Sea of Vegas by RurouniHime [Reviews - 9]

A/N: Here it is, the smut for Shacky, because she's made my transition into this fandom a most delightful experience. This fic contains spoilers for Fannysmackin', Who Are You?, Grave Danger, Play With Fire, Daddy's Little Girl, and Stalker.


“just put me inside you
i would never ever leave
just put me inside you
i would never ever leave you.”

~Flames, VAST

Sea of Vegas

The desert was cold, and Nick felt the sting of it across his shoulders. He shifted, pressing his bare back to the stucco wall, and stared over the tops over his knees until the darkness blurred into one amorphous whorl. When he'd been standing minutes ago, he could see the Vegas lights, neon orange, pink, blue, fuzzy with false warmth. But now, sitting in the corner of his balcony, the incessant glow did not reach past the tops of the buildings across the street, and the night's mantle cloaked, heavy and thick.

Had to be... two? Two-thirty, maybe.

Even Vegas was silent at this hour, though the lights were still beaming. There was just a span of time each night when the world hushed as if drawing itself together, preparing for the explosion of sound that would come with the dawn. Nick let his eyes go unfocused, and the buildings beyond the balcony railing became hazy blocks and indistinct patches of color.

It was a satisfying feeling, knowing he could see the world, but that in all likelihood, there was no one watching him. No one seeing what he was doing at that moment. He could sit all night until the first people began coming out of their homes into the crisp pre-dawn air, dressed in business suits with clacking heels or shiny loafers, watch them walk down the block to catch the bus, or hustle their coffee cups and toasted bagels into their cars, and they would never known he'd seen them.

Powerful. Nick felt around on the ground for his glass and raised it to his lips. Cool water spilled into his mouth and he drank.

He should go back in to bed. It was his night off, and there should not have been a rationale for sitting out here staring into the night as if he could read his future in it. But for whatever reason, it didn't feel like a waste. Only his expeditious brain told him it was useless, that he should be back in bed listening to Greg's soft snores instead of out here in the cold. His body, on the other hand, relished the chill in the air and the wakefulness it shot through his limbs.

The sea of Vegas carried on just over the tops of his neighbors' roofs, and Nick sat safely out of its clutches in the dark nook of his balcony.

He'd left Greg dreaming, eyelids fluttering steadily, the slightest twitch to his fingers. It had been so tempting to enclose those fingers in his own and still the dream... or try to feel it, he wasn't sure which he desired more. Greg's head was nestled against the pillow, chest rising and falling gently above the sheet. Nick knew that if he were to go inside now, he would find his space in the bed gone, usurped by the other man's inevitable sprawl of long arms and gangly legs. It never took Greg more than a moment to slide into his place, just as he slid into his thoughts, as if he belonged there.

Nick knew it was the truth. Only tonight, their one night off during the week, he couldn't concentrate on just Greg.

Nick wiped his mouth and the track of water cooled over his wrist. Down below, a cat slunk out of the bushes on the other side of the street. Nick watched it creep through the grass on silent paws until the foliage of the next yard swallowed it up. Somewhere across the city, Sara was haggling with Hodges over the results of her latest trace, or the good doctor was digging around in the innards of some poor bastard. Grissom was staring at a bug just like Nick had stared at that cat, and Vegas itself lurched onward like its drunken, laughing patrons, until it spilled more blood into the streets for them to follow.

More dead bodies. Broken homes and faces that could just as easily be familiar as they could be unrecognizable.

Nick found himself chewing his lower lip, and stopped.

The city was a turbulent ocean with a calm surface and deep, dark riptides just beneath. The entire world wanted to come here, swim in its eddies and silkier currents, and Nick was finding it harder and harder to see why anymore. The waves were too high and too numerous, and even the people who knew how to navigate through the constant tug lost their hold sometimes.

Nick moved and the stucco scritched deliciously down his spine. Marks Greg might ask about later. And what could Nick say in explanation? Just sitting, sitting and watching. Trying not to think, because at this hour of the night, even thoughts slept.

And Nick couldn't.

