niceandfluffy2: (nicklight)
[personal profile] niceandfluffy2
FIC: To Whom It May Concern (16/?)
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.

Non-beta'd although extensively edited, extreme apologies for any mistakes
Current word count: 158,517. If you have reached this far I suspect you require a medal! ^^ (and a cup of coffee)

Please check tags for past chapters



*

The cameras had yielded little. Even with the report of a delivery van from one of the apartments opposite, trying to pin down anything from the right time frame was proving harder than Warrick had wanted. The delivery, a ‘large crate’ according to the housewife who had been hanging around a window waiting for a visitor at the time, had been moved and returned to a large white, battered van with a sticker on the side that was almost certainly peeled off as soon as they were a few blocks away. The van had turned right from the road, heading out onto the highway, but they had lost it again two blocks away and hadn’t yet been able to trace where it had gone.

“They knew where the cameras were on that stretch of road. Where to turn off, where to come back on,” Archie commented quietly, and Warrick silently agreed with him despite the fact that news like that made his heart plummet even further. If someone had that type of knowledge, they had either done their homework or they had done this before; neither possibility calmed him at all. Time was ticking away and all they had to show for it were a few bits and pieces that gave glimpses into their targets and absolutely nothing solid to sink their teeth into. People like that had a purpose, and even now that purpose could easily be aimed at either Greg or Nick.

“Try these cameras,” Warrick indicated the correct ones with a finger, pausing as Grissom strode past the window to the room with the usual, indrawn expression he always wore whenever he was focused on one subject and one subject alone. Normally a bad sign too. “I’ll be back in a few minutes. Page me if you find something in the meantime, ‘kay?”

He knew the answer would be an affirmation even before he heard it, Warrick immediately turning to the corridors and picking up his speed to catch up with his lover. Not that Grissom noticed him, of course; caught up in his own thoughts, he could have walked off a cliff and barely registered it until the collision at the bottom. Warrick growled softly, and slid his hand gently but pointedly on Gil’s shoulder to give him a gentle squeeze.

“We’ve got a description of the van sent out to every patrol car in Vegas. Got partial registration as well, although we’re kinda thinking it’s false.” Even speaking hadn’t stopped Grissom from continuing his path, turning into the briefing room and putting down a few pages without looking back at him. Not that Warrick was too surprised on that. They knew each other enough not to need niceties.

Sure enough, Grissom started his words almost mid-discussion, as though they had been involved in a long winded talk long before Warrick turned up.

“Not all of the blood was Greg’s. Tell them to look for a driver with some type of injury.” Gil spoke with a frown and a steady, if distracted tone. He moved a sheet of paper from the side of the table to the centre, the page bearing the familiar DNA print out. “We’ve ruled out all of us as possible contributors.”

Warrick huffed softly at that news, a strange feeling of pride settling in his chest. “Greg managed to get one of them, huh? Good for him.”

“Or bad for him, depending on how personally they take that,” Gil’s eyes flickered to Warrick’s before turning back to the table to rearrange the photographs. Each displayed different shots of the scene, both close up and distance, rebuilding their primary scene in front of them. Gil’s finger tapped over one of them impatiently. “We found a few partial fingerprints from the stool that don’t match any of us. I believe Greg threw it at his attacker and they automatically either caught it, or batted it away. My money’s on catching it and then dropping it afterwards.”

Warrick’s eyes narrowed slightly in thought, remembering how pleased he was that the stools were sturdy enough to hold his weight when leaning against it. Yeah, those weren’t pieces of furniture you could just ignore if they were flung at you. “They were damned heavy. CODIS come up with a hit?”

“Not yet,” Gil’s eyes narrowed further in thought, and Warrick could all but see the emotional hit being channelled into Gil’s calculations. Because Gil never seemed to react the way the others did, with a brief violent outburst. If anything he almost became more controlled, heat turning to ice with such intensity that it could snap anything in its path.

“You expecting it to?” Warrick stood closer to the table and began to assess the evidence laid out in front of them himself. He frowned over wooden splinters and told himself to treat the blood splatter as simple blood splatter, someone else unknown to him that was definitely not Greg, because as soon as he started reminding himself who they were searching for he was going to find whoever it was and asphyxiate them slowly and personally. No, he needed to treat this as just another case, otherwise he was going to go insane.

“I’m not pinning any hopes on it,” Gil spoke quietly. “They’ve taken this much care so far. Using people with records seems a particularly lax thing to do.”

Warrick’s eyes moved over the photographs again. There were several blurred snaps of the white van, which formed the best they could get from the camera video. They had a rough sketch drawing of the delivery men’s outfits that the woman from the apartment – lady, Nick would have called her, and Warrick had to force down another burst of emotion as he focused harder – was able to describe for them, which looked pretty much like every other delivery uniform out there. There were samples from DNA, samples from trace, scuffs and marks that told the story of what happened, but not why or who. Yeah, they had enough for a conviction. He only hoped it would be a conviction for kidnapping rather than murder.

“So what are we pinning our hopes on?” Warrick grunted.

“I…,” it was the first time he had seen Gil at a loss, and that scared him more than anything. There was a helpless uncertainty that flickered in Grissom’s eye as he assessed and reassessed the information in front of him, looking for anything that could help them. Warrick hesitated, not certain whether interrupting Gil’s train of thought was going to help or hinder him, torn between activities. But then that was what friends were for, and Brass was no exception.

“I’ve got Blake downstairs in an interview room, getting himself ready for his big performance,” Jim’s voice cut into perfectly into their discussion, the man himself hovering just outside the door as though to step through would delay them by hours rather than seconds. “I’ll bring Catherine in with me. Don’t think that a reunion between you guys is gonna be good at this stage.”

