Title: AFTERMATH

Author: Michmak

Summary: Sara and Nick are the only ones that make an appearance in this story. Lots of angst, relationship stuff.

Dedicated: to Sylphide, LissaMarie, Cocoa, Faith, Rya, Emily and all the other people I forgot to mention who keep requesting more Sara and Nick from me. I've been on a Grissom/Sara tear lately, but I hope this will do for you.

Disclaimer: The only characters I own are the ones I create for the purpose of this story. All the rest? Not mine.

_____

"I am one - who am I. I am one - who am I?" Nick woke in a cold sweat, hands scrabbling on the cool formica table top as he looked wildly around the lounge. Great - just great. He had fallen asleep while drinking his coffee, and had slid into the dream.

Nick grimaced as he looked at his empty mug, turned on its side, a puddle of coffee tracing across the table top. Shit. Sighing to himself, he walked to the counter and grabbed some paper towel, sopping up the mess before pouring himself a new cup. It was a slow night, for which Nick didn't know whether to be grateful or not. He was burning the candles at both ends lately, unable to sleep, working himself to the bone at night, trying to forget.

But it was too hard. He couldn't forget anything. And that had always been his problem - the things he didn't want to remember he'd never forget. Like movies, the minute he let his guard drop, images and smells - colors and sounds - would flicker through his mind relentlessly, like some personal horror show that he was the star of.

Nick stared numbly into his coffee cup as he drained the hot liquid, gagging slightly at the burnt heat of it searing his throat. Down the hallway he could here the muted laughter of Warrick, Greg and Sara, and he wondered what the fuck was so humorous. He shut his eyes again and leaned against the counter top, feeling the ridge digging painfully into his lower back, smiling. Pain was good - proved he was still alive.

He wondered idly if the dreams would ever stop. For awhile, he thought he had a handle on his own personal demons. The nightmares had been so infrequent, he had almost convinced himself they were gone - disappeared and never to return. But of course, he had been a naïve fool to believe that - and what else was new? Just when he felt like he was dragging himself out of the muck, something happened to push him even deeper in.

It had been a helluva year: Kristy's death, Nigel stalking him, pushing him out a window and than murdering that psychic in Nick's own fucking house. And if that wasn't enough, his mother had sent him a letter. A charming epistle filled with love and news from his home town - a gossipy little tome brimming with such innocent Nick hadn't even realized it has a ticking bomb in disguise. His mother had sucker punched him, and she didn't even know it. "Thanks, Mom," he smiled grimly as he saluted his mother with his empty mug.

* * * * *

"Hey Nick. We were thinking of going out for breakfast. Want to join us?" Sara's voice was unexpectedly cheerful, making Nick wince.

Plastering a smile to his stiff face he turned to her and drawled, "Nah, thanks. I'm going apartment hunting this morning."

Sara tilted her head sideways, cocking an eyebrow at him. "Apartment hunting? You moving?"

*Duh!* Nick thought, but he didn't say it. Instead he shrugged, "Just temporarily. I have a big hole in my ceiling. Remember?" His tone was perhaps more sarcastic than absolutely necessary, and he hoped Sara wouldn't notice. Of course, hope was for idiots.

"Do you want to stay with me until it gets fixed? I have an extra room." Sara's offer took Nick completely by surprise. He stared at her in shock for a moment, shaking his head as if to clear his ears.

"Pardon me?"

"You can stay with me if you want. I - have - a -spare - room." Sara's tone was deliberately slow, as if she was talking to a small child. Her eyes flashed teasingly at him. Despite himself, Nick smiled.

"Why, Sara Sidle, are you suggesting we live together?"

Sara laughed at the sudden flirtatious gleam in Nick's eye - much better than the blankness she had been surprised to see there earlier, and she nodded her head. "Sure, why not? I've never lived with a *man* before." She dropped her tone, her voice deliberately husky as she flirted right back, smiling when she saw Nick's pupils dilate. "So, what do you say? We can move you in today if you want."

