A/T: Okie-dokie, folks! This little fic is for the wonderful, beautiful Kahlualeia who requested the five words San Francisco, scratch, Baklava, Vanessa, and Luminol. She asked for a gen David piece, a gen Greg piece, or a David/Greg first time. (Hopefully she meant kiss, because that's all she's gonna get out of me:D)
Disclaimer: Not yours, not mine. Merry Christmas, folks. -waves and smiles!-
The Ways of Politics
He was bored.
Bored. Bored. Bored.
And on the off chance you didn't catch it the first time, then please understand that David Hodges was bored.
With a roll of his eyes, he unceremoniously banged his head against the top of the ornately decorated table at which he was currently being forced to sit. It was bad enough that he was stranded in some gaudy ballroom of an even gaudier casino celebrating… what was it again? (Something about a benefit for the crime lab; at least, that's what Jacqui told him. He hadn't been listening the first time.) But to also be choking in an expensive rented tuxedo whilst having to listen to the endless speeches and political small talk was sickening. He, Jacqui, Archie, and Bobby were stuck by one of the back tables; why were they next to the kitchen while the Sheriff and Mayor and other Important Political People sat up front? This entire event was in honor of the crime lab, wasn't it? The last time David checked, the Sheriff couldn't run trace and the Mayor couldn't lift prints. It wasn't fair, but it wasn't surprising either. This was all about politics and as bored as Conrad looked across the room, he at least knew how to play the game. The forgotten technicians didn't know the rules and, as such, were jammed in the back.
Archie sent him a sympathetic look and heaved a suffering sigh before patting David's slumped shoulder. The A/V master looked so out of place in his own tuxedo, his messy hair doing nothing to add professionalism to his image. He took another glance at his watch before looking back up to the podium, the monotone speaker talking about something the technicians had lost track of long ago.
"It's only been an hour since we started," he informed, Bobby letting his head roll back and groaning softly at the news.
"How's that possible? It seems like we've been here for hours," he replied, his thick country accent becoming even more prominent due to the sheer dullness he was being forced to endure. "Plural."
"I think the space-time continuum shifted when we arrived," Archie replied, taking a gulp of his water, as if maybe hoping it would be vodka or something similarly alcoholic. "That's why it feels as if time has slowed down."
"That makes perfect sense," Jacqui muttered, who looked absolutely stunning in a champagne colored satin gown. Her dark hair was curled and she even took the time to get her nails manicured. "Although we can just blame time and space, I think blaming Grissom would be more appropriate. Don't you?"
"If it weren't for him, I'd be playing Battlefront on Playstation," Archie replied, his voice wistful and his eyes looking far off for a moment. There was a pause and Jacqui cleared her throat, Archie looking rather sheepish as his mind returned to Earth and left the realm of techno-gadgets and video games. "But I don't think we can blame him fully," the Asian continued. "I mean, Ecklie's the one who said everyone from the lab had to show up."
"Only because that's what the Sheriff wanted," Jacqui added. "It makes it look better to the public."
"Let's face it," Bobby said, wrinkling his nose in distaste. "There's no one to blame. We're just going to wait it out."
"I don't know how many more speeches I can take," Archie groused, shooting an evil look at the chap currently manning the microphone in front of the large room. "I don't even know what they're talking about anymore."
"It's just political who-pa," Jacqui replied as she brushed a tendril of dark hair from her shoulder. "We're the pawns. Those guys wouldn't know their way around the lab if they had a map."
"So let me get this straight," Bobby interjected. "This benefit is supposed to be for the lab and those who work in it, right? We're stuck in the back, bored out of our skulls, while our dutiful Las Vegas government starts their campaign early?"
"Really early," Archie added.
"That sucks," Bobby surmised and Jacqui snorted with laughter.
"Thanks for that astute observation, Mr. Dawson," she replied. "It does indeed suck. Someone needs to liven it up a bit."
David couldn't help but smile at his friend's banter. He couldn't even fathom being placed at a table with CSIs or political players; if it weren't for his equally irked but entertaining partners in crime, he was sure Doc Robbins would be opening him up in a few days on a metal slab. David's COD? Boredom. What a slow way to go.
With another sigh, he took a glimpse around the room; a few tables over, Doctor Robbins and David Phillips were indeed looking rather uninterested themselves. His gaze continued to wander before his eyes landed on one of the head tables where Grissom, Sara, Catherine, Warrick, Tina, Nick, and Greg were trying to appear fascinated in what was being said. They were CSIs and were thus getting the attention that he was sure they deserved, but he still couldn't help but feel a bit bitter. He couldn't believe he and his friends had been stored in the back, like some of Aunt Vanessa's brick-like fruitcake at Christmas. (He loved the woman, but she wasn't destined to cook. Cement could not replace flour and she was going to have to learn that eventually.)
The ballroom itself was absolutely stunning. There was a huge tree in the corner, flamboyantly decorated, so like the city it occupied. The tables were set beautifully and there wasn't a part of the room that hadn't been "Christmasfied," but attractive adornments didn't even begin to make up for the sleep-inducing individuals who resided within it. That aside, most of the CSI's gazes were glued to the platform where another speaker had begun. There was, of course, one CSI whose eyes couldn't help but travel.
David knew that Greg Sanders had never been known to be still, calm, or otherwise quiet; when forced into situations where he had no other choice but to be those things, his eyes never stopped moving. He was currently taking in the room as well, appreciating those who had dreamed up the regal-like quality of the place. And while Greg was doing that, David had no choice but to note how… different he appeared in a tux. His hair, which had been surprisingly normal as of late, was combed flat and to the side. He looked like a pod-Greg, not that David had noticed.
Nope. He never noticed.
