretty dumb for a smart guy." When his neck tinged pink, she smiled softly, and said, "I want to help, okay? Tell me what I can do."

On a harsh laugh, he replied, "Find me a babysitter for tomorrow night who isn't going to totally freak out when Davey starts screaming. Get me someone who can handle a traumatized child in the middle of the night, and can hold the baby when she cries. Can you do that?"

Peering back into his microscope, he adjusted the view, not really seeing anything, but tried to ignore the brunette who often invaded his thoughts at odd moments.

"I'll watch them tomorrow – it's my night off. But, I think I'd better be at your place, because Davey probably needs familiar things around him," she said, taking charge. When he tilted his head, watching her out of the corner of his eyes, she continued, "Not to worry, I can handle a baby." Challenging him, she raised her eyebrows and said, "Unless you don't trust me."

Feeling partially trapped, he opened his mouth to tell her to leave him alone, and instead found himself saying, "You'd do that?"

"Of course," she replied, smiling at him. This time, when she laid her hand on his back, he took it for the comfort in which it was meant.

"Thanks," he choked out, forcing himself to face away from her – not wanting especially her or anyone else to see the tears that welled in his eyes and threatened to spill over.

As she watched him try to gain control of himself, she was struck by the thought; do I even really know him?