He rubbed one hand slowly over his left thigh, feeling the heat through his thin pajama pants, the way the hems slapped around his ankles in the breeze. If he hadn't known he was in Vegas, this house, his house, could be anywhere, part of any city. Except he would know, somehow. There was a taste in the air, sour and ominous, and it had gradually been creeping up on him these past two years until he couldn't remember a time when he hadn't tasted it, and then he couldn't recall why he'd come to Las Vegas at all. Just a smoky, too-bright memory of a green ex-cop who wanted to breathe the city lights and smell the flow of life and money around him, as he couldn't in Texas.

God, he'd been naive. Hadn't he?

Maybe it was time. Nick watched the darkness below the faint glow rimming the rooftops. He had memories enough of this place, and too many of them were not the sort he wanted to reminisce over. He'd grown, learned. Stretched out and felt the world outside of Texas' four walls, and he couldn't remember why it had been enticing anymore, so maybe that was his signal, the one he'd been receiving for months in tiny blurts and rushes of static, his signal that it was time to—

"Ah, fuck." Nick pressed a hand to his head, squeezing his eyes shut. "What are you thinking, Stokes?"

Was he really contemplating leaving Vegas like this, out on his balcony at two-thirty in the morning? He'd called this city 'home' for nearly a decade, a third of his life. He knew it better than the city he’d grown up in, better than the twists and turns of that neighborhood, those streets.

Was he actually considering leaving Greg?

Because that was what he would have to do, he knew. Greg loved his job, and hell if Nick knew why or how, but Greg had somehow managed not to see dark alleyways around every corner of the city, or twisted features on every face he passed in the night, in spite of everything.

Nick couldn't fathom it. He still saw Kelly Gordon from time to time. A dead woman, waltzing down the strip.

There was some ugly joke in that, that even leaving Vegas would be a roll of the dice, and he could very well flounder from sheer lack of what he had built here, just as he tried to escape the other, nastier weights chained to his ankles. He was high enough in rank; he could secure a job elsewhere. But he could never secure the people he worked with elsewhere, in some other city’s lab, and he knew could never secure Greg elsewhere.

It was cold comfort to remind himself that humans were the same in every city, and that he would see the same spattered blood and the same busted bodies in any metropolis, in any small town. He just couldn't feel that truth, not with Vegas breathing down his neck like a slumbering serpent. The danger felt more real in the place where a person was physically.

It was like trying to tell himself that the odds were the same at any table in the room; he always felt the danger more in the cards he was actually holding.

And he didn't think he could ever broach the subject to Greg verbally without breaking under it. Sorry, man, but I have to get out. I can't live like this because it's nothing like I thought living would be anymore. He couldn't say it, and he couldn't do it.

But he didn't know if he could stay either. He didn't know if he could just remain here and wait for the inevitable wrong number to tick up like the second hand of a clock, slow and steady, and never faltering because there were only so many people in Vegas, regardless of the swarming tourists, and eventually...

Eventually it had to catch up with him. He'd evaded it before. But if his job had taught him anything, it was that the line of fire definitely did not stop at a badge. He hadn't stumbled into the sights of troubled wives, insane stalkers, and sadists with penchants for plexi-glass coffins all on his own; His choice of career tended put him right in the path of the oncoming storm.

The difference now was that it had ceased to be himself that he worried about.

Nick rolled his head against the wall to look at the closed sliding door. Just inside, he could see the edge of the drapes, and beyond that, darkness more inky than what was outside. But he could feel the other presence in his house, through the glass door and beyond the quiet hallways and rooms. A scent he knew, a laugh he waited for, and a footstep he could recognize in his deepest sleep. And he should just go back inside and envelop himself in that presence again, before the sea of Vegas caught up with both of them and stole it away from him.

He'd reminded himself often enough of the ludicrousness of his thoughts, as tempting as it was – and he had been tempted – to grab Greg and pull him away in the car with bags in the back, and just drive until nature rolled around them again and the city lights fell away behind. But it was getting harder and harder to resist. He couldn't sit there knowing somewhere down deep, just waiting for Greg to walk off into the night again and not come back. Every shift, some part of him knew it would happen. Saw it and warned him what he would feel when it did.

