"Ninth Card" (Grissom/OMC, 8/?, PG)Posted by snow_white on 2009.09.27 at 23:11
Big thank you’s go to all my regular readers! 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
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. *except for this chapter, which deals with an injured animal*
Disclaimer – the OMC is all mine, Gil and his colleagues belong to their creators. Sadly.
Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven
AN: Many thanks to bflyw for the wonderful banner...and to the always awesome elmyraemilie for hand holding.
A day late, and also unbeta'd, for which I apologise.
Las Vegas, June 30th – 11.30 a.m PST
Although he’d said when you have time this weekend, Gil knew it was going to take longer than that for Luke’s email to come. Although he didn’t want to think about it consciously, he knew there was a chance that he might not get a reply at all; faced with the reason Gil had come to Daytona for a second visit, Luke could get spooked and cut off contact completely – and when almost a week passed with no word, Gil was starting to think this was exactly what had happened.
The following day, though, he returned home from giving evidence in court; although he was desperately tired he switched on his computer anyway, shaking his head wryly as he did so...
...and there was a single email waiting for him. No header, no greeting, straight into what he’d asked for.
I don’t think his parents were expecting another kid, for a start. They had three girls already, the youngest one was five – hell, they’d given away all the baby furniture years ago. And then boom – just after his mom turned forty, there he was. It wasn’t like they couldn’t afford another one, though, so he got everything his sisters had been given – riding lessons, private school, skiing trips, you name it.
The girls were all straight A students, so I guess his folks figured he’d be the same - follow his dad into the family business, too, because his dad was raised old school enough to think that a guy needed a son for that to happen. And he really wanted to do it, too, only he couldn’t focus in school, and he goofed off more than he studied once the serious learning kicked in – his teachers said they wanted him tested to see if there was something wrong, but his dad said there was nothing wrong with him. School wasn’t doing its job, was what he said, and if it wasn’t doing its job then he’d just find another school. I guess when you’ve got money you can do that sort of thing, right? And this kid didn’t want to go to another school, he liked the one where he was and he had friends there – he wanted to understand the lessons and work hard like his folks said, because he loved them and he wanted them to be proud of him - but he just couldn’t, no matter how much he tried.
I guess he went to this new school with a bit of an attitude, and he got to hanging around with the kind of kids his dad would have shot on sight – they had him smoking pot by the time he was fourteen, and by the time he was fifteen and a half they’d persuaded him to start selling the stuff. Trouble was, though, he wasn’t as smart about it as he thought he was, and he got caught eventually – and it didn’t matter how much money his folks had, no private school’s going to tolerate that. So daddy pulled some strings, pretty long ones by this time I guess, and bingo – third school in two years, still no testing to see what this kid’s problem is, and he’s so frustrated he’s ready to go through the roof.
There was this one teacher there, though, who’d seen this kind of thing before, and she figured out that this kid was probably dyspraxic – someone like you probably knows what that is already, so I’m not going to go into it, but it means the person needs extra help, right? So this teacher tried telling the kid’s parents about this – well, the kid’s father, really, because like I said before he was old school, and back then daddy knew best, didn’t he? – and she figured out pretty quickly that the idea of learning difficulties was about as welcome in this kid’s family as a dose of the clap, so she did the best she could to help him on her own. Kind of “off the record”, you know? Because expensive schools aren’t real cool with their staff pissing off their paying customers. Only it wasn’t nearly enough, and all it took was one asshole too many in the lunch line or the gym to call this kid a dummy before he finally snapped – the captain of the football team got his nose broken and three teeth knocked out before someone pulled the two of them apart, and the kid’s uncle picked him up from school that afternoon. Hung onto him, didn’t let him out of his sight, didn’t let him call home – and that was the only thing this kid wanted to do, because he knew he’d fucked up badly this time, and all he wanted to do was tell his folks he was sorry.
Two days later his dad shows up, and he’s as cold as anyone’s ever been, you know? Didn’t actually say he had no son any longer, but he might as well have done. Asks him if he knows he made his mom cry, and by now the kid’s crying too, trying to apologise, but dad isn’t having any of it – and that’s when the guy in the khaki uniform shows up, and the next thing he knows, this kid’s at a Christian military school in Virginia. You know how it goes in those places, or maybe you don’t – haircut, uniform, barely any free time from morning till night, and on top of all that they’re telling this kid that God loves him every chance they get. You think he bought that for a second? His father wouldn’t take his calls, even though he tried every chance he got, so he figured God sure as hell didn’t give a fuck about him.
