Nick was accustomed to people thinking he was a strong man.|
By even the most superficial measure, he qualified. He’d always taken care of his body, running, working out and eating right. Sure, when he was younger he got drunk with his mates, although not as often as they did. He’d grown out of that stage, but he still enjoyed a beer and on occasion, something a little stronger. He tried to figure out which foods made him feel strong and healthy and stick to those.
He was a moderate man. Didn’t drink too much, didn’t eat too much. He did, however, have a little problem walking away from the gym. It was his secret vice. While some people drank or did drugs or got rid of the pain by cutting, Nick did it by working out. He would push himself until his body was close to collapse and his clothes were soaked with sweat. Often he had to limp to the showers.
And, although he was a slender man he had the muscles to show for it. He was strong and fit, his biceps bulging, his body hard, his abs rippled when he moved. His body was his work of art, toned and polished, as perfect as a work in progress could be.
Physically he was a strong man.
Repeated traumas had made him emotionally strong. He’d been molested at age nine. That was a tough one; it defined his life in some ways and always would. With the help of some therapy and finally sharing the experience first with Catherine and then with his parents, he’d come to terms with it. He hadn’t forgotten it, never would, but he’d come to accept that it had, in part, made him who he was.
Having a gun pulled on him at work had been terrifying; he’d cried and he wasn’t ashamed of it. Grissom has been concerned but he realized that only a strong man would have been able to shed those tears. Nick had come to terms with it; it was just another piece of what made up Nicholas Stokes.
Having his own personal stalker in his home shocked him. The fact that the man had murdered two people on account of him made him feel guilty, as if he were the cause of their deaths. The fact that the stalker had murdered one of them in his house had made him move. Eventually. Because a strong man tries to come to terms with it first. He had learned that sometimes though, it’s just not possible. And that knowledge served to strengthen his sense of self.
Having been kidnapped and buried underground, left to die, having the earth falling in around him and ants digging into his flesh had almost broken him. Almost. His gun was in his hand when he heard them coming for him. Screaming for them to save him. He wasn’t ashamed because a strong man knows when to ask for help. A strong man knows when he needs to go to therapy to come to terms with something. A strong man goes back to the work he knows and loves, even when that work involves death, violence, guns and bombs. He comes to terms with it. He knows himself.
He was looking at 40 with some things behind him that no man should have to face, but a strong man overcomes, learns.
Mentally he was a strong man.
Nick checked his watch; he still had time to do another set of curls before he had to head home and shower. He sat at the end of the bench and watched the muscles of his bicep tense and relax as he slowly curled the dumbbell. A drop of sweat glistened on the protruding vein and trickled down his arm.
He couldn’t wait to see Greg but knew he wouldn’t be home for a while yet, so Nick took his time in the shower, shaved, put on cologne. He even applied moisturizer; living with Greg was like having his own personal Queer Eye team in house. He pulled on a pair of sweat pants, leaving his chest and feet bare. He knew how Greg liked to look at his body.
He padded into the living room to wait, barely able to control his impatience. They hadn’t seen much of each other this week. He sat on the couch with a beer, listening to the neighborhood sounds of birds and kids, dogs and cars as he waited.
At the sound of a key in the door, he looked up, smiling. Greg came in with one of his goofy, happy, sweet smiles. Nick caught his breath; it always happened at the first sight of his boyfriend, lover, soulmate.
Greg was wearing a t-shirt, baggy jeans and sneakers; a leather jacket slung over his shoulder bag. His hair was tousled and his skin was pale as if he hadn’t seen the sun for a good long while. His arms looked skinny sticking out of the baggy sleeves while his jeans were ready to drop off his lean hips. His eyes, beautiful and soulful were fixed on Nick, drinking him in. Greg dropped everything on the chair by the door and walked toward Nick with his arms out.
Without a word, Nick rose and met Greg. For a long moment the two men just stood, silent, and breathed each other in.
Nick was a strong man; he could pick Greg up and carry him around, toss him onto the bed if he liked. He’d even made love to Greg against the wall of the shower once, picked him up bodily and braced him against the tiles while they fucked.
But it was when those skinny arms were wrapped around him that Nick knew he was in the embrace of a strong man, the man who had helped him become who he was today. When he finally admitted he that loved Greg, Nick knew he had become a truly strong man.