Shades of Red

Dying is a very dull, dreary affair. And my advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it

--W. Somerset Maugham

Summary: Nick deals with the job, but he doesn't always do it well. It doesn't get to him very often, but sometimes it just hits, and there's no escape.

Author's Note: This is my first CSI fic, my friend just introduced me to the show and I fell in love with the characters pretty much right off, especially Nick. This is just a short angsty vignette, kind of depressing…

There were some days that he went to work ready for a challenge. He would trade pleasantries over corpses and banter while he scraped blood samples from stained floors. There were some days when none of it could touch him, and he could separate himself enough that the bodies were no longer people at all, and he wouldn't need to grieve for them. They became nothing but evidence, and he put them all back together like puzzles until reasons became clear.

Not that the reasons were ever really clear at all, and even when they caught the right people, got their confessions, there was very rarely any satisfaction for him. Watching people carted off to live in small cells was just another useless death added to the one they had caused, and he'd never really seen that as reason to celebrate.

Then there were the days when he could barely stand to meet dead eyes, because the flesh was still warm and his mind would play tricks. Corpses would move in the corner of his eyes, and he would torture himself with thoughts that maybe they were only sleeping.

He had a ritual he followed every time he came home. And it never mattered if it was one of the good days or not, it didn't matter if he had just pulled a triple and he could barely stand--when he got home he stripped off his clothes and stood under the shower until the water ran cold, until he could pretend the death had washed away and he was clean again.

He was lying to himself about that, he knew he would never be clean again. Hundreds of tragedies had made their way beneath his skin, grief and pain that shouldn't belong to him weighed down on his heart and sometimes he could barely breathe. He wondered if it was the same for all of the others, but he never asked, and he never would. If they felt the same as him he wasn't sure it would help, and if they didn't he would only have their pity. That was the last thing he wanted, let them keep their pity for the ones they took to the morgue.

He had responsibilities in his job that went beyond anything required of them. They all looked for clues, evidence and plots, but he had to do it with a smile--because if he let himself get dragged into all of the pain he would never find his way out again. Sometimes he liked to imagine he was able to keep the others a little closer to the surface of the abyss, too. He knew he had used them as lifelines often enough.

It wasn't hard though, most of the time, for him to be happy. He had a way of shutting everything that hurt him away, and watching the sunrise like it was the very first time whenever he needed something to believe in. There were memories in his past that could destroy him if he let them, so he held them back with little white lies and small curiosities. He told himself he was making a difference, and he let himself get swallowed by his work--focused so hard that the fact he was dealing in the dead could fade away, and there was nothing but colors left in its place.

He dreamed in colors, too. Reds mostly. He had a reoccurring dream that came about once a month, ever since he had become a crime scene investigator. He wakes up underwater, and when he reaches the surface he realizes he's in the midst of a sea of blood, and there's no shore. He swims for hours before he drowns, and only the alarm can wake him from the black that results.

Sometimes he thinks it's easier for the others, but then he realizes it must look to them like it's effortless for him—and he remembers that appearances can't be trusted. Assume nothing, as Grissom always says, and there's so much truth in those two words that he found it staggering he had ever assumed anything in his life.

You could find someone standing over a body with a gun in their hands, you could know beyond a reasonable doubt they had pulled the trigger, and you could still be wrong.

He had lost count of all the witness that had become victims--the people they said they would help that got lost before the criminals could be caught. He had decided once to stop getting attached to anyone, because they might be his job assignment the next day. The thought was ridiculous and the notion had slipped his mind within five minutes, but it lingered still, that idea of safety he might find hiding behind indifference.

But it didn't matter how hard he tried, he couldn't bring himself not to care, and he didn't think he ever would. He wasn't so much frustrated by it as grateful, because he wasn't sure what would happen if he ever did, but he was pretty sure he wouldn't be much more alive than all of those people that kept him employed.

He had noticed a small blood stain on the sleeve of his jacket when he had stepped through his door. He was so careful, but you couldn't do what he did and not ever be marked. If he could afford to he would thrown it in the fireplace and watched it burn, fade away and disappear until the only thing left were the ashes and smoke. He didn't have the money for a new one, and he was raised not to waste, so he put stain remover on it instead and threw it in the washing machine.

He let his clothes slip to the tile floor of his bathroom and stepped under the stream water, letting it rain down around him and ground him on Earth. He looked down at the drain, watched the clear liquid swirl and disappear, and he wondered how there can't be blood. It should be pooling down around him, slipping down his skin, inescapable. He always felt like he was covered in it lately, and it didn't matter how long he stood beneath the water the feeling never went away.

Some days he scrubbed himself raw in an effort to get clean, and sometimes he just slid to the floor in surrender until strength returned and he could move again. Those times when he sat in the shower long after the water grew cold were always the worst. The droplets hit his skin like icicles and slide down like razors until pain and the water cloud his vision and he can't see, and he thinks that maybe he could swim forever and never reach the shore.

The End.