“Who found him?” Warrick spoke up when it was clear that Gil was drifting back into his concentrated headspace. Not that he really needed to cover for him, of course. No one knew Gil’s habits better than Jim Brass, even if he did get exasperated by some of them.

“Blake? We found him in a meeting. He wasn’t too happy to see us. Can’t imagine why, I had my best suit on and everything,” Brass gave a careless shrug. “He’s lawyering up at the moment, hence the fact I’m up here with you waiting for them to finish whispering between each other.”

Warrick assessed him carefully. “There’s something you ain’t telling us.”

“Hmm?” Brass glanced at him and then away. “Just a gut feeling, and I’m hoping it’s wrong. My gut tells me he’s expecting trouble, sure, but then find me a businessman in Vegas who isn’t expecting trouble at some point and I’ll show you where they pass the money to the appropriate levels.” He sighed softly and shook his head. “But I don’t think whatever his excepted particular trouble is seems serious enough for kidnapping and attempted murder. Tax fraud, sure. Blood n guts…,”

Another shrug inserted here, almost as apologetic punctuation.

“Then I hope your gut is wrong about this,” Gil spoke up softly, his gaze still not leaving the evidence.

“Yeah. Me too. But it’s got a damned good record.”

Gil sighed softly. “Yeah. I know.”

*

There was more silence than Nick had anticipated. Truthfully, he didn’t know what he had been expecting; his head still felt fuzzy and a little woozy, his stomach fighting off the nausea that accompanied whatever drug they had given him, and thinking was currently not his strong point despite the stabs of nervous energy that was screaming through him. Screams, perhaps. Perhaps gloating. Perhaps a list of what they were supposed to do. But not this silence, an expectant silence that Nick had a strange feeling was waiting for them to say pre-determined lines.

Well, fuck that. He could go through all the whos and whys and whatevers later on. For now, he could focus on the main pain in his head.

“Let him go.”

“No.” the word was bright, almost sorrowful that it had to decline, and very definite. “He’s Mr Greg Sanders, yes?”

Greg raised his head a little higher, his back straightening as the younger man fixed their captor with a glare that wouldn’t have looked out of place on an annoyed bear.

“And who the hell are you?” he demanded, but Nick already knew, could remember the point where he had accidentally crashed into him and offered him his genuine apologies as he had struggled to keep polite. And he had seemed such a nice guy, someone sympathetic to new men struggling to come to terms with the bondage scene, offering an experienced guiding hand instead of taking offence. And yet that was what so many people said about murderers, about abusers and paedophiles when they were finally uncovered. ‘But they always seemed so nice!’ could have been chiselled into the walls of the cells, proving once again that sometimes the monsters you really had to be careful of were the ones that you couldn’t see.

“His name is Mr Simon Black,” Nick’s voice sounded hollow even to him, although that didn’t stop the twinkle in their captor’s eyes as he looked back at him in apparent approval.

“Oh, how nice, you remembered! You seemed a little preoccupied at the party, what with your old master turning up as he did. He did seem a little irritated, but a party can bring out the strain when you want to do everything perfectly.” The soft tones from Black’s voice were slowly altering, no longer kind but thoughtful, as though each word had been personally assessed for its impact in the conversation. And then there were his eyes. Nick hadn’t really looked at the other man’s eyes properly before, his attention gripped by so many other aspects that he just hadn’t focused. The artic probably couldn’t do better when it came to cold temperatures. How the hell hadn’t he noticed that before?

Greg was staring at Nick in confusion before his gaze turned back to Black, his voice suddenly doubtful. “So you guys know each other?”

Know is such a strong word. Become acquainted, perhaps.” Greg’s voice had drawn Black’s attention back onto him, strolling closer to Greg and surveying him as though he was a work of art rather than the beaten man in front of him. “And you, Mr Sanders, were not supposed to be a part of this. Do you have a pet name?”

Greg didn’t flinch at the inspection, although Nick could see the caution and bewilderment hidden behind Greg’s stare. This wasn’t a situation the younger man had expected, and the calculations were clearly whizzing in his head as his mouth continued to work.

“A pet name? You mean like Fluffikins?” Greg’s tired voice cut off dead as Black raised his hand to brush down his bruised chest, and Nick immediately stepped forward. Not that Greg particularly needed it, his chin rising and his gaze steady as he positioned himself to kick. “Hey, you can keep away from me!”

“He’s called Greg, that’s it.” Nick spoke up instead, not wanting the conversation to go on longer than they could get away with. “And if he’s not supposed to be here, then just let him go.”

Just let him go?” Black turned to look at him incredulously. “And which part of that suggestion did you think warranted the ‘just’? Greg here may not have been intended, but he is certainly now part of my decisions.”

And that wasn’t the phrase that Nick had wanted to hear. He licked his bottom lip, and then cast another look at the solid door that lay between them and the corridor. Of course Black hadn’t come alone; two solid men stood lazily by the door, neither obviously armed but Nick had no doubt that they were easily prepared for any escape bid that he might make. He cautiously looked back again, his eyes narrowing as he recognised the interested look being aimed in his own direction.

“Are you here to have a conversation or just to tell us what you’re planning to do?” he tried to keep his voice as casual as possible and was pleased when it seemed to obey his instructions, ignoring the cold bead of sweat that was working its way down his spine. “Because if it’s a chat, could we at least let his arms down a bit and allow him to sit? He’s not going anywhere.”

Greg lifted his gaze a little more, need for the suggestion quietening down the automatic sarcastic response. Black turned his attention back to Greg once more, prowling around him slowly as though his prisoner might in some way be hiding a weapon in his torn boxer shorts.

