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Power/Play by Catlover2x [Reviews - 13]
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Nick looked up to see the gun in Bill’s hand and froze. Greg was shaking in his arms and he pulled the younger man back against his chest, trying to offer a little comfort.

Bill seated himself and said, “Just a little game that my friends and I like to play. You’ve seen the movie Fight Club?”

Nick said, “Yes. So?”

“Well, we like to enjoy a little Fight Club of our own, but we don’t merely wish to bash each other to no purpose. Instead, we play for stakes.”

“What stakes?” Nick asked, calm with dread.

“Your boy,” Bill said. “Whoever wishes to challenge you will put up their boy against yours. You win, you leave with two boys. You lose and your sub has a new owner. Who knows, he may be happier with someone else.”

“He’s happy with me if I say so,” Nick said, his voice hoarse with tension.

“Oh, he’ll be happy enough wherever he ends up. All these boys are pretty much the same. Whip them and fuck them, keep them in line. And yours is amusingly… untamed.”

It took everything Greg had not to beg Nick not to leave him. He knew that Nick would fight if he had to and he didn’t want to make it worse for his boyfriend. He whispered, “I’ll be okay.”

Nick tightened his arms, holding Greg as close as he could. “And if I refuse?”

“In that case, I’ll just shoot you and take the boy.”

“If I lose?”

“You won’t care what becomes of him. Let’s say you’ll no longer be very interested in what’s going on in this world.”

Nick glared at Bill with deadly hatred, hoping that their backup had heard everything and were coming to the rescue. But until that happened, he was the only thing that stood between Greg and these sick assholes.

I will choose who I fight,” Nick announced.

Bill laughed with delight. “Spoken like a true Top, did you notice gentlemen? A real man takes charge of his destiny when it catches up with him.”

Greg turned in Nick’s arms and whispered into his ear, “They’re going to fight dirty. Can you do that?”

“Yes,” Nick replied with quiet confidence. “No one fights fair with a cop, don’t worry about me.”

He pushed Greg behind him gently and took off his jacket while he surveyed the other Doms. They were all large, tall men, bigger than he was. But he was quick and fit, he worked out regularly and he thought he had a fighting chance. Instead of studying their bodies, he looked into their eyes, searching out the cruelty and hardness in each one, looking for a sign of weakness.

“I’ll beat his ass,” he said, pointing.

Bill chuckled. “You’ve chosen well. Stuart, step forward. And your sub.”

The man Nick selected was two inches taller than he, blonde and thickset, with heavily muscled arms. But this man looked to the others for approval with a flicker of anxiety and Nick thought if he could beat any of these men, it would be this one.

Bill said, “Gentlemen, prepare. Nick, you may be relieved to know that if you win, you’ll be free to go and take your lovely sub with you. You have my word on that.”

Nick’s nostrils flared as he sarcastically thought that this man’s word was worth less than nothing. He would have to instruct Greg to watch him.

“But just to make the fight more amusing,” Bill continued, “We have one further little custom. Both subs will be cuffed to the whipping post and James will take your lovingly broken in crop and administer a little punishment. Gentlemen?”

The other two Doms yanked Greg almost off his feet and Nick took a quick step to grab his boyfriend, but Bill levelled the gun at him. “I’m sorry, Nick, but I can’t allow you to do that.”

Greg stared at Nick with despairing eyes as he and the other young man were dragged to the post. His wrists were already cuffed so one of the Doms chained him to the post with his arms over his head, before taking a knife and slashing through the mesh shirt to reveal Greg’s back.

Bill looked over with interest at the scars on Greg’s back. “Did you do that to him?”

Nick gave a curt nod, sure that evidence of such cruelty would weigh heavily with these men.

Bill walked over to Greg and ran his fingers over the scars as the younger man flinched away from his touch. “They’re very beautiful. I doubt that I ever would have thought of something as lovely as this.” He turned a thoughtful eye on his sub. “Take down his pants.”

“No!” Nick shouted. “No one sees his ass but me.”

“Then he’ll have to take the crop on his back,” Bill pointed out.

“Fine.” Nick went to the corner and took Greg’s face between his hands. He summoned his Dom voice to try to help Greg through this. “Baby, listen to me. Pain is only a sensation, like pleasure or taste. You feel it and it’s over. You ride the wave, like surfing. Scream if you need to, you’re honouring me by taking this. You know I’ll get you out of this. It won’t be long.”

He could see Greg’s eyes clear a little. He touched the collar. “You wear my collar. Make me proud, baby. You’re tough, tougher than I am,” he admitted.

When Nick touched Greg’s collar, the younger man felt himself slip into a feeling of acceptance and submission. Nick was proud of him. So proud he would fight to keep him. With a tremulous smile, Greg nodded. He was still terrified but the scars on his back were a testament to his ability to bear pain and he would do this to keep Nick alive.

