Nick was having fun. That’s what he’d told himself, so it must be true. He was having fun. As long as he kept repeating it, it was true.
Matt was a great guy. Nick kept telling himself that, and it was mostly true. Matt was a great guy and he was having fun with Matt. That was it; it wasn’t too difficult to believe, if he kept saying it.
There was only one problem…and it was pretty big. Nick wasn’t having fun; not much anyway.
Matt was a great guy. He was handsome, he was friendly and open and he was good company and the sex was great. He was even a catch, a doctor. In fact, if Nick was honest he couldn’t fault Matt at all, the fault in the equation lay solely with himself, and he knew it.
He’d met Matt at Desert Palm where he was an attending in the ER. Nick had gone to photograph the victim of a severe beating. Matt had guessed his gay status within thirty minutes and within forty minutes Nick had agreed to meet him for coffee the next morning.
It had grown quickly from there and they were bed mates the next day, and it only took that long because of Nick’s stalling tactics for twenty-four hours. Matt liked to club and most weeks they went to gay clubs and indulged in the ‘the scene’, as Matt liked to call it. He was well known and popular and that made Nick uneasy, he didn’t know why, he had no real reason to be uneasy.
They went to straight clubs too, and had no problem at all attracting ‘the ladies’…Matt was quite happy to dance with and enjoy the company of the many young women that came their way. But there was nothing more. Matt arrived with Nick and left with Nick.
All of Matt’s co-workers knew Matt was gay and now that they’d been to parties with them, they knew that Nick was his latest boyfriend. Now Nick’s team at the lab knew of his sexual proclivity, but it wasn’t common knowledge and he didn’t flaunt it; LVPD weren’t anti-gay, but then they didn’t promote it either. Nick liked to remain under the radar. He was most comfortable in that position.
So the morning he turned down a breakfast with the team, he didn’t mention it was because he had a prior date with his current squeeze, Matt. It was just a coincidence that Nick and Matt arrived at the diner about ten minutes after Grissom, Catherine, Warrick, Greg, Jim, Sofia and Sara. They were chatting animatedly as Nick caught sight of them and the moment when he could turn and retreat was lost when Catherine saw him…with Matt.
“Hey, Nicky, over here!” She called; much too brightly and Nick knew she was looking at Matt and not him.
“Hey.” Nick’s response lacked conviction.
“Hello, you guys.” Matt wanted in on the action; he’d been prodding Nick for a couple of weeks to meet his co-workers.
Matt also took the opportunity to exhibit some territorial behaviour by slinging his arm around Nick’s shoulders. It was meant to say we’re a couple and all the people seated in the booth got the message loud and clear. Nick blushed an endearingly sweet pink and swore he’d have to resign before his next shift.
“Everyone, this is Matt Deveraux. Matt: Greg, Sofia, Jim, Catherine, Warrick, Grissom and Sara.” Nick’s ever polite upbringing ensured proper introductions were made.
Sara beamed at Nick. “Matt Deveraux…you and Nick…?”
“Yeah...” Matt guessing her question confirmed their status and he beamed back at Sara. Nick wished he’d explained a little more about his team’s dynamic and in particular, Sara.
“Make room you guys, there’s enough room for all of us.” Catherine commanded and they all shuffled around so that Nick and Matt could join them. Nick sat next to Greg and Matt was on the end.
“So what do you do for a living, Matt?” Sara was determined.
“I don’t believe I should say anything to you guys until I’ve been read my rights.”
“Oh come on Matt, we’re off the clock and we won’t do anything about it, well not until we get back into the lab tonight.”
“I’m reassured then…Sara…wasn’t it?” She nodded enthusiastically. “I’m a doctor at Desert, an attending in the ER, that’s where we met, isn’t it Nick?” Nick nodded, unenthusiastically.
“A doctor? I think a doctor’s considered a catch, Nicky.” Catherine looked faintly green around the edges.
“I am a catch. I keep telling Nick, don’t I? He denies it, saying I’m the one who should be grateful.”
Nick did laugh at that because it was true. A joke between them. As he laughed he caught Grissom’s eye, and saw something indefinable; but he felt it like a physical blow to his solar plexus. He recovered quickly and Grissom looked away.
The breakfast went well, Matt was happy and relaxed, and he was a good raconteur, telling tales of the ER, his med school days and he was sufficiently self deprecating so as not to appear big headed.
It was clear that most liked him; it was difficult not too, although Sara put on a display of almost nauseating proportions in her attempt to show that she knew that Matt and Nick were a pair, a couple, dating, together, even making quite inappropriate, or so Nick thought, references to their sex life.
Grissom spoke a couple of times but was mostly just taking in the spectacle. Sara slid a little closer to him and attempted a display of territorial behaviour, just as Matt had done for Nick. It didn’t work and the only person who noticed was (probably) Nick. Grissom certainly didn’t.
When they’d finished their breakfast and so many coffees they were awash with caffeine, they paid their bill and Catherine decided that they should meet up more often. Matt thought that was a great idea and while Nick agreed to their faces he inwardly groaned and decided that it would have to be over his dead body.
He couldn’t do it… He’d acted the part for this accidental meeting, but he wasn’t sure he could keep doing it. He really didn’t know what to do. Splitsville with Matt? That would be cutting his nose off to spite his face; because Matt was okay. Telling Matt the truth? Out of the question. He couldn’t. Concoct a convincing lie? That would probably have to suffice. Perhaps mingle in a bit of the truth, make it more plausible. But Nick wasn’t a good liar, because it went against everything he stood for…he would surely be caught out.
As it turned out Matt wasn't stupid, he’d picked up on the vibes and as Nick drove his truck over to Matt’s condo, the questioning started.
“There’s some serious shit going on with that Sara, I didn’t take to her.”
Nick laughed. “You got that about right.”
“I got it all right. She’s got the hots for, Gresham, is it?”
“Yeah, Grissom, and he’s not in the least bit interested in her because he’s got the hots for you.”
Nick swerved the truck and earned a loud honk of a horn from some other motorist.
“Don’t tell me you don’t know, because I could feel it, it was palpable; he’s the guy isn’t he, the one who hurt you?”
“Don’t play coy with me Nick, you don’t do coy, and I’m a realist. You got hurt, I can tell; I’ve been around a lot of guys, I can pick up the signals and your signals were ‘hurt’ and ‘sad’. My guess? You’ve been with him and he dumped you? But there’s more because whatever it is, he still wants you just as much as you want him.”
“Yeah, like I believe that. Look Nick, I like you but I don’t love you; like I said I’m a realist and your heart’s not in it with me, is it? Maybe your body is and I could live with that, but not with a lie.”
“I’m not lying; it is over, it never really got started and you’re right, he dumped me. We were only together for a few weeks.”
“Are you coming in with me when we get to my condo?”
“No, I didn’t think so. It’s been good while it lasted and I wish….well, it could have been real good.”
“You’re dumping me?” Nick was incredulous; he’d turned into a walking disaster.
“I figured you’re not having as much fun as me, Nick. It’s not so much fun for me if it’s one sided. If you want to go to clubs and that, I suppose we could, but to be honest Nick, I’ll be hooked up again real quick; I don’t hang around licking my wounds, life’s too short.”
“Yeah. Right. Okay.”
“What did you expect Nick, really? I don’t want to carry your baggage around with me, us. Get over him, and if I’m around when you do, then you never know. You want to collect your stuff while you’re here?”
They’d arrived at Matt’s condo and Nick stopped the truck.
“Might as well, save me a journey. I’ll get your stuff together and drop it off at the hospital.”
“That’ll be good. No hard feelings, Nick?”
“You could have lied and said you were devastated.”
“Yeah. I don’t do lying.”
“No, you don’t. You’re too transparent. That Sara thinks with you out of the way she’ll have a free rein with Gresham, but you should have a go back, Nick, give it a last shot, don’t just lie down and take it.”
“Whatever. Come on, get you’re stuff. I don’t suppose you want a pity fuck?”
They both laughed and when Nick had collected his few belongings, they hugged, and just like that, it was over. Nick drove back to his condo and when he’d arrived in the air conditioned cool of his home he flopped down on the couch, toed off his shoes and reached for his remote. He needed mindless distraction.
He found a sports station and watched some old game. It was completely mindless; because his mind was elsewhere.
He drifted almost into a stupor as he remembered Grissom. When he’d first laid eyes on him and then more importantly…when he’d first laid lips and hands on him…
End of Part One
Dr Grissom and another guy, long gone, had interviewed Nick when he’d arrived, like a happy puppy, brimming with eagerness and young Texan charm. He’d got through as far as the interview stage with the esteemed lab; and when he’d found out that Dr Grissom would be there to interview him; he was ecstatic.
He hadn’t realised that Grissom was only a CSI; he’d thought he was the boss, or at least a boss. But no, he was a senior field CSI, but he knew so much and did so much and was revered so much, that he was given the task to test the interviewees.
And test Nick he had. In ten minutes Nick’s happy demeanour had been cruelly replaced by nervous twitching and sweating hands. He’d done some basic work at the Dallas labs following university, but he was grilled about his college work, his thesis for his degree, which Grissom had actually read, the work he’d done and why he wanted to work in Las Vegas.
He might have been the earnest puppy but he had at least researched the lab beforehand and was able to detail the reasons he wanted to join the lab. He knew about the work they’d done and he knew about Dr Grissom, and he knew what he wanted to do. Though he’d been sure he’d blown it after eighty minutes of grilling and gruelling questioning, four days later he’d been offered a position as a CSI 1 at the most prestigious lab outside Quantico.
