He hadn't planned for it to go like that.
No one did, though. It was a stupid thing to think that anyone did plan for his day to go like that. No one penned an incident that felt like the world falling apart into his daybook, or an event of unbelievable violence.
Gil vaguely wished that the air conditioning in Greg's car worked, because the wind buffeting his face made it ache.
They were moving fast and it was probably going to start raining. He remembered something about that on the news before he'd tried to come off shift. Vegas had storms that swept in out of nowhere at times, unpredictable and uncontrolled forces of nature that came and went leaving devastation in their path. It was probably the first drops of rain he could feel dripping down his face. Warm rain.
Thick and warm against a numbed face.
"Shit, shit, shit... come on you piece of crap go faster!"
Greg hadn't learned patience yet, that much was obvious.
"'m okay..." It was meant to be reassuring, but Gil's head lolled a little as he turned his head to look over at Greg. He felt heavy and tired. Tired of going on like this, tired of staying awake and having to stay together, of taking one painful breath after another. Was he allowed to stop yet? Could he just let go yet and not be a failure?
"Griss, you've been shoved through a fucking glass coffee table... I..." The car weaved as Greg fumbled around in his pocket looking for his phone. The glow of the panel etched out the lines and anxiety in the young man's expression before there was a blare of horn, harsh and intrusive and Greg looked up in terror.
They swerved violently as another car seemed headed straight at them and the cell bounced over into Gil's side of the car and burst apart like a rather unpleasant jack-in-the-box. Electronic innards scattered, delicate and crushed unseen as he jolted with the harsh movement. He could smell and taste blood, metallic but liquid, crimson black sticky and glistening on his shirt. Slowly bleeding out.
He'd been doing that for years now.
He'd never heard Greg swear before. Not like that, not with such fire and frustration in his voice.
"We'll get there. Don't... don't get yourself killed, okay?" Both of them, even if the urge was to flee, the knowledge of pursuit was right behind them. Run, run, run, try and find safety in the bright lights of Vegas where so many murders took place. And this was his refuge, his only hideaway.
It had started with Gil's Denali breaking down.
Such a simple thing, and he could remember the odd feeling of frustration and a peculiar relief at not being able to go anywhere. They'd worked over on a case -- nothing unusual there. They did it all the time, and Catherine had thanked him for the over time even as she headed home. And Greg had had to run back to his locker and pick up a jacket because the wind was starting to bluster with a little more enthusiasm. The rest of night shift was home a long time since. Gil knew that.
He kept getting text messages to that effect up to the point he just... turned off his cell. There had been a time he would have never done that, but things had changed. He wanted silence. Just a moment of silence.
Everything had changed, and that was why he'd been willing to ask Greg for a ride home after they'd pushed the Denali back into a parking spot. His AAA card was a month expired, so there had gone the idea of getting it towed home for free.
Greg had laughed and teased him a little. He'd forgotten what that was like. Too often when they were out at work the younger man was quiet now. He knew why. He knew things were hard for their newest CSI and that most of it was to do with him, in his own mind at least. Running interference took too much of the little energy he seemed to have left, though. He couldn't even protect himself any more.
He found himself smiling and it had felt... strange. Like using muscles that had atrophied somehow -- maybe because it had been a real smile, not one he wore like an ill-fitting suit. So had the rush when Greg had said, "So why don't we stop and get some dinner huh? I'm starving..."
A normal casual invitation, but as welcome as water in the desert.
He hadn't wanted to go home, and for a long moment he'd remembered all of the times that Catherine had gone out for drinks with Gil and Jim and the other men just so she didn't have to go home to deal with Eddie. It was a sign of things crumbling, ending -- having already ended? -- but Gil didn't want to think about that. It was just one coworker stopping by a bad diner for food before he was driven home. It was the least he could do for Greg after the inconvenience of driving to the other side of the city.
That was what he would say when it came down to the questions, and it would. It already had with the text messages.
Greg had been... fun even if the food had been dire. They'd even laughed about that. Greg had offered the waitress Gil's services to identify the cockroach civilization they must have in the kitchen.
Fun. Gil had missed the fun of being single, the fun of freedom, the kind of freedom that he'd spent most of his life living. He'd given up a lot of it in the interest of peace at home because fun apparently meant fights and things being twisted out of shape, an innocent vehicle stalling blown out of proportion into something more.
For a couple of hours -- which shouldn't have been a crime, but apparently was -- he had forgotten everything except laughing almost too hard at Greg's eccentric and eclectic babble. It was as if there was a pressure of it inside of him and the young man's delight at just talking had been infectious.
