Disclaimer: I don't own them. But wouldn't it be cool if I did!
Warnings: Major Character Death in the first chapter! Slash.
Author's Notes: This is an AU ghost story. It's a little different from what I normally write, so I'm walking uncharted ground. The first chapter is basically a set-up chapter for the rest of the story. In this first chapter, there is a major character death. That's kind of a given, considering this a ghost story. Don't try to place the case Nick was working on prior to the start of the story. I made it up. Also, all of the major characters will appear, but not all of them will be CSIs.
I wanted to wait until I had a little more of this written before I posted the first chapter here, but now I do, so here you go.
Thanks to saebuffyboy for the title.-----
Las Vegas, 1954
It was late afternoon, and the Nevada sun was glaring down on Las Vegas. Even sitting inside with a cold drink, Greg Sanders could feel the blistering heat. He was sitting in a little diner he'd never been to before with a cop he barely knew, and he was internally telling himself off for even being there. This was crazy, and Greg knew it.
Detective Hennessy leaned across the table. "Sanders," he said, taking a drag off his cigarette. "Just think about it. You can help us put Charlie away."
Greg stared into his lemonade. "No," he said, shaking his head. "No way. I gave you what you needed already."
"What we need," Hennessy said, "Is for you to testify in court. You've seen more of—"
"Testify against Charlie Croft? Are you kidding?" Greg leaned back in the booth and massaged his temple with the ball of his hand. "That's insane. Of course, one could argue that I'm already crazy. I ratted him out to you, didn't I?"
"You'll testify then?"
Greg stared at the detective. "I'll think about it," he said. "Right now, I have to get out of Vegas before Charlie sends someone to look for me."
Shaking his head, Hennessy said, "Nobody knows you turned on Charlie except for me and my partner."
"Charlie won't need proof," Greg said. "He's gonna know it was me. I'm a dead man if I stay in Vegas."
Hennessy nodded. "How'd you wind up in Vegas, anyway? Shouldn't you be off working for some laboratory? Curing a disease or something?"
"If I was smart, that's where I'd be," Greg muttered.
"So why aren't you?"
Greg raised his eyebrows. That was an excellent question, actually. How had Greg, a bright, relatively handsome guy who seemed to have a world of options, wound up in Vegas, connected to a guy like Charlie Croft? The answer was simple—love. Greg had fallen in love with Charlie the moment he saw him. He had fallen in love with Charlie when Charlie was still a good guy, a happy, fun-loving guy who liked to laugh and take long drives.
Now though? Charlie was a different man, and the changes had happened so slowly that they snuck up on Greg. One day, Greg had taken a good look at the man he loved, and he had realized what Charlie had become.
"Does it matter?" Greg asked.
Hennessy cocked his head, as if to turn Greg's question over in his head. "I guess not," he said.
Leaning across the table, Greg said, "You know, I didn't know what Charlie was doing. I was never involved in his business."
"I believe you," Hennessy said. "You know, Sanders, you seem like a good man."
"Thanks." Greg rubbed his eyes. "You want to hear something funny, Hennessy?"
Greg let out a dry laugh. "For a while, I thought about becoming a cop."
"Never know," Hennessy said. "You might've been a good one."
Greg nudged open the door to his house and stumbled inside. The house was almost dark now, and Greg wanted to keep it that way. It's not like he wasn't planning to stay long. He just wanted to grab some clothes and money and get out. .
He ran upstairs, taking two steps at a time. Throwing his bedroom door open, Greg yanked his suitcase out from under his bed. He tore open the dresser drawers and threw a few pieces of clothes into his bag. Then, he grabbed a book and a stack of handwritten notes and formulas and tossed them into the suitcase as well. Swallowing, he gazed into the bag. This was his whole life, then, reduced to a leather satchel. Well, good enough, Greg supposed. Picking up the suitcase, Greg hurried down the stairs and ran to the kitchen. He had some money stashed in the cupboard next to the refrigerator. It wasn't much, but it would get him back to California in one piece. Or maybe he would head east. He grabbed the wad of cash out of the cupboard, shoved it into his coat pocket, and turned to leave.