He’d packed and left Dallas, with such enthusiasm and excitement, his mother’s distress had been lost on him. Her baby was leaving. Okay, so he hadn’t lived at home for three years but he was leaving the nest proper by going to Nevada. Sin city. He would most likely be preyed upon by pimps and unscrupulous types.
She knew he was sweet and kind and gay. And however much Nick tried to persuade her otherwise, she knew he was tender and ready for the picking. Without his family to protect him he would be hurt and he would bleed. She was fearful.
She was wrong.
Nick had thrived in Las Vegas. He loved the work, the challenge, the learning. He had a good time; okay he saw the dregs of society but he’d learned his lessons well…sometimes, a little too well and a little too close for comfort.
Through it all Grissom was a constant. A mentor. A colleague and then his supervisor. It went without question that Nick would have a crush on him. He pushed every button for Nick. So much intelligence and thirst for learning. So authoritative and just that bit older and wiser…and of course, so fucking handsome. Oh yes, Nick was smitten alright. For years.
Nevertheless, he was sensible about it, he’d realised that this was one crush that would remain unrequited…most of his crushes did anyway, since he had a propensity to like straight men. A major flaw for a gay man. But he’d lived with it and managed well enough. (He’d managed to get Matt after all; of course, he hadn’t managed to keep Matt.)
But over the years things had changed; Nick really had become wiser as he got older.
He’d realised very quickly that Sara Sidle was crazy to the point of actual madness over Grissom. It was embarrassing to watch as she squirmed and twitched around him like an adolescent. Grissom seemed to pay her little personal attention and yet appeared to worship her work.
He’d realised that maybe Catherine made quite a few errors of judgement and wasn’t as lily white as he’d always supposed. She was always scrupulous about her work, unless there happened to be some personal involvement, then all the rules and regulations flew out of the window. She had Grissom wrapped around her little finger; he’d never bothered calling her on her cock ups. No, that was generally exclusively reserved for none other than Nick Stokes, of course.
He’d realised that Warrick only fired on several cylinders. He never put the effort into any of his cases that any of the rest of the team did…and still Gil gave him preferential treatment; thought him better than all of them…except Catherine, of course…and Sara.
He’d realised that Greg would never be quite as good out of the lab as he had been in the lab. The guy was too scared of his own shadow – but too proud to go back.
And finally, he’d realised that the only person who ever saw his back, all the time, was Jim Brass. He didn’t actually know why. But he liked the man; they worked well together and respected each other’s judgment and hunches.
Sofia was really nice, but he always felt a little uncomfortable around her, he thought that maybe she ‘liked’ him but knew, as he was a gay man, she didn’t stand a chance. Frankly, there had been time when he might have made a move on her…just because he could. But he didn’t do that, certainly not after the fiasco that was Kristy.
Catherine had saved his bacon there - there was no denying her help. Grissom had never mentioned it again after hearing Nick’s confession in his office. Not one single word.
Then there was Nigel Crane. Yeah…there was Grissom again; apparently it wasn’t personal to Nick, oh no, nothing to do with Nick. Nobody got killed; nobody’s privacy was invaded, because it wasn’t personal. Funnily enough Grissom had never mentioned that again either.
Even before that there was Grissom leaving him alone in a house, breaking his own rule…the absolutely under no circumstances be left alone in a house rule. Nick laughed a miserable little laugh to himself. Did Grissom ever mention that again? No.
And that’s how it’d gone over the years. Whatever trauma, it went unheeded. Whatever cock up, it was relentlessly pursued. It had even occurred to Nick that maybe Grissom was homophobic. Everyone knew but it was never mentioned and Nick was sensible enough to ensure that all his encounters, with men anyway, were done out of the glare of the PD and the lab.
It worked and time went by. Nick had got better, much better, and was even recommended for promotion by Grissom, but that had fallen through when the funding was withdrawn. And, of course, Grissom had never mentioned that again.
Sara had been beside herself with rage as her exclusion and had a major meltdown. Nick had heard about it all from a gay cop he knew. DUI; but she had managed to scrape through because of a change in the blood alcohol level rules. Lucky. Nick always wondered if Grissom had ever discussed that with her.
But then after all this the very worst happened. Walter Gordon happened. Randomly; he really didn’t choose Nick, it could have been anyone; it definitely could have been Warrick, but it was Nick. No change there, then
After the event Nick had been particularly surprised at the amount of people who did mention it. Mostly to say that they couldn’t have done what Nick had done. They would have used the gun.
Nick had kept quiet; he very nearly did use the gun, he knew he was starting to hallucinate and had decided that he would pull the trigger and was summoning up the courage to do just that when the dirt was scraped aside and he saw Warrick and then Grissom.
He’d promised Grissom he’d stay still. He’d actually promised what he thought was another hallucinatory figure, just like his father had been. When next he’d surfaced he was in the hospital with his Momma holding his hand. It had taken him some time to realise that he was safe and that he had been rescued. But he had and with a determination to get back in the saddle just as soon as he possibly could. Otherwise…well maybe he’d have never gone back…
End of Part Two
Everyone had been staggered at the speed and completeness of his recovery. He couldn’t understand really, the whys himself…except it was case of doing or dying… Maybe it was as simple as the fact he was just glad to be alive. He was no longer that keen on bugs, but then he’d never been that fond of them anyway. He’d had a few scary moments when he’d had to go into confined spaces, but that was all.
No one seemed to be able to understand that he was just fucking happy to be alive and out of that casket. If was the most frightening thing that had ever happened to him and he hoped it would remain the most frightening thing ever to happen to him. He’d also been sure that a fair number of people that he knew would not have been able to endure it as he had.
But it was over; he’d lived. But had Grissom ever spoken about that?
As a matter of fact he did, but not for several months and it was only after Kelly Gordon had killed herself. Grissom had said, ‘it’s over’. Or something like that, and Nick had been incredulous. Firstly, because Grissom had mentioned it at all and secondly, because Nick knew that Grissom had withheld evidence and was probably fucking relieved that he wouldn’t have to justify that to his bosses…or to Nick.
But those two words had ignited Nick’s anger as nothing ever had before. Maybe it was lurking around after his kidnap, just waiting for an appropriate moment to erupt. And that was the moment. But even then Nick had contained his anger for the rest of that shift, for the rest of that week even.
Until the Wednesday following that shift. All of them had been despatched to a multiple murder scene that turned out to be a student hoax. It was Nick who’d called it and he’d stayed at the scene to document the hoax and collect evidence of the stupid students who would probably be charged with wasting police time.
Grissom had stayed behind too; Nick had no idea why. They’d worked in silence, mostly; just a few words were exchanged about various aspects of the case. After getting on for two hours all the evidence was collected and documented. Grissom had needed a ride back to the lab, since he’d arrived with Catherine, who was long gone.
They’d loaded Nick’s truck and were ready to leave. Grissom had hauled himself into the passenger seat and fastened his seat belt.
“You’ve been quiet tonight, Nick.” Grissom appeared to be quite happy. The words were not uttered in an accusatory manner.
“So?” But Nick hadn’t been happy and his one word was spoken with venom.
Gil had looked across at Nick, his eyebrows raised. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing at all, Grissom. Nothing for you to worry about.”
“Now I am worried.” Grissom was still being affable about Nick’s manner. He was very probably so unused to Nick behaving like that, that he’d thought it was some sort of joke. This was not Nick Stokes’ behaviour…it was more typical of Sara Sidle.
“Well don’t be, you’ve never worried about me before and there’s no need to start now.”
“Nick, what’s wrong?”
“Like I said, nothing.”
“Well, in my experience, ‘nothing’ usually means a whole shit load of ‘something’.”
“That so? You’ve got experience of dealing with shit, then?”
“If this is shit from you, Nick, then I don’t have any experience at all, because you don’t normally do ‘shit’.” Grissom’s manner was becoming a little more edgy.
“No, I don’t, do I? I take it all lying down and I’ve taken to wondering just where that’s got me? You know what? It’s got me nowhere, man. Nowhere. Fast. ”
“Nick, what’s got into you?”
“Nothing, forget it, save your breath for all the others.”
“Stop the truck.”
“Stop the truck, now.” Grissom had left edgy behind and was pissed.
“Okay.” Nick had pulled over, abruptly, and put the truck in park – he’d left the engine idling.
“What are you talking about, what’s got into you?”
“Nothing; like I said there’s nothing for you to worry about, with me. You can spend your time with the others, sorting through their shit, fixing their mistakes, keeping Sara off the bottle.” Nick knew he’d overstepped the mark with the last remark, but what the hell. Grissom had needed to hear how it was for him; how everyone else orbited around Grissom’s satellite and he was left drifting in space.
Nick had laughed to himself at the overblown rhetoric whirling around his mind. It was nothing like that in reality and he knew it, but when everyone else had problems they stacked them up for Grissom to sort out in his inept manner. The only ridiculous thing about that was that Grissom was inept and none of the problems ever got solved, really, just adjusted, dissembled maybe and then postponed to be reassembled at a later date.
Nothing was solved. It had suddenly struck Nick how pointless his own anger was. Grissom was completely unable to address any issue in a proper manner, otherwise, he’d have given Sara her marching orders, reported Catherine for misconduct, given Warrick a kick up his ass and made Greg return to the lab.