This city swallowed people. It buried them alive or threw them out of windows. Through glass walls. It beat them up in the street and then gnashed their emotions away until they had to search harder than ever to find who they'd been before.

Nick shut his eyes and kneaded them with his fingers, deep, excruciating massages. Weird colors burst and melded inside his eyelids. Somewhere further out, a car peeled around a curve in the road. The sound was muted, not part of the night Nick sat within, but it sliced through thinly, and Nick frowned into the darkness. The hour was passing, that one cool span of time when the world seemed to be dreaming. The people of Vegas would wake soon, all of them. The workers and the tourists. And the criminals, if they weren't already hunting.

His stomach ached.

Nick got stiffly to his feet, suddenly too jittery to remain outside. There were eyes out here, there were always eyes in Vegas, and he had the ridiculous feeling that even he wasn't safe anymore in his dark little corner. Stupid to think no one could see him. Nick thought about pulling the bottle of Scotch from the back of his spice cabinet and sitting on his couch in the inky dark instead. He picked up his glass and slid the door open, then shut it behind him.

His house was warm and still, and even quieter than it had been outside. Nick headed into the kitchen and set the glass on the counter. Looked at the spice cabinet. But already the change was working over him, the sleepy heat easing his muscles. He sighed and left the kitchen without the Scotch, heading for his bedroom again.

The familiarity of the room struck him forcefully when he entered, and Nick stopped for a moment in the doorway, one hand poised on the wall. Silvery light filtered in through the curtains on the far wall, and the dark shapes of his dresser and night table, the frame of his bed, hunkered there in the silence. The sound of soft breathing floated to his ears. Greg was indeed sprawled across the bed, almost diagonally, body covered to mid-chest. His head rested upon his own pillow, one arm flung across Nick's. Sooty eyelashes brushed his cheeks.

Nick swallowed and crossed the room. He sat down gingerly on the edge of the bed. Greg was in a deep sleep; there was a heaviness to his limbs, as if he were a part of the bed rather than a sleeper in it. The way the shadows and light fell across his skin caught Nick's eye, and he raised a hand, let it drift until it rested on Greg's chest. The heat of the other man's body flowed into his palm. He felt the gentle rise and fall of his breathing, the faint thud of his heart.

Nick splayed his hand across Greg's side, then slid it slowly up – slowly down. Greg's skin was supple, the firm feel of muscle and ribs giving way to the softness of his belly. Nick cupped his hand over his lover's stomach and felt him waking, that first deep breath. Greg shifted, bending one leg up before letting it fall again. His head turned, lips parting. Nick stared for a moment, and then studied the path of his own hand over pale flesh. Greg's navel held shadow, the surrounding skin unblemished. Muscles and bones intact, and Nick just... let himself be comforted by it.

Greg's eyes opened at last, dark and vague with sleep. He blinked slowly once and lifted a hand, drifting along Nick's arm to rest just over his wrist. The tiniest of spasms turned his features.

"You're cold," Greg said, voice still rough from dreams.

Nick smiled faintly. "Sorry, Greggo."

Greg looked away, arching slightly, a slow, sinuous roll against the bed, moving over to the right side. He gathered the covers in one weary hand and patted the new space beside him. "Hop on up here."

Nick slid into bed and Greg slung the blanket over him. His arm remained, however, and he wriggled up against Nick's side until he was a mass of heat pressed along his chest. Greg curled one leg over his hips, drawing Nick closer. He shivered violently. "God, Stokes. Last time I do this for you. You're freezing."

Nick squeezed his arm around Greg's shoulder and felt a palm rubbing over his chest in wide sweeps. Taking its time, touching every inch of cooled skin.

"Lucky you're growing your hair out again,” Greg murmured. “Might have died of hypothermia."

Nick tugged on a lock of Greg's hair, and the administering hand continued its path over his body.

Finally Greg sighed and relaxed against him. His finger tapped twice on Nick's chest. "Can't sleep?"

Nick shook his head. "It's nothing."

