Copyright August 2002
Greg skidded to a halt
just inside the door of his lover’s office.
Finding the office empty, he stepped back out into the hallway and
stopped Nick as he walked past. “Seen
Nick lowered the vial of
fluorescent green liquid he was examining and glanced at Greg.
“He stepped over to Forensics. Said
he’d be right back.”
With a nod of his head, Greg indicated the vial Nick was holding. “Cool looking specimen. Will it be visiting me shortly?”
Nick grinned. “It’s on its way there now. Don’t keep us waiting too long.”
“Be there in a sec.” Greg waved a handful of papers in the air. “Gotta give these findings to your boss.” The lab tech watched Nick walk away before turning around and re-entering the empty office. Perching on the edge of Gil’s desk, he hummed Creed’s newest song as he glanced around the room. An unfamiliar collection of bugs on the counter against the wall caught his attention and Greg jumped up to examine the creepy crawlers.
He shivered with distaste as he tapped the protective glass case the giant beetles inhabited. “Of all the guys in the world, I have to fall in love with one who’s totally mad about bugs.” Completely focused on the insects, Greg let out a yelp of surprise when a hand circled the back of his neck.
“Don’t let the bedbugs bite!”
Greg clutched the edge of the counter with one hand and his chest with the other. “Shit, Warrick! You scared me to death!”
The tall, black CSI agent glanced over his shoulder and checked to see if anyone was in close proximity. Assured that he and Greg were momentarily alone, Warrick quickly captured Greg’s mouth and kissed him hard. “Don’t worry; you’re not going to die. I just gave you the kiss of life.”
Greg grinned and licked his lips. “Move over, Snow White. This Prince Charming is all mine.” Touching Warrick’s hip, he slid his hand over the black man’s denim clad groin and squeezed the vulnerable flesh beneath. “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the best hung CSI of them all?” Greg loved teasing Warrick, simply because he knew the black man enjoyed it, enjoyed the stolen kisses and touches that reminded them of their love for one another.
Warrick laughed as he pulled away from his lover’s tempting touch. “You are so bad.”
“And you love it.” Greg resumed his seat on the edge of Gil’s desk. Glancing around the room again, he said, “I think I’ve decided what to get Gil for his birthday.”
Warrick grabbed a chair, flipped it around and straddled the seat. “It’s about time. You’ve worn me out, dragging me from store to store.” He tapped Greg on the knee. “We’ve been to the mall so many times, we’ll soon be on first name basis with the salespeople there.”
Smiling, Greg flipped Warrick the bird. “Gil is so hard to shop for. I want to make sure he likes what I get him this year.”
“Yeah… that gift certificate to the tattoo parlor did not go over very well last year.” Warrick rested his chin on the back of his chair. “What in the world made you think Gil would want to tattoo our names on his body?”
Greg waved his hands in the air. “I just thought… I mean… That tattoo was a declaration. A way to say I’m yours, you’re mine. You and I got one. Why not Gil? Hell… it’s not like I was asking him to put the tattoo where everyone could see it. I’m not that stupid.”
Warrick understood the young man’s frustration. It was something he, himself, battled with every time Gil publicly denied their relationship. Reaching out, he gripped Greg’s hand. “You of all people should know how private a person Gil is. Look at his office!”
The two men glanced around the room, taking note of the bookcases crammed with glass jars of preserved anatomical oddities, the walls covered with mounted insects, the numerous aquariums housing live specimens of all shapes and sizes.
Warrick pointed to the far corner of the office. “Not counting those prints of the vintage roller coasters, do you see anything remotely personal ‘round here?”
Greg slid off the desk. “But
that’s all about to change.”
Warrick grabbed the lab tech’s hand and prevented him from leaving. “And just how do you plan to do that?”
“I’m going to give Gil a photograph of us.” Greg gripped Warrick’s hand briefly before pulling free. “And yes, I know it’s probably a lost cause but I’m still going to do it.”
Warrick shook his head. “You’re wasting your time. Gil will never display a picture of just us.”
Greg placed the paperwork he had brought for Gil on his desk. “That’s why I’m going to use the picture Brass took at the Christmas party last year where you and me are sitting together in front of the team. Gil could put the photograph on his desk, look at it every day and nobody would think twice about it being there.” Greg crossed his arms, daring Warrick to dispute his reasoning.
The black CSI agent threw up his hands. “Hey, whatever you decide. I know better than to argue with you once your mind is made up.”
