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.
Nick tumbled onto the floor of his living room, his face buried so deep in his blanket that he could taste the wool at the back of his throat when he breathed.
Slowly he lowered the thick material and surveyed his surroundings. The TV was still humming softly in the background, the picture showing Ebenezer Scrooge happily wishing the world a Merry Christmas. The blackout blinds were still drawn, his plate and mug still sat beside the sofa where he had left it. He was in his own house, and it seemed that not more than two hours had passed.
Without warning, Nick started to laugh. It began as a bubble in the centre of his chest, a chuckle which built into a soaring belly-laugh, a high that took him a few minutes to come down from, leaving him with a frog in his throat and tears in his eyes.
He wiped the dampness away with the back of his hand, a few uncontrolled spasms of laughter still shaking his body, and untangled himself from the blanket which was wound around him. Standing on wobbly legs he went over to the window and opened the blinds, letting the crisp winter sunshine flood the room.
“What a weird, freaky-ass dream.” he said aloud, shaking his head. Onscreen the credits started to roll and Nick reached across to turn the television off.
A dream it may have been, but there had been a meaning there, Nick didn’t doubt that. His brain was letting him know what he had to do in the one way he’d be forced to listen attentively.
He had let the monotony of life drag him down, he had forgotten that not everyone in the world was the same as the vile scum that he dealt with night after night. He had people who loved him, friends who, if he wasn’t careful, he would push away with his attitude. They all saw the same things he did every shift, he didn‘t have the monopoly on feeling crappy about it. They all felt the same, they all needed each other to get through it. From now on he would be a better friend.
Nick’s thoughts turned to Greg’s involvement in the dream. His subconscious was obviously trying to tell him something about their friendship that his conscious mind had failed to realise. Was it possible that it could be something more? Could Greg be his chance for love and happiness?
After a quick shower and change of clothes Nick found himself in his SUV, making his way to Greg’s apartment. He had no idea what he was going to say to his friend, but the urge just to see Greg and hear that familiar voice was too much to ignore.
After a few minutes buzzing Greg’s apartment without success, Nick managed to slip his way into the building when someone else was leaving. He took the elevator to Greg’s second floor apartment and knocked a little tune of ‘Jingle Bells’ out on the door. No answer.
“Greg?” he called out. Still nothing.
The door of the apartment opposite opened and a large dark-skinned man, aged around sixty, wrapped in a large coat and balancing several presents in his arms stepped out. One of the smaller presents toppled and balanced precariously for a few seconds before slipping.
Nick’s old baseball reflexes came into effect and he caught the present before it had a chance to hit the floor.
“Thank you.” the man smiled as Nick helped him readjust the pile of gifts. “Hey, I know you, you work with Greg, right?” His eyes squinted slightly as he tried to put a name to the face. “Nick, isn’t it? I’ve seen you here before.”
“Yeah, I work with Greg at the crime lab.” Nick confirmed. “I was trying to reach him, but he doesn’t seem to be in.”
The man gave a booming laugh. “No, you won’t get Greg in on Christmas day. He volunteers at the homeless shelter over on Moorland. He didn’t tell you?”
Nick felt himself freeze as if ice water had been poured down his back. “A shelter?” he stammered. “You mean like, giving food out?” Just like in his dream.
“Yeah.” the man nodded. “Does it every year, is always pestering us for donations of food.” The quip was good-natured, obviously the man had a fondness for his young neighbour. “Anyway, I’d better be going, I’m spending the day with my Grandchildren. Hey, thanks for saving…..” he indicated to the gift with a nod of his head. “Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas.” Nick replied, and realised for the first time in a long time, he meant it.
He watched the man walk towards the elevator, a spring in his step that only the thought of spending Christmas with loved one’s can bring. Nick’s logical mind raced for an explanation for his knowledge of Greg’s whereabouts. Surely he must have mentioned that he helped out there but Nick’s conscious mind had failed to pick up on the information. “Yeah, that must be it.” he decided. “I knew all along, but never realized I knew.”
