Thank you so much for sticking around.
Grissom didn't immediately warn Greg of his presence. Instead, he watched as the young man leant over the desk, his neck craned at an odd angle as if he were trying to look at something without actually having to pick it up.
Gil couldn't imagine what it was that had caught Greg's interest, but if he didn't feel comfortable openly looking at it, then he probably shouldn't.
He didn't exactly expect Greg to jump away from the desk, but he thought Greg would at least show some guilty at getting caught nosing around his private papers. Instead, the young man merely glanced over his shoulder.
"Hey, Grissom," he said amiably. He tilted his head in the desk's direction. "I was looking at you dead guy's picture."
Gil walked around his desk and looked. There, among piles of unread case reports and unopened pieces of mail, lay a brown file from the Coroner's office, a dead man's picture pasted on top. Paul Foster. Doc Robbins had obviously assumed Gil was the lead investigator in the case and brought him the results from the autopsy.
Greg was looking at it again.
"Is it just my imagination or does this guy really look like me? It's hard to tell with the picture upside down -" And this time he actually picked the file. He was about to turn it around to take a closer look, when Grissom simply seized the file and put it back on the desk.
Greg stood empty-handed, a look of surprise on his face. Then he smirked.
"Top secret case?"
"You're supposed to be on vacation," Gil replied, "Technically, you shouldn't even be here."
"Yeah, well." Greg shrugged. "According to the schedule you shouldn't be here, either. And yet, here you are." He smiled smugly, "My hunch paid off."
Grissom didn't smile back. Instead, he got busy; he took off his jacket and hung it behind a bookcase, and then he came back to the desk, where a pile of written messages drew his attention next.
All along, he was aware of Greg's presence; he could tell the young man was following his every move, and this only added to his growing discomfort.
There was something slightly disturbing about the young man's attitude; it seemed too casual;. He should have apologized for looking at the papers on his desk; he should have explained what he was there for. Instead, he seemed oddly defiant.
Still looking at the messages, Grissom pulled his chair and sat. He usually took one of his visitor's chairs when he had a casual meeting; this time he deliberately chose the chair behind the desk. He was there as the boss and he hoped that Greg would get the message.
By the time Grissom looked up, Greg's smug smile had faded, and he was looking uncertainly at Grissom. Grissom merely stared back, and for a moment, it looked like they would stay like this for hours, with Grissom waiting for Greg to explain his presence there, and Greg acting as if Grissom should be the one giving the explanations.
But Greg was no match for Grissom when it came to keeping lengthy silences; he just had to say something.
"Do you mind?" And he tentatively reached for one of the visitor's chairs.
One of Gil's eyebrows rose in surprise. This was probably the first time Greg had bothered to ask. For years, he'd simply come in and plopped into a chair –all without a single invitation. His gesture only added to the awkwardness of the moment.
"Go ahead," Gil said mechanically.
Greg didn't just sat; he made himself comfortable, which took him an inordinately amount of time and effort. He was obviously stalling -and for once, Grissom didn't prompt him to hurry up. By now, he'd begun to realize that this wasn't going to be a casual conversation -not after the way they'd parted that morning.
He'd successfully kept the events of the morning at the back of his mind; but now, as they started coming back to him, he saw how badly he'd handled the entire situation. The more he thought about it, the more he realized that Greg was probably right; he was entitled to an explanation.
Greg looked up at last. He smiled.
"You're wondering what I'm doing here, right?" The smile held for a moment, then faded. "I just thought maybe we should talk."
Grissom's heart sank. He didn't have much experience when it came to relationships, but even he knew what 'maybe we should talk' meant.
He looked at Greg; the young man looked appropriately gloomy now; clearly, this was not a conversation he relished having. He couldn't even look at Grissom in the eye.
Gil took a deep breath. Long ago, he'd sworn he'd made it easy on Greg if –and when- this moment came.
It was the least he could do.
"Greg -" he started. He wanted to say something meaningful but couldn't think of anything. There was, however, something he knew he should have said the minute he saw Greg in his office. "I'm sorry."
Greg looked up cautiously but didn't say anything.
