|For Grave, previously 'For Warrick'
Author: happyharper13 PM
All is not as it seems when Nick, with Greg's help, investigates Warrick's murder and learns something about friendship. Hostages, threatening phone calls, kidnapping, a mysterious stranger, a mole, CW, GS and lots of mystery, suspense and angst for all.Rated: Fiction T - English - Mystery/Angst - Nick S. & Greg S. - Chapters: 45 - Words: 79,606 - Reviews: 212 - Favs: 35 - Follows: 26 - Updated: 08-11-08 - Published: 06-03-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4298015
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
This story's a bit slow at first -- I like to establish all the character development, et al. Please give it a try though. I promise it gets a lot more intense and angsty (see description)
Summary: Catherine can't handle the death of a close friend - who she saw, potentially, as something more, while Grissom is guilt stricken by a second loss he feels he should have been able to prevent and Greg tries to live up to Warrick's example as Nick's righthand man. Reactions clash when Nick, with Greg's help, tries to solve the case, putting the whole team in danger.
Features threatening phone calls, moles, hostages, mysterious strangers, some major Greggo angst and, first and foremost, lots of suspense and mystery.
NickGreg Friendship, NickWarrick Friendship, SaraGreg Friendship, unrequited Sandle, implied GSR, YoBling, with some Wedges on the side, and lab rats in all their Sci-Fi nerd glory.
Thanks to racefh853629 for beta-ing.
Pay attention for one or more characters acting slightly OOC and/or doing things that don't fit in with canon. These are clues for later in the story.
Grabbing his leg, Greg screamed after the departing Denali, desperately hoping it would turn around. It was to no avail. He heard another shot, and screamed as it entered his shoulder. Trust Gedda's thugs to know how to shoot this good – to leave you hanging, alive and in pain – and shoot in the right place so that you stay alive long enough to feel the pain and the fear. But Greg Sanders knew who the mole was.
Growing hazier by the second, he looked around to see the three men nearing. He shuddered, still clutching his leg. He knew he was no match for them. Feeling for his gun, he pondered his only two options: to let them take him away, where he would be subject to unspeakable pain, or to deny them the chance. He stared down at his gun. How had it all come to this? he wondered.
TWO WEEKS EARLIER
Grissom was exhausted.
Too many nights – not that he would call it too many – spent worrying about Sara had left him drained.
While he had pulled all strings possible to help Warrick back in the day, when the Holly Gribbs incident had exploded in his face and later when a judge tried to send him on a despicable blackmailed cover-up operation to conceal a sex crime, the last three years had seen him with significantly less of the energy available to spend on individual CSI's personal problems.
Unfortunately, it was those last three years that Warrick needed – or rather, Gil realized, had needed – him the most. Warrick was dead now and any help was too late, as only Gil, at the moment knew.
He continued to count down the seconds, stringing out the time before he had to unleash the news on the team, by, in true Gil Grissom nature, being lost in thought.
The last three years had seen many trying times for the team and it was, Grissom reminded himself, inevitable that he couldn't have put all energy into rescuing his longlost CSI from himself.
Yet, in the back of his mind, a lingering voice reminded him of what he'd done to help Sara Sidle, the love of his life, in that time. Perhaps he had dedicated more resources, more brainpower, more invested his whole self in the pursuit of her kidnapper. But, at the same time, that was what he did. Sara's fall from grace fell more directly into the category of solvable crime.
Warrick's unwinding life had fallen less into this category. His marriage, though a mistake, was no crime, even Tina's supposed infidelity. And the drug issues that Nick had, as a last resort to bring his buddy back to his real self, so urged Grissom to help Warrick alleviate, were not a matter that could be investigated and solved, at least not to improve Warrick's situation.
FLASHBACK TO SCENE WITH NICK AND GRISSOM
Grissom had been hiding in his office, escaping the stress of a redball, finally closed out with the persistent work of Greg Sanders, along with occasional well-timed appearances by Warrick and mentorly advice from Catherine.
Grissom had been somewhat out of it for the whole case, so Warrick's periodic and inexplicable absences had hardly elicited his notice. Ultimately, Warrick's was not the absence that Grissom noticed: it was Sara's.
Sara Sidle had been gone for a few months, yet, to Grissom, some days it felt like years and, on others, it felt like it was yesterday that she had kissed him goodbye before reaching her taxi, walking out of his life leaving only a letter and her namesake bumble bee.
Grissom and Sara had spent many a day off – not that they had many – in front of the bee colony. Sara hadn't initially been a bee person, but it did not take too much encouragement from Grissom to convert her.
