Real/ize part 4 - Dreamscape - By Sara's Girl
AN – So I'm breaking the rules already. This whole thing was inspired by the title – 'A Momentary Lapse of Reason' by Pink Floyd. However lyrics are from 'Dreamscape' by Dry Kill Logic, which I can actually see Greg listening to.
This fic contains beautiful dark-haired lab rat Greg and as such is set in Season 2. This is in Greg's POV, 2nd person (do not be afraid of the second person!)
Life officially sucks this week. Reviews delight and inspire. Thank you.
Buried inside my brain lie many complications
It wasn't ever supposed to be Nick Stokes. That's the thing. You know it, and yet the knowledge does not help you one bit. It does not wipe away these feelings that knock you sideways on an almost daily basis. Your mother used to talk about love when you were growing up, emphasizing the importance of it, you suspect, in order to get you to keep it in your pants as long as you could, without her actually having to say the words.
You didn't have any particular expectations about love in the beginning. When you arrived at the Las Vegas crime lab, you were satisfied with the number of notches on your metaphorical bedpost, a few girls, a couple of guys, mostly in college. You had liked, you had been fond, you had desired and been desired with equal fervour, but you figured love would come later.
You imagined that somewhere down the line, it would all fall into place. You would meet some girl and just know, like your mom said you would, and then it would go from there. Simple. That was the plan; that had always been the plan.
Of course, now you know better than that, don't you? You try to recall that quote about the best laid plans of mice and men...and then you realize with mounting horror that you have been spending too much time with Grissom. However impressive the man might be, you don't actually want to turn into him. The point is, whatever your plans regarding love might have been, only one of the points actually holds true today – that you just know. Even if he doesn't, and you hate when your mom is right. You feel silently, secretly, from a distance, but you know you love him.
At age twenty-six, the owner of a truly individual haircut, a killer smile and not much else, you may be the DNA god, but your notions of love have been well and truly sideswiped.
It wasn't supposed to be a co-worker, it wasn't supposed to be a guy and it certainly wasn't supposed to be a guy like Nick Stokes.
Nick Stokes is one of those people who are almost perfect in every way, one of those guys who almost have a sort of glow around them...of not only perfection but purity of spirit, always doing the goddamn right thing. He's one of those people that, when they make a mistake, it's beautiful. It's a wonderful opportunity for growth, for discovering something new, and nothing really bad can happen, because after all, it's Nick.
Not like when you make a mistake – which you admit, is rare, but it does happen occasionally, if you haven't had enough sleep or enough caffeine, or your mind is on 'other things' (even though it's more like 'the other thing' than any old other things. The delicious-smelling, Texan other thing). It happens sometimes, and the results are wrong, or the test is compromised, and it's not a nice, positive learning experience, it's a huge fucking disaster. It's a black spot on your day that spreads and catches and encompasses everything it touches.
Because you know that they expect you to get it right all the time, and you hate the look in their eyes when they're disappointed – especially Grissom, though Sara has a nice line in:
...'Oh, Greggo,'...shaking her head... 'I really needed a result here.'...
No, it's not just that, though. It's that you can't stand it, more than anything. You think they would be surprised, shocked even, to know how much pressure you put yourself under. You want to be the best there is at what you do. You live for the nights when the pace of work leaves you dizzy and you barely have time to take a breath. Exhilaration is your drug of choice, that and caffeine. Strike that; exhilaration, caffeine and Nick. But you work damn hard and you take immense pride in what you do. Just sometimes, you'd like the rest of them to see that too.
And you know what they all think. That because you smile and joke and fool around with pens and loud music and showgirl headdresses, that you don't take it seriously, but you do. All that's just a way to pass the time, to maintain your sanity during long, quiet shifts, to distract yourself from the sometimes chest-compressing boredom of sitting for hour after hour in a cold glass box surrounded by chemicals and blinking lights. And maybe, sometimes, because you want to be seen. Noticed. What's wrong with that? When Sara first arrived you hoped it might be her that noticed you. You know you tried too hard with her, but it seemed, in that moment, vital to get her attention.
But it wasn't Sara's attention you really wanted. No. You quickly realized that. That, you suppose, was the first mistake. The first of many, each error setting off the next, widening and spreading out around you like ripples on a pond.
