Bitter Lessons - 20/24
Fandom: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Category: Angst, Romance, Plot
Series/Sequel: Breaking the Ice
Summary: Greg learns a lot he doesn't like
Warning: Slash, M/M, Harm to children
Disclaimer: I don't own them, but I love them dearly.
Feedback: Yes, please. It's the icing on my cake.
Released: June 2005
Revised: August 2021
Word Count: 6250
"See you at the Crime Scene!" Gil called out and shut the door.
Standing in Gil's bedroom, Greg shook his head. Typical. Leaving me here by myself. He didn't even bother to wait for one second. He snorted. Sure, because somebody could see us together and gossip. Oh well. Don't fuss. He rummaged through Gil's drawers. "Somewhere this organized lover of mine must have a spare pair of socks, damn it." Despite his complaining, Greg felt incredibly happy if not on top of the world. Since the day he had passed his final proficiency and had become a CSI, his life was great. It didn't matter he couldn't find a pair of socks. It didn't matter he was dead beat because he hadn't slept much in the last couple of weeks. Greg chuckled. It didn't even matter that Sara would be at the Crime Scene as well, drooling over Gil. Since Greg had been outed to her, she was nicer to him. She even had invited him to have a beer. Since she knew he was gay she could accept him as a friend. A friend, who makes love to the man she has been chasing for years. Yeah, we have sex but don't worry, Sara. That's it. We have no relationship. You still have a chance to win Gil for yourself. Well, it didn't matter. Right now, everything was great.
There! At the back of the bottom drawer, he discovered what he was looking for. He dragged the pair of socks forward and felt something square and firm inside. He frowned. What the...? He slipped a hand inside and pulled a small metal box out. Gee! What now? He hesitated to open it - this doesn't belong to me - but the moment passed. He snapped the box open and discovered a folded piece of paper inside. He fumbled the thing out and identified a photograph. The worn shot of two smiling men, standing in front of an amusement park. One of them was Gil. He looked young, much younger than Greg was presently. Greg turned the photo to inspect the backside. "Forever - Mark," he read aloud. His heartbeat quickened. Mark. Mark. Is it you who owns Gil's heart? He examined the happy face of the guy standing next to Gil. He was boyishly handsome with a likable smile and dark eyes under a messy shock of hair... Greg gasped. That's me. The picture slipped from his fingers and floated down to the ground. No. Not me. But very much alike. Mark and I could be related. He picked his finding up and put it back into the box. Engulfed in the socks, Greg put the keepsake back where it belonged. I need to go. Gil doesn't like delay. The team must not get any ideas about where I came from. He slipped into his sneakers barefoot and left Gil's place shaken. Forever - forever - forever. He couldn't get the word out of his head. During his ride to the Crime Scene, he didn't think of anything else and the good spirits he had felt not long ago wore off.
His arrival at the Crime Scene was unspectacular. After he had showed his ID to the officers on duty, he passed through the house to the garden in the backyard that was crowded with youngsters, CSIs, and police officers. Though he spotted Gil right away. He was talking to David Philips, who bowed over a body in a bathing suit. They stood at the rim of a sizable swimming pool.
Sara was coming up to meet him. "Hi." She reported the details. "Thirteen-year-old boy who attended a party, was found dead in the pool. Someone called the police, but we don't know who. Probable cause of death is drowning, though David isn't finished with the body yet."
The news that the case concerned a dead kid worsened Greg's bad mood. Great. Fucking great. He and Sara walked to the body. He couldn't see any grownups except for the police.
Gil awaited them, looking grim. "David is finished with the body and the evidence indicates that the victim suffered an injury to the back of the head before he drowned."
Greg threw a glance at the dead boy. Slender, white, black hair. The eyes already had been closed. Thank God. He shuddered.
"Although there is blood in the water," Gil proceeded the briefing. "Search the whole area around the pool for traces of blood or hair and take a sample of the water as well."
