Muffled strains of "Frosty the Snowman" reached Nick even back in the evidence room, and he rolled his eyes and focused a little harder on the file in front of him. It wasn't that he minded the office Christmas party, but it had already dragged on through two CDs worth of someone's idea of holiday cheer, and his temples were already pounding by the time he slipped out of the break room and set off in search of somewhere he could hear himself think.
It wouldn't have been so bad if it was just the night shift, but the entire day shift was in there as well, and they were all so terrified of Eckley that they'd forgotten how to have a good time years ago. Besides, standing around making small talk with his coworkers just reminded Nick of what he didn't have this year, and the less he dwelled on that the better. He'd been telling himself for weeks that he was a grown man and he didn't need to go home for Christmas every single year, but that didn't make the thought of staying in Vegas by himself any less depressing.
His parents had offered to move the entire celebration up to him this year, but he'd drawn the short straw and he was stuck working Christmas Eve and Christmas night, so that meant he'd miss out on most of the festivities anyway. Besides, he'd never hear the end of it if his sisters had to drag all their kids up to Vegas just for him, and they teased him about being the favorite enough as it was.
But Christmas was supposed to be about family and noise and his mother's sweet potato pie; it wasn't about store-bought egg nog in plastic cups and watching Grissom and Eckley flex their brains at each other. It wasn't about cheap garland hung over every available surface or Secret Santa gifts that nobody wanted. Still, he knew he was just feeling sorry for himself and he should go back to the party, if only so he wouldn't have to field a bunch of questions about where he'd disappeared to. He was about to head back when the door swung open, and he glanced up just in time to watch Greg slide into the room and shut the door behind him.
He was wearing his blue lab coat, the one that brought out his eyes, and there was a string of silver garland hanging around his neck. His hair sparkled in the fluorescent lights and Nick could only assume he'd somehow gotten hold of some glitter, and just for a second Nick almost regretted ducking out of the party when he did. "You look like a Christmas tree, man."
"Better than looking like Scrooge," Greg shot back, smirking at Nick's stern expression. "What are you doing hiding out back here? You got something against holidays?"
Nick shook his head and looked back down at the file on the table in front of him, letting out a heavy sigh before he closed it and looked up again. "Just trying to get some work done. There's only so much 'I'll Be Home For Christmas' I can take."
Greg nodded and took a few steps forward, sliding into the chair next to Nick. "Gotcha."
Nick frowned at what he assumed Greg thought was a sympathetic smile; pity was the last thing he needed, even from Greg. Especially from Greg, because they were friends, sure, but it wasn't like they were close or anything. "What are you doing back here, man? I thought you'd be hard at work being the life of the party."
"It's true, things are probably a little dull out there without me," Greg answered, flashing that grin that made Nick either want to hit him or kiss him. Sometimes both, and that was something Nick had never been able to work out, so he usually tried to ignore the way his pulse raced whenever Greg smiled at him. "But the party was starting to die anyway, and I like to make a graceful exit."
"That doesn't explain what you're doing in here," Nick pointed out. The truth was that Greg had no reason to be in the evidence room; if he was going back to work he would have headed straight for the lab, and if he was looking for somebody… "Let me guess. Sara ditched and you were hoping to catch her alone."
For a few seconds Greg just looked at him like he'd said something either really cute or really stupid, then he shook his head and ran a hand through his hair. Sparkles cascaded down around him, landing on his lab coat and a few coming to rest on his cheek. Nick could still hear the Christmas music playing down the hall, but he barely registered the sound anymore. It was hard to focus when he was busy staring at the glitter on Greg's cheek, and it took every ounce of self control he had not to reach out and brush it away.
"Actually, I was looking for you," Greg said, leaning in and dropping his voice to a conspiratorial whisper.
They were still in the evidence room and Nick could still hear the rest of the staff just down the hall, but suddenly the whole situation felt almost…intimate. He was used to Greg flirting, but Greg flirted with everybody and Nick had learned a long time ago not to take it personally. There had been a time or two he almost wished Greg meant it, but he knew what a bad idea it was to get involved with someone on the job, so he'd always told himself it was just as well Greg didn't feel that way about him. They were all wrong for each other anyway; he was a low-key guy who liked to keep his private life private, and Greg was…Greg.
"Yeah?" he finally answered, ignoring the way his voice caught on the single syllable. He cleared his throat and leaned back in his chair, putting a little distance between them before he tried again. "Something in particular you wanted?"
And there went that grin again, but before Nick did anything stupid Greg turned away, reaching into his lab coat to fish something out of his pocket. A few seconds later he looked up again, holding out a small box wrapped in red and green paper.
"What's this?" Nick asked when Greg set it on the table and pushed it toward him.
"From your Secret Santa," Greg answered. "You bailed before we got around to the gift exchange."
Nick raised an eyebrow, but he stopped himself from asking why Greg had felt compelled to track him down and make sure he got his gift. Instead he picked up the box and slid a finger under one end of the paper, unwrapping it as though he thought it might shatter in his hands before he got the paper off. It had been his luck to draw Hodges in the gift exchange, and after about two minutes of trying to figure out what Hodges would want Nick had just bought one of those Christmas mugs full of candy and stuck it in a gift bag. He'd never even wondered who got him, but there was no telling what Greg had come up with.
"So you got my name?" he asked as he finally pulled the last of the paper off the box, glancing up long enough to find Greg watching him.
"It's a secret," Greg answered, but Nick could tell by the way the other man was smiling that he'd guessed right. It was the only reason Greg would have come looking for him; he did like to make a presentation, Nick knew that better than anyone.
He turned his attention back to the small, square box, carefully lifting the lid to look inside. It was one of those jewelry boxes that usually held a bracelet or a necklace, but when he pulled the lid away he didn't see any jewelry. Right at the top of the box was a calling card, and Nick glanced up long enough to flash a puzzled smile at Greg. "You trying to tell me something?"
"Maybe." Greg shrugged and reached out, pulling the card out of the box and setting it aside. "I figured since you're not going home this year you'd want to call. This way it's on me."
Nick nodded at the explanation; it was practical enough, and he had to admit that it was pretty thoughtful. Certainly a lot more thoughtful than a mug full of candy, but if he'd gotten Greg's name…well, he wasn't sure what he would have gotten Greg, but he would have put more thought into it than he did for Hodges.
Under the calling card was a tie, navy blue with tiny strings of Christmas lights printed on the fabric. Nick laughed and pulled it out of the box, holding it up and turning to look at Greg. "What's this for?"
Greg reached into the box, pulling one last thing out of it before Nick had a chance to see what it was. "Cath invited you to her annual orphan dinner, right? So you can wear it to that, or you can use this…" he held out his hand, and Nick frowned when he saw that there was a key resting in the center of Greg's palm, "…and we can spend Christmas together."
It took him a minute to work out what the other man was saying, but when he did he reached for the key and looked up at Greg. "You mean like a date?"
Greg shrugged and gave Nick one of his most innocent smiles, the one Nick knew from experience was anything but. "I'm just saying neither of us has any plans for the day, so instead of hanging around by ourselves or suffering through Cath's annual orphan dinner, we could spend it together. If you want to think of it as a date, though, that's okay with me."
Nick's heart was already beating fast from their proximity, but when he heard the word 'date' roll off Greg's tongue he started to wonder if maybe he'd fallen and hit his head or something. It wasn't like he'd never thought about this before, but he'd never expected Greg to ask him out for the first time on one of the biggest holidays of the year. "What are we talking about here, G?'
"Well I could draw you a diagram if I had my dry erase board handy. In a pinch I find a reenactment works just as well, though." Greg grinned and Nick had a second to realize where this was going before the other man swayed forward, and before Nick could react Greg's lips brushed against his. He didn't even think as he reached up and threaded a hand through Greg's hair, holding him in place as though he was afraid Greg might change his mind.
And maybe he was a little afraid of that; he'd been working on the theory that Greg had a thing for Sara, after all, and there was a small part of him that wondered if this was all some weird form of pity. Only it didn't feel like pity, and Greg had just given him a key to his apartment, so he had to be serious. Either that or he really was as crazy as most people thought, but Nick had known him long enough to be pretty sure he was sane.
His free hand was still clutched around Greg's key, so he felt around blindly until his hand made contact with the box on the table, dropping the key inside before he reached up and closed his fist around the front of Greg's lab coat. Greg gasped against his mouth and Nick took it as an invitation, sliding his tongue along a full bottom lip, then diving into Greg's mouth.
He tasted like fruit punch and peppermint. He smelled like cologne and chemicals, and the mixture shouldn't have been as intoxicating as it was, but that didn't stop Nick from wanting more. More and more, and he moaned when Greg's hand slid under his shirt to trace hot patterns along his spine. He'd thought about this once or twice, wondered what it would be like just to reach out and take, but he'd never imagined that Greg's mouth would fit so perfectly against his. He'd never imagined the needy little noises Greg made in the back of his throat, like this was the only thing he ever needed.
He'd been crazy to try to talk himself out of wanting this, but that was before he knew how Greg's hands felt on him, how his hair felt under Nick's fingers. That was before he knew what Greg could do with that tongue, and that was something he hadn't let himself think about, because if he had he would have done this a long time ago. Now that he had done it he wasn't sure he'd ever be able to stop, but Greg didn't seem to be in any hurry to end it either.
Nick's hand slid under Greg's lab coat to flatten against his chest, soaking in body heat and the feel of Greg's heartbeat against his palm. He wanted to feel that without layers of clothes between them, wanted to see Greg stripped and flushed and panting and wanting – wanting him. Their first kiss hadn't even ended yet and already Nick wanted to claim Greg, to mark him somehow so everybody knew.
A startled laugh escaped his throat at the thought, and when Greg pulled back to look at him they were both flushed and panting. "So is that a yes?"
He laughed even harder at that, high and breathless in the back of his throat. "Yeah," he answered when he caught his breath, his hand tightening in Greg's hair just enough to pull him forward, "it's a date."
Greg's lips curved against his as Nick fitted their mouths together again, his free hand sliding down Greg's chest to ghost across his stomach. He felt the other man shiver against him, and he knew if they didn't stop this would get out of hand fast. There was no way they could let that happen; kissing was one thing, but if they got caught doing anything else they'd both be out of a job faster than Nick could say 'this is a mistake'.
It didn't feel like a mistake, though, and he knew if they weren't in the lab they'd already be peeling off clothes. Just the thought made him shudder, and he'd almost convinced himself to pull away when he heard the door swing open again. They both froze at the sound, and Nick tore his mouth away from Greg's and looked up to find Sara staring back at him, eyes wide and one hand frozen against the door.
"Oh my God."
He expected her to mumble an apology and shut the door again, but when she just stood there looking stunned Nick cleared his throat and started to stand up. "Sara…"
"What's the matter, Hodges still trying to catch you under the mistletoe?" Greg interrupted, and Nick glanced down to find the other man smirking, like this was all a big fucking joke. And it was just lucky Greg was such a good kisser or Nick might have to reconsider this whole thing before it even started.
Sara's mouth was working but no sounds were coming out, and he knew he was never going to hear the end of this. The whole night shift would know about it within the hour, and God…he was never going to be able to look Warrick in the eye again. "I…should get back to work," Sara finally managed to choke out, gesturing over her shoulder toward the break room. "Party's breaking up. Just so you know."
A second later the door swung shut again, and Nick sighed and looked down at the table. He reached into the box and picked up Greg's key, turning it over in his hand for a second before he looked up. When he did he found Greg watching him, his mouth frozen in a nervous grin that let Nick know the other man wasn't exactly sure how he was going to react.
"I didn't plan any of that, I swear. I wasn't really expecting…" He trailed off and stood up, glancing over his shoulder to make sure they were still alone before he leaned into Nick's personal space. "Look, are we still on here or what?"
"Depends," Nick answered, fighting the urge to smile at Greg's nervous expression. He glanced down at the key for a long moment, then grinned and held it up between them. "Do I get to keep this?"
"Well it was a present," Greg answered, his features finally relaxing into that flirtatious grin Nick loved so much. "I don't take back presents."
"Good to know." Nick reached out with his free hand and closed his fist around Greg's lab coat again, pulling him forward for a hard kiss. Somewhere in the back of his head was a voice telling him that the next time that door opened it could be Grissom walking in on them, but if Sara was already spreading the news, it didn't really matter.
Grissom had to be the only person on the night shift who hadn't heard about him and Greg. Either that or Sara had actually kept her mouth shut, but Nick wasn't counting on that. The important thing was that Grissom didn't know – he couldn't, or there was no way he would have sent Greg out into the field with Nick.
If he could see them now he'd never send them out together again; in fact, if he could see them right now he'd have both their jobs, so it wouldn't really matter. And Nick knew better, but that hadn't stopped him from pulling Greg into the first bathroom they passed and pressing him up against the door.
They were supposed to be on their way back to the lab with evidence for processing, and Nick was supposed to leave Greg to it and head over to the coroner's office to see if they'd found a cause of death yet. He was supposed to be teaching Greg proper procedure, but making out in a deserted public restroom didn't fall under any definition of procedure.
Hands slid under his shirt and he groaned against Greg's mouth, pressing the body underneath his even harder against the door. And there was no way they were going to have sex against a bathroom door, not when their first kiss was just a few hours ago at the lab. Nick was more of a romantic than that – at least he liked to think he was, but it was hard to convince his body that this was the wrong time and definitely the wrong place.
He backed off deliberately, putting a few inches of space between them so he couldn't feel the heat of Greg's erection pressing against his own. It was stupid to follow the impulse to pull Greg into the lobby bathroom, and even more stupid to push him up against the door and kiss him like they weren't jeopardizing both their jobs. Something told him it wasn't his fault, though, because kissing Greg was addictive, and even though Nick had never been big on drugs he could see how people got hooked on them.
"We should go," he murmured against Greg's mouth, as much to convince his own traitorous body as to convince Greg. The other man nodded and pulled his hands out from under Nick's shirt, smoothing the fabric back down over Nick's stomach.
"You do this with all your rookies?" Greg asked, his voice breathless and filled with the same humor that had been in his eyes all night.
"You're the first one I've taken out in the field," Nick answered. He meant to pull away, but somehow he found himself swaying forward again, catching the corner of Greg's mouth against his lips. He pressed a soft kiss there before he trailed his mouth along Greg's jaw line, mouthing hot kisses across his skin and then down the side of his neck.
"So this isn't part of the training process?" Greg asked, all innocence and laughter and God, Nick wanted to turn him around and wipe that smirk off his face. "Maybe I should be taking notes."
"Maybe," Nick murmured against his neck before he worked his way back up to Greg's mouth to press their lips together, "you should shut up."
Greg's laugh was drowned out by the kiss, but Nick could feel the vibration against his mouth. He flattened his palm against Greg's chest to feel it there too, mingled with his heartbeat. His other hand came up to curve against Greg's hip, thumb pressing against the hard jut of bone along his pelvis. It had been awhile since he'd done anything like this; he'd told himself for a long time that his job was enough, that he didn't have time for relationships until his career was on track. At first that was making level three, then it was another promotion, and before he knew it he was so wrapped up in his job that he didn't have a life anymore.
