Note: a sort of bittersweet moment...this is the final chapter. A bit sad to see this come to an end...but I have to say I think this is my favorite chapter of the whole thing! Put a lot of work into this one...and well...made me smile re-reading it! So...hope you enjoyed...and I DO have a new project in the works...hopefully can get that up before the end of the month!
Chapter Twenty – Inconsistent Consistency
Let it all out cause we're so scared to find out and today I will trust you with confidence and you said I know that this will hurt and I'll let it be known and you promise me and today I will trust you with the confidence reach out to me and I know you know
get it all out
rip it out remove it
don't be alarmed
when the wound begins to bleed
what this life's all about
so scared we're going to lose it
not knowing all along
that's exactly what we need
of a man who's never known defeat
but tomorrow, upon hearing what I did
I will stare at you in disbelief
oh, inconsistent me
crying out for consistency
but if I don't break your heart then things will just get worse
If the burden seems too much to bear
the end will justify the pain it took to get us there
at times I have shown
signs of all my weakness
but somewhere in me
there is strength
that you believe
in time I will defeat this
cause somewhere in me
there is strength
of a man who's never known defeat
and I'll try my best to just forget
that that man isn't me
make my heart brand new
every beat will be for you
you touched my life
when you touched my heavy heart and made it light
cause we're so scared to find out
and today I will trust you with confidence
and you said I know that this will hurt
and I'll let it be known
and you promise me
and today I will trust you with the confidence
reach out to me
and I know you know
"Let it All Out" by Relient K
"Nick," Sam whispered gently lifting the man from his sleep. "How long have you been here?"
Slowly the man sat up from his slumped position within the chair. Forcing his eyes to focus, willing his brain to inventory his surroundings, he glanced at his watch. It was nearly nine o'clock.
"Have you been here all day?" she asked as she worked to tuck in Emily's blankets.
He nodded silently, his eyes falling upon the sleeping child. It was all coming back to him. They'd closed the case. He'd had breakfast with Warrick and Greg and then he'd come straight to the hospital. "Yeah," he nodded again kneading the back of his neck. Sleeping in the chair was hell on his muscles. They'd be thanking him for it tenfold come morning.
"Why don't you go home?" she asked watching the criminalist stand.
He shook his head, working now to stretch his back muscles. "Promised her I'd stay," he motioned for the nurse to follow him outside. "I'm off tonight, so I told her I'd stick around," he explained once he was in the hall. "I don't mind staying. She really didn't want to be left alone," he shrugged.
"So what's happening with the case?" the nurse asked leading him down the hall. "I've been following what I can on the news, but around here that's kind of a hard thing to do," she stopped at the vending machine near the nurse's station. "You got the person that did this, right?"
"Yeah," Nick lifted a hand to cover his yawn as he accepted the steaming cup of coffee offered him. "Thanks. Yeah, we got the person," he nodded leaning against the wall.
The hospital was quiet, the hallway nearly deserted except for medical staff. Visiting hours were long since over, only families with extenuating circumstances were allowed to stay overnight. Nick had been given special clearance by the medical staff, Emily's own condition and family situation playing into things.
"So, what happens now? What will you do now?"
"Well, tomorrow night I'll go back to work. I'll get a new case. That's the thing about Vegas. There's always something for me to do," he shrugged pushing off the wall and walking toward the waiting area. "I found out Emily has an aunt in Carson City. CPS has been in contact with her. I think they're making arrangements. She can't make it down here until the weekend, though."
"Emily won't even talk about what happened," Sam took a seat in the dimly lit waiting room. "She's been more open with you than anyone. You're really good with her. You're good for her."
"It's not easy talking sometimes," the Texan sighed as he slid into the chair next to the nurse. "Sometimes it's just easier to forget. Has there been anyone to talk with her? A therapist?"
"It's standard protocol," she nodded taking a sip of her coffee. "Every oncology patient talks with a therapist, talks about their progress, their setbacks. They learn ways of coping with their illness, with their treatments. Everything that happened…well, it all plays a part in Emily's sessions."
