Resistance - by Sara's Girl
AN – So...of course it's another distraction from the headache that is Nine Love Songs.
Written for BflyW over at WMTDB whom I confuse, and yet she is still my friend. Go figure ;) She gave me the inspiration for this, helped me with Norwegian and also sent me lots of information about the Mariusgenser.
Now, I won't say that feedback will make me write NLS faster, however, your reviews do help me smile through the pain this eighth chapter is inflicting on my little tiny brain.
"Wait up! Nick!"
Nick pauses in the corridor and turns at the sound of Catherine's voice. Hoping that she's not going to ask him to do any more overtime. Even though it's quite possible, what with Grissom away at a conference and Greg off sick, Nick still thinks it would be too cruel to pull him back when he's twenty feet from the exit.
"What's up, Catherine?" he asks carefully, only just refraining from crossing his fingers behind his back.
She smiles ingratiatingly and tucks a wisp of red-blonde hair behind her ear. "Could you do me a favour?"
Nick nods, heart sinking. His plan of coffee and breakfast in front of the game he recorded last night slipping away before his eyes.
"Greg dropped this in the locker room last shift," she continues, holding out a battered looking leather wallet. Nick stares down at it in surprise. "I know he's home sick, but I called and said someone would drop it off for him." Catherine pushes the wallet into Nick's hand and steps away.
"Why me?" Nick asks, turning the wallet over and over in his hand.
Catherine's cool blue eyes sparkle momentarily and he swallows hard. He fights to push down the spike of panic that rises in his gut any time someone speaks to him about Greg. Because it's pathetic. He just can't decide what is more pathetic. The fact that he's head over heels, embarrassingly, heart-achingly in love with someone who will never be interested in him; or that fact that after almost six years, he freezes up any time one of his co-workers mentions Greg, convinced that they know. That they can see right through him.
Catherine's expression turns quizzical and she shrugs.
"Because you live closest to him? Because you're a nice guy? Because you're on your way home and I gotta stay here? Pick a reason, Nicky, they're all good."
"Ok, Catherine, Ok." Holding his hands up in surrender, Nick laughs and tells himself firmly not to be so goddamn paranoid.
Catherine is already halfway down the corridor and she doesn't even break her stride to call out her thanks, almost as an afterthought.
Nick switches off the ignition and rests his hands on the steering wheel, looking out of his window at the striped green and white canopy of the deli he frequents for post-shift breakfast sandwiches when he's not at the diner with the rest of the team. He's not entirely sure what possessed him to stop, other than the sudden thought that the place also makes great soup. And soup is good for sick people, right?
But, he thinks, co-workers don't bring soup for each other. Not male co-workers, anyway. Nick sighs and reaches for the keys again. Not only that, but if Greg is anything like him when he's sick, he won't want fussing over, he'll just want to be left alone. He just needs to drop the wallet off and then leave.
Ok, drop the wallet off, check he's still alive, and then leave. Greg is a grown man and certainly doesn't need Nick Stokes to take care of him. However much Nick Stokes wants to take care of him.
That said, Nick muses, if he's unwell enough to call in sick for work, he's probably not capable of fixing himself something to eat, and it's important to keep your strength up when you're sick. Nick thinks about Greg shivering and pouting and hungry, wrapped in a blanket and sulking, and it is that image that finally ends the mental tug-of-war and forces him out of the car. It's just soup. Soup doesn't say By the way, Greggo, I'm secretly in love with you. Soup says Hey, man, I didn't want you to starve. He thinks.
Pushes the door open, still shaking his head. The soft tinkle of the bell makes the curvy, auburn-haired woman behind the counter look up.
"Hey, it's my favourite CSI," she smiles. "The usual?" She reaches for the tray of bacon.
"Hi, Louisa." Nick leans on the glass display cabinet and returns her smile. "Not today, no."
Louisa withdraws her hand and looks at Nick expectantly, smoothing down her dark green apron.
"I need some soup for...someone," he expands, fiddling with his car keys, immediately wishing he hadn't added the 'someone' because Louisa, despite being a very nice lady who makes killer bacon subs, is a serious gossip merchant.
Sure enough, her eyes light up and her smile widens. "Don't even," warns Nick, and she bites her lip. Blinks, all innocence.
