See me - by Sara's Girl
AN - this is one of the first fanfics I ever wrote. It's a post-ep for Viva Las Vegas, written from Greg's POV. Reviews are much appreciated as always.
"You have to pass 3 proficiencies….you failed…" Grissom's face.
"I can't do this…they all want you." His flame-haired replacement, storming out.
Nick and Warrick watching, laughing. Warrick, begrudgingly handing over a bundle of notes to Nick. Nick looking so smug. Not noticing Greg's expression. Not registering what Chandra's departure meant for Greg. One step forward, two steps back. He was back in the lab, and he'd pissed Grissom off. And Nick was laughing, and making a quick buck out of the whole thing.
Greg was furious. Hot, angry tears pricked his eyes. He dug his nails into his palms, hard. His heart was pounding in his chest but he felt it breaking. He knew if he stood there in the corridor much longer, his colleagues would notice that something was seriously wrong and try to talk to him. Normally, he would have revelled in the attention, invited it even. But not today. He just wanted to be where other people were not. Specifically, where Nick Stokes was not.
He gathered himself momentarily and turned, walked away from everyone. Slammed into the men's bathroom, kicked the end stall door open violently and sunk onto the dirty floor, pulling the door locked behind him. He drew his knees up to his chest and dropped his head into his hands. Now Greg let go. The tide of pent up emotions pouring out of him. Noisy, dramatic, painful sobs tearing his chest, salty tears stinging his eyes. Tears borne of disappointment, anger and harsh realisation. Tears because he was going back into the lab, because he had made a stupid mistake, because maybe he just wasn't cut out to be a CSI. That hurt. The dull thud of his failure made him feel nauseous. It was something else, though, that was ripping at his insides. Nick goddamn Stokes.
Everything had fallen apart for Greg today, and where was the one person he cared about more than anything? Laughing. Gambling on the outcome. Like it was a game. Did Nick hope that Chandra would fail…so that he would fail? This thought stabbed at Greg like a needle, made the tears come faster.Of course, Nick was unaware that his actions cut Greg so deep. Completely clueless, thought Greg bitterly. He didn't know that Greg looked at him and saw his future, his perfect fit, his reason to quit a life of meaningless encounters and nights with the TV and takeout on speed dial, and choose something real. Didn't know that Greg had, over the years they had worked together, fallen fast and fallen hard, and never quite recovered. At first, Greg had thought it was just another infatuation, just something he would have to get out of his system. It had happened so many times before, he had felt confident in the fact.
When he'd first been introduced to his handsome Texan colleague on his first day in the lab, it had been instant. A chemical reaction. The first time they had touched, it had been an accident – fingers brushing as Greg handed Nick his DNA results – but the reaction had shot through Greg like an electrical current, as had every touch since then. And there had been a lot. In his more deluded moments, Greg had fancied that Nick would find excuses to touch him, always handing him his coffee in the morning, smiling into his face, never just setting it down on the counter top. If Greg had his hands full, Nick would stand there and wait until the lab tech put everything down. Often, their fingers would touch, skin contact, and Greg would feel like he had been burned. Most of the time he told himself firmly that it didn't mean anything. Nick was clearly a tactile person. He had seen him hug Sara, or slap Warrick on the back in that guy's guy kind of way.
Greg had taken to flirting with him. Sure, he flirted with everyone, but he always saved his best game for Nick. He'd hoped, on some level, that when Nick didn't flirt back, he could start to pour cold water on the feelings he had. He could forget he had ever had them, just be friends. He would have settled for that. But to his growing astonishment, Nick did flirt back. Returned his glances, smiled at his bad jokes, teased him about his hairstyle and clothes and taste in music. It was never enough to mean anything though. He always got embarrassed and backed off at the first mention of his or Greg's personal lives. It was enough, though, to deepen Greg's feelings – almost against his will – from lust, to infatuation, to agonising longing and unrequited love.
