Title: Stuck in a Moment
Rating: PG13 for the subject matter and some language.
Summary: Sara needs a friend. Nick is there to be one.
Nick didn't appreciate getting a call at 3:00 in the morning on his one night off in over three weeks.
He didn't appreciate it at all.
Growling as he fumbled around for his pants, his cell phone pinched painfully between his ear and his shoulder, was not his idea of a great night off.
Of course, neither was falling asleep before midnight while watching Discovery Channel from his bed – by himself. He barked his shin painfully against his dresser and almost dropped the phone before he managed to steady himself. The cursing, of course, couldn't be helped.
"Yeah – okay Todd. I'll be there shortly – thanks for calling me. No, I don't mind. Really. I'm just glad you remembered. See you in a bit."
Still cursing under his breath, he hastily buttoned up his shirt, tucked his cell phone in his back pocket, and headed out the door. Someone had some explaining to do.
* * * * *
The bar was a dive. It was beyond a dive. The only pool table was so stained with alcohol and *other* fluids the original green felt was a muddied brown. Nick looked around him with feigned disinterest, before spotting Todd at the bar and heading his way.
"Hey man, what's up?"
Todd cocked his head sideways and grinned at the younger man through his beer glass. "You still look like a cop, even past 3 in the morning. Does your hair even move?"
"Quit busting my chops," Nick's reply was good-natured as he smiled at the older man. "Where is she?"
"Been keeping an eye on her for you – she's over in the corner booth. Pretty little thing, although she's gonna have a massive hangover tomorrow. What in the world would she want to come to a place like this for?"
Nick set at the empty barstool to the left of his friend, shooting a covert glance to the far booth, before replying, "I don't know, man. Why do you come here?"
"Three reasons: cheap beer, cheaper women, and no one recognizes me."
"Maybe she doesn't want anyone to recognize her, either," Nick nodded at his companion's empty glass and held up two fingers when the bartender asked him what he wanted. "She been here long?"
"Long enough," Todd replied. "A couple of guys approached her earlier, but she wasn't too civil. Luckily, nothing came of it. I woulda gone and talked to her, but I was afraid she'd bolt if she realized I recognized her and then what would happen? That's why I called you."
Nick picked up one of the beers in front of him, and slid the other to
his friend, "Thanks Todd. I owe you one. This stays between us, right?"
Todd picked up his fresh beer and took a long pull, "Once a cop, always a cop, Stokes."
Nick smiled grimly at his friend before saluting him with his drink, "Same goes for you, bud. I got your back."
* * * * *
"Come here often?"
Nick's question, although gentle, made her flinch. Squinting slightly, she turned her head towards his voice and took another sip of her drink. "Right back atcha', Cowboy."
"Nick…" Sara intoned back. She tried not to frown when Nick slid into the empty seat across from her. "I don't remember asking you to join me."
"You didn't," Nick replied, "but I'm here anyway. What are you doing?"
"Same thing as you – having a drink," she retorted, glancing pointedly at his beer before taking another sip of hers.
Nick looked at the array of empty bottles around her, before replying lightly, "Looks like you've had more than one."
"Who are you? Mother Theresa?" Sara frowned when Nick merely shrugged, before squinting blurrily at him. "Besides, isn't it your night off? Why're you alone?"
"I'm not alone – I'm with you," Nick replied reasonably, "And it may be my night off, but last time I checked the schedule it wasn't yours. What's up?"
"Clocked out early."
"Slow night. They didn't need me."
"So why come here?"
"What the fuck is this?" Sara snapped, "Twenty questions? Did Grissom send you to find me?"
"It's just not like you to cut out early, Sara. I've never seen you do it in over three years. And why would Grissom send me to find you?"
Sara shrugged, "He wouldn't. Probably doesn't even realize I left."
Nick tried not to wince at the defeated tone in her voice, "Sara…."
"No, it's true. Why I keep deluding myself that it might be otherwise, I'll never know. Well, fuck him. I don't need him." She stood suddenly and reached for his hand. "Hear that? My favorite song! Dance with me, Nick."
Nick stood and placed a bracing hand under her elbow as she rocked sideways, "Sure you wouldn't rather just go home, Sara?"
"Can't. C'mon, Nick…"
"Sara, you can hardly stand…."
Sara turned and looped her arms around his neck, "You'll keep me from falling."
Nick sighed, "Fine – one song, but then I'm taking you home okay?"
Sara started to nod her head, before deciding it felt much better propped on Nick's shoulder. On some level, she realized that Nick was holding her up, practically carrying her as they swayed slowly to the song emanating weakly from the juke box. She started humming softly into his neck, and realized she suddenly felt like crying.
'I'm not afraid of
anything in this world
There's nothing you can throw at me
That I haven't already heard
I'm just trying to find a decent melody
A song that I can sing
In my own company
I never thought you were a fool
But darling look at you
You gotta stand up straight
Carry your own weight
These tears are going nowhere baby
You've got to get yourself together
You've got stuck in a moment
And now you can't get out of it
Don't say that later will be better
Now you're stuck in a moment
And you can't get out of it...'
