A/N - Given that this is a what happens next for "For Warrick" and that aired back in 2008, I guess I'm about three years late. But it's an idea that gained a little more steam after watching the episode again and after the S11 finale. I always thought Brass had a strong reason for protecting Ray that went back to what he didn't do for Warrick. This is unbeta'd so all the errors are mine.
Jim Brass and the characters from CSI do not belong to me. I get nothing from this but the joy of writing a mostly overlooked character.
The Ford cruiser pulled into an open parking spot near the blue neon sign identifying the hole in the wall bar as the Blue Rail. Getting out of the car, Sofia Curtis scanned the lot, seeing the dark gray Dodge Charger parked off to the side, away from the view of the street.
Pushing open a door that had probably been around since Bugsy ran Vegas, she took off her sunglasses and let her eyes adjust to the dim lighting that allowed its occupants to sink into anonymity. The Blue Rail wasn't a place to be seen – like many of the hip, happening places on the strip. It was a place to get lost and that made it popular with off-duty LVPD detectives. Sofia had been here a time or two. She was already familiar with the odor of stale cigarettes, beer soaked into the dark carpet, and the 1970's red vinyl décor. Cops always went for the classy joints.
"Hey Ned," she kept her voice low. Even though it was nearly 3am, the place had a few patrons at the bar and a couple of men shooting pool.
"Hey Sofia," the owner and bartender motioned to a table back in the corner, its lone occupant seemingly oblivious to the interest from the bar. "He's been knocking them back for the last couple of hours. Last time it happened you said to give you a call."
"Yeah, thanks." The first time had been after the camera crew brought up Bell's shooting and the last time had been after Sara's ordeal. At the time he'd been going non-stop for days on end trying to do whatever he could to help find the missing CSI and when it was over, when they found her alive, he'd crashed hard. Until then Sofia had no idea how much he cared about the CSIs, how protective he was of the team.
Sofia knew he would sometimes drink to forget the tough cases, especially the ones with kids. She didn't know too many cops who didn't. When the stress or the emotions of the job got to be too much, Jim Brass had a long standing acquaintance with the bottle. She'd left her name and number with Ned several years ago and he'd called her maybe three times, the last coming over a year ago. She'd heard about Warrick Brown's death so it didn't completely surprise her to get the call again.
"Let me know if you need any help."
Watching the way the glass halted in mid air for a couple of seconds before he took a drink, she knew he was well aware of her arrival. "Thanks but I doubt I'll have any trouble."
Wandering over to his table, she pulled out a chair and sat down.
He lifted the glass to his lips then stopped. "I thought we weren't together anymore."
She could tell by his demeanor and his words that he was probably more tired than drunk but tired mixed with alcohol made him surly. She almost preferred him drunk. "Just because we aren't together doesn't mean I don't still love you."
He set the glass down and raised his eyebrows. "Oh, is that how it works nowadays?"
Sofia reached out and covered his hand with hers, only to have him pull away. "Jim, I heard about Warrick and I'm so sorry."
"Sorry, yeah," he said, running his tongue over his bottom lip. "I'm sorry too." Leaning back in his chair, draping his arm over the back, anyone who didn't know him might think he looked cocky. "We caught the guy today. Did you hear about that?"
Sofia knew him better than that. "No, I didn't."
He leaned forward, locking his hands together. "It was McKeen."
Now he did look smug. "That's the one."
"That slimy bastard." Sofia had had her own awkward run in with McKeen about a year before she'd left LVPD. It was nothing overt, just a few subtle comments McKeen had made about her future in the department, but it was enough to make her curious and uncomfortable. She'd never mentioned it to Jim but now, in light of what happened to Warrick, she wished she had. She'd always thought McKeen was trying to come on to her; now she wondered if he wasn't fishing for something else.
Brass filled her in on all the details, ending with finding the overturned car off the side of the road. "Pritchard was dead but Nick found McKeen in the woods, nearly killed him. I thought for a minute he had."
"Stokes? That surprises me."
"Well, you know, he and Warrick were pretty tight. It hit Nick hard."
"Looks like it hit you hard too." She watched as he stared at the empty glass, turning the tumbler round and round with his thick fingers. "Why don't I take you home?"
"Would you stay with me?"
"Jim," she started to protest but he cut her off.
"Sorry, I shouldn't have asked." He pulled some cash out of his money clip and left it on the table. "Yeah, take me home," he said but didn't make a move to get up.
Sofia sighed inwardly. Truth was she wanted to take him home, throw him into bed and have her way with him. And seeing him again, seeing the sadness and vulnerability in those blue-gray eyes, it was all she could do to keep those feelings suppressed. But she knew it would be a mistake. Breaking it off with Jim had been one of the hardest things she'd ever done. She didn't want to go through that kind of misery again. If she had any sense, she wouldn't have answered the phone. If she had any sense, she would have just called a cab to take him home.
"I hope you remember how lucky you are."
She was halfway out of her chair but his words made her sit back down. "What?"
"That's the last thing I said to Warrick. I hope you remember how lucky you are." He shook his head and in the dim light, she could just see the moisture forming in his eyes. "We had a rough start, me and Warrick. I would push and he would push back and" he laughed mirthlessly, "you know how much I like to be pushed back. But in the end," his voice trailed off as he looked away. Licking his lips, he seemed to regroup before looking back at her. "In the end he was a good friend and I didn't have faith in him."
Sofia again reached out for his hand and this time he didn't pull away. This time he held on. "You always had faith in him. Warrick was head strong. Like you said, he pushed back but this time he pushed back on the wrong person."
He held the glass in the air, giving what Sofia thought was a silent toast, before draining the last amber drops then setting the glass down with a thud. "I just wish I had believed him."
"Jim, it wouldn't have changed anything. If you'd questioned McKeen, he probably would have come after you too."
Shaking his head, he looked at his hands. "I could have done more to protect Warrick." He stood up, put his left hand on the table to steady himself, and brought his piercing gaze to hers. "I won't let it happen again."
Seeing the hard look of determination on his face, Sofia had no doubt he meant what he said. He would always look out for his team, even if it meant putting his own neck on the line.
"Come on, let's get you home."