“Good.” Greg stopped just shy of the door and turned around. Smiling sadly, he touched Warrick’s arm. “I’m tired of being locked away in a closet and only taken out when Gil thinks it’s safe to show he cares. Some things…” Greg brushed his hand against Warrick’s, briefly tangling their fingers together. “… some people are more important than protecting your position on the job.”
Warrick met the young man's gaze. “Greg, don’t let him break your heart.”
With a dismissive shrug of his shoulders, Greg twisted around and headed for the door. “He won’t.”
Shaking his head, Warrick followed Greg out of the office. “You have no idea what monumental task you’ve taken on, do you?” He lightly slapped him on the back. “I can’t believe I’m about to say this but… if you want me to help you pick out a frame, let me know. I’m off tomorrow and can go shopping with you.”
Greg smiled, the sadness from moments before completely erased from his face. “Of course, you can help me. And… while you’re at it, you can take me out to lunch. A large pepperoni pizza loaded with extra cheese would be perfect.” Greg danced down the hallway with Warrick following. Turning the corner, he collided with Gil. Catching the soft leather briefcase the older man dropped, Greg winked at Gil before returning the briefcase and moonwalking backwards into his lab.
Grissom gazed confusedly at his youngest lover. “What’s up with him?”
“You don’t want to know.” Warrick laughed and guided Grissom to his office. “The Hollander case files are on your desk. Brass wants the findings summarized in a report; he has to present it to the DA day after tomorrow.”
Distractedly, Grissom nodded his understanding. “Greg’s not planning a birthday party for me, is he? I told both of you I don’t want anything special.” He glanced at the grinning man standing beside him. “Warrick?”
Warrick moved away quickly. Adopting a famous German accent, he replied, “I know nothing about a party. Absolutely nothing about a party.”
Grissom stopped outside his office doorway. “Warrick… no party. You hear me?”
Warrick smiled at Catherine as she walked toward him. “Do you hear someone talking?”
Catherine grinned at the black man and mimicked his accent. “I hear nothing. Absolutely nothing.”
Grissom huffed and turned his back on his two colleagues, muttering, “Is it too much to ask that you comply with my request?”
Warrick watched Gil disappear into his office before sharing a conspiratorial look with Catherine. “What do you think? Should we comply?”
Catherine locked arms with Warrick and pulled him in the direction of the DNA lab. “Are you kidding? Comply? Absolutely not. Gil needs a little aggravation every now and then. It’ll help him live longer.” She smiled at the tall CSI agent. “Shall we go gather up the others and plan our ‘Non-Compliant Grissom’ birthday party?”
“Lead on, Catherine. Lead on.”
“Do you think he’ll like it?” Greg carefully removed the wrapped present from his backpack.
Warrick placed a stack of paper plates beside the cake that held center stage on Gil’s desk. “Of all people, only you would find a picture frame encrusted with preserved locusts.”
Setting the present on the desk, Greg waggled his eyebrows at Warrick. “That’s because I lead a charmed life.” He ignored Warrick’s sarcastic snort and asked, “Where’s Nick and the ice cream? Catherine will be here with Gil in just a few minutes.”
Sara hurried inside the office with a box of plastic utensils clutched in her hand. “They’re coming. Where’s Nick?”
“Right behind you. And if you don’t want vanilla ice cream dumped down your shirt, you’ll move your butt out of the way.” Nick nudged Sara to the side and carried his cold burden over to the desk. Dropping the huge container beside the cake, he sighed with relief.
Warrick and Greg stared at the five-gallon bucket of ice cream. “What army are you planning to feed with that?” Taking the large metal spoon Nick held out, Warrick shoved it into the frozen dessert. “We’ll be eating ice cream for the next month.”
“And that’s a problem?” Sara scooped up a dollop of ice cream on her finger and licked it clean. “Where’s Brass?”
Warrick wrestled a scoop of the frozen dessert free and dumped it into a bowl. “He got called out on a case. Shhh… I hear Catherine’s voice.”
“Brass has called twice already. He says it’s imperative you finish that report tomorrow.” Catherine winked at Sara as she preceded Gil into the office.
Grissom stood in the doorway, his eyes targeting Warrick. “I thought I made it perfectly clear… no party.”
Catherine grabbed Gil’s arms and pulled him over to his desk. “Shut up and cut the cake.”
Greg smiled hesitantly and handed over the knife, his fingers briefly caressing Gil’s. With a quick glance around the room, he leaned to the side and, lowering his voice so that only his lover could hear, he whispered, “Love ya, Gil. Happy Birthday.”