Greg nodded. "Maybe you're hungry. I hold that the midnight snack is a bona fide meal. Just, everybody's forgotten about it. Except me." He shrugged, and Nick smiled.

"Nah. I'm okay."

Greg propped himself up on his elbow. He yawned widely, blinking down through the dim light. Nick looked back, uncertain of the expression on the other man's face. There was the constant curiosity there – it was always there – but it wasn't the only thing. He'd seen the rest before, but it didn't make it any easier to name.

In the odd light, Nick could still see the shades of old bruises. Scrapes that had lasted beyond healing to become something more permanent.

Greg patted his arm familiarly. "What do you want to do, then?"

Nick fought the urge to laugh. Only Greg would ask that in the middle of the night, as if he were asking to go out for breakfast, or to the casinos to kick back for the night. "Didn't mean to wake you, Greg."

The other man's lips quirked. "And that so makes it all better."

Nick reached up and traced his fingers along Greg's chin, and his lover stilled. Nick watched as eyelids dipped down, the way Greg's gaze followed his fingers. He rose up on his own elbow and Greg looked at him, brow furrowed. For a second – whether it was a trick of the light or the haze of warmth – he looked so vulnerable.

Nick leaned forward and touched their lips together, felt Greg's surprised breath huff across his mouth. He pulled away, then leaned in again, and this time he pressed, and Greg's mouth opened, and Nick teased his tongue inside. Greg murmured somewhere in his throat. A hand came up to card through Nick's hair, and Greg met the kiss, let Nick draw it deeper. Nick inched closer and Greg settled onto his back on the bed again, not breaking the embrace. Just letting Nick kiss him.

Nick pulled away and heard the slight hush of Greg's exhalation. He stared down at his lover, and Greg frowned very slightly.

"Nick?" Fingers touched his face, hesitating. "You okay?"

Nick didn't have an answer to satisfy either of them. Instead he got up onto his knees, drawing the blanket and sheet away from Greg's body, down over his waist. Greg slept nude often enough, but Nick hadn't noticed it tonight until now. He touched Greg's chest, resting both hands there and then drifting down over each indent and curve. Sliding. Framing. Greg's breathing quickened. Nick felt him shift upwards on the bed, moving until his head and shoulders rested against the headboard. Strong, wiry hands threaded through the short crop of Nick's hair, held his face. Nick turned his head and pressed his mouth against Greg's wrist.

Greg made a soft, soft sound.

Nick bent, felt Greg's hand drop against his cheek, and inhaled deeply, his nose an inch from the other man's chest. Greg's leg moved restlessly and Nick traced one hand along the length of it, stroking his thigh. Up and down, soft hair and warm skin. Greg's breath ruffled over his forehead, a gentle ebb and flow. He squeezed Greg's thigh and felt the hand against his face tremble.

He just knew Greg's toes were clenching, burrowing into the sheet beneath them. Nick shut his eyes, fearing the burn at their edges.

He shouldn't need one person so much. Had to be unhealthy, craving the scent and sweat of another's body like this, unable to fully recognize himself until he... lost himself in it.

This wasn't love; love was sweet and full of light. This was something older, primal and nameless. Soul-deep. Love was too small, too trivial a word for this roiling, helpless, perfect, maddening feeling, as if he could never get enough water no matter how long he drank. He kissed Greg's belly, felt it heave against his lips, and tasted salt, and knew he was so far beyond "love" that the door to that plane had closed behind him long ago.

The line between worlds was so thin during these quiet hours, and Greg's eyes were dark and bright all at once.

He wasn't in love.

He was in Greg.

It was tactile, and love was not. This, this deeper thing, was in Greg's sweat. In his fingers and toes and dampening hair. In the flare of his nostrils, the taste of his shoulder. It was the pressure of his thighs against Nick's sides, and the helpless, too-quick breaths shaking the body under his hands.

He gripped Greg's hips, raised his head, and when he found his lover's mouth, he tasted it and almost fell inside it. Greg's lips parted again; Nick stroked with his tongue, touched teeth... another tongue, suddenly desperate. Nick took Greg's face in his hands and quieted the kiss, drew it back down to the ache, the tender silk and slide. Greg's eyes fluttered closed and Nick smoothed over his lips, his tongue, the curvature of his mouth.