Terrified at first of caring so deeply for someone, Greg had tried to distance himself, but it had been no good. They were work colleagues. They had a not-quite friendship and a not-quite flirtation. For five years, Greg had stared, and imagined, and kept every little touch and smile and moment locked away to comfort and soothe on days when life conspired against him. Days like today. But his carefully preserved memories would not help today, sitting on the cold bathroom floor, sobbing like his heart was breaking.
He knew that Nick didn't, couldn't, return his feelings. Deep down, he had always known that, but the fact that he could disregard Greg's feelings so easily, as if it were nothing, hurt like hell. He felt livid with himself, for allowing himself to love Nick all these years. Someone who couldn't even see what was right in front of him. He felt exposed when he was with Nick, raw, like the longing he felt was so visible, incandescent, all consuming.
He still had a life. He worked extremely hard. There weren't enough hours in the day for all his hobbies. He went to clubs and went home with faceless strangers, though he was never quite drunk enough. The sex relieved frustration temporarily, but he'd keep his eyes closed and imagine how it could be different, and so much more. Lying there afterwards, even though he felt cold inside, he would push away offers of comfort and intimacy, dragging on clothes and walking away. Each time he thought he felt the emptiness creep in a little further, but he felt trapped in the cycle. Every now and then he would catch Nick looking at him in a certain way, or they would share a moment, a connection, and Greg would think – just for a second – about telling him how he felt. Just letting it all pour out and seeing what happened. He pulled back every time, paralysed by fear, of rejection and of losing the little relationship they had.
Coming out of his reverie, Greg realised that he had stopped crying. He felt hollow, and rapidly returning, rushing to fill the space that hurt had vacated, was the anger and frustration.
You're a sad, pathetic lab rat, in love with some guy who doesn't even notice that you would swim an ocean if it would impress him.
Greg lifted his head out of his hands and slammed his fist against the cubicle wall, fury multiplying in the confined space."Fuck!" He exploded, remnants of sobs still catching in his throat. And then:
"Sanders? Is that you?"Greg's red eyes snapped open at Nick's voice. When had he come in? Had he heard him crying?
"Is everything ok?" Nick's tone was a little concerned, like someone might sound if they had just witnessed a stranger stub their toe.
A little concerned. Greg's anger flared, and he dragged himself to his feet, almost in a trance, and pushed the door open. Nick was standing by the sink, casually drying his hands with a paper towel. His dark brown eyes were untroubled. Greg could see the bills folded in his shirt pocket.
Greg stood there for a moment, silent, breathing hard, staring at the man he loved, the man who had let him down. Suddenly, he just didn't care any more.
"Don't call me that. My name is Greg, ok? Not that you give a shit what I prefer, right? Not that you think for one moment about me, when you're playing your little betting games with Warrick, hoping that my replacement – who you know damn well I worked my ass off to find – would leave so that you could make a few bucks. Not that it crosses your mind that I have to go back into that godforsaken lab because of it. Not that you care that I feel trapped in there, or that every day something reminds me of when I was thrown through that glass wall. Not that you give a crap about how much it meant to me to pass my final proficiency, because I'm just a lab rat, aren't I? You didn't even fucking ask me if I was ok when I came out of Grissom's office today, did you?"
Greg paused for breath. He wasn't thinking any more, didn't care about the expression on Nick's face, he was just feeling, raw like always but no longer caring a shred for self-preservation. He couldn't even stop what he knew was coming next.
"I bet you wonder why I care so much about what you do. I care, Nick, because I love you. I fucking love you! I've loved you for five years, Nick! Everything you say to me matters, and every time you dismiss me it hurts me a little bit more. I have loved you more every day since the first day I met you. I look at you and see a life I could have, Nick, a future for god's sake. I think maybe I could wake up and not be scared any more – "
"Greg…" Nick's voice was cracked and he held up one hand in an attempt to silence Greg.
"Shut up! I don't want to hear, ok? Five years of making an idiot out of myself over you. Degrading myself with strangers because I can't stand feeling so empty all the time. Imagining you are flirting with me, responding to me, because in all honesty I can't handle the fact that you don't even notice me. You're going to walk away now, probably never speak to me ever again, but that's preferable to living like this another goddamn day. I just want you to see me. You don't even see me. Why can't you just fucking see me?!"