"That'll help," Nick nodded. "She'll talk when she's ready."
"You sure about staying here all night?"
"I told her I would," he nodded again. "Besides, I'm used to these hours. I slept all day. I brought a book and I have excellent night vision," he grinned finishing off his coffee.
"Hey Nick, I just got with Wendy," Warrick caught up with his partner in the halls of CSI. It'd been nearly a week since the close of the Harris case. "Turns out the blood on the sweater you found at the scene was an ad-mixture. There were three different donors."
"So there was a third person at the scene when our vic was killed," Nick took the report offered him.
"We assumed there was only one killer."
"So, maybe our killer had an accomplice," Nick shrugged closing the file and tucking in under his arm. "Do we know who this third person is?"
"Ran the blood sample through CODIS," Warrick nodded, "got a hit on a non-gaming work card at the Tangiers," he handed over a printout.
"He's in holding now," Warrick nodded leading the way to PD.
"Look, kid. We know you were there. We have your blood on the victim's sweater," Detective Cavaliere leaned into the suspect. He was a young kid, no older than a sophomore in college. The detective seemed to find a slightly sadistic pleasure in watching him squirm.
"The kid's scared shitless," Nick shook his head as he watched through the two way mirror. "He's not gonna talk with Cavaliere breathing down his neck. Look at him. Do we even have a real connection with him and the victim?"
"Nothing solid yet," Warrick shook his head. "But, his blood on the victim's sweater is pretty compelling."
"You know you look like a punk when you don't talk right?" the detective moved behind the suspect, his mouth inches from his ear. "You're looking at first degree murder. A punk ass like you will get the death penalty; and you've got a record, you'd go down for sure."
"I…" the kid stammered, "I swear I didn't kill nobody. I…I can explain what happened."
"Well, somebody better," Cavaliere moved to the empty chair across the table, "because quite frankly I'm tired of looking for the answers myself."
"I…I was with my roommate. We'd just been to a party at Bar 911. We were both pretty drunk," he managed a nervous laugh.
"We've got him," Warrick nodded with a grin as the chirp of Nick's cell phone filled the silence.
"Stokes," he answered as he flipped his mobile open. Casting a quick apologetic glance Warrick's way he silently took his call into the hallway. "Are you sure?" he asked closing the door behind him.
"We've got a match," Sam repeated. The smile in her voice was enough to electrify the entire city.
He felt his heart leap; his nerve endings going on high alert. This was what they'd been waiting for. This is what Emily had been waiting for.
"We've just started prepping her for the conditioning regimen."
"I'll be there as soon as I can. Let her know I'm coming," he nodded closing the call and returning to the interview.
"We've just nailed this kid," Warrick smiled upon the return of his partner.
"Rick, look man, I've gotta go."
"What?" he turned to the man unbelievingly.
"Look, I'm sorry but, something's come up. It's something I've gotta do."
"Yeah," he nodded. "They've got a donor matched up."
"Yeah," Nick smiled now. "Look, I hate leaving but I promised…"
"Hell, man, you don't need to explain! Just go," he nudged the man toward the door.
"I've got Grissom covered," he shook his head. "Go."
Traffic was light in the pre-dawn hours as he weaved his way down Boulder Highway. So far he'd been lucky enough to catch every light while it was green. His stomach was a mass of knots, twisting and pulling his insides in every direction. He'd been so excited he'd nearly skipped stopping at his locker, but thought better of it as he felt the weight of his side arm at his hip. Quickly securing his weapon and grabbing his jacket he made a beeline for the lab exit grateful that he'd managed to escape without the notice of Grissom or Catherine. He'd call them later if he needed to.
Now, arriving at the hospital, he wheeled his truck to a stop. His pace quickened as he crossed the nearly empty parking lot and breezed through the empty lobby to the bank of elevators. To his relief he found an empty lift waiting on the ground floor. Hurrying inside he pushed the button for the fourth floor releasing a deep breath as he leaned back against the wall.
As the doors slid open on the fourth floor he was pleased to find Sam waiting for him, a smile plastered across her face.
