Title- Ordinary's Just Not Good Enough
Rating- PG13 for language.
Disclaimer- The usual bits. See Chapter One for your non-litigation information.
Author's Notes- Wow, you guys. You're all making me blush over here. It's nice to see so much interest in such a small story. I'm glad that you're all enjoying it. And yes, I'm updating sooner than expected. I've gotten my drive back for the story. We'll see what happens. Thanks for all the reviews, and here's hoping that you like the new chapter. And a big WARNING, to everyone, this chapter contains some out-of-character conversation (remember, everything is seen as Greg's point of view, thoughts, etc., so it's supposed to be out-of-character), and some choice swear words, but there was no reason to up the rating for a little 'f' word or two. Enjoy and let me know what you think.
Ordinary's Just Not Good Enough
Do you worry that you're not liked
How long 'til you break
You're happy 'cause you smile
But how much can you fake
An ordinary boy
An ordinary name
But ordinary's just not good enough today
She was like a woman on a mission. Her eyes were even brighter than normal with her anger, as she stomped down the hallways of the lab, her body moving gracefully as she avoided running into other people, twisting around the familiar corners. Her hair blew out behind her in soft waves as she increased her pace, her target coming into view. Without thinking, she made her way up to the man and grabbed him by the arm. "We need to talk," she ground out, pulling on the appendage in her grasp. He was surprised by the contact and followed willingly as she led him to his office like he was a wayward young boy and she was an angry mother.
As soon as they were in the dark office, she used her foot to close the door behind him, and reached for the light switch. The overhead fluorescent lights began to hum and flickered for a moment before they began to illuminate, barely brightening the room at first. "Do you ever answer your phone when you're not working?" she began, crossing her arms under her breasts and slumping. Even with her not standing to her full height, she seemed taller and more powerful than him.
"I take it that you called," Grissom responded, reaching to straighten out the arm of the shirt she had wrinkled.
"Yes, I called. I called everyone and you were the only one that I couldn't get ahold of. You have no idea what's going on, do you. Well, pull your head out of your ass, Gil, and look around you. Haven't you noticed anything different today?"
He fought the smirk that wanted to break out on his face. There was only one person that he allowed to talk to him like that, and only because that he never would have been able to stop her to begin with. And he had seen that look on her face before, that same look of anger and disappointment. He wished that the look hadn't been directed at him, but it was no use. She thought that he had done something wrong, even if he didn't know what it was. "I'm not playing guessing games, Catherine. What do you want to say to me?" It was better to just cut to the chase. The sooner she got it out, the sooner she would leave him in peace.
Her eyes narrowed. "Normally, you'd jump on his ass if he wasn't at work on time, but today, not even a mention of Greg not being here?" She chuckled bitterly at the look on his face. "Yeah, you can check the lab for yourself, but Greg Sanders isn't here, and he won't be for awhile. If you had answered your God damned phone last night, you would know that."
He sighed lightly when he heard that name. He thought that Greg Sanders was a hell of a worker, one of the best technicians that he was able to lay his hands on. There seemed to be no limit to what he wanted to learn, but Grissom had come to understand that as good of a worker he was, he was also a troublemaker. Whether he was late, or making mistakes...plain and simple, he caused trouble. The young man just seemed to welcome it. "Well, I didn't. What is this about, and why would you know that Greg isn't coming to work."
"Because I'm the only one that's tried to give half a shit in the past few days," she hissed, hair falling in her eyes as she leaned towards him. She shook her head to move the fallen locks out of her way. "And even I couldn't help him. I saw what was happening to him, and I tried to help, but no one else..." With a huff of impatience, she dropped her arms from where they were and let them fall back to her side. "You looked at him every single day, and you never SAW him, did you?"
"He isn't even awake yet," she said softly, lost in her own thoughts for a moment before she looked over at him, a frown on her face. "You've been running him ragged, Gil. We all have. None of us have noticed how much we depend on Greg, and maybe now that he's gone, you will. Maybe we all will. He's been pushing himself to do more than his job, and no one has noticed. He's always here before any of us show up, and he doesn't leave until everyone's gone. He's worked double shifts...hell, he's worked triple shifts to catch up on everything that's on his desk. Haven't you seen what it's done to him?"
