niceandfluffy2: (nicklight)
[personal profile] niceandfluffy2
FIC: To Whom It May Concern (15/?)
Rating: NC17
Setting: CSI Vegas
Pairing: Gil/Warrick/Nick/Greg in various ways
Warnings: Kink, bloody violence, non-con (not by primary characters)
Summary: When a tip off suggests that there may be murderous films being produced and distributed in Vegas, the male members of the CSI team try an undercover stunt to recover more evidence. However, their tenuous foray into the BDSM scene leads to unexpected and occasionally unwelcome discoveries within the group itself.
Bodyguard services kindly provided by [livejournal.com profile] frostfalcon
Non-beta'd, extreme apologies for any mistakes

Please check tags for past chapters

Extra warnings: **Please note** that this is steering toward the non-con/violent/bad guy element of the story. Think "Fannysmacking" episode level with extra manipulation (and against Greg again, poor chap...)


*

The file was on his desk by the time Gil arrived at the lab. Neat. Small. Carefully placed in the centre of his working area, with the remains of his last files carefully put to one side to give the file extra gravitas. And with a waiting bodyguard, for that matter.

“There you are,” Catherine was inside the office before Gil’s backside managed to find his chair, standing impatiently in front of the desk with her arms folded across her chest. Gil frowned at her, then sank the last few inches before slowly picking up the file.

“Jim’s already been on the phone.” she continued. “He’s coming in to see you. And no, they don’t have anyone in custody, before you ask. Apparently they didn’t get anything at all. No one turned up.”

Gil raised an eyebrow at that little statement. Catherine sighed softly.

“Okay, no one turned up who wasn’t scheduled to turn up, if you prefer. Everyone had a pre-booked session, ranging from the usual to the downright weird.”

The file flicked open idly. “Then he’s coming to see me because..?”

“For a big kiss and a cuddle, what do you think?”

“Now that sounds like an interesting type of visit,” drawled a third voice from the doorway, where Warrick had appeared after changing his clothes at his locker. The man lifted his chin slightly at Gil in a little nod of acknowledgment, his eyes lazy as he watched them. “You got me a new case, Griss, or d’you want me to go over that murder-rape coming up to trial soon?”

“The trial case.” Gil replied, with a little frown as he flicked over a few pages of reports, many of them filled out in Jim’s neat block handwriting. He could feel Warrick’s roll of the eyes without looking at him, but then the case in question needed further investigation anyway. Just because it also served to keep Warrick’s hide safe and sound in the lab was an added bonus.

“They want to call off the protective cover,” Catherine spoke again, her impatience making her words clipped. “Jim’s trying to convince them otherwise, but it’s getting hard to justify resources,”

Gil shrugged slightly. He had already considered at length on the subject, reality being a particularly harsh mistress; the review panels would be concerned over the physical facts. “That’s not a problem. The apartment is rented in my name, and the panic button can be deactivated at a later date. We’ll ease people back into work, and work a few double shifts.”

“Not a problem?” Catherine sighed and raised her eyes to heaven, before looking back at him with the usual Willows expression of exasperation. “You won’t even let Warrick out by himself, and he’s a big boy,”

Warrick merely grinned at that, lounging against the doorframe in the unhurried, easy going manner that suggested he wasn’t planning to go anywhere. Gil sighed, and then rested the file on the table, giving a little pointed look at Warrick as he did so. There was another little nod in acknowledgement, this one reluctant, before the man peeled himself away from the frame and headed off down the corridor obediently. Catherine watched him leave, and then looked back at Gil again slightly incredulously.

“From that demonstration, I’m assuming your little group is doing well?” she commented, as she shut the door after him. “He doesn’t normally do obedience well whenever he wants to listen in on things,”

Gil’s gaze flickered to her, before he offered her a little smile. Catherine, being Catherine, managed to translate said smile into a whole novel worth of confession. There was a soft chuckle, then a fond look back at the corridor.

“Well, just as long as you don’t make him all meek and mild. I like him with an element of ‘grr’,” she advised, finally sitting down on the chair and crossing her ankles demurely.

“I suspect I would need some experimental brain surgery to ever get him either meek or mild, but objection noted.” Gil replied idly, his attention moving back onto the file and slowly opening it again. He began to read down the list, each registration number having been noted and checked against the list that Lady Heather had provided. Nothing unusual, and everyone who had arrived had been confirmed active in the session rather than simply turning up and going once again. There had been nothing that had sparked suspicion, other than one young man who had apparently ‘turned up in costume’, according to Jim’s notes. Lady Heather had already confirmed the young man in question was simply over enthusiastic, and much too busy to be paying anyone else any attention whatsoever other than the staff members directly associated to him.

“Jim’ll probably cover everything when he gets here, but he’s not happy. He reckons now that if they were intending to do anything, they would probably have watched your place with the intention of following you as you left. Since you’ve not been there, they’d probably just wait until you are,” Catherine crossed her legs. “If they were serious. If they’re not serious..,”

“.. then the used resources are going to be even harder to justify, yes, I know,” Gil frowned slightly as he flipped over to the photographs that Brass had included.

“Jim’s said he’s happier to discuss finances than to try to get you guys back from some nasty situation, but there’s only so much he can do.” Catherine was watching him with such a pointed message that Gil could feel the weight of her gaze as he continued to assess the file. It proved difficult to ignore for any period of time, not least because he had a sneaking suspicion her patience would run out and he would find himself with a particularly bruised ankle. Gil sighed softly, then looked up.

