Nick walked tiredly back into the lab with his case and sighed in relief. A multiple accident on the freeway had taken up the other members of his team, and he had been working solo on the other calls. Sixteen hours after he had been called to the first DB he handed in his evidence for the fifth one, all properly done and logged, and headed for the break room.
He arrived without mishap, washed his hands and poured himself a coffee, and went to sit down on the sofa in the corner of the room. No-one was around, by now the day shift was in full swing and his team would have gone home hours ago. He had called base for Ecklie to send someone into come and at least help him with the last one, but he'd had a very negative response. Enough that he would make a formal complaint when he was awake enough to do it.
But right now all he wanted to do was sit here with his hands wrapped around a warm coffee mug, inside, under cover, with the dead bodies wrapped up and almost as frozen as he was.
"I'm not like you!" Sara snapped angrily at Gil. "I feel!" She then turned on her heel and stalked out of the lab, leaving a bemused and hurt CSI Supervisor in her wake.
Some hours later Gil was still smarting at her remark, but was trying to concentrate on keeping his team's time sheets up to date. Normally he did it once every two weeks but he was early this week, he hadn't wanted to go home to an empty house to brood, so he had stayed to get on with it.
He was just finishing up now, concentrating on todays, smiling grimly at Sara's clock out time, when he noticed Nick hadn't clocked out. Damn that boy, he thought to himself, but not very vehemently. Then, with a shocked little shiver, he realised he hadn't seen him since he'd given out tasks gods knew how many hours ago. He didn't need to check the sheet to know that he had only been back from sick leave for two weeks, that Nigel Crane hadn't gone to trial yet. But he didn't know whether his bail had been refused, he had not checked with Brass. All of a sudden a cold fear curled through his belly and he stood. What if Crane had got out and gone after Nick while he was alone? What he would have done to the young man didn't bear thinking about, and he knew he had to find him. Now.
He left his office at a jog, knowing that the first thing Nick would have done when he got back was log in his evidence, so he checked there first. As he had hoped all of Nick's logs were up to date, he was quite impressed with the detail and amount of items he had accumulated during the hours he had been out. The last entry was timed about twenty minutes ago, and Gil sighed in relief and hoped that it meant his quarry was still here.
Using his deductive skills he went to the men's room first, then the locker room. Nothing. Then he checked out the break room, and smiled in relief to himself when he walked in.
Nicky was there, on the sofa, and it looked like he was dozing. He had a coffee cup held loosely in one hand, his other one, still supported with a strong medical support, was covering his eyes. He was slumped in the corner of the sofa, his legs stretched out in front of him, crossed at the ankles. It gave Gil time to study him: he was thinner than his boss remembered, pale of skin, and the frown lines on his forehead seemed to be etched in.
When he had arrived at Las Vegas from Dallas he had been eager but nervous, knowledgeable but ready to learn, and not arrogant enough to demand promotions or more considerations than his colleagues.
He had not lost his innocence either, despite everything he had been through, something that made his boss smile. He had filled out a little too – before he had been a lanky, skinny, uncoordinated young man. Now, a few years later, he was still thin, but much more comfortable in his skin, broader in the shoulders with a bit more shape to his hips and ass.
Gil had been fighting his attraction to him for a while now, telling himself that Nick didn't need him. But it was getting more and more difficult, especially after recent events. He had been terrified on the way to the young man's home when he had known Crane was after him – he didn't want anyone to be too late, the bastard had already thrown the young man out of the two-storey window.
Luckily they had all been on time, Brass was already there with he arrived, and, on his cursory check on him he was all right, if a little shaken. But just to be sure he had taken him back to hospital for another check up.
Nick had slept in the back of the car on the way back, just in the same position as he was now. And Gil had been smitten then, even more than he had been before.
He walked over to him and gently took the coffee cup from his hand and put it on the table nearby before he spilt it over himself, and then sat beside him on the sofa. He reached over to him and took his nearest hand in his own to rouse him. "Nicky." he called to him gently. "Wake up." He squeezed his hand and watched him as he opened his eyes slowly and looked at him owlishly. "Are you all right?" he asked him.
"Tired." the younger CSI told him and squeezed his hand back. "Been working."
Gil frowned. "Ecklie should have relieved you six hours ago." he retorted grimly. "Did you call?"
Nick nodded. "He told me you should deal with it, you're my supervisor." he explained bleakly. And yawned. "I told him to shove it and the formal complaint I'm going to make up his ass."
Gil smiled at him. "I think I'd like to see that." he said to him, amused. He let him go and sighed. "Why don't you go home?" he asked him. "Are you in work tomorrow?"
Nick shook his head. "I'm off for the weekend. You?"
Gil nodded. "But I might come in anyway." he said thoughtfully.