And there is no room for error, you won't allow it. No room for a slip in judgement. You wonder, sometimes, if that's what he is. You think Pink Floyd put it best – no surprises there – a momentary lapse of reason. You like the sound of that, because it sounds reassuringly temporary, as though normal service will resume shortly. It sounds like a little hiccup, a minor disturbance.
As though loving Nick is some fleeting affliction. You have no idea why you even bother telling yourself that, because you know that's so far from the truth that it's almost painful. Denial is not a healthy course of action. Most of the time it is not the route you take, in your own head at least. On a good day, you can look at yourself in the mirror and accept that you love him. It isn't that you mind loving him, because most of the time it's a warm, tingling, heart-skipping feeling and it takes your breath away that just looking at someone through the glass walls of your lab can heat your face, that a casual brush of fingers as you hand over a printout can make your usually-steady hands tremble. On a good day, it thrills you that after two years, his smile can flood your entire day with light.
On a bad day, you glower at your reflection above the sinks in the men's washroom and you hate your feelings. You stare back at yourself with sharp brown eyes, sighing heavily. Rake tense fingers through artfully-messed dark hair and wonder about changing it again. Whether it would make any difference to Nick if you had different hair, or different clothes. A different face. A different personality. On bad days, you know that Nick Stokes will never love Greg Sanders, and that you are truly a hopeless case. The face that stares back at you tells you, coldly, silently, how pathetic you are, and that all the things you do, all the things that you have been doing for the last two years, are pointless.
You hate that you try to impress him. You don't mean to do it, but you can't seem to stop the words coming out of your mouth. The tilt of your head and your smile as you convey some snippet of information that you know is going to make his case. Like it's nothing, even though mostly you've thought really hard about it. And that, you think, is the scariest thing. Because while you're idling on your swivel chair waiting for the beep of the GCMS, you're thinking about the mountain shadow effect, or liquid dish-soap, or something else you can use to impress him. Help him, but mostly impress him.
You do it because you want to see that smile, want to feel the warmth of the hand on your shoulder that goes with the smile. You hate that you want it, but you do want it. You never needed to impress anyone before, at least not since you were a kid, and you feel like you're in the fourth grade, climbing onto the roof of the gym to make Lucy Sorvino like you. That didn't work either, now you think about it, you ended up with a broken wrist and Lucy Sorvino told you that you were dumb.
You sometimes suspect, even with twenty years' distance and a Stanford education, that Lucy Sorvino was right. That, despite everything, you truly are stupid. Because despite your outward brash confidence, there is a part of you that is waiting for someone to stride into your lab and grab you by the collar, unceremoniously dump you out into the parking lot and slam the door shut in your face.
Did you really think you were fooling anyone, Sanders? What did you think you were doing, trying to run a DNA lab? Please.
Try as you might, you can never quite shake the thought that that person is watching, waiting to expose you as some kind of fraud. You hate that you act like you just don't care.
You hate that secretly, you care so damn much. About your job, about what people think of you, but especially about him. When he hurts, you hurt. You've never been like that with anyone. When you heard some psycho had thrown him through a second floor window, you actually threw up. You waited until you had locked yourself in a bathroom stall and made sure there was no one else around, but you felt like hearing it poisoned your blood, and you wanted rid of everything. Felt like that until you actually saw him, watched Catherine and Sara touch him and fuss around him while you watched from an appropriate distance and then made some lame joke that made him smile but ripped you inside.
When you found out about Nigel fucking Crane and the gun and the psychic you almost lost it. Almost, but not quite, because despite your numerous flaws, you are strong, and you knew that letting go of your sanity and showing him how much you cared would not help him.
You don't know what it feels like to find out you are the centre of someone's world, but you do know that Nick is an emotional person, he really feels things. You think it would get to him, even though he doesn't share your feelings. It's quite a responsibility, you suppose.
It's like white noise, crackling static, harsh, deafening, when you see him. All you hear is him, the only thing audible above the jagged roar in your head. That voice. ...Hey, Greggo... and you smile, and you wish you wouldn't.
