Summary: Nick is angry and no one knows why. What's going on with
everyone's favorite Texas boy-scout? Only he knows for sure, and he's not
saying. A rough case only complicates matters.
Disclaimers: If Nick were mine, I wouldn't be putting him through all this.
But he's not. Neither are any of the other characters whose names you
This story contains swearing - lots of it. So be warned.
Nick was not a happy camper. Not today, at any rate. His brief, fitful
sleep had been interrupted by his mother calling him and demanding he
return home for Thanksgiving.
As if that was going to happen.
Of course, the fact that Thanksgiving was still three months away meant
nothing to her. She was starting to work on him early this year, and Nick
was not looking forward to three months of guilt.
His mother didn't seem to understand that Nick had a full-time job, in a
different state. A job he enjoyed. A job that he couldn't just ditch for
some of his mom's turkey any time he felt like it. Of course, that didn't
prevent her from calling him and begging him to come home for Thanksgiving.
Unh-unh. And when that hadn't seemed to work, she had enlisted his
sisters. One by one, throughout the rest of the few hours normally
reserved for sleep, they had called - cajoling, wheedling, threatening -
playing the guilt card and trying to get him to commit to going home for
It's not that Nick didn't want to see his family. It's just that he didn't
want to go home for Thanksgiving. He had gone home last year - taken four
days off and flown to Texas, and he just couldn't do it again this year.
For one thing, it was someone else's turn to have those days - perhaps
Sanders or Sidle, who also had family out of state. For another, the
thought of four days of his mother and sisters badgering him about settling
down, getting married and starting a family - after he moved back to Texas,
of course - was just too much to bear. His brother Vic would just have to
go it alone this year. Poor bastard.
Pinching the bridge of his nose, Nick sighed in frustration. God, he was
It didn't help matters that the first person he ran into at work was
Ecklie. Smarmy bastard. Nick really detested that man. Ecklie had
smirked at him when Nick had dragged his sorry ass into the break room.
"You look like hell, Stokes," Ecklie had offered.
Nick had just grunted at him, "Trying to blend in with the rest of you."
He should have kept his mouth shut. The last thing he wanted was to get in
a pissing war with the day shift supervisor, but he was tired and he wasn't
thinking straight. The words popped out before he could call them back.
Ecklie hadn't responded, but if the angry glint in his eye was any
indication, Nick would probably have some 'splaining to do later on - and
thank you very much Ricky Ricardo.
The coffee in the percolator was burnt, but Nick drank it anyway - black
and potent. The hot liquid scalded his throat as he slugged it back,
making his eyes water. The pungent taste of burnt dark roast coated his
palette, making him gag slightly. He'd be tasting that one cup of coffee
all night long.
Greg clumped into the break room moments after he did, arching an eyebrow
at him when he took in Nick's unshaven face, his smile slightly teasing.
"You doing that to your face on purpose?"
Nick frowned at him and ran a hand over his chin, feeling the rough stubble
under his palm. "You doing that to your hair on purpose?" His response
was biting; his tone way harsher than it should have been. He realized
this when he saw the younger man flinch, but he didn't try to apologize.
Catherine, who had entered the lounge on Greg's heels and caught the entire
exchange, had the good sense to keep her mouth shut for a change. Nick
saluted her grimly with his coffee cup and slid into an empty seat.
He's only been there ten minutes, and he already wanted the shift to end.
Closing his eyes, he leaned back in his chair and tried to relax. His body
ached. Maybe he was getting sick. Come to think of it, he was chilled
too. He wondered idly if he had a fever, and if the sudden tickle in the
back of his throat was a sign of illness or simply psychosomatic. He
cleared his throat loudly.
Down the hallway, he could hear Sara. Normally, he found the slightly
atonal, smoky flavor of her voice appealing, but tonight - for whatever
reason - the sound of it drifting into the lounge room bothered him. She
sounded annoyingly perky, like she had gotten a good sleep. If he was in a
better frame of mind, he might even have briefly entertained the thought
that maybe she sounded so happy because she had finally gotten laid, but he
knew that hadn't happened. As far as he knew, Grissom hadn't suddenly
developed ESP - especially not where Sara was concerned - and Nick could
think of no one else Sara would even consider sleeping with. *That big
wanker, Hank?* Nick snorted under his breath, *not unless hell froze over
and Satan decided to start a snowball fight with JC himself.*
Nick wondered idly what it would take to get Grissom to open up his fucking
eyes and see what was so obvious to everyone else on the night shift -
except maybe Greg, and he didn't count because he was delusional half the
"How can you say that Crosby, Stills and Nash were better off without
Young?" Grissom's tone was slightly incredulous. "He made that group!"
"You ever listen to him sing, Griss?" Sara retorted, tone light, "He voice
is like sandpaper. At least the other three could harmonize."
