Title: How to Save a Life
Pairing: Greg Sanders, Nick Stokes well not really, but kinda
Warning: Character Death
Summary: Based on the song by The Fray, the title is the same as the song... Sometimes you notice that a friend of yours is hurting and that you are slowly losing them, but you feel helpless because you don't know how to help them.
Disclaimer: I don't own CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, nor do I know any of the actors. This has been made up in my sick little mind for your viewing pleasure. None of this is real, just simply fiction.
How to Save a Life
To me Greg has always been a joyful person, sometimes taking that joyfulness to the extreme. I found this both annoying and endearing about him. He can't help, but ramble when he is nervous and when something truly intrigues him this huge smile forms on his face. I have to admit that the first thing that drew me to him was that smile of his. It is so passionate and truly happy that when you see it you cannot stop yourself from smiling in return.
I remember the first time I met him, I had walked into the DNA lab to hand over my evidence to be processed and the sound of Marilyn Manson attacked my ears. I had screamed to the new guy to turn down the music, but he hadn't heard me. Deciding to take matters into my own hands I had promptly walked over to the offensive CD player and pressed the stop button. The new guy had whirled around at the sudden silence and I locked him in an inquisitive stare. I remember clearly how he had blushed a deep crimson and a shy, yet embarrassed smile graced his full succulent lips. He had apologized for the volume of his music and I just smiled, jokingly saying I would let it go this one time. He had simply chuckled at this and asked if I needed him to process the samples in my hands. I had passed them over to him and quickly pulled my hand away when a shock of electricity ran through my system at the brief contact of our hands. This had embarrassed me quite considerably as well as confused me so I turned away so he couldn't see the expression on my face. It was at that moment when he decided to introduce himself as Greg Sanders and I welcomed him to the lab before leaving the DNA lab as quickly as I could without it being suspicious.
Ever since that day an attraction had built and had only managed to become stronger as the years had passed. I never said a thing to Greg about this in fear of rejection, but to myself I could admit the truth... I was in love with Greg. I had been from the moment I laid eyes on him, it just took me a while to admit and accept it. Being raised in Texas makes you weary of homo-sexual relationships, but I have come to accept that I am gay and proud of that fact. It took me a while to come out to my family, but when I did I was relieved to find that they knew all along... before I did in fact. It gave me people to talk to about Greg and they all said I should make a move, but unfortunately I never found the courage to do so. I regret that more than anything now.
The day of the lab explosion turned my life upside down and I was in disbelief. Greg was hurt and taken to Desert Palm where he was being treated for 2nd and 3rd degree burns on his back and neck. He doesn't know this, but I came to see him that very day and the sight of him made me want to burst into tears. He looked so fragile lying on that bed and the look of pain on his sleeping face made me want to gather him into my arms, to give him all the comfort I could offer. Instead I sat on the chair next to his bed and held his hand gently, careful not to wake him. Seeing him alive sent relief flooding through me, but I still couldn't get over the fact that I could have lost him. When I left I didn't return because I couldn't stand to see him in such a state. I feel terrible for that because I know he felt like I didn't care, but I cannot exactly go back and take back my actions. If I could I would make sure he didn't get hurt in the first place. I did vow to tell him how I felt about him as soon as he came back to work, but I lost my nerve before he returned and kept quite about it all. I realize the mistake I made now. It is funny how you notice things like this when there is no way you can go back and make things right, take the path that your heat so desperately wanted to instead of the one your mind lead you down.
It was when he came back to work when I first noticed the changes in him. He was quieter than he used to be, not as expressive as he once was. Though he tried to hide it I also noticed how his hands would shake. I never said anything because for one it was none of my business and for another I didn't want to make him feel bad by bringing up something that was caused by the explosion. The explosion was a sensitive subject for him and everyone was careful not to bring it up when he was around. I figured that within time he would return to his regular self again, returning to the lab after going through a traumatic experience wore off.