"What sort of soup? Seduction soup? Comforting soup? Pass-it-off-as-your-own soup? I got it all."
Nick laughs and shakes his head. He decides not to ask about seduction soup, and instead tries to imagine what Greg might like.
"He likes noodles," Nick says suddenly, a memory of Greg eating instant noodles from a cup flashing into his head. He likes tight jeans too, Nick adds silently, unable to stop the flush of heat that creeps up his neck, and the accompanying confusion at that particular mental association.
"Does he now," murmurs Louisa, blowing several strands of flame coloured hair from her eyes. Grey eyes that are laughing at Nick. "Noodles. I can do that. I got chicken noodle and..." she looks around at the numerous metal pots behind her. "The winter vegetable has pasta in it."
"I don't think I've ever seen him eat a vegetable," Nick says seriously. "I'll take the chicken. A large one."
"Of course," mutters Louisa under her breath as she turns away to fill the carton. "A large one."
Nick closes his eyes and groans softly.
"Two fifty." Nick opens his eyes and hands over the money, stretching his hand out for the soup. "Is it - ?"
" – thanks, Louisa," Nick says loudly, cutting her off before she can ask whatever it is she is going to.
As he opens the car door again, he can see her disgruntled figure watching him through the shop window. Nick can't help but feel just a little self-satisfied as he flicks the engine into life and drives away.
He has been here before, a couple of times. Once when Greg first got his PS2 and needed someone to break it in with him. Another time when a shared night off turned into too many beers which turned into Nick crashing on Greg's couch.
Which was fun, Nick thinks drily, slamming the car door and taking care not to spill the soup as he heads for Greg's third floor apartment. Staring at the ceiling all night through a drunken haze with nothing but a scratchy blanket and a persistent hard-on for company, trying to think of anything but the man sleeping in the next room. He often wonders what Greg looks like when he's asleep. Whether he's completely still and silent in contrast to his unceasing movement and chatter whilst awake, or whether he snores or flails or sleepwalks.
Nick also wonders what Greg looks like when he first wakes up. He thinks about that quite a lot of the time, usually when he is waking up himself, alone, and in those first few minutes of blurry semi-consciousness imagining soft brown eyes and sleep-warm skin and lazy caresses. He usually manages to push those images away as he comes around, showers, dresses and heads to work. Mostly because he has to focus, but also because if he's honest, he doesn't think Greg is a cuddly sort of person anyway. He's not a romantic, like Nick is. He's not the sort of person who would want to be held and comforted and stroked for no good reason.
He talks about sex enough, and while Nick suspects a lot of that is just talk, just showboating for the ladies, he also suspects that Greg Sanders doesn't have a sentimental, sappy bone in his body. He doesn't much like to be touched, and Nick knows he has a thing about personal space. And as for vulnerability, he certainly doesn't like to show it. As Nick knocks on his door, he can't quite shake the feeling that Greg is going to be unimpressed to see him. And his soup.
Eventually, the door is opened a crack and Nick squints in the darkness of the hallway to see a familiar brown eye blinking at him.
"Greg, it's me."
"Nicky?" comes the voice, through the small gap, scratchier than usual. Nick feels his heart rate speed irrationally at Greg's unexpected use of the affectionate name.
"Yeah. Let me in, man, I brought your wallet over. And soup." Nick holds up the items in question and the eye flickers with interest.
Greg unhooks the chain and the door swings open. Nick steps inside and takes advantage of the increased light to get a good look at his co-worker. He looks thoroughly pathetic, and Nick wants to smile, but he stops himself because Greg catches his expression and crosses his arms defensively across his chest. Pulls what is possibly the scruffiest navy blue bathrobe Nick has ever seen tighter around himself, letting the ragged ends of the belt trail almost to the floor, resting against striped pyjama pants that are faded, baggy and far too long. Not least because they are sitting low on Greg's hips, exposing several inches of toned, pale skin between the waistband and the bottom of an extremely ugly, patterned t-shirt.
The dark blond curls that Nick always wants to run his fingers through are messier even than usual, looking like Greg has been scratching through them like he does sometimes when he's worried about something. His skin is deathly pale, dark smudges under reddened eyes. Eyes that look slightly hazy, though there's no missing the hint of pure challenge sparking within them as Greg watches Nick watching him.
