“So how come you didn’t end up playing for the Texas Rangers instead of the Vegas CSIs,” Greg asked.|
Nick flicked a glance his way as he turned into the parking lot at the recreation center where they were playing today, to check if Greg was teasing him. “I told you, I liked law enforcement better, I wanted to be a cop.”
“Were you that good?”
“They sent out a scout, John Cole, to speak to me, asked if I wanted to come down and check out the team,” Nick replied. “I’ve told you this before, G.”
Greg’s hand ran up his thigh and Nick consciously made an effort to control himself as Greg entered dangerous territory. This was no time to get hard. “Are you going to hit a home run for me today?”
“I’ll do my best, boss.” Nick threw it in park and turned to pick up his bat from the back seat. He used it to snag the handles of his sports bag and dragged it over to the front. “Got your glove?”
“Right here.” Greg punched the pocket of his brand new glove, a gift from Nick when they formed up the team. He’d encouraged Greg to try out despite his doubts, knowing he’d never had the opportunity to play any team sport growing up.
Greg caressed the smooth leather, soft from religious oiling. “I hope I do okay today. What if I get nervous and drop the ball?”
“Pick it up and throw it,” Nick advised him with a chuckle. “If you stand around worrying about it, the opponent can extend their play. We’ll get on your case about it later. Once you get razzed by an entire team, you never make the same mistake twice.”
“That is so not reassuring,” Greg mumbled, following his partner over to the benches where everyone was stacking their stuff. “Everybody makes fun of me enough as it is.”
Nick snuck a quick look around to see if the coast was clear and patted him on the ass. “Good luck. You’ll do great. Just remember to keep breathing and when in doubt throw to the pitcher.”
“Okay.” Greg’s grin was dazzling as he settled his cap over his spiky hair, cramming it down ruthlessly.
Nick had to laugh, watching him. Greg had spent over an hour, virtually arranging each spike individually and now he just smashed it all down. No doubt later, depending on his success, he’d complain about hat hair.
Nick sat down to change into his cleats. Out of habit, he knocked each foot with the bat, even though there wasn’t any mud stuck in them. And likely there wouldn’t be; Vegas was a lot dryer than Austin.
Warrick ambled up and clapped Nick on the shoulder. “How’s the star player?”
Modestly Nick answered, “I’m no star. You’re just as good.”
“No I’m not,” Warrick said cheerfully. “Boxing, I can take you any day of the week. Basketball, no contest. But baseball is all yours.”
“Well, I hope I hold up my end today,” Nick said. He’d boasted to Greg so often about his team in college, he wanted to play well and show his partner that he really had been a good player. He had no illusions about his current level of play. He prided himself in keeping fit, but you had to play regularly to be a top player.
Greg sidled up to them and nudged Nick. “Hey, Warrick. Nick, look at the guts on the cops! We’re going to cream them.”
Listening to his partner’s exultant laugh, Nick smiled at him affectionately. “Maybe you’ll get a home run too.”
By the bottom of the seventh, Greg was bored, waiting on the bench for his turn. Nick always batted third, their fail-safe position. If the opposite team managed to get the first two batters out, he could generally get a run and keep them in the game, which meant that Greg hadn’t yet had a turn at bat. And in the outfield where he’d been put to keep him out of the way, more or less, there wasn’t much action.
The cops showed signs of living up to their reputation for liking donuts but they played a solid game. The score was two all.
Greg jumped as his name was called. He gripped his bat nervously, hoping it wouldn’t fly out of his hands when he swung at the ball. Nick made it look so easy, but he’d taken Greg to the batting cages with mediocre results. In fact, once Greg had even beaned Nick with a fly ball*.
Nick came up to him ostensibly to rap his hat, making sure he had the hard plastic one on, but he winked at Greg and whispered, “Go get them, babe. Home run!”
Greg rolled his eyes and walked to home plate, sticking his butt out in that way that made him feel ridiculous, even though Nick had assured him that it made his ass look taut and delectable. Hands up, elbows out, squint at the ball, swing and… miss.
By a mile.
