Athleticism by liquid_latex [Reviews - 7]

A/N - counterpart for Saras_Girl's 'Altruism'. (challenge fics!) Featured prompt, Greg's PoV 3rd/present, original characters and outside-of-work setting for pre-slash fun! Please leave a review :)


“It’s only one afternoon. What’s the worst that can happen?” Nick asks, and for a brief second, Greg is pleased that Nick thought to ask him.

But then he realizes what Nick is asking, and he is stricken. “Are you kidding? Me? Do you even know me at all?” Greg is saying, blabbering and he knows it, though he is helpless to stop. “You want me…ME….to substitute in your baseball game? Have you lost your mind? I’m like….like an anti-athlete, Nick. I mean, sure I surf, but that’s totally different. That’s just me and my board and the waves….and I haven’t even done that in years. Organized sports? Team sports? Me?”

But Nick is still standing in front of him, the faintest hint of a smile tugging at the corners of his lips as he watches Greg try and talk his way out of it. He shrugs his broad shoulders and presses on.

“Like I said, Greggo. It’s only one afternoon. You probably won’t even have to play. Just sit on the bench. But it’s the quarter-finals and we need a full team or else we’ll have to forfeit. And Mark is out with a knee injury. I thought you could fill in for him. Please?”

Greg half-turns away, runs a hand through his hair, still in disbelief that Nick would even consider asking him for this favour. “Can’t you ask Warrick? Or Archie? Henry? Hell, even Hodges would make a better baseball player than me.”

Nick shakes his head, “Nope, sorry. Warrick has court, Archie is pulling a double and Henry and Hodges are at that conference in Iowa.”

For a second, Greg ponders why he doesn’t know about the Iowa thing, forgetting that he is no longer part of that inner circle of lab-rats any more. He casts a sideways glance at Nick, who looks so infuriatingly handsome and pleading, and it’s beyond Greg’s control to deny him. He would give Nick the moon if it were possible.

Still, he can’t help but be offended that Nick doesn’t know enough about him. After all, he is a CSI, and part of his job is observation, right? And it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out that Greg is not the sportsman type. Maybe Nick’s investigative skills are getting shoddy.

Greg considers this as he also thinks of all the things he knows about Nick. For example, he knows that Nick has a brother and five sisters and calls his father ‘Cisco’. He knows that Nick likes iced tea and hates peanut butter. He knows that Nick prefers his pants tight and likes his shirts tucked in. Is it too much to ask that Nick know things about Greg? Even just this one thing? Really, Greg thought, all Nick had to do was look at him, really look at him to see that he is not an athlete.

Perhaps it is too much to ask, Greg decides in the end. He spends more than his fair share of time ‘observing’ Nick, but apparently Nick does not do the same for his co-workers. With a sigh of resignation, Greg finally agrees to play baseball that Saturday afternoon. But warns Nick, as he walks away, that if he does anything stupid, he cannot be blamed. Nick’s grin widens as he tells Greg to be ready by noon and that he will pick him up on the way to the ball diamond.

“I’ll never understand why so many games involve hitting balls with something hard. Seems a little perverse to me,” Greg mutters and returns to processing the evidence in front of him.

Greg can’t sleep Friday night, despite the fact that he is bone-tired, simply exhausted from work. He keeps thinking about Nick’s request, and how, on one hand, Greg is thrilled to spend time away from the lab with him, but on the other hand, scared to death that he will make a fool of himself.

Not that he hasn’t done that before. But this time it feels different. It’s not just work, not something he can excuse off. This is baseball. Nick’s game. With a bunch of other guys who actually know how to play the sport and are more than likely good at it.

He manages to get a couple of hours of decent sleep after fitfully tossing and turning for what seemed like forever. Greg wakes up in time to grab a shower and a cup of coffee before Nick arrives to pick him up.

