|How Should I Presume?
Author: CrystallineSolid PM
'I must borrow every changing shape to find expression.'When Nick reads out TS Eliot's 'Portrait of a Lady' to Greg, they both realize just how much the poem relates to them. Will they ever really be able to find expression for the words they need to say?Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Friendship - Nick S. & Greg S. - Words: 7,721 - Reviews: 4 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 2 - Published: 02-23-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7863600
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Thanks for coming over, man," Greg dropped his keys onto the side table in the hallway. He felt the tension drain out of him, and a contented tiredness replace it. On days like this one, just being home helped. He heard the front door of his apartment click shut behind him, and turned around.
"Thanks for invitin' me. After tonight's case, I didn't want to be alone, either," Nick replied earnestly. Greg smiled at him warmly, appreciating his refreshing honesty, his ability to put into words emotions that Greg himself felt, but didn't know how to express.
"Coffee?" Greg asked into a yawn, grinning sheepishly, and leaning his hip against the arm of the sofa. Nick's eyes crinkled in a smile. There was something so endearing about seeing Greg in his own home, his own environment.
"Sure, why not?" Nick pulled his messenger bag off his shoulder, and let it drop to the floor. "Mind if I take a shower first, though?"
"Go ahead," Greg let out a short laugh. "Though I don't think you'll fit into any of my clothes." Despite his words, his eyes twinkled at the thought of seeing Nick in his clothes. He smiled, and Nick couldn't help but smile back.
"Actually, I've got some spare clothes in my bag," Nick said with a laugh, nudging the bag with his foot.
Greg cocked his head, and raised his eyebrows questioningly. But a smile still tugged at his mouth, as he asked jokingly. "Were you planning to spend the night?"
Nick pursed his lips, wondering exactly how to answer Greg's question. Was that supposed to be an invitation? "No," he drew out the word, and watched carefully for Greg's reaction. Greg was still smiling, but his eyes were intense and searching. "I cleaned out my locker today. It was a mess, man. Clothes, books, CDs... I even found an old pizza box in there."
Greg nodded, looking down at the floor for a moment. His smile dropped and he took a deep breath. Nick felt worry strike him hard, afraid he had said the wrong thing, but when Greg looked at him, he was smiling mischievously. "Messier than my study?"
Nick grinned in relief. "No way," he shook his head, and laughed. "Nothing's messier than your study." In Greg's tiny, four room apartment, his study doubled and tripled as a library, and storage area. It's was the epitome of untidiness, and the butt of many of the team's jokes. "When the last time you cleaned that place anyway?"
Greg sat down on the arm of the sofa, and his smile turned sad. "When Warrick died," he said softly, like quieter he said it, the less true it would be.
"Yeah?" Nick met Greg's gaze, and a look passed between them, an understanding held only by two friends who had been through hard times together.
"I...We solved the case, the funeral arrangements were done, and I... I needed to do something," Greg eyes were desperate for Nick's approval. "So I cleaned."
The words weighed heavily in the air between them, and Greg was suddenly embarrassed by his confession. He watched Nick's reaction with wide eyes, longing for Nick's comforting words to soothe away the vulnerability that made him hunch his shoulders and curl his hands into fists.
Nick, however, remained silent, his eyes downcast. At least you didn't try to shoot a guy, he thought, but was too ashamed to say out loud.
Greg bit his lip, and stood, shaking out his shoulders. He moved towards the windows and began to open the curtains in the room, letting the purplish-orange evening light enter the room. Dust danced in the space between the two men, and Greg lifted his hands, trying half-heartedly to catch the dust particles in his palm. They, along with everything else, eluded him.
He stared out at the street, feeling Nick's gaze on him, but being too tired, too drained to turn around. He rested his forehead against the cool window pane, watching his breath fog up the glass. He closed his eyes, fighting a wave of disappointment. Sometimes he wondered why it hurt so much when Nick disappointed him, but most of the time, he was so painfully whipped with confusion and anger and hurt that he had no time for thought.
What he recalled now, was sitting in the break room with Nick a week after Warrick died. Listening to Nick go on and on about how anyone who really knew Warrick wouldn't want to talk to a 'fucking shrink' about him. He remembered agreeing, feeling ashamed and angry, at Nick and at himself.
So, it was true. He had cleaned and he had cleaned and he had cleaned. He hadn't cried. So he went to the goddamn shrink, and he came home and cried all night. Cried for Warrick, and Catherine and Nick and Sara and Grissom. Cried mostly for himself, for the fear that he felt so deep within him that he wanted to carve it out of his heart and lie bleeding on the floor.
He didn't want to die. He didn't want to die. He didn't want to die.
He wondered what would happen if he opened the window and jumped.
