CSI
Se Salva by happyharper13 [Reviews - 0]
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Salvar: to save, to overcome, to preserve, to rescue, to cover, to pass
Salvarse: to survive, to escape
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CHAPTER 3: EL ENIGMA


Wendy was relieved but frustrated to return from the house. She had scarcely made any new discoveries since Catherine's arrival at the crime scene.

On the other hand, Catherine seemed convinced that they had enough evidence to close the case. Wendy knew that there was probably evidence piling up in the DNA lab that she ought to help with.

But the couch called her. She was just so tired.

But she knew she had to keep going. Such was the route to proving herself. Greg had managed DNA and CSI training at the same time. She would too.

Prying herself off the break room couch, she made her way over to the familiar lab.

Fast, heavy footsteps followed her there, and she found evidence in her hand before she even had a chance to sit down.

She looked up, unsurprised at the evidence's source.

"I'll get to it as fast as I can, Nick."

"Thanks." His response was cold and brief.

Wendy felt that she had been doing a good job of incorporating herself into the CSI family, but Nick was the one exception. Somehow, attempted conversations with him always fell flat. She'd been making an effort to befriend the CSI 3, but so far her luck was failing. He seemed even colder than Sara.

But she still had to try.

"So, what's your case?"

"Joanna Constantine. Employee of the local Walmart, off of Green Street. Worked the register on Tuesdays and Thursdays, shelved children's toys on Wednesdays and walked the aisles in customer assistance on Mondays and Fridays. Preferred the aisle walking, and showed up late on occasion. Not super close with any other employees, though she had a good relationship with her grandmother, who lives on Freeman. Didn't date, and her last relationship ended July 12, 2006. He broke up with her because he had to move, and there were minimal hard feelings. Her closest friend at work was Louise Espinoza, 36, 5'2", 130 lbs, mother of two. The aisle she worked showed one set of notable skid marks, probably from a cart going too fast and turning. Espinoza attributed it to two children racing down the aisle, though I'm still trying to verify that with Archie on the surveillance videos, via reflection off of a bicycle..."

Wendy tried to listen, but somehow Nick's description just blended into the whir of CODIS. Wendy knew that her own investigations had been thorough -- Catherine, Warrick and Grissom had all, on separate occasions, told her that she went above and beyond necessary -- but Nick brought a whole new level of detail.

From listening to his description, it sounded like borderline obsession.

She was surprised by the results: Kenny Gerson, age 6.

Apparently, his kindergarten class had filed DNA and fingerprints with the crime lab, as part of a pre-emptive program increasingly used so that children's DNA and prints were on file ahead of time, in case of kidnappings.

Wendy sighed. Kenny Gerson was probably not Nick's murderer.

She handed Nick the results, and he stared down, intently. "Maybe Gerson killed her because she took the last toy he wanted."

Wendy looked up, skeptical, to see that Nick meant that entirely seriously. "Or maybe Gerson was just playing with the cart in the toy aisle," she replied.

Nick nodded, though he didn't look up at her as he rushed out of the room.

Wendy just didn't get it. Nick Stokes was one messed-up enigma.




THE CASINO


Some obstinate spot, buried in the back of Catherine's brain, was clearly not in agreement with her. A pulsing headache dragged her back into reality, and the warm, wet numbness in her shoulder betrayed a story more treacherous than a hangover.

Forcing her eyes open, she glanced around. Dark forms scattered around her vision, and she felt a strange sense of déja vu. The room looked so darn familiar...

Her eyes stole passage toward a kit, lying scattered on the ground.

The next thing she saw was a gun pointed at her face.

"Get up, and do everything we say."

She forced her head to nod, even as the room drew speckles and criss-crossing lines that danced circuitously -- and dazedly -- in front of her.

A rough hand gripped her shoulder, hoisting her up.

"Well now. Ain't she perdy?" This voice came from nearby, though it sounded like it was coming from a smaller body.

"Leave her alone." The third voice was solid, and clearly carried weight with it, as indicated when the smaller man backed off.

More than that, however, the voice was familiar. She pushed aside the misshapen geometry from her mind, trying to reach back and recall the voice, but it was nothing. Gunshots, even those to the shoulder, made it significantly more difficult to think and recall. All she could think about now was getting out alive.

The burly hand of the first voice propped her up, trying to halt her swaying; she tried to comply, still wanting to get out alive. She knew that she needed to help whoever the men were, and to do it quickly. She knew that that made all the difference in hostage crises.

As she regained her balance, the hands guided her with surprising gentleness forward.

When she was pushed to the barely ajar door -- the crack of light revealing Nick and Greg, bantering, per usual -- she remembered where she was and realized what was going on.

...

Greg broke his usual calm. "Would you stop being so damn anal-retentive?!"

