Brass followed the women to Nick's place. Letting his thoughts drift, he
wondered - briefly - if he should have asked Sara to come with him on some
vague pretense of giving him directions in case he got lost.
From where he was sitting, one car behind and in the dark, he could see the
tense set of both women's shoulders, and thanked his lucky stars he had his
own car. He wouldn't want to be an occupant of that vehicle. If their
earlier behavior at the crime scene was any indication, the tension in that
Tahoe would be thicker then pea soup, and probably leave the same bad taste
in his mouth.
Quirking his lips slightly, he wondered which woman was going to snap first
and whether he actually wanted to be around to see it happen. Because it
was going to happen - as sure as shit smelled.
Catherine had changed over the last year - become more brittle. He
suspected a lot of it had to do with the late unlamented Eddie and the
little mind games he had enjoyed playing with his ex. Frankly, the only
bad part about the bastard dying was the fact that all the cold rage
Catherine had been nurturing against him suddenly had no one to be directed
at. Or at least, not the person it should be directed at. It was hard to
yell at the dead.
He also suspected that at least some of it had to do with Grissom. Brass
shook his head. The man was a walking conundrum, and where Cath had once
been one of the rare people who had a glimpse at the man behind the enigma,
she no longer did. Grissom was slowly shutting everyone out of his life,
and frankly, Brass couldn't figure out why. It's not like the man had a
plethora of friends.
Sara, on the other hand, was still a relative unknown. Having only been in
Vegas for 2 ½ years now, Brass felt nowhere near as confident judging her.
He believed that where Catherine's anger ran cold, Sara's would run hot.
He had seen her temper before, on several occasions; had seen the heated
anger in her eyes when she processed victims of abuse. She was a
passionate woman; and Brass didn't think she'd be able to keep her cool
much longer in the face of Catherine's icy disdain. The question was,
would fire or ice prevail?
He sighed as the Tahoe in front of him rolled to a stop in front of a nice
looking townhouse. Obviously, Nick's new place. Hopping out of his car,
he approached the drivers' side window.
"This is it," Cath muttered, as she rolled down the window.
"And he's not here," Brass replied as he lolled in the window.
"No shit, Sherlock," Catherine retorted. Next to her, Sara rolled her
"So - what now?"
Brass looked at his watch. "It's after midnight. Why don't you two go
back to the lab, and I'll park myself here and wait for Lothario to come
home. I've got a roast beef sub and half a thermos of luke-warm coffee in
my car, calling my name."
Sara frowned, "I can stay, Brass."
"What? Out on the front step?" Brass smiled, "It's fine. You guys go,
process the evidence from earlier, and don't forget to call me if he shows
up at work before he shows up here."
Catherine nodded, "You gonna call Grissom?"
"He might not come home, you know," Sara muttered, "maybe he's got a
girlfriend he hasn't told us about."
Catherine shook her head, "Nope. He'd never be able to hide something like
that. He'll be home."
Brass reached into his pocket and grabbed a stick of Big Red, popping the
gum into his mouth as he smiled, "Let's hope so. If he's not back in the
next hour or so, I'll head back to the lab."
* * * * * * * * *
Grissom was staring at the phone in his office, willing it to ring, when a
knock at the door made him jump.
"Griss - got a minute?"
Grissom sighed, steepling his fingers together and rubbing between his
eyebrows, trying to smooth out the frown line he knew was there. "What do
you want, Warrick?"
"I was thinking we could just walk through the LaFaye case - I'm supposed
to present for the DA tomorrow," the younger man walked into his office.
"You manage to find Nick yet?"
Grissom shook his head abruptly, "Not yet. I've called him, I've paged
him, and he hasn't gotten back to me yet. That's not like Nick."
"Maybe he's at the gym or something," Warrick offered.
Grissom fiddled with his glasses, shaking his head, "He'd still take his
"Why do you need to find him? Something wrong?"
"Yeah. Yeah, something's wrong alright," Grissom was staring at the phone
again. A tense silence filled the room, before Warrick spoke again.
"You going to tell me what's going on, or do I have to guess? Grissom?"
