An Unfair Act of Vengeance
Notes: Wow, this took really long to write,and sorry I had to wait untilSunday to post this final chapter. I have been so busy this week, but I'm almost done with the next chapter to Crimson Puddles. It'll be posted on Sunday when I get back home. Hope you enjoy the end, and thanks to everyone who has taken the time to review, and I hope you all take a bit of time to review this last chapter. Check my profile for updates on other stories/ upcoming stories, and thanks for the great support!
Summary: Nick and the team face Dr. Alberts one last time after the trial. Later, they return to Nick's home, where the team has a few surprises for him…
They watched in silence as Carl Alberts was slowly led into the room. Nick was standing by the clear glass window as the others sat back on the sidelines. Warrick frowned when he saw Nick's hands clench in a desperate attempt to keep them from shaking. He needs this… he needs the closure… he needs to know that it'll finally be safe again…
Grissom sat quietly beside the rest of the team with his eyes focused on Nick who was obviously trying hard to keep himself from losing it. His eyes shifted once more to the man in the other room who was currently being strapped down onto. After releasing a silent yawn he realized just how tired he was. Well, we have spent the past few nights at Nick's… and if he isn't ready to be alone I'm not going to rush him. He gently placed his hand on Warrick's shoulder, and offered him a weak smile as he looked into the other man's weary eyes. A quick glance showed that the others had gotten a bit more sleep while they had taken their turns staying with Nick, but Grissom knew that he and Warrick hadn't been able to sleep after hearing their friend's screams from his nightmares. Well… justice is about to be served…
Catherine slowly stood up, and walked towards the window to stand by Nick with her arm gently finding its place around his shoulders. "It's ok, Nick… you're not alone… we'll always be here for you… no matter what." Her voice was soft as she grabbed his uninjured hand firmly in her own.
"I… I know… t-thank you… it means a lot to me. Thank you for everything…" Nick whispered as he tried to find words accurate enough for what they were doing for him. Even now… they don't want to be here… they don't want to see him again… but they're willing to go through this… for me…
This isn't right… how did they find him? For God's sake, I didn't screw up! Those damn fools, I knew I should've been more careful in finding help. They must've screwed up… this isn't how things were supposed to happen! That bastard is the one who was supposed to suffer and die, not me! Oh, no… no, no, no… this isn't over… it'll never be over for him. I swear if it's the last thing I do I'll make sure he'll spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder…
"Any last words?" A dull voice quietly asked as he felt them finish strapping him down.
"Yeah I do… I just want Pancho to remember that there'll always be someone out there… someone watching him. He'll never recover; you all know you were too late… he's going to die soon enough…"
"That's where you're wrong. I guess I can't help but feel sorry for you… you're pathetic. You are right about one thing though. I've got people watching me… quite a few actually… they're more than just friends. You underestimated them. Seeing that you've never had anyone care about you so much must've made it impossible for you to take into account how far a true friend… people who are like family to you… will go for you." He couldn't hold back a weak smile as the other members of the team slowly stood up and stood beside him. It's almost over… and I'll be able to move on…
Alberts stared in shock as the pathetic fool watching him actually had the nerve to smile as his friends joined him. How did it come down to this? How could that moron do this to me? His thoughts were interrupted when he felt a sudden sharp pain in his arm, and he gave one last, fearful glance towards the six people that were watching him intently. Slowly everything turned black as he took in one final glimpse of Nick's eyes, and the returning life within them.
"I guess that's it… he's finally gone." Nick whispered as he felt the reassuring grip of Catherine's arm around him tighten slightly, and he felt Warrick place a firm hand on his shoulder.
"Things are going to get better Nick… trust me. He's gone; he can't hurt you anymore…" Warrick responded as they watched the man in the other room take his final breath. You're going to be ok Nick… he's gone now…
"I guess not… I just… I just wish none of this had… ever happened." His voice grew weaker as he fought back the sudden wave of tears.
"We all feel that way, Nick. Nobody should be put through everything that you have. Nobody deserves that treatment… especially you. And, trust me, we know that it's going to take time to get past this. I just hope that you know and accept the help that we can offer…" Grissom answered soothingly.
"I… I'm sorry…"
"Nick… you don't have anything to be sorry for…" Catherine immediately piped up firmly.
"Yes… yeah I do… I…" Nick responded even more quietly. Grissom instantly noticed how Nick's shoulders seemed to slump and his posture seemed to dwindle. He looks like he just wants to disappear into thin air…
"Nick… I'd like to talk to you… alone…" He waited for a few moments until Nick slowly began to nod his head in slight confusion.
Grissom waited in silence as the others quickly left the room, and turned once more to face Nick. A quick look through the window showed that Alberts' body had been removed, and they were completely alone.