Nick opened an eye and glared balefully at them as they walked in, Warrick
ambling behind at an easy gait, looking relaxed and calm - as always. He
slid into the empty seat beside Catherine, and Nick snorted again. If
those two thought the smoldering looks they threw at each were
unnoticeable, they were severely mistaken.
Warrick looked up at Nick's snort, taking in his friends' disreputable
appearance. Nick looked haggard. The laugh lines bracketing his mouth
were unusually pronounced this evening, deep groves in a pallid face
pointing - like exclamation marks - to the dark circles under his eyes. He
opened his mouth, about to ask Nick if he was feeling alright, but stopped
at the venomous look Nick shot him.
"Don't say it."
Warrick shrugged and wisely kept his mouth shut. Nick looked like a man on
the edge of a nervous breakdown this evening.
Of course, just because Warrick was smart didn't mean that Sara was.
Propping her hip against the table beside him she took in his rough
appearance and grinned. "Rough day, Nicky? You look like something the
cat dragged in."
"After he regurgitated on that god-awful shirt you're wearing, Sara," Nick
responded. He smiled at her tightly, before turning to Grissom. "Can we
just get on with this, please?"
Of course, Nick's foul mood seemed to have flown right over Grissom's head.
He merely glanced at Nick and nodded absently. Nick couldn't decide
whether he was happy Grissom hadn't questioned him as everyone else had, or
offended that his mental and physical well-being meant so little to his
boss that he wasn't even noticed. Deciding the latter emotions were more
appropriate, Nick glowered at the older man.
"Sara, Warrick and Catherine - you guys have an apparent homicide/suicide
at 1823 Flamingo. Brass is already there waiting for you. Nick, you're
* * * * *
Nick fell asleep in the Tahoe on the drive to the crime scene, waking with
a start when the vehicle jerked to a stop. Groaning, he opened up his eyes
and winced against the bright light stabbing through them in the interior
of the cab. Grissom had opened up his door. Nick swore lightly and
blinked rapidly, trying to dispel the flash spots floating in his vision.
Mumbling about inconsiderate people, Nick reached into the back of the
Tahoe and grabbed his field kit.
Grissom was patiently waiting for Nick to join him before they headed
towards Det. Lockwood. Nick drew in a harsh breath as he took in his
surroundings - a children's park. The swings creaked eerily in the chill
night air, and the whole playground was bathed in the muted light provided
by the full moon.
Several police officers had taped off the crime scene and Nick tried to
school his face into an appropriately stoic mask. He had a feeling this
was going to be a bad one. The feeling was not dispelled when Lockwood
nodded at them grimly. "We've cordoned everything off. It's not pretty."
Grissom nodded like he knew what Lockwood was talking about, but Nick
looked around blankly. Had Grissom told him on the drive over about the
crime? He couldn't recall. Lockwood was pointing towards a big plastic
crawl tube. "He's in there."
"Coroner get a look at him yet?" Grissom asked.
"Only enough to say he's dead. We thought you guys might want to take
pictures, check things over, before we pull the kid out."
They had reached the opening of the tube, all three hunching down to gaze
inside. Grissom and Nick shone their maglites in the opening, illuminating
the small body inside. Nick choked back a series of epitaphs that had
risen immediately in his throat, thickly swallowing back bile and stumbling
involuntarily backwards, averting his eyes from the tubing. Grissom shot a
look at him over his shoulder, eyes grim.
"You okay, Nicky?"
"Fine," he managed to grate out. "Any idea who he is?"
Lockwood shook his head. "I've got men out canvassing the neighborhood
now; trying to find out if anyone is missing their son."
Grissom leaned forward into the tubing slightly, his bulk blocking the tube
opening. "Nicky - you're smaller than me. Think you can take the
"Sure, Grissom," Nick growled back, "Done it before." Grabbing the
camera, he waited impatiently for Grissom to get out of the way, and began
snapping photos. After getting a few shots from the exterior, he slid to
his knees and crawled partway into the tube. The coppery smell of blood
was so strong, Nick could taste it. He snapped a few more photos before
backing out of the crawl space and looking at Grissom.
"I'll go in from the other side, take pictures from the feet up."
Grissom nodded silently, looking at the younger CSI with something akin to
concern in his eyes. "You sure you're okay, Nick? You're looking a little
Nick just shrugged and plastered a cool smile on his face. "All systems go
- thanks for asking. I'm fan-fucking-tastic!"
* * * * *
Grissom was talking to David the Coroner when Nick reemerged from the crawl
space. He had cut the side of his arm on a screw that had been jutting out
the side of the tubing, and had ripped a nice piece of skin away from it.
It hurt like a son of a bitch, and Nick was cursing his stupidity. He
would need tetanus shot for sure, and he had managed to contaminate the
Grissom looked at him in concern when the younger man walked over to him,
holding his forearm tightly and trying to staunch the bleeding. The camera
hung heavily from his neck, bouncing against his chest as he walked.
"Goddamn screw-head," Nick muttered. "Ripped my arm open on it. Managed
to bleed in the crawl space."
