Author Note: This is just a little short post to "Gum Drops". Just something that came to me last night.
I actually already posted this earlier, but I went through it again and added a little bit, because...I don't know, I just felt like I needed to add a couple of sentences.
Warrick stood in the hall, looking through everyone who walked past him, staring at the door. Sara and Greg had returned to the lab just a little bit earlier, and Sara had asked to talk to him in private for a minute.
"What's up, girl?" Warrick asked as they entered the break room. Sara shut the door behind them.
She crossed her arms and put on her serious face. It was mixed with her concerned face. "Have you noticed Nick acting strange at all lately?"
Warrick walked the length of the room and thought. "You mean besides on this case?"
"I don't think so. He's seemed fine to me."
"Well, not to me." She told him about what had happened at the sheriff's station.
Warrick's jaw dropped. "That's not like Nick." His friend would never act that way, become aggressive with a suspect, especially a kid, in an interrogation.
Sara looked worried. "No, it's not." She sank into a chair. "I tried to talk to him about it and he kind of blew me off." She looked up at him with hopeful eyes. "Maybe you could try."
Warrick sat down across from Sara. "I can try. He hasn't exactly been Joe-here's-what-I'm-thinkin' lately."
"Doesn't that worry you?"
Warrick suddenly felt very guilty. "Yeah, I guess it does. I guess I assumed he was doing better."
"We all did." Sara stared at her hands. "Why wouldn't we? He's been acting like everything is normal."
"Maybe we just wanted to believe that it was." Warrick gave himself a mental slap. Why weren't they taking better care of their friend?
He knew the answer. Because they had been afraid that if they coddled him too much, he would just shut down. They didn't talk about what happened. Not when Nick was around. They kept the mood light, they laughed and joked and did everything they could to make Nick feel comfortable. It seemed to be working. Nick smiled and laughed and joked back with them. Warrick had wanted to believe so hard that it wasn't just an act…that Nick really was doing better. He was stupid. It hadn't even been that long. Of course Nick was still dealing with things. He just wasn't allowing them to see it.
The break room door opened and Archie, the AV tech, started to enter, whistling.
Sara looked up sharply and gave Warrick a meaningful look.
Warrick cleared his throat. "Hey, Arch. You think you could give us just a minute?"
Archie paused on his way to the mini-fridge. "Sure. Can I grab a soda?" He pulled out a can of Coke and gave them a wave, shutting the door behind him on his way out.
"I'll talk to him," Warrick said.
Sara chewed on her lip. "Maybe we all should."
Warrick shook his head. "Nah, I think that might be too much. I'll do it."
Sara nodded. "Thanks. I'm really worried about him. I can't stand to think that he's going through things that he won't talk to us about."
So here he was, waiting for Nick. Warrick wasn't sure what he was going to say, or how he was going to say it.
Warrick pushed himself off of the wall when he saw Nick enter the building. His friend's steps were slow and heavy, and he was staring at his feet as if he had to look at them to get them to move. In his hand was a piece of construction paper, and he was gripping so hard that even from where he stood Warrick could see the indentations in the paper.
Nick almost walked past Warrick, not seeing him, but Warrick reached out and grabbed Nick's arm. He jumped slightly.
"Sorry, man. Didn't see you." Nick's eyes looked a little red, like he had been crying. That hit Warrick like a punch to the gut.
"Can we talk for a second?"
Nick frowned, and slowly started to nod. "Sure."
Warrick led Nick back to the break room. Greg was now sitting there, feet up on the table, flipping through a magazine.
"Hey, Greggo," Warrick said. He jerked a thumb toward the door. "Scram."
Greg looked at him over the top of his magazine. "It's my break room, too. Hey, Nick."
Warrick grabbed the magazine out his hands, rolled it up and smacked him on the head with it. "Come on, man."
Greg stood and took his magazine back. "Alright, I'm going. Sheesh." He left and Warrick moved to shut the door.
