CSI
I Have Ate Grass by cynevie [Reviews - 2]

Warning: This is a sickfic; a distant relative to badfic. Written when sick (in the head), and can cause sickness (of the head). As in the characters aren't what they seem, because this is probably an alternate history for them. It's silliness and craziness and has no bearing on facts. Nothing against the States mentioned herewith. Blame it on Brit-ignorance. It's me writing Nick and Greg. It's bound to be weird.

The titles and subtitles are taken from Rudyard Kipling's 'Thy Servant a Dog'. He must be rolling in his grave by now, threatening eternal damnation...

Anyway, comments and criticisms much appreciated. *hides behind a tree*







0/ Beginning of Time
Reality is different from those Hollywood films with casino backdrops, Nick can't help but notice. Music and wide screen TVs, sound and light spill over into the streets covered with white stretched limosines and wide-eyed tourists with cameras as an extension of their good arm. He has to remind himself that Las Vegas is more than just that little strip; that it holds many stories -- many untold stories in every nook and every cranny. He itches to just look. Like an out-of-sorts detective. He itches to scour the places and memorize every cobblestone, every cracks in concrete and marble. Instead he tucks himself in a corner, nursing a beer and watching people with hungry eyes. He sits in the corner and watches bug-eyed, lost, and needy people standing in front of slot machines and crowd around the books.

He's back in Vegas, he thinks, for another battery of seminars. Some boring, some interesting, some... just downright useless. At least they didn't have Terry down with them this year, Nick muses. He still remembers that one day they hit the casinos and Terry being arrested for indecent exposure. In Vegas, Nick sighs. It was hilarious for a few days, until they returned to Dallas to have their boss welcoming them with some choice words -- words that they never knew existed in the English dictionary.

This year, there's Keith and Luke keeping him company. Keith whose aim in Las Vegas is to get laid as much as possible, and Luke whose aim is to get rich as quick as possible. Nick just wants to get out of Las Vegas as soon as he possibly can.


***


1/ One Time after That
"Stokes! Yo! Stokes!" Nick lifts his head and sees his colleagues approach. Vegas is certainly different from Dallas, Nick chuckles. There are next-to-naked girls under their arms, swaying under the lights of the casino. They crowd around him and Nick can smell the cloying smell of different perfumes vying for attention. Each girl has less dress on them than the next and between them they probably support the cosmetics industry singlehandedly.

"Nick Stokes," Keith introduces him to one leggy brunette with the most alluring cleavage ever known to man this side of Dallas, "meet Angela Turner." She extends her well-manicured hands and Nick feels that it's probably rude of him not to shake it. It starts a whole round of meet-and-greet, all pearly-white teeth and luscious red nail varnish. He lost count after Mary, Elizabeth, and Gail.

"You a cop too?" Angela asks, between sips of martinis and trying to swat Keith's playfully prowling fingers from prowling too far.

"Yes, ma'am," he answers, ignoring the need to explain that he's now a CSI. Most times, they don't know the difference, he muses.

"Keith here," she says, as she winks at Nick's very besotted friend. "Well, Keith's been telling all sorts of stories."

"I bet he has," Nick murmurs into his beer bottle.

"Will you be joining us? We're going to this new nightclub in town. It's all the rage these days."

"I think... I'll pass," he tells her, trying to edge further away from the group. It's not that he doesn't like crowds, he just doesn't like the sound of this particular crowd.

"Come on, Nick! Don't be such a spoilsport." Keith plucks the empty beer bottle out of his fingers and places something in his hands. He looks at it for a while, trying to make sense what it is. A hand. Delicate, most definitely feminine fingers, owned by a particularly beautiful woman. The hand squeezes his hand in a very friendly manner. He stares at her, blinks, and releases the hand as quick as he can. He shifts his gaze to see Keith doubling over and laughing loudly.

"Uh... I'm okay, really," Nick hedges and he sees the woman in front of him pouts.

"Well, that's a shame," she tells him, and reaches for her purse. Her blood red nail varnish clashes with the midnight black sequins of her purse. "I really like you. You're different." She retrieves a slim silver card case. "If you happen to be in Concord? Call me, okay?" she passes on her card and smiles. Keith is already ushering the small crowd away from the bar, presumably heading towards a night of... well... fun, really. But Nick isn't really in the mood and the company isn't all that appealing, he thinks. Nick examines the card, Patricia Sullivan, Nick muses. "Assistant DA?" he looks up to find her grinning widely at his mildly shocked demeanor.

