It had been about four months. And he was rapidly approaching the end of his tether; he couldn’t pinpoint an actual source, it was just an accumulation of everything. But, of one thing he was absolutely certain; he couldn’t go on like this, he needed some respite.
They’d been a couple for three years and four months. For nearly two of those years no one knew about them, and they’d been good years. Then Walter Gordon had changed all that. They’d had to deal with the fallout from that; Nick’s health had been severely compromised by the toxins in his system and the physical recovery had taken about six weeks; a physically weak man would have died.
His mental health had been worse. How did anyone cope with the aftermath of that? Gil didn’t know, he couldn’t imagine. He’d always been a practical man; he wasn’t given to flights of fancy or imagination. He liked facts and evidence. He knew the fact that it had happened and he could see the evidence of Nick’s complete breakdown; but he didn’t know how to deal with it. But he had; he’d stumbled through it and was just ‘there’, when Nick needed him.
He supposed it had worked because Nick did recover and he had healed and there were only very little remnants left of the twenty fours hours when he was buried alive. But Gil believed it was Nick who’d made himself better, not Gil himself, and he believed he’d not made any significant contribution to Nick’s recovery.
Then they’d had to deal with fallout from the gay relationship that was exposed. In truth because of Walter Gordon it had been made easier. No one could deny Nick needed a partner to be by his side and help him overcome the trauma, and if that partner was a man, then so be it. But that it was Gil had made caused ripples and waves to reverberate around the PD for some months.
An investigation of Gil had ensued, not Nick…he was exonerated because of Walter Gordon. But Gil had endured possible dismissal and demotion and months of examination that made him appreciate how his bugs felt when he pawed over them and their ordered little lives.
Gil‘s life, that had always been so ordered had become spectacularly disordered; he couldn’t escape the scrutiny and, even worse, the smug bastard that was Conrad Ecklie. It had eventually calmed down when no one could find a shred of evidence that pointed to any compromised work.
But relationships had been soured. Sara was the worst; she felt that Gil had deliberately enticed her to Vegas with a promise of a relationship. She’d had wedding bells ringing in her ears for years. Gil had honestly never entertained the idea. He’d had women in the past, but his inclination definitely lay in the direction of men.
Catherine had been hurt; she’d considered herself a friend. She was his friend, but he would never have confided any secrets to her; she would give him her ‘expert’ opinion and tell what him to do, since she viewed him as incompetent when it came to interpersonal skills. She was right, but he still wouldn’t want her to order him around; especially given her track record in the relationship stakes, that would have been an act of supreme hypocrisy on her part...but she would tried.
Warrick had run the gamut of emotions, the guilt of the ‘survivor’, when Nick had been abducted and incarcerated. The disappointment when he’d learned he’d been excluded from the knowledge of the relationship. And not only that, but the discovery that his best friend was gay, when he’d been extolling his heterosexual virtues for years. He seemed okay with it now, though.
Greg had been the least fazed of all of them; at least it seemed that way. Gil liked Greg a great deal, he thought of him as he thought he would a son. Proud of his achievements, his intellect; in truth he was disappointed with Greg’s transition to the field. He knew Greg was more suited to the lab with his outstanding scientific abilities rather with the collection of evidence. He was waiting for Greg to realise this and revert back to his earlier role. Maybe he would…eventually. Maybe he wouldn’t.
The rest of the staff had had differing reactions, including the staggering behaviour of Hodges, who although (Gil believed) was straight was insanely jealous of Nick. He seemed to truly believe that only he possessed the intellect to make, and keep, Gil truly happy.
It appeared that no one had thought Gil capable of physical passion. If it hadn’t been that Nick was a man at the height of his physical attraction, many would have believed for sure, that they were celibate. But with Nick exuding that sexual power, few could hold onto that belief. It used to make Gil laugh, but now it irritated him. Together, they had an extraordinarily sensual and fulfilling sex life.
It was the one thing that hadn’t suffered and now Gil was questioning whether it was, after all, the basis of their relationship and not a by-product of their togetherness. Did they love the sex and stay together just because of it? Or did they love each other and because of that they then had great sex? Gil couldn’t solve the puzzle; but what he was sure of, absolutely, was that it wasn’t a puzzle at all until very recently.
And then there was work. Gil had always loved work. He hardly saw it as work. The supervisory role tended to get in the way, but the puzzle, the evidence gathering, the interest he had was second nature to him and he loved it. He couldn’t quite remember when it had become a chore but it did seem to be quite suddenly and then it seemed that the dissatisfaction had been quietly working its way to the forefront for a long time.
He’d had three migraines in four months, he knew that. The most he normally had was two a year. Cases he’d once relished, even if they disgusted him, still provided a puzzle, and if he solved them then all the better, but now he felt as if the dirt and sleaze and degeneration of morals was weighing him down; he’d become conscious of exactly what man does to man, and he wasn’t helping, it wasn’t getting better. It was getting worse.
He knew he was irritable and he knew Nick had made an enormous effort to help him. He’d given him space, he’d given him massages. He cooked his favourite foods; he’d made him go out, into the desert for some bright daylight and fresh air. He’d given him blowjobs that defied description and he’d soothed him physically as much as he could. And through all of it Gil had been tetchy and mean spirited.
He knew he had, but he couldn’t shake himself out of the fug; he’d read that word years ago in a novel and it seemed apt now; a stale atmosphere, as if he was suffocating in the heat for want of a fresh breeze. Nick had called it for what it was; depression. He’d begged him to see his doctor and get some chemical help or maybe some therapy. Gil wouldn’t, even though he knew that was probably exactly what he needed, but he didn’t want to be told that, by Nick, or by anyone else.
Gil even knew that his behaviour in respect of that was classically depressive, but he couldn’t make himself do it. He just plain would not.
When the invitation had come in, he’d immediately dismissed it, although he hadn’t responded as such. The next day it had looked more attractive and by the next day, he was almost certain he would do it. A seven week sabbatical away from all of it; work and…work…and work…and…Nick.
That was it: Nick.
His Nick; he’d tried so hard but now appeared to be losing his patience and Gil only had himself to blame. Nick did virtually everything; no, that wasn’t true, he did do everything... He cooked, he cleaned, he shopped, he really did do everything and all Gil could do, was resent him even more. For doing all the cooking, for all the cleaning, for all of everything.
The matter had come to a head and now Gil was sitting on the deck; his mind made up. He’d not even mentioned it to Nick but he would and he would go; he wouldn’t tell him until it was all planned and in place. He wouldn’t be made to stay through guilt; he’d just go.
Gil had stayed at work to do some follow up on a case he’d been working with Warrick and Catherine. Nick had successfully completed his case for the shift and headed home. So when Gil had come in a couple of hours later, Nick was doing the housework. It hardly needed doing, but Nick liked to ‘keep on top of it’. But he was doing it to some country rock band; ‘rockabilly’, Gil thought it was called, but it was raising the roof in their home.
Gil could hear if from when he pulled up his truck on their driveway. He’d leaned his head on the steering wheel. Why, oh, why, couldn’t Nick like something calm and soothing, something classical maybe, or even something less frenetic and something quieter? God, even the same music, but quieter.
When he’d opened the front door, it was even worse. Nick was vacuuming and singing along. Gil could almost taste the noise, like bile in his throat. He’d stalked over to the CD player, even before Nick noticed he was home. He’d switched it off. A nanosecond later Nick had stopped singing and a second after that the vacuum cleaner became silent, as it was switched off…
End of Part One
The room became exactly the opposite of how it had been; the loud reverberations replaced by a quietness that in itself almost pulsated.
“God, you surprised me, creeping up on me like that. How’s the case going? ”
“Creeping? For God’s sake I could have come in here discharging my gun and you wouldn’t have noticed. Is it absolutely necessary for it to be so loud so, earth shatteringly noisy?”
“Just as I thought, no excuse.”
“What? What? Don’t be…”
“…oh, come on, you could damage the foundations with that cacophony, not to mention my eardrums. I don’t suppose you give a damn that I’ve had major surgery on my ears?”
“Give a damn? You’ve got a fucking nerve. You stand there and give me grief over your ears? Your ears, that no one knew about? You think I don’t care? Well I care, but I’ll tell you something else shall I? I’ve just about had it up to here.” He sliced across his neck with his hand. “I've given you space, I've tried my fucking damndest to help you; to support you. I do everything for you, for chrissakes, to give you that space and when I’ve been on my own in the house you come the almighty on me and complain about the noise. You weren’t even in the fucking house until a minute ago. You know what? Do it yourself. I’m outta here; I could be doing something for myself.”
Nick had gone to their bedroom and when he’d emerged a few minutes later and if he even noticed that Gil was still standing in exactly the same position, he said nothing. He’d changed into clean jeans and a tee and had his gym bag. He picked up his keys and left the house without a backward glance.
Gil had left the room as it was and made himself a tea and taken it out onto the deck. He knew what he had to do. He would take that sabbatical.
He went to his computer and set the ball in motion. He accepted the offer from Princeton. It was far enough away to make a big difference. The way they lived their lives on the east coast was entirely different.
When he’d sorted out as much as he could he went to bed, and slept a dreamless, heavy sleep. A sleep that didn’t afford rest. The alarm woke him up. That was unusual because he rarely outslept the alarm, either that or Nick would have woken him. He twisted around in bed after switching off the alarm and was taken aback to see Nick next to him.
He’d not been disturbed by Nick coming to bed. Nor, as was customary, was Nick wrapped around him. Spooned behind him, or lying on his chest or with their legs intertwined. This Nick was awake and stretching, but on his side with his back to Gil. A chasm of at least two feet between them in their huge bed.
Neither man spoke and then Nick threw back the bedclothes and got up, walking to the bathroom, without a word or a glance in Gil’s direction. Gil was peeved. How childish was that? Well two could play at that game.
When Gil heard the shower start he, too, got up and went to the bathroom. He relived his bladder and washed his hands without acknowledging Nick in the shower behind him. He made his way to the kitchen and noticed that the vacuum cleaner still stood where it had when Nick had left it and the cushions were still displaced where Nick had been vacuuming.
In the kitchen Gil started the coffee machine; he watched it working for a few minutes, leaning on the counter. He would make breakfast, which would then serve as a peace offering. He got all the ingredients out for omelettes with mushrooms and cheese, a favourite of both of them.
He mixed it all and warmed the pan. The coffee was just about finished, so he got their mugs ready and surveyed the scene. It was ready to go; he’d go and speak to Nick. As he came out of the kitchen Nick was coming down the stairs. Dressed and ready to go to go to work. Without acknowledging Gil at all, he walked through the living room and out of the front door. Gil was speechless; actually, he barely had time to gather his thoughts as he watched Nick leave. It was like a slow motion sequence in a film.
Gil remained standing and looking at the closed front door with his mouth hanging open. He thought that this was the first time ever, since they had lived together, that they’d hadn’t kissed before work. Nor spoken. Nor anything else he could think of. They’d argued a lot recently but they’d always made up; always, always kissed, always, made love, always.
Nick had always apologised, every single time even though nine times out of every ten, make that ninety nine times out of every hundred, it was Gil who’d started it. Gil had never once said ‘sorry’, never once taken the blame when Nick had apologised; both of them knowing full well that Gil was the culprit.
Now Gil understood that Nick really had had it up to there. He gripped his own neck with his own fingers as he recalled what Nick had said and done. Gil didn’t know what to do; he stood there and had no idea, whatsoever, what to do next.
How long he stood there, he couldn’t really tell, but later, in the shower, as he thought about it he knew that he should apologise to Nick. He must say ‘sorry’; it had been his fault, this latest row. All his fault. Of course, Nick was entitled to listen to whatever he wanted at whatever volume he wanted when Gil was out of the house. Even if Gil was there, if Gil was really honest with himself.
The house was ‘theirs’; they’d sold Nick’s condo after Walter Gordon and Nick had lived with Gil in his town house, but it was too small for the two men. So they’d bought their beautiful new home. Their combined income and savings had meant that they really could afford somewhere a bit special, and it was; they’d both loved it the moment they’d viewed the property. A small suburb about thirty minutes from the lab on a good day, but far enough away to be peaceful.
It was furnished mostly from Nick’s ideas and flair for a stylish but cosy home. Nick had done all the work, but Gil had thought it a good project in which to immerse himself, while recovering from his ordeal. Nick agreed; he had wholeheartedly embraced it, but always consulted Gil on the colours, on the furniture - on everything – but all Gil had to do was agree, because, really, Nick had it all covered.
Gil threw away his prepared food for breakfast and had a bowl of cereal and three mugs of coffee. He was going to apologise at the first opportunity.
As they all arrived at work the reports were coming in of a major fire at a hotel off the strip. Major damage, major injuries and from the reports, a fair number of fatalities. No time to apologise.
The fire was indeed a major incident. The graveyard shift was joined by swing. As the investigation carried on into daylight, then the day shift joined them. Gil, Nick and all the rest of team had all done a double before most of the evidence had been collected. Gil liaised with the fire department and their skilled investigators and the preliminary investigation revealed the source of the fire - shoddy wiring and poor workmanship; it almost guaranteed that there would be manslaughter charges brought, someone would have to pay for the eight people who’d lost their lives.
The bone weary team arrived back at the lab and Gil sent them all home, and he wouldn’t be far behind them. Nick and him had spoken but only about work related matters.
Gil arrived home about, he guessed, thirty minutes after Nick. He opened the door and the first thing he saw was the vacuum cleaner, still where Nick had left it the day before. He walked over to it and tidied it up, and rolled it away to the its usual resting place. He went back into the living room and tidied the cushions. The lounge looked like normal.
Gil couldn’t hear Nick. He presumed he was in the bathroom, maybe taking a shower. They’d eaten at work; refreshments had been provided, all night and day by the LVFD, who looked after their men and women.
They had to be at work again in six and half hours, so Gil thought bed was the best place for them both. He climbed the stairs to their bedroom; it was already in darkness and Nick was in bed. Gil could make out his shape under the blankets. Gil stood and watched as the blankets moved up and down. The movement was rhythmic, it was likely Nick was already asleep, exhausted, he worked hard and had had little rest. Gil had been able to wander in and out while discussing the case with his FD counterpart.
But, he made the decision not to wake Nick. He needed to sleep, as did Gil. He slipped into the bathroom to undress and take a quick shower. Nick had obviously done the same. Nick’s clothes were strewn around the bathroom floor. Nick never left his clothes lying around. Never.
Gil picked them up and put them in the washing basket and then took his own clothes off and did the same. His shower was very quick. He was out in five minutes and dried and getting into bed in another three minutes. He’d forgotten to clean his teeth, but he wasn’t getting up again. He lay down and made a decision. Nick was asleep, but he would make a conciliatory gesture.
He slipped behind Nick, on his side and spooned; he put his arm around Nick’s abdomen. He was asleep while he was still thinking how wonderful Nick felt. He’d missed him.
The alarm clock woke them both up with a jolt. Gil was practically sleeping on top of Nick; as Nick had moved onto his abdomen, so Gil had moved with him and was lying mostly on Nick’s back. They were very hot and sticky from the close contact. Nick reached over and switched off the alarm and yawned such a fierce yawn that he was in danger of dislocating his jaw. Gil, equally tired and susceptible to auto suggestion, yawned alongside him. He fell back onto his back as he did so and stretched out. He sincerely wished he could remain in bed.
He then remembered what he should do next…
End of Part Two
“Nick, I’m sorry.”
“Yeah, you’d better be.”
“I am, I promise.”
“Are you going to do something about this, Gil, ‘cause you know man, I can’t go on like this, you’re driving us apart, you do know that don’t you?”
The words stung; he’d known they were having some problems, sure, and that they were his fault, but did Nick think he was being driven away? He probably did after all the shit he’d been throwing at him.
“I don’t want to drive you away, Nick…I love you. It’s just…things are…not like they should be, I suppose, I’m off kilter and need to do something about it; I think I have the solution. I’m going away. I've arranged a sabbatical…”
“You’ve done what?” Nick was suddenly wide awake and sitting up in bed. “You‘ve done what? Behind my back?”
“No…no, not like that…”
“You’re not going away?
“Well. Yes I am, but I haven’t done it behind your back.”
“Did I know about it, did you talk to me about it, you’ve just said ‘it’s arranged’, which sounds suspiciously like it’s a done deal; I didn’t know about it isn’t that behind my back?”
“Well, I have accepted the invitation; but I thought you’d relish some time alone, recharge your batteries. Give you some breathing space.”
“Let’s get this right; you’ve got all the problems and you’ve arranged to go away to give me a chance to calm down. Me?” Nick was out of bed now and pacing the bedroom. Gil struggled to sit up.
“Nick, no, it’s not like that, it’s all come out wrong. Look, I know I've been a bastard these last months; work has become a chore after so many years loving what I do, I’ve suddenly found myself disliking, no…hating it, not wanting to do it, and I've been taking out my frustration on you. I’m sorry. So when I had this invitation I wasn’t going to take it, but after yesterday when you stormed out…”
“…I stormed out? It is my fucking fault?” But at least Gil had spoken about what was really wrong for the first time, Nick realised, as he shouted back at Gil.
“No, Nick. Please; please don’t twist my words, please.”
“I’m finding this fucking hard to take man. You’ve never talked about any of this, I’ve put up with your shit for months and I've tried to help, God knows I have, and you’ve done nothing, now you’re up and leaving just like that. How the fuck…” Nick could kick himself as the tears started. He was furious and he was frightened; was Gil leaving him? Was this just the beginning of the end? “…do you think I feel, aren’t we supposed to be together…partners.”
“Nick, oh, Nick.” Gil got out of bed and caught up with the still pacing Nick. He stopped him and enveloped him in his arms.
“None of this is your fault. It’s all mine. I've been the ass here, and I know I’ve ignored your help. I've never encountered anything like this in my life before. I want to put it right. I don’t want to leave you or lose you, you must believe that. I just thought that a break from work would do us good…do me good.”
“A break like Ross and Rachel?” Nick had relaxed a little in Gil's arms.
“Ross and…I don’t know who you’re talking about.”
“Doesn’t matter. When do you go? Where?”
“Probably the week after next; but I’ve still got to square it with Ecklie and the sheriff first. But it’s at Princeton University. A chance to do some research and take classes for a short time.”
“So how long will you be away?”
“Seven or eight weeks.”
“Oh man, two months, you’re going for two months. Oh, Gil, how could you?” Nick tried to push Gil away, but Gil held on for dear life.
“Nick, it’ll go in a flash, you know how we’re always saying that time goes so fast; this will, I promise.”
“We’ve never been apart. Not even for a day. You’ve never left me before.” Nick’s had started to sob into Gil’s shoulder.
One thing that was crystal clear to Gil now, with the benefit of hindsight, was that he didn’t want to leave Nick; he loved him and wanted him and would be back with him, but he also knew that he needed a break to do exactly as he’d said. Recharge his batteries.
“I know we haven’t been apart and I know that this is not your fault. I know this. It is my fault, but I need to go away, Nick. I need to get away, clear my head. But one thing isn’t negotiable. That’s you and me. I love you and I think going away will just reinforce that love. Make us stronger. Make me nicer and easier to live with.”
“Not like a Ross and Rachel break then.”
“Who are they? Do I know them?”
“No. But they took a break and Ross slept with another woman; Ross said they were on a break and he could, Rachel said they were only on a break, and he shouldn’t have.”
“Well the answer to that is clear. We are not on a break. I’m going away and will be back and I will think of no one but you and love no one but you. I love you and only you.”
“Sure as hell feels like you don’t, well, didn’t.”
“I’m so sorry, honey. You know I feel better all ready. Knowing I’m going away and will be coming back to you, having missed you for every minute of every day.”
“You’d better, that’s all I can say.”
“I will, I promise. When I get back, I’ll go see the doctor, too, tell him what’s happened and see if he thinks I need some therapy. You’d come with me, wouldn’t you? Hold my hand?”
“Yeah, I would. Hey, I’m glad I stormed out now, it’s brought you to your senses.”
“I think you might be right about that, but all this has only happened just now, as I’ve held you, it’s all seems so clear now, what I need to do.”
“We’re going to be late for work if we don’t start getting ready.”
“Let’s be late then, we deserve it.”
“Right. You do need to get away.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Being late for work and not bothering? That’s serious, babe.”
“Ah, babe. I am forgiven then.”
“Just this once and I mean that, if you ever pull this shit on me again, I tell you I’m going to go ballistic and then some.”
“Normally I’d say let’s have some make up sex, but you know I think I’m just too tired, I’m getting on a bit, you know?”
“That’s true, any day now I expect to see a grey hair or two.”
“Watch it. I’m the only one allowed to say that.”
“Okay. Shower then?”
“That’s good, maybe we could make out.”
The next few days flew past. Gil applied for, and was given, permission to leave for the sabbatical. Princeton confirmed the details and flights were booked. He was going to stay on campus in self-contained rooms reserved for visiting lecturers.
The team took it in different ways. Sara was secretly very pleased; she took it as an omen that Gil and Nick were drifting apart and she wasn’t proud, she’d pick up the pieces with Gil. Catherine hoped that Gil would get the teaching bug and leave the lab, which would open the way for her to take over the shift.
Warrick was amazed that Gil would leave Nick for that length of time, but Nick seemed to be okay about it, so that was okay by Warrick. Greg thought that Gil’s leaving would give him a chance to do better work; he’d felt so under Gil’s influence all the time that he knew he wasn’t doing his best work. This would be his time.
Jim knew there was more to it than met the eye about this little jaunt across the country; but Nick seemed to be taking in his stride, so they must be pretty solid about it. But Gil had still asked him to keep an eye on Nick. Jim understood this; Nick was just the most unlucky, accident prone CSI in the country in Jim’s book and he didn’t want any more shit happening to Nick in Gil’s absence…or more shit at any other time for that matter…
Nick took charge of the packing, ensuring Gil had the right clothes; he googled the weather conditions and insisted on a shopping expedition to equip Gil with the appropriate clothing. The night before he was leaving they had a special meal; they’d both prepared it, Gil did the main course and Nick made a starter and a dessert.
They ate by candlelight on their deck; since their argument about Gil going away, they’d been calmer and happier. Gil felt healed already and blamed himself for being such an asshole about his feelings. He should have done what Nick had begged him to do, but he wouldn’t. But the truth of the matter was that he didn’t think he would need to do any more about this. He felt healed, and he was healed. Nick was happy again and that’s what really counted.
He chuckled to himself as he thought that just a few days ago he’d been considering that maybe his future lay without Nick. He must have been severely compromised; he couldn’t imagine how barren his life would be without Nick and he wasn’t about to test the theory.
He would miss Nick a great deal. He almost wished his sabbatical wasn’t quite as long as it was. Four weeks would have been ample time – not twice that. But it was done and they would come back together refreshed and renewed and it would be wonderful. He was looking forward to coming home to Nick already and he hadn’t even left.
“What are you smirking at?”
“Not smirking. Am I?”
“Sure were, man.”
“I was thinking about missing you and getting home and all the sex we’ll be having.”
“Man, you haven’t even gone yet! We’ve got to have, ‘send you on away with a smile on your face sex yet’.”
“Really; now that sounds good. We’ve got to work tonight you know that.”
“Yep….I’ve ‘phoned Catherine and said we’ll be about an hour late, something’s come up.”
“That’s no word of a lie; something has come up; substantially.”
“Now, ain’t that a coincidence?”
End of Part Three
They lay in bed and Gil thought he would be unlikely to be able to move for at least…twelve hours?
Then he remembered that in twelve hours he would probably be in the air flying to Newark. And all the sitting that entailed…with a sore ass… And then there was work. He glanced at the clock…they had about ten minutes leeway for a rest. Nick had set the alarm again and he was dozing beside him…or, judging by the snort just emitted from Nick’s mouth as he lay on his back…fast asleep.
Gil could sleep but he didn’t want to…he wanted to think about what had happened to him and then to both of them. He couldn’t quite understand how it had happened. Nick had been right; it was a depressive state and he should have visited his doctor, and yet he did seem to be over it, mostly or even completely, and the catalyst had been this work at Princeton. As soon as he’d decided to go the fug had lifted and it had been nothing to do with Nick…he knew that now, and should have known it all along…it was work.
