Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Note: I know it took ages for me to write that and then ff.net wouldn't let me post. I don't really know why. Sorry. There isn't really much plot in here, it's mainly on epilogue. Hope you enjoy it anyways.
Grissom and Brass were both silent, as they mad their way to Nick's car, which the police had impounded after the accident, after their interview with Kelly Sharp. Both of them had a pretty good idea about what might have happened. Their was no doubt about the fact that she was lying. What Warrick had told them had made this clear. Nick had been the victim in this. One look at the inside of the car confirmed this. Blood was all over the passenger seat area. None in the driver's seat area. While Grissom took samples of the blood, Brass looked at the setting of the seats.
"She was driving. The seat is pushed all the way forward."
"Yeah, and look at this." Grissom had opened the glove compartment of the driver's side. "A gun. We'll dust it for prints, But it's safe to assume that Dr. Sharp's prints will be all over it. No kidnapper would let his captive drive and give her potential access to a gun."
Confident and relieved that the evidence would prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Nick was innocent, they silently processed the rest of the evidence. This was a case where they were not lacking evidence. The blood at the scene and in the car, the tape from Nick's wrists, GSR found only on Dr. Sharps hands. What remained now was routine. But all the routine couldn't hide the fact that the repercussion of this case where not yet over.
Catherine and Sara were working through the list of names from the institute. To an outside they would have seemed to be immersed in calm, concentrated work, but , on the inside, the tension had been mounting continually during the last few hours. The tedious work of checking all the people from the list of the institute would normally have been a despised chore, but now was a fairly welcome distraction.
"I'm sorry to have bothered you. Bye."
Sara hung up, after what seemed like the 50th pointless call.
"Catherine, this isn't working. Nobody is going to come right out and tell us that they have been helping Nigel Crane. So all we've got are a few no-answers, but we can hardly expect everybody to be home and picking up the phone when we call."
"I agree," Catherine said, frustration colouring her tone. "What we are looking for is someone who is on the leaving list, but didn't got in. If you think about it, assuming that Nigel Crane, left the building through the main and, as far as we know only entrance, than he had to be wearing some for of ID. And he would have to be signed out from a list, where all the incoming people are logged. It's impossible that he did it like that. There would have been nobody coming in that corresponded to whomever he was impersonating when he walked out."
"I see your point." Sara nodded. "That means we are not going to find anything on that list." She got up to get herself another cup of coffee. "You want some?"
"Would love to, but I've had too many already. You can only substitute so much coffee for sleep." Catherine yawned.
Sara turned to Catherine, her half-filled coffee cup in one hand, the pot in the other. She looked as though something had suddenly occurred to her.
"What if we are all wrong about his time of disappearance. All we have is the record of the "good doctor" to base our timeline on. We've already picked her as a potential liar, so what if she flat out lied in her schedule. She must have know that we would get a look on those eventually. The confusion after he was reported missing could have allowed him to escape. I mean there were suddenly a lot of strangers there, police. Nobody knew exactly how many. He could have just slipped through, he does look ordinary enough for people not to notice him."
"Speaking of a potential liar," Greg had suddenly appeared in the room, he had apparently been standing there for some time already. "Dr. Sharp is also Nick's pen pal. Ecklie found another unsent letter to Nick in her office. Prints on it are hers and Nigel's."
"Good." Sara said absent minded, still busy with mental calculations of potential scenarios.
"Anything else Greg?" Catherine asked, when Greg made no move to leave the room.
"Well, we lab rats are kept totally out of the loop, so I was just wondering whether you had any news on Nick?" Greg was more concerned that his manner would let on.
"Police said he was in an accident, but we haven't heard from Grissom and Warrick yet." Catherine felt sorry for Greg. Now that she and Sara were basically stranded with no information, she could guess what it was like to be in Greg's position.
Warrick was already on his way out, when he changed his mind. He had another two calls to make. There were other people out there, desperate for any information. First he called Nick's parents, hoping that Nick wouldn't mind. He had been right. By now the case had made it into the media and his parents had been worried sick. They were both shocked and relieved that their son was in hospital. The second call went to Sara and Catherine at the lab who were bound to be dying to know how things had turned out. As he had expected both were extremely relieved to hear that Nick would be all right, given some time. When, he finally made his way back to the parking lot, Warrick marvelled who easy it was to forget about other people and how closely thoughtless bordered on cruelty.