“I’m getting the impression you want me to say something.”

“Well, yes, a discussion would be nice,” Catherine frowned at him. “We’re in danger of being in dangerous waters by ourselves, Gil.”

“And you think I have a magical solution to this?” Gil tapped the file with a finger pointedly. “I have nothing more than what you know, and from the sound of it, you and Jim have already had a long conversation over the subtle aspects that don’t belong on an official file. And I know you’re not going to be silly enough to accuse me of being complacent. These are my guys, both in and out of the workplace. I don’t take threats to their wellbeing mildly. However, we do have to be reasonable.”

Catherine fixed him with a careful stare, before sighing softly and looking across at one of the jars as she thought things through. “You left Nicky and Greg in the apartment, right?”

“That’s right. I won’t be able to do it indefinitely, though. We’re already under strain, and although I appreciate that you and Sara can handle things if necessary,” Gil’s voice had lifted slightly to counter act Catherine’s immediate movement to speak. “you shouldn’t have to cope on minimal personnel for longer than necessary. When they come back to the lab, Greg will remain in the safety of the lab, and Nick will only go on cases when he has the appropriate backup and most likely Warrick in the vehicle with him. He can also assist you and Sara if you need any additional backup yourself, especially when it comes to processing. Since those two are the ones who have had the sizable threat toward them, I feel it best to steer our resources toward them.”

“Nicky’s going to get frustrated with that,” Catherine murmured softly.

“I can live with him getting frustrated,” Gil raised an eyebrow. “If things continue to remain calm for a few weeks, he can go back to his usual duties. Before then, I’m not willing to take the risk.”

“And the risk to yourself? To Warrick?” Catherine pressed.

“If you have a good suggestion, now would be the time to mention it.” Gil shut the file briskly and leaned back in his chair, fixing his gaze firmly on Catherine. “My reactions are limited. If it was purely one person, then yes, we could cope and probably cope well. Having the majority of the team under surveillance isn’t practical,”

He watched her bristle, Catherine’s arms folded stiffly across her chest as her preference on their safety hit reality head on. Again, that wasn’t surprising, and nor was her immediate lack of outburst afterward. Catherine was passionate and she was protective, but life had taught her realism even before she entered the job. Wishing for something didn’t necessarily make it happen; Gil didn’t want to think how many people who had ended up on the mortuary table had hoped for a different ending. It didn’t necessity mean she had to like it.

“I know you care, Catherine,” Gil said softly, watching her sympathetically. Catherine’s protectiveness was so real, caring for each of them as though they were her own flesh and blood with all the discipline and love that came with it, and yet much of what was happening concerned a situation that she could never influence. He wondered about that, too. Warrick and Catherine had spent much of their time flirting, sharing secret smiles with each other whenever they thought no one was watching, and yet it was Gil’s bed Warrick shared. And then there was Nick, whose puppy dog eyes had often encouraged a gentle touch on his head or shoulder or arm, his easy smile showing his affection and appreciation for Catherine’s gentle touch and teasing word. Gil had always put it down to Nick’s large family, used to either mother or sisterly fussing, but the only blood that tied the pair came from their shared cases. And Greg, cheerful, cheeky Greg, who had almost got himself a spanking in the lab on more than one occasion and who had often turned to Catherine as the alternative authority figure whenever his little plan had failed to work.

Apparently his thoughts were a little too clear on his face as Catherine’s eyes narrowed suspiciously.

“Do I want to know what you’re thinking about?” she challenged him, and then shook her head like an irritable pony annoyed at a few flies. “Oh, I don’t want to know, especially given what you boys get up to in your spare time now. Okay, let’s just focus on what we can do. D’you think there’s any danger?”

“There’s always danger,” Gil replied softly.

“Gil, I swear I’d smack you if I didn’t know you’d enjoy it,” Catherine’s look intensified to laser strength. “I meant-,”

“I know what you meant. And I don’t know.” Gil’s finger tapped on the desk gently, his eyes distant as he thought things through yet again and still not finding any solution that fitted comfortably. “It could be nothing. It could be anything.”

“It could have a nice, neat way of being applied to the paperwork as well, but I guess that’s not happening either,” came a familiar voice as Brass walked in. “Catherine fill you in? Great. Well, we got nothing more interesting than a particularly suicidal squirrel, and that’s not going to get the department off my back. You heard anything from Lady Heather?”

“Should I have?” Gil frowned at him.

“Well, considering the pair of you have similar goals now, I thought she’d probably be on the Bat Phone to you most evenings,” Brass replied dryly. “Well, without any other solid evidence turning up, I can’t hold the security. I’m having a hard enough time explaining what the problem was in the first place without getting all technical on them, and trust me, these guys don’t want to hear about leather and latex and collars when they’re in the office. Outside the office, well, who knows.”

“At this stage I’m going for no news being good news.” Gil replied slowly. “I haven’t been contacted again by Blake. Perhaps he’s been scared off.”

“Or perhaps he wasn’t the problem we were led to believe in the first place,” Jim raised an eyebrow. “How much did your Lady Heather know of your inclination towards the rest of your group?”

“Exactly what are you saying?” Gil lifted his head, a cold look aimed at him.

“What d’you think? She’s good at manipulation, and pow! Suddenly you’re all kinky with several of your colleagues and no ones batting an eyelash at it either.” Jim shrugged carelessly. “Perhaps Mr Blake isn’t anyone but an old friend here to do a favour. Think of it as a birthday present.”