Especially not the way Greg was wearing a pair of Converse All-Star sneakers with that tux.
The shoes were audacious; then again, they were almost comforting as well. David had wanted Greg to succeed in becoming a CSI (although he took painstaking measures to make sure Greg never found out), but he didn't want the younger man to lose his spark. He had begun wearing calmer clothes and had stopped listening to music altogether (in the lab, at least), and while David didn't miss Marilyn Manson or Black Flag or whoever it was, he did miss Greg's bright energy. The shoes he was currently donning were reassuring; he may have flattened his hair and bought a quieter wardrobe, but he refused to totally loose his personality.
"David?" asked a voice, leading David back to reality with a sickening jolt. He quickly turned to whom he suspected had spoken: Jacqui. She arched a dark eyebrow before following his previous line of sight. She turned in her chair to see what David had been concentrating on before letting out a knowing "hm" and turning back. David closed his eyes, aware of what was coming next. He loved the woman; she had been his first friend in Las Vegas and he wouldn't be surprised if she was his last, but she knew how to read people, especially people with romantic interests. Not that he had any such an interest, especially in Greg Sanders. He was wearing a pair of high tops with a tuxedo, for crying out loud.
"Dave staring again?" Bobby asked, sending the trace technician a playful wink. "Even I've gotta say that Mr. Greg can clean up."
"Would you stop calling him that?" David snapped, irritated at his wayward feelings and even more irritated at being caught. "And I wasn't staring."
"C'mon David," Archie pried, shaking his head at David's denial. "You've been staring at him like that for months now. If you expected us not to notice, then I'm sorry to inform you that we're not blind."
"Or stupid," Bobby added.
"I'm not so sure about that last bit," David replied, taking pleasure at Bobby's playfully indignant huff.
"I don't know why you just won't tell him. He's not going to go screaming in the opposite direction."
"I'll tell you what," David dryly began, looking thoroughly put out by the suggestion. "I'll tell Greg if you tell Nick."
Bobby quickly shook his head, just as David knew he would. Bobby had been nursing a thing for Nick for what felt like an eternity and, like David, had tried to keep it private. However, they were always able to pick up on each other's feelings and it wasn't long before Bobby's romantic interest was out in the open. "Nick's different. He's-''
"Nick's different?" David echoed, shaking his head at the unreasonable excuse. "Listen, neither of us plan on telling them anytime in the near future. Can we just drop it?"
"Jacqui has a crush on Warrick," Archie pointed out. "There's no need to feel embarrassed."
The woman in question shot an evil glare towards Archie. "Thank you very much. I'll have you know I did have a little thing for him, but he just happened to get hitched. Besides, even if he weren't married, there'd still be Catherine. Competing with her just happens to be like competing with a freaking super model."
"Catherine's not prettier than you," Bobby argued. Jacqui gave him a look of 'Yeah, right' before turning back towards Archie.
"Don't think you're getting out of this, either. Does the name Mia Dickerson ring a bell?"
David gave a low whistle. "We never heard about that," he said, willing to tease Archie to any length just so long as they forgot his well-hidden feelings for one Greg Sanders. "When did this happen?"
Archie let out a grunt before resting his forehead in the palm of his hands, his elbows balancing on the tabletop. "Jacqui," he complained. "Did you have to go and spill that?"
"You have every right to be as humiliated as the rest of us. Besides, did you really think you could leave David and Bobby out of the loop?"
"I was hoping so, yeah," Archie replied, peering at them from between his fingers. "Do we really have to know everything about each other?"
The other three technicians looked at him as if he had grown another head in the span of two seconds. Of course they knew everything about each other; that's just how it was. They listened to Archie's techno babble, knew of Bobby's secret love for old crime movies, understood when Jacqui had a certain monthly visitor with her, and David's need for Chinese food at least once a month… and maybe a poorly hidden attraction to a certain CSI with whom he had no possible chance.
At least he had three others to be depressed with. After all, misery loved company.
Archie heaved a long-suffering sigh and muttered, "I think Mia's pretty, okay? It's not like I'm ready to go buy a ring or something."
"Every male in the city thinks she's a knockout," Jacqui reminded and Archie rolled his eyes.
"Let me live the dream, will you?"
Jacqui gave him a sympathetic smile before leaning back into her chair. "Let's face it," she said, giving them a small shrug. "We're never going to escape this hideously boring benefit. We each want someone we can't have and, to top it off…" She paused to give her water glass a repugnant look. "They haven't served any alcohol yet."
"Like you'd get trashed anyway," Bobby pointed out. "You're too responsible."
Wasn't that the truth? The four of them felt pathetic; each of them happened to be fed up with the political sermons, crushing hard, and all of them were too conscientious to even get drunk.
"Oh, look," Jacqui deadpanned as the kitchen door swung out to slam into David's elbow. "The food's here."
"God, I hate that door," David muttered, dragging his chair a little to the left and closer to Bobby, trying to escape the offensive object and save his elbow any additional pain. "It assaults me every time someone decides to take a stroll out of the kitchen."
"It's all part of the big-wig experience," Bobby sighed. "Only we're not big-wigs."
"Then why are we here?" Archie asked, raising his eyebrows. "Do these people know how much Stargate they're missing when they attend these things?"
"Well, we have survived another hour," Bobby replied, glancing at his watch. "If they're bringing out dinner, then I'm sure we can escape in about thirty minutes."
"You better believe we're staying for the food," Jacqui proclaimed. "We haven't wasted two hours of our life for nothing." They watched as a long line of waiters began marching out of the kitchen, balancing several trays at once. They began serving those up front first and slowly made their way to the back. If Archie's theory of time and space was anything to go by, the four technicians would be getting fed in about two years. "I don't suppose you guys want to do anything after this? It's Friday night, after all. Maybe we could go to a movie."