Clearly, a simple 'sorry' would not do, and so Gil tried again. "I guess I shouldn't have left like that."
This drew a response from Greg, though it wasn't the one Gil was hoping for.
Instead of nodding in quiet understanding, Greg snorted noisily.
"That's an understatement, Grissom," he said. He looked at Gil in the eye, "It freaked me out, to tell you the truth. I mean, it was just a dinner invitation."
Greg's testiness put Gil on guard. He'd never seen Greg angry and he didn't want to, either. so he did what he always did whenever it looked like a coworker was losing his composure: remain level-headed and courteous.
"You're right," he said calmly.
"- a chance for us to do something," Greg added morosely. "I mean, we don't go out -"
"No," Gil said quietly. "We don't."
'But we tried,' he thought. A couple of times.
Back when they were still trying to figure out what their relationship was all about, they'd gone to a baseball game, only to be caught by Brass. To Grissom, once was enough; they never went to another game.
Then they tried going to the movies, but that didn't go well either. Actually, it was a disaster, and Gil blamed himself for it. He still couldn't understand why, instead of choosing a Multiplex where they could have had their pick among dozens of violence-filled movies, (the kind that Greg liked), he'd decided to go to the Art Movie House, where there was only one theatre, snacks were non-existent, and movies were selected with a month of anticipation.
Movies made half-a-century ago.
Grissom still winced at the memory. He didn't really expect Greg to be enthusiastic about movies like Picnic and Sudden Fear, but he did hope the young man would somehow appreciate them. Instead, Greg had spent the entire time mocking the stories and the actors, calling Kim Novak the 'oldest teenager ever', and marveling at the fact that Joan Crawford was ever considered a beauty.
By the end of the night, Gil had had enough; he never issued another invitation. And since Greg rarely suggested going out, (except to eat something at Antigua, their favorite coffee shop), they never went out again.
Considering all this, Gil found Greg's complain of their lack of a social life surprising, to say the least.
The young man even sounded bitter about it.
" –so, I thought the least we could do was have dinner," he was saying; "You know, have some of my friends drop by. I didn't see any problem with that -"
"You're right," Gil said calmly, "I should have stayed and explained."
"Hey, there's no need," Greg shrugged, "You don't want to meet my friends -that's ok. It seems you've got a preconceived notion of who they are and, wrong as it is, there's nothing I can do about it."
Gil raised an eyebrow in surprise. It was ironic that Greg would speak of preconceived notions, since he had it all wrong -Gil did want to meet his friends. After hearing so much about them, he'd developed some mental pictures he'd like to test for accuracy.
What he didn't want was to be introduced as Greg's new 'gay' friend, and have his sexuality become the one point of reference in a new friendship.
"But this isn't about my friends," Greg said, interrupting his thoughts. "Right? This is about you and me, and the fact that you're my boss."
"We can hardly ignore that," he said reasonably.
Greg snorted again.
"It's been six months, Grissom," he said sarcastically. "I'd say it's a little too late to start worrying about ethics. After all," and this time he smiled, "It's not like you're corrupting a minor here. The way I see it, we're just two consenting adults having a little fun."
Grissom shook his head almost imperceptibly. It wasn't that simple; there were feelings involved too -his own. Just because he kept them in check didn't mean they didn't exist. But how could he even begin to explain any of this?
Greg was looking at him, obviously waiting for some kind of response. Silence lengthened between them, and this time he did nothing to break it. His smile started to fade.
Finally, he dropped his gaze. He looked disappointed; resigned. Like someone who's on the verge of making a decision he doesn't want to make...
"Grissom, look -" he started, just as Gil began to talk too.
"Greg, I think -"
Both stopped abruptly, then waited for the other to begin. For a moment, all they did was stare at each other, neither one of them daring to say a word.
In other circumstances, they would have probably found the situation very funny.
To Grissom, it was mostly pathetic.
"Greg," he started, then paused to take a deep breath. It wasn't easy, what he was about to say -but he never got to say it, 'cause just as he opened his mouth again, two men suddenly barged into his office.
Warrick and Nick.