Nick scowled back.

"It's Catherine, for God's sake."

"Don't say God's name in vain," Nick replied, almost instinctively.

Greg rolled his eyes. "Whatever," he said angrily.

"We've had this conversation before, Greg."

"Greg." Greg looked up, lost in thought, as if pondering over his own name. "It's always 'Greg,' isn't it?"

Nick stared at him, confused, looking as if the man across from him had just fallen off his rocker for the last time.

Greg rolled his eyes again. "Of course you don't get it."

"Damn right I don't. I don't get why you're pushing this here, just like I don't get your point about your name."

"You know what my point about the name is. It's not 'Greggo.' ...Cause that would sound so... what was the word you used? Gay? It would make people think we have nicknames because we're a flaming, homosexual couple. Because we probably spend our free time holding orgies in our backyard." He punctuated his words with bitterly flamboyant hand motions. "Is that right, Nicky? Cowboy?" His mouth moved up into an unpreventable snarl. "It's not Greggo, and it sure as hell isn't any of the names you say when you're screwing my brains out, is it?"

Nick looked up in horror just as Catherine, from behind the door, looked up in shock. Her own thoughts were interrupted by Nick's next words.

"I'm just trying to be responsible," Nick said, with recovered calm and a pleading edge. "Please. We can talk about it at home. Right now, I just want to finish this case."

"Fine." Greg bent down to study the floor, his expression stoic and unreadable. "Later. I'm just getting tired of faking it."

Nick cast Greg a look stuck somewhere between apology and speechlessness.

Catherine could hear Greg's words, in a small voice: "And I just want people to know that you love me... if you even do."

Nick bit his lip, and he looked tempted to say something.

A push to Catherine's back interrupted the loaded silence in the room.

"Put your hands up and nobody gets hurt." The calm, familiar voice. Catherine felt a gun pressed up against her head, clearly visible to Nick and Greg as well.

"Sorry to break up the lovers' squabble," the smaller man added with a sneer.

Nick and Greg both gulped noticeably. They would have much more to worry about than Catherine knowing their secret. It was going to be a long night.

...

The four men swarmed into the room as Nick and Greg slowly, still in shock, put their hands up above their heads.

Catherine could read Nick as he erected the cool, calm facade he had utilized so well in countless situations on LVPD.

Greg, on the other hand, was shaking uncontrollably. The former lab rat had far less opportunities to test his nerve, and the men seemed to pick up on that.

"Aw, you all right, Greggo?" the smaller man asked, leering in at Greg.

Greg gulped, taking a wavering step backwards.

"What's wrong, Greggo? Or would you prefer the names that Nick, as you said, called you when he was 'screwing your brains out?' Was that it?"

Greg's eyes narrowed as he stared at the man and drew in a quivering breath.

"Speechless already?" The man chuckled before turning away, and Catherine could see the look of relief in Greg's eyes.

One man -- of average height and athletic, but slim build -- moved behind Catherine, holding her up while simultaneously searching gently for a weapon.

The bulkier man -- he was built like a football player, and not just a QB or receiver -- frisked Nick for a weapon. Finding the 9mm, he set it down on the ground after gesturing at the man behind Catherine, who nodded in response.

The smaller, ruder man moved toward Greg, apparently about to search him, but Nick intervened.

"He doesn't carry."

The smaller man smirked. "What's your point?"

Catherine tried to back Nick up, seeing Greg still speechless and petrified. "He really doesn't."

"Leave the kid alone," replied a fourth voice. "Don't you think he would have pulled it out already? He's scared enough that I doubt common sense would mean a lot to him anyways, even with four guns pointed at him."

Greg glared, though its effect was greatly outweighed by that of his violent shaking.

Catherine could feel a concurring nod from the man behind her. "Search him anyways. Jules though." The familiar, slightly Southern twanged voice definitely belonged to the man behind her.

The smaller man grumbled and moved out of the way, as a tall, thin man moved toward Greg.

Greg chewed nervously on his lip as the man frisked him for a weapon.

Catherine tried to make eye contact with her younger colleague. When she finally caught his eye, she nodded slightly, imploring him to play unemotional. After two years of stoicism following the beating and, more generally, his move into the field, she knew Greg could do that more than well.

The fear in his eyes seemed to evaporate, as Catherine kept eye contact, smiling gently at her colleague. He gulped before smiling back.

Nick already seemed to have the drill down; he was glaring off into space. The larger man finished searching and cuffing Nick quickly.

When the man behind her finally set her down -- gently, again -- on the floor, Catherine happily gave in to unconsciousness.