"Sorry, Warrick. It's - I got a call today. From Dr. Novacks at the
Pendleton Institute for the Criminally Insane in Reno."
Warrick looked up sharply, "Where Nigel Crane is."
"Where he was," Grissom corrected. "He's dead. Slit his wrists somehow."
Warrick absorbed this news calmly, "And Nick needs to find out about this
on his night off because?"
"Crane listed Nick as his next of kin. The Institute wants to find out
when Nick can claim the body and Nigel's personal affects. I want Nick to
hear it from me first."
"Fuck." Warrick was succinct. "That bastard. How could he do that?
Don't they check the forms on those sheets?"
Grissom shrugged, "You'd think. I asked Novacks the same thing, and he
didn't realize that Nick was one of the - victims. God, I hate to even say
that word in conjunction with Nick."
"He'd hate hearing it, but a spade's a spade," Warrick replied. "Want me
to go by his place - see if he's there?"
Grissom shook his head, "Catherine and Sara were swinging by there before
heading back to the lab and -"
The ringing phone made both men jump. Grissom quickly grabbed it, "Nick?"
Warrick sighed when Grissom looked at him and shook his head, "Yeah. So,
he's not there? Okay - haven't heard from him yet. No - listen, Jim.Yeah,
okay. You sure you don't mind? I'll call you if he calls in or shows up.
Yeah. Okay - thanks, Jim."
Sighing as he hung up the phone, Grissom looked at Warrick, "You sure he
didn't mention anything to you about a date or something?"
Warrick shook his head, "If Nick had a date tonight, I would have heard
about it. He hasn't been out with anyone since Kristy. Listen, I'll go
talk to Greg - see if maybe he can think of anything. They sometimes hang
Grissom was looking at the phone again, nodding his head absently, "Let me
* * * * * *
Nick was surprised - and concerned - when he saw Brass' familiar car
sitting in his driveway as he drove down his street toward his place.
Immediately assuming the worst - that something had happened to someone on
the team - he jumped out of his truck as he parked it.
Brass was dozing in the front seat, and the sudden rapping on the window
made him jump. Nick. Feeling a little foolish, he removed his hand from
his gun and instead placed it on his chest, in an effort to calm his
pounding heart, and as he opened the door.
The younger man stepped back, hands in pocket and shoulders hunched.
"Brass. What's wrong? Someone hurt?"
Brass frowned, and noted the tightly banked concern on Nick's face, "No.
No one's hurt. Listen, Nick - something's - something's come up, and
Grissom needs to talk to you right away."
Nick frowned, "That's why you're here? To get me for Grissom? Why didn't
he just page me?"
"He's been trying to all night," Brass responded dryly.
Nick reached into his pocket and pulled out his pager, frowning when he
realized the battery was dead. "Shit. Okay. Let me go in and listen to my
messages quickly, and I'll follow you back to the office."
Brass shook his head, "Most of the messages will be from Griss. Nicky -
please - let's go now. Leave your truck and come with me."
"What the fuck is going on, Brass?"
Nick had crossed his arms, and studied the older man intently, noting the
gruff concern on Brass' face, and the way he tried to hide it behind his
normal wry demeanor.
"I'm not trying to kidnap you, if that's what you're worried about."
Nick grinned tightly as this, "No kidding. Is it my family? Did something
happen to my family?"
"No one died, Nick," Brass replied, before realizing he was lying. Nick
caught the brief flicker of remorse that crossed the older man's face, and
knew he was lying too.
"Nick, please. Just come with me and talk to Grissom."
"Fuck that, Brass. What happened? And don't lie to me. I'm not going
anywhere until you tell me what the fuck is going on."
Nick was so tense, it was unbelievable. Brass could see the veins in his
forearms and wrists, standing out in stark relief against the clenched
muscles. His jaw was impossibly tight, the slight tick on the left side of
his face betraying his nervousness. Nick wasn't budging.
Running his hand through his hair, Brass closed his eyes and took a deep
breath. "Christ, Nicky. I don't want to be the one to tell you this."
"Just spit it out, Brass," Nick replied tightly, "What's happened?"
"Nigel Crane is dead." The words hit Nick like bricks, making him blanch
before he looked at Brass, eyes wide and bruised.