Warrick put a big hand on Greg's shoulder.
"Hey, look who's here," he said, grinning widely.
Greg forced himself to smile before glancing over his shoulder.
"Hey, guys," he said easily. "How's it going?"
Warrick was all smiles but Nick seemed genuinely puzzled to see his friend there.
"Greggo? I thought you were still on vacation."
"Yeah, well -" Greg shrugged. "What can I say? I can't stay away from the job."
"Is that right," Warrick said skeptically. "Oh, wait; I get it," he added. He glanced at Grissom, "He ran out of money and now he's talking you into letting him come back earlier. Am I right?"
"Yeah," Greg said cheerfully, "That's exactly what I'm doing." He tilted his head in Gil's direction, "Do you think taking him to dinner will do the trick?"
"It's not Grissom you ought to take to dinner," Warrick retorted, "It's Ecklie."
"Are you kidding me?" Greg said in mock disappointment, "Ecklie?"
"Hey, he's the one who came up with these new vacation regulations."
"Yeah," Nick said, following Warrick's lead, "He's the one you should suck up to."
"Oh, man," Greg sighed, "And here I thought it was Grissom I should be sucking up to." And this time he glanced at Gil and gave him a mischievous smile only he could see.
Grissom studiously ignored him; instead, he looked sternly at Nick.
"The swing shift started a half-hour ago. Don't you have something to do?"
Nick looked up in confusion. He probably felt Gil's reaction was unwarranted, but he didn't dare arguing.
"Uh, yeah," he muttered. He glanced at Warrick. "I think the guys from Trace have some results for us -"
"Yeah. Trace." Warrick glanced thoughtfully at Gil and then at Greg. "Well, it was great to see you both."
Gil watched them leave, then kept his gaze on the doorway even after they were out of sight. It was only reluctantly that he looked at Greg again.
The young man was smiling placidly.
"If they only knew, right?" he said, and his smile widened.
Grissom smiled despite himself.
Yes. If they only knew.
"Not that I'm gonna tell them," Greg added, the smile still in place though not as placid. "I mean, in case that's what you're worried about."
Grissom's smile faded.
"I know you won't tell," he said, but the words didn't seem to mollify Greg. There was that look of defiance in his eyes again, and something else –
Gil winced at the sudden realization: Greg was angry. But as suddenly as it appeared, it disappeared. Gone. Greg simply dropped his gaze, and that was it. By the time he looked up again, he was looking like his old good-natured self again. Once again, he was looking at Grissom, waiting for the older man to say or do something.
They were back to where they'd started.
Grissom cleared his throat.
"Greg," he started solemnly, "I think… Maybe it's time for us to -"
"Yeah." Greg said quietly. "I know. You're busy, I can see that," He glanced at the mess on the desk. "Sara says you're helping her on a case."
Gil looked up sharply; Greg had completely misunderstood but he didn't set out to correct him. It was a chance to change the subject, and he seized it.
"Yes," he said. "It should have gone to the day shift but Sara took it."
"What, she doesn't think you have enough on your plate already? I mean, you lost three of your guys. Four, if you count me."
"We manage," Gil said modestly. "And you're coming back in a week, so -"
"Maybe I should take Ecklie to dinner after all," Greg said, his smile turning mischievous again. "I could get him drunk and take a few pictures of him in a compromising position, then exchange the pictures for a chance to come back a few days earlier."
"That's blackmail," Gil said, but he was grinning, and this seemed to encourage Greg; obviously, the young man was just as relieved to be talking about something else.
He glanced at the files in front of Gil.
"So, about this new case you're working on; is it really top secret or are you just worried that looking at a dead look-alike will freak me out?"
Grissom smiled at Greg's directness.
"You're on vacation, Greg. You don't need to see the files." He paused, "But yes, he does look like you. A bit."
"So, who was he?"
"Whoa, really? It's been months since we had a musician on the slab. Anyone famous?"
"Not really." Gil didn't want to discuss Foster or the fact that he looked like a dead Greg Sanders. "But I did get to meet a famous conductor," he said, and he winced at how eager he sounded. He was bragging, for God's sake. And it wasn't like Burroughs was that famous, anyway; at least, not to someone in Greg's age bracket.
