Discretion - by Sara's Girl
AN - This is the kind of fluff that results when I try to distract myself from my chaptered stories, this case being Nine Love Songs. Reviews, as always, are adored, and will give me the kick up the ass I need to update NLS. In theory...
This contains a character from my Real/ize series, Karis Dillon. If you haven't read it, she's a super-snarky swing-shift DNA tech with a propensity to call men by girls' names. She's not a big part in this, just thought I'd give fair warning. I decided I did like her after all :)
Greg opens one eye experimentally and swivels it slowly around the room. As his gaze falls on the familiar coffee-coloured walls and the familiar blond wood furniture and the familiar stack of multi-coloured converse sneakers under the windowsill, he exhales with some relief at the realization of at least one fact. That he is in his own apartment, in his own bedroom. Alone.
The simple exhalation makes pain rip through his chest and he immediately switches to a more gentle, controlled rhythm of breaths, trying not to move at all. His whole upper body feels as though it is being crushed by something very heavy. Add that to the dull, gripping ache in his head, the stickiness threatening to seal his one open eye back shut, and the sweeping, rolling nausea in his gut, and there is no denying the second fact. This is, no doubt about it, the hangover to end all hangovers.
Glancing at the bright green numbers on the clock at his side, Greg groans softly. Shift starts in just over an hour and there is no way on this earth that he is calling in sick because of a hangover. No fucking way. On the plus side, he supposes, he doesn't still feel drunk. Just like he's been run over by a truck. No big deal.
With some effort, Greg unsticks his other eye and stares at the ceiling. All he has to do is move, and he can do that. If he can get to the kitchen, there is Advil, and water. Oh, god, yes...water. He peels his tongue from the roof of his mouth and attempts to swallow but his throat is way too dry. What was it? He tries to remember. It had started out with beer, he remembers that much. There had been beer, and Mexican food. Warrick's birthday. It was Warrick's birthday. And he had the night off. Him, Warrick and Nick. Oh, god.
With the initial fear of waking up in someone else's house or with someone else beside him allayed, Greg's jumbled thoughts fall where they always do. On Nick.
There may have been tequila. Please, please, please don't let me have said something embarrassing in front of Nick.
Slowly, taking care not to jar his eyeballs out of their sockets with a sudden movement, Greg crawls off the bed sideways and straightens up carefully. He slips out of the bedroom and into the kitchen, not letting his heels touch the floor in case the shock of it makes the seasick feeling spill over before he gets to the sink.
He pops two Advil and drinks three glasses of water in quick succession as he tries to pull the events of the previous night into his head. Greg decides that the water, in this moment, the water from his tap, is the best thing he has ever tasted. Leaning against the counter, rubbing at his sticky eyes, he sighs.
Enchiladas. That busty waitress trying it on with Warrick. Nick laughing.
Greg smiles in spite of himself. Nick laughing is possibly his favourite sound in the world. But that isn't going to help. Focus, Sanders.
Beers at that dive bar. Pretending to know about football to impress Nick and Warrick. Mainly Nick. Guy talk. Sports and cars and sex.
Greg flushes suddenly and violently, recalling a fuzzy conversation about the periodic table. About how he...when...oh fuck. If he told Nick and Warrick that, he may never be able to look them in the eyes ever again. Which, of course, would be a shame, especially in Nick's case.
There may have been a nightclub. He thinks he remembers standing outside one, and he thinks he remembers attempting to pay the cover charge for all three of them. He gets magnanimous when he's drunk, he knows that. It's like a cycle. Talkative is followed by magnanimous, then giggly, then outrageously flirtatious and finally, messily, loudly, comes the sharing. Or what his close friends like to call the 'Too Much Information' stage.
The worrying thing is, Greg thinks as he steps into the shower, he could have said anything. Anything at all. He has trouble controlling his mouth when sober, never mind when three sheets to the wind. Which is one very good reason why he doesn't get drunk very often. The last time he remembers feeling like this was the following the celebration of passing his CSI proficiency, and that was almost a year ago. Scrubbing hard at his skin with a loofah and mint shower gel in an attempt to wake himself up, he lets the water plaster his slightly-too-long hair against his forehead.