"We can never agree on what to see," Bobby countered. "Last I heard, you wanted to see Something Like Heaven."
"Is it so wrong to see something not filled with blood and guts?" she asked, although such a question was pointless in a group of men. None of them liked particularly violent things, but they drew the line at chick flicks.
"So I guess Saw Two is out of the picture, huh?" Archie asked, grinning playfully.
"What about that space one?" Jacqui asked. "Transient's Guide to the Universe?"
"Try Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," Archie replied before turning towards David. "I saw it and I happen to think it was awesome. Even you'd like it."
David arched a disbelieving eyebrow. "I would?"
"It's no Hunt for Red October, but I don't think you'll scramble away in terror."
"Then by all means," David retorted, his tone dry. "Let's pop it in. Dazzle me with special effects and aliens."
"Aliens who read poetry," Archie added. David blinked and rolled his eyes, imagining what he had to look forward to. He knew it wouldn't be too horrible, but if there wasn't at least one decent fight of some sort, David wasn't usually interested. However, who was he to turn down a night with his friends? (Although he never called them such to their face.)
"Hitchhiker's it is," Jacqui decided, turning to see how far the waiter's had to go before they reached their table in the middle of nowhere. "We can meet at Archie's and mooch off of his popcorn. If they'd just give us our food, then we'll be… whoa."
"What is it?" Archie asked, glancing around in hopes of seeing what had suddenly caught Jacqui's attention. Bobby and David did the same in hopes that perhaps, just maybe, something interesting was going on.
"Nothing. Well, I don't mean nothing. It's just that Greg's… staring," she replied. Archie took a discreet glance and did, in fact, see the blonde CSI staring in their direction, particularly at…
"Probably at Sara's chest," David muttered, wishing those around them would hurry up and get drunk so they could leave. Sure, it was miserable to see Greg flirting with women, but what was David going to do? Stop him? Tell him how he felt? Maybe when Hell froze over… and built a five-star ski resort.
"David, he's looking at you."
David paused at the news, trying to process it within a few moments. He knew Greg had to be zoning out and their specific table just happened to be where his eyes landed. His only regret was that Jacqui had caught sight of it; now he was destined to play the high-school game of trying to get his friends to calm down whilst avoiding Greg's gaze.
"First of all," David began, shooting the other three a cool look. "You're making it a bit obvious by staring at him. Second of all, he isn't looking at me in particular, genius. He's looking in our general direction."
"You're always so quick to disregard the fact that someone could be interested in you," Bobby noted. "I think you're nice lookin'. I'm sure Greg does too."
"Thanks, but I prefer to not get my dignity laughed at and then stomped on," David muttered in response, his water glass suddenly interesting. Why couldn't they just leave it alone? Why did they always have to push? He knew they just wanted him to be happy, but romantic confessions could only bring pain.
"In other words, he'd rather play it safe than take a chance," Jacqui surmised.
"You all do the same thing," David argued. "It's not like Bobby's jumping at the chance to tell Nick and Archie certainly isn't waltzing up to Mia with a pair of movie tickets or something. We're scientists, Jacq, and we think rationally."
"The probability of Greg liking you isn't that small," she countered, never one to back down. "He spends a lot more time with you than he used to."
"He's a CSI and I'm a trace technician," David pointed out. "In case you didn't notice, he has to spend time with me."
"No one forced a gun to his head when he asked you to that concert," Jacqui answered. "It was practically a date and you turned him down."
"I don't like being surrounded by a thousand screaming fans," David retorted. "And who's Theory of a Dead Man anyway?"
"Maybe you should tell him what you do like," Archie said, looking pointedly at the older man. "I'm sure he'd get the hint. Then you guys could do something that won't scare you away."
"He doesn't need a hint," David groaned. "He needs you three to just lay off. Now can we please change the subject?"
Instead of honoring David's request, the other three turned to look towards the CSI table almost 40 feet away. Oddly enough, Nick turned to Greg at the same time and caught sight of Greg's wandering attention. His eyes trailed until they landed on David and the Texan grinned before poking Greg's side in a playful manner, reminding him that he needed to return to reality sometime that night. Greg's eyes widened minutely before he grinned rather sheepishly, waved at the technicians, and turned back towards the speaker.
"Ha!" Jacqui announced, ignoring the looks she received from those close by. "Just as I suspected."
"It was Ms. Scarlett in the library with the wrench," David deadpanned, his tone mocking. In truth, he just wanted to get out of there. They had made their dutiful and ignored appearance, hadn't they? Two hours was surely enough.
"You know what I mean," Jacqui retorted, her smile irritatingly smug. "He was staring at you. If it weren't for Nicky, he would've bore a hole in your side."
David opened his mouth to reply when a penguin appeared with a tray of plates. It seemed that the servers had covered the rest of the room and had finally reached the back where the technicians were perishing from both hunger, tedium and, more recently, humiliation.
"What's this?" Archie asked, fake surprise coloring his words. "Food? For us? I'm touched they even remembered."
"Be happy this evening has a point," Jacqui muttered, looking at her steak, potatoes, and peas with an expression of relief. The woman was starving, no doubt about that, and the hungrier she was, the more her diet became a distant memory from two hours ago.
"Hallelujah," Bobby agreed. "Let's eat and get out of here."
"How sad is it that food is the only upside of tonight?" David asked, salting his green peas with too much force.
"It goes beyond sad," Archie answered around a mouthful of potatoes. "It reaches the level of pathetic."
"I'll tell you what's pathetic," David replied. "The fact that I saw mashed potatoes get even more mashed. Could you please not talk with your mouth full?"
