The Fan Fiction Page/ Blog/ Picture Pages

Blog a Day
The Picture Page Thingy
CSI Nick/Griss Fic
The CSI Non-Straight Fic. All apologies....grin

Note from the author: (Filter) This is one of my little known hobbies-- writing "fan fic" based on tv shows. I usually do Law & Order, but CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, has really sparked my brain. It also led to the very first "slash" (read, a fiction in which two same-sex character on the show engage in consensual sex) I ever did. I like it. I hope you do to. But be warned. There is sex, and none of it is heterosexual!!

Untitled by Filter
2-22-03 (one day late HB, WP!)

Without a doubt, Gil Grissom knew his mind.

Every fissure and fold of his gray matter he had been exploring since he was very young, back when he first got a glimpse of the infinite potential of the human mind. At the time, hed likened it to a rotating door, offering him quick glances into the huge capacity for thought and reasoning. Since that time, he had been fortunate enough to be able to get his foot in the door more than once and get a longer, more thoughtful look at the infinite nature of his mind--it never ceased to leave him both stunned and frightened.

*So why,* he wondered, *can't I figure out how this puzzle works?*

The chief CSI was lying on his back near the end of his shift, flat out on the floor in his office with a small metal puzzle in his hand. It consisted of two rings and a circular piece of rope, with a piece of wood on the rope in an odd shape. When he'd seen it on the table in the break room, he'd picked it up and become immediately intrigued by it.

He'd now been at it for over an hour. He had yet to become frustrated, but leaning over his desk and peering at it so closely had made his back hurt. Grissom had sighed, rubbed his sore back roughly, and stretched out on the floor, game in hand. His graying hair was mussed from his hands worrying it, and it stuck out in odd tufts all over.

Gil had just started to review theories of space and dimensions when Catherine Willows came in looking for him. It was forty minutes after end of shift and she had noticed he hadn't come into the locker room to change. Not that it was completely atypical, but he had the day off tomorrow, as she did, and they had chatted about maybe having dinner at her place later--she'd mastered paella and knew for all his smooth demeanor Gil Grissom was an avid fan of spicy foods.

She opened the door hesitantly and peered in. The room, as she expected, was dim, but she noted Gil's phone was on his desk, as were his beeper and the baseball cap he'd worn to work--"bad hair day," he'd said, astonishing his team. Grissom worried about his hair?

"Gris?" she called out, stepping in and looking about. *Is he buried under a pile of files somewhere?* she wondered. "Hey, Gil? Where are you?"

Grissom came out of his trance. "Hello?" He was disoriented and sat up awkwardly. "I'm here," he said softly, taking off his glasses and rubbing eyes red from concentrating.

Catherine came around and saw him on the floor. "Gil? What--are you okay?" she asked, noting his eyes and frustrated frown.

"I'm fine except I can't for the life of me figure out this puzzle! It's not obvious or silly, and it's not like any puzzle I've seen before"

Grissom trailed off when he saw Catherine smiling at him. She had always been a little in awe of his mind, a little intimidated, and more than a little amused by his ability to get so absorbed in an idea that he'd more than once in her presence tripped off a curb or smacked into a car while walking and talking and thinking. *Grissom, for a man with an amazing mind, you can really be a fool,* she thought without malice.

"What? Catherine, *you* figure it out!" Grissom said huffily, holding the piece up. She had just taken it when Nick Stokes walked in.

Nick was feeling tired after a long day of climbing through the city dump for evidence with Warrick Brown, but he had showered and was ready for beer and bed. He had put down a little harness part that his niece from Texas had sent him as a kind of sculpture from her first week at farrier school, and he'd thought he'd left it in the break roomwhen he'd gone to get it, the thing had disappeared.

"Hey Nicky," Cath called out. Gil waved his hand.

"Hey you two. I was just coming in to ask--oh! Cath, where did you find it?" Nick stepped forward and took the "game" from her hands. "I thought someone had tossed in in the trash."

"Nick--that thing is yours?" Grissom said, trying to get up from the floor. He seemed to have a cramp in his leg and grunted painfully.

"Gris, lemme help you," Nick said, stepping forward smoothly. He put one hand under Gil's left elbow and easily pulled him up. Grissom once again was stunned by Nick's easy strength and--*his grace*, he thought. He shook off a feeling of warmth and dusted his clothes.

"Thanks. Now, will you please tell me how to solve that thing?" Grissom asked, an edge of irritation in his voice.

This whole time, Catherine was stifling a giggle, but when she saw Nick's confusion she let out a burst of laughter that both men jumped at. "Oh, Gil--" she said, shaking her head.

"This thing?" Nick held up the metal-and-rope piece. "Gris, this is from my niece. It's something she cobbled together at her school. It's notdid you think it was one of those weird puzzles?" Nick asked in amazement. He had just begun to notice the frustration on his boss' face, and he began to feel the infectious laughter coming from Catherine.

Grissom looked at him closely, frown deepening. Suddenly, one of his brain folds released the puckish synapse that had been struggling against his more rational ones to tell him that it was just a mess of metal and sisal. He slumped against the wall. "Oh, god," he moaned, headache suddenly knocking on his forebrain. "Nick, don't tell me INick, I was trying to figure that thing out for an hour!"

Nick stared, opened his mouth, and suddenly was doubled over with laughter. His and Catherine's mingled and echoed in the office while Gil groped his way to his chair and sat heavily, folded arms on his desk receiving his slumping head. He listened to his CSIs laughing at him, and even through his headache, a tiny part of his right brain said well, yeah--it is kinda funny, Gil, you gotta admit.

*No I do not,* Grissom thought childishly. He raised his head and pushed back in his chair. "All right," he said sternly. "Enough laughter on my behalf."

Nick leaned on one arm on his desk. "Oh man I can't believe you were at it so hard! It's just something she sent me for my desk, or table I'm sorry, man!" he cried, then started laughing again.

Catherine recovered more quickly, knowing how sheepish Gil must have felt and feeling a little guilty that such a brain had been wasting time on an impossible problem. She came behind him and leaned her hands on his shoulders. She was astonished to find them stiff and tense. "Nicky come on. Give the poor old guy a break."

Nick coughed a few times and wiped tears from his eyes. "I-I'm sorry. I wish I'd found you earlier, but you weren't in the locker room. It's--man, I'm sorry you spent all that time on it!"

Nick Stokes did feel a little guilty. His boss and the man whose work and demeanor he strove to emulate was looking at him with a mix of disappointment and flustered shame. "Gris, I'm sorry, really," he said again, a little weakly.

Grissom sighed. "I'm not that old. Okay, maybe I am a little old to be wracking my brain on a piece of--horse harness? It's--it's okay." He tried to smile, felt a twinge in his shoulder, and reached up to rub it. Catherine moved her hand for his and Nick felt an awful guilt building when he saw Gil's face wince in pain. *How long had he been on the ground, with this stupid thing in his hands? An hour?*

"Grissom, let me make it up to you. I shouldn't have laughed like that--man, you shouldn't waste your brain on this shit!" Nick flung the rope away from him into Gil's trash can. He felt ashamed of his laughter.

Gil stood up and leaned over stiffly to fish the piece out. "Nicky, it's for you. It's my fault for not being able to think *inside* the box." Grissom handed it to Nick and smiled a little. He knew the young CSI was feeling horrible for laughing at his boss, even if he knew Gil was laid back enough to take it.

*But I am pretty damn tired now,* he thought. He looked into Nick's pained eyes and saw a real desire for atonement there.

Nick took the thing guiltily. "Aww it's just Dana's little thing. It's nothing," he said.

"Nick, come on. It's fine, right Gil?" Catherine asked. She had a feeling she wasn't going to be seeing Gil later.

Grissom nodded. "Yeah. It is." He turned back to his chair and sat heavily. "I'll be happy to get home, though."

Nick felt an appalling desire to cry. He near-idolized Grissom--and Gil had been involved as a star in a few of Nick's non-work fantasies, as sleep stole up on him.

Nick Stokes had taken a long while to come to terms with his tendencies, or his attractions. When he'd moved to Las Vegas, something about the wild liberal town had helped him accept his feelings for men, his feelings for women, and his feelings for a completely inaccessible chief CSI.

So, when he looked at his boss and occasional dream partner and saw him disappointed in Nick, even though he knew Grissom would get over it, Nick felt he'd just shot his father or mother. He felt horrible.

"Gris, please let me make it up to you. I shouldn't have laughed like that. You had no idea, and it does look like those puzzles. Let me buy you a drink, and you can yell at me in private at a bar where Catherine won't hear," he said, smiling weakly.

Catherine watched the young CSI stumble over words. She knew Nick had a huge crush on Grissom's mind, and had wondered if Nick was enamored of Grissom's other, more earthly parts. Now, she thought she was getting the beginnings of an answer. "Hey Gil, maybe that's a good idea," she said. "I can make that paella next week. You probably don't feel in the mood for a long dinner."

Grissom slipped his newest case file into his briefcase and slapped his baseball cap on his head. He stood, slung his jacket on, and dropped his cell phone and beeper into his pockets before answering. When he looked over at Nick, his face was unreadable.

"You can buy me a scotch, Nick. And I'll think about not knocking you on your evaluation for insubordination," he said, face perfectly straight. Catherine, a longtime friend, knew he was teasing Nick, but remained silent. She was interested in how Nick would reactshe was also interested in Grissom's intent.

After eight or so years of friendship, during a rare night off, Grissom had confided to Catherine that he thought he might be completely asexual. She had laughed at him.

"Why are you laughing? Doesn't it make sense?" he'd asked.

She smiled at his furrowed brow and reached over to smooth it with one finger. "Gil Grissom, you're too handsome and charming in that egghead way to be asexual. I've seen you looking at me sometimes, and other people, and I've seen you looking at men the same way."

Gil's face had dropped. Catherine thought he didn't look embarrassed, just--caught.
"No you haven't," he stalled.

"Jesus, Gil! And don't tell me you don't remember that one night last year after my CSI 2 promotion party" she started. Grissom paled. They'd made out like teenagers that night in a bathroom. He remembered it as very, very pleasant, but it seemed strange to think he and Catherine, whom he considered his best friend, had had each other's tongues in their mouths.

He tried to smile. "I was a good kisser, wasn't I?" he asked innocently. Catherine howled. *Where does he manage to get those balls when I know he's dying of embarrassment?* she wondered.

"Oh yeah" she'd purred at him.

Catherine was watching those lips now as they smiled slightly at Nick Stokes.

To his credit, Nick took it relatively well. "If I have to, I'll go on a rollercoaster with you and hold my hands up the whole time," he parried, and Gil's grin increased.

"You're on. Catherinedarlin', next week. I'll bring the rojo," Gil had said. He leaned over and gave her a chaste kiss on her cheek. "Thanks," he said before he straightened.

"Okay boys, be good. I'll see you later."
* * * * * * *

Fifteen minutes or so later, after considering the variables of early AM drinks, they were in Grissom's truck, deciding fighting traffic even at 4 am was too much in two vehicles. Nick let Gil choose and Grissom drove several miles south of the strip to a small, semi-dim bar with only a few cars outside.

Nick noted the lack of people. "Wow. How'd you find any place not swarming with touristsand open?" he wondered. Gil shrugged.

"Orlando doesn't even have a slot machine inside. He's a true maverick."

The inside was dim, semi-smoky, and relatively quiet. Nick could hear gentle music form somewhere, and a few conversations, in more than English. Gil moved easily to a back booth and slid in, sighing in contentment. Nick slid in more slowly, head swiveling as he checked out the placehe was amazed anyone was in there, even if it *was* Las Vegas.

Nick's surprise amused Grissom when a man came over and slapped down a Shiner Bock in front of Gil, icy cold. Grissom shook the man's hand with a wide smile.

"'lando, 'manito! Que pas' guey?" he laughed in a musical Spanish. Nick's mouth dropped.

"Como que guey, guero? Gil, where you been, brother?" Orlando was a muscular Chicano with a tattoo of the Virgen de Guadalupe on his forearm. He was looking at Gil with genuine interest and friendship, Nick noted when he was able to wrap his brain around a bitri?lingual Grissom.

"Round and about, brooh. Nicky Stokes--Orlando Guerra. Runs the finest little cantina in LV!"

"Nice to meet you," Nick said, noting Orlando was very--very--strong.

"Hey, an amigo of Gil's, etcetera etcetera, no? What can I get for you?"

"One of those? Haven't had one since last Christmas, in Dallas," Nick said as Gil took a long drink of beer. He gulped himself as he watched the tan column of Grissom's throat moving.

"Oye 'berto, you been hiding a Tejano from me? Que gacho!" Orlando said, looking at Gil with mock anger. Grissom shrugged.

"What can I say 'mano? He's trying to make up for being a pendejito today."

Orlando looked back at Nick sternly. "What did you do to mi carnal, Nick? Don't you know Grissom is the man? El hombre, not just any, tu sabe?"

Nick raised his hands in surrender. "I'll wash dishes, I'll do laundry, just--Gil, give me a break! I just laughed, man" he trailed off when he saw Gil smiling.

"Nick, calm down. Lando, get the chico here a Shiner, then come over and sit when you got the time. I wanna know how my goddaughter is doing, huh?"

Orlando waved and smiled. "Sure. I gotta few things to do yet, but I'll stop back. Be right back with your beer, Nick."


Nick was still trying to wrap his brain around Gil speaking what seemed to be dialect Spanish when suddenly it started to process that Gil was a godfather. The image made Nick smile hugely all of a sudden.

"What the fuck are you grinning at, Nicky?" Grissom asked. Nick looked up quickly and was relieved to notice Gil was smiling around the neck of the bottle, tilting the beer up for another long swallow. Nick couldn't help the tight feeling in his chest when he saw Grissom's throat move *it's so amazingly sexyand he's just drinking a damn beer!* Nick thought helplessly.

"When did you become a compadre, Gris?" Nick asked. Gil raised one quizzical brow.

"When did you learn Spanish, Nicky?"

"You first."

Grissom leaned back, beer in hand while he considered Nick. Nick did not like the way Grissom's eyes narrowed at him. It felt very--microscopic. He knew suddenly what Gil's insects felt like before they were suffocated and pinned down.

"Orlando and I met when I moved back to Las Vegas from California. I was there a half year doing some research.

"When I came back I was trying to find a new place, and I hooked up with a friend who told me he knew a guy who had an extra room, really cheap, and he thought I'd be perfect. And it was Orlando.

"My friend didn't tell me that Lando had an extra room cause he'd just lost his wife and was raising his baby daughter by himself. So, I get there, and a little 18-month old girl is there when I open the door. She's looking up at me, and I can't speak, and then she toddles up and--"

"And grabs this shocked little gringo's leg and won't let go. I haven't even met the man and Graciela won't let him go!" Orlando laughed as he put Nick's Shiner down. He leaned against the booth and grinned. "I'd never seen a man so scared of a little girl! When I finally got her off him, I think they had become friends."

Grissom laughed. "Graciela was the closest a female had gotten to me in a long time back then, 'manito! Anyway, I ended up staying there over a year, and for some weird reason Lando asked me, a lapsed everything, to be Gracie's compadre."

"Yeah! Had to fake he was a Catholic, never seen a more confused man! The padre, he starts, and I forget he's gonna do the baptism in Spanish!" Orlando bent over with laughter, and Nick had to giggle as well.

Grissom looked miffed. "Hey, I had no idea what the hell I was saying. Lando's whispering in my ear, and everyone's looking at me like I'm the whitest damn Mexican they ever seen, and it feels like forever! And damn it if they didn't make *me* pick her middle name!"

"What did you pick?" Nick asked?

"Stacy!" Gil and Orlando said together, laughing hysterically. Nick laughed with them, and again had to struggle with a tightening in his groin when he saw Grissom laughing. The little crinkles around the man's eyes, his smile, the way his blue eyes lit up-- *Jesus, please stop it!* Nick admonishes himself.

"I-I couldn't help it, I forgot Lando said I could pick, and I just--it's my sister's name! Jesus poor Gracie!" Grissom laughed, wiping tears from his eyes. Orlando smiled at him.

"'berto, you know she loves it. At least it's not Maria, she says!"

Gil had regained his composure. "True. Hey, how is Graciela? She'snine now?"

"Si, 'manito. She turned nine in October--you remember, you came for a little to her party! She misses you."

"Oh yeah. Some kids' pizza place." Gil shuddered at the memory. "There were like forty little shrieking kids there, Nick. And the only one I wanted to see was Gracie. I was made to wear a stupid hat by a large rodent with a bowler hat."

Nick gaped, then laughed hard, a sharp bark. Orlando looked at him, amused. "Oh! My life for a picture of that!"

"Hey--I can accommodate," Orlando said, and walked back to the bar over Gil's protests.

"No--Lando! Hijole.Nick, why'd you have to do that?" Grissom asked in exasperation, finishing his beer. He got up before Nick could protest and went to the bar himself.

Orlando was reaching behind the bar for the photot of Grissom in a Chuck E Cheese hat when he felt Gil's arm. "Hey hermanito! I like yer boy there, he's funny."

Gil frowned. "I don't need him to see that. I'm his boss, bro, come on!"

Orlando turned and looked at his old friend. He thought the time had been relatively good to Grissom, except for a few worry lines. He saw the same incredibly quick intellect in the blue eyes, and the same self-absorption. "Oye Gil. Calmate. What's up with you? I haven't seen you in weeks!"

Gil looked over at Nick. "It's been busy. You heard about the multiple rapes and murders. My guys are on it. And" Gil rubbed his neck and grabbed his own beer, "and ya know, gotta give me credit for being here today, Lando."

Orlando considered. "Que pas', 'berto? Why haven't you been by to talk? What are we friends for?"

Gil opened the beer and took a long drink. "I know, I know. Gracie even gave me a call a couple of days ago. Felt guilty as hell."

"What is it? Is it that little boy over there? 'Cause 'berto, I mean, he's really-- *really*-- trying not to show it."

Gil choked a little on his beer. "What? Nick? Nah. Nick's a good ol' boy from Texas."

Orlando laughed. "Gilberto, I watched you for years now, and I don't know how you think other people see you, but with that tan, those eyesoye homes, the chicas and chicos stare at you! And that one's about to bust his pants!" Orlando laughed when Gil paled.

"Hey! Keep it down." He glanced over at Nick, who did seem nervous. "You know, sometimes I wish you *would* give me a Catholic guilt trip!"

"Hey, when I walked in on you and Rolando at the barbecue"

"We were drunk!" Gil protested, too loudly.

"si, but you have to admit I took it well!"

Grissom remembered the long, long night seven years ago when Orlando had thrown a barbecue to celebrate opening his bar. He'd drunk far too many beers and shots by ten pm and had groped and kissed a cute friend of Lando's in the bathroom. They both had been into it and Gil had only stopped because Lando came in looking for him. Rolando had kissed him goodbye and to this day Gil could feel that kiss. It had been his first really intense experience with another male. "You did," he sighed. "Okay, look. Don't show Nick the pic. Give me one of Gracie--that one. The one in my wallet is old. And give me a couple shots of Sauza."

Orlando poured them with a smile. He waved off Gil's twenty. "Please. Have a good time, ese."

"Gracias," Gil said thankfully, and went back, hands holding a triad of liquor.
* * * * * * * * *

Nick had been fidgeting awkwardly while Gil was gone. He had sensed they were talking about him, but had the good sense not to look over. He smiled lopsidedly when Gil came back with the drinks. He had barely touched his beer. "Hey!"

"Hey. I got us some shots. Fine tequila--I figured you're from Dallas, you do tequila."

Nick did tequila. He did it too often, and sometimes ended up in other people's beds afterwards--*but Gil can't know that, right?* he thought. "Oh yeah. Mother's milk down in Texas."

Gil slid back into the booth and smiled. He lifted his shot glass and waited for Nick to do the same. "To us and those like us," he said with a grin.

Nick strained to remember, then said, "Damn few left."


They drained the shot, and Nick, more accustomed to tequila, smiled at Grissom's slight grimace. "What's the matter?"

"No--nothing. I don't drink tequila that often. Forgot how it is!"

"Yeah, it can really open you up," Nick said, then blanched. Had he really just said that to his boss?

Grissom looked up at Nick from under his lashes. He had a quizzical look on his face. "Oh, can it?" he asked, voice a tone lower than normal.

Nick swallowed. He covered, or tried to, by taking a drink from his beer. "Forgot how good this was."

"I said," Grissom repeated, raising his head and looking levelly at Nick, "can it?"

Nick looked into Grissom's eyes for a second too long and felt a blush begin. He looked away, down at his fingers picking at his bottle label. "Uh, well, for me it does, yeah."

Grissom leaned back and grinned. He had no idea why he was torturing his poor CSI, who did nothing wrong besides annoy him earlier. He drank his beer, lifted his cap a little, and passed the bottle over his forehead, enjoying the coolness. Nick watched from under his lashes with a growing heat in his body.

At the bar, Orlando smiled at Gil's actions. He sometimes believed Grissom didn't know the effect he had on some people. Orlando had more than once comforted women and a few men whom the CSI had simply ignored or missed signals from. *Maybe Gil just goes with what he feels in the moment,* Orlando thought. *It'd make sense.*

Grissom liked the cool feel of the bottlehe himself was feeling a little overheated and his head was beginning to ache again. He set the bottle down, ignoring the drops of condensation that fell on his shirt, darkening the gray fabric.

Nick noticed. The drops fell on Grissom's chest, and Nick's eyes were drawn there and lingered for a moment. He tried to swallow and felt his throat locked. With a supreme effort he looked back at Gil.

"I want another shot," Grissom said, and before he could get up Nick fairly leapt to his feet and bolted over, yelling "I'll get them!" over his shoulder.

Nick leaned, nearly in pain, on the counter and Orlando clucked in sympathy. "My friend, he can be a little mindfucker, huh?" he said sympathetically. Nick looked up with wide eyes. The last word he wanted to hear right now was *fuck*.

"Oh god. What the hell is happening? Uh--can I get two more shots of tequila?" Nick asked, wiping his sweaty brow with a bar napkin. Orlando pushed the shots over.

"Hermanito, Grissom is...he is what he is, no? Be yourself, and don't let him take you for a ride. He doesn't like people who play games. Be yourself. He must like you, he's here with you and he *never* comes here with anyone!"

Nick stared, then gulped. "Oh. Oh, all right. Okay. I was just trying to make up for pissing him off earlier that's all."

Orlando chuckled. "I know. He'sI love that man. Pero, I don't know if he's really as together as he seems all the time. He is a lonely man some of the time, and I wantI want him to be happy. That's all."

Nick nodded, taking the shots. "Thanks. Let me" He set down a shot to reach for his money, and Orlando shook his head.

"You drink free. And Grissom. Here--as a matter of fact, so I can talk to other people--here." Orlando set a Sauza bottle on the counter, more than half full. "Vayanse. Have fun, Nick. Really."

Nick smiled. Maybe he could relax. He triangled the drinks. "Gracias, Orlando."

Gil smiled in pleasure when he saw Nick return with the tequila. "Bueno, Nicolas! Well done."

Nick slid into the booth. "Orlando's a great guy," he commented.

Gil slammed his shot and spun the top off the bottle. *Why do I feel like getting drunk?* he wondered briefly. "Claro que si."

"Griswhen did you learn Spanish?"

Grissom poured both of the shots, waiting till Nick had cleared his. "Graciela taught me. We learned together."

"So, that's why your--"

"Spanish isn't standard Castilian, right. How the fuck are you gonna lithp all your ethes?" Grissom exaggerated before downing another shot.

