Characters: Nick Stokes, Greg Sanders, Ella (OC)
Series: Love and Science
Written For: whogeek
Summary: Greg just needs a little push in the right direction. Luckily Ella’s there to give it to him.
Spoilers: Grave Danger 523 and 524
Warnings: off screen whumping
Disclaimer: No one recognizable belongs to me. Such a pity.
Author's Note: Clearly this is a coda for Grave Danger, which means there are spoilers for that episode. Thanks to whogeek for her editing and assistance with this story. And of course all of these stories are for her. :-) And now I’m gonna go out and see a movie with float_on_alright ! Oh the DNA information that Greg spouts I learned when we visited the NC Science Museum!
Slipping his hand into his pocket, Greg fumbled around until he found his phone, quietly triggering the text message he’d set up earlier. We found him. He’s alive. Watching the taillights of the medic fade into the distance, he half-listened to Grissom explain to Ecklie why the other man was going to put their team back together. At least he’d be able to work with Nick again, see him on a regular basis. Maybe that would help this stupid crush. He sighed silently. Yeah, right. It hadn’t helped for the past five years, why did he think now would change it?
Sara punched him lightly in the arm. “Come on. Let’s get this processed and cleaned up so we can head over to the hospital. Cath and Warrick’ll keep us updated, but I want to see Nick.”
As he turned to follow her back to the crater that was all that was left of the coffin Nick had been in, they were both hailed by Ecklie. “You two aren’t processing. Day shift is already on its way. Go to the hospital. Go home. But you’re off the clock for now.” The head of the lab turned to Grissom. “That goes for you, too.”
For once Sara didn’t look upset about being kicked off a scene. “Come on,” she told Greg. “Let’s get cleaned up and head over to the hospital to check on Nick.”
Frowning at her enthusiasm, Greg followed her back to one of the team SUVs. “Ya know what,” he said once they had climbed in. “I think I’ll just head home. Nick’ll have enough people there. I’ll stop by tomorrow once the crowd thins out a little.”
“You sure?” Sara asked. “He’s gonna want to see you, too.”
Greg nodded. “I doubt he’ll ask for me, but just tell him I’ll see him later if he does.” Closing his eyes, he signaled that the conversation was over. Of all of the CSIs, Sara was most likely to figure out what was bothering him. Despite how oblivious most people thought she was, she tended to be able to read her friends pretty well. If anyone on the team could guess his secret, it would be her.
By the time they got back to the lab, Greg knew he wasn’t going to sleep if he went home. Thumbing open his phone, he dialed the number of the one person in Vegas that would answer no matter what. “Only cuz you’ve had a shitty few days am I not biting your head off,” Ella said when she picked up.
“Did you get my text?” he asked. “Sorry,” he added belatedly as he looked at the time.
“I did and don’t worry. Where are you?” He heard rustling as she obviously sat up in bed.
“Just got back to the lab. Can I come over? I just. I can’t go home alone. I’m not. I won’t.”
“Yeah. Why are you even asking?” she replied.
“I’ll be there as soon as possible,” he promised, hanging up as Sara came back into the break room where he’d retreated to be out of the way.
She raised her eyebrows at his words. “Do I want to ask?” she questioned.
“It’s not really any of your business,” he told her.
Retrieving a water bottle out of the fridge, she snorted. “Since when has that stopped you?”
“Just a friend, Sara, not a booty call.” Greg waved as he headed out of the room. “I’ll see you later.”
By the time he got to Ella’s, the fumes and adrenaline he was running on had almost run out. Pulling into the empty space next to her Jeep, he made doubly sure he had locked his Jetta before heading up the steps to her apartment. The door was already open when he reached it; Ella standing in the space even though she was obviously clad in her pajamas. Despite the dirt and other muck he was covered with, she immediately folded him into a hug. “Come on, GG,” she whispered. “Let’s get you cleaned up.” Steering him towards the bathroom, she asked, “You gonna be okay for a few?”
“I remember how to take a shower,” he informed her.
“Okay. Clothes for when you get out.” She pointed to a pair of sleep pants and a t-shirt that he vaguely recognized as his own. “If you’re not out in fifteen minutes, I’ll come in and I don’t need to be scarred like that.”
Greg managed a slight smile at her words, before turning his attention to the water. By the time he emerged, clean if not feeling better, Ella was back in bed. She opened her arms when she saw him, setting the book she’d been reading aside, and he crawled into them without hesitation. “Thank you,” he murmured as he settled down with his head on her breasts.
“What happened?” she asked quietly as she stroked a hand across his hair. “Why aren’t you at the hospital?”
“Not my place,” he replied. “I’m not anybody. Not his family. Not really his friend. Just a co-worker with a stupid unrequited crush.”
