Nine Love Songs part 9 – December - by Sara's Girl

AN – This chapter, sorry. Thank you again to everyone who has kept me going with their amazing feedback throughout this story. As always, if you made it thus far and enjoyed it, please let me know why (or why not!) Thanks to everyone who added this to their favourites, and if you feel like commenting now this is complete I'd love that too!

Akevitt is a traditional Scandinavian drink, generally drunk as shots, at Christmas. Thanks BflyW for info and translation :)

Lyrics from 'Heaven' by DJ Sammy (Yanou's Candlelight Mix) which I know isn't the original, but it's the version I love and the version I had on repeat while I wrote this :)


He's tried it with the curtains closed. He's tried it with the curtains open. He's tried it naked, sprawled out across cold sheets, and curled up on his side wearing a slightly too tight t-shirt and track pants that Greg left behind. He's tried it wrapped up in the oversized, soft comforter that they bought together when the weather started to turn cold, and he's tried it with all the covers and blankets thrown to the floor. Music on, music off; his own and Greg's. Nothing works. Nick just can't sleep.

He stares up at the ceiling and groans softly. It's no good. Nick knows he has got used to sharing a bed with Greg, but it still comes as somewhat of a painful surprise that without him, Nick cannot get to sleep at all. He desperately needs to sleep, because it's been two days since Greg left, and Nick is exhausted. Miserable. Frustrated. Aching for the warm, lively, comforting presence that he has become so accustomed to over the last few months. Needing Greg so much that he feels sick. This is the longest they have been apart since Nick moved in, and he's going mad with it.

Nick turns his head on the pillows that still smell like Greg's hair and considers getting up and walking around the apartment again. It seemed to work, a little, the night before. After a good hour's pacing he thinks he managed to drift off for about the same length of time before the alarm shrilled and reminded him that however much he was pathetically and irrationally falling apart without his boyfriend, he still had to go to work.

Cringing, Nick tries to push work out of his head for now, not only because it's not exactly conducive to the peaceful sleep he's striving for, but because he thinks he has a couple of apologies to make during this next shift. Because a sleep-deprived, fractious Nick Stokes, as it turns out, does not exactly endear himself to his colleagues.

Because it wasn't Catherine's fault that someone used the last of the sugar in the break room so that Nick had to drink his coffee without. She had only been standing there, and despite the fact that Nick knows Catherine doesn't even take sugar in her coffee, she still had to listen to his ten-minute rant about god damn thoughtless co-workers. Which, Nick thinks with shame, she accepted with unreasonably good grace. In fact, she looked almost sympathetic.

Because it wasn't Warrick's fault, either, that he found himself assigned to a case Nick had been working solo up until that point. Not that it stopped a frazzled, affronted Nick from nearly biting his head off when he found out, or from flat-out refusing to enter into his friend's well-intentioned attempts to cheer him up.

And because it isn't anyone else's fault that Nick is unhappy. It's his fault, and the knowledge sits uncomfortably. If he had been brave enough to tell his co-workers about him and Greg, he wouldn't be alone right now. Because then they could have asked for the same days off, and this would never have happened.

Nick, here, and Greg at his parents' place in California, three days before Christmas.

He just wants Greg to come home. Not being with him hurts, and in all honesty Nick thinks he would be happy, right now, just to hear Greg's voice. But, unsurprisingly, the famous Stokes stubbornness easily wins out over what is an undeniably sappy desire, and so far, Nick has managed to avoid calling. He doesn't think he'll hold on for much longer, but even so...despite the fact that he loves Greg more than he ever thought possible, Nick doesn't much care for the idea of Greg knowing that he can't function without him.

It's just one more day. That's all. Then he'll be home, and everything will be ok.

When the harsh ringing cuts into Nick's thoughts he sighs and gropes around blindly on the nightstand to answer. Much as he doesn't usually relish being called into work early, in this instance he decides it may actually be preferable to lying in an empty, silent apartment not sleeping. He yawns until his jaw clicks and answers. Sets the phone to speaker and drops it onto his chest.


"Hi, Nicky." The voice that fills the room is not Grissom's, but Greg's. Nick's heart leaps and he exhales slowly. Flooded with relief, and the sting of shame that he didn't just screw up his stupid pride and call Greg when he wanted to.


"I miss yooou," Greg slurs, voice slightly louder than usual. Nick raises an eyebrow in the dark.

"Greg, are you drunk?"

There is silence for a moment or two, and he waits. Knows he doesn't usually have to wait long for Greg to speak, but there's not much that is usual about an intoxicated Greg. In fact, Greg rarely gets drunk at all, and certainly not emotional, out of control, slurring drunk.

"Yes. Yes, I am," Greg says decisively after a moment, and Nick suddenly wants to laugh, but he holds it in. "And I miss you."

Nick sighs and rubs his eyes, shifting uncomfortably at the dull pain that ripples through his stomach at the words.

I miss you too, Greg.

"It was your idea," he replies impulsively, and immediately regrets the tone. Knows it's a reaction to the pain and that it won't help matters to get at Greg, especially not when he's inebriated.

Somewhat surprisingly, Greg agrees with him.

"Yes," he replies. "It was. A really bad idea. Idea of the very worst I've ever had," he adds mournfully.

Nick does laugh then, and as he relaxes slightly and folds his arms behind his head on the pillow, he wonders whether or not to tell Greg that he sounds like Yoda when he's drunk. Probably better not.

"No," he soothes. "It's good that you got to see your family before Christmas, G. Just wish I could have been with you."

And did he really say that? Nick thinks for a moment, feeling a strange pull of unexpected satisfaction that not only did he say it, but he meant it, too. Because however much the idea of meeting Greg's family terrifies him, he'll take that over...over this, any time. Not that they had any choice, because he has to work and Greg has three days off, but all the same, the realization is significant. He smiles at the ceiling.

"Me too." Greg pauses. "I think the room's spinning."

Glancing at the bright green numbers on the clock on his nightstand, Nick frowns.

"Greg, it's 4.30 in the afternoon."

"Yes!" Greg says indignantly. "Why aren't you not asleep? No. Why are you not...I know what I mean. Which is the main thing."

"You called me," Nick says easily, smiling. Feeling curiously vulnerable about his current state of insomnia and the reason for it. Not wanting to reveal that he just can't sleep without Greg next to him.

"It's Papa Olaf's fault," Greg says darkly. "Akevitt shots after lunch. I miss your hands," he adds, seemingly at random.

"My hands?" Nick retracts his hands from under his head and regards them in the near darkness. "What about them?"

He has a pretty good idea what about them, but the thought of hearing Greg say it is tempting, even if he is drunk. Greg sighs softly and Nick drops one hand to his bare chest, sliding his fingertips over cool skin. Smiling at the stir of interest in his borrowed track pants just at the sound of Greg's quickened breath.

"All over me," Greg replies at last, voice dropping into a slightly slurred version of the tone he uses to whisper all kinds of filth into Nick's ear when they are together in this room. Nick closes his eyes. "And your mouth. Missing your mouth very much, Nicky. Love your mouth on me...everywhere."

"Oh, god," Nick whispers, hand resting at his waistband. Skin warming as blood rushes to his cock, stiffening and pushing against the soft fabric, just at the sound of Greg's voice.

Because he misses touching Greg so much that it rips him inside. Misses the soft, warm skin under his fingers and lips, misses it like crazy and it's only been two days. He wonders distractedly when exactly he became this person who can't stand not to be touching Greg. Realizes with a sharp twist of pleasure and pain that he can hardly remember not needing to touch Greg.

"Greg, where are you?" Nick doesn't know why he's whispering, because there's no one to overhear him, but he's suddenly concerned that Greg could be in his parents' living room for all he knows.

