Part 1: Just Another Day

Greg Sanders likes his job. He's a CSI and has fought tooth and nail to gain the title; he has absolutely no intention of letting it go. He works hard, harder than before. After all, now he has something to prove. Before, when he was a lab tech, he hadn't needed to. He was the best of the best and they all knew it. They still know it, but now it doesn't mean anything. Now he's someone else and what he was before doesn't matter. He feels like he's back in high school, wanting to sit at the cool kids' table. And, sure, there was a pay cut. Even so, it's still worth it. Greg Sanders likes his job, and he reminds himself of this as he walks past the weeping woman, under the yellow tape, and over to the blood-covered form of that woman's child.

He's halfway through collecting blood samples from a nearby tree trunk, desperately trying to drown out the sounds of the mother's cries, when a lullaby his grandmother used to sing to him begins to play in his head. Hush, little baby…And it's the most bizarre thing. Greg ignores the echoed whispers in his head and continues bagging the now bloody swabs. Sometimes, Greg thinks he might me losing it. He really hopes he's not.

Greg sits in a gray, uncomfortable chair in the break room, drinking a cup of coffee and waiting on lab results. He's allowed a few moments of solitude before Catherine wanders in, grabbing a cup for herself.

"Hey, Greg. How's it going?"

"Not too bad. Just waiting for results on some blood samples. What about you?" Greg idly swirls his coffee around. Did he put sugar in this? He can't remember. He doesn't like sugar in his coffee.

"Just finished up a case. It was a pretty open and shut assault case." Greg nods. He's pretty sure he didn't put in any sugar. "You been getting enough sleep lately, Greg?" Greg looks up from his coffee.

"Yeah. Why?"

Catherine gestures underneath her eyes. "I've just noticed you've had those growing bags under you eyes. Everything okay?"

"Yeah, everything's fine. Well, maybe I haven't been getting as much sleep as I should, but I've just been pulling more overtime." Nothing is wrong. He just doesn't like to sleep anymore. It isn't a problem, not really. He has his beloved coffee and it's not like he avoids sleeping all the time. He just has these dreams sometimes. He really hates dreaming and he especially hates the fact that he always seems to remember his dreams. His sleep patterns are just another thing that have changed when he took on this new, wonderful job of being a CSI. It is just another change, that's all.

Still, he can't help but wish those dreams ('nightmares', a distant voice corrects) would stop. Unluckily for him, they are rather persistent and show no signs of fading away any time soon. Greg accepts this with a grain of salt. He can deal with it. He is dealing with it. He's dealing with the fear and worst case scenarios and ruby red puddles that seem to litter his dreams of late. It can be hard, he admits to himself, particularly when they're too vivid, too true. When dreams imitate reality the line between what's real and what's not becomes blurred. But, sometimes, he likes to change the rules and twist the confusion to his whim. So, when he awakes from rivers of blood, he makes sure reality imitates dreams.

Often, when he's sitting in bed, temporary hysteria taking hold of his sleep-deprived self, he thinks those stupid dreams are some kind of manifestation of bad karma or cruel joke by a Higher Power with nothing else to do. The weary CSI usually shakes off such notions, reminding himself he doesn't believe in karma or higher powers. His family has never been religious, and besides a short stint in university where he explored the wonders of Buddhism, he has not been either. Greg is a scientist; he needs proof and facts and the tangible. Despite this, the young scientist thinks he could really use some kind of faith to fall back on now.

His clothes, those have changed too. He wears dress pants and long-sleeved, buttoned-up shirts now. Archie teases him about his sudden change in dress and Sara tells him it's great that he's really taking his job seriously (even if she does miss the spiked hair, though she won't ever admit it). He doesn't like the shirts, they're confining and the sleeves chafe when they rub up against his arms at times, but he needs them now.

Greg tugs at his shirt sleeve absentmindedly until Catherine interrupts his thoughts. "Alright. Try not to work too hard, huh?" Catherine says as she sweeps out of the room, leaving Greg to pull at his shirt cuffs and wonder at the contents of his coffee cup.

Sofia sits across from The Mother (that's her role in this case, Greg thinks, as the mother, not the wife or the sister or the daughter) and listens to her stutter through what she remembers from That Day (as it is often titled by the victims).

Went to the park. Just turned away for a minute. Disappeared. Searched. Couldn't find. Gone, gone, gone.

Sofia is nodding and looking sympathetic. Greg tries to focus on the words, but his eyes are drawn away from the miserable woman. There is a piano in the corner of the room- a baby grand, black and shiny.

I am slowly going crazy. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Switch. (Fingers trailing up the keys. Switch to left hand now.)

Greg took piano lessons for three months when he was nine. He quit because he got bored. He doesn't remember much of what he did learn in those three months all those years ago. He remembers a few scales, a few chords. He can read notes.

Slowly going crazy am I. 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Switch. (Fingers trailing down the keys. Back to right hand.)

