Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by edog, Sep 15, 2007.

  1. ladyhunter

    ladyhunter Head of the Swing Shift

    May 5, 2006
    Likes Received:
    I like this update
    very good, sort of dark but good

    I too, want to see a scene where he cooks for her. :D

    great job edog
  2. edog

    edog Lab Technician

    May 5, 2006
    Likes Received:
    Author's Note: I'm procrastinating on my NaNo novel to post this. I got stuck and then I got ideas for how I wanted this to go, so I wrote this instead. Thanks for your patience and thanks for the comments. :D

    Part Seven: I didn’t want to be alone today.

    Here I am, back in front of the bathroom mirror. Only this time, I’m not languishing over my scars or my past. I’m trying to look toward the future. That future is now in my hands.

    It’s a new bottle of pills. A crazy long name is printed on the side. I can’t pronounce it. The doctors have already explained this to me once before. The lead in my system was constant, thanks to the lodged bullet. I would never, ever be able to just flush it all out completely. All I could really do was control it. These pills are going to help me do that.

    It’s been about a week since I left the hospital. I still haven’t swallowed one.

    I shake the bottle absentmindedly, listening to the pills rattle inside. I see myself in the mirror again. I see my eyes, heavy with fatigue and age. It seems silly that I wasted a whole year of my life trying to hide from my mistakes, trying to cover up what happened to me 12 years ago.

    I’m at that age where ‘mid-life crisis’ is a common phrase and the fear of losing one’s hair is imminent. I’m at that age where every single second of life starts to become more precious. At the age of forty-three, my fiftieth birthday still seems a long way off, but ask anyone and they’ll state the truth: time gets away from you. It won’t feel like it, but suddenly, you’re ten years older. I wasted a year moping.

    Except, I wasn’t really moping as much as I was searching. Maybe my mid-life crisis has come and gone. You know, if trying to carve a bullet out of your own body amounts to a “mid-life crisis”.

    I’m back home. I’m back in Vegas. I have a family here.

    “Tony! You’re going to miss your cooking lesson, you stay in there any longer!”

    Sofia. It’s our day off and I asked her to stop by. I didn’t want to be alone today. She’s teaching me to cook pancakes. It’s a lot harder than one would think.

    I set the pills down on the sink. I’m not ready yet. Not ready to give in to the consequences of aging. I’ve been lucky enough to go through life without depending on medication. I need time to adjust to that idea.

    I walk into my little kitchenette and she’s got the batter all ready. She looks at me, “So, you took them?”

    “Yeah,” I lie, easily. “No sweat. Just gotta take one a day.”

    She smiles, “Good. I’m glad you’re doing this, Tony. You need to be 100 out there.”

    “I know. I’m doing as the doctor says,” I lie again and Sofia is none the wiser. There goes that blind loyalty of hers, that blind trust in me. I really hate myself sometimes, I really do. This will be the last time I lie to her. . .outright.

    I will take the pills. Just not today.

    “What?” she says. I must be staring at her like an idiot. Spacing out is something I have to work on.

    “Nothing,” I say quickly. I join her at the counter and focus on the food, “So, you wrote down all the stuff that goes in this bowl of goop?”

    Sofia grins, “This ‘bowl of goop’, Tony, is pancake batter. It’s ridiculously bad for you and tastes like heaven. I’ve done the hard part, now it’s your turn to do the easy part.”

    She hands me a scoop, then instructs, “Dip that in there, scoop some out and pour it onto the griddle.”

    I glance at her sidelong, then I do as she says. I scoop out some of the batter, than pour it onto the griddle. The batter sizzles instantly. Easy.

    “Now, it’s hot, so you have to pay attention at all times,” she tells me. “Watch for the bubbles. When there are bubbles all over the top, it’s time to flip.”

    So I watch and wait. It doesn’t take long for the half-cooked cake to bubble up. I get the spatula, shove it under the cake and go to flip it over. It falls apart on me.

    Sofia laughs and says sweetly, “It’s your first one. The first one always falls apart.”

    “You’re just saying that to be nice,” I say. Am I pouting? Tony Vartann does not pout.

    “No, no, I’m being honest. Cooking is a practiced activity. You’ll get it,” Sofia urges gently, patting my arm. “Just keep repeating what I told you. Catherine will be really impressed tomorrow.”

    I look at Sofia and say sternly, “This is not a . . .”

    “It’s not a date. I know, I know,” Sofia rolls her eyes. She shakes her head at me, “You’re in such denial, Detective. You’ve got it bad.”

    “Do not,” I retort.

    “Yes, you do,” Sofia laughs.

    “Do not,” I repeat, my tone so serious, even I have to laugh.

    “You’re acting like a child,” Sofia points out, doing nothing to hide her amusement.

    I groan aloud. She’s right. I do have it bad.

    So I try to keep the focus on pancakes. I spray the griddle, pour the batter, flip the cakes and repeat. Soon enough, I’ve made my first real batch of pancakes, floppy and misshapen. Hell, it’s the first real breakfast I’ve had in years. We sit on my couch and eat.

    “Not bad, Tony,” Sofia says between bites.

    “Hey, you made the batter,” I point out. “They should be good.”

    She hums a response because she’s eating. We lapse into silence for a moment, before she looks at me,”Hey, Tony? Can I ask you something?”

    Uh oh. I hate it when people preface some serious talking with ‘can I ask you something?’ Firstly, how does one say, ‘no, you can’t ask me something’? You can’t say ‘no’, you have to say ‘yes’. God, it’s like a bad omen of things to come. I hate serious talks. I hate them.

    I swallow before shrugging. “Uh, sure. What’s on your mind?”

    She’s quiet again, her forehead scrunched deeply. She’s thinking hard about what she wants to say and again, I think that’s a bad sign. Something’s weighing on her mind. It’s either about me or it’s about her and she wants to share. She’s confiding in me. Or maybe, she wants me to confide in her. I wait with bated breath.

    “I don’t know,” she begins doubtfully. “I guess I still don’t understand. . .why.”

    “Why what?” I ask.

    “Why you just didn’t take the pills in the first place,” she says, finally finding the words. She half smiles, her tone apologetic. “I know you’re a real private person, it’s just, you could’ve died. What if Catherine wasn’t there? What if you went home, fell over and no one was around?”

    I frown, not because I feel her questions are too probing, but because I’ve asked myself the same things over the last few days. I let my stubbornness get so ridiculously overtaking, that I just let my health dissipate until there was nothing left of me. Little does Sofia know, I’m doing that all over again. My pills are still sitting on the sink, unopened.

    I put my plate down on the coffee table, before saying, “Those are. . .good questions, Sofia.”

    “And?” she pushes gently.

    “And. . .I’m not sure I have the answers,” I say honestly. Before she protests, I cut her off, “Really, if I knew, then maybe I wouldn’t be having all these issues. I wouldn’t have run off a year ago, I wouldn’t have lied about cutting my shoulder open. I’ve been trying to figure these things out.”

    “You went into therapy. That didn’t help?” she asks.