"Coming upstairs...heh." Greg sniggers at his own words and Nick rolls his eyes and laughs softly at the same time. Unable to stop himself, he slips his hand under the waistband and sighs faintly as he wraps his fingers around his cock. "Need to lie down, I think...know what...? I'm so hard for you, Nicky."

Fuck. Nick wonders, irrationally, why they've never done this before, because Greg's half-sighed admission shoots straight down his spine to his cock, now fully hard and pulsing in his tight grip.

"Me too, Greg...want you so much," he hisses, stroking himself slowly and closing his eyes. Screwing them shut and just listening to Greg's voice as he mumbles, barely coherent, telling himself that if he thinks hard enough, he can feel warm hands on his skin, the brush of Greg's hair against his chest, see lust-filled brown eyes in the darkness.

He knows he should be embarrassed, and he is, a little. Knows that his skin is heated and his face is burning, heart pounding, fingers sweaty as he trails his free hand over his chest, following the pattern of the first. But he's so turned on that he almost doesn't care what he says or how he sounds. Just like when Greg is here. And he wishes Greg was here so fucking much.

"Success!" Greg cries suddenly. Nick opens one eye but doesn't slow the hand now slowly caressing his erection. "Bedroom. Ok, I'm in...and –"

A muffled thump followed immediately by repeated cursing in both English and Norwegian makes Nick jump. And frown. Shift slightly, taking care not to dislodge the phone still resting on his chest, maintaining the steady rhythm over his cock, needing it now, waiting for Greg to return.

"You ok?" Breathing slightly ragged.

"Yep. Jeg fell down."

And he sounds so indignant that Nick can't help laughing, somewhat breathlessly, the sound echoing around the room. "Lie down, then," he murmurs, relaxing back into the pillows again. Squirming pleasantly against the warmth spreading out from his groin to his extremities as he touches himself.

"Good idea. You're so smart, Nicky, that's why I love you," Greg sighs. Nick can hear the smile in his voice, caught somewhere between tender and seductive, and the characteristic sound of rustling sheets, a zipper being lowered. "So, so much...and god..." Greg groans low in his throat and Nick's breath catches. He knows that sound, and he knows what Greg is doing. "and I want you. Wish you were touching me...s'not the same."

"What's not the same, Greg?" Nick whispers, gripping harder and pushing into his hand. Greg moans softly.

"Jerking off," Greg murmurs almost matter-of-factly. "Need to...mmm...need to come with you inside bad...when I get home I want you to fuck me into the mattress...ok?"

"I think I can manage that, G," Nick manages, so close now. It's been two days, and that's far too long. Fingers slippery, flying over hot, hard desperate flesh as Greg slides into incoherent, frenzied mumbling. "Want you too. Need you. Want to..." Nick takes a deep breath. "Want to kiss you until you can't breathe and fuck you 'til you scream."

"Nick, god, that's hot," Greg pants harshly. "I think I'm...oh god...oh, fuck...Nick," he whimpers and falls silent.

The sound of Greg's release rips through Nick's body like a wave and it won't take much more, breathing hard and scraping nails over peaked nipples as he pushes hard into his fist, just needing to hear Greg's voice one more time.

"Greg, I'm so close...want me to...Greg?"

Nick pauses, receiving no response. Silence. The only sound in the room his own ragged breathing. And then he hears it. A familiar soft snore. Another. And another, the regular, slow rhythm that assures him that Greg is fast asleep. Or passed out, it's difficult to tell over the phone. One thing is for sure, Greg is going to have a headache tomorrow. Nick supposes he can take that up with his grandfather.

Somewhere between frustrated, amused and affectionate, Nick sighs. He still desperately needs release, but he's going to have to do it without Greg's help. Sort of.

...when I get home I want you to fuck me into the mattress...

The hand on his cock grips, slides, hard, fast...heat uncurling in the pit of his stomach, every muscle tensing as the sweet tension builds and something snaps deep inside him, and he comes in long, hard spurts over his own hand and stomach.

Nick exhales messily and sags into the mattress, sated. Somehow comforted, if only temporarily, he wipes his hand half-heartedly on the borrowed sweat pants and retrieves the phone from his chest as he turns onto his side. Greg's soft breathing still issuing from the speaker. Nick thinks the sound is so reassuring that if it weren't for the astronomical cost, he would leave the connection open and just listen, certain that the gentle rhythm would lull him into sleep.

But miraculously, Nick's eyes and limbs are heavy and he's drifting. So much so that he barely registers the sentimentality of that thought, just the fact that the dull ache of missing Greg has mellowed into something warm and altogether more bearable.

"I love you too, Greggo," he whispers into the air as he fumbles to end the call. "Sleep well."

Nick drops the phone to the floor, wraps the abandoned comforter around himself and himself around a pillow. As he gratefully relinquishes consciousness, he can smell lemon and coconut and chemicals and Greg, and he smiles.


Nick glances at the clock on the living room wall and drums his fingers impatiently on his knees. It seems to have barely moved since the last time he looked, and it's driving him crazy. Greg should be home any time now, and yet time itself appears to have slowed down almost to a standstill. He has done everything he can think of to make it pass more quickly, but to no avail. He's been for a run, showered, cooked, watched TV, tried to read a book...he has even cleaned, which, he thinks wryly, is some indicator of his current state of mind. The apartment is practically sparkling. Anything which can be cleaned has been cleaned. Now he has nothing to do but wait.

The few hours sleep Nick managed to snatch following his first attempt at phone sex allowed him to at least behave like a human being and a professional during the next shift, and allowed him to shamefacedly apologise to both Catherine and Warrick for snapping at them the night before. Apologies that were received with almost identical indulgent smiles that left Nick with the thought, even now, that Catherine and Warrick may be closer than they let on. In both instances, what Nick actually wanted to say was something along the lines of:

'I'm sorry about yesterday. I'm having a hard time because Greg is away and I miss him.'

Of course, he said nothing of the sort, but sitting here now, aching and restless, Nick has come to a decision. He wants them to know. All of them. The CSIs, at any rate. The lab rats in attendance at Jacqui's Thanksgiving dinner failed to even bat an eyelid when he and Greg turned up together. They didn't even ask. Nick has no idea what he's waiting for any more. There is still fear, of course, but that is a stupid reason not to do something, he knows that now. He has lost count of how many terrifying things have turned out to be the best decisions of his life recently. Had it not been for overcoming fear – of love, of openness, of vulnerability, of trust, of honesty – he wouldn't have Greg at all.

Nick shudders involuntarily and jumps up from the couch to resume his pacing back and forth across the room. Reading and re-reading the text message he received a few hours ago when Greg woke up.

I'm sorry :( just to reitterate – very, very drunk. See you soon x

And Nick laughs again, because only Greg would use the word reiterate in a text message. And misspell it. The sudden click of Greg's key in the door startles him, and the laugh softens into a huge, uncontrollable smile as he drops the phone onto the couch and stares at the door.

Greg closes the door behind him and looks up, straight into Nick's eyes. His smile widens as they stare at each other, separated by several feet of hallway and nothing else. Blanketed with a relief that weakens him, Nick unconsciously reaches out to rest a steadying hand on the wall next to him and allows himself just a few more seconds to just look. Knowing, if he even had a sliver of doubt left, that this is it. Everything. Greg is doing nothing but standing there next to the door, smiling at him, and the sensation of completeness and sharp, almost painful elation is threatening to consume Nick. He wants to let it.

"Hi," Greg says softly, dropping his heavy bag to the floor and shoving both hands into his jeans pockets in an almost nervous gesture.