That photo you asked about? The kid set a fire in the mess hall a week after that was taken, and that was when even God stopped having a hand in things as far as he was concerned. He called one of his sisters, and she was waiting tables to put herself through law school, because she’d gotten tired of letting daddy pay for everything and then having to do things his way - so all she could spare was a couple of hundred bucks, but she wired him that. He hitch-hiked his way to New York, because aren’t the streets there meant to be paved with gold? Or maybe that’s London, who gives a shit? He managed okay once he got there, though, even though he never filed a tax return – mainly because ninety per cent of the work he did wasn’t exactly legal, but you didn’t need a straight A education for it and it paid well enough. He got himself tattooed, he got himself pierced, he partied like there was no tomorrow – started seeing guys, too, which was another thing his dad would have beaten his ass for, but whatever he did he was doing it because it made him happy. And I guess none of these guys told him they loved him - when you only see people for a night at a time I don’t think you want love - but so what? I reckon he didn’t really care, because loving someone only ends up hurting you, and you’re better off without it.
No signature at the end either, and as Gil sat and read the email again his heart ached – because he was picturing Luke sitting on his balcony and smoking endless cigarettes before he could muster the courage to write that message.
“You poor boy,” he said quietly, and then he turned the computer off. He walked through to his bedroom, where he undressed and laid his clothes neatly over a chair before putting on the customary black pyjama bottoms and drawing down the blinds to block out the daylight; he climbed into bed and turned off the bedside light immediately, but although he was exhausted he lay in the dark staring up at the ceiling for a long time before he managed to sleep –
- because something told him that what had been in that email was only the tip of the iceberg.
Daytona, 2.30 p.m EST
“- and you ought to bring your guitar,” Luke told Michael as the five of them were walking back to the shop after a late lunch; the crew had been discussing the annual party to open the cabin for the summer, because Luke had just collected the invitations from the print shop across from the restaurant. “Sleeping bag, too, if you’re planning on staying the night.”
“What about beer, or anything like that?”
“Nope,” Luke replied. “This is all on my tab - you just need to get your ass out there -”
“Oh, shit,” Zack said, catching sight of something a few yards away and jogging towards it. The others followed suit, Luke bringing up the rear, and when he saw what they were looking at his gut lurched; the rail-thin orange cat lay motionless on its side just inside the parking lot gate, one of its back legs bending the wrong way and its face a mass of blood.
“What the hell happened to it?”
“Must have been a car,” Luke said, in answer to Sol’s question. “See, you guys kept feeding the fucking thing, so it dragged itself back up here before it died because it thought you’d help it.”
“We can’t leave it here,” Zack said. “Someone find me a garbage bag,” but before anyone could move the cat lifted its head; a rusty wail echoed from its mouth, the lower jaw hanging at a sickening angle, and Luke caught a glimpse of jagged ends of bone.
“Oh, mother of God,” Jonah said, clearly shaken. “I’ll take care of it,” and he took the shop keys from Luke without another word.
“Wait, you’re not gonna let him kill it, are you?” Michael said, breaking a silence which had lasted some time. “There’s got to be something we can do.”
“It’s the best thing,” Sol told him, and for once she wasn’t smiling. “Look at it, compinche, it’s nearly dead now.”
“It’s a stray,” Luke replied, thankful this hadn’t happened while the film crew had been here, and out of the corner of his eye he saw Jonah returning with a garbage bag and a wrench in one hand. “We can’t let it suffer.”
“Please,” Michael said, almost under his breath, and when Luke turned towards his newest employee he saw that the young redhead’s face was pale.
“I can’t do it, cher,” Jonah said as he drew level with the group, and Luke remembered the plump tabby cat that ruled the Du Four household. “Zack -”
“Don’t look at me.”
“God damn it,” Luke said, knowing he was going to regret it. “One of you guys get me a box.”
“You know it’s probably gonna be dead by the time we get there, right?”
“Probably,” Michael said. He was sitting in the passenger seat of the Hummer holding a box that had once contained spark plugs; the cat lay inside it on an old towel, its sides barely moving as it breathed. It had screamed when Luke had picked it up to put it in the box, almost making his lunch come back up, and it was the first time he’d ever seen Sol reduced to tears.
“And you know if it is still alive when we get there, that animal hospital’s probably gonna charge me more than my last round of root canal work cost?” he went on. “Whether the thing lives or not?”
“Take it out of my wages,” was the answer, and something told Luke – although he had no intention of taking Michael up on it - that the young man meant every word. “I just – never mind,” and he lowered his head to look down into the box again. Luke drove on in silence, sensing that this had triggered something for Michael but realising that it would be better not to ask what it was right now – and ten minutes later, they were pulling up in front of the animal hospital.
“What did they say?”
