Summary: Nick wanted to be a hero, but maybe he was the one who needed saving.
***The music thumped a steady beat that reverberated in his body, mixing with the alcohol in his system and making his head spin. Frowning, Nick took another determined swig of his beer, his gaze ever focused on the crowd of people dancing out on the floor below him. Lost in the shadowy recesses of the clubs upper balcony, he was able to observe unseen, his watchful eye unwavering, his promise resolute.
Below him the throng shifted, allowing him a glimpse of spiked blonde hair. Greg moved with the music, unaware of the Texan's presence, his eyes closed as he lost himself in the beat. Bodies pressed against him, touched him, but he paid them little attention, just content in his own world as he mouthed the words along to a familiar song. Nick allowed himself a soft chuckle as he watched his friend, his fingers absently stroking at the condensation still pearled on his beer bottle. Sometimes he wished he could be as free as Greg was, able to let everything go and just be at peace. He wondered, and not for the first time, how someone that had seen so much ugliness could remain so perfectly innocent.
Around him the beat of the music shifted, slowing and booming, and the crowd slowed down with it. They moved as if part of the same being, soft lights flashing and glinting off chains and studs and glitter. Nick licked his lips and leaned forward, a part of him aching to join in, shaking his head at how terribly out of place he would be. It was something that he hadn't considered when he had followed Greg into the dark club, but it now seemed embarrassingly obvious.
Down on the floor Greg was still dancing, his eyes closed as he swayed to the music. Behind him another figure danced, moving closer and closer with each sensual beat. Nick frowned again as the man pressed against Greg, sliding his hands down Greg's hips and thighs and moulding their bodies together. At first Greg didn't react, happy with his own space and rhythm, but the man persisted until Greg finally gave up and turned around to face him. Nick narrowed his eyes, watching for the rejection he thought would surely happen. But then Greg was sliding his arms around the man's broad shoulders, allowing him to run his hands over his body as Greg swayed against him.
Nick sat back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. He looked around, gazing from his beer bottle to the empty chairs sitting across from him, and then along the balcony's edge where a few people were standing and leaning against the railing, talking quietly and watching the action below. Sighing he allowed himself to look down again, a sense of uneasiness creeping over him as he watched his friend. Greg and the man were now pressed against each other, oblivious to the other dancers around them as they kissed. Nick cleared his throat and ran a hand through his hair, feeling a guilty flush crawl up his neck as he continued to watch his friend.
Breaking the kiss, Nick saw the man lean down and whisper something in Greg's ear, to which he received an enthusiastic nod. And then they were moving, the man gripping Greg's wrist and pulling him through the crowd and towards the back of the club.
Greg moaned loudly as he was pushed up against a hard brick wall, responding eagerly to the intense kisses of the man pressed against him, his muscular body pinning Greg roughly in place. Greg gripped handfuls of the man's shirt, grinding against him and pulling him closer, gasping and panting against his warm lips. He moaned again as he felt fingers twist into his hair, gripping as hot, opened mouthed kisses were trailed down his neck. He yelped softly as the hand in his hair tightened a little too painfully, and was relieved when he felt the hand relax, his attention drawn back to the fingers sliding down his body to palm his throbbing erection through his tight jeans.
"Oh god..." He whispered, throwing his head back as the man smiled, gripping his hair again and banging Greg's skull back into the rough brick behind him.
"You like that?" The man breathed into his ear as Greg cried out, his eyes watering at the sudden, unexpected pain. He pushed at the hard chest pressed against his, mumbling softly, his heart beginning to hammer in his chest as the man shoved him harder against the wall and began fumbling with his belt buckle.
"No, stop." Greg demanded, his voice shaking as he was ignored again. He started to struggle but was held tightly in place, the hands on his body rough and unforgiving, yanking his jeans open and turning him around.
"No please, I don't want this." Greg begged, lashing back with his fists as the man pushed him firmly into the wall, his breath tickling the side of Greg's neck as he laughed.
"That's not what you were saying just now." The man stated, using his superior strength to slam Greg into the wall again.
"Get the fuck away from him." Said a voice behind them.
Stilling his hurried movements, the man growled in frustration but didn't let go of Greg, holding him in place firmly as he turned to snarl at the cause of the interruption.