Greg swung so vigorously, he practically did a 360° and almost ended up on his butt. He managed to stay on his feet, gripping the bat with more determination. He could hear his coworkers yelling encouragement behind him. Except for Sara, she was laughing her ass off. The calls died down and he distinctly heard her say something about the chess club president.
That’s when Greg saw red. The ball curved through the air, almost as if it was coming toward him in slow motion. He had time to think, ‘this must be what Nick meant about a curve ball’ before he hit it. The bat made a weird thunk as it connected and he drove it straight at the pitcher. Well, sort of.
Without pausing to see where the ball went, Greg dropped his bat and scrambled for first base, pumping his arms.
Nick caught his breath watching him. Not only had Greg actually managed to connect with the ball, but he just liked watching him run with the slender grace of a new colt and all the youthful enthusiasm that came with it.
In spite of Greg’s optimism, his line drive died halfway to the pitcher, dropping to the ground. The pitcher danced around, positioning himself to catch it on the bounce, but the ball hit a gopher hole and came up at a sharp angle, catching him on the funny bone. He howled and bent over while the ball continued to bounce along past him. The second baseman ran like hell to scoop it up.
“Run for second!” Nick screamed to Greg, dancing impotently behind the catcher. Greg heard him and looked up, startled. He gradually realised that Nick was waving for him to run, so he did, just as the second baseman threw the ball to first. He would have had Greg out, except he overthrew it and the first baseman was so flustered he let it go over his head and had to chase it down in the weeds.
By that time Greg had made second, and stopped, huffing for air. The first baseman ran for second, remembering that his teammate was out of position. However the second baseman was on his way back and they collided, knocking the ball out of the first baseman’s hand.
The CSIs were all on their feet, screaming for Greg to run for third. He searched frantically for Nick, who nodded, making huge unmistakable windmill motions with his arms to urge him along. His mouth was open, but Greg couldn’t hear him, so he took a deep breath and hoped he was doing the right thing. Greg took off, remembering that Nick told him if he could make third, try for home base unless he called him off.
The catcher ran onto the field, chasing down the ball dribbling away from him. He turned and threw it in one motion. Unfortunately he turned too fast and let it fly in the wrong direction, to the outfielder between second and third. The outfielder lost the ball in the sun and when it fell in his glove, he dropped it, letting it bounce away from him, where it lodged in a tumbleweed.
Nick was almost frantic by now. “Home! Run for home!”
The catcher heard him and raced Greg for home. Nick couldn’t remember if he’d explained sliding into base to Greg, but it was a moot point, because the catcher slid in just before him and Greg had leap over him to avoid trampling him, looking like a gangly long jumper. His lead foot came down on the home plate, and he remembered to drag his second foot on the bag before he lost his balance, rolling forward in a somersault, a tangle of long arms and legs in a cloud of dust.
The outfielder threw to the pitcher, who turned and threw it to the catcher but it was too late; Greg had his home run.
Nick dove for him, hugging him in front of the world and everyone. “You did it! You got a home run!”
He didn’t care about the game so much as the look of confused joy on Greg’s face.
The next inning the CSIs were up to bat, they were at the top of the rotation again. Warrick batted first. He liked to go first because as he explained, “I have the intimidation factor. I’m tall, I’m big and I’m black. They always give up at least a couple of runs to me.”
He was soon standing on first with a line drive, considerably more accomplished than Greg’s.
Catherine was up next. She played tennis and could be depended on for a base hit. She didn’t pack much strength behind the bat, but she always hit the ball, no matter what they threw at her. She achieved a respectable base hit and landed on first, with Warrick advancing to second.
Nick stepped up to bat. He knocked his cleats with the bat again; it was one of those rituals he’d picked up in college. His left foot felt a little weird when he hit it and he looked at his shoe. Nothing unusual.
He took up his stance. First pitch was a ball. Second pitch was low, hitting the dirt in front of home plate. The catcher fell on his stomach practically on Nick’s feet, trying to catch it. ‘Third one is the charm,’ Nick thought.
The third pitch was a beauty, right in his kill zone. Perfect height, perfect speed. The impact shivered up Nick’s arms to his shoulders as the bat cracked satisfyingly against the ball. It flew up in a perfect flight path, perfectly positioned to come down near the fence if not clear it. ‘That’s for you, G,’ he thought gleefully.
