Title: Good Enough

Chapter 24

Author's Notes: WOO-HOO! I've finally finished a new chapter! Thanks to JennaM, over at talk CSI for reading this chapter over for me. Hugs!

"Just don't push yourself."

"Yes, dear."

Placing the orange juice onto the top rack in the refrigerator, Greg flashes a sloppy grin over his shoulder. Tonight's my first night back at work since I was mugged, and I'm jazzed about going back in. I've been bored stiff here all by myself while Greg's been working his shift.

Greg wipes his hands off with a dish towel, and then he walks over to me. He leans forward and brushes a stray thread off my jeans. "Well, if I don't nag you, you'll strain yourself, and if you're going to strain yourself, it should be with me."

I smirk. "I think I did that last night."

He pulls back and gazes at me. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, worrywart," I say. "Except for that bite mark you left."

He grins, and if I didn't know better, I'd say he looks downright bashful. "Sorry about that," he says. "At least it's not the neck this time."

I let out a laugh. "Yeah, I'm lucky." I walk across the living room and snatch my cap off the couch. Turning back to Greg, I say, "I didn't know I'd fallen in love with a vampire."

Greg clears his throat and turns away from me.

"What's wrong?" I ask, taking a step forward. When he doesn't answer, I squeeze his shoulder. "G, come on. What's up?"

After a moment, he turns back to me, his face flushed red and his eyes glassy. "I'm still getting used to you saying you love me."

For a moment, I'm speechless—which actually happens to me a lot where G is concerned. Draping my arms over his shoulders, I pull him close and nuzzle his neck. He smells like coconut and soap. I take in a deep breath of him, and then I whisper in his ear, "Are you trying to make me cry, G? I am a crier."

He laughs into my shoulder. "Sorry, babe."

Pecking him on the lips, I steer him toward the door. "We should go."

"Mm 'kay." Greg twists his neck to look at me over his shoulder. "I'm not kidding. Don't push too hard."

This morning, when G and I get home, he's going to have to give me a power massage to work out all the knots this day has put into my neck and shoulders. I knew it was going to be tense. Brass made it pretty clear how he feels about my relationship with Greg. But the fact that he was climbing out of his car exactly when Greg practically jumped out of my truck and into my arms pretty much confirmed what he already knew. He kind of shot us a nasty look, shook his head, and walked away.

So, imagine my discomfort when Grissom decided to send Brass and me to chase down Garret Ames and his family. Apparently, Grissom made little progress on the case during my absence. The Ames' have been noticeably hard to find at home. Our last meeting with them pretty much blew apart the meager bridge of trust I'd built between Ames and me. And Grissom? Ames was turned off by him during our first meeting. Moreover, Susan Briers has taken to stonewalling Grissom as well.

Currently, I'm leaning against the wall across from the DNA lab, trying to ignore the little hand gestures Greg keeps throwing my way. He's an overgrown teenager, but I love him. Against my will, I stand at attention when I see Brass coming.

"Hey, Nicky," Brass says, stopping in front of me. He looks me up and down. "How ya feeling?"

I nod. "All right."

He nods and glances through the window at Greg, who's decided to pick this moment to blow a kiss at me. Letting out a breath, Brass motions for me to follow. "Let's head out."

I'm sitting in the passenger seat of Brass's car, sparring with the tangled mess he calls a passenger-side seatbelt.

Scowling at the knotted strand of gray cloth, I turn to Brass. "What are we supposed to be doing?"

Brass shrugs. "Trying to catch the Ames' at home. We still need to talk to that kid."

"Cool," I say, still tugging at the seatbelt.

Brass glances at me, and I see a grin flit across his face. "You need help with that?"

"No," I grumble. "I'm good." After a few seconds, I manage to fasten the belt, but it's tighter than usual. I feel kind of like an idiot right now, so I live with it. The silence, though… that I can't live with. Brass has been pretty quiet since we got into the car, and it's is driving me batty. Generally, I hate conflict, especially with the people I care about. And I care about Jim. The silence keeps reminding me that there's a gargantuan barrier in between us.

