Nick started to slide his hands from Greg's hips to his back as Greg rode him. He braced himself for the inevitable fall out, but it just felt so good to be able to hold Greg, hold him like he used to. He had tried this maneuver a few times, but he suspected that Greg was eventually going to add this to the list of positions that they were no longer allowed to engage in. He kept going for it anyway.
His right hand was removed and placed on Greg's cock without ceremony. Neither of them said anything about it; they just finished what they were doing. The silence continued as Greg turned off the light and then redressed in the dark.
"Baby," Nick started as he reached for the light.
"I was just going to ask if you wanted to get me something to eat while you were up." There was no point in talking to Greg about what had just happened. It was their unspoken rule – no touching, discussing, or looking at Greg's scars. Ever.
"Yeah. We've got some leftovers, don't we?"
"You can turn on the light now."
Nick flipped the light on. Greg was already dressed in boxers and a tee. It didn't matter if Nick remained naked, Greg was always quick to put his clothes back on. Nick couldn't lie and say that he didn't miss holding Greg against him, skin to skin, but it was just another thing that he had to get used to during the course of their relationship. He didn't want to get used to it, but he didn't want to lose Greg.
They had been together since Grissom's mildew experiment. Nick had found Greg cursing in the locker room and had ended up offering to rub the cortisone into Greg's foot. Nick added that he'd take him out for a beer. Greg hadn't wanted to risk going out and having his foot itch, so they went to Greg's apartment, made out on his couch, rubbed against each other until they both came in their pants. Greg had lent him a clean pair of boxers in the morning.
Before the lab exploded, Greg had been open about everything that Nick was afraid of – sex, love, life. That's why their relationship had progressed so fast. They were friends first, and when they became lovers, Greg had opened up a new side of Nick. They made love every way they could, taking their time to get to know every inch of the other's skin.
And it had changed. The lab had exploded and Greg had retreated back into his apartment, saying that he had to pack and that, no, he didn't need Nick's help. Nick was never even sure about who had helped him with the bandages and the ointment because it wasn't him.
Once they had moved in together, Greg was avoidant and distant. When they had sex, it was never in a position that allowed Nick to see the scars. That was the rule even before Greg had started taking his shirt off for sex, and it had taken three months to get Greg out of that habit. It just kept getting worse. Nick didn't want to push, but he was getting frustrated.
Greg came back from the kitchen and handed him a box of cold Chinese takeout. Greg took his own box and climbed into his side of the bed, leaving several inches between them.
"Why don't you come lean against me?" Nick shifted his weight and left an open spot for Greg on his chest.
"I'm good here," Greg said as he shoveled noodles into his mouth.
"Come on, G."
"I'm fine," he muttered, his mouth still full.
Nick bit his lip, trying not to say anything else. That was another thing they didn't do. Eight months after the lab exploded and Greg still wouldn't let him get close. They used to hold each other forever after making love; since the accident, it was only about getting off.
They finished their food in silence and left the empty boxes on their respective nightstands.
Greg flicked off the light and lay on his back. Nick tried to snuggle into him.
"Didn't you get enough?" Greg asked without moving.
Nick rolled onto his side, presenting his back to Greg. "You were a great fuck, as usual. Thanks, Greg," he said coldly.
Neither of them said anything else, but neither of them went to sleep.
Nick watched as Greg collected his clothes and retreated into the bathroom. There was the familiar click of the lock once Greg was inside. A moment later it was followed by the sound of the water starting.
Nick took the pick that he had left in his nightstand drawer and jimmied the lock open. He entered silently and waited patiently for Greg to finish. He turned off the water and stepped out of the shower, reaching for a towel. It was one of only a handful of times that Nick had seen the scars.
"Get out!" Greg yelled as he pressed his back to the wall and tried to cover himself with his towel.
"G, I want to talk," Nick said as calmly as he could while blocking the bathroom door.
"Greg, we can't keep avoiding this."
"Greg, you lock the fucking door to shower!"
"Yeah, and you picked the fucking lock! You should have respected me enough to know that I don't want you in here! That's what a locked door means!"
"I thought I could come in here, and maybe we could – I don't know! You didn't used to lock the door. I thought that maybe we could have a sane conversation about your scars. Maybe make love."