Nick leaned forward and kissed Greg’s forehead, like a benediction.

Nick turned to face his adversary, noting the other man was shuffling his feet. He’d done what he could for Greg, now he focused his attention on Stuart. The other man was posturing, trying to throw Nick with a display of force. He’d taken off his shirt to display the thick muscles of his arms and shoulders.

“Gentlemen, begin.”

Nick had no idea how long he would have to fight but he crouched slightly, curling his hands into fists. In fact, he had no intention of hitting Stuart with his hand if he could help it. He knew how much it hurt when the small bones broke, courtesy of a bad habit of punching walls when he was younger and had no other outlet for his anger.

Instead he circled warily, looking for an opening, wondering what Stuart was waiting for. His concentration was so intense that he barely registered the sound of the crop on flesh, followed by a gasp that he recognized as Greg’s.

At that moment Stuart rushed forward, depending on Nick to react to his sub’s sound of distress. Nick waited till the right moment and stepped forward into the rush of the older man, swinging his knee up to his groin. Stuart twisted at the last second, taking the thrust on his thigh, going to his knees with his momentum. He was up in seconds, while a second blow sounded behind Nick. He heard a moan and realized that only Greg was being whipped.

Nick danced in toward Stuart and the older man reached for him. He had longer arms and Nick realized he wouldn’t last long if the man managed to crush him to his chest. Instead he shuffled tantalizingly out of reach, hoping to entice the man into making a move.

A scream echoed in the room behind him as Greg was struck for the third time. He sagged, the cuffs taking most of his weight as his knees gave out when the line of fire erupted across his back. He’d tried to suffocate the scream, knowing that he shouldn’t be distracting Nick, but it just hurt so much. He tried to focus on the idea that pain was only a sensation but right now it was a completely overwhelming sensation and he wasn’t sure how much more he could take.

Stuart rushed at Nick one more time, catching him on the jaw as he barely danced out of the way. Pressing his advantage, Stuart rushed in again and Nick sidestepped, hurling his arm against the other man’s throat with all his force. He yelped as he felt bones crack under the force of the heavier man’s momentum, but Stuart went to his knees. Nick grabbed him by the hair and jammed his knee into the man’s nose. Greg’s scream was echoed by Stuart’s as Nick smashed his nose and blood poured into his mouth.

Stuart looked up at Nick with frightened eyes, but ruthlessly Nick rolled him onto his back and kicked him as hard as he could in the groin. Stuart screamed again and rolled himself into a ball, sobbing with pain.

Bill stood with his gun now pointed at Stuart. “Well done, Nick, I really didn’t think you had it in you to do this. You must really value your boy. I wonder what he has that’s so very special.”

Nick ignored him, leaping to Greg’s side, his heart almost stopping as he saw the four livid stripes across his back. Greg was hanging from his wrists, his head slumped and sweat pouring off his body. “Keys!” Nick snapped his fingers at the fourth Dom who obediently handed him the keys.

Led by the muffled screams, Brass and his men had secured the first floor before cautiously going up the stairs, guns drawn. As they cleared the hall, they heard another scream and tried the handle of the door from behind which the sounds were emanating.

Finding the door locked, they crashed it off the hinges, holding guns at the ready. Bill looked up impassively, turning his gun to hold it out by the butt. “A different end to the game,” he observed calmly.

“Ambulance! Now!” Nick ordered over his shoulder. He held Greg in his arms as he released the cuffs and lowered him to the ground, ignoring the pain of his fractured arm. “Greg, are you okay? Baby, speak to me.”

Greg’s eyes were huge in his white face as he opened them. “You won,” he whispered and licked his dry lips, reaching up to touch Nick’s bloody mouth with a trembling hand.

“Of course,” Nick smiled as he tried to hold Greg so he wouldn’t cause him more pain. “I had something to fight for. I wasn’t going to let them get you.”

“I think I peed my pants,” Greg croaked. “Think Lady Heather will mind?”

“I don’t think she’ll care, baby,” Nick kissed his forehead tenderly. He looked up to see Brass crouched beside them offering a bottle of water. Brass held it to Greg’s parched lips as the younger man drank slowly.

“Greg, I’m sorry, so sorry. This never should have happened,” Brass apologized.

Warrick pushed his way into the room, searching frantically until he located Nick and Greg on the floor. He looked shocked and sick when he saw Greg’s back. “What the fuck…”

Nick’s eyes were wary as he cradled Greg in his arms. Greg rested his head on his boyfriend’s shoulder, totally spent. The fiery slashes had turned into a dull, deep pain, grinding away at his self control and he was terribly afraid that he was going to cry in front of all of them.

The EMTs entered with a stretcher and bent to take Greg from Nick. Greg moaned and clung to his boyfriend.

“I’m right here, baby, I’m not going anywhere,” Nick said, eyeing the EMTs, daring them to make him go away.