"This doesn't concern you."
"I said get away from him." Recognising the hidden threat in the newcomer's words the man backed off, shaking his head as he roughly pushed away from Greg. Closing his eyes, Greg rested his forehead against the cool brick and took a few deep breaths, trying to calm his thumping heart. Slowly he reached down and fastened his jeans, his fingers scraped and bloody.
Behind him his attacker snorted, facing out and raising his arms in a challenge.
"Wasn't worth the trouble anyway." This received a growl in response as the two men advanced on each other, before Greg reached out and grabbed a handful of warm leather jacket.
"Leave it, Nick." Nick turned to face him, blinking as Greg glared back at him. Greg shook his head as his attacker turned and began to walk away, shouting back at them as he went.
"You're boyfriend's a fucking tease, cowboy." Nick flared at this but Greg held on tighter, panting softly as Nick struggled with him until the other man was out of sight.
"You're just gonna let him get away with it?" Nick whirled on him, his voice echoing as he stared down the darkened alley. Greg rolled his eyes, brushing himself down before walking away in the opposite direction, leaving Nick to stride angrily after him.
"Greg, what the hell? He almost..."
"Just leave it" Greg shouted, shoving his hands into his pockets and walking as fast as he could away from his friend, making it to the road in front of the club before Nick caught him and grabbed his arm, spinning him around.
"No way. Something like that doesn't just happen. What's wrong with you?" Greg's head snapped up at Nick's question, his eyes flashing with something Nick couldn't decipher before he glared again and yanked out of Nick's grasp.
"Why are you even here, Nick?"
"I..." Nick faltered, grasping for a lie before Greg figured out the reason behind his sudden appearance. But he wasn't quick enough and Greg saw right through him, just like he always did. He scoffed, stepping backwards and away from Nick even as the Texan tried to reach out to him again.
"Always the fucking hero." He said quietly, holding Nick's gaze with his own before glancing down and closing his eyes. "I don't need you to rescue me."
Nick watched helplessly as Greg turned and walked away from him.
***Kneeling by the body, Greg lifted his camera to his eye and paused, sighing softly and shaking his head before snapping the picture. The night was warm and a soft breeze picked up around him, lifting his hair and fluttering the yellow shirt of the girl on the ground at his feet. Biting his bottom lip he took another picture before standing up, letting the coroner move in close to the body and turn it over.
"She's just coming out of rigor." David explained, frowning and pushing his glasses up on his nose. "I'd say she's been dead just less than 24 hours." Greg nodded slowly, casting his eyes around the nearby ground for anything else significant, his camera at the ready.
A few feet away, down by the lapping waters of Lake Mead, Nick was bending over to retrieve a piece of material floating in the gentle current. Grasping the sodden object he held it up, letting the water stream off it and back into the lake. He frowned as Greg came to stand next to him, his hands in his pockets and his camera around his neck.
"Why bother dressing her and leaving her underwear off?"
"If they even belong to the vic" Greg stated, casting his eyes around at their sparse surroundings. "This is a popular place..."
"We'll have the Doc run an SAE test back at the lab"
Turning away Nick grabbed a plastic bag from his kit and carefully placed the lace underwear inside, sealing it carefully to stop it from dripping. David's voice floated over to them.
"This body's been dumped. She wasn't killed here." He gestured for the two CSI's, who knelt down beside him and pointed to some wounds on the young girl's stomach and chest. "She's been stabbed at least twice, but there's no blood."
"So she was killed somewhere and bled out and then dumped out here, all in the last 24 hours..." Greg muttered, watching as Nick moved off towards the water again.
Over the next couple of hours they worked quietly and diligently, ensuring no rock was left unturned in the area around the young girl's final resting place. As the sun began to rise over the lake, painting the sky in brilliant amber hues, the two CSI's gathered up their kits and collected evidence and made their way back to their car.
Pulling his tired body into the passenger seat, Greg fastened his seat-belt and stared out of the window as Nick climbed in beside him and started the engine, backing out onto the road that would lead them back to the hustle of Las Vegas.
"Look, I'm sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable last night, G." Nick spoke up after a while, his gaze focused intently on the road in front of him. Greg turned to watch him, studying his face for a moment before giving up and looking down at his lap.