“That back leg was broken in about three places,” Luke said, refraining from repeating the news he’d been given that it would probably have to be amputated. Michael hadn’t wanted to come into the hospital with him, and when Luke had finally emerged from the building he’d found the young man leaning against the Hummer and smoking. “The lower jaw’s a mess, and the vet said there were bound to be internal injuries too,” and he took a cigarette when the pack was held out to him. “She told me if it makes it through the night, which she doubts it will, then it might have a chance,” he went on, pausing to light up. “It was you feeding it, wasn’t it?”
“There were so many cats around the base you wouldn’t have believed it,” Michael said, a distant expression on his face. “The locals don’t see them as pets, not the way we do over here, so we used to get dozens of them coming around because they knew we’d feed them – and they’d eat anything, man, they were so thin you could see their ribs,” he continued. “We all used to kid around about how we’d try and smuggle one of them back,” and the smile he directed at Luke was unnaturally bright. “Pretty stupid, huh?”
“I’ve heard worse,” Luke replied matter-of-factly. “You want to grab a coffee before we head back to the shop?”
“That’d be good,” was the answer. “I saw a Denny’s a few blocks back - we could get something to eat too.”
“You and your fucking stomach,” Luke said, rolling his eyes, but the smile that appeared on Michael’s face then was totally genuine. “Come on, I’m buying.”
5.15 p.m, PST
Still wearing his pyjama bottoms, Gil picked up the bowl containing the noodle salad he’d just made and carried it to the kitchen table along with a glass of iced tea. He ate his meal methodically as classical music played quietly in the background, and he thought about the email he’d read before he went to sleep that morning – then, once the bowl and glass were empty, he picked up the phone.
It would be just after eight in Florida, which meant that Luke was probably still at the shop; but the number there went to voicemail, so Gil dialled Luke’s cell – and then, after three rings, there was a terse, “Yeah, who is it?”
“It’s Gil – where are you? I called the shop, but it went to voicemail.”
“Gil – hi,” came the slightly startled answer, and Gil felt a smile creeping across his lips. “Hold on one second – ma’am, can you wrap that up? I’ll take it to go.”
“I was just getting something to eat,” Luke went on. “I’ve been at the animal hospital checking up on the cat -”
“You have a cat?”
“Probably not for much longer,” was the answer. “It’s a stray, it was hanging around the shop and Michael was feeding the f – uh, no, ma’am, that’ll be fine. Keep the change.”
“Have a good night, honey.”
“So yeah, he was feeding this cat,” Luke went on, and Gil’s ears picked up the sound of a closing door followed by footsteps and the noise of traffic, “and then this afternoon, we were all coming back from Rosa’s and there it is in the parking lot at the shop. It was a fucking mess, you know? We all figured it was dead, but then it moved, and – uh – that’s all she wrote,” and after two metallic clunks n relatively quick succession the sound of traffic was cut off. “None of us had the nerve to put it out of its misery, and we couldn’t just leave it there, could we? So it’s having surgery out the wazoo, which may or may not work, and I’ve already forked out something like a thousand bucks -” A long silence followed, and after it was broken by the almost-inaudible sound of a cigarette being lit Luke spoke again.
“You read my email, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I did.”
“I know it took longer than you wanted, but – well, you wanted to know about him, and now you do,” and there was something in the way the words were uttered that made Gil swallow hard. “Remember when you asked about him the night we had dinner at my house? I told you he was trouble, didn’t I?”
“I think he was lonely,” Gil said. “Nobody understood him, and that must have made him feel so lost.”
“Well, you learn to live with it,” and there was a bitter laugh at the other end of the line. “If you don’t expect much, you’re not disappointed, right? I mean – uh – Cathy’s husband, I used to think he’d change -”
“My oldest sister,” was the answer. “Connor’s mom. The guy she’s married to thinks that being gay guarantees you a VIP seat in hell - and she used to say oh, he’ll come around, Luke, but after a while she stopped saying it, and then I didn’t get to see them any longer. When they had Connor I sent a card, because that was pretty much all I could afford back then, and I thought once they had a kid they’d change, you know? But it came back a week later, and when I was making enough money to send gifts I got those back too, so after a while I just quit sending them,” and there was a gentle sigh. “I couldn’t give a rat’s ass if my brother in law’s a fucking homophobe, but leave the kid out of it.”
“My nephews are here, we came out to the flea market -” Gil’s mind went back to the calls he’d made to Daytona while Max and Ben had been visiting their uncle, when Luke had sounded irrepressibly happy; he thought of how it must feel to Luke to be allowed to love three of his nephews and not the fourth, to be rejected the way he felt he’d been rejected as a boy, and the walls that Luke had put up started to make sense.