Though she was the queen of his heart, it was not the queen bee that bore her name, but one of the worker bees. While the queen bee was responsible for the population, it was the female worker bees that protected it. While two baby queen bees fought for control of the hive, the worker bees stung – and died, as their stinger cost them their lives – for the good of the hive. The drones, on the other hand, simply mated and died. It was the worker bees the kept the hive going. Infertile and well-fed, they were motivated not by primal instincts but by the apocritan system of order, protection and – dare she say it – family and community.
Hence, Sara joked, there was never any need for Crime Scene Investigators in the honeycomb world. It was all, Grissom punned back, so sweet. Too sweet, he reflected with mirth. Too sweet to last, as Sara was long gone and bee colonies were dying out in rapid numbers.
The bee that bore her name had, ironically, been introduced in its attempt to sting Grissom's lovely girlfriend. As Sara approached the hive for the first time, an unfamiliar and suspicious new figure to the bees, Sara the bee had been the first out of the hive on the pre-emptive defensive, lunging for the CSI. It was only by luck, and, in retrospect, too many hours spent not with significant people but on the mastery of the hives, that Grissom managed to catch the little worker bee before she had a chance to sting, and to die.
After a few worried seconds in which Sara the CSI swung her hands around – frantically, yet, to Gil, gracefully – and in which Sara the Bee frantically darted around in the net, Sara the CSI peered down at her would-be attacker, straight through the aggression to the bee's loyalty and bravery. Sara Sidle was already in love with Gil Grissom, but it was in that second that she fell in love with his new collection of honey bees, and in that second that he knew they could make it in the long run.
As Grissom ruefully remembered his favorite honey, once again letting his reports remain in disorganized piles of blank paper on his desk, that Nick interrupted his thoughts, knocking cautiously on the shut door.
Grissom could see Nick's feigned diplomacy as soon as the young CSI opened the door, even as he didn't know what exactly the request would be.
Grissom replied with a curt nod.
"I came to talk about Warrick"
Grissom responded with his trademark quizzical look.
"You haven't noticed?" Nick said with slight shock.
"Heh" Nick let out an exasperated sigh. 'Why do I even bother,' he thought to himself. His patience was already wearing thin with the one person he thought capable of correcting the situation and his best friend's misery. He shook his head.
"You expect me to be psychic?" Grissom asked, with greater impatience than he intended.
Letting all guises of diplomacy fly out the window, and recognizing before he'd finished his sentence that he's just blew his chance of having his wish granted, Nick let out, just a notch under yelling, "No Griss, I actually expect you to pay attention to your team. And when I mean 'your team,' I mean current members, that is not ones that walked out months ago, that is not Sara Sidle!"
Grissom responded with a glare. "What do you want Nick? I don't have time for your mood swings on top of Catherine's oblivion to all standards of proper work attire, Wendy asserting her ambition to move up to CSI but spending every spare minute in Trace flirting with Hodges of all people, Dave repeating the same lame jokes about sexual abuse, Henry's inability to ask or state anything with directness and confidence and without looking terrified, Archie's penchant for watching God-knows-what on those video cameras while nobody's around, Greg blasting disgusting music, telling us all about his disgusting hobbies and compromising evidence, --"
Grissom looked up in the middle of his thoroughly unexpected and uncharacteristic rampage to see Nick looking slightly terrified. Realizing he had just attacked just about every single member of his team, when all he really meant was 'I miss Sara and there's a little too much work to do, especially with one less team member to do it,' he looked up again apologetically.
Gently, he asked, "What is it you want, Nick?"
"I was hoping you could check on Warrick. He's seemed really off lately."
Grissom huffed. 'Seemed off' wasn't exactly enough to warrant an intervention on his part, and he was hardly the gushy motherly counselor Dr. Phil type with excess time on his hands to help his team sort through marital woes or personal insecurities.
He had thought his team knew that his role as supervisor and general paternal figure ended at just about all things related to emotions, well except for with Sara…
He liked to think he'd done a pretty decent job helping with her insecurities since the DUI incident, but then again, she had taken off after all, so his inability to help the love of his life through personal problems was just further inabilities for why he had chosen the silent dead and their tangible evidence over living human beings and their ever-evolving, complex and often incomprehensible emotions and personal problems.
He thought that members of his team would be the first to realize that. And weren't these kind of things was Catherine was for?
"Nick," he began gently.
"Oh, come on Griss. He's a member of your team. He –"
"What makes you think I can solve his problems for him?" Grissom cut in curtly. He did have all of these papers on his desk to sort through, and National Geographic was showing the first annual live cockroach races from a convention he had been to busy to attend. It would be streaming soon, and he hoped to finish in time to catch it off of his computer at home by 9. It sounded selfish, but it was one of the few joys left in Gil Grissom's life with the departure of his soulmate.
