“This is so unfair,” Greg said sadly. “I would never date you.”
Hodges gave him a murderous look.
“This is killing my street cred,” Greg despaired. “Now ugly people and social retards are going to start sniffing around me.”
“I’m not any happier about this than you are,” Hodges snarled. “In the L.A. office—”
“Hodges, L.A. didn’t want you; Greg, you never had any street cred to begin with, now will you both please just shut up and stop moving?” Archie snapped, finally past hysterics and beyond amusement and into irritation.
Greg made sure to squirm extra-hard just for that when Archie reached for him again, attaching wires to his chest with tape he was certain was going to rip out each and every individual strand of wiry chest hair. Greg comforted himself in that at least he didn’t have any embarrassing middle-aged paunch, although compared to the godlike specimens of Nick and Warrick on the other side of the room, buttoning their shirts over their six-packs, arms flexing, Greg was aware it was essentially like arguing death by autoerotic asphyxiation was less embarrassing than death by autoerotic asphyxiation while the porno was still playing on your television.
“Can’t I date Nicky instead?” Greg begged in a moment of opportunistic honesty.
“Taken,” Warrick said firmly, and spared a moment to share an ugly scowl with Hodges.
“Sorry, G,” Nick said, laughing. “That’s what you get if you get to work late.”
“Okay, I am still in the room,” Hodges emphasized, furious. “And I’ll have you know, Sanders, that I wouldn’t be caught dead with you in any actual social capacity, so you should be thrilled that I’m not hurling myself into moving traffic right now.”
“Actually,” Greg told him sweetly, “if you were really compelled, I’d understand. Really.”
“Boys, boys,” Catherine soothed, sounding entirely too amused and standing in the doorway, giving them all knowing glances. “One hour on loan to the LVPD and you’re already losing your table manners—pity.”
Archie finally released Greg, taking some fairly invasive liberties in attaching the microphone and transmitter to the inside of Greg’s trousers before he all but shoved Greg away, saying, “Go away from me,” and turning to Hodges—who was wearing a faintly alarmed expression.
“Why are we on lone to the LVPD anyway?” Greg asked sullenly, all but stomping to the other side of the room and allowing himself a momentary fit of 14-year-old-girl-ness to bask in Nick’s reassuring smile. “Don’t they have a whole fleet of cadets they can go make cruise gay bars?”
In the background, Hodges made a pained noise, and Warrick, Nick, and Greg shared a mean-spirited snicker at that.
“Firstly, it’s a gentlemen’s club with gentlemen only welcome,” Catherine said, still smiling too broadly. “And you’ve already heard the entire song and dance about probable cause and the issuance of warrants—their guys have been made. Consider this a service to the state of Nevada.”
“Nevada can’t make me date Hodges,” Greg snapped.
“Aw, Greggo,” Nick laughed, throwing an arm around Greg’s shoulders. “Don’t worry, once we get there, you two can break up. It’ll be a perfect opportunity for somebody to sense your vulnerability and try to sell you drugs.”
Nick was wearing a black button-up, which Catherine and Sara had decided with frustrated sighs earlier was the least cop-like thing Nick owned while he’d stood by, sullen and shirtless, watching them dig through his locker. He smelled amazing.
“God, why are you so wholesome-looking?” Sara had complained. “Nobody is going to push you anything.”
Greg thought that if a club full of gay men wasted their time pushing drugs on Nick instead of their dicks then they deserved whatever jail time they got.
“Please,” Hodges interrupted. “If anything they’re going to be pushing me drugs out of pity because I’m apparently attached at the hip with such a train wreck,” he said, glaring darkly at Greg’s hair, back in blond.
Hodges looked supremely uncomfortable in a t-shirt a size too small, a look similar to the one Warrick was rocking, only Warrick looked more like he was apt to whisper honeyed words in your ear any moment and bend your willingly pliable body over a flat surface. Greg tried very hard not to think about Warrick and Nick and bending or any kind of over or under the clothes groping at all, but it was very hard.
“Hey, Greg,” Warrick said, snapping his fingers in Greg’s face. “You paying attention?”