But Greg seemed suitably impressed.
"You did? Who?"
"This guy's teacher. James Burroughs."
To Gil's surprise, Greg immediately perked up.
"James Burroughs? The James Burroughs?"
"I only know the one, why?"
"Because the James Burroughs I know, wrote the score for an opera called, 'The Sword and the Feather.'"
"Never heard of it."
"Well, shame on you, Gil Grissom. 'The Sword and the Feather' is widely regarded as the first gay opera."
"A gay opera?"
Greg smiled, enjoying Gil's reaction.
"You don't know anything about gay history, do you," he said indulgently. "For your information, The Sword and the Feather was the vanity project of a guy named Michael Glasgow; he wrote it, produced it and directed it, back in 1965. The film had a short run, mostly in Europe, and then quietly disappeared from the marquees till someone resurrected it during the Disco era."
He paused to take a breath, and then added, "Michael Glasgow was obviously a pseudonym, but James Burroughs did use his own name, which probably didn't do him much good. The film was a bomb."
Greg had recited the information as if he were reading it from a magazine. Now, he looked curiously at Grissom.
"If it's the same guy, he must be like 80 years old now."
It was typical of Greg to exaggerate when it came to people's ages, and Grissom scowled at him.
"Burroughs is 68, tops."
"Potato, potahto -" Greg muttered. Then he perked up, "Hey, would you like to see the movie? I've got it on DVD."
"It could be interesting," Gil said thoughtfully. He was thinking of the posters adorning Burroughs' hotel room. There was no evidence of The Sword and the Feather anywhere. Maybe the opera had proved to be an embarrassment to him.
"So, is this guy a suspect, or something? Wait," Greg said, lifting a hand, "You can't discuss the case; forget I asked."
"Actually, I'd like to know more about James Burroughs. Is he gay?"
"I don't know." Greg said slowly. He leant on the desk, "To tell you the truth, 'The Sword and The Feather' was never officially touted as a gay opera; the gay community decided it was. They read between the lines, so to speak. And since straight audiences always felt there was something, ahem, queer about the main characters, well -" he shrugged.
"Oh, yeah," Greg grinned. "You see, the opera's message is ostensibly about the glory of friendship, but only between guys –these guys. They walk around brandishing phallic symbols in their hands… they sing songs to each other… they're sweet to each other… Too sweet, if you know what I mean." He smiled, "I can imagine straight audiences squirming."
"What's the story about?"
"Oh, you know," Greg shrugged. "The usual; a tragic love affair; men and women singing and drinking and killing each other… Men and women wearing extravagant costumes…" He perked up, "What I do remember is the guys who played the main characters. They were hot."
"That's all you remember?" Gil glared.
"Well, the movie's kinda long. Or maybe it only felt long to me," he added dryly. "Anyway, the story's about two guys –don Fernando and Don Carlos. They've been friends since they were kids, and -"
"Don Carlos?" Gil frowned.
"The story's set in Spain," Greg explained. "Anyway, these two guys have known each other forever. One grows up to become a writer; the other is a Captain of the army -"
"Oh, so that's what the title is all about, then."
"Exactly. One wrote with a feather quill, the other hacked people to pieces with a sword. They're different, but they really complement each other," Greg added, warming up to the story, "They have this sweet, tender, untroubled friendship -kind of like David and Jonathan -"
"I get the picture," Gil interrupted.
Greg smiled at Grissom's impatience.
"Wait till you see the picture," he said ironically, "The scenes between these two go and on –which is ok, since they're good-looking guys, but it's bad, too, 'cause all they do is sing. Anyway, things are great between them till Don Carlos meets a girl -Doña Ana."
"And she falls in love with Don Fernando," Gil said, thinking of some of the operas he'd seen in the past.