He nodded sharply. "Yes, it's caused him to make mistakes in his work. We can't have mistakes here."
Her eyes widened slightly. "I always knew that you were aloof...cold in some way, but this is just plain heartless. The poor kid was exhausted. He hasn't been eating, he hasn't been drinking anything...I found him unconscious in his apartment this morning, barely breathing. The doctor said that if I hadn't shown up when I did, if no one had shown up, he wouldn't have made it. And you know what really tops it, Gil? Do you? The fact that no one cared. No one even stopped to ask him how he was doing."
"Now, that's not-"
"Not true? Don't give me that shit," she snapped, before taking a deep breath, trying to regain her composure. When she began again, her voice was soft. "He's been sick, he's been tired, and he's been depressed, and no one thought to ask how his day was going, or if he wanted to grab a bite to eat. Don't get me wrong, I'm just as much to blame as everyone else here. I never paid much attention to him, either, but at least I tried to do something during the past few days. He could barely stand when he came to work the other day, but everyone just assumed that he had gone out the night before and was hungover. That's exactly what Nick told me last night. He must have been hungover. He assumed, he didn't ask. No one did. You never did."
Grissom was silent for a moment, examining the look on the woman's face, before deciding how to answer. He didn't want to offend her any more than she already was. "I'm not his father, Catherine. I'm his supervisor. That's all. What happens outside of work is none of my concern."
"Yeah, no shit. That's not the way that it should be. Would it really kill you to stop for all of thirty seconds and ask how everyone is doing? No, you expected Greg to just work through his breaks so that he could finish up all of your damned precious paperwork, when you don't do your own half the time. He only took a break the past few days because I forced him to, and the moment I left the room, he was back to work. Haven't you seen any of this? Haven't you noticed anything?"
"It's not my job to coddle him," Grissom explained calmly. His words had been a mistake, he realized, as he saw her face begin to turn colors. It started with a delicate rose shade, and up the red spectrum until there were two crimson spots on the crest of her cheeks, the rest of her face turning white.
She took a deep breath, reminding herself to remain calm. "You're not supposed to coddle him. He's not a child, but what he is, Gil, is a young impressionable man. He takes your word as gospel. He thinks that because you're not happy with him, he has to keep striving to do better, risking his health to do that. He had a breakdown, did you know that? I found him face down in his apartment, unconscious, barely breathing. He's exhausted, he's dehydrated, he's malnourished, and he still hasn't woken up. I had to call his parents to have them fly out and sit by his bedside." Her voice dropped to almost a whisper. "He could have died, Gil, and you're telling me that it's none of your concern?"
The office filled with an uncomfortable silence, Grissom finding himself uncomfortable and wanting to shuffle his feet. "What happened to him obviously happened when he wasn't at work, therefore-"
"Don't give me your 'therefore' bullshit. He looks up to you, can't you understand that? You're a father figure to him, he thinks you can do no wrong. He wants to make you happy, and all you do is glare at him and tell him how much of a fuck-up he is. He's young, he makes mistakes, just like all of us do. You don't threaten to suspend any of us when we make the rare mistake, so why do you feel the need to do that to Greg?" She stopped and raised her hand the moment his mouth opened. "No, you know what? I don't want to know. I don't want to hear your pathetic excuses anymore. I'm no better than the rest of your precious crew. But at least I noticed when he was getting bad. You...you just turned a blind eye to everything, and that is disgusting. Absolutely fucking disgusting," she hissed, before turning on her heel.
She flounced towards the door, stopping only when she heard his voice. "Is he...is Greg going to be okay?" Grissom asked quietly.
Her shoulders tensed, chin raised as she glared defiantly at the door. "I don't know. He'll be fine physically, that's what the doctor told me. But mentally? Who knows. And if you really want to know the answer to that question, why don't you ask him yourself. After he regains consciousness." Opening the door, she walked out calmly and even closed the door softly, forcing a smile for a passing lab tech.
