It was during the month that followed that Greg fell into a deep and dark depression. He would stay in his bedroom all day, thick curtains drawn, only leaving on those rare occasions he wanted to eat something. He'd found an old, maroon Texas A&M blanket in his closet that Nick's parents hadn't managed to take. Went to the drugstore and bought the cologne Nick used to wear. Sprayed it on the soft fabric and curled up with it in bed, burying his face into it and inhaling the scent of his dead husband. And he'd cry inconsolably until he'd fall asleep.
Some days, on his darkest days, he considered killing himself. He would lay curled around that blanket and tell Nick he didn't want to do this alone. He didn't know how to do this alone. That if he couldn't live with Nick, he certainly wasn't going to continue living without him. He had even gone so far as to make sure Sara would inherit the million dollars Nick's life insurance policy had paid out to him, and the house too. He just couldn't seem to work up the courage to go through with it. At least not yet. But there was a gun in the safe beside Greg's bed, and sometimes he would open the safe just to make sure it was still there. Just in case.
Finally, one day, Sara opened the bedroom door, forcefully slamming it into the wall with a loud bang. Greg startled as he sat up in bed, his heart pounding in his chest.
"What is it?" he asked breathlessly. "What's wrong?"
"I'll tell you what's wrong," she said, opening the curtains with such vigor she pulled one off of the window. She threw it to the floor with disinterest, knocking several items off of his dresser. "You're not doing this anymore."
She turned to him, pulling the covers off of him and grabbing the pillows, tossing two across the room and keeping a third in her hands. She hit him with it roughly just once, standing at the side of his bed and breathing heavily, poised to strike again at any moment. She looked more angry than he'd ever seen her.
"What the fuck is wrong with you?" he said, holding a hand up in defense.
"I am not going to sit here anymore and watch you do this to yourself," she declared. "Get out of bed."
"Sara, I'm fine," he responded, although he knew probably as much as she did that that certainly wasn't true. "I'm just...trying to get through this."
"You aren't going to do it like this," she said, throwing the pillow and trading it for the Texas A&M blanket. "You aren't going to get over him by burying yourself in this blanket every day in this dark fucking room. You need to get out of this room and back to your normal life."
"My normal life?" he spat dubiously. "What normal life? Walking my fucking dog that I don't have? Or are you talking about going back to the crime lab, where Nick worked? Sitting in that office we shared? Or eating dinner by myself every night? I don't know how to fucking cook, Sara! How the fuck am I supposed to survive without Nick making me something to eat? I don't even know what to buy at the store for the shit that he used to make. And who's going to carry in all the heavy groceries? I never used to do that! You expect me to do that, too?"
He suddenly inhaled sharply, burying his face in his hands, pressing his fingers into his eyes.
"Oh, my God, Sara," he cried. "I don't know how to do anything without him. I don't know what it's going to feel like. I just want to stay in here, then I won't have to know. Not if I stay in here, Sara. Please, I can't do this. I don't know how to do this."
He felt the bed dip as she sat down beside him, pulling him into her arms, and she rocked him steadily as he cried into her shirt. She waited until he calmed down, running gentle fingers through his hair and just sitting with him for a moment in silence.
"Greg," she said quietly. "There isn't anything I can say that will make you feel better, but I'm right here with you, okay?"
"That does actually make me feel better," he admitted.
"Good. Now come on," she said, nudging him. "I don't know how to cook either, and I'm sure that comes as a surprise to you. But we're scientists, it can't be that hard. So let's figure it out together. It'll give Nick something to laugh about, wherever he is."
And Greg laughed for the first time in three months.
Slowly, Greg was learning how to live without Nick. Thankfully, he wasn't really alone. Sara had taken up residence in his third bedroom while he had been hospitalized, and she still had yet to leave. He would be glad if she never did, and sometimes even amused himself imaging them growing old together like two spinsters. The image seemed to fit.
He learned how to do the things that Nick had previously been in charge of. Learned how to work the lawnmower and use the hedger to tame stubborn weeds in the front yard. Remembered to take his car to get the oil changed without having to be reminded a hundred times, although he was ashamed to admit it was a least two thousand miles overdue. He even fixed the garbage disposal after watching a how-to video. Silently, he regretted never truly appreciating Nick for all of the things he used to do for their home. All the things he used to do for Greg.
