CSI: LV; Nick Stokes; PG-13
"Hey Manny, how 'bout another?"
The bartender shook his head but reached behind him and grabbed another beer. As he slid it down the counter, he advised, "You drinkin' like a fish, Nicky. You gonna be swimmin' outta here by the time I close up."
He caught the bottle before it slid past him off the end of bar. "How many times have I told you not to call me..." Nick Stokes shook his head and popped the top off his beer. "Never mind. Don't sweat the small stuff, eh, Manny?"
The bartender chuckled and gave him a thumbs-up.
Nick sat in silence, half-listening to the chatter of other patrons float around him. He could make out a sentence or two, if he tried, but listening to other people bitch and whine really didn't do anything for his frame of mind.
The stool next to him creaked, and he glanced over to see a brunette with short cropped hair sit down and wave for Manny to pour her a new drink.
He put the bottle to his lips, tilting his head back and polished off the bottle. Manny asked if he wanted another, but Nick shook his head. "Whiskey." After the whiskey had been poured and a few gulps had burned a trail down his throat, he said, "I'm not interested in hooking up."
"Good, 'cause neither am I."
He sighed. "I'm sure you're a nice girl, but I like drinking alone."
"So I've noticed." She stuck her hand in his face. "Name's Mandy."
His "Charmed" dripped with sarcasm. He ignored her hand.
"Look, the world may have ridden all to hell in a handbasket, but that doesn't mean we can't be civilized." She shrugged. "Or at least pretend to be." She drew her hand back then pushed it out toward him. "Care to try again?"
Nick shook his head and gave a half-hearted smile. "Nick," he replied, taking her hand briefly and giving it a shake. He let go and curled his fingers around his glass.
"There," she said with a satisfied grin, "that wasn't so bad."
They sat in silence for a while, surprising Nick. After her rush of conviviality, he'd thought she wouldn't be able to keep quiet for long.
Just then, he was proven right.
"So, why do you come in here every friggin' night and drink yourself into oblivion? Wait! Let me guess. Is it because of the end of life as we know it? Because your job was one that was rendered obsolete in the blink of an eye and since spending your nights at the casino, the titty bars or..." She paused to eye him up and down. "...the gym isn't an option anymore, you come here?"
He put down his drink and looked her right in the eyes. "I drink in memory of my friends."
The smile disappeared from her face. "Oh. Sorry."
Nick turned back and downed the last of his drink. Without even being asked, Manny filled it back up.
Another few blessed moments of silence.
"Tell me about them."
"Your friends, the ones you drink for. Or to. Tell me about them." She was facing him, looking like she really wanted to hear about people she'd didn't know and would never meet.
He looked at Manny, but the burly bartender just shrugged and set the bottle of Jack Daniels Single Barrel on the bar between them.
Mandy looked at the bottle and raised her eyebrows. "From Sam Adams to Jack Daniels: you're toasting them in style."
"What else have I got to spend my worthless money on?"
"So, are you gonna tell me about them?" She picked up the bottle and poured them both another drink. "Before you're too shit-faced to talk - let alone - think straight." She smiled. "Come to think of it, though, you never really sound loaded, you just walk like it."
He couldn't resist smiling back. "One of my many talents."
She kept quiet, letting the silence, and her request, stretch between them until he couldn't stand it anymore.
"Warrick Brown. He died a couple years ago. Shot in his car by a coward Undersheriff who was about as dirty as you get. We caught the sunovabitch but not before two other people lost their lives." He took a gulp. "Warrick was a great guy, as quick to smile as he was to anger. He had a gambling problem, but he got cleaned up, turned his life around. He would sometimes dee jay at local clubs, not because he needed the money, but because he liked it. Even wrote his own songs. And when he was your friend, there wasn't anything he wouldn't do for you." Nick swirled the liquid in his glass, watching it go round and round. "I think he never got over Holly," he whispered.
"He would have hated this," Nick said, speaking back up again, "his city all fucked up like it is. In a way I'm glad he never had to see it."
"He sounds like a great guy."
"He was. So was Sara Sidle. I'm not sure what happened to her. She left, even before Warrick was killed. Last I heard she was in Colorado somewhere, but that was long ago. She was quiet, kept to herself. Sometimes she developed such a personal connection to a victim tha-"
"Victim?" Mandy interrupted, and only then did he realize she had no idea what he did. Used to do.
"Sorry. I used to be a crime scene investigator and forensic scientist for Clark County. So was Warrick, and Sara, and the others."
"Who are the others?" Mandy prodded, keeping their glasses filled.
Nick thought if she was trying to get him drunk it wasn't any use: he already was. The buzz felt nice.
"Well, there was Jim Brass, a homicide detective who used to be our supervisor. Great guy when he wanted to be. Sometimes a real pain in the ass. Last I heard he'd headed to LA to find his daughter. That was six months ago: I haven't heard from him since."
Mandy put her hand over his and squeezed gently. "You'll hear from him again."
"Maybe," Nick answered, pulling his hand away.
When she didn't comment, he continued, "Catherine Willows was quite a woman. Used to be a stripper. Had a mouth on her that would rival a sailor when she'd knock a few back. Ninety nine percent of the time it was guilty until proven innocent, especially when it came to cases involving kids. She was such a bitch sometimes! But you couldn't help but admire her passion and dedication. She was smart, too, knew her job backwards and forwards. She would have gone far if-"
The door banged open, cutting off the rest of his sentence. A couple staggered in, struggling to shut the door behind them.
"Hey, close the door, will ya. It's fuckin' freezin' out there, and you're lettin' out all my heat!" Manny bellowed.
"Yeah, yeah," was the reply.
Mandy wrapped her coat tighter around her as the cold air crept around the bar. "You were saying?" she prompted.
Nick shook his head. He was feeling the affects of the four beers and countless glasses of whiskey he'd imbibed that night. "Greg Sanders was your typical skinny, non-descript, people-pleasing geek. He started out in the lab, but his dream was to become a CSI. And he achieved it. Was damn good at it, too. Not that he didn't make mistakes, but he learned from them. That was the mark of a good criminalist."
"Warrick, Sara, Catherine, Jim, Greg... Sounds like you had a pretty good group of co-workers."
"The best," Greg corrected. "Even brown-noser Hodges. I've never met a man more adept at the art of kissing-up than David Hodges. But there was this one case, The Miniature Killer-"
"I remember reading about that in the news. Real psycho."
"She was," Nick agreed. "Anyway, we'd all but moved it to the back burner, but Hodges wouldn't give up. And discovered some valuable information that others had overlooked, information that helped catch the killer."
"Last call!" Manny shouted out, ringing a brass bell that was hung over a corner of the bar. "Getchyer sorry asses outta here."
Nick downed the last of the whiskey in his glass. He got up, then felt the world tilt around him. He put a hand on the bar to steady himself.
"Whoa," Mandy said, putting a hand on his shoulder. "You gonna be okay?"
"I have to be," he answered, a wealth of meaning in those four simple words. "Besides," he added, trying to lighten the mood, "I live just around the corner."
"Well, I'm not satisfied you won't fall flat on your face in a gutter between here and there. " She moved to his side, and gently took his arm, putting it around her shoulders. "Besides, while I walk you home, it'll give you a chance to finish telling me about your friends. Unless you're finished."
"No," he shook his head, and started for the door. "I saved the best for last. Gil Grissom. You want to talk about an interesting guy..."
Disclaimer: All characters are property of Anthony E. Zuiker, Ann Donahue and CBS. No infringement intended.