“No.” Gil shook his head. “That’s not how Heather works.”

“No, Heather works in a big house with latex and rubber and toys and lots of boys and girls at her beck and call,” Jim’s eyebrow rose a little higher. “You have to wonder exactly what lines are going to be drawn here. Getting you firmly in the business.. well, it’s good to have people with influence isn’t it?”

There was nothing but solid, dangerous, meaningful silence between them, Gil’s eyes locked with Jim’s. Catherine sighed softly.

“Is this making the paperwork easier as well?” she enquired softly. “My vote’s with Gil on this one, much as I hate to admit it. There’s no way she’s going to want law enforcement to associate her business with risky practises unless there was genuinely a problem. She could have tackled Gil a number of safer ways,”

“Thanks. I think,” Gil replied dryly. Catherine rolled her eyes.

“Look, I just defended you, so you can stop giving me that look,” she replied briskly. “I still think there’s a threat. Just how much of one .. well, it’ll depend. How practical did our Blake seem? All mouth and no trousers?”

“Checked him out already. Seems to be pretty active in his line of business.” Brass sighed, and then shrugged at Catherine’s look. “His main firm seems large and genuine.. and it turns out he’s got a erotica shops to boot.”

“Erotica shops? You mean porno stores?” Catherine’s brow furrowed slightly.

“Probably. The main difference seems to be the price, not that I’ve really gone in one.” Brass replied. “And don’t start getting me warrants to go check them out, I’ve just eaten. They seem pretty dull, as those type of places go.”

“That could be where he’s distributing the films from,” Catherine said softly, turning her gaze to Gil once again. Gil rubbed his chin with his finger, thinking things through, and then shook his head reluctantly.

“If the films were on obvious display or could be obtained through that method, Heather would have got a copy already. If you don’t trust your bondage organiser with your videos, then you won’t trust many people,” Gil said softly, then sighed. “I believe we will just have to wait for them to make the next move. We’ve had nothing more interesting than a box of chocolates, although thank you for the thought,” he added as a side note to Catherine.

Catherine’s brow furrowed even further, confusion showing in her eyes. “Chocolates? I didn’t send you chocolates,”

Now it was Gil’s turn to look confused. “Yesterday. We had a box of expensive chocolates sent to us with your name as the benefactor. It came directly to the apartment,”

“The secret, no one knows we’re here apartment?” Brass’ eyes narrowed as he spoke slowly, his back straightening with each word. “Is anyone still there at the moment?”

And it was that exact moment that Gil suddenly realised his blood could indeed turn to pure ice.

*

It was a strange state of affairs, Nick decided as he cast his gaze critically around the room. Ordinarily as soon as he came home he crashed out on the couch, or on the bed, or shove his head under the shower and hope he didn’t drown if he fell asleep mid-soap sud. Here, things were different. He needed something to do, in much the same way as he needed something to do with his hands in the lab, and since there weren’t any computer games here or various samples (thankfully), then tidying was going to have to be his source of release.

Obviously others had their own versions of relaxation. Greg, for example, was stretched out on the couch idly flicking through the channels with the disinterested expression of the general channel surfer. Every so often a paper ball would aim itself at Nick, which was normally thrown back with much more accuracy than Greg had managed at the start.

“You’re making me feel guilty,” Greg complained as he watched him.

“Well, come and help,”

“Not that guilty.” Greg shrugged, and squirmed further into the couch with a soft sigh. “C’mon, sit down .. or stretch on your stomach if its more comfortable. Slob with me. You know you want to.”

Nick sighed and continued. “I’ll be done in a little while,” he pointed out.

“Yeah, that’s what you said five minutes ago.”

“Five minutes ago is a little time. A long time would be, I don’t know, an hour or two.” Nick protested, and then batted another paper ball away with a hand. “C’mon man, give me a break! If I’m not doing it, you’ll be doing it and then you’d really have stuff to moan about.”

“Oh, I’m good at moaning,” Greg gave him a wicked smile. Nick sighed again.

“The bad type of moaning.” he reminded him. There was a little snort then Greg turned back to the television, flicking through a few more channels in case their programmes had suddenly found the need to switch to something else. There was another little noise, this time of surprise, and then Greg fished out his cell phone from his belt and gave it a highly suspicious look as though it had turned into a small vibrating fish in the meantime.

“Ah, shit.” he sighed. “I gotta go in. Some problem in the lab, they’re backed up. You see what happens if I’m not there? I’m a DNA god, I swear, getting everything magically finished in time.”

“Pretty sure acts of god aren’t supposed to be magical,” Nick bent to scoop up one of the paper balls. “Grissom call you in?”

“Yeah. I’m special,” Greg grinned, his arm draped over his forehead dramatically before he eased himself up and looked at Nick curiously. “Although I thought we weren’t supposed to start breaking the groups up?”

Nick shrugged, critically assessing the surfaces for dust. “I dunno, man, perhaps there’s been some recall from last night’s surveillance operation. They ain’t gonna keep us all away if Brass and Ecklie decide we’re fine.. which we are, Catherine’s always been over sensitive. Anyway, I’m not planning to go anywhere. Finish this up and then probably get some extra shut eye. Real boring stuff,”

“Nicky, you in bed is never boring,” Greg said solemnly, and then gave him another wicked, shining grin as he eased himself up from the sofa and stretched. He glanced at the box in the kitchen, then waggled a finger at it. “No eating the chocolates while we’re not here, okay?”

