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The Gods of Lesser Things

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Fanfic: The Gods of Lesser Things
Title: The Gods of Lesser Things
Author: [info]vegawriters
Rating: NC-17. This, for those of you who don’t get it, means dirty sex (with one of our favorite couples.
Pairings: Sofia/Maggie; Greg/Dawn; GSR; Nick/Vartan; Catherine/Logan
Standard Disclaimer: So totally not mine. I REALLY wish they were. I make no money. Don't sue. Hire me instead. I'll make you even more money.
Challenge: To include a pumpkin patch and the Stephen King quote: "Get busy living or get busy dying".
Fandoms: CSI. Hints of BTVS, ER, and XMen.

It looks a lot like givin' up
Peace we bring is a bitter cup
Set our bodies down like offerings
While we pray to the god of lesser things
~Lesser Things (Jars of Clay)

Under the pulse of the Las Vegas lights, the shadows grew, dark and slick as the sun cascaded down past the mountains, bathing the Valley in the perfect blackness of night. The half-formed shape of the moon caught the last vestige of the sinking sun and glowed orange, hanging low above the city while the creatures below prowled, searching for gold and trinkets, affected in ways they no longer acknowledged.

The sulfur from the match tickled the young woman’s nose and the flame threatened to light her hair as she knelt before the small altar on the edge of town. Within walking distance, the pumpkin patch sold the last of the harvest – a few scraggly squash better suited for tricksters than carving.

A calm, steady hand lit the black candle first, and then the white in perfect silence and concentration. The witch set the offering basket in front of the candles, only then speaking aloud, asking the Gods for a safe and prosperous new year. When the offering was complete, the girl rose to her feet, stepping back to watch the candles burn down and wait through the parting of the veils.

Never once did she think she would step through them herself.

***

With a smirk, the aging doctor looked around. He knew of many coroners, his assistant included, who dreaded the coming of Halloween and the idea that the dead were even closer to the living. For his part, he enjoyed giving the dead their own little party. Each drawer was decorated with bright orange paper, the edges of each table draped in black crepe. Candles waited on the shelves – they wouldn’t be lit, but the effect was dramatic. “Here’s to you, guys,” he said with a laugh. “All just for you. Enjoy your night.”

The amusement left his face as his pager chimed.

***

He jumped when the jacket covered his eyes. Tugging it down while trying to get his breathing under control, Greg found himself looking up into the tender eyes of his girlfriend. “God, Dawnie …”

“Sorry, Linus.” Dawn’s apology was sincere as she settled down next to Greg on the blanket he kept up here. The Nevada night was warm enough, especially given the heat from the compressors on top of the Clark County building, but she was still glad for her recently acquired LVPD sweatshirt. “I feel like we should be in a pumpkin patch.”

“Funny.” He kissed her cheek.

Gently, Dawn brushed a thumb over the last remaining trace of a bruise, “How are you feeling?”

“Eh.” He shrugged, “There’s a quote that keeps going through my head tonight – get busy living or get busy dying. I think it’s a … I can’t remember.”

“Stephen King and he paraphrased that whole idea of if you’re not part of the problem you’re part of the solution.”

Greg laughed, full on, the first time in a while. “Don’t you mean it the other way around?” He meant to go on, but his eyes caught the stars again and he forgot what he was saying.

She waited a minute to see where his thought process would go before gently changing the subject. “You do know that the demons take Halloween off, right? It’s their chance to laugh at the humans.”

“That’s not what my Nana Olaf says.”

“Your Nana Olaf never lived on a hellmouth.”

“Someday I’m going to realize that you aren’t joking when you say it.”

“You actually buy that the town of Sunnydale was destroyed by an earthquake?”

“Well, the science …”

“Greg, someday you’ll learn that science isn’t the answer to everything.”

“This from the anthropology student?”

“Anthropology grad student. And Forensic Anthropologists have jobs because you Forensic Scientists sometimes just don’t have the answers that the scientific method demands.”

He ignored the comment. “So does the Great Pumpkin really exist?”

Dawn tried to look innocent. “We had a fantastic pumpkin pie one year.”

Greg tried to not look sick.

***

“Who would kill someone in a pumpkin patch?” Warrick frowned and looked closer at the body before snapping another picture, “Better yet, who would kill someone somewhere and then dump the body in a pumpkin patch?”

Sofia sighed softly and shook her head as her gaze caught on the silver and gold Pentacle around the young woman’s neck. For a moment, her own fingers reached up to press against the small silver star she wore around her neck, hidden carefully under the blouse and badge. Her eyes glanced to the stars, praying for the young woman’s safe return. “Warrick, you think that after as long as you’ve been on the job, you’d stop asking questions like that.” She did her best to keep her voice neutral but she had a feeling that her former lab partner could tell she was more upset than usual.