God. This was where he was. Love was in this, but it went further, deeper, darker. Breaths shared.

Life shared.

"Well," Greg murmured – gasped – when the kiss had ended. "This was unexpected."

Nick bumped Greg's nose with his own, still so close to his lover's mouth. He could almost feel those lips centimeters away, a spirit-touch as they moved. As Greg spoke. He leaned up and gave Greg's nose a tiny kiss, nuzzled his forehead, just breathing, breathing in the scent of sleep and newly broken sweat. It no longer came as a surprise to him that even Greg's kiss had a smell, that his entire scent changed just for that tiny difference.

Greg's body quivered infinitesimally as Nick returned to his mouth. Not touching, just hovering. Nick could feel the clench of thighs through his pajama pants, and the hard, hot pressure against his groin. Coiled energy. Greg licked his lips and exhaled in a broken rhythm. Nick knew the effort it was taking him not to move, not to surge up and claim the kiss he was keeping just out of the younger man’s reach. Greg was... Well. The intimacy of their two bodies seemed to draw movement out of him as if siphoning energy from the sun. Nick didn't know if it was something that had always happened to Greg during sex, or if it might be just with him. He wasn't sure he wanted an answer to that question. But Greg had always been startlingly unrestrained during their intimacy, as if the barrier he constantly upheld finally cracked, and he could no longer force stillness into his limbs. His body moved on its own, as if it were another entity entirely, and the sensation of that loss of control under his hands, against his very skin, make Nick dizzy every time.

He sucked air through his teeth and lowered his head at last, meeting Greg's mouth. His lover's lips parted immediately and his body arched very slightly against Nick's. A yearning sated... Nick wrapped one arm under Greg's shoulders and pressed him closer, feeling the play of heat over his bare chest, and the stilted breathing of his partner. He fancied he could almost taste Greg's pulse in his mouth.

"Shhh," he whispered, leaving Greg's mouth at last and trailing his lips down over chin and throat. Greg nodded, but the jitter of his muscles, the quiver of his limbs did not stop. Hands clutched at Nick's shoulders.

"You're in a mood tonight." Greg's voice was hoarse, barely there already. Nick glanced up, suddenly seeing how close he was.

A hundred responses flickered in his mind. He opened his mouth, but found his throat too tight. Too full. Nick shook his head and mouthed Greg’s chest. Slowly. Trailing over an expanse of skin that he’d only recently admitted to cherishing. Darting the tip of his tongue out and tasting the salt of Greg’s sweat. A hand settled gently on the back of his neck, almost in his hair, and fingers squeezed and released. Greg murmured something, and Nick felt the rumble of it under his lips. He kissed Greg’s stomach and traced the arcs of his ribs.

Greg shivered wordlessly.

It was arresting, what the light did to Greg’s body. Blue and pale, the deep shadow of the hollows at his hips and throat, the serene stretch of lean shoulder. Taut thigh. Nick slid the sheets lower, noting the fervent rigidity in Greg’s body. It had taken Nick one night to experience the effect of Greg’s own nakedness on himself, and it still caught in Nick’s chest somewhere, hard-edged and sobering. Only that first night, and the look in Greg’s eyes was burned into his memory. His lover had never shown such a consciousness of his own body since, but that night, Nick knew he’d witnessed the first threads of that thing he was having so much trouble naming. Greg’s body, bared to him completely; the risk had been potent, stealing into the room and into the sex, and most of all, into Nick’s mind.

He dropped down to Greg’s hip, pressing a kiss to the dip just above where his leg began. Greg drew his knee up restlessly, cradling Nick’s cheek against his thigh. Nick stroked the outside of his leg, and Greg’s hands came down again to cup his face, draw it up and away.

“Seriously, Nick,” he said, more clearly than Nick could ever have predicted. “What’s wrong?”