“Would I dare?” Nick rolled his eyes.

“Depends on how hungry you get.” Greg replied idly, fishing out his boots and beginning to pull them on. “Take out menus are on the fridge, cookies in the pot have been declared Warrick’s, anyone eating them suffering some nasty death involving.. well, I wasn’t entirely sure what it involved, but the gesture was impressive. Oh, and there’s no bread, sorry. Get pizza.”

“Is that an order?”

“Well, of course it’s an order, it’s from a menu. Oh, you mean an instructional orders, well… yeah, why not. Get some sodas at the same time, boy, snap snap! Oh, oh! And waffles. Lots of waffles.” Greg finished his boots, and then stood up. “Just get a whole lot of food of the naughty for your arteries variety,”

Nick saluted. “Yes sah!”

He was treated to another Sanders classic grin with extra cheek, before Greg finally grabbed his coat from the hook and headed out the door. Nick sighed in relief. Sure, it was great having everyone together, but there was a small little part of him that welcomed a few hours of peace. He knew Gil had the same thing, but then Grissom had an office he could barricade himself in. All Nick could really hope for was a case that was messy enough that people actively avoided him, although granted that happened far too often.

He walked into the kitchen and gave a satisfied nod at what he found. Gil hadn’t even told them about the clean up rules, but it was pretty damned obvious what needed to be done, and Nick took pride over thinking ahead and servicing his ‘master’s’ wishes without his master needing to give the order. Doing the washing up was definitely not one of the dangerous assumptions.

His gaze took on the box of chocolates that had arrived so dramatically last night, still sitting innocently on the counter. Nick moved a little closer, opening the cardboard flap curiously to look down at the inner box. Not a brand he recognised, but the box was glossy and fancy and probably intended to be romantic. Nick grinned to himself. Probably rose petals underneath the damned thing, knowing Catherine; if she was going to do something, she was going to do it well.

Shrugging to himself, Nick prowled past the fruit bowl and picked up an apple, tossing it from hand to hand before sinking down onto the sofa as casually as he could manage. Peace.

Or at least, peace just for a moment anyway.

“Greg?” Nick looked up as the front door sounded, and Greg slipped inside, slightly breathless, with a sheepish expression on his face.

“Forgot my ID. Be just a minute. Hang on.” he rushed toward the bedroom at a little trot, stating firmly that he knew that he really should be already on his way to the lab. Nick grinned and settled back down on the couch again, imagining in his mind’s eye the little whirlwind of activity that would be taking place in their shared bedroom as Greg hunted for his identification. And it would be a hunt, Nick knew that; he’d already cleaned a lot of the bedroom and couldn’t remember seeing it.

Apparently Greg wasn’t going to be the only person to poke a hole in his moment of peace as the door gave a sharp rap-de-tap-tap. The apple paused on mid path to mouth, Nick looking at it wistfully before putting it to one side and easing himself up.

“Delivery,” Another clipboard was thrust in front of his nose as soon as he opened the door by a clearly impatient man in grey overalls. Nick blinked and leaned back slightly to focus on the paperwork, then frowned at the package itself. Or, rather, crate. If that was a box of chocolates they were all destined to die from gorging themselves to death.

“Where d’you want it?” another man spoke up, lifting his baseball cap upwards to scratch at his forehead before looking at Nick expectantly. And yeah, Nick could see that; the thing looked like it probably caused them more than a few curse words to get it to the door.

“Uh, this way,” he stepped back, the pen pressing over the line but failing to write. Nick swore softly, and turned to find a new pen as the delivery men picked up the crate and slowly began to carry it inside the room. His fingers had just closed over another biro when Nick suddenly felt a cloth clamp itself across his mouth, his startled cry weakening almost immediately as his indrawn breath sent the anaesthetic into him.

From that point on it was all a blur and a thump-thump-thump of noise. The sound of something wooden, creaking, his dazed mind thinking - Is that a ship? before he felt himself distantly moved. The sound of talking, but it wasn’t talking, not really, just a series of tones in little patterns that reminded him of the teacher on Charlie Brown. And then there was the sound of someone else, someone he did recognise, Greg’s voice a sound of alarm and then a loud crash, but that too was so quickly fading into blackness as Nick’s eyes closed.

Good rest was always so hard to come by.

*

“There’s no answer at the apartment, and neither Greg nor Nick is picking up their phone.”

Their footsteps sounded on the smooth floor as Gil hurried toward the car bays, his phone clamped to his ear as he pushed aside the door. He could already see Warrick ahead of him, pulling open the car door and sliding inside, immediately switching on the engine and sending twin blasts of light into the gloom.

“Uniform have been informed. Someone’s on the way to the apartment now,” Brass fell back, giving them a little salute nod of the head as Gil reached the door and yanked it open. “We’ll find them,”

“Keep me informed,” Gil had to raise his voice as Warrick put his foot down as soon as the car door shut, pulling the vehicle forward and out toward the highway. Brass raised his hand in an acknowledgement, and raised his radio to his mouth as he started giving orders to some unseen colleague. Gil swore softly to himself as the vehicle continued to move, trying Greg’s number yet again; the man didn’t have a shower without his cell phone nearby. And yet, still nothing.

“I shouldn’t have left them alone,” he hadn’t realised he had spoken aloud until Warrick’s fist connected firmly to his thigh, startling him out of his daze.

