Fandom: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Characters: Greg, Sara and Nick friendship. Nick and Greg pre-slash.
Warning: Contains references to sexual abuse and rape. Please stay safe when reading this fic.
Summary: Sara and Nick are forced to look at their pasts as they investigate an assault on a child. Started life as a post-ep for 6X05: Gum Drops.
As Sara waited outside Dr. McGregor’s office for LVPD to finish handcuffing him and reading him Miranda, she was conscious of feeling well-rested for the first time since she and Nick had been paged at the diner.
Nick’s tales of his nieces and nephews had been diverting and their walk along one of the more demanding desert trails had left her with pleasurably aching muscles, as well as tired enough to fall asleep as soon as she climbed into bed.
The bounce in her step had lasted all the way through her examination of the first two cupboards in the glossy storage unit that stretched all down one wall of McGregor’s large minimalist office; through the photographing and searching of his neatly serried rows of academic papers and thick psychology textbooks.
The third cupboard held something so horrific that it took Sara a moment to realise what it meant; what the collection of jumbled objects signified. Even as she pulled her camera to her face, repeated the familiar smooth action that she had performed thousands of times, she felt something inside her retreat far away from the focus of her attention.
She clicked the shutter. Once. Twice. Three times.
She cleared her throat. Looked around for Nick, who was swabbing God only knows what from the long, chic grey sofa that was propped against one wall.
“Nick?” Her voice was strangled. He looked up, questioningly. “I think you should see this.”
He snapped the top on the IntegriSwab that he held in his hand, and labelled it. Stood up and crossed the room. Looked into the cupboard.
“Is that a fridge? What’s in those boxes?” His face was wrinkled in confusion. Sara watched as it cleared, feeling like she was looking at Nick’s familiar face through a thick glass window.
“Sweet fucking Christ.” If she hadn’t been feeling so out of it then Nick’s unusually baroque swearing would have made Sara wince.
Nick looked at Sara, traces of horror in his eyes. “I think we need to get some specialist DNA advice on this. What do you think?”
Sara nodded and snapped her phone out of her tac vest. “I’ll call Grissom.”
Nick stood in the cool, silent office as she explained to their supervisor and watched the bead of sweat slide down Sara’s forehead. He wondered if Grissom could hear the tension in her voice. Sometimes this job was just too much for anybody.
Jim Brass didn’t see many perps like William McGregor. It wasn’t what he had done that set him apart from the majority of the criminals that sat in the crime lab interrogation room but what he was.
The man who sat opposite him in the chair was middle-aged, neatly dressed in charcoal pants and a charcoal turtleneck and wore glasses with black frames. His short greying brown hair was tidy; his haircut expensive but unexceptional. He could have been Gregory David except that his detachment wasn’t a result of Asperger syndrome but the thing that a man more religious than Brass might have described as evil.
“Dr William McGregor?” It was a half-question.
“Interesting accent you have there, Detective.” McGregor sounded bored. “Not from around here?” Brass felt the first spike of adrenaline course through him as McGregor’s eyes scanned his face, probing for weakness. Game on.
As Greg sped up in the elevator to Dr. McGregor’s tenth floor office, he felt a familiar blend of anticipation and fear. Technical consults at crime scenes were interesting but there was a high chance of seeing something that he would rather not have seen. Grissom had mentioned some kind of refrigeration problem but he wasn’t entirely clear on what he was walking into.
The elevator pinged and Greg walked through the open door in the direction of the crime scene tape. Sara and Nick were on the other side: Nick was waving the ALS over the carpet around the large dark wood desk and Sara was paging through a filing cabinet full of patient files.
“Guys?” Greg said. “What’s up?”
“You look good in a tac vest.” Sara was smiling, but Greg could feel a strange kind of tension in the air.
Nick put the ALS down and stood up, stretching his back out. “Sara, I could do with a break and I bet you could. Do you want to run down and get us coffee from the Starbucks on floor three while I consult with Greg on our transportation options?”
Sara shot Nick a grateful smile and vanished in the direction of the elevator.
Greg raised one eyebrow at Nick. “Since when is Sara your gopher?”
The warmth had faded from Nick’s face. “I think she’s about to snap.”
