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Story Notes:
Okay... Ryan doesn't exactly come off shinning in this story... but, um... he's not so bad really, I do actually like the character, but someone had to be the bad guy and when I wrote this I didn't really know the character – of course I don't watch Miami anymore so it's moot.
"What she slipped off a ladder and fell on it?" David hissed spitefully.

"Dave you’re being overly dramatic, it was no big deal," Ryan said.

"No big deal, you fuck some bimbo and then have the fucking *nerve* to come up here and expect me to be okay with it?" David asked.

Ryan shrugged. "I thought..."

"No, clearly, you didn’t!" David snapped. "Because if you thought for one second I’d be okay with this, or that I’d forgive and forget... you know what, forget it, get out. Go back to Miami and your little whore, I’m nobodies dirty little secret and I’m tired of these games of yours."

"Dave..." Ryan started to speak, but David cut him off.

"I’m sorry was I not clear enough, fuck off. Get out of my house!" David snarled, throwing a handy glass at him.

"It was a mistake, it didn’t mean anything. David, come on... we can be rational about this," Ryan argued ducking quickly.

"Don’t make me have to hide your body where no one will ever find it!" David hissed.

"I... call me when you calm down okay," Ryan said, beating a hasty retreat.

"Bastard," David finally yelled at his retreating form, throwing another glass for good measure.

David made a valiant attempt at avoiding the other labtechs that might and he may actually have succeeded, except Greg wasn’t a tech anymore, he was a CSI and it was really hard to avoid CSI’s when it was your job to process the evidence they collected. As soon as Greg entered his lab, David knew he was done for, Greg had some freakish sixth sense and he’d just know something was wrong.

It took less than five minutes for the whole group to descend like vultures.

"What’s the 911?" Bobby asked.

"Something’s wrong with David," Jacqui announced marching in.

"Nothing is wrong with David," David attempted to argue.

"Of course not, except for what is wrong with you. I’m guessing... Ryan," Jacqui said.

"Ryan? What about him? Did he cancel his visit this weekend?" Archie asked.

"He came up," David muttered. He so did not want to discuss this. He loved his friends dearly; although Jacqui would succeed with one of her ‘diets’ before David would ever admit it aloud; but he really didn’t want to have this conversation and especially not in the middle of the lab. The only good thing that could come from it was the very real possibility Jacqui would fly to Miami to castrate Ryan, which now that David thought about it, might be worth the embarrassment, serving as it would the twin purpose of causing Ryan extreme pain and giving them at least two Jacqui free days. But still, he really didn’t want to have this conversation in the lab.

"Did you to fight? I’m sure you’ll make up," Bobby supplied, smiling kindly. Bobby was so not helpful in these situations. He was way too damn nice, way too damn committed and happy to remember what it was like to break up with someone.

"Only if hell freezes over," David hissed.

"Oh the bastard!" Jacqui exclaimed, clearly figuring out what had happened, without David actually having to say it. Unfortunately, she was loud enough about it to attract the attention of Nick and Catherine, who were walking by the lab.

"Who’s a bastard?" Catherine asked poking her head in.

"David’s boyfriend. Ex-boyfriend... he is your ex right, I mean you’re so not taking him back?" Jacqui said, phrasing it like a question but it was really an order.

David glared. "Not her business."

"Oh please, Catherine will help me castrate him. We can bring his balls back to you in a bag if you want, you can burn them or something, it would be cleansing," Jacqui said.

"So would a night of peace away from this zoo. Look I’m fine, it’s over. I’m middle aged, free and single once again. Now can we please go away and mind somebody else’s business that’s not mine," David pleaded.

"I think we all have work to do, somewhere else," Nick suggested.

"Yes, let’s get back to work," Catherine backed him up.

Jacqui glared. "So much for the solidarity of sisterhood," she muttered, leaving with a look that told David this would be revisited later.

"Thank you," David said, once everyone but Catherine and Nick had gone.

"No problem," Catherine said, waving her hand as she headed out the door on the opposite side of the lab.

"You really okay?" Nick asked.

"Your concern is touching Stokes, but I’m a big boy, I think I can handle a break up without throwing himself of a bridge," David said sarcastically.

Nick smiled. "Well that’s good, Grissom would be pissed if he had to find a new trace tech, he thinks he finally has you trained."

"Only in his wildest dreams," David retorted.

"Yeah, but we won’t tell him that," Nick said softly, looking at him with such open apprehension and sincere concern.

"No," David agreed, looking at the floor when Nick’s serious gaze became too much.

"I should go. Work... I’ll see you later," Nick finally mumbled the goodbye and David actually sagged in relief.