Nick shook his head. Reached to stroke Greg’s face. Deep brown eyes gazed back at him, raked over him, darkened and warmed beyond anything that would ever be seen outside the walls of a bedroom. Nick found himself wondering who else might have been witness to the changing of Greg’s eyes in the past, and struggled to banish the thought.

“Nothing’s wrong,” he said at last, smiling weakly. “Just needed you.”

The crease in Greg’s brow deepened, but he didn’t say anything. Nick took his hand and cupped it, slid upwards to gather Greg into another kiss. His lover’s body went boneless in his arms, legs rising further to grip at his hips again. He thrust lightly against Greg and felt the trembling begin all over again, faint but rising like a tide. The hand in his worked itself free and searched out the hem of his pants, pushing downward. Nick let Greg fumble for another second, and then lifted himself up. The fabric slid free; Nick shimmied out of it and kicked it toward the edge of the bed, then settled himself back onto Greg’s body. A low, almost helpless moan greeted his touch.

Nick’s whole body ached, a dangerous twinge that he had learned to associate only with this, months ago. It had been enough to startle him into silence the first week, when it first spread through him. The more Greg touched him the deeper it went, until Nick couldn’t have judged for himself if it was pain or pleasure he was feeling. It had nearly been enough to send him home the next night, instead of through Greg’s front door and into his bed again. Only Greg caused it, and only Greg made it bearable. He mouthed his lover’s jaw and felt him move somewhere, but didn’t know where until warm fingers pressed something small and familiar into his hand. Greg kissed him, and the tube of lubricant remained between their fingers, interlinked, as Nick pressed him down and returned the stroke of tongue, the escaping gasps.

At last, he drew away and twisted the cap off, squeezed and rubbed his fingers until the liquid warmed. Greg’s foot trailed up the back of his thigh. Nick slicked a path down the other man’s side, into the hollow of his hip and around tense muscle and soft skin. Greg caught his breath when Nick finally found what he was looking for. One of Greg’s hands climbed into his own wheat-brown hair and twisted there, and Nick watched the other man attempt to still himself. Watched him fail and try again, over and over as Nick stretched him, touched deeper.

Within seconds, Greg began to pant. Nick kissed his bent elbow. Even there Greg tasted sensual, beating through Nick’s lips and tongue into his blood stream, heading for his heart. Greg’s eyes fluttered open. His hips shifted tremulously. Nick withdrew his fingers and reached out to the bedside table, found the small square of plastic, and tore it open. He slid the condom on and lowered himself until he was touching Greg all along his front, feeling each halting breath through his own chest. He tongued Greg’s mouth open again, gripped his thigh, and rolled his hips forward slowly.

Greg shuddered head to toe when Nick entered him. He broke the kiss and his breath came too fast over Nick’s nose and face. His eyes shut tight, squeezed against something desperate. But Nick knew that he only had to wait.

“I love you,” Greg stuttered. “I love you, I love you, I love you.”

Greg could never help himself when they did this. Broken words in a shattered voice, professing over and over as if praying. Fingers clenched so tightly into Nick’s arms that he winced, and Greg’s trembling, trembling words continued.

“Love you Nick I love you I love—”

Greg was a noisy lover. Unable to keep silent. The dam just broke, and Nick heard things he’d never imagined, things that made his heart seize in his chest. That thing was trying to get out, trying to use the word “love,” and it couldn’t, the word wasn’t close enough, and so Greg murmured helplessly. Soft, continuous, breathless sounds.

“Shhh, Greg,” Nick whispered. He touched his thumb to Greg’s lower lip, reddened with his kisses. Cupped his cheek and felt sweat drip into his palm. “Shh, I know. I know it.”

Greg’s muscles quaked underneath him, around him, and Nick gasped and pressed his forehead to his lover’s. Held them together while Greg bucked the spasms. Some seconds later, his breathing slowed. Greg’s mouth trembled against his, and Nick could feel that the other man was fighting it, trying to remain above the waters where he was still lucid. Still in control. It flowed into Nick and he fell back from the edge at last, sensing each tensing of Greg’s fingers, each clench of his thighs as if they were the only places he was touching his lover, warm and real, and piercing through the fog of arousal.