The detritus that he was forced to deal with day after day had caught up with him and he knew he had decisions to make. Not on his own this time, but with Nick.
If he enjoyed being away and came back with a renewed vigour for work then all well and good. But if he fell into the same state as he had done then for the sake of his sanity and, of course, his relationship with Nick, then changes would have to be made. It didn’t unduly worry him as he had offers of work all the time; although not necessarily in Las Vegas.
A loud snort woke Nick enough for him to turn onto his side facing Gil. Gil smiled at him; what an idiot he’d been with Nick. How could he have thought for one moment that his problem was with Nick? He moved slightly to adjust his ass…
Mostly it was Gil who penetrated Nick…probably about seventy percent of the time because Nick preferred it, but when the tables were turned Gil was always reminded how much he enjoyed it and how considerate and consuming Nick was with him.
One of the most surprising things about their relationship was the physicality of it…Gil liked sex, he thought, as much as the next man, but he’d never been consumed by sex. He wasn’t driven to find sexual gratification by means other than his own hand and had never slept around. But once they’d got together he, they, were almost insatiable for weeks…months. And it remained with them…maybe not at their original pace…but with very nearly a daily encounter of some kind.
Even after Walter Gordon. At first Gil had been surprised and then worried that Nick had wanted the intimacy even while recovering from the toxic onslaught of the ants. But he’d come to realise that Nick needed it…to reconnect, to remind him of the good things in life and not let the time in the coffin override everything else. That was only hours…he had his life to live.
The alarm sounded, making Gil jump slightly; he must have been drifting off to sleep, and Nick groaned and reached for it and switched it off.
“I’ve got to get up straight away or I’ll never get up.” Nick yawned as he finished and then looked at Gil. “Hope your ass remembers the good time…”
“…have no fear. It does.”
“And stay out of Catherine’s way or she’ll know what we’ve been doing.”
“She’ll know anyway.”
“Yeah.” He sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. “Going to miss you…”
“I know. I really do think it will be a good thing for me, Nick. If I feel the same way about work, when I get back, then I might look around for something else to do.”
“Yeah, I thought that. You could do seminars and write and provide expert testimony. Teach. You’ve got a lot of options.”
Gil smiled. How typical of Nick to have thought the same things he’d thought. “I have, I thought that.”
“You might have to be away for a few days here and there…but that’s not seven weeks.”
“What about the training facility for CSI’s here in Vegas? I know you do guest lectures and helped out when they were really short of staff.”
“I hadn’t thought about that…that’s a good idea.”
“I’m full of them. But making love like that and then going to work was not one of them.” He grinned at Gil as he made his way to the bathroom.
“I would disagree.”
“Then you face up to Catherine…and probably the rest of the shift.”
“As you say, Nick, no probs, man!”
Nick stopped and looked back at Gil. “Now why does that worry me?”
“I have no idea, my love.” Gil sounded fairly innocent but was grinning lasciviously.
“Wipe that grin off your face and get in the shower.”
Gil got up and followed Nick into the bathroom, grimacing a little at his sore ass. He might love anal intercourse but it did have its drawbacks. But there again…it was well worth the mess and discomfort.
At work, as predicted, Catherine was over them like a rash.
“I would like to have an hour off for a sex session.”
“Then I’m sure it can be arranged.” Gil replied pleasantly.
“Oh, and you’ll find me a suitable partner as well?”
“I might not be able to go that far…I doubt that my idea of a suitable partner for you would be your idea of suitable.”
“And what, exactly, do you mean by that?”
“Exactly, what I said.”
“Yeah, well. I’m glad to see your head is out of your ass where it’s been stuck for the last few months, but it looks to me like you’ve got something else up it now.”
Nick, who’d been standing behind Gil, quietly, spluttered, and left with a, ‘see ya’.
“Not anymore, Catherine, not anymore.” He smirked and she laughed. “Do you want to do the hand over now?”
“Sure. I guess you’ll have left most everything for me to do.”
“Of course.” He smiled.
The handover went well and it was a quiet Friday night…a rarity. So Nick was able to take Gil home on time, to shower…and have a last blow job…and then get ready to leave. His flight left at eleven thirty that morning but with a stop-over in Philadelphia and with the time difference it would be a long day for Gil.
As he loaded up Nick’s truck he thought of something; he went back into the house.
“Nick, honey, may I ask you a big favour?” From Gil's tone of voice Nick knew he wouldn’t like it, whatever it was.
“Try me.” And Gil knew from Nick’s response that he was skating on thin ice.
“Will you just drop me off at the airport and not come inside?”
Nick wanted to complain but he thought it was probably a good idea since neither of them liked public displays of affection and Nick was quite likely to tear up. But he wasn’t giving up that easily.
“Because I can think of nothing more depressing than walking through to departures and looking back at your face.”
“You think my face is depressing?” Nick smiled a little.
“It will be watching me walk away.”
“Yeah. I know. Okay. Bye then.” He stood in front of Gil and smiled, wanly; it didn’t reach his eyes and they looked as if tears were a heartbeat away.
Gil smiled at his puppy dog expression. “Bye, then.” But he held his arms open and Nick walked the half a step into them and put his head on his shoulder.
“No looking at any other men…or women.”
“Nor you.” Gil smiled as he smelled Nick’s hair.
“I won’t. But you attract people like flies ‘round a decomp.”
“I do not.”
“Huh. All those students and professors, just be careful is all I’m saying.”
“I will. And you.”
“I’m going to be at work all the time…see if I can beat Sara in the overtime stakes. Get the money together for a new laptop.”
“Oh?” Gil was concerned about that, he knew Nick wanted a new laptop and he was going to buy him one when he got back. “I wanted to go looking with you.”
“I can look on the net…you can see what I like.”
“Okay, if that’s what you want.”
“Don’t sound so happy about it…what’s got into you?”
“I was going to buy you one when I got back…as a present.”
“Were you?” Nick grinned as he pulled away from Gil's shoulder and looked into his face. “I can still let you buy it then…I’ll wait ‘til you get back.”
“It’s a deal.” Gil looked serious and he hugged Nick tight again. “I wish I wasn’t going now. No, that’s not true. I wish I wasn’t going for so long.”
“Well, I could come and visit with you in Princeton or meet up somewhere between?”
“Yes.” Gil smiled. “I would love that. We could look for a laptop.”
“You think? I was thinking we could stay in bed the whole time.”
“We would need to eat.”
“Open a window.”
“You have it planned out already?”
“I’ll book the time off. Seven weeks. Two weekends?”
“If you can get the time off. Two weekends.” Gil had wanted to mention this before but had been a little worried that Nick wouldn’t want to travel on his own. For some odd reason, Nick didn’t particularly like air travel. “Will you be okay…”
“…sure. I’ll be coming to see you.”
“Okay, time to go.”
They kissed, passionately, and Gil broke away for Nick breathless. “That’s why you can’t come into the airport. Look.” He bucked his hips towards Nick and his erection was very visible through his pants.
“You old horn dog. Love you. Take care.”
“Love you, honey. You take care, too.”
End of Part Four
It was very late when Gil was shown to his rooms. He undressed, took a shower and got straight into bed without emptying his suitcase. He’d texted Nick regularly throughout his journey and had texted his good night and love before he switched off his cell and fell asleep.
The next day, Sunday, he was very busy, organising himself and familiarising himself with everything domestic. On the Monday he was very busy being organised…security passes, keys, guided tour. On Tuesday he was very busy getting his research under way, taking his first class and meeting his students. On Wednesday he thought he was organised and fairly well settled. Still tired from his first hectic few days but he felt he was on top of things.
It started on Thursday evening. He got it after nine o’clock having been working and then stopping for a meal on the way back to his rooms. He got indoors and toed of his shoes and he sat down and just felt off kilter. Not quite right. Just like before. He put it down to tiredness after the travel and hectic few days he’d just had. He showered, got ready for bed and then texted Nick, who was still asleep back in Vegas, and settled down to sleep.
On Friday morning he still had the niggling little feeling and he couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was. As he walked to his first class he suddenly knew what it was. He stopped on the sidewalk and groaned. This was exactly the way it had started all those months ago. The feelings… He was developing another fug…
He walked on and thought about it…it couldn’t possibly be the work. He’d only done three days and he was very interested and already involved. It was definitely the work in Las Vegas. So what was different? By the time he arrived at the building where he was working for another six weeks he knew what it was.
He was missing Nick. Time differences and their work patterns meant they’d only had a few snatched phone calls. They’d had to rely on texting. And that wasn’t any good to chat about what he was doing, how he was doing it, who he’d met and what they were like. The professors, the lecturers, the students. He had formed a few opinions about some of them and longed to discuss that and his work and how his research was going and what he was eating and…everything…with Nick.
At least he knew this time around what was wrong and he would have to put up and shut up but at least over the weekend he could probably talk to Nick a lot more than he had done. That would make him feel better, he was sure, and he could find out when Nick was intending to visit with him. It was not going to be this weekend but he hoped to God it would be the next.
He took a deep breath and entered his building. By the end of his working day he’d decided that he was okay when he was at work concentrating on work.
He had work to do and instead of going to his rooms he stayed at the university offices and marked work there and checked his research. It was only when his stomach rumbled loudly causing another lecturer in the same room to laugh that he realised he’d eaten nothing since lunch.
He would go to a restaurant and have a steak. That was his plan and then he'd go home to bed. As he left the office he cell buzzed with an incoming call and it was Nick. He sighed, quite exaggeratedly at the relief at seeing his name come up on the display and he answered immediately.
“Yeah. You okay?”
“I’m missing you so much; it kind of hit me this morning…or last night. I was lonely…not lonely because I was alone, per se, but because you just weren’t there.”
“You know what you’re missing then?”
“You know I do. I’m so pleased just to hear your voice. How have you been, are you taking care of yourself, eating right…sleeping?”
Nick laughed. “Of course I am. Working hard too…got in nineteen hours of overtime since you left. Only been able to go to the gym once. What about you?”
“I’m just going to get something to eat now…I thought a steak. I have deliberately stayed at work this evening because I don’t miss you quite so much when I working...you know with my head stuck in a work book.”
“I know. But I’ve called with news.”
“I’ve booked a flight…next Friday night getting in at nearly midnight, but I’ll be there and I can stay until Monday morning. Leave when you go to work.”
Gil was so grateful that he would see Nick a week that night that he could have wept. “I cannot tell you how much I’m already waiting for the moment I see you. I’ll be there waiting for you. I’ll rent a car to pick you up.”
“Okay. Do you feel better then?”
“Yes, I do.” But strangely he really didn’t think that he did, but of course he didn’t say anything to Nick.
Nick had to go to work…more overtime, he said, so they said their goodbyes. Gil found the restaurant he wanted and ordered a steak. He ate without much enthusiasm because he’d thought that hearing Nick’s voice and knowing that they would be together in a week’s time would have made him feel better. And it didn’t.
The moment he was alone in his room the feelings descended upon him even further…like a wet shroud of thunder clouds. He was used to Nick being there, if not with him…then in the house or the garden…or even the same town.
He concentrated on his work and tried to blot out the feelings that he had at other times. He was looking forward to Nick’s visit and he couldn’t wait to have the physical contact with his lover and yet he was still…not quite right.
On the Wednesday before Nick’s visit he took a look around the campus bookstore. He loved books, the feel of them and the stories that fired up his imagination. But he looked around and nothing seemed to get his attention until he saw a small display…and stood looking at it. Maybe? Could that be what was really wrong with him?
Male Menopause: Facts and Fiction. The display had books by several different authors and he read the prefaces of a couple and decided to buy them. He hurried back to his rooms, keen to read and see if he fitted into the category. He was in his early fifties so was in the middle of the critical time…according to the blurb…
He spent a couple of hours scanning through and reading some of the pages of the two books; he needed to go to bed but he kept reading a little more. By the time he did go to bed it was nearly two in the morning and he had to be up at seven. But he felt better because he now knew what was wrong with him. He was certain he was undergoing the male menopause.
The next evening he read some more but had to go to bed early…because the next day after work he was renting a car and tomorrow night he would drive to Newark and pick up Nick. But he would at least be able to talk to Nick about it all. That made him feel a whole lot better.
Nick’s flight was forty minutes late and Gil was pacing the arrivals hall waiting for him. Nick had said he was only bringing a small duffel bag that he could carry-on so he wouldn’t have to wait at baggage reclaim. When the flight landed Gil waited right in front of the doors and Nick was about the fifth man out, grinning like a man possessed.
They hugged and hugged. Gil thought he could stand there all night and just hug Nick he had missed him so much. His physical presence. His smell. His everything.
“You got a rental?”
“I have a car. Come on, this way.” And he put his arm around Nick’s shoulders and guided him in the right direction.
In the vast car lot they sat in the car kissing until they were breathless. “How long will it take to get to your place?”
“The traffic was okay coming in so not much longer than half an hour.”
“Then step on the gas.”
“Okay.” Gil was smiling and his cheeks seemed to ache because they were so unused to the action. “You look so good and I’m so happy you’re here.”
“Me too. Quit talking and start moving.”
“Okay.” He laughed. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d laughed…not since he’d left Vegas, he was pretty sure.
Forty minutes later they were climbing the stairs to the rooms.
“It’s a bit old isn’t it?”
“These are the original buildings…now they’re reserved for visitors and short stay students. Small, but warm and comfortable and they have been modernised so there is electricity and running water.” He smirked.
“Hey, missed your smirk and I expected to see a beard.”
“I’ve not been in a beard mood.”
“That’s okay…I like your dimple.” And Nick bent over and kissed Gil’s chin but then moved up to his mouth. They still hadn’t opened Gil's door.
As they managed to roll inside the apartment it was Gil guiding Nick backwards to his bedroom and bed…their outer clothes being discarded at they made their journey. As the fell onto the bed they were in each other arms…with their pants around their ankles and wearing their shoes and socks. But, importantly, their underpants were around their knees and their erections were re-acquainting themselves.
Gil pulled back to look at Nick and with his voice was thick with emotion as he murmured, “God, I’ve missed you.” Before he dived back in and reclaimed the hot mouth and the insistent teeth.
It was Nick who couldn’t stand the pressure and put his hand between then and grasping their dicks together squeezed and pumped quite vigorously for just a few moments before their release. Gil emitted a howl of pleasure at the intense heat in his balls and then from the scalding liquid from them both as it splashed onto his belly.
Nick lay back gasping, his eyes screwed tight. Then he looked at Gil. “Missed you, too.” He grinned.
After recovering their breath they stripped off their clothing and took a quick shower together. The cubicle was pretty small and they could hardly move together but it cleaned them off and they freshened up because both of them knew they would not be sleeping just yet despite it being the early hours of the morning.
The made love slowly and sensuously and Gil entered Nick with such a feeling of completeness he thought he would weep. He was shocked by the feeling…but only momentarily because he was otherwise engaged. Nick seemed to be almost purring with pleasure.
When Gil had cleaned him up and they lay still, arms entwined and on the verge of sleep Nick spoke quietly.
“It’s been the longest time we haven’t made love since we started going out…even…you know…when I was abducted.”
“I know. I know.” Gil thought for some moments. “I really shouldn’t have come out here…I thought it would be the cure for my…ills.”
“And it isn’t?” Nick looked up at Gil from where he lay; his head on Gil's shoulder.
“I don’t think so. It might be skewered by the fact that I have missed you so much. I don’t know. Anyway…get some sleep, you’ve had a very long day.” And his kissed Nick’s hair and then stroked it with his fingertips and Nick fell asleep. And a tear escaped Gil's eye as he held his lover. What was wrong with him?
They slept until the sun blazed through the window…the drapes had been left open. Nick stretched and then realised that he was with Gil and rolled over into the body of his lover.
“Wake up. My prince. Wake up and feed me.” He smiled as Gil started to wake at his words.
“Food? Is that all you can think of?” He rolled into Nick and his erection brushed Nick’s stomach.
“Food. Peeing. Fucking. No. Peeing, food and then fucking.”
“You pee; I’ll get the coffee started. I have cereal, will that do?”
“Yeah. I haven’t eaten since Vegas...I must have slept through the meal on the plane...if there even was one”
They both got up and went about their tasks and Nick got back into bed and picked up the paperback book on the bedside cabinet. He frowned at it and flicked through a few pages. Gil went to the bathroom and then back to the kitchen as Nick read bits of the book. He put it down as Gil came in carrying a tray of two mugs and two cereal bowls.
They sat in bed and ate their cereal and sipped their coffee. “I thought we could go out for lunch or brunch and have a look around and then come back this afternoon. Get take out for dinner.”
“Sounds like a plan, but first?” Nick wiggled his eyebrows at Gil.
“Of course. We have a lot of catching up to do.” And Gil took Nick’s empty bowl and put it on the tray on the floor by the bed before leaning over Nick and biting a nipple.
End of Part Five
Gil didn’t feel as bad as he had done the previous night but as he showered he still thought about his…malady. He was perplexed; there was no doubt about that, but having read the book about the male menopause he was more than convinced that that was what was wrong. He’d see his doctor when he got back to Vegas…no point in starting the ball rolling here in Princeton. He’d be okay as long as he kept himself busy.
Nick, in the meantime, having negotiated that Gil should definitely have the first shower since he’d travelled and needed more rest, was thumbing through the books on Gil’s bedside table again. So this, he thought, was what Gil thought was wrong with him.
Of course Nick wasn’t a doctor, but as he looked at salient bits of the book he was quite convinced that this was not what was wrong with Gil. He knew what was really wrong and he bet that Gil did too…but he seemed hell bent on denying it and looking for any excuse to avoid dealing with it. And one thing was for sure he had to have it out with him. No use prevaricating. The sooner the matter was addressed the better it would be...for both of them. He wished he’d done it back in Vegas and then maybe Gil wouldn’t have felt the need to travel across the country in a futile bid to get…better. But there was a problem.
Gil was a stubborn ass. He liked to be right…and to be fair he mostly was right about most things…but not about this and Nick was one hundred percent sure about that.
They went into Princeton town and wondered around looking in shops and looking for a place to eat. There wasn’t really that much to see and Nick got really cold…he’d bought his heavy duty jacket from home but there was a freezing wind cutting him in two.
They found a men’s shop and browsed around. Gil found a cashmere pullover in bright scarlet red and was sure it would suit Nick. It did when he tried it on, so Gil bought it for him and so he could wear it immediately the assistant cut off the tags there and then. He noticed the difference as soon as he was out in the wind again.
They found a place that looked okay to eat in and were shown to a booth. It was lunchtime but they still both chose the all-day breakfast. Gil spent almost the entire meal telling Nick about his work at the University and his classes and the people. All the stuff he’d wanted to talk about to Nick since he’d arrived. It was plain to Nick that he was enjoying it. It was also plain to Nick that he was avoiding speaking about how he actually felt…
When they’d finished their meal they went for another walk around a park and Nick declared that he needed another coffee and something sweet. They’d seen a Starbucks earlier so made their way back to that. Nick would have a blueberry muffin and a latte. He rarely ate muffins and he rarely drank lattes…expect at Starbucks. It was a rare treat.
Just as they walked into the coffee house a couple vacated two of the comfortable leather armchairs. Gil nodded to Nick to take them and he went to the counter.
Nick took off his jacket and put it on the back of the chair and admired his new jumper for a few moments and then watched Gil. He hadn’t asked for Nick’s order because he knew and Nick felt comforted by that; that Gil knew him so well.
As he watched and waited he knew that this is where he would tackle Gil about this weird idea about the male menopause…
Several minutes later Gil delivered the two huge coffees…he’d had an Americano…and two muffins. It looked as if Gil had had the apple and cinnamon muffin. His favourite.
They settled down and took sips of their coffees and Nick broke off some of his muffin and savoured the taste.
“It’s good?” Gil smiled at Nick.
“The best. Apart from my Mom’s, of course.” Gil laughed. When they’d last visited Dallas Nick had returned to Vegas with a box of his Mom’s muffins and to save them from eating them he’d taken them to work…they’d gone in a flash! But Nick had saved just one for them to share.
“You know I was telling you about…” Gil started but Nick interrupted.
“…hold on. Don’t launch into another lecture about your work, I want to discuss something with you.” Whether it was the tone of Nick’s voice or the fact that Gil knew that Nick was going to say something that he didn’t want to hear, Nick didn’t know, but Gil's face dropped and he appeared to shrink into his chair.
“You sound serious.” So it was his voice, Nick thought, and Gil picked up his coffee to hide his face.
“I don’t know if it is serious, babe, but it needs to be said.”
“Yeah. Where better? You can’t walk out on me…at least I don’t think you will…or argue in a public place so, babe, this is the place to hold you captive; you have a coffee and a muffin. Gil. The books. The male menopause?” Nick spoke dramatically.
“Ah, you saw them…well I wasn’t hiding them. Nick, I’m convinced that that what’s wrong with me. I read them through and I seem to have all the symptoms and I think I probably need just a shot or two of testosterone and I’ll be fine.” He smiled, trying to be convincing but Nick knew otherwise.
Nick smiled back. “Gil, you’re a scientist. You look at data and interpret results…you never jump to conclusions. And yet you’re looking for excuses and doing exactly that…jumping in with both feet and without a lifejacket.” Gil looked shocked at Nick’s admonishment and his face dropped even further. “Don’t look at me like that…I know you as well as you know yourself and sometimes, like now for instance, I think I know you better.”
Gil said nothing; he just looked increasingly uncomfortable.
“I just skimmed through the books…just skimmed and I picked up one thing immediately…and I think it’s the basis of both the books. There are bucket loads of symptoms and if you were inclined…just like you; man…you could fit yourself into any of them. Except one. The one major common denominator of both books was the main issue of the male menopause and I spotted it straight away. Do you know which one I’m talking about?”
Gil swallowed and shook his head. Nick chuckled and then he continued in a gentle manner. “Which just goes to show what an idiot you are.” Gil didn’t react and didn’t look offended, so Nick continued. “The one main symptom that overrides all the others is a very reduced libido. Sex drive dropping off the map. Do you have a reduced libido?” Nick raised his eyebrows at Gil who remained poker faced. Nick waited for a few moments and then Gil spoke.
“No.” He said the word very quietly and shook his head at the same time.
“No, you don’t. Twice last night, once this morning…and I bet later too? Not a guy who needs a testosterone shot are you?” Gil shook his head again. “I know what’s wrong with you and I’ve known all along and so do you…only you’re just not willing to confront it are you? You know don’t you…it is a symptom of this… male menopause, so I bet that’s why you wanted an alternative tag. You do know don’t you, babe?”
Gil took off his glasses and rubbed at his eyes, his elbow resting on the arm of the chair.
“You do, don’t you?” Nick pushed again; this was a make or break moment. He was going to get Gil to acknowledge it right now. He smiled across at Gil and was trying to project a calm and loving feeling across the table. He didn’t want Gil think he was making accusations at him...about him.
“Depression.” Gil whispered it and sounded as depressed as Nick had ever heard him.
“I said it when this all started and you agreed and then veered off course when you’d had a chance to think about it…”
“…I don’t want to be depressed.” Gil spoke as if in despair.
“Hey, hey.” Nick reached across the table and took one of Gil's hands. “No one does. But it’s treatable, it is…and I’ve been thinking about you and how you’ve been and it’s not like you are incapacitated by it are you…just have the bad blues and you can’t shake them off. Am I right?”
“If you were seriously depressed, babe, you wouldn’t be able to function. You still function…quite well…very well in some aspects…but you’ve lost the pleasure that you used to experience at doing your work…bugs…and me.”
“It’s not you, Nick.”
“I know it isn’t…now, but I was worried, really worried when you decided to come out here without telling me…I thought we were through and it was me.”
Gil looked at Nick with abject horror in his eyes. “I couldn’t lose you. I couldn’t…but…I did wonder if it was us…well the me part of us.
