Series/Sequel: Sequel to “The Worth Of All My Life” Please read it first or you’ll be lost
Disclaimers: I am making no money off this story
Summary: Warrick’s POV after Nick returns
Warnings: Okay, this one is just a bit dark psychologically. I guess people who read can decide exactly how they think the ending will evolve. I, myself, have a very positive view of what will happen next..
The Worth Of Another
Okay, I’m sitting here, waiting for someone who I thought was one of my best friends. I mean, from the minute I met Nicky Stokes, when he first came here from Texas, I knew we were gonna be friends.
Yeah, yeah, I know we’ve always had this ‘thing’ between us about who could best the other in solving the most cases. But it was like this big game to us, ya know? We were both working toward CSI Level 3, and having the competition between us was just like a game. Well, it was until I let things get a little out of control and started putting the game before the business of finding the evidence.
But all it took was a word from Grissom and I got my shit together in a hurry. And I don’t think we’ve had any problem since then. That’s the thing about Gil Grissom. It only takes a word from him, and you know you’d better straighten up or face some pretty serious consequences.
Anyway, Nicky and I are friends...well, at least we were friends. But then, that day about a month ago, when Grissom called us in his office and dropped that little bomb shell about him leaving and going to Santa Fe...well, hell, where did that come from? I certainly didn’t see that one coming.
And I wasn’t the only one who was surprised. I could tell that Grissom was stunned and angry, too. And he knew about it before any of us. Catherine, well she could hardly put a complete sentence together, and that’s not normal for her. But the one who I really felt bad for was Greg.
God, when Grissom told us that Nick and Sara had left the department for good, I really thought Sanders was going to pass out right there in Grissom’s office.
At first I thought it was Sara’s leaving that had upset him so much. I decided to just follow him out of Grissom’s office after we got our assignments, to make sure he was okay. I sort of hung back when I saw him go into the locker room and just as I was about to go around the corner and see if he was okay, I saw Bobby Dawson, our ballistics expert, heading in the locker room.
I know I shouldn’t have eavesdropped, but what can I say? I mean, how else did I get out of a rough neighborhood and make good as a CSI agent if it wasn’t for keeping my eyes and ears opened for anything that might help me understand what’s going on around me? Well, that and a lot of hard work, of course.
So I just sort of wandered over to the door of the locker room and listened for a minute. And what I heard really knocked me on my ass.
Now everyone here at the lab knows that Dawson is gay, right? It’s not a problem around here. Maybe if we were cops, there might be some homophobia to deal with, but I like to think that, here in the CSI lab, we’re just a little above only accepting a person based on things like race or religion or sexual preference.
Anyway, what I heard Bobby say to Greg in that locker room really set me back a pace or two. He was telling Greggo how sorry he was that Nick had left him because he could make more money someplace else.
Nicky? The Nick Stokes that I’d been working with for over four years? And Greg Sanders?
Hell, where had I been living for the past four years if I missed something like that? For the second time in less than an hour, I realized that I’d been clueless about some important things for way too long.
By the time I pull myself back together, Dawson was gone and Greg was still just sitting there on that long bench in the lock room, hanging on to a shirt he’d pulled out of his locker when he first went into the room. God, he looked pathetic just sitting there squeezing that shirt with his head down and this one little tear sliding down his face and hanging on his lip.
I saw him stick out just the tip of his tongue and pick that little drop of water off his lip and I couldn’t take it any more. As quiet as I could, I went over and just sort of laid my hand on his back and started to rub in circles. I was just trying to comfort him, ya know? Just trying to make him feel a little better about having been left behind without a word by someone he had feelings for.
His back and shoulders felt rigid, like they were made of rawhide or something. The kid must have been so tense he could hardly breathe. I wanted to make him feel better, but I didn’t know what else to say or do, and when I finally managed to mutter something, I still wasn’t sure I’d said the right thing.
“I’ll take care of you, Greg. Don’t worry...I’ll take care of you now.”
I don’t know where that came from. I mean, I’ve never been into guys, not even in college. But Sanders looked so pitiful, just sitting there with that one tear making a trail down his face. And the minute I uttered the words, it was like the dam broke or something. He started sobbing, these big, gasping sobs that seemed to shake his whole body.