He told himself right then, he was going to find a dark, dark closet and hide their ‘til spring, when hopefully his friends would have forgotten about trying to ‘help’ him and he’d have forgotten that he’d wanted to kiss Nick Stokes less than a day after breaking up with his previous partner. Yes, that was definitely something to forget about, as quickly as humanly possible.

*~*~*~*~*

It was a week after David threw a glass at him, that Ryan called. David wasn’t actually home when he called, but he returned to find a lengthy answering machine message that basically boiled down to ‘I’m a stupid prick, but I love you, please forgive me.’ David listened to it three times.

Jacqui would kill him if she even thought he was thinking about giving Ryan a second chance. Actually, they all would, they still remembered how hard it was for him when he’d just moved to Vegas. He’d barely known anyone, couldn’t even remember half the ‘labrats’ names and still they came to his aid, insinuating themselves into his life and helping him tell Jason... his Ex from LA... where to stuff it.

David had been a wreck after Jason. Jason who’d cheated on him four times! Jacqui had been damn near ready to rip his balls of with her bare hands if he came near David ever again and David might even have let her. He thought Ryan was different.

Okay, so he was young and impulsive, sometimes too young and too impulsive, but sometimes that was what David wanted, what he loved about Ryan... Jacqui, Bobby, Archie, Greg... hell even Ronnie, would probably kill him for even considering listening to a single word Ryan had to say. Jacqui was still hell bent on castrating him. But could David just throw away a year because of one mistake?

*Ring, Ring*

David looked at the phone. It might be Ryan. Biting his lip, he picked it up cautiously. "Hello?"

"You aren’t considering taking him back are you?" an irritated female voice asked from the other end of the line.

"Excuse me. Jacqui why..." David started, before he was cut off.

"David, I know you," Jacqui said.

David glared at a picture of him with the labrats taken last year, since he didn’t have the real Jacqui to glare at, her picture would have to suffice. "I’m a big boy Jacqui."

"That’s between you and your lover boys, one of whom is no longer Ryan Wolfe," Jacqui said insistently.

"Goodnight Jacqui," David said tiredly, hanging up the phone and turning off the ringer, which he knew he’d regret once he got into work that night, but right then he just wanted to sleep. Ryan wasn’t so bad, okay he’d made a mistake, but David had hardly given him time to explain, he should have, he knew how hard long distance relationships were and Ryan had to have people throwing themselves at him all the time. He should be able to forgive and forget. Or at least, he should hear Ryan out. That seemed like the least he could do after a year together.

David waited until he was sure the phone wasn’t receiving any incoming calls and then picked it up, dialling Ryan’s home number. Maybe if they could just talk, they could work this out.

"Hello, Wolfe residence," a female voice answered when David called.

"Hello, is Ryan there?" David asked, hoping he didn’t sound as sick as he felt.

"He’s just in the shower, he can call you back, who shall I say called?" the woman asked.

"No, it’s fine, he doesn’t need to call back. Thank you," David said, hanging up, staring at the phone blankly for a few moments before throwing the offending machine clear across his open area living room and kitchen until it smashed unceremoniously against the fridge. David steeled himself mentally as he cleaned up the mess. He would *not* give in, he would not cry and he would *never*, let another man do this to him again.

*~*~*~*~*

Nick heard all about David's tattered love life, about a month later, from Greg, who asked Nick to help him hide the body of a man Nick, had never met. After Greg had finished the whole story, Nick seriously considered needing Greg's help to hide the body, rather than the other way around.

It wasn't any of his business of course, he knew how much he'd hate it if people stuck their noses into his love life and he had to admit he didn't know David nearly well enough to earn the right to be indignant on his behalf, but from what Greg said... and even knowing Greg was prone to over exaggeration... Nick though Ryan Wolfe was an asshole. And if Greg ever did kill him, Nick would help him hide the body.

Once Nick knew, of course, it became a whole new problem. Greg had sworn him to secrecy; David was barely speaking to any of them as it was, if he thought they were telling everyone about his private life, he'd disown them all together. Not that he'd really disowned them exactly; he wasn't speaking to anyone outside of what was necessary for work.

Nick hadn't really thought about it, he supposed, if he were honest, he'd never given David much thought beyond the trace results he provided, but the next few times he went to see David he'd tried to engage him in conversation and was neatly rebuffed and sent on his way. It made Nick feel a little sad, he'd never realised before how much he enjoyed David's sarcastic humour, until it wasn't there anymore. And it made him feel more than a little guilty, that he'd never taken the time before to see that there was a real person under the sarcasm.


After about a month of this new David, who wasn't exactly sullen and moody, but who lacked the flair and sarcasm everyone had come to associate with him, Nick was going crazy. He'd never realised it before, never thought about it before, but he liked David and now David was being... un-David like and it made Nick uncomfortable and annoyed, mostly at himself, because he'd been so caught up in everything else, so blinded by that outwards acidity that he never considered David's other qualities, until they were lacking.

