Passing Tests by Steph [Reviews - 4]

“Twenty-three years old?”

“Yes, sir,” Greg answers carefully.

“Twenty-three years old. Jesus Christ. I don’t think I could shit in a pot at twenty-three years old.”

Greg is man enough to admit that Detective Jim Brass scares the hell out of him. He sits there, behind his wide expanse of a desk glaring skeptically down at Greg.

“I’m sure you could,” Greg answers awkwardly.

“Whatever, kid,” Brass responds. “Look, I’ll be honest with you. I’m not too sure about this, but Grissom says you’re the best candidate for the job, so I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt here. CSI 3 Willows will show you around.”

Greg cranes his neck and sees a beautiful, dangerous-looking woman with short strawberry blonde hair standing just inside the doorway. Her lips are pressed in a thin line and her arms are crossed loosely over her chest. “Uhh…hi.”

She nods at him and then looks over his shoulder at Brass.

“What are you waiting for, kid? Get out of here.”

Greg jumps to his feet so fast he almost trips over them in his enthusiasm. “Right, thanks.” He makes it halfway to Willows before turning back around to Brass. “Who’s Grissom?”

Brass gives him a dry smile. “You’ll know him when you see him,” he promises, and looks down at the papers on his desk, an obvious dismissal.

Greg struggles to keep up with Willows’s breakneck pace as she expertly navigates the hallways. “So, Ms. Willows…” he starts, embarrassed to hear how labored his breathing sounds.

“Catherine,” she interrupts brusquely.

Well, that’s something, at least. “Catherine,” he amends. “How long have you worked here?”

“Five years. I’m going to need some of your blood.” She lifts her hand and waves the small black kit she’s holding.

Greg starts at the abrupt change in topic, and then lets reflex take over. “I don’t transfuse on the first date,” he says in a mockingly flirtatious voice.

Catherine rolls her eyes, but Greg’s used to this response in women so he’s not offended.

“Sure,” he says, and then sidesteps to avoid a harried man in a lab coat walking straight at him.

His eyes follow Lab Coat’s mad dash across the hall a moment, and when he looks back, he sees Catherine turn a corner. He changes course and follows her into a dim room full of lockers. A tall, lean guy with wild dread locks is folded on one of the benches lacing his boots in quick, economical movements. He glances up when the door closes behind Greg.

“This is the new guy,” Catherine says.

Suddenly, with blinding clarity akin to removing his sunglasses in Vegas at three in the afternoon, Greg realizes that this whole thing is test. And there’s a reason why he graduated with honors from Stanford University. He never fails a test.

“Greg Sanders,” he greets, extending his hand.

The other man rises from the bench and grasps it in a brief shake. “Warrick Brown.” His voice is a deep, smooth baritone and his body towers over Greg’s. Warrick glances at Catherine. “Did you get his blood?”

“I’m trying,” Catherine responds, a note of exasperation in her voice.

Greg sticks his arm out in front of her. She unzips her kit and grips his wrist without comment. He forces himself to remain impassive as the needle breaks his skin. Catherine fills up a small vial and then stops, removing the needle and placing a beige band-aid over his wound. She casually tucks the vial into the breast pocket of her shirt, and Greg thinks, That is quite a woman.

As Catherine opens her mouth to speak, her pager goes off. She unsnaps it from her belt to read the message.

“Doc has something on my male DB. Get him to the lab, would you, ‘Rick?” she asks, already halfway out the door.

DB? Greg wonders, but he doesn’t say it out loud because he knows it would make him look too green. He’ll pick up the lingo eventually.

“This way,” Warrick instructs, leading him out the door and to the left. One stride of his long legs equals two of Greg’s comparably short ones. “How old are you?”

“Twenty-three,” Greg answers.

“Damn,” Warrick comments, and then slows to a stop in front of a room with glass walls. “Right in there.” He turns in the opposite direction, leaving Greg alone.

Greg walks into the lab and sees a man reclining in a chair with his feet crossed on top of the desk.

The man shifts to look at him as he enters. “Greg, have you ever held an insect like the Aphonopelma chalcodes in your hand?” he asks.

That’s when Greg notices the tarantula crawling up the man’s forearm.

Know him when I see him is right, Greg thinks in awe. He recognizes the man’s question as another test.

“No, Grissom,” he responds boldly, “I can’t say that I have. But tarantulas are part of the class Arachnida, not Insecta.”

Grissom places his feet on the floor and pushes up out of the chair. He raises his eyebrow, and Greg warms at the approval in his expression. He can tell immediately that this man is the boss in the lab as much as Brass is the boss everywhere else.

“Would you like to?” Grissom challenges, scooping the tarantula into his cupped hands and holding it out to Greg.

Greg swallows down any misgivings he feels at the idea and shrugs. “Sure.”

The tarantula is soft and hairy against his palm, tickling the skin softly. He watches it move up his wrist, and transfers it to his other hand before it gets any higher. He wonders how long he has to stand here with Grissom’s pet before he proves himself.

Not very long, he discovers, when Grissom captures the spider back a few seconds later. “Nice to meet you, Greg,” he says. “Did they get your blood?” Greg nods. “Then your work awaits.”

Greg doesn’t know when Grissom leaves, because he’s too busy gaping at the pile of folders stacked haphazardly on the end of the desk beside a multitude of marked vials and swabs. He takes a moment to spiral into a sickening panic, and then pulls himself out of it. This can’t be worse than waiting until one in the morning to start studying for his Organic chemistry final.

Three hours later, the files are organized, Greg’s figured out how to turn on all the equipment and he’s working on a DNA sample from a lock of hair.

“You the new guy?”

He looks up from his work and whoa, wow, hello. The man in front of him has dark hair and eyes and broad shoulders that stretch across his navy blue dress shirt.

Where do they hire these CSIs anyway, the Ford Modeling Agency? Between Warrick, Catherine and now this other guy, Greg begins to wonder. Even Grissom is good looking in a vaguely creepy, authority figure kind of way.

“Yeah,” he answers when he gets his breath back. “Greg Sanders.”

“Nick Stokes.” His voice has a Southern twang to it that catches on the ‘o.’ California isn’t the best place to cultivate a cowboy fetish, but Greg’s in Nevada now, and he thinks he can adjust. “I need the results for my semen.”

“What?” Greg asks, jolted out of his brief reverie.

Nick reaches over and lifts a swab from the table. “The semen found in my vic’s bedroom. I need the results.”

“They’re not ready.”

“Why not?” Nick snaps.

Greg resists the urge to point out that it’s his first day, and maybe a little patience wouldn’t be out of line. “I’ve got five other samples to process first.”

“No way. I need those results ASAP. Mine goes to the front of the line.”

Greg’s eyes narrow. “You’ll get your results when it’s your turn.”

“Look, I know you haven’t been here long…”

“I have graduated first grade though,” Greg interrupts. “And the first thing you learn there is no cutting.”

He returns his focus to the lock of hair. When a stretch of silence passes, he looks up again. Greg’s heart stutters in his chest when he sees Nick standing in front of him, a wide smile transforming his face into something friendlier and almost boyish.

He stares back until Nick speaks. “It only lasts a couple of days. You’re doing fine.”

Greg relaxes, his taut and tense muscles loosening, and releases a breath. “Thank god.”

The skin at the corners of Nick’s eyes crinkle when he laughs.

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