“Okay, we’re just going to get you on the stretcher on your stomach; you can hold his hand all the way,” one of the EMTs said quietly to Greg.

Greg clung to Nick’s hand, dizzy with pain as he was moved. He wished he could simply pass out when the EMT began to cut the harness, biting his lip to keep from whimpering.

Warrick looked at Nick’s split lip, swollen jaw and useless right arm. “Your arm is broken, man. I’ll get an EMT to check it out.”

“Doesn’t hurt,” Nick mumbled. “That hurts.” He nodded to Greg’s back. “We fucked up, no, I fucked up.”

Warrick asked helplessly, “Is there anyone I can call?”

“Lady Heather,” Nick said defiantly. “Ask her if she’ll meet us at the hospital.”

Warrick nodded as Nick walked next to the stretcher, holding Greg’s hand all the way to the ambulance. He didn’t even look up as they passed Grissom and Archie, white-faced and silent. The cops milling around, sorting through the varied members of the club, watched with mute sympathy, several of them saluting the two men as they passed.

~*~

Greg was sleeping on his stomach in the ER while Nick had his arm set and put in a cast. Even though he’d been heavily sedated, Greg still clung tightly to Nick’s left hand. Nick hoped the drugs they had him on were good.

He’d resigned himself to the inevitable; they would be in the hospital overnight. He knew Greg hated hospitals. Although the whipping had been vicious, James was an expert and he hadn’t broken the skin so it seemed likely that they would be released the next day.

Finally they were taken to a room, where Nick insisted on sitting in a chair next to the bed where Greg lay. Warrick had been busy, picking up various things from Nick’s house and Nick wore his own plaid flannel shirt and worn jeans.

The light from the hall dimmed and he looked up to see Lady Heather. For the first time, her expression was sad rather than pleasantly unmoved.

“I failed him,” Nick said in a flat voice.

“You didn’t fail him. You’re both alive.”

“They whipped him.”

“I know this is horrible for you, but believe me, he will live. I have a lot of experience in this area,” Lady Heather said with a wry smile.

Nick laughed until he cried, tears running down his face. Lady Heather came to him and held him until the sobs died away to occasional hiccups.

“Sorry,” Nick said, rubbing at his face with his bad arm.

Lady Heather pulled out a handkerchief scented with lavender and dried his tears.

“When they told me they were going to whip him, I talked to him. I tried to tell him how to ride the wave, that pain is just another sensation, it would pass. I had to focus on the fight. If I failed, I would only die, get off easy. One of those sick fucks was going to take him and what if no one ever found him. What if they raped him and hurt him…?”

Nick was too tired to even be hysterical. His head hurt. His arm hurt. His heart hurt.

“They were sick fucks,” Lady Heather agreed. Nick looked at her, startled.

“Safe, sane and consensual, remember?” Lady Heather sighed and pulled a chair next to Nick’s. “This wasn’t an erotic spanking, Nick. This was a punishment whipping, meant to cause pain. You did the best you could to support him.”

“I told him not to worry if he had to scream. I said he was honouring me by taking the beating.”

“That was all you could do for him at the time. And you did save him and yourself.”

“Greg’s afraid you’ll be mad at him because he peed those pants you lent him,” Nick giggled, right on the edge.

Lady Heather laughed. “If he said that after, he’ll be okay, Nicky. He’s got a sense of humour and he’s a survivor.”

“Yeah, he is.”

They fell silent, both watching Greg’s face as he slept.

“They used your crop on him.” Nick looked at her expectantly, wondering what she would think of that.

“You may not believe this Nick, but that crop was worn. It hurts a heck of a lot less than a new one.” Lady Heather looked at Greg’s sleeping face, a little pinch of pain drawing his brows together. “When the police are through with it, they can burn it. I’ll never use it again.”

“Why Lady Heather, you, a sentimentalist. I’m surprised at you.”

“I like him, Nick. I like you too. You’re lovely together.”

“You know?”

“Of course, it’s my business to know,” she said simply. “From the moment I saw you together in the hall, I saw the love and trust between you. Greg I could have paired with other men and he would have performed well, but you’re not a very trusting man, Mr. Stokes. You need to know a person before you let yourself trust.”

Nick nodded slowly, unsurprised by her insights.

“I guess everyone will know now. I wasn’t exactly subtle when I… got him off that pole.”

“Don’t worry about it, Nick,” Lady Heather said soothingly. “It really doesn’t matter. What matters is the love you two have.”

~*~

Grissom and Brass stopped in the doorway, suddenly realizing they were intruding on a private moment. Lady Heather stood looking out the window while Nick sat in a chair next to the bed where Greg lay, stroking his hair. Although Greg was asleep, his hand was wrapped around the fingers protruding from Nick’s cast.

