CSI
One Good Man by geekwriter [Reviews - 10]
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He'd never been one for the city. Sure, Dallas had been huge, but in a sprawling, suburban way. Even Las Vegas was spread out once you left the strip, and its neighborhoods and abundance of open space let you forget how big the city actually was.

San Francisco wasn't like that. San Francisco was people on top of people, buildings narrow and tall smashed up against other buildings, just as narrow and just as tall, up and down every hill, as far as the eye could see. Not that he could see very far, because even though it was eleven o'clock, and even though it was June, the city was encased in fog.

Nick was disoriented by the fog, by the hills, by the sheer number of people on the streets. He was glad to be with Greg, to tell the truth, glad just to follow blindly as Greg talked a mile a minute, fitting so perfectly into the city that Nick was beginning to see him in a new light.

He'd always thought of Greg as a little weird, and he'd chalked it up to him being cooped up in the lab all day, maybe to years of inhaling God knows what chemicals day in and day out. But there, on the streets of San Francisco, Nick saw that what he'd perceived as weird was merely the stamp of Greg's hometown. Just like Nick's accent pegged him as a Texan, Greg's eccentricities and freedom placed him squarely at home in the most diverse city Nick had ever seen.

As Nick trudged after Greg, up and down the hills towards North Beach, they passed Chinese grandmothers carrying pale red plastic sacks full of unknown goods, teenagers wearing the baggiest jeans Nick had ever seen and tight day-glo tops accessorized with pacifiers, spiky Technicolor hair and, in one case, a gas mask painted light blue with glittery white clouds. A woman in a business suit walked quickly around a circle of hippies playing hacky -sack while waiting for the light to change, and Nick couldn't be exactly sure but he had a suspicion that the tall, beautiful black woman in the red dress was maybe not a woman at all.

Greg didn't seem phased, didn't even flinch when a homeless guy jumped out of the bushes and yelled, "Raar!" like something out of a B-grade horror movie.

"Didn't scare me," was all Greg said, and he kept walking without missing a beat, continued on with his description of the blocks they were passing as if nothing strange had happened at all.

"Greggo," Nick said, struggling to keep up with Greg's quick pace. He was in shape, sure, but he'd never encountered anything like these hills before, never ending, just as soon as you were up and down one there was another one in front of you even steeper than the last. "Uh, Greggo, did a homeless guy just jump out of the bushes and growl at us?"

"Yeah," Greg said easily, turning and walking backwards up the hill, his hands resting casually in his pockets as he gazed at Nick.

"Why?"

"If they scare you, you're supposed to give them a dollar."

"What?"

Greg smiled an easy, relaxed grin. He was so at home in the city Nick could feel it radiating from his pores. "They jump out of the bushes to scare you, and if they succeed you're supposed to give them a dollar."

"You're supposed to pay guys for jumping out of the bushes and scaring you?"

Greg nodded and said, "Yeah," as if the whole idea was perfectly reasonable.

Nick whistled low between his teeth. If that was normal here, he didn't have to wonder why Greg came off as weird.

"What?" Greg asked, sensing that Nick was thinking something he didn't want to say.

Nick smiled to deflect the question. "I didn't know this conference was going to involve mountain climbing."

Greg laughed and turned back around, never breaking stride. "Don't worry," he said over his shoulder. "A few more steps and it's all downhill, I promise."

It was the first time Nick had ever heard that phrase used to indicate something good, and he had to admit that it sounded very good indeed.

When he'd told Greg he wanted to spend the morning sight seeing, he'd been thinking more about Fisherman's Wharf than tramping through the city's cool summer streets. When he broached the suggestion Greg had actually gasped.

"Blasphemy," Greg hissed. "You're never again to utter those words in my presence."

"What?" Nick had asked. "What's so bad about Fisherman's Wharf? It's on all the tourist maps."

Greg had snatched the map out of Nick's hands. "I forbid it," he said. "Fisherman's Wharf is nothing but a mall with seals. No self-respecting person goes to Fisherman's Wharf, Nick. Were I to be seen there I could never show my face in this city again."

Nick didn't mention that he hadn't expected Greg to come with him. It was his hometown, after all, and Nick had expected him to spend his first day there catching up with family and friends.

He didn't mind the company, though, and was a lot more comfortable following Greg than he would have been on his own with only a map to guide him, so he acquiesced and agreed to take Greg's tour of the city.

Which was how he found himself at the top of a hill that seemed far too steep for cars, let alone pedestrians, catching his breath and leaning forward to rest his hands on his knees.

"We'll take the bus back," Greg said. He didn't seem winded at all. "That's definitely an experience not to be missed. Ever been on a city bus during rush hour next to a crate of live chickens?"

Nick laughed and shook his head.

"Then, my friend, you have not lived."