Greg knit his brows. “What is it that has her so uptight?”
Nick swung open the cupboard door. “This.”
“I see that you have recently started acting as an expert witness?”
McGregor was unblinking. “Yes.”
“Care to expand on that?”
“You don’t think it’s ironic that a psychiatrist who testifies that children make up stories of child abuse is now being accused of sexually assaulting a child?” Brass’s face was perfectly blank, his words without malice or sting.
McGregor steepled his fingers, like a professor considering a knotty logic problem. “Ironic, certainly. Something I care to expand upon; no.”
“What are those?” Greg was kneeling in front of the fridge, looking through the glass door at the stacked plastic boxes inside. Each was labelled, and the labels suggested that each of the contents related to a specific period of a few months.
“You’re probably used to seeing them in smaller numbers.”
Greg tilted his head and opened the fridge door to get a look through the lid of a box. Cold air rushed out and he realised why: the temperature gauge inside the fridge read 3 degrees centigrade.
Greg’s jaw fell open. “Are these used condoms?” He scanned the fridge. There must have been thousands of them, dating back years if the boxes’ labels were to be believed.
“Trophies.” Nick’s lip was curled. “I also spotted some latex gloves in a couple of the boxes.”
Greg’s stomach flipped over and he looked up at Nick. “This guy was a children’s psychiatrist, right?”
Nick nodded, not trusting his voice.
Greg slid the box back into place and stood up, brushing off his knees. He took off his gloves.
His face was hard, all business. “OK, presuming that the fridge has always been at 4 degrees centigrade or lower, then the DNA won’t have degraded because of temperature. However, the presence of moisture is still a problem, even factoring in that micro-organisms may not have flourished at that temperature, and the fact that the samples have been sealed in plastic boxes is not a good thing.”
Nick nodded again.
“There’s also the issue,“ Greg continued. “Of blood, because as you know hemoglobin inhibits PCR. I’m guessing that along with vaginal epithelials we’ll also find blood, given the age of the victims.”
Nick’s face gave away nothing.
Greg gestured towards the fridge. “However, the immediate transportation issue is clear. We need to keep the temperature down on these samples. I would suggest that we put each box in a coolbox and take them back to the lab like that. As we don’t really know what’s in each box we’ll risk losing the samples completely if we unpack them and separate them here.”
He shrugged his shoulders. “Of course, whatever we do it’s going to be fiddly to isolate appropriate samples, particularly as we don’t have reference samples.”
“I haven’t spoken to Brass yet,” Nick said. “But what he’ll probably want to do is start visiting the parents of the patients in the files. Of course, there’s so many of them that there may be some other protocol to follow.” He shook his head. “We need to work out if it was just girls or if it was boys too.”
Greg jerked his gaze from the fridge. “Hey,” he said gently. “Are you ok?”
“Please,” Nick said thickly, and stopped. He shook his head, knuckles pressed so hard into his mouth that his skin was turning white.
Greg swept a hand down Nick’s back from his neck to his shoulder blades; left his hand there. Nick couldn’t feel the warmth through his tac vest but he could feel the heat coming off the rest of Greg’s body.
Nick took his fist away from his mouth. “Stop looking at me like that.” His voice was thick with pain.
“Like what?” Greg was confused.
“Like you care.”
Greg knit his brows. “But I do care. You’re my friend.”
Nick stepped away from Greg, leaving Greg’s hand hovering awkwardly in mid-air. “This is work. I appreciate the concern but I just need to deal with this as work and then everything else as everything else.”
Greg’s face was a picture of confusion. “OK.”
Nick sighed. “Can we talk about this later?”
Brass was trying to keep the smile from his face as he went back into the interrogation room to advise Dr. McGregor that he had a warrant for the DNA sample that would convict him of Annabeth David’s rape. Warrick was hot on his heels brandishing an IntegriSwab.
Not only had the fridge of horrors been immensely persuasive to the judge who had been approached for the warrant, but a visibly shaken Archie had confirmed that Dr. McGregor’s computer had contained videos of the sessions with his patients. He had recorded more than their conversations.
With the fridge's contents back in the lab, Grissom had organised a kind of production line of CSIs to handle the first stage of processing all of the samples.