When Greg answers the door and finds Nick standing there, wearing the baseball uniform and grinning at him with a spare uniform in his hands, Greg is awestruck. Nick’s shirt is white, with two buttons at the base of the slight vee and dark, hunter green trim around the neck and sleeves. The word ‘Stallions’ is emblazoned across Nick’s broad chest, complete with the flourish and sweeping tail of the final ‘s’ and Greg can’t help but grin at the thought implied by the word. The sleeves are short, and hug Nick’s biceps tightly. Greg wants to run a finger across the tanned skin of Nick’s forearms, but instead reaches out to take the clothes from him.

Nick turns around to survey Greg’s apartment, taking in the sights as this is his first time actually inside the place. As he turns, Greg notices the way the baseball pants fit Nick like a second skin. White, with green stripes running down the sides, they leave little to the imagination, and Greg thinks that if nothing else, this day will be enough just to get to look at how incredible Nick looks.
Grudgingly, Greg retreats into his apartment to change into the baseball uniform, noticing how it doesn’t seem to fit him in the same way it does Nick. Rather, it seems to hang on him; the pants fit alright, but the shirt sleeves gape open, revealing a less muscular physique. Not only that, but it’s green. Greg has never been fond of green. Throw in the way he looks in a baseball cap, with his ears protruding even more now, and his good mood at seeing Nick has all but gone to pot. He wonders why he even took the time to style his hair that morning, now that it would be hidden underneath this hideous cap.

Nick notices Greg’s scowl as he emerges, like a little kid stamping his feet, dressed in the clothes Nick gave him. A slow smile spreads over Nick’s face, crinkling his eyes.

“What’s wrong now, G?” he asks, and Greg thinks for once Nick has finally noticed him.

“It’s green,” he replies as if Nick should understand, but Nick doesn’t and says as much.

“What’s wrong with green?”

Greg huffs, pulls a face and answers, “I just don’t like green, alright?”

Nick’s eyebrows raise a fraction as if he can’t quite believe that Greg is going to throw a little fit based on the colour scheme of the uniform. Greg can see him biting the inside of his cheeks in an attempt not to laugh, and allows Nick to usher him out the door before he can change his mind.

Greg is silent all the way to the ball diamond, but at least he’s not sitting in the passenger seat of Nick’s truck with his arms crossed around his middle and looking out the window, though he really wants to. He contents himself with changing the radio station to something more suitable, and drumming his fingers on the dashboard.

When they reach the field, Greg sees a bunch of men, all wearing the same ugly green and white uniforms, plus a team of other, more luckier players, wearing red uniforms with navy trim. Greg casts a wishful glance at the other team, figuring it’s his own bad luck that has him wearing the god-awful green, and he follows Nick.

Nick introduces him to the other members, only some of whose names Greg remembers. “Josh, Sean, Gord and Tyler,” Nick finishes, as they each raise an arm in greeting.

Greg is then shown to the bench, where, hopefully, he will spend the rest of the afternoon, sitting, counting blades of grass or contemplating the meaning of life….whatever, just as long as he doesn’t have to step foot on the diamond and attempt to look like he knows what he’s doing.

Behind him, Greg notices people seated in bleachers, what he assumes are the players’ wives and girlfriends. Briefly, he wonders if anyone is there watching Nick, but the thought makes his heart constrict painfully, so he pushes it aside and focuses his attention on the game unfolding before him.

Greg is smart enough to understand the very basics of baseball. A pitcher throws the ball to the batter, who attempts to hit it and run around the bases. Not so hard, he thinks, while at the same time crossing his fingers that he is never called up to bat.

When Nick does however, take his stance behind the home plate, with the bases loaded, Greg sits up a little straighter and pays closer attention. He likes the way Nick rolls his hips and gives a few practice swings with the bat before signalling to the pitcher that he is ready. Greg enjoys watching the tendons and muscles in Nick’s arms as he swings, despite missing the first two pitches.

On the third and final pitch however, Nick connects and sends the ball high over the pitcher’s head and far out into the field. Now, Greg gets to watch Nick run. And run he does. Head down, arms close to his sides, pumping in time with his legs, he rounds first base and starts for second.

