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A New Beginning by Casey Sullivan [ - ]
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Category: Crossovers > Slashed
Characters: Catherine Willows, Gil Grissom, Greg Sanders, Ryan Wolfe, Warrick Brown
Rating: PG-13
Genres: Angst, Episode Related, Friendship, Humour, Pre-slash, Romance, Series
Warnings: None

Summary: Ryan leaves behind the painful memories of Miami for a new beginning in Las Vegas.





The attraction was instantaneous. Their paths crossed in the hallway, their eyes met, and for a moment, the overwhelming chaos surrounding him seemed to disappear. For a single moment, he wasn't anxious about his job interview, he wasn't self-conscious of the scar over his eye or the way he'd obviously overdressed for his interview. He was pinned to the spot by the expression on the stranger's face, curiosity instead of discomfort, attraction instead of disgust. No one had looked at him like that since he'd first started dating Jeff. He was rooted to the spot.

A protesting suspect distracted him for a split second, and when he turned back, the stranger was gone. It happened so quickly that Ryan wondered if he hadn't imagined it. Squaring his shoulders determinedly, he set out to finish the task he'd begun: find the office where he was to be interviewed.

He was still half looking for the stranger whose eyes he'd met when he heard Dr. Grissom's name spoken by someone in the hallway. Honing his focus toward where he'd heard the voice, he managed to identify the speaker, a man who, at first glance, Ryan could only describe as tall, dark, and handsome. A beautiful cliche in a city more cliche than Miami.

Ryan lengthened his stride to catch up with them, presumably CSI and boss, easily identified by the vest on the first man and the way the second man - slightly shorter, a little wider, his hair grayer - had been addressed by the first. Ryan noted that the first man used only Dr. Grissom's last name - Grissom - unlike the way the CSIs in Miami called Horatio by his first name.

Had called Horatio by his first name. Ryan wasn't in Miami anymore, and he couldn't let himself get into the habit of comparing Las Vegas to Miami. He'd been in the city for a week, having gotten settled into a hotel room with the money he'd saved up, and he was ready to start a new life in a new place with no bad memories. It would be the same job; he wasn't ready to give that up. But it was a new start, and he had to get used to the fact that he was in Las Vegas now. Not Miami.

The interview wasn't an interview. It was chaos. There were five people in Grissom's office, each discussing a different case, and Grissom was taking it all in stride, answering each of them in turn and directing each in a different course of action. In the middle of all the chaos, he stood and shook Ryan's hand, saying, "You must be Ryan."

"Yes sir," he said nervously, letting his hand drop by his side when Grissom took his hand away. "Ryan Wolfe, I'm here for the uh, the job interview."

Grissom smiled kindly at him and opened his mouth to say something, then tilted his head when someone else entered the office. Ryan glanced behind him to find that the man who'd been talking to Dr. Grissom earlier was now in the room. "Warrick, this is Ryan," Grissom said, and Warrick nodded knowingly. Ryan kept quiet, well aware that he was being scrutinized by everyone in his range of vision, and further. So far, no one had said anything about his scar, and there had been very few strange looks. "Could you show him around?"

"No problem," Warrick said with a friendly smile, motioning to Ryan to join him. Confused, Ryan crossed the room to shake Warrick's hand, but he didn't stop looking at Grissom.

"I thought - today was the interview, right?" he asked, wondering how he'd gotten the time wrong. An amused silence closed in around him, and it almost felt like being in the hospital again.

"You're hired. Warrick's going to show you where human resources is and help you take care of all the paperwork." Grissom smiled and looked down at his desk, studying something in a petri dish. Ryan turned to join Warrick, stopping when he heard Grissom speak again. "Oh, Warrick, make sure he gives his samples to Greg."

Ryan's blood ran cold at the chuckle Warrick shared with everyone else in the office. "Samples?" Ryan asked, turning to face Grissom, then fumbled to catch whatever it was Grissom had just tossed at him. It was a specimen jar. Ryan blinked.

"Don't worry," Warrick said cheerfully, clapping a jovial hand on Ryan's shoulder. "He does that to everyone."

"Uh," Ryan said intelligently. Warrick just laughed again and led them into the corridor, supposedly toward human resources, then stopped and waved over a blonde woman.

"Cath, this is Ryan Wolfe. Ryan, this is Catherine Willows. You'll be working with her if you stick around."

Ryan studied the two of them, noting the warmth in the way they looked at each other, Warrick's hand on Cath's upper arm. There was a ring on his finger, but not hers. Theirs was obviously unrequited love, or at the very least, lust. "Nice to meet you."

