Over the asphalt where no other sound was|
Between three districts whence the smoke arose
I met one walking, loitering and hurried
As if blown towards me like the metal leaves
Before the urban dawn wind unresisting.
He shakes his head at Warrick’s comment and mumbles something under his breath, not loud enough for Warrick to hear the actual words, but loud enough to make the other man frown at him and Greg just shrugs. It’s not worth getting into a fight with Warrick over something so trivial; they have a job to do. He cracks a little smile and makes a gesture towards the building where Brass is already waiting for them.
Brass is tapping his feet impatiently and when they reach him he checks his watch rather theatrically before saying, “ So glad you finally decided to join me.”
Warrick ignores the hint of sarcasm and asks, “What have we got here.”
The expression on Brass’s face changes and Greg’s not sure what to think of it. It almost seems like Brass is actually affected by whatever is inside. He already knows what to expect, Grissom warned them beforehand. Which Greg thought was mostly for his benefit and he felt slightly embarrassed. But the look on Brass’s face tells Greg that maybe Grissom wasn’t just being patronizing. He sighs, forcing himself to relax and ignore the faint feeling of apprehension that creeps in.
When the other two men go quiet he arches one eyebrow and asks, “What?”
Brass shakes his head, looking resigned, and Greg’s thinking he imagined the earlier look of discomfort on the detective’s face when Brass says, his tone of voice close to bored, “Are you ready, Sanders?”
Of course the answer can’t be no, so he merely nods and braces himself. He can do this. Multiple DB’s. No big thing. Well, it is, but nothing he can’t handle. He pulls out his gloves and watches Warrick and Brass enter and, after taking a deep breath, he follows them in.
When Warrick stops walking, he stumbles into the other man and he mumbles an apology, but Warrick doesn’t seem to notice. Greg can’t see anything, the other man’s blocking his view. Not that he has to see it to know that this is bad. Warrick’s broken voice whispering a curse and the smell that reaches his nostrils is all he needs to know.
Of course it’s not all he needs to know. It’s his job to know a lot more, but right now he doesn’t care about his job. Smiling wryly at his earlier happiness about getting the bigger case and now all he can do is wish they’d gotten the burglary case that Sara was assigned to. He holds his breath, knowing that Warrick will move any second now. Again, he braces himself, repeating to himself, like a mantra, that he can handle this.
When Warrick steps aside, his breath hitches and he shakes his head. Panic hits him and he shakes his head, wanting to run, but not able to move and all he can think is how wrong he was. He can’t handle this. Who was he trying to kid here, and then again, he doesn’t even want to be able to handle this.
He doesn’t want to look but his eyes won’t close, forcing him to take in the sight of what must be over a dozen naked bodies, sprawled across the room. And the blood. It’s everywhere. The walls seem to be painted in blood. The smell once again registers in his nostrils and he has to raise his hand to cover his nose and he closes his eyes.
“Christ, Jim. How old are these kids?”
Warrick’s standing right next to him when he says the words but Greg’s barely able to hear the words. As the words finally sink in he opens his eyes, forcing himself to really look. Kids. He’s shaking his head again, this can’t be right. He’s not standing in a room full of naked, dead kids. They’re probably the same age as his nephews and that thought causes his stomach to turn.
“Greg?” He turns his head and Warrick’s moved even closer, obviously concerned as he puts a hand on Greg’s shoulder and says, “Step outside for a moment, man. You look like you’re about to faint.”
He shakes his head, remembering his earlier mantra. “I’m fine, Warrick.”
Warrick shoots him a look that tells him that he doesn’t believe him and then he shrugs, “Are you sure?”
“Let’s just go to work, Warrick.”
When Grissom tells them to go home it takes him by surprise. They’ve been working for fourteen hours straight but he doesn’t realize that until he reaches the locker room. Warrick’s already there, sitting on one of the benches, looking dead on his feet. At Greg’s entrance he glances up, tries to smile, but it’s a pretty sad excuse for a smile. Greg doesn’t return the favor, all throughout the shift he focused on nothing but the evidence, no thinking, no speculating, just the evidence. If Grissom knew he’d be proud, but it wasn’t about being efficient or anything like that. It was all about not having to think. And now that he gets to go home he’s fighting to keep the numb, distant composure. A battle he knows he’s about to lose.