"So… w-what did you want to say?" Grissom paused before answering as he allowed himself to take in the apprehensive tone in Nick's voice.
"Nick… it's… it's ok to be afraid… no one is going to…"
"No one is going to what, Griss? Judge me? You know better than that…"
Grissom found his hands firmly gripping the other man's shoulders as he took Nick's defeated voice in stride. You can handle this. You can help him. Just give him what he deserves. Give him a chance…
"You're right, Nick. We're all being judged… by everyone we meet. Some may prove insightful, while others… well while others only bring pain. Listen… anyone who knows you… anyone who knew you couldn't help but be glad that they did. Don't ever doubt your importance to us… if we lost you… I'm not sure what would happen."
"What if… what if you've already lost me?" Nick's voice was barely audible, and Grissom found himself reading the other's lips to make sure he was hearing him right.
"Do you really believe that?" Grissom asked making sure that they maintained eye contact.
"I don't know what to believe… not anymore…"
"I think you do. We haven't lost you. If we had we wouldn't be here right now. If it helps… I'm proud of you. You know something? You've never let me down. And… if I hadn't been so ignorant I would've realized that you're what keeps us all together. You're stronger than anyone I know… but please… don't be afraid of accepting help…"
"I… thanks… thanks for e-everything… You're right… I'm scared out of my mind… I just… don't know what to do…"
"You don't have to know. That's the beauty of having friends. I'm… I'm afraid too. I'm afraid that after everything you've been put through… that it'll make you lose sight of life. I'm scared that you've lost the sight of how wonderful life is… scared that you won't be able to find the slightest bit of joy or happiness. I can't remember how long ago it was that I lost it… I just hope that you never lose it. It's part of what makes you such a remarkable person, and friend…" Grissom suddenly found himself cut off as he felt Nick's arms wrap around him and he let himself be pulled into a hug that would've undoubtedly made him uncomfortable in any other situation.
"I can't thank you enough… all of you guys… and… I promise I'll always remember… I won't let myself lose sight of it… ever…" He smiled as he let out a slight chuckle, and was surprised by how much stronger his voice seemed.
"You want to get out of here? We have a little surprise for you at your place…"
"Sure… I just uh… could we stop at the hospital?"
"Yeah… did you forget something?"
"I… I just wanted to see… uh… to see Ecklie. I know he was an ass, but… the look in his eyes when he saw Alberts pull out that gun… he was sorry. I just… I need to let him know that it's ok…" Nick looked down at his feet as he felt his face go slightly red.
"No problem. I'm sure he'll be glad for your visit… seeing that he won't be working for quite a while he could use a bit of relief."
An hour later Grissom found himself waiting in the hallway with Warrick while they watched Nick through a small window as he sat down next to the older man.
"Uh… hey… Ecklie… I…"
"Nick? W-what are you doing here?" Ecklie winced, as his voice grew weaker and more strained. Why would he ever want to see me? After the hell I put him through…
"I… I just wanted to let you know… you have nothing to be sorry for. After everything that happened… I wish it hadn't come down to this…"
"I… thanks… it means… a lot…" Ecklie let out another moan as more pain shot through him, and he could feel more medications being sent automatically into his system.
"I suppose I should get going… I hope you can find a way to get some rest… and… if you need anything… call me." Nick smiled softly before he rose to leave.
"You're… a good guy… Nick… thank you… so much for this…"
"It's nothing… just get better… that'll be enough for me."
Warrick stood as Nick slowly walked out the door. They slowly made their way towards the lobby when Nick stopped.
"Something wrong Nick?" Grissom asked quietly, unsure how to react to the unfamiliar look on Nick's face.
"No… uh… could you give me a minute?" He spoke quietly as he headed towards an open room.
"Sure…" Warrick quickly spoke up as he realized Grissom was unsure of what to say.
"Is someone there?" Emily spoke cautiously as she moved slowly to see beyond the curtains of her room. She smiled warmly when she saw the Texan standing in the doorway awkwardly. "Ah… Mr. Tough Guy… it's… good to see you…"
"We've never really been rightly introduced have we? I'm Nick Stokes…" he offered his own smile as he stuck out his hand. Without hesitating she felt his weak grasp encompass her own slightly trembling hand.
"Well, it's nice to finally meet you Nick."
"Yeah… it is… look… uh… would you like to…" He stopped as he tried to convince himself that she wasn't the same. He couldn't help but remember the looks on those faces. She won't… she isn't the same as them. She actually cares about you, not what you look like…
"I'd love to. I was just going to get out of here… so here, just give me a call… whenever, and I'll make sure we can figure out something to do sometime." She smiled even more as he carefully looked over her business card.
"So… you're a financial consultant?"
"You sound like you're surprised."
"Well… I guess I've just never met someone in this field that actually cares about anything but their job…"
"Well, it pays the bills, plus it's how I ended up meeting you."