Nick raised an eyebrow. He hadn't heard Grissom use *fuck* more than once in a day ever it intrigued him. He held out his empty shot glass. Nick wasn't sure he wanted to get drunk, considering how he was feeling about Grissom, but he certainly needed more loosening up.

"Excellent, Nicky. No, I learned straight up modified-for-Nevada Tex-Mex. Lando's from Brownsville originally. Came here about ten years ago to work in the casinos, and decided he hated the noise. So he started working in construction and decided to open a bar. And here we are. Now--" Grissom leaned forward. Nick caught his breath at the intensity of the blue eyes staring at him. "how did you learn your Spanish?"

"I took four years. Don't remember all of it, but I get by. You're pretty good." Nick poured himself a shot and toasted Gil before slamming it. That one got his guts moving, and Nick decided to slow down.

Gil forsook the glass and did his next shot from the bottle. He couldn't quite understand why he was so eager to get drunk--what did he think would happen? "Have to be. Remember, Grissom is perfect. Gotta know it all." And the sudden realization of what he'd just said made Grissom intensely sad. He leaned back against the booth and looked down at his hands. "And it's fuckin' exhausting," he muttered.

Gil had thought he'd said it quietly, but Nick heard it. He tilted his head to look at Gil, slumped back and suddenly looking older and tired. And it touched him.

Nick had always tried to work closely with Grissom, and as such had seen the man in more unguarded emotional situations than anyone except Catherine. He'd seen the man near tears at a crime scene, throwing things in the lab, and frustrated at a lack of evidence. He'd also seen Grissom smile and laugh in pleasure.

What Nick was seeing now he wasn't sure of. Grissom was hurting somehow, but it really didn't seem to be Nick's fault. He seemed both tired and frustrated. "Hey Gris--you okay, buddy? Something go wrong today at work I don't know about?"

Grissom didn't look up. He heard the concern in Nick's voice, and he didn't want to hear it. Grissom's brain was feeling fried, a combination of frustration at his inability to use common sense to figure out the rope "trick" and a very long day at work. He felt as if he could actually feel the pain of stretching and firing synapses. "No," he answered, low and soft. The tequila had begun building his drunk wall of insistent "fine"-ness.

Nick heard the tone, and knew the sound. They'd all been drunk at least once around each other, and knew the vague "I'm fine" sound of each one. He shook his head slightly. "Okay, boss. Hey--just to finish off the whole story that got us herethe thing you found was from my niece. She'sget this--she's in farrier school!" He waited to see if Grissom would understand, and didn't have to wait long. Nick was pleased it got Gil to raise his head.

"Your niece goes to--horseshoeing school?" Grissom asked, voice tinged with disbelief, taking another shot of tequila.

Nick nodded. "Yeah. Something she got in her head when she was pretty young. She's, uh, about 20 now. Likes the job. Always been kinda a tomboy," Nick finished, shrugging. When he looked up, he didn't like the dark grin on Grissom's face.

Gil was unable to stop his more libidinous nature from rising up out of a tequila fire. "Were you, Nicky?" he asked, far more nastily that he needed to. Something wanted to hurt Nick, and Grissom didn't know what it was in him that did. He just felt--the presence of Nick made him feel oddly sexual. *Frankly, I feel horny right now,* he thought in a agave-induced haze.

"Was I what?"

"Were you a tomboy?"

Nick looked hard at Grissom. He saw the cold eyes, the grin, and knew the man was feeling the liquor pretty hard. He smiled and stood. "You're gonna have to wait. I have to hit the john," he said, and walked easily off. As he went, Nick felt the satisfaction of knowing he and Grissom were finally near a level playing field--though Nick wasn't entirely sure four or five shots of tequila and a beer had quite brought Gil down to normal human thinking level.

Nick was very pleased to be able to unzip his pants in the stall. He groaned slightly in pleasure as he stood, tequila fanning both his libido and his bladder's need to empty itself. He had closed his eyes in semi-pleasure when he felt someone next to him.

Grissom was standing next to him, hands on his belt, looking down at Nick's open fly, eyes gauging candidly. Nick felt his penis want to shrivel up as he finished, too aware of those cold, incisive eyes and the silent man. Nick hastily buttoned up and stepped back, eyes on Grissom.

When he finally looked up at Nick, Grissom felt he could rape the young man on the spot. His anger and frustration wanted a physical out, and he was, he vaguely thought, damn lucky he was still partly in control. He saw the confusion and some--a little?--fear in Nick's eyes and a nasty sneer touched his lips.

"What are you worried about, Nick? All the equipment seems to be in order," Grissom said before turning and unzipping his own fly. He tilted his head back in pleasure and Nick backed silently away. He had not wanted to get a glimpse of his chief's cock, despite the dreams, because something told him Grissom was not himself. Who he was, Nick wasn't sure if he wanted to find out.

By the time Nick got back to the table he had come to the unfortunate conclusion that he was, however, now going to find out how Gil's truck drove. As Nick slid in, he noticed the tequila bottle had been taken away and replaced with two more Shiners. He smiled over at Orlando and raised the beer in salute.
* * * * * * * *

Grissom took a long time in the bathroom. He had to steady himself when he opened his eyes, and he washed his face several times, trying to clear up the angry cloud that seemed to have descended on him

He looked into the mirror for a long time, turning his head this way and that, trying to observe himself objectively. He took off the baseball cap and ran his hand through his hair and noted the encroaching gray. Slapping it back on backwards, he looked deeply into his own eyes, frowned, and smacked the mirror with his open right hand.

"Shit!" Gil screamed as part of the mirror shattered and a sliver of glass embedded itself in the side of his hand. He quickly turned on the water and washed it, pulling the glass out with a hiss of pain. It was deep, but not too widea bleeder but no stitches.

As he carefully drew off his button-down shirt to wrap his hand in his undershirt, Gil caught sight of his face in the mirror. His eyes were dazed, he was pale and sweating, and he looked frightened. What he saw made him immensely sad and he looked away as he felt hot tears wash his face.

Gil had thought he knew how hard he could hit the mirror and he didn't know if he'd hit it too hard on purpose or not. Psychology taught him a lot about the manifestations of the unconscious, and Gil wondered if he unconsciously wanted to hurt himself. He also wondered if he was just slipping because he was exhausted.

As he wrapped the hand carefully, pleased the bleeding was slowing, he leaned against the sink and tried to clear his head.
* * * * * * * * *

One of the first things of the many to annoy Grissom in his work day had been the discovery of not one, but two raped and murdered young women whose circumstances fit the profile of a serial murderer they had been tracking for three weeks. So far, the killer had raped and killed seven women, all in their own homes, and leaving practically nothing behind but a condom wrapper.

The second thing, the really annoying one, was the incompetence of the first officer on scene, who had not managed to step out of the room before spewing his hamburger lunch all over the edge of the bed. Gil had wanted to scream but had stuffed the impulse below his smooth exterior. Even Sara had commented on the unusual restraint he'd shown.

On the way back from the scene, he'd had a moment of hearing loss that'd scared him, as he'd been in traffic. He'd had to pull over and regroup for a few minutes. When he got back on the road, he'd noticed he was driving ten miles below the speed limit.

The whole day had been disaster after disaster, and then when he'd spotted the "puzzle", he'd thought he'd finally gotten a little break. Puzzles of all kinds pleased Grissom immensely, and he'd been ready for the distraction.

But not, then, the reality of it.

In the bathroom at the bar, Grissom sighed deeply. He felt more than immensely sad--he felt despairing. Part of Gil's mind told him that was why he'd let Nick take him out. Another part said hewell, he hoped Nick would be a kind ear.

"Well maybe he would be if you weren't such an asshole," Gil muttered to himself. He rebuttoned his shirt but neglected to tuck it back in, made the bandage on his hand tighter, and walked out in a foul but weak mood.

Nick noticed immediately Gil's pale face and the bandage. The medic in him swooped to the fore. "Gris? What happened?"

Grissom nodded at him and passed by to tell Orlando about the mirror. Orlando shook his head.

"Gil. Hermano. Go home, take a bath, sleep, whatever. You are way too upset to be out, and you're not ready to talk to me. Make sure Nick drives, all right?" Orlando said wisely. Gil shook his head.

"Lando, I'm trying to apologize for the--fuck!!"

Orlando got Grissom's attention by grabbing his hurt hand and squeezing hard--very hard. Other people in the bar glanced over briefly at the howl. He winced at Gil's shriek of pain and agonized face, but held on and watched sweat break out on Gil's forehead. "Now, Grissom. Go home. Call me and apologize later. Here, Nick!" Orlando plucked Gil's keys from his pocket and slung them to Nick. "Take him home, brother. Okay?"

He released Gil, who clutched his hand with a furious look at Orlando, who remained mild. Nick caught the keys and came over to support Grissom. "Yeah. Don't worry. I'll get him home and take care of that hand. Thanks, Orlando." Nick smiled as best he could as he supported his boss's weak frame. Gil glared as Nick helped him turn and go back to the table. Nick gathered up his cell phone and the picture of Graciela on the table, and guided Gil to the doorway with a parting glance at Orlando.

Orlando Guerra said a small prayer for his compadre, and sighed. *Grissom has demons the rest of us can't even imagine,* he thought.
* * * * * * * *

Nick couldn't believe how strong Gil remained. He had to fight to keep the keys, then wrestle Grissom toward the passenger door. As he went to open the door for him, Nick felt a hard blow under his chin. Grissom had whipped his elbow back wildly and spun away from Nick, staggering a few steps. Nick shook his head and looked at the dizzy chief CSI.

"Gris? Come on, don't make this all difficult, man I don't wanna do this!"

"Nick, you don't have to do anything except give me the keys and leave me alone. I need--I need so bad--" Grissom trailed off, hands gesturing helplessly. He could barely stand, blinded by pain and alcohol, but his anger and despair were fueling his body in a last ditch effort to fight.

Nick stepped forward, hopped slightly, and aimed a precise kick at Grissom's midsection. He hurt inside at the shocked grunt Grissom made before he doubled up, breath gone from his lungs in a rush. Quickly, Nick snatched Gil off the ground, opened the back of Grissom's truck, and shoved the man in. He locked the gate and was pleased to note Grissom couldn't open it from the inside. Gil was still trying to get his breath back when Nick pulled out in a cloud.
* * * * * * * * * * *

Nick drove as fast as he could, but by the time he got to Grissom's place the older man was kicking at the glass separating him from Nick. Stokes could hear the ranting epithets and was amazed at the energy Grissom still had.

When he got to the condo, Nick turned off the truck and sat in the front seat, turning on the radio. He had no intention of opening the back gate when Grissom still had enough energy to kick his teeth out. Nick was willing to wait until his boss exhausted himself.

Grissom had stopped kicking the window when he felt the truck stop, coiling to jump at Nick when the gate opened. When it didn't, and Gil heard soft music from the front and saw a calm Nick sitting patiently, occasionally looking back at Gil, he went berserk.

From the coiled position he launched himself at the truck gate glass, and bounced back. Furious, he launched himself backwards toward Nick, then against the sides of the truck. His fury was almost limitless.

Nick felt the first couple of truck-shaking impacts. He'd looked back worriedly once and thought *well, we know this truck is damn tough!* as he saw Grissom was unable to break the truck glass. He turned up the radio and stretched his legs, patient.

Anyone seeing the truck from the outside might have thought several dogs were fighting in the back. Grissom used his bounce off one side of the truck as inertia to slam into the other side. He screamed incoherently at Nick as he hurled himself against the truck.

Grissom was just beginning to feel tired when he slammed himself too low against the truck's side and hit a solid metal frame support. His shoulder shifted up and forward and he felt his arm collapse. He howled in pain, lookedand through all the anger saw he'd dislocated his shoulder.

Nick whipped his head around when he heard the scream of agony. He saw Grissom lying on the truck bed, his left shoulder unnaturally placed.

"Oh shit," Nick breathed, and jumped out. The screams from inside the truck were becoming weaker but were still loud and high.

He opened the gate and Grissom tried to crawl out backward, seemingly backing away from a frightful thing. Nick saw the awful paleness and pain on Grissom's face and carefully pulled him out, placing him on the ground gently. Nick assessed the arm quickly, aware they were about to wake up everyone in the neighborhood.

"Gil! Gil, I have to pull this back in place, please--will you listen! Gil!" Nick was trying to communicate but Grissom seemed fixated on the grotesquely angled arm. "Oh fuck it." He pulled his wallet out and held it in front of Grissom's face. "Open your eyes! Look--bite down on this, and I'm gonna pull--quick! Do it!"

Grissom opened his mouth and clamped down on the leather, barely hearing Nick over his overloaded nervous system. As he bit down hard he felt Nick move his arm to his side, grab the left hand

And suddenly vicious, overwhelming pain exploded in Grissom's head. He bit down until he felt he had to scream, and when he opened his mouth he felt a hand clamp down on it.

Nick held Grissom down with his own body while the pain worked its leisurely way through what Nick knew had to be an already pain-wracked frame. He hated the feeling of the shivering, shuddering man under him, and turned his face away from Grissom'she couldn't bear to see that face in such agony.

In time, Grissom's mind decided it had had enough, thank you old boy, and shut down partially. The pain shrugged and whipped itself away, and Grissom gratefully passed out.

Nick shakily lifted himself off his boss. In all his dreams, wet or otherwise, where he'd had his body in contact with Grissom's, it had never been likethis. *Jesus, that is something I never ever want to go through again,* Nick thought. Carefully settling Gil in his arms, Nick made sure he had the man's keys, and lifted him easily. Walking toward the door, Nick was wondering if he'd make it to work tonight.
* * * * * * * * * *

It was easy to get into Grissom's place, easy to place his boss carefully on his bed. What Nick Stokes found difficult was stopping his eyes from roving over Grissom's limp body, hungry and warm.

He fetched a towel from Grissom's bathroom and returned to find his boss moaning slightly, eyeballs moving under closed lids. Nick didn't want another fight--he was convinced Grissom wasn't completely spent yetand moved quickly.

Nick grinned absurdly as he took off Grissom's capsomehow it had stayed on during all the struggling. He smoothed the matted hair back gently, lovingly--it felt just like he thought it would, both smooth and wiry. Nick allowed himself a moment to linger looking at Grissom's almost relaxed face, carving each wrinkle and line into his memoryhe'd never been this close to his chief before--before he started unbuttoning the man 's shirt.

Nick noted Gil had buttoned the shirt wrong. *Must've been really out of it,* he thought. Gil was meticulous in a shockingly casual way, and Nick couldn't imagine Grissom missing a button or two while dressing--his attention to detail was practically instinctual. Nick moved the shirt aside and winced at the purpling bruise forming over Grissom's ribs. He could also see bruising beginning from several hard hits against the truck. One bruise was even rising on Grissom's chin, so violent had his actions been.

Feeling he'd made his boss a little more comfortable, Nick turned to the hurt hand. He placed a towel under the injury, aware of Grissom's gray jersey sheets--*nice bedroom,* Nick thought pointlessly. He unfolded the tight shirt carefully, sighing inside at Grissom's moans of pain.

The wound was deep, but not very wide at all--Nick thought it would be painful but not very serious. He lifted the hand and took the shirt away, then went back into the bathroom and found what he was looking for under the sink. Nick smiled at the fairly impressive first responder kit he brought back in with himit was like Gil to be thorough in all the little things.

He worked quickly, knowing at any time Grissom could wake. The last thing he wanted was to have a bloody hand whacked into his face by a struggling Grissom.

Grissom wasn't struggling at all. He was, however, controlling his extreme pain and watching Nick from under lowered lashes. He felt the infinite care his CSI took, appreciating Nick's EMT training, as the younger man swabbed and taped.

Gil's rage had been completely cleared away by the agonizing pain he had experienced earlier. He felt weak and stupid, and grateful for Nick's presence.

Nick was almost finished when he felt a clammy hand on the back of his neck and froze at the touch and the groan of pain it brought from Grissom. He finished placing the last piece of tape and waited, breath held.

"Ni-Nicky," he heard. *Oh my god, his voice sounds horrible,* Nick thought in a mix of fear and pity.

"Gris?" Nick answered, unwilling to move. He feltoh Jesus, and it felt good to him!the fingers rub briefly on his neck before moving away.

"Uh. Nick--oh, my head. Nick. Sorry," Grissom slurred, the effort to move his hand exhausting him. He dropped it back and looked down at Nick's trembling body.

When he felt the hand move off him, the spell broke. Nick straightened and looked down at Gil. He saw the blue eyes watching him, flashes of pain brightening them. "It's okay. I'm sorry you ended up hurting yourself even worse."

Gil shut his eyes. He felt dirty, cold, ashamed, and incredibly stupid. Grissom also felt infinitely sad. "Got--codeine in bathroom. Get me one?" he muttered.

Nick started, then stopped. "You sure? You had a helluva lot of tequila back therewhoa!"

He saw Gil's body begin to involuntarily lurch, and swiftly helped Grissom sit up in time to avoid vomiting all over his bed. He did, however, vomit all over Nick's pants.

When the shaking subsided Nick settled him back, pulling the pillows up some for him. Gil had broken out in a sweat and tremors ran through his weakened body. He kept his eyes closed.

"I'm so fuckin' sorry, Nick," he said through clenched teeth. The vomiting had made pain flare in his head, ribs, and hand, and he was dizzy with the feeling. Grissom couldn't stop a harsh groan from escaping his lips.

"Gris, come on. It's cool. Just--can you lay there a minute? Let me see what you have in the cabinet, okay? Just don't move." Nick waited until Grissom nodded, then went back into the bathroom.

He found a small selection of half-finished medications, many for muscle relaxants, one for migraines, and two for pain relief--Tylenol 3 and Vicodin. Nick wondered briefly what injuries Grissom had sustained to get this collection, and shrugged. None of them would really work well with all the alcohol in Gil's body. He grabbed up a bottle of ibuprofen and ran a glass of water before going back in to Gil's bedroom.

Grissom refused to open his eyeshe couldn't see the disgust in Nick's eyes he was sure was there. He felt Nick touch his shoulder lightly.

"Gris? I'm sorry, man--none of the good stuff is good with alcohol. I got you some Advil. I know it won't do much, butwell," Nick finished with a shrug.

Gil opened his eyes slowly. He could see and smell the alcohol vomit on Nick and is made him furious with himself. "I--thanks. If you could help me up I'll take them and then I need a shower." Grissom actually got his body an inch off the bed before collapsing back. "Fuckin' hell," he said angrily.

Nick set the medication down and carefully, slowly, sat Grissom up. He knelt next to the bed and supported the older man until Grissom felt able to open his eyes and focus. "Wanna go slow there, boss," Nick said with a smile. He was trying to make Gil more comfortable in what Nick knew had to be a damn awkward situation for Grissom.

"Yeah. Shit," Gil breathed. He forced himself to look at Nick. "Thanks, Nicky. I'm so sorry for everything. And--your pants," he said, looking down briefly. Nick laughed.

"Gris, jeans're a dime a dozen. No sweat. LookI have an idea. You must feel like hell, but I don't think you're gonna be able to stand up in the shower. How about I run you a bath and you can sit for a little? That arm is gonna hurt like hell for a while, a little warm water won't hurt it. Or your ribs--sorry about doing that," Nick apologized.

Grissom looked down stupidly, noticing finally that his shirt was open. "Oh--I deserved it. Had no right to try to fight you for my damn keys."

"Well, tequila gives us all special rights."

"Not to be assholes, it doesn't," Grissom muttered, startled when Nick laughed.

"Hell, being an asshole ain't a special rightit's the natural right of every red-blooded American male, Gris!"

That made Gil smile, and pleased Nick. "I guess. Nick, you don't need to hang around, in a couple of hours I'll be able to get up and"

"Bull. I don't have to work for about nine hours yet, I got the time. Why don't I lay you back down, you take some Advil, and I'll run the bath for you. You like bubbles?" he smiled as he lay Grissom back down.

"Sure. Mr. Bubble under the sink," Grissom said as he gritted his teeth at the motion. He tried to relax into the bed and waved off the water glass Nick held out as he dry-swallowed four tablets.

"Okay, lie here. Won't be a minute," Nick said.

Grissom closed his eyes as he heard Nick bustle around, then water running. He heard Nick call out "You really do have Mr. Bubble!" in a musical, laughing voice, and closed his eyes. He was still embarrassed but Nick's sheer presence made him feel a little better-- *maybe it's being around someone so young, so strong, and so not perceived as the perfect thinking machine,* Grissom thought, and the idea brought sadness back.

Nick came back in and was about to tease Grissom for having the kids' bubble bath when he saw tears on Grissom's face. The sight dropped his heart and Nick moved over and sat next to the older CSI. "Gris?" he asked softly, touching the man's shoulder lightly.

"Don't," Gil said quietly. "Don't touch me."

Nick paled. *Oh man, I've crossed some line even farther down than the ones I've already crossed tonight,* he thought wildly. "Ohoh, I'm sorry. Canis there anything I can do?" Nick felt himself suddenly at a loss.

Grissom felt the man's presence stiffen, and sighed. "No--Nick, no. It's not you, it's me. I...I'm not doing well today," Grissom said with a harsh laugh. He opened his eyes. "I'm really not coping well right now," he said.

Nick's eyes widened at the naked pain in Grissom's blue eyes, and the tears that fell unchecked. "GilGrissom, hey, man, it's okay. Hard day. Come on--don't waste the water. Let me help you. And then, soon's you're back in bed, I'll bug out of here. Not a problem."

Gil tried to smile. "Nicky. You're really nice. I'm sorry I puked on you," he said, trying to struggle out of the hole he felt himself in. Grissom was glad when Nick reached out a hesitant hand and slipped it behind his back, helping him sit up again.

"Hey--like I said, dime a dozen. Come on. Sit up? Good. Now. I'm going to turn you toward me, and I want you to try and relax when I help you stand--that one arm's gonna hurt. Okay?"

Gil nodded, and Nick turned him, then he shut his eyes as Nick lifted him to his feet with hands under his arms. A gasp of pain burst out of Grissom but thenhe was standing. He felt nearly boneless, and Nick knew it--he immediately stepped next to Grissom and put Grissom's right arm over his shoulders, Nick's left arm around Grissom's waist.

"Oh--okay. All right. That was fun," Nick said. Grissom opened his eyes and looked at his CSI. The deep brown eyes were full of care and Grissom couldn't help smiling.

"For you, maybe," Grissom said. "Oh Nick--I meant to sayI have jeans you can wear if you likeget out of those," Gil said, moving aching head in the general direction of his closet.

"Later. Let's get you into the bath, okay?"

Nick moved him slowly into the bathroom, Gil dragging his feet, and leaned the man against the sink. He made sure Grissom was able to stand on his own before whipping his own shirt off. "Don't wanna get too soaked," he explained, and then proceeded to undress Grissom.

Gil's eyes widened at Nick's body, tan and perfectly muscled without being obnoxious. He felt himself stiffen, then relax as he realized Nick's hands were gentle and careful.

For his part, Nick felt as if he was about to come in his pantshis boss in pain wasn't sexy but the way his body reacted by relaxing into his hands made Nick weak with desire. He slid the shirt down Grissom's arms carefully, noting each little muscular twitch and the smooth curve of bicep, then forced himself not to look up--*what are you gonna see, Nick, Gil moaning with lust for you?* he thought wryly-- as he carefully unbuttoned and unzipped Grissom's dark pants.

Gil *wasn't* looking down at Nick--he'd closed his eyes to prevent sensory overload. He told himself his body wasn't reacting, it wasn't, it wasn't-- *oh God!* he thought as he felt Nick's hands skimming lightly down the front of his thighs as he lowered Gil's pants. An involuntary gasp escaped his lips and Nick looked up quickly.

