dipenates: (Nick - wistful)
[personal profile] dipenates
Title: Passing Judgment on my Life
Fandom: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Rating:  R
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Icon: [livejournal.com profile] bflyw 
Characters:  Greg, Sara and Nick friendship. Nick and Greg pre-slash.
Warning:  Contains references to sexual abuse and rape. Please stay safe when reading this fic.
Summary: Sara and Nick are forced to look at their pasts as they investigate an assault on a child. Started life as a post-ep for 6X05: Gum Drops.

Chapter five

Sara had been completely honest with Nick when she said that wanted to sleep rather than eat, but even after she had showered and climbed into her pyjamas, sleep proved elusive. She lay under the light duvet she used in the summer and listened to the air conditioning; her mind churning over the day's events.

She couldn’t get the images from the SART kit out of her mind, or the physical pain that she knew Annabeth must have felt. Although her current king sized bed with its crisp linen sheets was completely different to the narrow bed her father used to visit, Sara had never found bed a great place to be when reminded of her childhood. Despite her recent shower, Sara felt dirty.

She threw back the covers and climbed out of bed.

The Discovery Channel had always been Sara’s refuge when her mind wouldn’t stop replaying her own personal horror show. Animals were simple and lying on the sofa under a cotton blanket watching a documentary always made her feel calmer and cleaner. She fixed herself a cup of chamomile tea in her favourite Harvard mug and set it on the coffee table, within reaching distance of the sofa.

On that particular night, though, Discovery wasn’t distracting her enough to stop her mind going back over the short conversation she had had with Nick as they drove to Patrick Bryant’s house.

“It’s important to me that kids are safe. If someone hurts them I want to help get their safety back as quickly as possible.”

What did Nick mean by that? Did he just mean what everyone meant when they said things like that, recognising that children were smaller and less powerful and so needed special protection, sometimes even from the very people who were supposed to love and look after them? Or did he mean that he personally had a special reason for wanting that to be so? In the middle of trying to picture Nick’s face as he’d said those words, trying to eke another speck of meaning out of the conversation, Sara drifted off to sleep with the TV still on.

***

The first thing that Greg did when he came into work each shift was check EvidenceTrak, which told him what the DNA backlog was and helped him work out the order in which he should process the evidence he had been passed by the CSIs. He saw that samples from Patrick Bryant’s house had been brought in but they hadn’t been flagged for rush processing, unlike a large batch of samples from the bus crash site and two samples from Warrick and Catherine’s double murder.

Freaking day-shift, he thought. How many times do I have to say, “If everything is prioritised then nothing is prioritised?”

Greg decided that he needed coffee. There was plenty of work to do but the lab was quiet with so many people sleeping off overtime and reviewing EvidenceTrak had made him feel more bored than inspired.

Carrying his steaming mug back from the breakroom, he noticed that Archie was in the AV lab and pushed the door open.

“Do you know where Nick and Sara are?”

“Hmm?” Archie was in the middle of setting up a new clip, fingers flying over his keyboard.

“Nick? Sara? I need to speak to them about samples from Patrick Bryant’s house.”

Archie looked up. “I don’t think they’re in yet. They were here through some of day shift so Grissom insisted that they come in late. Overtime, overtime. You know the score.”

Greg nodded. Despite the fact that the LVPD crime lab was the second biggest in the country after Quantico, they were still subject to the same pressures to keep costs down as everywhere else. Greg, as manager of the DNA lab, was responsible for making sure that the DNA lab overtime stayed within levels set by Grissom.

“Are these tapes from Patrick Bryant’s?” Greg asked, as he surveyed the piles of videotapes that were neatly stacked next to Archie’s workspace.

“Yeah,“ Archie said, dully. “I swear, some of my friends think that sitting around looking at porn all day is a perk of the job but it just makes you realise how disgusting most of it is.”

Greg sat down in the seat next to Archie. “Yeah?”

Archie swallowed hard. “I’ve looked through ten tapes so far. I’m flagging five to the Child Exploitation unit at the FBI, but the other five are more than enough to make me wish I could bleach my brain. They’re almost identical in content to the recordings that some serial rapists keep as souvenirs but they’re definitely commercially produced pornography.”

Greg blanched. “Who would want to watch that shit?”

“Beats the hell out of me.” Archie looked down at the keyboard. “I go home after shifts like this and watch reruns of Friends. Just to convince myself that not everything in the world is about pain and misery. Then I pray for a nice license plate enhancement problem on my next shift.”