From his spot on the bench, Greg can see tiny rivulets of sweat running down the side of Nick’s face. He watches Nick’s face, etched in concentration as he reaches second and takes a quick minute to look at the field, before beginning off again for third base.

By now, the rest of the team has started cheering on Nick, and Greg can see the wide grin start to slowly appear on his face as he knows he can make home plate and will have put his team in the lead.

The excitement rubs off on Greg, and he too, is on his feet, yelling happily for Nick, who has reached his destination and is now surrounded by his teammates, who lift him up off the ground in a celebratory embrace. As they do, Greg watches Nick’s shirt rise up on his back, which reveals a sliver of smooth, tanned skin and tiny perspiration droplets, which Greg would love to lick up.
Realizing though, that any sort of arousal would be further defined by his very tight, very white baseball pants, Greg reluctantly pushes that thought away as he walks up and claps Nick on the shoulder. He attempts to make it look like a friendly gesture, but his hand lingers, enjoying the warmth of Nick’s body as their eyes meet and Greg can’t help but notice how Nick’s eyes sparkle delightfully and crinkle slightly at the corners.

Nick wraps a heavy arm around Greg as they walk back to the bench together. Greg sits down and hands the older man a bottle of water, watching his throat muscles work as he swallows. Greg is mesmerized by the sight and forces his gaze downwards. But then he realizes he is staring directly at Nick’s crotch, and that’s a place his eyes really take in.

He feels Nick nudge his toes with his own, and is startled out of his reverie, blushing deeply as he looks up again.

“Enjoying yourself, Greg?” Nick asks and Greg has to swallow hard and try to determine if there was an underlying meaning in Nick’s words, or was he simply talking about the game.

Clearing his throat, Greg tries to make a coherent reply but only manages “Uh, yeah. It’s fun.” Then curses his stupidity as Nick chuckles and walks away.

He runs a hand over his eyes and down his chin as another player sits down beside him. Gord, if Greg remembers correctly. He has light brown curly hair sticking out of the sides of his baseball cap, and as he breaks into a smile, Greg can’t help but notice how utterly feminine his features are. Wide, blue eyes with thick dark lashes and full lips that are pink-tinged. This is one very pretty man, Greg concedes at last, with a small shake of his head.

He steals another quick glance at Nick’s profile, taking in the straight nose, the square jaw, the chiseled features. Pretty is not a word he would ever use to describe Nick, he thinks. Handsome, striking, gorgeous….untouchably, heartbreakingly beautiful perhaps, but never ‘pretty’.

Greg can sense the man sitting beside him staring at him, turns and raises his arms at the elbows, “What?”

Gord gives a half smile and says, “So you’re Greg.”

“Yep,” replies Greg, wondering if it’s too stereotypical of him to label Gord as the ‘dumb jock’.

“Nick’s Greg, huh?” are the next words out of Gord’s mouth.

Greg’s head whips around as his mouth drops open to say something, surely to god he must mean something else other than what Greg is now thinking. Must be something like ‘Nick’s co-worker Greg’ or ‘Nick’s replacement player Greg’ anything but the type of possessiveness Greg longs for. But then he hears a sharp “Sanders!” from up near home plate and his mouth snaps shut with an audible click of teeth.

His worst nightmare is now coming in to play as he realizes he is actually being called up to bat. No way, no way, no way he thinks as he looks pleadingly towards Nick, standing a few feet away. But Nick raises his water bottle in Greg’s direction, with a smirk and a half shrug.

With feet that feel like lead, Greg unwillingly drags himself up and selects a bat. He has watched enough of the game today to effectively mirror the previous batters actions, with the little roll of the hips and the practice swing.

But as the pitcher’s first ball arcs towards him, Greg has a flash of being hit, and jumps backwards out of the way as the umpire behind him yells ‘Strike One!’

Shaking his head, Greg attempts again and manages to stay still this time, swinging only when the ball whizzes past him and into the back-catcher’s mitt with a resounding thud of baseball against leather.