"Did I hurt you?" he asked. Grissom shook his head.

"N-no. No."

"All right." Nick's voice was strangled--the angle he was seeing Grissom from was not only unique, it was, for Nick, highly erotic. He shook his head a little, glad Gil wasn't looking at him, and reached up again. He hesitated briefly. "Uh, Gil--do you--I mean, do you want me to take off your, uh, boxers? I mean, you can sit in the tub in them, you know"

Grissom surprised himself by laughing. "Jesus, Nick. You're halfway to naked, go ahead. I don't think I could get them off by myself, you know." He opened his eyes and looked down at Nick crouched beneath him and caught his breath. "I do appreciate it, Nick. Thanks." And he smiled.

Nick felt his heart drop, rebound, and come to rest slightly off kilter. "Uh--it's no problem. I'll just" And without looking Nick hooked his fingers in the boxer waistband and pulled down. "Lift your foot--okay, other one--there. Ready to roll." And to his disbelief, Nick rose and ignored passing his boss' groin on the way up. He smiled awkwardly at Grissom, newly naked.

"Roll? Limp, maybe." Grissom leaned into Nick as they shifted over to the tub. They managed to get Gil sitting on the edge of the tub, then stopped. "Ummm."

"I know. Well, if you can hold onto me with your one good--no, maybe not. Um, how about you turn and get your legs in, and I'll lower you the rest of the way in? That way you won't hit the bottom too hard. Okay?"

Grissom looked at the water and bubbles doubtfully. "Uh, okay. Here--ow! No, it's okay whoa, hot water!" Gil hesitantly shifted around so his legs were in the water. "It's pretty hot."

"Sorry. You'll get used to it. Now, I'm gonna slip my hands under your arms and lower you in. It'll hurt your left arm, but then it'll be okay. Ready?" Nick slipped his hands into place and felt Grissom lean against him. He could tell from the man's trembling that Grissom was anticipating pain, and hoped it wouldn't be intense.

"Yeah--yeah, go slow, okay? Ready." Grissom was nervous about the whole thing, Nick the water, the painbut he didn't really see any other way to get clean and feel human again. He gritted his teeth a little and nodded. "Go."

Nick hefted the man a little and very slowly lowered him into the water. Grissom let out a short gasp, but Nick couldn't tell if it was pain or the heat of the water that made him cry out. Nick shuffled around and was behind Grissom when he felt the man's weight off of his hands. He carefully settled Gil's arms down and came back around to the side. "Sorry if that hurt too much. Okay?"

Grissom looked up, taking in the man's tan, smooth chest and the lovely concern in his dark eyes, and nodded. "Yes. Thank you, Nicky. I really mean it."

"It's okay. I'm going to grab a chair and I'll come back with some water and make sure you don't go slipping under the bubbles, okay? Be right back."

Nick took longer than absolutely necessary to gather the chair and a glass of water. He was trying to slow his breathing, wrap his overheated brain around the fact he'd just put his boss, the man of his wet dreams, into a Mr. Bubble bathand the man was naked. When he felt he was under control, he took everything into the bathroom, braced, he thought, for anything.

Except when he came in, Grissom was wearing a bubble beard.
* * * * * * * * * *

Grissom felt the water was nothing short of--*delicious*, he thought. *The only word for it.* He had his hurt hand on the edge of the tub but the rest of his body he scooted down until just the upper half of his face was showing. The warmth was immediately soothing.

Grissom looked across the plain of bubbles and blew a breath across them, scattering them in a foamy mist. He smiled, and sat up a little higher and drew his hand through the foam and patted it on his cheeks like he'd done when he was a child. The absurdity pleased him and his smile increased.

It was the goofy smile as much as the bubble beard that Nick reacted to when he came back in. Grissom turned to look at him and raised a brow, making Nick gawk and then laugh loudly, the laughter ringing in the bathroom as Nick barely managed to get everything set down before collapsing in the chair, body shaking with hilarity.

Grissom was glad he had made Nick laughhe felt terrible about the whole event, ashamed of his behavior and his inability to articulate what he was feeling. Gil believed he was more than tired, more than stressed--something was bottled up in him that needed an out in a desperate way.

Nick finally raised his head, wiping tears from his eyes. "Oh man, Grissom--you about killed me! I mean, damn, when you think you know your boss..." Nick shook his head and scooted the chair up to the tub. "You're an original, Gris."

Grissom shifted back down in the tub and grinned. "Yeah, that's me. Didn't you do bubble beards when you were a kid, Nick?"

"Yeah, of course. But I haven't worn one in--oh, two, three years."

Grissom laughed at that. "Well, I'm glad to know you're maturing, Nick. One day you can look forward to being as mature and steady as me," he said, not without a hint of bitterness.

Nick frowned. "Mature? No. Steady? Hell yeah." Nick paused. "Hey Grissom, can I ask you something? Promise you won't throw water on me?"

Gil looked over at his CSI. "I don't know that sounds serious. Maybe you should back up some I'm kidding, Nicky! Sure, ask. I owe you anyway."

Nick tried not to look at the water, realizing the bubbles were clearing and Grissom's body was becoming visible under the foam. "No you don't. But--well, I'm a little worried. I know that sounds weird, but Griscan I ask, what the hell is going on? You've been jumpier'n hell lately. I know it's been damn stressful, but we've never noticed it like this in you." Nick trailed off, unsure what question he *was* actually asking.

Gil didn't look at Nick, thinking intently as he stared across the plain of foamy water. He knew what Nick was asking, and knew that he and all of his team deserved an answer form their boss. Usually, they took his moods as part of his personality, but what Cath, Nick, and Warrick as well as Sara had noticed was his general attitude of depression.

*Am I depressed?* he wondered. *I don't know. Maybe? Maybe I'm just tired no, I know I'm tired. It's really--*

"Nicky, I have come to realize that it's really damn exhausting being me all the time," Grissom finally said, not looking up. "And I can't do it right now. I'm sorry."

Nick didn't know if Gil had answered the question or not, but he knew he had heard some kind of confession. "Nothing to apologize for. Don't need to go into it now. Justwhy don't you just concentrate on relaxing some? Plenty of time for other stuff, you know?" Nick hoped he had gauged Grissom's mood correctlyhe wasn't sure that the man wanted to talk more, but he also wasn't sure he himself was ready for more.

Grissom was torn between wanting to tell Nick everything and wanting to lapse into his semi-sullen mood. A few moments passed before he made up his overactive mindhe was tired.

"I think you're right--how'd you get so wise, Nicky?" Gil smiled up at him.

Nick blushed, bringing a smile to Grissom's face. "I'm not. But I know tired when I see it. Here, brought you some water--think you can keep it down?"

Gil grimaced. "Maybe. I better try. Feeling dehydrated." Gil pushed himself awkwardly up in the tub and held out his "good" hand. "Huh."

Nick looked at the bandaged hand. "Huh. Other arm still feeling piss-poor?" he asked. Gil nodded. "Why don't I just hold it for you? I mean, come on, might as well take advantage of me while I'm here."

Grissom's smile fell. He hadn't quite gotten over his first glimpse of Nick's bare chest, and the idea of taking advantage of Nick Stokes had more than once passed over his mind since then. *Did I just hear Nick say to take advantage of him?*


Gil shook his head. "Oh--sorry. Yes. If you could just hold it for me, that'd be great," he said, using supreme control to make his voice steady. Nick held the glass to Grissom's dry lips and he sipped slowly, Nick tilting the glass as the water dropped. Gil found he was extremely thirsty and began to gulp.

"Whoa--hey, slow down. All for now. Better?" Nick didn't want the man to vomit againfor all his protests to the contrary, Nick really was bothered by the tequila-odor on his pants.

"Yeah. Thank you again, Nicky. And thanks for all of this." Grissom gestured slightly with his head. "I don't think anyone else I know would have done this. Probably would have tossed me in my car and let me sleep it off."

Nick clucked his tongue. "Come on. You know any of us would have done the same--well, maybe Sara would have left you in the back of the truck. I don't think she would have been up for your attempts to break out."

Gil frowned. "Oh, don't remind me. I can't believe how stupid I was!"

Nick smiled. "Hey man, it was--well, first off it was scary, yes, butit was kind of good to see you like a normal guy, drinking beer, being that asshole male we all are."

Grissom looked at him closely. "What do you mean, normal guy? I sprout antennae lately?"

"No, Gris, no man, but" Nick tried to sculpt meaning with his large hands "it's like, it's like knowing that if Gil Grissom can be real and human and still work at this job--well maybe I can, someone not up to your level yet. You know?"

Grissom saw the man trying to tell him he was happy to see Grissom acting like a "normal joe" without implying Grissom wasn't. He knew that Nick was completely aware that Grissom really wasn't average or normal, that he did have some odd ability to concentrate and evaluate and more than anything, *think* with his whole brain. He decided he'd let it go for a while, and maybe call Catherine later and see if she'd be up for a little best friend therapy.

"I know, Nick. I appreciate the thought, believe me, even when I seem like I don't. And now, I'm gonna pull rank--will you do me a huge favor?"

Nick was startled at Grissom's shift. "Uh, sure. What?"

Grissom sank lower in the tub again. "Will you change out of those damn pants--the smell is killing me, and I know it's bugging you--and then come back. And Nick, you can say no to this, too--could you help me wash the driveway out of my hair? I'm about to go crazy."

Nick nodded. "Can't say I don't wanna said you had some jeans I could borrow?"

Gil nodded his head down into the water and back. "Yes. Bedroom closet, hanging on the left. I know they won't fit very well, but they'll do you till home," he said. "Take whatever you need, shirt too if you want it."

Nick stood. "Thank you. I'll wash 'em before I bring them back."

"Don't worry about it--get out of those pants."

Nick managed not to stumble as he went into the bedroom. He leaned against a wall until he felt strength return to his knees. "Oh god, please, please don't let me do anything stupid!" he whispered. When he felt he could stand he pushed off and opened the bedroom closet.

As Nick expected, most of the closet was well organized. Grissom stopped short of organizing his clothes by color, but Nick wasn't surprised to find the floor of the closet empty of the usual junk, except for a workout bag.

Nick had to stop for a moment and simply stare and smell. The very faint clean smell of Grissom washed over him from the closet, detergent, soapy. Nick breathed it in and smiled.

He pushed aside some clothes to find the jeans on pants hangers: black, blue, and gray. They were well-worn, which surprised NickGrissom rarely wore jeans to work, usually only if he knew they would be scrambling over rocks all night. He wondered where Grissom wore them to.

Nick was pulling one pair of black jeans out when he noticed on a hanger a shiny flash of fabric. He looked closer and noted Grissom actually had a red silk short sleeved shirt, and from the size of it when Nick pushed the clothes aside to look, it was meant to fit more closely than most of Grissom's clothes. He wondered at it for longer than he intended, shook his head, and pulled the jeans out. He closed the closet after pausing, then smiled. *Wow. Don't see Gil in red silk. Wonder what else he has around here?" Nick thought, before stopping himself. "Calm down, Stokes," he hissed, opening the second drawer of the bureau to look for a plain white shirthis was dirty and sweaty.

There were folded white shirts, several gray and brown ones, and one shirt on top, worn and old, with Rocky Mountain Polar Club on it. Nick smiled, grabbed it up, and went back into the bathroom.

"Found these--mind if I borrow them?" he asked, holding up the clothes.

Grissom had wondered what was taking Nick so long. He looked up and noticed Nick had found the shirt his niece had given him in Estes Park, Colorado. "Hey, the polar bear club. Yeah, that's fine."

Nick pulled on the shirt, which fit him relatively loosely. "Polar club?"

"My niece and I went polar bearingice swimming in Colorado when I was there a few years ago. She bought me that to remember it by." Grissom remembered physically how cold the water had been underneath the ice, and how he'd laughed after the shock had worn off and pulled his niece Robin in after him. She hadn't been ready to go in and had clung to her uncle with all her strength. "Man, that was a good time. Cold as hell, though."

"I bet," Nick said. He made to take off his pants and stopped. "Oh. Uh, mind?" he asked Grissom, his hands on his top button.

Grissom swallowed, watching Nick's hands. "No. I don't."

Aware the man was watching him, Nick undid his jeans swiftly and dropped them. He was absurdly glad he's worn his black boxer-briefs, knowing they looked good on him. Nick kicked himself mentally for thinking that, than thought *well, why the hell not look good? For him or anyone? And I know I do in these,* Nick thought with his youthful arrogance.

As Nick slid into Grissom's too-large jeans, Gil took in every curve of muscle and bone, imprinting it in his mind and almost gasping out loud at Nick's languid beauty. He looked up only when Nick stopped zipping the jeans up. "What's wrong?" he asked, voice higher than normal.

Nick frowned. "Well, I kinda don't wanna get this tequila smell on your pants--I wish I could take a shower or something"

Gil smiled. "Oh! Well, tell you what--if you help me out with the hair thing, I'll get out of here and you can take a shower. I'm sorry, I should have thought of that earlier."

Nick considered, then stepped out of the pants. "Deal. I'll help you get changed and into bed, then if I can borrow some soap I'll be ready to roll!"

He stepped behind Grissom in the tub, who was acutely aware Nick was was wearing only a thin shirt and black underwear. Gil managed not to gulp as Nick leaned over him and grabbed the shampoo from the tub edge and knelt down behind him.

"Can you dunk your head under to get it wet?" Nick asked as he popped the lid of the bottle. In response Grissom slid down, and awkwardly came back up. He felt a little twinge in his left shoulder and winced. "Still hurts?" Nick asked.

Grissom nodded. "Some. Be okay."

"Okay. I'll try not to get it in your eyes," he said with a grin.

"Good." Even so, Grissom closed his eyes.

Nick rubbed the shampoo into Grissom's hair, fingers reveling in the feel of his boss' hair, how thick it felt and how the skin felt warm under his hands. Nick knew a little about massage therapy and he let his fingers roam and stroke.

Grissom reacted by moaning in pleasure, a deep and langorous sound which made Nick's heart race. "Jesus, Nicky I may never let you out of here," Grissom said with a faraway voice.

"Just part of the service," Nick said, much more lightly than he felt. He loved, loved the way he could make his boss relax simply by using his hands. Nick had found massage worked wonders for his limited love life, and it seemed gentle touch worked pretty well on Grissom as well.

He let his hands wander down Grissom's neck and used his thumbs to stroke the muscles upward. Nick, even with his lack of experience, could feel the knots releasing and Grissom's body going looser every minute. He smiled down at the man and moved his hands back up. "Okay. Gonna rinse this out, all right?"

In response, Grissom slid under the water again for a half-minute. He came back up spluttering slightly. Foamy suds still clung to his hair. Nick laughed.

"All right, now let me," he said. He grabbed the water glass and began scooping water from the tub and pouring it over Grissom's head. He had to push Gil forward slightly to prevent water slopping everywhere. He smiled again at Grissom's faint sputtering sounds and continued until the water had rinsed the hair clear. Nick used his own hand to draw Grissom's hair back from his eyes and let him relax back into the tub. "How's that?"

Grissom blinked his eyes open and mock-spit. "Fine. Half-drowned, but fine. Thank you, Nick."

When he started to get up, Nick came forward again to help him and noticed the faint smudges that still clung to Grissom's chest. He realized the man probably hadn't really been able to scrub himself down. "Hey, wait."

Grissom halted, still mainly leaning into Nick. "What is it?"

"Let me use some soap on you, man, why would you get back into bed still dirty?" Nick made Grissom lie back and grabbed the sisal cloth and soap. He wet the cloth and rubbed an abundant lather into it.

Grissom used his injured hand to touch Nick's. "Nicky, you don't have to."

Nick smiled, trying to appear as innocent as possible. "Gris, stop being impossible. The intent was to get clean, right? Now shut up and the sooner we get it over the sooner I can take a shower okay?"

"Fine, fine"

Grissom shut his eyes, unable to watch Nick's body any longer, and managed not to sigh as Nick reached under the water and scrubbed the cloth over his chest. He did have to admit, it felt very good to actually get *clean*.

Nick was very careful, aware not only of Grissom's weak condition but of his own deep fire, a white heat in his belly. He was surprised his desire manifested itself only in a slight trembling as he moved the cloth over Grissom's body. He was also mildly surprised that Grissom seemed to be taking everything very casually. *He has to be superhuman,* Nick thought. *I couldn't possibly take this from him.*

Grissom wasn't calm. He could feel the twisting feeling in his gut beginning as Nick-- *well, Nicky's giving me a bath now, isn't he?* he thought--leaned over him. To discourage himself he tried to think of anything casual to say, anything at all. When Nick moved the cloth farther down his chest and around his side, he blurted out the first thing he thought of.

"Who's your favorite Cartwright, Nicky?" *My god. How stupid that sounds.*

Nick looked up with a smile on his face. He didn't answer until Grissom opened his eyes and looked at him with curiosity. He saw Grissom raise a brow when he say Nick's smile. *God, I love that look!* Nick thought.

"My favorite Cartwright boy? Hell, Adam, of course. What's yours?"

It took Grissom a moment to realize Nick had answered the question. He allowed Nick to lean him forward slightly to scrub down his back before he answered. "Guess." Gil had no idea where this coyness came fromit was unnatural to him.

Nick paused for a minute, as much to consider as to appreciate the tan expanse of Grissom's back. The man had a very smooth body, as far as Nick could tell, and Nickwell, he discovered he was really quite attracted to it. He swallowed hard to fight down the impulse to kiss the neck he lightly passed the cloth over as he answered.

"Well, I imagine that you'd have really appreciated Adam. You know, the whole bright, brooding, bad boy thing. Adam." Nick nodded his head with assurance and was surprised to see Grissom chuckle. "What? Don't tell me it's Little Joe!"

"No, Nicky. Funny. I guess I ended up much more like Adam--down to the clothes! But no. I actually liked Hoss. Funny to you?" Grissom asked, half-turning his head as Nick relaxed him back. Nick grinned down at him.

Nick came around and knelt next to the far end of the tub, reaching in for one leg. Grissom pulled his foot away. "Nicky, please. Don't, you've done enough, really." The tone in Grissom's voice was one of chagrin, tinged with a faint shame.

Nick took his hand out of the water and leaned on the tub edge. "I'm not--Grissom, I'm not trying to do anything you don't want. I just thought you might want to actually get clean. I don't want you to drown yourself trying to take a bath."

Gil looked at his CSI, trying to read the suddenly calm face. "I know, Nick. I know. But--I mean, come on. Please tell me you know how awkward this is for me! Nicky--Nick, this is not easy for me."

Nick stood up. Grissom caught his breath at his beauty, once more stunned by Nick's easy grace. "Do you think this is easy for me?" he asked quietly, voice carrying a note of anger. Nick dropped the cloth in the sink, grabbed a towel, and bent down to lift Grissom out. Gil opened his mouth to protest but when Nick easily pulled him up, held him still for a second while draping the towel over his middle, and then hefted him in his arms, he shut it and decided the wisest course was still silence.

Nick carried Grissom into the bedroom, very carefully laid him on the sheets and pulled the blankets over him without looking at his face, and went back into the bathroom. Gil listened intently, heard the water begin to drain, and sighed. *Jesus, I fucked that up. I really, really fucked that up. What the hell was I thinking?* Grissom thought as he mentally kicked himself. He lay quietly, wishing for anything to happen, as the sheets dried his warmed, relaxed body.

Nick didn't wait for the tub to finish draining, but hopped in with a few inches left and ripped off the shirt and boxer-briefs angrily. He tossed them on the chair, cranked the taps on, and flicked the shower switch. He made it as hot as he could stand and then set about taking a very fast shower.

As he washed the dirt and sweat *and oh Jesus, Grissom's blood!* off, Nick forced himself not to think of the man. While Nick normally had an active, inquisitive, and unstoppably busy mind, he had trained himself to be able to blank it all out when he needed to not feel, needed to avoid pain and anger. *Right now,* he thought as mildly as he could, *I could rip his head off and feed it to his goddamn spiders.*

He rinsed his hair quickly and shut the still-hot water off. Stepping out, he grabbed a towel from the rack behind the door and toweled off. Half-wet, he stepped into the too-large jeans he'd borrowed from Grissom and secured them with the belt he whipped out of his own pants. Nick didn't bother putting his underwear back on, part of his mind remarking to him that the feel of denim on bare skin felt wonderful. He pulled the shirt back on, gathered up his clothes, and set his face. *Stokes, just let it go. Let it go.* Then he thought *well, maybe for today.*

Grissom tried not to expect anything from Nick's return. He noted the set, smooth face, and his heart fell. *He's shut down,* Gil thought. He cleared his throat a little. "Shower okay?" *How asinine that sounded!*

Nick nodded. "Yeah. Thanks. I'll bring the clothes back to work, wash em up." Nick stopped by the bedside. Grissom could feel Nick's steady gaze on him and managed to look him in the eyes.

"You don't have to. Don't worry about it. Nick, I"

Nick shook his head. "Look--it's fine. I'm going to grab you a pair of shorts, and then put you under those blankets. You're gonna need sleep, and when you wake up a few gallons of water." He went to the dresser and pulled an old pair of shorts out. Grissom didn't say anything as Nick tugged them on his body. He could feel, however, Nick's tenseness.

Nick refilled the water glass in the bathroom and set it back on the bedside table. "There. Now sleep. You're going to be hurting and exhausted when you wake up, so sleep some more after that." He pulled the blankets over Grissom and allowed himself a moment to smooth the blanket over the man's chest, then reassumed his smooth demeanor. "Do *not* get up and try to work. You hear me?"

Grissom nodded and risked a smile. "Yes sir."

"Good. You want me to call Catherine?"

"No. But thank you for asking. Nicky--, no, Nick let me say this. I'm sorry. I was an asshole, and you didn't deserve any of it. I'm just--it's me. It's just me." Grissom reached his injured hand up shakily. Nick looked, accepted the weak handshake, and stepped back. "Thank you again."

"You're welcome. Grissom--can we not say anything else about this? At work, or--whenever? I don'tI don't think I want to deal with everything now. Please?" Nick voice had an edge of pleading to it, and his eyes softened.

"Of course. But please promise me you'll let me explain, if I can. Later. And make it up to you. Please?"

How many times had he heard Grissom say please? Nick wasn't sure what to say, and decided on his traditional fall backhe smiled. "Later. Go to bed. I'll lock the door and--oh damn."


"Gotta call a cab, my car's at work"

Grissom half-rose from the bed. "No! Take the truck. Like you said, I'm not going anywhere anyway, and"

Nick pressed him back down, letting his hands linger a second too long on Grissom's bare shoulders. "Lay back! What did I say?"

*That *did* hurt,* Gil thought, but fought to keep it off his face. "Take my truck. I'll get it later at work. Okay? Please, Nick."

*Please, he said please. Why is that sexy to me?* Nick wondered, then shook himself. "All right. I'll make sure you have it back before you have to come to work. Now if you don't sleep I'm going to hit you myself. Sleep."

"Okay. Thanks again, Nicky. I wish I could tell you how much I appreciate everything."

"It's fine. I wish I fit in your jeans better, but" Nick was pleased when Gil laughed.

"Go, Nick."


Outside, Nick Stoked sat at the wheel of the truck for a few minutes, fighting back the urge to scream, cry, or put his fist through the windshield. *It's not fucking fair,* he thought, angrily wiping a tear away. *It was supposed to be a drink, not a god damn event! Jesus*

Five minutes later he drove off, Grissom listening to the faint engine sound from the inside. He sighed, let himself relax completely, and began to tremble with anger at himself.
* * * * ** * * * * *

At 9 in the morning, after having been up an hour getting her daughter off to school, Catherine had just fallen back asleep on her sofa when the phone jangled her awake. She nearly fell off the sofa sitting up and cursed as she answered. "What, goddammit?"