That voice slides like honey, the clear kind that you can wrap around one of those little round slatted wooden things, to catch and hold the sticky, clear liquid. You never saw the point of those, because all the honey gets stuck and trapped inside the gaps...you'd rather use a knife and get it all over your fingers. It can always be licked off, and that's a visual you probably didn't need in the middle of a shift.
Nick Stokes, covered, sticky-sweet-messy. And licking. All over, until he's clean and damp and desperate for you.
It's your own fault if you get a hard-on in the lab, because you can't help yourself, using some cliched analogy in your own twisted head. You love analogies, metaphors, almost as much as you love DNA. The thing about DNA is, it's black and white. Breathtakingly simple and dizzyingly complex all at once. DNA is truth. Metaphors are a way for you to make the simplest thing a little more complicated. Your favourite ones are all about Nick. About how beautiful he is.
And that, that was a revelation all on its own. One that deserves its own chapter in your imaginary book...provisionally titled: 'In Which Greg. H. Sanders Loses His Mind'. The finding him attractive thing. The finding him dangerously, heart-racingly, stomach-clenchingly attractive. Looking at Nick is a head-rush. It's a pulse-jump. A deep chest ache. A cock twitch, flood, press.
A delicious/horrifying skin tingle.
You suspect it's not entirely within the bounds of proper grammar to simply slash two contrasting words when you can't think of the word you want, or the word you want doesn't exist, but dammit, it's your head and you can do what you want. The slash is a useful thing, you always think; it conveys the sharpness, the harsh contrast and the closeness that is inherent in not having a space between those two starkly different meanings.
Pleasure slash pain. Filthy slash gorgeous. Love slash hate. Greg slash Nick.
You like the edge of violence to it too, as though the little symbol, just that stark, oblique line, might tear skin and draw blood. Because that's how it feels sometimes. Violent. You are violently drawn, eyes caught, and you look because you have no choice.
Sometimes, you are profusely grateful to whoever designed the lab as a series of glass boxes. You like to look. Like to just let your eyes be dragged up and down his strong, toned body; the curve of his back, the broad slope of his shoulders, the delicious curve of his ass in faded denim.
Those are the obvious things, of course. And you love Nick's obvious beauty as much as the next man...or woman. But what really gets you are the things that most people probably do not notice.
His hands. Nick has big, strong hands. When you think about those hands, your mouth goes a little dry and you try not to think about how they would feel pressed against your heated skin, grasping your hips or threading firmly into your hair. The skin is surprisingly soft, you know that from the times he has touched you, intentionally and unintentionally. You love to watch the movement of his fingers as he works, as he passes you bags of evidence or slides them, palms down, fingers splayed, across your glass worktop as he speaks to you. Sometimes you wonder what he would think if he knew that such a simple action drives you crazy.
You wonder if people ever notice his eyes. Maybe not, when there is so much else to be distracted by on that face. The strong line of his jaw, the straight nose, the dark, sweeping eyebrows. And when he stands next to Warrick, you concede, no one's going to be looking at Nick's eyes. But you notice them, and they do not need to jump out of his face like Warrick's do. In fact, you think maybe it is that you like about them. Nick's eyes are warm. You are consistently amazed that so much sincerity can be conveyed in a single glance. When those eyes fix on you – just for a moment – you feel like the only person in existence.
Just for a moment.
Even on the worst days, on the darkest, longest, bleakest shifts, you are heartened by the way your world can be flooded with light when you share a moment. Just a brief exchange of glances or a conversation unrelated to work, and you almost can't stand the way you smile when it happens - the connection - because you know it gives you away. Not that he's looking for it but you still despise feeling so vulnerable. Your smile lays you open and he could just reach over and dash you to pieces. Either that or he could just reach over and take what is his. You know you're deluded, but if you could wake up with Nick every day, surrounded by that light and warmth, you do not think you would need to feel afraid of anything.
You pretend you're invincible, but you think that being loved by Nick would make you for-real invincible. Maybe that's what real love feels like. Protection, security, comfort. Doubt and fear washed away. When you think back, you decide that the first day you woke up aching for it like something was missing was the first time you realized you were in love, and it hit you like an armoured car doing ninety.