“Don’t do this t’me, man,” Warrick warned, his head briefly turning to flash Gil a hard look from his cat-green eyes before Warrick turned his attention back to the road they were travelling down. “Need you to keep calm. They could be fine.”

And Warrick was right, they could be fine. There were a number of innocent reasons why neither of them were answering their phone, including a particularly passionate encounter in the bedroom than even the socially conscious Greg wouldn’t have interrupted for all the juicy gossip in the world. And yet it felt wrong, too damned wrong. Ignoring one phone call was one thing. Ignoring the apartment phone, then each of their phones, then back to the landline.. no, that wasn’t either of their styles. Constant calls meant someone really wanted to get in touch with them, and even their libidos wouldn’t tackle their responsibilities. His boys knew their boundaries.

Gil swallowed as he stared out of the window, feeling the pain and frustration of nervous anticipation settle in his bones. He was conscious of Warrick giving him side looks out of the corner of his eye, knowing that this most likely meant that the other man was trying to read whether Gil was coping or whether he was going to start discovering the pleasures of his firearm, but unable to find the words to soothe the other man. He could barely soothe himself, in the privacy of his own head. Externally, of course, was another matter.

“When we get there, I want you to process the entry point.” Gil’s voice sounded far away, as though another person had hijacked his voice box and was having amusement in playing with it, but the tone was still authoritative. “I’ll take the primary scene. Swab for anything that might give us anything. Does that block have any cameras?”

He couldn’t remember. He could remember checking, once upon a time, when he was treating everything as ‘could happen’ rather than a serious probability. Warrick gave a little rough grunt as he swung the vehicle through the traffic lights and headed up the next road.

“Some of it’s covered. Road’s got a camera just ‘bove the traffic lights that catches the busy junction. There’s a camera set nearby from one of the other blocks, and there’s one from a store.” Warrick paused, and then dipped his voice that hinted that Gil knew all of this. “Point was not to give them anything obvious to shut off. Most of the roads are caught one way or another through those cameras, they ain’t getting to all of them. Probably don’t even know they’re there.”

Gil made a non-committal ‘mmm’ noise in his throat as he watched the scenery flash by. And yes, now that Warrick was speaking, he did remember the consideration. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket the theory was, and it seemed a damned good theory when all you were expecting was a stalker. When the enemy was already inside the room, then he would have preferred one ‘egg’ trained on the spot where the issue started.

“We’re here,” Warrick pulled the vehicle to a halt, barely having had time to switch off the engine before Gil was out and running toward the door. Uniform had beaten them to it, but there were no paramedics nearby, nothing that suggested that they had found someone who was still capable of needing help. A sergeant stepped forward, giving Gil a respectful nod of his head as he waited for Gil to stop.

“Officers have already checked the house. No occupants.” he reported, his eyes moving to the side briefly as Warrick joined them before looking back sympathetically at Gil. For a moment Gil wondered whether he knew, whether the whole damned base knew, that he had taken the boys, offered them promises and so spectacularly failed to protect them, but then reality returned with a thud and a slap around the face. No, they wouldn’t know. They would simply know that they were a close team and that Gil had lost two members in such a short space of time. Any commanding officer or supervisor would be concerned.

Gil pushed past him, his gaze already scanning the space for evidence. He could hear Warrick behind him, taking up the reins of the conversation in the capable manner the man always displayed on a case, but this wasn’t a case, nowhere near. This was personal.

“Yes, sir,” the officer’s voice continued in response to a question Warrick had asked. “We’ve got people knocking on doors. No reports yet-,”

The man’s voice faded into the background as Gil focused on the damage in the room. Nick had cleaned up, he could see that instantly; the washing up had been done, the plates neatly put away and everything placed just-so in the manner that someone must have drilled into the young Nick Stokes over and over again until he did it automatically. Certainly Greg wouldn’t have had anything to do with it, given the state of the interior of his vehicle; where Nick was trained and methodical, Greg attracted mess like a magnet.

And yet in the middle of all this methodical cleanliness, there were the pieces that didn’t fit. Greg’s ID, forlorn under a side table, looking as though it had been kicked carelessly there. A stool tipped over, the legs pointed at the door as thought the furniture was accusing someone. Scrapes, tussles, the remains of what appeared to be a pot plant scattered across the floor. A rug, off centre and dishevelled on the bare floor. The shine of a phone out of the corner of his eye, dropped next to a chair, that turned out to be Greg’s.

“There’s a text here from the lab,” Warrick had taken it, immediately going through it for information. “Calling him in. Says it’s an emergency. You didn’t-?”

“No.” Gil’s answer was curt and short. Archie had already shown them all how easy it was to simply use a computer to send messages, making it appear as though the message had originated from any number of legitimate sources. And then of course were the physical signs he really didn’t want to see.

“I’ve got blood,” he spoke loudly enough to interrupt the little session behind them. He heard Warrick’s response, a soft guttural noise that spoke of both distress and anger, but Gil was already working, collecting the sample, knowing that the information was going to be far too long in coming. There were only a few drops, a dark reddish brown and already drying, but enough to suggest that the wound was flowing freely. Gil’s eyes lifted, taking in the sight of the splatter itself; too obvious, too horribly obvious, the line of spray stating clearly that the man had received a hard blow that had an immediate and bad response. A broken bone, perhaps, or a concussion across the head. And if it was a head shot, then they didn’t need pools of blood before the possibility of serious injury could occur.

It was all too clear that their attackers had arranged for Greg not to be at the apartment as they came for Nick. And yet that part of their plan had clearly failed, the struggle almost certainly from Greg.

