Salvar: to save, to overcome, to preserve, to rescue, to cover, to pass
Salvarse: to survive, to escape
Author's Note: 'La Montaņa' translates to 'The Mountain.'
A new mystery is introduced. Also, I said I tried to avoid writing songfics. So I'll warn you -- there is a song here. I like to think it's somewhat well-placed. And it is actually going on in the background. It's not there for the whole chapter, just the end.
CHAPTER 8: LA MONTAŅA
Warrick pulled into the nearest convenience store as he headed home. He still hadn't quite gotten used to buying things in smaller portions, or to having to buy things at all again. Tina hadn't exactly been a determined cook, but she was generally happy to shop.
Despite being an adult male, Warrick did not, in fact, harbor a grudge against the task at hand. His grandmother had made him a pretty decent cook. While Greg had been the mama's boy of the team, Warrick had no hesitation in calling himself a 'grandma's boy,' and not just because it sounded cooler. His grandma was a cool lady, even at 93. Hobbling around with a mean mouth of dentures, Grams still made the best soul food. But Warrick liked to chide her that he was approaching second-best. Her friend Lucille, sharp and chipper at a young 88, had given him a good whack on the head for the comment.
He licked his lips, thinking of what he was going to cook. Tina had always loved it when he cooked. But this time he was cooking for someone who was definitely not Tina. Amy had agreed to postpone the date -- reluctantly at that -- for the next night, and Warrick was getting ready to make a meal that would really make it up to her.
The plan was to do all of the prep work when he got home that night, and then to finish cooking in time for the date the next night. He quickly assembled the majority of the necessary ingredients, though he was still stuck over the meat. He couldn't put his finger on why, but salmon just didn't fit the meal quite right. Nonetheless, Amy dubbed herself a vegetarian, albeit a fish-eating one. Hence, not so familiar with cooking tofu, he opted for the likable pink fish.
Warrick had impressed many women over time with his ability to plan and cook meals. But what was there to say? Beneath his tough guy exterior, Warrick was still a romantic, and a romantic with mad skills. What he did, he excelled at, and if planning a perfect romantic meal was what he sought to excel at, then so be it. He would kick just as much butt at that as he did at poker.
Remembering his relatively empty fridge and the rancid milk inside, he went for a half gallon of milk. He had become used to buying a gallon, but, without Tina, it always ended up going bad before he finished it. Thoughts of his ex quickly reminded him that she had also taken the garlic mincer with her, which he would need for the green beans, and life in general. But where would a grocery store keep a garlic mincer...?
Seeing a sales associate carrying loaves of bread to put on the shelves, he made his way to the baked goods aisle.
"Excuse me, miss?"
The slim brunette turned around. "Yes?" she said between popping and chewing bright pink gum.
Warrick was taken aback. She looked so darn familiar, but he couldn't place it. She was definitely young -- probably in her mid-teens. And where would Warrick know a teenager from? Then it dawned on him. She must be from a case. He studied her more carefully. Her hair was definitely dyed. Either she wasn't wearing make-up, or she put it on well enough to escape notice. And her eyes definitely looked eerily familiar. If she was from a case, then it was either an earlier case, giving her time to get out of juvie and get a job by the present, she was a witness, or she was someone that had gotten off easily. Either way, it made him slightly uncomfortable to be getting assistance from someone like that. But it's just at a grocery store. It's not like she'd poison the food -- or the garlic mincer. He interrupted his own ridiculous line of reasoning.
"Do you know where the garlic mincers are, if you carry them?"
The teen smirked. "Right this way," she said, turning on her heels. She handed him the mincer, and started toward the check-out lane.
"What's that smirk for?" he asked, uneasily, as she began to charge his purchases.
"I saw that face." He fumbled in his bag for his wallet. He almost used a discount card from the last CSI convention to ring up his purchases, before noticing his error. Man am I tired. Finally, he reached for his credit card.
"Umm... It's just... well my mom always told me that any man who does the prep work for a meal is a real man. But you never said it's for a meal you're cooking, as opposed to just buyin' stuff for your wife to cook."
Warrick chuckled. "I'm single." Wow, that came out wrong. Especially addressed toward a teenager. He shifted his head down, avoiding eye contact as he scanned his credit card. "I mean... I'm cooking for my girlfriend."
"Oh," the teen said with a look of what appeared to be... disappointment?
