Lost Myself

Disclaimer: CSI and Nick Stokes are the property of CBS

Based on a song Karma Police by Radiohead

SYNOPSIS: Nick and Brass go over the moments leading up to McKeen's arrest answering difficult questions. Written for the Nick Fic Challenge on TalkFiles

The crowd was dwindling as guests made their way of Catherine Willows' house following the funeral of Warrick Brown.

Nick slumped on velour couch in a daze as a sea of black suits and dresses swam in front of him. He was tired and drained from the past few days and wanted nothing more than to go home, collapse in the E-Z chair and chug back a beer.

Resting his head on his chin, he let out a weary sigh, checked the time and counted the minutes till he could make his getaway.

Just then weight of the couch shifted as he sensed someone sitting down next to him.

"If I had it my way, I'd have had the reception at the diner-bad food and all." Brass said in a gruff voice.

Nick snorted nonplussed, "Yeah that would have been more fitting."

The detective chuckled quietly and commented, "I won't ask how you're doing."

"Don't know why everyone's worried about me?" Nick grumbled, "I'm fine."

Brass raised his eyebrows. He'd known Nick Stokes for over a decade and as far as he was concerned, Nick was NOT fine.

Dried grass and sticks crunched under his feet as Brass raced to find Nick. He wasn't responding to his radio calls. Why? Did he not want McKean to hear them? Or did Nick have other plans?

To his relief he finally heard the crackling voice tell him, "Air One confirms visual. CSI Stokes has located the suspect and has him at gunpoint 300 yards due west of your position."

"Copy that."

BANG!!!

Brass's head shot up with stark realization, he heard what he heard. A gunshot! He rounded a bend and stopped dead in his tracks.

Nick Stokes stood there, his hip out to the side, gun pointed at a very still and very bloody Sheriff Jeffrey McKeen lying flat on his back under a tree.

Nick was breathing heavily, lowering the gun gently, his face pale. Sweat stains formed under his arms pits, sluicing down the sides of his face while his body trembled through the bullet proof vest he wore.

Brass felt his innards clench in horror.

Taking a stealth step towards them, Brass spoke, "Nick." His voice quiet and careful.

The CSI's head turned abruptly towards him. Tear stains on his cheek, sweat shining in the sun. Grief and rage etch deep in his face, eyes red.

Suddenly a raspy cough emerged from the prone Under Sheriff as Nick collected himself and told him of the man's medical wounds. Relief washed over Brass and he could barely hear Nick tell him McKeen's they needed to get a MedEvac chopter here ASAP.

Okay good, but Brass asked, "What was that shot?" A cop sidled up beside him waiting for orders.

"Hmm?" Nick appeared to be in a fog, "A miss." Then he turned and quietly walked away, tucking his gun back in the holder. As he passed by, they exchanged a confused glance before Nick moved on.

"You still here?"

Brass looked up and saw Nick standing there, loosening his tie.

"Yeah." He answered and then asked, "Want to go for a beer?"

Nick shoved his hands in his pocket and shrugged, "Sure."

xxXXxx

The Dogs of Eads was quiet as the two men slipped into a booth. They both had stopped off at their homes to change out of the suit and uniform into more comfortable attire of jeans, and t-shirts. The waitress brought a jug of Coors and some finger food made of nachos drowning in cheese, fried breaded calamari and mozzarella sticks.

"My treat." Brass announced to Nick who sipped the froth of the beer and turned his head towards the TV screen on the wall watching the local college basketball game.

"Warrick and I had tickets to this game." He said in a sombre tone placing his hands on the table and fiddling with the ring as the sound of clinking glasses and quiet chatter filled the air.

Brass looked out the stained glass window and back again, "I hear you're starting a college fund for Eli."

Nick smiled, "It's the least I could do. I'm taking a collection, but I'm gonna set aside a little every month until he's ready to go."

"Warrick would have been pleased."

"Well, I'm gonna keep on little Eli. Vegas' a bad place for kids. I'd hate to see him grow up and turn into one of these hooligans going around beating up tourists. "

"You mean like the one named Pig, the kid you punched out?" Brass raised an eyebrow.

Laughing softly, Nick chewed on a cheesy nacho thoughtfully, "I remember. Warrick gave me hell about that, wondering if I had all this rage in me just pouring out vicariously through cases." He took a sip a beer.

"You know Nick." Brass began noting a segue into a difficult topic. "I've been wondering about something.."

Dark brown eyes stared back at him intensely, "You wanna know if it really was a miss?"

"Was it?"

xxXXxx

What kind of friend are you!"

Nick's arm shook, the gun clinked

"Shoot me you son of a bitch!!!"

Nick pressed the trigger ..

...a release, as he lowered the gun, he heaved with enormous relief a mere firing of the weapon had given, not to mention he managed to steer himself around McKeen cruel words which served as a 'get of jail free' card by goading the best friend of the murder victim into killing him.