"Go on, say it." Greg raises a sardonic eyebrow and then sneezes violently. Nick takes a step back.
"You look..." Pathetic? Adorable? Disgusting, but I still want you? "...like shit," Nick finishes eloquently.
"Gee, thanks Nick," Greg huffs, sniffling slightly. Shoves his hands in his pockets.
Nick looks past him into the apartment, in an attempt to stop thinking about kissing that disgruntled pout off Greg's face. The living room is a mess, blankets, cups and tissues surrounding the couch clearly indicating that Greg has spent most of the day in that spot. The TV is on, but muted.
"Don't you think you should be in bed?" Nick says, thinking out loud, still not looking at Greg.
"Probably," comes the weary reply. Nick had expected protests of 'I'm fine' or at least a sarcastic retort; he looks back at Greg, surprised. Meeting dark eyes that are sleepier than they were a moment ago, and a slight sway that forces Greg to slide one foot across the floor to maintain his balance.
Self-preservation and dignity swept away in the sudden rush of concern that overtakes him, Nick throws the wallet down on the hall table and grabs Greg's arm, still clutching the soup in his other hand, and manoeuvres him with surprising ease toward the bedroom. Nick is surprised to feel Greg leaning on him slightly as they move, and less surprised to feel the heat that shoots down his arm as a result of the contact.
Not quite how I pictured getting you into bed, he thinks grimly, pushing Greg back into the pillows and releasing him reluctantly, dropping the sheets and blankets over him without touching him, suddenly all too aware of the strange, inappropriate intimacy of the moment. He is, to all intents and purposes, standing in Greg's bedroom and tucking him in. He flushes and steps back. Greg blows his nose with a crumpled tissue and looks up at him curiously.
"I'll be going then," Nick offers at last, handing Greg the carton of soup. Trying not to shiver when their fingers brush briefly against each other. "Ah, look after yourself. Man," he adds, clearing his throat.
"Stay," Greg says. "I'm bored on my own. At least while I eat this. Make sure I don't choke, or anything...you don't want that on your conscience. Death by soup. Sit down."
Nick's eyes widen as Greg stops talking and pats the edge of the bed, but he does as he's told.
"This is all Sara's fault," Greg mutters darkly, drinking his soup noisily, straight from the Styrofoam carton. When the pointed tongue pokes out to flick the end of a recalcitrant noodle into his mouth, Nick looks away, shifting uncomfortably.
"How's that, Greggo?" he asks through gritted teeth.
"She made me get into that freezing cold swimming pool last shift. We could have waited for them to drain it, but ohhh no. And it had to be me that did it. Haven't been able to warm up since."
Nick listens uncomfortably to the slurping sounds for a few more seconds before Greg sets the empty carton on the nightstand and it's safe to look at him again.
"You know, you don't get a cold from being cold. It's a virus," Nick offers innocently.
"Dude, you sound like my mom," Greg half-laughs half-coughs. "And I know that. There were probably all kinds of things in that water." He shudders. Nick wants to touch him so much it hurts.
"What does your mom do?" he asks, by way of distraction.
"Guess." Greg's smile is mischievous and a little lop-sided, though the eyes are still cloudy.
"Nurse?" Greg shakes his head. "Um, teacher?"
"I don't know."
"That explains a lot," Nick remarks, smiling.
"Jerk," Greg shoots back, returning the smile. "But yeah, it probably does."
Nick says nothing, just hangs in the moment, surrounded by warmth. Not wanting to move and shatter it, Greg sitting up in the bed and him sitting on the edge of it, just grinning at each other and not needing to say a word. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Nick thinks he could get used to this. Greg's violent shiver shakes him out of his reverie and he breaks eye contact reluctantly to examine the pattern on Greg's top sheet.
"Cold. Sleepy." Greg seems to slump, shuffling down against the pillows until he is almost horizontal, and Nick feels suddenly like he should not be there. He slides backwards, giving Greg some more space.
"Want me to go?" he almost whispers, wincing as he hears the insecurity in his own voice.
"Still cold," Greg says, ignoring the question and pulling the sheets up to his chin. The urge to touch, to surround, to pull Greg's shivering body into his warm arms is absolutely overwhelming, but Nick stays exactly where he is and digs his nails into his palms, hard.