Catherine hadn't screamed at him, like she had wanted to. No, but she did get some frustrations out, and that made her feel worlds better as she made her way towards the break room, looking around her. She couldn't help but wonder how many other people around her, that she worked with every day, had ever gotten close to the low level that Greg was now at. They all worked hard, they all neglected breaks from time to time, but did anyone really know what they were doing to their bodies? She was just as guilty as anyone else for skipping breaks and pushing herself to the limit, and unlike some of the people in the lab, she had something to go home to: a young daughter that depended on her.
In the break room, she poured herself a cup of coffee and sat down at the table, staring down at it morosely. She had been right when she had told Grissom that she was no better than the rest of the graveyard shift when it came to Greg. She only noticed what was going on when it was too late. But at least she was trying to change that. No one else seemed to care.
She peeked in the doorway to the hospital room, ready to step back if there was someone else in there. Thankfully, it was only Greg, now with his eyes open, staring at the ceiling. "Hey," she said quietly as she stepped into the room. smiling for his benefit.
His eyes went towards her, and Catherine could see the shame and embarrassment that he was trying to hide. "Hey," he said quietly, nodding at her as she took the chair near his bed. "I heard that you're the one to blame for putting me in here."
A single brow arched as she regarded him quietly. His color had started to come back, and he had begun to catch up on the missing sleep, making him look a little better. It was the dark look in his eyes that bothered her, however. "It's better than the alternative," she bantered back, her heart not in it at the very least. "How are you feeling?"
He shrugged, struggling for a moment before he propped himself up against the simple headboard of the hospital bed, his fingers playing with the blue blankets that was over top of him. "Tired and sore. They said that I would feel like that for awhile," he said softly, before sighing. "They also told me that I shouldn't eat anything heavy for awhile, and that I have to keep this stupid IV in. They let me have some water, though. Just a little."
The small voice he spoke with made her breath catch in her throat for a moment. She could just envision Lindsay in Greg's place, her own little girl laying in a hospital, scared, upset, and frightened. Greg looked like a lost little boy, so unlike the confidant young man he had been when he first started at the lab. Nothing like the always grinning jokester that tried to brighten their day a little. He had grown up so much in so short a time, and yet, he seemed so damned young. "That's good," she answered lamely, matching his sigh with one of his own. "You had us all worried."
"Liar." He turned to look at her again, and now SHE felt unsure of herself, biting her bottom lip with his frank, brown eyed stare. "Why are you lying for them? Are you trying to make me feel better or something, because I know the truth. And I really don't care anymore."
"You don't mean that." And her mothering tone had come back into play, she thought ruefully as she pushed her hair out of her face.
His shoulders moved in a shrug. "Just returning the favor. Least, that's how I figure it."
She leaned back in her chair and looked away from him for a moment. "Giving them a taste of their own medicine, huh? Do you really think that it would matter? If they don't care, like you say, why do you think they would care about how you treat them?" She smiled at the crestfallen look. "You're better than that, Greg. You know that you are, so why are you trying to convince yourself to get down to their level? It doesn't make sense."
"What, I can't be mean?" he protested, tossing her a more familiar look. One that she could only call mirthful. Whether he was acting like this for her benefit or not, she appreciated the effort. There was nothing like seeing that spark of life in his eyes again. But it died away soon enough, replaced by that haunted, dark eyed look, one that she hoped wasn't going to become normal for him. "Look at me. Why shouldn't I be bitter?"
Her head cocked to the side slowly. "You know, normally I'm the first person to tell someone to stop having their own personal little pity party, but in this case, I think it's justified. Greg, no one did this to you, but you. You're the one that ignored the signals that your body was sending you. You're the one that ran yourself into the ground. No one else did it to you. You're the only one to blame for being in the hospital. It wasn't like any of us were pushing the food away from you. It wasn't like we refused you a drink of water. YOU were the one that didn't eat or drink. YOU were the one that wouldn't sleep. YOU were the one that had the breakdown."