With a slight frown of disapproval on his face, Grissom nodded to Greg before cutting the first slice of cake and handing it to Sara. “This was not necessary, people.”
Warrick maneuvered his way around Greg to stand at Gil’s side. “You’re welcome,” he said with a grin. Grabbing a plate, he held it while Gil cut a piece of cake for Nick. “The card…” With a nod of his head, Warrick indicated the present resting nearby. “… is signed by everyone,” he whispered. “But the gift is from Greg. He thought you might be more agreeable to him giving you something publicly if he pretended it was a gift from all of us.”
Grissom wiped the knife clean and handed it to Catherine. Turning his head to the side, he addressed Warrick softly. “It’s not that I don’t appreciate it, Warrick, but Greg knows better.”
A wave of anger hit Warrick as he picked up the card and slapped it in Gil’s outstretched hand. “Maybe you need to explain it to him again.”
Grissom watched Warrick move stiffly away before he turned his attention to the gift and unwrapped it carefully. Nodding his approval, he examined the unique picture frame. “Magicicada septendecim. Thank you, everyone.”
Catherine offered Gil a piece of cake and bowl of ice cream. “Nice picture. I think that’s from our Christmas party last year.” She pinned Gil with her gaze. “The one you didn’t come to.”
Gil shrugged a shoulder and took a bite of his cake. Turning slightly, he searched the room for his lovers and found them standing next to Nick and Sara. One of his eyebrows arched at the sight of Greg and Warrick standing closely together, each movement of their arms or their bodies causing them to brush against each other.
“Not very wise, gentlemen,” he whispered softly.
Catherine tapped him on the arm. “Did you say something?”
Gil was saved from answering by a beeper going off.
“It’s mine,” Sara announced. After checking the message, she looked at Catherine. “The coroner’s finished with our Jane Doe. Ready?” She threw her empty plate into the garbage.
“No time like the present.” Catherine indicated the half eaten cake. “You better save a piece of that for Brass. He’ll never forgive us if we don’t.”
Sara nodded and picked up the cake. “Come on, Nick. Let’s move all of this to the breakroom. I’m sure Gil would appreciate having his desk back.”
Nick grabbed hold of the container of ice cream and followed his colleague out of the office. “I don’t think there’s going to be room in the freezer for this monster.”
“Well… whose fault is that?”
Collecting the unused cutlery and dishes, Catherine threw a smile over her shoulder at Gil and hurried after Sara and Nick.
Silence reigned for several moments as the three remaining men joined together in the task of clearing away the mess. After tossing the last of the dirty napkins in the garbage, Greg tapped his finger against the picture frame.
“Do you like it?”
Grissom rubbed his hand lightly over Greg’s back. “Yes, I like it. Thank you.”
Greg slipped in front of Gil and rested his weight against him briefly. “I thought you might enjoy having our picture in your office.”
Grissom caught Warrick’s warning gaze and offered a tight smile. “I appreciate the thought, Greg.”
Afraid Gil would say something that would hurt their young lover, Warrick gripped Greg’s arm and pulled him away, directing him toward the door. “I think Gil wants us to get back to work.”
Greg twisted away from Warrick and reached out to Gil, touching him on his chest. “Are we still going out to breakfast together?”
Grissom gently removed Greg’s hand. “Yes. I’ll page you both when I’m ready to leave.”
Greg smiled and rubbed his hands together. “Can’t wait. I’ve been craving blueberry pancakes all week.” A wicked glint appeared in the lab tech’s eyes as he turned and slapped Warrick on the butt. “This time I’m going to make sure I bring home some of those small bottles of syrup. Care to guess what I plan to do with them?”
Warrick laughed. “Whatever it is, I think it’s only fair that the birthday boy should go first.”
Licking his lips, Greg ran his gaze over Gil’s body. “A most excellent idea.” Waving good-bye to the two men, he headed out of the room.
“Later, Gil.” With an indulgent smile on his face, Warrick followed after Greg.
Finally alone, Grissom sat down in his chair and contemplated his present. He examined the face of each person in the picture, spending several minutes gazing at his two lovers. He noted their close proximity to each other and the way Warrick had his arm slung around Greg’s shoulders, his fingers playing with the collar of the young man’s labcoat.
“You two have got to be more careful,” he admonished the photographed image of the two men. “People are going to notice, if they haven’t already. And pretty soon, their attention will turn toward me, a little one plus one plus one equals three will be going on in their head and… I just can’t have that.”