Nick was…jealous? Jealous of the attention he’d thought he’d been lacking and it was suddenly as clear as day; he hadn’t received attention from Grissom because he was totally unaware that Nick needed any…because he’d never complained and had hardly put a foot out of line and, Kristy notwithstanding, he actually didn’t need any attention.
He’d relaxed and laughed again, a small self-deprecating laugh and had turned to Grissom. “I’m okay now, just thought I needed to throw a fit. It seemed that was the only way to get your attention, any recognition from you, but I just had an…epiphany…I guess you could call it. I’m okay.”
“You’re not okay, you don’t do this, you’ve never done this in all the years we’ve worked together. What do you mean about attention? I give you attention.”
It had seemed to Nick that his laugh was already dying on his lips. “Look, Grissom, forget it, it’s done.”
To stop further conversation, Nick had pushed the gear into drive and had driven off again as fast as the speed limit allowed. He did have the last laugh to himself though, because absolutely in character, Grissom didn’t speak again. The ‘problem’ that Nick had presented had seemingly resolved itself and he didn’t need any further intervention. And as far as Grissom was concerned, Nick knew that that was a result.
The ride back to the lab had continued in silence. Nick had booked the evidence in and it was assigned to the appropriate rat. He busied himself building the case and liaising with Brass. He’d had no further interaction with Grissom and shift had finished within an hour of normal for all of them; a fairly unusual occurrence. No one had suggested breakfast so they’d all left to go their separate ways.
Nick had gone to the gym and had spent ninety minutes getting rid of his pent up aggression, but he’d felt better anyway. He wasn’t a naturally aggressive man and his realisation that Grissom was ineffectual with all of them, and not just himself, went quite some way to calming him down.
By the time he’d arrived back at his condo, with groceries purchased on the way home, he was calm and relaxed. He’d thought that his brainstorm, or whatever it was, was over and his equilibrium had been restored.
He’d been putting his groceries in the cupboards and fridge when his doorbell rang. He hadn’t been expecting anyone and always cautious, he’d checked his gun in the drawer by the door, and then checked the peephole. He’d groaned. His only thought; ‘shit’.
End of Part Three
Grissom had been his visitor and he had been very surprised….and pissed.
Nick had opened his door and looked at his visitor; he didn’t speak.
“Are you going to keep me out here or invite me in?”
Nick still didn’t speak but had stood aside, opened the door wider and motioned with his hand for Grissom to come into his home.
“What brings you here?”
“I kind of figured it’d have something to do with me…this is my place.” Nick felt a little guilty for not playing his normal gracious host role, but what the hell; he didn’t invite Grissom to visit with him.
“Pretty obvious, I have to agree.”
There had been an uneasy silence. Both men just standing in the middle of Nick’s living room. Since it was Nick’s home he felt that he had the upper hand and he would be damned if he was going to ‘break’ first. To his satisfaction it was Grissom who spoke first.
“I wanted...no, I needed to find out what you meant about you and me in the truck. I need to know why you think I deal with everyone else’s shit and not yours.”
“It doesn’t matter anymore, I told you, I figured it all out by myself?”
“Figured what? I wish you’d share with me here, because I’m completely in the dark and I like to know what’s going on.”
“That’s rich, Grissom, that’s really rich coming from you.” Nick hadn’t been able hold back on the bitterness he felt. It had seemed his workout hadn’t helped as much as he’d thought.
“I feel, Nick, as if I've walked in on half a conversation and have missed all the salient parts. What exactly have I done to you?”
“Done? That would be nothing. Nothing at all.”
“So, you were expecting me to do something and I haven’t done it; but if I don’t know what it is I was supposed to do I can’t address the…problem.”
Nick had taken a huge intake of breath at the manner in which Grissom had said ‘problem’. He hadn’t missed the extra weight Grissom had put on the word and that was a clear indication to him that Grissom thought that whatever it was, was his problem…Nick’s, not his…
“Man, the fucking audacity. You know, Grissom, it seems to me that if you don’t see it, or get it, then it doesn’t exist…”
“…that’s not true, but I’m not a mind reader, I haven’t got any special powers and before the crime scene last night you were perfectly okay and then after the crime scene you were not. I was not aware of anything happening during the couple of hours that we processed, but obviously something did.”
“Perfectly okay…you think I was perfectly okay…I was buried alive and eaten alive and you withheld evidence about what happened. When it all accidentally corrected itself you said that it’s over….no more worries…forget it Nick, no problem…pretend it never happened…and you think I’m perfectly okay.”
Grissom hadn’t spoken; he’d looked at Nick with his mouth slightly agape, his face a picture of shock - as if he’d been shocked to his core. Maybe he had.
The two men were still standing in the middle of the room, Grissom seemingly in shock and Nick rapidly descending into embarrassment. Nick didn’t want to speak again and suddenly remembered he still had food to put into his fridge and freezer. So that’s what he did, he returned to his kitchen and left Grissom in his living room.
Nick had thought it was about thirty seconds before Grissom had appeared at the door to his kitchen.
“I had no idea. No idea you felt like this; you seemed to have accepted what happened and moved on. I mean your doctor’s report…the psychologists report said that your recovery had been…exemplary…that was the word he used. Accepted what had happened and moved on and that you didn’t want to dwell on it, you wanted to move on. That’s why I didn’t speak to you, Nick. I thought you didn’t want to speak about it...I’m sorry I was wrong.”
“You weren’t wrong…not exactly. I didn’t want to keep being reminded of it but I thought you might have least have said something to me. You didn’t visit me in the hospital or here. Not once. No one said where you were. But it’s like everyone else vies for your attention and you give it to them, but you ignore me...” Nick’s little speech had petered out, he hadn’t wanted the scene he’d created to go on much longer; he’d suddenly felt ridiculously childish and knew he’d only been a step away from sounding petulant. Sounding like Sara. Fuck.
But then another altogether different thought had struck him. “Is it because I’m gay?”
“No. No. Of course it isn’t, Nick, you must know that I make no judgements about anyone in respect of their sexuality. It’s of no relevance at all…I mean it is important to you, obviously, but you’ve never displayed…no, that’s the wrong word…you’ve never made it an issue for yourself or the lab…or me…please don’t think that.” With the benefit of hindsight of course Nick knew that Grissom had been babbling but he’d missed it at that moment.
“So is it just the doctor’s report about the abduction that stopped you from saying anything? What about the evidence on the tape. Archie knew.”
“I know, I’m sorry about that. In truth I didn’t want anyone finding out that there was a taped record of you. I thought you wouldn’t want it known, so I swore Archie to secrecy and was…biding my time, really. I never…you never…disappointed me, Nick; never.”
“What the fuck? You knew what I said? You asshole, get out! Fuck you! I don’t know how you’ve got the balls to speak to me about that after all this time and ignoring it before…who else knows?” Nick had been really furious and acutely embarrassed.
“No one, Nick, I promise you, no one. I thought if I mentioned it you would be embarrassed. Do you want me to leave?”
“Yes. No. I don’t know. I don’t know shit anymore.”
“I’ve really fucked this up haven’t I?”
“I’m sorry. I love my job as the scientist, the gatherer, the interpreter of evidence, but I’m no good at the personal stuff. Never have been. Can I put this right?” He motioned with his hand between the two of them.
“There’s nothing there to be put right, is there? I’m hardly on your radar at all, am I? I can’t compete with Sara’s issues. I can’t compete with Warrick being your rock. I can’t compete with Greg’s brilliance or Catherine’s temper. I’m just the guy that gets all the…the crap thrown at him…but gets back on his feet and gets on with it time and time again. I suppose I’d like to know why, though, Grissom. Why are you like that to me? If it’s not me being gay, what is it?”
“There’s nothing, Nick. I don’t know where you’re coming from, you’ve been a great asset to the lab...you don’t have the problems, you don’t cause any problems, you don’t need your ego stroked every five minutes. If I’m guilty of neglecting you it’s because you’ve just got on with the job without me having to run interference.”
“But you’ve never said. You’ve never said anything to me about what I could do to become your ‘rock’, what I could do to have you say I've done good work. You’ve never involved me in experiments like Greg. It’s like there’s all of them and then me.”
“I’m sorry if you see it like that. I don’t know what to say; I never intended you to think that way. Because I didn’t have to keep telling you these things I thought…I just thought you knew. I’m sorry about your abduction; the randomness of it…you know the truth of the matter, Nick, is that out of all of us…absolutely all of us…only you were capable of surviving the ordeal. When I read the doctor’s report I was so proud of you, not just for surviving but for overcoming the ordeal, for moving on. Who else could have done that? Not one of us.”
“No, don’t be so certain of that, I’m not.”
They stood in silence again, this time Grissom leaned against the door jamb and Nick leaned on the counter.
“I could do with a beer, Nick. Have you got one?”
“Yeah.” Nick had retrieved a cold beer, knocked the top off and passed it to Grissom. He’d taken several long gulps from the bottle.
“I needed that. Thanks.”
“You want anything else? To eat?”
“No, I’m good, thanks. Well ‘good’ is probably not the right word.”
“No, well. Do you really think no one else would have survived? Really? Or are you just saying that.”
“Not just saying it…if I haven’t spoken to you, I’ve certainly spoken to everyone else about it and everyone agreed. It takes a special type of person to survive and then recover from an ordeal like that. An exceptional person. The stuff of heroes. People who just live their lives and then something happens and they rise to the occasion. The only example I can think of is the ordinary guy who goes off to war and comes home an extraordinary guy because something happened and he rose to that occasion.”