“Oh, GG.” She sighed. “Did someone say something to you?”
“No. Nothing bad. But everyone was all upset. And frantic. And what was I supposed to do? I’m not really his friend, just his co-worker buddy. So it would have looked odd if I’d gotten all upset. And then Warrick was yelling and kicking evidence around. And I just…lost it. I mean that could have been what led us to Nick and he ruined it.”
She bent, kissing the top of his head. “You need to say something to Nick. You cannot keep living like this.”
He snorted in response. “And get my head beat in? No thanks. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. More than once. Nick’s Texan. I like my face just the way it is thank you.”
“From everything you’ve told me about Nick, I don’t think he’s going to punch you if you tell him that you like him,” Ella said. “He might just surprise you.”
“Ella,” Greg said softly. “I don’t think I just like him. I think I’m in love with him.”
Greg groaned when he opened his eyes to find Ella staring at him. "God what do you want?" he demanded, burying his face in the pillow.
"Up and at 'em, Greggo," she replied. "We're gonna go see your boy."
"Don't wanna. Can't make me," Greg muttered petulantly.
Ella smacked him hard on his upturned ass; the blow more noise than pain although it drew a yelp from the prone man. "You really wanna tempt me?" she asked.
"Gregory, get your ass out of bed. You are going to the hospital."
Greg's head creeped up, his hair a riot of curls from going to bed with it wet. "He's not gonna want to see me."
"You asked for this," Ella warned him.
"Asked for wha...?" Greg had time to say before his entire world upended. He yelped and flailed as he went flying through the air, landing in a tangle of blankets and sheets on the hard floor. “Damn it, Ella!”
“Greg. You’re going to the hospital. You’re going to see Nick. And you’re going to talk to him. I really don’t care what you talk about, but you’re going to talk to him.”
“I hate you.”
“No you don’t, you love me.” She leaned down, kissing the top of his head. “Now put some actual clothes on. You can’t go see Nick in pants that have Bunsen burners on them.”
Greg plucked at one leg of his pants, smirking at her. “What’s wrong with my pants? Personally I think they’re the height of fashion.”
Ella rolled her eyes, tossing a pair of distressed jeans at him. “Get some real pants on, GG.” She headed out of the room; Greg’s good-natured complaining still ringing in her ears.
By the time Greg managed to get dressed and the two of them piled into Ella’s Jeep to make the trip to the hospital, he’d calmed down somewhat. It didn’t prevent him from fiddling with the radio until he found a station he approved of, but she was used to that quirk, despite the buttons being set to stations they could both agree on. The more nervous he was, the more he played with the stations. Finally she snapped at him to leave them alone before she broke either the buttons or his fingers. Greg subsided for a few minutes, setting his hands in his lap, before fidgeting around and finding something else to play with.
“Why are you so nervous?” Ella demanded. “It’s not like you’re going to see a stranger or an acquaintance. Nick is a friend or I thought he was from what you’ve said.”
“That doesn’t make this any easier,” Greg replied.
Ella reached over, squeezing Greg’s knee. “Somehow I don’t think he’s gonna toss you out on your ass, GG. You don’t have to tell him how you feel, but you need to go see him. For your peace of mind if nothing else.”
“Ella,” he started.
“No, Greg. I’m not gonna argue with you about this. You’re gonna go see Nick. Even if I have to drag you kicking and screaming.”
Greg didn’t respond to her words verbally, but he stopped fidgeting so much as he turned to stare out the window.
Ella swung her Jeep into a parking spot at the hospital, turning to face Greg after she shut it off. He’d gone back to fidgeting and when she touched his arm, he jumped about two feet. “Time to cut back on the caffeine, GG,” she commented when he jerked his head around to look at her.
He favored her with a look. “Not funny, El. This was a bad idea. I’ll. I. I can wait until tomorrow to see him. I don’t need to do this today.”
“Gregory Sanders, get your skinny ass out of this car before I pick it up and carry it into that hospital or drag you out by the ear. You are going to see Nick. And this is not open for discussion.”
Greg still didn’t look convinced, but when she lunged towards him; he scrambled out the passenger side of the Jeep. “I’m going! I’m going!” he yelped.
Ella waited to make sure he wasn’t going to dart back into the vehicle before following him towards the building.
Greg stopped dead outside Nick’s room. “I can’t do this. I..no. He won’t want to see me. And he doesn’t need to be disturbed. His parents are here and even if they aren’t in the room now, they’re probably gonna be right back. I don’t need to take away from his time with them. Or someone from the lab will be by any minute. He really doesn’t need me barging in.”
“Greg. Please remind me which one of us actually has balls?” Ella placed her hand in the middle of his back and shoved as hard as she could, physically pushing him into the room. “Go talk to the man!”