    I chortle lightly. “No, not really. I guess I worked through some things, but how does someone ever get over being shot?”

    “Or being the shooter,” Sofia adds, her voice suddenly meek. Officer Bell. It still pains her to think about it, I know.

    “You didn’t kill him,” I remind her.

    “But I thought I did,” Sofia says, trying to smile. “I thought I did and that was enough. . .”

    “Therapy didn’t work for you either?” I ask knowingly.

    Sofia shakes her head, before answering with a soft, “No. It didn’t.” Then she continues, “I didn’t have anyone to talk to either. I couldn’t. All of my friends were working the case. You were working the case.”

    I was working the case. I also started performing my disappearing acts that year as well.

    “But,” she says. I hate it when people say ‘but’. “But you had someone, Tony. You had me, Brass, anyone. Why did you let it get so bad?”

    Yeah. Why did I let it get so bad? Long before Officer Bell’s shooting, I was acting out. Arriving late for work, leaving late, getting rough with suspects. Sofia had noticed, but in her own quiet way tried to help me. She tried to figure out what was going on. I couldn’t say, I wouldn’t let her in.

    After the Bell shooting, I distanced myself from everyone. The case was long and emotional and physically exhausting. It hit everyone in the department hard. It seems silly for me to have been so tired. All I did was my job. Sofia suffered through interrogations, accusations and guilt. I guess I never forgave myself for being such a lousy friend during that time. That whole year led up to the my untimely departure.

    “I wish I could be. . .better,” I say to her. She looks at me confused. I shake my head, not sure how to word it. “I think about this bullet and. . .and leaving Vegas and I wish I had done things differently. It’s just, I don’t know any other way to be.”

    Sofia gives a soft smile. “Don’t change, Tony. People handle life’s great mysteries in their own way. I don’t want you to be better or be different. I just want you to be happy again.”

    “Happy. Not sure I remember what that is,” I joke lightly.

    Sofia says, “I think Catherine makes you happy.”

    I scoff, not sure I should admit to that. “She’s seen me at my worst. I’ve shown her how ugly I can be.”

    Sofia simply tilts her head to side and suggests, “Well, if that’s the case, I guess all that’s left to show her is the best of you.”


    “What are you thinking?”

    Catherine’s voice breaks me, interrupts wherever my mind just took me and I remember where we really are. At the lab, pulling a double. The case is high profile, high risk. A young man is missing, his captor in our custody. Unfortunately our suspect is playing games and our evidence just isn’t giving us enough to say to hell with him. Our suspect knows this and he’s wasting our time and toying with our emotions.

    Despite all this, my mind should be here and its not. It’s elsewhere.

    Catherine repeats her question, “Tony, what are you thinking?”

    “Honestly?” I ask her.

    “Yeah, honestly,” she says.

    I sigh and confess, “I was thinking that I’ll never be able to cook breakfast for you, not if this kind of stuff keeps popping up.”

    To my surprise, she just smiles. I really like her smile.

    That’s when Greg busts into her office, out of breath and possibly out of his mind. His hair is more wild than usual, not that I blame him. I don’t think any of us have gone home, not even to take a shower. He’s convulsively waving this piece of paper and he’s talking so fast, I know I’m not catching a single word. I look at Catherine and I can tell she isn’t either.

    She rises from her chair and requests calmly, “Greggo, slow down. Where’s the fire?”

    “Funny you should ask,” Greg says, finally his words clear and succinct. “Our guy used to be a local fireman, right? Volunteer work. Well, I did some digging. Searched for all possible firehouses that use volunteer firemen. I found one mentioned in an old newspaper article. The records for this place date back so far, they were all stored on paper and filed away. They wouldn’t have shown up in our current database.”

    Catherine takes the report, studies it herself. “This firehouse has been rundown for years.”

    I stand up now to get a look myself. I say, “Really? Closed down?”

    “Yeah,” Catherine says, her eyes scanning the paper some more. “It was originally shut down because of asbestos. Old building, old ceiling tiles. It never opened back up.”

    “Don’t you get it?” Greg grins. “We have a possible location!”

    “I’ll get on it,” I say, stepping past both of them. “In the meantime. . .”

    “We’ll talk to our guy again. See if mentioning his old haunting grounds spooks him into talking,” Catherine says, reading my mind. I nod then throw a cursory “good job” in Greg’s direction. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the kid smile so wide.


    Greg Sanders closed our case. Fancy that.

    It was then I said, what the hell? I invited Catherine over for breakfast once our shift was done. You know, to celebrate closing the case.

    “It’s not much,” I apologize ahead of time, sticking my key in the door. I breathe in deep before I push the door open and lead Catherine inside. In the last week, I did manage to buy some things to spruce up the place. Some pillows for the couch, new pots and pans for cooking. It’s still rather plain, though. I should’ve bought a painting, just to have something on the walls. Unlike Catherine’s home, I don’t have pictures of family or friends. Not even ex-wives.

    Yeah, I said it. Ex-wives. With an ‘s’. Plural.

    Catherine looks around, a small grin on her lips. She glances at me over her shoulder and says simply, “It’s you.”

    I look at her inquisitively. It’s me? As if she could really know me and what things constitute as “me”. I can’t help but ask, “So, what about my empty apartment screams Tony Vartann?”

    At first, it looks like she doesn’t want to answer the question and I feel stupid for asking. I’ve made her uncomfortable already. Before I can take it back, however, she answers, “It’s straightforward. Nothing extravagant or flashy. You just live here and to you, that’s all the apartment needs to be: a place to live.”

    “I thought you might say, ‘it’s boring like you’,” I joke, smiling like an idiot.

    Catherine laughs, “You are far from boring, Tony.” She looks around then asks politely, “Bathroom?”

    “Uh, just through there,” I point toward my bedroom. She disappears through my bedroom door and I sigh heavily. I almost screwed that up. Her temporary departure does give me a chance to get the kitchen set up, though. The morning is not a total loss, not yet. After finding our missing person and putting away that scumbag of a volunteer fireman away for life, the day can only get better from here on out.

    So what do I need? A bowl for mixing, a mixing spoon. Uh, the griddle. What else? The food might be a good idea. Eggs, buttermilk, sugar. ..something else. God, I don’t know what I’m doing! I fish through my fridge, looking for the items I think I need. In the process, I drop a few eggs.

    “Damn it,” I curse under my breath. When did I turn into such a klutz? I bend over and notice my hand shaking a bit. Nerves? Or maybe a sign that I’m going to be sick? I still haven’t taken the medication and I’m starting to feel the signs all over again. I stand up and search for a paper towel, but Catherine is right behind me and I nearly jump out of my skin. “Whoa, Catherine. You scared me. I was just. . .”

    She’s not smiling. In fact, she doesn’t look happy at all. Then I see why. She’s holding my pills. The unopened bottle of pills.

    “I’m going to ask you a question,” she says. “And answer honestly. I counted how many were in here.”

    I look at her incredulously, my voice angry. “You counted my medication?”

    “Have you taken any?” she asks, ignoring my ire. She shakes the bottle for emphasis. “Are you doing as the doctor says and taking this daily?”

