Disclaimer: Not mine.
Author's Note: At the risk of getting long winded, I'll be ending this fic here. I want to thank all those who left comments and/or emailed me personally about this fic. It meant the world to me. Hope the holiday season has treated you well so far and that the New Year is just as prosperous.
Part Ten: I still have a great family here in Vegas.
Seven years later. . .
The house is filled to the brim with people.
Mostly colleagues from work, some family and friends. There are some younger guys and gals here from Lindsey's graduating class. One of them claims to be a boyfriend, but I haven't sized him up yet. I promised Lindsey I would hold off on the interrogation until after the party. It took some prodding and pleading on her part, keep in mind, but I reluctantly acquiesced to her demands. Jarod is his name, or something. I'll be sure to run his name through our police database tomorrow morning. Get a full background check. If he stole a stick of gum, I want to know about it.
For now though, I try to keep him out of sight and out of mind as I make my way through the crowd. I bump into Warrick and grin widely, "Brown. Good to see ya."
"Likewise, sir. Likewise," Warrick beams, then motions over to Lindsey. "You'll be beating the guys off with sticks."
"Don't remind him," I hear Catherine say, over by the table. She's setting out more food, as if we don't have enough. She throws us a wicked grin. "Tony has been itching to pull Jarod aside all night."
"Have not," I say flatly. They both laugh and I can't help but feel a bit bashful. This protective father thing is still kinda new to me. Only recently has Lindsey accepted me as her new father. Took a few years, but I love her like she's my own. I shift my glance over to Jarod again and mutter, "He's just too clean."
Catherine raises an eyebrow. "Too clean? Don't you think that's a step up from the last one?"
Warrick pats my shoulder. "I think what your darling husband is trying to say is, he can't find anything wrong with the kid yet. No reason to hate him, ain't that right Tony?"
"That's not true," I argue miserably. "I'm going to go check on her. Again."
I leave Warrick with Catherine, on a mission to keep tabs on Lindsey all night. I try to guise my overprotectiveness by using my camcorder.
"And here, ladies and gentlemen, stands the smartest woman in the world!"
"Dad, c'mon," Lindsey rolls her eyes, putting a hand over my camera lens. She effectively blocks my shot of her as she begs, "Enough filming? Please?"
I pause the recording and lower the camera. I pull her in for a hug and whisper against her hair, "Just proud of you, sweetheart. College. It's a big deal."
"Uh huh," she chuckles. She then whispers, "Don't think you're fooling me. I know why you keep following me around with that camera."
I smile sadly. "Am I that obvious?"
"Only a little," she laughs, then hugs me. "I still love you, though."
"Love you too," I say back, then let her go. She goes straight for Jarod, who wraps an arm around her shoulders. I try not to cringe too much, the realization that Lindsey Willows is 22, dating other guys and all-grown-up a bit unnerving.
"Scary, huh, Dad?"
"Sofia," I smile, turning around. "Glad you could make it back in town for this."
"Oh, any opportunity to see you turn tomato red over Lindsey's latest boyfriend could not be passed up," Sofia jokes, wrapping me up in a hug. Sofia transferred out of Vegas a few years back. An opportunity to be a Captain arose in Boulder City. She would've been a fool to pass it up, even though she nearly did. She was concerned for me at the time, my health taking a turn for the worse, but somehow I managed to convince her to leave.
"Well, at least this guy is well groomed," I mutter. I pull out of the hug and ask cheekily, "So, you still dragging Stokes around?"
"I heard that, Vartann," Nick says, walking up. We clasp hands in a firm shake. He laughs, "You know? I still have no idea why you don't like me."
"Old habits die hard, Stokes," I shrug. "Could be also that you're marrying one of my best friends." I then lean over to Sofia and tell her, "Seriously, you can do better."
"Tony! Enough!" Sofia grins, slapping my arm. "Nick and I are very happy, thank you very much."
"I know and that's what worries me so," I jest, then pat Nick on the shoulder. "Just take care of her."
"Always do," Nick replies, then holds up his empty cup. "I need another. Are you two good?"
"I'll go with you," Sofia says, then looks at me. "You. Behave."
I hold up my hand and say, "Scout's honor."
I watch them approach the food table, where both Warrick and Catherine still stand. They all say hello, hug and laugh. I smile. I still have a great family here in Vegas.
Seven years later and my life has certainly morphed into something I never dreamed possible. After a long battle and two shoulder surgeries later, I finally have the lead in my blood under my control. A very tiny portion of the bullet remains, but it might as well not be there. I don't feel it, I don't think about it. It doesn't effect me anymore.
I'm married. Again.
Catherine and I going on six blissful years together. I'll be honest. I didn't think our jobs would allow this to work, especially after seeing the destruction that was Sara and Grissom. The poor guy was a shell of his former self when she abruptly left him, left Vegas, left the team. No one hated her for it, no. Especially not Grissom, but her departure changed things, it changed the people at the lab. It made me value my relationship with Catherine that much more.
I look at the camcorder in my hands, lift it up and turn it back on. I turn the lense on Warrick. It's good to see the man smiling again. He had hit a rough patch as well. Drugs, sex. The classic Vegas downward spiral. I'm glad he's still on this Earth with us.
Next, Nick and Sofia. Their relationship a real surprise. Even more surprising when Nick followed her out to Boulder City. I never would've thought Nick would leave Vegas, but love will do crazy things.
"What are you doing?"
I pause the recording, face my wife and shrug, "Just putting these memories on something more permanent."
Catherine smiles at me, wrapping her arm around my waist. I see her eyes land on Lindsey and that smile only broadens. She's definitely proud, but her words belie her smile. "I keep having these nightmares."
"Like?" I ask.
"Oh, I dunno. That Lindsey inherited my rebellious streak. She'll run away, become a stripper, get pregnant and marry a deadbeat dad. Then she'll find out her uncle is really her father. That'll just throw her for a loop."
I frown. Even after all this time, Catherine looks back on her past as some sort of happy mistake. She'll say she doesn't regret anything in her life, but her years as a dancer put quite a toll on her mind and body and soul. She won't deny the burden it was to care for Lindsey and for Eddie while trying to get her life back on track. I hug her to me, "Rebellious isn't so bad."
"No?" she says.
"No," I say. "She could run off, dance, be blessed with a child. Get involved in a bad marriage and then learn to appreciate the good one. She's already gone to school. She'll work her tail off and proudly follow in the footsteps of the woman who gave her life."
Catherine looks at me, eyes moistening some. She jests, "God, Tony. When did you get so romantic?"
"That Dr. Phil knows his stuff. Read his new book," I joke back. I'm rewarded with a playful slap on the arm.
"Just. . .do that dad thing and get back to your camera duties," she tells me. I watch her walk over to Lindsey, the two of them my whole world.
"So, tell me what I'm in store for."
"Hmm?" I say, turning to the voice. It's Nick.
Nick grins. "You're a married man. Tell me what I'm in store for."
I look back out at Catherine, then turn to Nick. "Trust her. Don't take her for granted. Be her friend first."
Nick ponders my words. "That's it? After six years with one of the more stubborn woman I know, that's what you got?"
"After a few failed marriages, that's what I got," I tell him. His eyes widen, as he never knew that about me, but he nods his understanding. I pat Nick on the shoulder and say sincerely, "Nick, I think we've just started a beautiful friendship."
"Really?" Nick beams. He drinks from his cup, clearly elated. "I'm glad. Really. Sofia would hate it if we were always at each other's throats or should I say, you at mine."
I force a smile.
There's still something about Nick Stokes that irks me.