'No way man!' Nick thought, 'I'm way ahead of you. This is what you get when you mess with us.'

xxXXxx

"Do you really think I'm capable of murdering someone?" Nick asked uneasily because he remembered the strange look the detective had given him as he walked by him. He'd seen the look on the entire team's face. After all, he'd been through hell and everyone expected him to fall apart at the scene of Warrick's death. Guess he still had to prove to everyone he was stronger than they thought.

Brass shrugged and took a sip of beer, "Nick I've been around long enough and have seen plenty of murders to know people are capable of anything." Then he eyed him, "Even you Stokes!"

"He was taunting me. He wanted me to kill him." Nick's felt his eyes well up. "And for a moment there, I lost myself."

"Phew! You didn't, but hell yeah, he was trying to get of going to jail and to take on last shot at Warrick, dying with the thought he'd gotten back at Warrick one last time. He ruined his best friend's life." Brass said. "When I saw you standing there, I thought I was going to have to arrest the wrong person. That would have been all we needed, Stokes!"

"No, if I had killed McKeen, you would have arrested the right person." Nick smiled crookedly.

"I mean wrong in a sense, Mckeen would not have to see justice, but his capturer would?" Brass shook his head, "It would have been .." His voice trailed off at the ridiculousness of it.

"But I shot the ground. It was a release." Nick explained, "He was goading me, but you know, Warrick wouldn't have wanted revenge, because he and I always theorized karma is like justice, eventually it catches up with you. We're like the Karma police to the murderers, drug dealers, rapists. They keep committing the crimes and they pay the price because of us."

"Hmmm." Brass said, "I believe you Nick. I knew deep down when I saw Mckeen laying there all bloodied up, which in itself was Karma for what he did to Warrick."

"Yep." Nick agreed. "Now he's going to jail. We, the karma police, got him."

"Isn't that a song?" Brass asked.

"Think so." Nick said knowing full well it was, but not about to reveal his source. Moving on he asked Brass, "How did a man like McKeen get by all these years with no one ever suspect him. Didn't Ecklie notice?"

An amused smile broke out on the detective's round face, "Ecklie, he buzzes like a damn fridges and talks in maths. What the hell does he know? He was too busy kissing ass all these years to notice anything but his own career."

Nick nodded and then asked, "And did McKeen really think he was going to get away with Warrick murder? "Karma's a bitch!" Brass declared.

"Yeah and he got what deserved when he messed with one of us."

Brass held up a glass, "And now he's going to be someone's play toy in prison." He grinned at the thought.

"Hell yah!" Nick held up a glass and the two men clinked them together as he said, "For Warrick!"

"For Warrick." Brass agreed.

"How come you never got up to say something at the funeral?" Brass asked after the bill was handed to him.

His heart wept silently as he answered, "It was Grissom's job. I would have liked to have said something..." Tears formed in his eyes. "But everyone thought Grissom should be the one to do it because he's the boss and such."

Brass's eyes filled with tears as he asked, "What would you have said?"

Nick felt a tide of emotions swell in him and looked away for a second to study the well-worn menu prices of drinks and specials dancing before his eyes before the words came to him, "He was my best friend...and.." Tears spilled forth from him eyes and he quickly said, "S'cuse me..." and jumped and walked into the washroom, into a stall and sobbed.

Warrick was more like a brother than a friend. He was the first guy I met in the Lab and the first friend I made when I moved to Vegas. Sure we competed but we always had each other's back. The guy helped save my life, but I couldn't save his! If I had to trade places that night. I would have gladly taken a bullet for him. In a heartbeat! Man! I'm sorry. I'm sorry I wasn't there for you; I hope someday you'll forgive me. I'll be there for Eli! I promise you that!

He had contained himself long enough to catch Mckeen and get through the funeral, but the strain had become all too consuming for him. So here he'd let it out. Sure there'd be more to come. But this little allowance could at least get him through dinner.

Finally, Nick collected himself, opened the door and proceeded splash cold water from the sink . He dried his face off and returned to the booth where his friend was handing the waitress his credit card.

"I probably shouldn't be driving." Brass told him pretending nothing had happened. "I can call Catherine to give us a ride."

"No that's okay. I've got someone I can call." Nick told him as they settled the bill with the waitress.

"You sure?" Brass asked concern all over his round face.

"Yeah, it's okay." Nick feigned bravado as the two men gave each other a brief one –armed hugged.

Outside, Nick shivered with the cold air and stuffed his hands into his jacket pocket sand walked away having texted his driver to let him know he was ready, and low and behold there she was in his truck.

Mandy.

He smiled, opened the door and jumped in.

"I love riding your truck." She said gleefully as she pulled away from the curb.

"That the only thing you like to ride?" Nick flashed a devious grin.

"Pervert!" Mandy snickered.

"You love it." He reminded her.

"I do." She reached over and clasped his hand, "It's nice to see you laugh. I guess that drink with Brass helped."

"It did." Nick told her. "You know your favourite band, Radiohead, their songs make sense sometimes."

Mandy chuckled, "Yep. They do, but for tonight let's just watch some TV."

"I like that idea, Mandy, I like that idea alot." Nick told her squeezing her hand tightly.