Fandom: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Disclaimer: Not mine.
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.
Sara could tell that Brass was looking for a neat segue into Plan B. He had gone through all of his ‘bad cop’ shtick twice. He’d threatened Bryant with a beating from LVPD officers and with Oz like tales of what the guys in the federal pen do to child molesters. Bryant looked, to Sara’s trained eye, completely unmoved by Brass’s graphic description of one of the nastier shankings he had personally investigated.
There was nothing much for her to do until there was another set of evidence in this case to collect and process and it seemed that the DNA lab was having an unaccountably quiet day as well. Her skin was crawling with irritation at the fact that Greg seemed so transfixed by this interview and by watching her watch Brass work. She liked Greg a lot but she found herself wishing that his lean frame wasn’t tilted against the rail under the window into the interrogation room.
She stretched her arms in front of her, fingers interlaced and palms forward and shook the kink out of her neck. On the other side of the observation window, Brass was again expressing surprise at Mrs David’s vehement refusal to allow Bryant visitation of his daughter.
Sara knew that this was the out Brass needed. She watched as he left the interview room, to be replaced by a swaggering Detective McNulty.
“What’s going on?” Greg asked. “What’s McNulty going to do?”
“You’ll see,” Sara said shortly. Now would be a perfect time to leave, she thought.
She had never moved with Catherine’s poise and grace, but she always felt additionally clumsy during these cases. Although she knew that her colleagues probably weren’t analysing her every move, she did know that she was under additional scrutiny during cases like this. What she could never do was work out how to act convincingly like it didn’t bother her without seeming like a heartless automaton. She stayed.
McNulty eyed Bryant up and shot him a boys will be boys smirk. He swung his leg over the chair Brass had vacated; sitting in it backwards like a poor impression of James Dean. Although Sara knew he was play-acting, had seen the photos of the beautiful baby girls he doted on, goosebumps rose on her skin. Greg straightened his back.
“Captain Brass just don’t understand.” McNulty’s voice was oily but he’d also roughened his accent a little so it sounded more like Bryant’s. Irish to Irish. Tiocfadh ar la.
Bryant’s eyes narrowed with suspicion.
“He has a daughter who’s a whore.” McNulty laughed. A humorless hollow laugh that sent a shiver up Sara’s spine. “He thinks she was exploited and doesn’t realise the dumb bitch was born to spread her legs for anyone who would have her.”
Greg looked at Sara, confusion in his brown eyes. “I don’t understand. What’s going on?”
She shot him a world-weary look. “Sometimes it takes a thief to catch a thief.”
Greg nodded, still confused but prepared to believe this was a tactic. A way of the good guys winning. Like there was anything to win in a situation like this.
Bryant had uncrossed his arms. He was still clearly reflexively hostile to the detective sitting in front of him but McNulty’s smooth band of brothers bit was starting to seduce him.
“I know how it is when the wife leaves and all you have are titty bars and whores and the internet to take care of your needs. Am I right?”
Bryant nodded. Behind the mirror Greg looked uneasily at Sara. Her profile looked carved out of stone.
McNulty grinned. “And those dumb sluts on the internet. You get tired of looking at the same thing day after day and after a while you start looking for something a bit more interesting.” He raised one eyebrow sleazily. “I’m a cop. After all the stuff I’ve seen, you know that there’s a difference between a good girl and a girl like Detective Brass’s daughter.”
Bryant was still nodding right along, a creepy grin starting to spread over his face. McNulty took his chance.
“Even the young ones. They act all innocent but then they wear their skimpy little nighties and hold on to their teddy bears and look at you with their come-fuck-me-eyes.” McNulty curled his lip.
Bryant’s voice was husky. “They want it. You can tell they want it.”
Sara closed her eyes, but not quickly enough to stop two tears from sliding out from beneath her eyelids.
She heard the small sound of distress that Greg made in his throat and his sneakered feet crossing the short distance between the rail he’d been leaning on and the chair she was sitting in, and wished that the earth would swallow her up. Crying on the job, Sidle? Crying on the fucking job? You have rules about this.
Greg dropped to his knees and, channelling one of Nana Olaf’s most comforting gestures, reached out a hand to smooth Sara’s hair back from her forehead. She jerked her head away, body rigid with panic, and he saw the pulse in her throat beat faster and faster.
He froze, confused, hand in mid-air until the words oral copulation floated into his brain and his mind’s eye flashed, against his will, to an image of Sara’s small head held still by a giant hand even as she frantically tried to turn it away. His stomach roiled. He inched away from Sara, trying to give her some space.
“Sara, it’s okay.” His words were gentle, almost a benediction. They sat for a minute in total silence.
Sara rubbed her eyes. Bryant’s words had felt like a punch in the gut but that sensation was fading and the awkwardness of the situation washed over her. She felt like a hostage taker who had lost enthusiasm for a bank raid mid-stickup but wasn’t sure how to end it without getting shot.
