Really Long Author's Note: So, this is my first ever fanfiction. I've thought about writing one for a while, but never too seriously. Then today, I was watching "Compulsion" and I really wanted to read a good post-ep that explored what happened after Nick's confrontation with Detective Cavaliere. I couldn't find one. So I started writing. A couple hours of straight typing, and this came out. Please be kind if you have critiques. And please note that I would never intentionally copy someone else's work, but I do read and re-read a LOT of Nick/Greg fanfiction, so it's possible that I've accidentally stolen phrases or ideas from someone else. If I have, I apologize. Please let me know. I just wrote this for fun, and didn't even really plan on posting it, but...here I am anyway. |
"You owe me an apology."
Nick looked Cavaliere in the eyes and with all sincerity, told him, "I'm sorry." As he turned to walk away, he said, loud and clear, "That you feel that way."
He walked into the break room, looking calm -- until you noticed his tense shoulders and his eyes, dark with anger.
"Nick Stokes, protector of children everywhere!" he heard Greg say in a joking voice, "Well, at least Las Vegas."
Nick glanced at him and sat down on the couch, "Not the time, Greg," he said tersely.
"Sorry." Greg poured two cups of coffee and joined Nick on the couch. "Really. I'm sorry," he said seriously, as he handed Nick one of the cups. "It's true, though," the new CSI said thoughtfully. "Every time there's a case with kids, you're right there, ready to speak up for their rights. You empathize with them. And you hate to see them get hurt. Whether it's a perpetrator, a cop, whoever. You don't let anyone stand in the way, not if you can help it."
Nick set down his coffee, put his head in his hands. "Some might say that makes me a bad CSI."
"Yeah, I know, Greggo. Thanks. I just -- can't stand it when these damn cops, all full of themselves, thinkin' they know what's what, stand there and intimidate the hell out of little kids, talk 'em into confessin' things they didn't even do!" he spits out.
Greg nodded. "But this time, the kid really was guilty."
"Yeah," Nick sighed. "Still doesn't excuse the way Cavaliere treated him."
"Nick," Greg hesitated, "Can I ask you a personal question?"
"Sure. Doesn't mean I've gotta answer it, right?"
"Right." Greg thought for a moment, trying to figure out the best way to word his question. "Nick, did-- I mean-- Nick, why do those kind of cases hit you so hard? I mean, is there a personal reason--" Greg stopped, glanced at Nick nervously, quickly continued, "I mean, it's really none of my business, and I probably shouldn't've even asked, it's just I always see you walking around after these cases, just…I don't know…like there's this weight on your shoulders. And I just-- I wanted to know why." He added quietly, "And if I can help."
Nick took in a deep breath and let it out all at once. Put his head in his hands again, shoulders tense, jaw clenched. "Thanks, Greg," he said tightly, "But I don't think I can talk about it here."
"Somewhere else?" Greg ventured, "Your place, my place, diner?"
Nick nodded jerkily, "My place." He got up and headed for the locker room, his movements stiff and controlled.
Almost anxious, Greg thought, as he followed, throwing the empty coffee mugs in the sink as he walked past. I hope I know what I'm getting into here. I just can't stand to see him walking around with that weight anymore. Like he feels guilty that he can't save the whole world.
Greg followed Nick to his place and got out of the car as Nick was unlocking his front door. Three locks, he noticed. I wonder what made him-- ah…Nigel Crane. Damn him.
Nick finally got the door unlocked, and held it open for Greg to go inside. Then he headed for the kitchen. "Want a beer?" he called to Greg.
"Sure, whatever you've got is fine." He walked into the living room, made himself comfortable on one end of the couch. Nick walked in from the kitchen, handed Greg a beer and took a drink from his own before settling in on the other end.
Oh God…why did I ever agree to this? Nick thought, beginning to panic. How could I have thought this was a good idea?