Seemingly out of the blue, I take a breath and turn to Brass. "Greg and I are a couple," I say.

He gazes at me, a stunned look on his face. I know how he feels. My little outburst surprised me, too. Nodding, he says, "I figured."

"You're gonna have to deal with that," I say.

"Consider me warned."

I shake my head. "You gonna be like that?"

Brass glances at me. Letting out a breath, he says, "Like what?"

I tighten my jaw. "I thought we were friends, man."

Muttering something under his breath, Brass turns into a drugstore parking lot. He brings the car to a stop and turns to me. After a long awkward moment, he says, "We are friends, Nicky. You know I care about you. I just…don't want to see you get hurt, and I think that's gonna happen."

Folding my arms across my chest, I say, "Well, my friends pushing me away because I'm with a man hurts me."

Brass closes his eyes, as if he's either trying to collect his thoughts or rein in his temper. Placing a hand against his chest, he says, "I'm a father, Nicky. And I guess my mind just imagines all the bad things that could happen to you if you and Sanders keep this up."

I laugh. "The last time I slept with a woman, I almost got arrested for murder."

He nods, and then starts flipping through his case notes. He zooms through them too fast to really read any of it. Suddenly, he turns to me and asks, "Do you use protection?"

Oh, there's no way I'm going there with Jim Brass.

I shrug and gaze out the window. "It's Greg," I say.

"That doesn't answer my question."

When I was sixteen, I had a conversation like this with my father. I was going to a movie with my best friend (who happened to be female). It was, as far as my dad knew, my first official date. I wanted to peel my skin off instead of talk to my father about sex, but I swallowed my pride and listened because it seemed to mean so much to him. It was the most embarrassing half hour of my life. "I don't want to talk about this with you," I say to Brass. "I mean, do you really want hear me talk about my sex life?"

Brass gives me a horrified look, as if it just occurred to him that we are, in fact, talking about sex. Throwing up his hands, he says, "I just want you to be safe, Nicky, y'know?"

"I don't sleep around and neither does Greg," I say. "And I'm sorta pissed that you would think either of us do."

"Easy, Nicky. I'm just saying." Popping the glove compartment, he pulls out a pack of gum. "You want some?" I nod, and he hands me a stick of cinnamon gum. "Look, Nicky, I've been around, and people can be physical about this, you know?"

"I know."

Brass clears his throat. "It scares me, Nicky," he says, his voice breaking. He fidgets in his seat and lets out a long breath.

Oh perfect, this is the second person to cry on me tonight. I'll be an emotional wreck by morning.

"It scared me at first, too," I say, trying and failing to keep the tremor out of my voice. "But I'm more scared to be without Greg. I love him, Jim."

Rubbing his eyes, Brass says, "You love him? Well, I guess I just thought you were messing around with him." He gazes out the window for moment, and then he clears his throat again and says, "Look, I want you to be safe, is all."

I unfasten my seatbelt so I can face him and still breathe. "Then let me know you have my back, man," I say. "That's what I need. My stomach's been in knots, worrying about this."

He punches me on the shoulder. "That thing in the break room the other day…I came off way harsher than I wanted to."

"Yeah, I was pretty freaked."

He cocks his head at me. "Well, I was thinking all these things, and I didn't know how to say them. Sometimes, I come off like an ogre, when all I really want is to tell you I'm worried." Leaning a little closer to me, he cuffs my chin. "I got your back."

Swallowing, I say, "Thanks, Jim. I feel better knowing that."

Letting a hoarse chuckle, he says, "You gonna get mushy on me?"

I grin. "Hey, you're the one with wet eyes."

"Yeah." After a few seconds, Brass unfastens his shoulder harness and leans over me. He wrestles with my seatbelt for a few minutes, and then finally, he pulls it out, wrinkled, but no longer tangled. Smirking, he asks. "You want me to strap you in?"

I yank the seatbelt out of his hand. "I'm good, Jim," I grin. "Thanks."