His skin tingles and he coughs and spits out a mouthful of warm water before it chokes him. Champagne, he thinks. There was tequila that night, too. Catherine bought margaritas for everyone. Greg makes a mental note to never drink tequila again. Say no to Cuervo. He can remember that. Possibly.
The other reason why Greg doesn't like to get drunk, is that one. Because disturbingly, embarrassingly, potentially fatally, when he gets past a certain point, he cannot remember a single thing that happens. The last time, Sara had to tell him how he had dragged her out onto the floor and danced with her provocatively in order to make Grissom jealous. Apparently, he'd been firmly convinced that all their supervisor needed to realize that he was in love with Sara was to see her pressed up against Greg, dancing to Rihanna. It didn't quite work out that way, he concedes, and Sara had far too much fun relating the story to him during the next shift.
And while he admits that was not exactly his finest hour, it was just Sara. No harm, no foul. Sara's been laughing at him for years. Better Sara than Nick. He's still not sure how he stayed away from Nick that night, but he did. Last night, though, Greg thinks darkly, towelling himself dry and looking for something clean to wear, last night he could have said anything.
Greg pales. If Nick knows, he's screwed. The thought of Nick being privy to Greg's secret, painful, years-old crush on him makes his head thump heavily and he wonders when it will be time to take more Advil.
By the time he pulls into the parking lot and walks carefully, quietly into the lab, Greg is breathing again. Because he's pretty confident that tequila or no tequila, he would not have been so stupid as to start confessing his feelings to Nick. Especially not if Warrick was there too. No. And maybe it's better he doesn't remember the rest of the night.
The only thing that continues to bug Greg, other than the headache, is that he can't find his cell phone anywhere. He normally keeps it in his jeans pocket, but it wasn't there or on the floor, or under the bed or anywhere else in his apartment. It was pretty old, nothing flash, but all the same. He wonders if Nick or Warrick has it.
He is on his tiptoes in the break room retrieving his bag of Blue Hawaiian from the back of the top cupboard when he hears footsteps behind him. Turning slowly, bag in hand, he finds himself looking into Wendy's dark eyes. Forces a smile, even though it hurts his head.
"Hey," Greg greets her in a whisper, holding the open bag under his nose and inhaling the comforting scent deeply.
"Hello Greg," she replies, and for some reason, Wendy is smirking.
Greg frowns, disconcerted. Wendy smiles at him all the time, in fact she has a nice smile, but he has never seen her looking so smug.
"Do I have something on my face?" he asks, lowering the bag slowly.
She laughs and shakes her head. "No." And now it's more of a snigger. "Well, not right now, you don't."
Before Greg has chance to figure that statement out, she's halfway out of the room, turning back to flash one last cat-that-got-the-canary grin at him before she's gone, lab coat flapping behind her.
Greg shakes his head for a moment, then stops when pain ricochets around the inside of his skull. Coffee. The answer to everything. He busies himself making a pot, and does not give another thought to overly cheerful DNA techs and their bizarre remarks for some minutes.
"How you feeling, Sanders?" laughs Warrick as they pass in the corridor.
Greg looks at his face carefully, examining it for any sign that he might have said or done something embarrassing the night before. The older man doesn't seem to be horrified or disgusted but he does look slightly worse for wear, which makes Greg feel a little better. At least he isn't the only one who overdid it.
"Fine," he replies, cracking a smile. "Well, apart from the chainsaw death match in my head."
Warrick turns and falls into step beside him, chuckling softly. "Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for the head's up. It was good of you to share, since I had to leave early and all. You know I don't like to miss out on anything."
Greg stops. Frowning he repeats Warrick's words over and over in his head. And nope. They still don't make a bit of sense. He calls out to Warrick, halfway down the corridor, seemingly unaware that Greg is no longer next to him.