“So you’re saying that anyone can rise to the occasion, not just me, if the circumstances are right?”
“Not exactly. The people around that guy are never usually surprised…they all knew he was extraordinary and that he would prevail, he just didn’t know it himself. How did you cope, Nick?”
“Don’t know. I just did; there wasn’t a lot I could do about it at the time. The worst was how slow the time went by, how hot I was, how much I hurt, how tired I was… It all seems like a dream now. But once I got out I wasn’t going to let it get the better of me…”
“…there…that’s it…you, wouldn’t let it get the better of you…that’s the difference, Nick, that determination to move on, put it behind you.”
“I had no choice though, did I?”
“Of course you did; you could have resigned, refused to deal with anything that had bugs on it, refused to go into confined spaces, refused to go out alone…you didn’t flinch at anything. Kept up your therapy because it was sensible. You see it’s all these things that set you apart.”
“I did flinch.”
“I bet you did, but did you then get on with your job?”
Nick had nodded and all of a sudden he’d felt a smile overtake him. There he was in his kitchen with Grissom, who was actually telling him what a good guy he was. He had felt better. He’d smiled at Grissom and Grissom had smiled back.
“Yeah, I do.”
“We probably all have some hidden strengths, Nick, but we don’t get to use them, we just muddle along and live our lives and we’re never called on to do something extraordinary. You did. You remember that. Okay?”
“Yeah. Yeah. Look, sorry I was ornery, man…”
“’Ornery’? Now that’s a word I haven’t heard for long time.” Gil laughed.
“My Momma calls Dad ornery, when he gets mad about something. Fits me, I suppose, calling you - I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be; it’s all fixed now…isn’t yet?”
“Yeah, it is.”
“If only all my problems were this easy.”
“Hey, you think I’m easy?”
“Easy? You? No.” Nick had immediately picked up on the manner of Gil’s denial.
“What do you mean, Grissom?”
“You getting as bad as me, now?”
“This is like pulling teeth.”
“Really, it’s nothing.”
“Jeez Grissom, this is our conversation in reverse. Tell me.” Nick had been exasperated by the sudden turnaround in the conversation and in Grissom’s demeanour, which had been open and friendly and then had changed to being as cold as a chill wind.
“Nothing to tell. I’m sorry I intruded in your day, I’ll let you get on with…see you later, at work?”
“Okay. If that’s it.”
“It is.” Gil had deposited his half empty beer bottle on the counter in Nick’s kitchen, pushed himself off the door jamb, with what had appeared to Nick to be a great deal of effort and turned to leave. He’d walked across the living room towards the front door.
Nick had stood watching this, puzzled about Grissom’s behaviour and then he’d rushed across the room and up behind him…remembering his manners. He’d reached for the door knob at exactly the same time as Grissom had reached and as such their bodies touched as they made to make the same manoeuvre. Nick had felt the instant tension in Gil's body; it had almost screamed tension at him.
He’d smiled knowingly, almost a smirk, and had looked around at Grissom’s face, which had been expressionless… except for his eyes…they were black and Nick had known exactly why that was the case…
End of Part Four
“I must say you’ve hidden that very well, until now, at least.”
“Why not? Is it okay for me to be gay, but not you?”
“It’s not that.”
“Okay. But you want a piece of my ass?”
“Okay.” Nick had smiled at Grissom, an open, amused expression on his face and had gone to open the door properly, but as he’d opened it Grissom had pushed it shut again.
“What do you want, Grissom?”
“You know full well.”
“I do now.”
Grissom had slammed Nick against the wall, pushing and holding onto his shoulders. He’d leaned into Nick and kissed him. Hard and demanding. His mouth had been on Nick’s mouth, his lips wet and hard and his tongue pushing at Nick’s lips for them to open. There was a clash of teeth and then Grissom’s tongue was in Nick’s mouth, pushing along Nick’s tongue, racking along the surface, tasting Nick, but he was taking no time to savour the new flavour.
Nick had been passive, accepting the kiss but not returning it. Loosely holding onto Gil's waist.
As suddenly as it had begun, it was over. Sweat had beaded Gil's face and his breathing had been like strangulated gasps.
“How long have you wanted to do that?” Nick had whispered the question. Gil’s hands had still holding him and their bodies had still been touching.
“A long time. I kept telling myself it’d get better. It’d go away…”
“…but it didn’t.”
“So that’s why you kept me at arms’ length…it had nothing to do with me being good at my job or being exceptional…all you really wanted was a piece of my…”
Grissom had pushed himself away from Nick and stood back; he’d looked very angry, as angry as Nick had ever seen him. “How dare you say that. My personal feelings for you had fuck all to do with your work and until this moment you knew nothing…fuck all. How dare you…” He’d turned away from Nick and opened the door and was out of it while Nick was still leaning against the wall and he’d felt the vibration in the wall through his body as Gil had slammed the door shut.
For some moments he’d remained against the wall, still reeling from Gil being as angry as he’d ever seen him. And then he’d thought he ought to apologise…he had been out of line...accusing him of some kind of latent sexual harassment. He recovered his wits and opened his door and flung himself onto the balcony of his apartment block and ran along to the stairs as he looked for Grissom in the parking lot below. He was just by his truck.
“Hey!” Nick had shouted but was ignored. “Hey, Grissom, wait.” He’d shouted again as he’d thrown himself down the stairs, very nearly tripping over his feet, but as he’d reached the bottom all he’d seen was the tail lights on Grissom’s truck as he’d braked as he checked for traffic before driving off the lot. Nick had started to run but then stopped. He’d made a fool of himself already; he wasn’t going to compound the issue by running after a moving truck.
He’d gone back to his apartment and slammed the door himself as he’d gone back inside. What an idiot. What a moron. What an asshole. What he needed was a pint of Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough or funky monkey. What he’d actually got in his freezer was their poor relation. Natural flavour frozen yoghurt. In the end he had a beer and sat down in front his TV with a sports programme blaring out its enthusiasm. Something’s never change.
He was pissed at Grissom, he’d known that, but that was no excuse for being downright rude to the man. What he’d said was true, he didn’t know how to handle people but then he hadn’t wanted to be a supervisor…all those years ago Nick had thought it had been a temporary thing while they investigated Holly’s death…and he was still there today and still making a mess of things.
But then what had he just done? Made a mess of things. He had had a crush on the guy…not much of one, really, because he’d been unobtainable and straight, hadn’t he? And anyway he’d thought Grissom didn’t even like him and yet, all the time Grissom had been crushing on him. Man! If it hadn’t been so fucking tragic it would have be funny. His Momma would be furious as his behaviour. She’d make him apologise…and just like that Nick had his answer.
If Grissom had come to him to find out why he’d behaved like he did…then he could surely go to Grissom and apologise. He did know where he lived but had only been there that once…years ago. When he’d been suspended and then nearly gotten killed by…by…Sid Goggle. That was the guy.
Nick had left his half empty bottle of beer next to Grissom’s and had headed to his bathroom. A shower and shave and change of clothing had made him feel a little more presentable. So about forty minutes later he’d headed over to Grissom’s town house. He’d felt very confident that Grissom would accept his apology, since it would be ungentlemanly not too…and Grissom was nothing if not a gentleman. Well, maybe not exactly a gentlemen but certainly a stickler for protocol. As he’d driven over he’d tried to think of an apt description for Grissom.
By the time he’d turned into Grissom’s street his confidence had disappeared, shattered into little pieces and he’d come to the conclusion that Grissom defied description. He was, in fact, just Grissom. A one off.
He’d parked up a few houses down from Grissom’s house and sat with the engine idling. Grissom’s truck was on his driveway. Had he got the balls to do this? He’d got this far and it would be a waste of time to just turn around. He’d faced worse situation…fuck: much worse situations.
Go on, he’d urged himself…do it. He’d rolled his truck another thirty feet and had cut the engine and jumped out. He couldn’t stall again otherwise he would have turned and left.
He’d rung the bell and waited. Nothing. He’d rung it again. Nothing. He’d walked to the side of the house and tried to peer over the fence…it was too high to over it see properly. So he’d walked back towards the front door just in time to see it closing. So he’d run back up to it and rung the bell again. A few moments later it had opened and Grissom had stood there in his pyjamas and robe.
“I thought it was your truck.”
“Sorry to get you up…”
“…I hadn’t got into bed.”
“Then I’m sorry to disturb you.”
“If you’re sorry, then why did you disturb me?”
“I had to apologise after my behaviour back at my place. After you’d gone I could hear my mother’s voice telling me how badly I’d behaved…” He’d continued with a good impression of his mother. “…now you get over there and apologise for your bad manners, Nicholas Stokes.”
Grissom had nodded and smiled at the imitation. “Mother’s do that to you.”
“Sure do. I’m sorry, please forgive me.”
“Thanks, okay…I’m off to bed then, bye.” Grissom had almost closed the door but had then stopped and re-opened it. “What I can’t get round my head around, is the way you changed. All these years if I hadn’t have known you were gay I would never have guessed. And yet in moments, when you realised what had been going on you changed into some kind of predatory animal; purring like a big cat…a leopard or a cheetah…gay…”
“…is this some kind of complement?”
“It was going to be a question.”
“About why I changed?”
“Then the answer is: I don’t know, I didn’t know that I was doing it.”