“Greg, can we never talk about this again? Please?” Her voice was full of an entreaty he had never heard before.
Greg shrugged his shoulders and then realised that she still had her eyes closed. “Whatever you want, Sara.” He sighed. “McNulty is playing quite the character though. It’s enough to make anyone upset.”
Sara opened her eyes. “Would you mind getting us both a bottle of water, Greg?” Her voice was strong and smooth. “We’ve both been in here for a couple of hours and I’m getting dehydrated.”
He paused, knowing that if he went to get water then this conversation would be over. Probably forever. “Sure.”
Sara hugged herself for a brief moment and then shook out her arms and legs like an athlete preparing for game time. She didn’t have time to crack up in the middle of a case.
Greg reached for the last two bottles of water in the breakroom fridge as Nick walked in the door, whistling Deep in the Heart of Texas. Greg rolled his eyes. Sometimes he was almost surprised that Nick didn’t come to work in a Stetson.
“Have you seen Sara?” Nick asked. “I have some information from Archie about a network of computer file sharers that Bryant seems to be a part of.”
“We were watching Bryant’s interview,” Greg said carefully. “I guess she’s still there.”
Nick narrowed his eyes. “Everything ok?”
“McNulty was interviewing Bryant.” Greg hesitated. “‘Takes a thief to catch a thief’ style.”
Nick’s expression was like steel. “Yeah, I’ve seen that show before.”
“Sara got upset.” Greg waited, head bowed, for Nick to think he was all kinds of stupid. “I kind of stroked her head and she completely freaked out. I didn’t mean to get in her space but I guess I didn’t think of what that might mean to her.”
It took Nick less time than it had taken Greg to work out why that might be a bad thing. The muscle in his jaw jumped.
“Is she ok?”
“Yeah, just wanted to brush it under the carpet and move on.” Nick nodded.
Greg cleared his throat. “I’ve done this job for so long. Processed all kinds of samples. I still didn’t imagine that that was what Sara had gone through.”
Nick raised an eyebrow. “What did you think we were talking about Greggo? A tickling game that got out of hand? That’s how it starts. Not how it ends.”
Greg winced. “Sara asked for some water. I should get it back to her.”
Nick’s shoulders sagged. “Look, I’m sorry man. I didn’t mean that to sound so--”
“Fucking horrifying?” Greg supplied.
Nick’s mouth twisted. “Sara’s strong. I knew it had to have been pretty bad for her to fight it so hard each time we caught one of these cases. I didn’t have to hit you over the head with it.”
“It’s ok, dude.”
Sara took the bottle from Greg with a small smile of thanks and cocked her head curiously at Nick. She looks exhausted, Nick thought.
Greg bit his lip and shoved his hands in his pockets. “I need to get back to the DNA lab.” He scanned Sara’s face nervously for some kind of hint that she wanted him to stay but she just nodded.
“So, Archie’s brought me up to speed with some computer file sharing activity recorded on Bryant’s laptop. Want me to give you the highlights, or do you want to hear it from the voice of the expert.” If Sara could see the extra warmth and care in Nick’s smile, she didn’t acknowledge it.
Sara frowned. “Bryant’s laptop? I don’t remember seeing that at his house. Did we take that into evidence?”
“It was in his backpack when he was brought in. Archie’s been trying to figure out how he’s connected to his Fathers 4 Justice buddies and to look at some of his file swapping activity.”
“Just give me the Cliff’s notes,” Sara smiled. This time, Nick noted with satisfaction, the smile reached her eyes.
“So,” Nick said. “While you and Greggo have been watching Patrick Bryant get us nowhere very fast Archie has been busier than a beaver. He checked out the ftp logs on Bryant’s laptop and Brass subpoenad the ISP records associated with the IP addresses of ftp servers that he uploaded pictures to.”
“Because Bryant’s been sending them porn?”
“Yes. The files that he sent are still sitting in a folder on his desktop. The ISPs of the recipients were all extremely co-operative.” Nick raised his eyebrows. Even the ISPs were starting to get that the First Amendment didn't protect their customers from the consequences of distributing pornography.
“So, do we have a list of real names and addresses yet?”
“Here,” Nick handed Sara the casefile. It had a list of names and addresses clipped to the front.
Sara’s eyes narrowed as she read down the list.
“What is it?” Nick asked. “Is one of those names familiar?”
Sara tapped one finger against her lower lip. “Yes, but I don’t know from where.” Her forehead crinkled. “I’m not sure it has anything to do with this case.”
"LVPD ran all their records and I have them on the tablet.” Nick passed the tablet computer to Sara and she began to flip through the records until she found the one she was looking for.
“Dr. William McGregor. A psychiatrist.” Sara’s brow was still furrowed as she read the information on the screen. Her face cleared. “That’s it. He’s described here as an expert witness.”
She looked up at a confused Nick. “Chandra was telling me about this guy.”
“Chandra?” Nick was trying to be polite. The half-grimace he received from Sara told him that he hadn’t been successful.