Then he heard the radio.
"Damn," he whispered. Either his house was suddenly haunted, or Charlie had found out about him sooner than he figured. Holding his breath, he moved toward the back door.
As he turned the knob, he felt a hand reach out and grab his neck. "Hey, Sanders."
Greg closed his eyes. Jimmy Carelli. Damn.
Jimmy pushed Greg into the living room, where Gus Mueller was standing by Greg's radio, tapping his foot to "I've Got the World on a String." As Greg and Jimmy walked into the room, Gus glanced up. "Hey, Greg," he said conversationally. He sounded like he was here to play cards or something.
The house was dark, except for the stray flecks of moonlight that glanced through the drawn charcoal curtains. It was just enough light that Greg could see the smirk on Jimmy's face.
"Jimmy," Greg choked. "Be reasonable." He folded his arms and took a step backward.
Shrugging, Jimmy said, "Reasonable? What did you expect, Sanders? You turned on Charlie." Jimmy turned to Gus. "Right, Gus?"
Gus glanced up from the radio. "That's right. Hey," he grinned. "Dean Martin. I love this song."
Greg let out a breath and glanced around the room. He wondered vaguely if he could overpower Jimmy and Gus and make it out the door, but he knew he was no match for them. Jimmy was built like a bear. And Gus, he was small, but he was natural athlete. Greg was a scientist, a thinker, and even though he was in good shape, he was no fighter.
"Look," Greg said. "I just didn't want Freddie to die. That's all. He has a daughter."
"Yeah?" Jimmy said. "You should've thought about Charlie. He took you in. He put you in this house. And yet you turned on him."
Greg swallowed. "Look," he said. "I could disappear. I don't have to testify."
Jimmy shrugged. "And you won't testify."
Something in Jimmy's tone caused a shiver to shoot over Greg's body. He lurched toward the nearest door, but Jimmy grabbed his arm and flung him back against the wall. "You'd never have to see me again," Greg pleaded. "Just let me go." He turned to Gus. "Gus? You know me. I'll disappear."
Gus shook his head apologetically. "You dug your own grave."
Before Greg had a chance to react, he heard the click of Jimmy's revolver. After the bullet hit his chest, Greg felt himself drop to his knees, teeter for a moment, and then collapse face down onto the Oriental rug Charlie had gotten for him when Greg moved to Vegas. As Greg laid there bleeding and struggling for breath, he could hear Jimmy and Gus chatting about where they were going to eat dinner. And he could hear Dean Martin on the radio…"When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore."
And as he faded away, he kept telling himself to get up, if he got up, he'd be just fine.
Las Vegas, Present Day
Nick Stokes pulled himself out of the silver Chevy and pushed the car door closed with his side. Every muscle in his body ached, and all he wanted was to crawl into his house and collapse somewhere. He turned to Jim. "Thanks for the ride, Jim. I don't think I'd have made it."
Jim Brass rounded the car and slapped Nick on the back. "Hey, no problem, Nicky. Wouldn't want you passing out at the wheel." He gazed up at the white Victorian house. "Hey, I like it," he said. "How much work are you gonna have to put into it?"
"Some," Nick said. "That's partially why I bought it. I thought it'd be a good hobby. You want the penny tour?"
Jim raised an eyebrow. "Penny tour?"
"I'm too tired for anything more," Nick grinned. "Come on in. I'll show you around."
The two men strolled up the stairs and through the front door. Nick winced as they entered the foyer. He tossed his bag onto the floor and just stood there, gazing helplessly at the boxes that littered his living room. He'd been living in the new house for two and a half weeks, but he'd barely unpacked. He worked midnights, and he was working a lot of doubles besides. That didn't give him a lot of time for real life. "Sorry for the jungle of boxes. Still got a lot of unpacking yet," he said.
Grinning, Jim said, "You know, I still have unpacked boxes in my closet from where I moved here from Jersey?" He gazed around the foyer. "You probably have a lot of storage space."