"Wrong. She takes an immediately dislike to him –and I'm not talking about a cute love-hate situation, Grissom. She loathes him –which is one of the reasons women can't stand this movie, by the way. Straight or lesbian, they dislike the way women are portrayed in it. Take Doña Ana, for instance. She's unreasonably jealous; she obviously feels threatened by Don Fernando but it's never clear why -unless she knows something the audience doesn't –which is why the gay angle works so well. 'Cause if she suspects Don Fernando is gay, then it's easy to understand why she cringes every time she sees the two men together, right?"
Grissom nodded, but he was only vaguely listening. He was more interested in watching Greg. The young man was more relaxed now; he was lecturing Gil -smugly, just like he did whenever he knew something that Gil didn't- and he was enjoying every minute of it.
It seemed just like old times, Gil thought. Gone were the tentativeness and discomfort that had plagued their talks lately. They were just two colleagues discussing a movie; a gay movie, sure, but at least Greg wasn't looking furtively at him, as if he were afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing.
'This is how life should always be like,' Gil thought, and for a moment, he wished he'd never let sex and love get in the way.
"Are you listening?" Greg asked impatiently.
Grissom frowned at the tone, but didn't comment on it.
"I am," he said calmly; and to prove it, he repeated the last part of the story, "Doña Ana manages to break up the friendship by making it look like they've betrayed each other." He frowned, "She must be very cunning to manage that."
"Nah, she's not. She's just surrounded by stupid people."
Gil was surprised at Greg's vehemence.
"You really don't like this movie, do you?"
"Meh," Greg shrugged, "The story's not that good. I just watch it for the two guys; they're -"
"Hot," Gil interrupted testily, "I know; you've already told me."
Greg paused, his eyebrows raised as if Gil had just said something out of the ordinary.
"Anyway," Greg said slowly, still looking closely at Grissom, "Don Fernando decides to take revenge by seizing Don Carlos' properties –he's in the army, so it's easy for him. But just as his revenge is about to be complete, a third friend who's known about Doña Ana's plot all along, finally tells him the truth. Enraged, Don Fernando goes to Don Carlos' home and kills Doña Ana in what's got to be the bloodiest scenes in the history of opera –or so the blurb on the DVD cover says," he quipped.
"Well…I guess," Greg hesitated. "He hacks her to pieces, but we don't get to see the actual murder; we only see the aftermath. But whoever staged this thing really did his homework, Gil; the blood spatter looks very realistic."
Grissom blinked. It was the first time Greg called him by his first name, and the effect was oddly thrilling.
Greg, caught up in his story-telling, didn't notice his slip.
"Anyway," he continued, "Don Carlos, who's in his death-bed -"
"In his death-bed? Why?"
"He had a stroke -didn't I mention that?"
"No, you did not."
Greg chuckled. "Sorry. I really suck at this," he admitted. "There's always some little detail I forget to mention. But you'll get to see everything when you see the movie."
"What were you going to say about Don Carlos?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah. Well, he finds out that his friend never betrayed him, and so he drags himself out of bed and sets out to look for Don Fernando, who's out there wandering in the castle, still covered in Doña Ana's blood and claiming he's gonna kill himself. And that's how the story ends, with them dying in each other's arms –after one last song about their friendship." He looked up. "And that's it."
"That's not it," Gil retorted, "What about the music?"
"I think you'd be a better judge of that than me. You're the expert." He glanced curiously at Gil, "So, this guy Burroughs is alive, huh?"
"Barely," Grissom said, thinking of the frail man whose hands shook so much.
"I thought you said he was only 68. Is he sick?"
"I'm not sure," Gil said thoughtfully. Grief could account for Burroughs' shakiness, but the more he thought about it, the more he wondered if there was another reason. He could have inadvertently overdosed on medication, for instance. Or forgotten to take his meds. It didn't seem probable, not with his sister watching over him, but –
"Hey, do you think you can get me his autograph?"
"Why?" Gil frowned, "I thought you hated opera."
"He's a part of history, Grissom. Our history," Greg added pointedly. "And I don't really hate opera; I've been pretty impressed by some. But this one… it lacks something. It lacks -"
"Exactly," Greg said, clearly pleased with Gil's perception. It was actually Brass' perception, but Grissom didn't bother to add that. "Or maybe I just expect too much from the story. It's just not very good. I mean, bad guys should raise some reaction from the public, right? They should inspire indignation, or something. But here, they just make you roll your eyes. And the good guys, well, they're just stupid."