It isn't that you ever thought you were completely straight, you have experimented enough and you're well known for your open-mindedness in most areas of life, but still. You had expected the real thing, for want of a better – less corny – phrase, to be a woman. It had never occurred to you to think any different. Once you got over your initial surprise, it ceased to matter to you what equipment Nick had. You like what he has, very much. Ever the scientist, though, you cannot help but play a statistical game in your head and you know that it does rather complicate things.
The only hard evidence you have about Nick's preferences is the night he spent with that hooker. Yes, the one he didn't murder, but definitely did sleep with. You spent an unseemly amount of time staring down the microscope at Nick's semen, trying not to think about what his face looked like before he shot it, and what tricks-of-the-trade she used to get him off. That was a very bad day.
An isolated incident and a vague ladies-man reputation does not a straight man make, however, and you can attest to that better than anyone. You are a terminal flirt, and you made your peace with that fact a long time ago. As for Nick, sometimes you want to know, sometimes you don't. As far as you can see it, sexuality is fluid, it's dynamic, not a series of static boxes. If something is right, then it's right.
No, that's never been the thing for you and Nick. The problem with you and Nick is that Nick is perfect and you are...you. He's one of life's good guys, the man with everything, and you are painfully aware that beyond the occasional laugh and regular DNA results, you have zero to offer him.
To your chagrin, that is the thought that is circling around your exhausted slash caffeine-wired mind as you shuffle around the lab during the characteristic early morning lull, tidying away errant magazines, returning CDs to their correct cases and wiping down your work surfaces with the static-free cloth you hide in a drawer. You'd like to say you're thinking of Nick because you have results for him, but in reality you're just thinking of him because when there are no distractions, your thoughts naturally and inevitably gravitate Stokes-ward.
You're sweeping tiny particles of dust into the curve of your cloth and preparing to flick them to the floor when the door of the lab swings open. Absorbed in your task, you do not look up immediately or even register the presence of another in your space until you see the fingers pressing against the glass only inches away from yours. Hands stilled, you look up slowly. Thoughts like treacle, you are still able to register the point that had those fingers belonged to anyone else, you would be chewing them out right now for smudging the surface you just wiped.
As you try to look enquiringly rather than staring hungrily, the thought occurs to you that he has no good reason to be in here. You have no results for him to collect, he has nothing with him for you to test, and he has not brought you coffee. Not that you are complaining about the unexpected bonus gift of an entirely random Nick Stokes in your lab, but you cannot help but feel slightly unnerved. Curling nervous fingers around your slightly damp cloth, you swallow hard and fight down the temptation to be rude or sarcastic just so that he doesn't see how much his presence knocks you off balance. He speaks first, to your relief and surprise.
"I want to show you something."
You're staring, mouth slightly open at the unexpected words and the warm smile with which they are delivered. The tone is almost flirtatious and it is certainly an invitation, but you know better than to hope. That said, anything Nick wants to show you has got to be worth a look, so you nod mutely, shove your cloth back into the drawer and emerge from behind the counter. He's already halfway through the door when you remind your feet to move. Follow him, hands stuffed messily in lab coat pockets, unsure, down the corridor and out of the building.
It is a strange thought to get your head around, but you are starting to wonder if it is Nick that is having the momentary lapse of reason, because he's stopping around the far side of the lab building and leaning against the wall at no point in particular, looking carefully at you until you stop too. It's 5.30am and the sun is coming up. It's beautiful. He's beautiful. You try not to stare but it's an intoxicating combination. Nick slash sunrise.
His mouth is moving but you aren't sure what he's saying, for once the static drowns everything out including his voice and you're confused...all you feel is warmth and a shiver...which makes no sense...reason has escaped you, again. You wonder whether if you kissed him quickly enough he might not notice you did it, because time seems slowed down, you could be in and out and standing there again like nothing happened. Not that it would happen that way. Even if you could slow down time, because one kiss would never be enough. You haven't kissed him, but you know that's true.
"Greg, are you listening to me?"
You lift your gaze from his mouth to his eyes. Locking light brown against dark. Someone said your eyes were like chocolate, once. You think it's the cheap, sugary, milky kind, the kind that coats a thirty cent candy bar, the kind you bite through with a dull thud, smearing thick, melted sweetness across your lips.