"Are you sure?" Nick asked, his fingers drumming uneasily on the top of the steering wheel. "Coz you know I'm cool with..."
"Yeah, I know."
"Ok then..." Nick trailed off, feeling the silence descend on them like a shroud. It continued all the way back into town, the lights of the strip illuminating the inside of the car, but doing little to alleviate the tension. Nick was relieved when the crime lab finally revealed itself at the end of the street, and he unconsciously sped up to reach it.
Turning into an empty space, Nick killed the engine and sat back, closing his eyes and sighing softly. Beside him he heard shifting as Greg clicked open the door and climbed out of the Denali. He waited for the door to slam, opening his eyes when it never came to see Greg standing with his hand on the frame, watching him quietly.
"What for?" Nick asked, gazing into his friends eyes and catching something, a momentary flash that had him reaching out towards him.
"For being there." Greg replied quietly, before slamming the door and leaving Nick alone once again.
***Greg stared at the collection of photographs laid out on the table in front of him. He picked up one and peered at it before putting it down and picking up another. He did this several times before a warm hand on his shoulder made him jump.
"Careful, it's pretty full." Nick warned as Greg smiled gratefully and extracted the steaming cup of coffee from Nick's careful grip. He paused for a moment, inhaling the rich flavour before taking a small sip and sighing.
"You're too good to me." He whispered, his fingers wrapped around the mug. Nick cleared his throat and picked up a photo, frowning intently at it.
"So, what do we know?"
"Fuck all." Greg huffed. Nick threw him a look before placing his cup down and leaning over the table at Greg.
"Well, let's go through the fuck all again." Opposite him, Greg leaned forward as well, his eyes fixed on Nick's.
"Ok professor. We have the body of a young girl, identified through missing persons as Sandy Kershaw, a high school senior who was last seen leaving school yesterday afternoon. The body showed signs of sexual assault, and a struggle, and COD was exsanguination due to multiple stab wounds to the chest..." Nick nodded and gestured for Greg to continue.
"As there was no blood found on the scene it is likely that she was killed at another location and then dumped at the lake post-mortem," Greg paused, glancing around at the photographs before moving one in between himself and Nick. They both stared down at it, frowning. "But why go to all the trouble of redressing her, and leave off her underwear?"
"Maybe he wanted a souvenir?"
"Then why leave it at the scene?"
Nick shook his head, frowning. "We've got DNA from semen found by the SAE kit, but no hits in CODIS. We've got stab wounds that could have been made by any number of blades. There's no fibres, no prints...no nothing."
"There's gotta be something." Greg stated, standing up and gazing over the photos again. "Who ever did this made sure they left no evidence, so this was planned attack."
"But the stab wounds indicate closeness, a crime of passion."
"Is passion always unplanned?" Greg asked, gazing up into Nick's eyes. Nick felt his cheeks heat up in an unexpected blush and he stammered under his friends piercing gaze.
"Um...we should investigate anyone who might have a grudge against the vic. Old boyfriends perhaps, jealous lovers."
"All right, I'm on it."
Hurrying down the halls of the crime lab, Greg turned a corner and bumped right into Catherine, who yelped and grabbed him by the elbows.
"Jesus Greg, slow down." She scolded, shaking her head as she smoothed her shirt down. Greg smiled sheepishly as he patted her gently on the shoulder.
"Sorry Catherine. You seen Nick?"
"Break room." She nodded with a small smirk as Greg thanked her and jogged off to track down his friend. Finding him just where Catherine had said, pouring himself more coffee and gazing intently at one of their glossy crime scene photographs, Greg strode up to him.
"Nick!" Looking up, his lips hovering above his mug, Nick stared at Greg.
"What do you have, Greggo?"
Taking hold of Nick's wrist, Greg carefully guided him back out of the room and down the corridor as Nick grumbled and tried to steady his coffee. Pulling him into the A/V lab, Greg sat down in front of one of the many computers as Nick gazed over his shoulder.
"This is Sandy's blog, off her MySpace page." Greg explained excitedly. Nick smirked down at him, placing a hand on his shoulder and leaning closer to the screen. After a slight hesitation Greg continued.
"According to this, she had a big fight with her boyfriend after he got a little too heavy with her in the backseat of his car," Greg said, wiggling his eyebrows. Nick shot him a look and he continued. "From the sound of it, that wasn't the first time he'd gotten rough with her."