As she stood at a bench between Warwick and Catherine, Sara felt the same numbness return that she had felt in McGregor’s office. She cut, swabbed, and mounted slides in a fog of separation; hands and arms moving mechanically.
She remembered reading an article once about an international taskforce of forensic anthropologists and technicians who were working in the Balkans to identify individual victims from remains in a mass grave. The journalist had been basically working towards the idea of how can you bear it?, and one of the scientists had said that everyone worked without acknowledging the horror of what the perpetrators had done, that the distancing was a necessary part of coping. The scientist had described what happened one day when one of the anthropologists had expressed a tiny bit of anger towards the perpetrators and that punctured everyone’s coping mechanism, because suddenly the bones on every surface of their lab had a context of pain and misery.
Sara could relate. Snipping and swabbing and mounting were fine. Saliva and semen and blood and epithelials were fine. Thinking about the where and the how of the saliva and semen and blood and epithelials. Not fine at all.
As she carried through a batch of samples to the DNA lab, Sara was lucky not to notice the concern in Greg’s brown eyes, or to spot the way that he shifted his body to avoid even the cuff of his jacket brushing against her hand. If she’d seen she would have lost it; face cracking like the fragile shell of dissociation that was keeping her from feeling too much of any of this.
They all left at the end of shift. When it came to brute processing of samples, day shift were more than capable of picking up mid-investigation and all of them knew tomorrow’s shift would be spent the same way as today’s.
Sara had gone before Nick realised it, and before he finished changing his shirt and futzing in his locker he and Greg were the only ones left.
“Beer?” Greg asked, laconically.
Nick nodded. “Beer.”
To Nick’s surprise Greg’s Jetta didn’t head in the direction of any local bars. As he followed in his Denali Nick tried to work out where Greg was going. Realisation had only just dawned when Greg pulled up in front of an apartment building.
This is one strange week¸ Nick thought. Hiking with Sara and now my first visit to Greg’s apartment.
As he stood in Greg’s living room, Nick felt surprisingly at home. Greg’s apartment was furnished in Scandinavian-looking light woods and was immaculately tidy. There were the expected rows of forensics journals and books but also shelves of fiction and books on history, current affairs and politics. There were hundreds of records surrounding a serious looking hi-fi system and a flat-screen TV in the midst of a half-wall of DVDs. Greg, in short, liked stuff.
Nick was still browsing through Greg’s bookshelves when Greg came back from the kitchen with two cold beers. He had trailed a finger along a section on psychology and his eye fell on a book called The Male Survivor: The Impact of Sexual Abuse. He pulled his hand away, envious that Greg’s was out here on the bookshelf while Nick’s copy was buried in a closet.
Greg handed him a beer without comment and gestured towards the navy sofa. Nick sat down on its edge and looked at the photos in frames on the coffee table in front of him. There were some family photos but also one photomontage of Greg and some guy that made Nick’s heart thump almost painfully.
Nick remembered Greg going to Paris but hadn’t known he would be at the Eiffel Tower with some guy’s hand resting comfortably on his hip. He’d remembered Greg flying home for Christmas but hadn’t been aware that he would be sitting on his parents’ sofa in pyjama pants with his legs tangled up with the same guy.
Greg followed his gaze. “Brian,” he said, grinning. “It wasn’t meant to be forever but we did have a great couple of years.”
Nick looked at Greg and the expression on his face made Greg roll his eyes. “Please tell me you didn’t think I was straight.”
Nick felt seven kinds of stupid and was aware that his face was flushing a bright hot red.
Greg leaned forward and put his bottle on the coffee table. “Oh, God. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to embarrass you.” He looked at Nick questioningly. “We can discuss something more interesting than my sex life.”
Nick looked down at the bottle in his hands, frowning. “That stuff isn’t easy for me to talk about,” he said, eventually.
“Gay sex?” Greg asked, slight tension creeping in to his voice.
“Exactly,” Nick said.
“Dude, I know you’re from Texas but I thought you’d been in Vegas long enough to shake the Southern Baptist off you.” Greg looked disappointed.
