"Ninth Card" (Grissom/OMC, 7/?, PG)Posted by snow_white on 2009.09.20 at 00:08
Big thank you’s go to all of you who are still enjoying this! If you’re new here *g*, this story is a sequel to my Nick/Greg fic "Kjaere"; a good friend felt that one of the OCs from that tale deserved a happy ending, and this is my attempt at delivering one.
Title – Ninth Card
Author(s) - black_dahlia63 and elmyraemilie
Characters – Gil Grissom, OMC
Rating – PG through NC17, specific rating will be given for each chapter.
Warnings – Extensive use of bad language, eventual smut, eventual Daddy!kink, angst throughout. That about covers it.
Disclaimer – the OMC is all mine, Gil and his colleagues belong to their creators. Sadly.
AN: Many thanks to bflyw for the wonderful banner...and allow me to introduce my guest author elmyraemilie, who did the tarot reading that features in this chapter. Thanks, sweetie!
Geneva, Florida - June 24th, 6.45 a.m
The early morning sun streaming through the skylight of the tree house had woken him, and he’d come down to sit on the deck outside the main house; he was barefoot, wearing nothing but the boxer shorts he’d slept in – but hell, he was miles from anywhere, who was going to see him?
He’d been here for the best part of a week, and a great deal of this time had been spent sleeping. Once in a while he’d come down to the main house, where he would have something to eat before retreating back to bed – and his fingers would itch to make a call to the shop, but Jonah had told him he wasn’t allowed to. “You’re dead on your feet,” the Cajun had told Luke bluntly when he’d turned up at the shop four days previously. “If anything goes wrong I’ll call you, but you stay off that damn phone – you hear me?” and Luke had been so exhausted – not only physically, but emotionally – that he hadn’t put up a fight.
After five days, though, he was beginning to pull himself back together. Physically, at least; emotionally was another thing altogether.
“Hey, you,” he said when a familiar shape appeared in his field of vision. “How you doing today?” and he reached out to scratch a shaggy head of grey and white hair. “Couldn’t sleep either, huh?” he went on, and there was the thump-thump of a tail wagging against the weathered boards of the deck.
Luke had acquired Wolf not long after he’d bought the cabin. Mark, the guy who took care of the place for him, had come across the Tibetan mastiff chained to a tree in the forest opposite the property, beaten and starving – and after he’d spent weeks nursing it back to health, the cabin had a guard dog. Wolf never came indoors, and there would be days at a time – especially when there were a lot of guests – when he wasn’t seen at all, because Luke and Mark were the only people he seemed to trust.
“You mind if I light up?” Luke asked. “Didn’t think so,” and he reached for the half-empty pack of Marlboros he’d brought out of the tree house. Shaking one of them into his palm, he placed it between his lips and lit it; as he did so, the memory of a quietly-voiced I’d rather you didn’t, if you don’t mind invaded his thoughts, and he sighed as he exhaled a thin stream of smoke up at the sky.
“I shouldn’t have ever gone out to Vegas to help them move, you know,” he said. “That’s where I went wrong - I wouldn’t have met him if I’d stayed out of the way,” and he took another drag on his cigarette. “Wouldn’t have had all the shit that happened last weekend,” he went on. “Wouldn’t have had someone trying to mind my business for me,” and he stared down at the deck as his mind went over that night again.
It’s almost four in the morning, and although he’s exhausted he can’t make himself go to bed. He’s showered beneath near-scalding water, but he doesn’t really feel any cleaner – and the message he found on his cell when he got home hasn’t helped either.
“Luke, will you call me when you get home?”
And he doesn’t have to do it, he knows he doesn’t – this is a guy he’s met three times, they’re nothing to each other – but it nags at him all the same. He walks out onto the balcony, closing the door behind him, because although his nephews aren’t there now it’s become force of habit; he sits in one of the loungers, lighting one cigarette from the tip of another until a third of the pack is gone, and then he mutters something under his breath before picking up the phone.
He punches in a number that’s become familiar over the last few weeks, and he listens to it ringing at the other end of the line for what feels like fucking ages. If it goes to voicemail, he tells himself, he’s not leaving a message –
“Whatever you’re going to say, just get it over with, okay?” he says. “It’s late, and I -”
“I wanted to make sure you were all right."
"You didn't sound fine when you called me," and in the long silence that follows it’s hard for Luke to swallow. “Who were you with?”
“Does it matter? You know what I’m like now, why do you want details?”
“I know what you want me to think you’re like,” Gil says, in the same tone of voice he used when he said he’d prefer that Luke didn’t smoke in his rental car. “Who was he?”