Greg jumped when he felt a hand on his back, between his shoulder blades. He inhaled sharply and opened his eyes, staring out the window instead of at Nick. "I'm fine," he said before Nick could ask.
Nick frowned, but said nothing, knowing that Greg wouldn't appreciate being nagged. If he had something to say, he would say it.
Nick rubbed Greg's back soothingly, and despite himself, Greg found that his whole body began to relax. It surprised him sometimes, how much tension he had coiled up inside of him, and how just a simple touch could drain it away and leave him spent.
He sighed. "I'm sorry," he looked up at Nick with half a smile. "I don't know what came over me."
Nick smiled at him reassuringly, and the gesture seemed to dissolve the tension around them. Greg turned back to the window, the silence between them comfortable once again. The heat of Nick's hand against Greg's back was comforting, a weapon against the sudden unease that was threatening to take control of him.
Greg shifted his weight to one side, pressing his palm against the wall next to the windowsill and leaning against it. At the movement, Nick moved his hand from Greg's back.
Greg sighed involuntarily, biting back words of protest. He had never been very tactile, but he found himself automatically drawn to Nick's touch. The same had happened to him in college: a brunette in his Organic Chemistry glass. The way she would place her hand on her knee when talking to him, or the fleeting kiss on the edge of his jaw when they were saying goodbye. The feel of her hand fluttering across the width of his shoulders as she passed by his chair, or the way she would smack him across the head when he did something stupid.
He did fall for her in the end, though nothing actually happened between them. Perhaps then, it wasn't so surprising that he was so drawn to Nick and his careless touch.
Really speaking though, he knew why he responded the way he did to Nick's touch. It was that desire within him to speak without words, for the fear that words would fail him. He had become quieter with age, that much was true; but sometimes he felt that the quieter he got, the more Nick spoke to him, with his body rather than his words.
It was something Greg was extremely grateful for, just that tiny bit of comfort in a suddenly new, suddenly scary world—when he found that he was scaring himself.
"What are you thinking?" Nick's words quiet in his ear. Greg turned around, looking at Nick carefully, trying to gauge what he had been thinking. But Nick's gaze was kind and level, and Greg felt, with a jolt, that Nick had been thinking very much of him.
"Hmm... Nothing," Greg dismissed the question, turning back to the window. What had he been thinking of? It seems so difficult to trace his thoughts these days.
"Nick?" he asked hesitantly, waiting for Nick's 'hmm' before continuing. "Sometimes I—do you ever...look at people," he paused again, pressing his palm against the window and looking at the people walking on the street below. "And wonder... what they're doing here? Whether they're, I dunno, living... or dying?"
Greg looked back at Nick over his shoulder, his gaze searching. The concern in Nick's eyes made him wince though, and he shrank away from the older man.
Regretting his words, Greg opened his mouth to speak, to take them back. He drew himself to his full height, and even the fact that he was just a little bit taller than Nick made him feel better, like he had just a scrap of his dignity back. "Don't answer that," he said quickly. "I'm sorry, okay, but don't—"
Greg felt Nick's hand close around his mouth, cutting off his words. He took a deep breath, inhaling the heady smell of Nick's palm—a mix of camphor and dust, and something earthy.
"Greg," Nick said firmly. He took a deep breath and paused, then let it all out in a whoosh. "Just don't let it get you," he said quietly, dropping his hand away from Greg's mouth.
"I don't know what you mean."
"Yes you do."
Nick paused in the bathroom doorway, leaning against the frame and rolling his shoulders. He stared into Greg's bedroom, dimly lit by the light streaming out of the bathroom door. He smiled slightly. Greg's house was painfully small; a bedroom, and only one bathroom; his beloved study, the kitchen and lounge. He didn't even have a dining room! Just a kitchen counter and sometimes his couch.
But Greg seemed happy enough, and Nick supposed there was a price to pay if your first priority was forty-bucks-a-pound coffee.
Nick began to make his way out of the room, pausing for a moment to admire Greg's tropical fish tank. Unexpectedly, he found himself laughing quietly to himself, thinking of the time Greg had sat him down on the bed and told him everything about the fish: their names, breeds, personalities. God, Greg loved those things like children.
And just like that, his smile turned sad. He wondered if Greg wanted children; it had never come up. Nick certainly did. He wanted, he needed, something to call his own. He needed to bring someone into this world, a good person, to combat the murderers and rapists that he saw every day.
Shaking himself out of the funk he was in, he made his way back to the kitchen, leaning in the doorway, and watching Greg quietly as he worked at the counter. The younger man's back was to Nick, but he could tell from the way Greg leaned over the coffee pot, still and hunched, that he had that signature pout on his face. The same look he got when he was running samples, or taking statements, or even listening to music, making coffee—sometimes when he was listening to Nick.