“She was bitching about him. Apparently he’s testified in a few child abuse cases that she’s aware of about the unreliability of children’s memories.”
“His thesis was on implanting memories of trauma. That’s the line he peddles for juries. That it’s irresponsible therapists who manufacture these memories.”
Nick folded his arms over his chest. “So, children just make this stuff up? Out of a clear blue sky?”
Sara shrugged. “That’s basically what he thinks, according to Chandra.”
“Well, I don’t know if it’s any use to us just now, but I think we should take it to Brass anyway. LVPD is sure to be building a case against the child porn ring we seem to have uncovered.”
“Dr. William McGregor?” Brass ran his hand across his head. “You’re telling me that Annabeth’s therapist is part of this kiddie porn ring?”
“Annabeth’s therapist?” Nick was thunderstruck.
Brass looked grim-faced. “Yeah. I guess that Bryant wasn’t lying when he described him as a creep. I just thought all of that was deflection.”
“How did McNulty do with Bryant?” Nick asked.
“Nothing that we didn’t already know,” Brass answered, wearily. Even though he had planned the whole interrogation perfectly, Nick knew that he didn’t relish the way his daughter’s reputation had been traduced.
“So, what do we do? Should we execute a warrant on McGregor tonight?” Sara was biting the skin around one fingernail.
“I don’t think so.” Brass sounded firm. “I think that we know that Annabeth is safe tonight and the risk reward analysis on him disposing of evidence versus us moving too quick comes out in favour of us taking our time with this one.”
He surveyed Nick and Sara dispassionately. “Besides, shift is about to end and there may be a mountain of evidence to process tomorrow. If he’s a children’s therapist then Annabeth is probably not the end of it.”
“We could hand over to day shift?” Sara tentatively suggested.
“I’ll just be happy to wait a few hours for the A-Team, if it’s all the same to you Criminalist Sidle.” Brass’s voice was mock stern.
“This was a good idea, Sara.” Nick took a long pull on the neck of his beer and pressed the cool bottle to his face.
Sara was silent, looking out over the vast expanse of desert from the rock that she was perched on. The horizon shimmered in the distance, marked by the occasional passing truck that kicked up dust on its way to somewhere else.
Apart from the awkward series of breakfasts, Nick and Sara didn’t socialise much without the rest of their team-mates. The impromptu drive out to the desert had been Sara’s last ditch attempt to avoid being alone with the grime from the day’s emotional drama still on her skin.
She took a swig from her own bottle, feeling the sun’s dry heat start to gather on her bare arms, and glanced down at her colleague. Nick’s face was hidden by the peak of his hat.
“Are you ok? After today, I mean.”
Nick’s hands stilled on the bottle, where he had been picking at its label. “Yeah, I’m OK. It’s frustrating that it’s taken us so long to get here, but we’re makin’ progress.” He shifted slightly against the rock he was leaning on. Decided to go for honest. “It’s not the same for me when it’s a girl. I mean, it doesn’t hit me here.” He thumped his chest.
Sara bit her lip. “Same here. Or not. You know what I mean.”
“Yeah. So are you doing ok?”
Sara blinked back tears, thankful that Nick couldn’t see her face even if he could hear them in her voice. “McNulty is really good at his job.”
“Did Greg tell you I spazzed out?”
Nick weighed his options. “He was really worried that he’d done something irredeemably stupid.”
“He didn’t. He didn’t know.” She swallowed, convulsively.
“He knows I was abused. He thought I might have some kind of insight that would be helpful.”
“You had to explain to him why what he did was a bad idea?” Sara felt almost nauseous with shame.
“No, that part he figured out. I guess he didn’t want to upset you but didn’t really know how to process the information.” Nick was choosing his words with the care he usually reserved for job interviews and giving evidence in court. “People, even criminalists, often think that child molestation is a lot more PG13 than the reality.”
Sara’s head was bowed. “Was yours PG13?”
Nick shook his head. “No.”
Sara’s mouth crumpled. “I’m sorry.”
“Actually,” Nick half-smiled. “It really kind of is.”
Nick sighed. “Sara, I don’t want to tell you what to do or how to feel but is this really something you want to get into right now?”
Sara kicked away a small pebble. “I don’t know.” Her voice cracked. “I just want to not feel like this.”
Nick stood up so that his head was only a couple of feet below hers. She looked away, scanning the range opposite.
“If you want to talk about this, then I’m happy to. But we have at least another shift of this case and I don’t want to bring up a lot of emotions that you have nowhere to take.” Sara’s hair flipping in the breeze was the only part of her that was moving. Nick could have sworn that she had stopped breathing.
She looked at him and the pain on her face almost took his breath away.
“What should we talk about then?”
He held out his hand to her. “Let’s take a walk. I haven’t caught you up on the crazy stuff my nephew and nieces have done recently”
She hesitated for so long that Nick almost took his hand away, nearly started to blush with the embarrassment of rejection. Then swinging her legs round so they dangled down the rockface, she put her hand in his.