"I'm not asking you to- well I am. I mean, well I guess –" Nick fought over his words for a few seconds before continuing: "I'm just asking you to try Griss. You miss 100 of the opportunities you don't take, eh?"
"That's too clichéd to be a good quote, so don't try."
Nick laughed at his disgruntled supervisor and secretly thanked his stars for the levity, hoping it gave Grissom the push to go help Warrick. "Fine, you're the quotemaster."
Grissom cast a small smile, before querying of the matter at hand. "So what exactly are you most concerned about with Warrick? We are CSIs, so what evidence do you have that something is wrong?"
Nick recounted the graphic details of Warrick's problems as best he could -- which wasn't much given Warrick's secretive ways of late.
"He's been having problems with his marriage."
Stumped, Nick replied, "Well, it sure seems worse than my parents's marriage…"
"Hardly a large enough sample size to quantify evidence," Grissom returned.
"Fine, but what about the pills?" asked Nick. "That's a problem. That really is a problem."
"The pills?" Gil looked up, puzzled. It was obvious this was the first he'd heard of drug issues of the trusted CSI 3. Gambling issues, yes. But pills? 'Jeez,' Grissom thought. His team really was the mess that the Undersheriff called them.
"Uppers and downers," Nick bluntly stated. "He's takin' pills to fall asleep at night and more to stay awake and functional during the day. And God knows what else he's taking. He wouldn't even tell me."
Grissom could see the hurt in Nick's eyes. He and Warrick used to be so close. He'd always imagined telling one important piece of information to one and it'd be off to the other in a matter of hours. They were two peas in a pod, the way they bet on everything, from sports teams to cases. Peas in a pod, destined for Vegas CSI. Gil shuddered at the recollection. Now one pea was underground, and the other would soon be heartbroken, scavenging for pieces to convince himself and the rest of the world that it wasn't really so.
Grissom hadn't done anything to remedy the situation. With the heartfelt conversation, he reiterated the need for professional help, were any action to be taken, or in the very least, to consult Catherine about it. Nick disagreed, arguing that Catherine was in fact, or at least could be part of the problem, as he always thought he saw some hidden chemistry between the two, to which Grissom was again oblivious. Whatever the relationship between Warrick and Catherine, Nick hypothesized, could have exacerbated problems in Warrick's marriage, which no doubt played a role in the man's other personal problems. And that's where Grissom had cut Nick off. That's the part of the conversation that Gil Grissom really regretted, the part that, had he listened to Nick, honestly, desperately, miserably made him wonder if Warrick would still be alive.
In his guilt-stricken mind, stuck playing the episode again and again on repeat, the answer was always yes.
"The citizens of Clark County, Nevada," Grissom announced, condescendingly, arrogantly, he thought, after the fact, "do not pay us to meddle in the marital lives of coworkers. They are not paying for every hour we decide to play "Dear Abby."
"Pay?! You're gonna be talking about pay?! What about Sara? Don't tell me you didn't put in more than county pay saving her! And what about that DUI?! You think I didn't hear about that?! Whether you like it or not – and I'd say most of the time you seem to like it – this isn't just a job. It's a family, so don't act surprised that I found about you're 'counseling,' shall we say, and keepin' it off her record. And don't tell me you never skirted county rules savin' her ass! I guess the difference is her ass is more worth savin' to you than Warrick's is, huh? That's it right boss, that's it."
"Nick. That's enough. Don't bring Sara into this"
"You made it about her when you became a part of the conversation." Ouch. "Everything for you is about her because 'at's all you ever think about. Don't deny it, Griss." He wasn't really lying.
"Let's bring this back to the topic at hand."
"If you're so adamant that something should be done, then why can't you do it, Nick? I think we've already established that this is not my cup of tea."
"Easy. I already tried and you're the daddy on this team."
Grissom gave Nick a quizzical look.
"Okay, I guess that makes what you've got with Sara kinda wrong." Grissom grimaced as Nick fumbled for words. "But you're the mentor. You're the team guardian. Whether you like it or not, you solve the problems here. I already tried solving it, and we already went over why Cath can't. Sara's out of the picture, and Greg- well,… I just can't see him doin' it. He'd outtalk Warrick while tryin' to get it sorted out and end up getting' nowhere, plus he's still kinda out of it since the Demetrius James thing.'"
"Everyone on this team's 'kinda out of it' for some reason or the other."
"Fine, but you agree with me that Greg's not the man for this."
"Yes, I can agree that having our very single latex-loving surfer dude play marriage counselor to Warrick and Tina might not be the wisest course of actions. But that doesn't change the fact that this isn't a matter for county LVPD staff to be solving in their spare time."
"Oh come on. Like you've never used county clock time to do something other than processing scenes and directly related paperwork. You know I'm right."
"What you need to be knowing," Grissom slowly started, "is that this conversation is over. Encourage Warrick to get help? Fine. I won't stand in your way."