One deep fortifying breath and Greg is ready for his third and final pitch. The ball flies at him and he closes his eyes and swings hard at the last second, surprised to hear a satisfying ‘crack!’ of the wooden bat as he hits the ball, and hits it good.
Disbelief shines in his eyes as he breaks out into a wide grin, smugly pleased with himself and turns to face Nick. Nick cups his hands around his mouth and yells, “Run, Greg!” spurring him into action.

Greg takes off like a flash, and runs like he has never run before. He reaches first base easily enough, hears his sneaker touch down firmly on the white pad as he rounds the corner and takes off for second. Out in the field, a player has the ball and prepares to throw it to the third baseman, but Greg thinks if he just sprints fast enough he can make it in time.

As he runs, he can almost hear the whistle of the ball overhead and he decides at the last minute, to dive for third base, maybe participate in one of those spectacular slides he has seen some of the other guys make. Greg’s arms stretch out in front of him as his feet leave the ground and he sails through the air. Fingertips reaching, desperately trying to touch even the barest tip of third base.
He feels the skin of his knees peeling back as he hits the dirt, his face goes down and he ends up with sand in his mouth and up his nostrils.

Choking, sputtering, he raises his head….and finds he is still half a foot short of his destination, the third baseman has the ball in his glove and is laughing cruelly at him.

Greg pushes himself into a sitting position, spitting dirt out of his mouth, sneezing, and he thinks that if he were on Doc Robbins’ slab right now for an autopsy, Robbins would find traces of red clay in his lungs and possibly even up as high as his brain.
Never before has he felt so humiliated. And worst of all, it happened in front of Nick. Despite the fact that Greg got one runner to home, he feels the sting of embarrassment and wishes the ground would open up and swallow him whole.

He stands up gingerly, trying to ignore the worst of his physical pain, and feebly brushes dirt off his pants as he heads back to the bench. The Stallions’ players congratulate him, but he can sense an underlying laughter in their comments.
Nick stands in front of him and places his hands on Greg’s shoulders. Inexplicably, this gesture of kindness creates little pinpricks behind Greg’s eyes and he fights the urge to break into tears over a stupid baseball game.

“Shut up,” he says to Nick, before the other man can even utter a word.

“Greg,” begins Nick gently, but Greg stops him again.

“Shut up I said. I told you I couldn’t play baseball.”

“Look at me, Greg,” he says, his voice low, and puts a hand under Greg’s chin to lift his head up, forcing Greg to look into his eyes.

Their eyes connect and Greg feels a warmth rush through his body. He thinks this is it, the moment he has been silently waiting for. Nick is going to kiss him. Greg’s tongue sneaks out of his suddenly dry mouth to lick his lips and Nick’s eyes follow the movement. He resists the urge to close his eyes and lean in closer.

Nick is talking again, but the words aren’t registering. Something about a good play despite not reaching the base. Greg’s eyes drop from Nick’s to watch the way his mouth moves when he speaks, almost feeling the movement of Nick’s lips upon his own.

The hands that have been supporting Greg by the shoulders are roughly pushed away, leaving Greg dazed and frustrated. It’s Nick’s turn again at bat. Greg sits down heavily and leans his dirt-streaked face in his hands, feeling foolish that he even thought Nick was going to kiss him.

Greg’s foul mood worsens as the play continues, watching the other players’ hit the ball effortlessly, run steady and strong, make the bases without a hitch. He curses his own lanky physique when compared with the other men. He wonders why he never got involved in high school or college sports, despite his parents not wanting him to.
Nick is all smiles as he walks back up to Greg at the end of the game. The Stallions have won the game and everyone is feeling celebratory. Everyone but Greg that is. They decide to take the merriment to their usual haunt, Winners Sports Club.

Nick does have the courtesy of asking Greg if he’d like to go along, but Greg can tell that Nick doesn’t really want to take him home and miss out on the festivities, so despite the fact that a sports bar is the last place Greg wants to be right now, he finds himself agreeing.

They are silent on the drive over, listening to the sounds of each other breathing, and occasionally Greg steals sideways glances at Nick, driving, and enjoying the contented smile on his face.

