The Clock Will Tick Away The Hours: The Clock Will Tick Away The Hours
Content: Hurt/comfort, episode tag, one night stands, comfort sex, awkwardness, mild d/s, biting, bruises.
A/N: The canon period of time for this story is between It Was A Very Good Year (s13e04) and Fallen Angels (s13e07), but there are references to events from past seasons, specifically, to A Kiss Before Frying (s11e12). Also, the timeline in this story is kind of stretched out. I know dates as they appear in the eps often correlate to actual air dates/present day, but I haven't gone through and worked it out, so for the purposes of this story, several months go by between the episodes in question.
I am counting this as a light fill for the power dynamics square of my round two Trope Bingo card. I think it counts as being at least a little subversive, because the power dynamics between Nick and Greg aren't the focus of the story, but more a happy accident of compatibility between them once they finally work shit out.
The title comes from a Sinatra song, because Sinatra was the working title of the fic, even though his music barely features.
You're alone when you wake. The sheet is twisted around you, and the pillow is too soft. There's a bruise on your wrist you remember getting, some bite marks and hickeys scattered over your chest and neck that you see later in the bathroom mirror that you don't.
It's not your mirror. It's not your house, for that matter.
When you're dressed, you take a cursory look around, but every room of the apartment is empty.
You take the hint and leave.
You expect it to be uncomfortable, somehow, at work, but it's fine. Greg is his charming, brilliant, professional self. A little quiet, maybe. A little sad, but ever since the explosion all those years ago, he's been prone to occasional bouts of depression, though he hides it well. You think that maybe he's on medication; you know for a fact that he was after the beating, and that he talked to that department shrink after Warrick died. And losing that girl like that, hearing about the part he unwittingly played in her death through the one-way glass, you know that had to have hit him where he lived.
You kind of wish he'd talk to you, but he casually brushes off all your attempts at socialisation.
He smiles and walks away, and all you can think about is the wild look in his eyes, his hand hard around your wrist, the way he had murmured, “I can't break you, can I, Nicky? Tell me you won't break,” and you could taste the desperation on his mouth as strong as the liquor he'd drunk before you knocked on his door.
The bite marks take a week or so to fade, and when they do, you miss them.
You wear your leather cuff over the four-and-one on your arm. Initially, it's to hide the marks from other people's curious eyes, but you like the way the firm grasp of the band presses just right into the bruises. Even when they're gone, you wear the cuff because it feels like Greg's hand, squeezing tight.
When you bring Sam home, you quickly grow to wonder how you lived alone for so long. You find yourself talking to him constantly, chewing over all the ins and outs of your job, your mortgage, your interactions with family and friends. Though you know he doesn't really understand much more than your tone and the occasional word, Sam listens intently, like he can tell what you're saying is important.
You wake up every morning with Sam stretched out beside you, his head heavy on your chest. He sheds all over your sheets, your clothing and your rugs. You fight the good fight keeping up with the cleaning, but in the end you grow accustomed to the tumbleweeds of dog hair that accumulate in the corners, under your bed, and in the lint filter of your washing machine. There's a shiny dark mark on the edges of a door frame that Sam likes to scratch his face on, and there's a permanent ring of paw prints around his water bowl, because he's a messy drinker.
It bothers you a lot less than you would have thought it might a month ago, when keeping your place neat was one of the ways you kept your head straight, kept the darkness out. Maybe a little bit of chaos is what you needed, you decide.
You carefully don't think of an empty apartment papered with a riot of posters, cluttered with all kinds of memorabilia, and decorated, seemingly, by Goodwill. Nothing matched and nothing seemed to have a designated place, except the shiny, expensive-looking espresso machine in pride of place right in the middle of the kitchen counter. Greg's made it very clear that the door to that place is closed to you, that he probably wishes he never opened it to you in the first place.
If you didn't have Sam to talk to, you know you'd be pushing more, be testing the limits Greg has set, but you don't. You just wait outside the walls he's constructed, hoping that he might decide of his own accord to emerge.