As time passed however things didn't become any better, in fact they became worse and everyone was beginning to notice the changes. No longer did he give a presentation whenever he was finished processing evidence, instead he would page one of us and then just hand over the results without so much as a word. This worried us all of course, but not one of us said a thing. He was still as quiet as he was when he first returned to the lab as well, he used to be so talkative and tried to engage us in conversations every chance he got, but he no longer started those conversations. We would try to engage him in one, but wouldn't get very far. He would say a few words and then walk away as if the conversation was over or he would politely ask us to leave, saying he had work to do. Another change was his appearance, he no longer wore his crazy shirts that I secretly loved and he seemed to lose all passion for his weird hair styles. In their place were plain and boring shirts while his hair took on a longer and shaggier style, like he just didn't care about it anymore.
One of the things that bothered me the most about all his changes was the fact that he never played his blaring rock music in his lab anymore, all was silent within the glass room and it always seemed awkward to me. I have never been a fan of his choice in music, but in a way I loved it because it was a part of him. What bothered me the most about the changes he had accumulated however was the fact that he never tried to get out into the field anymore nor did he ask to help in anything we were doing. I used to call him a CSI wannabe, but in all honesty I truly believe he would have made a great CSI. He had the determination to pursue it despite the pay cut and he actually was pretty good at it, even though he had no prior training. Grissom noticed this change in him as well and seemed shaken by it, but just like everyone else... he didn't question Greg on it.
After months of this behavior however I couldn't stand by and just watch him waste away and fade into a stranger who resembled my former friend. Something had to be done and I figured if no one else was going to take the initiative I would have to be the one who tried to get through to him. I couldn't just watch him when he obviously needed help and if there was anyway I could help him then by God I was going to try.
I wipe my sweaty palms on my jeans as I stand in front of Greg's door and try to muster up the courage to knock. I know he his home for his car is parked in the driveway, I am just worried if I will be welcome or not. He has become so strange since the lab explosion that I no longer know how to act around him and cannot even try to predict how he will react. He is my friend though and I can't be a coward in his obvious time of need. I will be there for him as long as he needs me, whether he wants my help or not... in the long run, if things go smoothly, he will thank me in the end.
Suddenly the door flies open and since I was pretty much leaning against it I end up practically colliding with Greg. He manages to get a hold of my arms thankfully and eventually I regain my balance. When he finally lets go of me I almost whine at the loss of warmth and contact. For my sake I am able to refrain from doing so. Feeling kind of awkward all of the sudden I fidget with my hands for a moment before confining them in the pockets of my jeans. He watches my movements with a small hint of amusement on his face before opening the door wider in an offer for me to enter.
Once I am inside I sit down on the couch and a minute later Greg joins me as well with a curious expression on his face. At the moment I am focusing on how quiet it is in here, his apartment is never this quiet. Hell he has even told me that he has to have music playing at night because it helps him sleep so not hearing any music or sounds from the television just makes me all the more concerned about him.
"So what are you doing here Nick? Shouldn't you be at home getting some much deserved sleep?" He asks softly as he leans back against the couch, keeping quite a distance between us. "It is ur night off after all."
"I'm not really tired and besides, even if I were... my friends come first." I respond with a slightly nervous smile. I am nervous because I am unsure how this conversation will turn out.
"Um... okay you're there for your friends, everyone knows this. I just don't see how that could be the reason you are here at the moment, I didn't ask you to come here."
"You may not have reached out to me G, but I can tell you're in need of a friend."
His eyes narrow in suspicion at my choice in words. "What do you mean Nick? Could we please stop dancing around the subject and just say why you're here?"
I lower my eyes and take a deep breath to calm myself enough to get out what needs to be said without making things worse. "Okay honestly Greg? You've changed man and I'm worried about you. I thought we could talk for a little while..."
As soon as those words are out he rises from the couch and begins to walk toward the hall. I quickly stand up as well, but don't move to follow him. Instead I say, "G it's just a talk man, it might help." Thankfully my words cease his movements and slowly he turns to face me, regarding me hesitantly. After a long moment of him trying to determine whether he should or not a small smile forms on his face and he slowly makes his way back over to the couch. When he is finally sitting down I once again take my seat, managing to get a little closer to him.