Nick rubbed his thumbs gently over Greg’s cheeks. “You ready, Greggo?” he whispered.

Greg snaked a hand up and caught the back of his head, tugging him down and meeting his mouth with a tangling, yearning fervor. Nick lost control of the embrace – couldn’t help himself – thrust forward, and the sound that welled out of Greg’s throat—

The kiss couldn’t hold. Greg broke away, panting for air, fingers sliding through Nick’s hair and gripping there. Nick pressed his lips to the soft hollow of Greg’s throat and moved again. Greg’s entire body shivered and arched.

The words continued in tiny gasps. “Love you… N… Nicky… I love… you…”

In all his lovers, Nick had never had this quiet, continuous reaffirmation during sex. It had never been a question he’d wanted to ask, and now it was one he never had to. Greg answered it as if it always hung there. As if not to say it, not to think it, would force him to wake suddenly from some dream and find it had all vanished. Nick knew, feeling Greg tighten around him, hands searching and grasping, trying to hold something that… couldn’t be held, couldn’t even be touched— He knew that the day he himself woke and found it gone, it would wound him irreparably.

He opened his eyes – couldn’t keep them closed any longer – and Greg’s lips were parted, eyelids hooded over dark irises that were barely focused. His name slipped into the room again on Greg’s voice, and all Nick could see were the pink abrasions, like burns marring his lover’s forehead and cheeks, fainter now, fainter than they had ever been, but the pain that stuck in Nick’s chest was just as huge. Boundless. He reached, touched the worried skin.

And felt something try to work its way free. He bit down on his lip, shut his eyes. But the tell-tale hover of a tear on his eyelashes was there, all the same. Nick kissed Greg’s nose, his cheek, his forehead. His chin.

Greg’s fingers tightened in his hair.

“God, Nicky…” The catch in Greg’s breath told him better than any words just how close his lover was. Nick slid his hands down Greg’s body, stroking and smoothing, feeling his ribs and the hard, real strength of his muscles all over again. Gripped his hips and curled his back and thrust—and Greg’s words deserted him at last, mouth falling open, fingers clutching sheets so very tightly. A nonsensical moan issued from between his lips. His head arched back and Nick laved his exposed throat with his tongue, sucking, tasting, just kissing.

He could feel Greg’s pulse like a bird’s wings against his mouth. He wanted… Nick eased his arms beneath his lover’s back again and touched raised scars and unblemished skin, hugged Greg’s body to his, chest to chest as they moved. Greg wriggled helplessly and Nick sensed the beginning of more violent shudders. The final, lasting few moments before Greg came. He always knew them, as well as he knew Greg’s name and the flavor of his mouth, the pattern of the old hurt on his back. Greg, at his most vulnerable moment, when his body fell out of his control and clenched, arched, curled, wrapped around Nick, struggled back, and finally tumbled into a hot, sweaty, mewling heap.

Greg bit off the stream of words and his hips rolled feverishly, damp skin sliding over Nick’s chest and belly. His thighs quivered and it swarmed up, taking his body. Nick pressed his mouth against Greg’s and they sought air together, stole it from each other.

“Iloveyou—” against his lips and tongue, broken and gasped and not enough, not nearly enough. “NickohgodNick—”

It rippled in the backs of Nick’s thighs like an oncoming wave, climbing, shooting out and up through his belly, his groin, his chest. Nick couldn’t see through the moisture in his eyes, he knew it was unnamable, couldn’t be spoken—

But in the end, even he had to try.

“God, Greg, love you—”

And came.

His hips rocked uncontrollably and Nick could only see darkness, frozen, ohgodohgodohGOD, Greg, Greg’s smell taste heat, Greg…

Somewhere in the midst of it, Greg’s entire body spasmed, clenched and clutched, and fell over the edge with him. Incoherent voice, letting loose in a tongue Nick’s mind couldn’t make sense of, but his ears could, his skin and bones and heart could, and that was the only proper name for it. Voiced at that single, finite instant.

Nick collapsed across Greg’s body, and the other man’s arms and legs fell away, limp and boneless. Shaking. He couldn’t tell which of them was the one shaking.