"Look at you! Make love… I thought I was just a good fuck!" Greg pressed himself harder against the wall and said nothing about his back.
"Jesus, Greg. I didn't mean what I said last night. I mean, I meant it, it was good, but you know you're more to me than just that. Tell me you know that!" Nick tried to take a step forward.
"Get out!" Greg yelled louder this time.
Nick stepped back. "You know I love you. And I think you're beautiful. All of you. No matter what you think." He flicked the lock shut on the door as he walked out.
Nick was gone by the time Greg finally left the bathroom. Greg liked the fact that he was alone, but he didn't like why he was alone. He hadn't meant to alienate Nick, but over the last eight months, Greg realized that living together had only distanced them further. But it had nothing to do with the fact that they were living together.
Greg dragged Nick's full-length mirror out of the closet and angled it front of the dresser so that both mirrors reflected off of each other. He closed his eyes and removed his shirt. It had been eight months, yet he had never actually looked directly at them.
He opened his eyes too quickly for them to focus. There was the shock of the lights reflecting off the poorly placed mirror, so he moved it and finally saw what he dreaded all along. The multicolored shades of rippling scar tissue on one side were not as bad as he had expected. He had never tried to touch them or look at them, but based on the pain that he had suffered while they were healing, he had assumed that they were grotesque. Instead, they were… strange.
He wanted them to be gone. He didn't believe Nick when he had said that he still thought that he was beautiful. There was no way that Nick could have seen what he was seeing now and still think that he had any beauty left in him. Greg angled his arm to let his fingers graze over the pebbled surface and tried to think what Nick thought when he tried to touch them. That they were ugly, that they didn't feel natural. But Greg had to wonder why it was that Nick always seemed to want to touch him there. Was it because he had made them taboo? Or was Nick just a sicko who got off on touching deformities?
Nick wasn't sick, Greg acknowledged as he closed his eyes and rubbed his fingers over the scar tissue. Nick wasn't into taboo kinks either. Their sex life, while passionate, had never even come close to that fine line between pleasure and pain. They had their fun, they had their toys, but it was all about the pleasure, and it was all about the love.
Greg felt a soft hand on his back, the fingertips barely touching his own. "Not that bad," Nick whispered into Greg's neck before kissing him lightly right above the shoulder. "Not ugly." He slid his arm around Greg's waist and pulled him close.
"Why do you think that?" Greg asked shakily, still not opening his eyes or moving his hand.
"Because I love you."
"It can't be that easy."
"Why not? Would you love me less if I had scars?"
"Then why should I love you less if you have them?"
"I don't know," Greg said as he pulled away. "It's just the way I feel, OK? You can't just come in here and make me unfeel it."
Nick hung his head and took in a deep breath. "I'm not trying to make you unfeel I anything /I , Greg. I'm trying to get you to think about… I don't know. But I hate the way you've become."
"What, when we fuck?"
"Don't talk about it like that!" That was the one thing he didn't like to hear from Greg. "It's in everything. You barely let me touch you anymore." His voice was growing softer. "You shrink from me every time I reach for you or try to hold you close. How do you think that makes me feel?"
"It's not about you," Greg said as he put his shirt back on.
"Yeah, well, everything's not about you."
Greg was motionless. "Why do you…"
"Unless you can understand that I love you without regard for your physical appearance, then we can't have this conversation anymore. I don't like it when you imply that I only love you for how you look."
"That's not what I'm implying," Greg said softly.
Nick looked over at the clock. "We're going to be late for work." He gave Greg a kiss on the side of his mouth. "I love you." He took his own car to work.
Greg sat at his desk and shuffled through another pile of papers. He knew that he shouldn't have let himself get so behind on his filing, but it really was the worst part of his job. It was just so mundane.
It was six hours into his shift and Nick hadn't even stopped by. Greg knew that Nick had come back from the crime scene three hours ago. He must have been busy. At least, Greg hoped he was busy; otherwise there was no reason for Nick to be avoiding him, even if there was nothing that he had needed Greg to process.