“You really want to know?” and Luke doesn’t wait for an answer before he continues speaking - because he’s beyond tired, and he doesn’t know why he isn’t just hanging up and putting an end to this. “I met him at some TV awards thing a year and a half ago, and whenever he’s in town we hook up - and before you start judging me, it works fine, okay?” and he ignores the memory of how he felt he should be throwing money onto the dresser while Jared was asleep in the motel room the previous evening.
“I’m not judging you,” Gil says, and the tone of his voice has changed ever so slightly. “I just wonder if that’s all you think you’re worth.”
“Ask yourself what you’re worth,” is the response. “And when you’ve got an answer, let me know what it is,” and the line goes dead.
“Well, I can’t stop,” he told the dog, once he’d finished his cigarette and crushed it out in the tin ashtray on the deck. “Bikes won’t make themselves, and I’ve got a party to go to this evening,” and he sighed again as he rose to his feet, because he really didn’t want to be around a lot of people right now -
It’s Jonah’s birthday, and you promised you’d go, a little voice told him. Cut this shit out and pull yourself together, and Luke took the tree house steps two at a time as he went in search of clean clothes.
Daytona – 11.45 a.m
He pulled the Hummer into its usual spot, and once he’d killed the engine he picked up the box of donuts he’d bought on the way back into town. He climbed out of the driver’s seat, and as he set his right foot down there was an angry hiss from beneath his boot when it collided with something soft and yielding.
“Jesus!” he gasped, jerking his foot back. “What the fuck?” and then he looked down at the bedraggled creature that laid its ears back and growled low in its throat. “You again? You don’t take a hint, do you?” and he stepped around the animal before making his way into the shop.
“Hey, you’re back!” Sol called out, her face brightening. “How was the cabin?”
“The cabin was fine,” Luke said, setting the box of donuts down on the end of a workbench. “Which one of you guys is still feeding that cat? I stepped on it in the parking lot just now,” and there was a muffled snort of laughter from behind him, but when he turned his head Zack and Michael were kneeling with their heads together over the components of a new bike. “It’s never gonna leave us alone if you keep doing that.”
“Where’s your heart, jefe?”
“Never mind where my heart is,” he retorted. “That fucking thing’s probably covered in fleas, so whoever’s feeding it had better stop,” and he made his way towards the office, not looking behind him to see who had booed good-naturedly as soon as his back was turned.
“No, that’s fine,” Jonah was saying into the phone. “I’ll ask him to phone you as soon as he gets back – yes, you too,” and he hung up. “That was Dubai,” he said. “His Royal Highness Prince – shit, I can’t pronounce it -”
“Don’t worry about it,” Luke replied, removing something from his pocket. “The PA’s American, I just deal with him.”
“We may have to practice our Arabic,” was the answer. “His father’s coming to the States next week on business, and he wants to come with him and check up on his bike,” and Jonah studied his boss’s face closely. “How you doing, cher? Did you manage to get things sorted out?”
“Pretty much,” Luke said, realising but not caring that Jonah probably knew he was lying, and he held out an envelope. “Happy birthday.”
“Pair of pants. Take them back if they don’t fit.”
“Oh, cher, no,” Jonah said softly, looking at the cheque he’d removed from the envelope. “I can’t accept this.”
“Yes, you can,” Luke replied. “You – well, you’ve put up with my shit for a long time now, and it’s about time I let you know I appreciate that,” and he cleared his throat. “Okay, enough of that,” he went on. “If you want to leave early, you’d better get back out there.”
He watched Jonah leave the office, and once he was alone he sank into the chair behind the desk; pulling the phone towards him, he set about returning the call that had come from Dubai and did his best to put the previous weekend’s events out of his mind.
Slipping indoors and away from the group of people gathered in the back yard, Luke stopped in the kitchen to grab a can of Pepsi from the table; he popped the tab as he walked along the hallway to the den, and he let out a sigh of relief upon seeing it was empty. He closed the door behind him, and it was only once he’d sunk down into one of the overstuffed armchairs that he realised he wasn’t alone after all.
Molly sat at one end of the window seat holding Remy in the crook of her right arm; the front of her dress was unbuttoned, and Luke felt his face heating up as it dawned on him that he’d interrupted her in the act of feeding her baby.
“Sorry,” he said, pushing himself upright. “Didn’t think anyone else was in here.”