This thing with Greg was unexpected, but as soon as Greg made the offer Nick realized that it was exactly what he'd been missing. It wasn't just the sex – although he was already picturing what Greg would look like what he came – it was having someone around who made him laugh, somebody to hang out with during his rare off hours. He'd told himself for a long time that he couldn't keep a relationship together because of his schedule, but Greg worked weird hours too and he understood their schedule better than anybody else Nick had ever dated.
Dating wasn't something he'd ever been any good at, but he'd known Greg forever and this didn't feel so much like dating as a natural step in their relationship. They fit together – maybe not on paper, but they liked the same things, and they already knew most of each other's bad habits. There was no way they could work together for as long as they had and not learn that stuff, and the fact that they still wanted each other after all that had to be a good sign.
Nick's hand slid up Greg's back, under his shirt to trace the curve of his shoulder blade. He vaguely remembered something about stopping, about pulling themselves back together and getting back to work before Grissom wondered where they were and started paging him. And he had no idea what he'd say if that happened; he'd never been any good at lying, and he was even worse at thinking up believable excuses on the spot. None of that seemed very important when Greg was pressed up against him, though, and when he did that thing with his tongue Nick groaned and slid his other arm around Greg's waist to pull him even closer.
His lungs burned with the need to breathe when he finally tore his mouth away again, hands still moving arrhythmically on Greg's skin as he gasped for air. "Were you really gonna let me open that box in front of the whole lab?" he asked, his voice rough and broken and needier than he'd ever heard it before.
"You wouldn't have known who it was from," Greg answered, hot breath warming Nick's neck as the other man panted against him. "Not until I told you."
"And when were you planning on doing that?" Nick asked, turning his face into the warmth of Greg's neck as he spoke. He opened his mouth against the soft skin just below Greg's ear, surprising a gasp out of the other man when he nipped at Greg's skin.
Greg shuddered against him and slid a hand up Nick's chest, then around the back of his neck to force Nick to look at him. "Thought I might let you sweat it out for awhile. Then I'd get you alone and give you the good news."
Nick laughed at that and surged forward again, kissing Greg long and slow this time. His stomach fluttered with the intensity of the kiss, and he wanted to laugh because he couldn't remember the last time he'd felt so much like a teenager. Maybe not since he was a teenager, and it was worth whatever trouble he got in with Grissom just for these few minutes alone with Greg.
Finally he pulled away again, uncurling his fingers from the hopeless mess of wrinkles in the front of Greg's shirt. "If we don't get back Gris is gonna have both our asses."
Greg grinned and slid his hands down Nick's back to cup the body part in question, squeezing hard enough to surprise a gasp out of Nick before he let go. "I've got dibs on your ass, Stokes. And just so you know, I don't share."
Nick laughed and leaned in for another kiss before he finally pulled away and pushed Greg ahead of him out the door. And he'd never really thought of himself as the possessive type, but he had to admit that he kind of liked the thought of having exclusive rights to everything about Greg.
There was torture, and then there was the cruel and unusual variety, and this was definitely shaping up to be the latter. Nick was starting to think that Grissom knew after all, because he'd made sure that Nick and Greg were practically attached at the hip all night, but they hadn't gotten another chance to be alone since those few stolen minutes in the hotel bathroom.
He was starting to regret ever leaving that bathroom, because a whole night full of stolen glances and fingers brushing 'accidentally' over his arm or his thigh were going to drive him crazy before he ever got Greg alone again. The tension between them was palpable; Nick knew Greg could feel it too because he was even more high-strung than usual, practically vibrating with the energy he couldn't release in front of the rest of the night shift.
It wouldn't have been so bad if Nick didn't know what it felt like to be pressed up against all that energy, to feel Greg's hands skimming over his skin as though he was cataloguing every inch of Nick. And it was crazy, because all they'd done so far was kiss, but the whole situation was spiraling out of control faster than Nick could keep up with it, and he knew there was only one way this night could end.
There was only one way he wanted it to end, and he was way beyond caring what anybody else thought about it. The fact that he spent the whole night showing Greg the ropes of a typical murder investigation meant he didn't have to deal with the other CSIs, and he was almost grateful to Grissom for keeping the rest of the team away from them. He couldn't tell whether their boss was doing it on purpose or if he was just oblivious to what was going on right under his nose, but by the end of the night Nick didn't care anymore.
They were almost done cataloguing and filing the evidence they'd gathered when Greg glanced over at him, the heat in his gaze shooting right down Nick's spine and straight to his cock. "My place?"
"Yeah," Nick answered, his voice rough with hours of anticipation. He knew he should be focusing on the evidence, or at the very least on making sure Greg was actually learning something useful, but all he could think about was those few minutes up against the bathroom door.
"You know where it is?"
Nick shook his head and glanced toward the door, making sure no one was hanging around in the hall before he answered. "I'll follow you."
This hadn't been in the plan. He was almost positive this hadn't been part of Greg's grand scheme, but he seemed pretty happy about the way things were working out. Part of Nick was tempted to suggest they wait until their actual first date to do this, but he knew he'd never make it through the next five days if they did. He'd barely been able to make it through one shift, and by the time he stopped in the locker room to pick up his things he wasn't sure he'd even make it through the car ride to Greg's place.
He shoved his ID into his locker and pulled his jacket on, slamming the metal door too hard and wincing at the sound. He straightened his jacket and fished his keys out of his pocket, then turned toward the door and stopped short when he found Sara watching him. "Hey," he said, his surprise clear in his voice.
"Hey. Some of us are going to breakfast, you wanna come?"
"Can't," Nick answered, not quite meeting her gaze. He felt the color rising in his cheeks, but he ignored it and took a few steps toward the door. "I've got someplace to be."
"You can bring your boyfriend if you want."
He looked up at that, frowning when he saw something flash in her eyes. "Sara…"
"Hey, you don't have to explain anything to me," she said, holding up her hands and finally stepping away from the door. He could tell she was trying to play it off like it was no big deal, but there was something about the way she said 'boyfriend' that made him wonder what he was missing. "Whatever makes you happy."
And now he was almost sure she was bothered by the idea of him and Greg, but he didn't know if it was because she wouldn't be the focus of Greg's attention anymore or if it was something else. "Look, this all just kind of happened," he said, forcing himself not to glance down at his watch to see how much time he'd been standing in the locker room while Greg was outside waiting for him. "It's not like I've been hiding anything."
As soon as he said it she looked up sharply, and he had to fight not to wince at the accusation in her eyes. "Like I said, you don't owe me an explanation. I'll see you after Christmas."
"Yeah, right," he answered. It hadn't dawned on him until that moment that this was her last shift before she headed back to San Francisco for vacation, and he relaxed marginally when he realized he wouldn't have to worry about her telling anyone what she saw until she got back. "Safe trip."
He pushed the door open before she had a chance to respond, shaking his head as he made his way down the hall toward the front door. He'd been so wrapped up all night in what was going on with him and Greg that he hadn't thought about how it was going to affect the rest of his life, but Sara's reaction was enough to worry him.
He'd never really thought of himself as hiding anything; his personal life was his own business, and as long as who he slept with didn't affect his job there was no reason for anybody to know about it. But sleeping with somebody from work was a different story, and Nick wasn't naïve enough to think it wouldn't make a difference that he was sleeping with a guy.
By the time he reached the reception desk he'd almost managed to talk himself out of going through with it, but as soon as he saw Greg leaning against the counter flirting with the girl behind the desk a jolt of propriety shot through him, and all he could think about was getting Greg alone again. He knew he was screwed before Greg even looked up and smiled at him, but he knew there was nothing he could do about it. There wasn't anything he wanted to do about it, because he wanted Greg more than he wanted to save face with Sara.
"Hey," Greg said when Nick reached him, dropping his conversation with the receptionist without a second thought. "What was the holdup?"
Nick didn't answer right away; instead he nodded toward the front door, letting Greg walk ahead of him out of the building. Once they were in the parking lot Nick slowed down, glancing back over his shoulder to make sure no one had followed them before he answered. "Ran into Sara."
"Yeah? What'd she say?"
"Doesn't matter," Nick answered as they reached his car. "I'm following you, right?"
"Unless you've changed your mind."
Greg was smiling, but Nick could see the nervousness around the edges, and he had to stop himself from pulling Greg forward and kissing him right in the middle of the parking lot. "I'm right behind you."
He climbed into his truck and pulled the door shut, gripping the wheel a little harder than necessary as he watched Greg walk toward his own car. Too late he found himself wishing he'd suggested they leave Greg's car at the lab, because he'd already had way too much time to think and all he wanted to do now was feel. He'd have plenty of time to second-guess himself tomorrow when he woke up, but by then it would already be too late to take any of it back.
Except it was already too late, because Sara had already seen them and bailing on Greg now wasn't going to change that. He followed the other man across town, finally pulling into a parking spot outside Greg's apartment complex and shutting off his engine. He climbed out of the truck and crossed to Greg's car in a few short strides, catching the other man around the waist and pressing him up against the side of the car.
"It's been a hell of a night," he murmured, his mouth hovering inches away from Greg's.
"Not over yet," Greg answered, grinning and leaning forward to press their lips together. Nick took the invitation gladly, opening his mouth to taste Greg for the first time in what felt like a lot longer than a few hours. By the time he let Greg up for air he wasn't sure he'd be able to make it all the way to Greg's apartment, but he knew if they stayed out here much longer somebody was going to call the cops. The thought of a squad car coming by was enough to make him straighten up, pulling Greg away from the car and toward the building.
They made it as far as what Nick assumed was Greg's apartment door before Nick gripped Greg's hips, pushing him up against the door and dipping his head to open his mouth against the other man's neck. And this was still a bad idea, but God, it felt good, and now that they didn't have to worry about being interrupted there was no way he was going to stop. It would be even better with less clothes, though, and as soon as the thought occurred to him he reached into his pocket and dug out Greg's key.
He grinned when Greg laughed against his neck, reaching around the other man to unlock the door and push it open. "Works," he said as he tucked the key back into his pocket and pushed the door shut behind them.
"What, you thought I was kidding?" Greg laughed breathlessly when Nick reached for him again, pushing his jacket off his shoulders and onto the floor.
Instead of answering Nick peeled off his own jacket, dropping it next to Greg's before he grabbed the other man's hips and steered him into the apartment. "Which way?"
"Depends what you're looking for," Greg answered, his hands sliding under Nick's shirt to push it up his chest. "Bed's this way."
Nick rolled his eyes and let Greg pull him toward the bedroom, leaving a trail of clothes from the living room all the way to the bed. His hands were everywhere at once, tracing the curve of Greg's shoulder, the slight swell of his hip as he slid his jeans off, the curve of his knee when he pushed Nick back onto the bed and climbed on top of him. He wanted to memorize everything about Greg, the way his skin felt under Nick's fingers and the breathy little gasp he let out when Nick's hand closed around his cock for the first time.
Condoms appeared like magic and then Greg was rolling one down his length, stroking slick fingers over Nick's cock until he was so hard he had to squeeze his eyes shut and grit his teeth to stop himself from coming. And just like that Greg backed off, his mouth against Nick's neck and then his chest as he let Nick catch his breath. He'd never felt so out of control before, but it felt good to let Greg take care of him, to stroke his hands lazily over whatever skin he could reach as Greg positioned himself over Nick and slowly sank down onto his length.
The pace he set was slow enough to torture, hands flat against Nick's chest and his mouth open, neck arched and Nick had never really thought of him as beautiful before, but he'd never seen Greg like this. He shifted his hips a little, thrusting up hard on Greg's next down stroke. Greg gasped and clamped down hard on Nick's cock, his hands pressing down hard enough to leave ten perfect bruises on Nick's skin. And even that was a turn-on, so he did it again, and finally Greg took the hint and started moving faster.
Nick reached between them to close a hand around the other man's cock, stroking in time to Greg's thrusts until they were both panting and flushed, and way too soon Greg tensed and came over Nick's hand. His whole body trembled with the effort, and Nick thrust up hard one last time and grunted his own release before he collapsed back against the mattress. When he stopped shaking Greg rolled off him to sprawl on the mattress next to Nick, and it took every ounce of self-control Nick had not to climb on top of him and start all over again.
Instead he forced himself out of bed, his legs shaking a little as he found his way to the bathroom to toss the condom and wash his hands. When he was done he glanced up at the mirror, studying his reflection for a long moment. His face was still flushed and his hair was a mess, there were traces of Greg on his stomach and just the thought of what was waiting for him back in the bedroom made his temperature rise all over again. A flash of movement out of the corner of his eye made him look up, and he smiled when he saw Greg watching him from the doorway.
"I'm gonna take a shower," Greg said, glancing in the direction of the shower before he looked at Nick again. "You interested?"
For a second Nick wondered if he should say no, put his clothes back on and drive back home. He wasn't sure if Greg wanted him to stay or if either of them even knew what they were doing, but when Greg grinned at him Nick knew he wouldn't be able to say no. Instead he smiled back and turned around, watching as Greg turned on the shower before he let the other man pull him under the warm spray. And he still wasn't sure what happened tomorrow, but today was turning out pretty good so far.
If their first time was rushed and frantic after hours of anticipation, their second time was anything but. After their shower they crawled back into bed for the rest of the day, alternating between long, lazy kisses and catnaps before they woke up and started all over again. Nick knew he was going to be exhausted during his shift tonight, but every time Greg kissed him he remembered why it was worth it.
He couldn't remember the last time he'd spent so much time just kissing someone; it was strange, but it was kind of nice, and he liked the fact that there was no real expectation between them. They were both just going with the flow, not talking about what they were doing but somehow understanding all the same, and Nick couldn't remember anymore why he'd resisted his feelings for Greg for so long.
Greg who was sleeping again, and Nick's fingers twitched against the sheet as he fought the urge to reach out and touch. Greg's back was to him, and for the past ten minutes he'd been tracing the curve of the other man's spine with his eyes, picturing doing the same thing with his fingers and then his mouth. He liked the way Greg tasted, liked the way he kissed even more, and he was already cataloguing all the things he wanted to do to that strong – and surprisingly flexible – body.
He'd been half hard for most of the day, but when his cock twitched again he groaned and moved closer to the warm body stretched out next to him. His fingers brushed across the top of one of Greg's scars, tracing the uneven texture of the skin. It was the first time he'd seen the damage from the accident; he hadn't even gone to see Greg in the hospital, and now that he saw what Greg must have gone through he wished he had. He knew he wouldn't have been able to do anything, and maybe Greg wouldn't have even wanted him there, but his reasons for staying away seemed selfish and shallow and he couldn't help feeling like a coward even now that it was all over.
He pressed his lips to the biggest scar, the one just to the side of Greg's shoulder blade. Greg murmured in response and pressed back into the heat of Nick's mouth, and Nick smiled against his skin and pressed another hot kiss to the top of Greg's spine. He ran his hand down the center of Greg's back, thumb pressing hard enough to elicit a sleepy groan as Greg arched into the touch. He paused long enough to glance at the clock, because not getting any sleep was one thing, but if they were both late for their shift Grissom would start asking questions Nick wasn't ready to answer.
They still had two hours before Nick had to start worrying about going home and changing, though, so he turned his attention back to the expanse of pale skin stretched out in front of him. His fingers stroked up and down Greg's side from his hip to his rib cage, light enough to send shivers through his whole body, and Nick was surprised to find that he wasn't ticklish. He smiled against Greg's neck at the thought, breathing in the scents of sleep and shampoo and Greg as the other man pressed back against him.