"You mean like… this?" Archie retorted, opening his mouth pointedly. Jacqui, David, and Bobby quickly shut their eyes and let out of groaned chorus of, "Archie!" before the younger man burst into a fit of chuckles and swallowed his food.
"It's like we're at the children's table," Bobby groused. "What are you, six years old?"
"I'm simply in need of entertainment. You should have seen your faces."
"The possibility of Mia ever being attracted to you is officially over," Jacqui informed. "You can just scratch that idea altogether."
"Jacq, that hurts. Really, it does. I could be a gentlemen if I wanted to be."
"He would, but there aren't any ladies here to impress," David replied as Jacqui let out a offended gasp, grabbed a pea off of her plate, and threw it at him. David simply leaned to the side and let it pass him, allowing it to fall to the floor.
"Stunning shot," he intoned. "Did your arms have a nervous twitch or something? You missed me by a mile."
"That's because you repulsed even the pea," she replied. "It couldn't bear the thought of touching you, so it changed its route mid-course."
"And you call yourself a friend."
"No," she said, "I just call them like I see them. Friendship has nothing to do with this."
David searched for a biting remark, wanting nothing more than to stun her with his wit, but he came up empty handed. Although he didn't admit defeat, he did admit an intermission of sorts as they began eating, famished. They were too hungry to keep the wild barbs flying for much longer and there was a silence of about ten minutes as they practically inhaled their food, grateful for the sustenance.
The only interruption was Bobby asking for some pepper, Archie threatening to show his contents of his mouth again, a small string quintet beginning to tune up in the corner of the ballroom. A band, of course, could only mean one thing: dancing.
It appeared that none of them had prepared for such an event, but the moment the first violin began to tune, Jacqui's head shot up and she peeked towards the small musical ensemble, her interest caught.
"There's going to be dancing?" she asked, looking at the dance floor with a new curiosity. She glanced at it and then frowned before turning back to the three men watching her. "I don't like dancing anyway," she claimed, her head held high. It was a brave gesture on her part, but completely transparent to those who knew her.
Bobby and David exchanged a look of doubt before returning their attention to the woman in front of them. They all knew that she liked dancing but rarely had a date with which to go; it was difficult to meet men who worked graveyard shifts and even then, not many seemed to hit on her. It wasn't as if she wasn't absolutely gorgeous in her own way, but David often suspected that she was too independent and often left the male species feeling inadequate. David and Bobby, while unthreatened by her tough-as-nails attitude, weren't the appropriate boyfriend candidates for obvious reasons. Archie, masculine in his own right, wasn't really suitable either and the absence of a romantic partner often left Jacqui alone in situations like these.
David let out a small sigh. He was never one for dancing, but at least he knew how to cut a rug. Bobby, on the other hand, would surely trample her toes (he made no effort in hiding this, either) and Archie couldn't twirl a lady properly if someone held a gun to his head.
They weren't her romantic interests by any means, but they were her friends, and they wanted her to enjoy at least one aspect of their otherwise dismal night. The small string quintet started up a fresh waltz and Jacqui took a sip of water, making no acknowledgment of the song.
"So," she said, poorly hiding her sigh. "Who has the best plan of making a break for it? If we make sure no CSIs are sniffing around, we can escape through the kitchen. It's only two feet away from us."
"You sure you want to leave?" David asked. "It's a nice song they're playing."
"Yes, it is. Can we go now?"
"First of all, we can't leave," Bobby informed. "Grissom's looking right at us. Second, that was David's way of asking you if you wanted to dance."
"You have a David Hodges translator?" Archie asked, feigning shock. "Why don't I have one?"
"It's a natural born gift," Bobby replied, grinning. "For example, when he says 'The only thing worse than spending time with you is having my leg sawed off,' he means that he doesn't mind hanging out with us on a daily basis."
"Huh," Archie replied, mulling over the words. "So what does he mean when he says 'Sanders looks like he just had a rainbow puke on his shirt?"
"That means he noticed Greg's shirt, which means he think he looks hot."
"Come on, Jacqui," David said, ignoring Archie and Bobby's playful banter as he rose from his seat. "Your reputation may be ruined after this, but my deal's still open."
"I can't believe you're being so nice," she replied, gratefully taking his offered hand.
"It's not like we're in the general vicinity of a dance floor often," he defended. "And don't get used to it, either. You just happen to be among two dolts who couldn't dance if someone offered them Fort Knox."
"He's right," Bobby agreed. "Your toes would be the color of prunes by the time me and Archie were finished with you."
Jacqui smiled at the thought and then said, "Make yourselves useful and watch my purse."
"God, we're the purse watchers," Archie groaned. "That's the equivalent of total losers."
"I'm sure you're familiar with that feeling," David replied over his shoulder, grinning as Archie stuck his tongue out in a childish manner.
David ignored the looks he was probably receiving as he led the woman onto the dance floor. It felt good to stand up and stretch and he was sure Jacqui shared his sentiments when she heaved a happy sigh.
"This should be interesting," she commented, grinning as she placed her other hand on David's shoulder and they began in time with the music. There was a silent moment as they twirled around, as though she were judging his dancing skills, before she gave a nod of approval.
"Trying to make Greg jealous?" she asked, laughing at the roll of David's eyes.
"You three aren't going to let me live in peace, are you?"
"Not until you tell him, Dave. We keep saying that he's open to the idea."
"Jacqui, Greg Sanders happens to be a young-''
"Only by a few years," she interjected, but David ignored this.
"Annoying man who spent too much time in the very strange city of San Francisco. Furthermore, I have-''
"Let me guess. You have no chance with him?"
"Why are you right all the time? It's creepy."
"It's akin to Bobby's DHT."
"David Hodges translator," she replied, the duh silent but understood. "And anyway, I think you have a great chance if you'd just make a move."