Brass cleared his throat. Nick flicked a glance his way but immediately returned his attention to Greg. Grissom swallowed painfully at the haunted look on Nick’s face. He walked to the other side of the bed, looking at the lines that crossed Greg’s back, overlapping his scars.

“Please don’t look at him.” Nick’s voice was flat but commanding. “Stand on this side.”

Automatically Grissom walked to the other side of the bed, surprised at his immediate response to Nick’s tone of voice. Brass still hovered in the doorway.

“He won’t know I saw it,” Grissom said.

“He’ll ask. And if he asks, I’ll tell him. I don’t lie to him. He doesn’t like people to see his scars,” Nick said, his voice hollow with fatigue.

“Have you gotten any sleep, Nick?”

Nick ignored the question.

Brass spoke. “Nick, I am so sorry. This never should have happened. You were right, this was too dangerous for two civilians, even if you are in law enforcement. It was a stupid–”

Lady Heather’s voice was low but cracked like whip in the hushed room. “Captain Brass, a simple apology will do. Nick has his own guilt to deal with, he doesn’t need to absolve you of yours.”

Silence fell over the room while Brass had the good grace to look ashamed. Grissom watched the tiny movements of Nick’s hand in Greg’s hair.

“The others want to come to see you, would that be all right?”

Nick turned to Lady Heather with a helpless look in his eyes and shrugged.

“I think it would be better for Nick and Greg if they had time to assimilate everything that has happened before they have to deal with their colleagues,” she said. “I’ll be with them.”

“They’ll have to be debriefed. We need to know what happened, especially after the wires failed.”

Nick lifted his head to stare at Brass. “You couldn’t hear us?”

“The last thing we heard was you asking why you were going upstairs. Thank you for that, by the way, we could have wasted a lot of time searching and clearing the building from the basement up.”

“I’m glad. He would’ve hated everyone hearing it.” Nick resumed his position near Greg.

“Gentlemen?”

Lady Heather stared at the two men. Clearly the visit was over.

~*~

Without quite knowing how it happened, Nick and Greg were installed in Lady Heather’s home. They were in a large room, furnished with quiet elegance. Nick had protested but she insisted, saying that they would need help with everyday tasks like getting food and clean clothes.

With the ache in his arm barely controlled by pain meds and his guilt over Greg eating away at him, Nick did not have the strength to resist her.

Now he was glad. Servants took care of things like meals. He didn’t have to load the dishwasher or do laundry. Greg’s needs were met in such a way that didn’t affront Nick’s desire to be the only one to help him.

Greg slept most of the time, leaving Nick ample opportunity to wallow in his guilt. Brass had sent a car for him and he’d undergone a lengthy debriefing, but had asked no questions. He didn’t care who had done what or why, he only cared about Greg. As soon as they had what they needed from him, he demanded to be driven back so he could resume his vigil at Greg’s side. He shuddered to think of Greg waking up in pain in a strange place and missing him.

Only Lady Heather seemed to have the key to the turmoil in his head. She sat with him every morning after she returned from her work.

One morning, when they were having coffee together in Greg’s room, Nick said, “I want you to have someone whip me.”

She sighed and looked at him with kind, sad eyes. “Do you really think Greg would want that?”

“He had to take it and it’s my fault. If he had to feel it, I should too. If I had been more alert–”

“If you knew what was going to happen before it did…?”

“I knew! I knew there were sickos there; I knew they were killing people. Hell, I walked in there carrying the whip he got beat with!”

“Nick! Stop it! Take a breath and calm yourself,” Lady Heather took his hand, staring into his eyes willing him to calm down.

“I’m not going to whip you. I don’t doubt that you would get the catharsis you’re craving, but that’s the easy way out, isn’t it?”

“Easy? Are you crazy?” Nick tried to pull away from her but unaccountably, she was able to control him and keep him in his chair.

“No, I’m definitely not crazy. First of all I value my safety. If I take a whip to you, I’m not at all sure that Greg wouldn’t come after me with one.”

Nick giggled hysterically; remembering how Greg had been able to stand up to Lady Heather it wasn’t completely out of the realm of possibility.

“Secondly, you made a promise to each other. You can only do the best you can in an unknown situation. Greg knew the risks when he went in there. He’s an adult. If he were awake and you could ask him, do you think he would choose for you to be hurt again? You did what you had to and you got him out of there. You beat a man that outweighed you by fifty pounds. That’s pretty amazing.”

Gradually Nick relaxed listening to her. She had the most hypnotic presence, her voice alone was enough to frighten him to death or weave a soothing cocoon around him.

“Did you tell him this could happen?”

Lady Heather chose her words carefully. “He knew that as a sub he could be the target of unwanted attention. I don’t think any of us knew they worked this fast, however.”

Nick returned to his new hobby of counting Greg’s breaths. Every time the younger man dragged in a slow, deep breath, Nick was mesmerized by the lines across his back, moving with each intake of air.