His eyes are the colour of dark, bitter chocolate, the expensive kind that snaps when you break it, the kind that takes forever to dissolve on your tongue, but when it does it makes your head spin. You pause, wondering why so many of your Nick-related analogies are to do with food. And what Freud would have to say about that.
"Oral fixation," you mumble through dry lips. Still staring into those eyes. Eyes that flash at your words.
"What about it, Greg?"
His voice is low, teasing, and something low down inside you snaps at the sound. You suppress a moan because the smile that follows is incredible. It's small, lop-sided, and easy slash challenging. You wonder how obvious it is that you're biting the inside of your lower lip to stop yourself leaning in and kissing the crinkle at the corner of that smile.
Releasing your own slick, heated flesh from between your teeth you answer the question. Even though you have this strange, swooping feeling that it isn't really what he's asking you.
"Oral fixation...um...Freud thought that it indicated that a person spent too long in the oral phase of development. When the whole world revolved around sucking. Nipples, chiefly. Breasts," you clarify, and part of you wonders why you are still talking, and that if you are sure of nothing else, you can be sure that Nick did not ask for a pop psychology lesson.
Not that it stops you, it never does. Talking is better than staring. Only, you're staring and talking. Which somehow, you think is fractionally better than just staring. Nick's eyes are warm on yours and you choose to ignore the bittersweet ache that curves around your spine as a result.
"He thought that as adults, the oral fixation manifests itself in a desire to...put things in one's mouth, basically."
You aren't sure who this 'one' person is but you suddenly seem incapable of using the words 'I' or 'you'. A deep, shuddering breath. "Anything, really. Pens, cigarettes, fingers, candy, some people bite their nails..." you trail off, watching those eyes flick down to your hands. Curling your ragged nails protectively against your palms, digging them in, you continue.
"Some people chew their hair or snap gum, suck mints, or...parts of other people – " your eyes widening as you hear the words fall out of your mouth.
As if you meant them to. And you think that actually, you did mean to say them. In that moment, when reason floated away on the wind because Nick's eyes were on yours and the sky was orange and nothing seemed real. You want to close your eyes and hope that when you open them, you'll be back in the DNA lab, alone. No Nick, no sunrise, no judgement vacation and definitely no conversation about sucking.
But you keep still and hold the eye contact, steady, even though you're almost trembling with the effort of doing so. Because, reason or no reason, you're not going to show him that he intimidates you.
"I know what an oral fixation is, G." He laughs softly and your stomach flips, making you cross defensive arms across your chest as if he can somehow see the effect he has on your insides. "It was interesting hearing your..ah..take on it, though."
You have the very real feeling he's making fun of you, and normally you like being teased and prodded and joked with, but not today. Usually, you revel in the moments Nick chooses to linger a couple of minutes extra in your lab and wind you up about something, your hair, your clothes, your reading material, it doesn't matter really, you just like those glittering moments in your day when you feel connected.
But now, in this unfamiliar context, the same teasing makes you feel uncomfortable. You want Nick to talk to you about fibres or alleles or blood or semen or – ok, maybe not semen, but at least that would be familiar. Scowling slightly, you pull your lab coat tighter around you and re-cross your arms. Look out at the rainbow sherbet colours of the sunrise instead of the teasing cocoa-dark eyes of your co-worker. Safer that way, not to say something you might regret or do something you would definitely regret.
Neither of you say anything for a long time. Nick leans back against the wall next to you, close but not touching. Your eyes remain stubbornly fixed on the sky, watching pink chase orange over the horizon. Slowing your breathing down to long, deep pulls of surprisingly fresh early morning air, trying to filter out the ocean-spray smell drifting from Nick's skin and clothing. The one that is catching in your nostrils and forcing your heart to beat a little bit harder against the scant protection of ribs, skin, print shirt, lab coat and folded arms.
He shifts slightly, the rasp of denim on rough, cool, concrete making you wrap your fingers around your upper arms a shade tighter.
Nick speaks then, a light questioning tone in his voice, and you jump, because if he said what you think he just said, you might have to crawl out of your own skin right there. People like Nick Stokes do not say 'kiss me' to pale, hyperactive, lab rats like you. Tension wraps a tight band around your chest as you choke out "What?"