“What I can’t understand is why you’re in, or were in, denial. Are you embarrassed or worried about it…what is it, babe?”
“I don’t know. I was looking for excuses and I didn’t really know what it was and yet, deep down I did because I realised back in Vegas it was a depressive state…but I thought it was work…and then I did feel better when I sorted out the sabbatical here; but in days the fug was back. That’s what I call it a…fug.”
“An old word I saw in a book years ago…like being in a suffocating atmosphere…it seemed to describe it, accurately.”
“So it crept up on you and you have no idea how it started…there’s no particular reason?” Nick felt much better about it all now…he’d confronted Gil as he’d decided to do and Gil had caved immediately and admitted it…he hadn’t been expecting it to be that easy.
Gil looked. “It was very gradual. I was hardly aware of it and then it started to invade my consciousness…I can’t think of another way to describe it.”
“And you were looking for an excuse, any excuse not to admit to it. That in itself could be the depression making you question yourself.” Gil looked across at Nick and frowned.
“I never thought of that way. Yes. That could be right.”
“That’s because you weren’t thinking straight. That is the depression.”
“I was using every excuse to avoid it…that testosterone…I missed it completely. Me. A scientist used to interpreting evidence.” He chuckled but it wasn’t humorous.
“But not evidence about yourself…although you did know, deep down, didn’t you?”
He nodded and then shook his head. “So what now?”
“I don’t know. See a professional? I really don’t think you do have it that badly…just enough to keep you from enjoying what you’re doing. So say it’s a mild depressive episode. I wonder if just some life style changes would help. Change of diet…exercise more…fresh air. We could google it and look to see if there are any herbal remedies…”
Gil suddenly did look brighter. “…St John’s Wort!” He exclaimed almost triumphantly. “It’s been proven clinically effective for mild to moderate depression. Nick, why the hell didn’t I realise? I am beyond stupid. What an idiot.”
“Yeah, but you were depressed…are depressed. You look better already.”
“I feel it…a weight has been lifted... I am an idiot putting you through all this…this mid-life crisis shit and it isn’t…” He shook his head again
Nick grinned and he, too, felt as if a weight had been shifted off his own shoulders. “Drink your coffee and eat your muffin…I wonder if there are any shops that sell that stuff around here, we can go look.”
“Yes, we can.” He sat back and put his glasses back on and picked up his coffee again. He looked to be deep in thought. “I did know. I must have known; but I was in denial.”
“Well, you know what they say?”
“Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.”
“They do, don’t they.
They did find a shop and bought a supply of the capsules. When they got back to Gil's rooms they made love again. And then googled about the depression. Gil had been right about the St John’s Wort and he decided to start taking them there and then.
They ordered Indian take-out and when it arrived they talked up a storm about things they’d done together in the years they’d been a couple and what they still wanted to do…places they wanted to visit.
Nick also started formulating a plan for when Gil returned to Vegas. Fresh air every day. Fresh food. Exercise every day…even if it was only a brisk walk around the block. And Nick also thought of something else.
“Babe, we’ll try all this out and see how you go…but if it doesn’t work you will have to see the doctor…you may need some medication…maybe therapy. I don’t know but now it’s out on the open we’ve got a handle on it…okay?”
“Okay.” Gil smiled at his considerate lover.
“And one more thing.”
“Should I be worried?”
“No. We don’t know if there is some underlying cause or not…but if you feel that work is a factor...then leave, we don’t need all the money we’re getting and your health matters more.”
“Is it any wonder I love you, Nickolas Stokes? I thought…I thought you’d see me as…a sick…old man.”
Nick laughed but then became serious. “I knew it…you dumbass. We’re in this together.”
“I know that now. Thank you…I do love you.”
End of Part Six
The next day they drove out to a National park and spent two hours walking along a trail at a quite brisk pace. When they eventually returned to Gil’s rooms he was worn out and ready for bed and it was only mid-afternoon.
“Well that’s shown me I need to get fitter, if nothing else.”
“It won’t take you long to get better…just some regular aerobic stuff and in a few weeks you’ll be real fit.”
“I think walking and swimming, what do you think?”
“Yeah, good, whatever floats your boat.”
“They’re both easy to do. There’s a pool on the campus; I walk past it every day. I already walk to lessons…but I can go a long way round and instead of ambling I can pace it out; and I used be good at the breast stroke…good stamina...although you’d hardly believe that now. I can work my way up to some long swims.”
“There you go, man. All mapped out for you.”
“Yes. I think I can do this, Nick. I’ll be a changed man…”
“…don’t go changing too much…I love you just the way you are.”
“I think that’s a song.”
“I know so.”
“Are you up for a little lovemaking?”
“Always. But I think I’ll just lie back and enjoy it and let you do all the work.” Gil chuckled at Nick.
“I can do that. But no going to sleep afterwards…if you do you’ll never sleep tonight.”
“True. Not even a little nap?”
“No, man. Not even a little nap.”
In the event they both slept after their lovemaking but Nick came around first having snorted and woken himself; he smiled at Gil…fast asleep and looking for all the world as if he hadn’t a care in that world. Funny how things worked out. Nick slid out of bed, took a pee and then made some coffee and woke up Gil.
“Come on sleepy head…we’ve both had over an hour.”
“Really?” Gil stretched and yawned. “I’m far too comfortable to get up. What time is it?”
“Ten to six.”
“We’ve got less than twelve hours left together.”
“I know…but I’ll try and get out again. Even if it’s only for one night.”
“I could come back for a weekend.”
“Yeah, you could, but what if I end up being called out and working a couple of double shifts? At least if I come out to you they can’t call me up and get me into work…well not as quickly as they’d want.”
“That is true. Okay, I’m convinced. You want to go out for a meal?”
“Nah, man. I want to do nothing more than cuddle on the couch.”
“I think that can be arranged.”
They called for Thai take out and enjoyed their limited time together. They talked some more about the things they’d done together but then they talked about things they wanted to do and decided to make a list, a bucket list, of everything they thought of and they made a promise to each other to work their way through it…it was pretty comprehensive by the time it was finished. But they both agreed it was all doable.
The Great Wall of China and the Terracotta Army. The Taj Mahal. The Galapagos Islands. Japan…just Japan. Take a Safari in Africa. Most were tourist attractions…but places that they both thought they would love to see but Nick agreed they could throw a few bug hunting trips into the mix and maybe some bird watching. Nick decided he’d have to become an overtime whore and start saving. Cutting vouchers, stopping take-out… Gil got quite alarmed.
“Honey, we’ve got a lifetime together to get through this list…”
“…I know, but we’re needlessly extravagant. We both cook…and enjoy it…and yet we still have take-out what, two or three times a week? It’s not good for us. And with the money I spend with my gym membership in one year…maybe two…I could buy the equipment and use it at home. Save gas and time, too.” Nick looked at Gil's shocked face…his mouth had dropped open…and he laughed.
“You’re joking?” Gil managed.
“As a matter of fact, I’m not. It does make sense. Think about it. Take-out is expensive and in truth we have no idea what we’re eating…calories and fats. It’s just a quick fix. And I spend forty minutes driving to and from the gym to exercise an hour, maybe an hour and a half, when I could be doing the exercise at home and saving the travel time…actually I’ve thought about doing that before now. I would also be saving gas and the environment…and I could be spending the time saved preparing and cooking a meal.”
“Okay. That’s a good argument. But what about the social interaction at the gym?”
“Social interaction? Babe, I say ‘hi’ and ‘how ya doin’, to other guys, who are mostly strangers. I do know the staff by their names…but that’s it.”
“Oh. I’ve had an idea anyway…I could buy the equipment you need for your birthday…or Christmas.”
“Nah, man, you don’t have to do that. You’re buying me a new laptop.”
“That’s for me taking this trip without telling you. No, I would love to buy it for you…especially if you’re going to spend the time you save…cooking for me…”
“…hey, not all the cooking. We can have a rota.”
Gil chuckled and ruffled Nick’s very short hair. “You and you rotas…”
“…keeps things fair.”
“In a huge family, maybe, but when there’s just the two of us can’t we just remember whose turn it is?”
“Ha! Like that would work with Mr Try-anything-to-get-out-of-doing-chores!”
“What happened to that gullible young man who was so madly in love with me?” He smiled at the memory.
“Hey! I’m still young and madly in love…just not so gullible!”
“I love you. Nick?” Gil was suddenly serious.
“Thank you for understanding…about this…this depression.”
“You don’t have to thank me, babe. We’re in this together, okay?”
“But, man, it ain’t ever going to be an excuse for getting out of your chores.” Nick wagged his finger at Gil who caught it and kissed it.”
“Bed; and we need to set the alarm…we need to be on the road to the airport at five thirty…no later.”
“Okay. Four forty-five?”
The made love and Nick penetrated Gil. It was a blissful feeling for him and would keep Nick in his thoughts until he could touch him again. Just like before he’d left Vegas. Was it only two weeks ago…he fell asleep remembering Vegas.
The next morning in the shower before they left for the airport, Gil gave Nick a blow-job to remember.
“I think I’ll sleep on the plane back to Vegas.”
“You’re working tonight aren’t you?”
“Yeah, picking up Catherine’s slack.” The moment he’d said it Nick regretted it; his brain was deprived of blood and that was his excuse and he was sticking to it.
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing.” Nick grinned hoping it would keep the interrogation ay bay. Of course, he knew it wouldn’t.
“You know that’s not true. We’ve got to get ready. You can tell me in the car on the way to the airport.
“Mmmm.” Was the only comment Nick was permitting himself to make.
Since they had to be quick getting ready and snatching breakfast Gil didn’t pursue it but they both knew he would. At least Nick could prepare his response.
When they’d found their way out of Princeton and were well on the way to the airport Gil asked.
“So what did you mean about Catherine?”
Nick laughed. “Talk about a dog with a bone. It’s just that she likes acting like a boss.”
“She is the boss.”
“So are you…the real boss but you never act like it. You act like we’re all in it together. A team.”
“But that’s what we are…”
“…not in Catherine’s book. It a case of do as I say not as I do. Look, don’t bother about it…I’m used to her…Warrick and me both. We deal.”
“It’s a side of her I never see…obviously. But there was that CSI, Keppler…” Gil had been taking classes at the CSI training centre to cover someone’s sick leave and they’d drafted in Keppler, who was looking for a permanent transfer to the Vegas lab, to make up the numbers.
“…whoa…don’t go there. Red rag to a bull. He came in laying the law down, dividing the team and what was he? A fucking murderer and Catherine…Catherine was taken in…one hundred and ten percent.”
“I know. Ah well, I’ll be back soon.”
“Yeah. We shouldn’t spend our time together raking over old wounds.”
“No. I’ve enjoyed having you with me so much…it reminds me…as if I need reminding...” He smiled and glanced over at Nick before returning his eyes to the road. “...of just how much I love you. My depression feels better already just being with you.”
“Now that’s what I like to here.” He put his hand on Gil’s thigh and they spent the rest of the journey quietly savouring each other’s company.
When they arrived at the airport they said their goodbyes in the car and Gil was under strict instructions to leave immediately and go to work. The kissed and hugged with some difficulty over the console…but it didn’t matter too much; they knew how much they loved each other.
Gil stayed for just a couple of minutes watching Nick walk towards the entrance but was going to leave before he disappeared from view. Just as he started the car Nick turned and waved…and Gil felt as if his heart was being wrenched out of his chest.
By the time Gil was back at his rooms the fug had descended upon him well and truly. He had some difficulty separating it from the genuine sadness he felt because Nick had left…which would be completely normal…from the bleakness he’d been feeling most of time. Maybe it was because of Nick’s departure that he felt so bad. He hoped he’d feel better in a couple of days and he would then be able to gauge whether, or not, the St John’s Wort was working. Although it did say it could be four to six weeks before a real improvement would be seen. Would be seen…if it worked, that was the proviso.
He was ready to go to work twenty minutes before he would normally leave so he decided to try walking to work via a longer route and start his new exercise regime as he meant to go on. He legs were a little sore from the exercise the day before, but not enough to prevent him from walking.
On his way to work his cell buzzed with a text from Nick. ‘Just boarding love you and miss you. Speak soon. Nick xxx’ Gil smiled; one thing he did know and that was without Nick he’d be a lot worse.
End of Part Seven
At lunch time he didn’t have a class until three in the afternoon so walked back to his rooms; he needed to take the car back to the rental company. He would then have time to walk back to the college. He was getting the hang of this exercise already. On the way back he’d check about the availability of the pool so he could go swimming.
He hadn’t been swimming for years so was looking forward to seeing if he could still do it…he reckoned he could since he didn’t think anyone forgot how to swim although at first they may be a bit rusty. He smiled at his little joke and thought that maybe he did feel a little better.
He discovered the pool was open from 6am until 10pm. Students staffed the pool to make a little money for themselves. He decided he would swim on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s after work and then on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Gil entered a new phase in his life. An eating healthy and getting plenty of exercise phase.
He decided that Nick was in fact partly right about the number of take-outs they had. Not just the money angle but the healthy angle. He decided he’d start a much healthier diet…buying organic food and cooking it himself. He’d make sandwiches for work and take in some fruit for snacks…which they normally did anyway back in Vegas…well Nick did.
Gil googled Walmart and found that the nearest supermarket sold both organic food and clothing…including bathing shorts. So after work he thought he would walk home and dump his work and have a quick snack. He had some bananas. Then he would walk the couple of miles to the store; he would have to get a taxi back home with his purchases. But he was content that he’d done sufficient exercise for his first day.
He didn’t buy too much food…he wanted fresh produce and he determined that he could walk to the store several times a week and if he took his backpack he would be able to carry his purchases and walk back. He bought two pairs of bathing shorts…and two extra-large towels and a pair of ear plugs from the pharmacy. As an afterthought he also bought a cheap pair of bathroom scales. He wanted to know just how much weight he was going to lose…that would be his incentive. But actually feeling healthier was his real goal. No…getting rid of the fug was his ultimate aim.
He rinsed out and dried his new shorts and towels. He made himself an omelette and salad and sat down to do two hours of checking and marking papers. At eleven he was really tired but he was satisfied he was starting off as he meant to go on.
For the next day he made a lunch with salad and took several pieces of fruit with him. He was having his first swim after work so he packed his swimming paraphernalia in the plastic bag that his scales had been wrapped in. He was ready for exercise and work. His ruck sack was heavy on his back but he thought it would add some extra pounds to make the walking more aerobic.
Gil Grissom was going to get fit and well. He repeated that mantra as he started his walk to work.
He arrived at work fifteen minutes early as he checked his timing. He needed to maximise the time he spent walking in the morning, so he thought he might try a slightly longer route in the morning to get it just right.
At his first swim he discovered he was still a powerful swimmer and his breast stroke stretched his muscles. As he got in from walking home he was dizzy. He had done too much exercise and not had enough to eat. He wouldn’t make that mistake again.
And that’s how it was; trial and error. By the following Tuesday morning when he weighed himself he was six pounds lighter. His muscles ached all over his body, some that had been dormant for so long that they protested, long and painfully, at being awakened. But he persevered and felt better for it. He was quite convinced he felt better and on his last visit to Walmart had purchased a lovely little instrument for his wrist. A watch that was also a pedometer to show how much walking he was doing.
He’s also had to buy two pairs of good quality sturdy walking shoes and some high-end socks. (Together with some blister bandages...) He decided against boots since all of his walking was around streets or parks. There was no rough terrain to negotiate. He had boots at home for that kind of hiking.
He was a little guilty at spending so much money when they agreed to save for their bucket list adventures. But they were one off purchases and he would save money from not buying sandwiches, take-out and restaurant meals.
And the best news of all, Nick was visiting again. Only one night but he would arrive very early on Saturday morning and would fly red-eye home very early on Monday morning to work a day shift.
Nick had told Catherine he’d catch up any time lost if the plane was delayed for any reason. She wasn’t particularly happy, but Nick couldn’t care less. They got their pound of flesh out of him and she knew it. He’d been following Gil's regime with him via text and Skype, but it was difficult to see a difference on a computer screen.
Gil rented the car on Friday night and Nick was going to drive himself back to the airport and leave it there. To save Gil having to disrupt his sleep to take Nick…Gil wouldn’t have minded for one moment but Nick wasn’t having it, so he agreed, reluctantly.
When he weighed himself on the Saturday morning before he went to pick up Nick, he’d lost nine pounds. He hoped Nick would notice because he could see it himself. Not only the weight loss but he was much more toned. He still wanted to lose another twenty pounds and he was sure he would do it. He still had a few niggling pains from his old muscles…still protesting their new lease of life.
He parked up at the airport and went into the arrivals hall. The flight was on time and due in twenty minutes. He decided a coffee would be good and bought a small Americano from Starbucks. He only half finished the very hot drink when the passengers from the flight started to arrive. Nick was third out this time. Gil dumped his cup in the trash and held his arms open for Nick…but Nick stopped a little way in front of him.
“Babe! Way to go on the weight loss! How much…you look fantastic.” He was grinning from ear to ear.
So Gil grinned back, elated that Nick had noticed immediately. “Nine pounds.”
“Nine…are you sure it’s not more?”
“That’s the secret weapon. The exercise is toning me up…I mean I haven’t got your abs…yet.” He added with a smile.
“Wow.” And Nick finally let himself fall into Gil’s still outstretched arms. “Missed you.”
“Honey…there are no words.” And they hugged for a couple of minutes feeling their renewed connection.
On the way back to Princeton, Nick was still awestruck with Gil’s success at dieting and exercising. He grilled him on what he was doing and what he was easting. And he was very impressed and proud of his lover.
“Man, we need to go to bed as soon as we get in…” Nick caught a slight frown and saw Gil glance at the clock in the car. “…what’s wrong?”
“I go swimming on a Saturday morning…but…”
“…hey that’s okay…we can go to bed, have a quick fuck and you can leave me to sleep…there was a bachelorette party on the plane…man, they were noisy, I got no shut-eye at all.”
Gil smiled. “I can do that.” Although something at the back of his mind worried him momentarily but he didn’t know what it was and then it was gone. All that mattered that Nick was here, with him. He did feel good.
They did as they expected…a quickie…loving and as sweet as ever but quick. Nick was completely shattered so Gil left him already fast asleep, ate some fresh fruit and nuts with some natural yoghurt and then set off at his now very brisk pace to walk the long route to the pool. At the pool he was already up to a hundred lengths. He was going for one hundred and twenty this morning.
When he got back to his rooms about three hours later, Nick was still asleep so Gil slipped into bed behind him.
“Man, I was dreaming.”
“About visiting you in Princeton…hey, I’m here.” He stretched and turned over to face Gil. “Ugh. Have you showered?”
“Yes, of course, what’s the matter?”
“You stink of chlorine. Man, you need another shower.”
“Okay. If that’s all it takes and you’re not trying to catch a few more minutes sleep…I’ll go shower again. I’ll warn you though, I’ll look like a shrivelled prune.”
“As long as it’s not your dick, you’re okay.” Nick chuckled.
“Oh, no, it’s never shrivelled…well hardly ever, extreme cold would do it.”
“Sure would…quit talking, go shower.”
That’s exactly what he did and then they made love. While Nick showered Gil prepared breakfast. Omelettes with mushrooms, tomatoes and green pepper and wheat toast with fresh orange juice and coffee.
Nick ate it down with great enthusiasm. “This is awesome. You have excelled yourself.”
“Thank you…not so much me, but all the fresh organic products. I’ve started to do three small shops a week to ensure that it is all fresh all the time. Since you were last here; no take-out and no restaurants or diners. I’ve cut down on red meat…well meat generally and eat more fish.”
“I am impressed…really.” Nick laughed. “Will you be able to keep that up when you’re back in Vegas doing shift work, that’s the sixty-four thousand dollar question?”
Gil was quite annoyed with Nick for questioning his commitment. “I will do it, I can assure you.”
“Okay, okay. Only joking.” But Nick hadn’t missed Gil’s annoyance at being grilled…even good naturedly as Nick had done. “I suppose what I should ask you instead is…are you feeling better…has your depression lifted?”
End of Part Eight
Gil stared at Nick for a few moments and didn’t know what to say.
“It hasn’t has it?” Nick answered his own question and got up from his seat and went over to Gil as he stood by the sink scraping plates.
“Not exactly. I’ve been busy but I still feel…I don’t know…not connected, somehow. I can’t put it into words.”
“It’s early days with the herbal capsules isn’t it…it can take weeks for them to become effective.”
“Yes; four to six weeks is quite normal.”
“No problem…keep up the good work. Eh?” Nick took the plate he was holding and put it in the sink and then hugged Gil to him and Gil put his head on his shoulder and felt calm and loved. They stood there for some minutes before Gil spoke.
“By the time I get back to Vegas?”
“That’s what I was just thinking.” Nick smiled into Gil's hair. “So what’s the plan for the rest of the day…well, this afternoon and evening?”
Gil pulled back and looked at Nick. “I thought we could go back to that park we went to last time for a hike and take a picnic with us…eat in the fresh air. The weather’s supposed to be good...dry at least. What do you think?”
“I think that’s a good idea I could do with some fresh air…don’t get much on the night shift…and sometimes the air I do get just ain’t that fresh.” He chuckled and ran his hand through Gil's curls. “Missed these, curly.”
“I think they’re getting greyer…they’ll be white soon. And you can tell me how Catherine’s been treating you.”
“Same old, same old. Warrick says, ‘same shit, different day’. We don’t want to talk work we need to revisit our bucket list. Refine it…put dates in.”
“Good idea.” They finally broke up. “You load the dishwasher and I’ll make the picnic.”
They had a really good hike and Nick was amazed at the difference in Gil's fitness level in just two weeks. He could always walk a distance but not at speed…but now he was hiking at the same speed as Nick and wasn’t out of breath at all. They found a grassy bank in the sun, but sheltered from the cold wind, and Gil opened both their backpacks to reveal the feast he’d prepared.
Nick had been there when Gil was preparing the food but hadn’t paid any attention to it and by the time Gil had shared it out between their backpacks it was wrapped up or in containers.
Two containers were full of identical fresh salads, one each. The packets were sandwiches. Two rounds of wheat bread with roast chicken and two rounds with fish. Half a sandwich each and not tuna fish as Nick might have expected, but mackerel. He was surprised.
“This is all fresh or organic or both…were I could find it. The mackerel is fresh in the store…they have a great organic section as well…” Nick laughed.
“...man, I’ve never heard you eulogise about shopping before.”
Gil laughed with him. “I have turned over a new leaf.”
“You have. I’m proud of you, babe…and you do seem better.”
“I am…but getting well…feeling better, isn’t going to happen overnight. It helps that you’re here with me instead of at the end of a cell phone or on a computer screen.”
“Only three weeks after this weekend. And my overtime has shot through the roof…it’s only a matter of time before either Ecklie or Sara catch on and I’m banned.”
“Tell me about Catherine. She must be authorising your extra hours.”
“She is. No problem with that. I was moaning before, it’s not that bad…she’s just not you and she does have a kind of boss complex, for want of a better description. The lab doesn’t seem to run quite as easily and the people don’t seem to be quite as happy…but, you know, that could be me, just missing you.”
“I think it probably is you…I don’t think people miss me.” Nick thought he was joking but looked at his face and didn’t see any humour…more resignation of that being the way it was.
“You’re wrong, babe. Wrong. Everyone, and I mean everyone, misses you, not just me. Warrick and Greg have told me. And, of course, Sara still worships the ground you walk on regardless of you and me. No. You’re wrong…probably the only one who doesn’t miss you is Catherine and she hopes you’ll leave so she can step into your shoes…but let me tell you in no uncertain terms, Dr Grissom, your shoes are too big to be filled.”
To Nick’s complete and utter amazement, Gil’s eyes teared up and as desperately as he tried not to cry, in moments Gil was weeping into Nick’s shoulder.
“Hey, babe. It’s okay. It’s all gonna be okay.” As much as Nick didn’t want to join in he was crying himself inside a minute. He was an acknowledged cry-baby.