“Never stop asking questions. It only makes you stop being surprised.” Warrick gave the detective a smirk but she shook her head, silencing the jokes. Or trying to. She failed. “So what, this guy has seen one too many reruns of Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin?”

“I think it’s ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown’, actually. And,” she sighed, trying to keep herself on an even keel; she had a feeling this wasn’t some random murder, “who’s to say that the Great Pumpkin didn’t do it?”

“Whatever.”

“If it’s a woman and her name is Lucy, well then, I know we’ve stepped into the twilight zone.”

“It’s Halloween in Vegas. We’re already in the twilight zone.”

***

A smirk graced her lovely face as Heather stood back to examine the hard work of her underlings. Tina and Reena looked hopeful – this was their first Halloween here after all and they wanted nothing more than to please their mistress. The front door, usually polished and shining in candlelight, was now covered in lush velvet and when opened showed off only the black draperies of the now transformed foyer.

She smiled. “This is lovely, ladies. We are now complete.” She snapped her fingers at them. “Well, the Dominion is. Go and dress! We will soon have boys and girls clamoring at the doors, seeking that which they will only let show on Halloween.” She tossed a lock of her own messy hair over her shoulder. Her girls were not the only ones in need of a makeover and it was almost time for her injection as well.

Taking the back stairs two at a time, Heather dashed into her private area, closing the door behind her, and let a soft smile touch her eyes. On the vanity, still fresh, sat the vase of black magic roses. She wandered over, her shower momentarily delayed, and plucked the card from the stand again, her eyes drinking in the tight, precise handwriting.

My love – I know you have been dreading this day this year, but you remain as beautiful as you were the day our souls first looked at each other. Grow with grace. ~Riel

There were times, even though she knew their souls had been bound since the beginning of eternity, that it scared her just how well he knew her. She’d spent her life reading others, understanding their inadequacies and sensing their fantasies before they knew she was even watching, but all his life, he had been watching her. To have that, to have someone like that, and to have that someone love her with everything he was, sent thrills of excitement through her body.

The girls who knew her best teased her – Lily had become known for leaving “girlish” things on her bed and Andrea had procured a copy of an obscure book of codes for proper Victorian conduct. To be honest, Heather woke up every evening not knowing if their life together would last the night, after all he could be called away at any time, but she also knew in her heart that the separation they had endured for the past twenty years was not to be repeated.

Indulging herself with a whiff of the roses, Heather moved across the private area to shower and prepare for the night. What better way to celebrate her official entrance into her fourth decade than to scare the daylights out of needy boys and girls? Tonight would be the thigh high, six-inch stilettos, the fishbone corset, the leather mini, and the spiked collar and chains. In truth, she was one for elegance and grace, not the garishness that the mainstream culture exploited, but even she was allowed to play dress up on Halloween.

***

It surprised him, how easy it was to hide in the shadows while the cops and the criminalists did their investigation. He knew they would never catch him. He knew they would get so close to him and yet never reach out to touch him. They would take their tests and their samples and go back to their lab and they’d find out that Stardust had friends and they’d learn her real name was Sandra and they’d ask her family when the last time they’d seen her was. The tracks he’d left would lead them to him, but he would keep three steps ahead of them. He would stay free. He would stay in control. The case would go cold. He would win this fight.

***

Conrad,

Here’s the latest picture of Nichole. She’s growing fast and of course she’s very, very smart. Her favorite classes continue to be science and math, which is rare for a girl but I’m not going to complain. She wanted to be a mermaid for Halloween but I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t completely racy, so she’s a princess instead. I will call you mid November so we can talk about Christmas plans. I’d rather not have her in Vegas, though.

~Alicia

He crumpled the note in his hand and sighed while looking at the picture of his little girl. Nichole was going to be tall – something else she’d inherited from him, and something else he knew his ex-wife hated. It killed him that Nichole was a pawn in their hatred of each other, and it wasn’t just Alicia’s fault. He admitted to his own sick, perverse pleasures that his daughter liked math and science over English and that his daughter was going to be tall and lanky. Nichole deserved better than both of them, and what was even worse was that he knew that his daughter knew that too.

Sighing, he placed the picture into the frame – he got two pictures a year, plus any he managed to take in the couple of weeks he got to see her every year. Underneath the forced smile, he could tell she hated the costume – pink ruffles were hardly Nichole’s style, even as a baby she had gravitated to starker colors and plain styles. But, Alicia Ecklie was a force to be reckoned with, so he knew that eventually Nichole had just given in, if anything, to shut her up. He worried. He also wanted to call, but already it was past eleven and Nichole had school in the morning. So the call would have to come this weekend, at his appointed time.

