Title: "A Right to be Honest"

Author: PonchoLives

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

Summary: Plagued by things left unsaid, Nick is given the unexpected gift of honesty and acceptance. Post "Daddy's Little Girl" and "A Bullet Runs Through It"

Author's Note: And here I thought I wouldn't be posting a DLG one shot! Like Nick, I felt completely robbed of closure after this episode, but there was a lot that I did enjoy about it and it has given me an opportunity to write about my favorite "ship" - the handsome Nick and the beautiful Sofia.

Nick sat in his car outside of the late Kelly Gordon's apartment, thinking about how his life had been ripped apart in a matter of hours. He had been doing well. He had been recovering as best as one can after being subjected to hell. In fact, he'd been doing great. The casual observer would never have guessed that he had spent almost twenty-four hours in a plexiglass coffin with only a gun, a tape recorder, and a million fire ants to keep him company.

He had done what everyone had expected him to do when he returned. Act normal. Act like nothing had happened. Act like he was all better. He put a smile on his face and told everyone that he was fine, and they had believed him. He had given them what they wanted and what they needed. A happy ending to a terrible ordeal.

Perhaps in the beginning they had questioned his "fine-ness" but now, it had become his mantra and no one doubted it. They had all moved on and made the events of last summer just a memory - another case that had been solved - while he struggled to uphold the facade that all was right in his world. Most of the time it wasn't too difficult, but there were certain times when it became near impossible.

Like during this case.

To suddenly find out that there was an accomplice in his kidnaping while investigating a murder case where Kelly Gordon was the prime suspect hadn't been easy for him, but he had taken it in stride, determined to be professional. And he had pulled it off. Everyone had believed that he was fine. Part of him couldn't believe that no one had even considered taking him off the case, but perhaps that just goes to show how people are more comfortable believing the lie than accepting the fact that Nick might not be as fine as he claimed to be.

"It's over." The words echoed in his mind once again with an air of finality.

Grissom had decreed it and he had agreed. He didn't even bat an eyelash while doing so because it made life easier to believe that it was over. But it wasn't over. Not by a long shot. Not if he was truly honest with himself. The truth was that those words did as much good as a band-aid would for a gaping knife wound. And this wasn't the first time he had heard them.

A few years ago, he had been standing behind the glass, watching Nigel Crane's mind deteriorate. He had been tossed out of a two-story window a few hours earlier only to be thrust into a dramatic showdown with the man who had been stalking him for who knew how long. He was tired. He was hurting both physically and emotionally. He was surrounded by friends but he felt incredibly alone. That time, it had been Sara who had uttered the words "It's over."

In a sense, that was not completely false. It was over for Jane Galloway. Her death had been avenged. But saying it's over does not make it so, especially if you aren't the victim. It wasn't over for him. He had been left to pick up the pieces and deal with the face of Nigel Crane haunting him. And while it had been easy enough for him to correct Sara back then, he hadn't bothered to correct Grissom.

Perhaps he had wanted to avoid looks of pity. Perhaps he was hoping that actually saying the words himself might make them true. Perhaps he could lock away the events of last summer in a secure box in the innermost regions of his mind, never to be troubled by them again.

Perhaps it was easier to smile through a lie than speak the truth residing in his heart.

'If it's over, why don't I feel happy or at peace? Why do I feel ashamed? Why do I feel weak? Why do I feel the need to always say that everything is fine when nothing could be further from the truth? And why didn't you tell me about the accomplice? Do you think I'm still that fragile? Did you think the truth would just shatter me into a million pieces? If I am that fragile, then how can it be over? Or perhaps you just think so little of me. Perhaps you didn't care enough to tell me.'

Not too long ago, he would have demanded answers from Grissom. He would have let his supervisor know exactly what he was feeling - how angry and disappointed he was. But that was a younger Nick, a more immature Nick who did not truly understand how his boss was wired. No one could force Grissom to say something or open up if he didn't want to. And Grissom hadn't wanted to in his office. That was abundantly clear to Nick.

Perhaps that's what hurt the most.

Nick needed guidance and comfort from him, but there was none to be had. And though he knew that Grissom was an unlikely source for comfort, the tiniest part of him had been hoping that maybe this time things would be different. Grissom would be different. But a leopard can't change his spots and neither can Gil Grissom.

Well, it's over for Walter Gordon. It's over for Sylvia Mullins. It's over for Kelly Gordon. It's over for Gil Grissom.

Nick clutched the steering wheel until his knuckles turned white as the harsh reality settled in.

"It's not over for me."

As if in response to his statement, the passenger door opened and Sofia climbed in. She refrained from turning to look at him and, keeping her eyes straight ahead on some fixed point in the distance, she said, "It was rough in there. Not what I was expecting to find."

"Me either." he replied simply. Of course, nothing about this situation was what he had been expecting. So many secrets. So many lies. So much hurt.

