The First FKFanfic2 challenge, issued by Anita on another list:

Must have the following-

Must also involve Nick Nat and Lacroix.

A Good End to a Bad Night
by Judith Freudenthal
2001

Nick entered the morgue and saw Natalie crouched down under her autopsy table, wrench in hand.

"Scrunchi stuck again?" Nick asked.

"No. I don't know what's stuck in here. Probably someone from dayshift didn't feel like dealing with it and left it for me," Natalie grumbled as she twisted the wrench to loosen the joint and hopefully be able to fix the problem herself. She was praying it wasn't something totally, utterly revolting, but knew that with her luck it probably would be.

A few minutes later she had the joint loose and tried to peer in it but it was too dark.

"Nick, how about handing me the flashlight? It's on top of the file cabinet."

Nick grabbed it and turned it on. "Let me know where to point it. It looks like you'll need both hands to deal with the mess."

"Thanks. Aim it down the drain."

Nick aimed the flashlight down the drain from the table side and peered into the drain. "Nothing's down here."

"Great," Natalie grumbled. "Aim it down the pipe."

It was quickly obvious that something was stuck in the pipe.

"Nick, can you tell what it is?"

Nick tried focusing his vampire abilities but could not make it out. "Sorry. I can tell that there's something good sized wedged in the bend, but that's as much as I can see."

"It's a start. At least I know how far down it is."

Nick helped Natalie up. She headed out of the room and quickly returned with a rather long, thin, flexible metal pole with a claw at the end. He'd never seen anything like it before.

Natalie started to feed the pole down the pipe and when she felt the obstruction she pulled the pole back just a little bit so she could extend the claw and hopefully grab onto whatever was down there. She felt the claw securely take hold and proceeded to slowly and carefully withdraw the pole from the pipe. Finally it came out, prize intact.

"EWW," she said as she saw the very disgusting mess of .... well.... the less said the better.... and was just about to dump it into the trash when she saw something sparkly in it.

"Natalie, did you ever find my keys?"

"No. Grace and I thoroughly searched this room and the entire path to the door you usually use. We even searched the cooler. We'll keep an eye out for them. It's a good thing you have a spare set." Suddenly it hit her what the sparkling item could be. "You might want to slip into a pair of gloves and clean this off."

"It's not...?" He asked not wanting to touch the disgusting mess Natalie was holding with the claw.

"It might be."

Nick slipped into a pair of the gloves Nat used during her autopsies and took the gross mess from her and walked over to the hazardous waste bin. He started scraping the gunk off and dropped chunks of it into the bin. Finally he reached the object. "Great," he grumbled. "How the hell did they get in there?"

"I do NOT want to know," Natalie said, knowing some mysteries were best left unsolved.

Nick took the still disgustingly grimy key ring over to the sink. Natalie grabbed him a small metal pan from the cabinet and poured a hefty amount of disinfectant into it before setting it in the sink. Nick dropped his keys into it and let them soak.

She stuck her pole as far down the pipe as she could and found no further evidence of the clog so she pulled it out and set it in the sink, to be cleaned off later. She then worked on putting her drain back together again.

"I'll be right back. I need a drink," Natalie said.

"Here, use this," Nick said as he handed her a handful of change he'd fished out of his pocket. He'd seen her going for her purse and thought he'd make it easy for her.

"Thanks."

Natalie left and quickly came back with a can of soda. They had been out of her favorite so she'd had to settle for the orange soda they'd had. She hoped the guy came soon to restock it before the only thing left was the fruit punch no one ever drank.

She popped open her drink and peered into the sink. The disinfectant was starting to work on the keys as the gunk was releasing the keys.

They talked while she waited for him to finish cleaning his keys. She knew she wouldn't get any work done while he was there. She finished off her soda and tossed it into the recycling bin, which was next to the trash can.

Grace entered with a box in her hand. Nat noticed the wicked gleam in her friend's eye and wondered what was up.