"Live free or die, right?" she tells him as she follows the crowd already moving away from him. Nightclubs, huh?


***


2/ Time After
Nobody is as they seem, Nick concludes. Assistant DA from New Hampshire, he chuckles. Who'dda thunk it? He leans back into his chair and watches with a mild interest as his two friends and their bevy of women move away, swallowed by the crowd. Girls just wanna have fun, his sister told him all those years ago, when he caught glimpse of his usually prim and proper sister dressed... rather provocatively. Nick looks up and nods when the bartender leans in and asks if he wants another beer. "Have some peanuts too," the bartender throws a packet of peanut next to the beer. Nick smiles as he rummages through debris in his pocket to locate some money. A folded piece of paper falls onto the ground as he passes the bills to the slightly amused bartender.

"Keep the change," Nick tells him and the bartender smiles.

"Just the kind of words I like to hear from a guy," the bartender grins and winks. Nick does a doubletake and raises his eyebrows. This guy's coming on to me?! Nick chokes on his own spit and sputters. The bartender seems to grin even wider and Nick decides he should pick the paper up from the floor instead.

It's his seminar schedule for tomorrow, he notes with mild disgust, profiling. Delving into the mind of the killer, think like the killer. Nick snorts, he'd rather work with hairs and fibers for days on end rather than trying to live in a criminal's brain. It's just... unsettling to know. How people think in illogical ways, and how many ways someone can try and talk themselves into doing things that... or just mentally imbalanced? He thinks he can go crazy just to profile a criminal. He takes a long swig of his beer and hopes that he doesn't turn into one of them.

He notices that the bartender is still sending him weird looks. Nick can only shift in his seat and try to look unruffled. What?! He tries to suppress a cringe when he sees the bartender strodes purposely towards him. "My shift's done," the bartender tells him. So? What's that got to do with me? Nick thinks, not liking where this conversation is going. "The name's Vittorio. Here's my number." Vittorio produces a pen and scribbles on a napkin. "I think we can do great things."

"We?"

"You. Me." Vittorio gestures and slides the napkin across.

"Me?"

"Well," Vittorio shrugs. "You. Unless you have somebody already. In which case, you can bring him or her or them along. I don't mind. I'm not picky. Life's too short to be picky," Vittorio rambles on and smiles at Nick's slackjawed puzzlement. "Anyway. Call me." Vittorio winks, blows a kiss, and walks away.

This is a dream. A fucking nightmare, Nick screws his eyes shut and sighs. Can I wake up now? Please?


***


3/ Some more Time
He stalks the building in search of the toilets. He notices the people as he walks along, notices the women and the men and the tourists in their boonie hats and with cameras in their hands. He notices the blinking machines and the sound of coins and chips being shuffled around. There are chatters and clinks of glass, there are whoops of delights and also sighs of desperation. There are those who walks with heads held high and those who scurry away with heads tucked into their chins. 'Could never get used to this place, Nick thinks distractedly.

He stops himself just in time, almost tripping over a lady bent down on the floor collecting scattered coins. Almost automatically, Nick kneels down and starts picking up coins. The lady gives a sidelong glance, smiles and goes back to picking coins. Nick can't help but compare the two of them to crows, pecking at seeds on the ground. Or in this case, coins on the carpet. So many coins! Nick thinks, as he picks up another coin and surveys the mass of coins that still need to be picked up. Somebody kneels down next to him. "Lots of coins you have here," the voice has a laugh built into it. He peers sideways and sees the face of a boy.

The boy hums a tuneless ditty as he picks the coins up. Barely legal, probably out for the first legal binge of his life, Nick decides and chuckles inwardly. The three of them hunt the last of the coins. "Here we go!" and they both help the lady stand and stretch her two creaking legs. The lady hobbles away, apparently already homing in on an empty slot machine. Nick regards the boy and smiles.