* * * * *
"No country music!" Sara declared, as Nick set her into the passenger side of his truck and did up her seatbelt. He smiled at her benignly as she made her demands, before quickly rounding the front of his truck and climbing in. Sara had her head thrown back against the seat as he started the motor and quickly flipped the radio to a rock station he knew she'd like.
"Are you coming to my place, or are we going to yours?"
"I don't care," she responded, "Anyplace. What about the Denali?"
"It's fine there for now. I'll drive you back tomorrow and you can get it when you're more capable of driving, that okay?" Nick kept his tone gentle as he drove towards his place. Noticing the pallor of Sara's face, he hit the switch and lowered the passenger window slightly to let in some fresh air. "You okay?"
Sara grimaced and made an exaggerated 'ok' symbol with her thumb and index-finger, "Don't worry, cowboy. I won't wreck the upholstery," she mumbled.
"That's not what I'm worried about, Sar…I meant, are you okay? I've never seen you like this before and…"
Sara's snort cut him off, "Save the white-hat routine for another time, 'kay? I don't really feel like a lecture right now."
"I'm not lecturing, I'm just worried."
"Not your job."
"Whose job is it, then?"
She didn't reply. The silence between them grew suddenly deafening, and Nick tapped his thumbs impatiently against the steering wheel as he waited for a reply. When none was forthcoming, he smiled grimly. Her silence just proved his point – someone had to worry about her, and he appointed himself.
* * * * *
Nick had never seen Sara so drunk before. He had known at the bar that she was fairly looped, but it wasn't until he got her out of that dive that he realized how drunk she was. The alcohol just seemed to be kicking in, and he wondered why he hadn't counted the empty bottles at her booth before he practically carried her out.
Standing in his driveway, he looped one of her arms around his neck and gently helped shift her out of his truck. "C'mon Sara, work with me here."
"Feel sick," she replied shakily.
He tightened his one arm around her waist, "I'm not surprised. There's a girl. One foot in front of the other….here we go." Fumbling with his keys, he leaned into the doorway slightly to help support her weight. She was barely standing on her own to feet. He sighed in relief as he felt the deadbolt slide, and twisted the handle gently. "Come on…"
"Gonna be sick," Sara muttered suddenly, throwing her hand up to cover her mouth. Nick sighed and quickly hustled her into the bathroom, barely getting her to the toilet on time as she started heaving. Reaching under his sink, he grabbed a face cloth and dampened it with cool water, before running it over the back of her neck and her forehead. He pulled her hair away from her face, and winced in sympathy as she retched noisily. His hand made comforting circles on her back.
After a few minutes, he helped her lean back against his bathroom wall and handed her a glass of cold water. "Feel better?"
Sara nodded weakly and took a sip.
"Gonna puke again?"
She shook her head. Nick grinned. "Good." Rising from his crouch beside her, he leaned over and flushed the toilet before stretching, "My legs were starting to cramp up."
Sara looked miserable, "I'm sorry, Nick."
Nick shrugged, "What are friends for. Come on – upsie-daisie. You want a clean shirt? Pair of shorts?"
"Yes, please," Sara's voice was pitiful. Nick could tell she was on the verge of tears. Giving her face another gentle wipe with the cool face cloth, he pulled her gently into a hug.
"None of that – you're going to feel bad enough when you wake up – don't start beating yourself up until you're sober. I can handle a lot of things, but drunken guilt ain't one of them." He was gratified to see a brief smile flicker across her pallid features at his gentle teasing. Helping her gingerly into his room, he sat her on the edge of his bed and turned to pull a fresh t-shirt and some boxers out of her dresser.
"Think you can do this yourself, or do you need some help?"
"I can do it."
"Good girl. I'll go get you some more water – if you can get some more down, it'll help with the hangover. Back in a minute."
When he returned, Sara had changed and was huddled under the comforter on his bed, half-asleep. Slowly approaching the edge of his bed, he placed the water on the nightstand and grimaced at the pile of clothes on the floor. Shaking his head, he bent down and picked them up, folding her shirt and jeans neatly, and resisting the urge to win the office pool amongst the male lab techs by checking the tag inside her bra.
Sara mumbled something at him, and he leant down closer to her. "You awake?"
He got no reply. Reaching out he smoothed her hair gently off her face, "What's going on with you, Sara?"
Flipping the light off, he silently left his bedroom and grabbed an extra pillow and blanket out of his linen closet. Thank God his sofa was comfortable.
Author's Notes: I know this is a new story. I know many of you are still waiting for me to finish Learning to Fly, Revenge of the Nerds (with Heidi) and update Fractured – all of which I plan on doing. I just haven't been feeling the stories lately – I blame it on a ho-hum season three and the complete bastardization of characters I came to really love. Season Four seems to be back on track somewhat, and sort of inspired this little piece. What does it all mean? I don't really know.
The song is the wonderful U2 song 'Stuck in a Moment'.
Please note, my email change – I had a complete system melt-down and lost everything, including my address book –so please, everyone I was corresponding with through email, please contact me!