Greg nodded. He understood completely. “For me it’s romantic comedies.” Archie looked up in surprise. “Granted, I don’t have to look at the things you do, but my mind is more than capable of making up visuals to accompany some of the things we uncover in the DNA lab.”

Archie nodded. “I bet.”

Greg put his hand on Archie’s shoulder. “Any time you need a break from this shit, you come find me in the DNA lab. I can provide coffee and some good sounds.”

Archie smiled. “The coffee is always awesome, but I’m not sure I’d describe that crap you listed to as ‘good sounds’ “.

Greg made a mock-hurt face. “Everyone’s a critic.”

He got up to leave, exchanging smiles with Archie. The AV tech sighed and then braced himself slightly before hitting Play on the newest tape.

***

Nick felt oddly content as he tipped another bundle of papers from their evidence bag onto the layout room table. He and Sara had spent a couple of hours going through the Fathers 4 Justice materials that Sara had found at Patrick Bryant’s house and were starting to get a sense of what their suspect had been involved in.

“So,“ Sara said. “From this collection of agendas and meeting notes it seems as though Bryant has been a core member of the Fathers 4 Justice executive in Nevada. He’s attended all of the meetings and the others in the group seem to go along with his suggestions and ideas.”

Nick nodded. “And,“ he waved a pile of leaflets. “These leaflets are really clear about the purpose of the organisation. They’re campaigning at state level to have custody arrangements changed so that fathers get more access to their children. They’re also campaigning at federal level and the Nevada group is affiliated to a national group.”

Sara tucked her hair behind her ears and stood, hands on hips, surveying the table. “Is there any evidence of more local activity? How much time did these guys actually spend with each other?”

Nick picked up one of the leaflets and held it out to her. “It says on this Nevada leaflet that there’s a website with information about local chapters and a message board.”

Sara quickly read the leaflet. “We should have Archie check it out, while we run background checks on all the other individual group members identified in the paperwork.”

“You have got to be kidding me!”

Nick and Sara both looked up from the layout table at Catherine, who was standing in the doorway, incredulity on her face.

“What’s up Catherine?” Nick asked.

“How is Fathers 4 Justice mixed up in your case?” Catherine shook her head, one hand on her hip.

Sara handed the leaflet she was holding to Catherine. “Patrick Bryant, the biological father of our sexual assault vic, is an active member. We were just trying to work out exactly who they are and how they’re organised locally. We haven’t ruled Bryant out as a suspect, and there’s always a chance of criminal conspiracy.”

“You think a pedophile ring?” Catherine raised her eyebrows.

“We don’t know anything about them at all,” said Nick, firmly. “We’re going to get Archie to check out their website and message board, but neither of us has encountered them before now. It could be significant that Bryant is a member, or not.” He looked at Catherine. “What do you know about them?”

“Not much,” said Catherine. “One of the other moms from Lindsey’s school asked me about them a couple of years ago. She knew I was in law enforcement and thought I might be able to help her with an ex who was trouble.”

She shot a worried look at Sara. “He was violent and she was trying to stop him having access to their daughter when he became a member. There was stuff about the group in the media and it described a kidnap plot in England that they had planned as a media stunt. She was really worried that he might do something stupid.” Catherine blew out her cheeks. “Nothing ever happened, thank God.”

“Do you know what they do, exactly?” Nick asked.

“I think the idea is that they do stunts to highlight the different way moms and dads are treated by family courts. Fortunately, Lindsey’s friend’s dad was much more interested in posturing for the Review-Journal than he was in staying in touch with his daughter.”

Sara looked irritated. “So it’s a club for child-abusers and wife-batterers to bitch and moan about not having access to their children?”

Catherine half-smiled. “I’m sure there’s some decent, law-abiding men involved who are just concerned that family courts can be iniquitous.”

Sara snorted her disbelief.

“Let me know if you find anything interesting, would you?” Catherine asked from the doorway. “I’m kind of interested in that group.”

“Sure thing,” Nick responded, as the door swung shut behind her.

Sara yawned loudly as she packed the leaflets back into evidence bags.

“Tired?” asked Nick, as he resealed one of his own evidence packets.

Sara shrugged. “I never sleep very well during these kind of cases.”

Nick blinked at Sara’s admission. Normally she refused to acknowledge that she was tired or hungry, even if she was almost on her knees from hours at a scene. She was notorious for blowing her overtime allowance earlier in the month than any other CSI and for taking worse care of herself than all of the rest of them.

He had decided to take advantage of the conversational opening almost before he realised it.

“Me either. Brings up too many memories I’d rather not deal with at work.”

Sara froze for a second and then continued to shuffle the papers in front of her, carefully avoiding the possibility of eye contact.