He looks…scared, Greg thought. I don't think I've ever seen Nick afraid, really afraid of something. It was unsettling. "Nick?" Greg said softly, "You all right?"
Nick was snapped out of his anxious thoughts by Greg's question. "Fine," he said quickly. "Fine. I'll be fine."
"Listen, if you don't want to talk about it, that's okay. We can just sit here, drink some beer, hang out, whatever."
Nick knew Greg was giving him an easy out, and he wanted to take it. But some part of him wanted -- no, needed -- to talk. "No, I'll-- I'll talk about it," he said a bit shakily. "It just…might take me a bit, okay?" He took a deep breath, trying to calm himself down, get up the courage to speak.
"No problem, Nicky. I'm in no hurry. I'll stay as long as you want me here."
Nick closed his eyes and began to talk softly. "I've never-- never really…talked about it. I don't know-- if I can. I-- I sort-of told Catherine once. I had to. It was starting to-- interfere with a case. Even then, I…didn't really tell her. Didn't say it. Just implied it. Said-- as little as I could-- just to-- just to get the point across." He let out a shaky laugh, "I can't even-- I'm doing it now, you know? Talkin' around it. Can't get to the point." He muttered quietly, ashamed, "Too much of a damn coward."
"No, Nicky," Greg protested, moving closer to Nick on the couch, "You're anything but a coward! You--"
"Greg--" Nick interrupted, "You don't know, okay? Don't say that, you don't know!" He blinked back a stray tear. Not gonna cry, NOT gonna cry.
Greg sunk back into the cushions, silent, waiting for Nick to go on.
"Listen, I…grew up in a family of seven kids. I was the youngest. One brother, five sisters, and then me. By the time I came along, Bill, Jr. had set the bar pretty high. He was the oldest, the favored child, and my daddy expected me to live up to his standards. I had to be tough, I had to be the best, I had to do the right things to make my daddy proud. From the start, I…never measured up." Nick shook his head. "Nothin' was ever good enough. I was never strong enough, never smart enough, never man enough for him. He…did what he had to do to toughen me up." Nick paused and took a long drink from his beer.
"What did he do, Nick?" Greg asked softly.
"Oh, you know…extra chores on the ranch. Sometimes I worked 'til late at night trying to finish, and then I couldn't get my homework done, fell asleep in class. Cisco -- my dad -- would yell, tell me what a screw-up I was, give me more work to do. Or he'd get out the belt. His fist if he didn't feel like it." Nick shrugged. "I know it might sound bad, but that's just the way it was on the ranch. Everyone had to do their part. And I was lazy, and selfish, and I got disciplined for it. I wasn't a great kid, G. I was a mistake. A problem," he said matter-of-factly.
"Nicky, you-- you can't really believe those things. It wasn't your fault, you know that, right?"
Nick sighed. "Greg, you weren't there. You've never met my family. I act different here in Vegas. I try real hard not to let anybody see that side of me. If you saw me with them, you'd know I deserved it."
"Nicky, I know something in you doesn't believe it. Look at how much you care about the victims we deal with. The kids especially. That's why I'm here talking with you, remember?" Greg pleaded with him to see reason. "Something in you knows it was wrong, Nicky."
Nick shook his head, gazing down, "If my daddy saw how I acted, he'd say I'm soft."
"Nicky, I don't care what your dad says. When I look at you, I see a good CSI who cares about the victims so much that he works tirelessly to get them justice and put the bad guys away. I don't think I've ever thought you were lazy, or selfish, or soft, or a coward, or-- or any of that!" Greg exclaimed.
"Nick," he said thoughtfully, "How old were you when your dad started disciplining you like that?"
Nick shrugged. "I don't know, eight, maybe?"
"EIGHT?!" Greg was shocked. "Eight years old, and he was making you stay up and work so hard that you couldn't do your homework and fell asleep in school? Eight years old and he was hitting you? With a belt or his fists? Nicky, no kid deserves that. Ever."