"Chris Parker. He lives with his parents in Summerlin."
"All right. Let's pay him a little visit."
Nick sighed as he waved to Brass and watched as the detective climbed into his car and drove away. Squinting against the early morning sun, Nick stifled a yawn and ran his fingers through his hair. Beside him Greg shrugged and shoved his hands into his pockets.
"Just because he has an alibi, doesn't mean he didn't do it." He offered as they reached Nick's Denali and climbed inside. Nick made a face as he started the engine and pulled out onto the street, which was already filling up with morning commuters.
"No, but it makes it a hell of lot less likely."
The two men were silent for a while as Nick drove and Greg stared out of the window at the passing buildings, watching as people hurried along the sidewalk beside them. Before he'd become a CSI, Greg had always enjoyed people watching. He'd amuse himself studying people and inventing creative back-stories and soap-opera style scenarios for them in his head. These days however, he found it hard to look at them without picturing their demise, something which he found incredibly disturbing. Swallowing thickly, Greg turned away and focused instead on Nick, watching his friend out the corner of his eye all the way back to the lab.
As they reached their destination, Nick let out a frustrated groan.
"I hate this. Nine hours into a case and we've got nothing." He moaned, shaking his head as he manoeuvred the car into an empty space.
"We've got stuff, we just can't match it to anything yet." Greg stated, unbuckling his belt and yanking the door open as Nick did the same, the two of them meeting in front of the vehicle. "But we will."
Nick nodded and smiled at him, holding his gaze for a few moments.
"Yeah, you're right."
"Nick. Greg." A voice startled them and they stepped apart, Greg taking a deep breath and Nick clearing his throat and scratching the back of his neck as Grissom hurried up to them, a small slip of paper clutched in his hand.
"You've got a 419 found at..."
"Gris, we're already on a case, we can't take another." Nick interrupted, shaking his head. Grissom waited patiently for Nick to finish before holding the paper out to him.
"You've got a 419 found at Lake Mead. A young girl with multiple stab wounds to the chest. It looks like we may be dealing with a serial killer."
***The sound of her heels clicking against the sidewalk echoed off the buildings around her as she neared her apartment building. She paused, reaching into her bag for her key, rummaging around her phone, wallet and numerous items before grasping the cool metal with relief.
"Excuse me, Miss?" Startled, the young girl glanced up, almost dropping her bag as she looked in the direction of the hesitant voice. A man was standing off to her right in the apartment's small private car park, a dark baseball cap pulled down over his eyes.
"Could you possibly help me for a minute?" He asked, his voice soft and pleading. Lifting his arm, the girl could see it was encased in thick plaster. "I just need to move this box into my car, but I just can't manage it by myself." He shrugged apologetically.
Glancing around her, the girl sighed and made her way over to him, repositioning her bag more securely on her shoulder.
"Just this box?" She enquired, wanting more than anything to be in her apartment and having a long, hot bath. The man nodded, scratching the back of his head uneasily.
"Yes, thank you. I'm sorry to have troubled you but I really need to get it done and I couldn't find anyone else."
Relenting at the man's apologetic tone, the girl bent down and picked up the box, carrying it carefully over to a dark blue car, the trunk already opened and ready.
"Just in here?" The girl asked, placing the box down and turning around when she received no reply from the man.
She was caught of guard by a sudden hand against her mouth, holding a strange smelling cloth in place. She gagged and struggled but the man held on, cradling her gently until she dropped, unconscious, into his waiting arms.
Jumping out of the car, Greg grabbed his camera and their field kits as Nick approached one of the police officers already on the scene. Greg could hear snippets of their conversation as he looked around at their surroundings.
Young girl...no ID...stab wounds to the chest...signs of a struggle...
Greg shook his head in resignation as he stepped closer to the body, kneeling down beside it and lifting his camera. He snapped a picture before peering closely as Nick stepped up beside him.
"This body's older than the last one." Nick nodded, using Greg's shoulder to balance as he squatted down next to him.
"A fishing boat tour found it this morning, called it in." He stated, his hand still warm and heavy on Greg's shoulder. "We'll be able to get TOD when Super-Dave gets here."