Greg yelped as the two of them stumbled into the room; Ella over-balancing when he went flying forward. His arms wind milled as he tried not to fall into the bed; Ella grabbing for the door jam and Greg’s waistband to assist his efforts. Nick’s eyes popped open at the noise and searched the room, finally locking on the two of them. “Hey,” he said, his voice still rough.
Greg waved awkwardly, his other hand reaching back to snag Ella’s wrist so she couldn’t run away. “Hey,” he responded. “Um. Yeah. Hi.”
Nick’s lips quirked up at his response. “Where ya been?”
Satisfied that Ella wasn’t going to vanish as soon as he let her go, Greg shoved his hands into his back pockets. “I didn’t think you needed another body in here.” He glanced around. “Where is everyone? And you looked like you were sleeping. So I should go. Now that I know you’re okay. And let you have a break.”
“They went to get something to eat. And I needed the quiet. But it doesn’t mean I want you to leave.”
Ella rolled her eyes from her spot next to Greg and muttered something that sounded suspiciously like, “Oh. My. God. Men!” Pushing Greg more gently this time, she added louder, “Go. Sit. Talk.”
Nick’s smile widened. “Who’s your friend, Greggo?”
Slipping his arm around Ella’s shoulders, Greg explained, “Oh. This is Ella, my ‘bama babe.”
“You really want me to kill you today, don’t you, GG?” Ella asked, looking up at him.
“No. I.” Greg ducked his head. “I didn’t mean.”
Nick struggled to sit up a bit more in the bed and Greg leaped forward, almost tripping over his feet to help him. When the dark haired man was situated, Greg hovered for a minute until Ella moved up, shoving him into the chair next to Nick’s bed. “Are you seriously that helpless? How do you get anything done at work?” she asked.
Nick grinned at the way she pushed his friend around. “He’s pretty coordinated in his own space.”
“Well that makes me a little more confident about his skills then,” Ella answered. She grabbed another chair and pulled it closer. “It’s nice to finally meet you, Nick. Greg’s told me a lot about you.”
“Well, I have to say he’s never mentioned you. And I would have thought you’d have if you were this serious about someone, Greggo,” Nick directed his second comment to the younger CSI.
“Serio…she’s not my girlfriend!” Greg protested.
Ella snorted before bursting out laughing hysterically. “You. You brought. You brought that on yourself,” she gasped out. “You said.” She waved her hand, trying to control her laughter and finally gave up.
Greg glared at her for a minute. “It’s really not that funny,” he commented.
“But an honest mistake,” Nick replied. “You did introduce her as your ‘bama babe.”
“And you know I hate that, stick boy,” Ella remind him, poking Greg in the side and making him squirm away from her.
“I’m not a stick! I eat!”
“I’ve seen you eat. I’m not sure I’d call that either healthy or food. And I can still pick you up and carry you around,” Ella pointed out.
Nick looked between them, his head swiveling back and forth as he tried to follow the two of them. “How is that logistically possible?” he asked. “Never mind. I don’t need a demonstration.”
Ella smiled at him. “Yeah. I think Greg might bolt if I attempt it. And while I’d love to leave you two alone to chat, I’m also afraid he might follow me out. So…” she dug into the bag that she had by her side, pulling out a book and flashing it at them. “I’ve got a book and I’ll be right outside. Have fun.” Gathering up her things, she left the room.
Nick looked after her departing form as Greg hit his head on the wall next to the bed. “Um. Did she just give us her blessing or something?” he asked hesitantly.
“Or something,” Greg hastened to confirm, not wanting to explain to Nick what Ella had really been implying.
“So if she isn’t your girlfriend,” Nick started and when Greg didn’t appear to hear him, the older man threw a plastic cup at him. “Hey! Sanders!”
“So who is she?” Nick asked, pointing out the door where Ella had disappeared.
Nick rolled his eyes at Greg’s obtuseness. “I got that. You said she’s not your girlfriend. Who. Is. She?”
“Oh. A friend.” When Nick looked like he was going to reach over and smack him, he hastened to explain. “She’s probably my best friend in Vegas. Well, outside the lab. I mean. She’s. She’s Ella. I don’t know. I’ve never tried to explain it.”
For a few minutes the two men stared at each other, the awkwardness increasing by the moment. Greg started fidgeting after a few minutes, unable to stand the silence, but also clearly attempting not to break it. He reached towards Nick a couple of times, but pulled his hand back before he actually touched the other man. Finally Nick questioned, “What?”
“I feel like I should ask how you’re doing…but…everyone has probably been asking you that and well, clearly you aren’t at all that well. I mean you were just buried alive. And chewed on by fire ants and then nearly blown up and now? Now you’re in the hospital and people have probably been asking you that since you got here.”