For several minutes Gil wept quietly and Nick soothed his back. When he’d recovered he spoke as he mopped his face with a napkin he’d bought along for the picnic.
“I once told Warrick that I was like a ghost and that I would disappear from work one day and there’d be no cake in the break room…no one would notice…”
“But it’s like how I feel…now. The depression…it’s an almost perfect description.”
“Yeah, yeah…I can see the analogy. That’s good isn’t it…putting it into words?”
“I think it is, yes. Yes.”
“Come on let’s eat up all this great food before it goes cold…”
“…but it’s all…” And he grinned at Nick’s joke and leaned over and kissed him and ran his fingers down his cheek.
End of Part Nine
They’d made one definite and serious decision while out hiking and that was when Gil’s depression had been dealt with their first vacation would be to China to see the Great Wall and the Terracotta Army…
They were tired when they got home and not quite hungry enough for a full meal so decided on a snack. Nick looked around the cupboards and found very little…almost nothing, really, to whet his appetite. A few packets of dried pasta and jars of spices. The freezer was virtually empty; but the fridge was nearly full of salad stuffs, fruit, natural yoghurt and sealed packets of organic meat and fish. He pulled a face.
“I see you have embraced the organic way of life.”
“I have. And I feel better for it. What do you want to eat?”
“I don’t know…but nothing here has inspired my taste buds to salivate.” He smiled a wry smile at Gil.
“I could order something in for you?”
“What are you going to have?”
“A jacket potato with some filling. I have cottage cheese? Tunafish…I think I have a tin?”
“No. Sorry.” He looked in the cupboard where Nick had seen the spices. “I do have tunafish…”
“…go on then, you’ve twisted my arm.” Nick reached out to Gil and kissed him. “I can see if I want some treats I’ll have to have them in secret.”
“But you don’t do you…you’re the one that has always eaten healthily…I’ve been the couch potato.”
“Just kidding, man. It’s just to me this is like a mini-vacation so I should be eating all the things I wouldn’t normally…”
“Yes, I can understand that. So are you really okay with a jacket potato…”
“…yeah, man. You are going to put them in the oven to crisp up aren’t you?”
“Of course. Eight to ten minutes in the microwave and then fifteen minutes in the oven. Rub olive oil and sea salt lightly into the skin.”
“That’s right.” Nick laughed…and then Gil laughed, too.
They were soon eating their potatoes. Nick’s loaded with butter, organic, of course, and tunafish and mayo…light, naturally. Gil just had cottage cheese with his and drank bottled water. Nick, a beer, which Gil had remembered to buy in.
For all his moaning, Nick did enjoy the meal. They showered not long after eating and were soon getting ready for bed and once more enjoyed tender lovemaking as Gil worshiped Nick’s body. It was difficult for both men to put into words just how much they missed each other…the physical contact they shared was special and they both knew that. When the exertion of their orgasms had subsided, Nick rolled onto his side and whispered to Gil.
“I miss you so much. But one thing I know for sure is that there will never be anyone else for me. We complete each other…we make a whole person between us.”
“We do. That is it, exactly. Thank you for understanding me, honey. I will get better.”
“Oh Gil, babe, I know you will. Just take your time. Don’t try and rush it and it will all come together…just you wait and see.”
Gil nodded. He wondered if Nick knew he had teared up again but as he thought that Nick slipped his arm around Gil and pulled him to him. He knew.
“It’ll be okay. I promise.” Nick was lying awkwardly facing Gil, but didn’t want to move, he knew Gil needed him to be very close at this moment.
“Thank you.” Gil managed to mutter, and it broke Nick’s heart just to hear just how broken he sounded. He wished he didn’t have to go home very early Monday morning…or that he could take Gil with him. At that very moment he never wanted to let go of him again. Ever. But he did remember something he wanted to say to Gil…something that had been at the back of his mind since Gil had left Vegas and he’d been waiting for the right moment… But no moment was right and this seemed like as good a time as any.
“I know we’ve said in the past that we didn’t need to do it…I mean you said…and I agreed that we were as married as anyone you knew…but…”
“…a marriage; civil union…us?”
“Yeah. What do you think?”
“I think it would be wonderful. You shouldn’t have listened to me, I was talking out of my ass…it would mean a great deal to me, to both of us I think, to have that commitment.”
“Kind of cement us together?”
“Yes. I want it.”
“Yeah, me too. As soon as you’re home we’ll start planning, what do you say?”
“Yes. That’s all I need to say.” Nick yawned. “Go to sleep, sleepy head and know that I’ve never loved anyone as I love you.” Gil’s voice cracked again and it was like a crack in Nick’s heart…a physical hurt in his chest.
Unusually they slept face to face and Nick woke up when his one arm that was underneath Gil's arm had gone to sleep; his hands hurt from Gil clenching them in his sleep. He had to adjust his body and managed to turn around so that Gil was spooning behind him and he pulled one of Gil's arms around his waist and held onto it again. Gil was hardly disturbed by the re-shuffle.
The next thing he knew Gil was trying to extricate himself from Nick…
“Sorry, I was trying not to wake you. I’m just going to go for my swim.”
“Swim? Man, it’s the middle of the night and a Sunday, you should stay in bed.”
“It’s six and you should stay in bed and catch up with your sleep and when I get back I’ll cook you pancakes made from…”
“…don’t tell me, organic ingredients?”
“Oh well, at least I’ll get some crispy bacon, over-easy eggs and syrup!” Nick grinned although he was still half asleep. “
“I was thinking more along the lines of fresh fruit and natural yoghurt.”
“Please tell me you’re yanking my chain?” Nick sounded almost horrified.
“Of course I am.” But Gil wasn’t and was now faced with the task of going over to Walmart to get bacon and syrup. He did have eggs. Nick, satisfied, rolled over and went back to sleep. As Gil walked briskly to the pool he realised he would have to would have to alter his swimming schedule…but since he’d be doing about five miles extra walking that would easily compensate.
He did eighty lengths instead of one hundred and twenty. Set off for Walmart and ended up getting some other items from the store. He was away for just over three hours.
Nick had woken up about an hour and a half after he’d gone and took a shower expecting Gil to be back. By the time Nick saw him walking up the street he’d started to panic. But he heaved a sigh of relief and watched as Gil strode out confidently towards the entrance to the rooms; there was no doubt that Gil’s exercising was paying dividends health wise. He looked good…very good. But then…he was still depressed. ‘It’s early days, is all’, thought Nick.
“Where the hell have you been?” Was Nick’s greeting at Gil walked through the door, but he spoke light-heartedly.
“Oh, I thought you’d still be in bed. I had to get some bacon and syrup and a few other things.”
Nick laughed. “You lied to me…but then I should have known since I did see inside your fridge and there was no hint of bacon and your cupboards are bare. So you’ve walked haven’t you, and been swimming. How far?”
“I swam eighty lengths…but cut that down by forty lengths to go to the store. And I’ve done…” He checked his pedometer on his watch. “…eight point two three miles.”
“I haven’t seen that before. Let me look?”
Gil took it off and then went into the kitchen to unload his wet bathing shorts and towel and his groceries from his backpack.
“It’s neat.” Nick followed him in. “Where did you get it?”
“Walmart. Do you want one?”
“Nah…I’ll probably do any walking with you so I’ll know anyway.”
“Good point. Breakfast coming up…”
“…hey, thank you for getting bacon and syrup…are you going to have some now you’ve gone to the trouble…”
“…no…I’ve just walked and swum…I’m not going to undo that good work with a few rashers of bacon and God knows how much syrup!”
“Man, you’re being good, I’ll give you that.”
“Thank you. And forgive me for asking but are we, or are we not, engaged to be married?”
“Yeah, we are. I think I’m going to like being a married man…even if it isn’t specifically marriage…”
“…in my eyes it’s as good as. Pity Nevada is lagging behind.”
“I know. Shall I make some fresh orange juice?”
“Were shall we go? It needn’t be in the States…it could be anywhere…and we could choose a place and stay there for a honeymoon.” Nick was feeling very happy about Gil being happy about it…he was convinced it was a step in the right direction.
Gil made the pancake mix and put the bacon on to grill and started the pancakes and made a pile for Nick and a smaller pile for himself and kept them warm while he fried two eggs for Nick. He presented Nick with a plateful of bacon, pancakes and the eggs and plonked the syrup down in front of him.
“Enjoy.” He smirked.
“Oh I will…and I’ll be on a diet for a gazillion weeks.” But he tucked into his food with great enthusiasm.
Gil got his warm pancakes ready with some cut-up fruit he’d prepared the day before and then poured yoghurt over it all. In truth he did enjoy his feast as much as Nick enjoyed his, but enjoyed being smug for eating the healthier option.
When they’d finished and Nick was smacking his lips and rubbing his belly in contentment he asked what Gil had scheduled for today.
“…and don’t you dare tell me we’re going to have another hike. It’s Sunday.”
“A small hike… a walk…to the movie theatre complex…they’re showing a Hitchcock retrospective. We could watch two; how about ‘The Thirty-nine Steps’ and ‘North by Northwest’. One’s at twelve thirty and the other three.”
“That would be great. ‘North by Northwest’. Great film. And I don’t care what you say; I’m having popcorn and soda…”
“…okay, okay. I get it, you’re on vacation…”
End of Part Ten
They thoroughly enjoyed the movies and Nick chatted excitedly about the old films as they walked home. Nick had had popcorn, a dog with all the trimmings and a diet soda. Gil had just had a diet soda and a cereal bar he’d taken with him. He felt better than he’d done for a long time…and he was convinced that after two weeks the St John’s Wort were starting to be of benefit to him.
He had enjoyed the films…he’d seen them many times and knew virtually every scene word perfect but they still held a fascination for him…a reminder of the good old days of film making. He’d more than enjoyed being with Nick and he thought, for about the millionth time he was sure, that with Nick by his side his depression was naturally eased.
It was strange, he thought, as they walked briskly along the sidewalk in companionable silence, that even after all the shit that Nick had faced he had never been depressed. At least he’d never appeared to be depressed…no, he was as certain as he could be that Nick hadn’t been depressed…he had an innate resilience about him that allowed him to cope…with anything. He was very emotional though and could cry at any time about anything…but then he’d been weeping a great deal these last weeks…maybe for Nick that was a natural release. He didn’t know…
“Oh, sorry, I was deep in thought…what is it?”
“Nothing, just that you were away with the fairies, as Grandma Stokes used to say. So what were you thinking about?”
“Actually? You. Have you ever been depressed?”
“Errr…I don’t think so. I mean, I’ve had times when I’ve been kind of blue…but not for any length of time.”
“Hell, no! I wasn’t depressed I was…I was going to say happy…but maybe I wasn’t exactly happy…euphoric. That’s it. I survived and there was nothing depressing about that!”
Gil looked at Nick with an amazed look on his face. He had never, honestly, looked at the situation like that. Instead of concentrating on the fact that he’d been abducted and incarcerated, Nick had focussed on the fact that he’d survived. He’d won and he was right…there was nothing depressing about that.
“The worst thing was being scared of things after…bugs…ants…man! Going underground; but I faced up to those things when I had to and nothing happened to me so I figured there was no point worrying.”
Gil laughed. “That is incredible. Just very logical thinking. But why have we never spoken about it before?”
“You’ve never asked.” Nick said plainly but not unkindly.
“No, no. Because I didn’t want to remind you of it all…but you have it all worked out. Like telling me to own up to my depression, you just face things as they are and deal with them.”
“Yeah, I do. What other way is there? Identify the problem and find a solution. I think Mom always instilled it in us. Nothing is insurmountable…you only think it is until you face up to it and deal.”
“That seems like an ideal philosophy.”
“Ah…that’s the thing though. Mom…none of us…look on it as a philosophy because nothing has to be analysed and put into any compartment…it just kind of…is.”
“I understand. It’s just the way you live your life. The way you have been taught to live your life.”
“In the years we’ve been together we’ve never had this discussion.”
“We didn’t need to did we? We just got on with living our lives…and when something happened, we dealt with it.”
“Well, no, not straight away, but you got there in the end.”
They walked on in silence. Gil thinking that he was sure he’d undervalued Nick in the past; he’d never given him the credit he richly deserved for dealing with the challenges that he’d faced over the years. Amy Hendler; he’d remained calm. Kristy Hopkins…a lesser man would have crumbled after being accused of murder. Nigel Crane, he’d been pissed about his clothes, and, of course, Walter Gordon. Nick hadn’t ended up depressed… but… For the first time Gil wondered is all of Nick’s traumas had caused his depression.
But it didn’t sit right somehow…he didn’t think that they were connected. Maybe, though, he would need therapy to actually find out if there was any underlying issue.
“Mmmm?” He heard Nick the first time but was still thinking about underlying causes.
“Do you think dealing with me and all my stuff has made you depressed?”
Gil stopped dead in his tracks but his momentum took Nick several steps further before he stopped.
“That was exactly what I was thinking…right then.”
“Spooky.” He hummed the tune from The X-Files. “It was a natural transition from the previous conversation. Having to deal with my shit could have started this…this survivor’s guilt.”
“Yes. I was thinking it but I don’t know. I thought that maybe I will need therapy to sort it out, I don’t know.”
“But is the stuff that I’ve had thrown at me, uppermost in your thoughts?”
Gil thought about that and had to reply honestly. “No. I’ve had no particular…subject matter, for want of a better description…about the depression…just this feeling of being in a fug…a fug… I had all those different ideas…that it was us and it wasn’t, that it was work and it wasn’t that either. I’ve never associated it with your trauma. Not once…”
Nick thought for some moments and then spoke. “I think it’s unlikely then…I don’t know…but I would have thought that if something specific was depressing you then you would be thinking of it all the time…it would be, I don’t know…consuming all your thoughts. And talking about it would be difficult and cause you extra…anguish. But it doesn’t, does it?”
“No. The only feelings I have about it is the pride and love I have for you for your outstanding bravery.”
“I wasn’t brave at the time, believe me, but like I said, I survived. And as it happens…no one else did.”
In the street, in broad daylight, Gil took Nick’s face in his hands and kissed him. “You’re the bravest man I’ve ever had the honour to know.”
Nick blushed and grinned. He couldn’t deny that having Gil praise him was the best feeling in the world. It didn’t happen often because the man just wasn’t like that…but then that made it all the more special when he did, because Nick knew he meant it; he really meant it.
Gil smiled at the beauty of Nick’s face with his dimples and shining eyes. “Just to prove that my testosterone levels are not in any way diminished I think we should hurry back to my rooms…”
“…I’m full of them. Well, full of something that’s for sure.” Gil added wryly.
They linked arms and in step with one another made the rest of the journey back thinking of exactly what they would be doing when they arrived at the rooms…
End of Part Eleven
It was hard for them to actually get to Gil's rooms…the moment they’d entered the building they had kissed and groped their way up a flight of stairs. Their mouths were hot and insistent on each other’s flesh and Nick was already marked on his neck just below the neckline of his shirt. The pain of Gil's teeth sweet and heady; his dick even harder at the sensation.
They heard the door bang below them as someone else entered the building and they reluctantly pulled apart but it gave Gil time to find his key…his hand was shaking and he couldn’t push it into the hole…Nick took it from him and completed the task moments before the other person walked up the stairs towards them. They fell into the room and Gil kicked the door shut without letting go of Nick.
Gil pushed Nick against the wall and immediately kissed him again forcing his tongue into the familiar mouth and feeling his tongue and teeth, but his hands left the body and undid the belt on Nick’s pants and then the zipper; he felt for the waistband and grabbing the material of his pants and briefs he pushed them down until Nick’s erection sprung free, hard and leaking. Nick sighed at the relief of the freedom from confinement in his pants.
Gil pulled away from Nick’s mouth and stared into the almost black eyes of his lover; he saw passion and he saw love and the combination was intoxicating. He dropped to his knees and didn’t even hesitate before he swallowed Nick down…the smell of Nick overwhelming his nostrils, the taste of him overwhelming his taste buds and the feel of the velvet skin stretched to capacity consumed his mouth and his throat as he swallowed over and over again.
It was Nick who pulled back, even as Gil pushed forward, but only for a moment as he then thrust again into the hot, wet, mouth. The suction Gil was creating was too much for Nick to bear for long and he thrust again and again in quick succession and then he was coming…
Gil could feel the pulsating flesh and felt the expansion even as Nick growled at his own pleasure and then the fluid was pumping down his throat and he was swallowing convulsively…drinking his lover.
Nick pulled back from Gil to allow him to breathe and Gil gasped his breath but followed the still erect penis, licking at it so as to capture every drop of Nick. He didn’t want to miss anything.
But Nick was sliding down the wall, his legs unable to hold his weight and as he slid so the now deflating dick moved away from Gil and out of his mouth’s reach.
He pushed Gil gently backwards. “Sit back on your ass.” He gasped and Gil did as instructed and undid his own belt and zipper but his hands were batted out of the way as Nick manoeuvred himself onto his own knees between Gil's legs and bent forward to capture his prize.
With his head in Gil’s lap he sucked at the head of Gil’s cock and licked down the shaft and then he swallowed Gil…in the same fashion as Gil had done him, but he didn’t allow Gil to thrust, he pumped his head up and down on the hot flesh moving up and down the length of the shaft feeling his nose in the curls of Gil's pubic hair one moment and the taste of the leaking fluid from Gil’s slit on his lips the next.
Like Nick, Gil couldn’t hold on…but he didn’t want to and holding himself steady with his hands flat of the floor he gave himself up to Nick and Nick, as Gil had done, took every drop there was and licked and cleaned until hardness had gone and it was soft and docile.
Nick uncurled his body where he’d been leaning over Gil and lay down next to him. Gil stretched out his legs and lay back flat on the floor.
The rooms were quiet and the only sound was their breathing. Gil felt for Nick’s hand and when they connected he bought it up to his mouth and kissed it. They lay there for some minutes.
“I don’t think I am suffering from a male menopause, am I?”
“I think it’s unlikely.” Nick chuckled and they were silent again for a few more minutes and then he spoke again. “We’re not going to stay on the floor are we?”
“I don’t think so…but I needed to recuperate before moving.”
“You taste different.”
Gil chuckled. “You tasted of popcorn and hot dog.”
Gil sat up…Nick noticed he did it from lying down without pushing himself up with his hands and without difficulty. Since his vocabulary was still recovering from his brain’s lack of blood he thought, ‘nice’, this time instead of saying it.
He let Gil pull him to his feet and then they both started giggling like adolescents at the difficulty of walking with their pants at half-mast! They had to haul them up and hold them as they shuffled into the bedroom and then both men very nearly threw themselves onto the bed and went about the task of taking off their shoes and socks and then their pants and underwear and finally, their coats and shirts and tee shirts…they hadn’t spoken at all, but chuckled, affectionately, at themselves and each other; they left the clothes in a massive heap on the floor and then both stood up as Gil pulled the bedclothes down and then they crawled under the blankets.
Their frenetic blow jobs in the small lobby were only the beginning and they both knew it…
Nick took the initiative and spent time cajoling Gil’s recalcitrant penis back into life and when the blood started to fill both of their dicks he climbed on top of Gil. “I think I’m going to ride you like a wild stallion, man. Where’s the lube?”
Gil laughed and pointed to a bedside cabinet drawer that he couldn’t reach…Nick leaned over and retrieved the lube…and then stored it under the pillow.
And then Nick started his task by kissing Gil and caressing his arms but then he stopped.
“Man, your arms! They’ve always been strong and muscular but, man, they’re rock hard.” He sat up and surveyed Gil's body and shook his head in amazement. “I can’t believe the change in just a couple of weeks. Your stomach if flatter and…” he pressed his hands to Gil’s stomach. “…the muscles are as hard as rock.”
“Taking of rock hard, if you would care to glance further down, you would see that there is something else that is rock hard and waiting for some attention, too.”
Nick laughed and bent down again to kiss Gil but stopped and asked. “Have you been doing penis exercises?”
“Sadly. No. Just keeping my hand in, as it were…” His speech was cut off with Nick’s kiss.
There wasn’t much Gil could do; he was pinned on his back by Nick’s body but he used his fingertips and hands to smooth Nick’s skin; to tweak and twist his nipples and feel all of Nick’s muscles rippling below the surface of that skin. And then he moved them to Nick’s erection, and balls, gently rubbing at the soft, hard, skin and the rosy head already showing signs of glistening with Cowper’s fluid. So soon after his other erection. But then Gil’s dick was the same, pushing up proudly between their bodies.
Gil reached for Nick’s balls and felt each of them and rolled them around in his fingers and he smiled at the sensation. They were lovely balls even if he couldn’t see them at this particular time…Nick’s scrotum was milky white and almost hairless and his balls were sweetly packaged. A refined look completely at odds with Gil’s heavy dark skinned balls covered in hair. As Gil palpated Nick’s balls with one hand he did the same for his own balls his other hand.
Nick was occupied kissing, licking and nipping at all of Gil's upper body and returned the favour with a hickey over Gil's collar bone.
“You want to go for it?” Nick’s voice was deep and Texan.
“Sure do, cowboy.” Gil smiled as Nick rolled his eyes.
He felt around under the pillow and eventually retrieved the lube from its hiding place and grabbed Gil's right hand and poured out a substantial amount onto his fingers. He then took a smaller amount onto his fingers and immediately rubbed it along Gil's length, twisting the head as he reached the top and making Gil jump.
Gil reached behind Nick and unceremoniously pushed a couple of fingers up Nick and Nick grimaced as Gil chuckled. But then Gil did gently prepare Nick, making sure he was lubed up and ready. When he thought he’d done enough he brought his hand back to the front of Nick and used the excess lube on his hand to lubricate Nick’s hard-on.
Nick pushed himself up by his legs and then caught Gil’s dick and positioned it at his opening and immediately started lowering his body onto the dick.
Gil gritted his teeth and screwed his eyes shut.
Gil opened his eyes and smiled. “Oh yes…it’s just my foreskin being pulled right back and then there’s the heat…and the tightness…and…”
“I get the picture…” Nick was gasping as the dick sunk deeper into him. “…no need for a lecture.” Gil chuckled and the sensation made Nick’s erection that was staring Gil in the face jerked and leaked.
“Not going to last long, honey…want to come already.”
“Yeah…yeah, hang on in there a bit.” With a grunt Nick was nailed as Gil’s dick was as far as he could get within Nick.
Nick was breathing in and out in short gasps, he wasn’t as practised at this since Gil had been away…but if he could just get Gil to hit his…spot… He moved back up a little and then down again and then leaned forward and did the same and…and…there it was. He could have shouted for joy at the sensation as his prostate was hit by Gil’s dick and he moved back and forth in the same position and each time he scored a hit…
He was leaning right over Gil and Gil was matching each move of Nick’s; as Nick pulled away so did Gil and as his pushed down so Gil up…this was anal intercourse at its best…they were practised at it and knew their art well.
Nick was speeding up and groaning with each gasped breath and then Gil caught Nick’s leaking erection and smoothly started pumping him; it was warm and easy to slide his hand up and down given that it was coated in lube. As fast as Gil’s orgasm approached so did Nick’s and then Nick was spurting onto Gil's chest and crying out and Gil was pumping into Nick quite furiously, his upper body coming up from the bed as his orgasm was torn from him.
And then they were still.
Motionless for several minutes as they fought to breathe and come down from their highs. Then Nick gently pulled himself up and away from Gil with an unseemly plop and the almost threw himself down beside Gil.
“Babe? We didn’t forget, did we?”
“We certainly did not. Are you going to sleep?”
“Yeah; need sleep. He sounded more than half way there already.
“I’ll set the alarm. You have to leave here no later than twelve-thirty to drop off the car and catch your flight.”
“Okay. ‘leven-thirty.” He slurred.
“Okay.” Gil wiped his hands on the bedding…and then his chest, too. Fuck the mess, he wasn’t getting up now….probably couldn’t anyway. He sorted out the alarm although he thought that he would probably wake before then. It was just after seven and then he thought of something. He shook Nick.
“Nick, honey…wake up. Wake up.”
“I feel okay…I feel really okay.”