“Please?” Nick allowed his voice to drop softly, deliberately looking sorrowfully at him. There had to be some damned reason why he had been picked out, and innocence seemed an annoying but plausible one. A finger rose impatiently at him, stopping that method of manipulation dead.

“Don’t.” the softness had vanished entirely from that, the word almost sharp. Nick licked his bottom lip and sent another look across at Greg, who gave a small smile back as though to approve of the attempt. Puppy dog eyes never worked on Greg either, who normally responded with a calm ‘yeah, the machine doesn’t really care if you’re feeling cute today’ reply and a lazy readjustment on his chair.

Silence drifted onward for a few more moments, Black’s expression almost inquisitive as he studied Greg in front of him. Nick had no idea how the man could do that, look at Greg’s battered and bleeding body, his tired yet still defiant eyes and exhausted posture without either realising the man had to be released or gain some type of pleasure from it. Because there had to be pleasure, surely? Enjoying the work, going that extra mile, and if you were kidnapping people and beating them senseless then you really had to assume that the extra mile had been obtained and perhaps had brought a friend along for the ride. He licked his bottom lip once more, apparently his nervous twitch for that day, trying to fight the urge to speak once more.

“Are you going to kill me?” Greg broke the silence instead, only he wasn’t using the type of voice that Nick thought everyone had to use with that sentence. No, his tone was almost emotionless, like a query on whether someone had had a nice trip without really caring one way or the other on the answer, and that slapped Nick harder than anything Black had said so far. If Nick didn’t pull himself together, then he was likely to start risking Greg rather than helping him.

“Do you want me to kill you?” Black replied idly.

“Not really, no.”

“Not really? That doesn’t sound too certain,” Black smiled, the fingertips of one hand trailing over Greg’s shoulder. “I’m not interested in your immediate death, no.”

“And my non-immediate death?” Greg still was still using his non-emotional voice that Nick recognised from the lab where Gil had been particular touchy, but he could see the strain showing in the younger man’s eyes as he spoke. Black chuckled softly. He had a light, somewhat high pitched laugh that sounded suspiciously like it should have been described as a giggle had it been anywhere but their current location.

“Well, that would depend on your friend.”

And there was yet another phrase that Nick seriously didn’t want to hear without the possibility of release being mentioned somewhere, even in passing. From the way Greg’s eyes darkened, it certainly wasn’t something that Greg wanted to hear either, and Nick could feel his younger partner’s tension build; not for fear of what Nick wouldn’t do, but of what Nick might do in his name.

“What exactly would I need to do?” Nick asked slowly.

“Ah, that would be getting down to the main meat of the meal,” Black seemed almost pleased at the prospect. “Simply behave.”

And oh, that could be absolutely anything considering the party where they had met. Nick glanced back at the guards once more, then at Black. There were a number of different possibilities he could do, but each of them held such significant problems that Nick hesitated from performing any of them. He had his freedom, and he had the man in front of him; there was always that slim chance he could find the right way to attack, to threaten him enough that the guards wouldn’t immediately win or simply execute Greg in the meantime. He cast another apprehensive look at Greg, and was met with a slow shake of the head in response. Apparently DNA gods also had degrees in mind-reading. That didn’t necessarily mean you had to obey them, though.

“Are we expecting Nick to misbehave?” Greg spoke up again. “You want him to stay in this room?”

“Partly. It gets trying when you’re showing off your latest auction sale and he insists on being problematic,” Black had returned to assessing Greg thoughtfully, with a calculating eye. Nick felt his muscles stiffen once more, his eyes widening as they met Greg’s. Greg managed to get his vocal chords working first.

“Wait .. you’re selling Nick? To who?”

“Well, if I knew that it wouldn’t be much of an auction, would it,” there was another burst of the strange chuckle-giggle, before Black sighed fondly as though Greg had made a deliberate joke over dinner. “A select audience will be viewing. It’s not exactly the general public,”

Nick’s heart managed to restart itself through sheer force of will. “Exactly what am I being sold as?”

That was answered by a careless shrug, as though the label didn’t matter. And he guessed it probably didn’t; they had all seen in the lab how often the same type of job seemed to attract so many titles, each with the slightest of alterations to justify the label. Black looked back at Nick carelessly, and then onto Greg again in clear fascination, and from the way the man touched Greg’s bloodied shoulder Nick could tell the blood was indeed having an effect. Only, it wasn’t the effect he was hoping for. No one with that shine in their eye was planning to release them soon.

“If this is about money, then-,” Nick spoke up when a hand held itself up again patently, Black giving him a little weary look that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a strained mother with a particularly noisy child. He was suddenly and uncomfortably conscious of how the temperature seemed to alter, the man shifting from the peculiar to one with quiet menace.

“No, it’s not about money,” the tone was reproachful, in much the same way Nick imagined serial killers would have when questioned on their motives. “Money is symbolic, certainly. It allows you a measure of success, but if money was your primary concern you could do much better running a casinos of Vegas than the little procedure that I operate. Normally bloodier too, depressingly enough. No, simple profit is unappealing,”

“Then what? Because-,” Nick stopped again automatically at the hand raising again, uncertain why and all but grinding his teeth as he did so. Another look flashed his way.

“I think you’re missing the point of me being here, Nicky. Information is valuable, and I do not have the inclination to offer you any than you actually need to react in the manner I require. All you have to do is follow instructions, for the moment at least. Demonstrate what a good boy you are,” a bright smile aimed itself. “Because any indiscretion you perform will be taken out on our dear little Greg here. Would you like a demonstration?”

“No.”

“Unfortunate.” Black stepped back, raising his head at one of the men at the door with a firm look. Nick stared at him, then stared back at the man who was unfurling himself from the doorframe and walked closer. Tall, around Warrick’s height and stocky in build, there was nothing but enjoyment in the dark eyes as he closed the gap.