Bells jingle on the door as Nick pushes it open, sees his team has made it there in record time, and pushes Greg gently on his lower back, through the crowd, to the two tables they have occupied.
Greg accepts a chair across from Nick and all but throws himself into it. The team decides that Greg, as a rookie today, should buy the first round of beers, which effectively empties his wallet and dampens his mood even further.

The waitress is a knock-out named Jessica, that Nick is familiar enough with to call ‘Jessie’. Her glossy blonde hair falls over her shoulder as she leans down closer to Nick to take his order for chicken wings. Greg hates the fact that he notices how Nick flirts. His easy smile, eyes warm and trained solely on Jessica. Across the table Greg forces himself to swallow his nausea with a gulp of beer, grimacing slightly at the taste.

He makes quick work of his beer and orders another, trying out his phony smile and Sanders charm on the waitress, who barely notices him, but laughs entirely too loud at Nick’s lame jokes. Talk of baseball stats bores Greg nearly to tears, and he orders a third beer, feeling the soothing warmth spread through him.

He makes faces at Nick when no one is watching, and feels jealous whenever Jessica comes by again, always hovering at their table, touching Nick’s shoulders, taking his baseball hat and turning it around backwards on his sweaty head.

Greg reaches out to the bowl full of complimentary peanuts in front of him and arranges five of them in a line. Quick-fire, he flicks them at Nick, using his thumb and middle finger, acting like a spoiled child, but unable to reign in his emotions.

Distractedly, Nick brushes them away and casts flashing eyes in Greg’s direction. Greg knows he is getting angry, but that makes Greg happy. He does all he can now to vie for Nick’s attention. He slouches down low in his chair and kicks at Nick under the table. Nick moves his chair back slightly and reaches for another chicken wing.

He stares straight at Greg as he brings his fingers to his mouth, sticky-sweet with barbecue sauce. Greg’s eyes widen as Nick sucks the sauce off his fingers, his eyes never leaving Greg’s. He watches as cheeks hollow and fill out once again, then the tip of Nick’s pink tongue flicks the last of the sauce off his fingertips.

Greg is painfully hard now, acutely aware of Nick’s every move, and the fact that his eyes seemed to have darkened in this smoky atmosphere. Greg finishes the last swallow of his beer as beautiful, blonde Jessica comes by once more. She leans in to whisper something in Nick’s ear, her red lips grazing the tip, and Greg hears Nick’s deep chuckle in response.

It’s too much for Greg to handle and he slams the frosty beer mug on the wooden table and pushes himself up and away. He hears Nick calling out for him to wait, but he is already gone. Nick is following him and Greg hears someone laugh and say “Lover’s quarrel” but by this time he has already reached the door, flings it open and steps into the parking lot.

He pauses, bent over, hands resting on his knees and takes a deep breath of cool night air, then starts to walk, sneakers crunching the gravel underneath. Nick reaches him, pulls on his arm and Greg yanks it away, and continues walking.
A firmer, stronger hand reaches out and grabs Greg by the forearm, pulling and then pushing him up against the side wall of the bar. Nick is standing in front of him, breathing hard, agitated.

“What’s your problem?” he asks harshly.

Greg’s eyes narrow, and he tries to evade Nick, but the older man has the strength advantage on his size, and keeps Greg pinned against the wall.

“Let go of me,” Greg hisses through clenched teeth.

“Are you going to walk home?” Nick says, this time with a laugh, “Greg, you live on the other side of town. Now stop being a whiner and tell me what the problem is.”

The fact that Nick seems so calm now, even that he could manage a laugh is like a slap in Greg’s face. He sighs heavily, takes off the ballcap and throws it down on the ground like a child.

“You!” he screams. “You’re the problem!” Greg’s anger with Nick not noticing him at all, fuelled by the consumption of several beers on an empty stomach, now has Greg fuming. And rambling. “You call yourself a CSI and you suck at observation. You asked me to your stupid baseball game, you should’ve known that I couldn’t play. And I made a fool of myself, Nick. Besides that, which really sucks in its own right, is the fact that you don’t see me. You really don’t.”