Greg sensed tension in Gil's voice. The death of a kid had always affected the professional CSI. He had learned that lesson years ago when Gil and he hadn't been as close as now. Under different circumstances he would have felt sorry for his lover but not today. His irritation about finding a piece of Gil's past obscured any other feeling, including the horror over the dead kid. "Yes, sir," he barked. Am I just a convenient substitute for the one you really love?
Gil raised an eyebrow and confusion flitted over his face. "Is everything alright?"
Hell no. Who's Mark? "Sure." Greg turned away and he and Sara started searching the area for traces.
"What's going on?" Sara whispered. "You never pass up an opportunity to talk to Grissom in detail."
"I'm just tired," he lied, and riveted on Brass, who was questioning a bunch of youngsters. Some of them looked scared but others rather defiant. One boy caught Greg's attention particularly. A good-looking, fifteen-year-old who had his arm around the shoulders of a younger boy, who was wrapped up in a red towel. Probably brothers. The younger kid shouldn't be here at all. Greg shifted his attention back to the terrain around the pool. "Did they party without any grownups?"
"Yes, they did," Sara said. "The house belongs to the parents of one of the oldest. I heard he's seventeen. The parents are on vacation for two days and he invited his friends to party. Brass told me when they found their friend dead, they were too scared to call the police for an hour."
"Tough luck. They'll catch hell from their parents. Do you think the victim hit his head by accident and drowned?"
"Could be but why didn't anyone else notice anything?" Sara countered, picking up a pink piece of chewing gum. "Ugh! Yucky."
"I say it was dark, loud music was playing, a lot of talking and giggling was going on," Greg suggested, remembering the few parties he had attended in his youth.
"Speaking from experience, aren't you?" she teased, good-natured.
"Nah. Not really," he quipped. "I was the typical geek. Studying was my thing." Plus messing around with my teacher. Accepting I'm gay.
Sara nodded. "Just like me."
"No kidding." He and she continued searching the ground until Greg spotted drops of blood at the rim of the pool. "Could be the victim's. I'll take a sample." He opened his kit.
Sara got closer to take a better look. "There's a hair too." She fetched her tweezers to save it. Hair and blood sample bagged, they searched further but didn't find more than a few cigarette butts and collection of chips. Finally done, they went to report to Gil, who had joined Brass' side.
The police had escorted almost every boy and girl home. Only the two boys who Greg had noticed earlier remained in front of Brass and Gil. So close to his lover, the anger flared up in Greg like a heavy heart burn. Forever. Where is he, Gil? What happened to a promise like that?
"Did I understand you correctly, Dennis? You weren't nearby when your brother was found dead?" Brass asked the older boy right now.
"No, sir," Dennis murmured, shaking. "I was back there." He pointed at a line of trees and bushes at the back of the garden.
"Alone?" Brass didn't let up on his harsh tone.
Dennis shook his head.
"So what's the name of the girl?" Brass asked, insightful due to life-long experience.
Dennis nibbled on his lip. "I can't tell you."
"Come on, buddy. I'll find out anyway."
"Fine with me," Dennis countered, squaring his shoulders.
His defiant but also anxious expression reminded Greg of a young boy who was once confronted with the same question. What's the name of the girl? - I can't tell you - What's the matter with you? You never hid anything from us before. - Well, now I do. - Come on. What's going on? - Nothing. Leave me alone.
Brass had dropped the subject and spoke to the younger boy. "Scotty's your name, right?"
The boy nodded, the eyes in his pale face were filled with fear. He grasped the corners of the towel and pulled it tighter around his skinny body.
Dennis looked at Greg. He appeared devastated as well as guilty.
It was a boy, right? Greg smiled encouragingly at him.
Dennis winced and looked quickly away.
"Nobody is going to hurt you, Scotty," Brass said much more friendly. "Just tell me where you were at the time your brother Rob was found?"
"I was eating," Scotty whispered, then wiping his lips as if there were still traces of food visible.
"Where are their parents?" Greg heard Sara ask Gil.
"Away for the weekend," Gil murmured not disturbing Brass' interrogation. "Dennis admitted that his parents allowed him, Rob, and Scotty to sleep over, but his parents didn't know that the parents of Dennis' friend weren't home either. We couldn't contact them yet. We've informed social services to send someone to meet with us at the lab." He turned to Greg. "Can you keep an eye on Dennis and Scotty until we drive back there?"