* * * * *

Sara was standing in his living room looking up at the gaping wound in his ceiling. "Jesus - I forgot this was so big. "

Nick's gaze followed hers, and he shrugged, trying to keep it light. When he closed his eyes, he could still see Pearson lying dead in the center of his carpet, Nigel Crane standing above him like some demented avenging god. The image was burned on the inside of his eyelids like a negative. Nick blinked quickly. "Yeah."

"So, what do you want to take, Nick? I'll help you pack."

"I guess my CD's and my movie collection. I won't be at your place long enough to warrant taking the entertainment unit, though. And clothes, I guess. He shuddered when he said this, and Sara looked at him oddly.

"What?"

"What what?"

"Why the shudder when you said you needed to pack your clothes?"

Nick looked at his feet, quickly composing his face before he responded. "I'm planning on buying some new ones."

"You're replacing your entire wardrobe?" Sara's tone was incredulous, and she looked at Nick askance.

Nick just shrugged. "Yeah. It's time to update my image."

"Your image is fine." Sara narrowed her eyes and studied Nick. She realized he was wearing a shirt and a pair of chino's she'd never seen before, and her mind started racing. "Those are new."

Nick squirmed uncomfortably. "So?" He tried to keep his voice neutral as he walked to his CDs and started placing them in an empty milk crate he had grabbed from the front closet.

Sara sighed, her brow furrowed as she puzzled the riddle. Nick could practically hear her mind ticking. Sara's brain was like the workings of a high-priced Swiss watch, and he tried not to look at her as she studied him.

"It's because of Nigel, isn't it?" Her question was soft, but it still managed to cut him like a knife. He tried not to tense at the sudden whispered name, keeping his shoulders loose as he methodically stacked his CDs.

"Why would you say that?"

Sara had moved opposite the milk crate, and was stacking CD's as well. Her hands moved just as deliberately as his were, back and forth, straightening and stacking, slim fingers caressing jewel cases as she carefully thought out her response.

"Because if it was me, I'd be doing the same thing." Her hands were gentle as they reached out and stopped Nick's. He felt the connection all the way to his toes, watching in amazement as his fingers flexed on their own accord around hers. For some reason, he felt like crying.

"I just don't want to wear anything he touched." The admission was more a broken sigh, and he slanted a gaze at Sara from under his eyelids. Behind the blank expression in his eyes, Sara could see burning embers of pain.

"Do you want to shop at the mall after we're finished here? You could use a female perspective - I'll keep you from replacing that hideous olive pullover you have."

Her voice was gently teasing, and Nick smiled in relief when he realized Sara wasn't going to push him. "Yeah. Yeah - that would be nice."

* * * * *

"I knew you were a Gap man." Sara snuck another of Nick's New York Fries, grinning.

Nick smiled back. "Not all Gap. I'm not about the name-brands, Sara - I'm about the comfort."

Sara giggled. "You're about wearing tight clothes to show off your chest, Nick. Got to live up to the 'Lady Killer' image, I suppose."

Nick grunted at her. "I happen to like nice clothes. It's not about being a 'Lady Killer'; it's about looking my best."

"You could wear a paper bag, and you'd still be good-looking," Sara retorted, smiling at him, "and you know it. Vanity, thy name is Stokes."

"Alright, alright, knock it off." Nick finished off his last fry, looking at Sara. "So, you think I'm hot, huh?"

Sara started laughing in earnest, her expression teasing as she reached out and felt his forehead with the back of her hand. "Nope, I think you're perfectly fine. Where to now?"

"Uh, socks, and shoes -"

"And underwear!" Sara whispered, smiling gleefully as Nick's ears turned red. "So, Nick, are you a tight-whitey type of guy, or a boxer boy?" They had grabbed their bags, and were headed towards Sears. Nick tried not to let Sara know how embarrassed he was at the thought of buying underwear with her, and shrugged.