Nick tried to ignore the contact. It was exactly the kind of thing that made him most uncomfortable. Though he was, as Greg often reminded him, a frequent personal space invader himself, this was different, and decidedly unappreciated. He was grateful that the man behind him, despite his size, seemed to be the gentler of the four, or at least gentler than the smaller man and the taller, skinnier one. He didn't like the way the latter man was taking his time searching Greg.

Nick gritted his teeth, trying to find a happy place to escape to, or, at least, to lose himself in planning how to get the three CSIs out unharmed.

So far, however, he had nothing.

A nervous hiccup from Greg distracted him, as did the chuckle from the smaller robber that followed.

He watched Greg avert his gaze, focusing intently on a speck on the wall. He could tell Greg was trying to keep his cool and appear unaffected, but the act wasn't working very well.

Nick could read Greg like an open book -- a children's book written in big, block letters and decorated in colorful artwork. He hoped that the robbers couldn't see through the younger CSI as easily.

Greg shivered, and Nick wanted nothing more than to run at his boyfriend and comfort him -- that or to run up, punch and tackle the tall man behind Greg.

Had it been a football game, like back in Nick's A&M days, he would have eagerly blasted through all four men, dodging and faking with keen intuit and speed. Now, however, the move would do no good; he was no longer responsible only for making himself open and free from opponents, but now he had his coworkers to think of as well. Life just had to always get more complicated.

"We could use 'em, you know." The words came from the man standing behind Greg. Nick glared at the man, worried about what exactly he meant by 'use.'

The man behind Catherine -- he was of a slightly taller-than-average, athletic build, and appeared to be the leader -- nodded his head. "Good thinking." He turned to Greg without moving his own head from behind Catherine's.

It was almost like he doesn't want Catherine to see his face, even though it is masked, Nick thought.

"You're Crime Scene Investigators, right?"

Greg nodded numbly. Once again, his fear was transparent -- too transparent. It had to be sixty or seventy degrees in the casino, and Greg was wearing a long-sleeved shirt, but the younger CSI continued to shiver, rubbing his goose bump-covered arms against each other even as he answered the man's question.

"What ranks are you?"

Greg looked up puzzled and Nick caught the question for him.

"I'm level 3 --"

Greg seemed to have regained most of his composure, due at least in part, Nick suspected, to barely subtle glances from his boyfriend. "Cath is a CSI 3 also, and in a supervisory role..." He hesitated.

"And you?" The leader's eyes seemed too intense for Greg's nerves, and the younger CSI averted the gaze with a shiver.

"I'm level 2. I was late getting into the field because I started off working DNA. I only started working in the field a few years ago, but it's been awesome. Hopefully, I'm going to get my promotion soon."

He paused, quirking an eyebrow as he seemed to realize who he was talking to. "If I get out of here, I mean."

He paused again, finally staring the man in the eyes.

"You know, you really should make sure that we get out of here. I’m s'posed to show my mom my new CSI badge, when I get the promotion, that is. She was freaked out when I went into the field, but now she's cool with it, and I know she and my dad will be really psyched when I tell them about the promotion. If you don't let us out alive, then my mom's probably gonna hafta come kill you. And I don't think you want that. Jan Sanders is a scary lady."

Greg paused again, this time for good, and glanced around nervously. He seemed to have -- finally -- realized the extent of his massive over share.

Nick had to put all effort into stifling a chuckle. Even in the most desparate of situations, Greg still found ways to be adorable without even trying.

But Nick cursed himself as he listened to his boyfriend's nerve-induced over share tendencies. It was, for the most part, a tendency that Nick loved -- coming from anyone else, the words and ideas leaving his mouth could easily have turned into a bothersome, weary list. But, coming out of Greg's mouth, over share tended to turn into a gleeful procession. While some people found Greg's occasional nervous chatter annoying, Nick found it endearing. He just had a feeling that the robbers wouldn't.

The leader, however, chuckled, and Greg looked up with a winsome smile.

That's right, Greggo, Nick thought, shaking his head. Flirt your way through the hostage situation. He had always assumed that, should the situation arise, it would be Catherine to employ such a tactic.

"We gotta clean up the scene. Right boss?" It was the bigger man -- the one built like a football player or such -- that spoke this time. "That's what they do on TV."

"Ohhh." The smaller man's lips formed a small 'o' in realization. "That's what they're for."

It didn't sound too bad, Nick thought, realizing what the robbers meant -- that the CSIs would clean up the scene, collecting and removing all evidence. Rather do something close to our jobs than play hostages, though we'll probably end up doing both.

The leader nodded. "But we can't have all of them do that." He scowled at the smallest man. "Thanks to somebody's decision to shoot."

"Sorry Boss." The smaller man again.

The leader shook his head. "You," he gestured at Nick. "What's your name?"

"Nick."

