Out of the Shadows
AN: This is based on a fic I had been working on, but had sadly lost interest in when the plot bunnies stopped visiting. I've pulled that one and reworked it, polished it, and changed A LOT of it. Out of the Shadows is completely finished, so I can promise you won't be left hanging. I have also begun working on a sequel, so I truly hope you enjoy it.
Big thank yous to Mingsmommy and Smacky30 for their incredible beta skills, their encouragement, and their advice. This never would have happened without them.
CSI is not mine, just borrowing and having lots of fun with it!
File in hand, Nick walked into the print lab, "Hey Jacqui-" He stopped short. Instead of Jacqui, he saw an old friend standing there. "Mandy!" His face brightened when she looked up and smiled.
Mandy hadn't worked the night shift in almost a year. During that time he'd actually only seen her occasionally when their shifts overlapped. And it had been even longer since he saw her smile so sweetly.
The last time he'd seen her during the middle of the night was also the last night shift she'd worked, until now.
He tried to forget the night he'd walked in on her during what was possibly the last conversation she ever had with her husband, Mike. Ecklie came into the lab less than two hours later to solemnly inform the print tech that the father of her two young children had been involved in a fatal accident. The only blessing in the situation was that Mike had just dropped their children at pre-school.
Everyone from night shift went to Mike's funeral. He remembered vividly the somber and heartbreaking sight of a black garbed Mandy, obviously numb with grief, clutching the hand of her young son with her toddler daughter on her hip while her husband was lowered into the ground. He didn't get a chance to speak with her but that sad little memory stayed with him, tugging at his heart occasionally.
"Mandy, what are you doing here?" When she cocked her head inquiringly, he added, "I mean now? You know, because you usually work days." He stumbled over his words, but only seemed to dig in deeper.
After Mike's death, she'd moved to days to better accommodate her kids' schedule. All of her friends on the night shift missed the young widow, but knew she had to do what was best for her family.
"Well, as of tonight, I'm back on nights." She clicked the mouse before turning her attention completely to Nick. Pulling her lab coat closer around herself, trying to stay warm in spite of the over conditioned lab air, she continued, "Jacqui requested a move to swing." When voices in the hall seemed to grow louder, she walked closer to where Nick stood. "Miranda refused to go to nights, so Ecklie asked if I would, and of course I was more than willing to oblige."
"Oh, yeah?" He was a little surprised.
"Well, I was when the deal was sweetened with a promotion and a raise." She didn't sound as excited as most people would after getting a promotion.
"Promotion?" He crossed his arms. "Do tell."
"Yeah, you are looking at the new Lead Print Tech for Clark County." She sounded proud of the title in spite of the hassle it no doubt caused in her home life.
"How's that work with the kids?" He knew she'd had some trouble juggling between work and daycare after Mike's death. "I mean, where are the kids while you're here at night?" He leaned against the counter behind him.
Mandy forced a smile. "My mom spends the nights I work at my place."
"Oh." He wasn't sure if this was good or bad, but her tone told him it wasn't great news.
"Yeah, the extra money pretty much made the decision for me, and my mom was willing, so..." She shrugged.
"How's that going?"
"Well, it's been three days and she's still helping. Of course, knowing her, she's snooping through everything I own, but on the bright side you haven't been called to investigate a murder at my house. Yet." There was a spark of the old playful Mandy.
Nick's eyes stayed on Mandy; he had been missing her sense of humor, and was glad to have her back. He must have stared a little too long though, because she interrupted his thoughts. "Did you have something for me?"
"What? Oh…uh… yes. These, but no big rush." He handed over the prints.
"Okay, let me finish running Catherine's triple, they've been waiting since before I got in, but then I'll get right on yours."
"Thanks." Nick turned to walk out. "Hey," he spun back around.
"Yeah?" Mandy was already back at work.
"We need to celebrate." He announced it as if he'd just discovered a rare gem.
"Your promotion! And it's your choice, breakfast after shift, or dinner before next shift."
"Alright," she was touched that he seemed to care. "Dinner. I have to get home to fix breakfast for my kids and get them to preschool."
"Good, tomorrow night. Say…ten?" His tone said that no would not be an acceptable answer. "I'll get Greg and Warrick to join us. We'll have a pre-shift party."
The shift carried on as normal; of course it was dotted with mini reunions when her former coworkers realized she was back.
Archie, who had run into her when she left Ecklie's office, was the only one who knew she was coming back to nights. He brought her a Starbuck's venti white chocolate mocha to celebrate. "There aren't many people I would order this for," he announced when he handed her the sweet drink that would no doubt help her through her first all-nighter in over a year.
Judy was sweet, running around the reception desk to give her a hug before she even made it through the front doors, catching her a little off guard, but making her feel like she'd come home in the process.
Grissom had handed her some evidence to process, but before leaving the room he quietly told her, "It's good to have you back Mandy." From him, she took it as compliment.
Catherine walked in, handed over some glasses that needed to be printed and walked out, only to reappear seconds later at the doorway, "Mandy, you're back on nights?" In all fairness, she seemed to be in the middle of a cell phone debate with Lindsay, and her smile when she returned seemed sincere.
