Disclaimer: Not mine. I'd say no harm no foul, but the original writers already committed the harm!
Spoilers: For the end of season 10 (CSI); seasons 1-7 (NCIS). There's also a blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference to my CSI story 'Red Rain'
Timing: A couple of days after 'Meat Jekyll' (CSI); a week or so before 'Obsession' (NCIS).
Originally written for the Nick Fic Song Challenge over on TalkCSI, but in the end it wasn't the story I submitted for the round. Thanks to Smokey for putting up with me!
Ignoring The Universe
Nick slumped down onto the bar stool with a groan. It had been a brutal couple of weeks, both personally and professionally, culminating in getting shot in the shoulder in Dr Jekyll's last stand, to say nothing of returning the favour a little more fatally. It could, he knew, have been much worse. Another inch to the left and the bullet would have hit an artery and he would have bled out. Inch to the right and he wouldn't have been able to hold his own gun steady enough to take the sick bastard down. That didn't make it hurt any less and while mixing alcohol and pain meds was a bad idea, just for tonight he was done being sensible.
Clearly he looked about as bad as he felt, because the bartender took one look at him and simply set up three beers on the bar without comment. Nick wasn't about to complain.
"Just gimme the bourbon bottle and a glass," said a voice off to Nick's left as Nick took a long pull on the first of his beers.
Glancing in that direction, Nick saw a man of about the same age as himself. His left arm, like Nick's, was in a sling and his face showed the clear signs of healing bruises.
Nick snorted softly into his beer, even as the bartender supplied the requested bourbon and glass. Looked as if his companion had had a week that was at least as interesting as his own.
As if mirroring Nick's thoughts, the other man poured out a generous measure of bourbon and offered a toast in Nick's direction. "Hell of a week. Month. Whatever." And he knocked back the amber liquid in one swallow and with barely a wince. He poured another shot. "So what are you celebrating?"
Nick sipped his beer. "Not ending up in the morgue. You?"
The second shot was swallowed in one. "Same." He frowned. "Eighth time for me. Running out of lives. My boss would tell you it was the ninth time, but I don't think that one counts. I mean, yeah, there was a body with my name on it in autopsy--"
Nick choked on his beer.
"--but obviously, it wasn't me. They blew up my car, though."
For a second, Nick wondered if the guy was kidding. "They?"
The man just shook his head. "You wouldn't believe me even if I told you." He downed another shot of liquor and then stuck out a hand. "Tony."
"Good to meet you. So what do you do to be on the universe's shit list? You don't look like a cop, you're not CIA and you're too good looking to be FBI."
"CSI," said Nick, amused by the assessments. "For LVPD."
Tony poured out another shot and nodded. "All the crap of being law enforcement, none of the perks."
"Can't slap handcuffs on annoying reporters and threaten to send 'em to Gitmo." He sank the shot. "Not that I do that to all the annoying reporters - just the ones who... Hm. Rest of that's classified, come to think. Sorry."
Nick couldn't help but chuckle. "You must be a fed."
"NCIS." The glass was filled again. "No one's ever heard of us."
"Naval Criminal Investigative Service, right?"
Tony's head snapped around. "Huh. You've heard of us."
Nick shrugged and sank the dregs of his first beer. "Thought about applying a few years back. Decided to come to Vegas instead. I figured the job variety would be better here."
"Murder, espionage, national security, cupcake gate. You?"
"Murder, trick rolls, body snatching and a whole lotta people so dumb you kinda wonder how they ever managed walking and breathing." Nick lifted the second beer bottle to his lips and took a pull. "Weirdest corpse?"
"Hm. Probably the scare-corpse in the middle of a cornfield. Though it was pretty weird seeing my name tagged to a corpse. Swear Ducky left that there just to freak me out. You?"
"The dominatrix switch in a kiddie's sandbox was pretty out there, but the scuba diver up a tree has gotta take the prize."
Tony stared for a moment, then he smirked. "You're not gonna get me to fall for that one."