"You sure you don't mind showing me around?" Nick asked. He'd asked before, but Greg had just shrugged the question off. "I mean, how long has it been since you've seen your folks, man? I thought for sure they'd be at the airport waiting to snatch you away for a lutefisk brunch."

Greg cringed. "That's another thing I don't ever want to hear you say again. Lutefisk." He shuddered as if recalling a particularly disturbing memory.

"I'm just saying that if the conference was in Dallas I'd have more family on me than the Osmonds."

Greg's eyes darkened for a moment, then he forced a smile. "Well, you know, they're busy. They're both at work. We'll have dinner sometime this week, I'm sure, but days are bad for them."

Nick yawned and straightened up. "Me, too, man. Shit. They can't have graveyard conferences for those of us who work nights?"

"I'm sure they'll have comment cards you can write the suggestion on," Greg said with a grin. "Come on. I'm starving and there's a little Korean place around the corner that serves kim pap so good you'll think you've died and gone to heaven. Just remember, soju may be served in shot glasses, but that doesn't mean you down it like a shot." He smiled his quirky, disarming smile. "Trust me. I learned that the hard way. I ended up half-naked on Turk Street engaged to a very large, very hairy man named Roscoe." He frowned. "At least, that's what my friends tell me. I don't really remember. Something about a bicycle chain, a merry-go-round, and maybe a bottle of peroxide…the whole night's really very fuzzy."

Nick laughed and started down the hill. "San Francisco's a very weird town, Greg."

Greg sighed a contented sigh as he fell in step with Nick. "Yeah. It's great, isn't it?"


**********


Nick settled onto a stool at the hotel bar and ordered a scotch on the rocks. He was usually a serious beer drinker, but he definitely needed something stiffer. That had been, without a doubt, the most boring, torturous, completely mind-numbing waste of four hours he'd ever spent. A speech on "The Criminalist as Citizen," followed by drawn out introductions of the conference's guest lecturers, ending with a droning, uninspiring speech about the increasing importance of criminalists in the post-9/11 world.

Not to mention that he'd have been half asleep even if the speeches had been interesting. And, of course, now that it was over and getting late he was suddenly awake. Because his body's clock was stubborn, and the sun going down had become his signal to wake up for so long he didn't know how to fight it.

It had been a long day with the flight in, checking into the hotel, going on Greg's walking tour, the conference registration, and the tedious introductory lectures, and what he wanted was to fall into bed and sleep. But his body didn't know that's what he wanted, and even has he downed his scotch he felt a surge of renewed energy.

"Hey," Greg said, sliding in next to him. "I know that this is my first conference and everything, but if this is the way things are going to continue, I think I'll skip the lectures and go to Fisherman's Wharf, instead."

"Blasphemer," Nick said, barely holding back his grin. "It's not usually that bad. I'm sure things will pick up tomorrow."

Greg nodded and swept his eyes over the room. He was so close that Nick could smell him, could feel the soft heat of his body.

"I'm heading to bed," Nick said, pulling away from Greg as nonchalantly as he could. "Coming?"

Greg smirked at him and raised his eyebrows. "Well, usually I insist on dinner first, or at least a drink."

The words startled him and he knew he should say something, anything, but he couldn't even begin to remember how to speak.

"Uh, that was a joke," Greg said, elbowing him playfully. "Calm down, Nick, I'm not gonna jump you in your sleep or anything."

"I, uh, yeah. Yeah, I know," Nick said. "I'm not worried, man." The thought of Greg jumping him in his sleep wasn't what worried him, what worried him was that for a minute he'd really thought about what it would be like to go to bed with the young lab tech.

"Uh," Greg said, dropping his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "I hate to ask you this, man, but do you think you could maybe hold off on sleep for a couple hours? I'm really hitting it off with that fingerprint analyst from Des Moines, and, uh…"

Nick smiled and chuckled softly. "Yeah, man, that's cool. Give me ten minutes in the room and I'll be out of there. I think maybe I'll try my luck with the hottie from Miami."

"Ballistics chick?" Greg asked, nodding. "Very nice. Oh, here comes Teresa—"

"From Des Moines," Nick said.

"Right. See you later, buddy. Ten minutes?"

"All I need," Nick said. He made sure to keep smiling until he was in the elevator. He was glad he was the only one in it. He leaned back against the wall and rubbed his hands over his face. Greg? He could not be attracted to Greg. It was sleep deprivation doing it, he knew, and the fact that he hadn't gotten laid in two months.

Once he got to the room he washed his face and brushed his teeth. He changed out of his shirt and tie, tossed his dress slacks over the back of a chair and pulled on a pair of well-fitting Levis, instead. He slipped his feet into a comfortable pair of loafers and pulled on a tight black t-shirt.

As beautiful as Calleigh from Miami was, she wasn't who Nick was thinking about. Even if he had been interested, he wouldn't have insulted her by assuming she was the kind of woman who'd get involved with someone she'd just met at a professional conference.

