Manufactured Stars

Author's Notes: Just more of the same. I can't seem to write Nick and Grissom without having a total breakdown of communication.

"Silence is the loudest sound."

-- Unknown


There was a time when inconsequential ramblings would have filled the silence pressing down on them now--a couple of months ago, even. Now there was nothing. The click of the blinker when they turned always made them wince, always broke the calm and sounded so much louder than it should. There should have been conversation, but Nick had stopped talking, and Grissom didn't know what to say.

They could drive for an hour, on their way to a crime scene, without ever speaking a word. If Nick was driving there was music to hide behind, but when he drove he left the radio off. Nick would slouch in the passenger seat, look out the window, and try to disappear. Maybe he was hoping Grissom would forget he was there, and worst of all, sometimes he did.

Grissom didn't know when it had happened, though he had always known it eventually would. There was no way he could have stood on Nick's pedestal forever, he couldn't keep his balance that high, but he had never thought he'd fall this far. And he still couldn't figure out how it had happened. One day Nick was bright eyed and intense, hanging off his every word, the next his eyes were on the ground like he could barely stand to meet his gaze.

Nick's eyes were fixed on the window, now, and he hadn't moved since he had slid into the seat. They were stuck in traffic, but even the horns and shouting couldn't break the silence that hung above them both, and Nick, well, he wasn't trying to.

He'd asked Catherine once, what was wrong with Nick. She'd given him a funny little smile and asked what he was talking about, then said that Nick was fine. He saw him through a glass window later that night, and he was laughing with Warrick and Greg, leaning back in a chair with a smile on his face. He got quiet the moment Grissom entered the room, and no one seemed to notice it but him.

Nick shifted beside him, his gaze lowering from the window to his hands. It was on the tip of his tongue to ask if he was okay--but his eyes went back to the road instead. The streetlight turned green and the traffic started to thin. They would reach the lab again soon, and he'd have lost another chance to figure out what was wrong.

He remembered they had hired a new lab tech a couple of years ago, a young woman barely out of college, and she would never speak when he was around. He had managed to ask her what was wrong, and she had blushed, and told him she didn't want to say the wrong thing. She didn't want him to think she was stupid, so she didn't say anything.

That couldn't be what was wrong with Nick, he decided. He glanced over at him again. Nick knew how valued he was. Grissom's hands clenched around ten and two. The Vegas lights were at their brightest now, and when you glanced through the window it was hard to tell the difference between stars and light bulbs. The dilemma seemed to have fascinated Nick too, because Grissom noticed his attention was back on the window. He could see Nick's reflection staring past the glass.

When he glanced back to the street, he could see the lab. They'd been driving for a half hour, and he still hadn't forced out the one question he needed to ask, the courtesy he'd paid some girl he hadn't even cared about and had quit two weeks later, but he couldn't force himself to extend to a friend. He told himself it was just because he wasn't good at conversation. He knew it was because he was afraid to hear the answer.

Nick grabbed his kit from the back before Grissom had turned off the ignition, and he was out of the car before he'd turned off the lights. He clicked the seatbelt free and pulled open the door, walking around to the other side of the car without bothering to grab his own kit. Nick was already walking away.

"Nickā€¦" His voice sounded odd, probably as a result of not having been used in so long. It still sounded loud enough for Nick to hear him.

He stopped and turned to look at him. Nick had the stance of someone waiting to get orders, or be reprimanded, and he misses the easy grin he used to get instead. He had only called Nick back to ask him, finally, what was wrong, or even just to say goodbye before he left for home--but faced with the resignation in his gaze he forgets how.

Nick shook his head with a wry smile and walked away. Grissom didn't call him back.

The End.