Nick frowned in thought. "I don't think I could be like you." he began, smiling a little. That faded quickly when Gil pushed himself out of his seat and stalked away. "What…?" he said to himself, watching his boss' strange reaction. "Gris? What did I say?"
Gil turned on him and the glare aimed Nicky's way scorched him from across the room. "Don't." he snapped angrily. "I hear that too much." He looked away. "Warrick thinks I'm a robot, Sara thinks I have no feelings and Cat thinks I don't care about anything apart from bugs. I don't want to hear that from you too."
Nick sighed. "I wasn't going to say that." he told him truthfully. "I was going to say that yes, I care about the vics, that I love my job. But I can't give them all my time, like you can. I have to have some space for me." He stood and walked over to him. "That's all I was going to say."
Gil turned round to face him, a little surprised that he was so close. "Oh." he commented, the only thing he could think of to say. "I just…"
Nick smiled a little. "I was going to ask you a favour." he asked him after a few moments of silence. He had thought about it for the last four weeks, since he had last slept in his own bed, and now, especially after this conversation, seemed to be a good time. "If you don't mind." he added quietly.
Gil looked up at him. "What do you need?" he asked him.
Nick seemed to back off then, feeling a little embarrassed. "Don't worry." he said to him, and was going to turn round and go but Gil grabbed his arm to stop him. And let go quickly when he heard his subordinate's hiss of pain. "Nicky?" he questioned, and moved closer to him. "What's wrong with your arm? Have you been injured? Did someone attack you? Nicky?"
Stokes backed away and shook his head, but he had to cradle his injured right arm against his chest. "It's all right." he told him. "I've just grazed it is all." he tried to explain it away. "It's nothing."
Gil had prided himself on telling when people were lying to him, especially when it was people he cared about. And it was so rare for Nick that the supervisor's hackles were raised immediately. "Okay." he told him firmly. "You're lying to me, Nick. You've never done that before and I don't like it." He walked round him to stand between him and the door, not allowing him to escape. "I'll do you a favour, you do me one. Show me your arm." he ordered. "and tell me what happened."
Nick groaned and returned to the sofa, slumping back into his original seat, still cradling his throbbing arm. "It's nothing." he insisted stubbornly. He was very unwilling to tell him the truth, not knowing what his response would be. "I'm just tired. I think I pulled a muscle is all." he tried to fob him off. "That's all Gil."
He was lying again, Gil knew, and he walked over to him and perched on the arm of the sofa nearest to him. "Nicky." he told him a bit more gently. "I only want to know because I care about you. You're part of my team, my family. I need to make sure you're all right." he explained to him.
Nick looked at him with a frown. "'Part of your family'?" he queried, confused. "Is that what you think of me?"
Gil smiled at him. "I think a lot about you, Nick." he answered him. "Please tell me what's wrong with your arm."
The young man studied him for a few moments, thinking about it, and realised he couldn't get out if it – his boss wouldn't let it go. With a sigh he pulled his long black sleeve up to his elbow and above, and looked away from his boss, not wanting to see his reaction. Just in case.
Gil stared at the large dressing on Nick's arm, dreading to thing what it covered. It stretched from his elbow to an inch or so above his wrist and almost all the way round too. It was adhesive, so it had an inch of pad-less sticky cover around the outside, but there was still a huge pad in the middle. And in that pad, marked out in fresh blood, were his finger marks, where they had broken the wound underneath. "Oh my God." the supervisor murmured and gently took the injured limb in his hands. "How did that happen? Nicky?" he asked him gently, interlocking his finger's with the other CSI's. "Did someone attack you?"
Nick shook his head and squeezed his hand. "I've never been able to deal with any bad feelings I have." he explained to him bleakly. "Except by doing the same thing." He sighed and shook his head again. "I'm not doing this very well." he commented darkly, and he paused to think. He couldn't find any other way to describe what he did, to get out of it, and he couldn't really be bothered to hide it any more. "I can't be bothered to lie to any one any more." he said to him out loud. "Especially not to you." He sighed again and looked at his fingers interlocked with Gil's. "I took a razor to my arm and took some skin off." he explained to him. "Quite a lot of skin."
Gil frowned and used his other hand to lightly caress the skin on his face. "Have you had it checked out?" he asked him gently. "By a doctor? Alex? Anyone?"
Nick looked up at him and shook his head. "No." he answered him. "I normally deal with it myself."
Gil was thinking fast, it was such a large looking wound, but whether Nick would let him take him to a hospital was another matter. "I would like to take you to get it checked out." he said to him gently. "But…" he added before Nick could protest. "I can't force you, and I don't want to either. I just want to make sure you're okay." He studied him for a few moments in silence and cupped his cheek in his palm. "You're not, are you?" he suggested insightfully. "Otherwise you wouldn't feel the need to so it, would you?"