There had been nothing untoward, not even flirting. Just laughing, interesting discussions and bad food.
There was never anything untoward. He never allowed things to break down like that. He couldn't fail at his only chance.
They broke down in other ways, whims and wishes for freedom, regrets where his life had previously been empty of them. New things had come with a serious relationship; a relationship that all internal signs said was a bad idea. But all external signs said it was a good idea, except now... now they said it wasn't a good idea, too.
If it had been a good idea, Gil wouldn't have been in so much pain.
He heard a ripping sound and turned awkwardly to see Greg trying to steer and rip his shirt at the same time. It was one of his favorite shirts. He remembered him saying that to Nick once.
"Here. Here, Griss, just... press that to your face." The fresh rag was thrust at him.
It took too long for that order to process, for his hand to grasp it and do what he was told. Whatever he hazily remembered happening, the push, the stumble, trip, and then glass everywhere, had to look bad. Greg barely seemed to be breathing.
"Stay with me, Griss," Greg was saying urgently. "Stay with me... Talk to me. You have your phone?"
His phone? On the side at home. No.... No. Smashed because it hadn't been turned on.
"Broke." Gil struggled a little, planting a foot against the floor to push himself up sitting closer to upright and hearing the crackle of Greg's phone under his shoe. That was a motion that made his thigh hurt, but pain meant he was still awake. "I turned it off."
"Well there goes my idea of calling Brass and other emergency services." Greg replied a little distracted. "I'll get you to the hospital, Griss, just hold on. Tell me... shit, tell me what happened before I came back to drop off your wallet."
Greg could guess. Greg could guess and had seen part of it, but he wanted Gil to keep talking. Gil knew that, and maybe if he kept talking, everything would hurt less except his face. "Drinking. She was drinking, and trying to get hold of me. I didn't... want to deal with her, so I'd turned the, the phone off."
"Fuck, Griss, how long has this been going on?" Greg asked. His glance at Gil was brief and he looked pale and shocked even as he pressed the reluctant accelerator harder.
"Long enough? I... didn't know what to do. If..." Gil leaned his head back against the headrest. "When I did everything right, it wasn't... a problem."
There was a silence and he didn't want to look.
He remembered when it had been good. They were meant to be together. Everyone had said that. Well, nearly everyone. Greg had just said nothing; he remembered that now, but at the time it was buried under the euphoria of discovering what he thought life should be. Closeness, intimacy, everything he had striven to find and given up hope of ever having. He'd been told to take the risk, go for it, take and hold the fantasy; and then he'd had it, but not for long. It wasn't long until the cracks had started to show, until the honeymoon period had worn off. Anyone normal would have called it quits.
Gil hadn't ever been normal. "I can't... do it any more."
"Fuck, you are never going back to her. Never." Greg was as vehement as he had ever him. "Is this the first time?"
"That... she's lost her temper?" Gil closed his eyes tightly, and mumbled, "No," just before Greg had to swerve the car sharply again.
He didn't open his eyes to see what it was he was swerving to avoid. He was barely listening to Greg's swearing and desperate attempts to drive. He was lost back there.
~You don't ever open up,~ was how it started.
It was hard for him. Always had been. Too open, not open enough. He thought he was an open book. But if she was right, he was a book written in a language people could never hope to understand.
Next it had been. ~Stop flirting. Make the commitment.~
But he'd been making the commitment. He'd been living it, and that just hadn't been enough for her. What he could easily offer just wasn't enough, and he'd tried. He'd tried for perfection because things were good when he did it all right. He'd tried even when that had started to shift to more than just 'making the commitment'.
It had become every little thing, insane jealousy over the smallest things. A pleasant remark to the wrong person. A vindictive streak born from insecurity.
~He was looking at you, don't deny it. He was looking at you like he wanted to rip your pants off with his teeth... and you looked back like you wanted him to! Weren't you!? Don't you dare deny it!~
And what could he say? Yes, he looked at him or her or whoever and wanted that person, because he wondered what they'd be like compared to her and that brand of insanity that had become the day-to-day life? He was trying to reconstruct an eggshell piece by piece and every time the fragments got smaller, more difficult to put back together no matter how patient he was. And he'd rebuild and rebuild. All the King's horses....
Gil couldn't even get out the words, before the car jarred forwards sharply.