"Oh come on man!"
"No. Conversation over. I have work to do, and the crime rate's not slowing down any time soon, so I suspect you do too. Get to work Nick. I've already told Warrick that he needs to deal with his personal problems off of the clock. There's no reason for you to be butting in and fighting his battles for him, and with the county. I'm sorry Nick. I really am. But there's just not anything that I, of all people, can do about it." Now I really am sorry Nick. I'm so sorry.
Grissom had done no more about Warrick's supposed problems until he got the call in from the Undersheriff. There was a 419 by the diner where the team had just ate. It would be an entirely covert investigation and no one from LVPD would be involved. Because it was one of their team. One of the CSIs. Because it was Warrick.
Grissom continued to wait, apologizing to Nick in his mind and counting down until the minute he could wait no longer to tell his team of their fallen friend.
Greg Sanders began taking over "best friend" duties for Nick Stokes years ago. As Warrick occasionally dabbled in the worlds Sin City was best known for – Vegas's underbelly stuffed with gambling houses, at its most mundane, the more conservative Texan increasingly turned to the newer, younger and – as much as they laughed at the implications – in some ways hipper CSI 1 who was, if nothing else, always up for fun.
And fun they had.
Much of the time, it was just hanging out at diners after shift, sometimes even those establishments Vegas was more known for. Once Greg had even introduced Nick to the music he described as quality, buying last minute tickets when Marilyn Manson came to Vegas.
After one too many drives to crime scenes letting Greg pick out the music, and certainly after then-lab tech Greg let his music drown out the possibilities of the exhausted CSI's locker room catnaps between double shifts, Nick insisted his ears would never again be graced by the supposed "art" of yelling. After all, that's what he had Ecklie and, on her bad days, Sara, for.
Nonetheless, after getting turned down by Warrick for the fifth time in a week to hit the Strip old day style, Nick consented to a concert with his chatty second resort, and, though he complained later, he had to admit that even "The Dope Show" and "Tainted Love," combined with the company of the wacky and garrulous metalhead, beat out another night at home alone.
The concert had been decent. Nick only felt slightly out of place. Okay, that was an exaggeration. "Lone Star State" gained whole new meaning at the concert; while he wasn't exactly the star of the event, he felt like he stood out quite a bit – maybe even going as far as to say he "shined" – as one of the only people not wearing black, and most of all, most likely the "lone" country music fan. To say he felt out of place with the heavy metal music was a mild understatement.
He missed the old days when he could go out with Warrick to share a love of more melodic music, and of the basic Vegas values of beer, bets and women. Though Nick was on the conservative side, even Texas instilled his love in a good Sin City time. Greg's idea of a good time, however, was a bit different.
With Greg, Nick could at least share a love of booze, porn and sports. Greg's California roots made him an easy target for all sports rivalries, from big screen TV matches at bars to Madden on the nerdy former lab tech's new PS2.
Though Greg came across as wacky and wild, at least while he was in the lab, his personality had toned down significantly and he wasn't nearly as much fun for Nick to hang out with than Warrick. Nonetheless, he was reliable, and that was the best Nick could hope for at the moment. He knew that what he told Greg stayed secret.
Furthermore, unlike most of the regular population residing in the Vegas time zone, Greg was awake at pretty much all hours of the day, including, most importantly, hours after shift when everyone else was either working or sleeping, and rarely turned Nick down.
That said, oddly enough, Greg would occasionally have urgent commitments at far-off hours. Every once in a while, the new field mouse had crucial plans at ridiculous hours, and for long stretches of time. When he finally confessed that it was researching his book, Nick only shook his head. His new friend was a weird one, turning down tickets to the big game to work on writing a book. His interests were certainly not the same as Warrick's.
She walked out smiling.
"If you ever need anyone to talk to, you know how to get a hold of me, huh?"
She couldn't contain her excitement in that last statement to the man she thought she's been waiting years for; for whom she thought, with the divorce and final exculpation, she would finally be done waiting.
Catherine Willows very rarely stuttered, but as she rushed through the statement, her emotions got the better of her. She was exhilarated not only by the culminating events of the night, but by nerve – an unusual state for the brash former stripper –, and she wondered at Warrick's ability to make out every word.
Yet it described perfectly her tense reaction to the earlier events – the realization that, after years of casual flirtation and what she thought was more chemistry than that with other male colleagues, friends and even suspects, she might never in fact be with Warrick, and, equally importantly, that now she was set on doing something about it, with that one supportive sentence and, more importantly, that kiss on the cheek that meant so much more than her coworkers imagined.
She walked out of the diner smiling, assuming that Warrick, one of the men who knew her best, knew what that last kiss goodnight meant.