Nick turned towards him and smiled. “Then that’s good babe, real good.”
End of Part Twelve
Gil really did feel more light hearted than he had for weeks…no…that would be months. Maybe the St John’s Wort was kicking in and the end of the fug was in sight. The relief he felt from just thinking that thought was palpable. He grinned at nothing in particular and then rolled onto his side to face Nick, still grinning.
“We’re good aren’t we? You and me, together.” Nick had stayed awake and grinned back at Gil.
“Yes, we are.”
“I feel really happy that you’re feeling better…I was worried about you.”
“I know you were and I’m sorry to have put you through the mill.”
“It’s okay because we got it right it in the end, didn’t we?”
“You got it right, honey, I was just blustering around trying to find excuses.”
“Yeah; there was that.” Nick chuckled and then yawned.
“Go to sleep; turn around and I’ll spoon behind you. I’ve set the alarm for eleven-thirty.”
It seemed they’d only just closed their eyes to go to sleep when the alarm was invading their senses with its appalling buzzing. They both groaned and Gil had to turn over to switch it off. He lay on his back and looked at Nick as he buried himself deeper into the bedclothes. He laughed.
“I don’t think so…” And he pulled the blankets away to reveal a naked Nick. “…rise and shine, sunshine.”
“Man, how could you do that to me?” Nick complained.
“Easy. We‘re on a tight schedule…oh, no, actually it’s you who’s on a tight schedule I could go back to sleep.”
“Not a good idea, was it, to get the red-eye back to Vegas.”
“If it meant we could spend two days together it was the best idea you’ve ever had. Come on, get up, you’ll feel better when you’re in the shower. I’ve got to change this bedding. Did you want anything to eat?”
“Coffee and cereal would be good. Thanks.”
“And I’ll make you some sandwiches to take with you. Turkey salad?”
“Great, thanks. I hope it’s organic.” Nick added as he jumped from the bed and out of the way of a slapped ass for his impertinence. A few moments later Gil heard the shower switch on and then Nick taking a piss. He got up from the bed and stripped it down and then went into the bathroom and washed his hands. He went naked to the kitchen to start the coffee pot and get the cereal and milk out for Nick. He made a sandwich and wrapped it up for Nick to take with him. He also scribbled a little note saying, ‘I love you. Gil x’ and slipped it between the sandwiches. He just hoped Nick didn’t eat it by mistake but he was pretty sure he’d see it.
He got clean bedding out of the cupboard as Nick was towelling himself dry, so he followed him into the shower and got rid of the detritus of the lovemaking. No one ever said that man on man sex wasn’t a messy business.
He put on his robe when he’d finished and went to the kitchen where Nick was putting his dish in the sink.
“Leave that. It doesn’t matter. Come here.”
Nick smiled and did as he was told and they hugged for some minutes. Silently savouring each other for their last few minutes together. They would be apart for three weeks now…the longest time apart they’d ever spent. Although he hadn’t said it, Gil thought he might have to fly back to Vegas, if only for half a day, but he realised how ridiculous that would be…Nick would have to work all the weekends from now until Gil finished in Princeton to compensate for the two he’d taken off to visit with Gil.
But they’d survive, he was sure of that since he did feet better, he really did. But would it last once Nick had taken the car keys and disappeared out of the door?
“You must go; it’s raining so you must allow plenty of time for your journey.” Gil held Nick by his shoulders looking at his so very handsome face.
“It’s not heavy rain, I’ll be okay.”
“Make sure to text me when you get to the airport.”
“You’re going back to bed.”
“No, I’m not, I’m wide awake and I have work to catch up on because I’ve been entertaining my young lover all weekend. If I do need more sleep I’ll go back to bed after you’re safely at the airport.”
“Okay, I’ll call when I’m at check-in.”
“Make sure you do.” Gil smiled and then they kissed. A sweet kiss, not passionate as such, but conveying love and kindness and happiness.
“Okay.” Nick got his duffle bag from the bedroom and tucked the sandwich inside and then checked that his ticket, his driver’s license and the car rental details were handy and then put on his jacket. “Stay in, don’t come out in the cold and rain. Wave from the window.”
“Nick…” Gil whined quite convincingly and Nick chuckled.
“Do as you’re told.” And they kissed again. Nick opened the door, smiled back at Gil, and then walked out and closed it…Gil thought Nick may have taken his heart with him. He turned to the window and waited for Nick to leave the building. It was only moments and Nick remotely unlocked the doors, opened the driver’s door, slung his duffle bag into the car and then looked up and Gil and waved. Gil blew him a kiss and Nick got into the car and was out of sight in the darkness of the night. He drove off and flashed his lights as he left.
Gil remained at the window for some time, long after Nick had disappeared into the night. The rain wasn’t heavy but it was persistent and Gil watched as it ran down the window pane. He traced one drop on the outside with his fingers, inside, sighed and then drew the drapes.
He made himself a mug of tea and sat as his desk and took the work he had to do out of a drawer. He spent over an hour working, steadily, but when he thought that Nick had had enough time to get to the airport he started to fret. He made himself another tea and became nervous.
About two hours after Nick had left, Gil's cell rang and he picked it up and spoke into it.
“Were you delayed?”
“Yeah, there were some emergency road repairs going on…and it was slow moving for about twenty minutes…good job there wasn’t much traffic around. Car’s gone and I’m in line to book in and then I’m going to get a seat and eat my organic turkey sandwich. Have you done your work?”
“Yes, most of it. Enjoy your sandwich and take care. I love you, Nick, you know that don’t you? More and more each day of my life.”
“Yeah, I know. You take care and I’ll speak to you when I get back home…and you’ll be home soon.”
“Yes, I will. Bye, honey. Love you”
“Bye, babe. Love you right back.”
The cell went dead and Gil looked at it and in that moment he knew his fug was back…rather it had never gone away. Nick just managed to keep it at bay…
End of Part Thirteen
The difficulty was distinguishing his genuine feelings of missing Nick from the feelings of bleakness…that was how he now described his feelings. He knew he hadn’t really got any better since starting the St John’s Wort. It had been nearly five weeks now and he had honestly thought that he would begin to feel better. He didn’t, not really, and yet the irony of his health wasn’t lost on him…physically he felt fitter and stronger than he had since he was in his twenties. He had no doubts about that but in his head…his mind…his thoughts were a jumbled mess trying to reason with themselves…himself…about why he was feeling like he was.
It was only when Nick was with him that he’d felt genuine relief. It was like it was all too much for him to do…the living part…maybe it was like boredom? But that in itself was difficult for him to fathom because he thought he’d never actually ever been bored; he’d always found things to occupy himself…even if it was only a ball game on the TV or a crossword, a good book…but not one of his usual pastimes could spark his interest. His bugs…he was doing the research and he was teaching classes and while he was doing the actual work and interacting with his students he was okay…he felt reasonable. But the moment he was alone…he became aware of it.
In an attempt to compensate for the feelings he was trying to cram as much into his daily routine as he could…as if the more he did the less time he could think about what was happening in his mind…to his mind.
Within days of Nick leaving he was getting up an hour earlier and, after an energy snack, going straight out walking…sixty minutes, rising to seventy-five minutes within days, of fast walking; swinging his arms and striding out more than he was used to and it was bracing to be out and about so early that he hardly saw anyone else…a few students running - training maybe and older men like him…that was even funny…jogging along and it seemed to Gil that they were mirror images of him and he wondered if they, too, were depressed. If they were out at the crack of dawn to try and shake their own fug from their shoulders.
After his walking he would return to his rooms to shower and have a good breakfast, make his lunch and then he would walk to work. He upped his swimming to every weekday night and he was doing one hundred and twenty lengths. On Saturdays and Sundays he did one hundred and fifty. He was still walking every evening and walking to Walmart three times a week.
He had to work hard at his work to be able to fit it into his exercise schedule. But he was eating well and very healthily and losing a little weight…but it was the toning of his muscles by the exercise that really made the difference and several times over the weeks if he accidentally caught a glimpse of himself in a mirror he was would be astounded at his figure. Fairly slim…not as slim as he was in his youth and twenties but toned…and powerful. That was the change…he looked physically powerful.
He was pleased with himself and his improved image and thought that maybe he was getting better...he appreciation of his new image was, at least, a step in the right direction.
So with his work and research every single minute of his day was accounted for. An upside of the exercise and fresh air was that he slept very well. Seven hours every night. He thought he could sleep for eight or nine hours but he really didn’t have the time.
He tried to speak to Nick on a daily basis but, sometimes, Nick’s work was such that they could only manage a short texted conversation but Nick was giving him his unwavering support and for the minutes when Gil could see him on his computer or talk to him on his cell…he was the happiest he could be.
As his final week at Princeton began he was far busier than he had been. He had to complete reports on each student he’d taught. That was seventeen reports. He had to finish off a paper into his research and present it to staff and students and then just generally tie up all the loose ends. He had, luckily, kept strictly up to date with his research and had been recording his findings regularly so at least he wasn’t faced with the daunting task of preparing and presenting it all in one go but it was still a major task. He thought he should cut down on his exercise so that he could have extra time for his preparation…but he couldn’t.
What he found was that the prospect of not doing his daily ritualistic exercise threw him even more off kilter than he had been and just one day of not swimming made him anxious. He cut down on his sleep instead. Six hours sleep would give him sufficient time to complete his work.
So, in a state of physical exhaustion, his last four days at Princeton seemed a complete blur to him…not to anyone else though. His work was praised and his students thanked him and assured him they had greatly benefited from his tutorials. He thanked them but really felt as if he had short changed them…he could have given them so much more and he had, in his own eyes, failed them, himself and the university.
On the Saturday morning, after his ritual of walking and swimming, he packed. He was relieved that there was no more work to do. But he did have time to Google Las Vegas to find the nearest pool to their house, where he could continue his swimming. There was an ideal one four miles from home. He could easily walk there, swim and walk back. He checked his watch and packed up his computer. His flight was leaving Newark at two in the afternoon, so he booked his taxi for eleven in the morning and was ready and waiting when the taxi arrived.
He was actually taking home less that he’d arrived with…he’s donated most of the clothes he’d arrived with to a Goodwill store and bought some new clothes for his slimmer figure. He knew Nick would be astounded when he saw him. He couldn’t wait.
He left Princeton without a backward glance. He’d done the work he’d been asked to do…not to the standard he would have liked but they seemed satisfied. But he acknowledged it was a huge mistake to have taken the work and made the journey in the first place. The only things he was taking back were a slimmer figure and some new clothes…and his fug; he’d arrived with it and he was taking it back and he felt the huge disappointment of that pressing him down further.
When he got on the plane and strapped himself in he immediately fell asleep and stayed asleep for the entire journey. Exhausted. Physically and mentally.
Gil was dead right about one thing; Nick. He was totally blown away with his lover’s new look. That the change had been significant and done with such speed. Nick couldn’t deny that Gil looked good. Fucking good…is what he thought the moment he saw him and decided that that, fuck, was they’d have to do as soon as possible.
“Babe! You look sensational!” Nick’s voice echoed with the truth of his words. They were locked in a fierce hug outside the arrivals hall.
“Nick. Nick. Nick.” Was all Gil could murmur as he held on for dear life. He felt so much better just being in familiar surroundings, but to be with Nick that was the important thing. It seemed in those few moments that he was well, he was cured. He was home. He was with Nick.
End of Part Fourteen
Of course he wasn’t cured at all and he knew it. He was home and more importantly he was with Nick and those two things did help, there was no denying that, and the St John’s Wort had four to six weeks to kick in…and he hadn’t quite reached the six week mark.
The total weight loss coming back to Vegas was only twenty-three pounds when he’d been hoping for thirty, but he would still be eating healthy food and exercising so he could still be dropping weight. Of course his muscles had been working over-time and it could be that he had lost the fat content of his body and replaced it with muscle weight. That would account for why he did look good.
Gil sat in his office ruminating …he had absolutely no inclination to do any work, whatsoever. He had been welcomed back with open arms, as Nick had predicted, and his physical appearance had been the talk of the lab for at least half an hour before they’d all gone out to crime scenes. Ecklie had been lurking and had welcomed him back too. But, as usual, his good humour had only lasted for a few minutes to be replaced by bristling annoyance…probably at Gil's staff being so happy to see him.
But Gil kept thinking about being back and the lab…and Nick.
They’d enjoyed a great lovemaking session when they’d got back to the house…but Nick had been completely amazed when Gil had got up from their bed to go for a walk; for an hour and a half. But as Gil had pointed out…he’d been on a plane and needed the fresh air and exercise. The only problem was that Nick had had to go to work within a few minutes of Gil’s return.
Nick had then shown mild displeasure at Gil going to the pool on Sunday, even though Nick wasn’t there when he left, he was at home when Gil got back. He’d walked the four miles there, swum one hundred and fifty lengths and then walked back. Nick had said he thought that it would be okay for Gil not to exercise on his first day back, have a rest and get into the swing of being home again. They hadn’t argued and Gil had patiently told Nick that he felt the need to ensure that he kept his exercise regime going and that it was crucial in the first few days for him to get straight into that regime again, or it would be lost and all his good work would be undone.
He had agreed half-heartedly, Gil thought, but that was okay, he’d come round soon...he always did. When Nick realised the benefits of it all, he would be in total agreement. And Nick had already joined in with scheme of things…by doing a grocery shop on Saturday morning after work before Gil had flown in and purchasing all the organic food stuffs that Gil was now used to using. No one could ever accuse Nick of being selfish…he was the most kind-hearted and generous man Gil had ever known…and he’d thought that even before they’d become lovers.
Gil’s landline on his desk startled him out of his reverie, he glanced at the clock. He’d been at work for over an hour and a half and he’d done no work at all…nothing at all. He knew he should have been concerned or worried but he wasn’t in the least.
By the time he could legitimately go home, Gil was already packing away his files from his desk. He’d hardly earned his keep but he told himself he was easing himself back into the daily grind…he had checked over some files and re-checked evidence and cleared some e-mails and read a few articles…but nothing consequential. He didn’t have the energy to concentrate on work. He needed to get some exercise…that would make him feel better.
But moments before he could leave a murder came in and he was the only one available. He had to go…even with his couldn’t give a fuck attitude he still had a sense of duty so he found himself working four hours over. Nick was home before him and opened the door when Gil drove up to the driveway.
“Hey! Baptism of fire on your first day back?”
“I know.” He answered wearily. “At least it wasn’t too convoluted. Domestic violence that escalated to murder. He was very sorry that she died…probably because he’d lost his punch bag.”
“Yeah, it’s always the same when they accidentally kill them.” Nick agreed, sadly. “Coffee pot’s fresh and I’ve made a fresh fruit salad and have some natural yoghurt. We can eat out on the deck and then get up to bed.” He grinned now, happy that he’d done the right thing.
“A coffee is needed this moment. I had forgotten just how God awful it is at the lab…do you know where Greg’s stash is?”
“He doesn’t bring any in any more…he got pissed off at us always finding it and using it…the joke wore thin. I could get some though and hide it and we could have it at work.”
“Illegally appropriated coffee always tastes better and Greg would probably steal it back. Payback.” Nick laughed and held the door open wider and Gil walked in and closed the door and then they stopped and kissed.
“Are you joining me in eating the fruit and yoghurt?”
“Man! You bet…look at you. They were all talking about you…couldn’t believe your transformation…Sara was green, man, green.” He laughed and Gil’s heart ached…he had missed this so much, just the simple interaction.
“So what are we waiting for?”
They sat on the deck and the simple breakfast tasted wonderful in the shade of the Nevada sun after being cooped up in his rooms on the East Coast with rain and wind and cold. He liked living in a desert and decided there and then never to leave.
“I think I’m going to stay in Las Vegas…see my days out here.”
“What? What do you mean?” Nick almost demanded to know what he meant.
“Nothing.” Gil was shocked at Nick’s comeback. “Nothing at all…just that I like the climate, it suits me and when I retire I’m not going to up sticks and find another place…this place suits me…and you’ve said before now that it suits you, too.”
“Oh, yeah, I see what you mean. Yeah...we can stay here…just do a bit of travelling.”
“Exactly. The bucket list.”
“Yeah.” It seemed to Gil that Nick had suddenly been worried about something and now he visibly relaxed again.
Gil finished his breakfast and then sat up. “Okay, I’m off…I’ll just change and get my stuff…”
“…off where?” Nick looked perplexed.
“Walking to the pool, swimming and then walking back.” Gil smiled.
“Walking and…are you mad? You’ve just worked thirteen, or more, hours, you need to rest up.”
“I will rest when I get back. Rest very well after my exercise, actually.” He smiled some more at Nick.
“You did it on Sunday, you don’t need to do all that again…it’ll take three hours…more.”
“I can do it in just about three hours. I swimming faster since I dropped my weight, not so much fat to haul along…same with my walking.” Gil still smiled. But what he hadn’t told Nick was that he’d done a twelve mile walk while Nick was at work on Sunday night…right across town and back…staying on well-lit roads and avoiding any contentious areas. He didn’t think Nick would be very happy about that.
“Gil, you don’t want to overdo it, it’s not like you’re at the college still and working nine to five…your job here is more demanding…and besides which you don’t need to do all that exercise, three of four times a week is sufficient.”
“I know…but I just want to get into the swing of things here at home…and see how I get on. Nick…it helps me…clears my head and makes me feel better. It really does.”
“Okay, okay.” Nick conceded. “But let’s see how you go on…you might need to go and see your doctor.”
“I know, I know, honey. I just need to see how I settle down now I’m back home.” Gil continued to smile at Nick and Nick relented and smiled back.
“You go and change…I’ve got some work to do anyway.”
“I’ll be back before you miss me.”
“No, you won’t.” Nick spoke softly and Gil heard but chose to ignore him and instead he went to change and left ten minutes later with his kit and his snacks in his backpack.
End of Part Fifteen
Nick sat out on the deck for much longer than he’d anticipated but he was thinking about Gil. Worrying about Gil, more like.
For all those months he’d been worried sick about Gil. Worried mostly that he was the cause of Gil's mood changes and behaviour. That the end of them as a couple was in sight. Gil didn’t really give any indication that it was and they did still seem like a couple but the night Gil had said that he was going away…that was when Nick had cracked. In the moments following Gil's announcement he was certain that Gil was leaving him.
Gil's assurances, though, had seemed genuine and Nick had calmed down.
Nick had suspected depression all along and had spoken about it in the early days but Gil had dismissed it and…laughed it off. Yes, he’d laughed and said he wasn’t a depressive kind of man. Seemed like he was now. But at least he had admitted it and Nick was sure now that their relationship was going to be okay…but there was still something very wrong.
To Nick, Gil was really no better. Better, maybe, at disguising it…and replacing it with all the exercise he was doing. He had to acknowledge that he looked great…he’d never seen him so slim and toned. But what use was it if he looked great on the outside but felt like crap on the inside? No fucking use. That herb, St John’s Wort, should have kicked in before now, Nick was certain.
Nick thought back to them sitting out here on the deck not long ago and Gil was smiling…oddly. Nick couldn’t put a word to it…but one thing he knew without a shadow of a doubt…and that was it wasn’t his Gil. It wasn’t the man he’d known for all the years he’d been in Vegas, or the man with whom he’d been sharing a bed. He’d also nearly had a heart attack himself when Gil had said he wanted to end his days in Vegas…Nick’s first thought was that he was suicidal but it was just an innocuous remark and to be fair, Gil had never once mentioned thoughts of suicide to him. He didn’t seem quite that bad…but then was he hiding it? Nick didn’t think so, but he would be vigilant.
He tried to think what to do but his mind was tired…he’d done a lot of overtime in the past seven weeks. Mostly to keep busy; he’d only been able to concentrate when he was working and his mind was occupied. He’d missed Gil far more than he’d ever let on. He’d slept with a shirt of Gil’s that was in the laundry basket when he’d left for Princeton. It had hardly smelled of Gil but it was his and he had worn it…so it became his woobie, his sisters would have called it that. He smiled to himself. He’d only washed it just before Gil got back. More than once he’d cried himself to sleep…a fucking grown man…but he was so lonely. Not lonely for company, he had Warrick and Greg who were good friends…and Jim came around a couple of times. Probably because Gil asked him to…
No, he was lonely for Gil, the man he loved. He’d been hauled in by Gil years ago and accused of hero worship and he’d managed to break the habit…at work…where he was noticed, but the truth of the matter was that he did worship Gil. Everything about the man was perfect for Nick. Everything. Which made the depression as hurtful to Nick as it was to Gil. Nick wished he could take it away from him…that he could suffer it instead and Gil could be well again.
He knew that he needed to get Gil to the doctor; get him to open up and get some proper treatment. That’s what Gil needed and it was as sure as hell what Nick needed; he wanted Gil back. Not this exercise mad freak. Not the man who seemed to stink, just faintly, of chlorine all the time.
But the one thing Nick knew he would have to do was bide his time and strike when the time was right. That was his plan, such as it was…he’d just have to wait until it happened…although he had no idea when it would be; he just hoped it would soon…
In the meantime, he decided that he wouldn’t pester Gil about the exercise…if he wanted to do it and he felt it helped then that was okay. Nick didn’t think it would do him any harm, he was doing too much but there again walking and swimming were not extreme sports…and after all he did look good…there was no denying that!
End of Part Sixteen
It went on for a couple of weeks…the compulsive exercising. Nick was very nearly at the end of his tether but he held back, he didn’t call Gil on his behaviour because he knew he wouldn’t crack. It was a waiting game. He was biding his time. It had worked the last time when he’d told him about the depression in Starbucks, back in Princeton, and Gil had caved immediately, so he’d known about it. And he knew about this, too, Nick was sure, but at the moment he was in deep denial about it…
But Nick could wait it out…he was a patient man…but there again he really had no other option.
And it came to a head when Nick was least expecting it…
A child was abducted and then found dead…they worked for twenty-one hours straight, and Gil, especially, was so exhausted and drained that he left his truck at the lab and let Nick drive him home.
Neither man had the energy to even speak; when they got home they moved slowly and laboriously as they went into their house. Nick dumped his bag and boots and headed for the stairs to go to bed…after a quick shower. He hauled himself up several steps when he realised that Gil wasn’t behind him and he looked back. His mouth very nearly fell open in surprise.
Gil was changing his work shoes to his walking shoes.
“You cannot possibly be intending to go for a walk? You can hardly move!” He was incredulous.
“I just need to go for a short walk. Keep to my schedule…I won’t be long.” His speech slurred and laborious with his tiredness.
“Gil? You don’t need to go for a walk.” Nick spoke softly.
“Yes. I do.” He’d put on his shoes and picked up his pedometer and walked…unsteadily, Nick noticed…out of their front door and closed it after him.
For several seconds Nick stood still trying to take in what he’d just witnessed and then like a blinding flash, despite his tiredness, he knew. He knew that it was time…
He almost ran to the front door, threw it open and went out leaving it open. He jogged to the end of their drive way and looked for Gil. He was about twenty or thirty feet away…walking, slowly, but swaying as he clearly was having great difficulty putting one foot in front of the other.
“Gil, stop.” Nick called but Gil ignored him and Nick started to walk towards him…without shoes but he still had on his socks.
Nick was desperately trying to think of something appropriate to say and then he decided. He called out to Gil.
“Babe. Stop. Now. If you really love me and don’t want me to leave you, you will stop.” He was nearly in tears and worried sick but to his great relief Gil stopped and gradually turned around to face him. Nick continued walking towards him.
“Of course I love you. Of course I love you. Don’t leave me. Please, don’t leave me.” He sounded like a broken record, scratched and stuck and not quite playing at the right speed.
“I won’t babe, I promise, as long as…babe, you are still seriously depressed…all you’ve done is try to swap your depression for obsession and your depression is no better, it’s worse.” His voice was cracking with emotion as he spoke but he looked at Gil’s face which seemed blank as he tried to understand what Nick had said to him. “Come on, come back with me into the house and tomorrow we’ll go see the doctor, together…” He held out his hands to Gil.