"Hey, 'Rick? Have you seen my cell phone? I think I lost it somewhere."
It's a perfectly reasonable question, he thinks. So he has no idea why Warrick turns slowly, looks at him and bursts into a loud, uncontrolled volley of laughter.
"Maybe you should ask Nick," he suggests at last, wiping at his eyes and grinning at Greg.
Greg watches him walk away, shaking his head, his laughter still echoing off the walls as he turns the corner out of sight. Something like dread grips his stomach and he resists the temptation to cover his face. He did something. How is it that everyone in the lab seems to know more about it than he does?
"Greg!" calls a familiar voice from across the hall. Greg turns his head with some apprehension and smiles with relief to see Archie's head sticking out of the door of the A/V lab.
"Hey," he replies warmly, moving toward the door. Maybe he can just hide out in the nice, dark lab for a little while and watch Archie watch videos.
Unfortunately, it seems Archie has other plans. He's shaking his head and holding a hand up, stopping Greg in his tracks.
"I got Catherine in here, sorry. We're going over some security tapes." The tech jerks his head back and Greg can just about make out Catherine's glossy hair glinting in the darkness behind him. "But dude..." Archie lowers his voice and Greg raises an eyebrow, waiting. "Dude, you should get drunk more often. That message, best laugh I've had all week."
Greg is just opening his mouth to ask for the explanation he so desperately needs when Archie starts closing the door again.
"Little TMI, man, but you know...good going." He grins, and the last thing Greg sees as the door shuts in his face is white teeth and a brief thumbs-up. Catherine murmurs something unintelligible and then the soundproofed door clicks, leaving Greg alone in the corridor.
Greg pauses outside Trace and blinks once, twice through the glass door. Hoping beyond hope that he is not seeing what he thinks he is, because what he absolutely doesn't need at this precise moment, is a Trace lab containing both David Hodges and Karis Dillon.
When he open his eyes, however, the scene is unaltered. And what's worse, now they have both seen him. Greg groans softly and pushes the door open. If he didn't really, really need these results...
Greg shoves his hands in his pockets and looks from one lab tech to the other. Hodges is standing behind his microscope and Karis is perched on his tall stool, leaning across the counter top on crossed arms. Two sets of piercing eyes fasten upon Greg and pin him to the spot, where he shifts uncomfortably.
"Oh, god. There's two of you. It's like a snark carnival."
Greg pretends he doesn't notice when both techs raise one eyebrow each in an almost perfect mirror image of each other. He knows that sarcasm won't help his cause one bit, but Hodges just seems to bring it out in him. Throw in Karis, and even hungover, Greg can't resist.
"Carnival," repeats Karis with a tilt of wry amusement in her voice. Sliding sharp green eyes to Hodges' blue ones for a fraction of a second. He smirks and picks up a brown folder, holding it out to Greg.
Greg reaches out to take the folder but at the last minute it is whipped away, held just out of his reach. He sighs, feeling suddenly like he just wants to lie down in a darkened room until everyone starts acting normal again. That said, he supposes that Hodges acting anything other than irritatingly superior would actually be abnormal.
"So, how was it? Or did you promise not to tell? Pinky promise?" Hodges wiggles the little finger of his left hand, eyes never leaving Greg's. Still holding the folder aloft. Greg groans and drops his hand back to his side where it lies heavily.
"How was what?"
Hodges laughs then, if it could be called a laugh. On reflection, Greg thinks perhaps it sounds more like a cackle. A dry, barking sound that tears through his pounding head, making him wince and take an involuntary step backwards.
"Denial," muses Karis, leaning across the glass counter top on her elbows, dark curls dangling over one shoulder. Her self-satisfied grin flashes into life and it's like smirking in stereo.
"Denial," Hodges confirms, nodding.
"What are you even doing here? You work swing! And DNA!" Greg throws out, rubbing his eyes fitfully.