“Wait!” Nick inserted himself between the man and Greg, ready to fight if necessary and simply found himself propelled violently to one side. Stumbling, he immediately turned and found a gun levelled in his direction. Black watched him absent-mindedly, then shook his head.

“I wouldn’t.”

“If you shoot him, you can’t sell him,” Greg twisted in his bonds as the other man drew closer, fear and defiance fighting it out in his eyes.

“Depends where I shoot him. And he will be alive long enough to watch your demise if he’s silly enough to push this,” Black replied. “Although I believe it’s only natural. People react in one of three ways, I find. One, simple shock. They stay huddle in a spot and simply go catatonic. Rare, but possible, especially if they’re used to a particularly strict master. Two, fear. Begging, pleading, making a mess of themselves .. most unpleasant .. and so on. And three, the ‘I’m not afraid’ angle, which I see you’re attempting to follow. Only we both know you are afraid. When I put my hand on your chest I can feel your heartbeat,”

Greg scowled, and then gave Nick another quick, desperate look, as though the man was worried he was going to get himself shot whilst Greg’s attention was elsewhere. And that was wrong, far too wrong. If you were shackled and bloody, that was surely the point you stopped worrying about someone else’s hide and started allowing yourself to worry about your own.

“You don’t need to demonstrate anything, we get the idea-,” Nick moved to step forward again but he suddenly found his arm twisted behind his back, the other goon having developed cat like abilities to move behind him when he was distracted. The grip on his wrist was hard and unforgiving, Nick feeling his arm strain as his arm was twisted into a position that seriously wasn’t natural.

“Again, you miss the point of the exercise,” Black sighed, then nodded to the other man who had obtained a cane from somewhere Nick didn’t even want to think about. Nick snarled and tried to free his arm but merely succeeded in jarring his shoulder, causing pain to jolt down his arm. Of course there was more ways than one when it came to escape routes; as the cane landed sharply on the meat of Greg’s thigh, Nick clenched his other hand and firmly slammed his fist between the other man’s legs with a satisfying grunt of pain from the other man.

What there wasn’t, however, was a satisfying release of his arm, and now the pain had gone from stabbing to agonising as the angle was increased. Nick gave a strangled snarl, then fought harder, desperately, knowing that his lack of focus meant his punches weren’t landing as well as they could have but using all his willpower simply to move in the first place. Each attack he made was foiled; his weight shoving back against the other man, his fist, even hooking his foot between the goon’s legs and trying to ruin his balance, each was tackled calmly and efficiently until Nick was exhausted, fighting the whimper in his throat and feeling the sweat trickle from his throat to his chest.

“Spirited, aren’t you both?” Black mused as he turned his attention from Nick to where Greg had twisted in his bonds. He gave a little nod and suddenly Greg’s voice cried out shakily as the crop landed on an already open wound, the cool barrel of a gun pressed to Nick’s temple as he stared back helplessly.

“Come, come.” Black shook his head, apparently managing to ignore the sounds of pain that Greg was making. “I’ve spent a lot of time researching who you are and what you do. Your master, for example, has some quite impressive seminars… quite the speaker, and so considerate to have many of them available as online courses. Follow the evidence, isn’t that what you boys say? So please do. The evidence is very clear in this case on what would constitute a very bad idea.”

Greg cried out again, an instinctual noise before he bit his lip and settled his expression into the firm, angry one that Nick recognised whenever the younger man was hurting but determined not to show it. Nick tugged again at his own bond until the gun dug a little harder against his skin, its owner incredulous he was still resisting.

“You know, I hold great respect for what you and your fellow .. officers? Scientists? People?” Black shrugged to indicate that again the label didn’t matter. “.. achieve on a day to day basis. So deliberate. So thoughtful. Demonstrating time and again that even the smallest, seemingly inconsequential action can result in such significant consequences. A hair here, a fingerprint there, a mere grain of dust in the wrong place or in the tread of a tyre to indicate a past location. I myself hold a great fascination for archaeology, the forensics of the past as it were, although I fear there are many angles of it that rest on limited information and a rather good imagination to join the dots. Evidence has my utmost respect. As do experts in their field, I might add. One man is not an island,”

He stepped forward again to gently stroke along Greg’s jaw, the younger man’s pained, exhausted and furious eyes staring upwards at him.

“I can see you thinking of how pleasurable it would be to bite me, young one,” Black murmured softly. “Think past the pleasure and to the consequences if you do so.”

For a moment, Nick wasn’t sure whether Greg was simply going to bite anyway, like a cornered fox faced with the hounds. The gun pressed harder into him as Nick fought to remain still, wincing as the crop landed once again on an already bruised area, but Greg had already come to his own conclusions on what would be a swift way to a brutal and messy death, looking away and snarling softly.

“Good boy,” Black continued to stroke along Greg’s tensed jaw line. “You see people are much like a crime scene themselves, and that is why I find myself drawn into the world that Lady Heather delightfully offers. You are creating a person with each decision you make, turning them from the raw materials into a work of beauty. Bondage to me in many ways is not so much the act but the consequence, a sculptor at work, chipping away to create a form from his mind. Certainly, some may come purely for the pleasures..,”

Black stroked his fingers along Greg’s skin again, giving him a little smile that spoke a little too uncomfortably about his assumptions on Greg’s personal tastes.

“.. and then some come because they have something to prove,” Black turned to Nick, his eyes lingering on Nick’s bare chest for a moment before raising thoughtfully. “But then that too is evidence, is it not? The physical demonstration of what you believe, something you can take and hold and prove beyond reasonable doubt. You, my boy, were trying to prove yourself to your old master, presumably from a situation outside of the world in the Dominion.”

