Breaking glass and loud cursing awoke Nick the following afternoon. Startled, he rose from his bed and quickly stepped out of the bedroom, traversing the hall and entering the living room to find Greg tiptoeing gingerly around broken glass wearing only his boxers. It was all Nick could do not to look. Not to sweep his eyes over those broad shoulders or watch way the muscles of his back moved beneath his smooth skin. To follow his spine down to a slim waist and strong, impossibly long legs. Absolutely, sinfully, young and gorgeous.
Okay, he looked. And briefly wondered why Greg wore all those long-sleeved button down shirts and baggy jeans when he had all this to offer underneath.
"What happened?" Nick asked, finally finding his voice before the other man could catch him ogling.
Greg gasped, spinning around quickly to face Nick. "Jesus, you scared me. I broke one of your glasses. I'm so sorry, I'll replace it."
"It's just a glass," Nick assured him, waving away his concern. He grabbed a dustpan from the kitchen and moved to the pile of glass, bending down to sweep up the mess as Greg quickly began gathering his clothes. They were lying in a heap on the floor by one end of the couch; he must've taken them off after Nick had gone to bed. He watched the young man begin to dress hastily. "Where's the fire, G?"
"Sorry," Greg apologized, for the second time that morning. "I told Ecklie I'd come in at two today to help with the back log, and now it's almost one and I have no time to get home and shower or eat or change, and these clothes are all wrinkled and I think I must've spilled some of my drink last night on my shirt because it stinks like a whiskey barrel. And then I broke your glass, and this day sucks already."
Nick smiled up at him from the floor. "Relax. You can shower here and I'll make you some coffee and something to eat, okay?"
"I don't really have time."
"It's only fifteen minutes to work from here," Nick stated. "You have plenty of time."
"I don't have another shirt to change into," Greg continued to protest, his voice dangerously close to a whine.
"You can wear one of mine," Nick offered, and Greg looked at him as if he had just suggested grabbing one of the trash bags from under the sink and wearing that to work. "My wardrobe can't be that bad. I do have to warn you, though: dry cleaner's been losing my stuff lately, so I don't have a lot to choose from right now."
Greg seemed to consider the predicament he was in, before sighing. "Fine. But I get to pick the shirt."
It had been nearly three o'clock the following morning before Nick would see Greg again. He'd managed to pass off all of his evidence to someone else to bring to the DNA lab, and while he was sure Greg would catch on sooner or later, for now, Nick was determined to stick to his guns and put some space between them. At least until he got a hold of his ridiculous obsession. Out of sight, out of mind.
So, after successfully avoiding Greg throughout his entire shift, Nick was surprised when he walked into the break room to grab some coffee and saw the young man sitting at one of the chairs, his head in his hands, eyes closed. Still wearing Nick's shirt, who became acutely aware of a pleasant sense of ownership at the sight of his clothes on Greg's body. As if they were in high school and Greg was wearing Nick's varsity football jacket. It didn't help that Greg had chosen the Save a horse, ride a cowboy novelty tee-shirt that one of Nick's ex-girlfriends had given to him as a joke, even though Nick had warned him that it wasn't the most appropriate work attire.
Greg had not seen Nick yet, he could still make his escape. Nick paused at the doorway, half in/half out. The irony did not escape him.
"Greg!" Catherine barked from the other doorway to the break room, startling both Greg and Nick, who had no choice but to enter the room. If he ran now, Catherine would only assume he was running from her or Greg, and Nick didn't need her sharp nose sniffing anywhere around him right now.
"Catherine," Greg breathed, leaning back in his chair and offering her a halfhearted smile, although she didn't seem to notice. "It's always nice to hear you call my name."
"I need you to run this now," she stated, tossing a small evidence bag onto the table. "Before anyone else's stuff."
"Anything for you," he crooned, but she was already gone. Greg placed his elbows on the table and rubbed his eyes before raking both hands through his hair. He looked more exhausted than Nick had ever seen, his usual sunny brightness only a dim flickering candle tonight. Before Nick could stop himself, he reached out a hand, touching Greg's shoulder in an attempt at comfort.
"Nick," Greg said with a yawn, looking up at him from his seat at the table. "I haven't seen you all night. What do you need?"
"Nothing," Nick responded, a little affronted at the idea that Greg thought Nick would only speak to him if he needed something. He didn't remember being that kind of guy. "I just wanted to..." comfort you kiss you fuck you "...see how you were doing. Make sure you aren't running yourself ragged."