"Now come on Gertie, no need to be shirty – heh." Karis pauses, clearly trying not to laugh, which actually makes Greg smile a little, in spite of himself. She coughs. "I'm helping Wendy with the backlog. It's called overtime. You know. Work? Remember that? Or did you kill both your brain cells with tequila?"
"You know," he ventures wearily, wondering why he even bothers, "Greg is fine. Just Greg. My name?"
The two labrats merely exchange knowing glances and say nothing. Greg stares for a moment in mute frustration and lets their words swim through his head.
How was it?
Did you kill both your brain cells with tequila?
Greg has long given up fighting the feeling that everyone knows something he doesn't, but he isn't quite sure if he wants to find out what that something is from the snarky twins. As usual, though, curiosity wins out over pragmatism in a matter of seconds.
"Why is everyone being so weird? What do you all know?"
Karis gets up and stands next to Hodges, folding her arms across her chest.
"If you don't know that..." she sings, head on one side.
"...we can't help you," Hodges sneers.
Greg thinks he may just explode.
"Give me that," he snarls, grabbing the folder from the surprised Trace tech and stalking out of the room. "You know what they say about people who can finish each other's sentences," Greg adds darkly.
He is gratified to see Hodges' blush as he turns away. Greg smiles grimly and flips open the file, reading as he walks. The results, at least, may be worth the ten minutes of torture he had to go through to get them. He has to go back to the scene. Greg likes the field. There are no crazy lab rats in the field. He's safe.
Greg likes working with Sara. He really does. She's thorough and methodical, and arguably, she taught him everything he knows in terms of evidence collection. What he doesn't much appreciate, is that every time he looks up from his camera, she's staring at him with the strangest look on her face. He's trying to photograph the scene, and it's beginning to unnerve him. He clears his throat and fiddles with his camera.
"Sara? I think there may be some trace here that we missed last...what?!"
Sara is no longer facing him but Greg can see her shoulders shaking from across the room. He crosses the floor carefully, managing not to step in the possible evidence he has just found, and grabs her shoulder, spinning her around to face him. She's laughing into her hand in a most un-Sara-like manner. And if that isn't just the absolute limit. Fighting down a strangled cry, Greg ducks his head slightly and tries to meet Sara's eyes.
"What's so funny?" Please, please tell me before one of us dies, he adds silently.
Her eyes are bright as she shakes her head vigorously and flashes Greg a wide smile.
"You know I love you, right Greggo?"
"You don't know how many nights I've lain awake imagining you saying that, Sara," he manages weakly. Knowing that Sara doesn't believe that any more than he does, but he's been saying things like that for so long it's almost like a reflex action.
True to form, she rolls her eyes and turns away from him, returning to her collection.
"Sara!" he pleads wildly, desperation clear in his voice. "Archie said something about a message, and Hodges wants to know how it was!"
Greg decides that maybe he doesn't like working with Sara after all, because all he hears for the next ninety minutes before they return to the lab is soft laughter and the contented sigh of one who knows a secret.
It isn't until Greg has walked past Grissom's office for the fifth time and found it empty that he realizes he hasn't seen his supervisor all night. Thinking about Grissom's whereabouts isn't exactly the most productive use of his time but it sure beats thinking about alcohol and secret messages and what he might or might not have done in front of Nick. The thought of Nick makes Greg's stomach flip a little and not in the nice, warm, squirmy way but with something akin to trepidation. Come to mention it, he hasn't seen Nick either.
Staring into the empty office, he swallows two more Advil, dry.
"He's at a scene with Nick," supplies Sara, who for reasons unbeknown to Greg, is clearly following him.
"I don't care where Nick is," he says airily, blinking at Sara. "Or Grissom," he adds hastily.
"You will," she smiles wolfishly and drops her voice, leaning close to murmur in Greg's ear. "And this is so, so much better than the Grissom thing."
"The 'lets make Grissom jealous thing?'" he whispers, not really wanting an answer.