“He’s not my ‘old’ master,” Nick growled out through gritted teeth. “My loyalty - our loyalty – is with him.”

“He failed to stop me taking you .. both of you. He has lost his right to call you anything,” Black replied dismissively. “As for loyalty, yes, I appreciate that it may take a while to break down those bonds. This is why your price is relatively low, but then there will be many who relish the chance to break in a boy like yourself, to gain your skills and your co operation.”

His teeth gritted harder. “And Greg?”

“Greg will remain with me. He is a little too damaged for a suitable sale, and I need to know that you will behave yourself when you are sent to your new owner. The mere sniff of poor behaviour and it will be taken out on our friend’s hide here. And as for running away,” Black chuckled and shook his head as though someone had reminded him of a very funny joke. “Well, I can always stage another so called ‘snuff’ film. They go down so well, you know? It holds the appeal of harder porn, where people’s fantasies come to life before them without them actually needing to perform it themselves. Taking it to the next step.”

“You do that and I’ll hunt you down. We’ll get every single last one of you,” Nick snarled back. Black gave him an unimpressed look.

“Will you? Based on what, my boy? The evidence is remarkably slim. You won’t know where this place is, and I have been very careful to keep records as limited as possible. Have you heard of the game of Chinese Whispers, Nicky? You start a piece of information on one chain of people, insert enough heads in between, and by the time it gets to the other end the message is quite altered. Human nature loves the dramatic. As for records, it’s amazing what company names and varying accounts can give you.” Black shrugged slightly. “I find much of what you use to win your cases has a great deal of luck surrounding it, that the evidence had been left there to find. Sometimes a puzzle piece without that last puzzle section is nothing more than so much rubbish. And, after all, even if you do find me, he would still be dead. Would that not spoil your victory?”

Nick winced as the next blow caused Greg’s body to tremble again, the younger man’s legs clearly struggling to hold his weight. He didn’t need to hear the soft noises to know the man was in pain; his chest was racked with little gasps for breath, and Greg was deliberately not catching Nick’s eyes whenever he looked toward him. The window to the soul, and even Greg couldn’t hide himself in those.

“And what about Blake?” Nick growled, upset and angry, wanting to take the man’s attention away from Greg and back onto the conversation. He earned himself a slightly bemused look, as though Nick had confessed to a particularly unsavoury desire during a simple conversation over the weather.

“Blake?” there was a little pause. “Oh, yes, the young man you were all quite interested in. Mr Blake is .. well, he is what I would call a dreamer. He takes others ideas and shapes them into his own, sometimes even believing what he has crafted. We have had many a conversation in the past. He is a little brutish, I find.”

Him brutish?” Nick wasn’t sure whether to be horrified or simply laugh incredulously.

“You see brutal actions? Well, that’s again unfortunate. I prefer to use the word ‘acclimatising’ myself,” Black shrugged slightly, and then studied Nick thoughtfully. “So Mr Blake was the original target for your team’s little performance? Interesting. I wonder whose story he converted into his own to attract your attention. He doesn’t really have the gifts to be able to produce a unique one.”

He raised his hand and snapped a finger; the crop immediately dropped, the guard taking a respectful step backwards as illustration that the beating was over.

“You can have a few hours to compose yourself. After that point I expect you to respond in a manner befitting your situation,” Black assessed the bonds for a moment, then gave another little nod. Within moments, the chains had been loosened and Greg found his way to the floor, his gasp of shock second only to one of relief.

Nick lifted his head and watched as Black smiled at him gently. “Have a good evening, gentlemen,”

As far as Nick was concerned, the door couldn’t close soon enough.

*

The interview was going slowly. Lawyers slowed things up considerably, even when there wasn’t money involved, and Blake had more money than Gil had first realised. Not that it made too much difference, other than the level of advice given. No, the real speed issues revolved around the man himself. Each question left behind silence, or the occasional word from the lawyer, neither of which was giving them any direction whatsoever, and Gil had to find something that justified him being taken away from the physical evidence to the observation room serving this interview. The thought that Blake would waste another precious hour was too painful to contemplate.

“So let me get this straight,” Brass was saying, his voice crackling slightly from the radio that served between the rooms. “You were in meetings from 8 am yesterday and you’ve only just finished? Now, I’m a big fan of commitment, but don’t you think that’s a little extreme?”

“My client has confirmed this twice,” the lawyer, a Ms Sheppard, spoke up briskly. “You have access to his diary, and we have witnesses to confirm my client’s arrival. Captain Brass, you are aware that we are here purely to assist law enforcement, and yet you do not appear to have given us any information yourself. Exactly what are the charges?”

And Gil knew why that was too. Jim had been right when it had come to Blake; he was expecting something, the tension outlined through the other man’s body despite the casual way he slouched. That this vulnerability hadn’t been successfully shielded spoke more on the man’s guilt than his inexperience. The man’s decision to be questioned was less about assisting the law and everything about finding out exactly what they knew.

“Yeah, well, I’m an anticipation kinda guy,” Jim paused for a moment, and then slowly slid a photograph toward Blake. “D’you recognise him?”

The silence continued as Blake placed a finger on the photograph to pull it closer, frowning for moment before shrugging and pushing it back with a casual expression on his face.

“Can’t say I do.”

And that was probably a good way to phrase it, Gil thought grimly. The photograph of Nick was one that had been taken by Catherine on one of their rare group outings, Nick laughing at something off the edge of the photograph with his eyes sparkling and dressed in well loved casual clothing, looking the picture of carefree living. For Blake to admit to knowing Nick was to invite the next question of how he knew Nick, and Gil certainly wasn’t expecting to hear the Dominion’s party being casually offered as information.