"Kissing," Nick reiterates, drawing out the word. The image of shiny, clear honey dribbling from fingertips to lips creeps, unbidden, into your head and you can barely resist the very real desire to drag your tongue across your own lips, taste buds stinging at the anticipation of sweetness. You force yourself to focus on the word. Kissing, in itself, is innocuous. Even though it sounds vaguely obscene to hear Nick saying it.
It is just a verb, not an imperative. Not a command. You want to feel relieved, or should that be disappointed? And yet, for some reason, you feel neither.
"I wonder what Freud had to say about kissing."
The accent you love is intensified in what sounds like deep thought, and you cannot help but look, resting your head back against the wall and turning it so that your cheek is brushing textured concrete. He's smiling again, but not looking at you, and you take the opportunity to study the familiar profile. He's all angular jaw and warm dark eyes and softly curved lips. Not for the first time, you want to trace fingers along the junction of jaw and neck, the sides of his face, to slide into short dark hair that is almost long enough at the front to twist around your fingers. You have never allowed yourself to comment on his hair, terrified that a word from you might make him cut it all off like he did once before. You have no idea why it's so important, but it is.
When his eyes slide to yours, the crackle of electricity that sparks stuns you and you realize that not only were you staring, but he knows you were staring. You hope your muttered curses are better-hidden than the hot flush of red that is creeping up your neck, spreading out from under your collar. You hate it, because it's only him that makes you feel this way. Like a glance can burn you, and a touch can set your whole skin ablaze.
...I wonder what Freud had to say about kissing...
Plenty, you think, but nothing you are prepared to go into here and now. You wonder suddenly how long you have been standing here, because it could be a minute and it could be an hour, you have no idea. You think maybe Nick is the one messing with time, not you. Why, you don't know. You push down the thought that he might know, might see through you, because that thought makes bitter bile rise in the back of your throat, makes it hard to breathe. Hard to breathe when you feel so exposed you might as well be standing out here wearing your lab coat and nothing else.
Out of nowhere, you remember that Nick brought you out here to show you something but you don't know what. You've seen the sunrise before. Seen Vegas at 5.30am more times than you care to think about. You don't care any more, because you don't feel safe out here any more, and you want the glass walls of your lab, the comforting bleep of familiar equipment and a space that is yours. Your music, your coffee, your swivel chair with the wonky wheel.
"Freud said a lot of things, Nick," you reply with more confidence than you feel, pushing off the wall without uncrossing your arms. "I have a book I can lend you if you're that interested. I'm going inside."
You aren't sure if you make it one step or two before you're pulled back, but it's done with such force that all you really register is your back hitting the wall and your rather undignified cry of protest. The hands resting gently but firmly on your shoulders as Nick now stands facing you, pinning you against the wall. You realize you could probably push him away if you wanted to, he isn't holding you that hard, but you don't want to. Even though the predominant emotion flooding your bloodstream like a drug is pure fear. Because those eyes are inches from yours and they are different. Pupils glossy black and huge, nudging dark chocolate out to form a thin ring around them. He's not blinking and the rest of his face is expressionless, as though the effort of trying to communicate his every thought to you through his eyes leaves nothing for any other feature.
Wavering on a gossamer-thin line between 'he's going to kiss me senseless' and 'he's going to kick the crap out of me', you barely breathe now, indecision speeding the heart but incapacitating the lungs. Lust slash rage, you think, though you have no idea what he could be angry about.
The sound is weak and pointless but you make it anyway, daring him to break this tension, somehow. Anyhow, actually. A punch in the stomach might bring about the return of reason, logic, you never know.
"Greg," he whispers. Eyes never leaving yours and you know. He knows. Oh god. Kiss me.
And he's letting go of your shoulders, brushing, trailing maddeningly light fingertips up your neck, both hands, almost circling your throat but you know he would never, instead glancing over the pulse point that leaps to his touch. You watch him smile and forget to stifle your moan as he pushes his fingers into your hair and catches his breath.
"Greg," he repeats, and you do not think anyone has made your name sound so urgent before. He twists newly dark hair around those skilled fingers and you are not even trying to pretend you haven't thought about him doing that more times than you care to admit. "I like your hair like this," he adds, unexpectedly, and his sincere, thoughtful tone makes you want to laugh.