Another long silence, during which Gil pictured Luke sitting in his Hummer in a diner parking lot with his food getting cold on the passenger seat as he prepared to go home alone, and eventually Luke went on speaking. “You want to know why I did it? Why I went to meet that guy the night I called you?”
“Luke, this isn’t – I’m not interrogating you, you know.”
“Remember I told you about the party I have in July to open the cabin?” Luke said, as though Gil hadn’t even spoken. “Faith and her husband aren’t bringing Max and Ben this year, because it’s Connor’s eighteenth birthday party that weekend and they decided they wanted to go to that instead. So I got pissed at her and I hung up on her, and – well, I figured if I went out and took the edge off then I’d feel better, because it always worked before,” and that bitter laugh echoed in Gil’s ear again before Luke continued speaking. “I’ve been thinking about something I said the last time I spoke to you.”
“You said several things,” Gil replied, his heart rising into his throat. “Which one are you talking about?”
“Someone caring about me,” Luke said. “I guess I do still think about it sometimes, but I’m – I just don’t think I’m wired the right way,” and in the brief silence that followed there was the unmistakeable click of a lighter. “You read that email, Gil, I’ve never been the easiest person to get on with -”
“You don’t exactly make it easy.”
“You’re all the way across the country,” was the answer, and there was the merest hint of roughness to the words, but it still pulled at something deep inside Gil’s chest. “You’re so fucking smart, Gil, and I never even made it as far as college -”
“Are you trying to scare me off?”
“I – I don’t know what I’m doing, okay?”
“People can change, Luke,” Gil said. “As long as there’s someone to help them, and as long as they want to be helped – it all depends on whether you want to or not.”
“I want – well, I’ll try,” was Luke’s response after a length silence during which Gil had unconsciously held his breath. “I’m not promising anything.”
“I’m not expecting you to,” Gil told him. “I think your supper’s getting cold, isn’t it?”
“Go home and eat,” Gil said, feeling that smile twitching at his lips again. “I’ll call you tomorrow evening before I go to work – I want to hear how your cat’s doing.”
“I – well, okay,” Luke replied. “I’ll talk to you then,” and before Gil could say anything in response the line went dead – but as he got up and made his way towards the bathroom so that he could shower before work, his smile had widened.
July 1st, 8.45 a.m EST
“He’s still a very sick little boy,” the dark-haired woman said as the three of them looked through a window into a room that contained a row of cages; Luke could make out the orange cat in one of them, lying on its side and hooked up to a drip. “Besides the injuries you brought him in with, he’s got the worst case of hookworms I think I’ve ever seen, which has made him very anaemic – I know it’s a terrible thing to say, but if he hadn’t had this accident he probably wouldn’t have lasted more than another week anyway -”
“When will you know if he’ll make it?”
“To be honest, Mr. Harvey,” the vet said, turning towards Michael, “I’m amazed he lasted the night – and there’s still circulation in his leg, which none of us expected either. Cats have the most extraordinary will to live, especially when they’ve survived on their own the way this one has.”
“How old do you think he is?”
“Probably no more than a year or so,” was the answer. “Did you guys give him a name?”
“I didn’t know it was a he,” Michael said. “Couldn’t get close enough – I’d just put something out back for him and hope he’d eat it after I left him alone,” and there was a flushed cast to his cheeks as he caught Luke’s eye. “You think he’ll be all right?”
“If he makes it through today, he has a pretty good chance,” the vet replied. “We just need to keep the antibiotics and fluids going into him, and after that it’s a matter of how big a fighter he is,” and she smiled at the young man. “It’d be nice to have a name to put on the cage, because if he hangs on he’ll be with us for a week or so.”
Midas, Luke thought to himself. A week in here, that thing’s going to have my fucking wallet empty -
“Oscar,” Michael said, his face reddening again. “When I was a kid, he was my favourite character on Sesame Street.”
“Oscar it is,” was the answer. “Well, I’ll call you if there’s any change during the day, but why don’t you come by and see him this evening once you finish work? Oh, Mr. Morrissey,” she called out as Luke turned to leave the room with Michael in tow, “I couldn’t get you to sign an autograph for my son, could I?”
I know you said you’d call tonight, but I wanted to send you a quick email to let you know that I just got back from the vet’s with Michael. The cat’s still alive – even the vet was surprised by that, because she said it has some kind of parasite that would have killed it pretty soon without the accident. They’ve got him in intensive care (can you believe that, intensive care for animals), and apparently if he lasts the next twenty four hours he stands a pretty good chance. Oh, and he’s called Oscar now, which I guess means that we have to find him a home if he makes it out of the hospital – not sure where that’ll be, but I’ll keep you posted. The vet says it’s all down to how badly the cat wants to live, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
I’ll talk to you later today – and if I sounded like an ass last night, I’m sorry.