He pressed another kiss to the side of Greg's neck, then his shoulder, brushing his lips across whatever skin he could reach as his hand trailed across Greg's stomach and up to his chest. He found a nipple and teased it to hardness, smiling at the sharp, surprised gasp that escaped Greg when Nick pinched just hard enough to get his attention. Their hips were moving now, finding a rhythm without any thought at all, and Nick moaned when Greg pressed back against his cock.
His hand left the other man's chest to reach between them, pushing Greg's knee up toward his chest and then sliding two fingers inside. Greg groaned and arched back into the sensation, rocking his hips in time to each tiny thrust. Just watching him was almost enough to make Nick come, but he knew how much better it could be, so he pulled his hand away and clamped down hard on Greg's hip to stop him from moving.
"Tease," Greg ground out through gritted teeth, and Nick laughed against his neck and pressed a placating kiss to salty skin before he answered.
"Protection," Nick reminded him, his hand wandering over Greg's stomach to close around his cock. He stroked a few times, and this time he was teasing, then let go when Greg groaned and pushed himself off the mattress. He reached into the nightstand drawer and produced a condom and a small bottle, dropping them both on the center of the mattress before he slid back down next to Nick again.
Greg leaned forward to press their lips together as he tore open the condom, his breathing already harsh and uneven as he rolled the condom down with expert fingers and then reached for the lube. It was still a little strange for Nick to let someone else do the work, but Greg's hand felt better than his own and he was too distracted by the mouth moving against his to care whether or not he was still in control.
It was an effort to tear his mouth away from Greg's, but he knew if he didn't this would all be over long before he was ready. He gripped Greg's hip and pressed until the other man took the hint and rolled onto his other side, pulling his knee up toward his chest again as Nick reached for the lube and poured some onto his hand. He slid slick fingers inside Greg this time, working them in and out slowly enough to make Greg groan and push back hard against his hand.
Part of him wanted to skip the foreplay and thrust inside Greg in one smooth movement. He knew he could, knew Greg wouldn't complain if he did, but there was another part of him that wanted to hear Greg say it before he gave in. It took every ounce of concentration he had left to keep from using his other hand to stroke himself in time to the tiny thrusts in and out of the other man, and he was grateful they were on their sides so the angle was too awkward to end things before they really got started.
Greg's chest heaved with the effort to catch his breath, one hand clutching at the sheets just above his head. Nick reached up with his free hand and caught Greg's fingers in his own, and when Greg squeezed his hand hard the almost-pain was enough to distract Nick from his own aching need. The room was silent but for the sound of their harsh, uneven breathing, and the whole situation felt so unreal that Nick almost started to wonder if he was even awake when he finally heard it – a broken 'Nick, please' that tore a groan from his throat.
He pulled his fingers out of Greg and gripped his own cock, squeezing until the urge to come subsided. It took another second or two before he reined in enough control to slide inside Greg, and once he was surrounded by tight heat he knew he wouldn't last nearly long enough. He wanted this feeling to last forever, because as soon as it was over they'd have to go back to the world outside Greg's bedroom, and Nick wasn't even close to ready to deal with that.
His free hand closed around Greg's cock, stroking in time to his own slow thrusts. And it still felt a little like a dream, but no dream had ever been this intense. No dream had ever left his chest burning with a weight he couldn't explain; he couldn't get close enough to Greg, couldn't get enough of the slide of imperfect skin against his chest or the almost punishing grip of Greg's fingers clenched around his own. He buried his face in the crook of the other man's neck, opening his mouth to suck at the skin there as his thrusts grew more and more erratic.
He'd never been all that good with words; sure, he could turn on the charm when he needed to, and he could give as good as he got when it came to verbal sparring with Greg or Sara, but when it came to situations like this he always ended up feeling tongue-tied and awkward. There were things he wanted to say to Greg, things he thought they should maybe talk about before this went any further, but he didn't even know how to start. So instead he squeezed just a little harder when Greg's hand tightened around his again, and he feathered soft, frantic kisses along the other man's shoulder when Greg tensed against him and came in his hand for the second time.
A few seconds later Nick moaned his own release against Greg's neck, regret hitting him hard when he realized how soon he'd have to get up and go back to his real life. Only Greg was a part of his real life, and now this was too, at least if he was reading the signs right. Greg wanted him, anyway – wanted him enough to more or less announce it in front of the entire lab by handing over a key to his apartment all wrapped up in a jewelry box.
The thought made Nick's heart skip a beat, and he finally pulled his hand out of Greg's and slipped out of him, letting Greg roll onto his back before he pressed their lips together for a long, slow kiss. And it wasn't about reassurance – Nick wasn't an insecure guy, after all – but he knew that later when he was out working a case and Greg was back at the lab processing evidence, this was the part of their first day together he'd remember best.
When Nick got to work the lab was still decked out in tacky silver and gold lengths of garland and somebody's cast-off satin ornaments, but the sight didn't make him homesick anymore. Now whenever he passed a string of garland he thought of warm hands and warmer lips and the metal key still tucked carefully in the pocket of his jeans. He'd considered putting it on his keychain – gone so far as to pull it out and start to slide it onto the ring next to his own house key – but he kind of liked the idea of keeping it tucked in his pocket where he could feel it press against his skin every time he turned a certain way.
He felt a little stupid, but as long as nobody knew he didn't have to think about it too hard. Besides, he had a case to keep him distracted, and working with Catherine always kept him on his toes. She wasn't competitive like Sara, but she'd been at this a long time and he usually felt like he had to work harder to pull his own weight around her. That was why he was taking the samples to trace personally – at least that was what he'd told himself when he left the coroner's office, but the closer he got to Greg's lab the harder it was to ignore the way his pulse raced.
It was the first time he'd gotten a chance to see Greg since their shift started, and okay, he was looking forward to it. And maybe he was just a little bit nervous, because when he'd left Greg's apartment and gone home to change he'd almost felt like he was breaking some kind of spell. He didn't believe in any of that romance novel logic, but at the time it had felt like they'd started something in Greg's place that might not survive going back to the rest of their lives.
He shook his head at the stupid romantic notion and pushed the door to Greg's lab open, only to stop short when he realized Greg wasn't alone. His heart sank at the sight of Catherine, but he told himself it was her case too and it wasn't like he could grab Greg and kiss him right in the middle of the lab anyway.
"Hey," he said, nodding at Catherine before he let himself look at Greg. And it shouldn't feel this weird, because they'd done this nearly every shift since Nick transferred to Clark County, but they'd never had to work together after a day of incredible sex.
When he finally did meet Greg's eyes the other man was grinning at him, and he held Nick's gaze just long enough to make him squirm before he glanced down at the evidence still dangling from Nick's hand. "You got something for me?"
"Yeah, got those samples from Doc," Nick answered, clearing his throat and hoping neither of them would notice the sudden rise of color in his cheeks. He set the samples down on Greg's work station and took a few quick steps backwards, stopping short and flushing all over again when he felt a pair of hands land on his back.
"Whoa," Catherine said, raising her eyebrows when he turned to mutter a sheepish apology. "What's with you tonight?"
"Nothing," Nick answered, and he was not looking at Greg because he knew the second he did that Catherine would know everything. There was no way she could miss it, because he was practically wearing a neon sign that flashed 'I fucked Greg Sanders' in ten foot letters. Maybe she already knew; if Sara was going to tell anybody about what she saw Catherine would be the most likely candidate, and if they'd had breakfast together before Sara left then chances were Catherine knew something.
"I'm fine," he added, his voice a little gruffer than he'd intended.
"Right." Even though he wasn't looking at her he could feel her gaze on him, and he could hear in her voice that she didn't believe him. He couldn't feel Greg's gaze on him, and that was probably worse than if Greg was looking at him, because if it had been anybody else Greg would have jumped at the opportunity to get in on a little teasing. "That's why you've been wandering around all night whistling that damn Christmas song and tripping over your own feet."
Whistling…that was news to him, and if he'd been whistling some Christmas song that meant he really was in bad shape. He wanted to look at Greg just to gauge the other man's reaction, but he couldn't because he knew as soon as he did Catherine wouldn't have to guess what was up with him anymore. "I wasn't whistling."
She let out a heavy sigh and Nick could feel her rolling her eyes without even looking. "Come on, Nick, you've been driving me crazy with "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" for three hours. What, did you get lucky or something?"
He knew it was a joke, but he blushed anyway, and then he did look at Greg before he could even stop himself. And there was no way Catherine was going to miss the fact that Greg hadn't said a word yet – even Grissom would have noticed by now. He forced a shaky laugh and tore his gaze away from the back of Greg's head, glancing at Catherine only to find her smirking at him. "I don't kiss and tell."
"You don't have to," she answered, her expression triumphant and Nick was going to kill Greg for sitting there with his back to them like he couldn't even hear them. "So who's the lucky girl?"
"There's no girl." The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them, and as soon as he realized what he'd said he panicked. He'd told Sara he wasn't hiding anything, but he'd never stopped anybody from believing he was anything other than straight, and he'd never really put up that much of a fight when Catherine and the others decided to think of him as some kind of ladies' man. And it wasn't that he didn't like girls – they were soft and pretty and they always smelled good – but last night…last night had reminded him of why he'd never gotten serious about any of the girls he'd tried to date since he got to Vegas.
And now he could feel Greg's gaze on him, but Catherine was still watching him too and he knew if he looked at the other man he'd never have any room for plausible deniability again.
"Okay," Catherine finally said, but he saw the weird look she shot him out of the corner of his eye. She opened her mouth to say something else, but before she got the chance Greg cleared his throat and held up a printout, and Nick could have kissed him for diverting Catherine's attention.
"I've never been the type to kiss and tell myself," Greg said, turning on that charming grin that made Nick's stomach flip, "but I can tell you what your mysterious metal is."
That was enough to make Catherine forget about Nick's love life, and by the time Greg was done with a speech Nick barely heard she'd forgotten all about his weird behavior. She took the printout of out Greg's hands and started toward the door, stopping halfway there and glancing over her shoulder at Nick. "You coming?"
"I'll be right there," Nick answered, gesturing toward the samples he'd brought with him. "Soon as I get these straightened out."
One more piercing Catherine gaze and he was going to break, Nick thought as she squinted at him. She really should have been a cop; those looks of hers would break any criminal, especially when she thought there was something going on that she should know about. Finally she turned and pushed the door open, and Nick watched until she disappeared around the corner before he turned to look at Greg.
The other man was already pulling his first sample out of its envelope and loading it onto a slide, and Nick moved closer to watch over Greg's shoulder as he peered through the microscope. "Thanks for the help," he said, the corners of his mouth twitching with a barely suppressed grin.
"You didn't look like you needed any," Greg answered, glancing up long enough to smirk at Nick. "But I've never heard you whistle."
Nick rolled his eyes, ignoring the fresh heat that crept up his neck. "I wasn't whistling."
Greg smiled at the microscope as he slid the slide back out and set it down on the table. "Nylon fibers. Can't say what the residue is without breaking it down. Give me an hour."
"Thanks, G." Nick reached out without thinking and laid a hand on the other man's shoulder, but as soon as he made contact he realized that there was no such thing as a casual touch with Greg anymore. He'd patted Greg's shoulder a thousand times without even thinking about it, but this time…this time when he touched Greg his mind flashed right back to warm, bare skin and breathy little moans. He cleared his throat and pulled his hand back, grinning nervously when Greg looked up at him.
"My pleasure," Greg answered, and a shiver shot down Nick's spine when his voice dropped an octave. "You coming back to pick these up yourself?"
Nick had never thought much about the glass walls in the crime lab before, but at the moment he would have liked to choke the architect that designed the building. "Yeah," he said, crossing his arms over his chest to stop himself from doing something stupid like leaning in for a kiss. "Unless Cath beats me to it."
"Then I won't page her." Greg reached for a test tube and carefully dropped the fiber in before he looked up again. "And if you wanted to come back to my place later I wouldn't complain about that either."
He'd spent most of the night telling himself he wasn't going to show up at Greg's place after their shift ended, but as soon as Greg said the words relief hit him so hard he felt his knees shake. Nick swallowed hard and ignored the urge to reach into his pocket to make sure the key was still there. "I have to stop by my place and pick up a couple things."
Greg nodded and turned back to his samples, but Nick could see the smile that lit up his features. And suddenly their shift couldn't end soon enough, because Nick had been thinking about Greg all night and now it was going to be even harder to keep his mind on the case. He forced himself to turn and walk out of the lab before he gave in to temptation and touched Greg again, but it took all his self-control to keep himself from turning around and heading right back there. He knew he needed to pull himself together if he wanted to make Catherine believe there was nothing going on, but it was hard to make himself care about that when he knew what was waiting for him at the end of the night.
Letting himself into Greg's place felt strange, but by the third day Nick was starting to get used to it. The past two days had been the same – a quick stop at home for a change of clothes and to bring in the mail, then he got right back in his car and drove across town. He'd left his toothbrush there after their second day together, and he knew he should stop and pick up another one to keep at home, but he didn't want to take the time even to run to the store.
On the third day he forced himself to check his e-mail and his machine just in case anyone was trying to reach him, but other than that he couldn't think of any reason to linger at home when Greg was waiting for him. This thing between them was moving kind of quickly and part of Nick wondered if maybe they should slow down, but every time he thought it he immediately came up with a whole list of reasons why they shouldn't.
They were both adults, after all, and they had a good time together, so there was no reason to put the brakes on. Besides, it had only been a few days, and it was normal to want to spend a lot of time together at the beginning of a relationship. At least he thought it was. He wasn't really sure, because his last 'relationship' had consisted of a one-night stand with somebody whose name he couldn't even remember. There had been a handful of dates with a cop from the day shift, but as soon as she started making noise about an exclusive arrangement he'd backed off.
Greg had pretty much demanded an exclusive arrangement a few hours after their first kiss, but somehow that was different. Nick couldn't really put his finger on why, exactly, but he knew he didn't really want to sleep with anyone else while he was sleeping with Greg. He sure as hell didn't want Greg sleeping with anybody else, and the force of that thought took him by surprise every time.
They still hadn't talked about what they were doing – technically they still hadn't had their first date – but whatever it was, Nick didn't want to stop any time soon. So far it hadn't affected their work relationship, and after that first awkward shift Nick had relaxed enough to keep Catherine and the others from asking any more questions. He was pretty sure nobody knew anything, anyway, and as long as they managed to keep a low profile he figured they didn't have any reason to worry.
He let himself into Greg's apartment and shut the door, locking it behind him before he dropped his keys and his overnight bag in the kitchen. The sound of running water told him Greg was in the shower, and Nick grinned and tugged his shirt over his head as he made his way down the hall to the bathroom. By the time he kicked the bathroom door shut behind him he was already unbuttoning his jeans, and he let them drop to the floor along with his boxers before he pulled back the shower curtain and stepped into the hot water.
Greg tensed when Nick reached for him, but almost instantly he relaxed again, grinning over his shoulder at the other man. "I didn't hear you come in."
For a second Nick wondered if maybe he was wearing out his welcome already, but as soon as Greg's hands slid around his waist he pushed the thought to the back of his mind. "I'll make more noise next time."
