Title: A Kind of Christmas Carol
Pairing: Nick and Greg
Disclaimer: Characters belong to CBS and Mr Charles Dickens. I make no money from this.
Summary: Nick gets a chance to change his life, before it's too late. Beta'd by my Christmas Star anmani and banner and icon by Christmas Cracker bflyw.
Dawn broke over Vegas on Christmas morning, the horizon warming with bright bursts of orange against the amethyst sky. At the Las Vegas Crime Lab, Nick Stokes pushed open the door to the break room and shot his friend and co-worker Greg Sanders a weary half-smile. Greg grinned back and pushed the chair next to him away from the table with a noisy scrape, inviting Nick to sit beside him.
“How’s it going?” he asked, taking a sip of his coffee.
“OK, I guess.” Nick replied. “I’m about done here, I’m heading home in a minute. Just wanted to stop in and give you that $20 you loaned me yesterday.” He passed the crumpled bill to Greg, who shoved it in the pocket of his jeans.
“Thanks, but there was no rush. So, are you all set for Christmas?”
Nick shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t really bother with Christmas anymore man. I mean, what’s the point? It’s not like I have anyone to share it with. My family is all over the place and I’m not seeing anyone. Besides, it’s all so commercial these days. There’s so many tacky lights on all year round in Vegas, a few more bulbs don’t exactly make it feel more like Christmas, you know what I mean?”
“Such a cynic at such a young age.” Greg shook his head, clicking his tongue against his teeth. “It’s Christmas. The season of goodwill to all men. A time for peace and love.”
Nick frowned at him. “I just processed a triple homicide, dude. Where was the peace and love there?”
Greg held up his hands in defeat. “OK, I know. I work here too, remember? I know how it is. But don’t you think that makes celebrating Christmas even more important? It should make you thankful for all the good that there is in this world.”
“We’ve got Thanksgiving for that.” Nick grumbled. “Christmas is just another excuse to spend too much money, eat too much and drink way too much.”
Greg rolled his eyes at Nick‘s skepticism. “Anyway….. Speaking of eating and drinking too much, you are coming to Catherine’s party later, right? Everyone else is going to be there.”
“Doubtful.” Nick shook his head and rubbed a hand over his tired eyes. “I just don’t feel like faking Christmas cheer all day. I’ll probably just catch up on some sleep.”
“Come on Nick.” Greg’s voice took on a pleading quality. “It won’t be the same without you there. It‘s not until 5, you can get plenty of sleep before it.”
“Sorry Greggo.” Nick sighed and clapped a hand on Greg’s shoulder. “I’m sure you’ll all manage without me. You’ll be having so much fun that you won’t even notice I’m not there.”
“Yeah. Whatever.” Greg pushed back from the table and quickly rinsed his coffee mug in the sink, leaving it to drain on the side. “Well, that’s me. I guess I’ll see you here tonight then. But listen, if you change your mind, why not come over to my apartment and we can go to Cath’s place together, huh?”
“Drop it, alright?” Nick sighed. Greg raised his eyebrows in surprise and shrugged his shoulders. “I’ll just… see you tonight, OK?”
“Alright then. Merry Christmas Nick.” he called over his shoulder as he left the break room, a little less animated than he had been before.
Nick dismissed the pleasantry with a wave of his hand.
He let himself into his cold, empty house. He’d forgotten to open the blackout blinds the evening before, so the house remained ominously dark despite the bright crisp Winter sunshine outside. He flicked on the lights, figuring he was going to be going to sleep soon anyway, so there was little point in opening the blinds at all.
He lifted the remote control from the arm of the sofa and clicked on the television, hoping that the background noise would help to fill the creeping emptiness of his home. Alastair Sim’s wizened face filled the screen as he scoffed at Bob Cratchit’s wish of a Merry Christmas.
“I’m with you Scrooge.” Nick sighed as he kicked his way out of his jeans and sweater, leaving him in just a dark blue t-shirt and his black boxer briefs. He padded into the kitchen and made himself a toasted bagel with cream cheese and a mug of herbal tea.
He turned off the lights again, the soft glow of the television enough to guide his way through the house.
He brought his food to the sofa and pulled a thick blanket over his legs to keep warm. The movie played unwatched in the background as Nick finished his food, setting the empty plate on the floor beside him. He yawned loudly and stretched his arms above his head.