Nick’s hands finally drop from Greg’s arms, and he looks thoroughly confused. “Greg,” he says, his tone softening. “What do you mean I don’t see you? What are you talking about?”

Exasperated, Greg makes one final attempt to walk away, but this time is stopped by the gentle touch of Nick’s hand against his chest. He looks down at the large, tanned hand against his dirty white shirt, and then looks up into Nick’s eyes again.

“Nicky,” he says, his voice pleading, he really doesn’t want to get into this right now. He doesn’t want it to be in anger when he finally reveals his feelings. But Nick doesn’t move, his hand lingers in place and he questions Greg with his eyes.
“You don’t see me,” Greg repeats, “How I look at you, how I feel about you. You just don’t get it, do you? I see you all the time, Nick. I know every little thing about you. I’ve spent countless hours watching you. But you…you’re just too self-absorbed to notice anyone but yourself. And you know what else?”

Now that the words are out, Greg is helpless to stop them, “You’re a flirt, Nick. I think a lot of people might label me as a flirt, when really I just do it to distract myself from you. But you….you’re much more of a flirt than I am. You flirt with Catherine and Wendy at work, you flirt with your little hussy of a waitress here, and damn it, sometimes I even think you flirt with me! But the fact of the matter is, Nick, that none of it means anything to you. You don’t care if every time you flirt with someone else you break a little piece of my heart. So let me go, Nick. I’m going home. Even if I have to walk.”

He starts away from Nick, his shoulders sagging and his eyes stinging, threatening once again to overflow. Nick stands for a minute, silent and staring after Greg. Then, suddenly, Greg finds himself pulled back again, thrust back against the wall with Nick pressed against him, and this time Nick is kissing him.

Helpless, he kisses back. Nick’s tongue maps out the inside of Greg’s mouth, and dimly he registers the fact that Nick tastes sweet and tangy like barbecue. Nick’s hands tangle themselves in Greg’s hair, pulling him even closer, and Greg takes in the sweaty scent of both of them. Shivers are sent spiralling down Greg’s body as he pushes his tongue further into Nick’s open, waiting mouth, feeling the hard, straight edges of his teeth and the softer, fleshy parts of the inside of his cheeks.
Nick pulls away, but cradles Greg’s face, one hand on either side, and rests his forehead against Greg, flushed and breathing heavily.

“Greg,” he says, so softly Greg has to strain to hear him over the music coming from inside the bar, and his own pounding heart. “I see you. I see you plenty. I’m sorry if I hurt you, that was never my intention. I’ve always been a flirt, but with you it always went deeper than that”

Greg closes his eyes briefly, rocks his head gently from side to side, feeling Nick still pressed against him and holding him tightly. He opens his eyes again when Nick continues to talk.

“I wanted you to come play baseball with me today, whether you could or could not play well. I never even asked anyone else, Greg. You were always my first choice. I was hoping that by inviting you to do something outside of work, you would realize I had more interest in you than I rightfully should. I thought it would give us a chance to really get to know each other….to maybe start something…”

Greg laughs then, a sharp sound, that echoes in the darkness, “You couldn’t have just asked me out for coffee?”

He can see the corner of Nick’s mouth twitch in a smile as he replies, “Well, yeah. Thinking on it now, that would make so much more sense. But I saw this as an opening and decided to take it. I’m sorry if I made you feel inadequate, or if you had a shitty time. But I’m not sorry I asked you. And I would do it again.”

“No,” Greg says, still smiling, clutching at Nick’s waist, pulling him closer, “No, please don’t. No more baseball.”

Nick leans in, captures Greg’s lower lip with his teeth, slides his tongue inside briefly, then murmurs against Greg’s lips “Ok, you can pick the next date.”

Greg smiles against the kiss, then deepens it, opening his mouth and sucking on Nick’s invading tongue. Greg thinks back to Nick’s words yesterday, ‘It’s only one afternoon’ but with Nick kissing him the way he is, Greg is sure it’s going to be a whole lot more than one afternoon.

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