"Make a move? Says the woman who mooned over Warrick for three years?"
"I did no such thing, David. It was just a little crush and I happen to think Tina's a good influence for him. Besides, we're not talking about me."
"Why do you always have to bring this up?"
"Because you deserve to be happy and I know Greg could make you happy."
"I'm going to drop you in the middle of a dip if you don't cut it out."
"Fine. I'm just saying-''
"If you feel like playing Cupid, then start working on Nick and Bobby. Bobby has too much tension and that's dangerous when combined with guns."
"They would be cute together."
"Exactly. Start plotting."
"I wonder what it would take?" she mused as they continued to twirl to whatever lighthearted melody was being played. "Forged notes? A set up?"
"Don't forget Mia and Archie."
"They'd be cute, too. The only two left would be us. Maybe we should just go ahead and shack up together."
"Our inability to get the men we want must be a sign. We're obviously destined."
Jacqui snorted as he spun her, her dress swishing around her calves. "That's a terrifying thought, David."
"I'm not the one who brought it up."
"It was just an idea," she replied, grinning as he shook his head. She wasn't, of course, serious about the suggestion, but neither of them could seem to get the man they wanted and the prospect of being alone for the rest of their lives was… well, it wasn't pleasant.
"It's not like we're old and crippled," David replied. Twirl, take hand, keep moving. "We have time. Wait, is this about a biological clock thing? Because I don't think men have those, so I won't be able to relate. Note my sincere sorrow."
"Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce David Hodges, humanitarian."
"Learned from the best."
They continued their dance in silence, David only slightly aware of the few stares he was receiving by those who knew them. David Hodges and dancing didn't really go together, like Greg's shoes and his tux. Not that he was thinking about Greg. Not at all.
In the midst of David's unsettling silence, Jacqui's eyes slid towards their CSI table. Warrick and Tina were dancing somewhere close by, Catherine, Sara, and Grissom seemed to be in discussion while Greg was silent and staring. Jacqui tried to appear unobvious so as to not alert the younger man of her hawk gaze, but that didn't seem likely. Greg's eyes were trained on one man, the one who was currently twirling her to the tune. Jacqui knew David was a difficult yet intelligent, caring man, hiding his self under whatever layer he thought could protect him. How blind was David Hodges anyway? She, Archie, and Bobby knew that Greg would start skipping merrily down the crime lab halls if David would make his interest known.
But Greg was always so eager and adventurous. Why didn't he make the move?
With a frown, something occurred to Jacqui that hadn't surfaced before. It was an alien notion that she hadn't considered, but that didn't make it any less of a possibility.
Greg was scared of getting hurt just as much as David was.
It was officially quite possible that the two idiots she so kindly referred to as friends would never catch the clue.
"Greggo, you've got to stop staring."
The voice was a soft Texan drawl laced with amusement, obviously entertained by Greg's inability to tear his eyes away from David Hodges. The blonde found himself turning a slight shade of pink before whirling towards his best friend, shooting the other man an annoyed look.
"I'm bored. You're bored. Our only means of survival is people watching. Is that so wrong?"
"You've been 'people watching' David for the past hour. People watch someone else before you melt him with your laser eyes."
"You're just jealous at my ability to people watch."
"You've uncovered the answer yet again, Greggo."
Greg harrumphed and leaned back into his chair, muttering, "You could always people watch Bobby."
"I'm not sure Bobby would appreciate my people watching."
Greg sighed, risking another glance in David's direction, before turning back to the other man, ignoring the conversation his boss and two female co-workers were immersed in. If it hadn't been for Nick, Greg was certain he would have either died of boredom or simply bolted from room in a rather obvious manner. Nick had kept him from both falling asleep on the table and running, so he was number one on Greg's Christmas list. Actually, he was about number three, because his Grandpa Olaf was number one and David was number two, but the fact he was on the list was all that really mattered.
"I know you're bored, Greggo," Nick said, sending his friend a sympathetic smile. "Ten more minutes of dancing, dessert, and we'll have passed a suitable amount of time to excuse ourselves and get the hell out of here."
"I'm not sure I can survive this any longer," Greg whined, beginning to try and balance his spoon on his nose. "They need a dead body in here or something. Give us a mystery to solve to pass the time."
"Won't that be festive? Food and dancing with a complimentary corpse? Talk about the crowds they'd get then."
"Don't mock me, Nicky. I'm too peeved to be mocked. Do you realize we've been listening to political speeches from minute one?"
"Of course I have, but I've been doing this a whole lot longer than you. I've learned to tune them out while Grissom's mastered the art of falling asleep with his eyes open."
"Totally. If it's quiet enough, you can hear him snore. It's a must-have skill if you're going to survive the political circus."
"I'm a CSI. Politicians and CSIs shouldn't mix."
"You're so young and optimistic. It's almost endearing."
"Shut up, oh Holy One."
"Harsh words, man. That seriously stung."
Greg grinned before taking a quick glance to where David and Jacqui were still cutting the rug. Honestly, he had no idea the man could dance. How had he missed that? He was always learning something new about David, something that surprised Greg to no end. Last week, he had discovered David's history books in the bottom of his drawer. This week it was the dancing. Next week, who knew? Maybe he held a secret adoration for weird CSIs who just happened to revere Converse All-Stars.
Greg sighed. Yeah, right.
He heard Nick chuckle next to him and he turned once more to his friend. Couldn't he ogle in peace?
"Is there something you'd like to add, Nick?"
"You're so obvious. I can't believe he hasn't caught on."
"I can't believe it either. How long is this supposed to take?"
"What, realizing that someone's in love with you?"
"Exactly. I've done everything I can beside take out an ad in the paper."
"Have you ever thought that maybe that's your answer?"