"Can I do anything?"
"Yes." Greg's eyes snap open after a moment. He's looking right at Nick, and in spite of himself, his heart leaps. Anything, he thinks. Absolutely anything you want. "I need Bob."
Nick stares. "Who?"
"I need Bob. I'm cold, and only Bob will do. I can't believe I didn't think of it before. Would you get him for me, Nicky?" Greg's voice is low and beseeching, and he shifts onto his side, curling up under the sheets and looking up at Nick with huge dark eyes.
The need in his tone is clear and Nick pretends he doesn't feel the immediate lick of jealousy. He's surprised, shocked even, but mostly jealous. He is silent for a moment, lost in Greg's eyes and reminding himself that a moment ago he told himself he'd give Greg anything he wanted. But calling up some other guy, and asking him to come round and warm Greg up? His Greg? That takes the fucking cake.
Maybe, he ventures hopefully, maybe Bob isn't a guy at all, maybe he's...what, Nick? Dog? Cat? Imaginary friend?
He sighs. Feeling a little sick now. "Sure thing, Greg. Where can I find...Bob?"
Greg shifts under the sheets and looks at Nick, frowning. "In the closet," he replies. As if it's the most obvious answer in the world.
Nick resists the very real temptation to feel Greg's forehead with the back of his hand. He supposes he shouldn't judge this Bob for being in the closet either, it's not like he's out and proud himself. He's still surprised about Greg though, never having had any sign that Greg is anything but straight.
"In the closet," Nick repeats slowly. "I...ah...I didn't know you were gay, G."
Nick doesn't really know why he said that, only that he's trying to delay the inevitable. The conversation with closeted Bob, who gets to touch Greg. What he doesn't expect is for Greg to laugh. Really laugh, until he's rasping and gasping for breath.
"Not the metaphorical closet, Nicky. The actual closet. My closet. Over there." He points across the room with the hand still grasping a ragged tissue.
Nick stands up and looks. "Tell me you don't have a man named Bob in your closet," he mutters, not looking at Greg.
"I don't have a...you know what? Just open the door, I'll tell you where he is," Greg replies.
Nick does as he is asked, eyes darting around the inside of the dark space. Just clothes. All Greg's clothes, his bright colours and his more conservative, self-proclaimed 'CSI wardrobe'. Nick sighs into the closet. He's pretty self-assured for the most part, and as such he doesn't mind too much admitting to himself when he is completely and utterly confused.
"Bottom shelf, red and white knit," says Greg. "He's a Mariusgenser."
Because that helps clear things up one hundred percent, of course. Nick drops his eyes to the bottom shelf and crouches slowly to retrieve what appears to be a very heavy, very large and slightly lumpy...sweater. Nick ducks his head and stares suspiciously into the depths of Greg's closet, as though expecting something or someone, perhaps the real Bob, to jump out at him. It wouldn't be the first time someone has emerged unexpectedly from a wardrobe he was looking into.
"And I'm not gay," Greg adds, almost as an afterthought. Nick stiffens, gripping the sweater in his hands tightly, not yet turning around. "I'm, er, I don't like labels. I'm open-minded."
Nick spins around, mouth slightly open, to face Greg. The younger man is still curled on his side, sheets clutched tight around him, head propped up on his elbow.
"Problem?" he challenges, arching an eyebrow and then promptly sneezing violently into his tissue.
Nick steps closer and shakes his head vehemently, recovering himself at last. Dangerous hope prickles under his skin and he forces himself to focus. "No, of course not. I, ah...well...here."
Nick hands the bizarre garment to Greg and sinks back into position on the edge of the bed. Watches Greg struggle out of his bathrobe, eyes immediately drawn to the soft trail of light brown hair that leads to the waistband of Greg's pyjama bottoms, exposed as Greg stretches and pulls the sweater over his head. Nick swallows against his dry mouth and wonders if it's perverted to look at someone like that when they're sick.
"Are you going to explain this to me any time, Greggo?" Nick says, tearing his eyes away from Greg's now covered abdomen to look at his face.
Greg leans back against the pillows and wraps his arms around himself, a look of utter contentment on his face that makes Nick's stomach contract. The sweater is far too big for Greg, sleeves covering his fingers almost completely. It appears that whoever made it was going for some sort of a pattern, but it's uneven and haphazard. It's lumpy and one sleeve is longer than the other. For some reason, Nick thinks, it suits Greg completely, and the red against his pale skin makes it glow.