Cath took his offered hand, her eyes dropping immediately to the specimen jar in his hand. Well, at least she wasn't staring at his scar. "So you're the new guy, huh?" she asked, and he nodded. He had a feeling he'd be known by that moniker for quite a while. It would probably take him at least that long to figure out why Grissom had hired him so quickly - and why he needed to provide a specimen. "Good luck," she said, and Ryan couldn't tell if she meant it.

"Thanks," he managed, his voice trailing off as she walked away. He couldn't help but notice the way Warrick's gaze lingered after her, and he suddenly felt uncomfortable. "So uh, human resources?"

***

He'd interviewed for the graveyard shift, the opposite of what he was used to working in Miami. Everything had to be different now; he couldn't let himself confuse his new life with his old one. He wasn't a green CSI anymore. He couldn't make the same mistakes anymore, mistakes like the one that had left him with an ugly scar on his left eye and his vision partially impaired.

The doctors said the nail hadn't come in contact with any of the essential nerves, so he shouldn't have had any vision loss. Which meant that they all assumed it was psychological, but if it was, why hadn't he lost all his vision? Ryan wasn't a doctor, so he didn't know the answers. All he knew was that he had to get on with his life, and he had to do it away from Miami and the ex-boyfriend who couldn't even look at his face anymore.

"Good, you got your specimen," Warrick said, far too cheerful for someone discussing a coworker's urine. Ryan made a face, and Warrick laughed in that low chuckle Ryan was already getting used to. "Cmon, I'll show you Greg's lab." Warrick went on to explain who Greg was, even though Ryan hadn't asked. "If you'd gotten here about seven months ago, I would've had to warn you about his music. He hasn't been the same since it happened, though."

"Since what happened?" he couldn't help asking, even though he knew it wasn't any of his business. Warrick didn't seem offended, though. Instead, he took Ryan aside, stepping into the nearly empty locker room where the foot traffic was nonexistant.

"I don't know if you heard about it in Miami, but about seven months ago, one of our CSIs was kidnapped. He." Warrick closed his eyes briefly, then looked at Ryan and shook his head. "He spent twenty hours buried alive and it was broadcast to the web."

"Damn," Ryan muttered. He remembered the case; it had been all over the news. "That was Greg?"

Warrick shook his head. "It was Nick. Nick Stokes. He's a CSI, but he's also a friend. We're a pretty close-knit group," Warrick explained, and Ryan nodded soberly. He didn't know what he'd done to earn this kind of disclosure so early in the game, but then, he still didn't know why he'd been hired so quickly. He wouldn't take it lightly, though. He knew that the ordeal CSI Stokes had been through had to be even harder on him than getting shot with a nailgun was on Ryan. Ashamed that he could even compare what had happened to him to what had happened to CSI Stokes, Ryan dropped his eyes, looking up when Warrick clapped him on the shoulder again.

"Is everyone this close?" He had to ask, because he wasn't used to people touching him so freely, especially so soon after meeting him. Warrick seemed to realize that he was talking about the hand on his shoulder rather than CSI Stokes, because he dropped his hand and apologized. "No, it's okay. I don't mind. It's just..." Did he really want to come out so soon? Was it worth the risk? Was it a risk not finding out right away how his new coworkers would react to his orientation? "I'm not used to this. And I probably read a little too much into it." Okay, that wasn't coming out. It was safe. He'd been safe.

Warrick nodded understandingly, but he didn't touch Ryan's shoulder again. "Yeah, we're all pretty close here. Kinda have to be to deal with the things we see every night. So I'm not coming onto you or anythin'," he qualified with a nervous laugh. Ryan had to hide a smile.

"I didn't think you were," he reassured Warrick, letting his smile out when Warrick looked relieved. "I saw the wedding ring." He figured it was probably better not to mention the warmth he'd noticed between Warrick and Cath. It was too soon to be speculating on a relationship between a married CSI and an unmarried coworker. "It's no big deal. I was just trying to figure out what to expect when I meet the other CSIs."

Ryan couldn't believe how well he was holding it together. In the course of a few hours, he'd participated in a non-interview, been hired on sight, met some of his new coworkers, and peed into a cup to give to someone he hadn't even met yet. And now he was discussing touching with a coworker who was married but didn't think anything of touching a new coworker as if they'd been friends for years. Ryan kind of liked it. He felt more welcome than he'd felt in Miami, and on the very first day. And even though Warrick obviously couldn't miss the scar on Ryan's face, he acted like he hadn't even noticed it.

Warrick nodded thoughtfully. "Probably expect it from Nick if he gets to know you, but not anyone else. Sara and Grissom pretty much keep to themselves, and Greg's too busy trying to prove himself to have any friends."