He's wearing possibly the ugliest Hawaiian shirt Nick has ever seen, untied sneakers and a worn, chocolate brown leather jacket that Nick has never seen before. Greg's skin is flushed with the cold, dark eyes sparkling and he looks better than Nick thinks he has ever done.

"Come here," Nick replies, holding out his arms and it's a rough mixture of demand and plea.

Whatever it is, it works, because half a second later, Nick has a cold, delighted blond plastered against him, face buried in his neck and arms wrapped so tightly around him he can't breathe, but it doesn't matter. Nick throws his arms around Greg, fingers sliding over cool leather, down, slipping desperately under layers of clothing until they connect with the warm skin of Greg's back. Stroking feverishly, relearning the sensation that he knows he can't have forgotten in three days, but every nerve ending he possesses sings out with the connection and Nick doesn't care.

Attaching his lips to Greg's neck, sucking gently on the spot just behind his ear and noting the resultant low groan with dazed satisfaction. He inhales deeply, over and over again, citrus and smoke and leather and Greg. The nose against Nick's neck is cold, as are the hands raking up his back, but he just holds Greg closer. Hardening almost instantly at the proximity he has been denied, and sighing, gratified, to feel Greg's response against his hip.

"God, I missed you. I missed you so damn much, Greg." Nick's tone is low and harsh as they cling to each other and he no longer cares about sounding like a sap.

"I know," Greg groans from somewhere below his left ear. "I'm not doing that again. Next time you're coming with me, whether you like it or not."

Nick smiles and pulls back, with some effort, so he can see Greg's face. Seeing nothing but love and relief in the familiar dark eyes, he nods and brings warm hands up to frame his boyfriend's cold face.

"I love you," he says firmly. Brushes wind-flattened blond hair back from Greg's face and kisses him.

Greg sighs contentedly and kisses back, capturing Nick's bottom lip between his and sucking gently, before releasing it and opening Nick's mouth with his own, the first touch of tongues in three days sending a shiver through both of them. Wrapping Greg's hair around his fingers, Nick tugs him closer, tracing the contours of Greg's mouth, letting their tongues play, fight for control of the kiss, even though Nick knows, as Greg has asserted many times, more often than not, control is nowhere to be seen when they are together. Pressed, welded together from shoulder to knee, the contact not only pleasurable but necessary, Nick needs it. Needs to feel every inch of this man against him. Needs his touch and his smell and the warmth of his lips, and the taste of bitter coffee and mints and sugar. He licks lightly along Greg's upper lip and pulls away reluctantly to catch his breath, but doesn't release Greg from his grip.

"Why didn't you want me to pick you up from the airport?" Nick asks, searching Greg's eyes.

He laughs, and the sound is warm and reassuring. "Because I would have jumped on you, much like this, and there would have been a scene, don't you think?"

"I think there might," Nick agrees, leaning back slightly to get a good look at the younger man. "You look good."

"I look terrible, but thank you." Greg quirks an amused eyebrow and kisses the corner of Nick's mouth. "You put the lights up!" he observes with obvious pleasure, having stolen a glance over Nick's shoulder into the living room.


Nick smiles and turns in Greg's arms to look where he is looking, at the strings of small, sparkling white lights that Greg bought before he left and that Nick draped over every available surface and tacked across the living room walls while he was away. The room glows softly in the darkness of the December evening, and Nick will admit, it looks tasteful and somewhat festive, though he has never bothered decorating at Christmas since he left home.

"Thank you, Nicky. Love you too," he breathes against Nick's ear, making him shiver, pressing against him from behind, the fingers now stroking Nick's belly slipping lower, tracing under the waistband of his jeans. Nick groans, needing the touch, and carefully turns back to face Greg.

"Do you remember what you said to me yesterday? What you wanted me to do as soon as you got home?"

Greg stares for a moment before the realization sweeps over his face, chocolate eyes darkening in an instant. He bites his lip. "Yes." He kisses Nick hard, dragging him closer again. "Are you going to fuck me, Nick? I want you to."

The words alone were enough yesterday, but they are nothing compared with the words and the eyes and the smile and the stroking fingers and denim-covered hardness and friction and heat.

Nick lets out a long, shuddering breath and grips Greg's ass hard, crushing them together in an explosion of need. "Yeah. I'm going to...oh, you have got to be kidding me."

Gritting his teeth in a valiant effort at self-control, Nick drops his head to rest on Greg's shoulder briefly, before he pulls away, cursing under his breath, to retrieve his ringing cell phone from the couch.

"I wonder who that is," Greg mutters, shoving his hands irritably back into his pockets.

His sarcasm is not lost on Nick, because it's a fair bet they both know exactly who it is. There are only two people who might call Nick on his cell two hours before his shift is due to start, and one of them is currently standing behind him looking distinctly unimpressed, not to mention sexually frustrated.

"Yeah, I can come in now," Nick replies, shooting Greg an apologetic look that earns an arched eyebrow and a slightly suggestive pout. "Overtime, sure, makes it all worthwhile. See you soon, Gris."

Nick forces a hollow laugh and ends the call. Closes his eyes momentarily and sighs. He has lost count of the number of times this has happened now, and what's worse, his supervisor seems to have an inadvertently horrifying sense of timing. More than once, they have been naked. In which case, Nick supposes, this shouldn't even register on the frustration scale, but...fuck. Or not, as the case may be. It's been so long, it feels like forever, not three days, since he tasted Greg's skin and touched him all over and...Nick shakes his head, attempting composure. Looks appealingly at his aggrieved boyfriend.

"Fucking Grissom," Greg sighs dramatically.

Nick laughs. "I suppose someone has to."

Greg's eyes snap to his instantly and his mouth falls slightly open before he smiles slowly in disbelief and catches Nick's laughter.

"You've changed, Mr Stokes," he says softly, teasing. Closes the distance between them and slides his arms around Nick's neck, brushing worn leather against his skin.

"I have?"

Greg nods, looking thoughtful. "Yeah. Don't take this the wrong way're a lot less uptight than you used to be. You' up...a lot," Greg finishes, wrinkling his nose uncertainly but not retracting the statement.

Nick says nothing for a while, just plays with the zipper on Greg's jacket and thinks. Mind inundated with images and snippets of conversations, arguments, discussions. Nick lets them flow around him and has to concede that Greg is right, he has changed.

"I panic less," he offers suddenly, meeting Greg's eyes again.

"You panic less," Greg confirms, holding the eye contact for a moment. Breaking it, lacing his fingers through Nick's with a resigned sigh. "And on that note, we need to move. You have a date with Grissom."

Nick grimaces and Greg grins wickedly.

"Hang on, 'we'?"

"I'm coming with you."

"You're the lab...early...when you don't need to?" Nick is baffled.

"Yes." Greg lifts his chin somewhat defiantly, though who he's defying is beyond Nick.

"You just got back, don't you want to chill out, or change, or something?"

"Or something," Greg replies, smiling ruefully and rubbing his thumb in small, meaningful circles over Nick's palm. Nick shivers lightly at the touch. "But that's not happening, so I guess it's Plan B, much just involves being wherever you are."

Greg closes his mouth tight, crosses his arms across his chest and looks studiously at the floor. Nick watches him carefully. The faint blush tinting Greg's cheekbones does not escape his notice, and it warms him.

"Sap," Nick whispers, lifting Greg's chin with one finger and kissing him softly. "As if I can argue with that. Give me five minutes to change."

"And you know, who knows what they've done to the DNA lab while I've been away," Greg calls out, recovering himself; his voice floating into the bedroom from the hall as Nick changes his clothes.


"Fuck me," Greg exclaims, unseen, four and a half minutes later. The door slams.

Nick shakes his head and laughs. He doesn't ask, because he knows Greg won't need to be pushed to expand on something that surprises him as much as that. And sure enough, Greg is standing next to the bed with the strangest expression on his face before Nick has even finished tying his shoelaces. Nick raises an eyebrow and waits.