His humour was only one of the things Nick had noticed missing. His flair with trace was gone, while he could still identify almost anything they handed him, he did it without the same... something... he'd had before... something Nick couldn't really identify, but it was missing and he missed it. And Nick had realised that compassion was missing too. He'd never actually noticed David had compassion, until he noticed it was missing.

Walking towards the trace labs, Nick considered, as he had done almost every time he'd gone there lately, what he could talk about to try and get a response out of David. He'd tried everything he knew David liked, most of which were suggestions by Greg, because Nick really didn’t know that much about what David liked, but he was running out of ideas.

"Hey Hodges," Nick greeted, smiling.

"The trace came back as chalk, nothing fancy, plain simple white chalk," David said, handing Nick a sheet of paper.

"Hmm... our victim was a teacher, so that's not really strange. Thanks. So, did you see the car show in town this week?" Nick asked.

"I'm busy," David replied succinctly.

"Oh... well I was sort of thinking, you might like to go," Nick said, hoping he didn't sound as lame as he felt. He really hadn't intended on asking David out, but it seemed like as good an idea as any at this point.

David looked up at him, his eyes narrowed. "Excuse me?"

"Well, I was thinking I might go and I thought you'd be going, so maybe we could go together," Nick explained, feeling the blush on his face.

"No," David said, turning back to his microscope.

Nick stumbled around an attempt to continue the conversation for a few minutes, but David wasn't paying attention anymore, leaving him with no option but to give up.

"Well if you change your mind..." Nick said, giving one last valiant attempt at a smile that David didn't see because he wasn't looking, before he left.

*~*~*~*~*

David looked into the microscope for as long as he could, without it seeming strange. He almost sagged in relief when he looked up to see that Nick was definitely gone. Had he stepped into the twightlight zone? Nick Stokes had just asked him out. Twightlight zone seemed like the only reasonable explanation.

Not that it really mattered, David had of course said no. It had been the only thing to do, even if he was for one second prepared (in a purely theoretical way) to put himself in danger of another situation, like Jason or Ryan (and he wasn't) he knew he was neither mentally or emotionally ready to date anyone, least of all someone he might secretly like to consider a friend.

David knew his friends were concerned. He knew he was being standoffish and that most of his usual sarcastic banter had gone the way of the ark, but he really needed that distance. They would disagree of course, they would say he needed his friends around him and they wouldn't be wrong, but neither was he. David had realised he needed to discover *himself* before he could deal with anyone else.

It was a strange and scary realisation. He'd sat there, after he'd called Ryan and that woman picked up the phone and he'd spent hours thinking about everything when the phone rang again.

"David? Hi," Ryan said, sounding unsure.

David sighed tiredly. "What do you want Ryan?"

"You called me. I was in the shower, Calliegh... I work with her, she said someone called but didn't leave a number, it was you right?" Ryan asked.

David considered denying it, but he didn't have the energy. "Yes Ryan, it was me. I got your message."

"Good, I... David... Calliegh, she's just a friend form work, we're not... I mean... she'd just dropped by to pick me up because my car is in the shop," Ryan explained.

"It's fine. I'm... I just wanted to tell you it's okay. I... forgive you." David said, surprised to find he meant it.

"Really? God Dave I... I love you and I know I..." Ryan started.

"No," David stopped him.

"No?" Ryan asked perplexed.

"I forgive you, but I can't... we're over. I just... goodbye Ryan," David said, hanging up without waiting for an answer.


David had realised what he hadn't before. Even when he was being difficult, sarcastic and contrary, he was doing what others expected of him. He'd spent his whole life, being what others expected him to be and David didn't know, who *he* wanted himself to be.

He wished he could take Nick up on his offer, he was even willing to admit, he'd *like* to take Nick up on his offer. Nick was handsome, smart, funny and caring, he was the sort of guy you could rely on and as sad as that may sound, that 'reliable' was so high on David's list of things he wanted from love. (Because after all, as any woman he'd ever met had told him, love wasn't about reliability. It wasn't about being able to live with someone; it was about not being able to live without them. And all those other clichés). David really wanted someone he could count on and he could see Nick being that sort of someone. But David wasn't ready for it yet and it wasn't fair to Nick to drag him into something with someone who felt only half finished some of the time.

But he might secretly be hoping Nick would still be interested in whoever David Hodges turned out to be, when he knew for sure who that was.

*~*~*~*~*

Nick watched David and frowned. He couldn't seem to stop. It was like his eyes had been opened and he'd seen David for the first time and now he couldn't stop watching him. David had been... Nick wasn't sure how to describe it, he'd been different though. Not bad different, just different. He seemed to be... finding... himself.