Right now, Nick felt as far from all right as he could possibly feel. No, he thought, he felt better then he had while sitting in that car with Dr. Sharp, pondering the question whether he would first bled to death or whether she would shot him first. On the physical level things had definitely improved. The pain which had nearly driven him crazy before, had now tined now to a dull ache, no doubt the work of potent painkillers. He remembered a nurse or a doctor telling him about what was wrong with his arm, but he couldn't remember and right now didn't really care about it.
While on the physical side, things were bearable, his psyche was another matter. As whatever sedative he had been given was wearing off, he was staring to feel fear creeping up again. Rationally, he knew that it was over, that he was safe now, but his emotions hadn't gotten the message yet. The memories of the motel room and the crazy drive that had followed were still painfully fresh. He couldn't place events into the proper order, everything seemed to have happened at once.
It wasn't just fear, he also felt deeply ashamed. He felt as if he had been moved back in time, being a helpless little kid.
The next morning brought some improvement. The fogginess in his head was almost gone and he was now ready to start sorting the mental imagines into a meaningful order. But that meant also that he was now more clear on what had happened and was acutely aware of the gaps in his memory. Part of him was hoping that someone from CSI was going to drop by and fill him in, being in this state of information limbo only added to his uneasiness, but another part of him was afraid to face his co-workers. On an intellectual level there was no reason for his apprehension, but knowing that they had worked the case where he had been a suspect and victim made him unsure about how to react to them and the questions they might ask him. He didn't want to be treated as a victim, it was enough that he felt like one, in spite of his efforts not to. He was also scared that they might not understand, why he had gone along so passively and reacted the way he did in that hotel room. He didn't like that everyone at CSI now knew about his display of weakness. After a bland tasting breakfast he wasn't really hungry for in the first place Warrick showed up. Even though Warrick was probably his closest friend among his co-workers, it was the one he had least wanted to see right now. He had hoped it would be Grissom, from whom Warrick didn't really expect much of an emotional response to anything, or maybe Catherine with whom he felt most comfortable working. The reason that he wasn't particularly eager to see Warrick lay in the events of the previous afternoon. Warrick had only bee doing his job, Nick didn't blame him. It was his fault that he was embarrassed when there was no real reason. Judging by the look on Warrick's face, he wasn't feeling any more comfortable than he was.
"Morning Nick. Feeling better?"
"Yes, bit tired though." Nick managed a fake smile. Truth was he wanted to crawl into a hole and not see anyone right now. A tense silence ensued, as neither of them really knew what to say. Warrick finally spoke, going for the hard facts approach.
"I talked to your Doctor again. He says you should be out of here in a couple of days, depending on how fast your arm heals. Your ribs are going to be sore for a week or two."
"Guess, I'll live. What about the case, you need my statement?"
"Don't worry about that, we have enough for the moment. The evidence clearly implicated her. Her prints on the gun, GSR on her hands, she matches the height of the shooter and she has been seen at a drugstore. Brass said you can make your statement once you are better."
Nick nodded, glad that he didn't have to go over all that had happened yet. He needed to get clear about things for himself first.
After some harmless banter about basically nothing, Warrick left Nick to his thoughts. At first Nick was relived to be alone again, but then regretted not having asked any more questions about the case. All he knew that Kelly Sharp had been arrested and he had probably been cleared of any suspicions as a consequence. At least that part of his life was okay.