They all had far too much experience in what normally happened when the plan left the safe, planned areas and entered improvisation. People panicked. People reacted without thinking. And people got careless, with the evidence .. and with their victims.

“Warrick, take the cameras,” Gil spoke again, standing up and handing the swab he had just taken to the other man. “Get that back to Catherine. I want confirmation who that is, and information on any suspicious vehicles. They had to have transport. Send Sara back to me, I want this place processed asap.”

There was a little flash in Warrick’s eyes that spoke of a brief disagreement that Gil almost ignored, although the other man kept his mouth firmly shut. Gil raised his head, tackling the mutinous expression head on.

“What?”

“I can get the tapes. Send uniform to Catherine with the stuff. Ain’t needing me to be a post man, y’know?” Warrick frowned, and then frowned even harder at Gil’s expression that was slowly changing as Warrick’s comment registered. “What?”

“Post,” Gil could see it all vividly now. The chocolates. The animal organ. The simple reason why Nick or Greg would simply just open the door to a stranger; give a man a uniform and a clipboard and you could conquer the world. A finger aimed itself at the sergeant forcefully, ignoring the bewildered expression in the other man’s eyes. “Get your men to ask about postal vans, any type.”

He swiftly moved to the kitchen, taking hold of the box of chocolates and immediately folding the cardboard flap back over to read the stamps.

“Specifically a group called DNT Mail Express. I don’t recognise that group.” Gil glanced up to Warrick, who shook his head. Gil hissed softly through his teeth, then back down again. “Take this back to the office and process it.”

“Chocolates?” The sergeant looked at the box incredulously, then up again. “Someone sent you poisoned chocolates?”

“No, it’s ..,” Gil paused, then sighed and gave a nod to Warrick. “We’ll run a tox check just to be sure.” He looked back at the sergeant, then frowned. “Well? Go!”

He earned himself a salute, but he didn’t care. He had processing to do, and very limited time in which to do it.

*

He was first conscious of a very cold floor underneath him. Nick shivered, his limbs like lead, but his eyes remained as closed as he could get them as he struggled back into sleep. Only that just wasn’t happening. Little stabs of pain were persistently uncomfortable, poking at him as he shifted on the concrete floor trying to find a place that didn’t hurt.

Slowly, reluctantly, like a small animal coaxed out of its hole, Nick’s memory slowly began to reassert itself into a confused mix of darkness, noise and confusion. His eyes slowly opened, but that seemed to make little difference to his information; a mixture of grey and black danced in front of his vision, a smell of decay slowly sharpening as he did so. And then there were the noises. Soft, little breaths that sounded like someone was trying to breathe in limited oxygen, little murmurs, shifting sounds in sand…

Nick closed his eyes and slowly eased himself up, shaking his head slightly as he desperately tried to clear the fog that was currently taking up residence in his skull. That didn’t seem to help much either, adding a ringing in his ears and a dizziness in his body that really seemed like an overkill to his already weakened form. He curled his hands in the floor and slowly looked up, squinting in the poor light as he tried to make sense of the information around him.

One thing he did remember and that was who was there at the time. He had to find him, and pray that they had only attacked their apartment and not caught the others too.

“Greg?” his voice was husky, battered and barely there, a mere whisper where he had been trying to assert at least a small amount of control over his surroundings. Nick swallowed through a dry, painful throat, and tried again. “Greg?”

There was a noise that sounded as though he had gained an answer, although he couldn’t work out whether it was the fault of the source or his hearing that had made it completely incomprehensible. Nick blinked again, focusing his full attention on getting at least one of his senses up and running, and slowly the ground in front of him gained definition. Not that there was much to help when it did. Grey, featureless, the room was a shadowed box that had more than an element of a warehouse to it. Nick slowly looked around him, allowing his eyes to adjust to the limited light that seemed to be coming from a small window set in the wall behind them and from a crack under the door, and then slowly on the shadowed figure in a corner near him. Nick squinted at it uncertainly, remaining where he was as he tried to assess whether the person was a threat or something else entirely.

The figure moved with a strange, soft jingling noise, although it didn’t come closer. In fact, everything about it looked awkward, the posture, the height, the-

-bright blazing light suddenly lit up the room, causing Nick to hiss in pain and screw up his eyes as he ducked his head against the assault on his vision. He had no idea how painful light could be, but there it was, causing his head to throb so aggressively that it felt in danger of falling off. Thankfully it slowly began to ease; panting, disoriented, Nick slowly blinked at the floor again and then slowly raised his head as the light began to help rather than hinder him.

“Greg?” he whispered, and now this one had nothing to do with his voice, or his disorientation, or indeed anything biological as he stared in shock at the figure that had been shackled to the ceiling. Dull metal chains hung from the ceiling, keeping Greg’s slim wrists no lower than head height; metal cuffs dug painfully into already raw skin, Greg’s conscious but exhausted eyes staring blankly ahead. A bruise was blossoming on his face, evidence of a nasty smack to his temple, and his bare chest seemed to be littered with scratches and bruises and marks that Nick didn’t even want to contemplate as he looked at him in horror. They had left Greg a pair of boxers, one side torn and the red colour faded and dusty already; the rest of his body was naked to the elements.