It was strange, watching, seeing how this not entirely new David reacted to others and others reacted to him. The labrats closed ranks, anyone who tried to call David on his strange behaviour was paid a visit by Jacqui and no one wanted that, so most people just let it be, but Nick couldn't stop watching him.

He watched him joke with Greg, discuss football with Warrick, help Linda on the reception desk fix her car... it was like he was suddenly everywhere and Nick was there too, watching, waiting... he wasn't sure for what.

Nick had been disappointed when David turned him down. He'd been a little surprised as well, but that seemed egotistical, so he settled on disappointed and asked Greg why. Not why David had said no, but why he felt so bad about it.

Greg had smirked at him, like he was the butt of some really hilarious joke and asked him what he thought of David's ass in the jeans he was wearing that night. Nick spent the rest of the nigh avoiding trace, because he couldn't look David in the eye after imagining him spread over the lab table, those jeans around his ankles and... well Nick wasn't nearly as naive as people thought, about life or about sex, but he still didn't want to be thinking things like that in a lab full of people trained to know when someone was hiding something.


This continued for almost three months, three months when Nick was convinced he had to be going crazy because he couldn't think of anyone but David, even in the privacy of his own bedroom, when he tried to picture anyone else while he was... he couldn't do it, in the end, when he let himself go, it was David's face he was seeing. David's name that was on his lips.

Nick could barely look David in the eye anymore and Greg was teasing him constantly. Even Grissom seemed to have noticed his crush and that was just embarrassing.

"Stokes," David's voice startled him and Nick cringed, hitting his head on his locker door as his turned around to quickly.

David stood there; one eyebrow raised carefully, a look of amusement on his face.

"You have breakfast plans?" David asked, still looking amused. Nick felt like maybe he was really going crazy, but shook his head anyway.

"Good. I'll meet you in the lobby after shift," David said, no question, just a statement and then he was gone and Nick was confused, because he had never before been ordered on a breakfast date. He might even have considered following David and saying no, just for principles sake, but then he didn't really want to do that, so he just shook his head, strapping on his gun and shrugging when Warrick asked why he was grinning as he entered the break room. All night long he couldn't help thinking how he had a date with David Hodges... and where once that would have greatly disturbed him, now it left him buzzing with anticipation.

*~*~*~*~*
David waited in the lobby, trying to look nonchalant, because the last thing he wanted was to look at all concerned, worried, or in any other way abnormal while working on a building full of trained criminalists. Jacqui had already caught him once tonight demanding to know *why* he hadn't told her he was having breakfast with Nick... he swore, one day he would find out how she seemed to be physic and they'd never find the body of her informant, in the mean time, he'd keep hoping it was Greg.

"Hi," Nick started him, with the quiet approach and the shy little greeting and no one had any business being that... nice and shy looking.

"Glad you make it," David said, because it seemed, he thought, like something he might, or should say. David could admit, despite his earlier bravado he had no idea what he was doing. He'd never taken the lead before.

"Yeah... me too," Nick said a little unsurely, looking around him, where David could see Greg, Bobby and Archie were watching them.

"Oh for... I'm sorry about them, they can't help themselves," David glared at them, but they just kept watching and Nick turned bright red under their gaze, which drew the gazes of others.

"Maybe..." David started to say this was a bad idea, because clearly it was, they were in the middle of the lobby being watched by his so-called friends and any other curious passer-by that felt like it and Nick was flushed with embarrassment and David himself felt warm with it, but Nick's eyes went wide and vaguely scared when he started to suggest they just forget it and David felt his heart rate rocket.

He knew Nick was interested in him, or at least he was pretty sure, Nick had after all been the one to ask him out originally and he'd been watching David, when he thought David didn't know he was there... but it was the first time it had occurred to David that Nick really liked him. That this could potentially turn into something long term... the very thought both thrilled and petrified him.

"They'll follow us you know, Greg knows the only place in Vegas for decent coffee in the mornings is Jax..." David said.

Nick nodded, frowning and looking at his feet. David thought he might have to shoot himself, because damn if he didn't find that... cute... David sighed mentally. He was a grown man, he was not suppose to find anything *cute*. Clearly he'd been hanging around Jacqui too much, she'd rubbed off on him, that was the only logical explanation.

"Greg gave me Blue Hawaiian for Christmas... and I can make eggs without the fire brigade knocking down my front door..." David said, feeling extremely exposed here, with people watching and Nick looking all wide-eyed and innocent... nodding slowly as a great big grin spread over his face.

David smiled back... it wasn't a grin, because David didn't grin and certainly not in front of his so called friends, while they were winking and giving him the thumbs up signs like they were still in high school... but he smiled and if he was still smiling when he told Greg the next night, that next time he told Jacqui about his dating arrangements, they'd never find the body... well that was between him and Greg, and Nick who found it almost as hilarious as he did.


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