Greg seemed puzzled for only a moment before he smiled, and while it was certainly a tired one, it was at least genuine, and Nick didn't think he could've looked more endearing. "I'm busy as hell. But I've always got time for you."
Nick felt heat creeping into his cheeks, opening his mouth to speak but he couldn't seem to find the words. He should've left the break room when he had the chance. They shouldn't be talking like this. They were only coworkers. They weren't even friends.
"Greg!" Catherine crowed from the hallway, exasperation evident in her voice.
"I'm coming!" Greg shouted. He offered Nick an exaggerated look of irritation before grinning. "Gotta go. Nice talk. Hey, I saw we both have off this Thursday. Want to do something?"
"Uh, no," Nick said quickly, and Greg frowned. Hastily, he tried to think of any lie that would suffice. "I mean, I can't. The schedule's wrong. I switched my shift as a favor."
"Oh. Well, maybe we can have breakfast one day this week?" Greg asked, his voice so hopeful, but Nick could hear the wavering of insecurity.
"Yeah, we'll see," Nick replied, nodding, and he smiled but it didn't feel right.
"Okay," Greg conceded quietly, and Nick hoped he would soon forget what it felt like to blow that dim flickering candle out while wondering who the hell he would find to switch shifts with on Thursday.
Nick was almost sure life was returning to normal. He'd turned Greg down only one more time before the young man stopped asking, before Greg had seemed to finally understand that the one evening they'd spent together had meant nothing. Nick had only been making good on his promise of a drink in exchange for bumping up his evidence to the front of the line, and now they would go back to whatever it was they were before. Friends, Nick thought, before hastily amending that to coworkers. They had never been friends, like Greg had said, right?
He was walking down the hallway to pick up test results from Trace when he spotted a familiar face standing at reception, smiling disarmingly at Judy. He nearly passed the young man before turning back to the desk with a puzzled expression.
"Mr. Reed?" Nick asked.
"Mr. Stokes," Ian greeted, aiming his absurdly charming smile at Nick. "How are you tonight?"
"I'm fine," he replied, his brow knotted. "What are you doing here? Did the detective assigned to your case call you? Or was there something you remembered, or...?"
"Uh, no," the young man said, casually. "I just wanted to check up on my case. See if you had any updates for me."
"I don't, sorry," Nick apologized. "But we'll call you if anything comes up."
"Great. Thanks," Ian said, and now that the exchange was over, this should've been the part of the conversation where Ian left, and yet he stood there. As if he were waiting for Nick to leave first. Nick frowned slightly, before Ian seemed to realize his faux pas. "I guess I'll be going then. Thanks again."
And then he was gone.
"That's funny," Judy commented. "He didn't ask for you."
Nick peered down at the small receptionist. "Who did he ask for?"
"He didn't ask for anyone," she replied. "I remembered his face because, you know..." She smiled sheepishly. Nick scowled. "Anyway, I remembered him, and asked if he wanted to see you. When he said no, I asked if he wanted me to look up the detective assigned to him, and he said no again. Then you came up."
"Huh," was all Nick could think to say, filing the bizarre encounter away in the back of his mind.
The next day, Nick found the novelty tee-shirt Greg had borrowed folded neatly on the shelf inside of his locker. He wasn't sure how Greg had gotten his combination. He wasn't sure why he was so disheartened to see it there. He wasn't sure why he slammed the locker door so hard.
He wasn't sure why, sometimes, after a hard night scraping bodies off of pavements and asking mothers why they had left their now dead children alone with a convicted felon and separating body parts from organic material from trash into labeled bins, he would pull out that tee-shirt when no one was looking. Press the soft fabric to his nose and inhale chemicals and cologne and coffee and Gr
"Hard night?" Warrick asked, and Nick hastily shoved the tee-shirt into the back of his locker before closing it.
"Yeah. About to head out."
"Me too," Warrick stated. "Want to grab some chow before heading home?"
"You know what, that sounds like a great idea, man," Nick said, hoping spending some time with Warrick would take his mind off of a few things. One thing in particular. "How about that omelet place that just opened on West Charleston?"
"Sounds good to me. You're driving."
"No way, it's your turn to drive."
One game of rock, paper, scissors later, Nick was closing the door to his SUV with Warrick entering the passenger's side. As Nick turned the engine over, Warrick leaned forward in his seat and squinted as he peered into the parking lot.
"Hmm," he murmured. "I guess the rumors are true. Check it out."