"Why does that concern me?"
Brass reached forward, placing a hand gently on the younger man's shoulder,
"The.institute.where he's staying at, they've been trying to reach you.
Crane - he listed you as his next of kin."
* * * * *
It was amazing how everything could be perfectly normal, and then -
suddenly - not. Life had a funny way of reaching out and grabbing you by
the balls when you least expected it.
The day had started out well enough. He had slept in, luxuriating in the
warmth of his bed and the wonderful feeling of not having anything to do.
His paperwork was caught up, he had no active cases, and he had the night
off - his first night off in weeks.
He had debated staying home and just relaxing, but there was nothing
interesting on TV. He thought about going to see a movie - there were
several he wanted to see - but the thought of sitting in a movie theatre
eating popcorn all by himself was unappealing.
Eating lunch while he watched ESPN, he wondered when his life had become
so - staid.
Used to be that he never lacked for things to do on his days off. Lately
though, his social life was - stagnating. That was the only word for it.
He had let his mind drift, trying to remember the last time he had gone out
with anyone, not counting the occasional breakfasts with the team, and drew
The last few months, it seemed that if he wasn't working, he wasn't doing
anything. Paragliding, occasionally, which wasn't exactly a social
activity. Just him floating in the wide open sky, riding the wind in an
endless expanse of blue, touching the face of God. Peaceful. At peace.
Sighing, he had wandered into his bedroom and reached into his night table,
grabbing his address book and flopping down on his bed. Flipping through
the names, he realized that he no longer remembered who most of the women
he had numbers for were. Couldn't place a face with a name. Except Secula
- and she was married now; to Hopkins, a big burly homicide detective Nick
had worked with a couple of times. Nice enough guy.
He was turning into a hermit. Of course, working nights didn't really
leave a guy a lot of time to have a social life - especially not guys that
did what he did. Bodies, blood, science. Not exactly scintillating
conversation when you were trying to meet the girl of your dreams, or at
the very least, the girl of your dreams for the night.
Smiling ruefully, he flopped over onto his back and stared at the ceiling.
All work and no play made Nick - Grissom. The thought would have made him
laugh, if it wasn't so close to the goddamn truth. He was going to have to
do something about that - starting now.
Robbie from ballistics had the night off as well, and had casually
mentioned to Nick the day before that he was thinking of going to Mazilla's
tonight, if Nick wanted to join him. While Nick hadn't said yes, he hadn't
said no either. Wondering if the offer was still open, he grabbed the
phone and searched for Robbie's number.
After he hung up, he felt much better. Things were looking up. Robbie had
assured him Mazilla's was hopping - he had been last week, and the women
were fine. Nick grinned at that. He was pretty sure Robbie's definition
of fine was pretty similar to his own.
Sliding to his feet, he wandered down the hallway towards the bathroom,
scratching his chest. Come hell or high water, Nick was determined to get
out of the rut he seemed to have fallen into, starting tonight.
Of course, the best laid plans of mice and men.Nick looked around the bar,
sipping his beer slowly as he tried to ignore the throbbing rhythm of
electronic bass trying to pound through his head. Mazilla's was hopping -
Robbie hadn't lied about that. The place was wall to wall T&A. Nick
nursed his drink, wondering to himself just when the bar scene had stopped
being fun. It was vaguely unsettling.
He flirted, of course. He danced with a couple of really beautiful girls;
and from the way they draped themselves all over him, he knew it wouldn't
be that difficult to work out some of his tension the good, old-fashioned
way, but that's not what he wanted. He wasn't looking for a one-night
stand; he was looking for companionship.
The realization scared him. In the middle of a throng of people, Nick
realized he was lonely. Fuck.
Robbie was on the dance floor, flirting with a perky brunette he had
pointed out to Nick a little while ago.
"You think those are real, Nick?" he had hollered over the loud music.
Nick had looked quickly, before turning back to his friend, grinning, "I
think they're real expensive," he had replied.
The two men had grabbed a beer, before Robbie had said, "Only one way to
find out," before he headed over to the woman in question. That had been
over an hour ago, and Robbie was still with her, dancing like MC Hammer on
"Robbie - I'm taking off man," he hollered, tapping his friend on the
Robbie turned to him, "Nick - it's early yet!"