"How is she?" Nick asked stepping across the gap.
"So far so good," she nodded leading him down the hall. "The doctor has taken her down the hall to one of the prep rooms. She's waiting for you."
"Have you called her aunt?"
"She'll be here as soon as she can."
Silently the two weaved their way around the nurse's station and into a new part of the oncology ward. Here, the rooms were isolated, glass cubicles. Sterile environments.
"You'll have to wash your hands, put on a gown and wear a mask," Sam began her instructions stopping just outside one of the smaller rooms, "but you can go in and be with her. The chemo they're administering is really strong, she's gonna be pretty out of it."
"It keeps her immune system from attacking the donor cells," Nick nodded as he prepared to go into the room. "Yeah, I read up on it."
"Then you know she's going to get pretty sick."
"It's part of it," he nodded again, allowing her to tie the gown behind his neck. "I told her I'd be here. I'm here for it all," he paused before walking inside.
"Go on in," she coaxed gently slowly sliding the door open.
Emily was small; her battle with the disease had obviously taken its toll. Her eyes were closed, her breathing slow and rhythmic. Quietly he slid into the chair near the head of her bed fearing the slightest noise might wake her. He watched then as her eyes slowly fluttered open and a smile inched across her face.
"Hey kiddo," he grinned leaning over to grip the child's hand.
"I told you I would be," he nodded. "This is your big day, where else would I be?"
She smiled again, her eyes closing, heavy with the medication. She was clearly in a lot of pain. "I wish my mom and dad were here," she whispered.
Damn this girl had a grip on him. "Oh, sweetheart," he felt his voice catching in his throat, "I know. I wish they were too," he squeezed her hand. "I wish they were here too."
"So what happens now?" Nick asked as he closed the door to Emily's room behind him. It was nearly midmorning and Emily was sleeping soundly for the first time since he'd arrived.
"It's a waiting game," Sam sighed as she swiped a strand of hair from her face. "She's on chemo for the next couple hours. We'll be able to administer the new blood sometime this evening. After that, we wait and hope her body accepts it," she shrugged. "You look tired."
"I am," he nodded glancing back in at the sleeping girl. "I'm gonna go down to the waiting room, take a twenty. Come get me if anything changes?"
"You got it," the nurse nodded watching the retreating criminalist.
The sound of children laughing emanated from the rec room floating through the halls. It was a sound in stark contrast to the hissing and beeping of monitors that filled the hall from whence the CSI came. Right now, though, he longed for silence, for nothingness.
Turning the corner, his destination in sight, he felt a slight release of the tension that had been building over the past six hours. The TV in the top corner was tuned and muted to the morning news. Images of news from the still recent Harris case filled the screen. Jury selection was slated to begin in just a few days. Taking in the images, the criminalist shook his head. It was still a long road to be traveled.
Resigned to settling in his unofficially claimed chair and trying to catch some shut eye, he was brought to an abrupt stop when he found it occupied.
"Grissom!" he couldn't help but sound surprised at seeing the man there. "Wh…what are you doing here?"
"Warrick closed the case you two were working. He let me know you left early when he filled me in on the details," he stated matter-of-factly.
"He told you I was here?" the Texan took a seat just down from his supervisor.
"No, I just assumed. Nick…" he had that tone, he knew he had that tone, and worse, Nick knew he had that tone. It was the tone that told everyone they were about to get an earful
"Look, I know what you're thinking," Nick started, "And I know what you're going to say. I'm too emotionally involved, right? We've had this talk before, Griss. And I've told you before…I'm not you," he shook his head as he stood and began pacing the floor. "I've been coming to see Emily everyday since we started the case, and everyday since we closed it. She doesn't have any family, Griss. CPS is on hold with her case, and her aunt is still in Carson City. It's a nine hour drive, not like she can be here at the drop of a hat. I mean she has three kids of her own."
"CPS is working on the custody arrangements, her aunt has agreed to full custody, but you know how it is, there's a massive chain of paper work and since Ted Goggle is dead, they've been working to assign a new case worker and straighten out the crap he started."