Greg laughed and pushed him backwards until he was pressed up against slick tile, Nick's hands catching Greg's hips for balance. For a second Greg just stared at him, his gaze wandering from Nick's face down to his chest, cataloguing every inch of skin as though he was trying to memorize Nick. And maybe he was; he was a scientist, after all, and Nick had done the same exact thing that first day while Greg was sleeping.
He slid his hands up Greg's back, tracing scars he knew by touch now, and leaned forward to brush their lips together. Automatically Greg's lips parted against his, the tastes of mint and something sweet on his tongue. Nick chased the flavor with his tongue until they were both panting, his hands flexing against Greg's back and their cocks sliding together. Greg's mouth left his and then his skin slid out from under Nick's hands, and a few confused seconds later Nick realized it was because Greg had slid to his knees.
His hand slid through wet hair as Greg glanced up long enough to grin at him, then a hot mouth closed around his cock and Nick groaned and arched back against the tile. He locked his knees to keep from sliding to the floor and ruining Greg's rhythm, his eyes squeezed shut as Greg's tongue did things that Nick didn't even know were possible. And he knew he was going to come way too soon, so he distracted himself from the pressure building at the base of his spine by reciting the Periodic table.
He got as far as Cadmium before Greg slid a hand between his legs, past his balls to press against the spot just behind them. He sucked in a harsh breath and tried to regain his focus, but when he found himself repeating 'Tellurium' over and over in his head he gave up completely. Greg's mouth was way too hot and somehow his fingers knew exactly the right spot to press, again and again until Nick was shouting something that might have been English and coming hard.
When he opened his eyes again he expected Greg to be smirking, possibly even waiting for Nick to regain consciousness so he could make some self-satisfied comment about his lack of control. Only Greg wasn't smirking or even fighting back a laugh; he was watching Nick just like he'd been doing before, a mixture of affection and something Nick couldn't name in his eyes. It made Nick's heart skip a beat – it made his chest hurt to look at it, so he reached out with a boneless arm and pulled Greg forward to taste himself on the other man's tongue.
Nick didn't have the words for whatever was happening between them, but suddenly it scared him even more than the thought of Catherine figuring it out. It scared him more than facing Sara when she got back from vacation, but he knew it was already too late to walk away. He pushed the fear as far back in his mind as he could and reached around Greg, his hands shaking only slightly as he turned the water off and pulled the other man out of the shower.
Their skin was still damp when Nick pulled Greg out of the bathroom and into the bedroom, pushing him back onto the bed before he knelt between Greg's legs and slid his hands along the smooth skin of Greg's inner thighs. For a second he just looked the same way Greg had done, taking in the flutter of dark lashes against pale cheeks and the thin line of hair leading down Greg's stomach. He grazed his knuckles along the underside of Greg's cock, smiling when Greg moaned and pressed up against his hand.
He wanted to memorize the way Greg looked right now, so tomorrow night when he was out in the field and Greg was stuck back in the lab he'd be able to see this as clearly as if it was still happening. He wanted a lot of things he couldn't put into words, but that thought made his stomach flutter so he shook his head and leaned forward, letting out a hot breath against the head of Greg's cock before he swallowed him whole.
Greg gasped and Nick laughed around his length, his hands pressed hard against the other man's hips to keep him from thrusting. He could feel the tension in Greg's body as he strained against Nick's grip, his head rocking back and forth against the pillow as Nick worked his mouth around Greg's cock. And he loved being the one to make Greg lose control like this, loved the low, throaty moans Greg let out every time Nick's tongue swept over the head of his cock. He loved knowing that this was what Greg would be thinking about tomorrow when he was in the lab, processing endless pieces of evidence until they all started to blur together.
It didn't take long before Greg was clutching hard at the sheets on either side of him, and when Nick swallowed around him he moaned Nick's name and came. He was still shuddering when Nick crawled over him to lick a hot stripe down his neck, nipping at Greg's skin and then soothing the spot with his tongue. They hadn't slept much for the past couple days and Nick knew if they didn't get some sleep people at work were really going to start talking, but when Greg's hands slid down his back to pull him closer he wasn't so sure it wasn't worth the risk.
It was Christmas Eve by the time it dawned on Nick that he hadn't gotten Greg a present. He wasn't even sure if he was supposed to; they'd been sleeping together for four days, but they hadn't said anything about a relationship since that first day when Greg announced that he didn't share. As far as Nick was concerned that meant Greg expected them to be exclusive, but he didn't know if that meant he was supposed to get Greg a gift.
Then there was the fact that he had no idea what to get. Buying gifts for his family was easy; a gift certificate to his parents' favorite restaurant, some expensive perfume for whichever sister his mother assigned him in the annual gift exchange. Shopping for someone he was dating, though – that was a different story entirely, and even if he had experience with this kind of thing he had a feeling shopping for Greg wouldn't be easy.
He had no idea what people bought for someone they'd been sleeping with less than a week. If Greg was a girl he'd go with flowers or candy or something that said romance without screaming commitment. But Greg wasn't a girl, and he wasn't going to be impressed by a dozen roses or a box of chocolate. Nick didn't know anything about the kind of music he listened to except that it was loud, he didn't know what kind of movies Greg liked or what video games he hadn't already bought himself.
The truth was that for as long as they'd known each other, Nick really didn't know much about Greg at all. He knew Greg used to surf and that he was too smart for his own good, that he was willing to try pretty much anything and he wasn't afraid to ask for what he wanted. But when it came to buying him something and putting a bow on it, Nick was at a complete loss.
Asking Catherine for advice was out of the question; he'd caught her looking at him a little funny even after he told her there was nothing going on, and if he started asking about gift ideas she'd know he was hiding something. Warrick would just laugh at him, and if he called his mom or his sisters they'd assume he was shopping for a woman. He didn't let himself think too hard about that particular point, because he already had enough on his mind without worrying about whether or not he really had been hiding things from the people in his life.
There was nothing wrong with being a private person, but the drawback was that when he needed someone to bounce ideas off of there was no one he could turn to. The only person he could think of was Greg, and he couldn't just ask Greg what he wanted for Christmas.
He knew what he should give Greg. He should have a key to his house made the same way Greg had done; it would be symbolic more than anything, because so far they'd spent all their time at Greg's place. But even thinking about handing over his key to someone – anyone – else brought back flashes of broken plaster and a dead body in his living room, the crazy rantings of a murderer who'd tried to take over his life.
Even sleeping in his house when he knew he was alone had been hard for a long time, and thinking about giving up his privacy made Nick break out in a cold sweat. And he knew it was stupid, because this was Greg and he wasn't some crazy stalker, but that didn't help Nick feel any less sick at the thought of handing over his key. He knew he was going to have to get over it eventually; it had been nearly two years, after all, but he wasn't sure how to let go of the irrational fear long enough to make that kind of move.
Besides, they'd been sleeping together for less than a week, and just because Greg went around handing out keys to his apartment as a seduction tool didn't mean Nick had to reciprocate. Which left him right back at square one, because he couldn't think of a single thing to give Greg that wouldn't come across as completely lame.
He was frustrated and cranky from a long night of trying to come up with a gift he could actually pick up at the last minute when he found himself in Greg's lab, barely glancing at the other man as he handed over the hair samples he'd collected at his crime scene.
"Hey," Greg said when Nick dropped the samples in his inbox and turned to walk away. "Rough night?"
Nick froze at the sound of Greg's voice, a hot thrill running down his spine in spite of his distraction. He glanced over his shoulder to find Greg watching him, his expression a mixture of curiosity and nerves.
"Sorry," he said, some of the tension flowing out of him when Greg smiled. "Just a little distracted."
"Anything I can help with?"
He laughed at that, low and rough and full of innuendo. "Maybe. We still on for later?"
"We better be. Unless you want to bail on me and go eat turkey at Catherine's. The food would probably be better, but I'd put my money on the entertainment at my place."
Greg grinned and suddenly Nick felt stupid for spending the whole night worrying about what to buy him. He knew Greg well enough to know he wasn't the kind of guy who kept score, not with stuff like that. They liked each other and they had a good time when they were together; Nick didn't have to prove anything to Greg or anybody else, for that matter.
"I'll take my chances with you," he answered. "I'll be there right after I swing by my place."
"Fair enough." Greg's tone changed abruptly and he swung back toward his work station, reaching past Nick's hair samples for a printout. It wasn't until he held it up and glanced toward the door that Nick realized they weren't alone anymore, and when he looked over his shoulder and found Grissom standing behind him Nick's stomach clenched. He hadn't heard the door open, hadn't felt the tell-tale shift in the air that let him know someone had walked into the room. And he had no idea how much Grissom had heard, but he wasn't planning to stick around and find out.
"I'll stop by to check on those samples later," Nick said, nodding at Grissom as he stepped around him and pushed the door open. He could feel Grissom's gaze on him as he let himself out of the lab and headed for the break room, but he didn't look back to see how curious the older man looked. If Grissom thought he knew something Nick didn't want to know, especially not when he'd already spent most of the shift confusing himself over something that didn't even matter.
He let out a deep breath when he reached the break room, gripping the counter for support as he waited for his heart to stop racing. Technically he and Greg weren't doing anything wrong, but he had no idea if Grissom would see it that way. Nick wasn't Greg's superior so they weren't breaking any rules, but he'd learned early in his law enforcement career that there was a lot of grey area that wasn't covered in any rule book. If Grissom wanted to make things difficult he could, and Nick wasn't sure even great sex was worth risking both their careers.
The door opened behind him and he tensed and turned slowly, expecting it to be Grissom looking for answers. He swallowed a relieved sigh when Catherine walked into the break room instead, making a bee line for the coffee pot and pouring herself a cup before she turned to look at Nick. "Hey. You okay?"
"Yeah…yeah, I'm fine," Nick answered, reaching up to run a hand over his face. "Just beat."
Catherine nodded and pulled out a chair, sinking into it and looking up at Nick. "So we'll see you tomorrow, right?"
For a second Nick had no idea what she was talking about, but when it finally dawned on him he shook his head and leaned back against the counter. "Can't. Something came up, kind of a last minute thing."
"First Greg, now you? What's going on around here? Usually I have more people than I know what to do with, this year everybody's got other plans."
He swallowed against the nerves fluttering in his stomach and pasted what he hoped was an apologetic grin on his face. "Sorry. I'm sure it's nothing personal."
For a long moment she eyed him suspiciously, and he braced himself for the question a split second before she asked it. "Does this have anything to do with your mystery girl?"
"I told you, there's no girl. I'm just spending the day with a friend," Nick answered, wishing suddenly that he'd found someplace other than the break room to hide from Grissom. The evidence room was usually pretty deserted, but that was where all this had started in the first place. "Besides, Grissom will be there, right? And Warrick?"
She nodded but he could tell she was still trying to work out what he wasn't telling her, and he pushed himself off the counter and backed toward the door before she could ask him any more questions.
"I better get back to it," he said, gesturing vaguely over his shoulder. He didn't really have anything to get back to; all signs pointed to suicide on his current case, and as soon as Greg IDed the DNA on his hair samples Nick would be done for the night. Still, anything was better than hanging around waiting for Catherine to put two and two together.
He pushed the break room door open and nearly collided with Warrick, color rising in his cheeks when he looked up to find the other man frowning at him. "Sorry," Nick said, clearing his throat and taking a step backwards. "Didn't see you."
"Don't worry about it," Warrick called after him as Nick stepped around him and headed down the hall. He didn't look back to see if Warrick or Catherine were watching him; if they thought he was losing his mind, he didn't really want to know.
Nick stopped at home long enough to call his parents, some of his old homesickness creeping back when he heard the telltale sounds of a roomful of nieces and nephews in the background. He'd had good reasons to leave Texas, but there were times when he couldn't help wishing he was a little closer to home. Most of the time he was more than fine with the distance, though, and by the time he'd heard a fourth sister yelling for one of her kids to stop doing something he was just as glad he wasn't there to witness the mayhem.
When he finally hung up he pulled a bottle of champagne out of his fridge; he couldn't remember anymore where it had come from or why he had it, but at least it meant he didn't have to show up at Greg's empty-handed. He took a quick shower and changed into clean clothes, hesitating for a minute or two before he fished his spare house key out of a drawer and shoved it in his pocket
He still hadn't decided what he was planning to do with the key when he pulled up in front of Greg's apartment building; it wasn't as though he had a box to put it in or anything to wrap it with, and then there was the part of him that panicked at the thought of anybody else having access to his house. Just carrying it around with him didn't mean he had to do anything with it, though, and if he didn't hand it over, Greg would never know. Finally he shook his head and pulled his overnight bag out of the back seat, then crossed the parking lot and climbed the stairs to Greg's apartment.
He'd been expecting to be greeted with loud music or maybe even the TV, but the only noise was the rustling of something in the kitchen. He dropped his bag near the door and turned the corner, grinning when he caught sight of Greg pulling takeout cartons out of a shopping bag. Granted, it wasn't his mother's sweet potato pie or her homemade stuffing, but it smelled good and he couldn't really ask for better company.
"Hey," he said when he reached the kitchen, leaning over Greg to look inside the bag. "You need any help with that or do you have it covered?"
Greg rolled his eyes at Nick's smirk and set the last of the food in the fridge before he turned to look at the other man. "I slaved all day."
"I can see that." Nick set the bottle of champagne down on the counter and slid an arm around Greg's waist, pulling him close to press a kiss to the corner of his mouth. And it all felt so…domestic, but it was kind of nice. He slid a hand up Greg's back to rest against his neck, stroking at the soft hairs at the back of Greg's neck until he shivered and pulled away.
"Tired?" Greg asked when he looked up at Nick. He was still smiling, but there was concern in his eyes and Nick had a feeling he looked as exhausted as he felt.
He nodded and let go, leaning against the counter as Greg picked up the champagne and set it in the fridge. "This time of year sort of takes it out of you, you know? That suicide last night…there wasn't much work involved, but it's hard to figure why somebody would want to put a gun to their head on Christmas Eve."
Greg reached for two mugs and poured coffee into them, handing one to Nick before he answered. "The holidays can be pretty depressing if you don't have anybody."
Nick nodded and inhaled the strong scent of Greg's expensive coffee; he'd never put much stock into Greg's coffee theory until he tried the stuff, but he had to admit it was worth whatever Greg paid for it. It took a minute for Greg's words to sink in, but when they did Nick had to stop himself from asking if that was what this was all about. The past four days were enough to prove that Greg wasn't just lonely; at least he was pretty sure they were, and besides, there was always Catherine's thing if Greg had needed somewhere to go.
"Cath seemed kind of disappointed that we both bailed on her," Nick said, watching Greg over the rim of his cup as he took a sip of warm coffee.
"I think she was more upset that we wouldn't tell her why we were bailing on her. Unless you told her what you were doing today."
It was a trick question; he'd known Greg long enough to recognize them, even if he didn't always understand them. This time he was pretty sure Greg was fishing for specific information, but he wasn't exactly sure what the other man wanted to know. And suddenly he felt weird telling Greg what he'd told Catherine; it hadn't been a lie, but telling her he was spending the day with a friend didn't really seem like the truth either. "I told her something came up."
"No wonder she looked like her head was about to explode. She's probably still trying to figure out what you're not telling her." Greg laughed and nodded toward the living room, and before Nick could ask what Greg had told her he changed the subject. "You want to take this someplace more comfortable?"