Greg calls you one morning, not long after your shift ends, and awkwardly asks you for help. That's how you end up carpooling for a week and a half. His car's developed some kind of sinister and expensive problem that requires parts being shipped in from out of state. You know, as well as he does, how much CSIs live out of their cars. Your truck is kind of cluttered, full of both of your gear.
Stuck in a car for at least an hour a day outside of work breaks down some of the barrier between you. The first couple of days are quiet, almost formal. Greg is unfailingly polite and grateful, doesn't critique either your driving or your music. You've deliberately left the radio tuned to country and western, but he doesn't so much as roll his eyes, not even when you sing along, allowing your accent to go broad and thick as it gets when you go home for Christmas.
Day three, and you've just spent six hours in a crawl space with a decomp. Despite the showers at work, you're both ripe, and having all the windows down isn't really helping any. You don't have any kind of air freshener, but you suspect there aren't enough little cardboard trees soaked in pine oil in the world to make it nicer.
“So much for breakfast,” Greg grumbles. “I was really looking forward to waffles I didn't have to make myself. And now I have to go to the grocery store smelling like death.”
“You don't have anything in the fridge?” you ask. You've let the vacuuming lapse this week, but you never fail to stock the pantry.
“I don't have any lemons. Or tinned tomatoes. Or anything else to get this stink off me. I really liked this shirt,” he sighs, rubbing the worn cotton between thumb and fingertip.
You turn left instead of right, and Greg opens his mouth to remind you he's there.
“I've got a fruit bowl full of lemons at home. My neighbour has a tree, hands them out to the whole street. We can swing past first, pick them up. It's no trouble,” you say, cruising on through familiar streets to your driveway.
Greg doesn't get out when you pull in, but you don't push it. You just jog inside and fill a plastic grocery bag full of half a dozen enormous, fragrant fruit. Greg looks surprised and a little happy when you pass him the bag and start the truck. You're back on the road, and Greg pulls a lemon from the bag to smell it, inhaling deeply.
“They make great lemonade, if you've got any left over,” you suggest.
“I've never made lemonade,” Greg confesses, still holding the fruit.
“I'll email you my grandmother's recipe,” you say.
When Greg says thanks, he's smiling.
It's your day off when Greg's car is finally mended, but you pick him up and drive him to the mechanic anyway. Sam makes grumbling noises when you relegate him to the back seat, but once you get going, he cheerfully hangs his head over the passenger chair, panting, letting drips of drool darken the shoulder of Greg's shirt and dribble down Greg's neck.
“He's doing that on purpose,” Greg declares, smearing away another runnel of saliva with the back of his hand.
“Yup,” you agree.
Greg wipes his hand on the car upholstery. “I get that this is your seat, dude, but I'll be gone in a second, and if I wanted to be covered in some guy's DNA, it would not be yours.”
You brake a little harder than necessary at the stop sign, while your brain catches up to the fact that Greg was talking to Sam, not to you.
“I, um, yeah, next left,” Greg stammers.
Suddenly it's all awkward again, possibly more so, because Sam takes the opportunity presented by both humans' mutual embarrassment to stick his tongue in Greg's ear. It's a cheap and dirty trick, and Greg wriggles as far away as the seatbelt permits. “You asshole,” he squeaks, and then, thank God, you're at your destination.
Greg's barely got the door open, isn't even out of the car when Sam flies through from the back and shoulders him out. Then he sits like a king, grinning, triumphant.
You're completely tongue-tied, and it seems like Greg might be, too. You're just staring at each other, with your big doofus of a dog between you, pleased as punch with himself. Greg's neck is shiny wet, and suddenly you're thrown back to months ago, to a wall firm against your back, to your wrist, pinned tight, a body pressing hard into yours, a pulse under your tongue.
And from the slightly shattered look on his face, Greg is right there with you.
“Thanks,” Greg chokes, and without another word, he slams the door and practically runs into the building, runs away from you.
You don't curse much, but you do then, and punch the steering wheel for good measure. Sam cocks his head at you.
“Shut up,” you hiss, then you drive home, steering with your undamaged hand.