Warrick was pumping for home, Catherine lagging slightly behind him.
“Fucking move, Cath,” Nick muttered between his teeth as he gained speed and ran for first. He didn’t want to mow her over on his way home and the way she was trotting along it was a possibility.
Nick knew how to run; it had come in handy a couple of times running down suspects. His feet slapped the ground and he huffed in concentrated breaths. He saw only the bases; first, second, third and rounding the curve to home, he sprinted as fast as he could, coming across the plate with his hands raised in triumph.
“Look at you two, heroes of the game,” Sara said to Greg.
He scowled at her. “I distinctly heard a smart-ass remark about people who were presidents of their high school chess clubs while I was up at bat,” he said sternly. “As far as I know, no one else here has that claim to fame, other than me.”
“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, Greg,” Sara said calmly. “You got a home run, but only by a technicality.”
“What technicality?” he asked indignantly. “I hit the ball, fair and square.”
“The technicality that the other team was a bunch of fumbling boobs,” she cracked.
Warrick leaned over her to say, “That was a three stooges home run if I ever saw one.”
“It was a mess,” Catherine agreed.
Nick kicked Greg’s leg gently under the table. “Still a home run,” he smirked. “Notice you didn’t make one, Rick.” He rotated his ankle, feeling the weird twinge in his left foot return.
Greg jubilantly declared, “The next round is on me!”
“Good thing we’re drinking pop, big spender,” Sara said sarcastically, but she smiled at him.
Nick reached over to shut off the alarm, looking affectionately at Greg, lying on his stomach, head buried under the pillow. Greg was not a morning person, no matter when morning was for them.
He swung his legs out of bed and stood up. Then he fell heavily to the floor as a stab of pain sliced up his leg from his foot.
A tousled head poked over the edge of the bed. Greg’s eyes were barely open but he looked worried. “Are you okay?”
Nick recalled making an effort not to limp when they arrived home from the game the previous evening. He knew that limping threw strain onto other parts of your body, which just led to worse aches and pains. Besides, it was nothing but a little bruise.
“Yeah, I’m fine, G. Just lost my balance.”
Greg’s brows drew together and his morning fog seemed to lift. “I’ve never seen you lose your balance, Nick, you’re an athlete.”
Nick pulled himself up, resting his weight on the good foot, and smiling down at his partner. “Thanks for the vote of confidence, but even athletes have their off moments.” He turned to go to the bathroom, and gasped as he put weight on his foot. He caught himself on the nightstand. “Fuck.”
“What is it?” Greg bolted out of the bed to grab him, wearing only his Simpsons boxers. He’d explained to Nick that it was his way of celebrating his home run and pointed to Homer Simpson’s face, positioned on his right ass cheek to drive the point home.
“I must have bruised my foot. Maybe I stepped on a rock,” Nick said, trying to convince himself. He held his left foot in the air and flexed the toes up and down.
Dubiously watching this exercise, Greg said, “Well, if it was broken, you probably couldn’t do that.”
“I’ll be fine,” Nick assured him.
“Want help to the bathroom?”
“I think I can make it, G, it’s less than five feet away.”
Greg was filling the coffee maker when he heard Nick fall again, cursing loudly. He dropped the coffee scoop, scattering the grounds across the counter as he ran for the bathroom.
“I don’t need to go to the emergency room!” Nick sat with his arms crossed, sulking as Greg drove him to the hospital.
“Look, when I was injured, you want to carry me everywhere, be happy I’m only making you go to the doctor,” Greg scolded.
“You broke a bone!” Nick protested.
“My arm! I did not need to be carried,” Greg shot back. “Besides, you’ve fallen twice this morning already. Even if it’s just a sprain, wouldn’t you rather know?”
“No,” said Nick frankly. “Whatever it is, it’ll heal eventually.”
“Or it’ll get worse if you don’t do the right thing for it.”
“Like you would go to the hospital if it weren’t–” Nick stopped and swallowed, remembering that fire and explosion were not words likely to sit well with his partner. “If I didn’t force you,” he ended lamely.