When Archie's white chocolate mocha gift was gone, Greg welcomed her back with a cup of his special Hawaiian blend, which he didn't usually part with willingly.
Sara had stopped in to pick up the evidence Grissom had dropped off, and they chatted for a few minutes. She seemed to take a sincere interest in how Alex and Lily were doing, and Mandy appreciated that. All of her friends had been supportive and caring in the days after Mike's death, but over the course of learning to manage the kids and the house over the past year she hadn't been able to keep in touch as much as she would have liked.
Warrick had nothing for her that night, but took a moment to poke his head in and inform her that he was looking forward to dinner the next night.
Even David and Bobby stopped in to say hi.
When her break time arrived, Mandy walked into the break room to find Nick already there. "Hey, Stokes." She casually walked behind him to pull her lunch out of the fridge.
"How's your first night back treating ya, Mands?" He watched as she moved other people's food around to find her own. When the microwave beeped, he retrieved his burrito. The enticing scent of the seasoned beef most likely smothered in ooey gooey cheese had Mandy rethinking her ham and Swiss sandwich.
"It's good to be back." She set her sandwich, chips and gala apple on the table and took the seat across from Nick.
"Good." He nodded. He took a bite of his burrito, and after another minute he took a chance on the question he'd wanted to ask for a while now. "So how are you doing? I mean, really?"
She knew what he meant and just shrugged, "I don't know. Some days are good, other times I'll see a picture, or something of his and it'll all come back to me."
"The worst is the junk mail and phone calls that he still gets. I think I freaked out one guy on the phone when I told him I would love to get Mr. Webster for you, but unfortunately I don't do séances."
Nick couldn't help but laugh at that. Mandy began to laugh a little too, and then she perked up a bit and asked, "How are you doing?"
"I'm all right." He tilted his head. "We've all missed you. It took awhile to get used to seeing someone else in the print lab." He slowly turned his soda can between his fingers on the table.
"Thanks," she smiled. "That's sweet of you to say."
He nodded, and after checking the clock, realized it was time for him to return to work. He cleared away his lunch, and stopped at the doorway. "Don't forget about tonight."
"I won't, promise."
That night, Mandy met Nick, Warrick, and Greg for dinner before shift. They went to PF Chang's at the Aladdin. When they were seated with their food the conversation easily flowed. They talked about work and the various cases including the last one where she had had to testify.
"I swear," she swallowed the last bite of sweet and sour chicken she had put in her mouth, "That is the hardest part of the job. The guy on the left," she moved her left hand slightly for emphasis. "Tries to make you look intelligent and knowledgeable about your job, and the guy on the right," this time she motioned with her right hand, "Tries to make you look like a bumbling idiot who has no clue about anything let alone how to handle evidence."
Nick nearly choked on his cashew chicken, "I never really thought of it like that, but yeah that's basically what it is." He took a sip of his soda to wash down the pieces of rice still stuck in his throat.
Warrick shook his head slightly, then began sternly "Mandy, I know it's been a while, but you really have to watch what you say in front of Nick when he's eating."
Before he could get another bite of shrimp lo mien, Nick deadpanned with, "Thanks man."
Greg, who had plowed through his beef and mushrooms in brown sauce like he hadn't eaten in days, wiped his hands on his napkin and then tossed it on the table. "How are Alex and Lily doing?"
A very natural smile graced Mandy's face. She was always the proud mother. "Alex is all excited about the party for his fifth birthday." She took a quick sip of her diet coke. "Of course it's just ten kids at our house for cake and ice cream, but exciting none the less."
"What? No Chuck E. Cheese?" Warrick teased.
"No, thankfully he hasn't discovered that yet…Probably just a matter of time though." She dipped a piece of chicken into the sweet and sour sauce. "Lily is obsessed with Dora. Everything she sees that's Dora, she wants. She'd watch it twenty-four seven if I'd let her."
They continued talking with the guys filling Mandy in on all of the updates on the night shift staff: Greg led the conversation, with Mandy, Nick, and Warrick exchanging amused glances.
Whether the guys knew it or not, they made Mandy's night. It was her first escape from her every day routine since her life had so drastically changed.
Her first week back on the night shift went by much smoother than her first week of not being home at night. Her mother was full of friendly advice about how to raise her kids, clean her house, organize the kitchen, arrange the furniture, even how to fold the laundry. "Mandy, if you fold the jeans like this, you won't have to iron them."
"Iron them? Mom, the kids roll around in the dirt, a few wrinkles are the least of my worries." She knew her mom meant well, but every night the woman had something new to mention to Mandy. She politely listened, because truth be told, without her mother's help, she wouldn't have been able to return to the night shift, even with the premium, raise, and promotion. The bill for two kids in preschool was high enough, if she had to add a nanny to spend nights with her kids, she'd be wiped out in no time.
She knew this wasn't how her mother wanted to spend her nights either, but she also knew that as crazy as her mother made her, she would crawl across broken glass for her daughter and grandchildren. However, once across the glass, she would gladly remind everyone within earshot that she'd made this sacrifice for her family.
To be continued…