He stares down at his hands for a moment before sliding his eyes up my frame to land on my eyes. I can tell that he is weary of this conversation so I grab his hand and squeeze it in an encouraging way. He makes no move to say anything, just stares down. I follow the line of his gaze and feel my cheeks begin to burn in embarrassment when I see that he is looking at our entwined fingers. I have no idea how our hands got like that, but I quickly move my hand to my lap and this seems to draw him back to reality as he looks at me intensely. I cannot tell what he is thinking and feel uncomfortable under his stare so I turn my head slightly.
"So... you wanna talk?" Greg asks to ease some of the tension and I am rather grateful to him for that. "Care to start?"
"Okay well, like I said... you've changed G..."
"How have I changed?" He interrupts, but I don't mind.
"There are so many things about you that have changed." I begin, but then find it hard to get the rest of my sentence out.
"Such as?" He sounds impatient.
"Well for starters when you page us to get our results you no longer have a presentation prepared. You just give us our results with a glance at the most and then you pretty much ignore us the entire time."
"The presentations have become old Nick, besides I just don't see the point in them anymore. I figured you would all be happy to be rid of them." He says this with a nonchalant shrug of his shoulders and I find myself becoming irritated, but I try to remain calm.
"Okay then can you explain your new style in clothes. Ever since you came back you've been wearing these plain and boring shirts, we all miss those wacky shirts you loved."
"They were kind of childish and unprofessional, plain and simple... they were hideous Nick and you know this."
"What about your hair?" I ask with a determined expression on my face, daring him to say he got tired of them as well.
He looks slightly offended as he touches his hair lightly. "What about my hair?"
"You stopped styling it." I say simply.
"No I haven't, I'm just trying something new." He responds with a glare on his face.
"Okay I'm sorry; I'm just not used to this kind of hairstyle on you I guess." I apologize quickly; not wanting him mad at me. I am not quite ready to give up though because everyone else sees his changes as well and are worried, not to mention I can tell he is lying about all the other changes. He would not just get tired of his shirts and there is no way he truly believes they are hideous, he has protected them for years after all. "Look Greg I hope you're not feeling cornered by all these questions, but I am seriously worried about you and I miss my friend. Something is going on with you, I can tell, and I want to help."
"You can't help me when there is nothing wrong Nicky." He says in a calm voice, looking me in the eyes.
I squint my eyes in thought and silent consideration as I stare back at him and he seems to fidget under my searching gaze. Within his eyes I can see, though he is trying to hide it, that he wants to confide in me. I think he is scared though and unsure if he should express how he is feeling. Well maybe I should just show him that he has a friend in me and that I am someone he can trust, show him that he doesn't have to go through this alone anymore.
"Please don't lie to me Greg; there is no need for it. I would never judge you and you should know that. Whatever you are going through, we can handle it together, but you have to confide in me G. Please just tell me what it is that you are feeling." I know I am begging at this point, but honestly... it is not beneath me, not when I am trying to reach out to my friend.
He seems to consider my words carefully for a moment before a small smile forms on his face and I find myself smiling in return. Even though this smile isn't like the one he used to express I still find it contagious, it must be just something about him that I can't resist.
My smile fades rapidly however when I hear the next words leave his mouth, shattering my hopes into a million pieces to lie at my feet. "There is no need to worry Nicky, I'm fine. I'm just not the same as I used to be, experiences such as the one I went through changes you, but it isn't anything to worry about. Nothing is wrong with me... I'm just not the same."
I lower my head in defeat for a moment before snapping my attention to Greg as he stands up and walks toward the front door. His words finally register into my distant mind and I realize that he is politely asking me to go home, saying that he is tired and needs to get some sleep because he was to help out the day shift in the morning. It isn't like I can refuse his polite request either, besides he does work in the morning and I am sure he is tired... hell I didn't realize it much before, but I am beginning to feel just how exhausted I am as well.
Shakily I rise to my feet and make my way toward the door where Greg waits patiently. As soon as I reach the door, without giving it any thought, I pull him into my arms and give him a crushing hug. I am sure that the embrace is making it hard for him to breathe, but he doesn't say anything or make me release him. Instead he just embraces me in return, placing his hands on my back while his head rests on my shoulder.