I’ve never seen a man cry like that before. Hell, I’ve seen men cry. I’ve even cried myself, when my mom died...but I’ve never seen a man cry like Greg was crying that day. It was like his entire world had ended and he had been left alone in the dark to deal with it as best he could.
I just kept rubbing his back and telling him that everything was going to be okay.
After awhile, he seemed to get himself pulled back together and he stood up and blew his nose on a piece of toilet paper I’d gotten for him and he looked at that crumpled shirt he’d been holding and then he stood up and put it on. Talk about looking pitiful! Here’s this disheveled kid with his face all puffy and red, wearing a shirt that looked like it had been slept in for two weeks, and snot still running from his nose, and I can suddenly hear Grissom down the hall, wondering why no one is out in the field yet, so I take him by the shoulder and get him out to the Tahoe and we go about our business like nothing ever happened.
Talk about an eye-opener!
But after that, I started to take an interest in Sanders. I mean, he’d been trying to get out of the lab and into the field for a couple of years before he got his big break. Greg is an awesome chemist. Whenever I had evidence that needed processing, I was always glad when Greg was on shift. He had the ability to not only do his work quickly and correctly, but he never minded doing that little bit extra that made things easier for us out in the field. I honestly hated seeing him leave the lab, cause I knew that I would never have the same trust in anyone else’s lab results that I did with his.
But I started feeling like maybe he needed to be out in the field, if nothing else, just to get himself put back together and functioning again.
During this entire month, I never asked Greg about Nick. I figured he’d talk to me if he felt comfortable doing so. And then, last weekend, when we stopped for breakfast after our shift was over, he finally told me a little about the two of them.
I guess it had been going on for over a year, and Greg had really thought they had something special together. They weren’t ready to make any kind of announcement or commitment, but Greg thought that they were pretty much both thinking of themselves as a couple.
According to Greg, he had no idea that Nick was going to leave for Santa Fe. He told me the first he knew of it was that night in Grissom’s office. He never gave me any details, but he did say the two of them had been celebrating the day before, because it was going to be Greg’s first night in the field. I can just imagine how devastated he must have been, finding out something like that from the boss.
Of course, Gil knows absolutely nothing about any of this. He seemed to be having a tough time, too. If you ask me, it was probably something to do with Sara. With her and Nick both leaving at the same time, it’s just one big miracle that the entire night shift didn’t implode altogether. Grissom was edgy and Greg was depressed and Catherine was bitchy because she was having to do most of the paperwork, and then, last Thursday, it was like a miracle happened and everything was on the mend.
After a month in San Francisco, Sara decided to return to Las Vegas. From what I heard from the girl who works in the file department upstairs, Sara got herself together, quit taking those little nips of whisky that got her into all the trouble to start with, and called Covolo and Grissom to get her old job back.
Now that just seemed to work wonders for Grissom’s attitude. He suddenly became friendlier, personable even. And that’s how I managed to wind up here, waiting for Nick Stokes at the airport. After Sara called and asked to come back to Las Vegas, Gil called me into his office right as shift was ending a couple of days ago and told me that Nick had called and wanted to come back, too. I guess things in Santa Fe hadn’t worked out as well as he had thought and he was reconsidering exactly what he wanted to do with his life.
So here I sit, in the airport cafe, waiting for a guy I once thought of as a good friend, trying to make sure that he doesn’t storm back in here and destroy what little I’ve done to try and help Greg Sanders put the pieces of his life back together again.
“Hey, Buddy.” A broad hand clasped Warrick’s shoulder.
“Geez, Nick. You snuck up on me.”
Nick Stokes looked tan and a little thinner than he had when he left Las Vegas a month ago. He pulled a chair out and sat down across from Warrick, a smile of greeting radiating across the table between them.
“God, it’s good to be back. I never thought I’d be happy to see Vegas again, but right now, I could get down on my knees and kiss the ground. This place grows on you, ya know?”
“Yeah, I guess it does.” Warrick leaned back in his chair and studied Nick for a moment. He seemed genuinely happy to see Warrick.