Nick glanced at Warrick before following his gaze, catching sight of two men between a set of cars. One man leaning his back against the side of one of the cars, the other leaning forward into him, their bodies flush. Fingers clutching at the lapels of a collared shirt, the other man's hands resting easily on slim hips. They were smiling, laughing, leaning closer, and then they were kissing and Nick had to look away.
He leaned back in his seat, his heart pounding between his ears. He gripped the steering wheel with white knuckles, his breath coming in short bursts. Greg, standing in the parking lot of the LVPD crime lab, kissing another man. Kissing Ian Reed.
"You okay, Nick?" Warrick asked, his voice uncertain.
"No!" Nick exclaimed, and immediately recovered. "I mean, that's one of the victims from those assault cases I'm working on."
"Damn," Warrick breathed. "Not cool, man. Somebody should have a talk with that kid."
Nick nodded. "Yeah. Somebody will."
Nick couldn't stop thinking about it. About those two bodies standing close to each other in the parking lot. About what happened once he and Warrick had driven away. Wondering if the two young men had gone back to Greg's place, or maybe Ian's, as he ate an egg-white omelet that could've been made out of cardboard for all knew. Thought about their two, lithe bodies writhing against one another, long fingers clutching at hard cocks as they moaned into each other's mouths.
"You're really mad about this," Warrick commented, his green eyes sparkling with curiosity.
"It's not professional!" Nick cried, with more force than he'd intended, and Warrick held up his hands in mock surrender.
"Okay," the other man said, and returned to eating his breakfast with an amused grin.
It was the following evening that Nick found Greg in the break room washing dishes in the sink. He stood in the doorway, his jaw set, and took a few deep breaths when he felt himself about to fly off the handle. He needed to impress upon Greg the importance of following procedure. The importance of adhering to workplace policies. The importance of self-restraint. It wasn't because he was jealous. It wasn't because Ian Reed wasn't half the man that Nick was. Nick didn't even know Ian Reed, with all those pretty angles on his face and that perpetual smirk that shouldn't have been appealing but it was.
"What are you doing?" Nick asked, as he strode quickly into the room to stand beside Greg at the kitchen counter.
"Washing dishes," Greg stated, casting Nick an uncertain glance. "I wanted some coffee and all the cups are dirty. I always end up washing five hundred cups every night. I don't understand it. These people are grown. How do they not know how to wash a cup?"
Greg was babbling; a nervous habit. He knew what this was about, and that it certainly wasn't regarding dirty dishware. Nick crossed his arms over his chest, leaning his hip against the counter, satisfied at the anxious energy emanating from the young man beside him.
"I'm talking about Ian Reed. My victim?"
"Oh," Greg said, drawing the word out into one long vowel. "That."
"What do you think you're doing?" Nick asked, stepping impossibly close to Greg, feeling the young man shift under his gaze. "You know departmental policy on dating anyone involved in an active case."
"He was assaulted over a month ago," Greg argued. "If we weren't allowed to date anyone that had ever been assaulted in Las Vegas that wouldn't leave anybody left. The case probably won't even get solved."
Nick bristled. "I'm working on that case, and it will get solved. You know who else worked on that case? You. Don't you think that creates a conflict of interest?"
Greg paused in his dish washing. "What do you mean?"
"If we catch the guys that did this," Nick explained through gritted teeth, "and we take all of our evidence to court, and they find out that the person who processed all the DNA evidence is the victim's boyfriend which they will find out they would throw all of that evidence out, and Ian's attackers would walk."
"I didn't think about that."
"That's right, Greg," Nick snarled. "You didn't think. That's why I'm out in the field and you're stuck in a lab."
Greg turned to Nick, mouth agape, his brown eyes afire with anger and shock and hurt. Maybe Nick shouldn't have said that, and immediately he felt the guilt in the pit of his stomach. He expected Greg to come up with some witty remark or cuss him out or, hell, even strike him, but instead, he only turned back to the dishes, scrubbing vigorously. Almost as if he accepted it to be true, and suddenly Nick felt so childish, like a bully picking on some kid at school, kicking him while was down.
"Greg," Nick said, softly this time, but the other man cut him off.
"I get it," Greg snapped roughly. "Point taken, okay, Nick? You can stop worrying about it and get back to all of your important investigative work. If you need me, I'll be in my lab."
Nick sighed, rolling his eyes at his own tactlessness as he turned and walked away. If he hadn't been sure before that Greg didn't think they were friends, he could at least take comfort in the fact that there was no mistaking it now.
To be continued.