Grissom had nodded as if that was a sufficient explanation and even though it had sounded lame to Nick, it was the truth.
“I’ll see you at work tonight.” Grissom had dismissed him.
“Okay.” Nick hadn’t made it any further that Grissom’s front door step; but he’d smiled, turned and left.
As he’d driven home he’d thought that he had accomplished what he set out to do but at the same time he’d been strangely disappointed. He’d missed a chance…a really good chance…of snatching Grissom from right under Sara’s nose. He wasn’t vindictive but he was well pissed at Sara’s territorial attitude over Grissom and, truth be told, he wasn’t the only one who felt like that. In fact, there was no one in the lab, that he knew, who wasn’t equally pissed, so what a coup that would have been. At least he’d got a kiss… And just like that, as he’d remembered the kiss, he’d gotten hard and straining in his pants. Weird because when he’d been kissed by Grissom, he hadn’t…
End of Part Five
Nick was nothing if not philosophical. There was no mileage in crying over spilt milk. He didn’t know if he’d even stood a chance with Grissom and now he’d reckoned he’d never know. It was over before it began. At least that was what he’d thought.
He’d been completely blindsided when that very night Grissom had paired himself with him to deal with a quite minor fire investigation. It hadn’t gone unnoticed; it was not unheard of but it wasn’t a common occurrence and he’d suffered a hard stare from Sara and some banter from Warrick in the rest room.
“You must have done something really bad, man, to have Gris ‘round your neck two shifts on the go.”
“I just hope he doesn’t find the body…it was a bitch cutting it up.”
They’d laughed as they’d gone their separate ways.
They’d gone in Grissom’s truck and Nick had sat in silence. He’d decided between the rest room and the truck that keeping his own counsel, as advised by his Momma, was good advice to follow on such an occasion. He hadn’t felt it was uncomfortable for them…Grissom was as renowned for his silences as he was his lectures.
About twenty minutes into the ride he’d spoken and Nick had jumped slightly; he’d been engrossed in trying to figure out how a burglar had got into a house in a case he was still investigating from a couple of shifts ago.
“I suppose you’re wondering why I decided to come out with you tonight…again.”
“Not really.” He’d been truthful…he’d given up trying to reason out Grissom’s reasoning years ago. He’d looked across at him and seen the sceptical look but Grissom must have seen the truth in Nick’s manner and the look softened.
“I think we got off to very bad start. I wanted to apologise myself. I was just as ornery as you.”
“Bad start?” Nick hadn’t missed that.
“I was wondering if perhaps we could go out.”
“Out?" Nick had squeaked and he’d had to clear his throat to continue. “Like on a date, out?”
“Is it that such a ridiculous idea?” Grissom had sounded amused.
Nick had paused and thought about that for a few moments. No, he’d thought, it wasn’t ridiculous. “No, it isn’t. Okay, then.”
“It’s your day off tomorrow and I’m at court, so how about a dinner tomorrow evening?”
He’d been going out with some friends…but hell, he’d blown them off for the date. A date with Gil Grissom.
They’d worked together efficiently and quickly and the whole time Nick had been concentrating on trying to find a solution to a new problem. How to slip into a conversation, with Sara, that he was going out on a date with her heartthrob. He’d known it was mean, but what the hell…it had been that thought and not even the date that had kept a little smile on his face all that night.
Grissom had said he’d pick up Nick at seven-thirty and had asked if there was anywhere he’d like to go…or not go, as the case may be.
“I eat just about anything and everything…except peanut butter…which I hate with a passion.”
“No PBJ sandwiches for you then?”
“No way! Man, and if your idea of taking me out for a date is to buy me a PBJ…then I might have to re-think it.” He’d spoken quite seriously.
“I was thinking more along the lines of making the sandwiches and finding somewhere to eat them.” Grissom had responded equally seriously and they’d looked at one another for a moment or two and then smiled.
It was then that Grissom had dropped the bombshell and crushed Nick’s hope of his sharing with Sara.
“I think it’s best if we keep this between ourselves…for the time being a least…you know Supervisor…staff member. It would be circumspect for us both.”
Nick had agreed and had admitted to himself that he would never have whispered a word of it to Sara. He was neither that stupid…nor that brave.
Grissom had taken him to some obscure Greek restaurant out on the edge of the city…whether it was because the food was good, (it was) or it out of the way of any prying eyes (it was) Nick didn’t know. What he did know was that they had a great time. He hadn’t been nervous…he knew Grissom well…work Grissom, that was. But out of work Grissom wasn’t much different. He still lectured about things…only it wasn’t forensics or bugs, but about other things. His love of opera; Nick knew quite a bit because his Dad was keen and although the love hadn’t rubbed off on Nick, who was mostly a rock and roll and country kind of guy, he could still hold a reasonable conversation about it.
About sports; this had turned out to be interesting because…and who knew…that they were both geeks about the statistics as well as the game.
And Grissom had asked Nick about his pastimes. Nick was keen on keeping fit and working out and he spent about six or seven hours a week at the gym.
“So that’s why you look so good?”
“I try.” Nick smiled at the compliment. “But my other major pastime is carpentry.”
“Really? I think Warrick told me years ago that you made toys for your nieces and nephews.”
“Yeah, I do. I get requests…I made a puppet for one present and then got inundated with requests for puppets for the all the others…so I made a little family of them and when the cousins all get together they all kind of fit together. A mom, dad and children and a dog and cat.”
“That’s fascinating. You mean puppets on strings?”
“Yes. Strings. I make them articulated and they move quite well…better each time I make one.”
“What else have you made?”
“Two rocking horses and three rocking cradles for dolls…my present project is a major one. I’m making a dolls house with all the furniture and some figures. It’s quite hard going because it’s so intricate. Something’s are too fiddly for my clumsy fingers.” He’d laughed at himself.
“One thing you haven’t got, Nick, is clumsy figures. I know that from watching you collect and process evidence over the years. And if you were that clumsy I would see the result of it with cuts and grazes to your hands. I’ve never seen one.”
Nick had been called on it and he knew; he shrugged. “Some of the bits are mighty small…”
“…mighty small…an excellent oxymoron!” Gil had exclaimed and laughed and Nick had laughed with him.
They’d left the restaurant nearly three hours after they’d arrived, well fed and watered and both in good moods following the successful date. Grissom walked Nick to the passenger door of his truck and didn’t open the truck but gently pushed Nick against the truck and kissed him. Not hard and demanding but insistent enough for him to pull back breathlessly a minute or two later.
“You want to come back to my place?” Gil had enquired.
“Yeah, why not?” He’d tried for nonchalant, but there was no way that Nick was going to pass on that request.
End of Part Six
When they’d got back to Gil's place, Gil had gone to get them some drinks…Nick wanted a beer and Gil said he’d have a brandy. Nick had wondered around looking at Gil's CD collection and then at books crammed into a bookcase. There were science books and novels and autobiographies all seemingly randomly strewn together along the shelves and then with more books shoved on top of them. All of them looked well-thumbed and used.
“Have you read all of them?” Nick wanted to know when Gil bought his beer.
“Yes. Some more than once. Even if I don’t enjoy a book I normally read it through…just to see why I don’t like it and I can still learn from it. What do you read?”
“Science stuff for work. Bird books. Thrillers. I read the Harry Potter books just because everyone else did. I re-read books that I read when I was a kid. I don’t know why…maybe to try and recreate my childhood. I don’t know.”
“So do I. I don’t think I do it to recreate my childhood but because I enjoyed them so much. What’s your favourite book of all time?”
“To Kill a Mocking Bird.” Nick responded without having to think about it. “You?”
Grissom looked at him. “I cannot begin to answer that…there are so many; but Harper Lee’s, yes, it is a favourite.”
Nick had taken a swig of his beer. Grissom had given him the bottle and then he’d sipped his brandy watching Nick over the rim of the glass. Nick had smiled and Grissom then leaned forward and gently kissed his beer cold lips. Of course Nick had responded and tasted the brandy. Grissom had pulled back and smiled.
“You want to take this to the bedroom? I’m too old for making out on the couch.”
“Yeah. Okay.” He’d taken another drink of his beer but Grissom had finished the contents of his brandy balloon in one gulp and then walked off. Nick had looked at him and then decided that he probably wanted him to follow him, so with a smile and a roll of his eyes he did just that. He’d followed him up the stairs and into his bedroom.
He’d been quite surprised, although he’d never imagined what Grissom’s bedroom would be like he didn’t expect it to be light and airy. He did have heavy duty type black-out drapes at the window but the walls were pale blue…a cool shade…and his bedding was all white cotton. His furniture was light wood…ash, Nick had surmised.
Grissom had put on two lamps beside the bed and started to undo his shirt but then had stopped and walked over to Nick and relieved him of his beer bottle and put it down on the bedside cabinet. And then he’d kissed Nick.
In no time at all their clothing had been dropped on the floor around the bed and then they were on the bed making out. Nick had been on his back and Grissom had given him a thorough work out…starting with his lips and mouth, his face, his ears, his neck and slowly moving down his body.
Grissom had pulled back and grinned at Nick and then eyed up his prize, stroking the soft flesh on the hard erection and then he’d bent forward to capture the head…
“Whoa…no. Stop.” Nick had called out with some difficulty but Grissom had pulled back.
“What is it?”
“Condom. No contact without a condom.”