Nick, in return, took a moment to watch his fellow CSI. Neither of them spoke and the silence suddenly seemed to be uncomfortable.
“Hey, Ric, what’s going on? I though you’d be glad to see your long-lost partner. You look like you’re ready to give me the third degree about something. What’s up?”
Warrick filled his lungs and slowly let the breath out. “Why are you back, Nick? You left without a word to anyone, and now you want to come back and everything should just start up again as if nothing had ever happened? Why did you come back?”
Nick dropped his eyes to the table and took his own deep breath. “Guess I should have realized that I’d have some explaining to do,” he finally mumbled.
Nick’s eyes snapped to Warrick’s face. “What’s the big deal? I thought I needed to be closer to my family in Texas. My sisters have been worried about Mom and I thought that having a job in Santa Fe would make it easier for me to get home if something happened and I needed to get there quickly.”
“Like you couldn’t hop a jet from here just as easily?”
Nick didn’t answer.
“You were making a lot more money in Santa Fe, weren’t you?”
“Well, yeah, but I guess I found out that money isn’t everything. I...I started to miss some people. Started to realize that maybe not everything in life is about how much money you make.”
Warrick sighed. “What you did nearly killed him, Nick.”
Across from Warrick, Nick froze in place.
“Yeah, I know about you and Greg. I was the lucky one who found him after Grissom told us you had left. What you did came damn close to destroying him, Stokes. It’s taken me all this time to get him to come in to work and half way enjoy what he’s doing. And now you show up again, full of yourself and ready to see how much more damage you can do? What the hell kind of person are you, Nick? Did I ever really know you?”
Nick’s eyes were wide and his mouth dropped opened in question. “God, Warrick. There’s been some sort of misunderstanding. Greg knew I was leaving. I’m sure I told him I was going. We even celebrated the day before I left.”
“Greg thought you were celebrating his promotion to field agent, Nick. He had no idea you were leaving and you know it.”
“God Warrick, no. Seriously, I’m sure I told him. I was a little surprised that he hadn’t said more about it, but I just figured that maybe what the two of us had together really hadn’t been what I thought it was. I never meant to hurt him like that. You know me. You know I’d never do anything like that to Greg, or to anyone for that matter.”
Warrick looked at Nick. His face was serious and his words sounded truthful.
“This whole thing was just a big misunderstanding, Ric. Listen, I really need to go see Greg.”
“He should be here any minute now. Bobby Dawson was going to tell him that you were coming back on the flight from Santa Fe today. I asked Dawson to give me a little time to meet you and have a talk before he told Greg.”
Nick’s eyes left Warrick and he began to search the crowd of people passing the café. “I’ve got to find him, Warrick. I need for him to know this was all a big mistake.”
“Bobby was going to tell him to meet you here. He should be arriving any moment now.”
Nick started to stand, but Warrick stopped him with a hand on his wrist. “Nick, one last thing.” Warrick’s voice took on an edge that Nick had never heard before. The hairs along the back of Nick’s neck rose, and goose bumps sprung up along his arms. “If you ever hurt him like this again, you’ll have me to settle with, got it?”
Their eyes met. A shiver ran down Nick’s spine. “It was a misunderstanding, Warrick. Really. I’ll make it up to him. I promise...”
From across the café, Greg’s frantic voice shouted to be heard above all the people who were talking.
“Greg!” Nick’s reply was equally as frantic.
Nick seemed to forget about Warrick and started to step away from the small table, trying to get to Greg but Warrick squeezed his wrist once more. Nick glanced down into brown eyes.
“Don’t worry,” he quietly whispered. “I’ll never hurt him again. It was a misunderstanding. He’ll believe me. It was just a misunderstanding.”
Warrick released him, and Nick pulled away and turned to dash toward Greg. Warrick watched as Greg raised a hesitant hand toward Nick, and then he dropped his eyes to the table as Nick grabbed that hand and pulled Greg Sanders into a secure embrace.
Under his breath Warrick muttered, “You better make him believe it, my friend. You damn well better make him believe it or you’ll deal with me.”
Aww..very sweet. Now e-mail her and ask very nicely for another one. And then Home? or Fanfics?