“Oh, sit down,” was the immediate response. “We’re just about done here,” and she leaned down to kiss the top of Remy’s head. “Your belly full, sugar?” she said softly, and a moment or two later she rose to her feet; she lifted the baby up against her shoulder before doing up her dress with her free hand and looking at Luke, a quizzical expression on her face. “How are you doing?”
“Same shit, different day,” he said, trying to smile, but he knew he’d been rumbled when Molly raised an eyebrow; this reminded him of the way Gil had sometimes looked at him when he’d cussed or attempted to light a cigarette, and he felt his throat closing up. “It’s been a rough week, that’s all.”
“Jonah said you’d been away,” Molly said, rubbing Remy’s back, and after a moment or two there was a resounding belch. “Didn’t going away help?”
“Not as much as I thought,” he replied, watching her sink down into the couch opposite his chair, and then he saw her reach for something on the coffee table. “Oh no,” he said, shaking his head. “That won’t do any good.”
“You don’t know that until you let me read them for you.”
“Molly, sweetheart, you know how I feel about that hoodoo crap,” he said. “It isn’t gonna fix everything, is it?”
“No, it isn’t,” was the answer. “But the cards can answer questions.”
“Questions? I wouldn’t know where to start with those.”
“Pick the one that’s on your mind the most,” Molly replied, and there was a long silence; Luke could hear music and laughter in the back yard, and he wished he was still out there now.
“Okay,” he said eventually. “Can they tell me what I’m worth?”
"What you're worth? I don't need to look at the cards to tell you that."
Luke shifted in his chair, still not really sure why he was letting her do this. "But you can, right?"
She sighed and favoured him with a wry smile. "Yes, I can." Pushing the deck across the table, she instructed, "Keep your question in mind and shuffle the cards until you feel like you're finished."
The deck was an odd size and shape to someone used to ordinary playing cards; Luke had to concentrate to make the cards riffle down in an even stack, but it was easy to keep the question in mind all the same. It had been practically all he'd thought about since Gil had confronted him with it.
The cards felt heavier in his hands, and they'd gotten warm. He decided that was about as "finished" as he was going to get, so he squared the pack up and set it on the table, glancing up at Molly as he did so. She gave him a reassuring smile and pushed the cards with the blade of her hand, fanning them out face down in a long arc. "Choose a card to represent yourself."
How the hell do I do that when they’re face down and they all look the same? Luke asked himself, but he shrugged off the urge to try to figure out the "right" card and tapped one at the left end of the fan. Molly turned it over.
"Your significator is one of the Major Arcana. This card is number nine, The Hermit. The Hermit is an individual who has been in hiding. He is apart from the rest of the world, maybe not physically, but certainly emotionally. He's detached, you see. He carries a spark of emotional light, but he keeps it at arm's length, so much so that everything he sees, he sees in the light of his past." She looked up from the card. "Do you understand?"
"Yes." That was kind of creepy, but Luke figured it was like those horoscopes in the News-Journal; every now and then they had to get something right, just by sheer luck. He sat back in the chair and wished he could light up.
With the baby lying in her lap, Molly scooped up the rest of the cards, careful to keep them in order. Beginning next to the Hermit card, which remained face-up on the table, she dealt ten cards face up—after the one in the middle, one crossing it, then one each to the south, west, north and east of the central cross. The final four she laid upward in a line to the right of the rest.
Leaning forward, she looked at the cards for a few moments and then smiled up at Luke. "Things are getting interesting for you, aren't they?" Luke didn't answer; no point in making this too easy for her. She shook her head and said in a dry tone, "Feel free to comment or ask questions at any time." Tapping a fingernail on the first card she'd dealt, she took a deep breath and began to speak in a low, cadenced tone.
"We begin with the six of cups. That's perfect—here you are among your friends, made welcome by people who are happy to see you. Your generous nature is brought out by gatherings like this. You lay aside your cynicism," and here she shot Luke a pointed glance that told him she knew exactly what he was thinking, “to relax in company. That's probably why you're letting me read for you, eh?" and Luke smiled at her but kept his mouth shut.
Touching the next card, the one that lay across the first, Molly went on, "Your interactions with friends and family are overshadowed—almost blocked—by behaviours and actions that drag you down. You are chained to your own habits, cher, and I do not think we are speaking just of your cigarettes. There are desires that you deny so ruthlessly that you cannot free yourself from them. In other words, these needs, you push them away so often that you can't stop thinking of them, and they get the best of you." Her face was soft in the yellow light of the table lamp. "You know we would love you no matter what, right?"