Greg sighs and draws his knees up to rest his feet flat on the mattress. "Nicky, meet Bob. The sweater."
"Bob the sweater. Nope, I'm still confused, sorry G." Nick jumps slightly as Greg's bent knee rests against his upper arm, but he doesn't move. "I thought you said he was a...maskenser?"
"A Mariusgenser," Greg laughs. "Right. It's a Norwegian thing...almost everyone has a Marius sweater, it's traditional. It's named after a skier, he was in the Olympics. I don't remember the rest of the story but my Nana was quite insistent that I had one."
"So your Nana made it for you?" Nick asks, not wanting to admit out loud that he's not quite following.
"If my Nana Olaf made this, it would look like a Marius sweater." Greg holds up the sleeves and shoots a small smile at Nick before casting his eyes down the sheets, looking, if Nick didn't know better, a little embarrassed. "I made him. Hence why he's a Bob and not a Marius."
Nick is astounded. "You can knit?"
"Does it look like I can knit? First and last thing I ever made."
And Greg is laughing and coughing and spluttering, drawing his fingers back inside the sleeves of his sweater, and Nick can't help but laugh too, leaning slightly into the leg resting against him and hoping Greg won't notice.
"Jeg har andre talenter, that's what I say." Greg pauses, getting his breath back. "I have other talents."
Nick tries not to think about what those might be. At least not until he's alone. "I'm sure. Why Bob?"
Greg looks baffled. "That's just his name. Because it is."
"Of course," Nick nods as Greg sighs and his eyes start to drift shut again.
"Reminds me of my Nana," he mumbles through half closed lips. "She and Papa Olaf are both getting older, and I don't get to see them much, and I..." Greg trails off and Nick stiffens at the obvious affection and warmth in his voice. Realizes that perhaps he doesn't usually get to hear it because Greg doesn't often let his guard down like he is doing now. "When I showed Bob to my Nana she said: 'Greg, den er unik, akuratt som du'. It's unique, just like you are."
He falls silent. Nick looks down at him as his breathing slows, rattling slightly through parted lips, and the knee touching Nick rests heavily against him. Greg looks innocent, ethereal almost in sleep, relieved of his grinning, joking, flirting front. The one that Nick loves but cannot help but be slightly intimidated by. Somehow he feels like he has learned more about the man underneath in the last half-hour than he has in six years of working together.
Nick sighs, heart swollen with the warmth and strength of his feeling for the younger man. He inches closer and, acting against his better judgement, reaches out and cups Greg's face lightly, stroking his thumb against the cool skin, one day's growth prickly under his touch.
"Whatcha doin', Nicky?" Nick jumps slightly but can't quite bring himself to move his hand.
"Sorry, I just, um, sorry."
"S'nice." Greg shifts slightly into the touch and smiles, eyes closed. Nick's breath catches and he still doesn't move.
"I'm still cold,' Greg whispers, opening his eyes and staring up at Nick.
"Bob not enough of a man for you?" Nick manages, hoping he'll be heard above the frantic pounding in his chest.
Greg laughs, which immediately turns into a coughing fit. Nick pulls away and watches, wincing as the hacks and spasms rack his body, wanting desperately to do something to help.
"Oh, fuck," Greg groans as he collapses back against the pillows, sweating lightly, voice harsh and raspy. "I guess he's not. And don't make me laugh, please."
"You have to stop apologising, man, seriously. Just...mmm...lie down here with me."
Nick manages to suppress his small sound of disbelief, but not the rush of heat that accompanies the words and the thought of doing just that. Greg's dark eyes are half closed but he's still looking at Nick. But he's sick and quite possibly delirious. Nick knows that if he gets any closer he'll do something stupid like kiss Greg or tell him he's all he thinks about. Something like that.
"I don't think I should do that, Greg." Nick wipes his damp palms on his jeans nervously. "I'll just get you another blanket."
Nick tries to get up but Greg grabs his wrist and stops him. The grip is weaker than it would usually be and he could easily pull out of it, but he doesn't. Greg's fingers wrapped around his wrist feel good. He just hopes Greg can't feel his pulse rate rising dramatically as a result of the touch, his fingers being placed where they are.