"We found Nick's keys. You'll never believe where they were," Natalie said as Nick rinsed off the keys and disposed of the gunk filled disinfectant.

He rinsed out his pan with more of the disinfectant before refilling it and sticking the keys back in there for more cleaning. The gunk had been removed but he wanted to make sure he had all the residual, almost invisible layer off.

"Where?" Grace asked.

"In the pipe," she said as she pointed to the table. "It was so gross I almost didn't recognize them."

"How'd they get down there?"

"We don't know and think that's one mystery best left unsolved. What's in the box?" Natalie asked, curiously, while changing the subject.

"A little something for you." Grace handed her the box.

Natalie eagerly took the box and opened it, laughing as she saw the contents. Inside were a pair of bunny slippers. "Where did you find them?"

"A little store down on Yonge Street. It was their last pair too."

"How much do I owe you for them?" Natalie asked.

Nick looked over and saw the slippers and couldn't believe his eyes. He knew Natalie hated those, and they were way too small for her.

"How about buying lunch the next time?" Grace said.

"Fair enough."

Natalie saw Nick's curiosity. "They're for Jenny. Schanke's been looking for a pair for her."

Before long Nick's keys were finally clean and he rinsed out the steel container and put it with the other stuff awaiting sterilization in the autoclave.

"How about I buy you two dinner?"

"What about Schanke?"

"What about me?" Schanke asked as he entered. "Anyone up for some grub?"

Natalie chuckled. "Nick just offered to take us out."

"What a guy," Schanke said with a grin. "Where shall we go?"

"How about the Oriental place down the block?"

"Natalie, you always pick that," Schanke said, not a big fan of Japanese food, and liked Chinese but not as often as Natalie did. "How about the Italian place?"

"It'll take too long."

"How about the diner? It has a little something for everyone and is pretty quick," Grace asked.

"Sounds good."

The foursome headed out.

They arrived at the diner, were seated and handed menus. After a moment to look it over, the waitress took their order. The food came promptly.

"Nick, did you ever find your keys?" Schanke asked. He was surprised when everyone else started to laugh.

Natalie told Schanke the story, which caused him to laugh as well. And to agree that it was best to leave that mystery alone.

"You might want to keep a closer eye on them, Partner," Schanke teased.

Meanwhile across town Lacroix was getting ready for his nightly broadcast. A stray thought crossed his mind, causing a small grin to form on his usually grim lips. I wonder if he's found his keys yet? Lacroix didn't have time to ponder the subject any deeper as it was show time. He had been curious to see how long it would take for his errant son to locate the missing keys. It had been fun hiding them in the one place no one would look, at least not until they were forced to.

After dinner, the foursome returned to the morgue where Natalie handed the box to Schanke.

"Bunny slippers?"

"Yes. According to Grace, the last pair."

"Thanks, ladies. Jenny's been upset since the washer chewed up her last pair. They were her favorite ones."

"Glad we could help," Grace said.

"What do I owe you?" Schanke asked?

"Nothing. Just tell her they're a gift from Grace and I."

"She'll be thrilled. Thanks again."

Nick and Schanke headed out, as there was still half a shift to get through.

Natalie had two hours left in her shift when she headed down to retrieve some test results. An orderly in a rush plowed right into Natalie sending her, his files and himself tumbling to the floor. He quickly helped her up and then started to gather his files.

"Dr. Lambert, I'm so sorry. These were supposed to be ready three hours ago but they got backed up. Captain Crawford is about to rip everyone involved a new orifice. I'll be more careful. Are you okay?" He asked realizing he'd forgotten to ask that.

"I think so. You better get those files to the Captain. And take it slowly. Better to take an extra minute or two than have another collision. Are you okay?" Natalie said as she helped him pick up the files.

"I'm okay. Thanks for asking and helping."

The orderly headed on his way, as did Natalie. She absentmindedly rubbed her wrist.

Natalie picked up her test results and returned to her office. She set the file down on her desk and noticed the wrist which had taken most of the impact was starting to feel sore. It was also a little stiff. She didn't think it was anything serious and exercised it a little to loosen it up. She wet a cloth hand towel and stuck it in the freezer.

A few minutes later she got up from her paperwork and retrieved the towel from the freezer. She wrapped it in another towel and then wrapped it around her sore wrist. She didn't see any sign of swelling or bruising, but it was definitely sore.

The cold cloth did help. She finished up as much of her paperwork as she could, dropping the towel into the sink when it warmed up.

On her way out she decided to drop by the x-ray lab and see if anyone was in there. She didn't think anything was wrong, but decided to play it safe. It was easier to check it out here than to wait at the emergency room for hours. She was pleased to see the room empty and entered. She slipped a film into the plate and had it in position when the tech came in. Damn! Okay, think fast Lambert.

"Natalie, is everything okay?"

"Everything's fine, Brian. I do need your help with a research project. It's related to a case I'm working on."

"How can I help?"

"I need you to take an x-ray of my arm so I can compare it with one I took of a victim. There's something odd in hers but I can't quite pin it down. Since she's my size, I thought it might help to have a normal one to compare it with." Natalie hoped he bought it. It did sound reasonable, if a little strange.

"Oookay. Right or left?"

"Right."

Brian handed her a lead shield which she put on, then she positioned her hand flat on one side of the film, palm side down.

"Will there be one picture or two?" He asked.

"Two."

Brian took the first picture and waited for Natalie to position herself for the second one. When he saw she was ready the took the second shot, this one had her hand on it's side on the other half of the film.

"Do you want me to deliver it? Would you rather wait for it?" Brian wondered if there was some other reason she was doing this. She'd always been nice to him, and didn't seem hurt so he wasn't going to ask. He knew her request could be totally legit as she did sometimes have strange cases handed to her.

"I'll wait."

A couple minutes later he handed her the film and an envelope. She talked with him for a couple minutes and then headed back to her office, glad Grace wasn't around. She knew Grace would not be as easy to fool.

Natalie stuck the film up on her light board and turned it on. She carefully studied the x-ray film and saw no clear signs of an injury. There was one place she wasn't sure of and decided to take the film to a friend to read. Since her name wasn't on it, there wouldn't be too many questions.

Natalie stopped by her friend's office on the way to Nick's loft.

"Hi, Michael."

"Natalie, hi. What brings you by?"

"I need you to read an x-ray for me. It's for a case."

"You're usually pretty good at reading those."

"I know. Thanks. This one's a little trickier."

"I'll be happy to take a look at it."

Natalie handed him the x-ray and he stuck it up on the light board and read it with the practiced expertise of an orthopedic surgeon.

"Let me guess, it's this little shadow here that you're wondering about."

"Yes. I couldn't tell if it was just a shadow or a hairline fracture."

"It's hard to tell. This is a tricky one, indeed. I would say that it might be hairline fracture, but I can't be certain. If I had to give my medical opinion I'd say there was a good chance it is one."

"Thanks," Natalie said keeping her face and voice neutral.

"How's the knee?"

"It has its good and bad days. It's about the same as it's been. Yes, I'll come see you if it gets worse."

"I'm glad to hear it isn't any worse. You know you should do something before it gets that bad. You know it's easier to fix it now, rather than later, right?"

"I know. I'll think about it. We're understaffed right now. Maybe in a couple months."

"Okay." He knew Natalie would probably wait to have it fixed when it either bothered her too much or it had reached that point where she had no choice. He hoped she didn't wait that long.

"How about dinner one night next week? I'll see what nights I have off and give you a call."

"Sounds great."

Natalie left and started for the nearest fast food place as she was starving and knew Nick most likely wouldn't have any food in his loft. She debated what to do about her wrist. She knew there was really nothing that could be done for it, other than to watch it and make sure it didn't get any worse, and that it healed. She didn't see any reason why it wouldn't heal without any help, or getting worse.

She pulled into the parking lot of a medical supply store and entered.

She picked out a removable splint that she could wear to sleep in and when she wasn't working. And if it started bothering her she could wear it while doing her paperwork or at a crime scene.

She popped into the grocery store a few doors down as it was just as easy as take out, and was more nutritious. She picked up a few other crucial items before checking out in the express lane.

She debated slipping into the splint knowing Nick would pamper her upon seeing it, but she also knew he'd ask a lot of questions and want her to take time off from work. She picked up the grocery bag wrong and the answer was obvious.

She slipped into the splint after she'd settled the groceries on the passenger side floor and shut her door. She had to make a few fine adjustments to get it tailored to her as best as she could. She was surprised that it was pretty comfortable and didn't limit her movement too much, just enough to keep her from reinjuring herself.

About twenty minutes later she pulled into the garage at Nick's loft. She grabbed the bag with her left hand and entered the elevator.

"Nat, what happened?" Nick asked as he saw the splint as soon as he opened the door. He took the grocery bag from her and started to unpack it.

"I was knocked down at work by a speeding orderly. It seems that Captain Crawford is on the warpath again." She saw him start to say something. "Yes, I had it checked out. Yes, I'm okay."

Nick wasn't sure if she was telling him everything.

"The splint's to make me more comfortable. To keep me from reinjuring myself as I work. Yes, I'm going to work. It's not sprained so I can continue to work." She knew it was wise to leave out the hairline fracture part if she didn't want to spend the next hour explaining why she can still work, and why she only has a splint.

"Nail polish?"

"I saw it and thought it was pretty. I do wear it sometimes you know."

"I know. Why don't you eat, and then I'll paint your nails for you. "

"Sounds good. Did you get the movie?"

"It's all set. Just waiting for you."

Nick unpacked her dinner and got her a drink. They headed over to the couch.

Natalie ate while watching the movie, and Nick sipped on a mug of cow blood.

When Natalie was finished eating, Nick handed her a pillow for her lap so she could rest her wrist on it.

After the movie he grabbed the nail polish, and returned to the couch.

"Fingers and toes or just fingernails?"

"Both," she said cheerfully. She hated doing her toenails as it was a bit of a pain, but if he was willing to do it, who was she to say no?

Nick started with her toenails, after removing her shoes. After he finished her toenails he started on her right hand, carefully painting them, not wanting to accidentally hurt her. He was working on the left hand when he felt a presence.

"How cozy," Lacroix said with his usual sneer. "I see the good doctor has hurt herself."

"I'll be fine," Natalie said.

"I was just helping her out. With her injured wrist she couldn't paint her nails well enough."

The domestic scene before him totally nauseated him so he took off.

"That was odd." Natalie said.

"Not really. He likes to pop in from time to time just to bother me. When I don't take the bait he gets bored and leaves."

Once her nails were dry, Natalie removed the splint to check out her wrist. There was some bruising and a little swelling but not too bad. It was sore and stiff, but that was to be expected.

"Would you like an icepack?"

"That would be nice," Natalie said. She knew the more she kept the swelling down the faster it would heal.

Nick fixed her an ice pack and handed it to her. She positioned it for maximum effect.

About twenty minutes later she removed the ice pack as it was melting, and refastened the splint.

"Do you have to keep that on?"

"No. I figure the more I wear it, the less likely I am to accidentally reinjure myself. I'll probably take it off only to shower and do autopsies."

They watched another movie together. Nick noticed she was sleepy so he suggested she stretch out on the couch. She did so and fell asleep a few minutes later.

The next evening Grace was quite surprised to see Natalie was injured. Natalie had to explain what happened and why she's wearing the splint, and that she could work. She'd just have to be careful lifting stuff for a week or so. A month or so she thought, knowing that was the real answer. Grace wasn't sure what to believe, but knew she couldn't persuade Nat not to work if she was determined to. And Nat didn't seem to be in much pain, so she figured Nat was telling the truth.

The end.

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