Greg tensed up more. Is this part of my job description? Playing babysitter? "Okay, sure," he agreed all the same.
On any other day a nice word from Gil would have made Greg linger on, adoring his lover, but not today. The gloomy cloud of doubt because of Mark overshadowed everything else. For the first time he wasn't smitten by Gil's natural charm and didn't mind that Sara was standing much too close to him, whispering their findings to Gil.
Greg turned to the older boy. "Do you want to go into the house and get something to drink, Dennis?" From the corner of his eyes, he noticed Gil's frown and sensed the urge to take him aside and talk things out. What's the matter, Greg? Weren't we drunken with joy just hours ago? Nah. Gil would never do that. Not in front of Sara and everybody else. Keeping their secret for now and forever under lock and key was still more important to Gil than any worries about Greg's emotional state.
Dennis tilted his head. "Are you a cop?"
"No, I'm a CSI," Greg replied. "My name is Greg."
"I'm thirsty," Scotty attracted the attention to himself.
Greg smiled. "Very well. Let's go." He and the two boys walked to the house. Scotty held on to his brother. When they entered through the backdoor, Sara caught up with them. "Hey. Wait for me."
Dennis put his brother onto the sofa and with Sara's help he found a blanket to cover him up.
Greg checked the fridge. "What about a coke?"
"Okay," the two boys agreed cheerless.
Greg fetched two clean glasses by the sink and filled them up.
Scotty drank greedily while Dennis just clutched the glass with both hands to keep them still.
"I'm curious," Sara said, giving Greg the most amazed look. "Once again you left Grissom high and dry. I never saw you doing this. What's going on, Greg?"
"Nothing much," he spat, fighting off the wave of bitterness rushing through him like burning fire. This mess is my own fault. I should have talked to Gil about our unsatisfying situation long ago. "There's a first time for everything, isn't it?"
Sara didn't buy his flimsy excuse. "Come on. Something's bothering you."
"Even if, why should I tell you of all people," he scoffed. Right. We were never friends.
He dropped down in an armchair. Well done. Subject closed.
"You're right," she gave in. "I'm sorry." She made herself comfortable in the second armchair.
Greg was surprised by her willingness to talk this through. What the hell, Sara. All this just because I'm gay.
Scotty had closed his eyes and leaned against his brother. Dennis removed the glass from Scotty's hands to put it on the table. Spiritlessly, he sipped on his coke then and returned Greg's look. His hazel eyes were glazed with sadness. "Dad is gonna kill me."
"No. He won't. It wasn't your fault," Greg said, no matter what had been or could be happening.
"It was," Dennis stated matter-of-factly. "I'm the oldest. I was in charge."
"That's nonsense. Your brother wasn't a little kid anymore. You couldn't have watched over him every second."
"But I lied to my parents. If they had known Sean's parents aren't home, they wouldn't have allowed us to come here in the first place."
"That's true," Greg agreed, wishing he could comfort him better.
"You see. It's my fault."
"Don't be so hard on yourself," Greg said, and wriggled deeper into the armchair. He glanced at Sara. She shrugged, looking as helpless as he felt.
Scotty moaned and Dennis pulled him closer.
"Was it that important to you to be here tonight?" Greg continued their conversation.
Dennis shrugged. "Looks like it."
"Why?" Greg pursued the matter.
"Do you like what you do?" Dennis changed the subject.
Gee! Got you. Who did you meet at the party, huh? "Yeah, sure. Being a CSI is a challenge every day."
"Mm." Dennis closed his eyes and leaned back.
Greg wanted Dennis to give up the truth, but he knew to press harder would be a mistake. A change of course was the better tactic. "Tell me," Greg addressed Sara, "why's it you have been much nicer to me in the last couple of months?"
"Huh?" she startled, gripping the arms of the chair. "I don't know what...well okay...it was...uh..." She cleared her throat.
"...my coming out, right?"
