Title: Pledging Mr. Stokes

Author: PonchoLives

Category: General

Disclaimer: I own nothing except the laptop on which this story was composed.

Summary: Sara contemplates Nick's need for a family connection. A post-Pledging Mr. Johnson one shot.

Sara Sidle sighed heavily as she sat down in a chair in the break room. She didn't understand men sometimes. Well, technically these weren't men. They were frat boys. There was a big difference in her mind.

She understood the need to fit in, to feel like you belong. That wasn't an unclear issue in her mind. She just didn't understand how hazing could lead to murder.

Fraternities and Sororities, for the most part, are not known for their high moral standards. They signed each other's body parts for crying out loud. Surely Kyle's girlfriend had signed other pledges. What was it about James that pushed Kyle over the edge? Did he view James getting signed by his girlfriend as a deliberate challenge to his status as founder of the chapter? Was he that threatened by James?

Sara sighed again and shook her head. The world of fraternities was one that she just did not understand.

Nick Stokes came bounding into the room, a spring in his step. He had been nothing short of buoyant since returning from lock-up. It gave him no end of satisfaction to tell Kyle that he was going downfor murder one.

Sara knew that Nick took his job seriously. He loved putting the pieces of the case together and getting the bad guy. That became clear to her right away. During this case though, she noticed a fire in his bones that she hadn't observed before.

Nick had been driven by a deep intensity to get the person responsible for James' death and Sara wondered if it was because Nick could relate to the victim. He understood James' desire to belong. Nick said that, like James, he had let himself be humiliated in order to belong to "the brotherhood." Sara figured that he must have seen a bit of himself in James.

Nick opened the fridge and dug around until he saw the object of his desire - an apple. Taking a big bite out of it, he sat in a chair across from Sara and gave her a juicy smile.

"You're in a good mood." she stated obviously, a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth.

"What you're seeing is complete satisfaction." Nick said in between bites. "There's nothing like putting the bad guy behind bars."

"True, but you seem a little more excited than usual about it though. Any reason for that?" Sara pressed forward.

"That guy, Kyle, was a punk who thought he could hide behind his father's status and never take responsibility for his actions. He killed a poor kid who only was looking for a family, a place to belong. I felt bad for the kid because I know what that's like. That inspired me to do my best." Nick admitted, leaning back in his chair and taking another bite.

"You think that's wise? To relate to the victim like that?" Sara asked hesitantly.

Nick rolled his eyes. "You sound like Grissom. So what if I relate to the victim? I got the job done, didn't I? Bad guy's going away for a long time."

"Yeah, okay, this time. It may not always work out that way. Emotion can cloud your judgement which can be the difference between success and failure in a case." Sara said wisely.

"Duly noted, Miss Sidle." he replied with a mocking smile.

It was clear that Nick was still riding the high of his success and unable to really listen to what she was saying. Sara decided to abandon that particular topic for the moment.

"So, were you a true, honest to goodness, frat boy?" Sara asked, not able to hide all of her disgust.

Nick laughed. "Yeah, pretty much. I wasn't a die-hard party guy, but I did enjoy myself on more than one occasion." He flashed her a mischievous smile.

"But I didn't join a fraternity because I wanted to party." Nick looked at his apple and took another bite.

Sara drummed her fingers on the table between them and asked, "Why did you join a fraternity then? You don't really strike me as the frat boy kind."

"Well, I wanted to be accepted, to belong." Nick said.

Sara nodded in understanding.

"And I enjoyed having that sense of family. You always look out for your brothers." Nick wagged his finger at her with a smile.

Sara found it interesting that Nick had not joined a regular club on campus. He had joined a fraternity and "frater" in Latin means "brother," something with familial implications. She wondered if Nick's need to be a part of an organization of that nature was due in part to his growing up in a large family. Nick had always been surrounded by a close knit group of people. Maybe the thought of leaving that family had scared him a bit so he traded one family for another.

"Loyalty's a rare thing to find." Sara conceded. She watched with a smile as Nick polished off his apple. He set the core on the table and wiped off his fingers with a stray napkin he found lying on the table.

"Well, it's a quality I value. It was instilled in me at birth. It's one of the qualities that every Stokes possesses." Nick stated, giving her a smile.

As Nick grabbed a magazine and began to flip through it, Sara's thoughts continued to stay on him. Nick had left behind his fraternity lifestyle with relative ease because that wasn't really who he was. However, she noticed that he had immediately formed a new family for himself here in Vegas.

Nick held Grissom in high regard and desired his attention in the same way a son craved his father's attention. Catherine looked out for him in an almost motherly fashion and praised him in the same manner. He had a brotherly comradery with Warrick that manifested itself most commonly in their competitiveness, and even she was beginning to develop feelings of brotherly love for her coworker.

Even though he'd left his biological family behind and gone out into the world, he didn't seem able to leave the need for a family behind. That wasn't a bad thing necessarily. It was good to feel connected to people, to know that these were people you could turn to in times of need.

The problem seemed to be that Nick felt their disappointment in him greatly. She saw this the most in Nick's interactions with Grissom. The man unintentionally seemed to know just how to push Nick's buttons in the way that particular family member whose standards you could never meet always seemed to be able to do. Nick took the older man's criticism to heart. This had been evident to her on her first day.

And speaking of Grissom...

The supervisor hadentered the break room after spotting two of his CSIs reclining at the table. He fixed them with a disapproving look.

"I assume your case is solved?" he asked. There was a touch of a reprimand in his voice as if he expected to catch them napping on the job.

"Yeah. When we confrontedMatt about the string we found in the trash can, our guy rolled over on his buddy. Kyle's going downfor murder one." Nick said eagerly.

"Hmm." Grissom spotted Nick's apple core on the table. "Throw your trash away, Nicky. This is a work environment, not your private dining area." With that, the older man turned on his heel and strode out of the break room.

Somewhat deflated, Nick picked up his apple core and went over to toss it in the trash can. He turned around and scratched his head. For a moment, Sara thought she detected a trace of uncertainty in his eyes.

Worry began to creep into Sara's soul. While Nick portrayed an air of confidence and capability, he seemed to need validation from Grissom. She wondered what would happen if he never got it and not for the first time, Sara wondered what kind of relationship Nick had with his real father.

Nick had told her once that he had pulled up stakes and moved to Vegas in order to define himself outside of the perimeters of his high-profile family. She reasoned that it must have been difficult for him as the youngest of seven children to find his place in the family. However, Sara knew that he would never be able to define himself as an individual as long as he looked to another for approval.

In many ways, she envied her colleague. She would not have characterized her family as being close and caring - not like Nick's. She envied the fact that he could go home for the holidays and be welcomed with open arms by large group of people who genuinely missed him.

However, she never had anyone to disappoint either. She was fairly independent and relied only on herself. There was no one to look over her shoulder and criticize the decisions she'd made. She never had to measure up to anyone's standards but her own.

They were like night and day, but that's why she enjoyed working with Nick so much. Sara enjoyed the manner in which Nick approached his work, the qualities that he brought to his job, which were directly related to his upbringing. For the most part, these qualities were completely unlike her own, but when they were combined with hers, they complimented each other well.

Sara stood and walked over to Nick, placing a hand on his shoulder.

"So, ready to move on to the next big thing?" she asked with an encouraging smile.

Nick returned her smile with enthusiasm. "I'm up for the challenge if you are."

"Let's hope you can keep up." Sara teased, leading the eager Texan out the door.