"Nicky, god," Greg groans and Nick flicks his gaze away from the younger man immediately. Like he hasn't heard Greg say those words or words very similar to them just like that in his head, a million times. Fuck. "What do I have to do?"
"Are you blind? What do I have to do to get you to just...just...come here!" Greg demands harshly, yanking Nick's wrist and pulling him off balance so that he ends up half sprawled across Greg's reclining body, one foot still on the floor, one hand on the pillow and his eyes six inches from Greg's.
Nick can smell chicken soup and vaporub and fresh sweat and his brain is melting, in overdrive, unable to withstand being this close.
"You brought me soup," Greg mumbles. Nick shivers at Greg's breath against his own lips.
"It wasn't seduction soup," Nick protests pointlessly.
"What?" Greg's eyebrows knit together and Nick is lost.
"Never mind." Breathless. He's going to kill Louisa. Later.
"You brought me soup, and honestly, Nicky, you may be the only person that's ever been jealous of a sweater." Greg is smiling now.
Oh, god. Fuck. And all those words.
"You knew?" Nick whispers, giving in and threading shaking fingers through Greg's hair.
Nick can't help his smile as he feels the soft brush of wool against his skin, Greg's arms sliding round his neck and just a brush of fingertips where they emerge from the overlong sleeves. Urging him closer. Greg's chocolate eyes are somehow both sleepy and dark with desire, and Nick is drawn in. Taking a deep, shuddering breath, he leans down the remaining few inches and kisses Greg.
Watching Greg's face for a fraction of a second as their lips press together, before the dark eyelashes flutter closed and Nick shuts his eyes too, losing himself in the kiss, gripping the sheets with one hand to steady himself, the other tightening its hold on the unruly hair. Feeling Greg's mouth open easily to him and flicking his tongue into slick, hot warmth. It feels perfect, and he has forgotten Greg is sick until his breathing becomes harsh and he pulls away, gasping.
"Sorry," Greg pants, turning his head to one side and coughing again. "Can't breathe through my nose right now."
"Oh, but you don't need to breathe, do you?" Nick teases, slipping his fingers under the collar of Greg's sweater and stroking his skin carefully. He waits until Greg has his breath back before pulling him into another, slightly messy kiss.
"You'll catch my cold," Greg points out between kisses.
"I don't care," Nick replies, and he really doesn't. He wouldn't leave this bed right now if Greg had the plague.
"You must love me, then," Greg mumbles. "Get in."
Nick doesn't need to be asked twice, and he kicks off his shoes, crawls under the sheets and carefully pulls Greg against him. Greg and Bob. He smiles with satisfaction and still a little stab of surprise as Greg immediately presses close, face pushed into Nick's neck, arm wrapped around his waist.
"I must," Nick says at last into Greg's hair. Almost too softly to be audible, but Greg hears him.
"Love you too, Nicky," Greg whispers. Nick's veins are flooded with warmth and he just holds Greg closer under the sheets.
"Don't tell anyone I like cuddling," Greg adds sleepily. "I have my reputation to think of...and stuff."
Nick looks down at the man he has unexpectedly found in his arms. Takes in the ridiculous sweater, the messy hair, the pale but flushed skin dotted with rough stubble and the small patch of drool that is now dampening Nick's t-shirt.
"Course not, G. Your reputation," Nick murmurs with some amusement to the sleeping man.
Impulsively, taking care not to wake Greg, he slips his phone out of his pocket and aims the camera at Greg's inert form. He wonders what Greg will do to stop him from showing the picture all around the lab.
Nick saves the photograph and drops the phone to the floor, pressing lips against Greg's cool skin, closing his eyes and smiling contentedly. He supposes he'll find out as soon as Greg gets better.
AN 2 – this entire thing was inspired by Nina innocently telling me she was 'naming her daughter's clothes' – me being, well, me, assumed she meant assigning each item a name, like Bob the sweater or Susan the vest. Not putting name tags in them, which is what she was actually doing. Obviously. Seems Nina was quite taken by this idea, and the deal was that she would draw the picture if I wrote the story. (This was supposed to be a short drabble...ha ha. Yeah right) And here's Nina's lovely imagining of Greg and Bob: