Summary: Four robbers return to the scene of a casino heist, resulting in a brutal hostage situation for the three CSIs still processing the casino. Only two CSIs make it out, and the entire team struggles with the aftermath. Catherine and Warrick try to hold what's left of the team together, even when it means putting it before their personal lives. Wendy strives to fill Greg's footsteps and fulfill her own dreams as she finishes her proficiencies, while Nick is devastated by grief - and heartbreak. Grissom decides that an addition to the team is what everyone needs - or is it just what he needs? Finally, Catherine recognizes a pair of melancholy eyes on the man who took her, Nick and Greg hostage on that gruesome night, bringing back memories of a tragic love story of years far past.

Major Characters: Cath, Nick, Warrick, Wendy, Greg (meaning that scenes will be split between the five perspectives, with a few going to Grissom and Sara)

Minor Characters: Grissom, Hodges, Archie, Sara, Brass, multiple OFCs and OMCs

Warnings: Heavy themes

Pairings: NSxGS, CWxWB, GGxSS, WSx?,...

Timeline: Season 8 (Sara is in Frisco, Warrick is alive and divorced, and Wendy is set on becoming a CSI)

Beta/Help: LaughableBlackStorm (overall), WitchGirl (plot advice) and LostLadyKnight (Yo!Bling consulting)

Disclaimer: If I owned it, Greg would get more screentime, Warrick wouldn't be dead, Yo!Bling would be canon and Standers would get wayy more subtext. Insert other conditionals here.

Final Author's Notes:

Yes, there is a reason that the title and chapters are in Spanish. On that subject, I can promise two things: a) it'll make sense later why so much is in Spanish, and b) you won't have to know Spanish to understand the story.

Without further ado...

Veinte Minutos

...

Salvar: to save, to overcome, to preserve, to rescue, to cover, to pass

Salvarse: to survive, to escape

...

Catherine groaned, looking at the caller ID. It was, really, inevitable that only one person would have this impeccably bad timing. There was one person in Catherine's life who consistently operated on his own time schedule.

There was no need to bother with formal greetings. "What's up, Gil?"

"Catherine. We need to talk."

"When?"

"Now would be preferable."

Catherine nodded into her phone, looking out over the congested road in front of her. "Given rush hour, I should have at least 15 to 20 minutes to talk here."

"The case is being called off."

"Case? But Wendy and Rick are already there - it looked like there was plenty more to process, and there -" Grissom's somber silence on the other end told Catherine the whole story. "That case."

"Yes. That case."

Catherine choked back a sob.

That case. Victim: Gregory Hojem Sanders.

Catherine pulled her car up to the side of the road, unable to take the call any other way. "What happened?"

"Limited resources. They said searching for a dead body isn't worth Fed resources, especially with budget cuts. Bruce Jared, the casino owner, didn't push it. Apparently, the Fed investigation was costing him more with customers than he even lost in the heist. Or something like that."

Impersonal politics cut knives through the case, which itself was all but impersonal.

Catherine cried and remembered.


Detective Caveliere stood at the entrance to the casino, an impatient look on his face.

"It's about time you got here, Willows," he remarked, checking his watch again.

Catherine knew that Caveliere was one of the more ambitious detectives and certainly didn't like to degrade himself by babysitting CSIs. Nonetheless, a supervisory LVPD employee - of any capacity, be it CSI or Police officer - was required for the high profile case at all times.

Catherine shrugged off the comment, getting straight to business. "Which room?"

"Stokes and Sanders are downstairs processing. Take a right at the elevator, walk down the first hallway and take a left. Then another left after two doors."

Catherine nodded, quickly storing the information away. "Thanks, Detective."

xxxxxxx

Catherine found the room quickly, and immediately found that she had, in fact, been in it before, back in the day.

A chuckle escaped the room. Catherine smiled, and tip-toed toward the door.

She could hear the conversation through the crack in the door.

"And then Meg says that she doesn't need avocados. She's got Thanksgiving dinner under control."

"Greggo - why would you offer your friend avocados as an ingredient for Thanksgiving dinner? No wonder Jan and Dave never let you cook."

"Oh come off it. My mommy does too let me cook."

"Greg. The only thing you can cook is Ramen."

"I can make toast."

"Yes. Your burnt toast always makes my mornings - or should I say late nights - when it burns at four in the morning, setting off the fire alarm when I'm halfway through sleepin' on my day off."

Greg scowled. "I couldn't get it out of the oven."