"Depends."

"On what?"

"On how hot it is outside and what I'm wearing. Can we change the subject?"

Sara giggled. "Why? I'm fascinated by this one. What does heat have to do with anything?"

Nick just shook his head. She could be so annoying, sometimes. He slanted a sideways glance at her, before responding. "You ever take human anatomy, Sara?" His question confused her for a moment, but her expression quickly cleared and she grinned at him.

"Oh. I see." She chewed her lip thoughtfully for a moment, before adding. "Personally, I like boxer-briefs myself."

* * * * *

Sara was yawning vigorously as she fluffed the pillows in the spare room. "Okay, fresh sheets, alarm clock - you need anything else?"

Nick shook his head no as he watched her hands gently smooth out the material on the pillow. He looked at the alarm clock. "Go to bed, Sara. It's almost noon. If you're lucky, you'll catch a good six hours before we have to leave for our next shift."

"What about you, Nick? Aren't you going to sleep as well?"

He shrugged nervously. "Actually - no. If it's alright with you, I'll watch some TV for a little while."

"Suit yourself. You're sure you're alright?"

"Perfectly fine."

"'Night then."

* * * * *

"Never tell anyone, Nicky. This will be our secret, okay?" Nicky struggled against the hot hands caressing his skin, his breathing harsh as he tried to push himself away from the moist voice whispering wetly in his ear.

"Don't touch me, please -" Nicky was crying, his eyes squeezed shut. He felt like his heart was about to burst out of his chest, it was pounding so hard. A clammy hand traveled down his chest, sliding under the hem of his pajama bottoms, and he fought the sudden urge to throw up.

"Stop fighting me, Nicky. Be a good boy. I don't want to hurt you." The voice crooned in his ear, and Nicky suddenly went limp.

"Don't hurt me! Please, don't hurt me." He was trying to be brave, but the tears squeezed out of his eyes, tracking his face. It hurt, it hurt - OH MY GOD - it HURT! Nicky rolled himself up into a ball and closed his eyes, crying for his mother.

Nick bolted straight off the sofa when he felt a hand shaking his shoulder, looking around the room dazedly before focusing on Sara's anxious face. She was looking at him in alarm, and he realized he was crying.

God-FUCKING-damnit! He wanted to scream. He wanted to howl. He wanted to curl up into a ball so tight eventually he would just disappear into himself. Staggering to his feet, he jerked his shoulder away from her hand and just stood there, staring at her blankly, shaking so badly he was afraid he was going to fall down.

"You had a nightmare, Nick." Sara's voice penetrated the thick fog in her brain, and she tentatively reached for him again. He flinched away from her as he felt her fingers touch his arms. He needed to stop shaking. "What's wrong?" She stepped forward again, and the concern in her eyes undid him completely, his tears turned to great shuddering sobs and he grabbed hold of Sara like a drowning man clinging to a rescue line.

Sara almost collapsed at the unexpected weight of Nick slumping into her, but she quickly regained her equilibrium, wrapping her arms around him and stroking his back as he sobbed into her collarbone. "Shh, baby. Shh, it's okay. It's okay." Mumbling soothingly under her breath, she slowly lowered them both to her sofa, rocking him with an instinct absolutely maternal.

They sat there that way for several minutes, Nick's shoulders shaking under the assault of his tears, his voice hoarse with pain. Finally spent, he nuzzled his face into her neck and closed his eyes. Sara continued rubbing his back until the shudders ceased, every once in a while kissing the top of his head and murmuring wordless comfort.

Finally, when he felt strong enough, he sat and looked at her, amazed to see tears staining her face as well. "Why are you crying?" he whispered.

"I'm crying because you were crying. What's going on Nick?"

He tried to smile. "Would you believe me if I just said a bad dream, and left it at that?"

Sara shook her head. "No. No way. I've had nightmares before, but not like that. Does it have anything to do with Nigel?"