Nick closed his eyes, breathing in the aroma of Blue Hawaiian, something Nick associated entirely with Greg. He stepped across the kitchen, pausing behind Greg. If the younger man noticed he was there, he gave no indication of it. Nick placed his hand on the counter next to Greg's hip and leant against it, his body curved around Greg's right side. He peered over the younger man's shoulder, watching him measure out a teaspoon of a dark brown liquid and dump it into the coffee.
"I thought we talked about this," Greg said, turning his head to regard Nick, his mouth open in a silent laugh. "The hovering."
Nick smiled thinly, taking half a step back. Greg shook his head laughing at the lacking effort.
"What is that stuff anyway?" Nick leaned in again, pointing at the small bottle from which Greg had poured out the brown liquid.
"Vanilla," Greg replied, putting some in the other mug of coffee.
"Hey!" Nick said, indignantly. "I don't want that stuff in my coffee."
Greg just smirked. "Trust me, Nicky. You'll like it."
Nick just shook his head. Greg and his crazy coffee. He decided it was better not to argue.
Greg poured out another liquid from a similar bottle, but this was clear. Rather than asking, Nick just leaned forwards further, placing his hand on the small of Greg's back, and took a whiff of it. Whiskey.
Greg turned his head towards Nick, raising his eyebrows and smirking. He took a deep breath, and laughed. "You smell good."
Nick looked at him strangely, tilting his head to one side. "It's your shampoo," he said dumbly.
Greg smirked. "I know."
Nick shook his head, closing his eyes and inhaling the lingering scent of cologne that Greg shouldn't have been wearing to work in the first place. He stepped away then, jumping up onto the counter next to Greg and watching him. "That coffee's gonna keep us up forever."
Greg shrugged. "So we'll have some wine later. The caffeine will wear off."
Nick laughed. "That's bull."
"Sorry," Greg said sheepishly. "Thought I might slip that one past you."
Nick shook his head. "I'm not having any of that stuff."
"Aww, come on, Nicky," Greg whined, leaning close to the older man. "A real coffee addict knows that the best time to drink coffee is at night. The day's work is done, you finally have time to relax to a steaming hot cup of coffee with just enough of a buzz to get your juices flowing... And what better way to enjoy coffee than with a good friend." He leaned closer still, pressing his palm against Nick's thigh and smirking at Nick. "Come on, man."
Nick sighed, shaking his head. He was silent for a moment, and Greg waited with bated breath for him to give in.
"You know what this reminds me of?" Nick began. Greg made a face at his no-answer. "This... you know what, forget it."
Greg rolled his eyes. "Just spit it out already."
"It's this... poem," Nick said hesitantly, blushing at Greg grin. "Except it's pretty sad actually... frustrating. But somehow it just reminds me of... tonight."
Greg raised his eyebrows sceptically. "You find tonight sad and frustrating?"
"No," Nick shook his head, feeling vaguely annoyed. "No, that's not what I mean."
"Okay, fine whatever." Greg turned back to his coffee with a laugh. "You're the poetry buff, not me."
Nick rolled his eyes. "Fine. You don't have to read the poem, if I don't have to drink the coffee."
Greg looked up at him, shocked. He seemed to take personal offense at the proposal, and his eyes became wide with complaint. "Okay. I'll read the poem."
Nick laughed, taking his coffee from Greg and jumping off the counter. "Look man, I know you. You don't hate poetry as much as you like people to believe."
"I don't understand it," Greg pointed out.
"Yes, you do."
Greg shook his head. "Yeah, yeah, sure. Come on."
Greg led Nick out of the kitchen, and into the living room. Nick smiled, watching him manoeuvre around the room smoothly, rotating his hips as he passed by the coffee table, and collapsing in a heap on the couch. Nick followed, placing his coffee mug on the table. He lifted Greg's feet to make room on the couch, and the younger man bent his knees, then drove his cold feet under Nick's thighs to keep them warm.
Nick sipped cautiously at his coffee, closing his eyes at the intensity of flavour.
"Like it?" Greg asked around a grin.
"What the hell is in here?" Nick asked, opening his eyes wide. Already he could feel the caffeine racing through his system, the lights brightening and his mood lifting automatically.
"Double shot espresso, cinnamon, vanilla and whiskey."
"And no sugar? Or milk?"
Greg made a face. "Milk ruins coffee. And the cinnamon kinda sweetens it anyway."
"No, it doesn't." Nick said with a laugh. "Is this Irish or what?"
Not really... Come on, you like it don't you?"
Nick rolled his eyes, but gave in. "Okay, it's... interesting. But, small doses, okay?
"You've obviously never had Turkish coffee." A smirk pulled on the edge of Greg's mouth.