Grissom winced. "Catherine?"

Catherine sighed and flopped back down on the sofa. "Gil. Sorry. Was asleep."

"I'm sorry. Do you want me to--"

"No. No, I'm up. What's going on?"

Gil considered. Why had he called his best friend? "I-I know this sounds really loaded, but I was wondering if I could talk to you. I need--to talk."

Catherine opened her eyes and listened more closely. She thought she had caught the edginess in Gil's voice he manifested when he was holding something back from her. "Gil? What's happened?"

"Why do you"

"because I know you. You at home?"


"Do you want to come over? We won't do paella, but maybe some breakfast."

"I--Cath, I can't." Gil waited, not sure what she'd say. He felt helplessly weak and stupidand of all things Grissom hated, feeling stupid was the worst.

"Grissom, what-no, never mind. How about I come over? But--are you okay? Are you hurt?" As Catherine came fully awake, she realized it wasn't Gil's innate shyness that would have kept him away. *Has he been hurt?*

Grissom shook his head weakly as he held the phone. He was still in bed, tired beyond belief and possessed of a powerful headache. "No--well, a little, butI just don't have the strength to move. Could you--could you come over? Please, Cath. And you know how it bugs me to ask."

Catherine knew. "I do. Look, give me a half hour. Do you want me to bring you anything? Are you sure you're not hurt, want to go to a doctor?"

"No. I think I'm fine. I just can't go anywhere. I'll tell you everything when you get here, which I guess is what I need to do. Oh, and Cath--bring your set of my house keys. I'm not sure I could make it to the door."

Catherine's worry grew in spite of Gil's protestations. "All right. I'll be there as soon as I can--could you eat?"

Grissom considered. "Maybe--yes. Something very light."

"Fine. I'll bring food. Don't hurt yourself any more, okay?"

"I promise."

When he hung up, Grissom was gripped suddenly by the overwhelming desire to call Catherine back and ask her not to come. He fought it down, and it was a battlehe knew psychologically he needed to talk the events through, but he knew he'd still feel bad about needing anyone. Grissom was not a needy person.
* * * * * * * * * * *

Catherine Willows knew it was very difficult for Gil Grissom to ask for help of any kind. She believed she had been the last one he'd asked, two years earlier.

Grissom had revealed to Catherine before anyone else that he was having occasional hearing loss. He had asked her to breakfast, separate from his other CSIs, and something about his face had told her to accept.

He had asked her to drive, and they'd chosen a diner right off the strip where they were known and could speak privately. Grissom had been very silent on the drive, obviously thinking deeply.

When they were finally seated and coffee had been poured, Catherine asked. "Gil, what's wrong?"

She had been shocked by the confusion in his eyes when he'd looked up. She automatically reached across the table and took his hand. The contact brought a gasp to his lips and before he lowered his head Catherine could see tears in them.

She shifted over and sat with him on his side of the booth, and arm around him. Catherine asked the waiter to come back and tried to get Grissom to look at her. "Gil--Gil, please tell me what's wrong. Honey, please"

Grissom wiped his eyes roughly and coughed a little. He tried to get his face composed before he looked at her. The loss in his eyes was still there, but Catherine tried to ignore it. "I'm sorry," he said, voice rough.

"For what? Gilyou asked me out to tell me something, and it's ripping you up. Please tell me."

"I--Catherine, you have to promise you won't tell anyone until I'm ready. All right?" His voice and eyes pleaded, and the combination wrenched Catherine's heart.

"Of course."

Gil drew a deep breath and exhaled shakily. "I knew it might happen, butI still wasn't accepting it. I think--Cath, I think I'm going deaf." The act of saying the words terrified him, and his rational mind didn't know what to do with terrorit wasn't used to handling that emotion.

Catherine was silent. "Is that why you asked me to drive?" Gil nodded. "Oh, Gris. What's been happening?"

"My hearing's been dropping out periodically. Not too bad, until last night. Do you remember how I froze all of a sudden at the scene? Didn't move for a few minutes?"

"Yeah--but we all thought you were just thinking. It went on for a while, butyour hearing had gone?"

"Yes. I was terrified, that's why I didn't move. It lasted about a minute, but I was so scared I just stood there. Maybe I was convinced if I moved something permanent would happen." He shrugged. "Terrifying."

Catherine leaned into him. "It must have been. Have you been to a doctor yet?"

"No. I'm going tomorrow. But I imagine it'll just be a case of 'well, Dr. Grissom, there's not a whole lot we can do for you.' I'm not sure I can hear that. No pun intended." He managed a weak smile.

Catherine returned it. "You still have to go. Do youGil, do you want me to go with you? To the doctor?"

Grissom thought, very deeply. He didn't like how his mind was coping with the events, and when his mind was incapable of grasping something he felt incredibly shaky. But he felt worse asking for help.

Catherine saw his brow furrow, and tapped his head to interrupt it. "I'll go. Don't think about it. It's not something you have an answer for, so just let me come along and you can buy me dinner after. I'll even drive." Catherine was hoping he'd take the gentle ribbing.

To his credit, he did. "Yeah, yeah Catherine. I'm scared, you know? Really scared." Grissom gave her a kiss on her cheek. "Thank you for seeing that. I don't think I could have asked you to come."

She kissed him on the lips. "Why do you think I offered? NowI'm starving. You buy."
* * * * * * * * * * *

Nick Stokes had taken the long way home, driving below the speed limit to allow time for thought. His body was thrumming with energy and suppressed anger andyes, a little desire.

When he finally pulled up at his place, he sat in the truck with the engine off for a while, letting the ticking of the engine soothe him. Nick felt exhausted, and not just from tussling with his boss. Emotionally, he was a wreck.

As he got out he considered calling Warrick up and asking if he wanted to go running. Nick and Warrick occasionally raced each other around the streets for an hour or so, both men competing harder than was necessary.

"Hm--maybe not today," he said to himself as he opened his door and walked gratefully into his apartment.

Nick was met in a leisurely way by his sleepy black Labrador, Dorsett. He flopped the dog's ears briefly and went to feed the dog before going into his bedroom. Nick pulled off the borrowed shirt and collapsed across the bed with a massive groan. He was suddenly very, very sleepy.

Nick fell asleep with one arm over his dog, face down, and dreamed a myriad of pleasant and bad dreams.
* * * * * * * * * * *

Grissom sat on the beach in an open short sleeved shirt and red shorts, blinking into the sunlight behind his sunglasses. He tilted his head up appreciatively, and smiled to himself.

Nick came up behind him and tossed his beach towel over the man's head before running past him with a laugh. Grissom whipped the towel off, yelled at Nick and got up to race after him.

Nick was surprised when he looked behind and saw the older man gaining on him. He knew he was faster than Grissom, and couldn't understand how the man was keeping up, much less catching him. He turned on his speed and dashed away, splashing into the water and leaping cleanly in.

When he came up he felt hands on his bare sides, and shook his hair from his face to see who it was. Grissom was standing in front of him, sunglasses up on his head, shirt soaking in the water and clinging to his body. Nick felt Grissom's hands slide up his back and his knees went weak.

Grissom leaned close to him. "Caught you, Nick."

Nick answered shakily. "Yeah. I'm surprised."

The hands slid down and rested on Nick's rear, just resting. Nick felt an overwhelming urge to arch his body into Grissom's. Through hooded eyes he could see a smile forming on his boss' face.

"Why? Grissom always gets his man," he said softly before leaning in and touching his lips to Nick's neck. Nick sighed and tossed his head back, reveling in the sensation. Grissom pulled him close, and licked the salt tang from Nick's neck.

In Nick's bed, Dorsett licked his master's hand briefly before shifting around to get more comfortable. The dog noted the man's groan, then settled himself along Nick's side.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Catherine let herself in to Grissom's place, noting first that his truck was gone and next that the house smelled very lightly of liquor. She set her food down on the kitchen counter and went into the living room, calling his name, then into his bedroom when he didn't answer.

She let herself look for a few moments and smile down at Grissom sleeping. *He always looks so young,* she thought. He was on his back, one arm above the blankets, mouth slightly open. She could see his eyes moving under the lids, and his face twitched occasionally in his dreams. His hair was mussed but clean, she noted, and then she noticed the bruise on his chin.

Moving quietly, she sat on the bed next to him and looked at his closely. The peacefulness of his face was offset by the bruise on his chin, and Catherine then noticed the bandaged hand. Curious and a little hesitant, she very slowly drew down the blanket.

Grissom shifted a little in his sleep, his dream becoming less real. Catherine pulled the blanket down enough to see the bruises on his shoulders and upper chest, and stopped with an involuntary gasp when she saw the large purple bruise over his lower ribs.

Gil's dream of being on a boat in the middle of an ocean, alone, was broken when he heard a gasping sound. As with all his dreams, his mind filed it away on pause and allowed Grissom to wake up. He fluttered his eyes open, smiled, and said weakly "Cath."

"Gil! Oh--I'm sorry, I didn't want to wake you. How are you feeling?"

Grissom frowned. "Uh. Bad."

Catherine gestured at his ribs and touched his chin. Grissom moved his head away. "Yes, bad. What the hell happened?"

"Oh--Cath, not so loud. My head is exploding. Gi' me a minute."

She watched him force awareness back into his body and mind, and noted the pain flashing on his face. As he did so she became aware of a heavy odor of tequila in his room. From the dazed look in his eyes and his voice, Catherine guessed Grissom had gotten very drunk. *But did he beat himself up?* she wondered.

"You want some water?" she asked when he opened his eyes again. She tried to keep her voice level.

Grissom nodded his head slowly. "Can you--can you help me sit up?" he rasped.

Catherine slid a hand behind his back and helped him up, noting she had to use more of her strength than she should have had to. He closed his eyes when he was sitting up, waiting for his head to slow down. "Whoa."

"Don't worry, I won't let you fall back," she said, and gave him the glass. She watched him drink slowly and sparingly, then took the glass from his shaking hand and set it back. "Better?"

"A little. Thank you. And thanks for coming."

"No problem. I see now why you weren't up for travel. Besides, your truck isn't here anyway."

Grissom nodded, and said before he thought it all the way through, "It's with Nick."

Catherine was silent for a moment. "Nick?"

"Uh huh."

"Gris, did--did Nick have anything to do with all this?" Catherine asked, fighting to remain calm. She couldn't imagine the smiling young CSI being violent, but knew that men remained as much an enigma as they claimed women were to them. And she knew Nick was hiding emotions from their boss.

Grissom's eyes widened. "No! No, Catherine, no I mean, he was here, yes, but he didn't--no, Nick didn't do anything." He felt incredibly uncomfortable, and Catherine could tell so.

She relented. "All right. Okay. So, tell me what happened. Then I'll decide whether to kick his ass later--or yours."

"Could you help me sit up against the wall? Yeahthere. Thanks. I'm not feeling very strong right now." Grissom turned clear blue eyes to Catherine's and she knew he was now fully awake. She smiled at him and shifted so she was sitting next to him, back against the wall as well. "Hey," he said softly, smiling at her. She took his hand and held it, waiting for his story.

"It's not anyone's fault, first. It's me."

"I can buy that."

"Ha ha. Look--at work, that puzzle thing. You know it annoyed me." He saw Catherine nod. "But it wasn't really that. I--Cath, I haven't been coping. Lately."

"I've noticed. But why are you, especially you, not explaining it better?"

Grissom raised a brow. "Damn. I forgot you know me.

"Okay, look. You know this case, the rapes and murders, is going nowhere. And then, when we had that scene and the cop had tossed his lunch everywhere, and there's nothing, *nothing* for us to learn from it, wellI think I may have reached critical mass."

Catherine turned to face him. "We all do, Gris. Not that I think you would admit it."

Gil nodded. "Well, I think it may have happened. Catherine" Grissom held her hand tightly "do you know what it's like to have to admit you can't do everything?"

"Of course." Catherine's voice was quizzical.

", Catherine my whole life, my whole adult life I've been able to do anything I wanted, with my brain, you know? I've never had something to do that I couldn't figure out. It's not bragging--I just, I can figure things out. I have a good mind. Multitasking is my specialty," he said with a weak grin.

"Grissom, I admire your mind as much as anyone, but it's not like this is the only case with no answers you've had. What is it about this one?"

He thought deeply. "I think--Cath, I'm tired. I haven't taken a day off in weeks, trying to figure this out. It's ugly, and brutal--I can't let it go, let it happen again. I can stop it, I know if I could just get a break!"

Catherine heard the anger and frustration in his voice and was slightly surprised at it. Grissom was less emotional at a difficult job than anyone else she knew, and she knew he did it as much to be a model of restraint as to give his natural empathy a break. Catherine had seen him once break down in angry tears at a murder scene involving an abused child and had made sure no one else saw him until he had recovered. She also knew that was why he was telling her instead of Warrick or Sara.

Even with her knowledge, she still didn't understand his anger at this case. *Of course, that is unless he's hiding something else from me,* she thought. "Gil," she began, very carefully, "it's been frustrating for all of us. We're working nearly around the clock--the kids are falling asleep in the labs and break room. Had to duck another phone book Warrick tossed, last week."

Grissom was silent. He wasn't sure if Catherine would understand, but he was desperate that someone should. "I know," he said quietly.

"So--tell me what's gone wrong. Tell me why the smartest, and by far most capable man I know isn't able to deal with his own head anymore."

Grissom looked up. *She does get it.* he thought in wonder. "Cath--man, thank god you're around. That's--yeah, that's it.

"Everything that's been going down, all the work, no clues I don't have any answers. And I'm so tired all the time, just so plain exhausted--I'm tired of being me. I'm tired of people looking at me like I have all the answers, like I'm perfect. And before you say it--yeah. I know I'm *supposed* to have the answers, that's what my job is."

"You do it very well."

"I don't--Cath, I don't want to be that, I'm so damn tired! It's fuckin' exhausting being me! That sounds pathetic, or stupid, but I feel like I'm losing my mind and Cath, that's all I *have*!" The words exploded out of Grissom and felt hot and angry to him. He felt slightly ashamed.

Catherine looked at his desperate eyes, trying to cling to any semblance of control, then leaned into him and hugged him tightly. She felt his body stiffen for a moment, then he brought his arms awkwardly around her and held her as well.

"Hey, hey, Gil, believe me, it's going to get better, shh," she kept repeating. She felt him tighten his hold and than a huge sob escaped him and she felt his body shudder.

"I don't--I don't, oh Catherine, I don't know how to solve it! I can't fix it, myself, me, whatever I hate it! Oh god, sorry, I'm sorry--" Grissom felt the huge psychological wrench of admitting to himself that he was stuck, that he didn't have the answers, and that he wasn't going to be able to do it all. The shock was physical, so strong was the jolt to him. It made him cling to Catherine as a mental lifesaver.

Tears ran down his face as he let his body feel what his mind had been feeling for a few weeks now. Catherine let him cry, not trying to stop him, merely whispering his name and gentling him as she would her child. She was more than a little shocked herself at the depth of his pain and loss, and believed the best course for Grissom was to put on her best mothering face and let him know she could handle it for him if need be.
* * * * * * * * * * *

Nick walked into the bar with a mix of apprehension and faint disgust with himself and the place. He looked around and tried to pick a place with fewer people, then headed to the spot at the bar.

Nick had slept badly, his dreams fading and wandering. A shower hadn't helped, and Nick felt half-strangled. He knew it was more mental than physical, but Nick was young and impatient and didn't want to figure it out in his headhe wanted someone now.

*And it ain't gonna be Grissom,* he thought as he called for a beer. He took it, turned, and leaned against the bar. Nick didn't think it would take long.

In five minutes, after several young men had passed him with open stares, he caught someone watching him from the pool tables. Nick squinted through the smoke to see more clearly.

He was a boy, really--a few years younger than Nick, but with the arrogance and confidence of someone older. *Or maybe he just knows how hot he looks,* Nick thought. He raised his beer in a salute and smiled his best fuck-me smile when the boy grinned at him. *Jesus, man, Nick, you could still back out,* he thought, then *But man. He is what I need right now.*

Nick pushed off from the bar and ignored the hands on his body as he walked slowly to the pool table. The boy leaned on his cue and smiled around the gum he was chewing. Nick walked up to him and leaned against a pole near the table. "Hey," he said, beginning the ritual which bored him but which he knew was necessary to play the game.

"Hey," the boy answered. Nick saw he had brown eyes and black wavy hair, and dimples when he smiled. "You new around here?" the young man asked, after raking his eyes over Nick's body.

"Me? No. You are, though."

"Ah. Well. A little." The boy smiled genuinely then, and held out his hand. "I'm Rob."

"Nick. You're up."

Nick watched as the boy bent over the table, sighted down the cue, and sank his shot. The grace in the boy made Nick's stomach tighten. "Nice shot," he called as Rob chalked the cue and sighted again.

"Thanks. One more to go."

Rob sank the eight-ball and collected his winnings from the other man playing. He laughed and gave up his spot on the table, picking up his beer from a ledge and walking back to Nick. He replaced the cue before standing next to Nick.

"You shoot well," Nick said. *God, I don't want to make small talk!* he thought, but kept his patience.

"Thanks. You play?"

"Some. Not my game."

Rob smiled up at him. Nick felt a little like an older brother when he looked down at Rob, a few inches shorter, several pounds lighter, and light years away in experience. The feeling was novel. "So what is your game, Nick?"

"Basketball. Football."

"Oh--all the butch games, huh?" Rob said, laughing a little. Nick found the boy appealing in a goofy, small-town way.

"Yeah, that's me. Where you from, Rob?"

"Oh, I'm from Vegas. I've been at school the last year or so, and came back for a break. What, do I seem like a tourist to you?"

Nick smiled at that. Rob had potential. "Maybe. Sorry. I'm from Dallas myself, originally."

Rob smiled. "I thought there was a trace of accent there. And you just don't look like a Vegas boy," he said, a trace of knowing humor in his eyes. It intrigued Nick.

"Ah. All right, even. So what do you study?"

"Psychology and Communications."

"Really? Interesting--no, it is. Why, if I can ask?"

Rob shrugged. "I like talking to people, andI have this idea that it's a great idea to know how to communicate with as many people as possible everywhere. I speak Spanish and German and I'm studying sign I just want to be an effective communicator." Rob had grown enthusiastic when talking about it, and felt a little sheepish. "Sorry."

Nick smiled. "Not at all. That's a great goal. Better communication all around, you know?" He raised his beer in salute again and drank it down. When he looked back at Rob he saw the boy had moved closer to him.

"It's key, Nick. If we don't communicate--what's it all for?"

Something about Rob's earnestness, his boundless optimism, touched Nick deeply. He still felt attracted to him, but he was intrigued by the openness and honesty in his eyes. "Yeah. What is it all for?"

Rob touched his arm briefly. "Can I tell you something?" His voice was clear but low.


"Nick, we communicated across this whole space. Through the smoke. So tell me--what was it for?"

Nick looked down into the brown, deep brown eyes of Rob. He felt the hand on his arm, and read clear, naked desire in the boy's eyes. Nick knew Rob was far, far more aware than he'd first thought.

He allowed his own arm to drift toward Rob's waist. "I think it's probably obvious," he said softly, moving closer to Rob.

"I thought so."

Nick half-expected Rob to leave him, disgusted with Nick's come-on, when he felt the tug on his belt. Rob was pulling him toward the bathroom by his belt, moving quickly and assuredly. Nick smiled as he let himself be led-- *man, I read that one wrong! Well, half wrong,* he thought.

Rob looked briefly around the remarkably spacious bathroom. Several men were in there, some talking to each other, one pair making out, and he dragged Nick to the stall near the end. Nick knew this bar prided itself on its sizable stalls, and also appreciated the possibilities enough to have small tins with condoms and lube in each one. He was smiling as he remembered when Rob slammed him against the stall door and dropped to his knees.

"Hey, Rob, you can slow down there," Nick said, then his voice died when Rob unzipped his jeans and covered Nick's half-erect cock with his mouth.

Nick leaned against the door and closed his eyes. His body was shrieking with relief as Rob worked his tongue with a facility beyond his years. Nick found himself rolling his hips and running his hands through Rob's thick hair.

Rob was surprised when Nick pushed his away and pulled him to his feet. He stared into Nick's dark eyes and was glad to see the man smile at him. "What's wrong?" he asked, his own body thrumming with desire. Nick Stokes was a beautiful man to him, more beautiful than any of the old men who came on to him in bars. "Nick?"

"Rob, I'm sorry. My job, it's--here." Nick reached behind Rob and took a condom. "I'm sorry. I can't forget about--everything," he said. Rob smiled.

"Hey, I understand. I just--normally I don't go to work like that, but--god, Nick. You're so fuckin' hot!" Rob's voice was going rough with desire. He took the condom from Nick and rolled in on for him, careful but quick. "Better?"

Nick smiled and nodded. "Yes. I didn't mean to interrupt you, but"

"I understand." Rob smiled up at Nick and then sank down to his knees again and Nick abandoned himself to Rob's talented mouth.

Nick had to brace himself with his arms outstretched, trying to control his body's reactions. Rob, however, was far too talented for that. In a matter of minutes Nick was moaning and pulling the boy's head farther down on his cock, the thin latex barrier not bothering either one of them.

Rob could feel the tremors in Nick's body as he held onto his thighs. He pulled his head back and smiled up at Nick-- *god, that's so hot,* Nick thought dizzily.

"You're really--good," Nick managed weakly. Rob laughed softly and stood. He kissed Nick lightly and Nick pulled him in hard, forcing Rob's mouth open with his tongue. The kiss was passionate but brief, as Rob pulled away and turned.

Nick caught his breath when Rob dropped his pants, looking over his shoulder at Nick. The desire in Rob's eyes wasn't even remotely veiled--Nick could see sheer lust in them. He pushed his own pants farther down.

"I didn't even ask--" Rob began, but Nick cut him off with a finger to his lips.

"Sshh. You didn't have to," he said quietly. Rob sighed raggedly and bent forward, arms against the back of the stall. He dropped his head and waited impatiently.

Nick looked over the boy slowly, imprinting his body in his memory. He was beautiful, and Nick sighed a little. Reaching over Rob, Nick grabbed up a small tube of strawberry flavored lube. "I guess this'll have to do," he said with a smile. Rob looked up and laughed.

"Works for me. Nick--please, hurry," Rob said with a trembling voice.

Nick felt the plea in his groin and opened the lube quickly. Spreading it on himself, he used the rest left over to slide his finger slowly along Rob's spine and down until he felt the ring of muscle there. Feeling a little too much like he was working, Nick spread the lube and dropped the packet, moving close against Rob. Holding Rob's hips, Nick bent at the knees and placed the head of his cock at the slick ring. He pushed forward slowly, very slowlynot so much to avoid pain as to savor the experience. *It's been too long,* Nick thought.

"Nick--oh, yes," Rob breathed as Nick entered him carefully. Rob resisted the urge to slam back and let Nick set the pace. He concentrated on leaning on the wall and regulating his breaths.

Moving slowly, with more control than he imagined he had, Nick slid into Rob and sighed raggedly. The contact was welcome, warm, and incredibly exciting. He felt a momentary weakness in his knees as he started to move. He bent over slightly, leaning over Rob's back and kissing his neck. "This is--this is so good," he whispered. Rob tilted his head back and smiled.

"God, yes." Rob sighed as Nick leaned in for a quick kiss, then proceeded to drive into him harder.