Nick grinned at that and followed the other man to the couch, setting his mug down on the coffee table before he slid down onto the cushions next to Greg. They hadn't actually sat on Greg's couch together before; Nick had only sat on it once, and that was to pull his shoes back on before he went home to change before their next shift started. It seemed a little weird that he'd spent so much time in Greg's place and barely even seen most of his apartment, but that didn't stop him from being a little disappointed when Greg reached for the remote.
"The game's not on yet," he said, glancing at his watch to make sure he hadn't lost a few hours.
"But the parade is," Greg answered, glancing at Nick long enough to smile. And he looked so excited, almost like a little kid, that Nick couldn't help laughing.
"You want to watch the parade?"
"It's tradition." Greg flipped through the channels until he found the right one, then he settled back on the couch and propped his legs up on the coffee table. "It's not as good as Macy's, of course, but it's still the parade. You don't watch the Christmas Day Parade in Texas?"
Nick opened his mouth to point out a few things that were more interesting than watching a bunch of floats at Disney World, but Greg was already riveted to the brightly colored images on the screen. Besides, his weight felt good pressed against Nick's side, and when Nick slid an arm behind his head Greg leaned into him as though they were made to fit together. And there went that little flutter in his stomach again, but he didn't think too hard about what it meant. Instead he leaned back and pulled Greg closer, stretching his legs out and letting himself relax for the first time all day.
He didn't remember falling asleep. The last thing he remembered was stretching out on the couch, letting Greg settle in close and then closing his eyes for a second. When he opened them again Greg was still burrowed against his side, but they were stretched along the length of the couch and the parade had long since ended.
Nick frowned and glanced at his watch, blinking a few times until the numbers came into focus. He hadn't realized quite how tired he was, but he must have fallen asleep as soon as he closed his eyes. When he moved Greg stirred against him, and Nick's arm slid instinctively around Greg's waist to pull him closer.
He could tell Greg was still half-asleep by the sleepy mumble that escaped him as he shifted into Nick's warmth, lifting his face without bothering to open his eyes. Nick's heart skidded to a stop at the show of blind trust; Greg felt totally at ease with him, and the knowledge pressed heavy on Nick's chest until he was sure he'd never breathe again. He had no idea how to live up to that kind of trust, and he had even less idea what it was Greg wanted from him.
When Nick pressed their lips together his heart started again, beating in double time when Greg let out a muffled 'hmm' against his mouth and slid a hand under his shirt. He tightened his grip on Greg's waist automatically, trapping the other man's hand against his skin. And he knew Greg could feel the rapid beat-beat of his heart against his chest, but it didn't matter as long as Greg didn't stop kissing him to ask why. There was no easy answer to that question, at least not one that Nick could find the words for. He knew he'd never be able to make Greg understand why this all scared him so much, especially when he didn't really understand it himself.
The football game played in the background, but he barely registered the steady hum of commentary buzzing in his ear. His senses were overloaded with the taste of Greg on his tongue and the mingled scents of sleep and shampoo. Greg's fingers were hot against his skin, rough at the tips where they moved in random patterns on Nick's chest. His lips were chapped from the dry winter air, warm and full and just a little off center, so Nick turned into the kiss and somehow Greg moved too until he was stretched out under Nick.
And this was even better, because there was no denim digging into his hip and Greg's legs parted just enough to let Nick settle against him as though they were made to do this. Greg's hands slid up his back, over his shirt this time to pull him forward, and Nick hesitated just long enough to memorize Greg's sleepy, open expression before he leaned in for another kiss. His heart pounded loud against his eardrums, drowning out the sounds of the game and every thought in his head except for one: how to get even closer to Greg.
He wasn't sure it was possible, but then Greg's leg hooked around his and pressed and…there it was, just like that, like he could see inside Nick's mind and give him exactly what he needed. His hips rolled slowly against Nick's, hard enough to tease but not really doing anything, not yet. Nick had no idea what time it was or how long they had before they both had to be back at the lab for another endless night, but he wasn't hurrying because this felt too good to give up any time soon.
Greg was murmuring something that Nick couldn't quite make out, but he answered anyway, whispering reassurances or maybe even promises against Greg's mouth that Greg probably couldn't hear. And he wasn't sure what he was promising – he wasn't even sure if Greg was asking for anything – but the words tumbled out anyway and it didn't even matter that they were swallowed in the kiss.
Hands stroked down his back, over his jeans and back up to dip under his shirt, sending hot shivers of anticipation down his spine every time skin touched skin. He wanted more – wanted things he couldn't even put into words, but mostly he wanted Greg to keep moving against him, pressing up every so often to let Nick know how much he wanted this too.
When his lungs started to burn he pulled away with a gasp, face flushed and his whole body trembling like some nervous virgin. He breathed in deep and flattened a hand against Greg's chest until the steady beat of the other man's pulse matched his own. He wasn't sure how long they stayed like that, but when he realized what he was doing he grinned self-consciously and pulled his hand away, only to gasp again when Greg caught his hand and threaded their fingers together.
"Now this is what I call a merry Christmas," Greg said, smiling at Nick's breathless laugh.
"It would be merrier if we weren't on tonight," Nick answered, his smile fading as he glanced at the TV long enough to read the time on the VCR.
Greg shifted under him just enough to get his attention, and Nick bit down hard on a moan and looked down at the other man. "You're off tomorrow night, aren't you?"
"You been looking at my schedule?" Nick asked, raising his eyebrows at Greg's guilty expression.
"Let's just say I had a vested interest." Greg smiled and squeezed the hand that was still trapped in his, tugging until Nick took the hint and leaned forward again. "Since you're off and I'm off, there's no reason we can't…be off together. Seeing as our first date's going so well."
Nick laughed at the terrible almost-pun and let Greg pull him close, opening his mouth against the other man's to slide his tongue along Greg's bottom lip. It had been six days since they started this, and Nick had spent every one of those six days in Greg's bed. Somewhere in the back of his mind there was a voice telling him this was all moving too fast, that this wasn't the way these things were supposed to work.
Less than a week and he'd already given up most of his privacy and all of his free time, and the weird thing was that he didn't really mind. He knew they should slow down, take stock of what they were doing and maybe talk about where this was going, but there was a part of him that worried that talking about it would make it all feel way too real. As long as it was just the two of them it didn't matter how strange this thing between them was, but once it started to feel real…he clamped down hard on the panic that rolled through him at the thought, his free hand sliding into Greg's hair to tilt his head just a little.
The words vibrated against his mouth when Greg murmured something, and Nick's heart skipped a beat even though he couldn't make out exactly what Greg had said. He wasn't even sure he wanted to know; he knew he loved the way Greg made him feel, but putting it into words could ruin everything. A tiny voice in the back of his head pointed out that putting it into words could make it even better, but he ignored it and focused on the warmth of Greg's mouth and the pressure of Greg's hand still trapped in his. Things between them were good – better than good – and there was no reason to mess with what already worked.
He'd been at work for a few hours before he remembered the key in his pocket. He was squatting on the floor of the crime scene, leaning in to get a better picture of the broken glass from the window the suspect had shattered, when he felt a sharp press of metal dig into his thigh. It took him a minute to remember what it was, but when he did his stomach fluttered and he had to force himself to focus long enough to finish taking the pictures.
It wasn't as though he'd decided not to give the key to Greg, he told himself as he packed up his kit and put the camera back in its case. There just hadn't been a good time; they'd spent most of the day asleep, and when they did finally untangle themselves from each other and get up they'd only had time for a quick dinner and an even quicker shower before work. There wasn't even any sex, just a lot of making out between Greg's bad jokes and Nick's breathless laughter, and it just figured that their actual first date would be the only day all week they managed to keep all their clothes on.
The funny thing was that Nick didn't even mind, because waking up with Greg and spending their last two hours together just talking and touching had been kind of nice. He'd never really thought of Greg as someone he'd want to do that sort of thing with, but now that he had…now that he had he knew he was going to have to do something about where this was headed, because Sara came back from San Francisco tomorrow, and she wouldn't keep her mouth shut forever.
That thought was sobering enough to make him forget about the key again, and he let out a frustrated sigh as he made him way back into the lab and stowed his kit and the camera. He was still frowning when he stepped back into the hallway, and he didn't notice Catherine until it was already too late to avoid her.
"Merry Christmas," she said, smirking when he started and looked up at her. "Or should I say 'bah humbug'?"
He shook his head and tried to force a smile, but gave up when he saw that she wasn't buying it. "How was the party?" he asked instead, hoping a change of subject would take his mind off Sara's return and the weird vibe she'd left him with.
"Oh, too much food, too many presents for Lindsey. Warrick and Grissom tried to outdo each other in the 'who can spoil my kid the most' category this year."
Nick laughed at that, images of Warrick competing with their boss for Lindsey's affection and Catherine's attention making him wonder if maybe he'd been missing out on more than just the way Greg felt about him. His stomach fluttered again at the thought but he did his best to ignore it, pushing the memory of warm hands and warmer lips to the back of his mind. "Sounds like quite a show."
"It was something, alright." Catherine glanced at him as they started down the hall toward the photo lab, her eyes full of questions Nick was pretty sure he wasn't going to want to answer. "Probably not as interesting as whatever you and Greg did all day."
Nick froze in the center of the hallway, the roll of film from his crime scene gripped too hard in his hand. "What?"
"Come on, Nick, it doesn't take that much to put two and two together. You both cancelled at the last minute to 'spend the day with a friend', it doesn't take much to figure out who the friend is. What'd you guys do, spend the whole day playing video games and drinking beer?"
He knew he should lie, let her believe they'd spent the day playing football on the Dreamcast. But it was hard to focus when his mind refused to stop playing the afternoon over in slow motion – Greg's hand on his chest under his shirt, fingers moving in time to Nick's heart beat. Greg's legs tangled with his own, the lazy movement of his hips under Nick, the way their mouths fit together like they were two halves of a perfect whole.
"Earth to Nick. You did blow me off to relive your fraternity days with Greg, didn't you?"
He blinked and looked up to find Catherine watching him curiously, and he knew his face was flushed and he was going to have the imprint of a film cartridge in his palm. He forced his fingers to relax before he answered, taking a few steps backwards in the direction of the photo lab. "Yeah…uh…sorry. I just wasn't up for a big crowd, you know?"
"It's fine, Nick, I just don't see why…"
He didn't wait for her to finish before he turned and headed for the lab, praying she wouldn't follow him. And he knew he was going to hear about taking off when she was right in the middle of a sentence – probably right after she got done lecturing him about not being straight with her – but that thought hit way too close to home and he knew he couldn't stand there and stammer his way through a plausible excuse.
When he reached the photo lab it was blessedly empty, and he took a few minutes to calm down before he filled out a slip and dropped his film in the 'to be developed' box. His stomach was in knots and so far all Catherine had figured out was that he and Greg had hung out together instead of having dinner at her place. It wasn't that big a deal; they were friends, after all, but he knew Catherine was already wondering why they hadn't just told her they had plans. Then there was the fact that Sara was due back in the lab tomorrow night…he had no idea if she and Catherine would end up working together, but there was no way he could keep them apart forever.
And it wasn't like he and Greg were breaking any rules, but Sara's expression the last time he'd seen her was enough to let him know that their relationship was going to raise some eyebrows. Then there was Grissom; he had no idea how their boss would react, but he had a feeling it would at least affect Greg's chances of being formally trained as a CSI. Nick didn't have the right to take that away from Greg, but Greg was the one who started all this and he had to have thought it through. Still, it was one thing to act on an attraction – telling the whole world and standing back to let the dust settle was something else entirely.
He knew he should wait until after their shift to talk to Greg, but so far the only case he had was a simple vandalism with no real leads, and he knew Greg had to be just as bored as he was. There was no harm in talking, especially if Catherine was planning on asking more questions. He checked to make sure she wasn't waiting around for him before he headed down the hall toward Greg's lab, his stomach doing a weird flip when he caught sight of Greg through the glass.
Just for a second he wished they were still back at Greg's place, where it was just them and the rest of the world didn't matter. It had been a long time since he'd felt that way with someone, and he didn't want to give it up just because they worked together. He might not have a choice, though, especially if Grissom decided Greg couldn't be out in the field while he was sleeping with Nick.
He took a deep breath and pushed the lab door open, his heart skipping a beat when Greg looked up and smiled at him. A week ago that look would have resulted in Nick spending an hour telling himself he didn't want to start anything with Greg that he couldn't finish, but now it just left him feeling warm and a little jittery, like drinking a cup of Greg's coffee on an empty stomach. He returned Greg's grin in spite of himself and shut the door behind him before he made his way over to the other man, letting one hand rest on the small of Greg's back as he leaned over his shoulder to see what he was working on.
"Slow night," Nick murmured, his fingers lingering for just a second longer than they should have before he forced himself to pull his hand away.
"The kind of night it doesn't really pay to get out of bed," Greg answered, and Nick could just see the hint of a smile at the corners of his mouth as Greg looked back down at his work station.
"If you make it to bed in the first place." Nick grinned when Greg laughed, the sound sending warm shivers of anticipation down his spine. It was easy to forget about Sara and Catherine and the rest of the lab when they were alone like this, and Nick wished their shift was already over so he could take Greg home and finish what they'd started. He wanted to reach out and touch Greg again, to run a hand through his hair and turn his head so Nick could see that mouth before he kissed it. It was the wrong place to be thinking like that, though, and the fact that he couldn't even talk to Greg without raising suspicions just left him even more frustrated than he had been a few minutes ago.
"Listen," he said, taking a few steps backwards so he wouldn't be tempted to reach out and touch, "have you talked to Cath tonight?"
Greg set down the slide in his hand and looked up at Nick, curiosity and – was that jealousy? – mingled in his expression. "No. Why, is she badgering you about your mystery girl again?"
Something about the way he said it made Nick's stomach clench, but he told himself he was imagining the edge in Greg's voice. "No. She figured out we blew off her party to spend the day together."
"I didn't tell her anything, if that's what you're asking," Greg said, and now there was definitely a hardness to his voice that Nick hadn't heard before.
He didn't stop himself from reaching out this time, stopping just short of running a hand through Greg's hair. Instead he settled for resting his hand on Greg's shoulder, squeezing just a little before he answered. "I didn't…look, Sara already saw us, right? So if Cath figures it out it's no different than if she hears it from Sara. I'm just asking if you've thought about this. It's not against the rules, but it could mean Gris keeps you out of the field."
Greg turned to look at him then, and Nick's hand slid off his shoulder and across his knee before he remembered himself and pulled it away. He didn't back off, though, and when Greg answered his breath hit Nick's cheek, warm and cinnamon-scented and making Nick wish even harder that they weren't standing in the middle of the lab. "What are we talking about here? You want to come out to Grissom?"
Nick winced at the words 'come out' – he tried not to, but the implication that he'd been deliberately hiding part of himself from people he considered friends bothered him a little. He'd never set out to lie to anyone about himself, certainly not about something that wasn't anybody's business. "I haven't been hiding anything from anybody."
"You haven't exactly been flaunting it either. Come on, Nick, you really think anybody here thought you'd ever sleep with a guy? Even I wasn't sure you swung that way."
He opened his mouth to deny that he'd just let everybody believe he was straight, but when Greg's last words sank in the words died on his lips. The fact that Greg wanted him enough to take such a big risk when he wasn't even sure how Nick would react…the knowledge hit him hard, and when he remembered the way Greg had turned into him on the couch just that morning he had to remind himself to breathe. He wanted to pull Greg to his feet and kiss him until the last of his doubt faded, and he didn't really care who saw him. They hadn't decided anything, though, so he settled for brushing his knuckles over Greg's hand before he answered.