"Fuck! She's insane!" Greg was fighting for control of his vehicle, frantically looking in the mirror. "Fuck! What the hell was so wrong with going out to dinner? Was it me? Did I set her off? Why the hell did she do -"
It jolted forward again, painfully, whiplash in the making. Sudden impact of ferocity out of nowhere.
Gil was passingly grateful that Greg didn't have airbags in his old piece of shit car, or else they would have been stopped in a more violent way. Gil reached fingers to press over the aching cut across his chest, beneath the seatbelt, and there was another shorter jolt to them both before Greg managed to veer to the right, up onto the median, just when sirens wailed to life.
"Let me pull over you... bitch... fuck!" Greg's voice strangled in panic even as he tried to bring the car to a halt, another thump -- third time lucky -- clipped the end of them and spun their car to impact driver's side into something hard.
Even as they spun, he caught a brief terrifying glimpse of a familiar car hurtling past them and then the immensely shocking bang of metal hitting something unyielding. The car rippled like a bloom being crushed back into a bud.
Silence. Finally silence.
There was metal crumpled around Greg, around them both.
And then he heard sirens, still wailing, light blinding red blue red blue at his eyes. Everything hurt a little worse, but it was the kind of accident they could both walk away from. Stumble away from if the metal would unfurl.
"No.... no... this can't be happening..." Greg sounded dazed and horrified. "Griss? You okay? Tell them to get you to the hospital before you bleed any more. I'm okay, I'm just... stuck."
"Stuck?" Gil's own voice sounded wobbly, but after a moment a flashlight all but blinded him. He couldn't even get his seatbelt undone.
"Sanders, what the hell... Jesus... Grissom?" Brass sounded shocked. "What the hell... I heard the police scanner and.... " He turned away and he could hear him bellow. "Get the paramedic over here! Now!"
"Sara's... the driver of the other car..." Gil tugged ineffectively at the belt again, concentrating on breathing. Jim probably hadn't heard him.
"What?" Jim pulled at the door to try and help get him out. "Sit still Gil, for god's sake. You're bleeding the hell all over the place."
He spotted the blood soaked shirt fragment. "How much blood have you lost?"
"He... she pushed him into their coffee table." Greg managed from the other side of him. The metal around him was pinning him in place like the safety bars on Vegas's most extreme roller coaster.
"You..." It was strange that Jim was the one at a lost for words. "Where the hell are those paramedics!?"
"Coming! Jesus, try to get the doors off!" They'd need firemen, jaws of life to get it open, to get Greg out. Gil would be all right. Woozy, and sick with relief, sick with it. If he thought about it for long, he would be sick, because he could hear someone yell that they had a DB.
He could hear Greg whispering, "No, no, no...." under his breath even as the paramedics moved in, pushing Jim out of the way and asking him questions in a clear calm voices.
"Mr. Grissom can you feel your legs? Where is the most pain?"
"He's bleeding from glass injuries..." Greg managed from the other side of the car. "Losing too much. Not from the car. I was... trying to get him to hospital."
"I can feel my legs." They hurt, and working out where the most pain was hard. Everything hurt. "Just... get us out?"
"We'll get you out. You're first, Mr. Grissom. We want to stop you bleeding as soon as possible." The paramedic was just a shape among other shapes. He was gently lifted out of the passenger seat and put on a stretcher while incomprehensible medical commands were said over his head. There was Jim, looking worried. Distraught even and he saw him put on his badge. Going back on duty and walking over to Sara's car. He wished he hadn't seen the way he wiped at his eyes with the back of his hand as he walked over.
DB. That wasn't how it was supposed to happen. That wasn't how the argument was supposed to end. He was supposed to try again; he was supposed to be able to try again. Not see things receding from him, hoping they got Greg out, hoping that he'd misheard everything.
Every time he'd fixed it. He'd tried to change, tried to hold in everything, tried to be everything the world wanted him to be. Done what was expected because who was he to turn down a chance when someone wanted him?
Even when she had started drinking so much more every time there was some imagined problem and he could feel the fact that somehow he wasn't the answer to all her questions in life, but she clung to him because he was the only answer she had. Clung to him with the desperation of someone drowning, throttling the life out of a well-meaning rescuer until they were both drowning, and it was all Gil could do to tread water, barely hanging on. It was a sick strange relief that he might not have to do that anymore. The ambulance doors closed, and someone was talking to him. Gil could hardly gather up the energy to respond. He was so tired...
His life had just unraveled and all he wanted to do was sleep. Sleep and never wake up. Slip beneath the emotional waves one last time and not find a way to come back again because coming back would mean he had failed. He'd finally failed.