“Greg. Greg. GREG!” Nick snapped his fingers as he attempted to get the younger man’s attention. When Greg’s babbling stopped, he added, “I’m just happy to be alive.”
“…Right.” Greg stared at him awkwardly for a minute. “Hey! Did you know that we have six feet of information in each strand of our DNA? It’s pretty fascinating. I mean, such a miniscule thing and it contains six feet of information.”
“Ooookay,” Nick replied slowly. “That’s…interesting.”
“And also each strand contains the exact same information that is a complete blueprint…”
“Hey. Greggo?” Nick reached out, snagging Greg’s hand which was flailing around. “If you want to babble? Why don’t you tell me about Ella? She’s obviously important to you and I’d like to hear more about her.” He tugged gently on the wrist he held. “And I ain’t made of glass. You can touch me. You’ve just gotta be careful where.”
“I know. I just. I. You’ve had enough pain from that jerk. I don’t want to be the one to cause you any more.” Greg squirmed in his chair, but didn’t break the hold Nick had on his arm.
Nick’s lips quirked at the comment. “I’m on some pretty hefty pain killers, G. I ain’t feeling much of anything right now. And I know you won’t hurt me.” He bit his tongue against his next thought that a touch from the blonde was comforting and reminded him that he was safe now. That he wasn’t locked in that box and trapped, barely able to move.
Greg ducked his head, his fair skin easily showing the tracery of a blush as he played with the seam of his jeans. “I’m glad. I mean. I wouldn’t. And I. I just.” Greg bit his tongue before he let too much slip out.
Nick knew his grin was probably a bit goofy, but with the pain killers coursing through his system, there wasn’t a whole lot he could do about it. Greg’s babbling was so safe and familiar that it eased his terror. He wished he could keep the other man with him constantly, but knew it wasn’t feasible or practical. And everyone would question it. So he’d have to take what he could and hold on to the memories for when Greg had to leave. “Hey. I know. So. Tell me about Ella? How’d you meet her? How long have you known her? How come I haven’t met her before?”
Greg grinned wickedly as he settled back in the uncomfortable chair, arranging his arms so Nick could more comfortably hang onto his wrist. He rubbed a finger over Nick’s when the other man’s hand twitched. “Ella, huh? You really want to hear about her? Got a crush on my girl or something?”
“No!” Nick protested. “But. She’s obviously important to you. I just.”
“I’m teasing, Nick.” Greg tilted his head back, thinking for a minute. “Well, I met Ella just a few months after I moved to Vegas.” As he started to spin stories about their meeting and subsequent hijinks, he continued to absentmindedly run his fingers over Nick’s.
Ella poked her head into the room, smiling at the laughter that permeated it. “I hate to interrupt this amusement, but I gotta get to work, GG. You coming with? Or finding your own ride home?”
“Yeah, I’m ready to go.” He stood up, reaching out to squeeze Nick’s shoulder after he untangled their hands. “Get better quick, Nick. The lab isn’t gonna be the same without you.”
“I’d be outta here tomorrow, but Mama kinda scared the doctors and they’re being rather cautious. So.” Nick attempted to shrug but gave it up with a wince. “Hopefully by the end of the week?”
“All right. Feel better.”
Nick started to say something, then paused before asking hopefully, “Are you going to come back?”
“I don’t…” Greg started, then jumped as Ella kicked him. “Yeah. I can do that,” he amended what he had been planning to say.
“He’ll definitely come and see you and save you from well-meaning relatives. I understand overbearing mamas,” Ella added. “They mean well, but they can be a little much. It was good to finally meet you. Sorry I have to drag GG away.”
Nick smiled. “I get it. I’m sure my parents will be back any minute. In fact I’m surprised they haven’t returned yet.”
“Ah, yeah. About that. They were back, but I explained one of your co-workers was in here and asked them if they would mind giving you a little time,” Ella explained. She hooked her fingers in Greg’s belt loops, tugging him towards the door. “Come on, we gotta go.”
Greg turned back to talk to Nick as Ella bodily dragged him from the room. “I’ll try to come back tomorrow, but it’ll depend on shifts and everything and how things go and…” he trailed off as they got out of earshot.
Ella rolled her eyes as they reached the elevator. “Stop babbling, GG.” She punched the down arrow before turning to face him. “Y’know. I don’t think most guys would keep hanging onto the arm of another guy who was just a friend. Even if he was half-high on painkillers. Nor would he want to hear every last detail of the other guy’s best friend. Or listen to said guy babble for almost two hours.”
“He’s been through an ordeal, Ella. He wanted human contact,” Greg insisted.
Ella stepped onto the elevator, turning back to look at her best friend. “Yeah. Keep deluding yourself, Greg. Real healthy.”