"How so?" Nick questioned quietly, though he could feel the smile on his face growing stronger.
"Well, back in Chicago, I was attacked after visiting a client. So, I moved here to Vegas after a little while, and I just finished up with some new tests… results are good, apparently whatever the doctor thought I had back in Chicago was just a false alarm."
"I'm glad to hear that Emily." He whispered silently wondering what she had been put through. "Well… how about you follow my friends and me back to my place… we can eat some food… get to know each other…"
"That sounds wonderful… I'd… absolutely love to come." She gave him a close hug when they heard someone struggling not to laugh in the doorway.
"Wow… man, Nick… I'm not sure you realize how lucky you are… getting a girl with how you look has got to be hard enough… but when you add in your nervousness, and lame propositions…"
"Actually… I found it quite charming… most men are too verbose." She smiled and gently wrapped her arm around Nick.
"Oh… uh… I'm sorry, Emily, this is Warrick Brown… Warrick, this is…"
"Actually we've already met. A few days ago…"
"Oh… where?" Nick couldn't hide his confusion as they both smiled awkwardly.
"Here… uh, after I accidentally went in your room…"
Nick looked away quickly and bit his lip. Of course he was here… and you wouldn't even let him in… some friend you are…
"Well, I'll let you in on a little bit of information, Emily… Nick here… well he's the best friend I've ever had. Oh, and Nick, Grissom wanted to talk to you real quick…" Warrick paused, and waited for Nick to slowly leave the room before he finished. "Look, I don't mean to sound rude, or anything, but trust me, you're the lucky one. Just… just don't hurt him. He'll never say anything, but… before… he was first abducted… he was having a rough time… he didn't go out on a date that lasted more than five minutes… He just deserves so much more… he deserves to be happy."
"I… I'm sorry… about everything that's happened. I… I had four guys dump me after they found out I had been… raped… I felt horrible… like something was wrong with me. I can't guarantee things will work out, but I can guarantee that I won't hurt him. He's… different. I… I've never met anyone like him, and I… I only want him to be happy."
"I think that might just be the best news I've heard today… now we better get going, or they might start asking questions…"
"In your dreams… I only date guys without rings." Warrick chuckled quietly as he led the way back out into the hallway.
"So, Griss… Warrick said you wanted to talk to me?" Nick asked trying to hide his concern.
"Yeah… Nick, I just wanted to tell you… we're so grateful… to finally… it just seems like you're finally getting better, and I… was just afraid…"
"That it's all an act?" Nick finished quietly, but he couldn't hold back a slight chuckle and another smile before he continued, "Listen, man… if I were acting I couldn't keep it up… besides I'm a terrible liar. And, it means a lot to know… that you all care so much… I've never had friends like you before; it just means so much…"
"Um… excuse me… you're that Stokes guy, aren't you? Yeah… I remember seeing you on the news…" The scrawny man never had a chance to react when Grissom suddenly moved between them, and glared threateningly at the pad an pen the smaller man was holding.
"What do you want?" Grissom snapped harshly. There was no way he was going to just let someone harass his still recovering friend.
"I… I just wanted a… an autograph…" He quickly went silent when he saw the look of disgust on the other man's face. Nick took a few careful steps on his still weak leg and leaned silently against the wall. He clung tightly to his crutches as he tried to keep himself from shaking.
"Take my advice, and get lost, or I'll have you arrested. Now scram, and if you know any other assholes who want his autograph tell them to back off, or it won't pleasant for them." With that said Grissom immediately turned to Nick, and he quietly wrapped his arm around the younger man.
"Why don't we get you home already? It's been a long day…" Grissom guided Nick over to where Warrick and Emily were currently waiting.
"Yeah… it'll be nice to finally relax some."
He smiled as they pulled into his driveway, and he could tell that the others were there already. He could feel his body finally letting its guard start to go down. It's safe… they're all gone… the danger is gone… now just enjoy yourself… your friends… no your family…
Emily walked up the driveway just as Grissom and Warrick were helping Nick out. She smiled brightly when she saw them laughing at the awkwardness of his movements. He waved her on towards the front door where she saw another group of people standing in the doorway. Her eyes immediately caught the family resemblance and she could instantly tell the two had to be Nick's parents. She quickly figured that the other four were most likely Nick's other coworkers.
After a few quick introductions they were all gathered in his living room. Brass had quickly excused himself to head back out to some crime scene, and Nick's parents reluctantly left a little while later. After a long series of good-byes they finally allowed themselves to leave Nick with his friends.
"Well… I wanted to wait, but if I do you might fall asleep before you get your surprises." Catherine offered kindly as she accepted another drink from Warrick.