"That's why you put toast in the toaster, genius. Not the oven."

"You mixed up your subject and object there, jocko."

Nick rolled his eyes at the pitifully attempted diversion.

"Also, I can't put it in the toaster with cheese already on it."

Nick shook his head, stifling a chuckle at Greg's antics. "You're a piece of work, man."

"It's not my fault it fell!"

"Well your mommy told me to watch out for anything you bake. The first time I met her, she sat me down, leaned in, and she said, 'Now Nicky –'"

Catherine could see Greg utilizing his puppy dog eyes on this one.

This was always when the argument ended - and when Greg won.

Glancing down at her watch, she realized time was ticking as she listened to the pair.

She knocked on the door, and saw Nick jump slightly at the surprise.

"Cath," Greg said, looking up. "About time you showed up. Warrick was keeping you busy, I assume?" he asked with a smirk.

Nick hit him lightly on the head, and rolled his eyes. Warrick and Catherine had been working a scene out in the desert together when Catherine was called in to the casino instead.

"Ow!" Greg said, faking pain.

"For your information, Gregory Hojem Sanders -" Catherine started.

"Oh, now I know I'm in for a talk down. Usin' my full name now, Cath?"

"Yes, Sanders, I am," she replied with a smirk.

She almost missed the puzzling look of gratitude from Nick to Greg.


Catherine nodded into the phone before hearing the dial tone. No matter how many social skills Sara taught him, Grissom would never be one for polite formalities. Catherine chuckled dryly at the prospect of Sara Sidle teaching anyone else the art of social skills.

Her chuckling ended when the topic of the phone conversation forced itself back into her head. She gently closed her cell phone and silently reached for the steering wheel, biting her lip in some combination of chagrin and exhaustion. As if on autopilot, she set her foot down on the gas again and followed familiar road lines through the light late afternoon traffic.

Other cars - pimped-out Mercedes and rickety 70's Chevys - were driving side-by-side, as was quintessentially Vegas, but she hardly noticed the whir of colors surrounding her. She drove by like a zombie, because all that her mind was willing to see was that same miserable night.

A car behind her honked. Normally, she would have flicked the driver off. These days, with the significant deficit in personnel on grave shift, she spent most of her driving time in a county-owned Denali, complete with sirens. Many people seemed to think that driving such a vehicle made it more necessary to behave in a polite, good-standard-setting manner. Catherine Willows saw it as an extra reason to flick people off. No obnoxious civilian driver was going to tell her how to drive. In the Denali, she was the law. Or something like that. The flashing lights that normally rested above her gave her legitimacy, and it was a mighty stupid driver that would complain.

Staring down at the speedometer, however, she realized that this particular driver had a point. She was going 20 on a 40mph road. Recognizing her own distraction, she swerved onto the shoulder, hoping she'd only need a few moments to get herself together.


Catherine was at home in the casino. After all, she had grown up around them. Sam Braun, even if Catherine hadn't known it then, had been her father, even before she'd known, had always been a significant figure in her life.

The inside of the room being dusted was not one unfamiliar to her. She remembered vaguely an old tryst with the son of another casino magnate - one Sam hadn't approved of - taking place, if not in this room, then in one nearby. The Supremes had set the stage for that 1978 tryst with the sweet chords of 'Reflections' ringing on in the background.

With that memory in mind - the sweet tingle of lips, soft, young skin and the restlessness and optimism of youth - Catherine couldn't help but hum along lightly as she dusted for prints.

"Way to go, Aretha! You still got it!"

Catherine couldn't help but chuckle at Greg's unquenchable exuberance. He would always be a child at heart, she thought, chuckling as she dusted the darkening golden floor. The floor was tiled and had aged with grace.

"Do you think Lily used to change here?" Greg asked.

Catherine chuckled at the thought of her mother as a showgirl diva, rushing off between acts to sneak in time with Sam. Catherine was stuck between disgusted and amused that she and her mother might have made out in the same room.

"I wouldn't be surprised," she said with a chuckle. "I know I probably did."

Greg raised an eyebrow, looking up intently. "But you never worked here, I thought. I thought you worked the French Palace?"

Catherine chuckled, knowingly. "Doesn't mean I didn't spend quality time in the backrooms of the Tangiers."

Greg laughed. "Sam must have had quite a time with that."

"Eh. He couldn't complain, seeing as he hadn't exactly been playing 'daddy.'"

"Especially if Lily was doing the same thing?"

