Summary: This one takes place between 'Precious Things' and 'Appreciation', the exact timing isn't that important. Greg jumps to a very wrong conclusion. In reference to chapter twenty of 'Appreciation'.
Disclaimer: I'm only borrowing; I'll drop them back off tomorrow.
Spoilers: Through season four.
Notes: Thank you Tripp3235 and RivenSky for the help. I hate admiting I'm this much of a scatterbrain, but I thought someone had recently asked for this little bit of backstory, and now I can't remember who. I'm sorry! And, here it is.
Misconception by SLynn
Greg sat silently beside Charlie as they headed back from a rather long, extremely boring scene in the middle of Nowhere, Nevada.
Neither of them felt like talking. Charlie, because he was exhausted and had to be back at the station in under five hours to start all over again. Greg, because he was nervous.
Nervous probably wasn't the right word for it, but it was the best description for how he felt.
Every since yesterday morning when he'd accidentally seen Charlie at the hospital, he'd wanted to broach the subject but didn't know how. No one wanders the cancer ward without reason, and Greg highly doubted he was just there visiting a friend.
Greg finally appreciated how hard it had been for everyone to tiptoe around him after his initial diagnosis. It wasn't an easy topic to discuss.
But he felt he had to.
Charlie was probably privately struggling with all the same things he had; had the same worries and fears.
Greg knew how much he'd wanted someone to really understand that, but it was only something you could understand by experience.
Something had to be said.
"Hey, Charlie, I needed to talk to you about something."
"What?" he asked back, briefly taking his eyes off the road.
Hesitating, Greg fidgeted in his seat before continuing.
"It's not something…"
"Is there a problem?" Charlie asked, sounding concerned and turning off the radio.
"No," Greg answered. "Well, I don't have one. I just… I saw you yesterday at the hospital."
Charlie gave Greg a look he hadn't seen before. It was very fixed and a little scary.
"And?" Charlie asked.
"And," Greg continued, "I know. I just wanted to let you know that I know."
"You know what?"
This time there was no mistaking it; Charlie was angry.
"I know about you," Greg returned. "And really, I understand. I'm only bringing this up because I've been there. I know what it's like to not have anyone to talk to about it. And, I wanted you to know that there are treatments…"
Greg didn't get a chance to finish that sentence; he was too busy bracing himself against the dashboard as Charlie slammed on the brakes.
Before he knew what was happening, Charlie had jumped out of the car and opened Greg's door.
"What?" Greg asked, startled.
"Get out of the car. Now."
"Charlie, I don't know…"
"Damn it, Greg, now."
Greg got out, unsure of what was happening or why. The only thing he knew for certain was that suddenly Charlie looked a whole lot bigger than he had before. Of course, Charlie had always been a good five inches taller than he was, and built like a linebacker, but he'd never seemed intimidating until this moment.
"Charlie, listen, I didn't mean to upset you."
"Then what did you mean to do?" Charlie asked with an unwavering gaze, hands crossed in front of his chest.
"Just that, you, well… I know it's not easy to talk about this and I've been there too so I thought it would be easier…"
"Problem? You think…" Charlie interrupted angrily but couldn't finished, just walked away from him looking madder than ever. "And what in the hell do you mean you've been there too?"
"I have. I'm still seeing a doctor…"
"What?" Charlie asked, confused.
"She's a good one, I could give you her number."
"I don't want her number," Charlie spat back. "I don't need to be fixed. There's nothing… Listen, I don't know what kind of problems you have but I'm fine with who I am."
"What?" Greg asked, also confused.
"And just because you have problems doesn't mean everyone does. Damn it, Sanders, I thought I knew you better than this."
"I'm only trying to help."
"I don't need help."
"Okay," Greg conceded. "Okay, I'm sorry. I just know that when I was diagnosed…"
"Diagnosed? Sanders, what in the hell is wrong with you? Diagnosed? It's not a disease."
"Of course it is," Greg answered automatically and for a split second thought Charlie was going to hit him.
Greg even flinched, he'd been that sure.
"I can't believe this," Charlie muttered, walking away briefly. "I just, of all the people, I thought…"
"I'm probably the only one that does understand," Greg offered, but it didn't help.
It only mad Charlie madder.
"Charlie," Greg said plaintively, "I'm sorry if maybe I'm pushing this, but the sooner you talk about the cancer, the better off you'll be. Trust me."
"I don't want… wait. Cancer? What's this about cancer?"
"I told you, I saw you at the hospital. You were in the waiting room of the oncology department. I know what that means, Charlie. I'm not stupid."
Charlie saw how sincere Greg was being, and laughed.
"Why is that funny?" Greg asked.
"You think I have cancer?" Charlie asked back, still laughing. "Is that what this is about? That's what all the treatment talk is? Oh, man."
"What? Charlie, I… you don't have cancer?"
"No," Charlie said, still laughing as he clapped him good naturedly on the shoulder. "I don't."
Charlie, seemingly unable to stop laughing, got back into the car; Greg shortly following suit.
For several more miles they drove in silence. Charlie was smiling again and Greg was left wondering what had just happened.
And how he'd been so wrong.
"Okay," Greg began again, "so I've obviously missed something. Are you going to tell me what?"
"It's not important," Charlie answered, waving him off.
"It kind of is," Greg returned. "You were pretty, well, scary back there. I want to know why, if only to make sure I don't accidentally piss you off again."
Charlie turned his attention to Greg as if deciding something internally.
"Alright," Charlie finally said, "if you really want to know. When you said you saw me the other day at the hospital, I thought you meant you saw me with someone."
Greg's brow furrowed, still not understanding what Charlie could possibly mean.
"I thought," Charlie continued, "that you saw me with my boyfriend."
"Oh. No, that's not…"
Greg trailed off awkwardly, not sure how he should respond to that.
"He works there, which is why I was there. And I thought…"
"Oh," Greg cut in, realizing how all his talk about treatments and help must have sounded. "Oh, I'd never… Charlie, I'd…"
"I know," Charlie said. "I just, sometimes I get a little… It hasn't always been easy."
"This isn't going to change anything, is it?" Charlie asked quite seriously.
"Why would it?" Greg asked back, equally as serious and more than sincere. "I mean, yeah, I'll have to stop thinking about setting you up with Karen, but other than that. No, of course not."
"Good," Charlie said with a nod.
They both grew silent again as the road stretched out before them. Another fifteen miles passed before Charlie finally spoke again.
"I'm glad you're alright with this; I'd have hated to have kicked your ass."
"Trust me," Greg said with a laugh, "not nearly as much as I would have."