A/T: -blows dust off keyboard and rubs hands together like a mad scientist plotting world domination- Although I haven't written in a while, a killer plot bunny with fangs and knives for ears attacked me while I was stuck in a confined space with my family. My parents swear they never saw a thing, but that remains to be seen. After all, how does one miss the assault of insistent plot bunnies?
Please note that I have a very feeble (i.e. practically nonexistent) grasp of jurisdiction laws, so there might be a few plot holes that I'm unaware of. Nick/Greg is #1! However, this idea hit me like lightening on a 400-mile stretch of highway and won't die, no matter what I try.
P.S. People need to write more Ryan. This is just a little fact to bellow off rooftops when you have some spare time. Please leave a long review full of awe and praise if you're so inclined.
Disclaimer: Some people can think of funny and entertaining disclaimers. I can't. So here it is, the blunt and harsh truth: I never have (and never will) make any money off of or own CSI or it's characters. Now if only I could think of a wittier way of saying it.
Act 1: Long Live Las Vegas
was born to be yours.
-Sarah Bernhardt to Jean Richepin, 1668
"She was so pretty."
Such a statement was of the norm at the scene of a crime, especially when Alexx Woods said it.
She said it because she believed it; she believed it because it was true. Those who were estranged or forgotten or simply not loved became very beautiful after they left the world. Horatio hadn't understood it when he was younger, but it made sense now. When the family of victims realize that they would never see their loved one again, their feud became meaningless and they would cry, regret, and remember the lost one's beauty.
Most of the time, anyway.
But when estates or fortunes or businesses entered the picture, love and affection were forgotten along with the dead and it became a CSI's job to remember them the best they could.
Horatio Caine let out a small, tired sigh. The sky over Miami was still dark in the early hours of morning, but sun was threatening to spill over the horizon at any moment, lighting the Western Hemisphere. He only wished it could light the scene of this murder.
He watched as Alexx tenderly brushed blonde curls from a pale, lifeless face. "A roof is a strange place to die, though," she continued. "Poor thing."
Alexx was the best ME Horatio had ever known- it was a never a quick prelim on the scene; it was in depth and careful, as if the victim could still feel pain when she touched them. She stayed with those who died, draping white sheets carefully over their still bodies and looking over the scene mournfully, knowing someone else had lost their life to lust or hate or greed.
He observed the dead woman over Alexx's shoulder. He allowed his eyes to close momentarily before reminding himself that Eric and Frank would be there soon. He had to wake up and do his job. Be the boss. Show minimal emotion.
"Alexx, I don't think anyone wears that much make-up."
It was the first thing Horatio had said so far. He disliked the way it sounded- careless and unfeeling, as if the case was all that mattered and not the victim.
"That's because they don't. This stuff is laid on pretty thick, Horatio. I'm thinking she might have been an actress, singer, performer, something along those lines."
"What about a showgirl?"
"Like can-can Vegas?"
"That's a good example."
Alexx allowed herself a small smile. "I wouldn't be surprised. The dress alone is sequined, beaded and made out of a spandex mix. I can't imagine it's comfortable, but it's perfect for a casino show."
"No. I'll run DNA and page you as soon as possible." Alexx went silent for a moment before looking once more at the woman's face. "Sweet thing died crying. Look at her mascara."
Horatio looked into the Miami horizon instead, now glowing pink and orange. He wanted to look anywhere but the lifeless face, the face of a woman who expected to be avenged now. That was his job, and his mind wouldn't let him rest until he completed it. He didn't need to look at her smeared black mascara to know this woman didn't want to die.
"Never a problem. I have a feeling this girl's a long way from home."
The red head took a breath before slipping on his infamous sunglasses.
"So do I."
Light hit the water and the sun broke over the Miami.
Ugh. Ryan Wolfe grimaced as he took another sip of the bitter liquid better known as Miami-Dade CL's break room coffee. Even though he knew it was and always would be a terrible experience, it was this gag-worthy caffeine kick or falling asleep at his microscope, neither of which were very appealing options.
The urge to do well at this job -a job he had wanted so badly for so long- ate at him, and falling asleep at a microscope certainly wouldn't help his position. He wanted so desperately to prove he could turn every stone and discover every piece of evidence to lead a guilty man to prison.
He sighed to himself. It wasn't the job that worried him… it was his responsibility to fill in the shoes of a man named Timothy Speedle. He had never met him, never heard his voice or saw the color of his eyes. Ryan didn't know Tim's family or interests; he only knew what Calliegh or Eric offered to inform him when such moments presented themselves. Horatio looked sick whenever Ryan pushed to know more, so he learned not to ask.