Beginning to feel pleasantly buzzed, Nick grinned. "Court case is eight or nine years' old. People vs Jerry Walden."
"Oh yeah. Eight months later, I got a drowning victim in the middle of the desert, too. It was not my year." Nick considered that statement. "Professionally, at least."
Tony sank another shot and chuckled. "Drowning in the desert I can believe. I've seen desert rainfall." He contemplated the shot glass for a moment. "Okay. You win weirdest corpse. How many bombs have you gotten up close and personal with?"
"Investigated after the fact? Two. Been forced to deal with before it exploded? One. At least," Nick added, "I've been told I did. I don't remember it."
"How can you not remember dealing with a bomb?"
"Long story. You?"
"Been almost blown up by, one. Watched as someone disarmed: three times. Prevented from blowing up by other means: two. Had to investigate after the fact: three. And did I mention they blew up my car? Still not over that."
"Sounds like," Nick agreed.
"Number of times you've been accused of murder?"
Nick wasn't quite sure what to make of the casual assumption that someone had accused him, or that it might have happened more than once. "Only once."
"Three times." Tony smirked with little humour behind it. "Guess people don't like my sense of humour."
Nick winced. "Guess not. All right. Ways you've nearly ended up in the morgue?"
Setting his shot glass down on the bar, Tony began counting them off on his fingers. "Shot, stabbed, plague, beaten, shot - again; drowning. One was so heavily classified I don't think even the president's allowed to know about it and shot, again." He gestured to the sling. "And that doesn't count crazy chicks drugging and kidnapping me or my partner's repeated attempts to kill me with her driving."
Nick stared. "Did you say plague?"
"Funny how that one always stops people cold. Yes, I really did say plague. It was a bio terrorism attack by a deranged mom who thought her darling daughter had been raped by a sailor and NCIS had covered it up. Daughter hadn't, by the way; she just couldn't admit to mommy that she had a thing for kinky sex."
Nick winced again. "Ouch."
"So what's your list?" Tony asked. "I'm figuring this isn't exactly your first brush with the universe kicking your ass."
Nick snorted into his beer. "Got that right."
Nick drained the last of his second beer. "Beaten, held at gun point by a deranged woman, pushed through a second floor window, held at gun point by a deranged stalker, buried alive--"
"Wait." Tony held his hand up. "You don't need to go any further. You win that one right there. I mean, getting the plague sucked worse than a broken vacuum, but I signed up to NCIS after 9-11. I always knew that bio terrorism was a possibility. Getting buried alive's not in anyone's job description." He paused and poured out a final shot. "Besides. I think I read about it when I was still hacking up a lung. Kinda made me feel better to know someone else was gettin' screwed by the universe too."
Nick toyed with the third beer bottle. "Seems wrong somehow."
"No-one's ever heard of NCIS and it seems like everyone's heard about what happened to me. Seems wrong."
Tony offered up a smirk. "It's law enforcement," he said. "It's like one big, incestuous, dysfunctional family. Don't get much in the way of cooperation but everyone loves to share the shit."
And that, Nick supposed, was a pretty good description.
"Guess we should both be grateful we're still here to bitch about it," Tony suggested.
"Guess we should."
"Sucks, though, that the shit always seems to happen to us."
"Yep." Nick took another swallow of beer, aware that the edges of the room were beginning to blur. "You ever think about listening to the universe and taking the hint?"
"Thought about it," Tony admitted. "Then I got caught up in a bank heist during the last vacation I took. Figure, if the universe is gonna come after me even when I'm not carrying my badge, I might as well stick with it and keep doing a job I'm pretty damn good at." He sank the final shot of bourbon. "You?"
"If I was gonna quit, I'd have done it five years ago." Nick wobbled an unsteady hand at his sling. "Though maybe I'm getting too old for shoot outs. Didn't manage to duck this time."
Tony tipped his head back and laughed. "I'll drink to that."