“And him?” A photograph of Greg was pushed forward, similarly casual although from a few years ago judging from the slight explosion that was posing as the young man’s hairstyle. Blake glanced casually at him, and then slowly shook his head.

“No. Why?” Blake’s eyes coolly turned to Brass, and that was the exact moment that Gil’s stomach turned. The guilt, whatever it was, was easing. That was pure interest in the predator’s gleam, and Gil could almost see the man’s mind working on what had happened to the pair from the last time he had seen them. What Gil had looked like he would do to them, no doubt. Whatever Blake was thinking, clearly he didn’t think either man was anything to do with him.

“Because they’re missing. Forcefully taken, in fact,” Brass took back Greg’s photograph, and carefully aligned both of them side by side with the precision normally seen for bomb clearance. Blake’s eyebrow rose, but the man grew even more comfortable as he slouched in his chair further.

“And you think I know where they are because..?” Blake cocked his head to one side, watching him carefully. “Captain Brass, I’ve honestly been in meetings. I haven’t been able to think about any social function.. if you can accept that label for a kidnapping .. for some time. I can supply a number of witnesses to testify to that,”

“And I’m sure you can,” Brass gave him a bright smile. “Well, here’s what I know. I’m thinking you do know these guys, both of them. You met them at an interesting little party, and I’m thinking your meeting probably didn’t go over that period of time too.”

Blake didn’t move in the chair, but Gil watched as the other man’s eyes darkened as he listened carefully.

“So, let’s try again. Are you certain you don’t know either Nick Stokes or Greg Sanders?” Brass’ voice was sweet enough to set up its own lemonade stand, his eyes constantly watching the Dom in front of him. “Because I’d hate for all these meetings to start confusing your mind. Diaries have that effect on me, too,”

Blake’s lip curled slightly, before he put a finger onto Nick’s photograph and picked it up again carefully. He frowned at him, and then slowly put it down again, glancing at Greg. His eyes flickered to Brass once more.

“If you’re speaking to me, you think something bad’s happened to them?”

“They were both kidnapped from their apartment, I’m not sure how many people wouldn’t classify that as ‘quite bad’.” Brass spoke with a slowly growing impatience. “How’s your memory doing?”

“His hair’s different,” the finger tapped on Greg’s photograph. “It’s shorter now.. not quite as wild, not quite as blonde. If it’s the men I think it is .. yeah, I might have met them. Although I hope you’re sure they’ve been kidnapped. Way I saw it, I wouldn’t be surprised if the pair of them didn’t just run off together and fake the whole thing,”

The other eyebrow rose to join the first, Brass looking genuinely bemused. “And why would they be doing something like that?”

“Because of their boss.” Blake shrugged idly. “They had a falling out at the party, and this guy.. Grissom, I think his name was .. didn’t take failure lightly. Beat the crap out of him,” the finger tapped on Nick’s photograph again, then moved onto Greg. “And the other boy wasn’t following orders. Hell, it’s happened before in that type of household. Older, over asserting boss with a few younger boys, has his hands full.. the younger boys just join forces and run,”

“You’ve known of other young men who have just .. vanished?” Brass asked idly. Blake straightened slightly, a wary look entering his eyes.

“I’ve heard tales. Never known any myself, other than these two,”

“The two you were claiming you’d never met before I reminded you,” Brass provided helpfully. Gil smiled grimly to himself as Blake shot Brass a particularly unimpressed look, then settled on his chair casually. A loose-limbed shrug inserted itself into the conversation.

“I see a lot of people.”

“Yeah, you’re just a real social bunny,” Brass tapped his finger idly on the table. “This ‘party’ of yours was some fetish one, yes? Been to any others?”

“And now we’re entering into unacceptable areas,” the lawyer interjected. “Please keep the line of questioning to this situation only,”

“From what I hear from that establishment, I’d have said your client was all for unacceptable areas,” Brass gave her a warm smile, then shrugged. “Okay, let’s stick with this evening and these ‘tales’ of yours. Who told you them?”

“I can’t remember,”

“Can’t remember who told you about vanishing boys? Come on,” Brass gave him a winning smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “I would, if it happened to me, but then I guess my usual level of conversation is more… pedestrian.”

“Captain Brass-,” the lawyer’s warning was all in her tone. The eyebrow rose again, then Jim changed tack. Not the tack Brass wanted, of course. Gil had already gone through the restrictions that they needed to keep to, and part of that was to keep any hint that a surveillance operation had operated at Heather’s. If it failed, then that was a different matter.

“Come on,” Gil muttered to himself as he frowned harder at Blake, as though his glare alone might improve the prospects of a useable answer. There was a soft hum from behind him that would have made him jump had he not noticed the shift in light levels as the door had opened and softly clicked closed behind the visitor.

“Still nothing?” Heather’s voice was soft and thoughtful, coming to stand by Gil’s shoulder without breaking his personal space. There was no need for greetings. He merely indicated with a raise of the head that progress was less than preferred as Gil focused even harder on every movement that Blake made.

“Says he heard the tales from someone else,” Gil brought her up to speed. “No names yet.”

They paused for a moment as Brass continued to speak, leaning into a more casual territory like a shark circling, waiting for the opportune moment to bite. Heather raised her head slowly, her hands primly kept in front of her as though she was an old fashioned lady waiting for a carriage.