"Prove himself?" Ryan asked. He remembered the feeling when Horatio had surprised him by hiring him right away. The other CSIs were suspicious of him from the start, and he'd walked in from the street, still in his officer's uniform when Horatio had hired him. Not only had he been new, but he'd been crossing the line that wasn't crossed. There was an unspoken rivalry between police officers and CSIs, and Ryan had walked right into enemy territory.

"Yeah. You're giving him your sample because he still does tech work part time, but he's mostly a CSI now."

"Really? What kind of tech work?"

"Pretty much everything," Warrick said with a shrug. "He was our main DNA guy before he decided to be a CSI."

"DNA?" Ryan shook his head. "He went from DNA to CSI? Isn't that a pay cut?"

"Yeah," Warrick said with a half grin. "But he was determined."

He had to be, Ryan knew. A guy had to be determined to go from a cushy job inside the crime lab, with better pay and better company, to the more gruelling job of investigating crime scenes and dealing with suspects, putting himself in danger, and getting a paycut. Ryan wondered if it had anything to do with what had happened to CSI Stokes, but he didn't ask. That was personal, like Ryan's decision to leave Miami. It wasn't Ryan's place to ask.

"Can I ask why he needs my urine?" he asked instead. "I already took a drug test."

Warrick laughed and shook his head. "Grissom's always doing experiments with biological samples. Doesn't matter who they're from as long as he gets them," Warrick explained. Ryan smiled in amusement.

"So I didn't do anything wrong."

"No," Warrick said with a friendly chuckle, lifting his hand to Ryan's upper back. "Come on, I'll show you where Greg's lab is and we can get this over with." He looked at his watch, then back at Ryan. "Graveyard shift's over an hour ago. After this you should go home and get some sleep. Your first night won't be easy," he continued as they walked through the corridors. "We all get tested, but if Grissom hired you, you should do fine." Warrick's smile dulled a little, but he patted Ryan's back encouragingly, taking him the rest of the way to Greg's lab in silence.

On the way, Ryan spotted the stranger he'd locked eyes with before. He stopped right where he was standing, sending Warrick stumbling to a stop in front of him. It took him a few seconds to hear Warrick's voice asking if he was okay. "Yeah, I'm fine," he said distractedly. Should he ask who it was, or would that be too obvious? He hadn't outed himself yet, and he didn't want to make any rash statements so soon. "Sorry," he said, forcing himself to remember the specimen cup in his hand. "Where's Greg's lab?"

Warrick smiled widely, the skin around his eyes crinkling in amusement. "You're lookin' at it."

***

Ryan was frozen where he stood for the third time that day, only this time he knew the name of the man responsible. Greg. Greg was the one who'd looked at him kindly and curiously, chemistry sparking between them in the moments before he disappeared. Greg, the former main DNA guy who'd been determined to become a CSI, who used to play music that Warrick felt he had to warn newcomers about but didn't anymore because Greg hadn't been the same since CSI Stokes was kidnapped and buried alive.

He knew a lot about Greg already and Greg knew nothing about him. All Greg would know would be that Ryan was about to hand him a cup of his urine, and then Greg would analyze it or put it aside for Grissom. Talk about a first impression.

Ryan didn't even know he was moving until he heard Warrick's footsteps beside him, showing him to the doorway of Greg's lab. The walls were made of glass like all the other rooms in the crime lab, but unlike the other walls, these were covered with chemical formulas and logic diagrams and who knew what else. Greg hadn't spotted him yet; he was spraying one of the walls with cleaner, wiping away whatever he'd been working on and starting anew. Ryan wondered if it was because he'd been in the field more than the lab, and needed to think through what he was doing. That would mean Greg was a visual thinker. Ryan liked that.

"I thought you were done for the day," Greg said dully, his tone nothing like Ryan would've expected after the intense look they'd shared. Warrick didn't seem fazed, though. He just shook his head, stepping forward to lean against one of the instruments. Greg suddenly whipped around, glaring at Warrick. "How many times-" Greg broke off mid-question when he saw Ryan, a flicker of recognition replacing the reproach that had been in his eyes.

"I was, but duty calls." Besides the way he stepped away from the instrument, Warrick ignored Greg's question. Ryan wondered if he'd only done that to get Greg's attention. There was a lot more life in Greg's voice the second time, though. Ryan was intrigued.

Greg composed himself, setting the cleaner on a table next to some markers and tossing the paper towels in a trash can Ryan couldn't see. As he came closer, Ryan could see a name stitched on the breast pocket of Greg's labcoat: SANDERS. At least, he assumed it was a name. It might be a brand, but a name seemed more likely.