Sofia was silent for a few moments before she turned to look at him and asked the question that he had been asked so many times in the past few months. "Are you okay? That couldn't have been easy for you."

Nick turned to look at her, a half-smile on his face, and nodded confidently. "I'm fine."

Sofia gave a small sigh as if she were disappointe by his answer even though it was the one she had been expecting. Gazing into his face, her eyes seemed to penetrate his mask and she was unafraid of what she saw underneath. "You know, it's okay for things to not be okay. Just because the case is closed doesn't mean the feelings go away."

A touch surprised by her response, Nick stared at the woman next to him. Her blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail, giving her an almost youthful look, yet her face showed so much wisdom. The look on her face was not one of pity. It wasn't judgmental. It was not one of sadness. It wasn't even one of compassion. It was one of acceptance and understanding. She understood what he was going through.

"If only it were that simple." Nick said, chuckling quietly in spite of himself.

Sofia lowered her eyes to stare at her hands. She suddenly felt awkward, but she was determined to say what was on her heart because the words needed to be said. For herself and for Nick. "When the investigation into Officer Bell's death was taking place, that was one of the most difficult times in my life. To think that I could be responsible for the death of a fellow cop just about killed me. I didn't know if I was going to make it through. I thought maybe I was meant to be a cop after all."

She hesitated, struggling for the right words to accurately convey her feelings. "And then my name was cleared and I felt so liberated, like I had lost this incredible weight. Words can't really described it. But even though I was cleared of any wrong-doing, there are times when I'm remembering what happened either in my mind or my dreams and I think that I'm the one to blame. I still feel responsible for his death. The facts get a bit obscured in my mind sometimes, and I almost get overwhelmed by the emotions I'm feeling."

Nick was held captive by Sofia's words and by how she was unafraid to be completely honest with him. He could tell by the wide-eyed way she was staring at her hands that this was extremely difficult for her and yet she didn't shy away from it. She still carried her grief and pain close to her heart and it touched him deeply that she was willing to share it with him.

"When bad things happen, it's hard to remember the details sometimes. It's easier to forget them, but at the same time, I'm not sure I ever truly want to forget them. Everything that happened during that shootout and the following investigation is a part of me now. That's not going to change. I'm not the same person anymore. No matter how hard I try to pretend otherwise." Sofia concluded, returning her focus to Nick once again.

"Pretending can be a dangerous thing." Nick said wisely. He was finding it very comforting to hear someone else talk about their problems instead of focusing on his own. Though he was in no way glad that Sofia was still reeling from that awful day, he was just thankful to find someone who he could connect with - someone who understood him - and though their experiences were distinctly different, the pain was very much the same in many ways and its effects still lingered.

Sofia nodded in agreement. "Especially if you start believing the pretense. Then you're only deceiving yourself."

"Do you think about it a lot? That day?" Nick asked quietly as his eyes roamed over her sorrowful features, something which only enhanced their loveliness.

The faintest trace of a smile crosssed Sofia's lips as she replied wistfully, "Every time I put on my gun."

Nick sat in silence for a few minutes, soaking in her words. He was starting to feel his stoic exterior begin to crack and the emotions that he had been reigning in for so long were breaking through but he did not care. "Since I got back, I've tried to convince everyone that I'm okay. Almost more for their sakes than mine own. Most of the time, it's been easy to convince them so now they just assume that everything's fine. But this case, everything that happened, just proves to me that I'm not okay. It's not over. I'm not sure it ever will be for me."

Suddenly uncertain, Nick looked away and stared out the window. "I smile. I laugh at jokes. I work hard. I do my job. I carry on conversations with my friends. On the surface, I appear just as I was before last summer yet I'm not the same. I'm different and I cannot be that other person ever again. While I want to be honest with them and to have them understand that, somehow it doesn't seem fair to force them to relive all that again. I don't want them to suffer or feel bad because of me. I don't want them to worry about me. They're happy and I don't want to take that away from them. That just makes things harder. I'm digging a nice little hole for myself and I'm not sure what to do about it. It gets very lonely."

Sofia reached over and grabbed his hand in an unexpected gesture of tenderness. "You're not alone."

Nick squeezed her hand gently, feeling a rush of gratitude for Sofia. A warmth began to spread through him as he received the one thing that seemed to have been missing since he returned to work - the opportunity to be completely honest. It was so simple a thing and yet so hard to convey at times. Sofia had been vulnerable with him which had in turn allowed him to be vulnerable and admit what he was truly feeling. She had given him the right to be honest with himself and with another person. It had been easy and natural and it had felt so good. She understood that things weren't over just because the case was closed and she didn't hold it against him that he wasn't "fine."

In the end, that's all he really wanted - someone to let him know that what he was feeling was okay. Someone who wouldn't hold his "issues" against him and ask him to get over them now that all the loose ends were tied up.

"Thanks." he whispered, giving her a genuine smile.

Sofia's face lit up with a beautiful grin. "You're welcome."

-The end of the story but not the romance!-