Copyright January 2004
Pushing through the door of the staff
lounge, Nick confronted the man who was sitting at the table eating.
"What's up, Warrick?"
Nick had just witnessed a brief encounter between Warrick and Rita Lyford. The young woman's sister had been brutally raped and murdered two weeks ago and the man accused of the heinous crimes was about to get off scott free due to an illegal search of his car. The judge presiding over the case had given their crime lab 24 hours to uncover any additional evidence that would lead to a conviction. Everyone, including Warrick, was furiously working against the clock and tempers were growing shorter with each passing minute.
Refusing to look up when Nick flung a file on the table he was sitting at, Warrick took another bite of his sandwich. "What's up with what?"
Knowing the black CSI was deliberately acting obtuse, Nick reined in his anger-barely. "With you!"
Warrick swallowed and slid his gaze over to Nick. "This job is hard enough without having the victim's family up in your face."
Nick slammed his hands down on the table, the force rattling Warrick's coffee cup. "Her sister was raped and murdered. Not to mention, she just watched the defense decimate your case. I think you could've at least given her five minutes of your time."
Warrick finally turned his head and looked directly at Nick. "You wanna hold this girl's hand, that's fine by me. That seems to be your MO. But when you empathize instead of sympathize, I don't judge you."
"She just wants to know that someone around here gives a damn, Warrick."
Warrick shoved his chair back so hard, he was amazed the thing didn't topple over. Hurling his food in the garbage, he barked at Nick, "You know what? Lunch is over. Time to go back to work."
Nick watched Warrick storm out of the lounge. Confused and angered by his co-worker's behavior, he kicked the garbage can in disgust and cursed under his breath, "Dammit, Warrick." Running his hand through his hair, Nick turned and stared out at the people scurrying up and down the hall.
"He does care."
Greg's voice drifted out of the shadows at the rear of the lounge and nearly scared Nick shitless. "Sanders! Give a guy a heart attack, will ya?"
Greg hauled himself off the couch he had been trying to take a nap on. Stretching, he walked into the light and caught Nick's gaze. "He does care, Nick. More than any of you know."
The lab tech stepped up to the table and skimmed his fingers along the back of the chair Warrick had just vacated. "This job never used to get to Warrick but Holly Gribbs' death changed all of that. Made him . . . I don't know . . . I guess it made him vulnerable. Shattered that smug exterior of his."
Tilting his head to the side, Greg looked over at Nick, the smile on his face not quite reaching his eyes. "He's trying to atone for his sins, Nick. And if that means pushing himself to the limit, closing off his emotions so he can get the job done and put the bad guy behind bars, well then, that's exactly what he's gonna do."
"And just what makes you an expert on Warrick's inner psyche?" Nick collected his file and turned to go.
Greg felt for the hidden band of gold he wore on a chain around his neck. "Now that answer might just surprise you." Sidestepping the confused-looking CSI, Greg walked out of the staff lounge and disappeared from view.
Nick shook his head as he watched Greg take off running down the hall. "If I live to be a hundred, I will never understand that guy." Catching sight of Sara in the distance, Nick quickly forgot Greg's admonishment and went in pursuit of his assigned partner.
Exhaustion clawed at Warrick as he blindly pushed open the door to the restroom. Nick and his Boy Scout attitude had been the proverbial straw that broke the hold Warrick had on his temper. He had lashed out with anger, cut short a much needed break and now his empty stomach was playing havoc with his ulcers.
Forcing down the rush of bile that scalded the back of his throat, Warrick closed his eyes against the room's bright fluorescent lights and scrubbed his face with his hands. "Dammit! How could I make such a fucking mistake?" For the millionth time in the past 24 hours, Warrick mentally kicked himself for not verifying there was a proper search warrant for the suspect's car. He had trusted the cop that had called him to the scene and because Officer Watson had failed to do his job, a rapist and murderer would soon be set free.
The quiet swoosh of the door behind him alerted Warrick to someone entering the restroom and he mumbled an apology for blocking the entrance. His apology was accepted, not with words, but by a pair of arms circling his waist.
"I'm here." Greg pressed his cheek against the tense muscles of Warrick's back. "I heard the fight you and Nick had and I thought you might need me."