I revel in the feeling of him within my arms, wishing I never had to let him go. If it were the right time I would tell him how much I love him, but I highly doubt that would go over well and besides... I don't want to ruin the moment. I know I will eventually have to let him go, but I am going to hold on as if my life depends on it as long as possible. It isn't often that I get to hold him like this, even if it is just a friendly gesture, though I am sure it looks like it is more than that... hell it even feels deeper than that. He is not complaining nor does he seem uncomfortable so I am not worrying about it.
To my dismay and disappointment the inevitable happens when he pulls away, giving me a small yet slightly sad smile. This confuses me, but I don't question him. Instead I tell him that he can call me at any hour of any day before silently leaving.
I raise my head to the dark, cloudy sky as I feel the first drops of rain hit my frame and for the millionth time as I think back on that night I wonder if I should have tried harder to get through to him, if there was something I could have said to show him that he could confide in me. I knew he was hurting and that he needed a friend whether he was willing to reach out or not, I know that I tried to reach out to him and somewhere within my being I know I did all I could... but I still wonder if that was enough, if I could have found a way to help him.
The days after our conversation he continued acting the same as he had the past months after the explosion, acting as if we never spoke at all. He rarely spoke to me and when he did he never mentioned that night at his house. It was like it had never happened, like I had imagined it. One thing did change after that however, a new change had taken place right before me... his eyes took on a haunted look. His soul was hurting and he could no longer hide it. Despite this I didn't try to reach out to him again, even though now that I think about it... I should have. Though he tried hard not to show it, and I hadn't thought of it at the time, his eyes were pleading with me. I realize now that his soul was aching for me to help him only I didn't know it. I know that at that moment, were I to have spoken to him, he probably would have opened up to me. Not making my move when the opportunity obviously presented itself... I will regret that for the rest of my life.
About a week after witnessing that intense look within Greg's eyes he hadn't come into work, which was odd for him since he always called if he wasn't going to come in for work. No one thought too much about it at first because he had gone through some major changes in such a short period, but I was worried sick and had a dreadful feeling in the pit of my stomach. After about a half an hour with no sign of Greg I convinced Grissom to allow me to drop by Greg's place and see what was up.
When I got there I had knocked on the door several times, but received no response. By that time I was becoming more than concerned and had tried to open the door, but of course it was locked. Not thinking about the consequences my actions would likely bring I kicked in his door and scanned the living room, but didn't see anything out of the ordinary. I cautiously made my way down the hall and into his room, but found it empty... the only signs that anyone had been in there was the unmade, and obviously slept in, bed.
I was rather confused at this point and rightfully panicking when I noticed the light coming from the slightly closed bathroom door. With that dreadful feeling in the pit of my stomach I hesitantly approached the bathroom and cautiously pushed the door open. The sight my eyes were met with will haunt me for the rest of my days. Greg was lying on his side on the pristine tile floor surrounded in a pool of his own blood. I had rushed to his side, but even before pressing my fingers to his neck I knew that he was gone.
I remember leaning my back against the wall, clutching onto Greg's hand as I shamelessly sobbed. At that moment I didn't care that I had moved his body; it was a suicide anyway after all. Even though I knew his soul had left his body some time prior I had to feel closer to him; couldn't let him go. That was when I noticed the note beside him, stained slightly from his blood. When I had reached for it and read the simple words... I just couldn't hold on any longer, I'm sorry, please forgive me ...I broke down even further.
At some point I had reached into my pocket to call Grissom and tell him the heartbreaking news. He had become silent, shocked by my words. I don't remember much of the conversation after he had regained his composure, but everyone had rushed over as soon as we got off the phone. I remember Warrick had to practically pry my grip off of Greg's hand when Doc Robbins tried to take his body; I hadn't wanted to be separated from him.
Now, even months later, I stand at his grave while the rain pours down on top of me and wonder how I am going to make it without him. I visit his grave each and every day after work, needing to see him. Towards the end he may not have known that I was there for him or how much I truly cared for him, but in death I hope he can see it now. Even though everyone says that there was nothing I could have done to prevent what happened I still feel like I failed him and that feeling will be with me for the rest of my life.