Nick slowly pushed himself up onto hands and knees, and then stumbled forward. His own partial nudity was briefly acknowledged, but where roughness marked every inch of Greg’s skin, Nick was conscious only of a few bruises from where he had been lying badly. His own boxers were pristine, perfectly untouched. But then they had come specifically for Nick; Greg had merely got himself in the way, a human roadblock that had been beaten into submission and dragged along, and god, Nick should have stopped them, he should have done anything than just fall victim to their attack without even a murmur of objection. No, the fighting had been left to Greg, and fuck, it showed, over every inch of abused, battered hide.

The tips of his fingertips gently touched Greg’s cool, damp skin, Nick desperately trying to see any recognition in Greg’s familiar eyes as he frantically ran through all the head injuries in his mind. Concussion, perhaps? An internal cranial haemorrhage, slowly dying in front of him…

“Greg, speak to me,” Nick said softly, urgently, and felt a surge of hope as Greg’s eyes slowly focused on him and gradually began to take on signs of life. Nick lifted his hands and carefully removed the fabric gag that had been forced into the younger man’s mouth, each soft moan and flinch causing Nick to wince in empathy.

“It’s okay, sweetheart,” he whispered, Nick’s gaze already lifting to the shackles in determination. “I’ll get you out-,”

“Go,”

For a moment, Nick wasn’t sure whether he’d heard correctly. The noise had certainly come from Greg’s throat, but then it held more relation to a frog’s croak than anything a human would have made. He stared at him incredulously, then decided to ignore it as the ridiculous suggestion it was. His fingers explored the metal chains and the cuffs, trying to discover a weakness he could exploit. Greg coughed, a thin trickle of blood trailing from the corner of his mouth before he shook his head and fixed Nick with a firmer, more determined look that was tinged with desperation.

Go,” There was no mistaking what word Greg was trying to say now, and they both knew it. However, just because Greg could speak didn’t mean that Nick had to obey. His brows settled into a stubborn scowl as Nick’s fingers continued to work fruitlessly at the metal shackles.

“Nick, there’s no way. You have to go. Run. Get help. Please,” there was an element of fear and despair to Greg’s voice, so different to his usual optimistic tone of strength, and Nick felt a stab of pain to hear it. “They’ll be back soon, and when they see you’re awake…,”

Greg trailed off, giving a little growl and shaking his head before giving Nick another harder look that was much more like the man he had known.

“For fuck’s sake, Nick, go!

“Not without you,” Nick snarled back, knowing the anger in his voice wasn’t meant for Greg but being helpless to keep it away. Greg pushed himself away, all but trying to give Nick a kick.

“Stop being an idiot and just go! The door’s unlocked, you’re free, you’ll be fucked as soon as they come back, so GO,” Greg squirmed in his cuffs and Nick had to grab hold of the shackles to stop them chaffing any more against the already abused skin. Already he could see the little streaks of blood working its way from the small cuts on his wrists, mixing with the sweat as it meandered down Greg’s forearms. Nick shook his head stubbornly, his heart rate loud in his ears as he started to think about the consequences for them both if their captors did return, his hands beginning to lose their accuracy until he firmly told himself to shape up.

“I can’t leave you,”

“Yeah, you can.” Greg aimed another kick at him, which connected to Nick’s thigh weakly. “Door. Go. If you want to help me, do it,” his voice was broken by a little sob, Greg’s eyes pleading at him to listen. Nick scowled harder, his fingers desperate on the shackles; it was too well crafted. Even with tools he was probably going to have one hell of a job getting the damned things off, let alone with nothing but a wish and a prayer. At the moment all he was doing was ripping up his fingers.

“No.”

“Yes.” Greg squirmed again, harder, this time fighting against Nick himself. Scared but determined eyes stared back at him, willing him to listen. “Nicky, you have to.”

No.” Nick repeated, his voice hard, raw and pained, a bark in the night against an intruder. He stared at him, his hands finally beginning to slow in the face of the hopelessness of their task. “Greg, I can’t-,”

Yes, you can. Nicky, I need you to go. You’re our best chance,” Greg scanned his eyes, his voice soft, pleading, playing on every single guilt button that Nick possessed. He stared at him for a moment, and then looked back at the door. A solid door, one that really wasn’t opening if it wasn’t in the mood to do so. Nick licked his lips then looked back.

“You watched them leave?”

Greg nodded slowly, his eyes unnaturally bright against the sallow tones of his skin and the darkening bruises across his face. “They didn’t bother to lock it. Thought you were out for the count, and they said I wouldn’t get out unless I cut my hands off with an axe. They just put up that piece of paper on there and then left. So I know, Nicky, you gotta-,”

To Nick’s horror, Greg’s eyes began to fill with tears. Their situation he could just about cope with, especially as the fine details hadn’t been seen. To have his lover pained and upset in front of him cut to the quick, and Nick helplessly cupped Greg’s chin tenderly in his hand. His thumb stroked along the abused skin softly, trying to offer him what little comfort he could, and felt the painful stab hit him again as even that small gesture caused Greg’s eyes to soften, trusting him to do what he needed to do.

Nick swallowed, then gently pressed his mouth to Greg’s; he felt the light, warm breath against his mouth before Greg stole the rest of his air, kissing him desperately enough that Nick had to take hold of Greg’s hip to stop the younger man losing his balance.

“Go. Please,” Greg whispered. And still Nick hesitated, torn between what to do. Going for help was a damned good idea, but leaving Greg, hurt, bleeding and vulnerable, was just not something he was ever going to be comfortable with. He pressed another kiss to Greg’s mouth, tearing himself away and moving to the doorway; even if he just found out what the situation was, it would be better.

