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Conrad Ecklie hated always being the one left out.
He hated feeling like the fat kid no one chose for kick-ball, like the town bum everyone else either avoided or spat on. He wasn't even a particularly bad guy—no worse than any other normal person would be in his position. The problem was, the other men at the Las Vegas Crime Lab were not normal. They were superhumanly good, and they made him look really, really bad in comparison.
Gil Grissom. Nick Stokes. Warrick Brown. Greg Sanders. Oh, how he hated those names. He hated how each and every one of them made him look like the scum of the Earth, every single day. Sanders, with his annoyingly chipper smile and his loud shirts. Stokes, with his Texas drawl and friendly grin. Brown, who never slouched and always looked you square in the eye. And Grissom, with all of them following him around, kissing his ass like he was the greatest thing since the Big Bang. Stupid fucking Grissom.
What was so great about Grissom, anyway? Ecklie didn't get it. What was it about Grissom that made all of the first-year lab techs trip over themselves, trying to be the quickest to get results back to him? Why did women flock to him? He wasn't attractive at all, and he wasn't all that high up on the CSI totem pole Ecklie was way more influential than him. So why the hell did everyone idolize Grissom? How did he get to be best buddies with the entire staff?
Maybe it was because Grissom kept cutting them breaks all the time, bending the rules for them, going easy on them. It wasn't very professional of him. Ecklie prided himself on playing by the book and following the rules. If that was why everyone hated him, then it wasn't really fair. Just because he refused to show blatant favouritism... Ecklie snorted. That phrase always brought a certain CSI to mind.
Warrick Brown was one giant case of blatant favouritism. Any conscientious boss would've fired his ass the second they found out about his gambling problem. But nooooo, Grissom the Almighty and Forgiving just had to give him a second chance, and instead of frowning upon that, all of the others applauded his obviously flawed decision. Of course, it helped that Warrick was popular. Anyone else would have been gone, but everybody loved Warrick too much to let him go. Ecklie couldn't see why.
Personally, he couldn't stand the sanctimonious bastard. Stupid holier-than-thou Warrick Brown; like he was the only one who ever had to grow up in a rough neighbourhood. Like he was the only one who had to work hard to get to where he was. Like he was the only one who could possibly understand how other people felt. And he was always so sure of himself, too. So fucking sure that everything he did was right, that he was fighting the good fight against bad guys like murderers and thieves and Ecklie.
Goddamned superhero Warrick, and his goddamned sidekick Nick Stokes, who was equally sure of himself and thus equally annoying. Watching the two of them together? It was enough to make Ecklie retch. Honestly, did they really need to be that earnest with each friend, family member, distant relation, concerned citizen, and random curious stranger who wanders in and asks about a case? Looking at them with wide, solemn eyes, assuring them that they were doing their darnedest to eradicate all evil, maybe patting them on the shoulder—didn't either of them get tired of it?
If it were just Warrick doing the hero bit by himself, Ecklie could probably bite his tongue and endure it. But Nick did it too, and boy, did he lay it on thick. He had that stupid down-home accent and that stupid good ol' grin. He was just so damned pleasant to everyone. Ecklie had hated guys like Stokes since childhood. Nick Stokes was the kind of guy who got all the lucky breaks, who got the looks and the charm and the brains. He was the jock in high school who was captain of all the sports teams, president of all the clubs, head of all the classes, and nice to everybody to boot. You couldn't even be jealous of him, because he was such a good guy, and you were supposed to be honoured to have the privilege of just knowing him. Ecklie hated how no one at work—no one on the entire freaking PLANET—had a problem with Stokes. Everyone was happy just to know Stokes.
Greg Sanders, in particular, was very happy to know Stokes, and Ecklie hated that too. He hated how Nick and Greg had their perfect little workplace romance, how it was just so cute, how they couldn't keep their eyes or their hands off of each other for any decent length of time. What, did they think it wasn't completely obvious? Did they think that no one would notice? Ecklie frowned. Maybe they didn't care. Maybe they were fine with how obvious their little love affair was, because everyone already knew. Maybe everyone else already knew, but nobody bothered to inform Ecklie, because he was only THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN THE DEPARTMENT.
Ecklie was always left out of everything around here. They all had their clique, which basically consisted of everybody in the building except him. No one invited him out for lunch, no one ever asked about his life outside of work—no one even talked to him unless they had to. He wouldn't want to go out for lunch with any of them anyway, but he didn't even get the pleasure of turning them down, because they never asked. They were a tightly-knit group, and Ecklie was firmly locked on the outside of it.
They were even more tightly knit now, with Sanders becoming an official CSI. Before, he was just a minor figure, out of sight and out of mind in his lab. Back then, Ecklie didn't mind him so much. Back then, the only annoying things about him were his ever-upbeat mood and the goo-goo eyes he made at Nick. Ecklie could easily avoid him by not going to the DNA lab. But now, the kid was everywhere. It was impossible to get through the day without seeing his bright eyes and artfully arranged hair.
The thing about Sanders that pissed him off the most was how everyone thought he was so adorable. The kid always had everyone smiling or laughing or just plain loving him. He was so fucking eager to please, and he was just sharp enough to make cute, witty comments while running whatever errand Grissom or Catherine gave him. He was a quick learner, too, and Grissom obviously thought he was the best student ever. Warrick and Sara welcomed him into the fold with open arms, because they probably thought he was smart and funny and all-around great. Nick, of course, thought he was the cutest thing on the face of the Earth. The coroners and the lab techs and hell, even the janitors thought Greg was an absolutely terrific guy. But would any of them think that if Greg weren't a young, good-looking kid with a bright shiny smile?
Ecklie had no doubt that everyone would just think Greg was annoying if he were older and a little overweight and balding. No one would put up with his stupid jokes and his loud music and his constant flirting then. If Ecklie ever attempted to check out Catherine's butt the way Greg did, she'd probably beat him up and then serve him several harassment suits. It was adorable when Greg hit on everybody, but not when someone else did it. It was ageism and discrimination based on looks, and it was so unfair.
It wasn't Ecklie's fault that he wasn't as popular as Grissom, or as cool as Warrick, or as nice as Stokes, or as cute as Sanders. Everyone was mean to him and disrespected him, simply because he couldn't be just like them. Well, screw that. He was going to make them sorry for it soon enough.
Ecklie grinned down at the order to transfer papers he held in his hand. We'll see what Warrick will do without his idol Grissom, he thought. We'll see how Nick feels about not being able to see his precious Greggo all day. Ecklie signed the last one with pleasurable satisfaction.
The other guys may have had everything else, but Ecklie still had that one thing that trumped them all—power.