"There's something on the doorstep." Greg pauses, screwing his face up thoughtfully. "Except we don't have a doorstep, as such. What do you say, when someone leaves something outside the door to your apartment?"

"I don't know, Greggo. How about 'someone's left something outside the door to our apartment'?" Nick smiles indulgently.

Greg sighs and kicks his ankle half-heartedly. "Always so literal, Nicky. Where's your sense of the dramatic?"

"I don't know. But you seem to have enough for both of us, so I'm not worried." Nick smiles and Greg simply sticks out his tongue. "Are you going to tell me what someone left outside the door?"

"Come and see," Greg whispers. With that, he turns and stalks out of the room. Nick watches him for a moment before following him into the kitchen.

"It's a...basket of fruit." Nick frowns and looks harder at the object Greg has placed on the kitchen table. He leans in and sets his palms flat on the table top, trying to examine it a little more closely. He doesn't notice Greg mirroring his posture across the table until their noses are almost touching.

"Yes," confirms Greg softly, stealing a frustratingly gentle kiss from Nick before looking back down at the object that sits between them. "A fruit basket, if you will."

"Maybe it's an early Christmas present," Nick muses.

"No." Greg shakes his head. "The card says 'sorry.' Who says they're sorry with fruit?" Greg's tone is genuinely curious.

Nick plucks the small card out from where it is half-covered by an unfeasibly large bunch of grapes. Opens it.

"Please don't worry about him, he won't be coming here any more.

I dumped the bastard. Sorry about what he said. Merry Christmas

- Laura (9A)," he reads aloud, realization dawning instantly.

"Oh," says Greg. He stares down at the fruit once more.

"It isn't her that should be apologising," Nick points out through gritted teeth.

Greg looks up sharply. "True. But an apology is an apology."

He leans back toward Nick briefly, pressing lips against Nick's jaw in a gesture of comfort. Nick recognises it as such and consciously relaxes, threading his fingers through Greg's as they lie on the table top. Noticing with mild interest that Greg's sudden, impulsive anger seems to have dissipated with time whilst his calm philosophising is temporarily abandoned at the prickling injustice he sees in a woman apologising for her homophobic jerk of an ex-boyfriend's past behaviour.

He thinks though, that maybe he was right at the time, and it doesn't matter about jerks like that, and Greg is right now, and an apology is an apology. Even when it's from the wrong person, and even when it's shaped a basket of fruit.

Nick doesn't know what to say about a fruit basket. It's not like he's ever received one before.

"It was nice of her," he offers at last.

"Fruit," Greg repeats, tracing incredulous fingers over the tuft of a large pineapple. "Fruit!"

"It's good for you," Nick ventures, face deadpan. "How about a banana before we go to work?"

Greg eyes him steadily, one corner of his mouth twitching as he tries not to smile. "I don't like bananas, Nick."

But still, he carefully selects the largest one, twists it away from the bunch and slides it into his jacket pocket as he follows Nick out of the door and down the stairs.


It is dark outside and Nick watches Greg cross the street to his car, the orange glow of the streetlight casting flickering shadows across his face and sparkling across the light covering of frost that crunches underfoot. Though it is only around eight thirty, the street is deserted. Nick exhales slowly, clouds of breath clearly visible in the cold night air. Turning away from Greg for a moment, he steps back and looks up at the window of their third floor apartment. Mostly in darkness, save for the strands of white lights easily discernable, glittering warmly through the glass. Smiling, Nick is seized by a compelling wave of wellbeing.

It's two days before Christmas. He's tingling all over with the pure joy of having Greg back. The strange excitement and fear of knowing what the night ahead might hold, even if Greg doesn't, yet. Everything is cold and sparkling and warm and bright and sharp and he needs to hold onto it. Needs to do something...something...

"Greggo," he calls, turning around. Greg pauses in unlocking his car and looks up. "Why don't we just take my car?"

Nick allows himself a flicker of inward amusement at the puzzled expression on Greg's face as he retraces his steps to where Nick's car is parked right in front of the building. When Greg is close enough to touch, Nick grabs him by the sleeve of his jacket and presses him into the wall of the building in one swift movement. Takes a second to appreciate the spark of shock in Greg's eyes and the cold, dry lips parted in surprise before Nick leans in and captures his mouth in a deep kiss. Demonstrating his inherent ability to go with the flow, Greg responds in seconds, tangling hands in Nick's hair and kissing him back hungrily.

Nick can almost sense the confusion rippling from the other man, even as he submits to Nick's strange behaviour without question. But Nick knows exactly what he's doing, and it's more than just a damn good kiss.

"What the hell was that for?" Greg demands breathlessly as Nick takes half a step back and lets him sag against the wall. "Not that I didn't like it," he adds, lifting an eyebrow suggestively.

"When I kissed you here before..." he trails off and Greg frowns, eyes clouding. Remembering, Nick is sure, what he remembers about that day. He presses on. "I don't want to think about that every time I stand out here. So I'm replacing it. With this."

"Replacing the memory?" Greg clarifies. Voice soft, tentative. Cold fingers under Nick's collar, stroking.


Nick rests his hands on Greg's hips, still pinning him lightly against the wall. His heart is racing but no longer from fear. He thinks anyone could walk past right now and he wouldn't move. In this moment, all that matters is Greg. He can't read the smile that curves Greg's lips but the words are clear enough.

"Better make it a good one, then." Greg pushes off the wall and kisses him again.


"Mmm...very...satisfying," Greg murmurs from the passenger seat, dropping the yellow skin to the dashboard.

Nick swallows and looks very hard at the road in front of him as he turns and pulls into the lab parking lot. Having swiftly re-evaluated the wisdom of his banana suggestion, he has come to the undeniable conclusion that Greg really is a diabolical tease. As, considering that Greg dislikes bananas, he has managed to make this one last the entire drive, devouring it with rapacious enjoyment, small noises of satisfaction escaping from him as he wrapped his mouth around the firm flesh. Nick is incredulous that Greg would do it for the sole purpose of torturing him. Incredulous and inconveniently turned on.

"Are you done?" he asks weakly.

"Mmhmm." Greg licks his fingers slowly and grins as Nick chances looking at him. "Hey, do you have a mint? I really don't like the taste of bananas."

Nick stares at him a moment, the face a picture of innocence. He shakes his head in disbelief but still passes Greg a half-finished pack of mints from the glove compartment. "Could've fooled me," he mutters under his breath. Greg laughs.

"Someone's going to ask why I came with you, you know," Greg says quietly, turning serious. One hand on the door handle.

Nick grips the steering wheel and stares at it, trying to breathe steadily. "I know."

"Don't you care?"

"No, Greg." Loosens his grip and turns to look at his boyfriend. "It's about time they knew."

Something in Greg's expression grips at Nick's insides and won't let go. He looks shocked for a moment but cannot control the huge smile that Nick would never want him to. Greg laughs, almost with relief and lightheadedness and drags Nick so close in the small space that all he can see and smell is hair product and leather and the bit of warm skin under Greg's collar.

"Fuck. So we're really doing this."

"Yeah. We are."

"How do you want to do this?" Greg mumbles, disentangling himself with some difficulty and pulling back to look at Nick.

"I hadn't thought that far," Nick admits with a sheepish smile. "I was hoping you'd have an idea, you've done this kind of thing before."

"I've never had a relationship with a co-worker before, Nick." Greg's smile is suddenly tinged with nervousness. "And telling Jacqui doesn't count, she's like a conversational ninja."

Nick laughs. "Let's just get out of the car and take it from there."