“Time for bed.” he yawned again, throwing the blanket off himself. His eyes were so heavy he could barely see. Suddenly and without warning the TV clicked itself off, throwing the living room into darkness once more.
Once his eyes had adjusted Nick fumbled for the remote and pressed the on button repeatedly, but the screen remained dark. “Must be a power-cut.” he decided, tossing the remote back onto the sofa. All of a sudden the hairs on the back of his neck began to prickle, as if someone was watching him. His eyes automatically flew to the ceiling to check for spy-holes, pulling the blanket tighter around his body.
The sound of soft breathing filled the room, the unmistakable sound of a woman sighing followed. Nick automatically reached for his gun but only got a handful of hipbone and t-shirt.
“Come out with your hands up. LVPD.” he shouted, getting off the sofa. “Who’s there?”
A soft grey light filled the room, as mist swirled around his legs. “What the hell….” he thought, trying to bat the mist away with his hand as it rose higher and higher around his body.
“Hello Nick.” A familiar female voice spoke right in his ear. Nick spun around but no one was there.
“Have you missed me?” The same voice was at the other end of the room now.
“Who’s there?” Nick asked, feeling a trickle of cold sweat run down his back. He was feeling seriously creeped out. “Show yourself.”
“To you? Anytime.” A young woman stepped forward from the mist, twirling a lock of her dark hair around her finger.
Nick’s eyes widened in shock. “Kristy?” He felt his legs turn to rubber, and he backed up against the wall to hold himself steady. “How…..” He shook his head and scrubbed his hand over his eyes. “I’m not seeing this. I’m dreaming. I knew I shouldn’t have had Mexican last night.”
“I’m no dream.” she shook her head. “I’m as real as you are. Well…. almost.” She reached out to Nick and passed her hand straight through his body.
“I don’t believe in ghosts.” Nick stated forcefully, trying to ignore the tremor that went through him at her touch. “I work with the dead every day. If there was such a thing as ghosts I would have seen one before now. I’m just imagining things.”
“Why do you doubt your senses?” she asked, coming closer. He could smell her perfume and in the dim light he could clearly see the strangulation marks still on her neck. “Look Nick, just shut up and listen to me, OK? I don’t exactly have much time here. I’ve come to warn you.”
“Warn me about what?” Nick gulped.
“To open your heart Nick. Open your heart while there’s still time. It was too late for me. My heart was closed to the world. I was ruthless, manipulative and cold. I sold my body to everything but love and now I pay the price for all eternity.”
“But you were trying to change, you were going back to college….” Nick stammered.
Kristy laughed, its sound like metal scraping. “Oh, you’re so naïve. I lied to you Nick. I was setting up on my own. I was recruiting girls into the same life I had. And my pimp killed me for it. And now I’m here to warn you. Open your heart Nick, while you have the chance. It’s too late for me, but you still have time.”
“Why are you telling me this?” Nick choked. “Why me?”
“I spent the last night of my life with you.” Kristy sighed. “You were the only person in my life to show me genuine affection. You wanted to help me change. I wanted to give you this opportunity to open up to the chance of love.”
“Love? With who? Who would love me?” Nick scoffed.
“You’ll find out.” Kristy nodded. Her image started to shimmer and fade. “You will be visited by three spirits, they‘ll tell you more.”
“No, no way. I’ve already had enough of that.” Nick felt a strange mix of anger and foolishness for talking back to a hallucination.
“Take this chance Nick.” Kristy warned as she disappeared into the ether. The mist swirled around him and then seemed to vanish into the floor.
The TV flickered back to life of its own accord, showing the fuzzy grey screen of poor reception.
Nick stumbled to the doorway and switched on the overhead lighting. The room looked exactly the same as it had when he’d come home, no sign of what had just happened. He ran to the phone and picked it up, about to dial Greg’s number. But instead of pressing ‘send’ he put the phone back in its cradle. What could he tell his friend that wouldn’t have Greg sending a psychologist round?
He rubbed at the goose-bumps that had formed on his upper arms. “It was a dream.” he told himself. “Just a dream.” For Nick was a man of science, of logic, of rationalising events until they made sense. It was what a CSI did.
Still, it had been an unsettling experience. With the sound of Kristy’s warning echoing in his head, he made his way to bed where he fell into an uneasy sleep.