“Brass is feeling even guiltier than you are–”

“Good,” Nick muttered harshly.

“He couldn’t have known.”

“What the fuck was the whole thing about?”

“Didn’t they tell you?”

“As soon as they were done asking me questions, I came straight back.”

Lady Heather shook her head. “I hope you’re not planning to drive Greg crazy, hovering over him like a mother hen.”

Nick flashed a grin at her and her heart sang. It was the first time she’d seen a genuine smile from him since the hospital. “I am and he’ll kick my…” He trailed off uncomfortably.

“Why did you prevent them from using the crop on his ass?”

“They were going to strip him. I didn’t think he’d like that.”

“Although I hope you will never be in this situation again, it actually would have hurt less,” Lady Heather pointed out.

“Fuck, now you tell me.”

“Greg is very slender, he doesn’t have a lot of bulk on his back. And the gluteus maximus are called that for a reason, they’re the largest muscle in the body.”

“So what does this mean?”

“He’ll be sore, his muscles will be stiff for a while. He’ll recover. At least they didn’t hit him over the kidneys.”

They fell into a companionable silence again.

Finally Lady Heather told him the entire story, as far as she knew it.

“It was a power game. Apparently Bill, the ringleader, had become tired of dominating his sub. It was no longer a challenge. By the way, he did not view his sub as his equal, in fact he treated him as more of a slave. When Brass convinced the sub to speak, he admitted he had no safe words and no limits, but despite that Bill had lost interest in physical domination. He was more interested in the mental game, a much tougher, meaner game by far.”

“And if a sub was no challenge, who would he turn to next except other Doms? At first he played the game by pitting junior Doms against each other. But his craving grew and it wasn’t enough for him.”

“In his civilian life, he is a very powerful man, financially successful, ruthless in business. He makes it a requirement to have only the best. He trades up for a new wife every five years or so, an exquisite creature but always a very timid one.”

“He’s married?” Nick choked out.

“Of course, he can’t bring a boytoy into some of the social circles he moves in,” Lady Heather shrugged. “Anyway, it amused him to dominate his fellow Doms, some of much greater standing than him.”

“The ultimate power game. And we were pawns.”

“Both of you are extremely attractive men and I’m afraid you attracted a little too much attention. Bill was audacious and greedy. He didn’t wait, he approached you the first night you showed up at the club.”

“So why did he kill those guys?”

“He enjoyed having the power of life or death. He’s quite mad, you know. He’s now imprinted on Brass. He views the interrogation as just another game to win.”

“I wish I’d kicked him in the balls,” Nick said bitterly.

“I wish you had too. He is a sick, dangerous man.”

“So, no whipping?” Nick was actually able to smile at her.

“You won’t need it. You’ve got Greg,” Lady Heather waved a graceful hand in the direction of the bed. Greg sighed and moved slightly. The sheet slipped lower, exposing the curve of his hip and Nick got up to cover him.

He brushed the hair off Greg’s face. “Hey, baby, you waking up?” he asked softly.

Lady Heather smiled and slipped out of the room, closing the door behind her.

“Yeah. What time is it?” Greg mumbled.

“Around 10 a.m. Going somewhere?”

Greg shook his head.

Nick slipped to his knees next to the bed, holding Greg’s hand. “Greg, can you ever forgive me? I never meant you to get hurt. I fucked up. I should have kept you right there next to me. Fuck, we should have never gone. Maybe if we’d left the club when that guy came over…”

Greg stopped Nick by lifting a finger to his lips. “There’s nothing to forgive, Nick. I knew the score and I volunteered. You told me it was dangerous and I accepted the risk. Hell, if Brass knew this was going to happen, he never would have sent either of us. We just had a run of bad luck.”

Nick shook his head vigorously. “I should have–”

“There’s nothing you could have done, other than what you did do. And you saved me, I’m never going to forget that. Hell, it hurt, but that was nothing compared to being forced to go with one of those creepy guys.” Greg shuddered.

“I don’t know how you can just–”

Greg pushed himself up on his elbows painfully. “Nick! Shut up!”

Surprised at the commanding tone, Nick fell silent.

“Do you need some kind of punishment to atone for your guilt?”

Nick nodded, suddenly fearful.

“Don’t you think you’ve been punished enough already?”

“My arm? This is nothing. I asked Lady Heather– I think–”

“Well, stop thinking,” Greg said firmly. “I don’t know what could hurt you more than to watch me being hurt. You’ve been sitting here for days watching me breathe. I can’t think how a whipping could be worse. I forgive you. Please give me the gift of forgiving yourself. I can’t stand to watch you tear yourself apart over this.”

Nick’s mouth dropped open but he didn’t speak. Greg was right, hearing his screams had been the worst pain that Nick had ever felt in his life.

“It still doesn’t seem like enough,” he said slowly.