Nick shrugged, looking away. "Sort of. The dreams came back because of him, but it's not that simple."

"Do you want to talk about it?" Sara's voice was soft, but she didn't push. She just looked at him, her hands still running lightly up and down his back, waiting.

"I suppose you deserve an explanation." He looked suddenly embarrassed, and Sara felt his shoulders tense.

"You might feel better if you talk about it."

"I got a letter from my mother the other day. The day after Nigel - you know. The day after he killed the psychic at my house." Nick twisted sideways and leaned back into the sofa, Sara moving with him. He smiled sadly when he felt her hand slide into his, and gripped it tightly. "She told me an old - an old babysitter of mine had died in a car accident."

"Oh Nick - I'm sorry. Were you close?"

Nick's answer twisted his smile, making it a grotesque mockery on his face. "Too close." He knew his answer was cryptic, but he was finding it hard to actually say the words.

Beside him, Sara sat silently, hardly daring to breath. Too close? What did that mean? Nick pulled his free hand up, leaning his head against the back of the sofa and throwing his forearm over his eyes. He sighed heavily, and felt Sara squeeze his hand.

"He was a friend of my oldest sister. He only ever babysat me one time, as a favor to her. She was supposed to babysit, but was invited to a party and she really wanted to go. So, he said he'd come over to watch me. Mom and Dad were at some seminar, and the rest of the family was out. I was nine."

He glanced from under his arm, turning his head sideways to study Sara. She was staring at him in growing understanding, biting her lower lip in concern. He saw the sudden flash of comprehension in her expressive eyes, and quickly closed his own against her horror.

"Oh God. Nick - tell me he didn't - he didn't -" Sara was crying suddenly, leaning into him, her tears washing down her face and dripping of her chin unto his shoulders. Suddenly, it was his turn to soothe her.

"It's alright. It was a long time ago. I'd almost forgotten all about it. But this thing with Nigel, and then the letter - it was a shock."

"What did your parents do when you told them? What did your sister do?"

Nick didn't respond, and Sara drew away slightly, frowning. "You did tell them, right? Nick, tell me you told them."

Nick shook his head miserably. "I never told anyone. Catherine once - briefly - but I told her the babysitter was a girl. You're the only person who knows the absolute truth." His thumbs trailed the tracks of her tears, absently wiping them away, his palms caressing the smooth skin of her pale cheeks. "I hope - I hope you won't think any less of me."

"Think less of you? For something you were too little to prevent? God, Nick. If anything, I think more of you." Sara's words were vehement. "You survived without help from anyone. You survived the hard way. But, you need to talk about it, or else it will eat you up inside. Bad memories are just like cancer - if you don't excise them when you have the chance, they can cause a lot of damage."

Nick nodded dumbly. "It's just - I don't feel - it's too hard. You know what I remember the most? His hands. They were clammy. And his breath. Putrid and wet in my ear and on my neck." He shuddered and closed his eyes against the sudden image that assaulted him.

"I was wild when I was a teenager, you know. Gave my parents a lot of grief." If Sara was startled by the sudden change in the conversation, she didn't let it show. Instead, she leaned comfortably into his chest, her fingers absently twirling the fabric of his jeans just above his knees as she tried to get her emotions under control.

"How so?"

Nick laughed, but the sound was bitter. "I was a playboy. One girl after the other, after the other. No concern for their feelings. I was a fucking horndog. I had more brothers gunning for me than Hugh Heffner. I was a slut."

Sara smiled sadly. "You tried to erase what happened to you when you were little by having sex with as many people as you possible could. It's a normal response."

"Nothing normal about it. I remember, there was this one girl - sweet girl. I convinced myself she was the one for me - I convinced myself I loved her, was going to marry her, and would never have to fuck anyone else but her again. I was even engaged to her for a while. But I hurt her, because it wasn't enough. She wasn't enough to erase the touches. I cheated on her more than once, and she never found out. Until the last time - I slept with her sister."