Is this teenager hitting on me?! Warrick thought with a combination of bemusement and disgust. He didn't know whether or not to be flattered, and settled with simply finishing bagging his groceries and making his way toward the door.
"Well, thanks for your help," he said, as he practically burst through the door, his motions betraying more anxiety than he would have liked.
"No problem, Warrick," the teen replied.
By the time Warrick made the connection that she knew his first name, she was out of sight.
Warrick shook his head as he loaded the bags into his car. That was one weird interaction. And one weird teenager. But there was something about her... He couldn't put his finger on it, but convinced himself it had something to do with paternal instincts. He did, however, remember very distinctive blue eyes.
Warrick stopped thinking as he drove, turning on his favorite oldies radio station, and smiled to himself when a Motown marathon came on.
That was the final straw in proving himself a romantic. Man, did he love the Supremes. He'd always just said, as a kid, that it was because he had a crush on Diana Ross. Seriously, who didn't?
In reality, he'd liked Flo better. Florence Ballard had been a strong, independent woman.
And her curves, he thought to himself, drooling. He'd always been a sucker for a girl with curves.
Amy and Tina, now that he thought of it, had been more Nick's type than his. Whenever they went out, Nick had always ended up with the tall, skinny, relatively curve-less girls. Warrick was a curves man, but he judged Amy and Tina by so much more than their body types. He was a romantic, after all. Not a man ho.
He lost himself in the smooth melodies for the remainder of the drive.
Turning into Nick's driveway, he was disappointed to be turning the radio off. But it's still a marathon, he thought, smiling. He grabbed the bag as he headed in. He still knew where Nick kept his spare key, even though it felt like he hadn't visited in quite a while. It had felt like Nick had spent a lot less time at his house in the last few years. Now that he thought about it, he realized it had probably started a little bit after the coffin incident.
He knocked. This time, miraculously, Nick was at home. Really, he had pretty much always been home, either at home or at the lab, since the last incident. The incident.
Warrick sighed. The incident that had changed everything. Nick just wasn't the same anymore.
Though he knew where the key was hidden, Warrick knocked again. Since the Nigel Crane incident, Nick had been careful to hide his extra key in a spot that was notably difficult to find. Warrick found it to be an equal mixture of pathetic, funny and sad -- indicative of the times -- that Nick had actually buried the key in a plant pot. If you were that desperate to get in, you had to dig up the Gerbera daisies.
So he knocked. And knocked again.
Just as he was about to make a move for the Gerberas, he heard a familiar engine revving down. Nick's truck had never been the same after it had been stolen while working that wedding case. It had been funny, or so Warrick had heard from Sara and Greg.
Nick ambled up the sidewalk, staring off into the air, in an intangible direction. He seemed so oblivious, but also so hopeless. Maybe even so drunk...
Warrick turned around to fully face his friend. Something was wrong. Something sounded wrong. Then it occurred to him. The engine.
"Hey Nicky! You forgot to turn off the engine!"
Nick didn't even look up at him before replying. "Oh."
This is odd, Warrick thought. He didn't even seem to notice the oddness of my being here. It's like he expects voices in his head to point these kind of things out to him. Warrick shook his head. Nick was really losing it.
He watched Nick fumble with his keys and finally get the door open. He seemed to be staring at the car, lost in thought. Again. The engine kept rumbling.
Warrick watched and waited.
Nick finally stuck the key in the ignition and turned in. Then he got in the car. And sat down. And closed the door.
Nicky... What are you doing? Warrick rolled his eyes. He honestly didn't know how the man survived on a day-to-day basis. He just seemed so darn distracted.
The car started moving, and Warrick looked on in incredulity. Is Nick stopping, or starting, or going somewhere, or what? He just got off shift, and he clearly needs to be home and sleeping, not wandering around in his car. That's it, Warrick thought, as he saw the car begin to inch backward, reversing out of its parking spot, and gently turning forward.
Warrick went running down the sidewalk. He waved his arms wildly, hoping Nick would notice. He banged on the glass, running to keep up with the car.
Finally, as Warrick was just about running out of breath, Nick looked over. Stopping, he smiled and waved at Warrick.
Warrick was glad Nick lived on a small parkway, with a notable lack of traffic, and that, at that hour, not many on the street were leaving their homes.
Nick backed up, almost crashing into Warrick, who dodged to avoid the big block of metal, seemingly controlled by a for-the-moment-maniac.