Nick nodded, "I'm just not into this tonight - I'll catch you at the lab
tomorrow. Have fun."
"So much for proving I have a life outside work," Nick muttered to himself.
It was only 10:30 pm - to early to go home on his night off, even though
that's what he really wanted to do. Instead, he turned on his radio and
drove for a while.
He ended up at Lake Mead, on the side that wasn't too developed yet,
drinking a coffee he had picked up at Starbuck's and watching the moon
reflecting off the water as laughter and music echoed across the lake.
He felt like an intruder, listening to the ghosts of other people's
happiness, and was once again struck by how incredibly alone - and lonely -
he was. He was 33 years old, for Christ's sake. He had a great job,
worked with people that he honestly liked and respected - hell, considered
friends - but outside of work, what did he have?
Not a whole helluva lot. A nice house, but no one to share it with. No
one to talk to after a hard shift; no one to watch TV with - no one to sit
silently with, just for the sake of sitting silently. An empty house, an
empty life - an empty heart.
Shaking his head he wondered humorlessly if someone had slid a depressant
into his coffee, before he dumped what was left and tossed the cup into the
garbage. If he was so desperate, he could have stayed at Mazilla's and
picked someone up - some women, equally as lonely and disenchanted with her
life, looking to belong to someone, if only for the night.
In the past, that's what he would have done. But no longer - he was sick
of band-aid remedies - a quick fuck with some women he would never see
again might lessen the ache for a little while, but it wouldn't fix what
was actually wrong with his life. Nothing would.
Starting his truck, he headed towards home. The Dixie Chicks were playing
on his CD player.
~Not a night goes by, I don't dream of wandering
Through the home that might have been
And I listened to my pride, when my heart cried out for you
Now every day I wake again, in a house that might have been
A home, a home.
Four walls, a roof, a door, some windows
Just a place to run when my working day is through
They say home is where the heart is
If the exception proves the rule I guess that's true.~
Growling, he popped the CD out and threw it out his window, knowing even as
he did so he would stop at the CD Warehouse on his way to work tomorrow to
buy a new one.
The thought made him smile - his first honest-to-God smile of the whole
damn day - and he thought to himself that maybe things weren't really that
bad. He was just a little depressed, a little lonely - but nothing he
couldn't fix, if he didn't set his mind to it.
And that - of course - is when he saw Brass, parked in his driveway, and
knew something was wrong.
* * * * *
Brass had almost forgotten what Nick had looked like the night he and a
couple of officers had busted down the younger man's door and found him
struggling with Crane for his gun and his life over the body of the dead
His broken assurances that he was fine had been belied by the bleak
desolation in the younger man's eyes as his officers cuffed Crane. Brass
had never seen such emptiness before, and the look had haunted him for
He had hoped never to see anyone look so broken again, especially not
someone he worked with - especially not Nick. Brass had always admired the
younger man's seemingly endless optimism; his belief that people were
Brass was a career-cynic, but Nick's - naiveté, if that was the right word
- was refreshing, even if it was unfounded. The other CSIs and detectives
he worked with were all a bit more hard-boiled, even Sidle. Brass
suspected she had seen the seamier side of life, and it had affected her.
Yet Nick had never seemed to let the crimes they investigated erode his
sunny optimism. Brass had admired him for it, even as he had known that
one day something would happen that would shake Nick to the core, would
strip him of his optimism, and make him just like the rest of them.
He had never realized how painful it would be to witness the death of that
Seeing the younger man's eyes empty of everything except pain, Brass felt
Nigel Crane was a sick, twisted fuck.
Okay - Dixie Chicks song is called "A Home" - great song.
For those of you familiar with the Incredible Hulk, you'll recognize the
Pendleton Institute for the Criminally Insane as the place were
Psychobabble was locked up - excuse me for shamelessly ripping off Marvel
Please R&R - as I mentioned in the first chapter, this is a free-form
story, with nothing plotted out before hand. I'm going with the flow here,
and if it ain't flowing right, I really would like to know.