It killed him.


With a sigh, he looked back at the image of his daughter, forced into a pink dress she hated. At least Nichole was learning now that life was full of masks, of disappointments, and of mistakes. It was better to learn it now than in twenty years.

He needed a drink.

***

Gil Grissom was the master of control. He knew this; the people who spent their time with him knew this. He could put his work ahead of his life, his life ahead of his heart, his heart ahead of his soul. He could have gone through life and been happy, alone, perfectly in control, but no. She had shown up in that seminar ten years ago. And now, on nights such as this, he thanked God that she had accepted that dinner invitation.

Yet, despite his legendary control, right now, he had to pull on every level of discipline he had to keep his mind ahead of the demands of his throbbing cock. He closed and locked the door behind him, taking a deep breath before turning to look at the slave beauty before him.

Jesus H. Christ.

All his years of study, ever since the first night he and Desrae had experimented with tying her hands behind her, all of those years of control were completely at war with the Goddess who had sunk to her knees and tilted her head up, looking at him with complete adoration. Yes, a Goddess. His Goddess.

It was rare for them to attend parties like the one they’d just returned from. Neither of them liked the crush of the people, and he was enough of an animal to hate the idea that other men and women were looking at His Sara. If their friends ever saw them like this, they’d never believe that the woman in front of him, the woman on her knees, the woman dressed in the low slung (faux) leather pants, the skimpy halter that revealed to the world the chain that connected her nipple rings, the woman with the perfectly designed tattoos, this woman with her hair up in a high, tight ponytail, her makeup deep and smoky, her knee-high buckle boots, this woman was Sara Anne Sidle.

Admittedly, he was nervous, going out with Sara in public, even to a dark club, with a leash attached to her collar. They both knew that her submission to him would never fit the profile that most people, even psychologists, gave to the BDSM community. Rarely were there costumes, and the scenes between them came in the safety of his bedroom. In truth, they were equals – there was little true power play between them. She fit the role of his submissive naturally, both in the work place and in moments like these, in his townhouse.

His own fears of how she would accept all of the levels of his sexuality had been allayed a year ago tonight in a way that seemed ripped from the pages of a romance novel. He’d dropped his tie tack, knelt to find it had rolled under the bed, and discovered a toy box that he’d never seen before.

“Sara …?” He looked at her, completely in shock, even as she sank to her knees before him, hands behind her back, her chin jutted up in his direction – still the stubborn pout. “I always thought …”

“I have a reputation, Gil, a carefully crafted one, one that’s a lot like the one you’ve spent all of your life creating. You don’t have to hide from me. In fact, it hurts a bit that you ever thought you did.”

Had it only been a year ago he’d discovered that box?

“Good god, I’m a lucky man.” He muttered to himself as he let his hands tangle again in the leash.

***

“You okay?” Alex Vartan hung in the doorway to the bedroom, watching Nick stare at himself in the mirror. Sometimes, especially in the year and a half since Nick’s abduction, he wondered where the other man’s mind went – he knew that it wasn’t always on his work or his life. No, Nick often found himself deep inside his own head, leaving Alex to wonder when he’d come back out; Alex had definitely learned a new level of patience as well as a higher level of hatred for the world. He could only be glad that the people who had done this to his lover were now all dead and gone.

“What?” Nick blinked at the sudden surprise of a voice but when his eyes locked with Alex’s, he was right back in the bedroom. For once, he hadn’t been in that dark place that Alex worried about so much. No, tonight his thoughts were much closer – in the bedroom down the hall actually – on a little girl who wanted to be a princess when she grew up, a little girl who had come to him and asked for him to go through her candy because “daddy would take all the good stuff”.

“You okay?” Alex repeated again, gently. He tossed a stolen milky way to Nick and moved to sit on the bed. “You were off in …”

Feeling the need to reassure his boyfriend that he wasn’t a total nutcase, Nick went to crouch down in front of him, balancing his hands on his knees. “Really, I’m okay. I was just thinking about Tricia …”

“What about her?”

“It’s strange for me, Alex. I always wanted kids and I was even fine with the idea that I could be a step-father to someone … I never thought that my daughter would come through my boyfriend’s first marriage … to a woman.”

This earned him a chuckle and a gentle tug on his ever-changing hair. “I wasn’t ever thinking that I’d end up with a boyfriend.” Alex leaned forward to kiss him gently.

Nick smiled at the combined treat of Alex’s tongue and the chocolate left behind from more than one filched Milky Way bars, and finally popped his own candy bar into his mouth. “Hmmm … chocolate and you. My favorite combination.”