She blushed. "Well - yes."
"Why did that change anything at all?"
"You - flirting with me - always made me feel pretty uncomfortable. I have always liked you, Greg, but I didn't want to encourage you in any way. Now I know you were just having fun."
"I know. It sounds silly now that I think about it. I'm sorry."
"It's fine. I can be pretty annoying."
"Really?" She smiled. "Gosh! I never noticed."
They laughed and then silenced, looking at the resting boys, embarrassed.
Sara's voice dropped to a whisper. "Do you want to tell me now, what's bothering you?"
"It's not important," Greg understated, because he could never tell her.
Greg glanced at Dennis. He seemed asleep. Okay. Come on. This is for the cause. "My boyfriend upsets me."
"No. My current boyfriend. I discovered a piece of his past and it unnerves me."
"Talk to him."
"He isn't much of a talker."
"I know the type." She smiled sadly.
It was that smile that made him remember. This is Sara. Sara who is in love with my boyfriend. I'm with the man she's been chasing for years. We're in love with the same man. Greg gulped and kept still.
Sara looked lost in her own thoughts and didn't urge him to reveal more.
Luckily, because seconds later, Gil peeked in. "Sara, can I talk to you."
Her face lit up like a Christmas tree and eagerly she followed him outside.
Greg wriggled yet deeper into the comforting chair. He sighed. Shit. Why do I take everything to heart?
"Are you gay?" Dennis' question dropped like a bomb.
Hey. At least my plan worked. "Yes, Dennis. Is that a problem for you?"
Dennis blushed. "No. I'm... uh... curious."
"Oh? Why's that?"
"I was told cops have to be tough."
"CSIs," Greg corrected him softly. "Who told you gay men can't be tough?"
"Rob says so." He bit his lip. "Said so."
Greg sensed Dennis was close to tears. He got up and joined him on the sofa, putting an arm around the sagged shoulders. "Well, he was wrong."
"Rob hated gays," Dennis choked out. "Sometimes I hated him."
Greg squeezed Dennis' shoulder.
"But I didn't want him dead," Dennis whimpered.
Greg pulled him closer. "I know that. Rob knew that."
"Sure. He was your brother. He loved you. Brothers always fight."
Dennis sniffled and leaned into him.
"You were in the bushes with a boy, right? That's why you didn't want to tell Captain Brass."
Dennis wiped over his face. "Yeah. How did you know?"
"I'm an expert in that matter," Greg joked dryly. "You have to tell Captain Brass."
"But he will tell my parents."
"Dennis, you have to tell them someday." Oh, what right do I have to lecture him? Did I tell anybody about Gil and me?
"I know. But not today."
"Come on. It's not that hard."
"Did you tell your parents?"
"No, but I told my grandparents."
Dennis frowned. "Why? What about your parents?"
"Greg!" Gil walked in, interrupting the intimate moment. Seeing Greg and Dennis kind of snuggling, he stopped in his tracks.
Dennis jerked away from Greg.
Gil gave them a weird look. "We're heading back to the lab. Social Services will meet us there to take care of the boys until their parents will arrive."
"Did you reach my parents? Did they know what happened?" Dennis squeaked, kneading his hands.
"Yes, we have. They are on their way back."
"Oh. Oh god." Dennis shoved the blanket off and woke his brother. "Come on, Scotty. Mom and dad are home soon."
Gil Grissom looking clueless. That's something, Greg mused, feeling strangely satisfied by his lover's bafflement.
"Officer Nichols and Morrison will accompany you on the drive to the lab," Gil continued, pointing at the uniformed duo coming in.
"I want Greg to come with us too," Dennis said, not shy at all.
"Well," Gil said, now looking even more curious, "that's fine with me. Greg?"
"No problem," Greg replied, patting Dennis shoulder.
Gil's eyes narrowed. "See you at the lab." He walked out.
"Is that your boyfriend?" Dennis whispered.
Greg spewed out a chuckle. "No way. That's my boss." Kids. "Whatever gave you that idea?"
Dennis shrugged. "Just a guess."