That was, of course, until he came closer to the door and the paper that had been carefully taped to the back. Nick slowed, frowning uncertainly as his gaze caught the top, large letters.

“Dear Mr Stokes,” he read, already feeling a sick feeling settle uncomfortably at the bottom of his stomach and kick. Nick licked his lips and glanced back at Greg, before turning back again. “We expect you to behave. Should you leave this area, or become unmanageable in any way at all, we will not hesitate to do to your little friend the same as the we did to Jason. Please see the photographs for illustrations. It might also be worthwhile to mention that it took half an hour to complete that. The nearest source of civilisation .. if you even head that way .. is at least an hour.”

Nick read it three times, and then had to read it again, hearing his heart beat in his ears and feeling it pound uncomfortably in his chest. He glanced up at the ceiling nervously, but if they had cameras working then they weren’t visible at all; not that it was particularly surprising. The ceiling was very much a warehouse type, with nooks and crannies provided by the fans and ventilation vents that seemed to plague it. More than enough to hide any camera they fancied to add.

The door, when he tested it, was indeed unlocked. But his hand hesitated, reaching for the envelope and the photographs it contained.

“Nick,” Greg hissed at him. “For God’s sake, just go!”

But he couldn’t. The hold on the door grew weaker as Nick stared in growing disgust at the photographs that were clutched in his trembling hand; the glossy, bloody example of what would happen to Greg if he left. The subject was clearly alive during half of it, the look in his eyes something that even Nick’s CSI hardened stomach twisted over. By the end there was no chance of survival. Staring at the flayed man, Nick only hoped there had been some other method of death other than the obvious. The obvious was just too nasty to contemplate.

Nick raised his head and looked back at Greg, already bruised and beaten, dangling from a chain that was slightly too short to have any comfort in it. The people they had been after were supposedly killing off their subjects for the camera; they had nothing to lose for killing Greg, and actually probably would do so quite happily without the need for threat at all. While they had Nick, they had a reason to keep Greg alive. Without him, Greg was just a liability.

His thoughts must have been a little too clear on his face as Greg’s head lifted, his features pinched and tired as Greg slowly shook his head.

“No,” he said softly. “Don’t. You have to go. They’re just tricking you, Nick,”

“And what happens if they’re not?” Nick heard his own voice somewhere in the distance, strangely calm and clear. Greg gave an exasperated sigh.

“Then just one of us dies rather than two!” he snapped. “Please, Nick, if you want to help me, go.”

“They’re not going to go through all the difficulties of getting me here and then hope I don’t run off,” Nick said quietly. “If I go, they’ll know immediately,”

“You don’t know that!”

“And you don’t know that they wouldn’t!” Nick bit back immediately, swinging his hand toward the door angrily. “Who does all this and not bother with a lock? They know my name, Greg, they knew where we were and look at you,” his voice broke off, before Nick struggled onward. He shook his head again, slowly, a stubborn look settling in his eyes as he did so.

“If you were my friend, you’d go.” Greg’s eyes were weary, but his voice had dropped, recognising Nick’s determination and stubbornness for what it was.

“Yeah. You’re probably right. But I’m also your lover, so you’re stuck with me,” Nick turned and slowly opened the door, wincing to himself as the squeak of the hinges sounded down the corridor. He leaned out and glanced down, his feet very firmly not leaving the room. Okay, so it wasn’t going to make much of a difference, but at least it gave Greg a clear message on what was happening.

The corridor was long and dark, bare of everything but the occasional grey, solid door. A warehouse, probably one of the large storage places that had sprung up so often on the outskirts of Vegas, beloved by businesses for their stock. Nick sniffed, but the air was mostly stale, suggestive that even if their door was open the main door out of it wasn’t. He sighed, then moved back into the room and slowly, carefully, shut the door behind him. Briefly ignoring Greg’s accusing stare, Nick moved purposefully to the small window and gave it a shove with his arm. Solid. Even if it wasn’t, neither of them would have been able to fit through it.

“If there’s a possibility we can call through it,” Nick said softly, mostly to himself. “Then they’re not expecting there to be anyone around to hear it.”

He ran his hand through his short hair tiredly, and then looked around again just in case he had missed anything. He hadn’t. The room was bare, the walls and floor bleak and hard. Nick crossed the space to where Greg waited for him, and then brushed his fingers over the other man’s once smooth skin again sorrowfully.

“Is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable?” he whispered. There was no point in asking whether the man was alright. No one that brightly coloured was alright; Greg had bruises on his bruises, with a small smear of blood over the top. Greg gave him a little smile, and then shook his head slowly.

“Idiot,” Greg whispered, but his body pressed against Nick’s and his head rested on Nick’s shoulder tiredly. Nick wrapped his arms around him, feeling the coolness of Greg’s skin against his own overheated one.

“It’s okay, Greggo. I’ll look after you,” he murmured back, blinking back the prick of tears as he tried to soothe his injured friend. Greg made a little noise at the back of his throat, a strange type of agreed purr, before he nuzzled him again tiredly.

Nick had no idea how long they had remained like that, Greg resting against him weakly as he tried to slumber, but it wasn’t long enough. The door sounded its creaking announcement behind him, startling Greg awake and sending a bolt of nervous anticipation down his spine. Giving Greg a little squeeze of support, Nick slowly released him, turning around and standing his ground as he scowled toward their captor.

Only it wasn’t Blake. And now his mind really hurt.

TBC
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