"What?" the younger man stopped abruptly turning a perturbed look to the man.
Grissom looked at him, his face a muddled mess of concern and wonder at the man before him. The man was a mystery, a mass of emotions on fire for his work, for the people around him, for this little girl. How could anyone be so passionate about something, so emotionally involved? "Look," he started, "normally you'd be right," he shrugged. "Normally I would say you're too involved. Normally I would call your judgment into question."
"But…" Nick finally resigned to a chair.
"But not this time," he shook his head. "I know you've been coming to see Emily. I know you have a connection with her. And like I've told you before…I'm glad you're not me. Lord knows there's barely room for one of me at CSI. God forbid there ever be two," he cocked a half grin.
"So, then… What are you doing here?"
"Catherine sent you," Nick sunk further into his chair.
"She thought maybe you could use the company," he shrugged in return.
"That figures. Griss, you don't have to stay."
The Texan let out a long sigh. "She's sleeping for now," he sighed leaning his head back on the wall. "They've got her on an intense round of chemo, working to rid her body of the cancer. She's in a lot of pain."
"How are you holding up?"
"I'll live," he shrugged.
"You know, Nick…" the supervisor leaned forward, his eyes on an invisible spot on the carpet.
"Grissom, you don't have to do this."
"This," he waved a hand between the two of them. "Look, go back to the lab, tell Catherine we had our talk. I'm fine."
"How do you do it?"
"Live like this. How do you live with so much passion, with so much emotion? Look, I know things have been stressed lately…between us."
"Please," the man shook his head. "I haven't handled things the way I should have. I know I haven't been the boss…the friend I should have been. I've failed the team…and ultimately, I failed you, too many times. I'm sorry for that. And I know an apology is of little consolation."
"I'll be the first to admit," he continued, "there's a lot I need to change about the way I do my job. There are a lot of things I could do to be more effective, to be a better team leader, to be a better person. Every day that I can go home with the team still intact, is another day I can sleep peacefully. That's not the way I should be dealing with things," he shook his head, "that's not the way I should be doing my job. It's not fair to the team and it's not fair to you, Nick."
"Griss…" he felt the softball returning to his throat. Damn it, if he cracked in front of him…
"Look," the man stood now, "You need to be here for Emily. Take as long as you need. You've got plenty of vacation days saved up. Take the rest of the week off, be here for her."
"What about…" Nick stood now joining his boss.
"The lab can manage a few days without you. And well…you need rest as much as Emily needs you here."
Nick watched silently then, still reeling from the words just spoken by his boss, watching as the man turned and left the waiting room. He was alone.
What time was it? Had he fallen asleep?
"What?" he sat up, slowly lifting from the fog.
"Hey man, come on." It was Warrick. He was home, on his couch. "Dude, come on we're gonna be late."
"What time is it?"
"Almost noon, let's go," he offered a lighthearted laugh as he opened the blinds, letting the noontime sun filter in.
"I'm up," the Texan yawned running a hand through his nearing unbearably long hair. He really needed to get it cut. It was next on his list of things to do. After…
Slowly he lifted himself from the sofa. Slipping on a pair of sneakers, he quickly tied the laces.
"Come on, man, they're waiting."
"Alright," he nodded. "Let's go," he said grabbing his wallet and keys off the table near the front door.
"Here," Warrick laughed handing his friend a ball cap as they stepped outside, "cover that mop up."
"You look like a damn sheep dog," he chuckled as he climbed into the passenger seat of Nick's truck.
"Have you got everything?" Jane Griggson threw the question back to the little girl as she loaded the last suitcase into the back of her SUV. They were in the driveway of the Harris' home, loading up Emily's belongings. She smiled then, her eyes filled with sympathy as she turned to shut the trunk door. Her eyes fell then to the CSI standing a few feet away. "I want to thank you for everything," she nodded as her smile widened.
Nick nodded solemnly, his eyes still fixed on the little girl standing beside him. Carefully he bent down, picking the girl up in his arms.