Slightly fortified by the touch and air of uncertainty, you allow your eyes to flash and your lips to draw into a mock pout. "You didn't like it before?"
"Sure I did." He is so very close now, and this is beyond surreal. Raising his eyebrows a fraction, he brushes thumbs across your cheeks and entangles his fingers more firmly, holding you in position. Not that you would move now, not for anything.
"I'm trying to give you a compliment, Greggo."
His lips are about two inches from yours now and he's smiling, though he looks as though he's trying not to. His lips are twitching upwards and as you stand there, caught, his hands on your face, you feel the corners of your mouth pulling to follow his, as though out of your control. A compliment. About your hair. You don't know whether to laugh or dissolve into a pool on the ground and in that moment you have no idea which is worse.
"Sorry," you offer, murmuring through the grin that shows all your teeth. "Thank you."
Not moving, just staring, you don't even want to blink in case you miss a second of what might just be a moment. You feel like it could be whipped away from you at any time, that you could close your eyes and open them to find yourself leaning against the wall with nothing but the breeze on your skin and cool concrete under your fingers. If and when Nick comes to his senses and lets go of you, you want to be ready for it. As you'll ever be.
You know, though, that now you've had this much, nothing will ever be the same. If it stops now, it will be too late because you are changed already. Chemically, irreversibly, altered.
A sharp inhalation coincides with his ragged outward breath and his air is in your mouth, warm on your lips. Fading your smile. Your mouth falls open slightly. So goddamn close. All you can feel is your breathing, his, synchronised now, his thumbs stroking down your face so slowly, heart pounding so hard you think it might stop.
Anticipation is a powerful thing, you decide, but there is only so much you can take.
"Are you going to kiss me?"
The words come out louder and with more of an edge than you planned, and you swallow hard, knowing you sound angry but it's too late now and if that scares him away then it would only be a matter or time anyway.
"Are you going to let go of the wall?" he shoots back.
You move your fingers instinctively and feel them scrape across the hard, sandpaper-rough surface at your back. You weren't even aware that you had your palms pressed flat to the wall the whole time. Tentatively, you peel them away and wrap them around Nick's upper arms. Smooth, warm skin, hard muscles that move under your fingers as he does. Feeling exactly like you knew they would. When he speaks again, his voice is soft, liquid.
"Do you want me to kiss you?"
You think maybe that is the point at which you officially lose your mind, because never in any single one of your fantasies does Nick Stokes ask if you want him to kiss you. And it's hot. It's...considerate. He's checking if you want it too, and god, he's crazy because you know how obvious you are. You're wide open, certain he can see through to your soul and all it's imperfections.
And in that instant, so is he. Beautiful, yes. Warm. Flawed.
He's just as scared of this as you are. Fuck. You've never loved him more.
"Yes." And your arms are around his neck. You're dragging his breath deeply into your mouth. This is yours too, you've waited long enough and you're damned if you're just going to stand there and let it happen. "I want you to. I really fucking want you to."
You move. He moves. Reason is lost, maybe forever, as lips meet and you both groan at the connection. Eyes closing, you're just feeling it, staying almost completely still for a moment, relishing the connection made real, before you instinctively open your mouth against his, fitting open lips together, moving slowly, tongues touching and sending sparks showering under your skin.
You always imagined Nick would be in control, super cool, but he's the one murmuring 'oh, god' under his breath. And your confidence is kicked up a notch with each heated whimper against your lips. Not that you can hold back your own small sounds of surprise and satisfaction, you wouldn't even try, and you are holding on, arms looped around his neck, as tight as you can to stop yourself from falling off the edge of the world, or so it feels like.
The Vegas morning and the noise of the road running by the lab fades away as you lose yourself in a kiss that starts out slow and soft. So slow and soft that it tingles and twinges and aches and shivers. Agonising slash divine. Nick's hands carefully but firmly angling your head to deepen the kiss
It is fast becoming heated, messy, a bit more desperate, and you're pulling him hard against you. His hands are on your hips and they feel better there than you ever imagined they could, firm, demanding, possessive. You want to tell him you're his, that you have been for a long time now, but you feel like you might die without his mouth on yours. So you push back against him, pressing into his hardness and his heat and kissing him the way you've thought about every day for two years.