Ryan jumped a little before turning to see Calleigh Duquesne smiling at him.
"Oh, Calleigh. Hi. I didn't hear anyone come in."
"And you call yourself a CSI?" she asked lightly before finding a chair and sinking into it. Ryan frowned thoughtfully at her as she did so, her joking question stuck in his mind. It was a joke. Shake it off. She wasn't serious. Still, the thought that someone might find his abilities less than up to par scared him more than he liked to admit.
He didn't reply. She looked up at him before grinning wider once she spotted the Styrofoam cup in his hand. "I see you're choking on our latest brew."
Ryan involuntarily made another face. Her question was still prodding at his mind, but the mere mention of the sludge-cleverly-disguised-as-coffee immediately got his attention. How could it not? The taste was still heavy in his mouth.
"I wish someone would learn how to make a decent cup of Joe around here. Somebody's going to die because of this stuff one day."
Ryan looked up, surprised when he heard Calleigh laugh, when she tilted her head back and let her voice ring off the walls. He could tell she was tired, her hair slightly flat and her face pale from the absence of cosmetics, long since worn away.
"Die how, pray tell?" she asked, crossing her arms and raising an eyebrow.
Ryan shrugged. "Depends. The strong ingredients could cause organ failure; the taste itself could cause shock and then choking. If this coffee didn't keep Miami law enforcement awake, I'd call HAZMAT and have it investigated and then banned from US markets."
She laughed again, their witty banter always cheering her up. "That's pretty deep, Ryan. You've obviously thought long and hard about this break room coffee situation."
Ryan smiled and shrugged. "When the coffee nightmares keep me up at night, I think of long and painful deaths to inflict on those who brew it."
"Even scarier coffee. Would you like a cup? I think I can hide the taste of poison with some Equal."
She smiled and shook her blonde head. "Thanks, but no. I've got some month-old energy bars stashed in the fridge somewhere."
"Ah, the glamorous life of CSIs," he murmured, flopping onto a chair across from her. "If only we'd known, right?"
"Don't even get me started," she interjected. "Between my non-existent date life, lack of sleep and Nutri Grain diet, it's hard to believe I don't love this job with all my heart."
"I don't know. I kind of like it. It'd be better without all the dead people."
She smiled ruefully. "I think we'd all like it better that way. Besides, what do you enjoy about fifteen hours shifts and DNA swabs?"
"I like helping people." He didn't need to think about his reply. It's what he had always known.
Calleigh went silent before smiling again. This time, it was brighter and more her style. "Of course you'd say that, Ryan Wolfe. You're such a boy scout. But when it comes to the job, it's all or nothing. No significant others and no private time. Doesn't that bother you?"
"No. I think what we do us more important. Besides, it's not like either of us have a love life anyway."
"Y'know, Valera thinks you're a cutie. Not that you heard it from me."
Ryan felt a flush begin to creep across his face. He smiled politely at her (the kind of smile that never reached his eyes), hoping he could steer her towards another subject, one far away from romantic interests. That was his taboo topic. "Of course I didn't hear it from you. Not Calleigh D., gossip queen. But more importantly, I think this new case we're working on is-''
"I know a guy you'd probably hit it right off with," she continued, as if Ryan had never even spoken.
Ryan dropped his coffee cup.
He didn't even notice it until he realized that his khakis were wet. Her words were still echoing across the room in his mind as he jumped up, becoming conscious of the soaked floor and something like "I'm sorry" being uttered from his mouth. He wasn't actually sorry; it was just something people said when they did stupid things like spill disgusting coffee on a perfectly clean floor while a fear of their sexuality becoming public knowledge ate at them.
"That was a little obvious, Ryan," she said, slightly amused.
"I know. I've –uh- I need to clean this up," he said, a twinge of anxiety coloring his voice. He was looking around even though the break room was empty, his OCD paranoia fully kicking in, his fear that someone might have heard her beginning to make his fingers tremble.
"I'm sorry," she said, beginning to realize the scale of his discomfort and sitting up, eyes wide and filled with worry. "He was only a suggestion."
"I know it was, Cal. It's- uh, fine. I overreacted." He quickly went to the cabinets to find some paper towels and clean up his mess. You were so obvious. He wanted to kick himself. God, you're so stupid. Are you going to drop whatever you're holding whenever someone mentions something like that?
"There aren't hidden cameras in here or anything," Calleigh was saying, worriedly, realizing that he was cleaning too ferociously, too nervously for him to really be comfortable with what she had said. "Here, let me help." She made the motions to grab some towels, but he shook his head.