Nick shook his head, and Greg rolled his eyes.
"One day I'll make you-"
Greg laughed, shaking his head and taking another sip of his coffee. Nick watched as he tilted his head back, his Adam's apple bobbing as he swallowed. He closed his eyes in appreciation, eyelashes splayed out above angular cheekbones. A hint of a smile played on his lips, and he sucked at his lower lip in an almost sexual enjoyment of his coffee. Nick took another sip from his own mug, hiding a smile behind the rim.
"Okay," Greg sat up suddenly, sitting cross-legged and erect on the sofa. Nick could practically see the caffeine in every particle of his body. "That poem then."
"So you do want to hear it?" Nick said teasingly, a smiled creasing his eyes. A blush started up Greg's neck, and Nick's smile only widened.
"Okay, hold on a sec," Nick made his way to his bag next to the door, and pulled out a worn looking hard bound book from inside.
"What's that?" Greg asked when Nick returned to the couch. He took the book from the older man's hands, smoothening his palm over the cover and reading aloud. "TS Eliot: Collected poems. 1917-1942"
Greg flipped through the book, and raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Wow." The book was covered in pencil notes scrawled in between lines and verses. He looked at Nick questioningly.
Nick reached forwards, flipping the pages to the front cover where his name was inked in, and underneath it was written Aggieland Texas. "I did a minor course in Literature at A&M. We did almost all of Eliot's major poems."
"Yeah?" Greg looked at Nick in a new light, amazed that he hadn't known this about the older man. "Wow."
"Don't look so shocked," Nick cuffed Greg around the head playfully, biting back a smile. "Here," he said, flipping the pages and finally settling on one. Greg shuffled closer, and Nick placed the book across both their knees and began reading.
"Among the smoke and fog of a December afternoon," Nick read quietly, his voice calm and soothing, "You have the scene arrange itself, as it will seem to do, with: 'I have saved this afternoon for you.' "
Greg was following the words on the page, but when Nick paused, he too looked up, meeting Nick's gaze earnestly.
Nick swallowed, looking back at the book, and tracing the words with his finger. "And four wax candles in a darkened room, four rings of light upon the ceiling overhead, an atmosphere of Juliet's tomb, preparing for things to be said..." Nick took a deep breath, his mood darkening unexpectedly. He barely even murmured the next words, and Greg strained his ears to hear. "Or left unsaid...
"We have been, let us say, to hear the latest Pole transmit the Preludes, through his hair and finger-tips. 'So intimate, this Chopin that I think his soul should be resurrected only among friends, some two or three, who will not touch the bloom that is rubbed and questioned in the concert room.' "
Nick cast another glance at Greg. The younger man was staring at the book, a faint smile in his eyes. What else, Nick thought, could make him light up like that, except a tribute to music?
"And so the conversation slips, among velleities and carefully caught regrets, through attenuated tones of violins, mingled with remote cornets, and begins," Nick looked up at Greg, staring right at him, engaging him in a gaze so earnest that Greg felt his next words lay heavily on his chest. " 'You do not know how much they mean to me, my friends, and how, how rare and strange it is, to find in a life composed so much, so much of odds and ends, (For indeed I do not love it … you knew? You are not blind! How keen you are!) To find a friend who has these qualities, who has, and gives, those qualities upon which friendship lives. How much it means that I say this to you— without these friendships—life, what cauchemar!' "
"Cauchemar?" Greg asked quietly. Until now, he had been content to only half-understand the poem, since it seemed to have a great effect on him all the same. Now, he needed to know.
"Nightmare. In French."
Greg jerked his head in acknowledgment, and Nick went on: "Among the windings of the violins, and the ariettes of cracked cornets, inside my brain a dull tom-tom begins, absurdly hammering a prelude of its own, capricious monotone, that is at least one definite 'false note.' "
Greg frowned, feeling the poem suddenly and unexpectedly change moods. He wanted to shake his shoulders feel of the weight that had settled on them, free of Nick's sudden rasp.
"Let us take the air, in a tobacco trance, admire the monuments, discuss the late events, correct our watches by the public clocks. Then sit for half an hour and drink our bocks.
"Now that lilacs are in bloom," Nick's voice was suddenly calm again, and Greg smiled sadly, wondering what exactly this poem meant to Nick, how it had anything to do with him. "She has a bowl of lilacs in her room, and twists one in her fingers while she talks.'Ah, my friend, you do not know, you do not know what life is, you who hold it in your hands;' (Slowly twisting the lilac stalk) 'You let it flow from you, you let it flow, and youth is cruel, and has no remorse and smiles at situations which it cannot see.'