"It's just the way things were, Greg," Nick said calmly.
"No, Nicky…no…that's not just 'the way things were.' Nicky, God, that's child labor, that's abuse! You've gotta know that. If it was any other child, you'd be getting all protective, all ready to fight for justice for him, and do everything you could to help make sure he was safe. Why is it different when the child was you, Nicky?"
"It just is. It's different. It wasn't that bad, Greg."
"Are you telling me that, or are you telling yourself that?" Greg asked in a low voice.
Nick sighed. "I don't know anymore, G. I don't know. That's not even-- that's not even what I started out trying to tell you about. It just went that way, and well, I went with it, because it was easier to talk about than-- the other thing."
There's more? Greg thought. I can't believe-- oh God, Nicky, no wonder you're always trying to please Grissom, no wonder you have that weight on your shoulders after a tough case. Oh, Nicky…I want to help, please, God, I want to help you. Tell me what I can do, Nicky. Tell me how I can make it better.
Now Nick was tense and scared again. His body hunched in, almost like he was trying to curl up and protect himself. He took a deep breath. I can do this. "Okay. I was-- nine. My parents went out to some party. Normally they'd have one of my sisters stay and watch me, but I guess they all had other plans. So they got this-- girl-- to babysit me." He took a shaky breath and continued, "It was the only time I ever saw her." He shook his head. "She said-- she wanted to-- play a game with me. I played board games with my sisters all the time, so I went to the closet to get one out. But that's-- not what she was talking about." He bowed his head, so Greg couldn't see the tears he was trying so hard to hold in. "She-- she hurt me."
Greg put his hand on Nick's shoulder. "Did she--"
"Yeah." Nick cut him off. "I can't say it. Please don't make me say it. You-- you know what I mean. I just can't-- if I say it--" He sighed, and said, soft and ashamed, "If I don't say it, maybe it never happened. Saying it-- makes it real. I can't say it, G."
"Oh God, Nick," Greg breathed. "I-- oh God, I wondered-- but I hoped-- oh, Nicky!" He wrapped his arms around his friend and pulled him close. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry, baby." Greg didn't even notice the endearment slip out, all he could do was keep holding Nick, murmuring what he hoped were comforting words. Nick melted into his embrace and finally let the tears he was holding back spill over. Greg found tears running down his face as well, as he rocked them both back and forth, rubbing soothing circles on Nick's back. He never wanted to let Nick go. He wished he could keep him here, keep him safe forever in his arms.
But eventually he had to let go, and when the tears ran out, Nick sat up and wiped his face with his hands, embarrassed. "Oh God, I'm sorry, Greggo, I-- you probably-- you probably think I'm such a baby." He laughed humorlessly. "I hope I didn't royally screw up our friendship. I promise I'll never do that again." He grimaced.
"Hey, hey…none of that," Greg protested. "Nicky, look at me. I mean it, look me in the eyes and listen to what I'm going to tell you, okay?"
"Nicholas Stokes, you are the strongest, most amazing, hardworking, unselfish person I have ever known." Nick tried to turn away, but Greg caught his face and turned it back. "No, I'm not done yet. Nick, I thought you were amazing before you told me all this. Now-- now, I don't even have a word for it, Nicky, you are just-- you've been through so much, and lived with it for so many years, and struggled through it alone…Nicky, you are the strongest, toughest, bravest man I know. And crying," he said pointedly, "Does not make you a baby. Neither does needing someone to hold you sometimes. That's normal, Nicky. That's human. And if it helped you at all, I was glad to do it. I'd be glad to do it again, if you ever need me. Promise." As he held Nick's face, staring into his eyes, Greg found himself thinking, I would give anything to just lean in and kiss him right now. Instead, he let go of Nick, changed positions on the couch, and waited for Nick to either thank him or kick him out.
"I-- I don't know what to say, Greg. Do-- do you really see me like that?"