"Okay, Nick. Go clean up all the evidence. We're in charge and I don't think a smart guy like you needs to be reminded of why you need to do your absolute best to help us out here."

"What about them?"

The tall, thin man standing behind Greg looked up. "Well, Greggo here--"he reached over to tousle Greg's hair. Greg shirked away and glared, but couldn't move far. "--will be helpin' her out." He pointed at Catherine. "Gotta keep the bleedin' down, right Boss?"

The leader nodded. "Now go. Make it quick, but make it good. I'll know if you mess up."

Nick nodded, stealing a last glance at Greg before heading towards the body. He watched the robbers relocate Greg and Catherine to another room. In a way, Nick was grateful to be separated from his colleagues now. The less distractions, the better.




Greg was relieved when the four men left him and Catherine alone in the room. Apparently, they had some pressing conversation to attend to.

Seeing Catherine lying on the ground, arm strewn out in front, he ran to her, feeling guilty for his relief that she was the one lying there, and that Nick was safely processing the scene. Normally, Greg Sanders would have had qualms about using the faded red showgirl uniform -- no doubt a piece of Vegan history -- but in this case, his own pursuits flew out the window as he cleaned the fabric before pressing it to Catherine's shoulder.

He sighed quietly, looking at his fallen colleague. He chuckled bitterly as he remembered Sara standing over his own battered body a year earlier. Gently, he tucked back a strand of Catherine's hair absent-mindedly, trying to remind himself that she was still there. She looked so peaceful in her sleep. Maybe she could sleep through the whole problem. As he reached for his cell phone, a noise interrupted from the entryway.

"What do you think you're doin,' kid?!"

Greg started, staring over at the largest robber, still mostly concealed by a mask and black clothing.

"Drop the phone!"

Greg set it down lightly.

The man growled. "You know what I meant."

Greg didn't, but stared up at the scowling man, who gestured with his hands. Compliant, Greg slid the phone across the floor at the waiting robber. Another man -- the smaller one -- rushed into the room, starting at the sight of two investigators at the back. The larger man acknowledged his presence with a friendly nod.

"Hands behind your back."

Greg had no idea how he kept sufficient trace of calm in his voice to even be audible. Leaning over toward Catherine's still body, he gulped. "I need to make sure she stays alive."

"Do you now?" The smaller man's smirk shook Greg. It screamed apathy and inhumanity.

"I can't -- I can't let her die," Greg replied, the fear in his voice rising in trembles.

"Why not?"

Greg glared, petrified. He hated being put on the spot. It reminded him of his days in the lab dealing with an irate and impatient Grissom. He needed an answer to save Catherine's life.

"She -- she--" He scrambled, looking to the red fabric now covering her shoulder, as if it could offer an answer.

The smaller robber seemed to be laughing mockingly at Greg's logic, but the scarlet showgirl's uniform did in fact give him the answer he needed.

"She's Sam Braun's daughter." He sighed as he saw the larger robber's brows rise under the black polyester of his mask. "You don't want to kill her."

"You think you know what we want?" The smaller man spoke again this time.

Greg gulped again, now seeing the new bodies looming behind the two robbers,' arms crossed and probably smirking as well.

"Whatever you want, she can probably help you get it," Greg replied, steeling himself to look at as many of them in the eyes as possible, with resolve. He felt surrounded, and he felt the leers baring into the back of his skull and coating every inch of him and Catherine.

"You're damn right she can," the smaller robber said, licking his lips. Greg wanted to throw up, but braced himself to argue on his coworker's behalf.

He steadied himself and concentrated his eyes on the most threatening leer.

"If you're trying to get out, you're gonna need her cooperation and help. And if you mess with her, then I wouldn't expect to get that."

He continued to stare, eyes fierce, as he forced his own trembling to subside, trying harder than he'd ever done to appear calm and assured.

The smaller robber chuckled, but another man -- the leader -- turned around, clearly pulling his cohorts to do the same.

Greg heaved a sigh of relief as he turned his attention back to Catherine. She was all that could matter now.

Greg was grateful to have Catherine there, to occupy him. It saved him from thinking on the infinite possibilities ahead of him. She was so steady, so calm in her sleep, despite the bullet that induced it. She will get through this alive, he told himself.

Saving himself from stress, he listened only to the beating of her heart. It calmed him, even as he sat, alert, hands pressed down over the bullet wound and increasingly slowly oozing blood.

He sat, poised, over her static body for what seemed like an indefinite amount of time, though even the calming heartbeat could not totally ease his tension.




PRESENT


Nick Stokes barreled down the hallway, oblivious to Wendy's stares. Wendy could make out a trace of sorrow in his eyes, but it melted away almost as quickly as it had appeared. Nick Stokes was a sad, vacant, focused enigma and something that sad night a month ago had caused it.


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