"And you don't want your heroes to be stupid," Gil nodded, "Especially if they're gay. The question is, are they really gay?"
Greg paused for a moment.
"Personally, I think they are. I just wish they were more open about it. Then the story would make more sense."
"Well, you have to put yourself within the context of the times," Grissom said reasonably. "Think about it; how true to his –or her- feelings could the author really be? To write an openly gay opera at a time when homosexuality was still condemned? Even now it would be considered a bold move. Besides, even a lousy play can have a moral," he added, "Here, the message gets through loud and clear: 'Beware of jealousy.""
"Ah, but then where would opera be without jealousy and all lowly feelings that plague men?"
Grissom lifted an eyebrow. It sounded like Greg was quoting someone, but he couldn't quite place who.
Greg merely chuckled.
"So, shall I get you a copy of the movie?"
"Yes," Gil said, "Please."
Silence fell once again. They looked at each other, their smiles tentative. There were things still unsaid between them and they knew it; talking about the movie didn't solve anything -it only gave them a reprieve. But Gil for one was grateful. He didn't want to face the truth about their relationship -not yet. Certainly not in his office.
"So," Greg said. "What are your plans for today? You're pulling another double shift?"
Gil shook his head.
"I'm going home," he said. "I only stopped by to check on my messages."
"Oh." Greg brightened up, "Hey, why don't you come over? After all, I still owe you one."
Gil winced. Greg was obviously referring to his abrupt departure in the morning. He'd left just as Greg had started to show him his appreciation.
"What do you think?" Greg asked, looking closely at him, gauging his reaction. Gil's silence only made him bolder. "Or maybe I could do something about it, right here," he said softly. He leant forward. "All I'd have to do is close the door and lower the blinds… walk around the desk and push your chair back… " He smiled faintly.
Gil gulped. It was a crazy idea, and Greg's smile probably meant he was only joking, but he couldn't help feeling tempted. The problem was that vivid imagination of his; in his mind, he could easily picture Greg doing all those things and getting away with it. To his surprise, he was instantly aroused; his body had reacted to Greg's words as surely as if the young man had touched him.
It was amazing…Thrilling. Scary as hell too.
Somehow, he managed to get a hold of himself.
Meanwhile, Greg didn't seem to notice his conflict.
"Or, how about this," he said good-naturedly, "Come over tomorrow; have breakfast with me. I'll cook you an omelet for a change."
Gil eyed him skeptically.
"Do you know how?"
"Hey, don't get snotty with me. How hard can it can be? All you gotta do is break a couple of eggs, beat them, pour them into a lightly-greased pan -" he waved his hands in the air as he spoke, vaguely imitating those actions. "It's easy."
"Oh really?" Gil leant on his desk, "What about the salt?"
"Oh, yeah," Greg frowned, "The salt. Ooookay. Let me start again, then: Beat a couple of eggs, add a pinch of salt –and a pinch from anything green I can find in my kitchen…"
"The only green thing in your kitchen's that ratty Brillo pad you keep behind the sink."
It was probably Gil's first real smile of the day, and Greg looked gratified by it.
"I'll buy something green, then," he offered. "So, what do you say? Are you coming?"
Grissom shook his head.
"I can't," he said regretfully. "I haven't gone home in two days; I have things to do. Then I'll have to come back here," he glanced at the reports on his desk. "I'll probably have to stay in all day tomorrow."
"Oh." Greg hesitated, "Ok. Then how about this? Come to dinner tomorrow night. No friends," he added pointedly, "That's a promise. I'll order us some food. Tai, Chinese... Or I could order a pizza -Chicago style."
Grissom perked up.
"Very deep," Greg said huskily, giving the words a whole new meaning.
And who could resist that? Not Grissom.
"All right," he said, "I'll come over, then."
"Good," Greg said, and he rose from his seat. "It's settled, then. We'll have pizza, and maybe some wine." He took a couple of steps to the door, then added, "Then we'll talk."