Chapter 15

Thankfully, the bullet that pierced Nick's thigh caused no major damage to his leg. He suffered minor blood loss, which would have been more severe were it not for the tourniquet Warrick had applied to his leg. His shoulder had been dislocated due to the strain of holding the full weight of Victoria. All things considered, Nick felt very fortunate. It could have been a lot worse and he knew it.

Nick sat in his hospital bed, fidgeting with his sling. He was waiting for Warrick, who had promised to stop by after the end of his shift and take him home. The man had been to see him numerous times over the past day and a half, and Nick suspected that his friend was still feeling a little bit guilty after all that happened. He hoped that he could find a way to ease Warrick's unfounded guilt.

He looked up at the sound of someone clearing their throat. Expecting to see Warrick, he was surprised to see Grissom standing at the door.

"Hey boss. Come on in and take a seat." Nick greeted cheerfully, waving the man inside the room.

Silently, Grissom entered and sat down in a chair next to the bed. "How are you feeling?" he asked, surveying Nick's somewhat tired appearance.

"My shoulder hurts and my leg hurts, but I'm alive so I can't complain. I am looking forward to getting out of here today." Nick flashed him a small smile.

Truth be told, he was more uncomfortable than in pain. He was tired of sitting in the same position and was excited about the prospect of getting to move around a bit more. There was something that he had been waiting anxiously to do for a while.

"You were very lucky." Grissom stated. "Warrick told me what happened."

"Everything?" Nick asked, feeling a touch of heat creep into his cheeks. It was bad enough that Warrick knew what Victoria had done to him, but to think that Grissom knew as well was unnerving.

"Yes." Grissom nodded. He watched as Nick turned his head away, slightly embarrassed. The supervisor felt a twinge of pity for his CSI. The man had already suffered enough and now he had to endure the shame of knowing that his supervisor had a received a detailed account of it all.

"You did the right thing." Grissom told him. "I know it mustn't have been easy to save her after all that she did, but it was the right thing to do."

"Honestly, Gris, I didn't even think about it. I just did it - a natural reaction." Nick said with a wave of his hand.

Grissom carefully studied the man before him. "Do you regret your natural reaction?"

Nick was silent for a moment as he thought. Was he sorry that he had saved Victoria? Instinctively, he knew the answer to this question. He was not someone who could stand idly by and let someone die, no matter how evil she was.

"No. Not at all." Nick looked up, meeting Grissom's gaze.

This answer seemed to please Grissom. "Nick, I know we don't always see eye to eye on things and you know my concerns about your ability to empathize with victims. It can lead you into danger like it did when you were trying to help Stella Barnes."

Grissom paused and Nick shifted uncomfortably, hoping that Grissom wasn't going to give him too severe a lecture. If Grissom expected a response from him, he wasn't sure what to say. They had covered this ground on more than one occasion and though he could see Grissom's point, Nick could not bring himself to be that which he was not.

His supervisor contined. "However, I know you're a good man. You truly care about people and that's a rare trait. I can always count on you to do the right thing when confronted with those really hard decisions. It's that kind of dependability that makes who you are and I appreciate that."

Nick nodded silently. These words pleased him. He so rarely received praise from his supervisor that he learned to take every word of it to heart since he knew it was genuine. Grissom would never say anything that he didn't mean.

Silence fell between them as Grissom resumed his characteristically taciturn behavior. Nick remained silent as well as he fiddled with his sling, trying to get his arm in a more comfortable position.

"Well, I just wanted to see how you were." the older man stood up abruptly and moved towards the door. He stopped before exiting and turned to face his CSI. "Good job, Nick. Get some rest, okay?"

Feeling somewhat relieved, Nick waved as Grissom departed. He wasn't sure how Grissom was going to respond to the whole dramatic scene on Lover'sLeap and he was glad to see that his boss had chosen to focus on how the situation had been resolved rather than the actions leading up to the resolution.

He leaned his head back on his pillow and was about to close his eyes for a few mintues when he someone called his name. Looking up, he saw Rebekah Prescott standing in his doorway.

"Hi. I didn't want to disturb you while you had company, but I really wanted to speak to you." she confessed a bit nervously.

"Please come in." Nick gave her a smile.