"I smile, of course, and go on drinking tea,
" 'Yet with these April sunsets, that somehow recall my buried life, and Paris in the Spring, I feel immeasurably at peace, and find the world to be wonderful and youthful, after all.' "
Nick looked at Greg, who was frowning down at the book like he was upset, or confused. "What's wrong?" he asked quietly.
"Nothing," Greg shook his head as though trying to clear it of thoughts. "Go on."
"The voice returns like the insistent out-of-tune of a broken violin on an August afternoon," Nick hesitated, and when he continued to recite, this head was lowered, his voice a mere mumble and Greg could just make out a blush creeping up his face. " 'I am always sure that you understand my feelings, always sure that you feel, sure that across the gulf you reach your hand. You are invulnerable; you have no Achilles' heel. You will go on, and when you have prevailed you can say: at this point many a one has failed.
" 'But what have I, but what have I, my friend, to give you, what can you receive from me? Only the friendship and the sympathy of one about to reach...his journey's end," Greg swallowed harshly, acutely aware of the change Nick had made, especially when just above his finger was written 'her journey's end'. What was he trying to do?
" 'I shall sit here, serving tea to friends.…' "
Just as Nick was about to continue, without a word of explanation, Greg reached a hand out and pressed his fingers against his wrist. "Stop."
"What is it, Greg?" Nick's gaze was gentle but intense, the kind of look that said, talk to me, I can keep a secret.
"What do you mean by that?"
"I didn't write this poem, Greg."
Greg rolled his eyes. "Don't be cocky."
"Greg?" Nick let out a short, incredulous laugh.
"His journey's end? What the hell, Nick?"
Nick grew serious, his jaw tight. "How many times am I going to cheat death, Greg?"
"And what about me?" Greg's eyes widened in a sudden rage. "Does that make me perfect? Or have you already forgotten about the times I almost died?"
Nick looked nervous, then, and worried. He raised his hands defensively. "Greg, I didn't...," He frowned as Greg turned away from him and took a deep, audible breath. "Are you okay?"
"No," Greg replied sharply, turning back to Nick. He pursed his lips. "Did you mean it?"
"That verse. It's about you and me isn't it?"
Nick jerked his head in the slightest of nods.
"Read it again," Greg said, the frown still in place on his face. It was the same look he got when he was going over a case, or listening to a Forensics Lecture.
Nick sighed, feeling scrutinized and embarrassed. He began reading. "I am always sure that you understand my feelings, always sure that you feel, sure that across the gulf you reach your hand," He dared a glance at the Greg, who was now watching him with his arms crossed and his gaze troubled. "You are invulnerable; you have no Achilles' heel. You will go on, and when you have prevailed you can say: at this point many a one has failed."
Greg looked at him, and shook his head. "You're crazy, Nick. I know I should say thank you or something, but I honestly don't know what you're seeing."
"Look at what you've been through, Greg," Nick said with a worried frown.
"I can handle it," Greg said testily, and Nick wondered why he was acting defensive when Nick had been trying to complement him.
"You shouldn't have to," Nick replied quietly. Greg's frown deepened, and he looked like he wanted to argue. He sighed and turned away; Nick grasped his wrist, and Greg turned back towards him.
"For all your talk about us not taking you seriously," Nick said softly, gently, but his words grated against Greg's nerves. "You don't really want us to, do you? And you don't take yourself too seriously either."
"Yeah," Greg said edgily. "It's called screwing yourself over."
"Well, you've never screwed me over, Greg. That's what I'm trying to say."
Greg clenched his jaw, turning his head away and murmuring sorry no louder than an echo. He shifted on the sofa, tucking his right leg underneath him. He sat sideways, leaning back against the armrest. Nick couldn't see his face.
Greg reached forwards, grasping Nick's book, and reading where Nick left off. His voice was low, practically deadpan. But the control he was trying so hard to achieve, the obvious emotion in his masking of emotion—the words themselves, were enough for Nick, enough to make things achingly clear. "I take my hat: how can I make a cowardly amends for what he has said to me? You will see me any morning in the park, reading the comics and the sporting page. Particularly, I remark an English countess goes upon the stage. A Greek was murdered at a Polish dance. Another bank defaulter has confessed.
"I keep my countenance; I remain self-possessed, except when a street piano, mechanical and tired reiterates some worn-out common song, with the smell of hyacinths across the garden, recalling things that other people have desired... Are these ideas right or wrong?"
Greg looked up, closing the book gently. He didn't speak, just watched Nick for a long time.
Are these ideas right or wrong? Nick wanted to ask: what ideas? Except, somehow he felt that Greg expected him to know already. He felt that somewhere deep inside of him, he did know, only he didn't quite know how to reach that thought, that feeling.
Something hot rose up inside of him, and he wanted to grab Greg, just grab him and do... something.