"You wanna go to my place after work?"
He wasn't sure what made him ask, but when he saw the surprise flicker in Greg's eyes he was glad he did. "Yeah, sure. If you want."
Nick nodded and straightened up, clearing his throat and glancing over his shoulder to make sure Grissom wasn't lurking again before he turned back to Greg and smiled. "I've gotta go take care of something, but I'll catch up with you before the end of shift."
Greg nodded and Nick turned around before he could do anything stupid, forcing his legs to carry him out of the lab and toward the front door. There were still a few hours left on their shift, but there was nothing going on and nobody would miss him if he took off for a few minutes. He'd barely been home for days, and if he ever wanted Greg to come back he at least had to pick up some decent coffee.
He had coffee – not the stuff that cost twenty dollars a pound, but at least it wasn't Folgers – and he'd even remembered to pick up a new toothbrush. He'd spent at least five minutes in the grocery store deliberating over whether or not to buy one for Greg too, but finally he told himself it was that or they shared one, because if Greg followed him home from work he wouldn't have anything with him except the clothes on his back.
Not that sharing a toothbrush with Greg would have been such a big deal considering, and when he saw the brand new box just sitting there on his bathroom counter he started to rethink his decision. Greg hadn't said a word when Nick left his own toothbrush and a few other things in his bathroom, though, so maybe he was expecting Nick to do this sort of thing. Then again, Greg hadn't looked like he was expecting Nick to invite him back to his place at all.
Nick wasn't sure what to make of that; if they were going to keep sleeping together eventually Greg would end up at his place, it was just a matter of practicality. He'd looked surprised, though, and Nick felt a little guilty whenever he thought about it. So he forced himself to leave the new toothbrush on the counter, still in its box – sort of a statement, a way to let Greg know Nick wanted him here, even if he couldn't find the right words to say it.
It was just sitting there on the bathroom counter waiting for Greg to find it, and when he heard footsteps behind him Nick had to stop himself from shoving it in a drawer before Greg saw it. Instead he turned to face the other man, his heart skipping a beat when he caught sight of Greg's grin. For a second he forgot what he'd been so worried about, but a moment later Greg looked past him, his eyes widening almost imperceptibly. "Is that for me?"
He nodded and tried not to blush as Greg reached around him and picked up the box, holding it up as though it was the first toothbrush he'd ever seen. "It's just a toothbrush, G."
Greg shrugged and put it down again before he looked at Nick, moving closer to rest his hands on Nick's waist. "Don't let my mom hear you say that. She used to put one in our stockings every Christmas. As far as she was concerned it was the most important gift anybody got all year."
He grinned at Nick's laughter and tugged him forward, pressing a soft kiss to the corner of his mouth. "Thanks," he murmured when he pulled back again.
Nick smiled and slid his hands down Greg's back to slide under his shirt. "I got coffee too," he said as he steered them out of the bathroom and down the hall. "What does that get me?"
"Depends on the coffee," Greg answered as they reached the bedroom, and Nick laughed and paused long enough to tug the other man's shirt over his head before he pushed Greg back toward the bed. He undressed both of them methodically, hands skimming over each new inch of skin that was revealed as he dropped to his knees to peel Greg's jeans off. He pressed hot kisses along Greg's stomach as he eased the denim down his thighs, then down over Greg's underwear to mouth his quickly hardening cock through thin cotton.
Needy little moans escaped Greg's throat as Nick sucked him to hardness, and when he felt Greg's knees start to give he gripped the other man's hips and eased him back onto the bed. Greg lifted his hips long enough to let Nick tug the last bit of fabric down and off, leaving him flushed and hard and his legs splayed so invitingly that Nick caught his breath at the sight. And it wasn't the first time he'd brought someone home to his own bed, but it was the first time in awhile, long enough for it to feel like some kind of momentous occasion.
Nick grinned at the thought and ran his hands up Greg's thighs, watching goosebumps form in the wake of his fingers. Greg's stomach trembled with anticipation as Nick leaned forward, feathering kisses against the soft skin on the insides of Greg's thighs. "You never said," he murmured against smooth, pale skin, "if you've thought about whether this is worth the risk."
"What…risk?" Greg asked, his voice breaking on the words as Nick's mouth found the inside of one knee and sucked at the skin there.
He pushed Greg's knees a little further apart and pushed off the floor to crawl over the other man, pressing their lips together for a kiss that lasted longer than he intended. When he finally pulled away Greg's hand slid around his neck to try to pull him back down, but Nick reached up and threaded their fingers together, pressing his lips to slightly rough knuckles, then the inside of Greg's palm.
"What happens if Gris hears about this and puts you back in the lab for good?"
He punctuated his words with soft kisses to Greg's neck, then his collarbone and down the center of his chest. His tongue dipped briefly into Greg's navel before he moved lower, licking a stripe from the top of Greg's stomach to the tip of his cock. Greg moaned when Nick's tongue slid across the already slick head, his fingers twisting in the sheets on either side of him. "How would…oh God…how would Grissom hear what a tease you are?"
Nick chuckled against Greg's skin, the sound vibrating through Greg's cock and making him thrust up in search of some kind of friction. "I'm serious," he said, sliding his hands under Greg's hips as the other man searched in vain for something to relieve the pressure building in his groin. He tilted Greg's hips just a little and mouthed his way back down the soft skin of his inner thigh, past his balls to slide his tongue over the entrance to Greg's body.
Greg groaned and pressed into the sensation, and when Nick's tongue slid inside he reached out blindly to stroke trembling fingers through Nick's hair. The conversation stopped then, as Nick gripped Greg's hip with one hand and reached up to stroke his cock with the other. A steady stream of babble escaped Greg's throat as he rocked between Nick's fist and his mouth, the words coming fasting and more incoherent until finally he tensed and came.
Nick waited until Greg stopped shuddering before he crawled over him again, bracing his hands on either side of the other man's shoulders to look down at Greg's flushed skin and parted lips. He reached out with fingers still slick with Greg's come and ran the tips over Greg's bottom lip, his own cock twitching when Greg's tongue darted out to taste himself on Nick's skin.
"I'm not a tease," Nick said, the words coming out a little more fiercely than he'd planned.
Greg blinked a few times and opened his eyes, his happy, sated grin making Nick's heart clench hard. "Are you kidding? Two years, Stokes. Two years of flirting and little pats on the back and coming around smelling so damn good. You're the biggest tease I've ever met."
Two years…two years of Greg wanting him, and it didn't seem possible that Nick could have missed what was right in front of him for so long. Two years wasted, but if they'd started this back then he wasn't sure where they'd be now. He bit back a groan and rolled away from Greg long enough to slide a condom down his length, running slick fingers over latex before he dropped the lube on the mattress and let Greg pull him back down. And it felt so good to slide inside all that tight heat after a whole day of anticipation – nearly twenty-four hours of waiting, and he shouldn't be this addicted to Greg after just a week together.
He'd wanted Greg for a long time – talked himself out of wanting him for even longer – but he couldn't imagine just waiting for that long for Greg to do something about it. So maybe this really was worth it to Greg; Nick knew what it was worth to him, and he didn't have nearly as much to lose. His heart clenched tight in his chest and he leaned forward, pulling Greg off the mattress to kiss him hard as they moved together.
He came gasping Greg's name, and when he collapsed on top of the warm body underneath him Greg's arms slid around his back to pull him close. It was hot and a little sticky and he'd never felt so good in his life, not even when he hit one out of the park or found a piece of key evidence that wrapped up a case. He buried his face in Greg's neck, breathing in the smell of sweat and sex as he mouthed hot, breathless kisses along Greg's skin. Too soon he'd have to get up and take the condom off, and they'd both want to shower and maybe find something to eat before they got any sleep. For now, though…just for a few minutes, this was pretty much perfect.
Nick had never thought much about how his schedule overlapped with Greg's, but going back to work without him for the first time since they started sleeping together felt a little strange. It was weird to kiss Greg goodbye and watch him get back in his car, knowing he wouldn't be there when Nick got to the lab that night. It was even weirder after spending a whole day together without anything to distract them from each other.
And this whole thing was getting out of control pretty quickly, because Nick found himself glancing into the trace lab on his way past as though Greg might actually be there. He shook his head when he caught sight of Hodges, reminding himself to keep his mind on the job and not what Greg was doing with his extra night off. That was something Nick didn't like to think about; he'd wanted to ask what Greg was planning to do, but he couldn't figure out a way to make it sound casual. No matter how he phrased it he knew it would come out sounding needy – or worse, jealous – and he didn't want Greg thinking he owed Nick any explanations.
Only he was the one who'd invited Nick into his life, he was the one who demanded exclusivity and just casually announced that he'd wanted Nick for two years now, like it was no big deal. He couldn't be more wrong about that; it was a huge deal, and Nick still hadn't figured out how he felt about it. Every time he remembered Greg's face and his slightly exasperated laugh when he's said 'two years, Stokes' his chest tightened, and he knew he was in way over his head if just the thought of Greg wanting him made it hard to breathe.
Greg was so open about everything, and Nick wasn't sure he could give that kind of trust in return. Half the time he wasn't even sure how he felt, let alone how to put it into words. The only thing he was sure of was that he wanted to see where this thing between them was going, and that was the one thing Greg didn't seem to want to talk about. Every time Nick tried to bring up Grissom and Greg's future as a CSI the other man either turned it into a joke or changed the subject, and Nick was starting to get a little nervous about how far Greg was willing to let this thing between them go.
He swallowed a sigh as he pushed the break room door open, his heart sinking when he saw Sara sitting across the table from Catherine. He'd managed to forget about her inevitable return for the past twenty-four hours, but now that he found himself face to face with her all the fear came rushing back. It was obvious the two women were talking about something, but as soon as he walked in they both shut up. He knew as soon as he looked at them exactly what they were talking about, and part of him wanted to turn and walk right back out of the room. That wouldn't do anything but give them more time to gossip about him, though, and he knew if he didn't deal with this it was going to get out of control fast.
"Hey," he said, nodding at Catherine before he turned his attention to Sara. "How was your Christmas?"
"Not as good as yours, I bet," Sara said, smirking when Nick frowned at her. "I better go check in with Grissom."
Before Nick could answer she was gone, leaving him staring after her with his mouth open. It took him a second or two to recover, but when he finally did he remembered that Catherine was still sitting behind him. Slowly he turned to face her, smiling sheepishly at her curious expression. "So I guess she told you."
"Oh, she told me," Catherine answered in that tone that let Nick know she was wondering why she'd had to hear it from Sara. "I just don't get it."
"Don't get what?" He knew she'd get pissed at him if he played dumb for too long, but this was the last conversation he wanted to have. He hadn't even talked to Greg about what they were doing – not really, anyway – and it seemed kind of weird to explain himself to Catherine before he was sure what exactly he'd gotten himself into.
Right on cue she rolled her eyes, and Nick knew he wasn't going to get away with avoiding the conversation. "All these years I've known you and you never said anything. Did you think I'd hold it against you? Come on, Nick, you know me better than that."
"There was nothing to tell," he said, pouring himself a cup of coffee before he sank into the chair across from her. And he wanted to believe that, but after the past week he was starting to think he'd been lying even to himself. "It's not like I planned this. It just happened."
"You're a grown man, Nick. You can't tell me it just dawned on you this week that you're gay."
"I'm not…" He paused and glanced over his shoulder, willing himself not to wince at the word. "I'm not gay. But I never said I was straight. People just assumed and I guess it was easier to let you all think what you wanted."
He couldn't tell from the look on her face whether or not she'd bought any of that, but it was the truth. He'd never really thought it was important, and he still wasn't sure why his love life was anyone's business but his own.
"So for five years you've let us all think you're some kind of ladies' man, and all it takes is Greg to drag you out of the closet? He must be something."
He couldn't help grinning at that, but as soon as he registered the shock in Catherine's eyes he swallowed his grin and shook his head. "Look, we wouldn't even be having this conversation if Sara hadn't walked in on something she shouldn't have. I'm not saying it's her fault," he added when Catherine opened her mouth to interrupt him, "and I'm not saying it was the smartest thing I've ever done. But she shouldn't have told you about it without talking to me first."
"She's confused, Nick," Catherine answered, and this time she held up her hand to stop him from interrupting. "Look, whether you want to see it or not, there are people around here who are going to see this as you hiding something from them. Sara's got a right to be a little hurt; we all do. If this is what you want I'm happy for you, but you're going to have to give people some time to adjust."
"So now I'm supposed to run my personal life by everyone in the lab before I decide who to sleep with."
She winced at the last part and he savored the tiny jolt of satisfaction it gave him before the guilt set in. He felt like he was getting a lecture from his mother; he knew Catherine was only a few years older than him, but she sure as hell had the whole maternal guilt thing down. It made him feel sorry for Lindsey, just for a second before he remembered that this was his life and Catherine wasn't his mom, because his own mother knew he was bi but she never, ever talked about it.
"No," she said, her voice low and edgy like when she worked a case and got it in her head that everybody else was just screwing around, "but you can't expect people not to react. What do you think Grissom's going to say?"
That was something he'd been trying to figure out for a few days now, but he didn't want to admit it to Catherine. "Come on, Cath, it's not like I'm Greg's supervisor. So we work together, what difference does it make?"
And he probably sounded like he was trying to convince himself, but if she had an answer he kind of wanted to hear it. He knew he was going to have to talk to Grissom; he was going to have to go in there and tell him the truth and let Grissom decide what he wanted to do about it, but just the thought of having that conversation left a sick feeling in his stomach. It was ten times worse than talking to Catherine about it, a thousand times worse than the thought of Sara's or even Warrick's reactions.
She shook her head and disappointment shot through him when he realized she wasn't going to answer what she probably thought was a rhetorical question. Then she stood up and for a second he thought she was just going to walk away, but before he did something embarrassing like go after her she stopped and looked down at him. "You and Greg?"
Her expression was so incredulous that he couldn't help laughing. "Yeah," he answered, and this time he didn't bother to check his grin. "It sounds crazy, I know."
"Not that crazy."
She smiled and for a second he was too stunned to react. By the time he finally pulled himself together she was already gone, leaving him slack-jawed and wondering if he was supposed to take that as a compliment. The only thing he really knew for sure was that the news of his relationship would be all over the lab by the end of shift, and Greg wasn't even around to help him with the damage control.
Over the next few hours Nick came up with at least a dozen different reasons to put off talking to Grissom. Even he had to admit that most of them were lame; it wasn't a busy night, and he knew Grissom would welcome any interruption from the mountain of paperwork he was supposed to be catching up on. But Greg still hadn't said one way or the other if he was okay with telling Grissom about them, and Nick couldn't just take matters into his own hands.
He told himself he believed that as he drove out to the crime scene Warrick was already working, bracing himself to see the other man for the first time all night. And maybe he should have taken his chances with Grissom, because he was looking even less forward to Warrick's reaction than he was to their boss's.
He threaded his way through the cops in front of the house and let himself in through the front door, careful not to disturb the crime scene as he made his way upstairs to the bedroom. When he got there Warrick was crouched next to the bed, a flashlight in one hand and a pair of tweezers in the other.