Three hours later, Nick's patience with the 'take it as it comes' approach is wearing dangerously thin. It's as though, having finally made the decision that he wants his colleagues to know, the weight of a months-old secret is now pressing down on him unbearably. Having headed straight to a scene in Henderson, Nick has spent the last few hours alternating between cursing Grissom and reflecting on the ironic fact that for once, he wishes he wasn't working solo. As he heads back into the lab, loaded down with DNA and Trace samples, the only night shift CSI he has seen so far is his supervisor, and that was no more than a brief thanks for coming in early and the provision of a slip of paper containing his assignment.

It's all very well, he reasons, resolving to tell them if they ask, but they can't even do that if he doesn't damn well see any of them. Striding into DNA, he dumps his armful of samples on Greg's counter and leans on it with a heavy sigh. Warmed, despite his frustration, as he waits for Greg to finish his energetic pencil-drumming along with what sounds suspiciously like Christmas music. With a dramatic flourish, Greg flings both arms out to the sides and bows his head as if anticipating applause. Receiving none, he shrugs and drops the pencils back onto the glass with a clatter. Looks up and grins widely at Nick.

Delighted at the flare of heat this still elicits, Nick grins back.

"Any reason for that murderous glare just now?" he enquires, shaking his head at Nick's surprise. "I saw you. I can multi-task, you know."

"Flirt," admonishes Nick, taking in the fractionally raised eyebrow. "This telling people thing is driving me crazy. It's like everyone's avoiding me so I can't do it." He's whining again, and he knows it.

"It's a conspiracy," Greg deadpans, though his eyes give him away. "To stop Nick Stokes from coming out at work."

"Not helping."

"Sorry. Wanna go get coffee? I need a break," Greg offers in an attempt to placate, holding up his cup.

Coffee. Greg is of the opinion that coffee is the answer to everything, and as he follows the younger man to the break room, Nick has to concede that perhaps he's right. Coffee would be really good right now. As the open doorway comes into view, Nick stops short. Catherine, Warrick and Sara are sitting around the table, engaged in a spirited discussion. Not that Nick actually hears them. Stomach churning, he digs his thumbnails into his palms and takes a deep breath. Thinks perhaps someone up there is laughing at him.

Well, you wanted to see them, didn't you?

Nick is still arguing with his subconscious when Greg turns around, sensing his hesitation.

"What's the matter?"

Looking from Greg to his three co-workers and back again, Nick makes a decision. He never wanted a big scene, or an epic speech. Maybe, just this.

"Actions speak louder than words, I think," he says at last, meeting Greg's eyes. Both eyebrows instantly shoot up and Nick suppresses a laugh, not quite ready to draw the trio's attention to them. He knows what Greg is thinking instantly. "Not that, you...exhibitionist." Greg just smiles silently and waits. "How about this?"

Nick draws in a long, fortifying breath and reaches out for Greg's hand. Greg's smile widens.

"Ok," he whispers and wraps strong fingers more securely around Nick's. "Though there might have to be words too."

"No doubt," Nick mutters, allowing Greg to tug him closer to the doorway. Oh, fuck.

"You're wrong," Sara is saying, waving her cup at Warrick. "The original was far superior. A remake just can't compare, however hot the actress might be."

"Come on, Sara, I'm only saying that – " Warrick pauses as his eyes meet Nick's.

"What?" Sara turns in her seat and follows Warrick's gaze.

Catherine smirks and crosses her arms on the table, saying nothing.

Nick closes his eyes briefly against the insistent loop of 'what the fuck am I doing?' grinding through his head, hoping the flush he feels heating his skin isn't as obvious as he thinks it is. His instinct is to let go of Greg, but it seems that Greg knows that and only grips his hand tighter, rough lab coat sleeve scraping the sensitive inside of his wrist, palm warm against Nick's.

The silence stretches out, so full of expectation that he can't stand it. Nick watches Warrick's pale green eyes and Sara's dark ones flick down to where he is now holding onto Greg's hand like it is the only thing holding him up. Catherine's blue gaze holds steady as the smirk increases in size.

Greg smiles next to him, gives his hand one last squeeze and releases it. "Your move," he whispers out of the side of his mouth, effectively handing control to Nick, knowing he needs it right now. Touches Nick's arm briefly and leaves his side to pick up the coffee pot.

"Refill, anyone? No? Just me, then. Great." Greg speaks quickly and his eyes are pleading. Say something.

Nick looks back at the table. "Greg and I are together," he says suddenly. And that's it. It feels like the first time he has spoken in years, and his voice sounds strange in his head, but he's said it. "Thought you should know," he adds.

Flicking a glance over to Greg, who just clutches the coffee pot harder. His smile is slightly lop-sided and completely infectious; Nick returns it because he has no choice. And because he wants to.

"Thank god for that," Catherine says, breaking the silence. Nick turns to face her.

"At last!" Sara grins. Wraps slender fingers around her cup.

Nick is confused, and he wants to stay that way, absolutely does not want to acknowledge the message that is desperately trying to get through. That not one of them is surprised. With some apprehension, he looks at his best friend. Warrick shakes his head and laughs softly.

"I've known, man...Nick, it's cool. Sit down before you fall down." Warrick pushes an empty chair away from the table with his foot and Nick sinks into it gratefully.

"You all knew?" he groans, covering his face briefly, and it's not a question, not really.

"Sorry, Nicky," Catherine offers. Nick can't decide if she sounds amused or apologetic.

He looks up again at Greg, who continues to lounge against the counter, arms crossed over his chest. His expression is one of happy satisfaction and his eyes radiate a calm pleasure that washes over Nick and wordlessly urges him to relax. He sighs, slightly humiliated but not yet beaten.

"You all knew," he repeats, looking at each of them in turn, dropping his hands to the table top. "And it's ok?" There's no way he's leaving anything to chance now.

"Of course," Catherine affirms, turning to smile at Greg. He smiles back hesitantly and drops his eyes to the floor.

"Maybe we should have acted more surprised," Sara adds somewhat obliquely, but there is no uncertainty in the grin she flashes at Nick.

"'Rick?" Nick prods, unsure. "Is this weird?" Not that it's going to change my mind, he adds silently.

Warrick's gaze shifts to Greg at the last word and Nick turns to watch the two men regard each other for a moment. His best friend and his boyfriend. Warrick's expression appraising, Greg's proud with a hint of challenge. To his surprise, Warrick shakes his head and laughs, a rich sound that fills the small room.

"Doesn't matter what I think, Nick. But yeah, it's cool." He grins, showing straight white teeth. "And anyway, I've had long enough to get used to the idea."

Nick slumps in his seat, feeling strangely drained, stunned and relieved. For some reason, this is not how he expected any of this to go.

"We were that obvious, huh?" Greg approaches the table to a chorus of yeses and lays a hand on Nick's shoulder.

There is a pause for a moment before Sara speaks. "Don't you think you should show them the list now, Catherine?" She folds her arms.

"What list?" Nick looks from Sara to Catherine and back again. "Please don't tell me you guys had some kind of betting pool on us?" he asks weakly.

"Nothing like that," soothes Catherine. Warrick raises an eyebrow and earns himself a brief warning glare from the blonde. "Of course not."

"Hey, Sara..." Warrick pushes his chair back and grabs Sara's arm, eyes widening. Propels her toward the door. "Weren't you going to show me the results of that experiment? Yeah, I think you were..."

Nick watches them scuttle off down the corridor with interest before he turns his gaze back to Catherine, who is standing before the notice board in the corner of the room, flipping through old flyers and memos and department information. Finally, she pulls down a slightly dog-eared piece of paper that had been pinned behind several other notices, hidden from sight.