He was putting away some laundry (which he'd always been in charge of) when he opened his dresser drawer to shove socks inside, his fingers brushing against a slip of paper. Felt his breath catch, his eyes burn. He knew what it was. A familiar event he had experienced thousands of time before, but not in nearly four months time. Clutched the post-it note between slender fingers and closed his eyes, steeling himself before looking at it.
How do you spell love? You don't spell it, you feel it.
Laughter exploded from Greg. He stood in his bedroom, unable to stop, crying at the same time. Soon heard Sara in the doorway, knocking timidly.
"Are you okay?"
"Winnie the Pooh," he said, holding up the note.
She opened her mouth as if to speak, but no words came. Then: "What?"
"Nick would leave me these love notes," he said, shaking his head. "And I always used to complain he'd write some quote from literature that only nerds like him and Grissom would know. This is fucking Winnie the Pooh. Winnie the Pooh!"
She shook her head in amusement as she left the room, calling down the hall, "Dinner's almost ready."
Together, both Greg and Sara were learning how to cook. They would look up recipes on the internet and follow them precisely, like the good scientists they were. They started with easy dishes, like baked chicken and potatoes. Moved on to fish and rice. Breaded pork chops. They even baked a whole chicken in the oven, which had smoked up the entire house but came out delicious. Neither of them were brave enough to try barbecuing, afraid they would poison themselves with salmonella or infect themselves with some kind of parasite from undercooked meat, but maybe one day they would make an attempt. Although it felt inherently wrong to touch Nick's grill, which Greg had been specifically instructed not to do several times by his late husband.
The day they finally ventured into the backyard with a plate of marinated steaks was the day Greg told Sara he was going to visit Nick.
"Why?" she asked, as she sat in one of the Adirondack chairs, a beer dangling from her fingertips.
"I don't know," he replied. "I guess it just doesn't feel real yet. It just feels like he's not here. Like he's just going to walk through the door one day. Maybe if I see him, it'll be more real. I don't know. Maybe I just never got to say goodbye. Maybe if I go, I'll feel like I can say goodbye. Maybe it's a whole bunch of things."
"Are you going to fly there?"
"No. I think I want to drive. It'll take me about two days," he replied, anxiously watching the grill and checking his watch. "If I fuck this up we have two more steaks, right?"
"Yes," she stated. "Are you going to see his parents?"
Greg pulled a face. "Why would I do that?"
"I don't know," she said, shrugging. "You said they knew about you."
He offered her a hollow laugh. "They don't want to see me."
"They told you that?"
"No. But I know they think I lead their son into a life of sin."
"I'm pretty sure Nick has a mind of his own," Sara said, rolling her eyes.
"It's easier to blame me, I guess, than to think your only son is a faggot by choice," he said bitterly, and then shook his head. "He's the youngest out of seven, all sisters. As if he even had a chance."
"Do you want me to go with you?"
"No," he said, turning the steaks over, pleased at the sight of perfect grill marks. "I think I want to go alone, if that's okay."
"Are you sure you're ready?" she inquired hesitantly.
"I think so."
There was a brief pause. Then, quietly, Sara asked, "Are you going to come back?"
"What?" he asked, turning to face her with confusion.
"I mean..." She shifted in her seat uncomfortably, her eyes cast to the ground. "I got the paperwork in the mail. That you added me as the beneficiary to the life insurance payout you got, and to the house. If you aren't coming back, I guess I'd just like to be prepared. Also, if it's okay, I'd like the entertainment system."
"No, Sara," he began, shaking his head, but she wouldn't meet his eyes. He knelt down in front of her, forcing her to look at him. "I can't say I haven't thought about it, but I..." I was too much of a coward to do it. "I don't think about it anymore. I'm coming back, I promise."
"Good," she said, blinking back tears. "Because I really don't want to have to bury the only friend I have left."
He pulled her into an embrace and hugged her tightly, his turn to finally comfort her and return the favor. And while Greg was slowly learning to live without Nick, and Sara was slowly learning to live without Grissom (albeit in a different way), he was sure they didn't want to have to learn how to live without each other.
"The steaks are burning."
"Shit!" he yelled, jumping to the grill. Their dinner was fully engulfed in flames, charred black, with all the tenderness of a brick. "Damn it."
"I'll get the other ones," Sara said, heading into the house as he dejectedly flicked the steaks into the grass. "If you screw those up, we're ordering takeout."
To be continued.