"No, it's nothing. I'm almost finished." It was true; he had moved at lightning quick speed. He wanted to clean the spill and then leave. He needed to immerse himself in his job and forget this whole embarrassing ordeal ever happened.
"Are you mad? You look-''
"I'm not mad, Calleigh."
"I won't- it's only that I was thinking we could meet up with some of my friends. You just seem so…" She drifted off, searching for the right word. Finally, it seemed to come to her. "Lonely."
"I thought we both agreed we didn't have time to be lonely?" he asked lightly, hoping to lift the cloud of guilt that was now hanging above her. He threw away the stained paper towels and gathered his files.
"Ryan, please don't be upset."
"I'm not. Honest."
"You're a terrible liar."
"Just don't say anything to anyone and we'll be fine."
She frowned, a worried wrinkle making itself known on her forehead. "Okay."
He could tell that she still wasn't happy with herself, but he couldn't seem to think of a way to comfort her. The fact was that he didn't think he could even speak at the moment.
He would have to meet a hell of an amazing person to come out of the closet all the way. Public displays of affection? No way. Sharing apartments? Not a chance. Letting the entire Miami day shift know that he preferred guys? Out of the question.
I'm not lonely.
It was just all out of the question.
Ryan thought that if he kept his eyes closed and blankets draped over his head that the phone would stop ringing, it's shrill tone piercing the still air of his bedroom.
He had been dreaming, although now he can't recall what it had been about. The images that he had entertained in his sleep fled at the sound; there were lights, music, glass, bits and pieces of his subconscious melding themselves together to create a weird show.
"Hello?" His voice sounded dead even to his own ears. He pried his eyes open, hoping to find the glaring red numbers of his digital clock.
"Hey Ryan! It's Calleigh!"
"Calleigh," he repeated, trying to force his mind to wake up. He usually could; he was serious about his job and yearned to do well, but it still seemed so… well, early. Why was she calling? Did he oversleep?
"Is everything okay?" he asked, finally catching the time through his sleep-induced haze. "It's two thirty in the morning." Part of his conscious state was relieved to know that he certainly wasn't late for work.
"Everything's great!" she replied. "But Horatio just called. There's been a change of plans."
"What change?" he asked, the wheels in his mind now beginning to turn.
"We found a DB on the roof of a hotel yesterday. Guess where she's from?"
Ryan paused to knock through the cobwebs in his mind, his brain naturally beginning to pull up little facts and figures. "Calleigh, there are more than thirty thousand cities in the United States alone, not counting the North American continent or even the-''
"That was a rhetorical question, Ryan."
"Oh." He felt like an idiot. Of course it was rhetorical. He could hear her laugh.
She couldn't seem to hold it in any longer and didn't wait for him to ask. "Las Vegas!"
"Vegas? Really?" He wanted to sound enthused, but his stomach had suddenly begun churning. What did Las Vegas have to do with him? Was she suggesting…?
"So report to work with a suitcase and a week's worth of clothes tomorrow. I mean, of course we're going on business, but Las Vegas! Isn't that exciting?" Another pause, longer this time. "Ryan? Are you still there?"
Las Vegas. Elvis, lights, casinos… it didn't sound at all like his kind of place. He felt panicked in unfamiliar territory. His doubts about how well he would do at a different lab with new people began to eat at him.
"Huh, yeah? I'm listening, Cal."
"You'll be there tomorrow?"
"Of course." Of course. He was dependable, if nothing else. Besides, there was no way he could get out of it.
"Great. Any questions?"
Will I be able to survive this? "No."
"You sure?" She sounded apprehensive. "You seem a little…"
"I'm fine," he insisted, unable to stop his smile at her never-ending concern for him. "Tomorrow. Suitcase. Las Vegas. I've got it covered."
A small pause, then, "Okay, see you tomorrow!"
"Tomorrow," he promised.
"We're going to Vegas!"
"Yes, we are."
"I hear they have great shopping."
"You won't have time to shop, Cal."
She sighed wistfully. "I know, but a girl can dream."
When they hung up, Ryan could do nothing but stare at his phone, as if it were a foreign object he had never seen before. The dial tone brought him back to reality and he quickly placed it back on the charger, lying back down to stare at the ceiling.
Las Vegas? There was nothing for him there.
He couldn't fall back asleep.
Praise and cookies can be sent to me. Flames and all other Mean Comments can be sent to that plot bunny. It was his entire fault anyway!