"Sara, there you are!" Catherine's voice cuts through Greg's head like a buzz-saw and they both turn to face her. "Grissom needs you in reception. They just got back."
The brunette screws her face up, puzzled, but quickly walks away, whatever Grissom wants clearly more important than putting Greg out of his misery.
"Greg." The older woman's voice is measured, but there's a flicker at one corner of her mouth that does not escape Greg's notice. "It was nice to hear that your night was a success."
She holds his gaze and he holds hers right back. It's a stand off. Greg doesn't think he can stand another second of this. The weird feeling in the pit of his stomach swirls and rises and licks around his ribs. His whole body is humming with it.
Finally, after what seems like an hour, Catherine slips her hands into her jacket pockets and turns to walk away. Greg stares at her retreating back.
Tequila. Message. TMI. Better than the Grissom thing. Thanks for sharing. How was it? Best laugh I've had all week.
"Oh my god. Please. Please. Someone tell me what the fuck I did!"
Greg's voice rings out across the lab and he just stands there, breathing hard. Rakes a restless hand through unruly waves. Waits.
Catherine turns slowly. "I'm sure Nick would love to enlighten you. He's in the break room."
She walks backwards for a few steps, heels clacking on the shiny floor, one eyebrow raised, before she swings back around and turns out of sight. Greg feels like he's stepped into some surreal parallel universe. This is the crime lab alright, these are his colleagues, he's fairly sure he's still Greg Sanders. And yet all he feels like he's done all shift is watch people walk away from him, take part in conversations he doesn't understand and try not to think about Nick.
Nick. Oh fuck.
"I'm sure Nick would love to enlighten you," he mimics under his breath, heart racing. The thing is, it's not like he ever thought he stood a chance with Nick anyway, but the fantasy was nice. Beyond nice, actually, the fantasy of being with Nick has warmed his dreams and made him wake up smiling but frustrated every day for six years. And now...Greg forces himself to start walking. Whatever it is, it can't be good.
He hangs back in the break room doorway for a moment, relishing maybe the last chance to look at Nick before whatever drunken mistake he has made explodes in his face. Nick is sitting at the table with his back to the door and Greg smiles, despite everything. He's wearing black, and those jeans that Greg loves, the ones that are on the perfect side of tight. The slightly longer hair that Greg always wants to touch is somewhat dishevelled and he looks tired. Still beautiful, thinks Greg, and sighs.
Nick turns at the sound and gets up. To Greg's surprise, he breaks into a warm, genuine smile and takes a step closer to Greg.
"Look," Greg blurts before Nick can open his mouth, "I'm really confused right now, and I don't know if you're mad, or freaked out, or what, but whatever it is I did or said last night, I'm sorry. Really, really sorry."
Nick merely raises an eyebrow and takes another step closer. "You done?"
"Um...I guess?" Greg swallows hard and tries not to back away.
"I'm not sorry, Greg." Nick's voice is soft and low, and the way he draws the words out makes Greg's skin tingle. He's so close now that Greg can smell him. He smells warm and delicious and it's torture. "I know you don't remember, so I thought maybe we could try it again, without the tequila. What do you say?"
The eyes that burn into Greg's are almost black, and the breath on his face is warm and minty. Greg feels, not for the first time tonight, like he's falling, but this time there are strong hands holding him up. Nick's hands. One on his hip and the other curling around the back of his neck. Greg opens his mouth to answer Nick's question, but no words come out, just a low, broken sound halfway between a sigh and a moan.
"Since you made the first move, I guess this one's mine," Nick whispers, leaning in and kissing Greg.
Head spinning, in the good way now, Greg only stands still for a moment before responding, deepening the kiss and grabbing handfuls of Nick's t-shirt. As he feels the soft heat of Nick's mouth open under his gentle pressure, his shattered mind is suddenly flooded with images. Last night. He did. He kissed Nick. He kissed Nick, and Nick kissed him back. In the nightclub. Fuck. And now in the break room.