Three days later the investigation was concluded, all the reports had been written and signed. Dr. Sharp had been denied bail at the hearing and was to remain in custody until trial. She had no said another word after her arrest. She had not admitted anything and refused to talk to a lawyer or the police. Although the evidence told them what they needed to know, Sara wasn't satisfied. It wasn't just the fact that they had not been able to prove how Nigel Crane had escaped. Their theory had remained just that, a theory which might be true, but could as well be false. Other than that, Sara felt a certain dissatisfaction. They knew what had happened, but not why and because the only person who knew refused to say anything, they might never know. To Sara it felt like the case wasn't really solved. It surprised herself, she hadn't though that she would care about the human element that much. But this wasn't her average case. Maybe she cared about the motifs and emotions involved because the case involved people she knew. A day later, Nick was released from hospital. He could have taken a few days off but declined. He needed to get back to work. Though not as work-obsessed as some of his co-workers, work was central part of his life, an area where he could have the feeling of achieving something. That feeling was what he needed now. He gladly took Warrick up on his offer to stay at his place, until he found a new apartment. Out of the question of going back to his own place. He had already considered moving when Nigel Crane had initially stalked him, but had eventually decided against it because he felt that moving was giving Nigel Crane more power than he deserved. But this time, the mere thought of going back to his house made him edgy. It wasn't so much what had happened there, it was the fact that it was a part of his privacy which had been violated. His house was an unwelcome reminder. He was glad that Warrick had made the offer without him having to ask.
Nick had been slightly apprehensive about his first day back at work. Three cases made for a very busy shift which stretched into the morning. In spite of the shit having been stressful and long, as Nick was getting ready to leave, Warrick and Sara walked up to him in the locker room.
"Hey, Nick. You are not leaving, are you?" Sara asked with a smile.
"I was, why?" Nick was confused.
"All of us were thinking about having breakfast together." Warrick said.
"It would be a real shame if you didn't come. See it as your welcome-back-to-work." Sara's smile turned into a broad grin.
"Okay." Nick followed Sara and Warrick.
The entire team was assembled at breakfast. Spirits were generally running high, everyone seemed relaxed, even Grissom, who he seemed very tense lately. Personally Nick didn't want to discuss Nigel Crane, he just wanted to forget about the whole thing and get on with his life, in peace.
Right then, sitting at breakfast with his colleagues and friends, eating, talking and laughing, Nick felt close to all right, for the first time since the news of Nigel Crane's escape. He smiled, things were going to be okay. In that moment life was good. And suddenly it was no problem.
"Guys, can you be quiet for a sec." Nick said smiling, interruption the various ongoing conversation. "I just wanted to say, thank you for doing all the great work and proving the truth. I don't know where I'd be now without you." Everyone had been looking at him, it was the first time the case had been mentioned since the hospital. Nobody said anything for a short while.
"Well, you are here and you are a free man." Sara broke the silence, her tone light-hearted.
"I think we can toast to that happy ending." Catherine said and raised her glass.
Like everyone else, Grissom raised his glass, but his heart wasn't in it. In spite of the happy turn that the situation had taken, Grissom's joy was everything but untainted. He was unhappy with himself. His usual policy of avoiding any emotional involvement had failed in this case. Warrick had made it clear to him that he couldn't stand by the sidelines and watch a friend being convicted of a murder he had not committed. So he had gotten himself involved and had started forming expectation of the evidence. Now, things had turned out as he hoped, but what if they had not. What if the evidence had eventually proven Nick's guilt? Would his emotional connection made him less professional and thorough in that case? Grissom suspected that this would have been the case. That bothered him But what choice did he have, as the supervisor of the nightshift he had interacted with his co-workers But at the same time, he had to make sure that no mistakes were being made. To Grissom it seemed like he couldn't only lose in that game. Instead of the victory he and the rest of the team should be proud of, Grissom only felt personal defeat.
Eight months later, Dr. Kelly Sharp was found guilty of second degree murder, but since according to a court psychologist she had been suffering from delusion had the time of her crime, she was to spend her sentence in an institution. being the only witness to the only witness to the crime, Nick had been obligated to appear in court as a witness. He had been far more apprehensive about this than he would have admitted to his co-workers. he should have a vested interest in seeing Kelly Sharp behind bars, but in fact, Nick just wanted to forget about the whole incident. As soon as his physical injuries had somewhat healed he had started the push the memory into the darkest corner of his mind, where the memory of other betrayals and hurts resided, some for decades already. having to appear at the trial and retell the story forced him to drag to memory back to his conscious mind.
When the sentence was read out, Nick was surprised that it did make him feel better. Not because, he saw it as revenge, no but because now he could finally lock away the memory for good. There was just a little voice inside his head that told him that he had had the exact same thought before, when Nigel Crane had been locked up. But this time it was going to be different.