"Hey," Nick said, setting his kit down next to the door. "What've you got?"
"Not a lot," Warrick answered without looking up. He set his flashlight down and reached for an envelope, dropping what looked like a fiber inside before he sealed it. "You wanna take some pictures?"
Nick nodded and took a few more steps into the room, careful to stay out of the small amount of light shining in from the bathroom as he stopped next to the bed. He reached for the camera next to Warrick's kit and took his time adjusting the focus, checking and rechecking the flash before he turned his attention back to the bed.
He knew he should be focusing on the crime scene and not worrying about what Warrick did or didn't know, but it was hard not to wonder. So far only Sara and Catherine knew for sure, and it was possible Sara hadn't said anything to anyone else. The only way Nick was going to find out was to come right out and ask, though, and he wasn't sure he wanted to have that conversation with Warrick.
He cleared his throat and snapped a few pictures, making a half-hearted show of capturing the crime scene before he lowered the camera and glanced at the other man again. "So you talk to Sara tonight?"
"Yeah," Warrick answered absently as he reached out and picked up another fiber. "Sounds like she and her folks don't see eye to eye on much."
"Right," Nick said, disappointment rolling through him as he realized Warrick wasn't going to bring it up. Or maybe he didn't even know – maybe Sara hadn't gotten to him yet, or maybe she'd only told Catherine. It had never occurred to him that she'd stop with one person; Catherine would keep it to herself, but Sara was a talker. If something was on her mind she'd want to talk about it with whoever was available, so if she'd already talked to Warrick he had to know.
Nick's throat was going to be raw from spending the whole night clearing it, but he couldn't seem to stop the nervous response. He just wanted to know one way or the other; he knew where he stood with Catherine and he thought he knew how Sara felt about it, but he had no idea what to expect from Warrick. "So you guys didn't talk about…anything else?"
He glanced at the other man just in time to see Warrick shake his head and let out a heavy sigh, then he looked up and Nick didn't have to hear the words to know that he knew. "Look, man, I heard about you and Sanders, I'm just trying not to picture it."
"Fair enough," Nick answered, his fingers clenching a little too hard on the camera. "We're cool, though, right?"
Warrick looked down for a second, and a familiar surge of resentment shot through Nick. This was exactly why he'd always tried to keep his personal life to himself, because any time he did anything people considered out of character they started acting disappointed. He'd left Texas so he wouldn't have to keep living up to his family's expectations, and he didn't want to have to start worrying about disappointing his friends.
Then Warrick looked up again, a wry grin turning up the corners of his mouth. "We're cool," he finally said, and as quickly as it surfaced the resentment flowed right out of Nick. "It's just a little hard to take, you know? I mean I never thought you…"
"What, I should wear a sign or something?" And okay, that sounded a little more bitter than he'd meant it to, but he was already getting tired of hearing about how straight everyone had always thought he was. There was a time when that was exactly what he'd wanted people to think, though, and looking back he had to admit that he'd let them all believe it.
Warrick shook his head again and stood up, dropping the fiber samples he'd gathered into his kit before he answered. "Look, man, what you do on your own time is your business. Tell you the truth, I never thought much about it one way or the other. It's just…you and Sanders."
"Why does everybody keep saying that?" Nick asked, frowning when Warrick laughed.
"Because it's Sanders. Come on, you're telling me he doesn't get on your nerves?"
And this was definitely a conversation he never thought he'd be having; the fact that Warrick was being so cool about it wasn't that surprising, but he never would have predicted that Warrick of all people would want to know what he saw in Greg. "He kind of grows on you."
"Let's…uh, keep that on a need to know basis, okay?" Warrick said, and Nick couldn't help laughing at the face he made.
"Yeah, sure," he answered, snapping a few more pictures of the scene while Warrick moved on to the dresser.
They worked in silence for a few minutes, until Nick ran out of film and reached for the camera bag, digging through the pockets for a few seconds before he gave up. "Hey, man, you got any more film?"
"In my kit," Warrick answered. "So does Gris know yet?"
"Considering what a big mouth Sara has, probably." He wasn't as sure about that as he sounded; part of him couldn't help thinking that if Grissom did know he would have called Nick on it already, but there was another part of him that hoped Grissom's lack of comment meant he just didn't care. "It's not like we're breaking any rules. You went out with Mandy, right?"
"Yeah, but she wasn't training to be a CSI," Warrick reminded him, casting a measuring look over his shoulder at Nick. "Out in the field it's a whole different story, you know?"
"How's it different?" Nick asked, forgetting about the pictures he was supposed to be taking as he turned to look at the other man. "You're telling me if you had a thing for Catherine, Grissom would have a problem with it just because you're in the field together?"
He couldn't be sure, but for a second it almost looked like Warrick actually winced at his words, and suddenly Nick remembered a conversation about Warrick and Grissom trying to one-up each other in front of Lindsey. He stifled a grin at the look on Warrick's face and switched to a different approach before Warrick had a chance to get defensive. "All I'm saying is Greg's worked with us for years. We've always been part of the same team, so nothing's really changed."
"Like I said, man, I don't have a problem with it," Warrick said. "I just hope Gris sees it your way."
"Yeah," Nick said, swallowing against the rush of nerves at the thought of facing Grissom. "You and me both."
It was official; this had been the longest shift of his life. And it wasn't over yet, because when he walked into the locker room he found himself face to face with Sara. Nick swallowed a sigh and let the door close behind him; the last thing he felt like doing was facing off with her, but he knew if he let it slide he'd never get another opportunity.
"Hey," she echoed, her chin set in a defiant line that instantly put him on edge.
"Listen, Sara, if you've got a problem with me you should just come to me. There's no reason to go running to Catherine or Warrick."
"I don't have a problem."
He felt his whole body tense and he wished he'd ignored her, that he'd just grabbed his keys and left without a word. "Right, so you were just making conversation with Cath and Warrick about my personal life."
"It wasn't like that," she answered, a familiar defensiveness creeping into her tone. "Catherine told me about you and Greg spending Christmas together, I thought she knew. With the way you and Greg were acting at the Christmas party I'm surprised everybody doesn't know."
And okay, making out in the evidence room wasn't the proudest moment of his life, but there was no way he could make her understand that it was a one-time thing. If Greg hadn't taken him by surprise…well, he couldn't say it would never happen again, but he liked to think he had a little self-control. "I'm sorry if we made you uncomfortable, but you should have come to me if you wanted to talk. I thought we were friends here."
"I thought so too," Sara answered, and just for a second she looked so confused that Nick couldn't help feeling guilty. "You let me…you let everybody think…both of you flirted with me."
He wanted to laugh when he realized she was embarrassed because she thought they both wanted her. But he knew better; he knew that would just make this worse, and at least part of it was his fault. "Look, Sara, I'm sorry if I gave you the wrong impression. I mean you're a great girl…"
"Don't," she interrupted, holding up her hand to stop him. "That's not what I meant. I'm sorry, okay? It's just…weird."
He bristled at the word, but he knew he was going to have to live with that kind of reaction from some people. "Did you tell anybody else what you saw?"
"No," she answered, guilt mingling with the regret in her expression. "I didn't say anything to Grissom, if that's what you're wondering. But he's going to figure it out eventually. He's Grissom."
"I know," Nick said. He knew he should go talk to Grissom before somebody else beat him to it, but there was someone else he needed to talk to first. He let out another sigh and pulled his locker open to grab his jacket and his keys. "I'll catch you tomorrow."
He was gone before she could answer, and fifteen minutes later he was parked outside of Greg's apartment building, his hands gripping the steering wheel as he stared up at what was beginning to be a familiar sight. He hadn't said one way or the other if he'd be by after his shift, but he had a feeling Greg was expecting him. He hoped Greg was expecting him; he wanted Greg to assume he'd come by after a whole night apart, and that thought was almost as unsettling as the idea of breaking the news about them to their boss.
Finally he forced himself out of his truck and up the steps to Greg's door, letting himself in – and that still left a weird feeling in the pit of his stomach – and locking the door behind him. He dropped his keys on the kitchen table and headed down the hall to the bathroom, brushing his teeth and running his hands over his face before he went in search of Greg.
He found the other man fast asleep in bed, sprawled on his stomach with one arm tucked under his head. His lips were slightly parted and Nick wanted to lean down and kiss them, but there was a part of him that almost regretted waking Greg. He looked so peaceful, the sheet rising and falling steadily with each breath he took, and all Nick really wanted to do was crawl into bed next to him and fall asleep.
He pulled his shirt off and let it fall to the floor, then slipped off his shoes and socks before he slid his jeans off and pulled the sheet back. Greg didn't stir when he slid onto the mattress, but as soon as Nick stretched out next to him the other man shifted backwards until his back was pressed against Nick's chest.
"I thought you were asleep," Nick murmured against Greg's neck, one arm sliding around his waist to pull him closer.
"I am," Greg answered without opening his eyes. "Did I miss anything exciting at the lab?"
Nick's stomach clenched at the question, and his arm tightened briefly around Greg's waist before he forced himself to relax. He couldn't tell if Greg had noticed the brief flash of panic, but he pushed it as far down as it would go and pressed another kiss to the base of Greg's neck before he answered. "Nothing much. Sara's back."
"Yeah? How was California?"
"I don't know," Nick answered. He paused long enough to brush his lips over a tiny scar on Greg's shoulder, smiling at the shiver that rolled through Greg's body. "She was too busy telling Cath and Warrick about us to get around to highlights from her vacation."
Greg shifted in Nick's grip, turning until they were face to face before he answered. "Guess I did miss all the excitement after all."
"It wasn't that big a deal," Nick said, his hand trailing down Greg's back to rest against his hip. "I'm gonna have to tell Grissom, though."
"You mean Sara didn't beat you to it?"
Nick shook his head and let his fingers trail back up Greg's side, watching the progress of his hand over Greg's skin before he answered. "She said she didn't."
"Then what's the problem? If anybody's gonna go running to Grissom it's her. Unless she told Hodges, then Grissom already knows."
Nick laughed and leaned forward to press a kiss to the corner of Greg's mouth. As soon as he did Greg turned into the sensation, warm lips lingering against his for a few seconds before Nick pulled back to look at him. "It's better if he hears it from me. There's no telling how long Sara'll keep her mouth shut."
Greg's only answer was a noncommittal 'hmm' as he leaned forward and pressed a kiss to the side of Nick's neck. He had a feeling Greg was avoiding the conversation again, but it was hard to resist the urge to tilt his head to give the other man better access. His hand slid into Greg's hair, tightening just a little when Greg started to suck. It was already hard to think with all that warmth pressed up against him, and the relentless pressure on his neck made it nearly impossible.
"Greg," he murmured, his voice catching on the single syllable as Greg's hand slid down his chest. He'd meant to stop this before it went too far, to pull away and keep Greg at arm's length if he had to until they talked about what all this meant to both of them. He still didn't know if Greg had thought the whole thing through, if he was willing to risk his CSI training to hold onto whatever was happening between them. And that was another thing they needed to talk about, but Nick had no idea how to start that particular conversation.
He tightened his grip on Greg's hair just enough to get his attention, forcing his mouth away from Nick's neck. The words were on the tip of his tongue, things like 'we need to talk' or 'this could mean your career' or even 'what do you want from me?', but Greg's lips were parted and the look in his eyes told Nick that talking was the last thing on his mind. Before he could stop himself Nick was leaning forward again, parting his lips against Greg's for an urgent kiss. And maybe giving in before they'd talked everything out was the worst thing he could do, but it felt right, and that was good enough for Nick.
Nick woke to the sound of the shower running. He sat up and glanced down at the spot where Greg had been, frowning when he found it empty. It was the first time he'd woken up in Greg's bed alone, and he couldn't help wondering if it had something to do with the way Greg had been acting that morning. He'd managed to completely avoid talking about Grissom, and Nick was starting to wonder what it was he was missing.
He pushed the covers back and stood up, pulling his boxers back on before he made his way down the hall to Greg's bathroom. By the time he was done brushing his teeth the shower was off, and a few moments later he watched Greg pull the shower curtain back and wrap a towel around his waist. His skin was still damp and his hair was pushed back out of his face, dripping on his back and making it hard for Nick to stop himself from pulling Greg close and chasing the drops of water with his tongue. Instead he folded his arms over his chest and watched as Greg ran another towel over his hair, leaving it slightly drier and sticking out in every direction.
He smirked and finally gave in to the urge to touch, reaching over to push Greg's hair back into some semblance of order. "How long have you been up?"
"Not long." Greg leaned in for a quick kiss before he reached up and shook his hand through his hair, fixing the damage Nick had done. "Somebody has to make sure we make it to work on time."
"I'm always on time," Nick answered, grinning when Greg rolled his eyes and stepped around him. He moved with the other man, hands landing on Greg's waist and sliding against warm skin. It felt nice, just the two of them like this, where Nick could pretend the rest of the world didn't matter. Only he knew they had to go back out into it soon, and they still hadn't talked about what was going to happen when they did. "You know, you never answered my question."
He felt Greg tense under his hands and frowned at the other man's reflection. It was obvious now that something was bothering Greg, but instead of answering he pulled out of Nick's grip and reached into the medicine cabinet for his razor. "If you don't get in the shower you're going to ruin your perfect attendance record."
"So we're just not gonna talk about it."
"What's to say?" Greg asked without looking up. "If you want to tell Grissom then tell him. Like you said, he'll find out eventually anyway."
"G, come on. I'm trying to look out for you here. This could screw up your training, are you ready to give that up?"
Greg sighed and set his razor down, then turned until he was facing Nick. They were close enough that Nick could feel the heat radiating off the other man, and it was all he could do not to reach out and touch. He wasn't even sure why he was stopping himself, but the look on Greg's face sent a rush of nerves fluttering through his stomach and he had a feeling he wasn't going to like what he was about to hear.
"What if Grissom doesn't just stick me back in the lab? What if he says we can't see each other at all?"
"He can't do that," Nick answered, but suddenly he wasn't anywhere near as sure as he sounded. "We're not breaking any rules here."
"Maybe not, but that doesn't mean he has to like it. And it won't stop him from transferring one of us to day shift if he decides we shouldn't be working together."
That was something Nick had never stopped to consider; it seemed a lot more likely that Grissom would just relegate Greg to working in the lab for the rest of his career, or even tell them they couldn't keep seeing each other. He couldn't see Grissom transferring either of them to days just to avoid a conflict of interests, not unless somebody else noticed and started asking the kind of questions Grissom didn't like to answer. "So that's what this is about? You're worried about getting stuck on days?"
"No, I'm…" Greg stopped and let out a frustrated breath, then shook his head and pushed himself off the counter. "You really don't get it, do you? I thought we had a pretty good thing going here. If one of us gets transferred to days it's over."
Nick's heart skipped a beat at the look on Greg's face; he looked nervous, but more than that – he looked almost sad, like he really thought telling Grissom was going to change anything. For a second Nick thought about taking it back, forgetting about telling Grissom the truth and just keeping things the way they were for as long as they could. But Sara knew, and now Catherine and Warrick, so it was only a matter of time before everybody found out.
"I've gotta tell him, G. If I don't he's just gonna hear it from someone else." Nick took a few steps forward, stopping when he was close enough to feel Greg's breath on his cheek. "Nobody's transferring to days. You know how much Grissom hates breaking in new people."