“I was going to fellate…”
“…I don’t know if you’re clean and I’m not exchanging any body fluids with anyone…even you…without seeing a clean test sheet.” Nick had rolled away, and taken the opportunity to pump his dick to relive a little of the pressure. “I have condoms in my wallet.” He’s sat up to look for his pants.
“I have condoms.” Grissom had leaned over and pulled open a drawer on the cabinet and pulled out a box and some lube. “Here. Check they’re still in date and haven’t perished. But, are you expecting me to fellate a rubber?” He’d sounded disgusted.
“That’s the idea. You know about saliva and even very small mouth sores.” Nick had checked the date on the box and they were okay for a few more months so he’d thought that perhaps Grissom didn’t actually get that much action…unless he was careless and didn’t use condoms…and if that was the case then Nick had been right to insist on tests.
“Yes, I do. But I have never been stopped from sucking before…”
“…there’s a first time for everything, Grissom. I’m clean and I aim to stay that way.” He’d grinned at Grissom and Grissom had chuckled.
“Okay. I commend your diligence. I’m still not sucking a condom.”
“You can fuck me if you want.” Nick had made the offer and he’d seen that Grissom was clearly surprised. “I’m just sensible, man, I’m not a blushing virgin and I’m not some tease…but you’ve got to be careful...HIV is still out there and all the other stuff.”
“You’d let me…on out first date?”
“I’m not going to turn you down.”
They’d laughed together. But then things had gotten serious for some time.
Nick had wiped his chest with a damp cloth that Grissom had brought for him from his bathroom.
“Are you staying here the night? I can take you home in the morning…if you want to go home now I can call a cab.”
“I’ll stay then if you don’t mind. You can make my breakfast for me.” He’d smiled at Grissom who’d raised his eyebrows at the suggestion.
“I can buy you breakfast at a diner on your way home.”
“You don’t do breakfast?” Nick really had been quite shocked.
“I have coffee.”
Nick had laughed. “Coffee will do just fine. I can make you a breakfast if you take me home.”
“I’ll hold you to that.”
In the middle of the night Grissom’s cell had woken them up. Grissom had been called into work.
Nick had started to get up. “I’ll get a taxi...”
“Stay in bed. If I’m not home you’ll have to get one, just pull the door closed behind you. If I do get home I’ll still hold you to the breakfast. I like pancakes.” He’d said over his shoulder as he’d gone into the bathroom and Nick had vaguely heard the shower start as he’d drifted back off to sleep.
Grissom had arrived back home when Nick was in the shower. He’d called to Nick.
“Still up for breakfast?”
“You want a coffee…I can smell that you’ve found my coffee machine.”
“Thanks.” Nick had finished his shower and grabbed a towel. “What was work about?”
“Decomp. Beetles. They wanted a time line. They need another bug man besides me.”
“No one would want it…”
“Because you’re too much of a hard act to follow.”
Grissom had laughed quite heartily. “Smokescreens and mirrors, Nick. That’s all. Coffee coming up.” And a few minutes later as Nick had dressed in his clothes from the night before, Gil brought him a steaming mug of coffee.
“I should have taken the time to fold my clothes…I look like I just picked them up from the floor.”
“Thanks.” Nick had laughed; he should have known that Grissom wouldn’t make nice and pretend.
Fifteen minutes later they were on the road to Nick’s condo. Once inside he’d changed into some old jeans and a tee shirt and found out the ingredients for pancakes.
“Bacon and eggs? Sausage patties?”
“Yes to everything.” Grissom had waited patiently as Nick had cooked their breakfasts. Nick had given the flatware to Gil.
“Here. Make the table. Sauces are in there.” He’d nodded towards his refrigerator and Grissom had gone about his task.
Not long afterwards they were eating that breakfast. Coffee, orange juice and toast together with the food Nick had cooked.
Grissom had eaten every morsel off his plate and then sat back. “That was the best breakfast I’ve had in a long time.”
“Good. You want dessert now?”
“Dessert? After breakfast?”
Grissom had chuckled. “I missed that. Of course I want dessert.”
End of Part Seven
Nick’s motto was that if he wasn’t having fun then don’t bother. He didn’t feel he wanted anything heavy in the relationship stakes just yet. He wanted to have some fun. But then he’d never met anyone with whom he wanted a heavy relationship…and that included Grissom.
But the strange thing was that they were having fun. He hadn’t expected it. Not with Grissom.
He was a very interesting man and he entertained Nick with stories about this and that…facts about something or observations. And what were lectures at work were long and involved conversations out of work that they both appeared to thoroughly enjoy.
The sex was very good and about ten days after they first slept together they‘d gone to a rather discreet clinic Nick knew about to get blood tests. Nick hadn’t pressed Gil to get one; Gil himself had decided that he was desperate to suck cock. The results would take about another ten days.
Nick had also found that keeping the secret at work was much easier than he’d imagined. He’d realised that it was very satisfying to know something that no one else did. That Gil was gay and his lover. At every twitch from Sara, every territorial stance from Catherine and every, besotted with Grissom, Greg moment, Nick would smile to himself and repeat in a sing- song voice in his head…if they knew what I knew…
It all had gone horribly wrong on their third anniversary. Three weeks that was. Nick had picked up his test result envelope. They wouldn’t give him Grissom’s result, which was fair enough, they were confidential. Nick had called Grissom at work and told him to collect his envelope from the clinic on the way over to Nick’s condo. He’d said that he would but he sounded odd to Nick. He’d never called him at work before and it just crossed Nick’s mind that maybe someone else was in his office with him. Sara, he’d thought and laughed.
They were having take-out at Nick’s place. Thai. He’d had the menus out waiting for Grissom. When the knock on his door had come, about two hours after Nick had expected it, he’d opened it with a grin.
“You might have called…I’m starving hungry…” Nick had known immediately that there was something wrong. Grissom looked different…he didn’t know how…but he wasn’t the same man he’d been with the day before. He had his envelope in his hand. Jesus, Nick had thought, bad news…
“I got the envelope…here.” He’d given Nick the envelope but it was unopened. Grissom had stepped into the condo and pushed the door closed behind him but he hadn’t moved away from it.
“I’ve been thinking, Nick. I think we’ve run our course. I don’t want to get involved with you…no, I mean with anyone. It’s not you; it’s me. I don’t do this…” He’d taken his right hand out of his pocket where he’d put it after relinquishing the envelope, and had indicated the two of them, then he’d put his hand back in his pants pocket. He’d looked ultra-casual to Nick. “…partner, relationship, whatever it is. I’m no good at it and it’s best it stops before it begins.”
Nick had thought, but it’s already begun, but he said. “Okay. Thanks for letting me know.”
Gil had nodded and looked away from Nick, unable, Nick could see, to keep eye contact. So Nick had opened the door again. “Guess I should have had a bowl of cereal while I was waiting.”
“I’m sorry. Work. And then the clinic.”
“You’d better have this back.” Nick had offered the envelope back to him.
“No. You keep it. I know what it’ll say.” He’d spoken as he was leaving the condo.
Nick had closed the door and looked at the envelope and then he’d taken his own unopened envelope and put them both into a drawer in his computer desk.
Only Catherine, at work, called him on his mood. “What’s with you, Mr Cheerful…not?”
“Like I said, not.”
“Actually, Catherine, I’ve been reflecting on the vicissitudes of my life in relation to work and colleagues and whether I’m justified in making such sweeping assumptions about the detritus we deal with day in, day out.”
Catherine was standing perfectly still, staring at him with her mouth slightly open. “You’re kidding, right?”
“Yeah, I am.” Nick had grinned and felt okay for the first time in some days. Nothing much had changed and there was no sense in being maudlin.
“Nicky! I thought you’d been sleeping with Grissom for a moment.” And she’d laughed, as did Nick, although he of course knew just how ironic her statement was.
It was nearly a month later that Grissom had sent Nick to Desert Palm to process an assault victim and he’d met Matt.
Nick did like having fun…that’s what he’d said. And he’d been doing all the things he’d liked doing to have fun. The clubs, the dinners, the sex. Matt was a good looking guy and they did go well together…Nick had seen other man watching them when they were out and about. They went well together.
Except that Nick wasn’t having fun. He’d been having fun with Grissom but hadn’t quite realised while he was with Grissom since it had all been so different...they’d had dinners together and they’d talked endlessly for hours and hours. They did have a shared background with their work, but it was more than that. And the sex wasn’t just good…it was great.
Nick had known exactly what the problem with Matt was…he just wasn’t Grissom.
After Grissom and Matt had dumped him he’d decided that he’d better take a bit of a sabbatical from the gay life he was leading. Keep a low profile and regroup. A bit of celibacy never hurt anyone and he could pick up some of his hobbies again.
It had been a long time since he’d been out looking for birds to shoot…with his camera. He would hike and take dozens of pictures and then come back and sketch some of the birds. Sometimes he would use pencils and other times watercolours. Then there was his carpentry. He would devote himself to finishing the dolls house…he wanted his parents to have it so that all the girls (and the boys if they wanted) could play with it when they visited. A kind of Uncle Nicky legacy.
So that’s what he did.
Catherine regularly asked about Matt and Nick decided to pretend they were still an item but that Matt was real busy. He would announce their separation in due course…but just not yet.
It was five weeks before he found himself being driven by Grissom out to Henderson in a heavy storm with gridlocked traffic. Grissom hadn’t been avoiding him any more than he’d avoided Grissom, but they’d maintained a work only relationship. There’d been no breakfasts together with the team. One or the other had always found an excuse and no one seemed to notice or perhaps, more likely, no one actually cared.