The truck inched diagonally and haphazardly back into the spot. It narrowly avoided touching the old red Volkswagen in front of it. Warrick didn't know how Nick would correct this parking job. Nick had always been a major perfectionist, especially when it came to parking. It made sense, for someone who cared as much as Nick did about his truck. It wasn't even new, or a particularly spiffy brand, but Nick treated that old truck like it was a bride on her wedding day. Nick finally took off his seatbelt and opened the door, even as the car was still parked skewed, with the front barely hitting the curb and the back nowhere near it. And, this time, he remembered to turn off the engine.
"You gonna park that thing right?"
Nick glared, quickly looking frustrated. "You already messed with my parking once today."
"You left the engine on, man. You should be saying thank you."
"Well, thank you," he said sarcastically, raising his nose into a sneer.
Warrick quickly saw this strategy wasn't working. "Sorry, man. I know you've had a long day. I didn't mean to make it harder. Your parking's fine." For someone who just got their first driving permit. "I just know how much you care about your truck. Gotta make sure she stays in perfect condition."
Nick nodded glumly. "It's just a truck."
Just a truck?! That was not something I ever expected to hear coming out of Nick Stokes' mouth. "Just a truck, eh? Madeline the Fierce-Engined Chevrolet Glory?" Warrick still remembered the name Nick had given it, or rather, 'her.'
"Eh. Trucks don't have feelin's."
"That so?" Warrick asked, smirking. "How do you think she felt when you let her get stolen?"
"I didn't let her! It was Gre- Gre-" Nick trailed off.
Okay. So the truck strategy, or whatever you'd call it, isn't working either. "Hey, man. Let's go inside."
Nick nodded, looking down glumly again.
He followed Warrick to the door. Warrick felt almost as if it were his house, or as if he were Nick's parent, leading a reluctant Nick to his own door.
He felt like a jailer. It was as if Nick was imprisoned in his own house, in his own life. Maybe that's why he was never home... but that was before he started acting this way. Hmmm...
Warrick was thoroughly baffled by his friend's behavior. Then he caught Nick's glance. It was pointed at the bag still clutched in Warrick's hand. The backpack. With the contents of Greg's locker inside of it. That could easily explain his behavior in the last few minutes. Though he hadn't even seen the bag when he got out of the car without turning off the engine... That's it. I'm thinking too much. What Nick needs right now is a friend to shoot the breeze with. A friend to talk to. Not to be psychoanalyzed by.
His quandary resolved, Warrick smiled at his friend. "You watch the big game last week?"
Finally. A guaranteed conversation starter. "So what'd ya think?"
Nick stared blankly.
Had he even been paying attention to the game? "That's it. We're gonna go in there, make some popcorn, kick back with some beers and watch SportsCenter. Okay?"
He seemed to let out what -- and Warrick was being hopeful, and honest when he thought this, but -- Damn. That really looked like a genuine smile. Warrick couldn't help but smile back, warmly and fully. A smile on Nick's face was one of the best things he'd seen in a while.
Warrick felt a sudden surge of overwhelming optimism, as he eagerly got out of the way for Nick to open the door, which he did, albeit quite slowly. Slow or not, he's doing something. He's almost acting like a piece of the Nick I used to know. And that's worth being optimistic about. "So, you got any beers?"
Nick nodded quickly, before walking off toward the kitchen. And he's walking, not trudging this time. Meaning he's moving faster, more eagerly, more happily.
Warrick hoped he wasn't being too optimistic. It seemed that, these days, he interpreted every movement from Nick as a sign of improvement.
Well, he can't do anything other than improve. He sure can't get worse... Warrick thought, though he knew that probably wasn't even true. At least Nick was still showing up to work. At least he still knew how to do his job. At least he's still breathing.
Nick returned, loosely clutching a full pack of Sam Adams. Or is that two full packs of Sam Adams? Warrick wondered, seeing the other hand hidden behind Nick's back. Warrick shrugged. As long as he's doing something.
Nick squinted at the room, as if looking for something. He stared at the TV screen. It was blank.
"You lookin' for this?" Warrick asked, holding up the remote.
Warrick could see the realization dawn on Nick' face as he discovered the missing key to connect the mission of watching football with the blank screen in front of him. "The clicker!"
"You mean the remote?" Warrick chuckled at Nick's name for it.
"It's called a remote, dude."
"Well, Greg calls it a clicker." Nick's face quickly tightened again.
Uh oh. Wrong conversation starter again. "Well, let's turn on the game now, huh?"