“I believe he has a few members who he spends the most time with,” Heather spoke softly, her gaze firmly fixed on the discussion in front of her. “I can inquire further,”

“No.” Gil’s voice was firm, possibly a little too firm as curious eyes turned to him thoughtfully. Heather didn’t get intimidated, regardless of the teeth on show, and Gil was well aware she could read him well enough to know if there was a risk. He licked his bottom lip and frowned harder toward Blake. “There have been enough people put at risk. I can’t .. I won’t allow anyone else to be put into harm’s way,”

Heather declined to answer, her thoughtful gaze still resting on him, and Gil could almost feel the quiet points that Heather would make if she was feeling in a verbal mood. He could ask, certainly, perhaps take it official if he really wanted to make a mess of it, but Heather was not an employee. Gil let out a shaky breath through clenched teeth, and turned the frown to the slightest of scowls in Blake’s direction.

“Please,” he added, his voice softer than his expression.

And yet there was still silence, up to the point where Heather’s hand rested lightly on Gil’s arm. He looked down at it in surprise, then up again, the lines on his face erasing as he found himself captured in her dark gaze once again, a mouse caught by a particularly lenient snake.

“This is not your fault, Gil,” she murmured softly. The lines returned.

“I didn’t take the threat seriously enough. They were left vulnerable. I take full responsibility for that,” Gil turned back to the window, his arms folding across his chest as he tried to focus on Brass’ current line of questioning.

“You shouldn’t. However, I also appreciate that there will be nothing that can be said that can ease you at this time.” Heather’s tone was genuinely sorrowful, her low voice offering its usual comfort. “We’ll find them,”

“Will we?” Gil knew his voice was raised, the first proper elements of his anger slowly easing through, but then Heather always did know how to chip past his defences. “Greg may already be dead, tossed somewhere like rubbish, and I dread to think what they have planned for Nick. And I caused that reaction, I deliberately made them see him as a victim, an easy target they could abuse. He’s strong, I know he is, but still..”

He trailed off and looked back at the window again, shaking his head slowly. “Does Blake even know? The longer this goes on, the less I believe so. But he is still our best opportunity. The evidence that was left behind was limited at best, and even the samples we have simply hit brick walls. The men who took my guys are ghosts on the system.”

“Then let me do what I can.”

“You say that as though you were waiting for my permission,” Gil smiled without humour.

“My efforts would be in vain should you not choose to use them,” Heather spoke calmly as her gaze moved back to the interview thoughtfully, waiting as Gil struggled to fit his internal voices into one single path. She raised her head carefully. “I saw Warrick in the corridors. How is he coping?”

“He’s angry but focused on his work.” For the first time in the hour, Gil felt his voice soften as he spoke about his last remaining ‘boy’, a man who had been wrestling with his own emotions whilst constantly trying to do his job and look after Gil too. Grissom sighed. He had been so focused on the evidence that the little touches, the little signs of consideration had simply been overlooked. In many ways, he was failing Warrick too, although that was something that he could at least tackle and reverse.

“He’s a good man.” Gil said quietly.

Heather nodded, her eyes distant for a moment before looking back at him.

“Let him in, Gil. He won’t think any less of you, and if you offer him your vulnerabilities then it may be a way to reach through to his,” she paused, and narrowed her eyes carefully. Gil watched her, then looked back at the discussion that had had a burst of heated exchange before Blake fell silent once more, adopting a particularly mulish expression. Heather’s lips pursed for a moment, before intelligent and intense eyes turned to Gil.

“Are you able to communicate with Captain Brass? Ask him to explore the second from last question again, with special interest in a woman called Terri.”

He knew better than to ask why. Writing a note on a pad and passing the folded note to one of the officers outside, Gil moved back into the observation room and watched as the message was received. Not that he saw any difference in Jim’s expression either; as far as anyone would assume from looking at him, he had just received a message with nothing more taxing than an offer of coffee.

The lead up to the questioning itself was skilfully casual, Brass seemingly focusing his attention on areas other than the one they were waiting for to avoid hitting the lawyer’s senses and scare off their target.

“You know this Terri he’s spoken about?” Gil asked finally, as Brass continued his little circling activities. Heather ran her tongue over her bottom lip for a moment before answering.

“We’re acquainted, yes.” Her voice was soft and slightly regretful, although Gil wasn’t sure what to make of that. Heather rarely bothered with regrets, learning from the situation and changing it for the future should it need to be done if the repair could not occur. Gil gave a small head tilt, deliberately not asking further questions on the details. If Heather wished him to know, he would know.

Sure enough, she lifted her head again. “I cannot see that she would be associated with your case more than passing. She is not a practical person. Something of the level you describe would require someone with efficiency and focus and forethought on many different levels. Someone like yourself, Gil, although please do not take that as an insult. No, Terri does not have the capability.”

She paused. “That does not necessarily mean she does not have the desire. She enjoys to watch, to discuss, to use her imagination. If Mr Blake does not have personal knowledge on the stories he describes, then she may well be his source to the originals.”

Gil’s eyes narrowed in thought. “Does she come to your premises?”

“No. She and I do not see eye to eye. We had a disagreement early last year, and from that point on she has spent much of her time in LA instead. I have a few contacts there from my type of industry.” she replied, then held up her hand to stop Gil from speaking further as Brass entered into a question she wished to hear. Gil refocused on the conversation; the answer was vague, and to him was of no real significance, but clearly Blake had managed to allude to a particularly satisfying aspect as far as Heather was concerned. She smiled grimly, and then turned on her heel. “I will return later.”

“May I ask at least the surname of ‘Terri’?” Gil looked after her.

“You may. You will, of course, not receive an answer, but optimism should always be rewarded.” Heather looked back at him and smiled gently. “Trust me, Gil. If I thought you could help, you would have already been told. I have my ways, just as you have yours,”

He watched as she left, then looked back at the interview room. Yes, Heather might well have methods of her own, but then so did he. And there was still much to do.