“Exactly!” Greg said triumphantly. “And now it’s my turn. And you’re going if I have to twist your arm.”
“I’d like to see you try,” Nick growled.
“Don’t tempt me,” Greg growled in return.
“This shoe… thing… sucks.”
Greg watched Nick slowly rock from one foot to the other as he limped awkwardly to the exit. “At least you’re not in a cast.”
“I look like a dork,” Nick grumbled.
“You could never look like a dork,” Greg said. “Hell, you’re even hotter in glasses. Not many people can make that claim.”
Nick puffed out his chest a little under his partner’s adoring gaze. “Maybe I’m not a dork to you, but Warrick will never let me live this down.”
“It’s a stress fracture, Nicky. You need to keep your weight off it. That means no going in the field, no running after suspects, no standing for hours in the layout room.”
“What can I do?” Nick asked.
“Anything sitting down,” Greg said firmly. It wasn’t often that Greg put his foot down, but when he did, Nick knew better than to disobey. Besides, his partner was holding the paperwork from the doctor. Once Grissom found out, Nick knew he’d be confined to the lab. He sighed and resigned himself to three or four weeks of riding a microscope.
Two days later, Nick was sitting in the bathroom, screwing his fists into his eyes, trying not to let Greg hear him cry. He sat on the lid of the toilet, because he was afraid that if he sat on the edge of the tub, he might not be able to get up. From the toilet, he could grab the sink and pull himself to his feet.
It wasn’t the physical pain; that he could deal with.
He just felt so… helpless. Disabled. Powerless.
He hated it. Hated it.
Hated Greg waiting on him, bringing him the ice pack for his foot, serving him drinks, making whatever he wanted to eat, helping him out of his chair, insisting he put his foot up when he sat down. Greg had even contrived a little tent thing to keep the blankets off his foot when he was in bed.
He hated it when Greg held out his hand to help him. Hated having to take his hand. Hated needing the help.
Nick had taken to waiting until Greg was out of the room to haul himself up out of his chair just so there would be no one hovering over him, waiting for him to fall. Or limp.
For the first time in his life, he felt old. He was limping around, but trying not to limp. He’d forget the doctor’s instructions and walk at his usual pace, only to pay for it later, when pain blazed along the affected bone, isolating it from the rest of his bones with agony.
All his working out, all his cardiovascular fitness meant nothing in the face of one tiny bone that was not cooperating!
He drew back his fist to punch the wall, but controlled himself. He didn’t want to scare Greg. He didn’t want to break another fucking bone.
There was a discreet knock on the door. “You ready?”
“For what?” Nick dug his knuckles into his temples. Greg didn’t deserve that. It came out kind of… strong. But what the fuck could he be ready for? He couldn’t do anything.
“To go to the gym. Aren’t you coming?”
Nick gritted his teeth to control himself. This wasn’t Greg’s fault. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. It was just one of those things. “What the fuck am I supposed to do at the gym?”
“Let me in, Nicky.”
Quickly rubbing his eyes on the hand towel, Nick grabbed a wad of toilet paper and blew his nose. He could hear Greg fiddling with the door and reached over to unlock it.
Greg went to his knees in front of him, rubbing Nick’s thighs. “Hey.”
“I’m okay, Greg, I’m just…”
“You’re still my hero,” Greg said softly.
“Don’t–! Don’t– patronize me, Greg!”
Nick bowed his head, unable to look Greg in the eye after his outburst. He felt his partner’s hands on his forearms, stroking him gently.
“What brought this on?” Greg asked patiently.
“What am I supposed to do at the gym, watch you lift?” Nick was appalled at the whiny note in his voice, but he couldn’t seem to stop himself, he was too close to the edge of tears. “Sit on my ass and cheer when you do three sets of squats?”
Greg leaned up and captured Nick’s face between his hands. “No, you asshole, you’re going to work out with me.”
“How the fuck am I going to do that sitting fucking down?”
“When I did physical therapy, after the burns, you helped me find a way. And besides, for a bunch of the machines you have to sit down anyway. You’ll see, you’ll be doing a lot. I’ll train you.”