Nick nodded, reaching over for a beer. He seemed to be starting to turn it, oblivious to the obviously needed bottle opener.
"Ya lookin' for this?" Warrick said as he made his way to the kitchen and held up the opener. It was still in the same drawer Nick had used to store it in, when they hung out all the time, before Tina...
Nick nodded, smiling again. This smile was even bigger than the last, though Warrick was unsure if that was a good thing -- that, for all his and Catherine's efforts, Sam Adams beer would be the thing to prompt the biggest smile on Nick's face.
"Here, catch!" Warrick said, tossing the opener in Nick's direction.
Nick looked up, with concentration, and caught it. He grinned. "Mad skills." He popped open the bottle, and guzzled half of it in one sip, glancing up as Warrick turned on the game.
"Yeah, but you know who was the better player back in the day," Warrick said, chuckling with relief at the progressively heightening mood.
Nick guffawed. "In your dreams. You really think UNLV had anything on us Aggies?"
"Psh. We were the bomb."
"The bomb dot com."
Warrick noticed his friend had already polished off his first bottle. He still had the opener, so Warrick hadn't even been able to open his. "Hey! Pass it here!"
Nick glared, but playfully. "Nah. Not until you admit which team was better."
"You wish." Warrick was already savoring the long lost air of playful macho bravado. It had been too long since he and Nick had hung out like this. If only I had thought of this sooner, maybe Nick wouldn't have gotten this bad.
Warrick leaned over, ready to tackle Nick for the bottle opener. For all of Nick's skills as a college quarterback, Warrick was the better wrestler of the two, and definitely with the superior tackling experience.
But suddenly, Nick balked. He glared -- not playfully this time -- and seemed to flinch at the sudden threat of contact, before handing the bottle opener over to Warrick wordlessly.
Note to self: Avoid physical contact. Warrick couldn't help but wonder if this had anything to do with what had happened a month ago. He'd never gotten the details of it from Catherine.
Warrick looked over at Nick. He was staring blankly forward. To the untrained eye, he looked like a zombie, entranced by the game -- basically like the standard American male.
But Warrick knew to follow Nick's gaze. In all his years as a CSI, he had learned to judge the angle of a person's irises and pupils, in order to see what, specifically, they were staring at. He followed Nick's stare. To the trash bin next to the TV.
"There somethin' in that trash bin you want?" Warrick asked.
Warrick looked down at the table. They had been through the six pack. Nick had had four beers, while Warrick had only had two. Both had very high tolerances -- not necessarily a good thing, as Warrick had learned. The worst alcoholics tended to have the highest tolerances to alcohol.
Nonetheless, Nick might be borderline tipsy, even a bit drunk. The two word answer, when a shrug or shake of the head would have sufficed -- especially from Nick, who had been quite stoic for the last month -- meant that the liquor was definitely succeeding in loosening him up.
"So whatcha thinkin' 'bout the game?"
"Eh." Nick seemed to be contemplating it, then turned around with a grin. "We still rock. Better than your team."
Warrick chose not to point out that his team, or rather his adopted team, the Giants, was not even playing. Warrick had often switched between teams, among them the 49ers and the Raiders, before making his way through college largely on the proceeds of a bet that the Giants would win the 1990 Superbowl. In gratitude, he had quickly changed his allegiance. This game, however, was the Cowboys -- Nick's team -- against the Redskins.
Warrick was not a particular Redskins fan, but settled to rooting for them, for the game, just to have something else to bicker jokingly with Nick about. In truth, he had little preference between the Cowboys and Skins, but he knew the competitive cheering would do the most for Nick's spirit.
Warrick leaned back on the couch and sighed. "You just got lucky."
"Luck? Look at the score, man." Sure enough, the scoreboard read a margin of three touchdowns.
"We're going through a transition. I mean -- coaching is major. When Joe Gibbs was at the top of his game, we coulda kicked your asses any day."
"Psh. It's not all in the coaching staff, doofus. It's in the players. It's in the recruitment. It's in the fans. And nobody competes with Cowboys fans."
"Psh. Man, have you not been to DC? They definitely have the fans."
Nick seemed to ponder the situation over. "Wait -- since when are you even a Skins fan?"
"Since they're playin' the Cowboys," Warrick responded, matter-of-factly.
"Hey," Warrick said, reaching for the speaker system. "Let's get us some music to drown out the bullshit I hear echoing from the Dallas side over here."
Nick turned it on, and Warrick groaned as Keith Urban sounded through the house.
"Not this crap."
"Aw, come on man. If you don't like this... " -- a more-than-a-bit-tipsy Nick struggled for the word, before failing -- "well, good, amazing music, then you can just..." He scrunched up his nose. "Get out."
Warrick rolled his eyes. "That or I can actually walk up to the speaker and manually change it myself." He looked down, smirking, at Nick. ""'Cause I know you're not gonna be gettin' up too gracefully 'bout now."
Nick scowled, as Warrick got up to change it back to Oldies.
As Diana Ross's soprano drifted through the room, Warrick got up, smiling.
If humiliating myself is what it takes to get Nicky to have a good time, then so be it.
He started to swing his hips.
"But how many heartaches," he crooned. "Must I stand before I find a love, to let me live again?"
Nick looked up, questioningly.
He began to snap. "Right now the only thing, that keeps me hangin' on --"
Nick raised an eyebrow.
And then, Warrick belted it. "When I feel the strength, yeah, it's almost gone, I remember Mama said!"
Tipsy enough, Nick couldn't hold back his laughter anymore.
"You can't hurry love," Warrick slurred the speedy chorus. "No, you just have to wait! She said love don't come easy. It's a game of give and take."
You can't hurry love
No, you just have to wait
Warrick squeaked as he reached the high notes. He knew he wasn't a Supreme. He knew there was a reason he wasn't a Supreme.
She said love don't come easy
It's a game of give and take
By the time Warrick had finished, Nick was rolling on his stomach on the couch.
"Hey," Warrick said, getting Nick's attention. "It's your turn now."
Nick gave a look of true horror. "You really think I know the lyrics to this stuff?!"
Warrick rolled his eyes. "Seriously, who doesn't know Motown? It's classic," he said, as the familiar chiming filled the room. "Give it a try."
Nick, still chuckling, rolled over off of his stomach, trying to listen to the lyrics.
Ain't no mountain high
Nick finally started singing. It was an easy song.
Ain't no valley low
Ain't no river wide enough, baby
The singing became slower. Then he sniffled, and stopped. Warrick sighed, turning to face the stereo. The 'Nick singing' idea wasn't working. But the overall idea was. Nick was still laughing. But now his laughter was sounding different...
If you need me, call me
No matter where you are
Warrick turned around, to see the tears falling down Nick's face. Those are not tears of joy or laughter, Warrick acknowledged with a sigh. How the hell did this happen?
No matter how far
The music continued, and Nick continued crying. Sobbing.
Just call my name
He looked so angry, so desperate.
I'll be there in a hurry
Warrick had no idea what to do. He had no idea what had caused this. Well, logically, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's duet caused it. But that just didn't seem right.
You don't have to worry
Nick started sobbing harder. At last, Warrick reached to turn off the stereo, but Nick's hand stopped him. He put a hand on Nick's back, but the man just shrugged it off. The whole scene scared Warrick. A lot. He moved toward Nick's bedroom.
There ain't no mountain high enough
Warrick pulled out his phone, and called the number on speed dial.
"Cath, I --" he stuttered out.
Ain't no valley low enough
Ain't no river wide enough
To keep me from getting to you
"What's wrong, Rick?" she asked, concerned.
"I -- I--"
Remember the day
I set you free
He reached for the door, closing it and hoping to drown out the music. 'Aint No Mountain' just didn't seem appropriate at the moment, though shutting the door didn't work entirely.
"Are you alright?!"
"Yeah," he said, trying to regain his breath.
She heaved a sigh of relief.
She sighed again, though not with relief this time. "What happened?"
"He's losin' it."
"Isn't he always?"
"You think there's anything you can do?"
Warrick looked back at his friend. The sobbing seemed to be decreasing. In fact, it seemed as if it were being progressively replaced with snoring.
Ain't no mountain --
Warrick shut the door again. "No."
"You're at his house?"
"I just drank two beers."
"I'll be there in 15."
"No problem." She paused. "And nice try," she said, knowing full well that Warrick had put in the effort that night.
"See ya there."
"Yup. See ya here."
"Is that Marvin Gaye in the background?"
"And Tammi Terrell."
"It's a good channel."
She chuckled and hung up.
"Don't you know that
There ain't no mountain high enough
Ain't no valley low enough
Ain't no river wide enough
To keep me from getting to you."