The shelter wasn’t far away, Nick knew the area and within ten minutes he was pulling his SUV into a free space only a few cars down from Greg’s little jetta.
Even though it was a building that Nick had never been inside before, he was struck with an eerie sense of déjà vu as he walked into the room, which was alive and bustling with people. Greg was behind the counter serving up large spoonfuls of mashed potato, just like in his dream.
He felt the prickle of goose-bumps on the tops of his arms and he rubbed at them mindlessly. Everything looked as it had before. The sounds, the smells… it was all exactly the same. Except there was one glaring difference. Instead of the young woman of his dream, there was an older gentleman dishing up the peas and carrots. Nick let out a long, low sigh. It was all just one huge coincidence.
And then she walked out.
“Hey Tony, why don’t you take a break?” she offered in that all-too-familiar voice. Her golden blonde hair shone under the fluorescent light, just as it had done before, her eyes sparkling.
“Thanks Jenna.” the man smiled and handed her the spoon. Nick wanted to throw up, but he swallowed down the bitter taste creeping up his throat.
It was real.
It had all been real. The spirits, the visions….. There was no way he could have guessed all of this so correctly to have had it be a dream. He didn’t know what to think, what to do. His entire understanding of what could be real and what couldn’t had been turned on its axis.
His brain was slowly liquidizing in his head and all he could do was stand there and stare at Greg.
After a few minutes Greg looked up and caught his eye.
“Nick!” he exclaimed. “What are you doing here?” He dropped his spoon into the pot of potato and set about fishing it out, all the while his eyes on Nick, almost as if he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
Nick forced himself to remain calm. “I went to your place and your neighbour told me where to find you.” he explained, his voice high and tight. He cleared his throat and tried again. “I thought I’d come down and… help out, I guess.”
“So you’re the famous Nick?” Jenna asked, her voice filled with glee. “Well, we appreciate all the help we can get, don’t we Greg?” Jenna smiled and then shot Greg a strange look. “Grab an apron Nick. You can be on turkey slices. Next to Greg.” A lot of emphasis was put on the last sentence and Nick caught Greg shooting daggers at Jenna as she started on the peas and carrots.
Nick handed out thick slices of juicy bird, wishing each person a merry Christmas as they passed. He looked across and caught Greg smiling at him, the young CSI becoming flustered when he realised he’d been busted.
“So, what made you change your mind about Christmas?” Greg asked, trying to cover his awkwardness.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” Nick shrugged. He didn’t even believe it himself, and there was no explanation in the world for it. Something magical had happened, even though Nick had stopped believing in magic a long long time ago.
He picked up the now-empty tray and carried it towards the kitchen. Greg followed behind, carrying his own tray. “So, does this mean you’re coming to Catherine’s later?” he asked, his voice cracking slightly at the end. Nick smiled and nodded, noticing that the kitchen was now empty, all the other helpers were already seated at tables enjoying the food.
He closed the door behind Greg and leaned his back against it.
“So…” he began, wanting a little more confirmation before he did what he was about to do. “Did you wrap my present yourself? You know, the one with the red wrapping paper and silver bow? Don’t worry, I won’t ask what’s in it. I’ll open it at Catherine’s party….”
Greg’s eyes widened in surprise. “How did you know about….?” he stuttered. That was all the proof Nick needed. He crossed the short distance to where Greg was standing and cupped his hand around Greg’s chin.
“Greg…” he sighed. “Something happened to me today. I can’t explain it, and I don’t think I even want to. But whatever it was, its purpose was to lead me to you.”
He ran one fingertip gently down Greg’s cheek. He could see the Adam’s Apple bob as the other man swallowed hard, feel him trembling beneath the touch.
“And so I’m here. To say sorry for being such a cranky old man recently. And, even though there‘s no mistletoe, to do…. this.” He leaned forward and closed the gap between them, bringing his lips closer to Greg, stopping less than an inch from touching.
“Merry Christmas.” he whispered, before gently pressing their lips together for their first kiss. Somewhere in the distance bells were chiming merrily, ringing out the joy of Christmas.