Getting up to stand beside Greg, they exchange glances. Greg shrugs. Catherine perches on the edge of the table and looks down at the paper in her hands, somewhat shamefaced.

"I pinned this up here when I first realized you guys were a couple. I wanted to see if you could keep it a secret or not, so...anyone who thought there was something between you was...discreetly directed to add their name and the date." Catherine pauses, looking from Nick to Greg and back again. "It was a slow night, ok?" she sighs and tucks her hair behind one ear. "And in my defence, I never thought it would go on for as long as this."

"The relationship?" asks Greg, earning himself an eye roll from Catherine.

"The attempt at secrecy."

Nick holds out his hand for the paper, taking it from Catherine. All it contains are names and dates.

"This has been pinned up here all this time and I never knew about it?" Nick shakes his head in disbelief.

"Evidently, Nicky, we're sneakier than you are." Catherine smirks.

She falls silent as Nick scans the page. The warmth pressed up against his back and steady breath against his neck tell him that Greg is reading over his shoulder with interest.

Catherine Willows - 5th April 2003

Jacqui Franco – 20th April 2003

Bobby Dawson – 12th June 2003

Warrick Brown - 17th August 2003

Sara Sidle – 21st October 2003

Nick stops reading and stares at the list, as he ceases to see a series of arbitrary dates but a string of occasions he can actually recall. Senses suddenly assaulted by an avalanche of images, first kisses and heatwaves and football games and semi-public declarations of love. He's abruptly and thoroughly confounded that he didn't know that they knew. He sighs resignedly and returns his eyes to the paper.

"Jacqui cheated!" Greg says at last, sounding indignant.

"She cheated?"

"Yes. I told her, that's not fair. She didn't guess," Greg huffs, and Nick can't help being amused that he's so affronted.

"It wasn't a competition, Greg. More of a...campaign," Catherine ventures, examining her nails.

Nick is lost. "What?"

"Well, I decided that, um, in the event of every member of the night shift putting their names up there...we were going to confront you."

"There's a name missing?" Nick asks faintly, frowning. He wonders if it's possible for this night to become any more surreal, but then again, thoughts like that are always dangerous.

"Yep. Grissom," points out Greg gleefully. "Grissom's name isn't here. So we win!"

"April 5th?" Nick interrupts as a thought occurs to him. "Catherine, we weren't together on April 5th."

Catherine looks surprised. "It was the Monday...after you moved in together. You both looked different. Happy."

Nick stares at her and then at Greg, who just smiles like he understands, and bumps Nick's shoulder affectionately, setting off a warm, bubbly feeling in his gut.

"Ah, we were win?" Greg repeats, looking hopefully at Catherine.

"Like I said, it's not a competition," she replies stubbornly. Not a woman who likes to give up easily.

"Not a close one. We win."

Catherine sighs, shooting Nick an unmistakeable 'how do you put up with him?' look that makes him flinch with surprise and then smile, taking an unconscious step closer to Greg that Catherine doesn't miss, judging by the next look she sends his way. But she's smiling too.

Finally she directs the cool blue gaze back to Greg.

"Technically," she says, a playful edge to her words. "Unless you tell Grissom before he writes his name on this paper, you don't 'win'." And she snatches the sheet out of Nick's hands.

Greg stares at her for a moment before his head whips around and Nick is fixed with a set of very hopeful, slightly anxious brown eyes.

"Thanks, Catherine,' he mumbles drily, unable to stop the soft smile that is his instinctive response to Greg's tried and tested persuasive/hopeful expression. "I'll remember this, next time you need a favour from me."

Catherine merely raises an eyebrow and pins the list back to the notice board as Greg drags him out into the corridor.


As he stands next to Greg in Grissom's office some minutes later, Nick thinks that perhaps he needs to work on his defensive strategies when it comes to Greg's puppy-eyes, because there is no way this is going to end well. Not least because Grissom's silver hair is, at this moment, covered by a bright red, fur-trimmed Santa hat. Which, understandably, is making it somewhat difficult to focus on the task at hand. Nick fights down a smile and basks in the glow of his own self control.

"Did you lose a bet?" Greg enquires, curiosity no match for self-control in his case.

"Greg..!" Nick elbows him in the ribs. Doesn't look at him because if he does Nick knows he'll laugh, and laughing at his boss really isn't going to help with this.

"Greg, believe me, you do not want to know." Greg makes a small sound of disagreement, very close to a snort, but the look on Grissom's face, incongruent with the flagrant festivity of the hat, seems to make him reconsider. "Did you need something? ...both of you?" he adds, curiosity flashing into usually unreadable blue eyes.

Nick swallows hard. He's not really doing this, is he? Feeling Greg's eyes on him, Nick finally turns his head to look. Though still trying hard to suppress an inappropriate smile, Greg's eyes are steady with encouragement and the request that he does not need to vocalise.

I'm not doing this, Nick amends silently. We are.

"The thing is, Gris, we...ah..."

"In the spirit of Christmas, and all that sharing, generous spirited crap," Greg interjects helpfully.

"Thanks, Greg." Nick throws him a look, or tries to, because that damn smile is still threatening.

"You're welcome. And because everyone else seems to know but you..."

"Greg and I are..." Involved? Dating? " a relationship," he finishes. "With each other."

"Thanks for clarifying, Nick," Grissom says after a moment. Face almost expressionless, only the subtle knitting of brows and slight widening of eyes semi-obscured by wire-rimmed glasses giving him away. The hand resting on the desk twitches ever so slightly as the other is raised to his face to remove the glasses.

Grissom blinks. "How long, boys?"

"Since April," Greg replies, and the silver eyebrows shoot up momentarily.

"And everyone else knew about this?" The older man's voice is slightly strained, and Nick wonders how difficult it is for him to be the last to know something for once. He suspects, extremely, and for some reason that thought fills Nick with satisfaction. And the hat definitely helps.

"So it would seem,' replies Greg, shrugging. "Apparently, it was obvious."

Gil's eyes flicker with anguished evenness. "Greg isn't your subordinate, Nick. Or vice versa. I assume that if it was going to affect your work, it would have done by now." He replaces his glasses and bats the white bobble of his hat away from his face. "I appreciate you telling me, though."

Given that Greg's shoulders are now silently shaking beside him, Nick opts to remove them both from the office before anything can go wrong. Thanking his bemused boss, Nick smiles pleasantly and steers Greg into the corridor where he leans against the wall and dissolves into uncontrollable laughter.

Nick decides that Grissom's pretending not to be surprised expression needs some work. He resolves to try to surprise his supervisor more often.


"I thought it went well," Greg calls from the kitchen, between banging cupboard doors open and shut.

"It did," Nick almost whispers.

In truth, he is still working on the discomfort of being so obvious that only socially inept Grissom failed to pick up on the relationship, but even that cannot taint the feeling of freedom and release that comes with giving up the last of his secrets to the last of the people that matter to him.

Nick regards the spare room from the doorway, lost in thought.

"We should straighten this room up," he says to no one in particular, eyeing the piles of boxes and bags and junk they have tossed in there during the last few months.

"That sounds like a fun way to spend a day off," Greg replies, coming up behind him, voice dripping with sarcasm.

Nick smiles and reaches back for his hand, pulling Greg against his back and feeling the arms circle his waist and Greg's chin drop onto his shoulder. Greg is warm and he smells suspiciously like cinnamon. Nick wonders why his supposedly clever boyfriend thinks he can hide the fact that he has been eating the Christmas cookies again, but he says nothing about it, at least for now.

"I don't know, we could put some music on know...thrash, or whatever. Get it done in no...what?" Greg is convulsing with laughter and Nick feels the tremors against his back and Greg's smile and snigger against his neck.

"Thrash? Oh, man, don't ever change, Nicky."