Several heartbeats thudded by. It was so quiet. Nick’s entire body tingled, tiny sparks dancing over his skin. He could hear the deep in-out, in-out of Greg’s breathing. A hand made its way up his arm, sliding to his shoulder. Nick almost groaned at the near-pain of the touch.

Greg shifted, very slightly. Nick felt the huff of breath over his head. Lips touched his hair, parted, lingering just below the warm weight of fingers.

Nick licked his lips and tasted salt, and Greg. His arms tightened on their own, tucking his lover’s body even closer to himself. Greg’s hands slid down, over his neck and shoulder, to trace across his back. Long, slow sweeps.

Nick could feel Greg’s heartbeat against his cheek. Fast, but unwavering. Just thumping away. He shut his eyes and listened to it slow gradually, slowed his breathing to match.

When at last he rose and withdrew from Greg, it was only to crawl up and wrap himself around the other man, arms and legs and fingers. Greg shifted sluggishly until his body cradled Nick’s. One bare leg slid up and settled over his.

“You know,” Greg whispered, in a voice past weary, “I knew you were gone. I think.”

Nick waited, knowing there would be more. Greg’s sweaty shoulders shrugged upward weakly. “I didn’t wake up. I just...”

The chest beneath Nick heaved. He nodded against it, not knowing how to answer. Or if it even required an answer. Greg continued to stroke gently over his shoulders, continued to breathe quietly.

“Were you outside?”

The silence had been so deep; for a long moment, Nick didn’t want to break it, not even to answer. But he could feel the weight of Greg’s attention, and knew that the moment was gone already. There was little use in wishing it back. He sighed and reached down, tugging off the condom and tossing it away, then easing back down against Greg’s body.

Oddly enough, it did not feel like he had lost anything by moving after all.

“Just out on the balcony,” Nick said. Greg’s hand paused, then continued in its easy movement.

“What were you doing?”

No exclamations about the lateness of the hour, or questions about why Nick felt it necessary to leave their bed. He shut his eyes, suddenly unable to explain, and ashamed that he couldn’t even voice it to Greg. He shook his head.


He wondered for a moment if the questions would come then, but Greg only moved to get more comfortable and kept the silence. And then he wondered if maybe Greg already knew somehow. Understood what he couldn’t put into words.

Talking… When had that become a problem for him? He couldn’t give an exact moment, but he knew it hadn’t always been so. That bottling things up out of habit only went so far, and that somehow he had gone further inside himself than ever. And he couldn’t remember when, or why.

Maybe one person wasn't meant to constantly be witness to the shadowed underbelly of the beast that swam in Vegas' troughs. Maybe eventually it silenced a person, cut their voice out and left them with nothing but their own thoughts to ponder.

And then a new thought: Had it silenced Greg as well somewhere along the way, without him noticing?

He hated this city for what it had done to Greg. For what it had done to him. He pressed his lips to Greg’s throat and hugged him close, for once at a loss and unable to see a path out.

Greg touched his cheek, laid his palm there. Warmth flowed into his face, and the tiniest loosening in his chest flowed with it. “Nick?”

He wanted to grab him, entwine them together and whisper in his ear that they had to get out of there, come with me, we have to leave now, both of us, before I lose you. Nick raised his head and locked eyes with the other man’s liquid brown, and for an instant, the barrier between voice and words wavered.

“What are you doing tomorrow morning?”

A smile broke over Greg’s face, sudden as sunlight. He let out a tiny laugh. “Well. I’m waking up with my lover. We planned it weeks ago, and he gets touchy when I break a date.”

Nick smiled back and caressed Greg’s cheek. “Can I have you for the day?”

Puzzlement, there for a second before Greg hid it. He cocked his head and searched Nick’s face. Nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, you can.”

Nick swallowed. Eased up and kissed Greg’s mouth tenderly. His lover’s lips were so soft, so familiar, tasting of him. Nick closed his eyes and folded Greg into his arms, feeling the ebb tide at last. Greg kissed him quietly, deeply, and Nick thought that tomorrow the right words might come more easily.

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