Nick had never been very fond of the random fucks in bathrooms that too many gay bars seemed to specialize in. He thought them vaguely slimy, and preferred to go home even if it was still only a one-night stand. Something about the boy's smile, his confidence, though, had made Nick more than willing to forsake his better judgment. He sighed and held Rob's hips more tightly as he began to drive in and out quickly.

Rob held himself against the wall, body vibrating with pleasure as Nick thrust into him. He felt Nick occasionally stroking his back, and reaching down to stroke his heavy balls. He moaned and bit his lip to keep from crying out.

Nick felt his body begin to hum with excitement as he moved. He pulled Rob up against him and bit down on his shoulder, eliciting a moan of pleasure from Rob. When Nick moved his hand down the smooth body he smiled as he felt Rob's own hard cock enveloped in a thin latex sheath.

"Nice work," he panted into Rob's ear, smiling as he heard a chuckle.

"II didn't wanna make a-a mess," Rob breathed. "Oh Nick," he moaned, moving his hands around to stroke Nick's thighs. "Nick, oh, man--fuck me," he sighed as he felt his own orgasm beginning.

"Oh yeah," Nick cried, driving hard into Rob. He bent Rob forward again and drove as hard as he could, biting his lip as he drove in one last time. He stifled his cry as he came, and when he heard Rob beginning to moan he leaned forward and covered the boy's mouth. He felt a slight pinch as Rob bit down, but held them both steady as Rob came.

Nick held them tight until the last tremor ran through the body under him, then straightened up. He wrapped his arms around Rob for a tight hug and then slowly, with regret, stepped back.

Rob felt the contact break and was slightly sad. He was breathing hard as he turned to face Nick. He thought the flushed face and bright eyes beautiful. Leaning into Nick, he wrapped his arms around the trim body and kissed Nick lightly. "Thanks, Nicky," he said quietly, smiling.

Nick accepted the kiss, but hearing Rob call him Nicky had jarred something. He only heard Gil and Cath call him that, and associated it with his bosses' solicitude. He mentally shoved it aside for a moment to concentrate on the immediate. "You're welcome. Thank you." Nick kissed the top of Rob's head and brought up a hand to ruffle the short hair. "Guess maybe we should, uhclean up?" he laughed.

Rob squeezed him once more and backed away. He carefully stripped the condom off and dropped it into the trashcan, and watched as Nick's followed. Rob pulled up his pants and tucked his shirt neatly back in. Both were trembling more than a little.

Nick was pulling up his pants when he felt hands helping. He smiled down at Rob, who tucked Nick back into his pants, pulled up the zipper, and did the button on the jeans up. He smiled at Nick as he cinched the belt tight. "You've got a great body, Nick. You must hear that a lot."

*No, actually, I don't,* Nick thought, but grinned. "Thank you. You're pretty good yourself," he said, and brought Rob again to him for a hug. They allowed themselves a minute to enjoy the settling feelings, both breathing deeply.

Nick finally stood up straight, took Rob's hand, and took them both out of the stall. He noticed another couple in the bathroom, and smiled shyly at them. Rob held his hand lightly and Nick was happy they both felt comfortable.

Back at the bar, Nick ordered two beers and handed one to Rob. He held the bottle against his head to cool himself, and grinned as Rob drank huge gulps of his beer. "Thirsty?"

Rob wiped his mouth. Nick noticed how very young he looked now, flushed and a little sweaty. He could smell the sex emanating off both of them, and Nick remembered how he loved that smell. He reached out and tugged Rob in by his shirt collar for a kiss.

"Man. Nick, I'm exhausted! That was--thank you, Nick. Really. Yeah, I could use several more of these!"

"Me too. You're welcome."

Rob drank in silence again, knowing Nick was watching him but also was preoccupied slightly. "Nick--Nick, I'm glad I met you. But it's okay, ya know I'm not expecting anything, though I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't like to see you again."

Nick frowned a little. He'd been trying to keep his thoughts invisible, and had obviously failed. He sighed. "I'm sorry. It's me I've hadsome stuff's come up lately. Work stuff." He shrugged a little. "It's not you. I like you, I do. It's just...I-I don't know." Nick was surprised when Rob squeezed his hand.

"It's okay." Rob waited a beat, then leapt. "Who is he?"

Nick felt a shock of cold in his stomach. *How did he make me so easily?*
* * * * * * * * *

Catherine had let Grissom cry himself out, waiting until he decided to break away and lean back against the wall, eyes closed. Catherine's heart jumped a little as she noticed the shiny tear tracks on the man's face. She leaned back next to him as well but kept his hand in hers.

Grissom kept his eyes shut until he could count his heartbeats without going into the high 100s. He felt an immense sadness and a physical hole in himself, and was unwilling to trust himself to open his eyes and see pity or disgust on Catherine's face. He knew in his higher mind he didn't have to worry about that, but the mental jolt he'd had rendered him more unstable than he'd been since he first realized he was experiencing hearing loss. Grissom just wasn't sure of himself anymore.

Catherine whispered his name periodically, lightly stroking his hand with her fingers. She saw his face undergo several emotional warps, tightening and smoothing as he fought to regain control. The confusion he was feeling seemed to wash off him and she could feel his emotionsthey were powerful and tiring.

When Grissom hadn't opened his eyes after three minutes or so, Catherine released his hand and brought hers up to stroke his cheek lightly. Grissom felt the touch and flinched, then relaxed visibly. He tilted his head into her hand and Catherine was smiling when he opened his reddened eyes. "Hello, handsome," she said, voice tinged with laughter for his sake.

Gil did laugh a little. He brought his hand up, took hers, and kissed it lightly. He saw the friendship, concern, and love for him in her eyes and felt her powerful emotional connection to himand leaned over and kissed her hard.

Catherine's eyes widened, and she almost moved back, then let herself feel Gil's presence and relaxed into the kiss. *It's not something we haven't already done,* she thought as she returned the kiss. It felt more than friendly, but not sexual or forcedit was simply what Grissom needed at the moment.

Gil enjoyed the kiss, truly needed the human contact, and sat back with a smile touching his eyes. "Thank you," he said quietly. He was searching Cath's face and was pleased to note she didn't appear upset.

"You're still very good at that, Gris," Catherine said, a grin on her face.


"Now tell me what the hell happened tonight."
* * * * * * * * * * *

Rob and Nick were on their third beer apiece, and Nick was aware he'd have to stop. He still had to work later, and still had to return Gil's truck.

The memory of Grissom was less anguished to Nick now, as he and Rob had been talking about the older man for the last hour. Nick had been surprised that Rob was so interested, and had none of the instant bar jealousy so common. *He's gotta be older than he says he is,* Nick had thought more than once during their conversation.

"So, in the end it all came down to that stupid puzzle?" Rob was asking. Nick nodded. He'd explained where he worked, who his boss was, his own untested attraction to Grissom, and the events of the last dozen hours or so. "This man is so smart he can't see the trees *in* the forest?"

Nick listened for the inevitable scoffing tone, and was mildly surprised when Rob's questions all sounded reasonable and interested. "He's not just smart--it's beyond that. He *sees* things differently. I felt bad because he wasted all that time on it."

"I see. How did he take it?"

"Not too badly, at least he seemed okay. I feltI felt pretty bad though. I felt stupid."

Rob considered. "You really like him, don't you, Nick?" He was interested in the obvious differences between Nick and what Nick described as an almost unreal man. *If he does exist, he sounds damn unattainable,* Rob thought with a mental frown.

Nick smiled. He felt like yelling how much he was attracted to Grissom, but settled for a drink of beer. "Yes. I'm not sure he knows I do, but I wouldn't be surprised. He's very observant."

"Do you think he's gay?"

Nick snorted. "I don't think I'm gay. Or at least, not exclusively--no offense, man. You are beautiful. No, I think I'm bi, or at least, I sleep with who I want to, whatever sex. I don't know about Gris. I see him checking out my other supervisor, and she's obviously checking him out, but they've been friends for years. I don't know. Maybe."

"You said you caught him checking you out at that bar."

"Well, he wasn't exactly checking me out. He was staring at my dick, just standing there. He had this--analytical look on his face. Like he was gonna dissect me." Nick shuddered slightly, remembering Grissom's cold, incisive eyes. "It was a little scary."

"Scary? That's not good."

"No--no, it's more than that. I'm not doing a good job of explaining myself"

"Nick, you're totally in love with him. And you're also trying to be like him at work--he sounds like he's brilliant at his job, so why wouldn't you? And thenthis stuff couldn't have been easy, having to help him out. You're doing a great job." Rob smiled at Nick and touched his hand. "It's sweet."

Nick laughed. "Man, Rob. You're too young to know all that. I guess--no, you're right. I'm almost stupid in love with him, and he probably doesn't know a damn thing. Hell, he's almost asexual!"

"How do you know? You said he was checking you out, and you felt it. And you two were pretty close in his place maybe you should give yourself a chance."

"Hm. Maybe. Speaking of" Nick looked at his watch and frowned. "I have to get home and then get to work. I'm sorry," he said sincerely. Rob shook his head.

"It's okay. I enjoyed it. It's nice to talk as well as--everything else. You here often?"

Nick shook his head. "Not really. I usually don't have much time. There are nicer places, Rob," he said with a smile. "You should go to them."

"Maybe I will. Nick--I don't want to push it, but if you want to talk, or hang outyou can give me a call. Really. Even if we just become drinking buds. You've been very nice, and very good to me. I appreciate it." Rob felt sincerely grateful to Nick for the man's gentleness and kindness, and also liked Nick's fast wit and intelligence.

Nick smiled as he stood, Rob standing with him. "You know, I think I'd like that. I don't get out much, but I guess--maybe it'd be nice to see a friendly face, huh?" Nick fished a auto shop business card out of his wallet and wrote his cell phone number on it for Rob, who handed a card to Nick with his number on the back. They smiled a little at the clichéd feel of it, and then Nick leaned over the table and kissed Rob lightly.

"Take care of yourself, Nick, okay? And try to, you know, be a little confident with, uh, Gil? You're too good a catch for him to miss, ya know?"

Nick laughed. "Man, I hope you're right--and Rob, I hope you know I didn't, I mean, maybe I *did* come in looking for a little action, but you're really sweet and nice. And you listened to me talk about another man for an hour. I gotta respect that. Take care, and be careful, okay? Had to say it, I work crime lab anyway. Thanks," Nick said, flashing his best smile and receiving one in return. He stepped quickly to the door of the bar and looked back, waving briefly to Rob, who waved once and smiled again. Nick noted with edgy humor that Rob was almost immediately joined at the table by an older man. He sighed to himself and went out into the bright sunshine.
* * * * * * * * * * *

Catherine had helped Grissom to his sofa and they sat nibbling the food Catherine had brought. Grissom contented himself with vanilla yogurt, carefully slurping the stuff off a spoon, while Catherine scarfed down a donut and was working on a bear claw. Grissom smiled a little at her appetite.

"I don't know how you stay so thin, the way you eat," he said. He oofed a little when she hit his arm.

"Give me a break. Are you sure you don't want anything else?"

Grissom shook his head. "No, thank you. What I needed was to talk. Better than yogurt," he said, smiling. Catherine smiled back.

"I have a feeling you're not done talking, though, Gil. You gonna tell me about Nicky?"

Gil raised one brow. "Hm. I thought I had."

Catherine turned on the sofa to face him. "You told me about the bar, and Orlando, and the fight, and all that, and you told me about you feeling lost. But you haven't told me about Nicky."

"You wanna push me? Come on, Cath" Grissom finished his cup of yogurt and set it next to him. "Okay. You tell me first. What do *you* think is up with Nicky?"

Cath smiled. "I think there's something up with Nicky and you--or, he wants really badly for there to be." Grissom's half-confused looks amused her.

"Catherine, I don't know what you've been reading on the bathroom wall, but"

"Grissom--listen to me. Nicky absolutely adores you. He lives to work with you, and you know that. Really, who can blame him--you're good." She grinned when Grissom nodded, listening intently. He had the look he got whenever he was thinking deeply about a case. "So, it's torturing poor Nicky to work with you lately because, and you may or may not have noticed, he's also falling in love with you. Hard."

Grissom's face registered astonishment. "Nick? Me? Catherine, you've got to be kidding please tell me you're kidding!" He felt awkward and a little embarrassed Catherine was making him think more closely about his physical attraction to Nick, something he'd not done.

Catherine shifted closer to him, knowing he wasn't going to handle her revelations well. "Gil, he's in love with you. You know Nick's bi, or maybe--okay, it's possible you're the only one who doesn't know that. It's not like you pay attention to that. But he is. He's told me, and I think maybe Warrick knows, but Nick's personal life is his own. And--well, it's pretty obvious to me that he's fallen for you."

Grissom opened his mouth to answer, shut it, then opened it again. "How--how do you know he's in love with me? Don't you think I'd have noticed something?"

She snorted in laughter. "Gris, you don't notice when *anyone* looks at you twice. I've seen you look right through a woman staring at you with naked lust in her eyes because you were thinking about a crime scene or just excited about a bug. You don't notice that stuff, buddy."

"Bugs are fascinating," Grissom stalled. *Was she really saying Nick's hot for me?* he thought.

"Uh huh. Look--he'll never tell you. So I am. I don't care whether you're interested in him, I don't care who you bed so long as you're playing safe and you're happy. I do *not* believe you're asexual, Gris, so you can't just run off into your semi-virginal mood. I know you like sex, I know you like all that good, fun, hot stuff, so--well, there it is."

Grissom was astonished. He knew Catherine knew him better than anyone else, all his faults, foibles, and tendencies, but he'd never thought she'd pull it all out on him. "I-Cath, you gotta know this is damn, damn weird. Andhow the hell do you know I like sex? I mean, we've never gone *that* far"

Her laughter rang in his ears. "I know, but you have to remember, we've known each other for a long time we've had a lot of talks over a lot of shots, and we've helped each other through a lot of stuff. You remember the high school chem. teacher?" she asked him.

Grissom thought back to the time, over five years ago, when he'd for a brief few months actually dated the same woman. She'd been very smart, sharp, a little geeky, and ultimately, unable to compete with Grissom's tendency to absorption in his job. While they had been completely physically compatible--Catherine had even found Grissom smiling and humming to himself at the beginning of a shift after a date with her--he had been unable to convince her he really was interested in her. Grissom hadn't been able to express himself well, and after a sexually satisfying but emotionally chaotic five months, she'd broken up with him.

During the period Catherine had had to put up with several clinically accurate descriptions of Grissom's sex life, because he was fascinated by the variations the teacher had brought to it. She knew what he liked, including a tendency to handcuff play which interested her, and was glad for his sake to find out he *did* like sexquite a bit. He just didn't get it often.

Catherine smiled as she saw Grissom sigh. "Yeah. She was exceptional. Okay, so I grant you that. But I still think you're off about Nick."

"Really? Okay. Then I want you to pay very close attention to him the next time you talk to him, especially when you apologize for being an asshole. Watch his eyes. You'll also notice he turns a little red sometimes. Check it out."

"Okay. I will. But before that--Catherine, I need you to run some interference for me. I'm going to take another day off, because I can barely move around. Will you play bad guy and run the kids for me? You would naturally, but try not to let them find out anything. I don't think Nick will mention anything. I'd like to talk to him about it all before anyone else finds out." He put on his best nearsighted puppy-dog look and Catherine smiled at him.

"You know it. Grishoney, you need to take a little time off from your own damn head too. Will you promise me something?"

"Of course."

"Read a damn Far Side collection before you go to bed tonight. You better start giving that head a break. And I'm going to pull other strings to keep you off from work unless I see you're giving yourself and your stress a break. I can't help you fix your head, Gris, because there's nothing wrong, but I can help you relax and accept being human. Gil" she took his hand in hers, "please, please promise me you'll tell yourself you can't do it all. I know you're not a fan of therapy either, but if that might help--do it. I know how much it must have hurt to find out you were stuck. I know you."

Grissom blinked tears out of his eyes. "I know you do."

"And I know you beat yourself up every day, every mistake you make, hell Gris, every mistake *we* make. You take on all the CSI responsibility."

"It's my job," he began. Catherine touched his lips with her finger.

"Ssh. No it's not. You're job is to supervise and investigate. You are brilliant at both. Let us make our own mistakes and learn, and stop playing God."

"I don't play God. I just...Cath, I just need to know I'm smarter than the bad guys. It's what I do, it's all I have to offer. I'm not faster, or stronger, or richer I just have my head." Gil felt a little despair returning to him, and was surprised then when Catherine's hand smacked lightly across his face. "Hey!"

Catherine spoke slowly, through her teeth. "Grissom. You are *not* just your head. You're a real person, with all the real problems and faults. Just because you happen to be smarter than a whole hell of a lot of people does not mean it's all you have to offer. You're funny, sensitive, smart, giving, and incredibly empathetic. You're a--Gris, you're a good guy. Really."

"I suppose--I mean"

"Damn it! Don't make me hit you again. Think about it this way--why would I, Nicky, Warrick, Sara, Brass, all your friends who you respect and love, why would we bother with you if you weren't a good guy? Are you saying we would *like* hanging out with a walking brain with no personality? Jesus, Gris! Give *us* some credit, if not yourself!"

Grissom watched the fury flare on her face. He knew she was right, and knew he was going to have to accept his failure to crack the case. It was just--*it's a hell of a lot to grasp at once*, he thought.

Catherine saw him thinking, saw him decide. She waited and hoped.

"Cath--look. I hear you. I do. And I know what you're saying is right and true. Even--well, maybe the stuff about Nick is weird, but you're right. What I need to know is if you can also hear me--I can't do this quickly, I can't forgive myself easily for failing even when I know it's not my fault. It takes me time. Will you give me a little?"

"Of course, Gil, but"

Grissom held up his hand. "Wait, let me finish. I want you to give me a little time, but I also need you to call me on it if I start letting it go on too long. If I'm still in a funk in a week, whack me upside my head. You know I can get lost in it, so...will you do that?"

Catherine smiled at her best friend and gave him a little kiss. "Yes, hon. I will. I'll do everything I can for ya."

"Don't hit me too hard, though," Gil said with a grin. "Nicky did a job getting me into the truck."

Catherine frowned. "I still have a hard time believing he did that"

Grissom shook his head. "If he hadn't I probably would've hurt him, or myself. I pushed him really hard, and he hung in there. I owe him for that."

"I guess. Next time, though, pick on Sara."

"Sara would've broken my head!"

"You're probably right! Jesus...quite the gang we have there."

"Oh yeah--and they're gonna be ready to roll soon."
* * * * * * * * * * * *

It was a tired Nick Stokes who changed shirts before his shift that night, as Warrick teased him. "What's the matter, bro, she roll you for your money?"

Nick frowned at Warrick and closed his locker. "Ha ha. No, long damn nite--or day, whatever. You look rested, though she stand you up?"

"Yeah don't think so. Spent the day sleeping."

"I believe that."

The two CSIs made it into the break room where Sara Sidle joined them and they waited for their chief and Catherine to come in.

All three younger CSIs stopped their joking when Catherine came in. They sat up, expecting their chief to come in. Sara was the first to notice that Catherine had come in late.

"Hey Cath. Gris following you?" she asked.

"He usually is," Warrick said, eliciting a laugh from Sara. Nick remained silent, gnawing a little on his bottom lip.

Catherine sat on the edge of the table, the night's assignments in her hand. "No. He's out sick. My turn to be the man."

Warrick frowned. "He's sick? Oh man, must be bad. He never takes a day. Did he call you? Is he okay?"

"Yes. He's just got a stomach thing, throwing up some. He wanted to come in, believe me, but when he called me I just laid down the law."

"I bet you did," Sara muttered. She grinned when Catherine looked at her. "What?"

"Awright. Warrick, you and Sara have a leaper, or not, over at the Sands. Messy, take your waders."

Warrick plucked the slip from her hand. "I'm all over it." He left with Sara.

Nick fidgeted in his seat. "And me?" he asked quietly. He shifted over nervously when Catherine slid down next to him.

"I need to talk to you first, Nicky," she said. She could see the comically big gulp Nick took.

"What about?" he asked, voice shaky. *Please, please let it not be about Grissom!* he thought.

"I need to know from you if I need to kick your ass."

Nick stuttered a few times. "I-what, Catherine, I--what do you mean?" he finally managed.

"Gris told me about the other day. I believe him, what he told me, but I also want to hear it from you. You didn't get into a fight with him, did you?" Catherine was nearly sure Nick hadn't done anything to hurt Grissom beyond putting him in the truck, but wanted to hear him say so.

Nick's eyes widened. "Oh, Cath I-I didnt think he'd well. Um--well, it got kinda crazy--he told you we went for drinks?"


"Yes. And then, well--Catherine, I don't know what happened to him. I've never seen him drink so much, ever. He was upset about something, and almost--mean. Then he hurt himself punching out the mirror, and then--he didn't want to go down quietly. I didn't want to hurt him, Catherine. I was just afraid he'd--do more damage to himself." Nick threw up his hands. "I didn't know what to do," he finished. He felt embarrassed, ashamed, and a little angry at Grissom for telling Catherine anything.

Catherine watched the young man's face, flooding with emotions. She knew he was telling the truth, and she gave him a smile. "All right. I thought so. He was all about not blaming you. But I needed to hear it."

"Cath--is he okay? When I left him he was sleeping. How is he?" Nick remembered the blood, vomit, and injuries and shuddered a little.

Catherine shrugged. "He's sore as hell, and he don't look too good, but he's going to be okay. You did a number on his ribs, that's for sure!"

Nick groaned and leaned forward, head in hands. "Ohhh Catherine, I didn't mean to hurt him! I never would, I mean, I--" Nick stopped and raised his head. He was appalled at how close he had come to saying he was in love with his boss. "I mean, I wouldn't do that. You know me."

Catherine patted his back a little. "I do, Nicky. I do. And because I do, will you do me a favor?"

Nick sat back and rubbed his face. "I think so"

She laughed at him. "Thanks! Will you--Nick, will you talk to Grissom about how you feel?" Catherine hated how it sounded loaded, and simple, when it was anything but.

Nick stared. "What--what are you talking about?" Catherine, you haven't said anything to Grissom, please!" With sudden clarity Nick knew Catherine was aware he was in bad, desperate love with their chief. He sat straight up and took her hands. "Please, Cath"

She watched his dark eyes, wide and pleading, and felt very sorry for him. "NickyI think you need to tell him something. I mean, I don't know what exactly, but you both deserve to know how you feel about him. He's confused, he's ashamed of himself--and he doesn't really believe you could be in love with him."

Nick stalled. "I'm not--Cath, I'm not"

She raised a finger to his lips. "Ssh. I told him you had a thing for him, and he didn't want to believe me but you know how he is. He'll think about it for a long time, put all the glances and nudges and stares together--and he'll know it's true. Then what? You think he'll ever act on it?"

"Cath, I don't even know if he *has* sex!" Nick blurted. Cath laughed loudly.

"Nick, I'm not saying go over and jump him. I'm saying, he's going to realize you love him. And then, because it's Gil, he's going to try to figure out how to make everything right and that might mean for him learning how to love someone again.

"Look, Nicky" Cath leaned forward. "I'll tell you this. Grissom is a very, very complex man, in all things except his emotions. Those are pretty basic. When he decides he wants to love someone, after a period of being very shy, and very standoffish, he will. And he commits himself to it completely. Now, it might not seem that way to the person, because he's so inside his head and not the best communicator, but he does. And, Nicky...I know he doesn't care whether the person he loves is male or female--for Grissom, if the attraction is there, it's there. Simple."