Sara sighed sadly. "That probably went over like a lead balloon."

Nick snorted in pained agreement. "My parents were horrified - her dad wanted to kill me. Half the town was gunning for me. So I left. Decided I needed a fresh start far away from everyone and everything. I moved to Vegas."

"And how did you feel?"

"It worked, after a fact. New people, new places. I never had to worry about running into him on the street. I didn't have to hear my sister talk about him. No one knew me or my reputation, and the nightmares stopped. But then, Kristy died. And then Nigel - and the letter. Best incendiary device ever - mom sends me a letter and one fucking little sentence causes my entire life to implode."

Neither of them said anything for a few moments, Sara absorbing Nick's words and Nick just sitting, comfortable in a way he hadn't been since he received his mother's letter. His fingers were tracing little circles on Sara's shoulders, the cool cotton of her pajama top smooth against his fingers. He wondered what Sara was thinking, but was almost too scared to ask. Finally, because the silence was killing him, he whispered.

"Do you hate me?"

"How could I hate you, Nick?" Sara's response was just as soft. "I've always wondered about you, to be quite honest. You seemed too happy, if you know what I mean. I even asked Warrick once what you were trying to hide, but he told me you were an open book. I never really believed that though."

"It's actually nice to tell someone. I feel a little better."

"You should actually talk to a professional, and work this out. Do you still have problems committing to relationships?"

Nick shook his head. "I haven't been in a relationship in ages. Last one was Kristy - and we all know how that ended." His voice was sad. "And the only other person I'm interested in just sees me as a friend." The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them, and he groaned inwardly.

"How do you know she's not interested in you too, Nick? Have you ever asked her?"

"I'm scared to." Nick closed his eyes, whispering so softly she barely heard him. "She's one of my best friends. What if she doesn't love me?"

The silence in the room was so loud, he could have heard a mouse squeak. As it was, he could practically hear the little wheels in Sara's brain spinning, and when he felt her elevated heartbeat through her back against his shoulder, he knew she had figured it out.

He grunted a little as Sara shifted against him, bony elbow digging into his gut as she turned to face him, whispering just as softly, "What if she does?"

Her eyes were fathomless pools of night, swimming with secrets and emotion he knew he would never understand. Nick stared at her, and suddenly felt like he was drowning. He felt his breath hitch in his throat, burning as he forced it out in a loud whoosh of air. Sara had curled her legs up underneath her, and the hand that had been tracing idle patterns on his knee suddenly moved to his shoulder, squeezing it gently.

He closed his eyes tightly against the sudden flame of need sweeping his body, gritting his teeth as he fought the urge to lean into her face and kiss her. He had always thought she was beautiful, and he felt so comfortable with her - almost like he'd known her forever. And now, here he was, in her apartment after sharing emotionally devastating news with her, feeling closer to her than he had felt to anyone in a long time. And all he could think about was stripping her naked and sinking into her, assuaging his aching need in his body much the same as he'd just released the aching pain in his heart.

Sara was still staring at him. He could feel her eyes burning great gaping holes through his skin. He was scared to open up his eyes and look at her again, knowing she would see the sudden urgent desire in his and turn away from him in disgust. Her hand on his shoulder moved idly to his neck and back, fingers sweeping the edge of his collar, and she shifted closer to him.

Nick almost died of shock when he felt her other hand slid to the back of his neck, kneading the base of his head and running through his hair. His heart was hammering triple time, and he managed to rasp her name before he felt her soft lips tentatively touch his own.

With a harsh groan, he grabbed her and pulled her onto his lap, voraciously attacking her mouth with his own. He nibbled and licked the warm cave of her mouth, tongue sliding over her teeth, greedily pulling hers into his mouth, and sucking. Sara was straddling him, mewling deep in her throat as she attacked his mouth just as eagerly. Her hands were everywhere, down his sides under his shirt, caressing his chest pounding - futile - on his shoulders as she tried to remove his t-shirt.