“Like a dog?” Nick was starting to feel a little better, just having Greg touching him soothed him, but he clung to his grievance.
“You want me to whack you on the nose with a rolled up newspaper if you disobey me?” Greg sniggered.
“Sometimes you scare me, G. Liquid latex, foam parties. You never got over meeting Lady Heather, did you?”
“Well, you have to admit there’s something sexy about–”
“All right! We’ll go to the gym, just no newspapers.”
Greg kissed him tenderly. “You’ll see, I’ll be really evil and you’ll be all cut and shredded when I’m through with you.”
“Okay, you win,” Nick capitulated. Hell, with Greg along, at least he’d have a good time.
Two hours later, Nick was both thrashed and impressed with his partner’s inventiveness.
He sat on a weight bench, his elbows on his knees, hands dangling between his legs, panting for air. “Where the fuck did you learn that?” he gasped.
“Internet,” Greg said. He was doing bicep curls while keeping a watchful eye on Nick. “Enough cardio for you?”
“That was worse than running five miles,” Nick panted. He picked up his towel and wiped a drop of sweat glistening on his skin as it ran down his neck to his chest. He smirked as Greg’s eyes followed his movement, his tongue wetting his lips unconsciously.
“If you keep your arms at heart level or higher continuously for fifteen minutes, you’re supposed to get as good a work out as running on a treadmill,” Greg recited virtuously. “Punching is even better.”
“I can’t do pushups,” Nick whined. “I can’t prop myself on my toes.”
“Stop focusing on what you can’t do and find something you can do,” Greg advised him calmly. “Prop your shins up on the weight bench so you’re tilted down toward the floor.”
“God, you are smart,” Nick said under his breath. He maneuvered around until his legs were comfortably braced, with no chance of slipping onto his foot. Tentatively, he planted his hands on the floor and shifted his weight forward. To his delight, it worked.
Greg smiled inwardly as he watched the muscles flex in Nick’s already buffed out arms. He thought Nick could easily have taken a week off. Hell, two! It wasn’t as if his muscles would melt away, but Greg knew that without working out, Nick would feel like he was losing his identity. He’d made it his business to search out a variety exercises that could be done without flexing a foot, just to keep Nick occupied for the length of his recovery.
After three sets of twenty pushups, Nick was sweating but he was smiling.
“What’s next, boss?”
“How about some curls. What weight do you want?”
Without thinking about the fact that he was voluntarily asking Greg to bring him something for the first time since he got hurt, Nick said, “Fifty, to start. Thanks, G.”
Working out had made Nick feel a whole lot better and the ride home was definitely more cheerful than the ride to the gym earlier.
Greg carried both their bags inside the house, leaving Nick to follow at his own pace in the awkward rocking gait that the corrective shoe forced on him.
Impatiently, Nick hastened his steps, thinking, ‘I feel like an old man shuffling along behind Greg. He’s younger than me, what happens when we get older and he gets tired of this and I can’t keep up?’ The future he pictured was ludicrous, but intolerable and he hurried along, feeling the strain of his violent gait spread over his entire body. He knew he should be walking slower, but he couldn’t seem to stop himself.
He looked up to find Greg frowning at him in the doorway. “Slow down, Nick, for cripes sake! Are you trying to bust the other foot?”
Sheepishly Nick slowed his pace but he felt so frustrated that he burst out, “I hate this!”
Greg hurried to him and slipped his arm around Nick’s waist. “I know, baby, I know. Let’s just take it slow and get you into the house.”
He felt Nick’s muscles tighten up as he tried to pull out of Greg’s hold. “Nick, talk to me.”
Nick reached out for the door jamb, using it to pull himself along illegally fast, hoping to get inside because he felt the tears sting his eyes and didn’t want to start crying where the neighbours could see. “I just– I’m up, I’m down. This just fucking sucks!”
Greg closed the door behind them and pulled Nick into his arms. “Lean on me, babe,” he said quietly.
“I’m tired of leaning on you,” Nick muttered rebelliously.
“I meant your foot, lean your weight against me if you’re not gonna sit down right away,” Greg said firmly.