Greg lowered himself carefully to the mattress. “Okay, you get to clean the toilet for a month then.”

Nick laughed. “You really hate that, don’t you?”

“I hate it worse when you do this. I’d gladly clean the toilet everyday rather than watch you torment yourself.”

Greg closed his eyes, his brows drawn together in pain.

“You need a painkiller?”

Greg nodded. When Nick brought them, Greg grabbed his boyfriend’s hand with surprising strength. “I mean it. You better have forgiven yourself by the next time I wake up or else.”

“Or else what?”

“You don’t want to know. I’m a very inventive and cruel Top,” Greg said with a forbidding frown that was slightly undermined by the giggle that followed. “Anyway, you just want some pain to take your mind off your real punishment. It doesn’t work that way. Punishment hurts. Then your sins are forgiven. Get over it.”

“Just that easy?”

“If you really need something more, I will supply it for you. If the guilt is still eating away, you don’t need to ask Lady Heather for atonement.”

“Thank you,” Nick said in a very subdued voice. Greg sounded very serious and suddenly Nick wondered if he would really be happy with what he was asking for. There was no doubt whatsoever in his mind that Greg would be able to follow through. He knew he could hand his emotions over to Greg and his boyfriend would do his best to give him the relief he was looking for.

He slipped onto the bed next to Greg, who pushed at his arm. Nick opened his arms and Greg crawled up onto his body, cushioning his head on his boyfriend’s shoulder with a tired sigh. Nick was happy to lie there and be a pillow for Greg; he was too frightened of hurting him to hold him, but he needed the physical closeness right now.

“There’s counselling.”

“Now that’s punishment.” Nick looked at his boyfriend curiously. “Are you going to go?”

Greg nodded, his face beginning to relax. “You can come with me,” he said, without opening his eyes.

“I’ll think about it.”

~*~

At first Greg wobbled unsteadily as he clung to Nick for support while walking to the bathroom. His back was stiff and sore, and it tweaked him when he least expected it for quite minor movements.

Three days after his ordeal, he demanded his jeans. He found that one of Nick’s worn flannel shirts was soft enough that he could bear it on his back. He was steadier on his feet by then and followed Nick into the kitchen to join Lady Heather for breakfast. Automatically, Greg turned the chair backwards and straddled it, propping his chin on the backrest.

“That’s a good idea, Greg. Leftover from your previous injury?” Lady Heather asked.

“Yeah, it’s easier on the back,” Greg smiled. “Thank you for taking care of us, Lady Heather.”

“It’s been my pleasure, Greg. I’ve enjoyed getting to know both of you.”

Greg nodded, touched that Lady Heather would say that. “I mean it, though. Without your training, I’m not sure I would have made it through. I wanted to make Nick proud, but I… I… couldn’t help…”

“You did make him proud, Greg, and you made me proud also. Don’t worry about it now. Just concentrate on getting better.”

Nick brought Greg coffee and they smiled at each other. Lady Heather noticed that Nick seemed much more centred and wondered what Greg had said to stop the consuming guilt that had been swamping him.

“Um, Nick, is everyone at work…?”

“All they know is that we were doing an undercover job and we both got hurt. No one knows how or why, except for Archie and Warrick.”

“God, then Jacqui knows,” Greg said despairingly.

“Grissom made Archie promise…” Nick offered hopefully.

“You don’t know Jacqui. There’s one woman I never want to see with a whip in her hand,” Greg pouted. “She’s like… psychic or something.”

“She won’t tell anyone else, will she?”

“No, she never does.” Greg brightened up. “She won’t tease me about this either. I guess it’s okay. I just don’t like people picturing…”

Lady Heather said gravely, “Not something you can control. Let it go.”

“You’re right,” Greg nodded. Nick watched, fascinated, as Greg’s eyes cleared and he appeared to enjoy his coffee. Clearly he still had something to learn in the area of acceptance. Greg had him beat there hands down.

“When are you thinking of going home?” Lady Heather asked.

“The end of the week,” Greg answered. “Thank you for–”

“You already thanked me,” Lady Heather said. “Consider it part of my apology for allowing you two to be hurt. I’ve enjoyed having you here.”

“Oh, you’ll see us again,” Greg grinned engagingly. “You’re not getting rid of us so easily.”

“I hope so, I consider you both a part of my family now.”

“So we can come to your den of iniquity for free then?”

Lady Heather laughed. “Absolutely.”

~*~

His first day back at work wasn’t as bad as Greg had feared. He had to move slowly and he couldn’t last through his entire shift but at least he’d made it to work. He’d taken a nap in the break room at lunch, lying face down on the couch and finally had to leave a couple hours early.

Nick had thoughtfully bought him a sheepskin pad for his car, and if he stuck to one lane and drove carefully, it really didn’t hurt all that much.