No, he wasn't thinking about the ballistics expert at all as he checked his reflection in the bathroom mirror. He ran his hand over his hair, tousled it so it lost its preppy, professional appearance. He wasn't the hottest thing he'd ever seen, but he wasn't bad. He leaned in to inspect the wrinkles that had begun to form around his eyes and sighed. He couldn't remember when it had happened; he'd just noticed them one day with more than a little surprise. Sure, he was in his 30's, but when the hell had he gotten so old?

"Early thirties," he told himself. He shook his head and turned away from the mirror. That was as good at it was going to get.

He snagged his black leather jacket since he knew there'd be a chill in the air. Funny how cold it could be in June. He'd always assumed California was an eternally sunny paradise.

He knew where to go without looking at a map. He'd researched it on the internet in the weeks prior to the conference, committed the names and addresses of places he wanted to go to memory so that he wouldn't leave a paper trail that could expose him.

He felt more than a little embarrassed telling the cab driver where to take him, but the cabbie wasn't phased in the least. Hell, it was San Francisco, and Nick knew he was hardly the first tourist to hit the gay bars.

He thought he maybe should be excited. After all, San Francisco was supposed to be the gay Mecca. He'd always wanted to go, maybe to check out Pride, definitely to get laid. And there he was, not at Pride but he knew getting laid was more than a possibility. Nick had never had trouble getting laid, no matter what city he was in, and he told himself that getting laid was all he needed.

The delusions of youth were long gone. Years of working in law enforcement, both as a cop and a CSI, made it very clear that his was not a profession that welcomed gay men with open arms. Sure, there were policies in place, and the party line was that the city of Las Vegas did not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age or handicap. Nick had been in law enforcement long enough to know that it was bullshit. Official policies weren't enough to change the minds of generations of personnel, and even if they had been, there was still no policy to prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

He wouldn't ever be able to have a long-term relationship with anyone and keep his secret at the same time. Hell, digging up secrets was what CSI's did. It was his job or his personal life, and Nick had chosen his job. His only relationships were fleeting one-night stands where first names often weren't exchanged, let alone last names or phone numbers.

It suited him fine. His job didn't exactly leave much room for dating, anyway. When he needed a release he went out to a club or the baths. It was simple and efficient, and it worked.

Except Nick hadn't had sex with anyone in two months and though that's what he thought he'd be after once he got to the club, he realized that he wasn't interested. It felt good to dance, felt good to move his body to the beat in the dark, to feel other men's bodies brush and grind against his, but he had no desire to take it to the back room.

Wrinkles weren't the only thing his 30's had brought him. He was lonely. He was getting too old for one night stands and hand jobs in clubs' bathroom stalls. But he'd made his decision, and he knew he had to stand by it if he didn't want his professional life to crumble at his feet.

The men in the club all looked the same. They looked the same as the men he'd seen in the clubs in Dallas, and they looked the same as the men he'd seen in the clubs in Vegas. Beautiful, buff, walking proof that physical perfection was, indeed, possible.

Nick left the dance floor, and ordered a shot of tequila. That's what he'd always drunk during his wild college years. Get a few shots of tequila in him and good-old-boy Nick was forgotten and circuit-boy Nick was born.

He threw back the shot, turned and surveyed the club. It was a mass of writhing, beautiful men. He could watch them, find the most beautiful, take him to the back room and fuck his brains out, but he didn't want to. It was too much hassle.

He knew if anyone had told him a decade earlier that he'd find hot sex with gorgeous men boring he would have laughed his ass off. Now? Now he knew he could have an entire bottle of tequila and he'd still find the club and its patrons more annoying than arousing.

He took another cab back to the hotel. He'd been gone for a little over two hours, but he didn't know if that gave Greg enough time, so he sat in the hotel bar and nursed a beer. At least one of them was getting laid.

Finally, he decided to head back to the room a little before two am. He listened at the door before opening it, and when he did the room was dark.

From the dim light coming through the curtains Nick could see that Greg was alone, and asleep. He couldn't smell the tang of sex in the air, but he didn't know if it was because Greg had struck out or because one of the windows was cracked, letting in the noise of the street below and the cool night air.

Greg was in boxers and a t-shirt, the covers thrown to the side, and as Nick started to get undressed he paused to gaze at Greg's still form for a moment. He was stretched out on his stomach, one arm tucked beneath his chest at an awkward angle, the other arm thrown wide. His face was smashed against a pillow, which did nothing to mask the soft sound of his snore.

Nick grinned as he toed off his loafers. It was a sad state of affairs when he'd just gotten back from the hottest club in San Francisco and he still thought Greg Sanders was the most attractive man he'd seen all night. He was definitely off his game.

He shook his head, stripped down to his boxer briefs, and climbed into bed. It should have annoyed him, but the rhythmic sound of Greg snoring was endearing, and it lulled him to sleep.
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