The last question ripped the breath out of him. Finally, Greg was out of words. He stood, barely noticing that he was trembling, chin raised defiantly, eyes boring into Nick's. He'd done it now. Five years of want and desire and pain cascaded out of him and hit Nick like a tidal wave. Time seemed suspended. All Greg could hear was the slow drip of the tap and the roaring of his own fury in his ears.
He had barely even noticed how close they were standing, until his exhausted mind registered something unexpected. Nick was touching him. Warm, dry fingers were on his face, gently wiping away tears that he hadn't noticed were still falling. His stomach flipped as he felt another hand cradle the back of his head, lacing through his hair. He was being drawn forward so slowly, Nick's eyes never leaving his. Greg thought he was going to stop breathing as Nick's lips brushed against his. He felt his legs go weak and instinctively grabbed Nick's shoulder for support. The hand that had wiped his tears away was suddenly in the small of his back, protectively, firmly.
"Shh…for a minute," Nick whispered in a tone he had never heard before.
Greg closed his eyes, feeling sure this was a dream and if it wasn't he might just pass out, as he felt lips push against his again, firmer this time, more insistent but heartbreakingly tender. Nick's mouth was opening his gently, warm, wet, delicious. Greg's mind and body were in sensory overload. Trying to take everything in, clinging to the other man as if he was drowning. Nerve endings exploding with intense pleasure as Nick's tongue tangled with his, never breaking contact, exploring, wanting, taking. He kissed back, fresh tears springing into his eyes as he realised that for once he didn't want to be anywhere else but here. He put five years of frustration into that kiss, and almost could not stand for it to end, for them to break apart, gasping, and to be still standing in that cold bathroom, wondering what the hell had just happened.
He stared at Nick, who was staring back at him as if seeing him for the first time. His pupils were dilated so that his eyes were almost black. He was breathing hard and obviously aroused. Greg whimpered softly as sure fingers stroked the back of his neck in just the right place. Sliding, tracing the relief of old scars, healing.
"I know you don't want to hear it, but I'm sorry," Nick said finally. "I'm so sorry I let you down. I didn't know how to be."
Greg's heart ached. He slid his arms around Nick's back, tracing the pattern of his shirt.
"I have been trying not to care about all those things, because it hurts me. I thought, if I let myself care about you, I would want to comfort you. I thought you wouldn't want that from me and it hurt. I tried so hard not to care about you, Greggo, but I couldn't do it. You got me."
Greg's heart was racing now, hardly daring to hear any more but wanting to more than anything.
"I've been treating you like crap, and I'm sorry. Maybe you'll give me a chance to make it up to you…what are you doing for the next fifty years?"
Greg's mouth twitched into a small smile, the rapidly drying tears on his cheeks pulling at his skin.
"I love you, ok? And I see you. I see you…most of the time I don't see anything else."
A warm flood of relief and elation spread through Greg's cold body and he instinctively drew his hands up to cover his face, hide his emotion, not wanting more tears to ruin this moment. Slowly, Nick reached out and pulled his fingers away, one by one, sweeping salty tears from his lips into Greg's mouth. "It's ok," he soothed, pushing his whole body against Greg's and crushing the younger man against him until he was struggling to breathe, whispering love over and over like a mantra.
Loud footsteps outside in the corridor startled them both, and Greg hurriedly disentangled himself and slipped back into the toilet cubicle, closing the door softly. Nick turned back to the sinks and composed himself just in time for the bathroom door to swing open. Greg leaned against the stall door, listening intently.
"Hey man, I was wondering where you'd got to. Shift's been over for half an hour." Warrick's voice drifted through the gap in the stall door.
"Just washing up," Nick replied, simply.
"She's gone, y'know, for real. What are you going to do with your…or should I say, my, money?"
There was a pause before Nick replied.
"I'm going to take someone out for dinner," he said, smiling.
Inside the cubicle, Greg smiled too.