Nick with a haste he had never known pulled away from her long enough to rip it over his head, tossing it to the floor in a heap. His fingers roughly worked the buttons of men's pajama top she was wearing, pushing it roughly from her shoulders as his mouth traveled down to her newly exposed flesh.

Sara's fingers were on his chest, fingers skating his collarbone and ribcage, nails raking gently over his pectorals. Gasping for air, Nick shifted position, strong hands swiftly divulging her of pajama bottoms. He almost screamed when he heard the soft rasp of his jeans zipper being lowered, and stood abruptly cradling Sara against him as he kicked his legs free of the offending denim.

Shaking so badly he thought he would collapse, he quickly dropped back down to the sofa, Sara still held tightly in his arms. Gasping in surprise, he whispered Sara's name. It was a long time before another conscious thought ran through his mind.

* * * * *

Sara burrowed into Nick, body lethargic, senses still reeling, and smiled when she felt his arms wrap heavily around her waist. They were crammed tighter than two sardines on her sofa, but neither had the strength to move. Underneath her head, she could hear the firm rhythm of Nick's heart, and she sighed against his skin.

That had been unexpected. Unexpected, but not unwelcome. She smiled again, and ran a slim finger down Nick's side, letting her fingers trail from just under his ribs to the indent just above his hipbone.

Nick stirred, turning his sleepy gaze to hers, smiling at her even as sudden comprehension and fear dawned in his eyes. Sara watched the raw emotion flicker over his face, watching in amazement as he quickly shuttered his eyes, his expression suddenly blank. He was watching her carefully, and Sara recognized his sudden closure as what it was - a well- honed defense mechanism.

"This sofa is not big enough for the both of us." She barely recognized her husky voice, and she smiled when she noted the sudden widening of his pupils. "Want to move into my room?"

Sara's hoarse invitation was hardly what he'd been expecting. He felt an answering smile cross his lips, and a little frisson of pleasure traveled up his spine. But instead of taking her up on her invitation, he sighed.

"I think we should talk about this. About what just happened, I mean." He shifted to his side slowly, careful not to knock Sara right off the sofa. "I'm sorta - in shock."

Sara laughed. "That good, huh?"

Nick turned a bright red, his ears burning. "Well, yeah. But I meant - I didn't mean - what's going on Sara?"

"What do you want to be going on, Nick?" Sara asked, brown eyes suddenly serious.

"I want to explore this, Sara."

She smiled at him then, a dazzling smile that took his breath away. Reaching over the side of the sofa, she grabbed his t-shirt from the floor, pulling it over her head in a casual movement before sliding to her feet. "Come on. We can catch a good hour of sleep before shift starts. Unless you like sleeping on sofas with no sheets."

Nick slid to his feet behind her, suddenly shy and very nervous. "I'm not very good at this sort of thing, Sara."

"What? Sleeping?" Sara's tone was teasing, but her smile was tender. Nick realized he would be a happy man if she would smile like that at him forever.

"Relationships. Love. I always screw things up. I don't ever want to hurt you."

Sara turned around and leaned into him, her mouth inches from his own. "The only thing would hurt me is if you didn't want to try. I know you, Nick. And I'm prepared to face your demons with you, if you want me to. I just want you to know I'll always be here for you. And I'm glad that this happened today - it's been a long time coming."

She gave him a quick kiss, smiling into his mouth before talking his hand in her own. "No more nightmares, Nick. We'll keep them at bay."

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Author's Note: Okay, I'm getting lots of requests for Sara/Nick, so I thought I'd work on this. It's a thought that's been kicking around in my head for a while now - and since I have an over-active imagination, I thought I'd put words to paper. If it sucks, let me know. Any suggestions to improve it are appreciated. Maybe I'll continue it at a later date; maybe not.