There was nothing to say to that; Luke looked away, and after a moment, Molly went on. "We'll move on to this card, The Hierophant. This position at the bottom of the cross holds the card that shows why you asked the question. Is there some new person you've met recently?"
"I meet new people all the time."
With a smile, she said, "Don't be smart with the Tarot reader, you. No, this is a person, probably male, who has an air of authority. He is a person of some social stature - holds a respected position, like a doctor or a minister. I think it is this person who has got you doubting your worth."
"No, no, not doubting. It was just something he said..." Jesus, Luke thought, so much for keeping my mouth shut. Just blurt everything right out. The cat was out of the bag now, though, so he finished, "Maybe about that Devil card in the middle there."
"So he is not preaching at your or making you think badly about yourself?" Molly's eyes glinted a little bit, and Luke thought that it was a good thing for Gil that he was doing neither of those things. He shook his head, lips firmly sealed.
"OK, then. He is a person of some influence—make sure he is good to you, cher." She gently laid her sleeping son on the couch beside her before she pushed the next card a quarter of an inch to the side and said, "Here we see that in some ways you have had enough. You have passed through some hard times in the recent past, and you have taken the lessons from them into yourself."
Luke frowned. He wasn't much for learning lessons, and all his hard times were far behind him now. The only time he'd felt really bad recently was outside the room at the Black Cat, but that wasn't a hard time and there were no lessons to learn. None.
Hey, he was going to find out what you were like sooner or later, a little voice told him as his throat closed up at the memory of how soft and sad Gil’s voice had sounded that night. Nothing you can do about that – and then he thought about what Gil had said.
“I know what you want me to think you’re like -”
"...this card at the base of the—are you with me, Luke?"
"Yeah, yeah, sorry. What's that card, then?"
Raising a brow again, Molly looked back at the layout and indicated the card at the base of the staff. "We skip to this one—the two remaining in the cross are future-oriented, so we'll do them later. Here is how people see you. The King of Pentacles, the man who has everything. Well off, happy in your work, secure in your fame. This is the worth that people who do not know you put on you, but be careful not to see it as your true worth. That is seen in those core cards—the friends who love you no matter what your troubles. See?"
Luke had his doubts. There was no doubt that Molly was telling the truth as she saw it, but whether it was realistic, that was something else again. Those people who were friends with his money and his fame, he could spot them a mile away. Why wasn't it as easy to see the people who were like that Six of Cups?
"Inside, though," Molly said, tapping the next card in line, "you've got a lot of confusion, many contradictory thoughts all bumping around in your head. You don't seem to be able to stop them fighting long enough to sort them all out. You see here?" She held up the card so he could see it right-side-up. "All these boys with their big sticks, fighting and fighting. They need a referee or an umpire or something. Maybe this man," she pointed to the Hierophant, "maybe if he is kind, he could help you to tell what's true from what is not."
If he is kind. Was Gil kind? Luke hadn’t really thought about it until now, not consciously at least, but he knew the answer was yes. He recalled the way the eager little boy had been shooed away from their table at the restaurant in Daytona, allowing him to eat in peace...the phone calls he’d come to look forward to, knowing that someone was really listening to him and telling him what he needed to hear rather than what he wanted to hear...and the night he’d fallen asleep in Gil’s car, when Gil had quietly insisted on driving him home.
"Now we got back to these two cards in the cross,” Molly was saying. “Here is the near future, at the top." The card she was pointing at reminded Luke of an old-fashioned tattoo—a big red heart with three swords piercing it right through. "You carry such sorrow. Now is your chance to lay it down. You can decide to leave it behind or to turn it into joy."
"Come on, Molly. Sorrow is sorrow." He just couldn't seem to keep from talking – what the hell was wrong with him tonight?
"If you look at your burden, look at it honestly and completely, you will see that it grows from some broken place in your past. Once you see that, you can find a way to fix that bad place, and there is the joy."
Luke shook his head. It didn't seem likely to him, just so much psychic bullshit, because nothing in life was ever that easy - but he managed to keep these thoughts to himself.
"And see here?" The next card was ominous - a picture of a skeleton riding a white horse over people who knelt in its path. The label at the bottom was hardly necessary; it read Death. "Here I see that you will come upon the time for change," Molly said as she peered at him across the table. "You know this doesn’t mean you’re going to die, right, cher?" Luke hadn’t known that, and the strength of his immediate rejection of death was shocking. He'd come to terms with his own death years ago, when he’d come closer to meeting it –
“It won’t stop bleeding – what do I do?”
- but it seemed that his willingness to let life go had faded. Life was only as good as the next day, maybe, but it was still life.