Catherine chuckled again. "It's a bit odd to hear you referring to my mother by her first name, Greg."

"Well, I've been interviewing her a lot for my book. She comes up plenty in it, or at least the draft I have done right now. And I can't exactly refer to her as 'my lovely coworker Catherine Willows' mother.'"

"Yeah," Catherine said, still chuckling - she spent a lot of time laughing around Greg, at least when he was in his happy, enthusiastic mood. "She might be offended by the connotations about her age."

"I hate to break it to you, Cath, or rather to your mother, but a lot of the book is about the 40s and 50s. So I think any reader will figure out that she's not a young and chipper 20."

Catherine nodded, still chuckling.

"Then again," Greg continued. "Lily Flynn still seems young and chipper at heart."

Catherine sighed, shaking her head. Work was passing quicker with talk of the old glory days of Vegas. With Greg's banter, she could almost picture her mother preparing backstage to go on, with Sam clapping in the front row. Except now she pictured Greg there too, carefully writing down the details.

"This is kind of weird, though," Nick suddenly announced. "You're talkin' about her mom, Greg. Don't you think that's a tad bit wrong?"

Greg sighed. "Okay. Topic change. What do you suggest, Cowboy?"

Nick shot Greg a warning glance.

Catherine picked up the slack. "This case is a joke."

Nick looked up baffled, though Greg's look read of understanding.

"What makes you say that?" Nick asked.

"Because Cath is a funny person," Greg replied, matter-of-factly. Nick rolled his eyes again.

"Thanks for the flattery," Catherine said with a wink.

"Well, no denying the truth. But you owe me one." Greg winked, with more exaggeration, back.

Catherine chuckled yet again. "Sure thing. And you wish," she laughed, shaking her head at Greg's goofy forwardness.

Nick sighed heavily.

Catherine could see the wheels turning in Nick's head. What about she had little idea. The Texan had always had that aptitude for getting lost somewhere else. Sometimes it was super-focus... and sometimes it was just annoying.

Nick shook his head, in response to some debate waging in his mind.

"Nick?" Catherine seemed to pick up on his distraction. "You either think something different about the case, or you think I'm not funny," she said. "I sincerely hope it's the former... Or you're just stuck in a big hole of Texan thought."

Greg stifled a chuckle.

"Um... nah, your humor's fine, Cath. I mean, at your age, there's only so many jokes you could tell."

Catherine pouted, though her eyebrow was still raised, indicating that she did in fact catch the humor.

"So it's the case?" Greg, Catherine could see, had caught Nick distracted again.

"Yeah. I mean, why is it a joke?" Nick looked up curiously.

"Politics," Catherine and Greg said, almost in sync, with Greg answering only a millisecond before Catherine. "See," he said, turning to Catherine, with the flirtatious cheese obviously turned on. "We, my French Palace dearie, are obviously of the same kind." He wiggled his eyebrows and Catherine laughed again.

"You're such a flirt," Nick said, shaking his head at Greg with a smile.

"Anyways," Nick said, clearing his throat. "What do you mean by politics?"

"Think about it, Nicky," Greg said. "Why else would Catherine be stuck on this case?"

"Ah." It dawned on Nick. "This used to be Catherine's dad's casino... So this case must be important to the under sheriff or Ecklie then if they need to take the risk of conflict of interest and add a third CSI."

"Not even," said Catherine. "The sheriff. New owner of the Tangiers - Mr. Jared - is a big donor."

"Ah."

"This is ridiculous," Greg scoffed.

Nick raised an eyebrow. Greg responded, rolling his eyes at Nick's glare.

"I mean, not that I mind your company, Cath. It's just the scene's barely been cleared, and they're already putting more of us in here. It doesn't make sense."

Nick's glare remained and Greg gave up and continued with his point.

"It's just, it endangers everyone when this type of thing happens. Protocol is there for a reason."

"But it is politics, Greg. It makes the world go round sometimes."

"Yeah, yeah. I understand. It's just frustrating. I mean, you're the big protocol guy - the bureaucrat. I thought you'd have a bigger problem with it."

Catherine could see Greg - normally mellow - growing testy, for a reason she couldn't discern.

"Nah," Nick replied, with a tone of defeat, almost as if he were conceding something to Greg. "I do get your problem with it. It's just hard, I guess."

Greg nodded, apparently appeased enough for now. "I know what you mean."