Nick’s cast made his injury evident to everyone. When questioned, Greg merely said he’d wrenched his back and as he moved with the brittle care of someone with a bad back, no one thought to question him. Warrick and Archie were carefully casual around him, but at least they didn’t touch him. He’d never realized how many people patted him on the back or put their arms around him until he had to dodge them. Maybe Nick was right; he always claimed that people couldn’t resist touching him.

Jacqui had definitely wormed the story out of Archie. He almost thought about planning an obscure and torturous revenge for his fellow labrat, but gave it up when he realized that Archie would have had to be Vulcan to withstand Jacqui’s evil wiles.

She’d come into his lab but didn’t touch him. “Greg, I’m very sorry you got hurt. I’m impressed though, you did good.”

“I don’t know about that,” Greg shrugged.

“If you ever need to talk…”

“Thanks, Jacqui, I’ll bear it in mind.”

She left him alone then, and he was grateful. The more he thought about it, the worse he felt. He couldn’t see how Nick could see him as a man, as an equal, when he’d witnessed Greg on his knees, taking commands from strangers and finally tied to a post and whipped.

When he arrived at home he was too tired to brood. He unbuttoned his shirt and shook it off his arms, stripped off his jeans and crawled into bed, lying on his stomach. He was too tired to even have a nightmare.

Both of them were exempt from doubles while they healed, even in an emergency, so Nick was only two hours behind Greg. He picked up the discarded clothing and tossed it onto a chair, closing the curtains. He turned on the nightlight he’d put in the bathroom, hoping that if Greg had nightmares, he’d be reassured by waking in the dim light.

When he joined Greg in bed, his boyfriend’s eyes were open. Nick smiled and kissed him lightly. “Need a painkiller?”

“No, doesn’t hurt.”

“What hurts then?”

“How do you know something hurts?”

“I know you, I can tell. Something in your eyes.”

Greg nodded. “Do you… do you still… when you look at me, do you…”

“I see you as a man, my equal,” Nick said firmly.

“How can you?” Greg burst out. “Don’t you remember when I was hanging off that post–”

“Shh, baby, don’t. You’re a man, you’re my man.”

Greg sighed. “I just… I don’t know, just want… something.”

“Take it back.”

“What?”

“Take it back, don’t let them have it.”

Greg’s eyes lit with sudden understanding. “I never gave it to them, I gave it to you.”

“Take it back,” Nick urged. He rolled onto his stomach and raised his butt in the air, wiggling it provocatively. “Fuck me.”

Greg leaned over and gently bit one of Nick’s buttocks. “Wouldn’t you like a little foreplay first or should I just dive in?”

“Dive right in,” Nick invited with a grin, but Greg could see the longing in his eyes.

“Save that thought, babe. I’d like to give it to you rough if that’s how you want it, but I just can’t right now. My back…”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t think–”

“Shhh,” Greg quieted Nick with a soft kiss. “It’s okay, we’re okay.”

“Just a little worse for wear and tear,” Nick smiled.

“Can you get on your side facing me?” Greg asked.

Nick complied and shivered as Greg ran his hand lightly down his chest, leaving a trail of fire wherever he touched. Nick tucked his cast under the pillow and leaned his head on his arm, watching as Greg slowly explored him.

“We haven’t made love in a week,” Greg said.

“I know. It sucks when we can’t.”

“We just have to take it slow.”

“I can do slow,” Nick smiled.

Greg moved closer, pressing his chest against Nick’s, savouring the feel of the hard body next to his. He slid his hand slowly over the other man’s back; it was smooth and muscular under his hand, reassuringly warm and alive. It grounded him. After a week of pain and turmoil it was a relief to let go of everything and just focus on Nick.

Nick’s eyes were half open, deep brown, with gold flecks in their depths, full of love and pain.

Greg kissed Nick and it was slow and lush, as if he was discovering his lover all over again, just by tasting him. He licked Nick’s lower lip before sliding his tongue inside. For a while it was enough to simply lie in each other’s arms and kiss as if there was no tomorrow and no world outside their door, waiting to judge.

Greg ran a hand down his lover’s warm bare skin, tracing a line in the furrow of his leg and torso. He backed his hips away to feather his fingers over the erection that had been urgently demanding attention by stabbing him in the stomach.

“Why Nicholas Stokes, what have we here?”

“I’m just… enthusiastic, that’s all.”

“I love your enthusiasm,” Greg said softly, “And I love you.”

“I love you too, more than you’ll ever know.” For a moment Nick just clung to Greg with his good arm, so thankful that they were alive and together.

Greg continued to stroke his lover and the gentle touch aroused Nick, making his hips start to move with blind instinct. He put his leg over Greg’s, pulling him closer until their erections met, sliding against each other. He arched into the younger man when he felt the hand on his ass, following the swelling curve.