For a few more weeks, you dance around each other. Now that Greg's car is back on the road, your moments together are fleeting and distant. You think he might be talking a bit to Morgan, but it's hard to tell without asking leading questions that are just going to cause all sorts of gossip if you put them to a lab full of seasoned investigators. You know that Greg used to confide in Sara, but she's been keeping to herself of late, and no one puts up walls like Sara does, not even Greg.
Then you stroll into the locker room one day and startle him into a flurry of movement, a hurried wipe of a hand across his face, turning his body so slightly away from you. He's dressed in his best suit and his eyes are red from crying, and it's all you can do to stand still and not step over there and fold him into your arms. The strength of the impulse scares you, makes your heart race.
“You all right, G?” you ask softly, though the answer is obvious. Greg doesn't reply, so you continue. “I thought you had today off.”
“I was in court,” Greg says. “Ellen... her trial. I had to testify.”
You know that she didn't love Greg, that her name isn't even Ellen, but that's not the point. “What'd you say?” you ask.
“The truth,” Greg says. “She killed a lot of people. She tried to kill me. She looked... beautiful,” he says and you're sure that he's right. You're certain that with looks and poise alone, she's going to spare herself the needle. Greg's voice is kind of hollow, his shoulders slumped, all that energy that seems so much a part of him sapped away by spending just a day sitting across a court room from that femme fatale. “I didn't even mean to come here, I just got tired of driving around all night and didn't want to go home.”
“Let me buy you a beer,” you say, and Greg's defeated enough that he acquiesces.
You buy him drinks until he's leaning against you for support, then you pour him into your truck and drive him home. You walk him up to his door like a gentleman, watching to make sure he gets inside. Before you're halfway down the hall, you hear the strains of Sinatra starting up from inside Greg's apartment, and you think it's just as well that it's the middle of the day, because Greg hasn't got the volume at a level anyone would call discreet.
You stop, hovering in indecision for two, three, four minutes, long enough that you lean against the wall just for something to do while you're holding yourself back from walking back there, knocking, waiting for him to let you in. You get the feeling he would, that he'd tangle himself up in you again. On one hand, maybe he needs the comfort, maybe you need the company. But on the other, you're sober, and Greg's near as makes no difference to falling-down, and that's too close to taking advantage for you to be able to swallow.
You wait out the applause after the second song on the record before walking away, down the stairs to your truck, every step seeming a little heavier than the last.
You've been stuck at home for two days with the flu, barely dragging yourself from bed for anything but the necessities of hydration and evacuation. Last bathroom break, you had to sit down to pee, resting your head against the vanity beside you so you didn't slide right off.
Sam is a furnace next to you; a big hairy ball of pointy elbows and fits of whining to be let out to do his business. You know you've been this ill before, but never have you been so completely alone at the same time, and your fragility is terrifying to you.
It's a nasty habit your subconscious has developed, making you dream of Greg. It's not every night, not even close, but it seems to happen when you're most tired or feeling vulnerable. Sick and bed-ridden, you're easy prey. You're trapped inside some muddled half-nightmare where Greg has you pinned again, where his mouth is scorching his way down your neck, but every touch he gives you hurts like ant bites. You know that you're dreaming, somehow, but pulling away from it is like running through water fully clothed in heavy denim, like drowning.
You're jolted awake when Sam's wet nose touches your cheek, and it's like a piece of dry ice pressed against your naked skin. You make some kind of hoarse cry at the burn. Sam whines, moves in close like he's going to lick you, and it takes all of your strength to shove him back.
“Ça suffit!” you rasp, and Sam subsides.
You doze off again, and it seems only a second passes before Sam is up, beside the bed, making short wuffing noises, a precursor to his truly thundering bark. If he lets that loose, you might actually vomit, something you've avoided up till this point.
“I'm coming, I'm up,” you murmur uselessly, somehow forcing yourself upright to sit on the side of your bed while the room spins.
There's a tap at the front door, and Sam does a little bounce on the spot. That's why he woke you, you realise. He loves visitors, loves the excitement of leading you to the door, greeting the guest with barks and body wriggles, even if it's just the pizza delivery guy. Especially if it's the pizza delivery guy.