End of Part Eight
The storm was forecast but it was unusual in its ferocity and the truck, despite its substantial weight and size, was being buffeted by high winds as it crawled along the highway in the deluge. Nick could see that Grissom was getting irritable. He thought about that observation and decided that he would have noticed that regardless of their past.
“I wish I’d stayed in the lab. This weather, this traffic, is seriously fucking with me.” He was tapping his steering wheel, impatiently. Nick knew that Grissom rarely swore at work even though he used profanities quite liberally out of work.
“Is it a two man job?”
“Brass seemed to think so. He asked for three. But he’ll have to do with us…if we ever get there.
“I reckon we’re worth three when we put our minds to it.” Nick smiled trying to lighten the mood and it worked, Grissom laughed.
“You could be right there, Nick, yes.” They stayed quiet for a few more minutes and then Grissom turned to Nick.
“Don’t honestly know. We broke up.”
“Really?” Grissom did sound surprised.
“As a matter of fact he dumped me.” Nick admitted.
“He did? Oh.”
Nick laughed. “Not having much luck, recently, so I’m resting.”
“Why did he…sorry, it’s none of my business.”
“No, it’s okay. Said we weren’t having much fun.” Not entirely truthful, he knew, but good enough for Grissom’s ears.
“I’m surprised you…he…seemed very happy when we met.”
“Yeah, well, it didn’t last.” Nick suddenly became annoyed for no apparent reason and he didn’t want to talk about it anymore. He wished he’d kept his mouth shut. However, whether Grissom sensed his change in mood or whether he’d heard enough, Nick didn’t know, but that was the end of the conversation.
The rain, almost on cue, started to ease and almost automatically the traffic started a faster crawl. In minutes they were up to forty miles an hour and on their way. Brass was right…it was a big job, three murders involving an intricate family bust-up. But then so was Nick…the two men approached it all methodically and efficiently and worked well together for over ten hours.
When they were finally lab bound in bright hot sunshine Grissom made a decision.
“First diner. Stop. Coffee. Food.”
“That’s the best decision you’ve ever made.” Nick had said it innocently but he was aware that Grissom glanced at him, momentarily taking his eyes off the road.
”Are you questioning my decision making?” He spoke quite curtly.
Nick was taken aback. “No. Just joking, man.”
“Oh.” That was all Grissom said until they came to a diner and he pulled onto the lot.
Nick really couldn’t care less about Grissom’s little hissy fit but he decided to keep his mouth shut.
They did talk a little over breakfast but only about the case and they each drank about a gallon of coffee. They still had hours of work ahead of them when they arrived back at the lab.
Back on the lot Nick offered to drive and Grissom jumped at the offer. “Would you mind? After eating I do have a propensity to sleep. Not really conducive to driving.”
Nick smiled and took the wheel but thought that he’d never known Grissom sleep after eating when they were…together. It was obviously an excuse to prevent further conversation. In the event he didn’t sleep but rarely spoke and it didn’t seem that long before they were back at the lab setting about detailing their evidence and checking things out. It was a seventeen hour shift by the time they left. They were due back in work in six hours.
Nick made it back to work that night with five minutes to spare but as soon as he walked into the lab he knew there was something wrong. There was an atmosphere. He saw Catherine and the rest of them in Grissom’s office.
“Hey. What’s going on?”
“Hey, Nicky. It’s Gil; going home this afternoon he was involved in a crash…” Nick thought his legs were going to give out as Catherine continued. “…his truck was rolled over by an eighteen wheeler that didn’t, couldn’t, stop at a red light…”
End of Part Nine
“…how’s? I mean…” Nick croaked the question but was dreading the answer and his mouth was so dry his tongue seemed to be attached to the roof of his mouth.
“He’s good; would you believe a few cuts and bruises and no broken bones but his truck was totalled. He’s lucky.”
“Wow. Yeah. Okay.” In truth, Nick felt a little shaky and Catherine noticed.
“You okay? You look as if you’re going to faint.”
“I’m okay. Shock. I was with him all day. You just never know…do you? Is he okay does he need any help?”
“He says he’s good. Just aching all over, said he’ll probably be in tomorrow or the night after...he’ll see how he goes.”
“I’m going to go over after shift, see if I can do anything for him…cook, or anything.” Sara piped up in her most compassionate voice…except that Warrick, Greg and Catherine started laughing. Nick just looked at her incredulously.
“What?” She was indignant now.
“Cook? You?” Warrick was wiping tears away.
But Sara did have the balls to laugh at herself. “Microwave meals, okay?” She smiled but Nick sensed she was feeling victorious…she was going to get into Grissom’s house.
Luckily for him Catherine added her thoughts on the matter. “I would be very careful about doing anything for him without being asked, you know how private the man is and if he’s feeling sore he’ll be bad tempered, the last think he’d want is you…or anyone else…fussing round him. You should call him first.”
Sara hesitated. “If I call him, he’ll say he’s okay and that he doesn’t need me.”
“And if he says that then you know he doesn’t need you…or anyone else.” Catherine was being unusually diplomatic. “He’s not badly injured at all, just shaken.”
“Yeah, okay.” Sara sulked off and Nick knew that she would visit Grissom despite what anyone said.
“Work. You finishing off that murder?” Catherine asked Nick.
“Yeah, got a couple of hours at least, but it’s all routine stuff.”
“Okay. Try not to work over…you need your rest, we’ll take up the slack...”
Nick made his way to the lab and got his work out to start but then decided to call Grissom. Just being friendly…was what he told himself but he had been very shocked at hearing about his accident. He would like to hear his voice. When he thought that, he hesitated. He was being ridiculous. He didn’t need to hear the man’s voice. But then he did need to warn him about Sara…it would give him a chance to make plans to foil the attack.
He called Grissom’s cell. He answered after three rings.
“How you doing?”
“I’ve been better. Sore, aching, bruised and battered…but in one piece. How are you?”
“Me”? Nick asked, surprised. “I’m fine.”
“I’m relieved you weren’t in the truck with me, Nicky. I got off lightly, but the nearside, it was completely totalled and if you’d been sitting there…”
“But I wasn’t; it’s okay.” Nick was strangely comforted that Grissom had thought of him. They were silent for a moment or two and then Nick remembered why he’d really called. “I called to give you the heads up…Sara is talking about visiting you after shift to help you.”
Grissom paused. “To help me…”
“I don’t know, she said cook…”
Grissom started to laugh but stopped. “Don’t make me laugh my ribs hurt. Cook? Does she even know what a pan looks like?”
“Warrick called her on it and she amended it to a microwave meal.”
“I can do that myself, but…”
“But what?” Grissom had stopped.
“Well, you could cook me a breakfast…your pancake special.”
“You want that?”
“I have been injured in the line of work; well almost…I was driving home.”
“But I can’t turn up there and then have Sara arrive, can I?”
“If you could get here before her…you could drive me to your place. No.”
“You’ll be fucked. You need rest.”
“I need to eat. Cooking two breakfasts is as easy as one.”
“Okay. I’ll wait for your call and just hope you can get here before Sara.”
“I’ll do my best.”
“You always do, you always do.”
When Nick ended the call he was positive that he’d done the worst thing he could have possibly have done. If he was trying to get back what they had before then it would only end in disaster. A complete and fucking disaster…
End of Part Ten
Catherine kept her word and the rest of them did take up the slack. Consequently, not fifteen minutes after the end of his shift, he was leaving the lab safe in the knowledge that Sara was at the Bellagio having been sent to a suspicious death not thirty minutes before. Nick would easily beat her to Grissom. He called just before setting off to his house. It was five rings before it was answered.
“Just leaving the lab. You still up for breakfast.”
“I am. But, my muscles appear to have set during the night. The painkillers knocked me out and I slept in a chair since that was the most comfortable I could get but moving just now was hard. I’m going to get a hot shower see if I can get a bit more mobile.”
“Maybe you should stay in…”
“…no, I’m looking forward to your breakfast and missing Sara. That’s if you’re still okay with it?”
“I have no problem, but I don’t want to make you more uncomfortable.”
“I have to move…it will be better for me. I’ll get in the shower and hope that helps. See you in…half an hour?”
“Give or take. Bye.”
The drive over was uneventful except for Nick’s stomach doing acrobatics. He just had the feeling that this was a really bad idea and he shouldn’t get involved…again. But then all it was, was a breakfast with his boss who was sick…and trying to avoid another someone. It sounded lame to Nick’s own ears. At the same time Nick couldn’t avoid remembering that although he’d called Grissom to see if he was okay and warn him about Sara…it was Grissom who’d invited himself over for breakfast. Yeah. Just like he used to…before… He was pretty certain this was going to turn into a regular can of worms…
He parked up outside Grissom’s house and rang the bell. It was some time before the door opened, but Nick guessed that Grissom, correctly as it turned out, was a lot less mobile than he’d intimated earlier. He opened the door and Nick slipped inside. Grissom couldn’t stand up straight and was holding his left side. He hair was still quite damp and it looked as if he’d just run his hand through it rather than brushed it as he normally did. Nick smiled at the thought that his curls would be all over the place when it did dry.
“My ribs are only bruised ribs...”
“…I heard they’re worse than broken ribs.” Nick opined.
“You’re not helping.” Grissom said but he was smiling. “The shower, believe it or not, has helped and I’ve just taken one painkiller with a cookie…I’m supposed to have two with food so I’ll take the other one at your place.”