Gil’s face appeared to register shock at Nick’s words, but then it looked as if he understood and then he started to crumble before Nick’s eyes… Nick ran the few steps to Gil and caught him as he started to fall to the ground. It was a huge effort to keep him on his feet as he sobbed such heart-rending sobs that Nick was crying with him.
“Put your arm around my shoulders…Gil, GIL…” He shouted to get his attention and Gil did put his arm up and around Nick shoulders and seemed less likely to fall down. Nick was holding his wrist of the arm that was over his shoulder and his other hand was fastened around his waist. “Come on, babe, come on, that’s it, a step at a time.”
Nick kept encouraging him through his tears and Gil was still sobbing loudly, his face a picture of abject misery. It seemed as if they were moving in slow motion and it took hours to reach their front door. It was probably only a few minute and once inside Nick collapsed to the floor, with Gil crumbling beside him, at the sheer relief of being able to rest. He was as physically exhausted as he could ever remember being.
They sat on the floor. Gil sobbing into Nick’s chest and Nick holding onto him with all the strength he could muster; he was crying at Gil's distress. But they were also tears of relief because he knew he’d cracked Gil's shell.
How long they sat there, Nick didn’t know, but it must have been at least half an hour and eventually Gil fell asleep…still hiccoughing from his emotional outburst as he slept.
Nick knew they couldn’t stay there…or could they? He could lean on the wall and cradle Gil as he slept and then he could sleep himself. But no, if they did that they’d be unable to move when they woke up.
He waited a few minutes and then shook Gil awake. He expected it to be difficult since he was as exhausted…maybe even more so…than Nick. But he woke immediately and was crying again even as Nick shook him.
“Babe, we can’t stay here…we must get to bed…if you can’t manage getting upstairs then we need to get to the couch…but we can’t stay here.”
Gil nodded his understanding immediately and Nick hugged him and ran his fingers through his hair.
“It’s going to be okay…I promise you it’s going to be okay…I won’t leave your side...not now; not ever. Okay?” Gil nodded and Nick breathed a long sigh of relief…he was at least compos mentis.
Nick rested for few moments longer and then pushed himself to his feet. He didn’t let go of Gil but when he was standing he pulled on Gil who slipped onto his knees and then they combined their strength to haul him to his feet. It was a great deal easier than Nick had expected…but, of course, Gil was a really fit man now, and much lighter.
“Upstairs, okay?” Nick spoke and pulled Gil's arm around his shoulder again and his arm around his waist and together, side by side, they made their way to their bedroom. At the bedside Nick lowered Gil onto the bed…he was sitting and Nick bent down and took off Gil's shoes and socks. Then started to undress him. It was easy and Gil helped…and he’d stopped sobbing but was sniffing. Nick reached for some tissues and gave them to Gil who blew his nose and mopped his face. Gil was down to his tee short and boxers.
“Lie down now…there…I’ll be in bed in moment.” He pulled the bedding over Gil and started to undress himself.
“I knew; I really knew…but was frightened to acknowledge it…” Gil sounded as if he’d been pummelled into submission.
“Sometimes the wood gets in front of the trees. It’s going to be okay. I promise.”
“Okay. I’ll do whatever I have to…I can’t go on…I know I can’t go on.”
“And that’s probably the first step towards healing. I’m thirsty after all the exertion…do you want a drink?”
“I am thirsty…yes, please.”
“Water, please.” Nick went off and Gil called to him in a very subdued, almost broken, voice. “Do you think I could have a brandy? I could definitely do with a brandy.”
“Sure. You deserve it.”
A few minutes later Nick was back with a glass of water and a small brandy in an ordinary tumbler. Gil struggled to sit up but he took the water and drank half of the glass and then took the brandy and took a sip.
“What have you had to drink?” He asked and Nick thought he sounded a little better.
“I had a glass of water downstairs…I’m okay. Well, now I am.” He got under the blankets and lay down with a sigh. Gil took a few more sips of his brandy and then tossed the remainder back in one gulp. He shuddered. He put the tumbler on his bedside cabinet and lay down. Nick switched off the lights and cuddled up to Gil.
“Night, babe. We’ll start the process tomorrow…getting you on the road to recovery.”
“I don’t know what I’d do without you, sweetheart. My honey.”
“You won’t ever need to find out, because I’m going nowhere.”
“I’m so sorry, so very sorry.” Gil whispered and began to weep again but an emotionally and physically exhausted Nick was asleep.
End of Part Seventeen
Nick had fallen asleep instantly but despite his utter exhaustion, and the brandy, Gil lay in bed listening to the even breathing of Nick lying beside him. It was actually soothing to listen to him, a solid presence, sure and steadfast.
How the hell had he let himself get into such a state? He knew he’d been using the exercise as a crutch. He’d known that if he kept exercising to the point of exhaustion then he would have less time to actually think about his fug… The fug, he thought, it was far more now…depression, obsession. He knew. He hadn’t just said that to Nick…he knew what he was doing. He looked across at Nick and even in the almost black room he could see his sleeping form. Relaxed and confident, and now he knew…Nick knew. And would help him.
Who was he kidding? Nick had known all along. He chuckled quietly to himself, and it was not without some humour, Nick had known and just waited; bided his time until he knew it was the right time and then he’d pounced. He’d known instinctively when the time was right and it was tonight. Gil knew that he would not have made it to the end of their street…he would have surely collapsed…but he had to go, he had to…until he was told to stop.
And Nick had known the exact time to say stop…when he couldn’t fight back; when he’d reached the end. If it had been at any other time Gil knew he would have railed against him…tried talking Nick into believing he was okay. Nick was so good natured and kind he would have probably allowed Gil to get away with it…but he hadn’t done that. He’d waited. Gil sighed and turned onto his side facing Nick and slipped an arm around him anchoring himself to Nick…his safety net. He’d eventually fallen, as he knew he would, and Nick had been there to catch him.
Nick slept solidly but woke up suddenly with a jump. He’d been dreaming about a horse he’d had when he was a boy. A beautiful mare that he’d loved with all his heart; she’d had a foal that was born deformed and died and the horse had become wild with grief…trying to breathe life into the dead foal and not allowing anyone near her or her baby…
Nick had been allowed to watch while the vetinarian had sedated her with a gun dart as he couldn’t get close and then they had taken the foal away. The mare was sad for a long time and each day before and after school Nick would be with her…talking to her and grooming her and giving her, her favourite apples and carrots and then one day she was herself again… Melody. That was her name. He hadn’t dreamed of Melody, or even thought of her, for many years. But he smiled to himself. He loved her and she was depressed and she got better. He loved Gil and he would get better too…he was sure. He would tell Gil about her when he woke.
Nick went back to sleep again and when he woke up again he checked the clock and got up. He peed, showered and then went downstairs. He’d checked Gil and he was still asleep.
In the den he found the number of Gil’s physician and called his office. He was able to get an appointment for the following day, mid-afternoon. That done, he smiled to himself and went off to start the coffee machine and then went back up to Gil. He was awake.
Nick sat on the side of the bed next to him. “Hey, how are you feeling today?”
“Ridiculous, I know, but I feel better.” Gil did sound tired though.
“The cycle has been broken. You don’t have to do your exercise to keep the depression at bay…”
“…no, I don’t. Oh, God, Nick, how did I get like this?”
“I don’t know. But how you got there isn’t important now…it’s getting away from that place and making you better than counts. I’ve called your physician and he’ll see you at three tomorrow afternoon.”
“You don’t let the grass grow do you?”
“I think it’s long enough, don’t you?”
Gil looked at Nick, the room was still quite dark with the only light coming from the doorway and he nodded. “Long enough.”
And Gil had called it ridiculous but Nick did notice that he was better, he was calmer, and visibly more relaxed. Like a weight had been moved for his shoulders. It crossed Nick’s mind that he should have done it sooner but then would Gil have been so receptive to the intervention? Probably not. It had happened now so it was no use ruminating of any, ‘what might have been’. He told Gil about his dream about Melody and all the years he had her and rode her and their adventures. Gil listened enthralled.
Dr Evan Grundy’s office was quiet. No musak which always pleased Gil since everywhere else seemed obsessed with providing background noise of some kind or other. The receptionist smiled as they entered.
“Mr Grissom?” She asked quietly and politely as they approached her desk.
“Dr Grundy still has a patient with him. You haven’t been for some time so could you please just complete the normal forms for me?” She was exceedingly pleasant as she handed him an already prepared clipboard; Gil couldn’t help but respond equally politely.
“Of course.” He smiled at her, even though his guts were churning and his mouth was dry and all he really wanted to do was turn and around and leave, immediately. It crossed his mind that of course Nick knew, because although he hadn’t told Nick how nervous he was, Nick’s hand was planted firmly on his lower back. Holding him and anchoring him and he had no chance of changing his mind.
He took the clipboard and proffered pen and sat down. He completed the form quickly and signed it and Nick took it back to the receptionist. Nick had only just settled down when the doctor’s door opened and he ushered out a young woman and said his good byes to her.
“I’ll be with you in a few minutes, Gil.”
Gil smiled and nodded but thought that he would vomit. When the doctor had closed his door, Nick took Gil's hand and whispered to him. “It’s going to be fine, babe. Try and relax. Nothing to worry about any more.” Soothing words from Nick who obviously knew exactly how Gil was feeling. Gil tried smiling but was on the verge of tears and there was no way he was going to weep in public. No way!
He nodded at Nick and clasped his hand tighter and started reciting, in his head, the list of chemical symbols. He hadn’t done a dozen when Dr Grundy reappeared.
“Gil, come on through.” He extended his hand and Gil shook it and opened his mouth to speak but couldn’t. He saw a faint frown cross the doctor’s face. Nick jumped in to rescue him.
“Hi, I’m Nick Stokes and I’m Gil's partner. He’s been having some…errr…problems and needs to speak to you.” Gil had watched Nick speak for him and then turned back to the doctor and nodded.
“Okay, come on in…you’re coming with him?” Dr Grundy asked Nick.
“Yes, he is.” Gil found his tongue because he knew there was no way, no way, he was going through that door without Nick. Nick smiled and put his arm around Gil’s back and pushed him forward.
“Take a seat then, both of you.”
“I must say I haven’t seen you for some time but you look good…dropped quite a bit of weight, haven’t you? Is that your problem?” He added.
Gil opened his mouth and nothing came out again and he squirmed in his seat. Being lost for words was an alien concept for him. He looked at Nick somewhat helplessly.
Nick smiled and took his hand again and then turned to the doctor. “It’s like this, doc…Doctor…” He corrected himself. “…Gil has been having some problems with depression. We diagnosed it ourselves…and have been treating it ourselves. Diet, healthy living, St John’s Wort, but it’s got no better…in fact…”
“…it’s worse.” Dr Grundy concluded.
Gil took a huge intake of breath. “I don’t want you to think, from what Nick’s just said, that he had anything to do with this…treatment. He didn’t, it was all self-inflicted. He’s the one who’s got me here today.”
“I see.” He smiled at the touching admission from Gil Grissom, absolving his partner from any blame. “So can you start at the beginning and tell me what’s been happening?”
“I can. Yes.” And Gil gave a laboriously detailed account of how it started, how it developed and how it ended…just two days ago. The doctor asked a few questions here and there and smiled and kept Gil going. Nick sat back and listened. He was pleased that there was nothing that Gil had mentioned of which he wasn’t aware. There were no hidden secrets, he was sure, so he was surprised when Gil had finished that the doctor addressed him.
“Nick, do you think I could speak to Gil alone for a few minutes.”
“Sure. I’ll be outside…”
“…is that really necessary?” Gil wanted to know.
“Just for a few minutes, it is, yes.”
“I’ll be just outside the door, don’t worry. Everything’s going to be okay.” Nick smiled at Gil again but his heart was breaking at Gil’s behaviour. He’d never seen the man he loved so much, so broken, so unsure, so desperate.
When the door had closed behind Nick, Dr Grundy sat back and looked at Gil.
“I’ve heard your comprehensive account of everything that has happened and that was a really good and gave me a clear picture of what has been happening to you. You had nothing but praise for Nick; is that really the case. He isn’t here now, Gil, you can be totally candid with me.” Gil looked aghast and the doctor smiled. “I have to ask.”
Gil relaxed a little. “Yes, I understand, you want to be sure that he’s not the problem, that I haven’t been coerced…I haven’t. Without Nick I would be worse, much, much, worse. I’ve been an unbelievably stubborn ass, and he’s had to wait for me to crack to get me here to you. He’s supported me, cared for me…” Gil's tears threatened again but this time he couldn’t stop them and they rolled down his cheeks. “…I did try and put the blame on him and lesser men would have packed their bags, but he’s been…wonderful.” Wonderful was the only word he could think of to describe Nick. But it was apt.
Dr Grundy pushed a box of tissue across his desk and spoke again. “I have another question for you, Gil, and then we can get Nick back in here.”
Gil looked at him and held his breath…the doctor looked serious.
End of Part Eighteen
Gil waited as the doctor paused. “Have you had any thoughts of suicide?”
It was a relief to hear that, he hadn’t known what the doctor was going to ask. “No, I haven’t. Although…I must say I considered it…not suicide, but whether I was suicidal when I first started taking the St. John’s Wort. I think the website said something about going to a doctor straight away… I’ve never thought that my life was worthless…more what I do, day in day out. I likened it to boredom, because I don’t think I’ve ever been bored…”
Dr Grundy smiled. “You’re a lucky man. And that is good news. Right, treatment…”
“Oh, yes.” He smiled at being reminded to re-admit Nick. Gil hadn’t forgotten for one nanosecond that he was not beside him.
Nick came back in and saw that Gil had been crying and frowned. “I’m okay, honey. He wanted to know if it was your fault and whether I was suicidal.”
“Oh. You’re not are you?” Nick was suddenly panicked.
“No, I’m not and haven’t been.” Nick nodded at the confirmation and was relieved. “Dr Grundy was just about to discuss my treatment. The one thing I haven’t mentioned is you…your traumas.”
“Do you think they’re relevant?”
“I don’t know…”
“…what’s this?” The doctor interrupted.
Gil smiled at Nick and then looked at the doctor. “Not that long ago, Nick was abducted…from work…and buried in a casket underground and top of explosives. He was very nearly eaten alive by fire ants and we found him after his oxygen had run out…he…”
“…I saw it on the news. That was you?” The doctor was clearly astounded.
“…he’s also been stalked by a psychotic murderer, held at gunpoint by another murderer…”
“…I’ve had some lucky escapes.” Nick finished.
“That, doctor, is the crux of the matter. He’s never been depressed…he did have therapy…but he counts himself lucky to have survived, not unlucky to have been abducted in the first place.” Gil reached across for Nick’s hand. “We have discussed this and we came to the conclusion that my depression is not linked to the events in Nick’s life. But what do you think?”
“Well…” He sat back in his chair. “I suppose that is something that could only be determined if you have a course of therapy. At this stage I was going to use chemical intervention, see how you go. But I can refer you, if you want, to a good therapist.”
“No, at this stage, as you say, let’s try drugs.” He didn’t want to see a therapist.
“Okay. Right; as you probably know there are dozens of drugs that could be used, but I’d like to start with a tried and tested anti-depressant and see how we go. Your behaviour was not only depressive but became, as you said, obsessive, too, and this drug can be used for compulsive behaviours as well as depression, so let’s give it try. Cipralex. When did you have your last St.John’s Wort?”
“Three days ago.”
“You have to get the effects of that of your system so you can’t take these for another four days and then one a day in the morning.”
“I work shifts…”
“…I was coming to that. I want you to take time off work. Two weeks and then I’ll review it…”
“…but I haven’t stopped functioning at work. I’m okay.”
“I want you to rest. No work. Nothing. And as for you exercise; I’m going to charge Nick with allowing you to do some limited exercise. Walking is good for you. But I only want you to do short walks and no swimming.
“I want to see you again in two weeks. I realise you will have only taken the pills for a week and they can take four to six weeks to kick in…and since you didn’t respond to the herb, which is a good remedy, then we might have to change this drug. But let’s see how you get on. There are the standard warnings of side effects but they are mostly very mild and go away after a few days. But you will be tired, very tired. That’s why I want you to rest. Are you okay with that, Nick?” Gil had opened his mouth to reply so was surprised when it was Nick who was addressed.
Nick grinned. “Great.” He had the mandate from the doctor to take charge and he knew Gil knew that.
“Any questions?” Gil shook his head; he knew when he was beaten. “We’ll discuss the therapy issue when you come to visit again, two weeks today. So make the appointment on your way out. I think this is going to work, Gil. And I think Nick thinks that, too.” He laughed.
Gil relaxed back into his seat. “I know. I know. I’ve been stupid and ignored everything. Time to raise the white flag.”
“Yeah.” Nick added, still grinning.
Dr Grundy handed the prescription to Gil and then the three men stood simultaneously. The doctor walked around his desk and shook both of their hands and walked them to the door and into his waiting room. Three patients were waiting now, probably way past their appointed times. Gil made the appointment for two weeks and then the two of them left the building.
“That went well.” Nick threw his arm around Gil's shoulders. “You did good, babe.”
“It was hard to start off but when I got going…”
“…it all came tumbling out.”
“Yes, it did.”
“Nice doc. Good looking; is he gay?”
Gil looked askance. “I have no idea, why? Going to dump me and ask him out?” He was only half joking.
“Nah, man. Got myself a keeper. Hey, there’s a pharmacy, let’s get your ‘script.” He pointed to the end of the mall and they walked towards it Nick still holding onto Gil and Gil noticed that no one bothered.
When they were on their way home Gil suddenly thought of Ecklie and groaned.
“I’ve got to tell Conrad.”
“I was just thinking that. I can tell him.”
“Everyone’s going to know.”
“Are you worried about that?”
“No. Yes. I don’t know.”
“Good answer, no wavering.” Nick chuckled. “Look, I can tell Conrad; tell him you’re not up to speaking to him…and ask him to keep the diagnosis private. He can’t tell anyone without your permission, I don’t think.”
“I don’t mind the team knowing…it’s just everyone else…” Gil looked forlorn again.
“Hey, man, this is the first day of you getting better. “I’ll tell Conrad and I’ll tell the team…I’m not telling Sara though, I’m telling you that so you know.” He grinned again at Gil’s look. “Ask then to keep it quiet. You might be back at work in two weeks.”
“What can I say is wrong with me if people ask?”
“They won’t ask…the team will know and I don’t think anyone else will get in touch. Jim. You can tell Jim.”
“Yes, I can. Okay. I do need a stand-by excuse though, people will ask you.”
“Yeah, they might.” They both thought for a time and then Nick smiled. “Bad back. Jennings on days got away with his bad back for months. You’ve been doing all this exercise and hurt your back. Muscular.” Jennings, together with his bad back, was on his way out and they all knew that. The guy who couldn’t bend, or stand, or walk at work, had been filmed playing golf.
Gil smiled. “Pulled muscles in my back. Hope I don’t get the same press Jennings does.”
“It’ll be your first time…not the…millionth!” Nick laughed.
When they got back home Nick sent Gil out onto the deck to sit in the shade with a juice and the leaflet about the drug. Cipralex. He was going to call Conrad Ecklie. He took a deep breath and picked up the phone…
End of Part Nineteen
To give him his due, Ecklie was at first shocked and then supportive. Nick made it clear that Gil did want to work but that the doctor had forbidden it. He agreed to keep the diagnosis under wraps, at least for the time being. He agreed that back pain would be the official line and that Nick would tell the team what was really wrong. Nick also stated that he would not be telling Sara Sidle.
“There’s no way I want her thinking she stands a chance with Gil, because she will interpret the depression as a sign that we’re having problems.” Nick was emphatic and indignant and Ecklie laughed.
“That, Nick, is the gayest thing I’ve ever heard you say. Never been quite convinced about the two of you until now.” He laughed some more.
“Yeah, well, it’s the way it’s always been and always will be.”
“I believe you. I really do. Give my best to Gil and tell him if he needs anything to let me know. I won’t call unless he wants me to.”
Nick went out onto the deck with a beer and Gil was sitting with his eyes closed. “You asleep?”
“I won’t wake you then.”
“How was Conrad?”
“What does that mean?”
“Nothing, really. I thought he would have been pissed at me losing time…more time.”
“No, you’re sick. Look, Gil, you’re not indispensable…the lab functions in your absence…not at well, I’ll give you that or as smoothly, but we get by. This is your time…time to heal.”
“I know this is going to sound stupid, but I feel a lot better.”
“You will do…what do they say, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’?”
“They do. It must be right.” He thought for a moment or two. “What am I going to do for two weeks, Nick?”
“Nothing; and that’s an order.”
“What about some research and my articles…”
“…what is it about the word, nothing, do you not understand?”
“Nothing.” Gil smiled.
“Besides, I have plans.”
“Things you can do…not work things.”
“Like we’ve got a wedding to plan. You could look around the web and see where we could go…and…when and all that.”
Gil smiled. “I could do that.”
“I’ve got a couple of other things that I’ve thought about but I’ll see about them myself.” He tapped his nose and winked at Gil and Gil smiled. He really did feel better.
Before he went to work Nick looked through the vast collection of books that Gil had in his den…and picked out a volume and smiled…Gil could read that if he needed to read anything. When he gave it to Gil he gave him strict instructions not to switch on his laptop, to watch only mindless crap on the TV, read only the book that he’d selected for him, do a crossword, or sleep. He had no other options at all.
When he gave the book to Gil he’d looked at the title and smiled.
“Thank you. A very good choice.” He put the book on the coffee table for later…he would probably read some of it: ‘The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Volume One; The Comedies’.
At work that evening, Nick got lucky. It was Sara’s night off and he’d forgotten. Ecklie had told Catherine that she would be supervising for a couple of weeks while Gil took some sick leave, but left the reason blank. When Nick arrived she was waiting for him.
“Gil’s sick? He’s never sick. Ecklie didn’t say what’s wrong with him.” She was fishing without asking him directly.
“I know. Look, I’m going to tell the team…in assignments…but Gil is suffering from depression. He wanted to come to work, but the doc has said ‘no’.”
“Wow. I didn’t see that coming. He’s not been like…well...like Grissom for some time has he?”
“And he went off on that sabbatical and came back as fit as a fiddle…I thought he was about to resign if I’m honest with you.”
Wishful thinking, Nick thought, but said. “It crossed his mind…he didn’t know what was causing it and tried everything to get rid of it without visiting his doctor.”
“Typical Grissom. What about you? Are you okay? Did you think it was you?” Trust Catherine to get right in there and ask the question.
“Yeah, I did. He did. But it never was…we’re strong.”
“You are, I know that. Come on then, assignments.” She waved the slips at him and walked out of the office with Nick trailing behind her.
In the briefing room Nick, unusually, closed the door before he took a seat.
“What’s with the door? And where’s Grissoms?” Greg was straight in and Warrick gave him a, ‘who gives a fuck’, sideways look.
“Gil’s sick and Nick has something to tell you.” Catherine sat back and all eyes were on Nick.
“The official version is that Gil has hurt his back, exercising, and been told to rest for two weeks. What’s really wrong…and for now it’s just us four who know, and Ecklie, is that Gil has become depressed and has been ordered to have complete rest.”
Warrick emitted a low whistle. “Dude. That’s the last thing I expected to hear.”
“Yeah, is he going to be okay?” Greg wanted to know.
“I hope so. He’s been battling it for some months…”
“…trying to exercise and diet his way out of it?” Warrick guessed.
“You got that right. But he just couldn’t shake it off. So he’s got to take anti-depressants…and they can take time to kick in…and have complete rest. He doesn’t want the whole world to know…not yet anyway, we’ll see how it goes. He’s not ashamed or anything…it’s just broadsided him, is all…”
“Sure, I get that.” Warrick nodded. “Can we do anything to help?”
“I don’t think so, not at the moment…except. Look. Colour me paranoid…” He chuckled. “…but I don’t want Sara knowing. You know what she’s like with Grissom. Waiting for him to turn straight and throw me out…I just think she’ll take it the wrong way, think it’s me causing it or that we are going to split up. We’re not; we’re good.”