Nick had listened with progressive understanding. He knew Catherine wasn't asking him to charm Grissom into his bed, but rather to present his own case honestly and completely, and trust that Grissom would be honest in return. He turned soft, thoughtful eyes to her. "Is it simple?" he asked doubtfully.

"Nick, yes, it is. Look--I'm going to tell you something that you, Sara, and Warrick may have wondered about. And I don't want you to spread it around, okay?" She smiled when he nodded.

"When I met Grissom, what seems a hell of a long time ago, I was totally charmed by his goofy self-absorption and his mind. He was smarter than anyone I'd ever met, and I was like 'wow, this super genius likes me'. I mean, I was dancing back then, not a CSI and certainly not high on most people's list of friends-to-be.

"But Grissom didn't see anything except me. We talked--a *lot*-- and found common ground, and found ourselves really in love. With each other."

Nick swallowed. "You two were in love?"

"Oh, no doubt about it. ButI knew he wasn't ready to commit to the kind of relationship I really wanted, the permanent, family kind. He was so unfamiliar with the idea and emotions. I couldn't let him commit himself, but by the time I tried to keep it friendly, he had fallen in serious love.

"It was painful, for both of us. I loved him so much, everything about him, but knew I couldn't marry him and settle down, raise kids. And when I tried to tell himhe looked more lost and hurt than I've ever seen him since. He told me he had decided to love me, both with his mind and in his heart, and he didn't see what was wrong. It was the only time we ended up having a really bad, crying, yelling argument. He saw it so simply, and I didn't."

"He had figured it out, and you were telling him he hadn't," Nick said softly, voice wonder-filled. "You told him he was wrong."

Catherine sighed. "Yes. And you know, the problem was, the thing that hurt him so badly, was that he really wasn't--he loved me and I did love him. It didn't make any sense to him.

"Anyway," Catherine breathed, "he cried and yelledeven begged. We ended up not speaking for two weeks. I don't know what he did, but by the time I got hold of him again he looked horrific. Hadn't shaved, hair all over--a wreck. But his face was calmer, and set.

"He said he finally understood why we couldn't stay together, or live together, or whatever. I remember he said 'it took me two weeks to realize in this case, there was no sense involved. Love doesn't make sense. But I want you to know I still love you. It just took a while to get over you not loving me in the same way'."

"Wow," Nick whispered. He watched Catherine wipe a tear from one eye.

"That hurt. But I finally saw what he meant was his love was permanent for me, hadn't really changed, but he had seen that I had a point, that my love for him was also real but the truth was we couldn't be together forever like that. We needed to be friends, and we have been. I've loved Grissom more than anybody except Eddie, in the first couple of years, and Lindsey. We truly did commit to each other...but as friends."

"So, you two never were lovers," Nick said, stating what the younger CSIs had wondered about Gil and Catherine.

She shook her head. "No. Believe me, I wanted to do him he was *quite* sexy to me!" She laughed, pleased when Nick did as well. "But no, we've just played around some. We're friends, good ones." She leaned forward. "Look, Nicky--the whole point is that the one thing Grissom doesn't almost immediately understand and grasp well is his emotions, because he has a hard time when things don't have a kind of sense and order. He's a scientist--like you are. And, I know what it's like for him when he has to deal with nonsense, especially if it's personal. I do *not* want my best friend wandering around work in a daze because he doesn't know whether he's an object of affection or not! And I don't want you moping either. So--Nicky, ya gotta cowboy up and tell Grissom something. Don't worry about his reaction--he likes and trusts you as a friend and co-worker, and you know he won't freak."

"Do I?"

She slapped Nick's arm. "Yes! Aren't we all going on about how much control he has? Okay, well, yes, lately it's been hard because of the big case, but he will get beyond that, with help from friends. But he is essentially in control. I don't want your feelings for him to be something that's bothering him while he struggles with his head. You know, Nicky, he feels like it's been too much lately to be himalways right, always calm, always the go-to guy. So, we need to buck up, do our best--at work and not. Don't make it harder to be him than it is, Nickyjust tell him the truth."

Nick looked away. "Yeah. The truth. Catherine, answer me one more thing, and I'll let it go and we can get to work."


"If he smacks me down will you be the one who picks me back up?" Nick said this with a half-smile on his face, but his eyes were frightened.

Catherine leaned into him and hugged him. "Oh, Nicky of course. I promise you if he does something so out of the ordinary as to hurt you in some way, I'll be there. But he won't, honey, he won't. Sssh, it's fine," she cooed at him when she felt him tighten his arms around her. Catherine wondered when she had been elected de facto mother of the younger CSIs, and wondered if that made Grissom the de facto dad. The thought annoyed her and she shrugged it off.

Nick disentangled himself and sat up, clearing his throat. "All right. I have to take him back his truck after work, I promise I'll talk to him then. Maybe we'll figure something out, or at least have chat--about what, I can't say yet."

"Good--and Nick, don't kick him again, even if he is being an asshole, okay?" Catherine grinned. "I'd hate to have to do a number on your ass."
* * * * * * * * * * * *

The whole team worked steadily all shift, logging and processing evidence. They worked generally in silence, something about the lack of their boss making them sedate.

In the locker room both Warrick and Nick demurred on breakfast--they had spent the whole shift sifting rubble in a building explosion and were exhausted. Sara decided to go home and sleep for once, herself.

Catherine caught Nick on his way out the door. "Hey. You can give me a call when you're done over at Grissom's and I'll come pick you up and bring you back to your truck, if you want."

Nick shook his head. "I'll catch a cab. Need time to think, now and after I see him."

Catherine patted his back. "All right. You can call me, though, you know that."

He nodded. "Thanks, mom. I'll be fine. See you later."

Nick took his time driving to Grissom's place, rehearsing possible conversations. He spoke some of them aloud, trying them on for size.

"Well, I mean, you must have noticed--no. Gris, look, you deserve to know that, well, I--damn it Stokes, just tell him you're in love!" Nick smacked his hand against the steering wheel and winced. "Ow. Aw shit. I'll just wing it."

He pulled up in front of Grissom's place and suddenly cursed. He didn't have a key, and he didn't really want to wake Gil up. "Man, Stokes you aren't going about this well at all." Sighing, Nick got out and walked slowly up to the door.

He was surprised when the second doorbell ring was the prize. Grissom opened the door and moved a little stiffly to the side. Nick was pleased to see Gil was smiling. "Hi Nick."

"Grissom. Brought your truck back to you, safe and sound." Nick wondered if he should come in or not. Grissom was standing with the door open but only a foot or two away from the doorway--Nick didn't know how to read it.

"Thank you." Grissom was unsure if he should invite Nick in, or if the young man was just wishing to get the hell out of Dodge. "I appreciate it."

"Not a problem. Arehow are you feeling?" Nick asked, his own smile feeling strained.

Grissom nodded. "Better. I--oh, I'm sorry. Nick, please come in. I'm sorry, I haven't been up for very long. Excuse me." He stepped back farther--Nick noticing the stiffness with which he moved--and Nick edged inside.

He waited until Grissom closed the door and stepped back so the older man could come back into the room. Nick noted Grissom was wearing a t-shirt and shorts, both rather worn. He also felt a lurch in his stomach as he was able to look his boss up and down for a moment as Grissom limped past him, leading the way.

"Come in and sit, Nick. Thanks for bringing my truck back," Gil said, settling himself sideways on the sofa carefully. He felt little pain but was sleep-hazy, and tried to blink himself awake.

Nick came in slowly and settled himself on a deep chair diagonally across from Grissom. He perched near the edge, ready to take flight if need be. Nick had lost any concept of what he thought might happen now.

Gil let himself look for a long while at Nick without speaking. He wanted to simply take the man in, impress his whole presence in his mind permanently. Without wondering when it had happened, Grissom realized he was, indeed, in love with Nick Stokes.

Grissom took a deep breath, exhaled, then smiled. "How much grief did Catherine give you, Nick?" he asked, trying to make his voice sound stronger than he felt.

Nick chuckled a little, taken aback by Grissom's humor. *He looks pretty good, considering,* Nick thought, then said, "A little. Well, more than that, butit's good."

"Ah. Did anyone else give you grief?"

Nick shook his head. "No. They were mostly wondering why you took a day off."

Grissom frowned. "Yes. Well. I imagine that'll be an issue tomorrow night."

"You're taking another night off? Tonight?"

"Oh, you're right. I guess I will be at work tonight. Sorry, I'm a little groggy."

"Have you been able to sleep well?" Nick asked, the EMT in him coming out.

"Yes, actually. I'm just stiff, and sore. I won't go out tonight, just stay in and fill out paperwork I've been ignoring." Grissom shrugged. "I suppose it's a sort of blessing, then."

"Gris--hell, man, I got to say this again. I'm really sorry about what happened. If I could do it over again"

"What, Nick? Would you let me drive? Or just walk away? Come on, you know you couldn't do thatyou're too kind. What happened--" Grissom waved his hand, the bandaged one, Nick noted, "happened. I appreciate everything you did, all your help. I really do."

Nick shrugged doubtfully and leaned back in the chair. "Man, Gris--if that's the only kind of help I could have given you, I need to be less helpful! I never, ever would have hurt you, man. I just--you know, just wanted to get you home." Nick drew in a shocked breath when Grissom lifted up his shirt enough for Nick to see the purple, but fading, bruises on his torso. "Gris"

"Nick, imagine this. Imagine that you hadn't done what you did, and that instead of bruises my guts were on the pavement because I went through my windshield trying to drive home drunk. Imagine that. And let it go. Please?"

Grissom had deliberately kept his voice flat, and lowered his shirt. He saw Nick's eyes widen, and hoped he hadn't made his point too bluntly.

Nick sat up. "Gil...Jesus. You really know how to get to a guy. Okay, I understand. I would rather have you alive and hurt than dead, anytime. Maybe next time I'll just try to head it all off at the pass." He stood hesitantly. "I better get going."

Gil shook his head. "Nick, stay for some coffee or something. You couldn't have had breakfast, and--are you gonna call a cab? Let me toast you a bagel or something...least I can do." He struggled up, Nick stepping forward and lending a hand. Grissom let his own hand linger a moment in Nick's, then limped toward the kitchen. "Come on, have some coffee. It's not Greg's, but it's got octane."

"All right, but then I better get moving--need sleep."

Nick joined Grissom in his kitchen, noting with half a mind the stainless-steel nature of it. Grissom dropped coffee into a percolator basket and set it, filled with water, on the stove to perk. He pulled a bagel out of his fridge and plopped the halves in his toaster, and when he turned to Nick he met the young man's smile with his own. "What?"

"I haven't seen a real percolator since I was camping in Texas last year. Wow."

"Well, it makes better coffee--richer and darker. I'm idiosyncratic, what can I say?" Grissom smiled and sat across the table from Nick.

"You are that. Hey, Grissom" Nick stopped. *Cath, you better be right about this--but is this the right time?* he wondered.


"I wanted--I needed to ask you something. Well, tell you something. And it's not going to be easy for me, because it's pretty sensitive--I could, well, could get hurt. But--"

"Nick, let me ask you, then--do you think you love me?" Grissom let the words fly fast, trying to save both Nick and himself from the pain of possible rejection. He saw Nick gasp and start. *Oh, shit,* he thought.

"I--Grissom, I-I mean, you, you knew? You knew about--how I felt about you?" Nick was stuttering worse than he'd ever done since he was a very young boy. "H-How? When?"

Grissom felt the young man's confusion and fear. He reached out a hand to Nick's and frowned inside when Nick moved it away, the hand trembling. "Nick, Nicky--I have to admit I was blind. But--things, and people, have a way of piling up until a form appears. I'm making what I think is a very good guess. But I don't know--I'm not very good with things like emotions."

Nick stood, and took a step back. Grissom watched him with hurt eyes, wondering if he'd blown everything. "Nick?"

"I--Gil, I don't know what to say! I mean, here I was going to tell you that I wanted to get to know you better, if you wanted to, that I--that I love you, and you beat me to it? God!" Nick didn't know what to say after that, watching his boss and dream lover look at him with hurt eyes. Grissom stood, careful not to encroach on Nick's space.

"Nick, it's okay. I've been thinking about it, and things make more sense when I add it up this way. I was ignoring, or not seeing clearly, the signals. But it makes sense. And--Nick, I think I feel the same way about you. Is that--is that okay?"

He had moved slightly closer, aware of the coffee boiling, the ding of the toaster, and Nick's trembling. He reached out a hand to Nick and waited. "Nick, I'm here. If that's what you think you want--I'm here." He hated the lost, tense, uncertain feeling in his stomach and wanted for anything, something, to end it.

Nick looked down at the hand, and back at his boss, his mouth open in stunned surprise. He reached out, dropped his hand, then stepped forward into space and brought his arms around Grissom, tightly yet aware of the man's injuries. *Jesus Christ, thank you, thank you!* he thought. "Grissom, I--" Nick couldn't finish the sentence, and closed his eyes and simply let his body feel the older man's.

Grissom was a little taken aback, his body instinctively tensing for pain--then he felt it relax of its own volition as Nick embraced him. He brought his arms up tentatively and let them rest on Nick's waist, breathing in the man's clean, post-shower smell. "Nicky, it's okay, ssshh, it's okay," he said softly, letting his chin rest on Nick's shoulder. "It's okay."

Nick held Grissom, feeling the man's arms on his waist, until he felt himself calm. He could smell the coffee and took it as an excuse to separate, a smile on his tear-streaked face. "Coffee's done," he whispered, face a foot away from Grissom's as they stood close, any semblance of personal space gone. Grissom's hands were still on Nick's waist, and his eyes were large, bright, and still somehow soft. He smiled at Nick.

"I know."

"You should get it, it'll burn." Nick felt his heart still racing as he tried to wrap his mind around what had happened. *Did I really just hug Gris?*

Gil smiled broadly. "Among other things. Nick, it's really okay. Really." He made to move toward the stove and felt his wrists taken gently. Nick pulled him close, body on body, and held his face in his large hands while Grissom stared unblinkingly at Nick's deep, dark eyes. "Nick?"

"I love you, Grissom," Nick breathed, jumping the last hurdle. He caressed his boss' jaw and gently kissed him, his lips barely brushing Grissom's, as gentle as he was capable of being. "I love you," he whispered, his lips just on Grissom's, and then pulled back. He waited, tense, but happy he'd decided.

Grissom had closed his eyes when Nick kissed him, and opened them slowly, dazed. He felt Nick's hands on his face and brought his hands up to Nick's sides. "Nicky. I--oh god, Nick!" he said harshly, and leaned into Nick for a kiss of his own.

Nick felt Grissom's mouth, unpracticed but questing, touch his own and the feeling was primitive and electric at the same time. Grissom touched his lips to Nick's tentatively, then pressed more as he felt Nick's body relaxing into it. He closed his eyes and let his body tell him what to do.

For his part, Nick thought he was going to collapse. Grissom, though in general not much in practice, remembered soon enough how to kiss someone and Nick held him tight, gently teasing the older CSIs lips with his tongue and gasping when he felt Grissom snake his own tongue out and into Nick's half-open mouth. He felt Grissom's arms moving stiffly farther up, to pull Nick into his own body. The kiss lasted for several moments and when Grissom moved his lips away Nick sighed loudly. "Jesus, Grissom," he breathed, eyes closed in pleasure, and the sigh deepened when he felt Grissom's mouth sliding along his neck. "Gris!"

"Sshh, Nicky," Grissom said, kissing the tan neck one more time before smiling at Nick, faces inches away. "Hello," he said, his smile bringing dimples to the fore.

"Grissom, man hi," Nick said, finally opening his eyes with a deep, langorous sigh. "Did we--did we just do that?" he asked, amazed. Gil laughed and stepped away to the stove, keeping his own awe in check.

"We did. *We* did, Nick. Mutual, remember?" He poured two cups of coffee and turned to Nick. "Anything in yours?"

Nick shook his head and sat heavily. "No. Shit, Gil."

Grissom put the cups down and sat. "Yeah." He sipped the hot, fragrant coffee and sighed. "Good stuff."

"Yeah it was--oh, the coffee!" Nick laughed. "Sorry."

"Don't be."

They sat in silence until Grissom saw Nick sneak a look at his watch. "Gotta go, huh?"

Nick blushed, which Gil found incredibly sexy. "Soon. Need to sleep, been a long night. Can I use your phone?"

Gil gestured to it on the counter. "Go ahead." He waited till Nick had called his cab, then jumped. "Nick, question."

Nick sat down, worried again. "Yes?"

"What do you think we should do now? I'm not very sure." Grissom didn't know how awkward that sounded to Nick, and was puzzled by the worry on his face.

"Uh, well--I guess we should figure out what all this is, huh? I mean, what exactly is it we want to happen here?" To Nick, it felt too much like a test. He was thankful Cath had told him about Grissom's unorthodox rationales for feelings and emotions--it made him a little more ready for the oddball questions.

Grissom considered, sipping his coffee. "I don't know. But--I do, Nick, I do think I would like to see where this goes. Damn--I'm sorry. I'm very awkward about emotions, Nick, I should tell you that. I don't understand them."

"And I know how you get when that happens."

"Yes. The truth is--I'm not very familiar with deep emotions. And lord knows I'm not all that familiar lately with the--baser emotions." He smiled when Nick chuckled. "So. Why--why don't we start with something simple?"


Gil considered. "Well--how about you come here for dinner? Or, is that too fast? Nick?"

Nick smiled. "That's perfect. It is. I'd really like that."

Grissom nodded. "Good. How about, say, Thursday?"

Nick thought. "I'm not off."

"You can be. I make the schedule. And, I'll ask Cath to cover me that day, take another sick day. How about it?" He was smiling, his eyes merry--something Nick hadn't seen in a while.

"I-well, sure. I guess that'd be fine. I'd like that. If--would you, uh, would you like me to bring anything?" Nick's head was spinning with the rapidity of it all.

"No, just yourself. I'll figure out what to make. Anything you don't like?"

"Me? Hell no--well, unless you try to pull the chocolate crickets out again!"

Grissom laughed. "No, I promise. Hey, grab your bagels. They're done." He watched Nick get up, watched his body shift and move with Nick's unconscious, feline grace, and sighed inside. *Am I really doing this?*

Nick leaned against the counter and hungrily munched on a bagel half. "Oh--you want half?" he asked around a mouthful. Gil shook his head. "Okay, but this is really good, man."

"I'm fine. Oh--damn. Nick, I think I hear the cab." He got up stiffly and walked behind Nick to the front door.

"I'm glad you're looking better," Nick said as they stood in the open doorway. He reached out a hand and touched Gil's bruised chin lightly. "Take care?"

Gil smiled and nodded. "You too. I'll see you tonight." And in a second the whole visit was over. He closed the door on Nick's retreating body and stood in a daze, then shook his head and laughed.

"I have no idea what just happened," he said, and went back to his bedroom, set his alarm, and went to sleep.
* * * * * * * * *

The days till Thursday passed in a lazy haze, neither Grissom nor Nick consciously acknowledging their tacit understanding at work. They worked smoothly, Gil deflecting questions about his illness and bruising smoothly. Neither Sara nor Warrick believed he'd fallen from his attic while hunting one of his racing cockroaches, but they wisely said nothing.

"Whatever happened, Sara, I'm not sure I wanna know what Grissom does on his downtime to get beat up, you know?" Warrick said as they ended their Wednesday/ Thursday shift.

Sara laughed. "I hear ya. But, don't you wonder sometimes if he's into something, I don't know, kinky? Or weird?"

Warrick raised his brows. "Gris? Oh man, I don't even want to think! Probably some spider-wrestling, or something."

The sound of their laughter was still echoing when Nick walked in and dropped his book on the bench. He began to change and his mind was preoccupied.

"What do you think, Nick? Spider-wrestling or bungee-jumping?" Warrick asked, his laughter still evident in his voice.

Nick stopped with his shirt half-on. "What?" he asked before he finished pulling it on. "Spider-wrestling?"

"We were wondering what Gris did on his downtime, you know, to relax," Sara explained.

Nick froze inside, though his face remained smooth. "Well, I don't think he'd wrestle spiders...too much respect for them. He rides rollercoasters," Nick said doubtfully.

"Aw man, I shoulda remembered--that was my evaluation last year! Whoo!" Warrick said, shaking his head. "Oh hey, Nick--saw you got next shift off. Do you need me to finish up those evidence reports from the jumper?"

Nick shook his head. "Nah, I'm gonna take some of the work home and come in for a couple of hours to wipe 'em out. Thenit's all sleep, all the time baby!" Nick smiled and hoped he sounded convincing.

"Awright. Have a good day off, man. We'll miss you."

Nick drove home happily, not just because he had the next shift off. He was going to finish his work and take a long nap before his dinner with Grissom, which they'd confirmed sotto voce as at 7pm. Grissom had mentioned something about shrimp fajitas and Nick's mouth had instantly watered.

Across town, Grissom was taking a careful shower, washing a day of being stuck in his office away. He'd deflected questions from all except Cath, who'd made him lift his shirt for her to examine his injuries.

"All right, you're healing up," she'd said. Grissom lowered his shirt sheepishly.

"Thanks, mom."

"Oh shut up. I see you and Nick have next shift off?"

Gil nodded, avoiding her eyes. "Yes."

"Good. Don't fuck with him, Gil."

Gil gaped at her. "What?"

"I can tell you two have decided something--just play fair with him, and he will with you. All right?"

"Well all right. And would you like a full report? Position of hickeys?"

She had laughed then, amazed and surprised again at Grissom's wildly random humor. "Okay, I deserved that. Just have fun."

As he stepped out and began to dry off, Grissom considered the conversation. "Fun. Hmm," he said aloud, then went back into his room to slip on shorts and a shirt from the last roach-race he'd been at. DOWN THE DRAINS was printed on the black shirt in red block lettering. His roach Darwin had come in first in one race, earning Grissom the shirtprizes were rare at the races.

He padded into his living room and started to clear away a few things, primarily journals and books, cleaning for the night. When he was satisfied with the living room, he put on some music and started making the night's dinner--marinade for the shrimp, chopping vegetables for the pico de gallo--all the little things he could do before he took a nap.

The work calmed him, and Grissom found himself humming to Ella Fitzgerald--he felt content and happy, for the first time in many days. Depositing everything in his fridge, confirming the shrimp's presence in their bowl, Grissom paused to snack on a chocolate grub and went to his room for his nap. He thought that if the rest of the day was as relaxing as it had been, he would consider it a huge success.
* * * * * * * * * *

Grissom woke to the insistent beep of his alarm, and cursed when he looked over and noticed he'd overslept by forty minutes. He'd set the alarm for five, and when he slammed his hand down on it and jumped out of bed it was almost 545.

"Shit!" he muttered as he went to the kitchen, stumbling a little in a sleepy wakefulness. He tried to take stock as he stood in his kitchen of what he needed to do.

"All right, shrimp won't take long need to mix the pico de gallo... aw hell! Rice!"

Grissom had developed a taste for Mexican food as a child, but had refined it so that he would only eat homemade. Much of what he'd learned about making it himself he'd learned from Orlando, who was not only a great cook, but a great teacher as well. They'd spent quite a few hours in the kitchen, trying different things, feeding much of it to Graciela. Now, as he considered his next culinary move, he wished he'd just ordered out.

Sighing, Grissom got the vegetables out and commenced dicing, humming a little to himself as he worked. He found cooking relaxing, though he was feeling pressured by time and Nick's imminent arrival. Then, of course, the phone rang.

Cursing, Grissom grabbed the kitchen phone and tucked it against his shoulder. "Yeah, Grissom."