Nick looked at him with a questioning look. "What was that about it?" Then a look of realization settled over his features and he sighed. "Do not even tell me that you dragged me in here to give me a lecture, man. I don't need it." Nick fixed him with a glare.
Warrick gave it right back. "You do need it, man."
Nick put his hands on his hips. "Sara talked to you, didn't she? That was nothing; I just lost it for a minute."
"You never lose it, Nick," Warrick said.
Nick rolled his eyes. "Don't you start with that, too. This had nothing to do with that. It was about Cassie."
"Because it's my job, Warrick," Nick said angrily. "I'm sorry that I wasn't so quick to give up on her like the rest of you."
"We were following the evidence."
"That's great. I'm sure Grissom will be very proud of you." Nick turned to leave.
"When are you gonna stop shutting us out and admit that you need help?"
Nick whirled around and faced him. "I do not need help. I show up to work, and I do my job."
Warrick crossed his arms. "How are you sleeping?"
Nick raised his eyebrows and shook his head. "What does that have to do with anything? It's not affecting my work."
Warrick took a step forward. "I think it is. Since when do you threaten a suspect?"
Nick took a step forward, too. Their voices were rising, and people out in the hall were slowing as they passed, or stopping altogether, listening to the muffled shouts coming from the room.
"I told you- that was not about what happened!"
"'About what happened'? You can't even talk about it!" This was not how Warrick wanted this talk to go, but maybe the message was getting across.
Nick clenched his teeth. "There's nothing to talk about, because I'm fine."
Warrick threw his hands up in the air in frustration. "Fine. But how do you expect us to help you if you won't talk to us."
"I don't need your help with anything, because I'm fine." Nick turned and stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind him.
Warrick stood in the middle of the room, his mind racing, regretting every word he had said. Kind of. It was all of things that he'd been wanting and waiting to tell Nick for months.
He just hoped that he hadn't driven Nick even further into himself. He wanted everything to be back the way it was. Damn you, Gordon, his mind screamed to the man who had ruined so much.
Nick stormed through the lab, ignoring the looks he was getting from the people he passed on the way to the locker room the CSIs shared. Much to Nick's relief, it was empty. He lashed out a foot and kicked the closest locker. Satisfied at the dent he put there, he stood there, breathing hard.
Suddenly, it felt like a weight was bearing down on him, and he sank to the bench that ran between the rows of lockers, and put his head in his hands. What was he doing? Sara, Warrick…they were all just concerned about him. Why was he writing it off and not letting them in? He'd felt that if he just focused on the job, if he just took it a day at a time…things would be fine.
Things weren't fine. Hell, the sight of a single damned bug made his heart rate jump, his arms to be covered in goosebumps, and his hands to shake.
And that bunker. Nick didn't know how he had managed to keep from running out. Yes he did. He hadn't wanted to let the others see just how hard a time he was having. Apparently, he doing a really shitty job, because they were still concerned about how he was doing.
He knew they were all waiting for him to be the same old Nick, and was trying really hard to be that for them. He didn't know what had gotten into him with this case. It was just the thought that people were giving up on Cassie. What would have happened if they had? What would have happened to Nick if they had given up on him? He spent a lot of time and energy not asking himself that question. He didn't want to think about how close he had been to pulling that trigger. He had been the one who had almost given up.
Nick couldn't keep in the small sob that caught in his throat. He didn't hear the footsteps that walked up slowly behind him, but felt the balance of the bench shift as someone sat down next to him.
He didn't have to look over to know that it was Warrick.
Nick turned his face into the shoulder of his sweatshirt and wiped his eyes. He couldn't think of anything to say. He wanted to apologize – it seemed that most of his frustration had come out with that kick to the locker. He looked away, not making eye contact with his friend.
After several moments, Nick was finally able to turn to Warrick. "I'm sorry, 'Rick," he managed, but his voice caught in his throat and looked away again. He focused on the homemade card that he was still clutching in his hand.
"It's alright. Take all the time you need, man," Warrick said, patting Nick on the leg. "We'll wait."
That's all. Just something that came out of my mind and fingers.