    Oh, she already knows the answers to those questions, so why should I bother responding? I’m still too angry she counted my pills to actually think of something reasonable to say. So I go for the unreasonable. “Hey, Catherine, you know what? I don’t need a mother. I don’t need this.”

    “So what? You need a quick lay? Maybe you thought that I would just fall over you, fawn over you because big bad Detective Vartann needed some comfort?” Catherine literally spits at me. She shoves the bottle of pills in my hands and says sharply, “You don’t need a mother? Stop acting like a child.”

    “Is that what you think this is?” I say, following her into my living area. She grabs her purse, a sure sign she’s about to walk out my door. “Hey, hey, wait a minute. I invited you here to say thank you, okay? I wasn’t sure how or what I should do, but just saying ‘thanks’ wasn’t enough.”

    Catherine throws me a hard glance, then scolds, “Don’t act so naive, Tony. There’s something going on here and it goes way beyond a ‘thank you.’”

    Okay, she’s got me there. I have developed something more, feelings that run deeper. However, her scolding does bring me to a new conclusion about her feelings toward me.

    “Okay, so it’s not just me.”

    She whirls around and nearly growls, “What?”

    I push on, “You said ‘there’s something going on here’. Not ‘there’s something going on with you’ or ‘there’s something going on with me’. You said ‘there’s something going on here’. You mean between us. There’s something going on here between us.”

    “Hey, this is a ‘you’ problem, not an ‘us’ problem,” Catherine says sternly.

    “So you do agree there is an ‘us’ somewhere in the mix?” I push. I won’t let her back down from this. I know this isn’t just a ‘me’ problem!

    “I didn’t say that,” she argues.

    I tell her simply, “You didn’t have to.”

    She’s finally speechless, which gives me time to look away for a moment. I need to collect my thoughts. I know it’s not just me. It’s both of us. There’s this thing, I know there is!

    “Tony, look, we’re tired. We just pulled a very long shift and maybe we should continue this another time,” she tells me.

    No, I don’t care how long we’ve been working or what day it is or if the sky is blue. I’ve gone my whole life starting things and not finishing them.

    So right now, I can only act like a desperate fool. I can only do what any man can do in a position such as this. Tell the woman she is right.

    “You’re right,” I say, just as she throws open my door. My confession does stop her. I say again, “You’re right. I invited you here for more than just a ‘thank you’, but. . . you have to understand that my intentions were good. I wasn’t looking for. . .”

    “Sex,” Catherine fills in for me. Her tone is still sharp, but her eyes have softened.

    “Uh, right,” I say, the tips of my ears starting to burn a little in embarrassment. What? A man can’t blush when he hears the word sex? It happens and it’s especially embarrassing when the woman you’re attracted to believes that’s all you want her for.

    Well, that’s not true. I don’t treat women that way and I would never just use Catherine for my own physical needs. I step forward, trying to figure out how to say all that in words she’ll understand. Words that won’t sound phony.

    “Why am I here, Tony?” she says, her exhaustion evident.

    I half-smile at her. “To have breakfast, Catherine. I guess I can see how this can look like something else, but I promise it was just to have breakfast. To watch me make a fool of myself while I attempt to flip some pancakes.”

    “Why not just take me out?”

    “Because. . .because, I don’t know! I wanted my ‘thank you’ to be more than just a $4.99 meal at the local diner. I wanted it to be. . .genuine. I was trying to be a gentleman, not a pervert.”

    Her eyes squint ever so slightly as she steps back into my apartment, shutting the door behind her. She asks again, “Why?”

    “Why what?” I say.

    “Just why. Why now?” she tries.

    “Because. . .because. . .,” I flounder, shutting my eyes in frustration. I hate CSIs. They need motives, they need reasons. Why can’t ‘because I said so’ ever be enough? I sigh before I admit, “Because you’re right about everything, about me, about this. This is more than a ‘thank you’ and don’t ask me what it is yet. All I know is that I came back to Vegas and you. . .you called me on my bullshit first.”

    This makes her grin. “Yeah, you were kind of an ass.”

    “Thanks,” I say sarcastically, before asking, “Am I forgiven?”

    “No, don’t ask me that. Please, forgive me,” she sighs. She drops her purse back on my couch. A sure sign that she is going to stay. “I assume the worst in men, even when I know that man is a good guy. Call it a defense mechanism. I’ve been played before, one too many times. I shouldn’t have accused you of. . .”

    “Using you for sex?” I say and this actually elicits a slight blush from her.

    “Yeah,” she nods. She walks up to me, grabs my hand and lifts it up. It’s only now I realize the bottle of pills is still in my possession. She says quietly, “Why aren’t you taking them?”

    I look at the bottle and at our joined hands, then look at her. “I don’t know.”

    “You have to know,” she says.

    “Well, I’m sorry. I really don’t know,” I tell her, shrugging. I place them on the counter and fold my arms.

    Catherine scoffs, but she smiles. “You’re impossible.”

    I shrug again. “It’s one of my more endearing qualities.”

    “Endearing?” she repeats, raising an eyebrow.

    “You heard me,” I grin elfishly.

    I see her thinking, the wheels turning in her head. I feel like she is going to scold me again, yell at me for lying. Lying about taking the medication, lying to her and to Sofia, to everyone. Instead, she just gestures toward the kitchen, “Let’s just eat. We’ll talk about it later.”

    I watch her walk toward the kitchenette, grab some towels and clean up the eggs I dropped. I continue to stand there for a moment, my arms still folded across my chest and a fleeting thought passes through my mind.

    God, I think I love this woman.

    The thought is fleeting, mind you. I’m still kinda pissed she counted my pills and I’m more upset that she thought of me as some perverted, lonely loser looking for sex, but it’s still there, flickering in the back of my mind.

    I think I love. . .

    I remind myself that love is out of the question right now. I need Catherine in other ways and she’s made it quite clear that our relationship should really just stay a friendship.


    I can do that. For now.

    To be continued. . .
  3. ladyhunter

    ladyhunter Head of the Swing Shift

    May 5, 2006
    Likes Received:
    That's great!!! I love the update. You really captured both Tony and his attitude towards life and Catherine calling him on it and how she was burned before.

    Good job yet again :)
  4. MrsWillows

    MrsWillows Rookie

    Jul 31, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Can we have more of this? plz!
    this is great :]
  5. edog

    edog Lab Technician

    May 5, 2006
    Likes Received:
    AN: Thanks for the comments! Sorry for the delay!

    Part Eight: I’m on cloud nine, quite literally.

    “I can’t force these down your throat,” she says, shaking the bottle. She jests, “I’d like to, but I can’t.”

    I sigh, then acknowledge, “No, you can’t. I have to do it.”

    We’re sitting on her patio. It’s just the two of us, a rare day off. She’s got a decent backyard, with a pool and a shed and other backyard type things. I remember having a house, dreams of a family. Sometimes when I’m here, I feel envious of Catherine. Despite going through a crap marriage and losing the father of her only child, she still has this. She still has a home, a family. I want so desperately to be a part of it, but I don’t feel worthy. With a few failed marriages under my belt and no children to call my own, I can’t see myself being of any use to Catherine. Fortunately for me, she doesn’t see it that way.