Nicky refrained from saying "Duh, ya think" to him, he shook his head instead and tried to pull away, but Gil wouldn't let him. "You remember that favour I asked of you?" he prompted, trying to change the subject. "I haven't been back to my house since…" he stopped, not being able to mention that murdering psychopath Crane's name. "And need some things. If I give you a list and the key, will you get them for me?"
Gil nodded, but his frown deepened. "So where have you been staying?" he asked him worriedly. "With Warrick?"
"I did for a couple of nights." the kid admitted. "But I left because I was getting in the way. I've been at a couple of hotels since." he explained. "I just can't face going home." He shuddered. "It's not home any more, but I don't know what I'm going to do about it either."
He looked so lost and bewildered that Gil lost all thoughts about anything else apart from comforting him. He let go of his cheek and slipped that arm around his shoulders, pulling him close in a tight embrace, and made a decision. "I am not going to have you living in fear in a hotel." he said to him firmly. "I have plenty of spare space. I'll take you home to get your stuff, then the hotel, where you can check out. Okay?" he asked, but he wasn't going to take no for an answer.
"I don't want to be in the way." Nicky protested lamely. "It's your home, you don't want me invading." But it did sound tempting all the same to be in the same house as the guy he had fantasized over for a while now. Even being held like this was more than he had hoped for, he always thought that Gil had something going on with Sara the way she made doe eyes at him all the time.
Gil chuckled quietly and held him a little tighter. "You're right." he told him fondly. "It is my home, but I do want you in it. You won't be any trouble, Nicky, and I want you there rather than some soulless, lonely room on your own. At least there I can make sure that arm will be all right. I can grow some maggots if needs be."
"Yuk! Gross man!" Nick retorted and pulled away to look up at him with a pained expression. "You are not putting those things anywhere near me!"
Gil chuckled and ruffled his hair. "Just in case you need them." he continued. "I am a doctor of entomology you know." he said archly. "I can get some for you, I know people." He put on such a lofty expression that Nick couldn't stop his laughter, which had been Gil's intention, and the sight and sound warmed him to the core.
It didn't take any more than an hour to get the boy's things moved into Gil's house and spare bedroom, bit it took a little longer to get Nick to eat something substantial and go to bed. He was exhausted, he knew it, and Gil could see it, but the nightmares that haunted his slumber scared him enough to keep him awake. But Gil persuaded him into bed, helping him undress since his injured arms made it quite difficult for him. Rather than lose control completely and climb in to bed with him, Gil did the paternal thing and tucked him in instead. "Get some sleep, Nick." he told him, sitting on the edge of the bed. "I'll be around, don't worry. I've turned my phone and beeper off." he added to reassure him. "Don't faint."
Nick smiled at that, but he was too tired to make a dry comment. Instead he closed his eyes and snuggled a bit further into the duvet. He felt safe here, more so than he had done for a long time, and he was quick to fall asleep.
Gil watched him for a few minutes before he left him alone, noticing how calm, young and lovely he looked snuggled up in his bed, fast asleep.
Gil woke quickly, suddenly, and lay very still to figure out what it was that had woken him. Then he heard the cry again, and woke completely. He got out of bed and left his room at a jog and entered Nicky's room next to his. The young man was obviously in the throes of a nightmare, he was curled up in a ball, tangled in the sheets, trying to push away whoever it was that was attacking him.
It was the horrid, keening noise that made Gil run over to him – a verbal manifestation of the fear he was suffering. He quickly sat beside him on the bed and laid a hand on his shoulder. "Nick." he called to him firmly. "Wake up."
Nick tried to pull away from him, not rousing, just crying out a little more. "No!" he yelled, sobbing real tears, and almost fell out of bed.
Gil wrapped his arms around his guest and pulled him up into his embrace. "Nick!" he called loudly and shook him, trying to wake him. "Wake up. It's a nightmare, it's all right." He shook him again, and almost jumped out of his skin when a scream of sheer terror emitted from the man in his arms. He didn't want to slap him awake, so he gave it one last snap of his name and shook him again.
It worked, finally, and Gil found himself staring at a set of wide, brown eyes, filled with terror and tears. Nick tried to push away from him, but at the moment he was stronger than his subordinate and he cuddled him close and looked down at him. "It's all right, Nicky." he said to him gently. "It was a nightmare, its okay. you're okay."
Nick stared up at him for a few moments before his face crumpled and he burst into tears.
Gil pulled him closer, if possible, and found himself smiling a little when he felt his armful snuggle close to him, bury his face in his t-shirt and slip his own arms around his neck to hold on. The older man gently rocked him back and forth, nuzzled his temple with his own chin, and murmured soft words to him while Nicky cried himself dry.