Greg nodded. "Yup. Every bit of it."
Nick wondered aloud, "I don't think anyone has ever said that about me before. And I know nobody has sat and held me while I cried since my momma did when I was a child. Why do you care so much, Greg? Am I really that special?"
Oh, you're very special to me, Nicky. I just wish you knew how much. "Yeah, Nick. You are. And it just…always seemed like you didn't have anybody, you know? I mean, I know you have Warrick, and he's your best friend, but he seems like the kinda guy you joke around with, go out to the bar, watch the game, stuff like that. Which is great, but you just always looked kind of…lonely, I guess. It wasn't obvious, but every once in a while, I could just see it in your eyes. You looked like you needed someone to care, to see you…to hear what you weren't saying. But you've always been such a private person." He shrugged, "I didn't know if you'd want to talk to anyone, much less me. But I had to try. I couldn't just watch you walk around with that desperate look in your eyes and that heavy weight on your shoulders anymore. I thought maybe if you'd talk to me…maybe I could help you carry it," Greg smiled shyly. "I'm glad I could help, even a little." He got up and began to head towards the door.
Nick was speechless. He never realized that Greg could see so much just by looking at him. Things that he didn't even normally acknowledge were there. He kept it all inside, locked up, and made himself be strong. His anger at what happened to him as a kid fueled his passion for getting justice for the victims he helped. Especially the kids. Always the kids. It was those cases when all of his locked up feelings would start to show through. And Greg saw it. And he cared. Enough to confront him, get him to talk, get him to break down and cry in his arms. He remembered Greg's comforting murmurs as he held him close. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry, baby." Wait. What? "Baby?" Did Greg-- could he really-- Nah. I'm sure he didn't mean it like that. He couldn't have, right? He couldn't feel like that about me. But… "Hey Greg?"
"Yeah?" He turned back to face Nick.
"When you were…holding me…" Nick's cheeks began to turn red, and he tried to hide his face. "You said something…you called me…'baby.' 'I'm so sorry, baby,' you said. Did you, I mean, do you--"
Greg looked embarrassed. "I-- I said that? I'm sorry, I just…sometimes things just come out of my mouth, please just forget about it, forget I ever said it, I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable, I'm sorry--"
Nick looked down. "Oh. It didn't. Make me uncomfortable, I mean. But I guess-- you didn't mean it, so I'll just--"
Greg was frozen to the spot. It didn't make him uncomfortable? He looks…disappointed. Does he really-- could he really-- "Wait!" He looked at the ground and scuffed his foot on the floor. "I did mean it. I just thought…you could never…I mean, you're Nick Stokes! And I'm just…Greg Sanders, lab rat, CSI wannabe, kid brother that no one takes seriously," he finished, sounding defeated.
Nick walked over to him, put his hands in Greg's. "I take you seriously," he said softly. "Greg, you…you're amazing. You brighten up the lab every time you walk through the door. You worked so hard to become a CSI, and you didn't give up, even when things got tough. And you saw me. When no one else did." He got a little closer, put his arms around Greg, leaned in, and pressed his lips to Greg's. Greg wrapped his arms around Nick and returned the kiss like he was afraid he'd never get this chance again.
When they separated, Greg spoke, still a little hesitant. "This is real, right? I mean, you really did just kiss me?"
Nick laughed and grinned. "Yes, I did. And you seemed to be enjoying it quite a bit, judging from the way you kissed me back!"
Greg smiled and nodded enthusiastically. "Oh, I did!"
Nick looked at him a bit mischievously. "I wonder what everyone at work will say when I tell them that I kissed Greg Sanders?"
Greg grinned at him. "And I wonder what they'll say when I tell them I kissed you back!"
"And when they ask where we're going with this?" Nick's smile faltered just a bit.
Greg paused, trying to feel out the situation. "How does forever sound?" he asked seriously.
Nick pulled him into his arms for another kiss. "Perfect."