"Hi," the boy greets him, and is promptly dragged away by his friends who seem to appear out of nowhere. "BYE!" the boy shouts at him. Nick thinks that it's quite inappropriate to call the boy a boy. He's probably only a few years younger than him. But there's a certain youth about him that doesn't quite slot him into the 'man' category. Man-boy? Okay, that sounds down-right odd. And besides, why worry about the appropriatness of categorizing a stranger? Unless of course, he's in a crime scene looking down at a DB. He shudders, settles for the word 'boy', and continues his hunt for the toilet.


***


4/ Other more Times
Another beautiful Vegas day, and Nick wakes up just in time to see the Vegas lights dim and the sun painting the sky orange and yellow. There's a brilliant swathe of blue across the sky and Nick smiles. He stretches his muscles, sighing in satisfaction as he feels his spine uncurl. He steps out of his bed, wiggles his toes on the carpets, and walks around Keith who snores on the floor, slobbering drool all over the fading carpet. A quick shower, a shave, and a brush of teeth. He leaves the room in search of breakfast and resigns himself to another day of endless seminars.

A few hours later, he walks out of the seminar room feeling less happy than when he woke up in the morning. Seminar organizers! They have the knack of scheduling the most boring, most pointless, most useless seminars into the early morning sessions. And a long session at that. He looks around and consoles himself with the fact that he's not the only one feeling rather downtrodden. They file out with relief etched on their faces, and with a little trepidation.

"Is that the most boring seminar, or what?" he hears somebody quips.

"Hell. Give me dumpster-diving any day," another one replies. And Nick can't fault the logic. He'd rather spend the whole day in the sewers navigating floating rats, than endure that seminar again. Sometimes he thinks that his supervisor chooses the most awful seminars just for the heck of it. I sure ain't seeing the funny side. He spots a diner across the road and resigns himself to another day of complete boredom.

A few minutes later, Nick finds himself sitting in the diner with his head in his hands, pancakes untouched and drinking coffee via osmosis. Boring, boring, boring. There's a ballistics tutorial coming up, which is at least up his alley. At least I can shoot myself if it's boring.

A light tap on his shoulders breaks his train of thought. He looks up and finds himself staring at the boy from yesterday.

"Hey," the boy greets him, and Nick nods. "You dropped these," the boy juggles his coffee cups into one curled arm and extends a sheaf of paper with his free hand. Nick takes the papers and tucks it under his folders.

"Thanks," Nick tells him.

"No problem." The boy smiles brightly and winks at him. What? he wants to ask but the boy looks up when somebody from across the diner shouts 'Oi! G!' He watches the boy move away and joins his friends. G. Not much of a name, Nick thinks, but at least it's better than 'the boy'.


***


5/ After that Time
"We sure keep bumping into each other," the boy slides into the vacant seat next to him. G, Nick remembers.

Nick is back in the bar, which thankfully is missing one very amorous bartender. And for that, Nick is very grateful. The ballistics seminar proved to be uneventful and he has to admit that it might just be one of the better seminars this year. G, Nick tells himself again, as he studies the person in front of him. Nick notes the faint traces of a tan and freckle, and a glimpse of muscles under the shirt which is slightly on the tight side. Probably West Coast? Nick guesses, a 'surfer-dude' or somesuch. "Are you sure you're not stalking me?" Nick asks.

"Me? Never." A fake haughtiness and Nick chuckles. "I'm trying to hide from my friends. They keep trying to drag me to meet this scary middle aged lady who is actually a man who is actually a woman. I mean, this person just can't make up his mind. Her mind. Uh... his.. her..." Swallows a mouthful of beer before sputtering. "Anyway, who cares. 'd probably changed gender again as we speak."

"This is Vegas," Nick says for the benefit of his audience who doesn't seem to notice him as much. Nick sits back and watches G flirt with the bartender -- a short, chunky woman with a severe makeup -- Possibly trying to get a free drink. And Nick is not surprised when G whoops with triumph and declares an undying love to the bartender who looks slightly disturbed.

"Yeah, as I said," G cocks his head to the side and Nick watches in fascination as those eyes widen. "Uh oh... They're here. Gotta go! It's good meeting you!"


***


6/ Other Fresh Times
He beats the alarm clock by a minute and allows a lazy grin. No seminar, no lecture, nothing. Just one whole day of bumming around and cleaning cobwebs from his brain. He thinks that he can forgive his supervisor a little. He decides to go on a jog. He has to admit that he likes people watching. He watches people walking out of the various hotels and casinos with bleary eyes and faces of people as if they don't quite believe that there's such thing as a sun. He catches himself trying to look for that familiar face. And wonders what's wrong with him.


***


7/ Time soon After
He jogs round the corner and spots somebody bent in front of a wall apparently having the puke of his life. Before he can contemplate whether he should worry, help, or just jog away, his public servant alter-ego takes over and he jogs nearer to the person. G!

"You okay?" Nick asks, placing a hand on G's back, making soothing circles and massaging the back of G's throat. There's a slight heat emanating from the skin beneath his hand, but that's probably just from the assertion. Nick tries to ignore the sharp smell of smoke, alcohol, and sweat, mingling in the most nauseous way with the stench of vomit. "You okay?" he asks again.

There's a small inhalation, another dry retching and the boy looks up at him. Nick notes the bloodshot eyes, the tear tracks, and red cheeks. There's a string of mucous dribble hanging by the side of those chapped lips. "Do I smell okay?" G rasps.

He ignores the quip and steers G away from the wall. There's going to be a very irate street cleaner, Nick thinks, and certainly nothing that tourists can write home about. Honey, here's a picture I took of vomit on Las Vegas wall. Wish you were here, hardly photograph of the year material. But who knows, with the current post-modern art cutting a swathe across the art world... Nick shrugs and returns to the task at hand: trying to keep G from falling face first onto the pavement. They sit on the curb, G with his head between his knees and Nick watching a scrap of newspaper being blown down the street. There's a huge sigh coming from G, which sends up another whiff of alcohol and puke into the air.

"We should probably find a taxi for you," Nick offers, wishing that he can offer a bottle of water, or a gum, or a breath mint.

"I can walk," G tells him. Definitely an industrial strength breathmint. Or a whole gallon of listerine.

"I'd like to see you try."

"I can walk. I just can't remember where to." G sigh again and Nick thinks about decomps.

"Why don't you call your friends?"

"Exactly the kind of people I'm trying to get away from. I swear, they're getting wilder and wilder every day. You know I've never been the person who turns down challenges. I'm a wild person myself." A hiccup, a cough, and G spits onto the road. Nick has to restrain himself from making comments. G launches into a babble of the his crazy exploits; he tells of the crazy activities he did, some legal, some not-so-legal, some downright questionable, and Nick tries not to think so much about it. He tries not to think about the stink that accompanies every syllable that comes out of that mouth, tries not to look at his watch and see how long he's been sitting there on the pavement. Because his butt is telling him that he's been sitting on it for quite some time.

He's almost surprised when the noise stops. G looks at him apologetically, "Sorry. I'm a noisy drunk." There's a pause. "I babble a lot. It's probably the best way to wean secrets out of me too. My friends told me that they got a lot of blackmail materials that way..."

Nick sighs and diverts his eyes to the floor instead. He's not going to let up, is he? Nick asks the gravel underneath. He wonders what it'll take to shut G up. And he probably need to ask what G stands for, or what G's name is, because Nick is now thinking about alphabets. A set of wheels stops in front of him and Nick looks up. A rainbow peeks out from the driver's side. The rainbow is attached to a face that looks like roadkill. "There you are!" Roadkill exclaims and climbs out of the car, heading straight towards G.

"Heh," G says. "Found me. Can't hide from you guys, huh?" G struggles to sit up, placing a hand on Nick's shoulder as leverage. Nick helps him up and together with Roadkill, bundles G into the backseat of the car, containing even more rainbows and raucous people.

"Thanks, man," Roadkill tells him. "Greg here is trying to be Houdini."

So, Nick thinks, watching the car disappear down the street. The name is Greg.


***


8/ Bad Times Dead
Nick spent the day thinking about Greg and wondering whether he's recovered. Young people recover quickly. It must be weird, worrying about a stranger he barely knows. A stranger who keeps popping up whenever Nick looks this or that way. There's really no telling when he'll see Greg next.

As it happened, Keith and Luke succeeded in dragging him out to the nightclub with them this time. The same ladies are with them, scantily dressed just as he met them that first night. This time though, Nick made the point to get properly introduced. Nick learnt that Angela's mother went to the same law school as his mother. Still, you can't tell, if you don't ask. Definitely a bunch of stressed out law enforcers letting their hair down. So Nick retreats to the bar and parks himself in a dark corner, content just sitting there and keeping a watchful eye on his friends.

"Alone?" the bartender asks, and Nick sizes her up, wondering whether she's going to hit on him too. He still shudder whenever he thinks about Vittorio.

"Naw. With friends," Nick points at the general direction of the dancefloor.

"Not really your scene?"

"Not really."


He spent the whole night drinking orange juice and talking with the bartender. He learnt about her children, learnt about her night classes, and learnt about her boyfriend. She dished out some fashion tips and angsting over the fact that such a gorgeous man like you is still single?! Nick could only cringe and smile. The night ended up with him trying to get Keith and Luke back to their hotel room safe and sound.


***


9/ Very Many Long Times after those Times
It's the penultimate day. Whole day stuck in seminars, whizzing through workshops with nary a chance to breathe and taking notes until his fingers threatened to find another owner. He walks into a McDonald's and stands to the side, pondering his food choices. Burgers or... burgers.

"Can I get you anything?" Greg appears out of nowhere and by now Nick has resigned himself into expecting Greg's appearance. Uninvited, but not exactly unwelcome. "You look like something that came out from the back of a goat."

"There's no goat in Las Vegas." Is there? He follows Greg to the back of one queue.

"Wanna bet?"

"No."

"Damn. I was hoping I can raise some cash," Greg tells him.

"Yeah? Sorry. Wrong guy to be robbing. State pay. Go find a rich guy instead."

"Nah, I'll skip. Proletariat living has its benefits." Greg waves at the small girl standing in front of them. She clutches her Barbie tighter to her chest and waves shyly. Her mother turns to look at them and smiles, before handing a Happy Meal box to her. "Come on," the mother says and the girl waves one last time before walking away. The cashier regards them with calm impatience and they quickly rattle their orders and bicker about paying. In the end Greg beats Nick to the money-post.

"You need the money more than I do. Your hairgel probably cost more than my toiletries combined," Nick says, sitting down and divvying up their food.

"Ya think?"

"I think so." Nick chomps on a fry.

"What do you know about hairgels? For all you know, I may be making my own in my kitchen." Greg, not to be outdone, chomps on two fries.

"Are you?"

"I'm a chemistry whiz. A very bright, gifted, genius of a chemist." Greg brandishes his burger and Nick cringes as a stray lettuce hits his chin.

"But are you making your own hairgel in your own kitchen?"

"Not yet. But I cook my own meth."

"And I'm supposed to let that slide." Nick plays with his soda cup, wiping the condensation off it and writing garbles on the scarred table.

"I like to think that my charms can stop you from reporting it to the cops, the feds, or something."

"Really?" I can't believe he's joking on things like this. I hope he's joking. Nick hopes that Greg is joking, or that he is really, really dreaming.

"Well, it's essentially chemistry after all. C10 H15 N, and so on and so forth." Greg draws a molecular chain on the table with his forefinger.

"Well, you better stop talking now, because I'm running out of charity."

"Quit while you're ahead, right?"

"No, seriously. Stay away from drugs." Because just before Nick left for Vegas, he was standing in front of a gurney and staring at a very dead teenage boy. Overdose, the ME told him, and it wasn't the most diginified of all deaths, either.

"Huh, tell me something that the Surgeon General hasn't told us juvies yet. So... you gonna report me?"

"Tell me you're just kidding around."

"I'm just pissin' about," G tell him, waving his hand dismissively. "Those days are over, I'm afraid. I'm all for the straight and narrow." There is a mischievous glint in those eyes and Nick raises his eyebrows. "Okay," G concedes. "Maybe not that straight and narrow. But considerably straighter and narrower. I really want to have great-grandkids that I can subvert." G pauses and tilts his head to one side. "I'm jus' kidding, okay? Love it when you're bothered like that. Do you know your brows knit in a very cute manner when you do that?" And Nick could've sworn that under that mischievous glint there's something else. Like sadness, or regret. And Nick wants to ask, but doesn't think it was his place to. "So why the long face? It's hardly attractive." Greg asks after a long drink of his soda.

"Long day," Nick answers.

"What kind of day?"

"Just a long boring day, in a room with artificial lighting and climate control. Rows and rows of chairs. Very boring speaker standing in front of the room telling me things I already know."

"Hmmm." Greg taps his chin with the straw he retrieves from his cup. "We need to get you out of here." He punctuates his decision with a swing of the straw and a stray soda hits Nick's forehead.

"I have another session this evening."

"You say yourself that they're not telling anything new. It's not like you're missing anything, right?" Nick looks at Greg who looks at him with that pleading eyes. Nick comes to a conclusion that Greg must've gotten away with a lot of things with those eyes. "It'll be fun."


But in the end, when they walk out of McDonalds', they walk separate ways.


***


10/ Next Time after Not-Comfy
It's his last night in Las Vegas, and he manages to beg off going out with Keith, Luke and the ladies. He drives out instead; drives for what seem like hours, his favorite music on loud and windows rolled down. Away from the city. He sees a car on the side of the road, parked awkwardly onto the edge of a field. The doors are open, and the car seems empty. Nick slows his car down and tries to squint in the darkness. There seems to be bodies lying around it and Nick feels a chill. He feels goosebumps rise and he tries to stop his brain from entertaining untoward thoughts.

He sits in his car contemplating the best plan of action, he thinks about protocols and whatifs, and thinks that he's miles away from Dallas. How do people do things in Las Vegas anyway? Nick has an inkling, but he is worried, possibly scared. He hears his heart thumping against his ribcage and feels adrenalin introducing itself into his blood. His fingers hurt from gripping the steering wheel and his throat constricts.

He thinks he sees movement from the bodies, writhing on the ground like worms, and he steps out his car gingerly. There's moans and rustles, and Nick can smell alcohol in the air; can smell something else too. He can see the moonlight glinting off broken bottles and the dying embers of butt ends. He approaches them and sees familiar faces. The same people he sees in that car that picked Greg up that one morning. And Nick remembers that morning well -- Greg puking his guts up and smelling like decomp. He searches among the drunken bodies for Greg and comes up with a blank. No Greg. Is it possible that Greg isn't with this bunch? And maybe Greg is somewhere safe, and Nick surprises himself at how much he cares for somebody he barely knows.

There's a rustle and Nick spins around. There's Greg, standing a few paces from him looking devastated, face pale and labored breathing. Nick sees sweat pouring off Greg and the shirt that clings to Greg's body. "Hey," Greg calls out softly and collapses to the ground, and Nick finds himself breaking into a run and falling onto his knees.

"We're driving back to LA," Greg whispers, there's a hint of alcohol in his breath, "and the car died. They... they decided to drink instead, and we can't go home." Greg, Nick thinks, is also a miserable, emotional drunk. Prone to dramatics, maybe? And Greg is sobbing and telling him that he wants to go home. Tells Nick that he misses his dog. Tells Nick that his cousin called him this morning and he's a proud uncle to a baby boy. He wants to see his nephew, Greg sobs. He wants to go home. And Greg cries the alcohol out of his body. "They care too much. They don't care. I don't know what they care about," Greg slurs.


***


11/ Most Wonderful Times
Nick wakes up to the most glorious of dawn. The rays of light bounces off the dews on the greenest grass, and the trees sway in the wind. The air smells beautiful, despite the lingering scent of booze and smoke. And Nick closes his eyes, trying to recognize birds from their merry chirps. He looks sideways and sees Greg sleeping next to him. Gelled hair sticking into the air, defying gravity and sleep. There are droplets of dew that shines when the light catches them just so, and Nick smiles. Greg stirs beside him. "Kill the lights," Greg mumbles and Nick chuckles inwardly. He watches the sun climbing up, painting the sky orange, yellow, then then the bluest skies and the fluffiest clouds.

Greg's face comes into view. "Good morning," Greg greets him. Nick winces as he caught a rather bad whiff and Greg smiles. "Sorry," Greg mumbles behind his fingers. Greg rummages for a tin of breath mints and pops four mints into his mouth. He offers some to Nick who graciously accepts.

"So," Greg mumbles around his mints. "What brings you out here?"

"Was taking a ride, saw your car, saw your friends lying on the grass like that," Nick jerks his head at the still sleeping bunch.

"I was walking up the road, trying to get help, when I saw a car," Greg ponders. "Yours maybe. I waved, but you didn't see me. And I ran, and you stopped here, and... I can't remember much." Greg looks at the debris of last night's impromptu party and winces. "Oh yeah. The car broke down. We're driving back to LA and the car broke down." And Greg has this forlorn look on his face and Nick wants to tell Greg that everything's all right. So that's exactly what he does.

"It's all right, you know."

"It's not all right. How are we supposed to go back to LA? Walk?"

And Nick has to laugh, because Greg looks aggravated like that. "Drive."

"You're offering up your car?"

"No~" Nick loves this, who knows winding Greg up is such a great thing?

"Then what?"

"I fixed your car. There's not a lot of problem with the car, actually. You overreacted."

"You... what?" Greg's face is a picture, bug-eyed and slack-jawed. Greg blubs but can't find the right words, and all that pours out of his mouth are a litany of 'you's. "You... you fixed... you fixed it?"

"I told you it's no problem," Nick tries to get a word in because Greg is making excited noises and is already on his feet heading towards the car.

"Thank you!" Greg shrieks as the turns the ignition and the car roars to life. Nick stands by the door and crosses his arms. "Thank you! Thank you! You're a star!" Greg tells Nick. "LA! Here I come! I'm coming home, baby!" And Greg's shrieks can wake the dead up. Or in this case, terminally drunken friends.

"Wait. You're driving?" Nick reaches to switch the car off and looks Greg squarely in the eyes.

"Who else? These people aren't, that's for sure."

"You're drunk."

"I'm not. I only had a little," Greg tells him, as he lunges to grab the keys off Nick's fingers. "Give it me."

"Not until you blow," Nick tells Greg.

"You want a blowjob?" Greg asks, eyes big as saucers.

"NO! Blow into the breathalyzer, you shit." And Nick feels a blush creeping up his neck and pitches camp on his face.

"A breathalyzer?" Greg asks.

"Yeah. I got one in my car. There's no way I'm letting you do a DUI."

"I really don't want to know why you have a breathalyzer in your car." Greg tells Nick as Greg stares down the breathalyzer tube. And Nick can only grin. "You a cop or something?"

"Or something," Nick says. "Now blow."

"Shit. And I've been telling you things. You're not going to arrest me, are ya?"

"What things?" Nick asks, waving the tube in front of Greg's face. "Now blow."

"Fine."


And they sit in the front seat of Greg's car, munching on cereals and waiting for Greg's friends to collect themselves. "Sorry. Not exactly a five-star breakfast," Greg says.

"It's all good," Nick chomps down a corn flake. "So, what are you going to do in LA?"

"Wrap things up, and find a job." They watch the sun climb higher into the sky and help a very disoriented bunch into the back seats. Greg turns the ignition on and smiles at Nick. "Hey, thanks for everything."

"Glad to help," Nick tells him, and pats the side of the door. "Drive safely, okay?" Nick watches Greg puts the car into gear and reverses. There's an empty gap on the ground, where the car was. Just a gap surrounded by broken bottles and debris from a crazy night, and Nick thinks that there's going to be a very irate cleaner. Or maybe some very stoned and drunk magpies.

"Hey! I didn't get your name!" Greg calls out, as he pulls onto the road. But Nick just smiles and waves.


***


12/ Just after that Times
Nick transfers to Las Vegas Crime Lab the year after, and finds out just what a busy lab it is. Over time, he gradually overcomes the uneasiness of him moving away from his family. He remembers the long chats with his mother, and the long silence on the dinner table. He remembers his talks with his sisters and how they resigned to the fact that Nick needs to do this. And Nick needs to do this so he can finally find a place for himself, to figure things out by himself. And they let him go, grudgingly. And Nick walks out without looking back, because he might've faltered otherwise.

Nick finds himself stalking the halls of the Lab, trying to locate Grissom. He has the latest casefile in his hands and he needs Grissom's advice. "'Rick, you know where Grissom is?"

"Interviewing a lab rat candidate, I think," Warrick tells him. "See that room?" Warrick points at the glass cubicle and Nick spots Brass and Grissom and the interviewee. Nick sees the crazy hair and the animated face and smiles.






"But now I am comfy in all my hairs. I have ate grass and sicked up. I am happy dog."
~Rudyard Kipling, Thy Servant a Dog.



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