"Shut up," he mutters, but he's smiling because Greg is still pressed tight against him and is kissing his neck between snorts of laughter.

"Anyway," he continues. Deep breath. Because he has a point to make and he's damn well going to make it, even if Greg is licking behind his ear and...Nick snaps himself out of it with some effort. "If we have visitors, they need to be able to get to the bed."

"Yeah, like who?" Greg's tone is one of studied indifference and he doesn't stop what he's doing, but Nick hears the change in his breathing and he's not fooling anyone.

"Lily and Becca, maybe," Nick replies. Feeling Greg's hands flatten against his stomach as he tenses it. "My parents. Yours."

Nick pulls him round so that he is holding Greg. The younger man blinks and the corners of his mouth lift fractionally.

"You really isn't a good colour for a guest room..." ventures Greg.

He ducks his head, grinning, and pulls out of Nick's embrace to step into the room. Runs a thoughtful hand down one mint green wall. Speaks again before Nick has a chance to compose a retort about green bedrooms. It's been a while since he has had to.

"Hey, do you realize...our first kiss was in here, and the first time sex...was in here, too."

"This is true." Nick watches him appreciatively from the doorway for a moment before joining Greg in the room and sliding arms around him, slipping under his shirt to rest in the small of his back.

He pulls Greg closer, feeling himself start to harden at the memory. So much insecurity, so much fear, so much desire, all those months ago. And still so much desire, Nick realizes, meeting Greg's eyes and seeing every emotion and memory mirrored in them, every last bit of want in those eyes as strong as it was the first day he noticed it.

"Aren't there any firsts left?" Greg asks, pouting.

Nick thinks. There must be. Some, he's not quite ready for yet, but there is time yet for those things, he feels sure of it.

"Sure there are," he reassures, rubbing circles on Greg's back. "How about...the first time I tell you I want to spend the rest of my life with a green bedroom?"

"I knew it!" Greg exclaims. "You said you weren't but I knew you were!"

Greg's grin warms him immeasurably but his words are puzzling.

"I said I wasn't what?"

Clearing his throat pointedly, Greg frowns. "I'm not exactly the last of the great romantics, Greg," he says, in an affected Southern drawl.

It takes Nick a second or two to place the words and to realize that Greg is repeating his own admission back to him. Tangled emotions rippling through him as he recalls the moment he spoke those words, though when he registers Greg's hands on his face, all he feels is relief and gratitude.

"Is that supposed to be me?" he asks, feigning offence. Greg just smiles. "I don't sound like that. You really think that's romantic?"

"It is," Greg almost whispers. "I'm glad everyone knows. Because I want to spend my life with you too." He blinks, eyes suspiciously bright. "Sap," he adds with a weak half smile that turns Nick's stomach over.

Recovering himself, Nick fixes Greg with a mock-stern look, but holds him tighter. "You should be careful, I'm not sure if I've forgiven you yet for falling asleep on me the other night."

Greg cringes apologetically. "I think you have, though," he whispers, kissing Nick's neck maddeningly softly.

"I think I have too." Nick tilts his head, eyes closing, allowing Greg to trail feather light kisses along his jaw and behind his ear, each brush of lips against skin inflaming desire and reminding him that it's been far, far too long. He shudders as the very tip of Greg's tongue traces over his pulse point, making it jump in response.

He crushes Greg against him, heat and hardness, even separated by layers of fabric, feeling achingly good.

"Want me?" Greg asks, unsteady against his ear. Hot breath, warm lips. Yes.

"Need you," he responds.

Sliding hands firmly up Greg's back to push into his hair, cradle the back of his head and draw him into an intense, searing kiss. Pushing his tongue into Greg's hot mouth, stroking, claiming, a demonstration of the closeness and connection that he really needs. Nick pulls away reluctantly to allow desperate hands to pull his thin sweater over his head, allowing those hands, now almost reverent, to stroke and trace his chest and abdomen as he shakily unbuttons Greg's hideous shirt, pushing it back over his shoulders and to the floor. Nick falls on the exposed pale skin, mouth latching onto each nipple in turn, sighing as the soft, pink flesh hardens instantly against his tongue and teeth. Greg inhales sharply, hanging onto Nick's belt loops as his head falls back and his eyes close.

Far, far too long, Nick affirms silently as he releases Greg's nipple from between his teeth and licks a heated trail across his skin, connecting the dots between the dark freckles sprinkled sparingly over Greg's chest and stomach. Tasting the skin, lightly salty and something unidentifiable that he knows so well now that it makes his heart ache with the familiarity of it all.

Nick wrenches himself away before he gets to the point where it will be impossible to stop, just pressing his palm lightly against Greg's denim-encased erection, making his head snap up with a low groan. Nick looks right into unguarded, lust-hazed dark eyes and shivers.

"Don't go anywhere." He kisses Greg softly and almost stumbles from the room in his haste to gather what they need, as though Greg might disappear if he's not fast enough.

Returning to the doorway in seconds, he stops, curiosity holding him in place for a moment as he watches Greg. Watches as he stands next to the bed in silent contemplation, eyes narrowed, then reaches over and sweeps everything off the bed in three swift movements, sending bags and clothes and boxes flying haphazardly to the floor. Leaving the slightly wrinkled cream sheets clear and flopping back onto them on his back, a smile of almost childlike satisfaction lighting his face. He looks up at Nick and laughs.

"I've always wanted to do that," he confesses, casually sliding one hand over his bare chest and slowly unbuttons his jeans, holding Nick's gaze as he frees his hard, flushed cock and strokes it almost lazily.

"You are picking all of that up later," Nick replies distractedly, eyes flicking between Greg's mouth and his hand, the image sending painful need to his cock and propelling him toward the bed.

"Absolutely," Greg pants harshly, arching into his own touch as he stares at Nick from under his eyelashes. "Now come over here and make love to me."

Nick sheds his jeans and underwear and drops the condom and small bottle on the edge of the bed. Crawls onto the mattress, hooks fingers under Greg's waistband and pulls until he is naked and exposed, the hairs on Greg's bare thighs creating a delicious light friction as Nick's cock drags across them. He leans, a knee either side of Greg's hips, face inches from Greg's.

"Thought you wanted me to fuck you into the mattress?" Nick asks, voice low with need.

Greg laughs breathlessly and licks his lips. "The two aren't...oh god," Nick encloses his cock in his fist. "...mutually exclusive."

Nick smiles down at the man twisting and whimpering beneath him and feels, not for the first time, caught somewhere between amusement and lust. It's only Greg that has ever made him feel this way. Only Greg that he wants to make him feel this way. Shifting back slightly, Nick makes a small sound of agreement and in one swift movement, lowers his head and takes Greg's cock in his mouth.

From Greg's strangled cry and the way his hips arch off the bed, he isn't expecting the move. Nick presses on, sucking gently and collecting warm, salty fluid on his tongue, humming with pleasure as Greg unconsciously spreads his legs further apart, exposing himself to Nick's trailing fingers and mumbling incoherently as Nick gropes for the plastic bottle, slicks his fingers and traces teasing circles around the twitching entrance as he continues to suck Greg's cock.

" haven't touched me in days, Nick," he whimpers urgently, pulling at Nick's hair. "You can't think I'm gonna last...if you...keep doing that."

"Don't want you to last, want you to come," Nick instructs, pulling his mouth away and fisting Greg's weeping cock hard, looking into his pleading eyes before enveloping the firm, pulsing flesh once more.

Greg moans and pushes into his mouth. "Close." The word is almost whispered into the air and Nick wants it so much, wants to hear it, feel it, taste it. He flicks his tongue over the hard flesh and pushes a slippery finger inside Greg's ass as he tenses, cries out and explodes in repeated hot bursts down Nick's throat.