Nick stared at him in confusion. “That’s not it.” He clenched his eyes shut and slapped his forehead with the palm of his hand. Why can I not explain anything right, today?
“Nick?” Greg’s voice was concerned. Nick felt the sofa shift and the heat of Greg’s approaching body; of Greg’s hand on his arm.
Nick kept his eyes closed. “My father would never speak to me again if he knew what I was.”
Greg slid his arm across Nick’s shoulders and Nick was so glad of the warmth and the weight. He felt cold like he’d never felt before, with all of these previously unsaid words out there in the universe shining with truth.
“He used to take me and my brothers on these camping trips while my sisters stayed home with their sewing notions.”
“We’d meet up with other fathers and sons and, as we got older, the humor got bluer and the jokes about ‘fags’ and ‘fairies’ started. My father would never use the word ‘cocksucker’ but his friends sure did. It wasn’t just jokes, either. They would talk about how ‘fags’ were taking over the world and soon there would be no way for a decent person to keep them from polluting our schools and churches.”
Nick’s breath hitched.
“For a long time I thought that what my babysitter did made me this way. But I couldn’t tell them that either. Camping trips taught me that real boys liked it when pretty girls had loose morals.” Nick’s voice was bitter.
“How old were you?” Greg asked, arm tightening around Nick’s shoulder.
“When I realised I was gay or my babysitter first abused me?” It was unexpectedly easy to have this conversation with his eyes firmly shut; without having to look at Greg’s face.
“Both. Either.” First abused me? thought Greg. Jesus H Christ.
“I guess I realised I was gay when I went to David Lowenstein’s house after football practice and I saw his big brother Sammy for the first time. There was a bolt of heat straight to my groin and I knew that I liked him in the same way that other people liked girls. I was 13.”
Nick paused for a long moment and Greg slid his hand through Nick’s and squeezed gently.
“The other thing. It happened for the first time when I was nine, but after a year or so the babysitter got her boyfriend involved and it kicked up a notch. It ended when I was 13 and my Momma decided I didn't need a sitter anymore.”
“I’m sorry, Nick.” Greg’s voice was full of emotion.
Nick shrugged. “Not your fault, man. None of it.”
Greg hesitated. “I’ve never seen you at any of the clubs.”
“I’ve never been to any of the clubs.” Nick stood up abruptly, shaking Greg’s arm off and peeling his hand away from Greg’s. “Where’s your bathroom, man?” He didn’t make eye contact.
Greg pointed and Nick headed towards the bathroom.
Greg propped his head in his hands and ran his fingers through his hair. This is too much, too soon, he told himself. Nick is a more private person than you’re making allowances for.
Nick came out of the bathroom having splashed water on his face. He sat on the edge of the sofa again and picked up his beer bottle. He looked away from Greg.
Greg took a swallow from his own beer. “I feel like I’ve asked you to talk about things you don’t really want to discuss.”
Nick looked at him and Greg could see the shame in his eyes. “It’s a rule that I’ve had for a long time. Not to tell my coworkers things that are private. Keep some separation between work and life.”
“That works better if you don’t work night-shift, but I understand that workplace friendships can get messy.”
“Catherine knows about the babysitter. So does Sara, kind of. Warrick strongly suspects, but he’s not as pushy as you.” Nick half-smiled. “I just feel my secrets are out in the street for everyone to look at.”
Greg nodded. “I get that, but does it matter if everyone knows? Do you think you have something to be ashamed of?”
Nick bit his lip. “No, but I don’t want people to treat me like they treat Sara.”
“I think that people treat Sara as they do because she’s not coping. We both know she hasn’t dealt with whatever it is in her past. You’re a whole other story.”
Nick shrugged. “I feel like I have dealt with the babysitter but then there’s the gay thing.”
“What about the gay thing?”
Nick sighed. “Do you mind if we discuss this another time? Sara and I are meeting tomorrow to talk about stuff and this has been a hellacious day.”
Greg reached across and took Nick’s hand. “Do you have any idea what an awesome guy you are?”
Nick looked at their fingers twined together. “I’m just being a friend, Greggo.”
“You’re spending your day off wading about in a past that wasn’t a whole lot of fun to help a coworker who is hanging on by her fingernails. Don’t you deserve the same?