Other people have desired.
Nick cleared his throat uncomfortably. He didn't know what to say, to do. Awkwardly, he began reciting the poem again. He fumbled for the book, pulling it from Greg's lap.
"The October night comes down; returning as before," He began reciting from memory, still flipping through the book to find the right page. As he found his spot, his mutter gained more confidence. His words were clear, but hesitant, soft. "Except for a slight sensation of being ill at ease. I mount the stairs and turn the handle of the door, and feel as if I had mounted on my hands and knees."
" 'And so you are going abroad; and when do you return? But that's a useless question. You hardly know when you are coming back. You will find so much to learn.'
"My smile falls heavily among the bric-à-brac.
" 'Perhaps you can write to me.' My self-possession flares up for a second; This is as I had reckoned. 'I have been wondering frequently of late, (But our beginnings never know our ends!) why we have not developed into friends.' "
Nick dared a glance at Greg, but the younger man was staring resolutely at his lap. Greg sighed, but didn't look up. Nick wondered what Greg knew that he himself didn't know. Wondered if Greg would ever tell him, or if he'd have to figure it all out himself.
Wondered if Greg knew anything at all, or if he was just as confused about everything and nothing as Nick was. He wanted to ask, but didn't know how.
"I feel like one who smiles, and turning shall remark, suddenly, his expression in a glass. My self-possession gutters; we are really in the dark.
" 'For everybody said so, all our friends, they all were sure our feelings would relate so closely! I myself can hardly understand," Nick faltered, clearing his throat roughly. Greg looked up at him finally, a wry smile on his face. There was a question in his eyes though, one that Nick could neither identify nor answer. He wondered if Greg himself knew what he was trying to ask.
" 'We must leave it now to fate. You will write, at any rate. Perhaps it is not too late. I shall sit here, serving tea to friends...'
"And I must borrow every changing shape to find expression... dance, dance, like a dancing bear. Cry like a parrot, chatter like an ape. Let us take the air, in a tobacco trance—Well!" Nick reached forwards, grasping Greg's wrist in his hand. The younger man looked up surprised, but didn't pull away. Nick could feel Greg's hot pulse underneath his palm. "And what is he should die some afternoon, afternoon grey and smoky, evening yellow and rose; should die and leave me sitting pen in hand, with the smoke coming down about the housetops. Doubtful, for quite a while, not knowing what to feel or if I understand, or whether wise or foolish, tardy or too soon...
"Would he not have the advantage after all? This music is successful with a 'dying fall'. Now that we talk of dying—And should I have the right to smile."
Yet, as Nick closed his book and placed it on the coffee table, he could not help but smile, albeit apologetically. This poem it seemed, had transformed the evening from the light-hearted, relaxing time it was meant to be, to something almost stressful with the weight of it. He hadn't meant for it to happen, really, but it had, and he supposed there was nothing he could do about it.
Greg leaned back, lying down on the couch with his head on the armrest. He flung his arm over his face, and spoke into the crook of his arm. "We're friends, aren't we Nick?"
"Yeah," Nick's voice was strained. What was Greg getting at?
"Well, that was an... interesting poem," Greg said.
"Sure..." Nick said hesitantly, unsure whether Greg was being sarcastic or not.
"No, I'm serious," Greg sat up, looking at Nick with the same eager look in his eyes that he got when talking about DNA or Vegas History. "It's full of...longing and..." Greg frowned, his eyes far away, like he was trying hard to express himself.
"And it's like, about how you can't even enjoy the good things because you're too busy noticing everything that you want that's missing," Nick said in a breath.
Greg nodded seriously, his eyes fierce with comprehension.
"See, I told you that you'd understand it," Nick said, his eyes crinkling into a smile. It was true; Greg had felt this poem in ways that even Nick hadn't. Longing. That's what this was then: longing. That gut wrenching feeling, longing for Greg even when in his company.
"What's your favourite part?"
"The ending," Nick answered immediately. " 'Dying fall'. That's from Shakespeare, you know?"
Greg hummed in agreement. " 'That strain again! It had a dying fall!' I played Orsino in our high school re-enactment of Twelfth Night."
"Yeah?" a wide smile spread across Nick's face. "You a little actor then?"
Greg tried to hide a smile, shrugging in that way of his, when he moved his entire body it seemed: shoulders hunched, body titled to one side, and his head to another. He grinned, and Nick wondered if this was him trying to be modest.
"What's your favourite part then, thespian?" Nick said teasingly.
"Honestly," Greg said into a laugh. "I'd probably have to read it again to know for sure."
"Yeah, and I can totally see that happening again tonight," Nick laughed, because if there was one thing he and Greg did well, it was turning serious moments into a joke.