The reality of the current situation gripping him, Greg pulls away reluctantly. The loss of Nick's lips makes him ache, but the fact remains that they are kissing in front of an open door in the middle of the lab.
"Someone might come in," he pants, releasing the warm fabric from his fists and attempting to stroke out the creases. Smiling breathlessly at the feel of hard abdominal muscles under his fingers.
"Greggo, it's not like it's a secret to anyone, is it?"
Greg looks up, surprised. "Point taken." He allows himself to fall back into the kiss, softer this time, just for a moment. After all, he's still confused.
"It was just after Warrick left," Nick says, somehow sensing the question. "You'd been flirting like mad with everyone in sight, and I was getting a little jealous. We were in the bathroom and, um, suddenly you just pushed me into the wall and kissed me." He glances down at the floor momentarily and flushes pink. Greg smiles despite his shock and winds a strand of dark hair around his finger.
"This really is news to you, isn't it?" Nick asks, looking up at last.
Greg nods dumbly, caught in Nick's eyes.
"Sara told me about your...freaky drunken memory thing," Nick smiles running both hands up Greg's back.
"You talked to Sara about this?" Greg's voice comes out as an undignified squeak but he's too embarrassed to care.
"Kinda hard not to when she cornered me in the locker room at the start of shift and threatened to maim me if I jerked you around," Nick replies softly, and Greg is filled with a sudden rush of affection for Sara.
"What did you say?" Greg whispers, searching the older man's dark eyes, unable to breathe.
"I said I'd never do that. She made me swear on Keith Urban's life." Nick's lips quirk into a crooked smile and Greg's heart races erratically.
"What about Johnny Cash?"
Nick laughs, a low rumbling sound from deep in his throat, and then his lips are suddenly pressed against Greg's neck, making him gasp.
"Johnny Cash is already dead, Greg," Nick points out, mumbling against Greg's throat and licking up behind his ear.
"Ah yes. So he is. Rest in peace," mutters Greg, shivering at the touch.
"Greg." Nick ghosts his lips over Greg's ear and he bites back a moan. "Are you still drunk?"
Hearing the amusement in his voice, Greg pulls back slightly and sighs, resting his forehead against Nick's.
"No, but I might fall down if you don't stop doing that." Pausing to take a deep breath, Greg realizes there are still some unanswered questions. "Why does everyone already know?"
"Ah. That." Nick smiles. "Well, after you kissed me, you decided to send a group message to everyone at work to, ahm, alert them to that fact." Greg's eyes widen.
"That's what Archie said..." he croaks weakly. "He said there was a message...oh fuck."
"A message," Nick confirms, wrapping his arms around Greg's waist. "Which you seemed to think was the most brilliant idea you had ever had. And then you decided that, and I quote, 'your phone could never possibly be part of a bigger purpose to the world at large than this very moment,' so you decided to..."
"...flush it down the toilet," Greg finishes, shame stricken as another sliver of memory slides into place. " Oh, god." Greg drops his head into his hands. "I remember that part now. Why didn't you stop me?"
"Honestly? Because it was very, very, very funny." Nick smiles and kisses him. "And adorable. And I was kind of flattered that you felt kissing me was so...news worthy."
"Well...duh," offers Greg, suddenly incapable of coherent speech, incapacitated by Nick's smile and the thumbs rubbing circles into his shoulders.
"And you know, I was drinking shots too."
Greg leans against Nick's warmth and sighs. He can't pretend he's not still a little bit confused, but he also can't stop the smile tugging at his lips and the light, comforting relief in his heart.
"And you don't care that everyone knows?" he mumbles against Nick's shoulder.
Nick holds him tight and tangles a hand in his hair. "Nope. Not even Ecklie."
Greg jerks his head up and stares at Nick in absolute horror. "I sent it to fucking Ecklie?!"
Nick's laughter is not appreciated one little bit, but somehow, Greg thinks that he might forgive him. Eventually.