Warrick let his head fall back so that it touched Greg's. "He just doesn't understand." Sighing wearily, he took hold of his lover's hands and brought them to rest over his heart. "I know I shouldn't have yelled at him but dammit, Greg, what does he want me to do? The clock's ticking on this one and if we don't dig up any new evidence soon, that fucking bastard is gonna walk free." He locked fingers with one of Greg's hands and, together, they gripped the ring that lay hidden beneath Warrick's shirt. "I'll hug and hold hands with Rachel's family later, after I put the creep that killed her behind bars."
Warrick suddenly turned around and gathered Greg close. Kissing him hard, he guided the younger man backwards to rest against the restroom door, knowing their combined weight would prevent anyone from freely entering and discovering the two of them. Sliding his hands down to Greg's ass, he lifted him up on his tiptoes and molded their bodies together.
"Why can't Nick understand that?" Warrick fiercely whispered the question as he nosed Greg's shirt open and marked, with his teeth, the pale skin that covered his lover's collarbone. "You understand, right, Greg? You know why I need to nail this bastard?"
Releasing his hold on Greg, Warrick dropped to his knees and yanked Greg's shirt free of his jeans, shoving it upward to reveal the man's flat belly and nearly hairless chest. His hands spread wide across Greg's back and pulled him close, sighing brokenly as he opened his mouth over the gold band that rested against Greg's breastbone. "I can't let anyone get hurt. Not again. Not because of me."
The ring that Greg wore on the chain around his neck was actually Warrick's commitment band. Slipping the ring on his finger, Warrick used that hand to cup and knead Greg's left pec, pausing in his ministrations to softly kiss and lick the pebbled nipple that resided there.
Greg gave a shuddering gasp when Warrick added his teeth to the mix. He knew there was no need for words at this moment. He had said them all many times before, offered them freely whenever Warrick's demons rose up to haunt his soul. Right now, Warrick needed something more than words and Greg was prepared to do whatever it took to help him.
Sweeping one hand over Warrick's bent head, Greg used his other to loosen his jeans and slide them down his hips. A breath of warm air stirred the arrow of curls that led the way to his brief-clad groin and Greg moaned when he felt the brush of lips travel the length of his shaft. His moan abruptly shifted into a query of confusion when his lover stood and gently placed his clothes to right.
Leaving the question unanswered, Warrick pressed a reverent kiss to the ring he wore. With a sigh of regret, he removed it from his finger and allowed the chain to slide back inside Greg's shirt. Briefly he held his hand to the area over his lover's heart before taking a step back and smiling at him.
Greg swept his gaze over Warrick's lean form and noted the man's physical need, evidenced by the swollen outline of his erection and the dark patch of wetness staining the front of his slacks. He moved closer and pressed against him, licking away the sweat that had beaded Warrick's upper lip. "I thought… I mean… you can…." Greg hesitantly brushed a hand over Warrick's crotch. "You can fuck me if it you need to, Warrick. Let it all out and such."
Warrick bit back the sob that threatened to escape upon hearing Greg's selfless offer. He hauled Greg into his arms and kissed him soundly, pouring all the love he had for the slightly off-the-wall lab tech into that single mating of their lips.
"Do you have any idea how much you mean to me, Greg?" Warrick buried his face in the strands of hair that lay against Greg's nape. "Remind me to show you just how much when we get home."
Slightly disappointed Warrick had not taken him up on his offer, Greg slid his hands down his lover's back and onto his ass. "Why not now? Let me help you take the edge off your anger."
"The anger's gone, babe. You coming to me, letting me hold and kiss you has wiped it off the map."
A million mega-watt smile lit Greg's face and Warrick couldn't help but steal a bit of that energy with another kiss. "Go on now." He turned the younger man to face the door and sent him on his way with a light slap on the butt. "Let me throw some cold water on my face and I'll be right behind you."
Greg stopped with his hand on the door handle and looked back over his shoulder. "We're gonna solve this case, Warrick. I feel it in my bones. This girl's killer will most definitely see his day in court."
Lowering his gaze to the floor, Warrick missed his lover's exit. Another pair of sightless eyes had replaced those of Rachel Lyford's and Warrick whispered the same promise he had been repeating to himself for the past four years.
"Nobody goes free on my shift. Nobody."