"Actually," Greg's smile died away, and he looked down bashfully. "There was one phrase that really... stuck out."
"Yeah?" Nick squinted, listening seriously. It wasn't everyday that Greg forewent a joke, only to offer up an earnest anecdote about himself.
"Carefully caught... regrets?" Greg said hesitantly, half a question. Nick felt something in his heart melt. This man. Greg. He didn't deserve regrets, not the twenty three year old Nick had met what seemed like a thousand years ago. Fresh, eager, young—too young—carefree and... untainted.
Nick supposed that was the problem: Nick had practically watched Greg grow up before his eyes. And that was never easy.
"Do you regret it?" Greg asked almost inaudibly.
Greg shrugged. "This. Your life. Vegas, and your job and you're friends..."
"I do," Greg's shoulders heaved. "All the time. And what scares me, is that even so, I wouldn't do anything differently... because I have no idea what else I could have done." Greg swallowed thickly, and reached out a hand and placed it carefully on Nick's knee. "Maybe I can still fix it..." He murmured, his eyes drilling through Nick like moons.
Nick opened his mouth to speak, but found he didn't know what to say. It wasn't that he didn't have anything to say; he had too much to say.
But what was Greg talking about anyway? Was it...? Could it be...?
Then, suddenly, Greg tore his hand away from Nick. He turned his face away and stared at the wall like he was trying to see through it. "I'm not a good person, Nick—"
"No," he looked back at Nick, his voice adamant. "I may not be a bad person, but I'm not good either. And I don't... I don't know how..." He squeezed his eyes shut, suddenly feeling stupid for saying anything at all. Why did he act like this? Why did he feel like this?
Like Nick could fix things.
"Greg," Nick shook his head, but Greg wasn't even looking. "You try your best. Sometimes that's all you can do."
Greg looked back at Nick, his eyes lost. "I feel like I'm sinning, Nick. All the time. Every day."
The harsh reality of Greg's words shattered something inside of Nick. "That's how we all feel Greg. All the time. Every day."
"Fuck," Greg said dryly.
Nick winced. Greg didn't swear much, and when he did, it... hurt.
Greg sighed. Words built up inside him, but he didn't say them. Couldn't. Didn't want to.
I just want to feel good again, Nick. You make me feel so good.
"God, I'm tired," Greg said instead, scrubbing his hands across his face.
"It's been a long day," Nick agreed wearily, trying, and failing to erase the memory of their most recent case from his mind.
"It's been a bad day." Greg corrected with a sigh. "I'm beat."
"After all that coffee?" Nick almost smiled. Greg; Greg with his coffee, and the way he could make Nick almost-smile even when he was upset.
"That little bit? I need at least two cups before I even begin to feel awake," Greg smirked, and Nick knew he was lying. Maybe he was just good at sleeping.
"Well, I'm exhausted," Nick said, pressing his palms against his knees and arching his back in a stretch. "But thanks to that coffee of yours I'm not getting any sleep."
Nick sighed, and stood. "It's late. I should get going."
"Stay," Greg insisted, tugging at Nick's hand. "Sleep over. You can take some Lunesta, and you'll sleep like a baby. Sleep in. You've got tomorrow off."
"You don't," Nick reminded him. He didn't even wonder why Greg was so determined he stayed the night. Something told him Greg wouldn't appreciate it if he asked.
"I'll be fine," Greg said, rolling his eyes. A smile played out on his lips anyway. "Go ahead and grab the sleeping pills from my bathroom, I'll bring you a glass."
Nick made his way back into the bathroom, fishing out the Lunesta from Greg's medicine cabinet, and taking out a single pill. Greg appeared behind him, leaning over his shoulder and filling a glass with tap water. He handed it over wordlessly. Nick was silent too; he didn't ask about the Xanax in Greg's cabinet, or the excessive amount of Stematil.
Nick followed Greg out of the bathroom, and watched as the younger man pulled out faded, red sleeping shorts from his closet. Greg made his way back into the bathroom, calling over his shoulder, "Grab whatever you want to sleep in, I'm gonna take a quick shower."
Greg returned, dressed in only his shorts, all mussed up hair and too pale, freckled skin. Nick had already changed into a pair of shorts and an old Marilyn Manson shirt, which, surprisingly enough actually fit him. "How old his this?" he asked Greg, motioning to the t-shirt and not quite hiding his smile at Greg's flushed cheeks, warm from the shower.
"I got it the year I moved to Vegas."
"Why'd you buy such a huge shirt anyway?" Nick asked teasingly.
"It was the last in stock! And no one gives up the chance to own a Vintage Marilyn Manson t-shirt!"
"You're crazy," Nick shook his head with a laugh, and pulled back the eiderdown from the bed and slipped in. Greg just watched him for a moment, cocking his head to one side.