"You think this body's related to the other one?"
Nick shrugged, sniffing as he leaning forward for a closer look. "Same MO."
"Apart from the fact that she was dumped in the lake this time."
Nick nodded but said nothing, his fingers unconsciously smoothing over Greg's shoulder as he peered over the body.
Greg snapped a few more pictures before standing up quickly, knocking Nick suddenly off balance. Nick shot him a look as he steadied himself on the ground and began to study the body more closely. Sighing, Greg stepped away and over to the shore of the lake.
In front of him a steep rocky ledge rose out of the water, crumbling away as it reached further in land. Stripes of different colours ran through the rock, reminding Greg of a landscape from an obscure Sci-Fi movie. Treading carefully, Greg moved closer to the cliff face, frowning as he caught sight of a piece of material fluttering near the waters edge. Placing one hand on the rock-face, Greg leaned out towards it.
He frowned, straining forward, his fingers just out of reach of his quarry. Looking down he adjusted his stance before leaning forward again, all his weight resting on the hand against the cliff. Somewhere behind he heard Nick call out to him but he ignored it, all his concentration focused on the scrap of lace blowing in the breeze just inches from his outstretched fingers.
Without warning, Greg's foot suddenly slipped from underneath him and he slammed forward, his forehead connecting with a solid, jutting piece of rock. And then he was falling, a soft yelp smothered as he hit the cold water of the lake.
Still kneeling by the body, Nick watched as Greg fell forward with a loud splash. The he was up and running, sprinting across the uneven rock towards his friend, reaching him and grabbing the back of his CSI vest to drag him out of the water, falling backwards with him onto the smooth, damp ground.
Greg spluttered, coughing water from his lungs, a trail of crimson slowly leaking from a cut on his forehead. Nick gripped him, panting, as Greg held up a dripping piece of cloth.
"Grissom was right." He wheezed with a weary nod, his head resting back against Nick's shoulder. Unable to form words, Nick tightened his hold on the younger man's waist and let out a breath he hadn't known he was holding.
Swinging the Denali into a spare space in front of the large hospital building, Nick cut the engine and hopped out, weaving his way through a few cars and approaching the main entrance. He stopped when he saw Greg, sitting on the top step, his arms folded over his knees, gazing up at him.
Nodding curtly, Nick waited while Greg pushed himself to his feet and brushed off his jeans.
"You get everything back to the lab?" The young blonde asked, jogging to catch up with his friend who was moving swiftly back towards his vehicle.
"Yeah. It's being analysed as we speak."
Greg nodded, biting his bottom lip.
"I'm sorry, Nick." He offered, his gaze fixed on the Texan's broad, tense shoulders. He desperately wanted Nick to turn around and look at him, and reached out to him when he didn't.
"It's barely a scratch. I'm fine." Greg stated, pointing to his forehead where three white butterfly stitches held together a small gash above his eyebrow. Nick turned to him and shook his head.
"You need to be more careful."
"I said I was sorry," Greg said as Nick took a step towards him, making him take an involuntary step back and bump into the solid hulk of the car behind him. "Why are you making such a big deal out of this?"
"Greg, I can't..." Nick started, but stopped suddenly, his piercing gaze holding Greg's own and making his legs feel suddenly weak.
"Can't what, Nick?" Greg asked, his voice soft and a little shaky. He watched as Nick took a deep breath, anger flashing in his normally soft, chocolate eyes.
"I can't always be there to protect you."
"I don't need protecting"
"No? What about the other night? If I hadn't come along who knows what might have happened"
"I..." Greg tried but Nick cut him off.
"And don't try to make excuses because I don't wanna hear them." He yelled in the younger man's face.
"You can't save me, Nick. I'm not Warrick!"
Nick hesitated for a second, rendered speechless at the sound of his best friends name shouted so accusingly. Then he grabbed Greg by the arms and shoved him hard against the car, making the blonde yelp in surprise and pain. Nick glared into his eyes, his fingers digging into Greg's soft skin.
Panting harshly Greg held his gaze, shaking until he felt Nick begin to relax, tension still rippling through his body. Instinctively, Greg's hands came up to rest on Nick's hips as the older man sighed and shook his head.
"I couldn't save him either, could I?"
For once, Greg couldn't think of anything to say.
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