Catherine looked at the two questioningly. She sighed. "Well whatever happens, happens. We're stuck here, on this case. It's always the sheriff's case, ultimately."

Greg nodded in acquiescence. "At least it's a cool place. And Nick- Nick and I" - He paused, apparently close to calling Nick something else - "would probably have ended up working this case whether or not politics was involved. This way, we get a head start and the help of an expert," he said, excitement growing in his voice. "And we hopefully get a little history lesson from said expert on one or more back rooms of one of the stalwart icons of Vegas lore."


A few moments passed, and Catherine realized that she was still not moving.

Twenty minutes had passed on the dashboard clock in front of her. The sky had grown a shade darker, as heavy granite clouds nudged forward, approaching the haze above her car.

Twenty minutes gone and forgotten on the highway.

Lindsey had most likely spent another twenty minutes on wasting time. Wasting time seemed to be Lindsey's chief preoccupation. So no change there, in the last twenty minutes.

Grissom, most likely, was sitting in his office, avoiding paperwork, as he likely had been doing twenty minutes prior. Catherine smiled at the knowledge that she was not the only person lost in time.

Twenty minutes later, Catherine still needed to get home. So did Greg, but that would never happen. How much could really change in twenty minutes?


"Do you think there might be any secret passageways here?" Greg asked, raising eyebrows excitedly. "Maybe that's where the bulk of the fight took place."

"That's possible," Nick responded. "Catherine?"

She looked up.

Nick continued. "You probably know this place better than we do."

Catherine chuckled. "You don't know the half of it. Although I'm sure Dr. Sanders might be coming close about now."

"I'm honored that you might think so," Greg said, beaming.

"I'll go check for more rooms. Greggo - you wanna help?" she asked.

"Sure thing!" he replied, still enthusiastic.

Catherine looked around the room for any obvious secret passageways. Then again, she thought, secret passageways weren't supposed to be obvious. Finally, she found something - a door hidden behind an old wardrobe.

The room was dark. Judging by the clothes and other items strewn across the floor, it looked to be a popular spot for employees to dump things. She could make out clothes, curled and rumpled haphazardly.

Catherine started looking through the items, mostly old clothes, piled on the ground.

She even recognized one similar to the leotard her mother, Lily Flynn, had worn during her days at the Rampart.

A silver ring on the ground looked to have belonged to one of the head honchos, and, judging by the insignia, could very well have been Gus 'Da Beauty' Finkle's.

In the right-hand corner of the room, facing her, were newer looking items, judging by the more modern cuts and relative lack of dust. A shattered old Margarita glass laid next to it, along with what looked to be a disintegrating lime peel. Though she knew it probably held nothing useful, she walked over to bag the lime and the pieces of glass closest to the rim - the ones from which she could more likely extract DNA.

She turned around again, looking to an even older showgirl uniform. Judging by the more conservative cut and fading ruby coloring, it looked to be decades old. Real rubies encrusted on the waist were the only items not yet fading or rusty. Looking more closely, though, she realized one ruby was missing. She reached down to bag the uniform as well. A robber - or thieving employee that chanced upon the room - could have easily been the one to pry the missing ruby from the waistband.

What a piece of Vegas history, she thought, upon surveying the room yet again. Feeling a sudden burst of benevolence - and Greg's enthusiasm spreading like Christmas cheer - she called out. "Hey, Greggo! I think I found something you'll like!"

"Who's Greggo?" asked one of the newer looking rumpled piles of clothes.

The next thing she heard was a gunshot. She felt the vibrations of her walkie-talkie as she reached for the sudden pain in her left shoulder.

She vaguely registered masked figures filtering into the room.


Catherine didn't bother looking at the clock on the dashboard again. Time would pass at its own rate, by its own standards. She was not one to control it, as much as she would have liked to.

She stared down at the phone again, banishing the memories of a gruesome time, its brutality exacerbated by the minute.

Time ticked slowly and she didn't forget.

Impersonal politics cut knives through the case, which itself was all but impersonal.

Sitting on the side of the road, phone clutched angrily in hand, Catherine cried and remembered, letting another twenty minutes slip over her, unheeded and ignored.


AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks so much for reading! This story really is my baby. I've been working on it since around August, but, after many re-writes and (finally) having finished the first 18 chapters to my (relative) satisfaction, I decided it's finally ready to be published. I can promise that updates will generally come daily or every other day. Please review! I generally try to review stories of everyone who reviews my stories, as an extra incentive.

~Harper