“What?” Greg asked, alarmed and zoning back in on reality abruptly. “Yes. Yes.”
“Good,” Grissom said, wandering into the room unadorned and unwired, spared the humiliation of being prostituted out by Clark County law enforcement, in part because he was the boss and in part because the idea of Grissom cruising a gay bar was too horrifying to countenance.
“Now,” Grissom said, looking amused, “hold hands and look sincere.”
As predicted, Nicky looked too wholesome for drug pushers but attracted sluts like flies, and Warrick in clear dereliction of duty allowed himself to be drawn away by potential sellers and left Nick alone at the bar to fend for himself. The pretty boys and bears and leather sluts were swarming like flies: offering blowjobs in the alleyway and to bend Nick over a pool table and also to make him their boy. After the third nymphette had wandered past and nearly pressed his face into Nick’s crotch, Greg had chalked up his roaring jealousy into professional concern and abandoned Hodges—who had tipped over into a luminous tropical drink approximately six seconds after they’d entered the club—and gone to rescue him.
“Step off, bitch,” Greg said, sliding behind Nick and wrapping a possessive arm around his waist. He felt a little piece of his soul wither at the knowledge that on the other end of a wire, Archie was having a heart attack right now, dying with shrieks of laughter.
The nymphette’s face transformed into an expression of pure poison. “And who the fuck are you?” he demanded.
Nick colored more, if possible, and held up his hands in a peacekeeping gesture. “Uh, guys—”
“Significant lover, thanks,” Greg said, impressing as much adolescent homosexual bitchery as he could manage into his voice. “Now go find somebody a little more diseased and naked—they’ll suit you more.”
“Oh, geez, Greg,” Nick said, mortified, and turning to the nymphette, he started to apologize, saying, “I’m really sorry. He’s usually not—”
The nymphette rolled his eyes. “Bitch, please. I’d do it too if I got to hit that,” he said, and giving Nick one last, longing gaze, he said, “Mm—ride ‘em, cowboy,” and left.
Nick stared after him, an expression of dumb shock on his face.
“Nick, Nicky,” Greg asked, tugging his possessive arm away and feeling a rising sense of worry. Nick had been raised in Texas—by a judge. He made toys and watched Animal Planet. There was no telling how deeply traumatic this experience was for him—damn the Las Vegas PD! Grissom was going to be so pissed when he realized they’d broken a CSI. “Nick, oh my God, are you okay? Do we need to leave? Do you need, I don’t know, counseling?”
Greg didn’t let go of his tightly-held breath until Nick’s hysterical laughter slowed to a hiccup—cute, Greg though miserably, so ungodly cute—and Nick said, “Jesus, no, G—I’m fine, I’m just going to need the longest shower of my life after this.” Still laughing, he said, “God, and I thought straight guys were bad about picking up women.”
“Well,” Greg prevaricated. “They are in a club called the Fruit Loop.”
“Well, it’s still not called ‘Easy Ass ‘R’ Us,’” Nick argued, grinning. “Thanks for bailing me out there, though.”
“My pleasure,” Greg chirped, pleased. “Catherine and Sara made it very clear to us what would happen if I let the little gay gnomes carry you away to their dungeon of depravity.”
“I’m glad I didn’t hear that conversation,” Nick said, rolling his eyes. Then, considering, he asked, “Hey, where’s Hodges?”
They both turned round to look down the bar—where they saw Hodges in a liplock with a person roughly twice his height and double his weight, wearing an enormous Shirley Temple wig and a black cocktail dress that showed off every hair on his well-defined legs. Nick and Greg turned back to their half of the bar.
“Let us never speak of that again,” Greg finally said.
“Gladly,” Nick agreed.
Before Warrick returned, nearly twenty minutes later, Greg had to detach three more slimeballs who couldn’t take no for an answer from Nick’s side and nearly got into a slap fight with a boy who looked no older than sixteen who’d strolled up wearing a cowboy hat and a smile and asked Nick for a ride. “Go back and finish high school!” Greg had shouted, shoving him back into the crowd. “No masters, no Nick!”