Pretty good guess, my friend. Greg thought, nonplussed. Gee! Even a stranger read me. A boy. How can I believe nobody at the lab knows? How starry-eyed am I?
Silence filled the car on the drive to the lab. The officers sitting up front didn't bother them with small talk. Greg was seated between Dennis and Scotty in the back, feeling gloomy despite the bright lights of Vegas flitting by. I have to stop the lying and the hiding. Our friends should know what's going on between Gil and me. We should act like grownups. The sheriff already knows. Right. About time to make a clean sweep, isn't it? He looked at Dennis' grim face. Yeah. I should be a role model for the next generation. Gently he patted the boy's knee. "I'll be there for you."
"Thanks," Dennis murmured, and continued plucking the skin of his fingertips.
Though a woman from social services greeted Dennis and Scotty as soon as they arrived and asked them to come with her. Greg sensed Dennis wasn't comfortable separating from him. "Come on now, go with her. I'll check on you later. Promise."
Dennis nodded, and he and Scotty were led away.
Greg sighed. This was one horrible night. Yeah, well, you wanted this, now deal with it. He followed Sara to the trace lab.
"How's the teacher's pet?" Hodges sneered as he caught sight of them. "Did he enjoy the world outside the lab?"
Greg glared at him. Usually, he was able to ignore Hodges' snarky comments. Not playing his games was the most effective way to deal with a man like him. Though today Greg was too pissed to keep his calm. "Leave me alone, Hodges."
Hodges' blue eyes sparkled with glee. "Well, look at that. Is Grissom's favorite boy not amused by what he learned today?"
"Quit it, Hodges," Sara interfered. "We had to handle the death of a minor..."
"Oh yeah? So what?" Hodges barked at her, shrugging. "Greg should have known what's it like to be a CSI." He smirked. "But did he think about those things? No, of course not. All he could think about was to be with his adored boss all the time. Out in the field, Greg figured he would find a way...."
Holy shit! Shut your mouth! Greg punched Hodges in the face.
Hodges yelped, stumbled backwards, and crashed into his desk.
Oh God! Greg's fist hurt, and he flushed. Fuck! What's got into me?
Sara gaped at him.
Hodges rubbed his chin. He was still smirking. The devil himself couldn't have looked more wicked. "Well, at last everybody's favorite, Greg Sanders, showed his true nature."
"Stop this! Both of you!" Sara railed at them. "What's wrong with you?"
Greg moved forward though. Hodges needed to shut up.
"What's going on here?" Gil barged into the room. Yikes! And Sheriff Atwater was right behind him.
There he is, Greg mused, unfazed, the center of my universe. His anger was pitched to a higher level. "None of your business, Gil. Stay out of it."
Sara's jaw dropped. Hodges chuckled. Gil's expression turned icy. The sheriff, though, winked at Greg in a compassionate way.
Greg stared at the guy. What the hell? What's his game?
"Come to my office in half an hour, Sanders," Gil snarled, pushing his glasses to the highest point on his nose.
"Yeah, sure." Greg nodded, clenching his fists.
"Are you alright? Do you need medical attention?" Gil turned to the snarky lab worker.
"No, boss." Hodges pulled his coat in order. "I'm fine."
"You can file a complaint..." Gil continued, poker-faced.
"Leave it," Hodges snapped. "Such a sissy hit isn't worth the trouble." He turned his back on them and cleaned up his desk.
"Okay. It's up to you." Gil squared his shoulders. "Everyone back to work." He walked out and on to his office.
Sheriff Atwater lingered on to wink at Greg once more. "Trouble in paradise?" He smiled and then he followed Gil.
Greg almost laughed. But just.
"What did the sheriff mean by that?" Sara said, looking as if she had been knocked down.
"I don't know," Greg said, shuffling his feet. I can't tell you. Drop it.
"Still the pathetic lab boy," Hodges sniped, with his back still turned on them. "Will you ever grow up?"