“You know what, Nick? That’s a good idea; because we’d end up having to listen to her going on about it.” Warrick knew the lay of the land. Greg nodded his agreement; he thought she wasn’t as bad nowadays as she had been when they’d first come out of the closet but any chance to get back onto her favourite hobby horse and she’d be there.
“Gil really does think I’m being paranoid and that’s she’s come to terms with it after all this time.” Nick was gratified when the three of them laughed. They knew. And then Greg remembered something else.
“Uh-uh. Gil’s going to be compared to Jennings isn’t he?” They all laughed some more.
“So, we’re one down, we’re splitting up. Okay?” Catherine bought them back down to earth.
Nick had a home invasion to deal with but the moment he was in his truck he called Gil.
“Honey? How did it go?” Gil sounded good to Nick.
“No problemo. Catherine’s happy to be back supervising and Warrick and Greg are good.”
“What about Sara?”
“Out tonight...and I meant what I said, I’m not telling her and neither are the others.”
“Okay, honey. Don’t get defensive, I understand.” He didn’t, Nick thought, but he wasn’t going to argue.
“Enough about work, what are you doing?”
“Watching re-runs of great games of the nineties.”
“Are you sure?”
“Make sure that’s all you do. Okay?”
“I will. I promise. What work have you got?”
“Home invasion. Just going now. I’ll check in at regular intervals.”
“I know you will. I love you, Nick.”
“Yeah, I know. Miss you, man.”
“Miss you too. See you in the morning.”
“Yeah. Bye.” And Nick ended the call and started his truck and for the next ten hours hardly had time to come up for breath. At least the time went quickly and when he got home Gil had cooked a meal for him. Organic, of course, and delicious. Afterwards they went for a walk, a couple of miles at a steady pace.
“You know, Nick, I enjoyed that walk far more than all the other walks I’ve been doing…because I didn’t have to do it, it was a pleasure and I was with you, of course.” They were drinking water out on their deck.
“That’s good. Maybe we could get some other pleasure now then?” Nick waggled his eyebrows at Gil.
“I’m pretty certain we can, yes.” He smiled and pulled Nick into his arms. “We can start right here and now. But just so you know…a possible side effect of Cipralex is erectile dysfunction, but then, my hands and mouth will not be incapacitated.”
Nick laughed and hugged Gil to him and in return was nearly squashed in his very strong arms.
End of Part Twenty
To Nick it seemed that Gil was more relaxed. But then Nick hardly had time to catch his breath he was so busy at work.
To Gil, himself, he seemed odd…inside himself he was sure he was more relaxed but there was something else and he couldn’t explain it or understand it. It was a physical feeling that his body was slowing down…when he lifted his hand and arm up to remove his glasses it was if he was moving someone’s else arm…it was detached. When he walked, around the house, it was if he was walking beside himself…there was two of him.
It wasn’t unpleasant or painful, just weird and made even weirder because when Nick was with him it didn’t happen. It was almost as if Nick was holding him together. He thought about it and decided that he was probably coming down from the St John’s Wort. That seemed a plausible explanation and although the herb had seemed ineffective it must have had some effect on his body after he took it for the eight or nine weeks.
He’d decided to stay on his shift with Nick…so that his morning was early evening, that way they could maximise their time together and if Gil could go back to work after two weeks he wouldn’t have to get used to a different sleeping pattern again.
So he took his first Cipralex tablet one late afternoon when they’d got up from bed. Gil insisting that they have sex, just in case he suffered immediate erectile dysfunction.
“Man! I don’t think it’ll kick in that quick!” Nick laughed.
“You never know…I think we need to make sure I have plenty of sex all the time so that I don’t miss out if I then can’t get it up…”
“…on the other hand that’s a good enough reason right there.” Nick laughed some more and hugged Gil. He was getting used to the bear hugs that very nearly suffocated him. But somehow they were comforting to him and made him feel grounded with Gil…and loved.
They had a little ceremony for the first tablet. Both chucking as Gil saluted it as the beginning of the end of The Fug. Neither man voiced their desire that they hoped it was…the end.
“I thought you said you’d got some things planned for us to do, Nick?”
“I’ve got one thing planned but that’s under wraps at the moment.” Gil had used the computer to look into a Civil Ceremony for them and had made a short list of ideas that they were going to go through on Nick’s next day off. “I still haven’t got my new laptop…you did promise…”
“…I did, I forgot. You want me to research which one?”
“Yeah, man, you can do that. Nothing else. Except…have a look at gym equipment…I thought we could make the little bedroom into a mini gym. So you could measure the room up and see what equipment would fit…nothing fancy…weights and a bench. Rowing machine? What do you think…have a look around…price it up.”
Gil was smiling; he could do these tasks and would enjoy it.
They ate their organic breakfast and set off on a walk…Nick found that it set him up for his shift, a little exercise and fresh air. He normally went to the gym after work, but maybe he should be doing it the other way round…although, he conceded, a walk was different from working out.
They did three miles and when they got home Nick showered and got ready for work while Gil made him his sandwiches. But it seemed to him that he was watching someone else’s hands do the sandwich making. It was odd. He’d see how it went and mention it to the doctor at his next visit…there was probably a simple explanation…but he wasn’t going to tell Nick, he didn’t want him to worry.
When the time came for Nick to leave for work, they made out by the front door before opening it. Nick thought that Gil was becoming more loving…maybe it was just that he had more time to give him hugs than before but it didn’t matter and he wasn’t going to complain…either way all he wanted was for Gil to get well and stay well.
After he’d gone to work Gil set about tidying up…there wasn’t much to do…and getting the food prepared for their dinner when Nick came in from work. He also measured their small bedroom…not that it was used as a bedroom, more of a storage facility for…rubbish. Gil decided that clearing it out would make a good project for him to undertake one of the nights. He had to admit that he was happy to be at home. As much as it had annoyed him that Dr Grundy had made his stay off work he now realised that he did need to be separated from it…if only for a short time.
He fired up his laptop and started some research for a new laptop for Nick. It was a bit of a futile exercise. Every one had something to recommend it and every one had its detractors. After about an hour he decided to tell Nick to go with an updated model of the one he’d already got…it was no worse or better than any other model.
Gil was just about to start on gym equipment when he yawned…a real jaw splitting yawn. He smiled to himself…that would the Cipralex…he didn’t know what to expect because two of the side effects were insomnia and somnolence. Opposite ends of the spectrum; but he’d rather it was he was drowsy and sleepy than unable to sleep.
He decided to lie down on the couch. The long leather couch was very comfortable and fitted him perfectly. He wasn’t cold so just lay down in his jeans and sweat shirt. It was a real indulgence sleeping during the day…although it was night time it was his day. He smiled as he wriggled himself into a more comfortable position and immediately fell asleep.
At work, Nick and the rest of the team had yet another multiple homicide and they went off to the scene. Nick was processing the bedroom when his cell rang with Gil’s alert; he stood up and pulled it from his Kevlar.
“Hey, babe? How ya’ doin’.” He drawled out to Gil.
They was no immediate response but Nick could hear Gil breathing…as if he’d done some strenuous exercise.
“Babe? Gil? What’s wrong? Gil, speak to me…” Nick had gone from calm to panicked in an instance…
Gil was trying to speak but the words were jumbled up in his head and he was frightened…really frightened… The sound of Nick’s voice was helping him and with a monumental effort he spoke…
“Please come home…please…” His voice didn’t even sound like his own as he begged Nick but he heard Nick respond.
“I’m on my way, now, I’m on my way. I’ll leave the phone on…” But Gil had ended the call. Nick flew down the stairs two at a time; Catherine was with Greg at the bottom of the stairs.
“Hey, careful Nicky…what’s wrong?”
“Sorry…got to go…there’s something wrong with Gil…” He was speaking as he was leaving. “…I’ve left all my kit in the bedroom.”
“Don’t worry…go.” Catherine spoke to his back and she and Greg watched as Nick ran to his truck and unlocked it as he approached, jumped in and skidded off…a few moments later they heard the sound of his siren. He meant business.
End of Part Twenty-one
Nick was panic stricken and as he’d met traffic on the main highway he’d had no second thoughts about using his siren…it was clearing the road ahead for him and he sailed through way faster than he should have been driving but he had to get home. Normally the journey would take about twenty-five minutes…
In fifteen minutes he screeched up onto the drive way, threw the truck into park and jumped out without turning off the engine…his headlights were still on and the driver’s door wide open but he only took two or three steps and stopped and looked, shocked.
The house was lit up like the strip…every light in the house appeared to be on. He then realised that he couldn’t get into the house without his keys so turned back and ran back to the truck and turned off the lights, took his keys and slammed his door shut…but when he turned around the front door was open.
He shouted. “Gil? I’m here. I’m here, babe.” And as he finished shouting he was at the door.
He stopped and looked inside and Gil was standing with his back to the wall and had his service gun in his hand…properly pointing it down to the floor.
“Babe, it’s me, it’s okay now, I’m here. What’s happened?” His immediate thought was home invasion and his put his hand on his own gun on his hip.
Gil was breathing heavily…maybe hyperventilating, Nick thought. He didn’t appear to be injured.
“Has someone been in here, Gil, is that what it is?” He was speaking slowly and calmly but his mouth was dry, his heart was pounding in his chest and his gut was clenching.
“I don’t know…I don’t know…” Gil whispered and then he started to slide down the wall and started to cry. He had the presence of mind to put down his gun next to him.
Nick almost leaped at him…falling to his knees and grabbing hold of him and pulling him to him. He sighed in relief. For one moment he’d thought that Gil was going to shoot him or himself…or both of them.
He kept murmuring to Gil. “It’s okay, babe, it’s okay, I’m here, I won’t let anyone hurt you.” But he felt sick to his stomach. Was this a psychotic break? He’d heard about them.
Gil sobbed for a few minutes and then pulled back and looked at Nick. “Sorry…I don’t know what happened.”
“Hey. It’s okay…”
“…it isn’t okay…I got my gun out…that’s not okay.” He pulled back further and leaned on the wall…he saw his gun and picked it up to look at it. “I put the magazine in but I didn’t take off the safety…I suppose that is something.” He looked at Nick and gave him a wan smile. “You must be worried sick.”
“I was…but you seem okay now…”
“…I feel okay…now. Come on, pull me up, I need a piss and a drink…” He put his gun down again.
Nick held out his hands and pulled as Gil levered himself up…it was an easy manoeuvre since he’d lost his weight and was fitter. He got to his feet and picked up his gun and released the magazine.
“What do you want to drink? A brandy?” Nick asked; he was confused because Gil seemed absolutely fine now.
“I wish. No, coffee will have to do…I’m taking the Cipralex now…and…l think I know what wrong with me.” He added and smiled. “I bet I know what that was. I’ll go piss and turn out all the lights, you put on the coffee machine? Okay?”
“Yeah.” Nick was even more confused. He went to the kitchen and started a fresh coffee pot and watched as it gradually filled up. Gil came back in and looked a lot better. He put his arms around Nick from the back.
“That frightened the crap out of me…I can tell you…but look, here it is…” He held out a leaflet…the one that had come with his Cipralex tablets.
Nick took it and read it through, quickly; he’d done it before but had paid little attention to the listed side effects.
“What happened? Can you remember?” He asked Gil.
“I remember quite clearly.” He smiled and nodded towards the coffee machine. “A fresh coffee and I’ll tell you what happened.”
They sat at the kitchen table nursing their hot drinks.
“I was researching the laptops, and I think you’re going to be best going for an updated model of…”
“Gil! Babe, get to the relevant bit, please?” He smiled.
“Okay, I will.” He smiled back. “I was going to research the gym equipment but I started to become very tired and thought that was good, because as you can see, it says I could have insomnia or somnolence…so I remember thinking I was better off with somnolence…”
“…Gil? You’re killing me, here.” Nick was getting exasperated.
“Sorry…but I’m getting there. I thought I’d settle of the couch for a nap and that’s what I did…I must have slept immediately…but then… I woke up suddenly and it was odd… The usual three lamps were on in the living room but as I woke up I could have sworn I could see shadows moving…someone or something moving in the shadows. I called out your name but there was nothing, of course.
“And then I became confused about what I could see and what I couldn’t see…was it someone in the shadows? I got very nervous, very quickly, and panicky and decided that I’d better get my gun. I got it from the drawer in the den and went around the house switching on all the lights…then it all became blurred and I had no idea what on earth I was doing…and that’s when I called you. That was good, I think, remembering to call you?” He smiled at Nick.
Nick nodded. “Yeah, man, it was good.” He wasn’t going to mention that he’d never been as scared in his life as he was as he’d driven home like a maniac.
“Then I just waited for you but the longer I waited the more ridiculous it became…I must have realised that I was having some kind of…I didn’t know what at the time…I was worried it was a psychotic episode or something…but then you arrived and I was never so relieved in my life.
“It was while I wept that I remembered reading about this and knew what it was. What I’ve described fits exactly with some of the side effects. Nervousness and confusion; even visual disturbances. It’s all there and I think that’s exactly what was going on with me.”
“I can see…but I don’t think you should be like that should you?”
“I don’t know…I don’t think so…but it was my first tablet and my system is probably just getting used to the drugs. Do you think I should call the doc…”
“…I think you fucking should! Before we’re both in the hospital with suspected heart attacks…”
“…there is that.” Gil chuckled. “I feel fine now, really. What did you tell Catherine?”
“Oh shit, I didn’t tell her anything but I’d better get back to work. I’ll call her.”
He got out his cell and called Catherine.
“Is everything okay, Nick?” She asked immediately.
“It is now. We think he had an adverse reaction to his new drug…I can come back to the scene.”
“That’s a relief, I was worried. No, Greg’s gone back to the lab with your evidence and your kit so make your way there…are you sure you’re okay to go?”
“I’m sure. Thanks, Catherine.” He ended the call. “I’m going to the lab, are you sure you’re okay?”
“I’m fine. I promise.”
“We’ll call the doc in the morning.”
“Okay. I’m pretty certain he’ll say to keep taking them…I may not have another…episode.”
“Yeah, whatever, we’re still calling.”
“I agree. I’m sorry to have…”
“…hey, don’t be…you did the right thing.”
Nick left Gil a few minutes later; he wasn’t absolutely convinced that he was okay, but he had to take his word for it.
When he eventually got home again Gil had made another sumptuous dinner for Nick and assured him that the rest of the night had been spent watching TV and researching gym equipment. He felt okay…in fact he said he felt quite good.
Nick called the doctor and Gil was able to speak to him between patients. He explained what had happened and as he had predicted the doctor said to continue to take the tablets but stop and contact him again if he had another adverse reaction. The doctor fully expected that he would not experience anything like that again. Such reactions were one-offs.
“I hope he’s right…my health and temper are depending on it.”
“I’ll be fine…I know it. Walk? Sex?”
“I don’t think we should have sex while we’re out walking…exhibitionism wasn’t on the list of side effects was it?”
They chuckled as they got ready to go for a walk. Gil did feel quite a lot better…but there was no way the tablet s could be that effective that quick…was there?
End of Part Twenty-two
For the next few days Nick lived his life on the brink…every time his cell as much as bleeped, he jumped. Gil, on the other hand, was quite definitely better and didn’t have another…episode, attack, side effect…or whatever he liked to call it. He also noted that the odd feelings he’d been having…as if his body parts were disassociated from the rest of him…had gradually subsided and had now gone completely.
The only difference Gil noticed was that he was almost permanently tired and ready to sleep. He lay down on the couch almost as soon as Nick had gone to work and slept and napped for most of the night and still slept soundly when he was in bed beside Nick. Since bed with Nick was always preceded with sex in some shape or form…that obviously helped him sleep. He was pleased there had been no indication at all that he was suffering, so far, from erectile dysfunction.
He’d taken five tablets in all and today was Nick’s day off. They slept in for an hour…which was unusual…but when they got up Nick announced his plan for the day.
Breakfast and then down into Vegas and the New York, New York, hotel and resort and the rollercoaster. Gil was almost ecstatic. He was going stir crazy, he said. He‘d only been out of the house to go on walks with Nick.
“Excuse me, Gilbert, in view of your little episode the other night I don’t want you using the word crazy, in my earshot.”
Gil laughed and agreed. “I can see your point. Maybe I just need a change of scenery. I never thought about the rollercoaster…can we ride it twice?”
“Don’t push your luck, sunshine.” Nick wasn’t that keen on being flung upside down several times at God knows what speed.
“Aww…where’s your spirit of adventure young Nicholas?” Gil laughed some more.
“My spirit’s just fine without having it flung around…but you can ride it twice, I’ll let you.” He smiled and hugged Gil. “How about we stay in town, maybe play a game or two…eat out?”
“I would like that. What if someone sees me with my bad back?”
“Let ‘em video you and send it to Ecklie.”
“When we get back, if I can stay awake, we must look at the wedding information I downloaded. I want to make an honest man of you.”
“Okay…that’s the plan…maybe we could have a go on the tables.”
“You?” Gil sounded incredulous and Nick looked hurt. “Sorry…but you’re not a gambler…admit it?”
“Nah…I can hang around you and beat the ladies away.” He chuckled.
“That’s very generous of you. Do you know…I know we’ve only just had breakfast…but I could eat sushi…I haven’t had any for months…longer even.”
“It’s a deal. I think there’s a bar at the Bellagio. We can use their parking garage and walk up to the New York.”
“Should that be MacDuff?”
“No, Nick.” Gil smirked, he knew very well that Nick knew it was the wrong quote.
They had a good time in town and they did ride the rollercoaster twice before going back for sushi…but by the time they sat down Gil was so tired he could hardly keep awake, so they just had a few tasters from the bar and called time. No gambling.
When they got in, Gil toed off his shoes and dropped onto the couch, quite unceremoniously.
“Will you sleep there?”
“Definitely, and what’s more you can have on the TV as loud as you want…I promise you it will not disturb me at all.”
“Okay. But where’s the wedding info’, I’ll look at that first?”
“On the desk in the den.” Gil yawned and Nick followed suit. “You tired too?”
“Yeah…but I’m not going to sleep…ruin my pattern.”
He left Gil and found the papers he’d printed off and Nick read through them and as he looked at where they could go, he had an idea….and wondered if Gil would agree.
He did some work on his laptop and also looked at newer laptop models…Gil had said that if he was happy with his old laptop then the best thing would be to just have an upgraded model. He was pleased with the work he’d been able to do with old one…and it was getting on for three years old so in computer terms it was a dinosaur. So he made a decision about that too. He spent three hours in the den doing some work on a paper he was writing and then he heard Gil moving around.
He went out and Gil was climbing the stairs. “You okay?”
“Still tired, but I need to pee.”
“You want a drink or anything to eat?”
“I’m not hungry but an herbal tea would be good.”
“Thanks.” Nick thought Gil did sound very tired but as he said he hadn’t been out of the house except for walks for over a week. But he did need a change of scenery. Nick watched him climb out of sight and thought that he hadn’t had any in depth talks with Gil about how he felt now. He certainly wasn’t his normal self, but he did seem better. More relaxed, but then that was probably because he didn’t have to work…good idea of the doc’s.
Nick went into the kitchen and waited for the kettle to boil. Gil came up behind him and hugged him.
Nick turned in Gil's arms and faced him. “Love you right back, man. Babe?”
“That’s an ominous sounding, babe.”
“No, man. We haven’t talked about how you’re feeling…whether you feel any better…worse?”
“Do we normally talk about our feelings?”
Nick chuckled. “No, we don’t, you’re right…but these are exceptional times…don’t you think.”
“I suppose they are. I do feel better…but some part of me thinks that’s because I’m at home…no work pressure…no pressure at all, really. Because I have you. But sometimes I’ll sit down at the kitchen table or on the couch or the deck and suddenly I feel panicky…as if I’m not any better and I’m not going to get any better. Then I berate myself…I haven’t even been on the tablets for a week yet.”
“I think you are better…but I wondered if it was because you are off work…the doc wanted it and he was right.”
“You would tell me if you felt any worse wouldn’t you? No trying to hide it or pretend it’s the male menopause?”
“Never again. I promise to confront it and get better for you. I have given some thought to whether or not your traumas have influenced me…whether I should seek therapy.”
“I don’t think they are. I don’t, I can’t, associate any of your traumas with my depression; it’s as if it’s of my own making…everything in my life was off kilter…and of course, I was trying to label it…desperately trying to seek a reason…and…”
“…there is no reason?”
“I don’t think there is…I’ve just got depressed like millions of other Americans. A sign of the times maybe, I don’t know. It just is…” Gil stopped.
“Nothing. It just is.”
“Yeah…I get it.”
They stayed hugging for some minutes, in silence. Comfortable and safe. Gil looked at Nick and smiled.
“Did you look at the weddings?”
“Yeah, I did. I have an idea…if you don’t like it say so. But you know our bucket list?”
“Yes. With China at the top.”
“That’s it…we have all these great places that we plan to visit. I thought we could just get married and then maybe use China as the official honeymoon.”
“I think I know what you’re going to say…just slip away for a weekend, maybe, to marry and then save the honeymoon?”
“Yeah…that’s what I thought…and you?” Nick grinned.
“I thought New York. We can fill in the forms on-line, we have to go and register the wedding but there’s no residency test, then wait twenty four hours and then we can get married. We could even get a package with it all arranged. If you have a long weekend off…your next one…even?” Gil smiled. “We could fly out on a Thursday night, register Friday, marry Saturday and home Sunday.”
“That sounds like a plan, a great plan.”
“Shall I check it all out see what we have to do? You’d just need one extra day off and if I’m still on sick leave…”
“…you have thought it through.” Nick was grinning from ear to ear.
“I guess I have. Catherine would give you an extra day off wouldn’t she? To get married?”
“I think she probably would. Wooohooo, man.” Nick let go of Gil and did a little happy dance in the kitchen.
“A good idea then?”
“The best, the best.”
“Nick? I do feel better you know. But I have to go to sleep…did you make my tea?”
End of Part Twenty–three
Catherine was an absolute pushover, much to Nick’s surprise, and he got his extra day, but at a price; he had to forfeit a day off the week before. But Nick was convinced that she thought Gil wouldn’t come back and the job would be hers…but Gil would come back, Nick was sure. Whether he stayed or not…that was another matter.
It gave them two weeks to plan it all…but there was nothing to plan, except getting someone to arrange it all for them. They would still have to appear in person and wait in line to register so there was no way they could speed up that part of the process, except by completing the forms on-line and getting a registration number. Gil contacted a wedding planner, who, despite the short notice, would arrange a hotel and a judge to marry them, at the hotel, on the Saturday. The planner would be their witness. They had to pay extra for the privilege but it was worth it and as weddings go it wasn’t that expensive.
It took Gil three days of a few phone calls and e-mails and completing, as far as possible, the on-line registration forms…together with a fair number of naps to replenish his batteries as he went along. And the flights were booked, flying out from McCarran to JFK on Thursday morning and back home on Sunday morning.
Nick and a half-comatose Gil managed to get to the forum shops. Gil didn’t complain; he knew it needed to be done but it did exhaust him and because it needed to be done so quickly it couldn’t be put off until another day, or week…they were getting married in less than two weeks’ time. They found matching wedding bands. Just extremely plain, thin, gold bands; nothing ostentatious but they had to have them altered to fit. They were going to take their ‘court’ suits to wear, but then they discovered Gil's was way too big so he had to have a new suit and dress shirt and they bought each other a new tie…though Nick did have the final say over Gil's choice of tie for him.
The doctor’s visit came around the day after all the wedding planning was completed and Gil was actually hoping for another two weeks off work which would suit their wedding plans. He didn’t have to ask…the doctor asked for a detailed account of how Gil had been. Gil told him about the tiredness; (although he did omit that he had been busy planning their wedding and that had left him really exhausted for three days) and also, to Nick’s surprise, he detailed the physical feelings he’d had in his limbs…of them not belonging to him when he was moving them.