Eventually, he didn't really know how much time passed, the supervisor noted that Nick had quietened down and stopped shaking. He looked down at him again and studied him for a moment before he spoke.
Nick was still awake, but he seemed to be just staring at the threads in Gil's t-shirt, the fingers of one hand clutching rhythmically at the material just below his line of sight.
"Nick?" Gil called to him, hoping for a response. "Nicky? Are you with me?"
The young man slowly looked up at him and blinked a couple of times. "I'm here." he murmured almost inaudibly. "Just don't let go. Please."
Gil shook his head. "I won't." he assured him. "But we both need to sleep. Do you mind if we share?"
Nicky smiled ever so slightly and shook his head. "I don't mind." he agreed, and pulled back to give his boss some room.
Gil slipped in under the covers and lay down, and was gratified when Nick snuggled down against him, head resting on his shoulder, hand resting on Gil's chest next to his own face. It was a comfortable position for them both, allowing Gil to do what he had wanted for a while: holding Nick close in his bed. He had hoped it would be under different circumstances, that they were snuggling after a bout of hot, sweaty sex, but he could adapt. "I won't leave you alone, Nicky. I promise." he reassured him. "Just go back to sleep."
"Hmmmmm." Nick murmured, his eyes closed, and snuggled closer to him, ready to sleep again.
Gil lay still and listened contentedly as his companion's breathing grew shallow and rhythmic as he fell asleep against him. He couldn't remember feeling as comfortable in bed with someone as he did now, and he stayed awake as much as he could to savour the feeling. He wouldn't even mind, he thought to himself, if he woke up with cramp in his arm from holding Nick close, and cramp in his face from smiling so much.
Back at work on Monday night Gil kept Nick as close to him as he could, handing out tasks to make sure they stayed together.
The younger CSI had slept in Gil's arms for hours during Friday, while he had also slept, but not all the time. When he had been awake he had lain still, just holding Nicky tightly, making sure he slept restfully. Which he did.
Saturday and Sunday had been spent just doing domestic things: shopping for groceries and clothes for Nick since Crane had taken most of his. Nick turned out to be great in the garden, happy to mow the lawn and weed the beds, as well as putting up the new bird feeders he had bought. He still looked tired during the weekend, had dozed a couple of times in the armchair in the living room as well, but only when he was touching Gil did his sleep become restful and nightmare-free.
Gil felt like he was a new man. He found himself smiling as he watched from the kitchen while Nicky concentrated on arranging the different bird feeders on different trees around the garden. Apparently it was quite important for them to be placed correctly, in little groupings of a nut holder, a seed mix holder and a sunflower seed holder all in cover of the trees so the birds didn't feel threatened. It made the entomologist realise that some people didn't think about bugs all the time. He also found that he hadn't called into the lab once from Friday to Monday, and he didn't feel guilty about it at all. Normally he would be there all the hours he could be, involving himself in cases he probably shouldn't, but he now found that looking after his house guest, watching him change his house to a home, making sure he ate, slept and didn't do too many things, was much more rewarding than going to work.
So much so that they were almost late getting back to work because Gil didn't want to let him out of his arms and out of bed.
And Nicky was very grateful for it. He tried to tell him as often as he could but Gil normally brushed it off. So he decided to do whatever he could for him, including the garden!
"You've made me feel safe." he told his boss in the car on the way to their first crime scene of the week on Monday night. "I haven't felt safe for a month, probably for a lot longer than that. I don't what to do to thank you for it."
Gil parked the Tahoe at the address they had been given and turned to face his passenger. "Just remain safe." he told him with a fond smile. "I like having you in my home. You've made it a home, not just some space where I keep my belongings." He took Nicky's nearest hand in his own and interlocked their fingers, a gesture that had become commonplace during the weekend. "You don't need to thank me." he assured him. "You just need to make sure you stay safe. And move in permanently. Can you do that for me?"
Nick stared at him in shock for a moment. This was very unexpected. He had thought the arrangement was temporary until he was feeling better. Which had been the cause of a few of his nightmares. He didn't want to leave Gil's home now, it was a sanctuary from where he could watch the world go by and not feel threatened by it. And to be asked to stay? He grinned and squeezed Gil's fingers. "I can do that." he agreed happily. "Thank you Gil. Very much."
Gil squeezed his hand back. "Thank you." he answered him. "Now, shall we go and catch us some bad guys?" he asked impishly.
Nick chuckled and nodded. "Before Brass comes looking for us." he commented, nodding at the Captain's car already in the driveway.
Gil nodded and let go of his hand, and they both exited the car together and made their way to the house, side by side, matching bags and strides.