*

They had argued for some time, in their way. Greg’s wrists were still chained but now they were much looser, allowing him to sit down and to rest, his body finally succumbing to the exhaustion that was outlined through his body. That didn’t necessarily mean that Greg was planning to give Nick an easy time, despite the fact that his battered and beaten body was mostly supported by Nick as Greg found a comfortable position from which to rest.

“You’re not going through with it.”

How could anyone so tired sound so incredibly stubborn? Nick sighed to himself and gently stroked his hand through Greg’s hair, easing him as much as he could without hitting any of the bruises that decorated the younger man’s form. His silence wasn’t achieving anything either, Greg simply sensing Nick’s personal stubbornness in the words he failed to say. A fist landed hard on Nick’s thigh.

“Hey, ouch!” Startled, Nick couldn’t stop himself.

“If you think that’s ouch, just wait until they get to work on you,” Greg’s voice was a muffled growl, a lion caught in a picnic blanket. “Whatever they have planned can’t be good.”

“Yeah, well,” Nick wasn’t planning to think about that. Practically speaking, it was going to be hard enough to get out of the damned room anyway without Greg almost ready to pass out through exhaustion as well. First step was going to be refreshing Greg, then perhaps they might have found some tool to help him break through the shackles’ lock or pull out the chains themselves, and then Nick could focus on which way they went.

Another punch landed on him pointedly.

You’re not going through with it even for a moment. Jesus, Nick, there’s an unlocked door there, just go!” Greg squirmed in Nick’s lap, apparently trying to push himself up but was foiled as soon as Nick’s arm tightened around him to gently hold him in place.

“The chances that they actually mean it-,”

“- is probably pretty damned good. I mean, they don’t look like the kinda guys who play pretend, y’know?” Greg made his argument from the warm and security of Nick’s arms, his voice pained. “They’ve got guns, they’ve kidnapped us, they know about Griss, they’ve done their research and hell, it’s not as though we haven’t had groups of human trafficking in Vegas before, right?”

“This isn’t the same,” Nick scowled slightly.

“Your optimism that your obedience will get us out is, for a start!” Greg squirmed again, giving a little groan as a bruised spot hit against Nick’s hip. Nick bit his lip. He had done the best he could to clean Greg up and fight infections, but he had so little to start off with. They had a little bit of water, and most of that had to be saved simply for drinking.

“How are you feeling?” he asked softly. “Other than ‘bad’.”

There was a little silence, and then Greg sighed. “Got a splitting headache. Bruising. Don’t think anything’s broken though. A few cuts. I’ll be fine. And don’t try to distract me. If you see an opportunity to escape, you gotta take it.”

“I’m not going anywhere without you,” He knew he was beginning to sound like a broken record, but there was nothing else he could say. Even in the very slim chance they had grown cocky enough for an escape point to appear, any punishment would simply transmit to Greg.

“We’re going to be separated anyway!”

“And I can either leave them happy with you or really fucked off, so I’m going for happy,” Nick’s fingers continued to caress him, his voice the soothing one he normally gave to Warrick whenever the other man was pacing up and down, ready to tear someone limb from limb. Greg’s fist reconnected to Nick’s thigh, harder.

“Cut the crap, Nicky, and stop trying to be a hero!”

“I’m not trying to be a hero, I’m trying to extend your life expectancy!” Nick’s patient voice was beginning to crack. “The longer we last for, the longer Gil and the others have a chance of finding us, so if that means we have to do things to get this damned auction going then that’s what we’ll do! And think about it, if they’re doing some auction then that means more chance that information is being sent out to external sources. The more information being sent out, the better the chance that somewhere, someone good is gonna see it. This bunch might be good at security, but someone else might not be.”

Greg’s fist rested against Nick’s thigh, a little scene of frustrated exhaustion combined with Greg’s sharp mind going through the information.

“Yeah,” Greg said finally, a soft acceptance full of reluctance. “Yeah, I can see that.”

Nick gently pulled him closer, feeling Greg sag against him and offering his gentle touch against the warmth of Greg’s neck and back. There was so much he wanted to say, to allow himself to scream and rant and aim his fury at the ones who had taken them, but all it was going to do was distress Greg further. Nick would say nothing that the younger man didn’t know already, probably had more time to think it over whilst Nick was still unconscious. But fuck, it was hard to know how to cope. He knew what he should be doing, his protective need burning through him demanding that he got Greg out as soon as possible, and hell, Greg probably had exactly the same thing for Nick. And that, Nick realised, was exactly what their captors was counting on. But following someone else’s script wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Too many murders occurred when the script suddenly altered, blood providing a temporary solution in the midst of chaos. If they both died, shot through the head and dumped, there were plenty of places where they would never be found.

Nick pulled Greg closer and pressed a gentle kiss on the other man’s head, his eyes still distant. What were the others doing? Gil would be beside himself. Even if they had no personal relationship at all, the weight of responsibility would fall heavily on Gil’s shoulders. They were a family, and family looked out for each other. Warrick wouldn’t be much better. Sure, they could bury themselves with work, but there was always a point in an investigation where the work dried up and suddenly they were faced with the yawning chasm of ‘time to think’ Warrick never took that time well.

“You’re worrying,” Greg’s voice drifted to him, the stubbornness faded into one that reflected his true exhaustion. “I can feel you tense,”

Nick pressed another little kiss onto Greg’s hair. “S’okay, sweetheart. Just go to sleep, ‘kay?”

There was a little sigh noise, and then Greg snuggled closer. “They’ll find us. You’re right. They just need time,”

And god, Nick hoped they would. Because at this exact moment, Nick really didn’t like their chances otherwise.

TBC
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