Greg laughed at that, but Nick could feel the tension in the other man's shoulders when he slid his hands over Greg's back. And it was weird, seeing for the first time how much Greg really wanted this. Part of Nick thought it would be easier if he could believe they were just messing around, if this was just something to do like all his other relationships. Only Greg wasn't like anybody he'd ever dated before, and when their lips finally met the intensity of the kiss vibrated all the way to his extremities.
He wanted to take Greg back to bed and show him that nothing was going to change, that he wouldn't let Grissom or anybody else change what was happening between them. But he still had to tell Grissom the truth, and if both of them showed up late it wouldn't help their cause. Reluctantly he pulled away and reached up to run two fingers across Greg's bottom lip, swallowing a surprised gasp when Greg's tongue darted out to brush across the pad of his thumb. "I…uh…I better take that shower."
"Sure you don't want to call in sick?"
"What, both of us?" Nick asked, laughing when Greg smiled hopefully and let his hand dip a little lower on Nick's back. "If we did that I'm pretty sure we wouldn't have to tell Gris anything."
"You say that like it's a bad thing," Greg said, but he let Nick pull away and turned back to the sink. For a few seconds Nick just stood there and watched him in the mirror, but when Greg glanced up and caught his eye Nick flushed and turned toward the shower. They really were going to be late for work if he spent the whole afternoon standing around staring at Greg, and it was going to be a bad enough night without having to explain to Grissom why he couldn't make it to work on time.
He waited until Grissom handed out assignments, carefully avoiding meeting any of the measuring glances of his coworkers as they filed out of the break room to start their shift. When Grissom himself started to leave Nick almost let him go, but just before he reached the door the older man turned and frowned at him. "Will you be joining us tonight, Nick?"
"Listen, Gris, you got a second?" Nick asked, his heart in his throat as Grissom's expression shifted to the curiosity they all knew so well. He wished he'd waited until he caught Grissom in his office; this would be easier to do when he wasn't worried about who was going to walk in on them, or worse, who was lurking in the hallway watching. It was too late to take it back now, though, so Nick took a deep breath and forced himself to meet the older man's gaze. "There's something I need to tell you."
"I'm all ears."
Nick grinned self-consciously and looked down at the linoleum, a small, irrational part of him hoping that he'd find a script printed on the floor to help him get through this. He hadn't really thought about how he was going to say it, and now that the moment had arrived he wished he'd practiced a speech. "I've been seeing somebody from the night shift."
He glanced up long enough to gauge Grissom's reaction; the other man looked a little surprised, probably that he hadn't figured it out before Nick told him, but he didn't look angry. "I'm happy for you, Nick. But I assume you're telling me this for a reason."
His only indication of Grissom's surprise was a brief pause and a slight widening of the older man's eyes before he recovered himself enough to answer. "Greg Sanders?"
And Nick had to laugh at that, high and a little shaky in the back of his throat. "You know any other Greg on the night shift?"
When Grissom pursed his lips Nick stopped laughing abruptly, clearing his throat to chase away the rush of nerves in his stomach. "Look, it's not that big a deal, right? I just thought you should hear it from me."
"And I appreciate that, Nick, but I'm afraid it's a little more complicated than that."
"Come on, Gris," Nick said, panic mingling with a rush of indignation when the older man frowned again. "Say I was dating Sara. You're telling me you'd have a problem with that?"
"Sara's not a trainee," Grissom answered, raising his hand when Nick opened his mouth to interrupt. "I'm sorry, but the situations are different. If Greg were just a lab tech there wouldn't be a reason to have this conversation. But when he's out in the field he's your subordinate, and that changes things."
"So I won't train him. Cath can train him. Or Warrick," Nick added. That was one part of his speech he had thought about beforehand; offering Grissom a compromise didn't always work, but if he could keep his relationship and save Greg's career he had to try.
Grissom was already shaking his head, though, and Nick's heart sank when he realized his solution wasn't going to work this time. "It's not that simple. You know that, Nick. Cases overlap all the time."
"So what are you saying?" His voice sounded hollow and he knew Grissom heard it too, but he couldn't bring himself to care. He couldn't imagine just calling things off now; it had been less than two weeks, but he was already used to having Greg around and he didn't want to give that up. Still, he couldn't ask Greg to give up his future just for Nick, no matter how much he wanted to.
"I'm saying that this complicates things," Grissom answered, and Nick didn't bother checking his frown at the cryptic answer.
"Are you telling me we can't date and keep working together?"
"No," Grissom said, a heavy sigh escaping his throat. "I'm not trying to tell you how to live your life, Nick. I'm just telling you that we'll have to play it by ear and see what happens. I can't promise this won't impact what cases Greg gets assigned to."
"Fair enough," Nick heard himself say, but even though he knew it was fair it didn't really feel that way. It felt like he'd just cost Greg something he'd wanted for a long time – at least as long as he claimed to have wanted Nick, and his career had to be more important to Greg than their relationship. After all, they'd only been sleeping together for a little over a week, and Greg had been a trainee for a few months now.
"Good." Grissom tilted his head a little to one side and just looked at Nick for a long moment, then he finally straightened up and headed for the break room door. He stopped when he reached the door, glancing over his shoulder long enough for Nick to catch his bemused smile. "Greg. Huh."
Nick laughed in the silence of the break room, shaking his head at Grissom's retreating figure until the other man turned the corner. It could have gone a lot worse, that much he was sure of. Greg could have been right and Grissom could have made noise about switching one of them to days, or he could have flat out told Nick to stop seeing Greg. But the thought of costing Greg something he'd wanted for so long left a ball of guilt in the pit of his stomach, and even though he wanted to be selfish he knew he had to give Greg the choice.
He took a deep breath and forced his legs to carry him out of the break room, down the hall to stop in front of Greg's lab. The other man was alone, bent over a rack of test tubes with an intense look on his face that reminded Nick of a kiss that had left them both panting and uncertain. It was hard to believe that had been just over an hour ago; it felt like ages since Nick had last touched Greg, and he knew it was going to be a challenge to keep his hands to himself when he walked into the lab.
For a second he considered putting off the conversation until later; Warrick was probably wondering what the hell had happened to him if he hadn't already left to get a jump on their crime scene, and suddenly Nick found himself hoping that Warrick would show up and interrupt before he got a chance to talk to Greg. He stood there for a few more long moments, but when Warrick didn't magically appear he let out a sigh and pushed the door open. Greg looked up almost instantly, his intense expression fading to something closer to fear as he watched Nick cross the room.
"Hey," Greg said, looking back down at his samples as Nick stopped next to him, "I figured you'd be out in the field by now."
"Yeah," Nick answered, his tongue suddenly thick and clumsy, "I…I stopped to talk to Gris."
He felt the tension in the other man's body even without touching him, and for a second Nick wished they'd never started this. There was no way he could go back to pretending they were just friends after this; he couldn't pretend he didn't want Greg, that he didn't care about him. And that was the hardest part of all, because he wasn't even sure when or how that had happened. "Look, G, we need to talk."
Greg looked up then, fear shining in his eyes for a second before he forced a nervous grin. "So when do you switch to days?"
"Nobody's switching to days, I told you that," Nick answered, rolling his eyes at the not-quite-joke. "Gris was pretty cool about the whole thing, to tell you the truth. But he doesn't want me training you, and if we keep seeing each other it could affect what cases you get sent out on. So I guess you need to decide if it's worth it."
"You're kidding, right?"
And Nick wasn't really sure what that meant, but Greg was looking at him like it should be obvious, and suddenly he was pretty sure he was missing something. It seemed like a valid question to him; he wasn't sure how easy it would be to choose between Greg and his career, but he wasn't the one who had to make the choice. He knew exactly what choice he wanted Greg to make, but he wasn't selfish enough to say it out loud. "Look, G, you don't owe me anything…"
He trailed off when Greg rolled his eyes and turned back to his samples, clutching a pair of tweezers so hard his knuckles turned white against the metal. Nick stopped himself from reaching out to rest a hand on Greg's shoulder; he wouldn't have thought twice about it a couple weeks ago, but now he wasn't sure if Greg even wanted him to. "Am I missing something here?"
"Why do you think I gave you a key to my place?" Greg asked, his fingers still clenched around the tweezers. "You think I just hand them out to anybody I want to sleep with?"
"No," Nick answered carefully. He had no idea what the right answer to either of those questions was, but he was pretty sure if he got it wrong Greg was going to be even more mad. "Why did you?"
A heavy sigh and Greg finally put the tweezers down, gripping the side of the lab station for a steadying second before he turned to look at Nick again. "Because the subtle approach wasn't working. I figured if I gave you a key maybe you'd finally get it."
"So this was all some kind of message?"
"I thought you got the message pretty clear the first time you fucked me," Greg snapped, his voice low enough that Nick had to lean in to hear the words. And Nick wasn't sure how he'd missed it, but the look on Greg's face and the force behind the words were finally enough to make it all fall into place. Or maybe he just hadn't wanted to think about it, because now that the truth was clear he was going to have to deal with it.
He opened his mouth to say something – anything, although he had no idea how he was supposed to respond to something Greg hadn't said out loud – but before he got the words out Greg was talking again. "You know what, it was a stupid thing to do. Just give me my key back and we'll forget it ever happened."
"Wait…what?" Nick stammered, all the color draining from his face when Greg's words sank in.
"I'm serious. Give me back my key."
Greg's hand appeared in front of him but Nick barely noticed it. All he knew was that a few seconds ago he was pretty sure Greg was in love with him, and suddenly they were breaking up. He didn't even know what he'd said to make Greg so angry, but he sure as hell wasn't willing to let it go just because Greg told him to. "No way. We're not breaking up over this."
"Nick, I mean it…"
Greg trailed off when the lab door opened again, and they both looked up to find Warrick shifting uncomfortably in the doorway. Nick could have killed him for his terrible timing; it was hard to believe just a few minutes ago he'd been wishing Warrick would show up so he could put this conversation off for as long as possible. "Stokes, you working tonight or what?"
"Yeah," Nick answered reluctantly, glancing back at Greg long enough to fix him with a determined stare. "This isn't over," he said, turning on his heel to follow Warrick out of the lab before Greg had a chance to answer.
Nick had never been so grateful for Warrick's stoic silence in his life. He knew if he'd been paired with Catherine or even Sara tonight he'd have spent all his time avoiding probing questions, but Warrick didn't seem to want to know what he'd walked in on, and Nick was just as glad not to talk about it. That didn't stop him from thinking about it, though, and he was thankful that the crime scene was fairly routine so he didn't have to focus too hard on what he was doing.
He knew he should be paying more attention to the details, but every time he tried he remembered Greg's face when he asked for his key back, and the entire conversation would play out in his head again. It had been on a near-constant loop all night, and by the time they cleared the scene and headed back to the lab Nick found himself laughing about the whole mess. And it wasn't really funny, but it was hard not to laugh when he thought about how long it took him to figure out what he should have known from the start.
Not that he and Greg were obvious; the rest of the team had made that pretty clear, and they were all surprised enough by the news to make Nick wonder if maybe he and Greg were making a mistake. It hadn't dawned on him until Greg tried to break up with him that he'd been in love with Nick all this time – that when he said 'two years' he meant more than just two years of wondering what Nick looked like naked. He wasn't sure how he felt about that, but every time the thought occurred to him he found himself grinning for no reason.
"You okay?" Warrick asked as they walked back into the lab together, and Nick realized he was smiling again. He did his best to wipe the silly grin off his face and nodded, clearing his throat before he glanced at Warrick.
"When I found you with Sanders you looked like you were ready to kill somebody. Now…"
Warrick trailed off, gesturing vaguely in the direction of Nick's mouth. That made Nick smile even more brightly, and when Warrick shook his head and let out a resigned sigh Nick couldn't help laughing. "Everything's fine," he answered, praying it was true as he reached the locker room and pushed the door open.
When Warrick didn't follow him in he let out a relieved breath and made his way to his locker, digging in his jacket pocket until he found what he was looking for. He wasn't sure why he'd been carrying it around with him all this time, but now that he knew how Greg felt it seemed like the right thing to do. The only thing to do, at least if he wanted to save their relationship, and there was no question about that.
He closed his locker and headed back down the hall, his heart beating too fast as he reached Greg's lab and glanced inside. Greg was sitting at his lab station, shoulders tense as he focused on whatever evidence he was processing. Nick didn't give himself time to think before he pushed the door open; he knew if he did he'd start to talk himself out of it, and most of him didn't really want to. There was a small part of him that wanted to run in the other direction and not look back, but the part of him that wanted this propelled him through the door and toward Greg's lab station.
As soon as he walked in Greg looked up, his features clouding when he registered Nick's presence. Nick's heart skipped a beat at the look on Greg's face, but he forced himself forward until he was standing directly behind the other man.
"Unless you've got a key or some evidence I don't want to talk to you," Greg said, his whole body tensing when Nick's chest brushed his shoulder. Nick swallowed a sigh at Greg's automatic response to his touch, but he leaned around the other man anyway and held out his hand, opening his palm so Greg could see the key resting in the center.
For a second Greg didn't move, then his shoulders fell and he reached out to take the key out of Nick's hand. "Nick, I…this isn't my key."
Greg's voice caught a little on the words, and Nick couldn't help smiling at the shock in the other man's tone. He closed his hand around Greg's, pressing the warm metal into his fingers. "It's yours now."
Just for a second Greg leaned back into him, and Nick swallowed hard against the sudden tightness in his throat when Greg tilted his head to look up at Nick. "Are you serious?"
"Of course I'm serious." He knew how they must look, and he knew that any second now Grissom or anyone could walk by, and then their lives would get a lot more complicated. He couldn't bring himself to pull away, though – not yet, not until he was sure things were settled between them. "It took me awhile, but I get it. Okay?"
Greg nodded, his hair brushing Nick's chin just enough to tickle. Then he grinned and turned around so they were face to face, pulling his hand out of Nick's in the process. "You know, for a smart guy it sure takes you awhile to catch on."
"Don't make me rethink this," Nick shot back, trying and failing not to smile and ruin the effect.
"No way," Greg answered, sliding the hand still holding the key behind his back. "You gave it to me, there's no taking it back."
"So you're not still mad at me?"
"Yeah, but I'm considering letting you make it up to me," Greg said, grinning when Nick laughed and glanced over his shoulder. Once he was sure there was no one watching them he turned back to Greg, leaning forward for what should have been a quick kiss. A quick brush of lips on lips stretched into long moments, and when Nick finally remembered where they were and forced himself to pull away they were both breathless. He glanced reluctantly over his shoulder, expecting to find Sara again – or worse, Grissom – but they were still alone.
He grinned and turned back to Greg, his hand finding Greg's and squeezing just for a second before he let go. "My place later?"
"I'll meet you there."
And Nick knew he was going to spend the rest of the night grinning like an idiot, but for once he didn't care what anyone thought. He forced himself to back away from the other man, dredging up the last of his will power to keep from kissing Greg again. They'd have plenty of time later to make up for it, after all, and Nick wasn't planning on either of them getting much sleep after their shift.
He stopped when the lab door closed behind him and glanced back at Greg, his chest tightening at the sight of the other man turning his key over in his hand. He'd just given someone else complete access to his life without even thinking twice; it was terrifying and exhilarating all at once, and Nick had never been happier.