With a sigh, Grissom replaced the picture frame in its box and, opening the right bottom drawer of his desk, slipped it inside. Before he could close the drawer, his hand was caught in a bruising grip.
“Don’t,” Warrick growled, staring at the older man for a full minute before releasing his hold. “I refuse to allow you to hurt Greg by hiding away his gift.” He pulled the box out and removed the framed photograph. Sparing a glance at the older man, Warrick placed the picture on the top shelf of the bookcase against the office’s back wall.
With a violent flick of his wrist, he tossed the gift box to the side and braced his hands on the arms of Gil’s chair. “Every time I come into your office, I’m going to check to see if that picture is still there.”
Grissom didn’t move a muscle. “And if I refuse to leave it out?”
His anger suddenly deserting him, Warrick sighed and shook his head. “You’ll break Greg’s heart and I don’t think you’re that cruel.” He briefly caressed the older man’s cheek before pulling away. “As our young and often times, wise lover said… it’s time for you to unlock the closet, Gil. If you don’t, you’ll lose something very important.”
Grissom rose from his chair and stared at the photograph. “And just what will that be, Warrick?”
“You’ll lose Greg.” Warrick stood silently for a moment before turning away. “Think about it, Gil. Think long and hard.”
Grissom adjusted the position of the frame and tapped his finger against the head of one of the locusts. He stood there for a long time, thinking over Warrick’s words. Making one final adjustment to the frame’s placement, Grissom resumed his seat at his desk and began writing the report Brass had requested. He paused occasionally to glance up at the photograph, his gaze ignoring everyone but Greg’s image.
The increase of noise in the hallway alerted Grissom to the change of shift. Gathering the materials he would need to finish his report at home, he placed everything in his briefcase. With a final check of the remaining papers on his desk, Grissom picked up his phone and dialed the numbers of Greg and Warrick’s personal beepers. He quickly tapped out a message and hung up.
Collecting his briefcase, Grissom walked toward the door of his office and just before he turned out the light, Greg appeared at his side. The lab tech stepped around him and took a quick glance inside his office. A second later, he moved back into the hallway with a lopsided grin on his face.
“I almost bet Warrick a hundred dollars that you wouldn’t put that picture up in your office. Good thing I didn’t.” Greg hoisted his backpack on his shoulder and smiled at Gil. “Thanks, Gil. It really means a lot to me… you having a picture of us in there.”
Grissom silently examined Greg’s face, noting the light of happiness in his eyes, the simple joy in his smile. Warrick’s words echoed in his head and Grissom suddenly felt a fear invade his heart. With the intent to hug Greg to him, he lifted his arm but years of ingrained discipline caused him to lower it. The sound of Greg’s quiet sigh sliced straight through to his heart and Grissom tried again, forcing his arm to lift and circle his shoulders. Gritting his teeth, Grissom ignored the possibility of curious onlookers and led Greg down the hallway. “You’re welcome, Greg. Now… did I hear something earlier about you craving blueberry pancakes?”
Slack jawed, Greg stared in amazement at the appearance of Gil’s hand on his shoulder. Snapping his mouth shut, he cautiously placed his arm around Gil’s waist and moved closer to him as they walked down the hallway. “Yeah. I’m so damn hungry; I think I could eat a whole truckload of ‘em.”
The feel of Greg’s arm around his waist almost caused Grissom to stumble. Taking a deep breath, he continued toward the exit. “And why are you bringing home bottles of syrup? Are we running low? Add it to the grocery list and I’ll pick some up when I go shopping tomorrow.”
Greg slid his hand under Gil’s jacked and briefly rested it on his ass. “Maybe I should add it to the grocery list. I have a feeling I’m about to develop a major sweet tooth.”
Grissom tolerated Greg’s arm around his waist for several seconds before the fear of discovery became too great to ignore. Stopping suddenly, he offered an apologetic smile and gently removed it.
Recognizing the effort his lover was making, Greg let his arm fall but felt a small thrill of surprise when Gil continued to hold him close.
“I’m trying, Greg,” Grissom whispered as he hugged the younger man, the gesture offered only after the hallway had been checked for onlookers. Leaning closer, he instructed, “Don’t expect miracles.”
“I know, Gil. Thanks.” Slipping free, Greg grinned at Gil. “Keep practicing. It’ll get easier with time.” He laughed at Gil’s one arched eyebrow stare. “Let’s go find Warrick and get this show on the road. My stomach is about to start protesting bigtime.”
The two men exited the building, unaware of Warrick’s smiling eyes following them.