    We’ve been doing this odd dance. Sometimes she stops by my place, most times I stop by hers. Each time, we talk about. . .about anything. We tend to avoid talking about work, unless that involves bitching about Ecklie. I’ve learned so much more about her, about her life and how the decisions she’s made have shaped the person she is today.

    Sometimes, we talk about me. I still haven’t revealed too much, just little things. I played football in high school. For as long as I could remember, I always wanted to be a cop. I don’t have any kids. I conveniently left out mention of any ex-wives. We also talk about my health, about the pills I refuse to swallow.

    Today is the final straw. Today, she’s going to support me. Today, I’m doing the right thing, not just for myself, but for Catherine.

    She hands the bottle over to me. Then she picks up the glass of water and holds that in two hands. I normally wouldn’t use water to swallow any kind of medication, but I might need all the help I can get. The nausea caused by the lead poisoning is getting harder and harder to ignore. Each moment, I’m finding so many more reasons to get up and live. A lot of those reasons revolve around Catherine. In order to live, however, I need help. I need the assistance of these damn pills.

    I crank open the bottle, toss one in my hand and hold it. I motion with my other hand for the water. She hands it over. She watches as I set the pill on my tongue, then shut my mouth. It tastes chalky. The glass touches my lips and with no further delays, I begin taking in water. Seconds later, I have swallowed my first pill. It’s over.

    I swallow hard, then see her smiling at me. She’s proud. Sometimes I think it was my own pride that kept me from taking the pill in the first place.

    I lean back in the lawn chair and mutter, “I still feel sick.”

    “It’ll take time, Tony,” she says. “Let’s not forget you’ve been ignoring your doctor’s orders for the last year.”

    “Go ahead. Just rub in it,” I say with a smile, then shut my eyes. “Remind me how stupid I’ve been.”

    “Okay, I will,” she laughs. I feel her lips kiss my forehead, before she whispers, “You were stupid.”

    I open my eyes, greeted with her face hovering over mind. She’s beautiful. What’s taking me so long to ask her out on a real date? My eyes connect with hers before I say somewhat breathlessly, “Thanks.”

    “You’re welcome,” she replies, then she’s gone from my sight. I watch her go back into the house, hear her say something like “get some rest” and then I shut my eyes again.

    That pill bottle is my future. I’m happy that Catherine is able to share this future with me.

    Time slips by and I wake again. The sun is setting and the air is colder. I get up and go back inside the house to warm up. I shut the patio door and spy Lindsey on the couch. The TV is on, but she’s not watching it. There are several books spread out on the couch. Homework, I assume.

    She looks up, her mouth quirked into a wary smile. “Hey, Tony.”

    I think she likes me, I don’t know. I’m not great with kids. I never know what to say. I wave back, “Hey, Lindsey.”

    “Mom says you’re doing better,” Lindsey remarks.

    “I feel better, yes,” I nod, slowly making my way over to the couch. I look down, “Homework?”

    “Math,” she groans like only a teenager can. “I used to see Greg or Sara more, you know, when I was little. If I had to stay at the lab, they would help me with my math homework. I miss taking advantage of their eagerness to get on my mother’s good side.”

    I grin a little at Lindsey’s description of Greg and/or Sara’s motives for assisting with her homework. Although, her reasoning might not be too farfetched. I know Greg flirts with anything that moves. Having an ‘in’ with the kid usually helps when flirting with the mom. I also know Sara and Cath used to butt heads quite often. Again, having an ‘in’ with the kid helps when trying to understand or befriend the mom. Now that all relationships seem to be relatively stable, doting on Lindsey and her math homework is no longer required.

    Maybe I should take a cue from my predecessors. My only problem is, I’m horrible with math.

    I try anyway. “So, what kind of math is it?”

    “Algebra,” Lindsey answers, her eyes returning to the workbooks.

    I smile, then admit, “Well, sorry. I was never a math whiz. Your mom is pretty smart, though. Have you considered. . .”

    “No way, no how,” Lindsey cuts me off immediately. “Mom will just take over, do the whole thing. I won’t learn anything and then I’ll fail the tests.”

    “Been down that road before,” I say.

    “Yeah,” Lindsey says with a roll of her eyes. “I know she wants to help, but. . .she doesn’t.”

    “Ah,” I nod. I look around, “Speaking of your mom, where is she?”

    “Store. Wanted to buy some things for dinner,” Lindsey answers. She looks up, “Are you staying?”

    “I guess so,” I smile, pleased to hear that Lindsey seems eager to have me stay. A sudden wave of nausea hits me, though, and I sway on my feet.

    “You okay?” Lindsey asks immediately, her concerned tone mirroring that of her mother’s. It’s kinda freaky how much they sound alike.

    “I’m good, just feeling a little sick,” I say, then I have to stumble over to a wall to support myself. I’m lightheaded now. I’m going to vomit. I just know it.

    “I’ll get some water,” Lindsey says, promptly popping up from her seat and racing toward the kitchen. She’s gone before I can tell her it’s too late for that. I make it to the bathroom and manage to empty all stomach contents in the toilet bowl. Lindsey rushes up to the door, but is careful not to step inside. “Tony? You okay?”

    She sounds worried. I guess the sounds of someone puking can be unpleasant. “I’m fine, Lindsey. Hazards of the job, I’m afraid.”

    “Well, straighten up in there. Mom’s home,” Lindsey warns me. “She’ll freak out and then we’ll never get dinner.”

    I can’t help but grin. For a moment, I thought the kid was looking out for me. I flush the toilet, stand to my feet and head for the sink. I rinse out my mouth then wash my hands.

    “Tony? You okay?”

    At first, I think that’s Lindsey asking me the same question twice, but it’s not. Catherine is in the doorway now, pushing her glasses up on top her head and squinting at me curiously. I dry my hands and go to say, I’m alright. Then I decide, I have to stop lying, even if the lies are small.

    Instead, I say, “Actually, I just got sick, but I’m okay. It wasn’t bad. Lindsey helped.”

    “She did?” is Catherine’s first response. I guess Lindsey ‘being a help’ isn’t common around here. Then she shakes her head and corrects herself, “But you’re okay?”

    “I feel better, actually,” I nod. I can see Catherine is about to fuss (just like Lindsey said she would) and I lead her out of the bathroom and toward the kitchen. “Let’s make dinner.”

    This distracts her. She glances at me sidelong, “Let’s? As in ‘we’?”

    “Let’s as in ‘you’,” I smile. “You make dinner. I’ll just cheer from the sidelines.”

    She just shakes her head at me. “You don’t cook, you can’t cook. How did you fend for yourself all these years?”

    “There’s a reason take-out was invented,” I say with a grin. For this remark, I’m rewarded with a slap across the arm. I press on, “Besides, our breakfast adventure was just that. An adventure. Do you really want to test my culinary skills again?”

    I see Catherine think that over. She’s probably flashing back to that morning. Skip through the awful argument and you’ll see flashes of terror. The cakes sitting on the griddle too long, catching flame when the vegetable oil spills over and coatseverything.There was a bit of gasping and ‘oh my gods’ and then I grabbed the fire extinguisher. Coated our entire batch of pancakes in CO2. Disaster adverted. She took us out to breakfast.

    “I’ll cook dinner,” Catherine states confidently. I can only smile.


    “I want to take you out.”

    Catherine’s eyes widen some. Hmm. I just said that out loud. Not sure I meant to, but I said it.

    She shifts in her seat, tapping a finger on her desk. I watch her nervously. She’s not saying anything. She does grin, though. Her voice is merry as she finally remarks, “Well, so much for a prelude.”

    I chuckle uneasily, then shrug, “I want to take you out. Dinner? Sometime this week?”

    There’s a slight hesitation and I know why. We work together, our jobs not ideal for maintaining any kind of relationship. Still, she smiles softly and agrees, “Dinner. Pick a place and time.”

    “Okay,” I smile back. “I’ll call you.”

    “Okay,” she replies.

    I don’t really remember leaving nor do I recall how I ended up back at my desk, but I’m here. I feel like I just busted into the evidence room, found the confiscated drugs, then snorted up some of the finest hallucinogen on the streets. Okay, a brash description, but my entire outlook on life has really changed. I’m on cloud nine, quite literally. Come to think of it, that’s scary. Never has anyone made me feel so. . .helpless.

    Wherever I take Catherine, it’ll have to be perfect. Soft jazz in the background, low lighting, a bottle of wine. Hell, I could easily duplicate that scenario at home, if only my cooking skills were better than non-existent.

    My phone rings, startling me. New case. A stiff found in an old, abandoned barn. Only one witness, that being the person who called it in.

    I rise from my desk and try to push my personal agenda to the side for now. It’s only now I remember why I tried to stay single all these years. I remember why my marriages failed. When you have someone important in your life, the job mutates into something different. The dangers are more prominent, the second-guessing begins. You want everything to turn out okay because you know someone is waiting at home for you.

    Catherine and I have barely started acknowledging our attraction to one another and here I am, worried about the job and everything that could happen to me. I’m worried that if something happens to me, Catherine will suffer the aftershocks. I rub my shoulder, actually feel the bullet shift inside me. It’s this kind of thing I don’t want happening, not ever again. I don’t want Catherine to have to mourn for me.

    I arrive at the crime scene, Sara is already here.

    “Sorry I’m late, Sidle,” I apologize. It’s funny. My apology actually sounds genuine. It’s amazing what falling in love can do. Turn a hardass like me into a teddy bear. “The witness is still around?”

    “Yeah, I haven’t spoken to her yet,” Sara nods, pointing over to the squad cars. “I’m waiting on David so he can move the body and I can start processing.”

    I have to smile a little. I’ve only worked a handful of cases with Sara, but I do remember her impatience.

    I leave Sara and find my witness. Her name is Jill. The barn is on the way, she tells me. She jogs this path quite often. She thought she smelled something burning and went to investigate. There was a small fire going in a furnace, the body was on the ground in front of it, curled up like a fetus.

    I won’t get much more out of her and let her go. Then I talk to the first officers on the scene. They said they checked both levels, the bottom and upper level. They gained access to the top loft by climbing stairs on the side and entering through a door. There was no one inside but the dead body. My next stop is the barn.

    It’s dark and musty inside. Sara is working the perimeter, away from the body. I know she gets antsy, waiting on others before she can do her job properly. I try to make our time more pleasant.

    “The witness’s name is Jill Conner. Just a local, jogger,” I inform her. “I got her information. If the need arises, we’ll contact her.”

    “Good,” Sara says absently. Her flashlight leaves a trail along the rafters. It stops at a ladder hanging from an upper level. Looks to be storage. “The victim has slash marks on his neck and arms. . .What if the killer tossed his weapon up there?”

    “Would be highly unlikely,” I shrug. I know Sara is looking for any excuse to find real work to do.

    She sets her kit down and pulls on the ladder. If fully extends, hitting the ground. She glances at me, her smile set in a half-smirk and her eyes lighting up with a sense of adventure. I guess she’s asking permission to search up there. I don’t see why not. The officers cleared this place.

    “Just be careful,” I tell her, as she begins to climb. I watch, noticing how dark it is up there. I grab her flashlight and just as I go to shine some light so she can see, I hear her shout.

    Everything’s moving slowly as I watch Sara get propelled backwards, a vicious dog-like animal following her. A coyote. Paws extended, teeth bare. She’s falling from at least six feet up and there’s not a damn thing I can do. Now, it’s all happening too fast. Time has sped up. I need time to slow down again. . .

    I need time. . .

    She’s hits the ground on her back, she grunts. The coyote lands on top of her. He’s going to attack. He’s already attacked and he’s going to finish the job.

    Two gunshots rip through the night. I blink and realize the gun is in my hands. I fired the gun. My gun. Two shots. The coyote is dead and Sara quickly shuffles back and away. She’s breathing hard, her eyes as wide as saucers. My gun is still aimed at the coyote, but I know it’s dead. I walk over to her slowly, just as one of the officers rush in.

    “Get a bus over here now,” I order.

    “I’m fine,” Sara gets out. The first thing she’s said since the fall. She’s sitting up now, leaning back on her hands, legs bent at the knees. She’s just looking at the coyote.

    “Sara,” I say, kneeling down. “Hey, look at me.”

    “I’m fine,” she says again, now looking at me.

    I look at her face, then point out a scratch on her left cheek. “It got you.”

    “I never saw it. I felt the paws on my chest, and I was just falling,” she explains. Then she eyes my gun and the dead animal again before saying, “Thanks.”

    I just nod, resting a hand on her arm out of reassurance alone. I would be lying if I didn’t say I was proud of myself, proud of this moment. My reaction time, it was so fast. The best shoot I’ve had in a long while.

    Okay, so it was a coyote of all things, but I was shooting before I really knew what I was doing. My aim was dead on. I reacted because a colleague was in danger and now she’s going to be okay.

    The best part of all this being my shoulder. It didn’t bother me at all. I didn’t even think about my shoulder until now.

    I can still do this. I can be out here, do my job. I can still be a help to my co-workers. They can trust me to protect them. Catherine was right. I’m not useless, not yet.

    Sara then gets this enlightened look about her and says, “I think I found our murder weapon.”

    I follow her gaze and see the coyote again. The slashes in the victims’ neck? Probably the paws, maybe even from the teeth. This animal was vicious, no argument there. Wouldn’t be surprised to learn later if it had rabies.

    I rise to my feet again, then instruct Sara to just remain on the floor until the bus arrives. Surprisingly enough, she listens to me.

    I re-holster my weapon, order an officer to sit with Sara and wait with her. He follows my instructions.

    The adrenaline rush is finally dying down. The excitement is over.

    It feels good to be a detective again.

    to be continued. . .
  6. ladyhunter

    ladyhunter Head of the Swing Shift

    May 5, 2006
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    I'm glad you updated this :D

    Great job, looking forward to more.
  7. MrsWillows

    MrsWillows Rookie

    Jul 31, 2007
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    thanks fot the new update!
    Cant wait for more.
  8. edog

    edog Lab Technician

    May 5, 2006
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    Part Nine: My first and last rookie mistake.

    “As you can see Detective, the fragments are small. If we go in again, we’ll only be able to take out a small fraction of the bullet, but don’t let the size of the fragments deter you. Any piece that we can remove is better for you in the long run.”

    I squint my eyes, looking at the x-rays carefully.

    In addition to all the other medical problems I’m having, I think my sight is starting to go as well. Don’t get me wrong. I have perfect vision. It’s just whenever I see something I don’t want to see, I start to squint. I pretend it’s not there. I haven’t seen an x-ray of my shoulder-lodged bullet in nearly ten years. I have to say, the pictures are much different now. Much different from what I remember.

    I’m here on both Sofia and Catherine’s suggestion. And when I say ‘suggestion’, I mean they ordered me to see the doctor. Naturally, I complained. Argued. I’m taking the pills now!, I would shout. What more do you want?

    It didn’t really matter what I said. In the end, I succumbed to their demands. I’ll admit it. I can’t compete against the ‘one-two punch’ that is their strength, their volition. And I know they team up on purpose. As if I might win a fight against one of them, but oh when they’re both together? Forget about it.

    I swear, between the two of them, I’ll never miss another medical procedure or check-up or anything related to my shoulder ever again. It’s like clockwork the way they remind me to take care of myself. At first, I found it irritating. Then again, it’s been so long since I’ve had anyone willing to look out for me. It’s just something I’m not used to.

    I feel someone squeeze my hand. I look at Catherine and smile. We’ve been official for about a week now, I suppose. Honestly, it feels like we’ve been together ever since I confessed my true sins to her. Our first harmonic moments united lying on her bathroom floor with my head in her lap. Those were some of my most intimate connections with another person. Without really knowing it, I entrusted my soul to Catherine that day. Now I entrust my whole being to her. This surgery will put me on bed rest for at least a week and I’ll need her support more than ever.

    “There are also other concerns, Detective. . .”

    “Uh, Doctor Enna,” I interrupt my doctor. “Please call me Tony.”

    Dr. Enna, with his tiny mustache and beady eyes merely nods his accord. “Of course, Tony. As I was saying, there are other concerns.”

    “Like what?” Catherine jumps in.

    “Well, after looking at our most recent blood samples, it’s clear Tony has low levels of red blood cells. Years before we knew how to diagnose lead poisoning, doctors would’ve mistaken this for anemia. In either case, lack of red blood cells means a lack of iron.”

    “And surgery would only result in more blood loss, that’s inevitable,” Catherine finishes.

    “Correct,” Dr. Enna nods. “Just be prepared to be very weak, Tony. You’ll need to be diligent about taking your medication. The lead in your system will overpower you if you’re not careful.”

    I look between Catherine and Dr. Enna. I hate it when they talk all doctor-like. I half smile, saying, “At the risk of sounding stupid, lack of iron in my system is bad because?”

    “Most commonly, patients suffer from fatigue, weakness. Some develop unusual food cravings and others the loss of hair.”

    I gulp slightly, shooting Catherine a worried glance. “Hair loss?”

    She chuckles, patting my arm. “I’m sure that’s the least of your worries, honey.”

    “Uh, no. Hair loss is a very big worry,” I mutter.

    “Hair loss is not very common and only happens when your body has been deprived of iron over a long period of time,” Dr. Enna reassures me. Jokingly, he continues, “Despite your best efforts to disobey the doctor’s orders, your body has been supplying you with just enough iron to keep you moving. This surgery will only be a temporary annoyance.”

    I can’t help but be callous. “This whole thing has been a temporary annoyance.”

    Dr. Enna just smiles at me. “Well, now you have the facts. I’m going to step outside for a moment, give you both time to decide. This surgery is merely an option, not a must-have. The risks are minimal and I think in the end, you’ll have more energy and an easier time fighting the lead in your blood.”

    Dr. Enna steps out, having made his case. It’s clear what he wants me to do, just not so sure I want to do it. This isn’t swallowing a few pills. This is tearing open my shoulder and digging out bullet fragments. I’ll have to miss work for a week.

    I look at Catherine and sigh, “I dunno, Cath. There were reasons the docs didn’t go back in. Why are they suggesting surgery now?”

    Catherine pats my hand, understanding my confusion. “The bullet is breaking up, Tony. It’s in pieces now. Of course, most of the original casing is still in your shoulder, but other pieces have broken off. It was bound to happen over this much time. If there’s any chance we can remove at least a tenth of it, you’ll be better off.”

    I sigh again, nodding. I cover her hand with mine, then ask, “You think I should do this?”

    “Oh no, Tony Vartann. Don’t pull that ‘I’m only doing this for you’ nonsense,” she warns. God, she can read me like an open book sometimes. She squeezes my hand and says firmly, “You gotta do this for you. If you want the surgery, it’s for you, not for me.”

    I have to smile, leaning over and kissing her forehead lightly. “But everything I do now is because of you.”

    “You are so corny, you know that?” she teases, but her joking nature is very brief. She’s all business again when she says, “I mean it, Tony. Do this for you. Only if you want it.”

    “I want it,” I tell her, almost immediately. Her expression is skeptical, but I insist. “No, Catherine. I really want it. I want to be better, I want to be well again.”

    “Okay,” she says softly, smiling. I love her smile. I love that I make her smile.


    It’s surgery day.

    I’m not sure how I feel about it. Taking out what few bullet fragments they can will help, I’m sure. I just wish I could get rid of the whole damn thing. Getting rid of the whole bullet, however, might result in an useless shoulder. I would have to retire from the force early and I don’t want that. I need to work. I wish I were working now, actually.

    I’ve been shuffled from one room to the next all morning, being prepped. A prick on the finger for a blood sample, as if they don’t have enough already. Changing into this ugly gown. Confirming that I haven’t eaten anything since dinner the day before. It didn’t really occur to me that this “minor surgery” would be an all day procedure.

    I shut my eyes and groan.

    “Aw, Tony. It won’t be that bad.”

    I open my eyes. “Curtis. Shouldn’t you be working?”

    “On a day like today? No way. I’ll be waiting with Catherine while you’re under,” she says, pulling up a chair to my bed. “Nervous?”

    “A little,” I admit.

    She pats my leg, before inching the chair closer. She clears her throat, as if preparing to give some long speech and I suddenly know something is wrong. She pushes hair behind her ears, another sign she’s got bad news to tell me, and looks at me with conflicting eyes. “Tony, I thought you should know that I landed a case.”

    “It is your job, Sofia,” I say, shrugging.