“Are you sure you’re good to go…”
“…I’m just stiff and slow. I’ll be okay. You might have to help me into and out of the truck.”
“How did you get home from the hospital?”
“Jim…he heard about the accident and came looking for me. I wasn’t as incapacitated then, as I am now. I’ll be okay. I was lucky you know.”
“I know. Come on. You got everything?”
“Could you get my jacket…oh. No, I don’t think I could get it on. I managed to slip this sweat shirt over my head but it hurt like hell…and it’s about two sizes too big.”
“You don’t need a jacket. Keys? Alarm? Still the same?”
“Keys.” He pointed to the table where he normally left them. “And yes…eighteen twelve.”
“Okay. You start to make your way to the truck.”
Nick set the alarm and locked up as Gil made his slow painful way to the truck. He did have to help Grissom up…by pushing his ass. It was his request saying that his ass hurt less than everywhere else. So Nick bit the bullet and pushed at Grissom’s ass until he could manoeuvre himself into the passenger seat. He looked exhausted. Nick handed him the seat belt and told him to hold onto it while he got into the driver’s seat. He then pulled it around Grissom and clicked it into place.
“It saved my life.”
“That’s what they’re supposed to do. And the air bag.”
“All four deployed.”
“What was it like…rolling over?”
“Surreal. Like it’s happening in slow motion but in reality it’s really fast. The noise was the most frightening thing though…that eighteen wheeler trying to stop and pushing the truck around…luckily I was flipped out of the way…if you’d been with me…”
“I wasn’t. Don’t think about it.”
“When I was lying…hanging upside down by my seat belt, more accurately…I thought of you.”
“You did?” Nick smiled. “I think I would have been more concerned about getting out.”
“I couldn’t get out. LVFD had to cut me out…that took nearly an hour. Then four hours at the hospital.”
“Busy day, then. I finished up the Henderson case tonight.”
“Good. I knew you would.”
Nick had eased his truck out into the road and was driving as smoothly as he could. Grissom was in real pain he could tell the way his face was set. They made the journey to Nick’s condo and Nick had to help Grissom out of the truck. It was harder than getting him into it but they managed.
“Are you going to be okay with the steps?” Nick suddenly remembered the staircase up to his condo.
“Stairs are no problem, I managed at home. Walking’s the real problem.” He tried a laugh but his face contorted into a grimace. “Laughing hurts like hell.”
“I bet. As soon as we get in, have the other painkiller…I think you need it.” Nick was also wondering how the hell he would get Grissom back to his own house. Or did Grissom expect to stay? Was he doing this just to avoid Sara?
Nick settled Gil in an easy chair in his living room…he retrieved a couple of pillows from his bedroom to prop him up.
“That’s good. I’m actually comfortable. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. I’m going to take a quick shower and change, is there anything you want while you wait for breakfast.”
Gil thought for a few moments. “No, I’m okay here; but I’ll probably drop off to sleep.”
“No problem, you heal while you sleep.”
“Do you?” Gil asked, surprised.
“No idea, but that’s what Momma used to say.” He chuckled and left Gil alone while he showered and changed.
As Gil had expected he was fast asleep when Nick got back. He didn’t disturb him but went about cooking a breakfast for his patient.
End of Part Eleven
He’d nearly finished cooking the breakfast when he heard Grissom call him.
“Coming.” He went into the living room.
“The smell woke me up…I’m starving hungry but I can’t get up…not without you pulling.”
“You can eat there…”
“…I don’t think it would be a good idea to eat with the food in my lap, I’ll be best sitting at the table.”
“Okay. Stay there a few minutes longer while I finish up.”
“Okay.” Nick turned to go back into the kitchen. “Nick?”
“Yeah?” He turned back.
“Thank you for this…it’s an imposition, I know…and all because I can’t face telling Sara that she doesn’t stand a chance.” He smiled ruefully.
“It’s not an imposition and I don’t blame you, really, about Sara. The fallout would be felt around LVPD for years, I reckon.” He smiled at Grissom. “Got to get back to the food.”
In five minutes it was ready to be served so Nick went back into Grissom and helped pull him to his feet.
He was almost doubled up with sore muscles and bruised ribs. “It’s easier sitting down but I’ve got to make an effort. Especially for your breakfast special.”
He sat down at the table and Nick helped him push the chair closer to the table.
“One special coming up.”
A stack of pancakes, crispy bacon, scrambled eggs, sausage patties and a grilled tomato each. With toast and juice and coffee.
Grissom ate heartily, but slowly, and remembered to take his second pain killer. They didn’t talk much since they were both eating. But when Grissom was on his last piece of toast, plastered with marmalade that was bought specially for him when he used to come over regularly, he put it down.
“I’m sorry, Nick.”
“Sorry?” Nick thought he was going to get some kind of explanation about him being dumped.
“You’re completely worn out and I’ve made you pick me up, cook me breakfast and now you’re going to have to take me home. I didn’t think. Really.”
“I’m still standing and I wouldn’t have cooked you your breakfast unless I wanted to…I’m not a compete pushover…” He laughed. “…and I’ll take you home. No worries.”
“You’re too nice for your own good. Let people use and abuse you…”
“…no one has ever abused me, let’s get that straight. I only do what I want to do, make no mistake about that.” Nick was quite forceful.
“I abused you.”
“You. No. How did you figure that out, exactly?”
“Used you, dumped you and walked away without a backward glance.”
“Man, we only dated for a few weeks.”
“Three…weeks. Exactly.” Neither man spoke for a few moments and then Grissom spoke again. “I was badly hurt, Nick, a long time ago and I’ve let that cloud my vision ever since. If I feel myself…falling. Getting involved, I back off. I felt myself being drawn towards you and I couldn’t allow myself that luxury. I couldn’t. And yet…”
Nick waited a few moments before asking. “And yet, what?”
“This is going to sound absolutely ridiculous.”
“In my truck while I was waiting to be freed I thought about my life and who would be there at the hospital to hold my hand and fetch my toothbrush. Sara, of course, would be more than happy to oblige…but she’s just a staff member, a colleague, to me. Catherine would visit…and, of course, Jim did come and he hung around. Good friends…but nothing more. There’s no one and there hasn’t been for over twenty years because I was afraid of being hurt again.”
Nick didn’t speak because he felt that Grissom had more to say; he wasn’t wrong.
“There was only one person whom I thought I wanted…really wanted at my bedside. The one who would hold my hand.”
Nick smiled since he knew it was him.
“Would you have come?”
Nick nodded. “Wild horses wouldn’t have kept me away…I didn’t know about the accident until I got to work.”
“Is it too late?”
“Too late?” Nick knew what Grissom was getting at but, what the hell, he had to make him work for it.
Grissom chuckled. “Now you’re being deliberately obtuse. You know what I mean and I think I might be in luck. Am I?”
Nick sat back in his chair and looked at Grissom. He wasn’t going to roll over, he wasn’t joking when he’d said he wasn’t a pushover and he was quite capable of calling the shots.
“You’re not going to give me a second chance are you? I’m sorry…”
“…hold on, I’m just pausing for effect. You can have a second chance. But it will be the only one you get.”
Grissom grinned. “Thank you…”
“…if you get panicky again…talk to me. We can take this slow. I only want a bit of fun…that’s what I told Matt…but he told me I only wanted to have fun with you. He wasn’t wrong.”
“He dumped you because of me?”
“Yeah, right after that breakfast where we met up.”
“I like Matt...great intuition.”
They smiled at one another and Grissom went to stretch his hand over the table to where Nick’s lay but he groaned at the pain. Nick reached for his instead.
“You want to stay here? I can nurse you back to health.”
“I would love to. I think I will have to sleep in that chair though…it’s very comfortable.”
“That’s okay. I can sleep on the couch to keep you company.”
“There’s no need.”
“Maybe I want to.”
“I’d like that.”
“Hey, I’ve got something.” He got up from the table and went to his computer desk. “Our test results.” He waved two envelopes at Grissom.
“They’re not opened.”
“Not much point was there?” Grissom smiled and shook his head. “I’ll need to get tested again.”
“What for? If you were as stringent with Matt as you were with me I don’t see the need. You were, weren’t you?”
“Yeah, I was.” He nodded.
They opened each other’s envelope and, as both men knew they would be, they were HIV negative and free of any other STDs. They stared at the results for a few moments before Nick spoke again.
“I’ve never done bareback…you?”
Grissom nodded. “A long time ago.”
“Maybe…you know…when your ribs are up to it…”
Grissom nodded and smiled. “Maybe. That’d be good. When my ribs are repaired. And maybe you could call me Gil?”
“Maybe I could, Gil.”
Gil stayed and slept in the chair, propped up with the pillows and cuddled in blankets. Nick did sleep on the couch to keep him company.
At work that night Sara was itching to speak as she walked through the door of the briefing room.
“Grissom wasn’t at home when I stopped by this morning.”
“And?” Warrick wanted to know.
“He was injured in an accident…”
“…I don’t think he was badly injured.” Catherine butted in.
“Maybe he heard you were going to cook for him.” Greg made Nick laugh since that was partly the truth but Sara scowled.
“Maybe he’s got a lady friend taking care of him?” Warrick plunged the knife in…
…and Catherine twisted it. “Or a man friend.” She knew.
Their combined efforts shut up Sara and she sat back and immediately adopted her sulking manner.