“For me too.” Her voice was husky and Nick could only guess at the effort that it had been to speak those words aloud.

He remembered speaking to Catherine and trying to control the tremor in his voice; trying to remain calm and in control. His own words, the words he’d spoken to Catherine, echoed back at him. It’s what makes a person, I guess.

She cleared her throat. “I should really get this stuff to Archie. Could you see if Greg has any results for us yet?”

“Sara, I think we should talk.”

She still wasn’t looking him in the face. “I can’t do this right now.” Her voice was small and uncertain, as if a wisp of wind could blow the sound away.

“Later then?” Nick was trying to keep the sound of desperation out of his voice, to somehow reassure Sara that what they were discussing was perfectly normal and reasonable.

“Maybe.” Sara waved the evidence bags at Nick in an awkward salute and closed the door.

Nick watched her through the glass as she paused for a moment in the corridor and squared her shoulders, as if to centre herself, before heading in the direction of the AV lab. He hoped he hadn’t somehow blown his only chance to reach out to her.

***

Nick could hear the Marilyn Manson spilling out of the DNA lab before he got within 20 feet of the closed door. He grinned to himself. Grissom hated the music that Greg played but the DNA tech was like an irrepressible teenager, in that he constantly had to be reminded to keep the volume down. Nick didn’t understand how anybody could think through that racket but Greg swore up and down that it helped him concentrate and, as one of the best DNA techs in the country, Greg should know.

“Greggo,” Nick hollered over the music.

Greg heard him first time and paused, mid-shimmy, to mute the CD player that sat at the back of his workspace.

“What’s up, Nicky?”

“Do you have any results for us on Annabeth David?”

Greg handed Nick a sheaf of papers. “I sure do.”

Nick scanned them quickly. “There’s a match to Patrick Bryant? Her father?” His jaw tightened.

Greg shook his head. “It’s not the semen. It’s from the sample LV08-AD1-06, which was marked ‘blood from underwear – waistband’.”

Nick’s face cleared. “There was a round spot of blood really near the waistband of her underwear. The shape suggested a spot of blood had fallen onto it from a reasonable height. We’ll see if Bryant has an explanation for that but it’s entirely possible that the blood was there before the rape.”

“Is Bryant coming in for an interview?”

“He was interviewed last night but Brass had to cut him loose. Before Archie had a chance to review the tapes and Sara and I could review the paperwork from his house, there was nothing to really go after him on. That, plus this, will be enough to bring him in.”

Greg chewed his lip. “I’m guessing the vic couldn’t identify her attacker.”

Nick shook his head. “Nope. She’s completely traumatised. The report on the interview reads like her concentration was barely in the room when CPS was talking to her.”

Greg looked into the middle-distance. “Poor kid.”

“Yeah.” Nick’s voice was quiet.

***

“So,” Brass said to Patrick Bryant. “I’m showing you a photo of a pair of child’s panties. Could you explain how your blood got on these?”

The Disney Princess panties flashed up on the video screens in the interview room and Sara, watching through the two-way, flinched.

“That is all kinds of disturbing.”

Sara jumped. She hadn’t realised that Greg had been standing a few feet behind her, watching the interview.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” Greg gave her a look that was one part empathy and one part appraisal.

Sara reflected on the fact that was about done with people looking her up and down like they were wondering when she was going to flip out.

“Are you looking for me?” Sara was aware that she sounded snippy. She wasn’t Greg’s supervisor and he had every right to spend a couple of minutes watching an interview to get context for his evidence.

“No, I’m just curious about this interview.” His expression was unreadable. “Would you rather watch alone?”

“I could care less.”

Sara turned her gaze back to the interview room; tension humming through her body.

“I can’t believe you fucking people,” Bryant was shouting now. “Questions about that stupid, uptight fucking school. So I went a couple of times at lunch to see my own daughter. What’s so wrong with that? I was worried about her, ok? My bitch of an ex marries that android David, gives my princess his name, won’t let her see her own father and then wonders why she freaks out and starts wetting the bed.”

He jabbed a finger at Brass. “Then, the stupid bitch drags her to that creepy fucking psychiatrist instead of letting me spend time with her. Because some booksmart slimeball is going to have a much better handle on my daughter than I do. Fuck him and fuck you.” He sat back in his chair.

“We’re just trying to find out what happened to your daughter, Mr Bryant.” Brass was staring Bryant out now.

Bryant leaned forward. “Then you’re wasting your fucking time talking to me. I love my daughter and I would never hurt her.”

(Part six)

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March 2015

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