    “No, I mean,” she says, sighing deeply. “I couldn’t decide if I should tell you now or later, but I don’t think you’ll want to wake up to this.” She pauses again, the suspense killing me. Finally she says, “It’s about Simon Young.”

    Simon Young.

    My first and last rookie mistake. Just when I thought he was behind me, the mere mention of his name makes my blood boil in madness.

    I think I’ve gotten over our history, our past together. I think I can accept that my scuffle with him resulted in the life I have now, but his name. His name spells trouble and I want in on whatever the little bastard has done now. I want to put the handcuffs on his wrists and cart him away. I want to testify against him in court. I want him back in jail where he belongs.

    I thought I didn’t want these things. I thought I could accept what happened and move on, but then I remember Officer Daryl Hanley. My friend. He’s dead because of Simon and his accomplice Kevin. Daryl is dead, has been for twelve years. Maybe now, I can do what I’ve always wanted. Avenge Daryl’s death.

    “What did he do?” I ask. “I want to know. I want to be there when you arrest him.”

    “He’s dead, Tony,” Sofia says simply.

    I sit up in my bed now. “What?”

    “Simon is dead. Someone shot him in the chest, twice. He was rushed to a hospital,” Sofia explains. “He didn’t make it.”

    “Did he talk? Did he say who shot him?” I ask.

    “No, he never woke up,” Sofia shakes her head. “I know how you felt about him and I know you told me it was over, that you never wanted to see him again. Despite all that, I know you still wanted him gone. Well, now you got your wish.”

    My wish. Not exactly how I envisioned this wish playing out. If Simon were to be gone, I wanted it to be at my own hands.

    “There’s something else,” she says.

    Again, I don’t like her tone. “What is it, Sofia?”

    “Given your history with Simon, you’re under suspicion. . .”

    I don’t give her a chance to finish her statement. “Damn it, Curtis. Don’t say it.”

    “Tony, here me out. . .,” she tries, but I don’t let her explain.

    My voice gets angrier. “You know this is just IAB going on a damned witch hunt. They couldn’t nail me for misconduct then and now they’ve seen their golden opportunity to get rid of me for good. You know that. Don’t say I’m a suspect in his death.”

    “The rounds were 9mm, standard police issue. He was shot sometime last night during your patrol,” she continues on, her voice sympathetic. “I need to know where you were.”

    “You know what? I need some rest,” I tell her coldly. “I should get some rest before they cut me open.”

    Sofia’s eyes narrow at me, her voice darkens. “Tony, don’t be an asshole about this. Why do you think I insisted on taking this case? The Undersheriff was going to put Cavalier on this and you know how much Cavalier enjoys a good lynching. Accuse first, find the evidence later.”

    “I’d much rather it have been Cavalier,” I mutter, my voice thick with anger. “At least I could punch him.”

    This, to my surprise, makes Sofia chuckle. I look at her, catch her eyes and feel regret in my frigid attitude toward her. She says apologetically, “Tony, I took this case to protect you. You know that. Just tell me it wasn’t you.”

    “Do I even have to say it?” I look at her.

    After a moment, her smile warms up and she shakes her head. “No, you don’t. I know you didn’t do it, but you still need an alibi. Like it or not, Daryl died that day and you went through a hellish Internal Affairs investigation determining your conduct. Years later, you had a psychotic break, tried to cut a bullet out of your shoulder and then went on extended medical leave for psychological reasons. This doesn’t look good for you.”

    “I know it doesn’t and listen. I’m sorry. You’re just doing your job,” I tell her. I lean back against my pillows now and say, “I do have an alibi and if you want, you can have my firearm too.”

    “Okay, great. Where is it?” she asks, looking away as she reaches for a notepad.

    I have to smile wryly. “It’s at Catherine’s.”

    She looks up instantly at those words. Recognition dawns on her features as she smiles widely. “You sly devil. I wondered why you wanted to take Officer Metcalf’s patrol last night. Not exactly detective work.”

    I chuckle lightly. “No, not exactly.”

    She leans back, folds her arms. “So what? Catherine’s house just happened to be on your route last night?”

    “You could say that,” I grin.

    Sofia chuckles, then asks curiously. “Why was she even home?”

    I answer, “She’s requested off for about a week because I’m staying with her post surgery. Last night was her first night off and we thought it would be good to meet up. Spend some time together before I’m bedridden. I was there between 12:00 and 2:00. When was Simon shot?”

    “The 911 call came in around 1:45. You’re in the clear, Tony,” she says, plainly relieved. “I will gladly cross you off my suspect list.”

    “That’s good to know,” I say.

    “I’m sorry I had to. . .,” she begins, suddenly losing the words to finish her apology.

    “Forget about it,” I tell her.

    Sofia pats my leg again, stands and nods at me. “See you on the other side, Tony.”

    I nod at her, watch her leave and shut my eyes. While I will have a rock solid alibi in Catherine, I know the Undersheriff will give me hell for being at her house in the middle of my shift. A small price to pay considering I could’ve been accused of murder. Which even I can admit I would look good for. It was no secret I hated the man and I even told Sofia as much. I told her I would shoot him if I ever saw him.

    She also knows that I didn’t. That I wanted to, maybe had the opportunity to, but I didn’t. I had two very important women in my life who suddenly meant more to me than I ever thought possible. I didn’t want to lose them, not over a bastard like Simon.

    Now, Simon Young is dead.

    Knowing this, I can truly start over.

    to be continued. . .
  9. ladyhunter

    ladyhunter Head of the Swing Shift

    May 5, 2006
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    WOW great update!!!

    Good for both Sofia and Cath for pushing him into the sugery and taking care of himself.
  10. MrsWillows

    MrsWillows Rookie

    Jul 31, 2007
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    again, this is fantastic, please update soon.
  11. edog

    edog Lab Technician

    May 5, 2006
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    Author’s Note: At the risk of getting long winded, I’ll be ending this fic here. I want to thank all those who left comments and/or emailed me personally about this fic. It meant the world to me. Hope the holiday season has treated you well so far and that the New Year is just as prosperous.

    Part Ten: I still have a great family here in Vegas.

    Seven years later. . .

    The house is filled to the brim with people.

    Mostly colleagues from work, some family and friends. There are some younger guys and gals here from Lindsey’s graduating class. One of them claims to be a boyfriend, but I haven’t sized him up yet. I promised Lindsey I would hold off on the interrogation until after the party. It took some prodding and pleading on her part, keep in mind, but I reluctantly acquiesced to her demands. Jarod is his name, or something. I’ll be sure to run his name through our police database tomorrow morning. Get a full background check. If he stole a stick of gum, I want to know about it.

    For now though, I try to keep him out of sight and out of mind as I make my way through the crowd. I bump into Warrick and grin widely, “Brown. Good to see ya.”

    “Likewise, sir. Likewise,” Warrick beams, then motions over to Lindsey. “You’ll be beating the guys off with sticks.”

    “Don’t remind him,” I hear Catherine say, over by the table. She’s setting out more food, as if we don’t have enough. She throws us a wicked grin. “Tony has been itching to pull Jarod aside all night.”