"I may be pathetic, but you're unwanted," Greg fired back. Holy shit! I've had it. I need a drink. "Got it?!" He left in a huff and strolled through the lab aimlessly, undecided if he wanted to follow Gil's order or not. Hodges is right. I'm pathetic. I'm not man enough to confront Gil about us. His attitude about keeping our relationship a secret makes me unhappy. Yet I stay with him, drooling over everything he does.
On his random tour Greg stopped at the morgue, lingering restlessly at the entrance.
"Looking for someone?" Al Robbins startled him coming through the doors. The one man who had the ability to make everybody calm down simply by his presence.
"Yeah. Can you tell me about the body of Rob Epson?"
"Sure. Come on in."
Gil didn't know how he could manage to stay calm after the shit that had went down. Well. He needed to because he wouldn't grant sheriff Atwater the pleasure of seeing him lose face. Holding on to the files on his desk, he gave the most sober report on the present cases, ignoring the twinkle in Atwater's eyes. Damn that man. Since he caught Greg on my home phone that one night, he's always teasing me. Why doesn't he raise the issue and wear me down already? What is he waiting for? Gil finished his report and expected Atwater to leave. He needed time to prepare himself for the talk with Greg.
The sheriff though stayed seated. "Trouble with the new CSI?" he asked smugly.
Yeah! I had that coming. "Nothing I can't handle."
"Are you sure?"
"What are you implying, sheriff?" Gil barked, unwilling to raise the issue himself.
"That it could have been too early to make Sanders a CSI."
"Are you questioning my decision?"
"No, not at all. I'm only considering the fact of..."
Okay. Here it comes. Brace yourself. Gil clenched his teeth.
"...his youth and greenness," Atwater concluded wickedly.
Gil sorted the files. "...ermh, well, I'll make sure something like today will never happen again. If you will excuse me, please, I have a lot of work to do..."
"Very well," the sheriff agreed. "I'll leave you to prepare for a delicate conversation. I don't envy you," he teased Gil once more and then he was gone.
Gil exhaled. The incident between Greg and Hodges was worrying. Greg had never acted this way before. Violence didn't fit his character. So, what had happened today? It must have been something important to make him lose it like that. Whatever it was Greg needed to tell him. Gil checked his watch and frowned. More than thirty minutes had gone by since he had ordered Greg to come to his office. Gil looked at the door. No sign of Greg coming down the hallway. Meaning he had ignored a direct order. "What the hell?" That's not like Greg at all. A hard lump grew in Gil's throat and made it difficult for him to breathe. Well, if he's not coming to me, I have to find him. I have to fix whatever it is. He stumbled to his feet and went searching the lab. I hope he hasn't left for home already. This wouldn't be the first time Greg had tried to run away, right?
You don't say. Gil had checked everywhere for Greg when he passed the morgue. He pushed the door open. There he came across Dr. Robbins in the company of a stressed-out looking Greg. His boyfriend wore a lab-coat, and it was obvious he had participated in the on-going autopsy. Where is David? Why's Greg doing this? What did I miss? Gil was riled up a bit himself now. Okay. Calm down.
Not easy with Greg not looking at him and Robbins greeting him as if this was a get-together. "Oh, hello. Nice to see you, Gil. Did you come by to hear the autopsy result?"
"Sure, for what else should I come down here?" Gil said, because the true reason wasn't Robbins' business.
"I already told Greg I have come to the conclusion that Rob Epson died by accident," Robbins said matter-of-factly. "He banged his head severely - probably at the edge of the pool - and drowned, already unconscious. The blood and hair samples, found by Greg and Sara will confirm this."
Gil approached the body. "Is this definitive?"
"As good as," Robbins said, covering the body up.
"I hope that's enough to clear Dennis of any guilt and let him go," Greg said, pulling his gloves off.
"What is it about that boy that makes you care so much," Gil said, still having trouble breathing.
Greg glared at him. "It's the case I want to solve. That's all."
"Don't lie to me! Your behavior towards Hodges is inexcusable. Explain yourself!"
"I don't have anything to say. Not to you."
"Greg, I'm your boss. I order you..."
Greg slipped out of his coat. "My present problems have nothing to do with work, so I don't have to answer."