"You must be the new guy." Greg's hand shook as he reached for Ryan's specimen cup, which was odd because Greg didn't strike him as a timid kind of guy. He didn't say anything about it, though, too self-conscious of what he was handing over to ask about it. On the one hand, it might have been polite to ask if Greg was okay, but on the other, maybe Greg was okay and he just had some kind of disorder that made his hands shaky. It couldn't happen too often, he reasoned, because someone in a DNA lab had to perform some pretty delicate experiments. If his hands shook all the time, Ryan doubted Greg would have this job.

"Yeah." Ryan dropped his hand to his side, standing self-consciously as Greg turned to put his specimen in a small refrigerator. Warrick patted him on the shoulder, offering Ryan a grin before he left the room, leaving Ryan alone in the lab with Greg. Not sure what else to do, he decided to introduce himself. "Ryan, Ryan Wolfe. Everyone knows I'm the new guy," he said with a nervous chuckle.

Greg said something he didn't hear, then laughed and turned around to join Ryan again. "Everyone knows everyone here. Sometimes that's a good thing. Sometimes it's not." Greg stopped speaking and looked at Ryan for a long time. So long that Ryan started to get uncomfortable and wondered if Greg even remembered someone else was in the room with him. Then he reanimated, smiling wryly at Ryan. "Greg Sanders."

At first Ryan thought it was a question, then he realized Greg was introducing himself. Unfortunately, Ryan couldn't think of anything to say, so he just offered Greg his hand. Then realized Greg was wearing gloves because he was handling sensitive samples he didn't want to contaminate, so Ryan took his hand back.

What was he supposed to do now? He should leave, but he didn't want to. He still remembered how strong the spark had been when he'd first seen Greg, and he wanted to recapture that. But Greg was different in the lab; the spark was still there, but it was overpowered by whatever had made Greg's voice dull when he'd first spoken to Warrick.

Maybe it had something to do with what Warrick had been telling him. "Warrick told me what happened to your friend," he offered hesitantly. "That had to be hard."

Greg stared through him for a minute, then snapped out of it and looked right at Ryan. "It's part of the job," he said flatly, and turned away. "Look, I've got stuff to do."

"Warrick said the shift was over an hour ago. Or are you on a different shift?" Ryan was fumbling with his words, worried that he'd said the wrong thing. He was just glad Greg couldn't see the look on his face and know how nervous he was.

"Why don't you go ask Warrick?" Greg asked sarcastically.

Ryan blinked, shoving his hands in his pockets. He had said the wrong thing. Did Greg's behavior have anything to do with what Warrick had said about Greg trying hard to prove himself? Did he think Ryan respected Warrick more because he was a full-time CSI and Greg wasn't? "I want to ask you," he said uncertainly. "But... if you're busy, I can leave."

Greg still didn't face him. "I have to finish."

"Grissom's a real slavedriver, huh?" he joked, even though he wasn't sure it was the right move. He was about to backtrack and apologize when Greg turned to look at him.

"Not really," Greg said quietly, looking around the room like he was trying to decide what to do next and didn't really feel like doing anything. For the first time, Ryan noticed how exhausted he looked, the slope of his shoulders, the circles under his eyes. Greg must have been working so hard to prove himself. It was also possible that what Warrick had mentioned about Greg's music changing after CSI Stokes had been kidnapped had something to do with it, too. Greg's comment about it being 'part of the job' was suspect. Ryan didn't believe Greg felt that way, even though he'd just met and didn't really know anything about Greg's interactions with his coworkers. He just knew that Greg didn't look like a man who was happy with the way his life was going right now.

He knew he should take Warrick's advice about getting some sleep before his first night, but finding company for his misery was more attractive at the moment. "Can I take you out for a drink when you're done?" Ryan did his best not to fidget, part of him afraid that he'd read the signs wrong. But he'd felt that spark and he was sure Greg had, too. He had to take the chance now. Now or never.

There was another long moment where Greg stared through him for a while before snapping back and answering him. "I don't drink," he replied, his voice dull again, and Ryan's jaw tightened in defensive disappointment. "But I'll let you take me to a cafe."

Relieved, Ryan smiled for the first time since he'd learned Greg's name. "Sure, yeah," he agreed with a nod. "I'll uh, I'll meet you in the locker room, uh, when?"

Greg dropped his gaze to the table in front of him. "Half hour," he muttered, then looked up with a different kind of spark in his eyes. "You know where it is?"

"Yeah." He cut himself off before he made the mistake of saying that Warrick had shown him where it was. Even though Warrick seemed tolerant of and even amused by Greg's behavior, it didn't seem to be reciprocal.

Greg nodded and then proceeded to ignore him. Ryan was mystified, but he went to the locker room, tracing his fingers over the masking tape with his name on it. Even though there'd been an obvious spark with Greg, he found himself hoping that he hadn't made a mistake by getting involved.