"Mr. Brown stopped by to see me and told me what happened. He told me all about Daniel and Victoria and that you got hurt. I guess I just wanted to thank you. You put yourself in great danger in order to find out the truth and I'm very grateful." Rebekah said awkwardly.

"You know, I suppose that I should be thanking you as well." Nick said.

"Why do you say that?" she asked, taking the seat Grissom had just vacated.

"We put a murderer behind bars because of something you started. If it hadn't been for your phone call to Jack, the truth most likely would never have been revealed. It was you who made Jack see that it wasn't too late to right a wrong. He was willing to go to jail for the sake of doing the right thing. Granted, he wasn't expecting to die, but given the kind of man I know he was, he probably still would have made the same decision. You made Jack want to be a better man. There's no stronger motivation than love in my opinion. Although many people died because of Victoria and people like you will continue to mourn the ramifications of her actions, I know Daniel's mother will find some peace in all this tragedy. That makes my wounds a bit more bearable." Nick told her truthfully.

Rebekah wiped a hand across her tear-stained face and gave him a smile. "You know, you're a lot like him - like Jack was in high school. That's the kind of thing he would have said back then."

"He was still that man. He just got lost." Nick replied quietly. "He found himself in the end."

When Warrick had finally arrived, they departed the hospital in as much haste as possible. Arriving at the SUV, Nick flung the cane the doctor had made him get in the backseat with great disdain.

"Man, you're supposed to use that." Warrick told him, hiding his smile.

"I don't need it. I'm not some old man." Nick huffed as he prepared to get inside. "My leg is fine. I just need to stretch it. Get used to using it again."

Warrick climbed inside the vehicle and watched his friend heave himself inside as well. He knew Nick was the type to play through the pain and hoped that his friend wasn't going to hurt himself more by refusing to heed the doctor's advice. However, he noted that Nick wasn't grimacing out of pain - just frustration - and felt a bit better.

"Fine, but if you fall on your face I reserve the right to laugh." Warrick teased.

Nick shot him a look before asking, "Did you bring it?"

"Of course. You only called me five times to remind me." Warrick answered as he turned the key in the ignition.

Nick leaned his head against the headrest and closed his eyes. Warrick glanced at him and thought about telling his friend that he should just go home and get some rest, but he knew Nick wouldn't respond well to that. He wanted to be there when Daniel's journal was returned to his mother. He wanted to be there when the details of Daniel's death were explained to her. Warrick understood this. After all, Nick was the one who had made the promise to Marsha Motz.

When they arrived, Nick hopped one-legged out of the SUV and they began to make their way up the path. Warrick knocked on the door and heard footsteps approaching.

Marsha opened the door cautiously and gave a small smile when she recognized who it was.

"Hello gentlemen. It's good to see you again." she moved aside and allowed them to enter.

"We wanted to bring Daniel's journal back to you. It was very helpful to our investigation and I wanted to tell you what we uncovered." Nick told her as they seated themselves in her living room once again.

Nick launched into an explanation of the events that had taken place a few days ago. He told her how they had made a connection between Daniel's poems and one of their suspects. He was selective in the details he gave her as he didn't want to tell her how much her son had been humiliated right before he died. That was something that would not bring her any comfort.

"Daniel didn't committ suicide. He was murdered by a fellow student named Victoria Winston. There were witnesses to his death, but they never came forward until now. Jack Moyer wanted to tell the truth about what happened and Victoria had him killed. The cover up of Daniel's death and Jack's death resulted in the death of three other people." Nick told her.

"How do you know all this?" Marsha asked.

"I had a confrontation with the suspect and everything came out." Nick admitted.

"Is she the one who hurt you? Did she try to kill you like she did my Daniel?" Marsha breathed.

"She tried to, but my partner was there to help me." Nick said.

"You're lucky that you had a friend there who was willing to risk his life for you." Marsha gave Warrick an appraising smile which caused the man to blush.

"Yes ma'am." Nick nodded.

Warrick leaned forwarded and handed Marsha the journal. "Thank you again for letting us use this."

She took the journal and placed it in her lap, running an loving hand across it. "I'm just glad that Daniel was able to help you."