“Oh,” Nick said weakly. It was difficult to yield to his impulse to simply give in, rest his head on Greg’s shoulder and let go. It felt wrong.
Greg waited, stroking Nick’s back, without saying a word. As always, Nick responded more quickly to physical comfort than to words, no matter how sympathetic. Greg felt the resistance melt from his partner’s muscles and finally Nick relaxed against him.
“Baby, I know it’s hard, but I don’t love you for your perfect body, and believe me, it’s incredible that I’m even saying that because your body is pretty damn perfect.”
“Greg, you’re babbling.”
“Yeah, and you love it,” Greg retorted. “Look, I wasn’t very pleasant company after the burns, but you never complained, you were always patient with me. Some days were good, some, not so good.”
Nick thought back to the not-so-good days and tightened his arms around Greg, holding onto him as if by doing so he could take away even the memory of the pain his partner had endured. “This is nothing, compared to what you went through,” he mumbled, feeling a little ashamed of himself for getting so upset over a simple stress fracture. Fuck, it wasn’t as if the bone was sticking through his skin.
“It’s not nothing, Nicky. You’re not used to being out of control, to being unable to move however you want. I understand that it’s frustrating.” Greg’s voice sharpened then. “But you are going to obey the doctor’s orders and you’re going to obey mine. No more fucking around. I saw you out there, throwing your weight around. You’re going to fuck something up big time if you keep doing that.”
“Yes, sir.” Nick managed a little smile.
Greg supported him to his easy chair, pulling the footstool into position and raising Nick’s leg onto it. “There are plenty of things you can do sitting down, as I think I proved so expertly at the gym.”
Nick caught at his hand. “I can think of another,” he said hopefully, staring up at Greg. “If you were to lose those pants…”
Greg laughed. “After I make dinner.”
“I want to eat now,” Nick complained, his dimples quivering in his cheeks.
“I guess dinner can wait. Dessert first,” Greg said, weakening, and stripped his pants down his long legs.
Nick pulled him closer. “Straddle me,” he ordered briefly, cupping Greg’s cheeks in his palms to pull him closer.
Dinner was a naked affair, and considerably later than usual. A simple blow job had turned into a far longer encounter, during which Greg proved to Nick that a good man didn’t always need to stand on his own two feet.
In fact, a good man was able to manage a great many positions, even with a bum foot. Nick ended up on his back, moaning with sheer pleasure by the time Greg was done with him. He lay there gasping for breath while Greg rubbed his stomach gently.
“Feel better now?”
“Oh yeah. Certain parts of me feel a lot better,” Nick murmured. “Your parts felt really good too. When can we do that thing again? You know, with your tongue?”
“In the morning?” Greg yawned and stretched. “I need food if I’m going to be your sex slave for the foreseeable future.”
“You are, and I can foresee a long future for us,” Nick said, pulling him down for a kiss.
After a week, Nick had just about had it with the awkward corrective shoe he had to wear, although he didn’t dare say so to Greg, who made sure that he was wearing it whenever he left the house.
When Greg was safely out of the way in the kitchen making dinner, Nick took off the shoe and stood up, bouncing a little to test his healing. It hurt, but he limped around the room quietly, thinking, ‘that didn’t feel so bad.’
He hurried back to the chair and strapped the shoe on, hoping that Greg hadn’t noticed.
The next morning, he woke up in agony. His foot felt like someone had jabbed an icepick into it, a flaming icepick. It burned as if it was on fire. The pain spread across the bridge of his foot and his heel ached from taking his weight.
He bit his lip as he slid his foot into the shoe, attaching the Velcro straps. As he stood up, he yelped with pain.
Greg’s head popped up off the pillow. “What are you doing now?” he demanded.
Nick grinned apologetically. “I think maybe I overdid it a little yesterday.”
Greg shook his head and flopped back onto his pillow. “I should have hired a babysitter to keep an eye on you.”
“It’s not getting better,” Nick shouted. He picked up his pillow and hurled it across the room, yelping as his weight caught the fracture in a bad spot.
Greg reached out and pulled Nick down onto the mattress. “It will get better. The doctor told you so.”