"I'll miss you," Emily wrapped her arms around his neck.
He couldn't trust his voice, knew it would break were he to try and speak. So, he wrapped the girl in his arms and held her. It had been almost two months since the success of the bone marrow transplant.
"We've arranged for all of her medical files to be transferred to Carson City," her aunt nodded from her position near her vehicle. "She'll have all her follow up done there."
"You'll write to me, right?" Nick smiled as he crouched down, returning the girl to the ground. "I want to see some more of those puppet shows."
"I'll write you every day," she smiled hugging him again.
"Come on honey, we've got a long trip ahead," Jane smiled opening the back passenger door.
Nick stood then, taking her by the hand and leading her to the vehicle. Helping her into the backseat he smiled as the door was closed.
"Thank you again, for everything. You saved Emily's life, you know," the woman turned embracing the criminalist.
"She did that on her own," he shook his head. "You…you've got my number," he stammered, his voice threatening to falter once more.
"I'll call you if anything…," she nodded. "We'll keep you updated," she smiled.
"Have a safe trip," he nodded opening the driver's door for her.
"We will," she climbed in as he closed her in.
Nick stepped back then, watching as the vehicle backed out of the driveway.
"Bye Nick!" Emily waved through the lowered window.
He smiled, waving as he watched the car drive away.
It was over.
"You alright?" Warrick asked as his partner returned to his car.
"Yeah," he nodded in return as he turned the ignition, subsequently pulling away from the curb. "I will be."
"You sure about doing this now?"
"Definitely," Nick smiled now as he turned the corner leaving the subdivision.
"You're sure?" Warrick asked again, "'Cause you know I brought along my can of whoop ass, right?"
"Nah, but you sure brought the trash talk," the Texan laughed. "You may wanna roll the window down and hang your head out, pretty soon there won't be room for it in here."
"Uh huh," Warrick laughed as they turned into the nearby park. "Come on, dawg. Let's do this thing right," he climbed out of the vehicle grabbing the basketball he'd thrown into the backseat subsequently tossing it to Nick.
"Hey, does Tina know you're out past your bedtime?" Nick stopped short of the court. "I don't wanna get you in trouble with the wife."
"What? Man, come on," he reached for the ball.
Nick laughed as he quickly eluded the snag. "I'm serious; you know how she gets when you're out past hours. Have you called her?"
"Shit, Nicky if you don't quit the yappin' I'm gonna take that ball and shove it down your throat."
"Fine," Nick threw the ball at the man. "It's your funeral." Pulling his shirt up over his head, he threw it to the ground, joining his friend on the court.
"You know I'm gonna kick your ass, right?" Warrick smirked checking the ball, starting the game of play.
"Yeah, you wish," Nick dribbled and stepped back taking a shot over his partner's head. The sound of the ball swooshing through the hoop was music to his ears. "That's three, boss," he laughed.
"Thought I'd give you one."
"I bet," the Texan laughed. "What do you say we make this interesting?" There was a glint in his brown eyes.
"What'd you have in mind?"
"Loser does the other's grunt work for a week. Labs, trash runs, you name it," Nick smiled mischievously.
"A week, huh?"
"Hell, let's make it two."
"Oh, it's on," Warrick nodded.
"We've got a wager?"
"We've got one hell of a wager," he nodded again.
"Alright," Nick smiled picking back up on the dribble. "You ready?"
"I'm ready," Warrick nodded, upping his guard.
"Shit, man, I'm ready!"
"You're not ready," Nick stepped back, his dribble slowing.
"Damn it bro, just take the shot," Warrick stepped up matching the man's motions.
With surprising speed, Nick maneuvered around the man, evading the attempted steal and making an easy lay up.
"I believe that gives me five," he laughed returning to the top of the key to check the ball.
"Just play the game," Warrick smiled returning the check. It'd been too long between games, their lives seemingly on separate paths outside the lab. But, today it was great seeing his friend smiling, the weight of the past two and a half months, and even the past year, lifting from his shoulders. Today, at least, they were back where they need to be. "Just play the game."