    “Have not,” I say flatly. They both laugh and I can’t help but feel a bit bashful. This protective father thing is still kinda new to me. Only recently has Lindsey accepted me as her new father. Took a few years, but I love her like she’s my own. I shift my glance over to Jarod again and mutter, “He’s just too clean.”

    Catherine raises an eyebrow. “Too clean? Don’t you think that’s a step up from the last one?”

    Warrick pats my shoulder. “I think what your darling husband is trying to say is, he can’t find anything wrong with the kid yet. No reason to hate him, ain’t that right Tony?”

    “That’s not true,” I argue miserably. “I’m going to go check on her. Again.”

    I leave Warrick with Catherine, on a mission to keep tabs on Lindsey all night. I try to guise my overprotectiveness by using my camcorder.

    “And here, ladies and gentlemen, stands the smartest woman in the world!”

    “Dad, c’mon,” Lindsey rolls her eyes, putting a hand over my camera lens. She effectively blocks my shot of her as she begs, “Enough filming? Please?”

    I pause the recording and lower the camera. I pull her in for a hug and whisper against her hair, “Just proud of you, sweetheart. College. It’s a big deal.”

    “Uh huh,” she chuckles. She then whispers, “Don’t think you’re fooling me. I know why you keep following me around with that camera.”

    I smile sadly. “Am I that obvious?”

    “Only a little,” she laughs, then hugs me. “I still love you, though.”

    “Love you too,” I say back, then let her go. She goes straight for Jarod, who wraps an arm around her shoulders. I try not to cringe too much, the realization that Lindsey Willows is 22, dating other guys and all-grown-up a bit unnerving.

    “Scary, huh, Dad?”

    “Sofia,” I smile, turning around. “Glad you could make it back in town for this.”

    “Oh, any opportunity to see you turn tomato red over Lindsey’s latest boyfriend could not be passed up,” Sofia jokes, wrapping me up in a hug. Sofia transferred out of Vegas a few years back. An opportunity to be a Captain arose in Boulder City. She would’ve been a fool to pass it up, even though she nearly did. She was concerned for me at the time, my health taking a turn for the worse, but somehow I managed to convince her to leave.

    “Well, at least this guy is well groomed,” I mutter. I pull out of the hug and ask cheekily, “So, you still dragging Stokes around?”

    “I heard that, Vartann,” Nick says, walking up. We clasp hands in a firm shake. He laughs, “You know? I still have no idea why you don’t like me.”

    “Old habits die hard, Stokes,” I shrug. “Could be also that you’re marrying one of my best friends.” I then lean over to Sofia and tell her, “Seriously, you can do better.”

    “Tony! Enough!” Sofia grins, slapping my arm. “Nick and I are very happy, thank you very much.”

    “I know and that’s what worries me so,” I jest, then pat Nick on the shoulder. “Just take care of her.”

    “Always do,” Nick replies, then holds up his empty cup. “I need another. Are you two good?”

    “I’ll go with you,” Sofia says, then looks at me. “You. Behave.”

    I hold up my hand and say, “Scout’s honor.”

    I watch them approach the food table, where both Warrick and Catherine still stand. They all say hello, hug and laugh. I smile. I still have a great family here in Vegas.

    Seven years later and my life has certainly morphed into something I never dreamed possible. After a long battle and two shoulder surgeries later, I finally have the lead in my blood under my control. A very tiny portion of the bullet remains, but it might as well not be there. I don’t feel it, I don’t think about it. It doesn’t effect me anymore.

    I’m married. Again.

    Catherine and I going on six blissful years together. I’ll be honest. I didn’t think our jobs would allow this to work, especially after seeing the destruction that was Sara and Grissom. The poor guy was a shell of his former self when she abruptly left him, left Vegas, left the team. No one hated her for it, no. Especially not Grissom, but her departure changed things, it changed the people at the lab. It made me value my relationship with Catherine that much more.

    I look at the camcorder in my hands, lift it up and turn it back on. I turn the lense on Warrick. It’s good to see the man smiling again. He had hit a rough patch as well. Drugs, sex. The classic Vegas downward spiral. I’m glad he’s still on this Earth with us.

    Next, Nick and Sofia. Their relationship a real surprise. Even more surprising when Nick followed her out to Boulder City. I never would’ve thought Nick would leave Vegas, but love will do crazy things.

    “What are you doing?”

    I pause the recording, face my wife and shrug, “Just putting these memories on something more permanent.”

    Catherine smiles at me, wrapping her arm around my waist. I see her eyes land on Lindsey and that smile only broadens. She’s definitely proud, but her words belie her smile. “I keep having these nightmares.”

    “Like?” I ask.

    “Oh, I dunno. That Lindsey inherited my rebellious streak. She’ll run away, become a stripper, get pregnant and marry a deadbeat dad. Then she’ll find out her uncle is really her father. That’ll just throw her for a loop.”

    I frown. Even after all this time, Catherine looks back on her past as some sort of happy mistake. She’ll say she doesn’t regret anything in her life, but her years as a dancer put quite a toll on her mind and body and soul. She won’t deny the burden it was to care for Lindsey and for Eddie while trying to get her life back on track. I hug her to me, “Rebellious isn’t so bad.”

    “No?” she says.

    “No,” I say. “She could run off, dance, be blessed with a child. Get involved in a bad marriage and then learn to appreciate the good one. She’s already gone to school. She’ll work her tail off and proudly follow in the footsteps of the woman who gave her life.”

    Catherine looks at me, eyes moistening some. She jests, “God, Tony. When did you get so romantic?”

    “That Dr. Phil knows his stuff. Read his new book,” I joke back. I’m rewarded with a playful slap on the arm.

    “Just. . .do that dad thing and get back to your camera duties,” she tells me. I watch her walk over to Lindsey, the two of them my whole world.

    “So, tell me what I’m in store for.”

    “Hmm?” I say, turning to the voice. It’s Nick.

    Nick grins. “You’re a married man. Tell me what I’m in store for.”

    I look back out at Catherine, then turn to Nick. “Trust her. Don’t take her for granted. Be her friend first.”

    Nick ponders my words. “That’s it? After six years with one of the more stubborn woman I know, that’s what you got?”

    “After a few failed marriages, that’s what I got,” I tell him. His eyes widen, as he never knew that about me, but he nods his understanding. I pat Nick on the shoulder and say sincerely, “Nick, I think we’ve just started a beautiful friendship.”

    “Really?” Nick beams. He drinks from his cup, clearly elated. “I’m glad. Really. Sofia would hate it if we were always at each other’s throats or should I say, you at mine.”

    I force a smile.

    There’s still something about Nick Stokes that irks me.

    The End
  12. ladyhunter

    ladyhunter Head of the Swing Shift

    May 5, 2006
    Likes Received:
    I really like it.

    I'm glad they got married. Nick and Sofia getting married too. Verty cute.

    Good Job !
  13. MrsWillows

    MrsWillows Rookie

    Jul 31, 2007
    Likes Received:
    I adored this.
    Thanks so much for writting this, im waiting your next story... *please* lol

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