"How close to the body?"
"About 10 feet," Nick replied. *And I think I might need stitches, thanks
Grissom's studied Nick grimly for a second, noting the tense set of his
shoulders, and the blotchy green and white dappling of the skin around his
mouth. "Let me see your arm."
Nick shrugged and removed his hand, revealing a nasty gash running from
just below his elbow almost all the way to his wrist on the outside of his
arm. David, standing beside Grissom, sucked in his breath. "That looks
"No kidding," Nick ground out. "It feels worse, believe me. We got a
first aid kit in the Tahoe?"
When Grissom nodded, Nick smiled. "Think I'll head over there then and
patch myself up."
"I'll come with you." Grissom turned and waived Lockwood over. "We got our
pictures. Can you get a couple of men to help remove the body for David
here to look at? Nick hurt his arm."
Nick was already at the Tahoe, standing at the back hatch impatiently, when
Grissom caught up with him. "I think you need to go and have that looked
at Nicky," Grissom looked at the gash closely, gingerly picking dirt out of
it, before grabbing a sterile wet wipe and cleaning away the blood. Nick's
arm was still bleeding heavily, and the younger man's jeans were stained a
deep brown; his shirt wrecked.
"After shift, maybe," Nick agreed, wincing as Grissom cleaned the wound.
"Will you be careful? For a doctor, your bedside manner sucks."
Grissom merely raised an eyebrow at him, brushing aside Nick's brusqueness.
"I'm a bug doctor, Nick. And cockroaches don't bleed."
The two men stood in silence for a few minutes as Grissom applied butterfly
bandages to the widest parts of the gash, before wrapping Nick's arm
tightly in gauze. Reaching into the first aid kit, he pulled out two extra
strength Advil's and handed them to Nick. "You're going to need these."
Nick just grunted, tossing them into his mouth and dry swallowing. His arm
felt like it was on fire. Glaring angrily at the bandage, he barely
managed to thank Grissom for his medical attention before he stalked back
to the crawl tubes. The boy had been removed, his body gingerly stretched
out on a piece of tarp. To the side, a couple of EMTs stood silently
watching David examine the body. Nick felt his eyes burning.
The child was probably no older than nine or ten. His hair was so matted
with blood it was hard to determine color, but Nick had a sneaking
suspicion it was light brown. He had very obviously been beaten to death -
it looked like he had been flayed. Bloodied stripes of skin covered the
boys' chest and genitals; there had been no clothes found with the body.
Every inch of skin had been marred in some fashion - only his face remained
unscathed - if you discounted the rictus of pain and horror frozen in his
features. Nick had noticed earlier that the child's eyes were still open,
and he found himself looking at them again. No one had bothered to shut
the lids yet, and Nick could see the layer of dirt that now caked the orbs
- probably dislodged from the tube when the body had been removed. They
were brown, like his own. Vaguely accusing as they stared sightlessly back
at Nick, as if to say *Where were you guys when I needed you.*
Slipping on some latex gloves, Nick crouched down beside the child and
gently covered the accusing eyes with his palm, manipulating the lids down.
Angrily, he turned his head into his shoulder, sweeping at the moistness
in his eyes helplessly. *I'm sorry, buddy. I'm so sorry.*
* * * * *
"We've got a name," Lockwood's voice made Nick start guiltily. He had
moved back to stand beside Grissom as David worked, ignoring the
questioning glances Grissom kept sliding his way, ignoring the burning in
his eyes which was somehow worse than the throbbing in his arm. Lockwood
was holding a bloodied knapsack.
"One of my guys found this in the piping when they removed the body."
"And he fucking moved it? Did he at least take pictures of it before he
tampered with the crime scene?" Nick bit out. Grissom looked equally as
upset as Nick, and the two men waited for Lockwood to answer.
"No - he's a rookie. First case like this. He didn't think. He can show
you where it was, though."
"Fuck a duck," Nick spat. "Where the hell is this asshole? I'll go in and
see what I can find, Grissom."
"You okay to crawl around with that arm, Nick?"
"Peachy keen. Where's numnuts?"
Lockwood frowned at Nick slightly and waved a young cop over. The kid
looked like he's just stepped out of the academy; his uniform crisp, his
leather work shoes uncreased, face scrubbed fresh as a new penny. Nick
shook his head in disgust, before turning back to Lockwood.
"You said you had a name?" When Lockwood nodded, Nick ground out, "Well?"
"It's written in his knapsack. Kid's name was Nick Steeply. He lives a
few blocks from here."
Nick felt his heart twist painfully in his chest as he looked at the boy
again. "Nick. Figures. Fucking name is cursed."
Angsty!Nick is back. Thanks to Saryn, who gave me the idea for this piece
when she asked me to have Nick go into work angry and snap at everyone. I
know she probably wanted something funnier, but this is what I'm writing.
It will be a short story - two/three chapters max. Why is Nick so angry?
What's going on?