“It’s been a whole week,” Nick said despairingly.
Greg cuddled Nick, pulling his head down to his own shoulder. “You were right there when he said six weeks. Give it a little time.”
“It’s never going to heal! I’m going to be using a walker to get around,” Nick groaned stubbornly.
“Right. Everyone else will heal, except for you. All the laws of medicine have been suspended in your honour, so you can be a permanent gimp.”
“You think so?”
“Nick, I was being sarcastic, hoping you’d see how crazy you’re talking. You’re in better shape than ninety percent of the people in this country. You’ll heal, but only if you start taking better care of yourself.”
Nick sighed in resignation and settled into the protective circle of Greg’s arms. “All right, I’ll follow orders.”
“Now you’re talking!” Greg said cheerfully.
“You’re no fun. So if I tell you to bend over at work…?”
“No fooling around at work. We agreed.”
Grissom came into the break room, staring at the assignment slips in his hand. “Warrick, you and Nick, Henderson, B and E; Sara, you’re with me–”
“Um, Grissom,” Greg interrupted, “I’ll go with Warrick. Nick needs to rest his foot.”
“No, I don’t, Greg. I’m good to go,” Nick said, pulling himself to his feet.
“Excuse us for a moment,” Greg said. He grabbed Nick with a grip of iron and implacably hauled him from the room, closing the door behind them.
Warrick could see Nick’s lips moving as Greg towed him out of sight.
Warrick looked at Grissom. Sara exchanged glances with Catherine and tried to catch Grissom’s eye. He was still looking at Warrick with his mouth open. It annoyed Sara whenever Grissom had one of those moments of silent communion with Warrick, especially when she was trying to catch his attention.
Warrick smirked, placing a bet with himself as to how long Gil’s mouth would hang open. This time it was a record and he hastily revised his estimate upward. He had kept to his promise not to gamble in the casinos, but he had made huge, albeit imaginary sums, playing the odds with himself.
The door opened and Grissom shut his mouth.
Nick said, “I think I’ll pass, Grissom. I’ll stay in the lab and process. Greg can go with Warrick.
“Okay,” Grissom said, and handed the slip to Greg. He looked at Warrick. “Who won?”
“New record,” Warrick said with a shrug.
Greg sighed as Warrick unlocked the driver’s door of the Denali. He might have prevailed on Nick but no one else was ever going to let him drive. He wondered if anyone would notice if he rode in the back seat and took a nap but decided not to push his luck.
“How did you get Nick to smarten up?” Warrick asked.
“Threatened to stomp on his other foot,” Greg muttered.
“What did he do?” Warrick asked again, fascinated with that mental image.
“Yelped and shuffled backward.” Greg sighed. He hated having to pull rank when Nick was feeling so vulnerable, but he knew that in trying to keep up with Warrick, Nick would have strained everything and just injured himself again.
“Tough on you.”
Surprised, Greg looked at Warrick. “Not taking care of him, I love that. I hate that he’s beating himself up over something that wasn’t his fault.”
“How did it happen?”
“Overuse, the doctor said.” Greg stared through the windshield, suddenly needing to vent. “He feels helpless and he hates it. He’s so quick, you know? He’s used to moving around without having to think twice about taking a step. I bop around like a dork, but he always moves like an athlete. Now he can’t and he feels… powerless.”
“Nick can be a little impatient,” Warrick said righteously. “If you’re wondering, I think you did the right thing.”
“Thanks, Warrick.” He didn’t need the affirmation, but it made him feel better all the same.
Greg worried guiltily that by foisting himself onto Warrick, rather than allowing Nick to go along, that his inexperience was hindering the other man. He followed Warrick around, taking pictures and making notes, but Warrick did the bulk of the processing.
Greg had been practicing his print technique though, so Warrick put him to work on the sliders leading onto the back terrace. He was crouched on the floor by the open doors, staring at what he was doing when a man dressed in black with a stocking over his head bowled him over and sprinted for an exit.
“Warrick!” Greg yelled as he rolled backwards over his shoulder and up onto his feet.