Reason is long, long gone. You think maybe you never had it, when it came to Nick.
The world is swirling, rolling, burning, and you think you might fall down. Will he hold you up? The noise is deafening once more, and you just want it to be silent. Still. When you break apart, thoroughly kissed, licked, bitten, breathless and saliva-slick, you stare. You realize you can hear again.
He runs his hands down your arms, squeezing gently, not looking away from you.
"Do you see what I wanted to show you?"
"Maybe," you reply, still feeling uncertain, and you hate it.
Nick sighs. Grips you tighter almost like he's going to shake you. You're not quite sure how you would feel about that.
"You don't have to try and impress me. You impress me plenty."
Despite the relief fish-leaping in your stomach, your face and tone are stubbornly closed. "No, I don't. I'd say I'm more irritating than impressive. You don't have to lie to me."
"Can you be quiet for one minute?" Nick shakes his head and presses a finger to your lips. You stare at him and use every ounce of your self control not to pull the finger into your mouth because you can taste salt/sweet against your lips and it wouldn't be your fault, you have an oral fixation, after all.
"Just listen. I love...how you change your hairstyle every five minutes. I love your horrible music. I love that you're arrogant as anything but you still don't know how clever you are. I love your coffee. I love your ugly-ass shirts."
"Hey!" The finger grazes your tongue lightly as you yelp in protest. You curse yourself for reacting to that one thing amongst everything else you can't quite believe he's saying, but you just don't disrespect a man's shirts, even if you are Nick Stokes.
"I love that I had a whole thing prepared to say to you and you made me forget the whole thing by talking about fucking Freud."
You laugh at the genuine disbelief in his voice and slide your fingers into his belt loops.
"I love that you can completely disarm me with a smile. I love your eyes. I hate that it's taken me so long to learn to read them. I love that I got there."
Breathing hard, you realize you never want him to stop talking, or looking at you just like that. You think this might be the longest time you have ever not talked, because the words just won't come out, the ones you have in your head all the time. Love you. Love you, Nick.
The sun is almost completely up over the horizon as he pulls you close again and kisses you, not seeming to need to hear those words in this moment. Maybe he knows that you want to say them, so much.
"I love Greg Sanders," he whispers, between kisses, and you're gone. The soft light is on your face and his lips feel like they are everywhere. Softer again, as though by brushing lips and tracing tongues you can have a conversation without words. You don't hear the words but you feel them.
I've wanted this...
I know. I'm sorry.
Yes, here now.
Hope slash terror. Doubt slash certainty. Peace slash standing-on-the-fucking-edge-and-looking-down.
And you know.
You think, perhaps, as you walk back into the lab, that everyone else knows too. Your legs feel like rubber and you aren't entirely sure how they are holding you upright, never mind allowing you to walk.
He is two or three steps behind you as you walk past reception. You think you hear him laugh softly as Judy raises her eyebrows at you and you flush and shove your hands in your labcoat pockets. You know that your hair is all over the place – more so than usual – and you feel dazed so you probably look it. And you don't care. Contentment hums in your veins like warm wine.
Tranquility, serenity, calm. When you return to your lab you sink down into the swivel chair and spin slowly, thinking as you rotate. Thoughts that are slower and smoother than usual.
Euphoria slash disbelief.
Reason was always there. You never lost it. You just had to learn to understand it.
You shake out a fresh pair of gloves and snap them on, feeling the latex pull and catch at your skin. Smile, involuntarily. You don't have to look at the smeared mirror in the washroom to know that your smile is dazzling. The one that is being reflected back to you from the doorway is telling enough.
The warmth that envelops you is briefly disorienting, but from it you find a new rhythm of breaths that feels slow, secure and calming. He looks lit up from the inside and though you are baffled at how you can do that, you know those eyes would not lie to you.
"It was supposed to be you, wasn't it?"
Nick's smile widens and he walks into the lab, taking you by surprise. You thought he was about to leave. Instead he perches, somewhat awkwardly, on your spare stool and rests his elbows on his knees.
"Tell me," he says.
Buried inside my brain lie many complications
I am exploring a world of illusion
Momentary lapse of reason.
Quest for tranquillity.