It was easy enough just to close his eyes and not feel the arms that were lifting him to safety and away from success.
He should have broken down in tears, he supposed. Should have done more than stood stoically by at the graveside service, listening to their friends talk about her sweetness, her devotion to their work, her integrity. That horrible last night was swept under the rug, would've been easier to sweep away if Gil still hadn't had stitches and bandages in place, if Greg hadn't been bruised, if Jim hadn't kept looking at Gil like he still was waiting for his goddamned explanation.
Gil didn't have any real explanations left in him.
Everyone assumed that the injuries had been from the crash. Everyone assumed a lot of things because they weren't investigating the crash. Too close to home.
He couldn't tell if Greg's own pool of isolation was self-imposed or from one of those assumptions. That he had caused the crash that had hurt him and killed a coworker. He did notice that no one stopped him when he turned to walk slowly away from all of them.
Gil shifted away a little, meandered past the little clutch of people who were trying to smother him with condolences. No matter what, he didn't know what to do with them. Never had, not when his mother had died, not when his father had left. They were badges of failure that people wanted him to accept and hold on to as if they were precious things rather than reminders of something he was unable to do. Bodies were bodies, and the loved one was gone, no matter how much it drained him to think that way. The body that they were waiting to backhoe dirt over was just a body.
There was nothing left of Sara in it. There might not have been anything left of Sara before that night, and out of all of them, only Greg and Jim knew. Jim could only guess, and maybe he'd talked it out with Catherine. They'd probably corner him later, but for now, he could corner Greg, picking up the pace of his walk a little.
It tugged on stitches but Greg wasn't walking fast. Maybe not even looking where he was going from the way he was walking. It wasn't hard to catch up with him.
It wasn't hard to hear him hitching breaths.
Why could Greg cry at Sara's funeral, where Gil couldn't? That was a bitter irony, when Gil faintly remembered Sara going for her gun before Greg had grabbed Gil by the jacket sleeve and jerked him out of the door. She'd been going for a gun, screaming at Greg,
~Slut-loser trying to poach him, you think I haven't seen you looking? Get away from him, he's mine! I got him, you didn't! Understand? He's never going to be anyone else's!~
She'd tried to kill them both, and Greg could cry. Greg could cry, and Gil had just tried to love her. Tried so hard his life had been bleeding out blood drop by blood drop. Spatter patterns of death mimicking the color of life.
The younger man looked startled. "Uh... hey. Hey, Griss," he replied, his voice cracking. "I didn't expect anyone to notice I was going."
"I noticed." Voice cracking. Gil stood awkwardly, watching Greg swallow and fidget.
Greg finally looked at him, his dark eyes a mirror for the sort of hurt he felt he should be feeling. "I'm... sorry. I'm sorry about everything. I... assuming I'm not arrested, I guess... I guess if I'm being investigated that's my job here done. I... I'm sorry for.... setting this all off, Griss. For being responsible. I just wanted to see you smile again and dinner didn't seem like a big deal and... then...."
"Dinner wasn't a big deal. Jim... is handling the case. We're both suspended right now." Gil shrugged his shoulders, and like very other time he'd been 'given a vacation', it didn't sting as much as it should have. He wasn't going to fight it. "Just tell the dayshift people what happened. Honestly, and I'll do the same. There's nothing to blame yourself for."
"You want me to tell them what she's done to you?" Greg asked sounding concerned then. Anxious for him. "All of it? You want me to just... tell them?"
"Yes. I plan on telling them when they ask me. Be..." Gil inhaled, and then exhaled, and pretended that the world didn't shift a little and tremble under his feet with the decision. "Be honest."
Greg was staring at him. "Just like that now she's... she's dead you can be honest." His voice was low and rough. "And that's going to change everything? I still.... I still killed her. No matter what. You know something, Griss? I'm not even sure I can deal with that. Not even knowing what I know. I deserve what they're thinking. I stuck my nose in and hey, I'm okay and your world has fallen apart and Sara is dead."
"My world was falling apart before that." And it was just like that. Sara was dead, and there was no one to play the tact game with, no reason to try. He wasn't even sure when she really died. It seemed like it had been a slow terminal disease that had set in the moment he had taken that risk, rotting her from the inside out with the poison of a dream that died. Gil could go back to being the way he'd been before Sara, before the mistake of doing something he knew was wrong. "You didn't kill her. No one... made her drink like that. No one made her chase us."
Greg's hands were shaking. "How long had that been happening? How long had she been like that? I started getting threats six months ago. I just... they could see motive maybe, I don't know."