"This card shows an ending, yes, but not your own ending. Soon, in - let's see - three to six months, say, you will be presented with a new path for your life." She smiled brightly. "This is good, so it is. You will have the chance to learn your worth, and then you can act upon it."
"Now here, this is the card that tells your hopes and fears. Don’t be afraid to start over. Don’t be afraid to go back and be like a beginner, because that is how you will learn the most. All your experience will not be in vain, but you must be willing to let most of it go. This might be your greatest hope—that you can open your heart to this new adventure."
Luke sat stock-still. It was all too close to home for him. He didn't know what was coming, but he had some vague ideas forming in his head, some sense of direction for this new pathway.
"Finally, here is the outcome. The Lovers card is not really about love, you know. It is about choices, about the two sides of a coin. See how he looks at the reader and she looks at him? They have perhaps made their choices, but it remains for you to do the same. Can you choose what you truly want, or will you let this past," she tapped the five of wands, "make your choices for you? The outcome can be very good, cher, but you must make it so."
She sat back and rubbed her eyes, yawning gently. "Do you have any questions?"
"Well, yeah," said Luke, composing a smile to hide his true feelings. "What am I worth?"
Molly made a rude noise at him. "Were you listening? The answer is there," and she nodded at the cards before she leaned towards the baby, asleep on the sofa beside her. "Now you go have fun - this one needs to go upstairs." She cradled the sleeping infant against her shoulder once again, and got to her feet before moving toward the door.
"My pleasure, cher," the redhead told him, turning her head towards him and smiling gently – and Luke realised that, despite being only twenty five, Molly was wise beyond her years. “Tell Jonah I’ll be down soon, okay?” and moments later she had disappeared up the stairs.
He’d left the party before anyone else, pleading a headache; but if he was honest, for something he’d always referred to as ‘hoodoo crap’, that reading had shaken him up. Molly couldn’t have known about what had gone on in his life or how he felt about Gil, because he hadn’t told anyone about any of that – so how the hell could a deck of fucking cards know about the sorrow he was carrying or what he kept at arm’s length?
He sat on the balcony outside his bedroom, a mug of coffee growing cold at his elbow and a cigarette turning to ash between two of his fingers. His cell sat on the arm of the lounger, and every so often he would look at it; all he had to do was dial a number, the simplest fucking thing in the world, but he couldn’t make himself do it.
Don’t be afraid to go back and be like a beginner, because that is how you will learn the most. Well, it was easy for Molly to say that, wasn’t it? She had all the picket fence bullshit that Luke knew he was never going to have; she had her boys, she had a man who’d kill for her...
“What do you think you’re worth?”
...then, before he had a chance to stop himself, he’d picked up the cell and punched in a number. It seemed to ring for ever – then, just as he was about to end the call and forget about choosing a new path, a familiar voice echoed in his ear.
“Hello?” and with that single word, he realised he'd missed talking to Gil for almost a week
“Uh – it’s Luke,” he said. “I – this probably isn’t gonna be what you wanted me to say -”
“Let me be the one to decide that once you’ve said it,” was the response, and there was no judgement in the words; they were spoken in the same calm tone that had said I’m not letting you drive when you’re so tired, and Luke felt tears prickling at the backs of his eyes again – because there’d been something else underlying those words that he was still too afraid to analyse even now.
“You want me to say I’m worth someone caring about me,” he said, trying to keep his voice even. “Well, I thought I was once, but you know what? Everyone I care about leaves me, Gil – I always manage to fuck up and they leave, okay? So I’m better off the way I am.”
“Is that really what you think?”
“Why do you think I came back to Florida the second time?”
“Well, because – you had a meeting. Conference. I don't know.”
“I came to see you,” Gil said quietly, and everything Luke hadn’t wanted to face up to was out in the open.
“No,” Luke said. “No, you don’t need -”
“Don’t tell me what I don’t need,” the voice at the other end of the line told him, and Luke tilted his head back as tears ran from the outer corners of his eyes. “I don’t know who you really are yet, Luke, but I want to,” Gil went on, and there was another long silence; eventually, Luke pressed his sleeve against his eyes before sucking in a deep breath and letting it out again.
“What are we – what do we do now?”
“I want you to go to bed and get some sleep,” Gil told him. “And when you have time this weekend, I want you to email me and tell me the story of the boy in the uniform.”
Yes, “Ninth Card” has been nominated in the ‘WIP – Vegas’ category over at csifanficawards! Voting closes on September 20th, so there isn’t much time left, but Luke would love to have your support....