"Quite a bit," Nick said. "Got a big attic." The two men passed through the foyer into the living room. "This is the main living room," Nick said. "And that's the dining room over there. There's a parlor in there, but I'm gonna turn it into a library."
"That's good. Very Grissom. You check it out?"
"Hm? The attic?" Nick felt a blush rush to his cheeks. "Yeah. Yeah, I did."
"Boy, this is a big house for one guy."
"Don't try and marry me off," Nick laughed.
"Nah," Jim said. "I won't. So, this is a major move, Nicky. Is this the best time to shake things up?"
"You sound like my shrink."
"How's that going?"
Shrugging, Nick led Brass into the kitchen. "Pointless," he said. "We just sit there and talk about how I'm feeling and how I'm handling crime scenes." Nick blew out a breath. "It's not like I was never attacked at a scene before. You know, Ecklie just wanted to prove a point. That's the only reason he made me go."
"At least you're on duty." Jim walked around the kitchen gazing at nothing in particular. "Just tell the doctor what she wants to hear, and she'll cut you loose. I've been there."
Nick leaned against the wall. "Yeah," he said. "It's just wasted time, is all. Well, I'm going to grab dinner and turn in. You want something to eat?"
"Nah," he said. "I'm gonna head out. Night, Nicky."
"I'll walk you out."
With a breath, Nick dragged himself to the refrigerator. He was ten kinds of tired, but he still needed to eat something. Leftover pizza, maybe. Nodding, he pulled out the box, grabbed a slice, and ate it cold. After he finished his pizza, he guzzled a can of root beer to wash it down. Placing the empty can into the sink, Nick slumped against the counter and closed his eyes. He hoped he'd be able to sleep tonight for a change.
As he stood there, Nick began to feel a chill creep along his skin. It was as though someone was watching him. He knew no one was there. He knew that. No one had been there yesterday when he'd had the same feeling. Or four days before that. But still, he could feel a pair of eyes staring through him, and it was an eerie sensation. Finally, Nick took in a breath and spun around. But like all the other times, no one was there.
If he told his shrink about this, he knew what she'd say. She'd tell him that he experiencing normal reactions to having nearly been killed so recently. A little paranoia was normal, she would say. And she would encourage him to work through it. Knowing her, she'd schedule an extra counseling session for him.
Shaking his head and scolding himself for being so jumpy, Nick trudged upstairs and into his bedroom. He pulled the door tightly closed, toed his shoes off, and climbed into bed without undressing. Closing his eyes, Nick snuggled into the pillow.
As he started to drift off to sleep, he heard the sound he'd been dreading—footsteps. He'd been expected them, but he hoped they wouldn't come. In the two and a half weeks Nick had lived in the house, he'd heard the footsteps every night. Sometimes they came from the attic. And sometimes, Nick could hear them out in the hall in front of his bedroom door, or on the steps leading downstairs. The first night he had slept here, Nick thought maybe the house had been broken into. He'd gone up to the attic with his gun to surprise the intruder, but no one had been there, and after that, the footsteps had stopped for the night. The next night, he'd searched the house before he went to bed, and satisfied, he had turned in. No sooner had he gotten into bed, he heard the footsteps again.
Of course, Nick knew they weren't footsteps. They couldn't be. Footsteps would mean that someone was in the house with him, and he hadn't found anyone. Of course, an intruder wasn't out of the realm of possibilities. Nigel Crane had lived in his attic for weeks.
Nick sat up in bed. Since they couldn't be actual footsteps, there had to be a rational explanation. What was it his dad used to say? The house was settling. His mind was playing tricks on him because of his past experience with Nigel Crane and his recent close call. The house was settling, and Nick's anxieties were turning normal noises into footsteps. That was a damn good explanation.
Satisfied, Nick pulled off his shirt and jeans and tossed them onto a nearby chair. "There's nothing up there, Nick," he said to himself. "You're alone."
Finally, the footsteps stopped and Nick let out a breath. "That's better," he muttered, and then gradually drifted off to sleep.