"What, the Las Vegas Sun personal section?"
"No, genius. Being direct. Saying, 'Hi David. I was thinking we could go out sometime.' And don't try to hide it behind concert tickets like last month."
"The concert was a great plan."
"Tarnished only by the fact that it failed."
"Big words for a guy who can't walk into the bullet lab unless he gets pretty first."
"Don't think I haven't noticed, Nicky. You've got to fix your collar and powder your nose."
"Powder my nose? Greg, that's so wrong in so many ways."
"Well, you fix your collar."
"I just want to be professional. And besides, you're wearing high tops with a tuxedo. How can you possibly blame me for wanting to look nice?"
"If Sara were in charge of bullets, you wouldn't even bother to comb your hair."
"I can't believe we're having this conversation."
"You tease, I tease. It's how this works."
"It's just a crush."
"You've been crushing on Bobby pretty hard. Maybe you should try being direct."
"I don't need to be direct. I have no intention of asking him out."
"Do I look like I'm joking?"
"With those shoes, it's hard to tell."
Greg shot his friend another (pitifully sad) glare before returning to his previous task of watching a certain trace technician spin a certain print master around once more before the waltz finally reached its conclusion. David said something to make her laugh as he escorted her back towards their table with manners Greg wasn't even aware the other man possessed.
Their meals had been consumed. Their glasses of water had been guzzled.
"Can we go now?" Bobby asked, noting their hunger-sated states. "We've gotten our rightfully deserved free food."
"We can't leave without the dessert," Jacqui interjected. "Else we're going to have to stop by a bakery and no one wants that. Does anyone know what we're having?"
"Baklava," Archie replied. "It's the most delicious thing ever."
"Isn't that Greek?"
"All I know is that it's hard to spell."
"We're getting some and then getting out of here. I just wish Grissom would get drunk already."
"Grissom doesn't get drunk either," Bobby replied. "He's too… geniusy."
"Ecklie then. Drunk people are always a good excuse to leave early."
"If that's your only plan, then we're screwed."
"Hey, my…" She trailed off as a loud, sudden noise filled the room; the type that usually resulted from two microphones that got too close together while they were still on. The noise quickly faded as the attendants glanced up towards the front of the room, murmuring in surprise. A man waved sheepishly from the podium before continuing with his task of adjusting the small amplifier.
Jacqui, on the other hand, didn't movie. She simply closed her eyes in exasperation and said, "Please do not tell me someone's getting ready to start talking again. I thought the speeches were over?"
"Looks like an old guy. White hair and holding index cards," Bobby informed, craning his neck to get a clearer view before nodding, content with his description.
"Sorry guys," she muttered, slouching desolately in her seat. "If I'd have known they were going to keep beating the horse, we would've skipped the dance and just made a break for it."
"Don't worry," Bobby said, shooting her a reassuring smile. "You get to dance, Archie gets some Baklava, David gets to ogle Greg, and I get to remember this night with fondness for the rest of my life."
"I don't ogle," David replied, shooting Bobby a dark look. "Ogling is for the uncivilized and desperate."
"My mistake," Bobby replied, grinning. "You merely observe him with a purely scientific interest."
"I thought we went over this already," David groaned, rolling his eyes. "What's it going to take?"
"A detailed description of how you and Greg finally confessed your undying love for each other."
David rolled his eyes once more, wishing he had something heavy and blunt to throw at the man to his right. A roll of nice, sticky duct tape would be even better. However, he supposed a green pea would have to do. He glanced at his plate before picking up a wayward pea and flicking it at the country man. Bobby kept his laughter low even as he narrowly escaped the wrath of the vegetable projectile.
"David Hodges," Jacqui said, clearly admonishing his actions from across the table. "I can't believe you'd resort to something so childish."
"He's channeling Greg," Archie replied, clearly amused with the situation. "It's what happens to unrequited lovers."
"Well, I happen to find it extremely-''
Jacqui was cut off by another pea, this time from Bobby's direction. It ascended across the table and landed in her perfectly curled hair. She paused a moment, sent the bullet technician an wicked glower before she took one of her own peas and tossed it his way, not bothering to remove the food item from her dark locks.
"Take that, bullet boy," she said, looking oddly proud as it hit him square between the eyes. "I happened to be a star softball pitcher in high school."
Her victory was short-lived as another pea sailed from the opposite direction and hit her on the neck before dropping into her dress. She let out a surprised squeak and cast Archie a dark look. Although he returned the look with a "Who, me?" expression, it was obvious he was the pea perpetrator.
"And how do you except me to get that out?" she asked, looking tall and dangerous even as she was sitting. "Undress at the table?"
"First of all," David began, "It isn't as if we haven't accidentally barged into your bathroom on separate occasions. Secondly, just go do a handstand in the woman's restroom. It'll fall right out."
"You know, any other woman would've thrown this glass of water in your face and stormed out."
"So what, no handstand?"
"I have a vegetable down my dress, David."
"And I'm sure that vegetable considers itself to be very lucky."
She let an offended (and possibly melodramatic, but David didn't bring it up) gasp before taking another one of her own peas and tossing it at him. He saw it coming and avoided it, but in retaliation picked up one of his own, flicked it, and it sailed proudly.
As a matter of fact, it sailed over her head.
And over many, many tables.
And landed right on Gil Grissom's plate.
Gil visibly (albeit only slightly) jumped at the sudden intrusion. He blinked, arched an eyebrow, and (as if by telepathy alone) cast a curious, I-know-what-you-just-did to the technician's table all the way in the back. Jacqui quickly spun around and the quartet promptly tried to appear somber, listening to every word said by whoever was at the podium and forcing their usual quirkiness to disappear in favor of solemnity. They were, by nature, serious people, but their silly side (for what little David had) often appeared when stuck in situations such as this, when they were together and goaded each other until they simply couldn't stand it.