“Hold on,” you say when you hear the knock for the third time, a little louder, when you're halfway to the door, a hand on the wall for balance. It can't be a courier; they would have given up by now. Sam's running back and forth between the door and you, as if he's not sure you remember the way.
“Nick?” you hear, muffled, through the door.
“I'm coming,” you pant. “Just hold on.”
It takes far too much co-ordination to open the door. You're in a cold sweat and your limbs don't quite feel like they belong to you by the time you manage it.
Greg is standing on your doormat, and whatever you look like can't be good, because he blanches a little.
“Oh, shit,” he says, and then he moves so fast it's startling. He's got his arm around you and he's leading you to lie down on your own sofa.
“I'm fine,” you say, but Greg just sort of laughs at you, so you give up and let him bring you water and rummage through your fridge and pantry to make you something bland and soft to eat. You hear him fill Sam's bowl full of kibble and top up his water bowl, and you mean to say thank you, but you're falling back asleep again without meaning to.
You wake up later, much later. It's dark outside. Sam is sacked out on the floor beside you. There's an assortment of easy-to-manage snacks in Tupperware and a pitcher of water and a glass on the coffee table. Sam's too smart to be foiled by Tupperware, but he respects the barrier it represents enough to not break into it. Plus, you suspect Greg overfed him enough to satisfy his appetite for the next couple of hours, at least.
Your phone is there too, plugged into its charger, which is jacked into the wall. There's a post-it stuck to its face that reads, simply, let me know when you wake up. You know Greg is working tonight, you know that he's busy, but you also know he's likely to drop everything and come over if you don't let him know you're alive.
You thumb up an empty text message and laboriously type, I think my fever broke.
Good, you get in reply. I'll be by later with breakfast. Not an offer or a question, just a statement of fact that you can't muster up the energy to argue with. When Greg turns up with grocery bags full of orange juice, whole wheat bread, oatmeal, grapes, organic honey and a blessedly enormous bottle of Tylenol, you're relieved that you didn't even try.
Things relax a bit, between you. You find yourself making jokes and teasing him like you used to, and the smile he gives in return is natural, easy. Sara smiles more at the both of you, and you wonder how much the tension between you and Greg is responsible for her retreating into her shell. You'd thought you were doing well at faking it, but maybe not. Catherine always did say you wore your heart too openly on your sleeve for all to see, and perhaps this time, she's right.
The whole mess with Warrick's grave, Warrick's son, Warrick's name threaded through a nasty tangled web of fraud and murder messes you up pretty good. You somehow hold it together through the investigation, and then you find that you have to stop halfway home on the side of the road because your eyes are full of tears and you can't see where you're going. You allow yourself a few great heaving sobs, like gasping for air, before pulling yourself together and carefully travelling the rest of the way.
You've only been home two minutes, barely long enough to drop your gear and let Sam inside, when there's a knock at the door. Sam barks in excitement, dances back the purely necessary two feet you need to open it.
It's Greg. His expression is somewhere between wary and hopeful, like he's unsure of his welcome.
“What's up?” you ask, aiming for casual.
“I thought you might need some company,” he says.
“Sure,” you say, stepping aside to let him in, because he can't be offering what you instantly think he's offering. He closed that door, locked and bolted it, a long time ago. He clung to you like you were the only thing that could save him, left his marks upon your skin, then left you alone the morning after. “You want a beer?”
Greg makes some kind of positive noise, you're pretty sure, so you walk into the kitchen to get one. Instead, you find yourself putting your fists against the counter top, letting your head hang down, breathing slow.
Beer, that's right. You were getting beer. You grab a couple of bottles, open them, put the caps in the recycling. By the time you wander back out, you've got what you're pretty sure is a smile fixed on your face. Greg straightens up from patting Sam; he'd obviously found Sam's sweet spot from the way Sam is lolling against him, looking rapturous.
“Here,” you say, holding the beer out.
“Thanks,” Greg says. He takes it, takes a tiny sip, sets it aside. Steps forward, into your personal space, and stops. You're very aware that the glass of the bottle is cold and wet in your hand, that he's close enough for you to just lean forward and kiss, but you've frozen in place.