"Hey Gris. Just wanted to see how you were doing."

"Cath, I'm fine. Thanks for calling...I'm kind of in the middle of something, can I let you go? I promise I'll call back."

Catherine laughed. "Fine. And tell Nick I said hi, okay?"

"Sure. Smartass. Talk to you soon."

He hung up, smiling a little, and started the stove working. For the next forty-five minutes or so, he was completely absorbed.

It was 650, and Grissom had just thrown in the shrimp with the chopped vegetables when the doorbell rang. It was then Grissom realized he hadn't changed.

"Shit! Damn it" He quickly washed his hands, ran them through his sleep-mussed hair, and limped to the front door. As he called out to Nick, he realized he also wasn't wearing shoes. "Jesus, Grissom," he muttered to himself. Taking a breath, Gil plastered what he hoped was a sincere smile on his face and opened the door.

Nick was smiling back at him, his face comically obscured by the "Get Well" balloon and flowers he'd brought with him. Nick was dressed nicely, dark jeans and sweater accenting his trim frame. Gil stepped back from the doorway. "Come on in, you're right on time," he said.

Nick stepped in and waited until Grissom had closed the door. It was only when Nick turned to give Grissom the bouquet that he noticed the man's attire. "Uh, were we having a cookout?" he asked lightly.

Grissom smiled. "Ha ha. I overslept, haven't changed. Are those for me?"

Nick nodded and held the arrangement out. "I know it's kinda late, but...get well, Gris," he said. Grissom took the flowers and smiled.

"Thanks. I appreciate that, Nick--oh hell! Here, take these, gotta get back to the kitchen"

Nick put the arrangement down on the coffee table and followed Grissom into the kitchen. He was going to make a smartass comment about dinner, his nerves getting the better of him, when the aromas hit his nose. Nick stopped at the kitchen doorway, stunned.

He watched Grissom concentrate on the cooking, turning burners off, checking the oven, whipping shrimp and vegetables in a fragrant circle above a hot cast iron pan. With practiced ease and his one good hand, Grissom teased and flipped the shrimp fajitas into perfect doneness, the red hot pan flaring up once.

"Holy shit," Nick breathed softly. He came in and sat at the table, just watching. The alchemy he saw going on in front of him amazed Nick, who could cook but didn't try anything more ambitious than his own pizza sauce.

Grissom was absorbed in the cooking for another ten minutes, finally turning off the stovetop and checking the flan in the oven. He nodded, turned the oven down to warm, and was surprised when he turned and saw Nick. "Oh! Sorry, would you like something to drink, Nick?" He wiped his hands on the chef's apron he wore, folded in half so it folded over itself, and raised a brow. "Beer?"

"Uh, yeah. Yeah, whatever you got."

Grissom pulled out two Shiner Bocks and handed them to Nick. "Could you pop that for me? I'll put the things on the table."

Nick twisted the caps off. "We eating on your bar?"

Grissom thought. "Good point. How about we eat in here?" He smiled when Nick nodded. "Excellent. Could you grab that stuff?"

Nick moved the few condiments off the table and Grissom started laying out the dinner: Mexican rice, the fajitas, fresh pico de gallo, a large quesadilla cut into pieces, and handmade flour tortillas. To top it all, Grissom placed a small bowl of Orlando's best salsa, a fine concoction of chiles arbol and a few other fine roasted ingredients on the table and grinned. "There it is, Nicky. Disfrutelo."

Nick gaped. "Damn, Grissom! You made all this?"

Gil nodded. "Uh huh. Almost didn't make it--the flan is still firming up. Thanks," he said as Nick absently gave him his beer. "Let's eat--oh, I should go change."

Nick reached out a hand and touched Gil's arm. "No, it's fine. I can't wait to eat now, can you change later?" he asked, looking in amazement at the food. Grissom laughed.

"Of course. Here" he handed Nick two plates and silverware, as well as napkins. "Go to town.

They sat, after Grissom had dimmed the kitchen lights. Gil put a little of everything on the plate, pausing at the salsa. "It's fairly hot, Nick--you a good Texas boy?"

Nick laughed. "Oh hell yeah. Lay it on, brother!" he took the plate from Gil, waited until he'd served himself, and dug in.

Grissom smiled broadly at Nick's sigh. "Good?"

"Oh god takes me back to this little place in Austin--damn! This is fantastic, Gil! And please--tell me you didn't make real tortillas!" he asked, rolling a floury one up.

"I did. Took me months to get one rolled out in an even relatively round shape. But you know--they just taste so much better handmade."

"Oh yeah. This is amazing--thank you, really."

Grissom looked down at his food to hide his blush. "You're welcome. Thanks for comingand for the flowers. That was really sweet."

Nick shook his head, mouth full. "Mmno, not at all. This salsa? Yours?"

"Nah, Orlando's. The pico de gallo's mine."

They ate in relative silence, neither wanting to disturb the excellent dinner with small talk. Nick ate his way through too many tortillas and shrimp, and finally sat back with a sigh. "Ohhh, that is so not good."

"What? Why?" Grissom asked worriedly. *Did it taste bad?*

Nick grinned and patted his bullfrogged belly. "I just ate too much in front of someone I'm trying to impress. I'm sorry."

Grissom laughed. "Nick, I'm wearing an old shirt from a roach-race, shorts, and I'm barefoot. I'm afraid I'm the one not being impressive." He smiled when Nick ducked his head a little to look under the table.

"You're not! Wow. Well, then maybe we're even." Nick found the appearance of a slightly ruffled, barefoot, very casual Grissom very, very attractive. "How about I help you with the dishes?"

"Hell with that. We'll grab the flan, sit on the sofa, and stuff ourselves some more!"

Nick helped Grissom get the dessert onto plates and grabbed two more beers. He carried the beers over to the coffee table and Grissom followed with the flan and spoons. Nick settled himself in the right center of the sofa, sitting up, and watched Grissom. He accepted the plate and spoon and waited for Gil to sit carefully down. "Arg."

"What is it? Something hurt?" Nick asked. Grissom shook his head.

"No. Just been on my feet cooking. Had I been wearing shoes, well, it wouldn't be so bad! I'm an idiot."

Nick smiled. "Hardly. Though, you definitely look different in an apron than a lab coat." He gestured down at Grissom, who grinned.

"Ah well. Try your dessert."

Nick knew what to expect, and the caramely, sweet custard didn't disappoint. He hadn't had flan since Texas and it brought an intense flood of memories that made him grin. "Mmm, yes," he said softly, letting the custard melt on his tongue.

Grissom caught the sigh and smiled himself. He was no longer very hungryfor food. He put his own plate down half-finished and sat back with his beer, watching Nick's face. *It's really beautiful, really,* he thought.

Nick finished his dessert without stopping, knowing Grissom was watching him but determined to be cool. He licked the spoon exaggeratedly and put the plate down. "That, my friend, was an amazing experience. You'll make a good husband someday."

"Or a wife," Grissom said, smile playing on his lips.

"Or a wife. I can't believe how good everything was. I really enjoyed it."


They sipped their beers, Grissom frankly staring at Nick and Nick fidgeting under the look. He knew it was simply how Grissom was, the intense eyes cataloging everythingbut it still unnerved him slightly. "I--where'd you learn to cook like that?" he asked in a rush, finally needing to blurt anything out to break the stillness.

"Oh--Orlando. He made it almost like a science,but one with variables. I liked that. Was a good student."

"Hell yeah! I gotta tell him thanks."

"He'd like that--you want another beer, Nick?"

Nick looked at his empty bottle. "Yes. No--I'll get it, you've worked hard. You want one?" When Grissom nodded, Nick rose and went into the kitchen.

He took a few minutes longer than necessary to get the beers, talking to himself to calm down. Nick cleared his throat, went back into the living room, and sighed a little inside.

Grissom had swung his feet up onto the sofa and taken off the chef's apron. He was lying with his eyes closed, head tilted back on the sofa arm, humming a little to himself. One arm lay along the back of the sofa, the other dangling. The relaxed body, the slight sheen of sweat on Grissom's brow, did wonderful things to Nick's gut.

Shaking his head slightly, he walked back to the sofa. As he bent slightly to place the beers down, he felt a hand grasp his. "Nick."

Nick froze. He turned his head and saw Grissom looking at him with deep blue eyes, eyes colored with desire and interest, intent but not penetrating. They looked-- *soft, soft eyes,* Nick thought.

"Y-yes?" He suddenly felt weak-kneed.

"I would--I would very much like to just kiss you," Grissom said, not moving his body but speaking volumes with his eyes. He felt pleasantly tired, and more than thathe felt in need.

Nick sighed and went to his knees, his hand grasping Grissom's tightly. He smiled at the tired man on the sofa. "You look tired." Hesitant, he reached out a hand and smoothed damp hair back from Grissom's brow. He smiled in relief when Grissom closed his eyes. "Thanks for all the work."

Grissom hummed a little. Eyes closed, he said softly, his voice not indicating how hard his heart was pounding, "Thank me by showing me what you'd like to do right now, Nick."

Nick felt his heart jump and fall awkwardly into a spot left of center. "I--Grissom, are you really--really?" he stuttered. When Grissom opened his eyes and smiled, Nick had his answer. "Oh, god," he said.

Leaning over slightly, Nick touched his lips to Grissom's, tasting spices and sugar, a bitter aftertaste of beer. He moved his hand over Grissom's chest and let it rest there as he turned his body. Nick felt Grissom's body shift under him and respond to the kiss.

Grissom let his eyes close and felt Nick's presence with his other senses, especially touch. He moved his arm off the sofa back and let the hand rest on Nick's, while the one off the sofa moved up to Nick's back. He felt Nick's tongue darting into his mouth and opened his own mouth wider, Nick's taste delightful to him. *This, this is what this feels like--after all this time,* he wondered as he started to relax under Nick's hands.

Nick, aware under everything that Grissom was still hurt, kissed his boss harder then pulled back. He adored the glassy look in Grissom's eyes as the man raised a questioning brow. "Nick?"

Stokes shook his head and stood, holding a hand out to help Grissom up. "You can't be comfortable here, Gil," he said. He helped Grissom up and smiled. "Do you--would you like to keep doing this?" *Okay, that was smooth, Stokes,* he thought.

Gil nodded, slightly weak. "Yes. I would." He took Nick's hand and, heart hurting, led them to his room.
* * * * * * * * * *

The first thing Gil thought was, damn, the bed, then *oh god!* as he felt Nick's arms around him from behind. Nick almost had to hold the older man up as he held him tightly but carefully. Gil responded by tilting his head back to receive Nick's kiss, a kiss which slid down the tanned neck and back up. Restraining himself for Grissom's benefit, Nick smiled, took Gil's hand, and led them to the bed.

Sitting, facing each other, Nick suddenly knew he was relatively in power. Grissom's eyes were intent but his body language awkward, his hands wanting to touch and caress but unsure. He decided, particularly since Grissom was still hurt, that he'd make the most of it for both of them, and especially for his boss.

Reaching under his shirt end, Nick swiftly pulled it over head, smiling a little at Grissom's gasp. He dropped it on the floor and smiled. "I hope I'm not assuming too much."

Grissom shook his head, mouth dry as he took in Nick's body. "No. No, not at all."

"Good. I--I'd like to make everything stupid I've ever done at work up to you, if I can try. Would you--do you think you'd like that?" * Man, when did I learn coy?* Nick wondered. "I mean, if you'd like it, that's all."

Gil felt his world shifting. He knew he was about to be introduced to something very new, if not unimagined, and he had to admit to himself he was happy it was Nick with him. "I would," he said, halting and nervous but still sure he wanted to go there.

"All right. Relax, you've done a hell of a lot. I appreciate it, and I'd like to just, well, help you relax."

Nick made sure Grissom nodded slightly before going on. He placed his hand on Grissom's chest and pushed a little, laying the man down. Standing, Nick unbuckled his belt, dropped it, and sat next to Grissom on the bed, who had never taken his eyes off Nick. Stokes noticed Grissom's chest was moving rapidly. "Shhh," he whispered, leaning down to kiss Grissom.

Grissom felt nailed to the bed, body rigid with desire and awkwardness. He let his hands lightly touch Nick as the younger man shifted to lie alongside Grissom, kissing and touching Grissom's chest. Nick slid a hand under the edge of the shirt and let his fingers play along the ribcage, smiling as he felt the ribs contract. Stokes could almost hear Gil's heart beating.

Nuzzling the man's neck, Nick slid his hand down to the edge of the shirt, tugged up, and with Gil's help pulled the man's shirt off. Nick felt the tremors in Grissom's body and shushed again, trying to calm the man's nerves. "Gris, it's fine relax," Nick said. He kissed Gil once, then let his lips trace a line to the collarbone, smiling at the intake of breath.

Grissom's body was relaxing, in spite of his mind's gallop. He felt wonderfully alive, all nerves firing at once. *Never, never felt like this,* he wondered, looking down at Nick's head sliding across his chest. When Nick's tongue flicked out across a nipple Grissom cried out, his hips moving involuntarily. "Nick!"

Nick looked up. "Hey, man, it's all right. If you don't relax this isn't gonna be much fun at all!" He smiled, and was pleased to see Grissom grin weakly.

"I'm--I'm trying. This is--Nick, this is--"

"Good? Yes. Now relax."

*Relax? How?* Grissom wondered as Nick returned to his licking and teasing. He let his eyes close and just felt the touches, his mind actively cataloging how good it felt.

Nick let his tongue and hand play slowly across Grissom's torso, paying special attention to the bruise on his ribs. Nick let his fingers trace the ribs there and kissed lightly, his heart beating faster as Grissom's breathing increased.

Taking a deep breath of his own, Nick kissed his way back up to Grissom's lips. The older man sighed as Nick kissed him deeply, savoring the taste. He broke the kiss and waited until Grissom opened his eyes. "Hello."

"H- hi. Nick."

"I want to make sure you're feeling all right," Nick said. "I don't want to hurt you or go too far."

Grissom shook his head, his eyes wide. "God, no. Nick, you can't stop. This is--nothing I've ever felt is like this. Please," he pleaded, with voice and eyes.

Nick smiled. "Good. I'm glad. I hoped--god, I was hoping you'd want this, want me!"

"Right now, Nick, there's absolutely nothing I want more--I want it all. Everything."

The sound of his normally rational boss' voice guttural with desire spurred Nick on. He growled in his throat, then slid his body over Grissom's very carefully. Shifting down, Nick traced a trail with his lips down Grissom's chest as his hands pushed Grissom's shorts down. He felt the chest rising and falling rapidly, heard the man's moans, and felt Grissom's hands on his shoulders as he went ever lower.

"Nick--god, Nick," Grissom moaned, then he felt the hot breath near his groin and almost stopped breathing. He looked down, Nick looked up, and they were lost to each other.

Gently, aware the man was hurt and pretty sure he hadn't been doing much of this lately, Nick moved down enough to pull the shorts off, then arranged himself between Grissom's legs. He leaned over the man, a smile on his face, and began to lick a path along Grissom's thighs.

"Nick! Yes, oh yes, that--yes!" Grissom hissed, his legs shifting involuntarily. Nick rested his hands on the tops of Gil's thighs, holding them down lightly. He felt himself excited by the trembling and moved faster.

With a deft swipe, Nick traced a path from the hip bone over to the base of Grissom's rapidly swelling organ. He felt the man shift underneath him and leaned a little more on his legs. With a breath and a smile, Nick flicked his tongue over the head and took Grissom gently into his mouth. The cry of pleasure from Grissom told Nick everything he'd been doing was right.

Grissom felt his world exploding, his muscles tightening as Nick went down on him. He rested a hand on Nick's head, just trying to maintain contact, as the young man worked his tongue expertly. He had forgotten the purity of physical pleasure, and felt himself awash in emotions and sheer lust.

Nick worked the member until it was fairly ready to explode, then moved up. He kissed Grissom hard and smiled at the older man. "Hey again."


"How are you feeling?"

Grissom wanted to say he felt he had been turned inside out, but couldn't. "I--I think I'm gonna explode all over," he said breathlessly. He felt confused when Nick laughed.

"I--Grissom, I know, man! And" Nick stopped, suddenly shy.

"What? Nick, don't go quiet on me now!"

"Grissom--Gil, I would so like to, just--aw man! I wish I could just feel you in me!" Nick blurted out the last part, embarrassed but determined. "But you're still hurt, and I wouldn't--"

Gil pushed up onto his elbows awkwardly. "Nick, I won't break. And--and, there has to be more than one way to--to do that." He looked puzzled, and Nick smiled.

"Yes, there are. I just--if I hurt you, your ribs, you'll let me know? Sure?"

Gil nodded and relaxed back. "That, I promise. I'm not into pain, thanks."

"All right. I don't--hell!"


"I don't suppose you have anything? You know, like, uh"

"Second drawer, under the sink. Yes, Nick. I have uh." Grissom smiled.

Nick laughed, rolled off long enough to get the condom packets, and came back to the bed. He set the packets on the bed and commenced taking his jeans off.

Grissom's eyes watched hungrily as Nick stripped, stepping out of jeans and kicking them aside, then pausing with hands on his boxer-brief waistband. "Gris?"


"I wanted to say thank you."

"I--Nick, thank you. But--let me," Grissom said, sitting up awkwardly. Nick let himself rake his eyes over the naked man of his dreams before him. He walked over to the bedside when Grissom gestured. "Let me do that," Grissom said gently. Nick stood in front of him and felt his heart pounding as Grissom's shaking hands reached for the waistband. Gil slowly slid them down Nick's well-muscled legs, then sat back and let Nick step out of them. Nick made to lie back down and Grissom stopped him. "Wait."

Nick was about to protest and his voice died when Grissom slid his hands along Nick's thighs, gently and searchingly. He let his hands slide behind Nick, settling on Nick's lower spine. Grissom looked up at Nick, face awed and curious, then moved his mouth toward Nick.

"God!" Nick cried out when he felt the warmth of Grissom's mouth on the sensitive joint of hip and pelvic bone. He thought he would fall over and was glad for Grissom's steadying hands. The mouth slid along the joint, then down, and back up again, arrowing for Nick's expanding shaft. When Nick felt Grissom's mouth slide along the side of his cock, he half-growled and reached down to pull Grissom away.

"Ifyou need to stop that now. I'm not that good!" Nick said, voice strangled. He held Grissom's head in his hands, gazing down at the flushed face, and gently settled Grissom back.

"I wanted to return the favor," Grissom said. Nick laughed and settled himself over Grissom, straddling his stomach.

"Believe me, you already have, Gil. You already have."

"Oh Nick"

"Sshh. Relax, Gris. Tell me if anything I do hurts you."

Grissom bit his lip and nodded. The sight of Nick straddling him, his cock growing and swelling, was the most erotic thing he'd ever seen.

For Nick, the most erotic thing he'd ever seen was Grissom's shaking body as Nick plied him with his tongue. He knew the man liked it, but until he'd been in the middle of it Nick had no idea how much he himself would love it. *I love this man,* Nick thought, amazed.

Smiling again, Nick leaned over and kissed Grissom, using small rolls of his hips to excite Grissom more. Grissom let his hands roam over Nick' smooth, tuned body as his tongue dueled with the younger man's. He felt suddenly less tired and much more wired.

Nick broke the kiss and leaned back. He reached for a condom and both men felt a thrill at the tearing sound of the packet. Carefully, Nick rolled the condom over Grissom's erect shaft and smiled broadly.

"That's--Gil, that's a beautiful sight," Nick said. Grissom grinned.

"I'm glad something gets you," he replied.

"Gil--I mean everything! You, lying thereyou're beautiful. More awesome than I could ever have imagined."

Grissom blushed bright red. "Jesus. Nick, this isn't a good time to bullshit."

"I'm not. And shut up. I don't lie, you know that. Now--tell me if anything hurts, Grissom."

With a nod, Grissom waited for Nick's next move. He sighed deeply when he saw Nick kneel over him, watching Grissom watch him. "Nick, this is so...I want this. I do," he said softly.

Nick smiled. "Me too. Grissom--thanks. So much," he said, leaning over Grissom, his arms straining with the effort not to move too fast. Nick kissed Gil once, then shifted his weight to one arm, reaching between them. Grissom's eyes widened as Nick gently placed the tip of his cock against Nick's opening, then his eyes went bright blue as he felt the exquisite sensation of Nick's body sliding down slowly onto his shaft.

"Nicky," Gil breathed, his arms coming around to hold Nick. Nick shut his eyes to feel the invasion better, his body adjusting to Gil's thick cock. He rested on both arms, head hanging down, and concentrated on relaxing. He'd had a larger, longer cock inside him before, but the thickness he felt invading him now was different-- *and it's Grissom,* he thought wildly. *Everything's bigger.*

With a deep breath, Nick let himself sink down, wincing once before he was filled. He opened his eyes into Gil's blue ones, and let his body relax mostly onto Gil, conscious of the bruised ribs. Nick sighed raggedly, a guttural sound of desire. Closing his eyes, Nick let himself relax a long moment, his head resting under Grissom's chin, eyes closed. *I've never, ever felt this,* he thought. *My god, what am I getting into?*

Almost frightened to move, heart racing and chest constricted, Grissom held Nick close, kissing the top of the man's head and sighing himself. His body was flying somewhere beyond his understanding--all his brain could say was *Grissom, this is it. This is what you want, Nick, everything.*

When Nick lifted his body back up, Grissom was shocked to note the shininess of his dark eyes. "Nick? What's wrong?"

The young man shook his head. "Nothin'. I just--Grissom, this is more than I ever hoped for. I can't--I can't believe we're here. That you let me get here."

Grissom shook his own head. 'Nick--I'm only sorry I didn't figure things out earlier. I didn't ever mean to make you feel--insignificant. And I can't believe you're here now. You have to know how beautiful, how special you are, Nick."

Nick smiled. "Sure. I'm a pretty boy, yeah, and I'm kinda smart...but Gris. Come on. I could have looked a million years for someone like you and never found him--and there you were. And nowhere we are. I'm so happy we are."

"Nicky--Nick, I think I love you. No, I know I do, I just don't know how it feels yet--and until I know, I'm gonna keep trying to figure it out. But don't ever think you aren't special, and wonderful, to me."

At that, Nick smiled, shifted back and up a little, and began the slow, pleasurable rise and fall of their union.

Grissom was shocked at the radiating pleasure. He held Nick's hips, working so hard to give them pleasure, and Grissom this new sensation. He watched the concentration on Nick's face, the sweat on his forehead. Nick's body was adjusting well and he used his legs to push himself up before sinking slowly down. "Nick--Jesus!"

Incapable of speech, Nick let his head drop back, his mouth half-open as he moved. He wanted badly to be taken hard, driven into, but knew Grissom wasn't ready for that physically. What Nick wanted he could wait for--what he wanted to give Grissom couldn't. Moving his hands back farther, Nick concentrated on speeding up the movement and abandoned himself to the feelings.

With no warning except a heartbeat that stopped for a second, Grissom cried out in near-pain as he came, his hips jerking upward as Nick came down. Nick had clamped down around Grissom's shaft and stopped as he felt Grissom shooting, his own orgasm threatening to strangle him. Nick reached down and pressed on the base of his own cock to stop it, as he wanted to enjoy the sight of Grissom in ecstasy. He leaned over the trembling, moaning man and kissed him gently, his hands sliding along Grissom's sides soothingly. He waited for Grissom to open his dazed, wide eyes.


"I know," Nick whispered, his own eyes bright with arousal. "Shh, I know."