"That's going a little far," he commented dryly.
"No, not really. Look, I don't know what your problem is, Greg. Physical, mental...whatever. You broke down. You pushed yourself too hard, and you burnt out. It happens to the best of us-"
He crossed his arms, giving her an incredulous look. "Is it show and tell time? Are you going to tell me the story of your burn out? Because you haven't, Catherine. I know you haven't. You're the one that has it all together. Whatever you go through with Lindsay, or Eddie, or whoever, you make your way through it. So don't tell me that you've been in this position before."
She shook her head. "No, but I've seen plenty of good people who have been. Criminalists, lab techs, cops...we all have the same problem. We all push ourselves harder than we should. It just caught up with you. You're a smart guy, Greg. You don't deserve what happened to you, but at the same time, as horrible as it sounds, maybe it'll help you put everything into perspective. You don't have to be perfect."
"What is this, the after school special speech?" he joked, the smile dying off of his face when she didn't laugh or even smile. "You don't get it, Cath. Everyone expects me to be perfect. I'm not allowed to make mistakes, remember that?"
She shrugged with a smile, her eyes dancing. "So, just tell Grissom to shove it the next time he bugs you about it," she suggested, grinning when she heard him try to hide his chuckle. "Okay, so you don't want to go to that extreme, but still. There's no reason for him to treat you like that. There's no reason for any of us to treat you like that. It's just...you have to understand why we act the way we do. Doing what we do, it's easier for us to be around people that see the same things, that do the same things. You're detached from that, because you're in the lab all the time. You don't see what we see. You don't see the mutilated and violated bodies. You see the blood samples, the hair samples...you don't get the whole picture, like we do. That's what the problem is. But it shouldn't be like that."
"You're telling me," he said dryly.
"in our eyes, you're an outsider looking in. Sad, but true. It's been that way for years. Maybe you're going to be the one to change all of that."
He turned away, a hint of a smirk playing on his lips. "Why, because I was the idiot that worked myself into the ground and ended up in the hospital?"
"Because you showed us that you're just as screwed up as the rest of us. Come on, Greg. You were always there, working away, like normal. You were Greg Sanders, that guy that does DNA. You're just as human as the rest of us now. Just as screwed up as we are. We all try to be perfect, but we've learned that we can't be. Now, you've learned the same lesson." She dipped her head slightly, looking down at her lap. "Welcome to the real world."
"I'm not sure that this is the kind of welcome I wanted," he told her, before yawning. His face flushed again.
"Yeah, that's part of being human, too. I'll let you get some sleep," she said, before standing up. Her eyes followed his movements as he slid down in the bed, taking the pillows with him. She waited until he was comfortable, before heading towards the door. "So, I'll expect you back at work in two weeks, acting like the real Greg. Or else I'm going to be angry, and believe me, after today, no one wants to see me angry again."
He chuckled tiredly from the bed. "I can't be someone I'm not, Cath."
"No, I just expect you to be who you are."
And with a final smile over her shoulder, she walked out and closed the door behind her.
Well, in a way, it's the end. There is a sequel in the works, but with work and the rest of real life coming up and kicking me in the ass, I don't know when it's coming out. If you're interested, I'd say the best thing to do is to email me, so that I know who you are, and I can email you back when I get around to posting it. And of course, any ideas, all of which will be credited if I really like it, would be welcomed.
I have to say that this was probably the hardest story that I ever wrote, and this is coming from someone that has, at one time, written thirty plus chapter stories. For some reason, as much as I loved Ordinary..., it just didn't flow like the rest of my stories did. But I fought through it, and even though it took me two years and some, I finally finished it (let's all cheer now). I wanted to take the time to thank every single person that has reviewed and pushed me into writing the new or next chapter. I never expected this little story to have as much interest in it as it did. But I'm grateful for all the support that you've all given me.
Although I'm sad to see this end (even if it didn't go in the direction it was originally supposed to), I can't wait to get around to the sequel, and I promise, I'll try to be better about writing and updating than I was with this story.
Hope to see you around the next time!