"Mrs. Motz, I know that what we told you isn't going to bring Daniel back or lessen the pain of his absence, but I wanted you to know the truth. Your son didn't end his life. Nothing that happened was your fault. I could tell by some of the things that I read that Daniel loved you very much and he had a happy homelife. The person responsible for what happened is Victoria Winston and she's going to be paying for the crime she committed against your son for a long time." Nick promised her.

Blinking back tears, Marsha gave Nick a smile. "Thank you."

Warrick had planned on taking Nick home after visiting Marsha Motz, but Nick said he wasn't ready to go back just yet. Instead, he asked Warrick to take him to this diner near the lab that they frequented under the pretense that he needed some real food after ingesting all that hospital food. In reality, Nick felt that there was unsettled business between him and his partner and he wanted to get it sorted out. Given Warrick's tendency for self-flagellation, Nick wanted to make sure that Warrick knew that he wasn't harboring any negative feelings towards him.

"You know we never really talked about what happened on Lover's Leap." Nick said almost casually after they had ordered.

"I guess we didn't." Warrick said, not really keen on talking about this particular subject. He kept reliving the events in his mind. Seeing Nick wounded and pale on his knees but defiant till the end. Seeing Victoria touch Nick as if he was her own personal plaything. Seeing the two of them fight for the gun. Seeing the two of them topple over the edge. It was like a bad nightmare that refused to go away.

Nick could sense that it was going to be difficult to get Warrick to open up about what happened so he tried a more cavalier approach. "All this might have been avoided if I had listened to you. Shouldn't have gone up there trying to save the day. Seems like I'm always getting into trouble, huh? Can't take me anywhere."

Warrick shifted in his seat uncomfortably as Nick spoke. He couldn't let his partner take the blame in all this not when he was the one who had let Nick down. Unbidden, the dam inside him burst forth and his words came tumbling out.

"Look, I should have gone up there immediately to back you up like a good partner. If I'd been there, maybe you would have been spared some of the crap you went through. I'm sorry that you had to go through all that alone. I should have been there with you, but I wasn't." Warrick looked away in regret, disgusted at himself.

"Don't be sorry. I knew you'd come. I was waiting for you and you didn't let me down. You got there when I needed you most." Nick gave his friend an encouraging smile.

"Don't say that. Don't just act like you can make it all go away with a smile. That woman hurt you, said upsetting things to you, put her hands on you. You can't just gloss that over." Warrick said bitterly.

"That's not what I'm doing. Yeah, she did all those things. I won't lie to you. It was terrifying and it was all I could do to keep my emotions in check." Nick leaned forward, staring intently at his friend who wouldn't quite meet his gaze. "But Victoria Winston did those things to me. Not you. You can't blame yourself or feel guilty for the actions of another person. I won't have it. It's completely unfounded. The only thing you're responsible for are your actions that night and you have nothing to be ashamed about. Got it?"

"It's just that you always seem to have to go through these life-or-death situations and you're all alone. Facing this terrible things and yet you're in control of yourself. I don't know how you do that. If I had been through everything you've been through, I might think about getting a new job." Warrick said quietly.

"And give up working with me? I don't think so, man. You rely on me too much." Nick said with a mischievous smile.

Warrick's face broke into a similar smile and he chuckled. Nick was pleased to see Warrick's body become more relaxed. His words seemed to have a good effect on his friend.

"I think you got that backwards." Warrick teased.

"You know, you never finished that story you were telling me about the mime." Nick reminded him. "I'm quite interested in hearing how that harrowing situation turned out."

"Oh yeah. Where was I?" Warrick asked, thinking back to that quiet night in the lab.

"The mime threw that pickle at your head and you responded with a verbal smackdown." Nick remembered.

"Right." Warrick said as he launched into his narrative.

The laughter that rang through the diner over the course of the next hour left both men feeling completely refreshed, proving the old adage true. Laughter is the best medicine for the weary soul. Bad times may come, but the good times shared between friends would remain forever.

Author's Note: That's it! I hope you enjoyed my story. It was so much fun to write. I'll be going into hibernation for a bit as I work on my next piece. It's good, ole' fashioned angst - more angst than I've ever written before! So if you like angst, angst, and more angst, look for my next piece.