“Are you okay, Greg?”
He nods, and says, “I’m fine, Warrick.” And that’s quickly becoming his new mantra.
Warrick doesn’t say anything for a while, instead he keeps staring into nothing and seeing Warrick out of sorts isn’t helping Greg to keep himself together.
“You need a ride, G?”
Greg shakes his head and waves at Warrick who does the same as he heads out. He fidgets with the lock, the trembling of his hands getting very hard to ignore, and opens his locker. He takes out his bag and searches for his car keys. He probably shouldn’t be driving though, Nick’s always telling him that...His thoughts trail off. Nick. He dropped him off at work. He grabs his cell and is already in the middle of dialing the familiar number when he snaps his cell shut. Maybe he should just walk home, or grab a cab. It’s late and he shouldn’t wake Nick up. Of course Nick told him to call him, but he doesn’t want Nick to see him like this. It’ll take him a little longer to get home but at least he’ll be fine when he gets there. Not that he isn’t just fine right now.
“Keep telling yourself that.” Great. Now he’s even talking to himself.
As he walks out and feels the rain poor down on him, he takes in the sight of the rising sun, giving the sky a reddish glow. It’s a beautiful sight but after mere seconds the sight of rain and red sky merges into an image of droplets of red dripping down stark white walls. And he has to fight the feeling of nausea. Everything’ll be fine. Loud voices interrupt his train of thought and he’s thankful for that. As the children run past him, shouting obscenities at each other, the nausea only increases. He has to fight the urge to just sit down right here, his knees are starting to buckle but he can’t break down. Not here. Not now. Not because of a case. He can handle it. He’s fine. He tries to focus on these thoughts, hoping they’ll make any further thinking about dead children and blood-covered walls impossible. They don’t, and he feels himself sink to the ground as his knees lose the battle at the same time his mind does.
The numb feeling returns and it could be because he’s on his knees on the wet asphalt but whatever it is, it clears his mind for a brief moment. And he embraces is, the silence in his head, the silence around him and he notices the rain must have stopped. The faint sound of a car pulling up can be heard, but other than that, it’s all quiet. Almost peaceful and he almost laughs at that absurd notion. He doesn’t want to move, he’s not even sure he can. The numbness spreading throughout his entire body and maybe if he allows himself to fall down completely he can curl up onto the ground and forget. A cardoor slams shut and he absentmindedly thinks that whoever it is must think he’s lost it completely. But then again, that’s probably right and does he really care anyway?
Apparently he does. Because he looks up and he has to blink a few times, before he allows himself to believe that maybe he isn’t imagining the sight in front of him. Fear, concern and apprehension, it’s all there, even though he’s too far away to see his face, he can see it in the way he approaches him. He blinks again and then he’s on his feet. No numbness, no coherent thinking or feeling for that matter as emotions wash over him and he doesn’t try to fight it anymore.
And when he’s close enough to see his face he knows he was right before, and guilt joins the party of emotions. But it doesn’t matter. Not when he feels strong arms close around him, and once again his knees start going weak, but that’s okay. Because Nick’s there to hold him up and from the way he’s holding him, Greg’s pretty sure he has no intention of letting him go anytime soon. His whole body goes slack and the only thought that registers is the question if Nick suddenly developed ESP.
“Warrick called me.” Nick’s voice’s hoarse and Greg smiles, not only because Nick apparently is able to read his mind, but also at hearing the other man’s voice. He doesn’t try to answer him, not trusting his vocal chords being one of the reasons. Not knowing what to say another.
“You scared the shit out of me, G.”
His cheeks are getting wet and he’s not sure whether it’s the rain, or his tears. Or maybe Nick’s. He raises a hand to wipe his cheek, but Nick grabs hold of his hand and just holds it, squeezes it and then there are more tears. And this time he knows they are his. He raises his head and looks up at Nick. Brown eyes staring into his and the raw emotion visible not only in Nick’s eyes but all across his face makes his throat close up.
He swallows frantically, but “I’m not fine,” is all he manages to get out before he buries his face against Nick’s chest and lets go. He can’t handle this. He’s not fine. But that’s okay. Because he doesn’t have to do it alone.