"Wow… I… I don't know what to say…"
"Don't say anything then." Grissom piped up as he slowly came out from the hallway. Nick gaped in surprise as he saw his supervisor carefully holding a bird. Greg let out a quiet burst of laughter when he saw Nick's expression until he felt Sara's fist playfully jab into his gut which in turn made Warrick start to laugh.
"I… I am completely…"
"Stunned? I figured you'd like it. It's a mourning dove. I heard a pretty darned smart guy talking about them once… said they symbolized giving others hope… I couldn't help it when I saw it… I thought of you. Besides… it's specially trained, so you don't have to keep it locked up… of course there is a large cage in your room…"
"No… it's… great… he deserves to fly around without being trapped… I… thank you so much…" Nick couldn't help but laugh when Grissom let the bird go and it flew over to land on his outstretched hand.
"Well, I suppose now is as good a time as ever…" Greg grinned as he turned and hurried out of the room. Nick slowly took his eyes off the bird and he shot a curious glance towards the extra bedroom. When Greg came back out he was holding a fairly good-sized package.
Nick cautiously accepted it, but he couldn't help but feel a little awkward. He quickly forced himself to steady his hands that were once more beginning to shake as he opened the box to see a large book next to a picture frame.
"It's… well, it's an encyclopedia of birds… and a picture of all of us… I just thought that maybe…" Greg burst out after Nick had fallen silent. The words seemed to bring him out of his reverie and he flashed another smile.
"Thanks… Greg… this is really… great…"
"Well… so far… you may take that back later…" Greg offered playfully as he moved to sit back down.
"You guys… you didn't have to do this…"
"You're right, we didn't have to. We wanted to. So much has happened recently… we just wanted to show you how much you mean to us…" Catherine smiled as she handed Nick another package.
Nick couldn't hold back his own smile when he started to flip through the pages of a handmade scrapbook. He silently wiped a few tears from his eyes as he looked through the various pictures of him with the team. "I… I don't know what to say…"
"You don't have to say anything Nick… Lindsey did most of the cutting and gluing… I supplied the pictures and organization…"
"Well… I guess I'm next." Sara smiled as she pulled out a simple box, and in moments Nick was holding a baseball in his hand.
"Well… at least you saved some money…" Greg chided humorously.
"Hey, it's the thought that counts… besides, that isn't everything. I got him." They laughed a bit more when he pulled out a CD.
"Well… I guess… that leaves me…" Warrick smiled as he grabbed another box from behind the couch. Nick smiled as he pulled a gleaming bat from the box, and carefully pulled out a note. His eyes immediately scanned through his best friend's writing.
I just wanted you to know how much your actions have meant to me. Back in that courtroom, you did the most courageous thing that I've ever witnessed. The fact that you were willing to put yourself through even more to protect us shows just how great a man you are. You are undoubtedly the best friend a guy could have, and I just hope I never lose sight of that. And, please, remember that, no matter what happens, you can always count on me. I won't let myself repeat some of the mistakes I've made, and I swear I will do my best to help you. You deserve so much more, and I only hope that you receive a little more luck in the future. And, remember, no matter what, I'll always be there for you, no matter what you need. Thank you, so much, for giving me the privilege to be your friend, and I'm not sure I've ever been more grateful to have a friend as great as you.
Nick felt his smile grow even wider as he felt a few tears fall from his face, and he slowly got up to give Warrick a hug.
"It's true man… every last word of it… I promise." Warrick whispered quietly as Nick clung tightly to him.
"Thank you, so much… you all gave me another chance to live…" Nick whispered back before stepping back.
"I think our boy, Nick, here deserves a toast. So, to the bravest man we've had the luck to get to become friends with… who is one hell of a great CSI… I wish you the best, and that your future will bring a whole lot of good times. And, Nick… Warrick is going to be staying here with you for a while, we figured you wouldn't want to be alone." Grissom flashed a warm smile before taking a drink.
"I… I don't want to be alone… I… I want to thank all of you… I would never have made it through this without you guys. You were all there when I truly needed you, you saved my life countless times, and… and you've given me another chance to live life. Nothing I do will ever be enough to pay you back, but… well… this has been hard on all of us. Life is definitely short… all we can do is meet it head on and make the best of what it gives us. The next few months definitely won't be easy, but we can make it. I know we'll overcome this… together… we always do, and no matter what happens I know that with all of us together we can get past it, and be better and happier because of it." He suddenly felt exhausted and slowly let himself fall back onto the soft leather coach next to Emily, and he felt Warrick gently sit down next to him. Deep down he knew what he said was true. Everything is going to get better… just give it time, and we'll pull through everything life throws our way. If we have each other then we have everything we'll ever need. It's not over yet, but it will be.
A comfortable silence fell over the group as they merely smiled at each other. Though no one said it, they all knew that they had won, and that things would finally begin to get better for everyone.