Grissom took in a deep breath and let it out with a sob. He was terrified he might start to weep. "Nick--I wish I could tell you how fuckin' wonderful that felt. Thank you--thank you so much." He brought his own hands up, cupping Nick's face for a kiss, then stroked the hard jawline affectionately. *Jesus, I think I'm going to die!* Grissom thought as his heart started to cease its gallop.

Nick traced Grissom's lips and kissed them. "Thank you. Grissom--god, I love you!"

They smiled at each other for a few moments, then Nick pushed himself up. "Gris, I'm gonna move off now. Okay? Just hold still--man, you're a hell of a big guy!"

Grissom blushed crimson. "Nick...come on."

"No, really. Hold still" Nick pulled his hips up, feeling every inch of Grissom leaving him, controlling himself so he didn't come on the spot. When he felt the separation complete, Nick groaned and lay next to Grissom, one leg over the still-trembling man. "Gris--god, you feel so damn good to me!" he breathed.

Grissom smiled, and looked over at Nick's flushed face. "You too. Nick--oh Nick. I'm sorry, I thought you'd--I thought"

Nick finished the sentence for him. "This was about you. BesidesI didn't want to just mess up, you know, the bed and everything." Nick heard how silly that sounded, but was pleased when Grissom smiled.

"Well, I guess I appreciate that. But still..." Grissom considered. He could feel Nick's erection against his leg, and could feel the restraint Nick was demonstrating through the younger man's tense body. "It's not very kind of me."

Nick propped himself up on an elbow. "Kind? Haven't you already been more than kind to me?" He smiled and traced lazy circles around Grissom's navel, smile broadening as the belly hitched and settled.

"I--wow. Well, maybe. But--Nick, I really don't think we should leave you like this," Grissom said, his own hand reaching down and stilling Nick's "Don't you think?"

Nick narrowed his eyes. "What do you mean? How?"

Grissom took a deep breath, and tried to tell his rational mind that already knew there was nothing wrong with what they were doing that what he was going to propose was just an extension of this all. Letting out his breath, he carefully pushed with one hand and moved onto his stomach. He turned his head toward Nick and propped it on his hands, pillowing it. "Nick, I'd like you to do that to me," he said, his voice choking in spite of his effort to remain calm.

When Nick saw his boss, friend, *my lover*, roll over and offer his body to Nick, he nearly came right then, sheets or not. Groaning, he quickly grasped the base of his cock and pressed, fighting back the urge, the need, to ejaculate. *Oh god, oh god, this is way too much, there's no WAY!* he thought wildly.

Grissom say the pain flash across Nick's face and frowned. "Nick? I--I'm sorry, if that's not something you'd like--"

"Something I'd *like*? Jesus Christ, Grissom, you have no idea how fucking amazing you are!" Nick said harshly. "You're so--god, man, you're so hot, just lying there, and, and--"

"And wanting to help please you? Nick, believe me, it's self-serving...watching you, well, ride me was the most erotic, most desirous thing I've ever seen." He lifted his head up more. "You won't hurt me, Nick. I know that. And--I'd rather have it be you first than anyone else in the world. Because--it's, well, because, Nick, I trust you."

At that, Nick moaned deep in his throat, and bent over to kiss Grissom. They kissed gently, carefully, aware they were going to go someplace different for both of them and wanting to make sure it was all right. Nick smiled at Grissom, who nodded his head and relaxed as best he could, then moved off the bed.

"Gris--I'm going to find something to help us. Wait just a sec, I'll be back, all right?" Nick saw the man nod again, and went into the bathroom.

In the bathroom, Nick held onto the sink and closed his eyes, worried he'd pass out. *Stokes, are you sure you want to take him there? Take you both?* he asked himself. Opening his eyes, he saw the naked honesty he'd been presenting to Grissom, and smiled a little. *He wants it,* Nick thought in amazement. *How incredibly awesome.*

Nick was worried about Grissom's body, not his head. He figured, based on his own observations and Catherine's information, that when Grissom said anything he'd put a great deal of thought into it. If Gil wanted to play bottom for Nick, Nick was certain he really did desire that. What Nick was certain he did *not* want was for this first time--*and god, I honestly believe it is*-- to be something painful.

In bed, chin on his hands as he looked forward, Grissom wondered just when he'd decided he wanted Nick inside him. Certainly, he'd enjoyed the desire and pleasure in Nick's eyes when Gil was the top, but he'd not really thought about how much he'd like Nick to fill him until he asked the question. Now that he had, he didn't regret it--he just wondered when and how it had happened. *When did I come to trust Nick so completely?*

Nick found the one-third empty bottle of silicone lube on the second shelf in Grissom's bathroom closet, half-surprised. Stokes choked down wild questions, not wanting to think about anything beyond the man offering himself up in the bedroom. *At least it's a good lube,* Nick thought as he went back into the bedroom carrying the bottle and a towel.

Grissom turned his head to the side and watched Nick, heat and desire growing in him. Nick sat next to Grissom on the bed and wordlessly, delicately, ran his hand along the man's smooth back, fingers skimming down the curve of the spine and up and over the rounded ass. Nick could feel the trembling under his hands, and felt a moment of hesitation. When Grissom groaned as Nick caressed him, the hesitation disappeared.

Taking over as best he could, Nick leaned over Grissom and gently and with practiced hands began a light massage of the man's back, aware of the knots and taut muscles of Grissom's recently abused and hurt body. Kneading carefully, Nick worked the shoulders and neck loose as Grissom purred.

"Nick--oh, Nick. God, that is so damn good" Grissom sighed, his body relaxing deeply and his mind beginning to loosen its neurotic hold on him for the moment. Nick snaked his hands down either side of the spine, working the muscles just enough for them to want to relax on their own. Grissom groaned loudly when Nick reached the base of the spine, set his hands on either side, and pressed down and away. "Ohhhh, Nicky"

"I really want you to relax, Gil--just let your body go. You deserve it, and well--everything's easier if you're relaxed," Nick finished awkwardly. He slid his hands back up and worked the biceps easily, noting that Grissom had stopped fidgeting aroundhe looked almost asleep.

Nick stopped and bent over to see. "Gris?" Lazy, langorous blue eyes opened slowly and a smile broke on Grissom's face. "Hey."

"I think I love you, Nick Stokes." Grissom's voice was not exactly tired--*it's more like he's drunk,* Nick thought in wonder. He leaned down and kissed Grissom lightly.

"I *know* I love you. Now Gris--I want you to turn over, onto your back. But gently. Lemme help" Together, they turned Gil back over, Nick smiling at the lazy, happy look on his lover's face. "There. Now, you still feel okay? Good," Nick said at the nod. "I'm going to just try to ease you into this--Gris, you're sure about this? Because I'm happy to wait." *That's a huge lie*, Nick thought.

Grissom shook his head slowly. "Nick, I want this. I do. All right?" He reached up a hand and touched Nick's face. "It's all right."

Nick held the hand against his face a moment. "All right. I love you. If anything hurts--tell me."


Smiling, Nick first stripped off the condom on Grissom and tossed it into the trashcan by the bed. He dabbed the moisture off Grissom's half-erect cock and smiled at how quickly the man was recovering.

Nick shifted around so he was again lying over Grissom, who had raised his bent arms over his head and was watching with unveiled excitement. Nick put a knee between Grissom's thighs and pushed them apart, settling between them. He moved up enough to kiss Grissom, and his eyes shot open in surprise when Grissom growled low in his throat and brought his arms back around Nick for a deep, teeth-clicking kiss. Grissom moaned into Nick's open mouth, trying to taste as much of Nick as he could, lips almost hurting with the passion of the kiss.

As he realized just how much Grissom did indeed want him, Nick's surprise abated and he leaned into the kiss, tongue playing around Grissom's mouth, soft moans escaping both of them. He brought his hands up to hold his lover's head, fingers sliding into the short, wavy hair and bringing Grissom's face ever closer. Gil responded in kind, and for a long moment they kissed passionately and with abandon. When Nick finally broke the kiss, he waited for Grissom to open blue eyes before speaking.

"I love you," Nick said. Grissom nodded, breathless, holding Nick's face in his hands. Nick stroked the hair back from his lover's forehead, smiling.

"I--Nick, I love you. I do. I'm not gonna even bother to wonder why. I love you." He leaned forward for a lighter kiss, sliding his hands along Nick's back. "Jesus, Nick. I can't believe--"

"Sshh. Nevermind. I'm here now, and so are you. Let's just deal with it moment to moment, all right?" Nick said wisely. He kissed Grissom once more, then smiled and moved farther down as Grissom reached overhead for the metal bars of his headboard.

With all his talent, Nick kissed and licked a path down the center of Grissom's heaving chest, farther down to his stomach, pausing to flick with a smile the sensitive navel. He enjoyed the sound of Grissom's pleasure, but held down the man's shifting body with his own, always aware of the bruises. Looking up once more, he smiled and swooped down.

Nick slid all the way down between Grissom's legs and gently set them on his shoulders. Grissom felt an electric thrill as he let himself be taken in this way, enjoying wildly the sensation of giving up.

"Nick, oh god," he said softly, tightening his grip on the bars above him. Sliding forward, Nick nuzzled the heavy balls and snaked out his tongue to tease, careful not to move too fast. He moved his hands around to grip the older man's hips, keeping them settled as he worked.

With ease, Nick worked Grissom back to a full erection before smiling up at his boss again, noting the sheen of sweat on the man's face. Grissom was biting his lip on and off to keep from coming again, his body tightening with desire. Nick found the view incredibly hot.

"Grissom--just relax now, all right?" Nick said, waiting for a nod. When it came, Nick sat up a little, bringing Grissom's legs up with him and propping them on his shoulders. When he looked down and saw the naked, exposed flesh of his lover waiting for him, Nick almost came. He held his breath till it passed, then reached for the lube. "I'm going to try to, you know, prep. I want you to tell me if you don't like anything, or if it hurts, all right? Say yes."

"Y--yes," Grissom breathed, afraid to say more. He opened his eyes and watched Nick, heart pounding and body overheated.

"All right. I'll go easy," Nick replied. He lubed his fingers well, then with great care slid his hand up Grissom's shaft, then down over the balls and farther, until he was sliding along the perineum with his forefinger and into the slight depression. Nick waited then.

As he'd thought, Grissom's body tensed. He hadn't meant to, and with a breath or two he managed to relax his muscles again, wanting Nick to believe the truthhe did want it, badly.

"S'okay," Grissom said, his legs relaxing finally. He brought one hand down and reached out to touch Nick. Nick leaned forward and kissed the hand with a smile. Grissom let it fall to his stomach and tried to grin. "It's okay," he repeated.

"All right." Nick slid his fingers along the area, spreading the lube, applying more, until he could feel the ring of muscle beginning to relax. With a breath, Nick applied a little more pressure, until the tip of his finger slid past the muscle suddenly and drew a gasp from Grissom. Nick looked up quickly. "Gris?"

Grissom had shut his eyes. "It's fine. Wow. But it's fine, Nick," he said softly. He liked the sensationit was unique, different, and very, very erotic to him.

Smiling, recognizing the feeling, Nick slid the finger in slightly, then withdrew it, beginning a slow stroking intended to both excite and prepare. When Grissom began to move against his hand, sighing, Nick carefully added another finger, bringing a cry of pleasure from the man under him.

Grissom's mind was reveling in the new sensations, happy to have something new to play with. His body was on a freefall, wanting more and more every second. "Nick, Nicky, god, keep--that's so good!" he gasped.

Nick was concentrating on the motions of his fingers, feeling the muscle relaxing as he worked it. Siding both fingers out, which brought another moan from his boss, Nick slid his thumb in and rotated it, trying to feel how ready Grissom was. He loved how his boss was moving against his hand, seeking greater pleasure. Withdrawing his thumb, he replaced two fingers and got ready to introduce a third, watching Grissom's face closely.

When the third finger entered him, Grissom felt a moment of pain and stopped moving. Nick stopped as well and looked up. "Gil? Okay?"

"I--I, no, I will be just gotta adjust, it's okay," he said, breathing erratically. *It _does_ hurt,* he thought with a bit of trepidation.

Nick left his fingers in but moved his hand up to stroked Grissom's belly gently, soothing the man's tight muscles again. "It's okay. Let's see if you can relax, give it a moment," he said, rubbing circles on the smooth skin. He felt Grissom's hand seek his and cover it as it moved. "Shh, it's okay."


"Gris--do you want me to stop?" Nick asked, concerned. He was waiting for Grissom to open his eyes. When they did, Nick was awed by the desire in them.

"No, Nick," he said, and taking a breath, gripping Nick's hand, Grissom pushed his body down, Nick's fingers sliding in more. He felt the pain increase, and tightened his grip on Nick, then felt the moment pass and he smiled shakily. "I want this."

Nick was almost in tears. *He so, so much wants me,* Nick thought. "Gris, I..." he began, then shut his mouth and kissed his lover. As they kissed lightly, Nick began to rotate his fingers.

Breaking the kiss, Grissom settled back. "Nick--I'm ready. I am," he said when Nick looked surprised.

"If you're sure"

"I am. Nick, god--fuck me," Grissom breathed.

The words went directly to Nick's cock. He gasped, moved back into position, and withdrew his fingers. Tearing open a new condom, Nick slid it on quickly and lubed it well. Looking up at Grissom, Nick let the man's legs fall from his shoulders. "Do this how you'd like it?" Nick asked, suddenly shy. Grissom frowned.

"I--yes, I think so. I'd like to see you, Nick," he said. He brought his own legs up onto Nick shoulders and rested them there. "Like this," he said.

Nick groaned, slid closer, and placed the tip of his cock against Gil. He slid his hands under Grissom's ass, tilting the hips for the correct angle. Looking up and watching for any sign of pain, Nick pressed forward slowly, carefully.

"Oh, fuck" Grissom gasped as Nick slid in, the engorged head breaching the muscle with a slight jar. His legs tensed momentarily and Nick brought his hands quickly up to rest on Grissom's thighs, stroking lightly.

"Easy, easy," Nick whispered. He waited till the muscles began to relax all over, then pushed in again. He was a little surprised at the relative ease, until Grissom reached his arms out and grabbed Nick's forearms. "Gris? What is it?"

Pain was registering on Grissom's face, against his will. "Just--don't move for a moment. Don't move," Grissom said, eyes shut and watering. *Jesus, it does hurt, it does,* he thought over and over, trying to calm himself. He tried to relax himself around the invader, but the sensation was so new he felt he couldn't. That was when Nick commenced stroking Grissom's half-erect shaft.

"Gris, relax, baby. Just relax, it should pass," Nick whispered as he worked the man's shaft. He felt after a few moment of this Grissom's grip loosening, and he waited for the eyes to flicker open. When they did, he smiled. "Any better?"

"Y--yeah. Yes. Jesus, Nick. This feels completely unique," he said breathlessly.


Grissom thought. "Yes. God, yes Nick," he said. He finally smiled, a bit shaky, and then began to use his own hand to stroke himself. "Please," he said.

The one word made Nick's cock jump, and he placed his hands back on Gil's thighs and pressed forward. Easily, after the first initial tension, Nick slid into his lover and was buried inside him.

Nick had to stop everything, breathing, thought, to prevent coming. He could feel the slight pulses around his cock and he shut his eyes to calm down. When he felt sane again, he slid very slightly back and then forward, bringing a gasp from Grissom.

"Oh god, yesss Nicky, yes," Grissom moaned, head turning from side to side and hand working gently. "Nick, please--more."

Sighing a little, Nick slid farther back and forward, increasing inch by inch. He gauged Gil's readiness, slid all the way back, and drove forward smoothly, sinking into Grissom in one slow stroke. "Grissom, god--this is so good," he moaned.

"Yes--oh, yes," Grissom agreed. "," he finished, wanting everything he could of Nick and more.

With the permission, Nick began to fuck his lover with care but increasing speed. He reached under Grissom again and adjusted the angle so he could drive forward, speeding up as he heard his boss and lover moaning and panting under him. "Grissom, I can't...god, I've wanted this so much, wanted you so much!" Nick breathed as he moved.

"Nick--I want you. I want you now fuck me, please!" Grissom hissed, his body beginning to fragment in pleasure and near-pain. He felt himself near orgasm and wanted Nick to come with him. Opening his eyes, he watched Nick.

Surprising Grissom, Nick withdrew all the way, sliding up to kiss Grissom. "I want to try something, then I promise we'll finish like this. I want you to enjoy this all the way," Nick said. Grissom kissed him back.

"I'm yours, Nick."

Nick smiled, but his heart was spinning. "Turn over, baby," he said, helping Grissom move over gently. Caressing the back and ass of the man he loved, Nick spread Grissom's legs and very carefully pulled up the man's hips. "Just relax your head on your arms," he said as he slid close. He waited until Grissom was ready, then slid into him again, holding his lover close. The moan from Grissom told Nick he enjoyed this sensation as much as the last.

"This way, I can move faster, different angle. Okay?"

Grissom nodded. He felt he was going to simply disintegrate in pleasure. "Yes, god, yes."

"Good." Nick started to move, pulling Grissom onto his cock, slowly against the man. After a few strokes, Nick paused. *I want to see if...*

In response, Grissom awkwardly but determinedly pushed back. He wasn't feeling completely healed, and was a little stiff still, but he forced his body back and forward, sliding on Nick's cock in delicious pleasure. He couldn't speak, but he could move, and used his body to communicate.

Satisfied, Nick gripped Gil's hips harder and took over again, his thrusting becoming more rapid and deep. The sight of Grissom's body under him, willing and open, drove Nick to the brink and over.

Driving twice more, the last time as deep as he could, Nick withdrew, settled Grissom down, and turned him over. Before he went back down, he kissed Grissom's shut eyes and watched them open. "Gris?"

"N--Nick. Please--all of it, please!" Grissom groaned, kissing Nick and putting one hand on Nick's head and pushing down. "Now, please!"

Nick moved quickly, sliding between Grissom's legs and entering in a smooth stroke, hearing Gil cry out in pleasure. He moved rapidly, hips pistoning back and forth as he felt his own orgasm beginning. Nick used a free hand to join Grissom's on the older man's engorged cock, both men working hard to deliver.

Crying out, Grissom's orgasm began suddenly, his muscles spasming. The spasm sent a thrill through Nick, who drove in as deep as he could and let Gil's contracting muscles pull a fiery, exhausting orgasm from him. He cried out, the sensation of Grissom's semen on his hand and Grissom's body shaking under him too much.

With dual sighs, Nick and Gil rode out the shuddering, both men aware they'd gone farther than they'd planned, felt more than they expected. Nick shut his eyes and lay his body gently over Grissom's, feeling the man's heavy breathing under him. He felt more complete and ecstatic than he ever had in his life.

Underneath Nick, Grissom felt his body hot and tense, strung out from the sensations he'd just experienced. He was breathing through his mouth to catch his breath, his arms loosely around Nick. His head was to the side, eyes shut as he panted and trembled slightly. Grissom felt Nick move on him slightly and then felt Nick's lips brushing his cheek. Sighing, he opened his eyes to look at Nick, surprised at the wetness he felt in his own eyes.

"Grissom--are you okay?" Nick asked softly, kissing Gil after the question. He saw Grissom nod, blinking back tears.

"Yes, Nick. I'm fine. I--thanks. I mean, wow. Thank you," Grissom said, bringing a hand up to stroke Nick's jaw. Nick titled his head into the hand.

Nick kissed Grissom's eyes, tasting the salt tears, his heart spinning. He shifted and pushed up slightly. "Gris, I'm gonna pull out now. Don't stress, just relax. Promise it's almost over," Nick said. Grissom smiled shakily.

"Damn," he said, bringing a smile to Nick's lips.

"All right. Stay still," Nick said, then gently and slowly moved his hips backward, the deliciously decadent sensation of sliding out of Grissom almost bringing Nick to orgasm again before he slid all the way out. He heard a thick sigh and looked up quickly before laying alongside Grissom carefully. Nick draped an arm over Gil's chest and propped his head on his hand. "Gris? Okay?"

Grissom turned wide eyes to Nick, his legs settling back from their awkwardness. "Yeah--yeah, fine. Just--man. Nick, that was--I don't even know how to explain it." Grissom felt his body readjusting to its normal modes, leg muscles twitching, his core still seeming full and warm, and the feelings were too novel for him. Nick saw his lover trying to sculpt meaning with his hands. Reaching over, he gently turned Grissom on his side until he was facing Nick, then draped an arm and leg over the man. Grissom rested a hand on Nick's thigh and smiled.

"You don't have to, Grissom. As long as you liked it--I know I did," Nick said softly, leaning in to kiss Gil. The scent of their bodies mingled in the air and Nick knew he could never love anyone else like he loved Grissom.

Grissom sighed. "I did. I did, Nick. But I'm glad it was you," he said. He wasn't sure he could trust anyone else as much as he had Nick--Grissom hadn't ever given so much up before.

Nick smiled. "I'm glad I was here. But Gris--nothing means it has to be like that. I'm much--well, I'm happier receiving than giving, if you know what I mean," Nick said awkwardly. Gil frowned, then meaning dawned.

"Oh! Well--well, all right. I have to admit, that was--sensational, Nick." He moved his body closer, aware of the wetness between them and ignoring it. Settling his body against Nick's, Grissom relaxed into the young man's arms with a satisfied sigh. *I feel--safe,* he thought.

Nick brought his arm over Grissom's shoulder, pulling him in tight. He could feel the slick wetness as well, and knew as much as he wanted to simply lie with Gil, he'd have to move soon.

For a few minutes, they enjoyed each other's touch, heat, and space, neither concerned about anything except the moment. Grissom was falling asleep, happy and satisfied, when Nick lifted his head. "Hm?"

Nick smiled and kissed Gil's nose. "We really should get up--clean up, you know?"

Gil looked fuzzy for a moment, then frowned. "Oh. Yes, I suppose didn't think about it."

"That's a good thing. Sheets can be washed, you know," Nick said as he pushed himself up. He helped Grissom sit next to him, noting with a mental frown the wince of pain that crossed Gil's face. "Gil?"

Grissom had felt his body, torso and everything below, shift and settle, the weight of his body annoying the newly stretched muscles. His legs twitched in pain and he lifted his body up a little quickly, Nick helping him stand. "I--it's okay. Wow. I guess I'm more sore than I thought I was," he said.

Nick frowned. "Gil, I'm sorry--I didn't mean to hurt you, I thought"

"No! Nick, no, it's not--well, it's part what we did but I wouldn't have passed up on that for the world. It's just--a different feeling. Okay?" Gil hated the doubt on Nick's face. He leaned forward and kissed Nick hard, feeling Nick melt into him.

"Ohoh, okay. All right. Jesus, Grissom--I can't--how can I thank you?"

Grissom leaned into Nick. "You did. Nick--I don't know what to do, exactly, but I know what I want-- do you?" He looked up at Nick's clouded eyes.

"I think--no, I know, I do. I want you, Gil," Nick said, hating the naïve sound of it. He brought his arms around Grissom's waist, supportive should the other man need it. He recognized the exhaustion in Grissom's eyes.

Grissom sighed a little and let himself lean more on Nick. He had hoped the beautiful younger man was really not lying, really did want to be with the slightly deaf, very odd, mostly cerebral chief CSI. He felt Nick tighten his grip. "You okay Gil?"

"Yeah--yeah, Nick. Hey--can I ask you something, a favor again?"


"Come take a shower with me? I'm not sure I'm quite up to standing under the water alone--too tired. And I have to get clean" Gil gestured to his body. Nick smiled down at his boss' smooth, sweaty, tanned body and wondered again where Grissom had gotten his tan.

Go HOME...or at least, to the Chicana Manifesta:)

Annnnd that is all she wrote for THAT folks...