"I'll check on Dennis and Scotty and then I'll leave for home."
"Okay. Fine." Gil had it now. He was still in charge of this lab. "You want it this way you can have it. I'm not responsible for any consequences."
"It's you who wants it this way."
"I always told you..."
"Don't start...again!" Greg threw the coat to the ground and ran out.
Dead silence. Robbins picked up the coat and carried it to the disposal for the laundry.
Gil shook his head and caught his breath. This is the reason you should never get involved with a subordinate.
"I see your relationship is messed up, Gil," Robbins said, tidying up his tools.
"What?!" Gil startled.
"Do you want some advice?"
"Keep your voice down, because I haven't the slightest idea..."
Robbins cut him short. "Do you believe it's still a secret you're sleeping with dear Greg? Well, I don't know about the others, but I have known for weeks what's going on."
"Weeks! Are you joking?" Oh, come on... that man would never joke about such things, so... leave it! Gil turned around and fled, yet he heard Robbins laugh when he burst through the doors, not spotting the eavesdropper hiding behind them. Well...just because...
...Sara stuck to the wall like a chewed-up piece of gum. She had come here to ask Robbins about the results of Rob Epson's autopsy. With horror she had eaves-dropped on the curious conversation between Gil and Greg and had seen him leave. Then she had heard every word Robbins had exchanged with Gil. Frozen she had watched Gil bolting off, panic-stricken he could turn around and see her. Thank God he didn't. Shaken she clung to the wall until Gil had vanished around the corner. Her stomach felt like a knotted ball of flames and her eyes burned like hell. Gil is gay, Gil is gay, Gil is... for years I have chased after a gay man. A man who's fucking the former lab boy. She blinked rapidly to hold back the tears. In vain. When she heard someone was coming down the hallway, she fled with the tears welling up and streaming down her face. Shit! She wiped them off for nothing because more tears oozed from her eyes and kept rolling down her cheeks. Sobbing, she entered the locker room. Dear God! She must leave. If someone saw her like this... Right! Hurry! She opened her locker to change but was kept from doing so by wiping her face repeatedly. Come on. Pull yourself together. This is not you.
Too late. Nick walked in. "Hey there! What's up?"
God, no. She hid her face and tried to calm her voice. "I'm going home for an hour. Robbins isn't finished with Rob Epson's body, and I need a break."
Nick put a hand on her shoulder. "What's wrong? Something about the case?"
"Nothing's wrong. I just need to...." She sobbed.
Nick turned her around. "Sara, dear, what happened?"
She didn't answer but buried herself in his arms. "I...I...am...so damn...stupid," she confessed, and fresh tears poured from her eyes.
He held her tightly. "Why? Is it Ecklie again? I will..."
"No. Not him." The crying stilled a little. "I can't tell you. I can't tell anyone."
He stroked her back. "Well, seeing you like this, I know anyway." Sara shifted but he kept holding her. "You figured out the truth about Grissom, right?"
Sara struggled free; in seconds her eyes turned dry and coarse as desert sand. "You knew?"
"Ermh...yes," Nick confessed, looking miserable.
"You knew all along and still didn't tell me."
"I didn't know all along," he defended himself. "Only for a couple of weeks and just because...I caught them kissing."
Sara flinched. "When?"
"At my party."
Oh my gosh! What next! Her heart turned as dark as night. "Who else knows?"
"That BITCH," she spat, crying again.
"Sara." He pulled her back into his arms. "Please, don't cry."
"Let me go. I don't need your pity."
"I don't pity you. I..." Nick was drenched in feelings. ...love you. Yeah, but I can't tell her that. Not now. She's hurt and angry. She wouldn't listen, worse, she wouldn't believe me. "I'm your friend. I'm here for you."