This surprised Dr Grundy who asked a few more questions about it and then he decided that it could have been the residual effects of stopping taking the St John’s Wort. But if they did start up again Gil was to come straight back to his office. Gil thought that was a probable reason and agreed that he would come back to see him of it happened again, but he just didn’t think it would. He looked at Nick and knew he would get a grilling about it when they left the doctor’s office.
The doctor admitted that the tiredness was a very common side effect and that Gil should take a further two weeks off work. Both men smiled, knowingly, at each other and the doctor looked at them and frowned.
“You’re plotting something?”
“We are. We’re flying to New York the weekend after next to get married.”
“Congratulations. Happy to be of some help.”
Gil was right about the grilling. “Why didn’t you tell me?” Nick asked as soon as they walked out of the office suite.
“I didn’t want to worry you any more than I had done. It was just an odd feeling here and there.”
“For fuck’s sake Gilbert Grissom, you’re supposed to be telling me everything aren’t you?” Gil was taken aback at Nick’s anger, and decided there and then to retreat and apologise.
“I’m very sorry, you’re right, I should have told you. I won’t keep anything from you again.”
“How do I know…if you didn’t tell me about this…how do I know you won’t be keeping other secrets from me?”
Gil thought for a moment or two. Nick was right. “You won’t know…except that you have my absolute assurance that I will tell you everything from now on…that was the only thing I didn’t tell you and it did wear off after three of four days.”
“Will you promise faithfully?”
“You’d better…’cause we’re not married yet…” Nick was still angry.
“…I promise, Nick. I really do.” Gil was shocked at Nick’s manner.
“Make sure you do, man, or we could be having a short marriage and a long divorce.”
Gil stood still, reeling from what Nick had said. Nick looked at him and immediately regretted his words…on the other hand it did look as if Gil had learned a valuable lesson…and not a day too soon.
“Okay. Let’s go pick up the rings…see if they fit.” Nick smiled and slung an arm around Gil's shoulders, sure that his words had sunk home.
“They should fit…I won’t ever keep secrets again, I do promise.”
“You can keep some secrets…like what you’re buying me for my birthday, or for Christmas…but that’s about it.”
At work Nick was on a high. The doc was very pleased with Gil and he’d shocked Gil into promising there’d be no more secrets and, of course, he was very pleased that they would be married in less than two weeks. Sara noticed when they were handed their assignments.
“You’re in a good mood.”
“That would be in the affirmative.”
“Go on then, share.” She laughed.
“Gil and I are getting married on the tenth. In New York.” Sara stopped laughing but Warrick and Greg both chatted at once congratulating him and wanting details.
“But how is Grissom going to be able to fly with his bad back?” Sara wasn’t letting go that easily.
“He hasn’t got a bad back. That was a smokescreen. He’s been suffering from depression and is on medication. Doc said he’d got to rest…no work…but it’s okay to get married.” Nick added with a grin. He didn’t care if she knew now; not when he had the news that they were getting hitched.
“Why was it a secret? It’s nothing to be ashamed about.”
“No, it isn’t, you’re right. He just wanted some privacy, is all.”
“Should he be making decisions about his future while he’s presumably on medication?” Nick actually thought that was a valid point.
“We’ve been planning to get married for some time…” He lied easily, although it was a half-truth, really. “…but the opportunity arose to do it now…so we took it.”
“Oh.” Finally, Sara had run out of questions but she didn’t look happy.
“Are your family going?” Catherine wanted to know. Nick stopped and looked at her. Shit. He hadn’t spoken to his parents…they didn’t know.
“No, it’s only going to be quick. Fly in, register, marry, fly out. We’ll maybe go to a family get together later in the year. He made a mental note to call them as soon as he got home. How could he forget?
When he got in his truck to go to a suspicious fire, he called Gil.
“Hey babe? Did I wake you?”
“Not quite…just watching the news, but I was starting to get real drowsy.”
“You’ll never guess what I’ve forgotten to do?”
“I don’t know.”
“Aren’t you going to guess?”
“You said I’d never guess.”
“Oh, yeah, okay.” He’d forgotten, (how could he forget that, too) that Gil was almost always literal. “I haven’t told the family about us.”
“Will that cause any problems?”
“No, I don’t think so. But I’ll call them when I get in. You go to sleep now and have sweet dreams.”
“I will, love you, take care, honey.”
“Love you right back.”
Nick didn’t think it would be a problem and it wasn’t. They weren’t really that close any more. All but one of his six siblings were scattered all over. From Hawaii to Florida and one in London. They tried to meet up once a year and it worked quite well. The Stokes’ family in their entirety weren’t that family orientated…it was work first, then work second and finally work came in third, too.
That out of the way it was plain sailing to the wedding.
Gil felt well. As the week progressed he was less tired but he was having trouble with his appetite. He told Nick immediately that he’d stopped feeling hungry and that it seemed a chore to eat…even his beloved organic food. They consulted the trusted leaflet and there is was…loss of appetite…among the side effects.
“As long as you can manage something each meal time, you should be okay. I’ll get you some Ensures…if you drink one of those each day you’ll be covered.” Nick was remaining calm for the present...no unnecessary panicking just yet...but then it could be managed, he was sure.
“I will. Got a wedding coming up, can’t afford to be too skinny.” He chuckled and added. “I don’t think I’ll ever be skinny.”
“Not with those muscles…perhaps a little more exercise would help…and I’m only talking a little more walking…try and build up an appetite.”
“It’s worth a try.”
They decided to walk to the mall and back…about five miles…and buy some Ensures. They took water and a back pack and walked steadily, and in mostly companionable silence towards the mall. Nick broke the silence.
“How you doing with the fug?”
Gil hesitated. “I don’t really want to talk about it…”
“…Gilll…” Nick whined but Gil interrupted him.
“…because it is definitely better.” He smiled. “I don’t want to tempt fate. I’m not like myself yet…if you understand…but I can see glimpses of my old self. But I am worried.”
“Worried about what? It’s good news?”
“Simply because it is good news. I never expected to reap the benefits of the drug so quickly.”
“Could it be that the herb…St John’s Wort…kind of set you on the right road…it didn’t work per se, but it started off the process, say…”
“…that’s my conclusion, too. But it is early days and there could be set backs, so I don’t want to be overly optimistic.”
“Being optimistic at all, isn’t that a good sign?”
“Yes, I never looked at it that way, but you’re right.”
“Well, I’ve got to tell you, Dr Grissom, that you’re going to start having to credit me with being right…most…if not all of the time.”
Gil laughed. “I do, Nick, believe me, I do. I gave up a long time ago thinking that I could get one over on you.” He laughed some more.
“Man, that’s good. Just remember, is all.”
“I promise.” And Gil took hold of Nick’s hand and they walked on, hand in hand.
When they got home, Gil was tired but Nick made him a small omelette and he ate all of it with a slice of toast. He had an Ensure for dessert.
Nick had one day off the week before they were going to New York. He told Gil to get plenty of rest before he got home…because they were going out…but he wouldn’t say where and Gil got ridiculously excited about the prospect of going out for some kind of treat. He really was going stir crazy he’d done nothing…after riding the rollercoaster and then the flurry of activity planning their nuptials.
When Nick got in, he showered and dressed in old jeans and a tee short and leather jacket. He told Gil to dress the same. He didn’t have a leather jacket but he had a warm windcheater that Nick said would do. Nick also made him go into the kitchen and close the door while he took something out to the truck. To say that Gil was itching to know what was going on was an understatement.
After what seemed an age, but was only a few minutes, Nick came in for him and told him they were off…he really hadn’t been so excited about something for a long time…maybe he was getting better. Enthusiasm had been sadly lacking in his life…and it was making a comeback!
They made their way west out of Vegas and as they drove on for some miles Gil had to ask.
“Are we heading for Spring Mountains?”
“Yeah, we are.”
“What are we going to be doing out there? I haven’t packed a lunch...a picnic.”
“Won’t need one…meals are provided.”
Nick hooted. “No way, Jose…you’ve got to wait.”
Gil was getting impatient and started fiddling. First with the radio, then with the electric windows and then checking the glove box.
All Nick did was chuckle….which infuriated Gil even further. Then Gil saw a sign and pointed at it. “Really? Is that it?” He grinned.
Nick laughed and Gil repeated himself but Nick didn’t speak until he made a right turn onto a track that led to their destination…
End of Part Twenty-four
The sign said ‘Horse Riding! Next Turn Right! Take the trails - enjoy the freedom of being on horseback!’
“Are we going riding? Really?”
“We are…I brought my boots and your work boots…they should be okay. I remember you said you rode quite a bit when you were teenager…so I asked them for an old nag!”
“You didn’t…I won’t be that bad. It’s like riding a bicycle isn’t it?”
“I guess. No wheels, or handlebars, or brakes, though.” Nick grinned as he pulled up in a parking lot. “You think you’ll be okay?”
“More than…Nick, honey, this is great. Thank you.”
They booked in and had to sign some stuff about waivers for injury and book their lunch for when they returned. They both chose homemade chili and then they were being introduced to their rides. Both mares, a chestnut with honey coloured mane and tail and called, coincidentally, Honey; and a dappled grey called Maggie. Nick took Honey and Gil, Maggie.
As Gil stood at the side of Maggie, Nick spoke. “Do you need a hand up?”
“I don’t know…let’s see.” He took the reins, grabbed the saddle and hauled himself aboard…not quite as smoothly as he’d intended but well enough and he smirked at Nick. “Now I just need to find the pedals.”
“Man, you think you’re so funny.” Nick laughed and he did mount Honey smoothly and efficiently and he saluted Gil by dipping the Stetson he’d bought along. It’d been a couple of years since he’d worn it but it felt like yesterday.
“I wish I had one.” Gil sounded jealous.
“You could get one…the shop sells them.”
“No, I’m okay; I’ll see if we come again. My baseball cap will be fine…do I start with a yeehaw?”
“You can, but wait until I’m some distance from you so people won’t know we’re together.”
Gil laughed and they set off in unison. Nick felt comfortable and Gil felt better than he had for a very long time.
They made a steady pace and took in the views and stopped a couple of times. Just over two hours later they were back in the compound. Nick jumped down and handed the reins of Honey to the stable hand and Gil did the same with Maggie.
“My ass is numb and I think my balls are bruised.”
“Wait ‘til you get the feeling back in your backside!” He laughed. “But I could kiss your balls better…if you want?”
“Here and now?”
“Later…maybe we could stop off road?” Nick winked and Gil swallowed.
They stayed for their lunch and enjoyed the eye-wateringly hot chili. As they ate their ice cream dessert…designed to cool their mouths, Nick reckoned, Gil smiled at Nick.
“I’m going to say that this has been your wedding present to me…it’s been one of the best days I can remember having for a long time. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. I hadn’t thought about wedding presents at all. So what are you getting for me?”
Gil laughed…Nick noted that he’d laughed more today than he had since Nick couldn’t remember when. “What do you want?”
“You. Cured. Is all.”
Gil, suddenly serious, nodded. “I’m getting there…I really believe I’m getting there.”
“I know you are.”
“Do you think a blow job after eating that chili might burn our dicks?” Gil asked, seriously.
Nick frowned. “It could, I bet…even after this ice cream.” But then he grinned. “You willing to chance it?”
“Need you ask?”
On the way back home they found a track leading up into the foothills of the mountains. Nick drove along it for about a mile…it was deserted. He found another track leading off it…it looked unused, so he reversed the truck about twenty yards down it.
“I think so. Back seat?”
They jumped out and then back into the truck like a pair of naughty boys and laughed and hugged and then started kissing and groping and it wasn’t long before Nick was bent over Gil’s lap, lapping at his released and leaking dick.
After Gil had returned the compliment, they sat back regaining their breath when Gil spoke.
“My dick isn’t burning. What about yours?”
“Does burning with desire count?”
“That’s lame, Nick. And I thought I’d just dampened the fire for at least a few minutes.”
Nick chuckled and agreed and added that he wasn’t suffering from burning dick syndrome.
When they got home, they had showers and went straight to bed. Both men slept solidly for ten hours.
Gil seemed to feel better each day and was sleeping less; he really thought he was ready to return to work. Nick was playing it cool and said that that decision was the doc’s decision and Gil was forced to agree.
The day they were flying out to New York nearly ended in disaster. Nick was kept at work dealing with a murder, no one’s fault really; he couldn’t just up and leave, though Catherine did take over in the end. He showered at work and wore the clothes he kept in his locker for emergencies and Gil took their luggage to McCarron in a taxi. They made it by the skin of their teeth.
It was a good flight. Gil read and Nick slept. Transfer was by limo, booked by the wedding planner, and they had a great suite at the hotel...with fresh flowers, fruit and a bottle of champagne. They showered and rested and then went out for a meal and wandered around Broadway for a little while, but they had to be up early the next day to get to the Manhattan City Clerk’s office to get their marriage license. They could be in line for most of the day and fail to get a license, so it was imperative to be there early.
So after a great breakfast in their room, showers and a quick hand job each they were there an hour before the office opened and were relieved to find that they were sixth in line. It still took them a couple of hours to get it all done despite the on-line forms being all in order and possessing every piece of information and identification required.
When they came out into a sunny day in New York City, Gil held an envelope in which was their wedding license.
“I’m nervous, can we take it back to the hotel.” Gil looked around pretending to be furtive.
Nick laughed. “Good thinking. I want to check out the room where we’re getting married.”
“I should have thought to do that yesterday.”
It was a reasonably small room, often used for intimate ceremonies. Tastefully decorated with oak furniture and leather chairs. The concierge said that fresh flowers would be put out for the ceremony. Everything was going well...but neither man said a word about it for fear of jinxing their day.
They got tickets for an off-Broadway play and had a Chinese meal beforehand and walked back to their hotel, happy and relaxed.
They were marrying at midday. So they decided that they would have a leisurely breakfast, get married, and then change their clothes and see where their feet took them.
That’s what they did. The Judge was a pleasant elderly gentleman. The wedding planner was a middle aged woman, beautifully dressed. The flowers were intoxicating with their scent and there was a photographer who took several pertinent photographs that would be delivered to the hotel, he said, by six that evening. It was low key. It was perfect for what they wanted.
They thanked the wedding planner and tipped her quite generously…since she’d done exactly what they had requested. She reminded them that the limousine would be there to take them to JFK at ten thirty in the morning. She wished them a happy life together…and it was over.
They changed and couldn’t resist making love. They were, after all, married. So it was legal.
After the breakfast they’d eaten they weren’t hungry so decided to get some exercise. Central Park in the afternoon; maybe a concert to listen to, or a play. They actually listened to a brass band for half an hour and started to walk back to their hotel. They passed a hot dog stand that had quite a number of people waiting in line.
“They smell good. A New York dog?”
“A suitable wedding feast I think.” Gil agreed and so they had one each with all the trimmings...and then found a bench where they could eat them and savour each bite!
Nick took a huge chunk out of his and half-way through chewing it spoke… “You reckon it’s organic?”
Gil nodded enthusiastically. “Absolutely.”
The journey back to Las Vegas was just as uneventful; they did had to search for Nick’s truck since he’d forgotten, in his rush to get to the check-in, where it was parked. When they got home Nick went to put on the coffee machine straight away. When he came out of the kitchen a few moments later, Gil was looking through their mail.
“Babe?” Gil looked and smiled. “Do you feel any different?”
“Yes, I do. I feel married. And better than I’ve done in months…and then some.”
“Yeah. Yeah. I feel married. You look good. Real good. You’ve really knocked the fugging fuck on the…” He stopped and laughed. “…the fucking fug, on the head.” He finished.
Gil laughed. “Fugging fuck sounds good to me. Hey, a cheque from the insurance company for the doctor and the Cipralex. That was quick. And while I think about it, let’s order your new laptop…did you decide?”
“And the gym equipment. I’ve bookmarked a few pages, see what you think.”
At that moment for whatever reason, Nick felt really optimistic about their future. About Gil's health and about their marriage.
End of Part Twenty-five
When Nick went into work on the Monday night after their wedding, Catherine hugged him as did Wendy and Mandy. Greg and Warrick and most of the other lab rats shook his hand in congratulations. Sara was nowhere to be seen.
“Tell us what it was like.” Catherine demanded.
“Well we flew to New York, booked into a hotel…had dinner…”
“…Nick. The wedding. What was the wedding like?”
“The wedding? Well there was a judge and the witness…oh, and a photographer.”
“Great, you’ve got photographs? Where are they?”
“Nick, you’re as clueless as Grissom, you’ve lived with him for too long.” She was exasperated.
They all laughed as Sara came into the room. She didn’t say anything but Nick decided he could yank her chain.
“I’m going to be Nick Grissom from now on.” He announced.
Warrick and Greg appeared to be flabbergasted. Catherine‘s mouth dropped open and Sara just stood still staring at him.
“You’re joking, man.” It was Warrick who called it.
“Yeah, I am…but I got y’all.” He drawled and chuckled.
Sara just sat down on the chair, heavily. Nick thought that maybe she’d just, in that very moment, realised that Gil was never going to be hers…
The appointment with Dr Grundy was for ten in the morning of the Tuesday after their marriage. Gil was prepared to ask to go back to work. Nick thought he should see what the doctor said. But it was apparent to both men that Gil was very much better.
“So how did the wedding go?” Dr Grundy asked as he shook Gil’s and then Nick’s hand.
“Very well, thank you.” Gil answered and Nick just grinned.
“And how are you feeling?”
“A lot better. I am surprised, because the St John’s Wort didn’t work and I don’t mind admitting that I was pessimistic about the Cipralex. And I think it has worked very well and very quickly.”
“There are no hard and fast rules. Maybe the St John’s Wort did work some, prepared the way for the stronger drug. The time stated for the efficacy of all drugs is an average. So if one drug doesn’t work for someone and they take it for weeks and weeks it extends the average. I’m pleased the first drug we tried has worked, because it can be hit and miss finding the right drug for the right person. So…tell me…exactly how do you feel now?”
“I feel good when I’m with Nick…he’s like an anchor. I know he’s there, I know he takes care of me. Sometimes when he’s not there I feel…closed in…as if I need to fight my way to get out of…I don’t know what. Other times I’m okay. But I haven’t felt the need to do something else to get away from the depression…like all the exercise. I felt that if I was exercising I wasn’t depressed…I was holding it at bay. Now when I’m feeling bad I…it’s difficult to put into words…I sit it out, I suppose. I know it will pass and if it doesn’t Nick will be home and I can lean on him.
“I’m sorry, it’s very difficult to put into words and I’m not known for talking about my feelings.” He shrugged.
Nick spoke before the doctor did. “But I understand what you’re saying. I can see how you’ve improved and I know we don’t talk about it…because we don’t…but I know.”
“Depression is a word covering many, many, different types of feelings that people have and trying to express them to anyone, let alone a relative stranger, is difficult. But I think I understand what you’re getting at, and in four weeks you are a lot, I can see that. How about sleep? Still most of the day and night?”
“No. I still do get tired but not like I was when I first started taking the tablets.”
“What about the other disturbances you had…confusion, panic attacks?”
“No…just that once. Thankfully.”
“I’m going to keep you on Cipralex and see you again in two weeks. Do you think you’re up to returning to work?”
“Yes. I am. I didn’t think at first that I should have been off work…but I soon realised that you were right…I did need to rest.”
Dr Grundy smiled. “I’m just happy it worked for you. I want to see you again in two weeks. I still want to keep a close eye on you…as soon as I see fit we’ll get you off the tablets...if we can. But not too soon…I would think about six months before we see if you will need a long term low maintenance dose to keep your equilibrium or whether this was an isolated bout. How are you feeling about therapy?”
“I really don’t think I need it…but see how I go. If I can, I would like to get off the drugs altogether.”
“Of course you would, and I would like that too…but sometimes it isn’t that easy. No need to think about it yet…I won’t even consider it, like I said, for about six months of you feeling okay and then we’ll gradually reduce the dose until you stop it completely. It must be reduced gradually or you will suffer withdrawal symptoms and that could make you worse. Do you fully understand that?” At Gil’s nod Dr Grundy continued. “At that stage we will have to consider how you’re doing without it. But let’s get you better first before we consider all that. And for the record I think you will make a good recovery since you have been so receptive to the drug, but we’ll see.” He smiled and Gil smiled…and Nick grinned…because he knew exactly what Gil was thinking.
It was agreed he would return to work the following night and ‘see how it went’. When they got out of the office, Nick stopped Gil and put his hands on his shoulders.
“You will do exactly what the doc ordered. I know what you were thinking in there…’I’m not staying on any drugs if I feel better’…you were, weren’t you?” Gil rolled his eyes. “Don’t come that with me…I’ll know and I’ll rat you out.”
Gil knew when to give up. “Fine. Fine.” He held his hands up in surrender and Nick nodded his acceptance. “But I thought he was giving me hope with one hand and taking it away with the other.”
“He was covering all his bases, babe, is all.” Nick grinned.
Gil's return to work was low key. In fact only Ecklie and Nick knew. Catherine was going to remain supervising for a few days to ease Gil back into the game. But within a few hours Gil felt comfortable and interested in his work for the first time, in what seemed to him to be years…maybe it had been slowly creeping up on him for that long.
Nick and him had agreed that he’d see how he felt about work after he’d settled back in…there was no need to rush any decisions, but he could always find other work if the lab was indeed what was triggering his depression. He was easy. Nick was easy. The whole situation suddenly became easy. Everything would be okay.
Gil still had some bad days but he coped and, more importantly, he could recognise when it was happening. He felt in control again. And he realised that’s what had happened…everything had run away from him, he’d lost control, but Nick had found him and bought him back. He was in no doubt that despite his depression, or even because of it, their love for each other was now stronger and their lives more fulfilled.
About eight weeks after Gil returned to work he was in the break room getting himself a mug of coffee when he stopped to listen to something; there was a radio playing softly in the background and a very familiar song was being sung…by Doris Day. His Grandma Grissom had loved Doris Day and he’d often heard this song as a child. He smiled and forgot about his coffee and went in search of Nick.
He found him in the AV lab with Archie and Catherine staring at the big screen at some tape from a casino.
Gil went up to Nick and slung and arm around his shoulder pulling him to face him and then started singing, loudly and quite robustly. “Kiss me, honey, honey, kiss me; thrill me, honey, honey, thrill me…”
Nick’s mouth dropped open as did the mouths of Catherine and Archie. All three of them were staring at Gil.
“What the…” Nick started.
“…I just heard it on the radio…a song from my childhood and I thought as you’re my honey I’d come and sing it to you…and I like to see you blush!” He kissed a pink cheek and turned and left, speaking as he went. “You can get on with your work now.”
Catherine recovered her voice to remark. “You do look very cute with pink cheeks…I have to admit.” She started laughing and Archie stared laughing gently and in seconds was having difficulty staying upright on…or even on…his chair.
Nick recovered a little and stomped out of the lab and went at full speed along the corridor to Gil’s office where he was just arriving with his coffee, having detoured to the break room to collect it.
“Excuse me…what the fuck was all that about?”
Gil laughed and put down his coffee on his desk and went up to Nick and hugged him…although Nick tried to wriggle out of the very strong arms…without success.
“Sweetheart…sweetheart.” Nick stopped struggling and looked into Gil's smiling face.
“What?” He was suspicious.
“I feel…I’m not depressed…I feel my normal self, Nick, and I suddenly realised when I heard that song on the radio in the break room…no idea why. Except it reminded me of a happy time in my life…and I thought, I feel happy. Now. I feel happy.”
“Wow.” It was Nick’s turn to hug Gil and they held each other very tightly and rocked a little backwards and forwards.
Nick pulled back from Gil and grinned at him but then frowned and pulled away a little further and stabbed Gil in the chest with his finger.
“And that doesn’t mean you should stop taking your medication. You need to finish the course and come off it gradually and sensibly under the doc’s care. You hear me?”
“I do, sweetheart, I do. You could kiss me now and let me be thrilled…honey, honey…” He sang it softly this time round.
“…and we’ll book that trip…our honeymoon…to China…” Was all Nick could manage before being devoured there and then…in Gil's office in full view of anyone who cared to watch…
And that would be Catherine.