"It started maybe a year ago. I wasn't paying attention. I... should have ended it with her then, before we got to that point." Greg's hands were shaking again, and they hadn't shaken in years, and Gil was standing there bandaged and sore and on mild painkillers. They had to be a sight, but Gil didn't turn to look at their coworkers. "I'm sorry. If I'd known she'd been threatening you, or anyone else..."
He would've put his foot down. For them, not himself.
"Just me." Greg replied looking down at those traitorous hands and a splash of water glistened on the back of them as he clenched the fingers together resolutely. "I don't want her to be gone. Because..." He turned away. "I'm going home."
"Don't." Gil didn't want her to be gone, either. He'd loved her for too long, loved her past when he should have pushed her away. It would have been cruel, but infinitely more gentle than... this. Sometimes people were too broken to mend. Sometimes a person could try with his last breath to make things work and it would smash into more fragile shards, glass shards that he had lain in and felt the end of it all there and then. "Please. Catherine's dragging me out to dinner with the rest of the team." And he hadn't been able to beg off, god help him.
"I... They think it was me. I wasn't invited." Greg sounded a little choked and there was no doubt that it hurt him. "There's no reason I should be. I've lost everything."
It sounded like he meant it. That he believed that he had lost his friends, his work, everything about himself that he liked and...any sense of hope he might have had. "I wish I could hate her. But I can't, not completely. In the end I thought she had everything I ever wanted and...."
He brushed at his eyes again.
Everything he'd ever wanted. Gil didn't move for a moment. "Greg? No one... wants you to hate her. I can't hate her. Don't. I loved her, and it... it... This happened. I wanted to leave her, but not... this. Not in the ground." Gil looked down at his shoes for a moment as his eyes burned, but quickly lifted his eyes to Greg's face again. Grief would come or not; he wouldn't fake anything anymore. "You're invited. They're looking for someone to lash out at, and the evidence will prove what happened. You saved my life."
"I nearly killed us both. If I hadn't..."
If. If. If. Too many maybes, what if's and might've beens.
"Fuck. I'm not... I'm not as strong as you, Griss." Greg looked back at him and he seemed a hairsbreadth away from collapsing completely. "If I was, I would have left and given up. Maybe then things would have been okay with you two."
"I was there, Greg. I lived there. I went to get my hair cut and that spurred on an argument. Were you there? No." Gil shifted his hands, out of his pockets, awkward at his sides. He was probably one of the few people in the world who never knew what to do with their hands when at rest. "Don't blame yourself. What was going wrong was between Sara and myself. If it hadn't been you, it would have been Nick or Catherine or Jim. Anyone."
"Did she hurt you before?" Greg asked abruptly. "Was that the first time? Was it an accident or did she do that sort of thing before? Pull a gun on you?"
He wanted to lie. Wanted to seem like a bigger, less threatened man than he'd been, but that was a lie, an illusion. "Once. I talked her down." And then they'd made up and they'd gone to work, and Gil hadn't thought about it again because there was a case.
Greg looked at him in silence. "I'm sorry, Griss. I guess... I guess it was all she knew. The cycle and all that. Having to be perfect or love was conditional."
Both. Love resting on that perfection, and it cut both ways. Gil couldn't quite read Greg's eyes, couldn't quite fathom what was going on in the bloodshot brown. "I forgot that people can't fix each other in that way." They could fix, support, aid, but not supply the whole, the self worth, the world view that someone needed. That Sara needed. "Greg. Please, come out with the rest of us. You'll want to eat before we're hauled down to the station for our statements at last."
"Do you really want me there?" Greg asked. A glance showed a loose circle of their colleagues, standing waiting and watching them all. "Are you ready to tell them?"
"I have to." He wouldn't ever be ready, but Jim and Al and maybe Catherine had given him more than enough space, four days after the fact, three days after the autopsy. Al knew how much alcohol she had in her blood. Had made notes, and while Gil couldn't see it, wasn't allowed, he'd know what it said, know what whoever worked the case had seen.
The space and time had been a courtesy. "I want you to be there, Greg. You're one of us. You're a friend."
"I'll take that if that's all I can get," Greg murmured in a low enough voice that Gil nearly missed it. "Okay. I'll face them."
It wouldn't be comfortable for either of them, but there were things Greg had said that made him wonder. He'd done what the world expected and that had failed and cost a life at the same time as his happiness bleeding out slowly.
It would take time to recover. And he hadn't expected it to go like that, but if he went back to not-doing what the world expected...