There's a picture on top of the piano. A little girl, The Victim, is sitting on the piano bench, fingers resting over the keys, head thrown over her shoulder to smile for the camera. She had a pretty smile.

The Strip is different during the day. The hulking casinos and hotels loom more and some type of charm seems to be lacking. Greg has always considered Las Vegas to be a city that comes alive at night. Committing indiscretions in the light of day seem worse somehow. When it's dark, no one seems to care and everyone is up for anything.

Nights when he's not at work and should be sleeping, he finds himself walking along this road paved with fool's gold. It's a gorgeous sight, The Strip lit up and seductive as it can never be during the day. Greg loves those nights- when he's strung out on caffeine and night air, sucking in the life that surrounds him.

Greg is a California boy through and through, but Vegas has something special; Vegas is in a league of its own. Greg loves Las Vegas. It's all flash and bang and baby, baby, baby. There are bright lights and dollar signs and good times. He loves Las Vegas, except for when he hates it.

Greg finds himself staring at the people he catches glimpses of as he passes them in his car. He drives down the street and sees a man sitting in the gutter. He probably just lost all his money or maybe his wife. Desperate people do desperate things. Greg can see himself standing over that man's body; COD is self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. There are a group of kids (they're probably in their twenties, but really, they're just kids) laughing and talking outside of a casino. All Greg can see is their dead eyes staring up at him from a mess of mangled limbs and metal, after one of them decides he/she isn't too drunk to drive them all home.

He feels his pager vibrate and looks down at the number as he comes to a stop. It's from Sara; they must have a suspect. Greg signals and turns off the road, heading back to the lab. He was supposed to have grabbed dinner.

"Oh well, duty calls." the young CSI murmurs.

He really hopes The Suspect is The Murderer. He's almost maxed out on overtime and he wants to close up this case.

Greg stands behind the two-way mirror, watching Sara and Sofia interview The Suspect.

The Suspect is a man with thin, blonde hair and lines of age on his face. They have objective evidence to hold against him- his hairs were found in The Victim's wounds. They even have the subjective evidence- a witness that places him at the scene of the crime, another that saw him lead her away. His alibi fell through.

'He should ask for a lawyer', Greg thinks. It is, after all, the intelligent thing to do. Don't these people ever watch crime shows? He watches the happenings of the interrogation room unfold. It is like a play or book of some sort-

Opening Scene: The Suspect is read his rights.

Rising Action: Accusations are thrown at The Suspect.

Climax: A confession bursts forth in a rage of emotion, sprinkled with anger and guilt.

Falling Action: The Suspect realizes what he has just done; tears and apologies follow.

End Scene (Catastrophe): The Suspect- now The Murderer- is led from the room in handcuffs and off to his Not-So-Happily Ever After.

Greg watches with bored eyes. He has seen this play before, has read this book many times over.

Greg steps out of the little room and back into the bustling hallways. The Murderer's wife and son sit a few meters away, waiting anxiously to find out what is happening. The Murderer had been arrested while sitting down to dinner with his family. The former lab tech was sure it must have been a lovely dinner too (they seem like the type). The boy is fidgeting in his seat, wondering why his daddy is taking so long, while the wife wrings her jacket with shaky hands, wondering when the mistake will be cleared (because it must be a mistake). Greg doesn't like this, this knowing. He doesn't like to put names on the faces. He doesn't like to know that The Murderer has a family who will cry over him. He doesn't like to know that The Victim was only seven, loved to play the piano, and had such a sweet smile.

As much as he hates to know and has tried not knowing, he can't stop. He needs to know. A CSI needs to know. A CSI needs to know the victim to make connections, form hypotheses, and find the clues. A CSI needs to know the accused, so they can match up those connections, hypotheses, and clues. Greg hadn't realized that before; he hadn't realized that he needed to know. He wonders, sometimes, if he had realized this when he was making his decision to leave the comfort of his lab for this glorious new career, would he have still chosen what he did? He never ponders the question for too long, though. Greg doesn't like to waste time on 'what if's and regrets, just as he doesn't like to waste tears on the dead. When he goes home at night, he never cries for the little girls with pretty smiles that were lost; he cries for the living because he knows there is no point in crying for the dead.

Sofia is talking to the little boy and the fretful wife. They're crying now, more tears falling like raindrops, pitter patter, to the floor. Greg fears that one day he will drown in all the tears.

The case is closed and the day is done. It began in blood and ended in tears. Greg knows that when he goes home, he's probably going to dream of that pretty smile and the man that took it away. He knows he's going to wake up and make it so that he has to wear those loathed long-sleeved shirts for the next few weeks. Seeing the broken family before him, a physical embodiment of the sorrow of this case, cuts into some part of him that hasn't been completely dulled yet. Even so, he doesn't crumple to floor or bemoan the cruelty of world ('It's too melodramatic,' Greg thinks with distaste). When everything reaches the lowest point and all that's left is pain and nothingness, he still grins. He knows today can't destroy him.

"How's it going, Greg?"

"Same old."

Because in the end it's just another day.