He rubbed a thumb between the knuckles of his opposite hand and thought. Six hours into his shift was coffee time. If Nick was in the building and could do it, he would always bring Greg a cup of coffee, and they would have a little break together. He rubbed at his knuckles harder. It was six hours into shift and not only had he not seen Nick, but there was no coffee in sight… Except for the cup sitting right in front of him.
Greg looked up. "I'm an idiot."
Nick sat down across the desk from Greg. "Don't say that."
"How about asshole?"
"I think I might be able to accept asshole. But you're definitely not an idiot."
"I'm sorry about all this."
"I know you are, and you're right, I can't understand what's going on in your head. I'll never know how you feel, but baby, you have to understand how I feel about your scars."
"You don't think they're ugly. I get it."
"That and they remind me every day how I almost lost you, yet I didn't. I got to keep you."
"Just, 'oh.' I guess I never really thought about it… not like the way you did."
Nick's pager went off. "You know I wasn't avoiding you. I just had this thing that I had to do. It killed me not seeing you all shift, and now I have to go again. And I'm working a double. You'll be home before me, but we'll talk then, right?"
Greg nodded. "I love you," he whispered.
Nick leaned in and whispered it back.
The woman handed him a glass of water and powdered his nose again.
"Honey, you don't have to be so nervous. It's just me and the photographer." She moved the lights around the platform again. "Who's it for, sweetie?"
Greg blushed. "My boyfriend?"
"Is that some sort of question?" she asked as she took the glass from him.
"No. They're for my boyfriend. Nick. They're for Nick, my boyfriend."
"Mr. Sanders?" A tall woman came into the room with a camera. "I'm Annie. I see you've met my partner, Evelyn. Are you all right? Anything you want to ask before we get started?"
"I have some scars," Greg said nervously, toying with his robe.
"We all do, sugar," Evelyn said as she adjusted the blankets and the lights one last time before walking over to Annie.
"I, uh, need them in the shot… I think. See, we had a fight and I thought he didn't love me because of them. But he does. But it's been eight months, and I don't even let him touch me, and the sex hasn't been great… Well, it has, but not like it used to…"
"Greg," Annie interrupted. "Calm down."
"I just want this to be special."
"Don't worry about it, sweetie," Evelyn said. "Annie and I have been doing this for a long time. Just hand me the robe when you're ready."
Three later, Greg grasped his portfolio tightly as he entered their house. They had been on edge since their fight, and even though Greg knew that he had made an attempt to rectify the situation, he couldn't bear to just come out and tell Nick. He dropped his bag in the foyer with a thump.
"G?" Nick sounded worried.
"Hey." Greg barely managed to get into the house before Nick was on him.
"I thought you would have been in bed when I got home… And then you weren't answering your phone." He kissed Greg. "I was really worried."
"I got you a present," he said as he held out the portfolio with a shaky hand.
"G, are you ok?"
"Just open it, ok? No, wait, don't," Greg said, taking the photos back. "Never mind," he said sulkily as he walked toward their bedroom.
"Baby, let me see," Nick said as he followed Greg down the hallway.
"You know I wouldn't," he said as he sat on the bed next to Greg.
Greg reluctantly handed the portfolio over to Nick. He closed his eyes and listened as Nick cracked open the binding.
"Jesus," Nick breathed. "These are… amazing." He flipped though a few more of the black and white nudes, pausing to run a thumb over one of them. "You're gorgeous. Who did these?"
"This lesbian couple I found in the phonebook. You really like them? Even with the scars and the lack of full frontal nudity?"
Nick kissed his cheek. "I get full frontal whenever I want. This is something special. This is you. All of you."
Greg smiled weakly and grabbed for Nick as Nick left the bed. "Where are you going?"
"Just putting these somewhere safe," he said as he placed the photos on the dresser. He stripped down to his boxers.
Greg started pulling at his own shirt, but Nick stopped him. "Let me do it," he said softly as he sank down to remove Greg's shoes and socks. He kissed his way up Greg's leg before removing Greg's pants. Greg took in a shaky breath when Nick pulled his shirt over his head.
Nick rubbed his hands over Greg's arms. "Lay with me," Nick said softly. He laid on his side and pulled Greg against him, bare chest meeting bare back, throwing his arm over his boyfriend and hauling him closer.