Nick continues to stroke inside Greg until the aftershocks fade away, then releases him and crawls back up his body, pressing every inch of his heated skin against Greg's, erection digging into his stomach, stroking messy hair back from his face and kissing him. Greg mumbles against his lips, caressing Nick's tongue with his own and scraping blunt nails down his back.

When his eyes open, they burn into Nick's with an intensity that surprises him, the heat of Greg's need seemingly unquenched by his release. No one has ever wanted him like this. The feeling wraps around him as he stares down at Greg, flooding him with a warmth that constricts his throat and pricks at his eyes. Greg smiles and shifts underneath him, sliding firm skin against his trapped cock and making him tremble.

Not wanting to look away and break the connection, Nick reaches for what he needs, carefully sheaths himself and stares down into bottomless chocolate brown as he kneels between Greg's thighs, fingers pushing once more into tight heat and twisting, watching his eyes widen, bottom lip caught between his teeth and the deep shudder tells Nick wordlessly right there...again...please. Stroking that spot over and over again until Greg's cock stirs and hardens once more against his stomach. Eyes black and liquid with absolute trust and desire, Nick catches his breath. Hard to believe he has this. Easy to believe he will never want anything else.

"I love you, Greg," he says softly, leaning down to kiss him hard, pushing inside, the first stroke careful, almost tentative, the second, deep, uncontrolled as the relief of being surrounded, gripped, held floods his body and he is caught up.

Nothing else but this. Greg's legs around him and Greg's soft cries and tightly shut eyes and hands on his back. Pushing up into him, wanting, needing, relishing every stroke. Nick grits his teeth and forces himself to slow down, almost impossible because what he's doing feels too fucking good. Hard and slow, angling to give Greg exactly what he needs with every other stroke, wanting him balancing on the edge of need and satisfaction. Closer. Greg's kisses taste like cinnamon and sugar, and that tongue is insistent.

"," Greg almost sobs, pulling away from his mouth and half twisting into the pillow.

Beautiful. Helpless. Powerful. Irresistible. Nick lets go of his control and grasps Greg's shoulders, knowing he'll leave a mark, breath ripped out, heart threatening to burst out of his chest as he slams into Greg as forcefully as he can, every ounce of strength and frustration and love he possesses fuelling the desperate movement of his hips, the connection pulling up and snapping inside him as Greg's tight heat and "oh fuck, Nick, please" and sudden sticky eruption against his stomach combine to ignite white heat in his stomach and cock and everywhere as he cries Greg's name and comes inside him with a relief so intense he thinks for a second he might black out.

Weakened, shaky, sated, he flops onto Greg's chest, the rapid but steady rise and fall soothing, as is the gentle hand sweeping over his back.

"Nick?" He looks up into sleepy, appealing eyes. "Hi."

"Hi, Greg."

"I'm cold. Can we move?"

"God forbid you should fall asleep in a green bedroom, huh?" Nick yawns, hauling himself up and retrieving the nearest item of discarded clothing to clean up. "Again, at least," he adds under his breath, a wry smile curving his lips.

Greg shrugs, smiling softly and allows himself to be pulled up. They move as one into the living room where it is pleasantly warm, and within minutes are tangled on the couch, covered in a blanket and drifting into much needed sleep.


Nick stretches luxuriously and opens his eyes, only half surprised to find himself naked on the couch, covered in a thick, warm blanket. He smiles sleepily as the past few hours filter in around him and he shifts onto his side, pulling the blanket closer around his body and looking around the living room. Semi-darkness and soft white lights and he can hear Greg somewhere close by, though he can't see him.

"...I know," he's saying. "That's what I said! Fruit! Seriously."

Curious, Nick raises himself up on his elbows and peers over the back of the couch. Greg is pacing slowly between the kitchen and bedroom doors, waving his free arm demonstratively as he talks on the phone, even though whoever he is speaking to can't see him and he clearly has no idea he is being watched. There is no urgency in his tone or his movements, but Nick knows by now that Greg is almost incapable of being still. He is, surprisingly, dressed, and Nick takes in the faded jeans and huge knitted sweater that swamps his lean frame but somehow still looks perfect on him. Greg's hair is wet from the shower he must have taken while Nick was asleep, and waves gently against his forehead.

He pauses a moment in his pacing and leans heavily against the wall, rubbing at his face as he listens.

"Honestly? Yeah, I had a feeling that some of them knew." Nick's eyes widen and he holds his breath. "Because I didn't want to freak him out, telling him that would have only made it harder for him." Greg frowns and then laughs softly as he shakes his head at the unseen caller and resumes his pacing. "Because I love him," he says simply.

Nick studies Greg carefully. His relaxed, open expression as he says those words. So easy, so obvious. He thinks maybe he should be angry that Greg never said anything, but he's not, because there is so much consideration and care in Greg's decision. Because Greg knows him so well. The simple truth is, Greg knows how to love him. Nick doesn't need grand romantic gestures and symbols and proclamations. Just to be understood, and appreciated, and wanted and challenged and laughed at. To be wound up and prodded and forgiven and supported.

Nick still doesn't believe that love conquers all, but looking at Greg covertly over the back of the couch, he is happy to concede that having someone that you love unreservedly standing beside you makes life more than a little bit better. Nick's life has colour in it. It has texture. It has flavours. It has drama and occasional pain and frequent exhilaration. It has intermittent frustration and a predominant feeling of contentment. Warmth.

Greg Sanders is, in equal parts unexpectedly and inevitably, everything he needs. He is ugly shirts and terrible music and incessant talking. He is, quite frankly, a terrible cook. He likes trashy, inaccurate forensics shows and he has some bizarrely strong opinions on interior decorating. He is also considerate and sappy and filthy and surprising. He is part of a future that Nick never considered, and yet one that no one else seems remotely surprised by. Nick thinks that the surprise is in the fact that he's ok with that.

When Greg glances over toward the couch, Nick instinctively drops back onto the cushions, as if he's about to be caught out doing something wrong.

"No, he's still sleeping." He laughs. "I know, I must have. I'll get him to call you when he wakes up."

Nick knows he is being spoken about, but he can't be sure who the caller is. He waits, silent.

"Thanks, that means a lot. Merry Christmas, Kendra. Bye."

His sister's name rolls off his boyfriend's tongue in such an easily affectionate manner that it's suddenly not weird at all that Greg has been chatting away to Kendra about him as though they are old friends.

"Hey, you're awake." Greg sinks to the floor next to the couch and lays his head on Nick's chest. "Your sister called."

"I didn't hear it ring," Nick comments. Greg doesn't need to know he was listening.

"Of course you didn't, you were out of it. I wore you out."

Nick feels the smirk against his skin and much as he wants to protest, he knows it's true, so he says nothing and just winds his fingers into Greg's damp hair.

"Shut up," he says at last. "Not close enough."

Greg lifts his head, touches his lips to Nick's in a slow and breath-stealing kiss and scrambles back onto the couch, shuffling as close as possible, wrapping his arms and legs around Nick and pulling the blanket tight around both of them.

"Close enough?" he asks, hair tickling Nick's neck. Warm hands and wool and denim soft against his bare skin.

"Yeah." Nick closes his eyes. "Perfect."


Oh, once in your life you find someone
Who will turn your world around
Pick you up when you're feelin' down

Now, nothing could change what you mean to me.

There's a lot that I could say

But just hold me now,

'Cause our love will light the way.

Baby you're all that I want.

When you're lying here in my arms

I'm finding it hard to believe

We're in heaven.

And love is all that I need

And I found it there in your heart.

It isn't too hard to see

We're in heaven.

Now our dreams are coming true.

Through the good times and the bad

I'll be standing there by you.