Startled, Warrick turned, his hand going to his gun, to see a masked man heading right for him. He was stunned by the unexpected speed with which Greg pushed off the floor and hurled his body sideways into midair, catching the man behind the knees. The suspect’s knees buckled, sending them both to the floor. Greg rolled off him and Warrick brought the gun up, ordering the man to remain still.
All three of them breathed hard for a moment before Warrick grinned. “I’ll be damned.” He radioed for help while Greg sat cross-legged on the floor, catching his breath.
After the cops hauled the suspect away, Greg started packing his case.
“What’re you doing?”
“Well, they caught him,” Greg said. “Didn’t he just kind of prove the case against himself?”
“Greg, Greg, Greg. You haven’t been to court much yet,” Warrick said reprovingly. “He could confess to his mama, but once he gets lawyered up, they’ll say we attacked him while he was innocently loitering in the yard.”
“Yeah, I guess.” Greg sighed and surveyed his smeared door. At least he’d been wearing gloves so his prints wouldn’t be on it.
“Nice flying tackle,” Warrick said, chuckling as Greg’s face lit up. “Where’d you learn that?”
“Nick.” Greg smirked. “Sometimes it’s good to know how to take down a man bigger than me.”
Warrick laughed. “I better learn that trick because I’m going to tear Brass a new one until the uniforms learn to clear a place properly.”
“Thanks for not saying I told you so,” Nick said. “But next time maybe let Warrick take the guy down instead of tackling a suspect by yourself.”
“Hey, you would have done the same thing. You have done it.” Greg kept his eyes on the road, after one quick glance at Nick, but he didn’t seem really pissed. He had been enjoying being the one behind the wheel for once, but now he felt a little insecure. “So I’m supposed to turn to Warrick and say you’re on, big guy? Take it!”
“Well, he’s packing heat.”
“I am too!” Greg glared at his partner.
“I meant he carries a gun, G. He’s got a weapon.”
“I’ve got a weapon right here in my pants,” Greg insisted
“One that I’d prefer that you don’t show off to any suspects,” Nick ordered. “You were right,” he added in a small voice. “I wouldn’t have been able to do much if I’d come face to face with a suspect suddenly.”
“He wasn’t exactly a suspect, he was just a kid,” Greg disclaimed.
“Kid or not, he’d have bowled me over and there wouldn’t have been a thing I could have done about it,” Nick said ruefully.
“You could have smiled at him and blinded him with your charm,” Greg suggested.
Nick rolled his eyes, but he smiled, blinding Greg with his charm. “When we get home, can I go for a walk? I was so bored in the lab today.”
“No sympathy,” Greg growled. “You know how many times I got kicked back into the lab after my proficiency?”
“Yeah, I do.” Nick said, biting his lip.
“Look, Nicky, having a broken bone isn’t the measure of a man. Did my dick fall off when I broke my arm?”
Nick snorted with laughter. “Hardly. I didn’t think it was possible for you to get any hornier, but you proved me wrong.”
With a lopsided grin, Greg said, “I don’t remember hearing any complaints.”
“That’s because there weren’t any,” Nick retorted. “So are you planning to distract me with your sexual wiles?”
“If that’s what it takes.” Greg caught the slow smile of anticipation spread over Nick’s face. “You’re not a wimp because you have a stress fracture. I don’t find you any less desirable because of it. Got it?”
“Got it,” Nick agreed.
Six weeks later, Nick left the doctor’s office, wearing his regular athletic shoes. He wasn’t limping. Nothing hurt. Nothing burned. His feet were his own again.
He turned the radio on, dialing back to his favourite country station, now that Greg was no longer driving him around, and sang along, off tune but joyfully loud.
He felt free. It was so good to be mobile again, independent, and able to do whatever he wanted. Well, not everything yet. The doctor had warned him to build up slowly to his previous level of activity, and maybe take it easy on the softball for a while.
But he could walk a mile if he wanted. Hell, he could jog a mile, as long as he kept it moderate, the doctor had said.
He parked in the driveway, and walked into the house.
“Greg?” he yelled.
“Yeah?” came his partner’s voice from the back.
“Want to go for a walk?”
*Shout out to Kennedy_unknown’s story, Bad News Greg, which can be found here: