One and a half months after Greg had awoken from his coma, he was finally allowed to leave the hospital. They tried to convince him to go to a rehab facility, but he was adamant about leaving. He could walk, and feed himself, use the bathroom, what else did he really need to do? Sometimes his right arm would still go numb from the nerve damage, but he knew the exercises his therapist Abby had shown him to work the tingling out. Maybe he hobbled a little more than he used to, and sometimes that bullet in his pelvis sent a sharp pain shooting down his leg, but he could manage to get around. He was just tired of constantly being surrounded by people. He just wanted to be alone, although he wasn't sure he wanted to go home.
Home. Their home, Nick and Greg's. It was in Greg's name, but it was most certainly theirs. How would he pass by the desk chair that Nick always draped his jeans over after a long day at work? How was he supposed to eat dinner by himself at the coffee table, when they would always eat together while watching recorded shows on their television? And while Nick may have had his own bedroom to keep up appearances, with his own closet and his own bathroom full of all of his things, they always slept in Greg's bed. How was he going to sleep in that bed, alone? When there was supposed to be someone else beside him, snoring obnoxiously until Greg would get up and go into Nick's room just to get some damn sleep?
Sara brought him some clothes. He went into the bathroom to change as if everyone in this place hadn't already seen him naked. Dressed slower than intended, ran some water through his hair, splashed some on his face. Gripped the sink tightly, meeting his own eyes in the mirror. Looked the same, knew he wasn't. Exited the bathroom and stepped back into his hospital room for the last time, about to leave when a nurse handed him a small plastic bag.
"These are the things you came in with," she said, leaving hastily.
He moved to his bed, upending the bag and spilling the contents onto the mattress. His wallet. His keys. His broken cell phone, although someone had had the decency to at least attempt to clean the blood off of it. He crumpled the bag in his hands, but felt something else inside of it. Reached inside, his fingers finding cool metal.
His breath caught in his throat. Of course. How could he forget this?
He pulled out a silver necklace, the ring attached to it following. Gripped the ring in his hand tightly, closing his eyes and biting back tears. Remembered the day Nick gave it to him as they sat in the backyard, a fire burning in the pit Nick had built with brick and cement. It had been their three year anniversary. Nick had grilled some ribeye steaks. They'd eaten outside and drank wine, talking and laughing while listening to Al Green. Nick had knelt down on one knee beside him to drop more wood into the fire, turned to him with a small box, still kneeling. So sly. Such a fucking romantic.
"Greg?" he heard from the doorway. Sara, coming to retrieve him. "Ready to go?"
"Yeah," he replied, his voice barely above a whisper. He cleared his throat, thrusting the ring into his pocket. "Yeah. I'm ready."
He said that, but it certainly wasn't true.
Sara drove him to his home, talking nervously the entire way. Greg never responded, but enough words spilled clumsily out of her for the both of them. He just couldn't concentrate on the conversation. His stomach was in knots. He bounced his knees, chewed his lip, rubbed the ring in his pocket with anxious fingers. The closer they got, the stronger became his urge to vomit, but he was sure Sara wouldn't appreciate it if he threw up all over the inside of her car. Again. The first time occurring when she'd gotten into a fight with Grissom and had asked him to join her in a night of drinking.
She pulled into his driveway, killed the engine. Nick's truck wasn't there, just Greg's car. He knotted his brow, his fingers wrapped around the door handle, but he couldn't bring himself to open it. There was a sudden hand on his shoulder, startling him.
"His parents came and took all of his things."
The words hit him harder than the bullets that had torn through his body. They echoed in his head, and he was unable to hide his panic as he looked at her, shocked.
"Who let them in?" he nearly yelled.
She couldn't look at him, and he knew the answer. Abruptly, he pushed the door open and burst out of the car like a rocket, running to his front door, stumbling as his left leg locked up painfully. He could barely hear Sara calling after him as he fumbled with his keys, unlocking his door with shaky hands. Loudly, the door slammed into the wall as he opened it and stepped into his living room.
There were no jeans strewn over the desk chair. No boots by the front door. But everything else looked the same. He crossed the room quickly, limping as his hip screamed in a hot, searing pain. Traversed the hallway to the second bedroom on the right. Pushed the door open and –
It was empty. No furniture. No clothes. No toiletries. Just an empty fucking space surrounded by light blue walls.
"Fuck!" he screamed, pressing his fingers into his eyes. They had taken all of his things, every last one of them. Back to Texas, just like they'd done with Nick. What about the ring? Where was Nick's ring? He flung himself into action, moving into his own room and pulling open drawers with a frenzy. Searching his dresser, nightstands, closet. Quickly, he moved back down the hall, into the bathroom. Tore that apart too. Nothing. Searched the kitchen, the living room. Caught sight of Sara standing in the doorway, watching him with wide eyes. Maybe it was in the desk, he considered. What about the entertainment system?
Nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing.
He was suddenly aware of the fact that something else was missing.
"Where is Daisy?" he asked, his voice even, his heart hammering in his chest.
He felt as if he'd been punched right in the gut. Nick's dog. Of course, because that's what they'd told everyone, that it was Nick's dog. Which meant –
"They took her too, didn't they?" he asked, sitting down heavily on the couch that was no longer theirs but just his. Sara sat down beside him, close but not close enough to touch him. She seemed hesitant, wary.
"Yeah, they did."
He put his head in his hands, screwing his eyes closed. "I asked for this."
"What?" she asked, placing a tentative hand on his back.
"I asked for this," he repeated, standing from the couch and pacing the living room. He rubbed his aching thigh, ignoring the pain. He deserved it anyway. "I asked for this, Sara. I sat in that fucking hospital and wondered who was going to take that fucking dog out now that Nick wasn't here. Because even though I was the one that wanted that dog, he would be the one to get up and take her outside and take her for a walk and run her around in the dog park. He's the one that would discipline her and yell at her when she ate something or shit on the carpet. He taught her how to sit and roll over, he even taught her bang bang."
Sara watched him with bewilderment, her eyes wide, mouth agape. "What...what is bang bang?"
"He'd shoot her and say 'bang bang' and she would lay down dead," Greg replied, pointing to the floor with his fingers, his thumbs cocking like triggers. He laughed hysterically. "He loved showing everybody that trick. Women fucking loved that trick, do you know that?"
He looked at her expectantly. She shook her head, quickly responding, "No. No, I didn't know that."
"Yeah," he said, nodding. "You want to see how fast a woman's panties can fall off, just smile and talk in a southern accent and show them bang bang at the dog park. They'd laugh and twirl their hair around their finger and their panties would just fall right off, and damn it if he didn't love the attention, that fucking flirt."
"But I'll tell you what, Sara," he continued. "That dog fucking loved me. She would sleep with me in my bed and lay on the couch with me when we watched TV even though Nick hated it when she was on the couch. She respected him, but she loved me."
He stopped pacing. Leaned against the wall, sliding down until he was sitting on the floor. Cried messy, ugly cries, his chest heaving, nose running. Felt a warm and comforting embrace, leaned into it and gripped Sara tightly. Held on to her like a sailor lost at sea clutched a buoy. But, God, did he want to let go. Maybe if he did, he could join Nick at the bottom of the sea.
After quite a few minutes of crying, he managed to calm down. Took shuddering, deep breaths and brought himself back, remembering what Abby had taught him when he felt himself drifting too far. Just breathe. When you start to feel overwhelmed, just take a deep breath, Greg. Everything is better after a deep breath.
"Sara," he breathed, his voice hoarse. "I remember his eyes."
She didn't respond, just kept holding him tight.
"Do you think..." he began, but he could hardly say the rest. "I'm afraid he thinks he was alone."
"What do you mean?" she asked, pulling away to look him in the eye.
"I remember his eyes," he repeated, wiping his nose with the back of his sleeve. "They were...he was there, but he wasn't there. I'm afraid he didn't know I was there. I'm afraid he thinks he died alone."
He watched tears spill onto Sara's cheeks, watched her try to find the words just as he had done so many times in the past month.
"Greg, I'm sure he knew you were there," she whispered quietly. "I'm sure he heard what you said."
He sat back against the wall, wondering what she meant but he wasn't sure how to ask. She sat beside him briefly, before standing and moving to the kitchen. Returned moments later with two cold beers and a half-empty bottle of whiskey. She unscrewed the top of the whiskey, handing him the open bottle.
"Thanks," he said, taking a swig, wincing as the harsh liquor passed over his tongue. He handed the bottle back to her, trading it for a beer. "Where did you get this?"
She sat back down next to him, taking a sip before sighing heavily. "I've...kind of...been staying here."
He regarded her suspiciously. "Why?"
"I don't really have a place right now."
She suddenly seemed uncomfortable. "We're...not really together anymore."
"What does that mean?" he asked.
He frowned. "Did I know that?"
"Sorry," he said, peeling the label off of his beer bottle. "I don't know if you know I've been having some trouble with my memory."
"I might've heard something about that," she said, smiling before taking another sip of whiskey. She pursed her lips several times, seemed to be gearing up to say something momentous, but he wasn't sure what. He was too afraid to ask, so instead, he allowed her to struggle. Finally, she blurted out, "I know you and Nick were more than just friends."
He looked at her with surprise. "You do?"
She nodded. "I heard the 911 call. I wasn't supposed to, I shouldn't have, but I listened to it. I heard what you said."
He bit his lip. Looked at her with a sideways glance. "What did I say?"
"You don't remember?"
He shook his head. Waited with bated breath.
"You told the girl on the phone to tell Nick that you loved him, in case you didn't make it."
"Maybe I love him like a brother," Greg offered. Sara only responded with an unamused glare.
"Greg, I might be oblivious to most things," she said, "but you did not say it like that. How long were you together?"
She let out a low whistle. "Why didn't you tell anyone?"
"He didn't want anyone to know," Greg admitted. "His parents knew...about him. About us. But they...we didn't talk about it. He just...he didn't want anyone at work to know, he was afraid of what it would do to his career."
"Did it bother you? Not telling anyone?"
"Not really," he replied, shrugging. "We'd always been friends, so it wasn't like it was suspicious that we hung out. We'd still get drinks, go to dinner, movies, whatever. Nothing really changed after we got together." He smiled ruefully. "Our nights just started ending differently."
"Why didn't you tell me?" she asked, quietly. "You should've said something, at least in the hospital."
"I wanted to, trust me," he said, shaking his head. He took another swig of whiskey. "I just...it didn't seem right to betray him just because he isn't here anymore."
He reached into his pocket, pulling out the ring attached to a necklace. Dangled it from his fingers, taking the ring off and placing it on the ring finger of his left hand. Heard Sara's quiet gasp of surprise.
"He gave this to me one year ago," Greg stated, his voice thick. "He was wearing his when...I don't know what happened to it. I think his parents took it, along with everything else. I doubt they buried him with it, but I'm sure they knew it was from me."
"Greg, I'm so sorry," she stated quietly. "And I'm sorry I let them in here. At the time, I had no idea."
"It's okay," he said, and raised his beer bottle to her, almost like a peace offering. She touched hers to his, the glasses clinking together in a morbid toast. Shared a glance, shared a few drinks, until they fell asleep together on the couch in drunken misery.
To be continued.