The four of them fell into a hush until Grissom's eyes reverted back to the speaker.
They stayed this way –that is, absolutely still- until Archie chanced a look over to their boss's table. Grissom was no longer watching them although his suspicions were probably high.
"We're good," he announced. Jacqui and Archie let out a breath while David cast his own look towards the table to make sure. Grissom's attention had indeed been stolen, but Greg was looking back at them. David didn't realize he had met Greg's eyes until it actually happened; Greg grinned in an I-know-exactly-what-you-just-did-and-I-wish-I-had-done-it-instead sort of way. David quickly averted his gaze.
"I can believe you did that," Archie said, turning towards the trace technician. "That was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. Actually, that would be Mia, but it's definitely the second most beautiful thing I've ever seen."
"It's a gift," David replied. "It takes a God-given mix of talent and bad luck."
"At least it didn't hit Conrad or anything," Bobby helpfully supplied. "Then we'd be fired."
"Hey, there's no proof that I threw anything. Unless they can run finger prints on peas," David said, obviously thinking it through.
"Then you'd be screwed," Archie announced. "You'd be panning under the bridge and I'd be giving you five dollar bills on my way to work every morning."
"Your compassion knows no limits," David replied, shaking his head at the thought. "And I'll have you know that-''
He was interrupted by an artificially cheerful voice. The foursome turned to see who was talking; it was indeed the old guy with the index cards. They paused a moment, trying to grasp the theme of his speech; after a few moments, it became apparent that it was a "why the crime lab is important" summary. Based on the past speakers they had been forced to endure, the guy would probably draw it out for as long as he could, situating as many subliminal messages as possible. They would all imply what an excellent future mayor he would make and David could barely hold his tongue in disgust. Only the least talented would choose an easy subject like why the crime lab was "such in asset to the city". Of course they were assets; they proved who the bad guy was, put them in jail, and made Las Vegas safer every night.
"That's it," Jacqui announced, tossing her napkin onto the table, equally as revolted by the transparent oration material. "I've got a plan, boys. It's been two and a half hours and it's high time we liberate ourselves."
"You mean escape?" Archie asked, his eyebrows nearly meeting his hairline as they leaned in closer, conspirator-like. "What are we supposed to do, disguise ourselves as maître d' and crawl out of a window? There's no way we're getting out of here without being noticed."
"My idea happens to be much simpler," Jacqui retorted. This, of course, didn't surprise David in the least; Jacqui could dream up the craziest schemes if given the opportunity. "They're going to play another song soon, right? That's going to be our ticket. David is going to take me to the floor and spin me around a few times. While we're dancing, we'll gravitate towards the stairway exit, totally undetected."
"It's genius," Bobby intoned. "But I don't think it's going to work for me and Archie. Unless, of course, you want me to bruise Archie's toes while publicly humiliating him."
"I thought you'd jump at any chance to publicly humiliate me," Archie innocently replied. "Even if that meant insinuating ourselves as a couple at a ritzy benefit."
"As wonderful as open embarrassment is," Jacqui replied, "It won't be necessary. Archie's going to get up and ask Mia for the pleasure of a dance. They'll spin themselves towards the same exit and then we'll call you on your cell from the parking lot."
"Yeah," she replied, leaning closer and making sure only they could hear her plot. "We'll call you to make the timing realistic. When you answer it, make sure you're wearing your best concerned expression. Pretend it's a family emergency."
"Jacq, I don't know if this is such a great idea," Archie replied, obviously uneasy as he took a glance around. The speaker's artificially cheerful voice had become background noise, their food eaten, and their spirits were ready to burst through. Who could blame them? They couldn't stand another minute of the monotonous political addresses.
"Do you want to hear anymore diplomatic BS?" Jacqui asked, scandalized.
"It's not that," he quickly answered. "But have you ever thought that Mia might not want to dance with me? It could be a fatal error in your obviously elaborate scheme."
"Archie, the woman's bored stiff. She'll say yes."
"How do you know?"
"I'm a lady. Trust me on this."
"Forgive me if that's less that inspiring."
"Sometimes you have to take chances to survive. Now who's with me?"
Bobby quickly gave a thumbs-up and David nodded, both men ready to shake. Archie, although anxious at his role in their proposal, also gave his approval. It was either escape or trying to count the number of ornaments on the tree to pass the time; the latter simply wasn't an option, so it appeared that the first choice would have to do.
Ten minutes later, someone struck up the band as another happy-go-lucky tune began to play. Jacqui quickly took David's hand as Archie rose from his seat and began his terrified (yet surprisingly determined) trek towards Mia's table. Meanwhile, Bobby made sure his cell phone was on.
They were making a break for it.
Greg frowned as he watched David lead Jacqui towards the dance floor once again. David had never been so attentive of her before. When had this happened? Greg leaned back into his chair, drumming his fingers against the tabletop and crossing his leg, trying to appear as casual as possible. Sure David and Jacqui worked together, but could they really enter a relationship? Was there something going on between them that Greg hadn't been aware of? He shifted, unhappy at the thought. Next to him, Nick sighed.
"I can hear you thinkin' from over here, G. Let me be the first to tell you that there's nothing going on between those two."
"And how do you know? Are you telepathic?"
"Hell no. I've just got common sense. I'll be a cold day when those two become an item."
"You think so?"
"I know so, G. He's only got eyes for one person."
"I have competition?" Greg asked, distraught at the prospect as he tried to figure out whom he had to rival for David's attention. "Who? I think I can poison their Baklava."
Nick rolled his eyes at the younger man's obliviousness; Greg was a hell of a CSI, but he needed to help when it came to romance. "You, obviously. No offense, but you're kinda slow on the uptake."