"You cleaned the bed," He sounded amazed, and his gaze moved between the mess-free bed and the various books, files and papers that were piled on the floor.
"Well, I didn't think we could sleep with all that stuff on the bed," Nick said pointedly.
Greg blushed from his chest up to his face, and mumbled a reply.
"What was that?" Nick said teasingly, already guessing what Greg's response was.
Greg rolled his eyes. "I'm usually too exhausted to clear up the bed, so I just toss the stuff around."
Nick laughed, lying down on his back and staring at the ceiling. "I don't know how you function man."
"With ease and comfort," Greg said with a scowl. He walked up to the bed and pushed Nick onto the left, sliding in next to him on the right.
Greg settled in on his back. He turned away from Nick, and switched off the lamp. The room was illuminated dimly by the lights of the fish tank. Nick watched Greg's face in profile, as Greg watched his fish with sleepy eyes and a slight smile. His shadowy face was bright nonetheless, and Nick's eyes crinkled in a smile.
Nick saw the tip of a scar creeping up the side of Greg's neck, and felt the inexplicable need to touch. But he couldn't. It wouldn't be fair of him to draw attention to Greg's scars, not when the younger man tried so hard to pretend they weren't there. Nick thought about the other day, when Greg had pulled off his t-shirt in the locker room, and turned towards his locker. The way Russell blinked a few times in surprise, but hadn't said a word. Was that how it was for Greg? Always having to explain to people. Always having to warn, and to tell, and retell, and relive.
Did it still hurt him? The fire, the memories.
Nick curled his hand around the eiderdown. He wanted to run his hand all the way down Greg's back. Show Greg that he didn't have to explain anything, that it didn't matter. He wanted to show Greg that it really was all the same, not pausing over scars or smooth skin. Just one carefree motion, like there weren't any scars at all.
He wanted to touch.
Greg watched his guppies swirl through the water soothingly. He sighed contentedly. There was something about Nick, his company, which made him feel so warm inside, like good wine. When he was with Nick he felt... safe, and though he would never admit it, that was something he had always yearned for.
Maybe it was because his parents had been so protective, or maybe it was because his safety had been stolen from him so violently in the lab explosion and after the beating; whatever the reason, Nick just encompassed him in warmth and security. This sensation of things been alright when Nick was around, soothing, like a cool hand across his forehead.
He wanted to touch Nick, caress him, his warmth. Whether to be comforted or to comfort Nick, he wasn't sure. He wasn't sure of anything. There was nothing tactile about him, but the way Nick touched him... tight grip on his shoulder, flat palm against his chest—it made him want to touch back. Just stroke.
He wanted to touch.
Greg reached out a hand towards Nick, faltering when Nick's hand came up at the same time. The two glanced at each other and smiled bashfully. Greg's hand hung in the air for a moment, and before he withdrew it, Nick reached forwards again, letting the tips of his fingers press against Greg's.
Staring down at their hands, Nick spoke, his voice a murmur. "Do you ever feel like things are so perfect that it hurts?"
Greg just nodded. His chest tightened; he felt like there was something pulling his heart out of his chest and towards Nick.
"What do you want, Greg? What do you want more than anything else?"
You. Greg's throat tightened, his tongue almost forming the word. His mind suddenly blank, he blurted out the first thing he could think of. "A bigger house."
Nick blinked in shock. "Oh."
"I just..." Greg blushed, looking anywhere but at Nick. He laughed nervously. "I guess I just don't want to have to use my fire escape as a balcony anymore."
"A big house isn't all that great," Nick said shaking his head. He was disappointed, though he didn't know why. "It's lonely, that's for sure."
"You can be lonely in a tiny little apartment, too," Greg mumbled under his breath. He let out a sigh. "What's wrong with us, Nicky?" His voice was small. "How do we stop ourselves from thinking this way?"
"I don't know."
"Maybe we just need to sleep. Maybe things will be okay in the morning... What do you think?"
"I don't know," Nick reiterated, shaking his head hopelessly. His eyes slipped closed, and he felt Greg's hand in his hair.
"It's the pill."
"No, it's not," Greg swallowed thickly, closing his eyes. "It's today... today's been exhausting."
Greg covered his eyes with his hand, and rubbed his forehead gingerly. "Nick, you... you don't make me tired."
"No." Greg turned to Nick, placing his hand on Nick's arm. "No more talking. Not now. Let's just sleep. Things are okay. If we hadn't hung out today, we wouldn't even be able to sleep right now. Today's case was fucked up man, we need to..."
"Relax. We need to relax," Nick finished for him. "Thank you, Greg."
Greg smiled. "Goodnight, Nicky."
Till human voices wake us and we drown.