The silence of his apartment greeted Gil mockingly. Only the butterflies in their glass cases awaited him. No kidding! Gil threw his keys on the table, where they slid to the edge and fell over to land on the ground. Gil swore and headed to the bedroom. He got rid of his clothes and then - he froze in motion. One of the drawers stood open. The bottom drawer. Bare-chested, he walked over to check it out, though the neat order of shorts and socks seemed untouched. But at a closer look, he figured Greg must have rummaged through them. Oh boy. Gil knelt and fumbled at the back of the drawer until he found the stashed box. He opened it. Okay. The photograph was still inside. Sure. Yet it was wrong. It should have been backwards. Not like this with Mark smiling brightly at him. Mark. He sighed. Cheerful, funny, devoted Mark. Gil shifted the photo a little bit and for a second the light played tricks on him. Mark turned into Greg. Gil blinked. Greg was gone. Mark smiled at him again. Once they were happy. A long, long time ago. Once they had one of their fights. Don't think about it. Don't. Aren't you already depressed? But the memory washed over him like a heavy wave, climbing up, choking him.
"Are you giving me an ultimatum?" Gil shouted, pacing up and down the room.
"Yes, I am," Mark snarled. "I want you to change. I don't like the way we spend time together. All you care about is work, solving your stupid riddles. You don't care about me or anyone. You don't care about living."
"What are you talking about?" Gil spat back. "I have a life!"
"No, you don't. We never go out. We never have fun, and we barely fuck anymore."
"I never knew sex was this important to you," Gil scoffed, raising a mocking eyebrow.
Though Mark wasn't embarrassed. "It is. I want to live. I need someone who enjoys living as much as I do. Not someone who is just present."
Gil shrugged. "You've already made your decision then. What are you waiting for? Get out of here."
Mark grabbed his arm. "I don't want to leave, but I have to."
Gil shook him off. "If you can't accept me as I am, there is no point in staying."
"Okay. Fine. Suit yourself!" Mark walked out and slammed the door shut.
"Yeah. Whatever." Gil huffed and curled up on the sofa, reading a forensic journal for over an hour. He didn't bother to be unhappy about Mark leaving. He would be back. This wasn't the first time Mark had left him. They had lived through this stupid argument already a dozen times. Mark would never leave him. He loved Gil too much. Mark had told him so himself. What's he complaining about anyway? Gil grumbled. I have never cheated on him. I have never lied. I have never even laid eyes on any other man. I'm faithful and loyal, I'm...
The phone rang. He smirked and let it ring for a few times. See. He's sorry already. He will never leave me. He picked up the receiver. "Come home."
The caller wasn't Mark. "Sorry, I thought you were someone else."
"Am I speaking to a Mr. Gilbert Grissom?"
"Yes. How can I help you?"
"Are you acquainted with a Mr. Mark Yared?"
"Yes." Gil shifted. The journal slipped to the ground. "What is it?"
"I'm deeply sorry to inform you that Mr. Yared had an accident. For yet unidentified reasons he crashed his car into a power pole..."
Gil's stomach cramped. The phone slipped from his fingers, while the messenger's voice went on mercilessly. "...the paramedics did everything they could...but he died on the way to the hospital..."
Dear God! Gil stroked over his eyes. He was shaking. Over twenty years had passed since that day, and still, he wasn't able to think about Mark's fate and his loss without crying. He kissed the smiling face on the photo. "I'm sorry, Mark. I did love you." Neatly folded he put the picture back into the box. Holding the metal square, he sat down on his bed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. It appears Greg has found Mark's photograph. That would be a logical explanation for him being so upset today. Greg has discovered the one and only piece of remembrance I have kept of my lost love. A man who had a close resemblance to Greg. Has Greg noticed? Gil snorted. Who am I kidding? Sure, he has. He's too clever and observant. A true CSI.
The ringing phone made Gil wince. At once images from the past hit him again. Give it a rest! A tragedy like that doesn't happen twice in a lifetime. It could be Greg reaching out to you. He rushed to the living room and fetched the receiver. Are you sure? "Grissom."
It was Brass. Gil's relief changed though, while he listened to his friend. "I'm sorry to disturb you, Gil. It's about Greg. He had a lot to drink and..."
"No. Please no," Gil groaned, and cold fear seized his heart. The phone slipped from his fingers and dropped to the ground to share the destiny of his forgotten keys. But the voice of Brass floated to him relentlessly.