"I'll leave that part up to David. Besides, put your CSI skills to good use. Watch them."
"You told me to stop watching," Greg argued, although the "I'll leave that part up to David" part had made him blush an embarrassing shade of stoplight.
"I said stop ogling, but you should probably take note of them now."
Greg glanced towards the would-be attractive couple as they spun. He didn't understand what Nick was trying to say; they were simply dancing. Heck, they weren't even talking. What was so telling about that?
Why were they moving so close to the…?
Oh. Greg grinned as he and Nick shared a mischievous expression. Who knew technicians were so conniving? He supposed it didn't matter, because Greg suddenly had to go to the bathroom.
And if he never made it back to the table, then so be it.
It was true that they were simply too responsible to even consider getting drunk. Ever. Besides, Archie didn't hold his alcohol that well anyway and spending time with your friends was easier when in a sober state than anything else.
So they were piled up in Archie's living room, splayed over furniture, laughing at Marvin the Manic Depressed robot and munching on expertly prepared microwave popcorn and Coke. The women had thrown their heels in the corner and taken down their hair. The gentlemen had lost their ties and jackets and shoes as well, everyone trying to get as comfortable as possible in formal clothing.
Archie and Mia had somehow wound up in the corner love seat, Archie sending the pretty technician glances every few minutes or so. David and Jacqui's eyes had met; she had waggled her eyebrows and nodded over towards the two. Both the techs knew Archie could definitely get the girl if he wanted; she had allowed his arm to casually rest across the back of the seat and Mia didn't allow for just anyone to get close to her.
Jacqui was in the recliner, curled up and intent on the movie.
Bobby and Nick were on the couch on the right; Jacqui and David had made sure of that. There was nothing Jacqui enjoyed more than a little bit of matchmaking and, quite frankly, David wasn't sure if he could take one more day of Bobby shooting moon eyes in Nick's direction.
But Greg and David were on the couch opposite of the television. And while Greg was actually curled up next to David, David was trying to concentrate on breathing. He couldn't be sure what Greg's proximity meant because he didn't understand the art of romance and flirting and he was so close to simply abandoning every romantic notion anyway. He could never make Greg happy.
Archie had dimmed the lights, so the room was basically dark with the exception of the television screen. David liked the movie so far, although he was sure he'd like it even more if he was actually able to concentrate on what was happening as opposed to feeling's Greg's head rest on his shoulder. Greg had always been like that; any excuse to touch was a good excuse, but cuddling wasn't exactly a friendly pat on the back. No, cuddling was cuddling. It's what significant others did and David was fairly sure that he and Greg were no such thing.
As if Greg could hear his thoughts, the blonde lifted his head from David's shoulder and gave him a curious look.
David immediately trained his gaze back onto the television, hoping Greg hadn't noticed his staring. It was, of course, a stupid and useless endeavor; it only made him more obvious than he already was. Even though he felt Greg's eyes boring a hole through his head, David didn't break. He barely even breathed. He stared at the movie (he had completely lost the plot) with the determination of a kindergartner; that is, he was absolutely stubborn. He refused to even acknowledge the fact that Greg was sitting next to him and, furthermore, no matter how long Greg wanted to stare, it wouldn't be long enough. Only one person was going to win this little game, and that person was going to be David. He'd be victorious and then run home to hide in a dark corner, where he never should have emerged from anyway. Dark corners were safe because they were free of Greg.
But his iron will broke like glass when a soft hand reached up and touched his left cheek, gently forcing David to turn his head and face the young CSI. David could have brushed off the touch or refused to comply or even ditched the movie and gone home, giving his friends a half-ass excuse to explain his parting, but he didn't. Instead, he yielded to Greg's tender insistence.
So there they were, looking at each other while everyone else was listening to an alien read poetry. David sucked in a deep breath. What was Greg up to? He had never known the younger man to play games or fool around with people's emotions. David opened his mouth to say something; to ask what plan Greg had made and why it involved him. To tell him to leave him alone, that he didn't want to be hurt by someone's careless actions. To perhaps confess that he had always wanted them to be like this, together, without lab politics to pollute the air.
But Greg merely smiled and shook his head in response, signaling for David not to speak. He knew that David was going to try and figure out this odd relationship. He was a scientist through and through; he wouldn't give up until he was able to dissect every emotion and pull apart every puzzle, hiding his confusion and insecurity behind a mask of sarcasm and witty stories and cutting remarks.
Surprisingly, David did what was asked of him. He kept his inquiries to himself –at least for the moment- and relaxed marginally. Greg could still feel how tense he was, how nervous.
Greg's eyes flickered up and he met David's blue ones.
And he couldn't stop himself. Not really. Because David was sitting right next to him and some reassurance was always a nice thing to have, so he leaned over and brushed his lips against David's. He closed his eyes and prayed that everyone was concentrating on the television and not them, because even if they were, he wasn't sure he could pull away. Greg sucked in a breath as their lips hesitantly touched. His stomach was doing back flips on a trampoline while his hands (they had developed a mind of their own) crawled up David's arms and finally rested around his neck.
When they broke away, Greg couldn't help but smile at the man in his arms. David appeared somewhat stunned and was doing a terrible job of hiding it. Greg could practically see David's mind trying to kick itself into gear and actually react, but in the end, all David could manage to do was focus his gaze on the young CSI.
And although David still wanted to ask questions, to understand the entire situation, he supposed it could wait. Because Greg was snuggling up next to him again, resting his head on David's shoulder and intertwining their fingers while some guy flipped his head backwards on the television screen.
Five feet away on the other couch, Bobby and Nick's hands were awfully close. But Bobby didn't seem to mind, and neither did Nick.