“I need you inside me, Greg, need you bad,” Nick whispered. “Let me…”

Greg released him and watched as Nick opened the drawer. Greg took the condom from his boyfriend and tore open the packet while he watched Nick kneel, reaching behind himself to prepare himself. A slight wince announced the moment he penetrated himself and his cock jerked as he rocked his hips slightly, working his fingers in his tight channel.

Greg’s breath came quicker as he watched his magnificent boyfriend fuck himself on his fingers, knowing how eager Nick was for him. He rolled the condom onto himself and then Nick stroked him, coating him with lube. Greg bit his lip, trying to keep from coming on the spot.

“How do you want me?” Nick asked, his eyes darkened with desire.

“On your side, face away from me. Spooning,” Greg managed.

Nick manoeuvred himself into position, backing himself up to Greg, groaning as he felt the younger man’s hot organ sliding in the crease between his buttocks.

Greg felt Nick’s entire body quiver involuntarily as he slowly flexed his hips. He positioned his cock at his lover’s entrance, moaning at the sensation of pushing through the slight resistance of Nick’s muscles.

Both men sighed with contentment. As tight muscles clenched around him, Greg rocked his hips, working himself gently inside Nick.

“God, Greg, that feels incredible, fuck me… please…”

Nick felt helpless, his good arm was under him and he couldn’t reach back with his cast to hold Greg to him. He pushed his ass back with greater force, trying to pull Greg deeper inside. He wanted to be consumed and offered himself up to his lover’s pleasure. It didn’t matter right then whether he came or not, what he needed more than release was this reaffirmation of the bond between them and to reassure Greg.

“Oh, that spot, do it again…” Nick moaned as Greg angled to hit his prostate with every thrust. “So good, so good, baby. Only you, only ever been you…”

Greg could feel his orgasm building fast and reached for Nick’s cock. If ever he wanted them to come together, this was the time. Nick was hard as a rock and Greg slid his hand over the solid length, twisting over the head with every pass.

He thrust harder now, deeper, almost frantic with the desire to plant his seed deeply inside, mark Nick as his own and claim him, knowing that Nick needed this too. He rotated his hips as he sank himself deeply inside, his movements almost desperate.

He could tell by the gasps and moans that Nick was close and the cock in his hand swelled as he twisted his wrist, stroking firmly and then the older man was crying out, clenching down almost painfully around Greg’s shaft. The final spasm sent Greg over the edge and he came with a strangled groan, blacking out for a second with the intensity of his release.

The quivering of Nick’s body pulled him back to reality and Greg kissed the back of his lover’s neck. “Let it out, babe, it’s okay.” He held Nick tight, crossing his hand over the older man’s chest and pulling him back against his own.

Nick tried to keep it inside but finally gave up as the tears came faster. He sobbed uncontrollably for several minutes, trying not to howl.

“Breathe, Nicky, breathe for me,” Greg soothed. “Come on, take a breath.”

Nick took a deep shuddering breath and gave a shaky laugh. “Sorry for the meltdown.”

“Don’t be, it’s okay.” Greg started to pull out and Nick jerked his hips back.

“Stay. Stay inside me.”

Greg settled back and held Nick close, listening as their breathing synchronized and his boyfriend’s body relaxed.

“I was so afraid,” Nick whispered.

“It’s over. We’re okay,” Greg responded.

“I was so afraid I was going to lose you.”

“I know, it’s okay, baby.”

They lay together in silence, relishing their closeness and safety.

“I’m crazy about you.”

“Oh, Nick, who do you think you’re kidding. You love me. And I love you.”

Nick was startled. “Have you been eavesdropping in your sleep?”

Greg chuckled. “No, I pretend to be asleep so I can hear you say it.”

“I do love you, more than I’ve ever loved another person,” Nick said bravely. “I’m not sure I even knew what love was until I… fell in love with you.”

Greg’s heart soared with happiness at this declaration. “I never loved anyone before you. I know it’s scary, but it’s also kinda great, isn’t it?”

“I never knew how much you meant to me until I thought they were going to take you away from me,” Nick rambled. “You’re mine, and I’m yours and that’s the way it’s going to be.”

“Forever.”

“Yeah.”


~*~

“Hi Greg.”

“Hi Margaret.”

The tall grey-haired woman leaned forward and handed Greg a box of tissues. “I haven’t seen you in a while, Greg. What brings you here?”

“It’s hard to talk about,” Greg said. He bit his lip and blinked. He hated crying and he told himself he wasn’t going to. He pulled his feet up and huddled cross-legged on the couch.

“Take your time. Tell me how I can help.” She leaned back in her leather chair, her gaze kind as she watched her young client.

There was a long silence and finally Greg sighed.

“Anything wrong between you and Nick?”

“No, actually, we went through it together and if anything, we’re closer.”

“That’s good to hear, Greg. Why don’t you begin at the beginning and we’ll make sense of it together.”

Greg drew a deep breath. “Okay, it started off as an ordinary day…”



The end.

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