“I don't understand,” you whisper, mostly to yourself.
“Sure, you do,” Greg replies. “It's easy.”
He seems more relaxed than you, his slight smile almost lazy, but his pupils are large and he keeps licking his lips, a lightning-flash of pink tongue.
“I've been waiting for you,” you say.
“I know,” he says, hushed, like it's a secret.
You've spent so long denying yourself, that now that he's in front of you, you're not sure what to do.
“You have to make the move, I won't take that from you, not right now,” Greg explains in a rush, and that's enough to break the spell. You barely have the sense to set the beer down before you reach out.
You kiss him hard and fast from the start, nothing tentative. You bite at his lips, liking the tiny sound he makes when you nip just a little too sharply. You don't break the kiss, but you take one small step backwards, two, guiding him forward with you with your hands on his upper arms, until your back brushes against the wall.
Greg laughs, quiet and breathless against your lips. “Oh, yes? I thought... I thought maybe you, you were just letting me, but you really, you like-”
“Yes,” you say, cutting him off with another kiss.
“And this?” he asks, wrapping a hand around your wrist.
You draw in a sharp, uncontrolled breath. You feel like you're made of iron filings, that every molecule in your body is magnetised and pointing to that bracelet of muscle and bone and sinew.
“Yes, to that, then,” he purrs. “And-”
“Everything. All of it, yes. Please,” you say, and if the last word comes out a little broken, well, you're not ashamed of that.
Greg's laugh is louder this time and utterly delighted. He lets it ring out unfettered before quieting, but his eyes still dance with the joy of it.
“Oh, baby,” he murmurs. His free hand trails up the length of your chest, brushing deliberately over a nipple, before coming to rest cupping your cheek. “Baby, we are going to have so much fun.”
“Your dog is a bastard,” Greg grumbles at some point in the late afternoon, when behind the blackout curtains the sun is dipping towards the horizon.
“You're in his place,” you reply, your fingers lazily trailing up and down Greg's spine.
“He kicks. I have bruises,” he grumps, and instead of making sympathetic noises like you probably should, you reply, “Mmmm, so do I.”
“I used to think you were so vanilla,” he teases.
“I am,” you say. “I don't think sex should require...props, or a tool kit, or equipment. I think the more of that stuff you throw in there, the less it's about you and the other person, and the more it's about... theatre, about show. I like sex to be honest. I think it's about the most honest you can be with somebody, and that using it to lie, that's what's obscene.”
“You're the most vanilla kinky person I know,” Greg says fondly, and you can feel him tracing his fingertips over your chest. He presses on the edge of a bite mark, and you groan.
“We have to get up in two hours,” you complain.
“Two hours is plenty of time,” he says wickedly.
“Oh, fine,” you sigh. “Sam, laissez.”
Sam gets off the bed, nudges the ajar door open and wanders away down the hall to the kitchen. You hear him drinking noisily from the bowl a moment later. By then, Greg's already started sucking your nipples, and your hand is tugging his hair, something you found out he likes a lot only a couple of hours ago.
You're getting hard, you're loving this slow, gradual build to another round, but you talk without thinking, find yourself asking for something you don't really have the right to ask, not yet.
“Don't leave like you did, before. Leave if you have to, but say goodbye. I need to know we're all right. That you're all right.” You swallow, once, twice, your throat suddenly thick with emotion.
Greg looks stunned, almost guilty. He shuffles up until his head is on your pillow, and you turn your face to look at him, soft and fuzzy and too close in the twilight dark. “I thought at the time that it would be easier. For you, but mostly for me. It took me a while to get my head straight.”
“I'm not asking for promises,” you say, gently.
“I know,” he says. “I promise anyway. I'll always tell you when I leave.”
“Thank you,” you say, choked up and overwhelmed. “Thank you.”
You reach out and draw him in.
The clock will tick away the hours
One by one,
Then the time will come
When all the waiting's done,
The time when you return
And find me here and run.
If it takes forever
I will wait for you,
For a thousand summers
I will wait for you,
Till you're here back,
Back beside me,
Till I'm holding you,
Till I hear you sigh
Here in my arms
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