“Don’t talk like that. You have to go to work. Sex and dead bodies …”

“Not your style, hmm?” Nick chuckled and then sighed as Alex wrapped his arms around him. The two men leaned together, gathering strength from the other. “I want to protect her from the evils we see every day, Alex …” Nick whispered softly. “I’m not even her father and she doesn’t even know who I am to you, and I want to keep her as that little princess in pink ruffles.”

“Something tells me that she knows.”

“I don’t know how comfortable I am with that.”

“Why?” Alex tried to ignore the jab of hurt at Nick’s words. It had taken a lot for this night to happen. “Nick, you’re a part of my life …”

“It’s not that, Alex … I mean … I don’t know how … it’s that wanting to protect her thing. Eventually she’s going to get teased on the playground … her little heart is going to get broken. I love your daughter and I …what kind of step-father am I going to be if I’m the cause of her hurt?”

Alex just clung a bit tighter, now understanding Nick’s words. “Hurt happens, I suppose. I love you for thinking of it, though. The time will come when she starts to ask questions …”

“The hardest will be the one we all deal with …”

“How the love of a woman could have come into play if daddy’s gay?”

“You’re a poet and you don’t know it.” The couple shared a soft laugh before Nick turned to kiss him gently. “I have to get going. Warrick is in the less than gentle hands of Sofia.”

“He has nothing to worry about.” Alex grinned. “Other than her girlfriend kicking all of our asses.”

“You know something,” Nick clipped his badge to his belt and reached for his forensics windbreaker, “Maggie scares the crap out of me, but I like her.” He paused and tilted his head. “Does she bear a striking resemblance to Sara to you? I mean, seriously. The first time I saw her, I did a double take.”

“She’s a tough looking brunette. They all tend to blend together. Anyway, Maggie’s hair is curly and she’s got freckles.”

“You didn’t know Sara when she first moved here … and she has freckles too. Lots of them.”

“I don’t want to know how you know that.” Alex glared playfully at his lover.

“Don’t even go there.” He shook his head and grinned.

“Nick …” Alex just shook his head. He could never tell if Nick and Sara had been a thing once, or if he was just keeping up the charade for the sake of the best forensics team in the country. Everyone knew that Grissom and Sara were sleeping together. No one dared to admit it aloud. “Never mind.” They kissed again. “Be safe out there.”

“I’ll call when I’m on my way home. Don’t steal too much of Tricia’s candy.”

“Yeah. Right.”

***

She sighed a bit, trying to find interest in what the other woman was spewing on and on about. Beyond them, in the dark gym, ignored by most of the parental chaperones, the teenagers pawed at each other; Catherine struggled to keep an eye on her daughter.

“It’s just you and Lindsey then?” The annoying woman squawked over the shrill of the pop music that filled the gym.

“Yeah,” Catherine took a sip of the watery punch and scratched at the cat makeup on her nose.

“Divorced?”

Was that pity Catherine heard in the other woman’s voice? Divorce was as common as marriage in this town. For a flaming moment, she felt the urge to describe the ups and downs of her life with Eddie, ending with his cheating on her, the cocaine habit he left her with, and his eventual death over drugs and girls with pink hair. Instead she sipped again at the punch and contemplated ways to break the other woman’s fingers. “Yes.”

“And what is it that you do?”

Knowing now that she’d have the upper hand, Catherine just quirked her lips into a smile. “I’m a forensics investigator.”

“Oooh, like on that TV show LA Forensics?”

Catherine chuckled, having caught the “reality” show on more than one occasion. “Yes.” Her eyes flicked back to the door, looking for the man who had reluctantly agreed to accompany her tonight. She then looked back at the housewife and, with an evil grin, continued, “I’m a blood spatter expert, so much of my time is spent on call, attending different scenes and going over the specifics of how blood leaves the human body and hits the wall.”

It worked. Under the perfectly fake witch costume, the housewife was pale and shaky. Catherine smiled serenely. While the housewife sputtered, looking desperately for something to say, Catherine glanced over in time to see the outline of the man she was falling in love with looking around the gym with fear. She laughed. For a man of such strength and power, it was amusing to see what frightened him.

“Well now,” the housewife followed her gaze, “he’s certainly not out for any good.”

Catherine rolled her eyes. “Excuse me,” she purred and slipped through the throngs of students, taking a moment to separate more than a few of them, and found her way to Logan’s side. “Hey.” She tugged on his sideburns playfully, “Nice costume.”

With a grin, Logan peered around to make sure no one was too close and popped out his claws. “Thanks.” Catherine rolled her eyes adoringly.

“You’ll be the hit with all the wanna-be-mutants out there.”

“Then maybe I can teach them a thing or two about how difficult it is to be one.” Catherine regarded him gently, while Logan gave her the look that was becoming reserved just for her. His harsh tones about teenage mutant dreams belied his affection for the woman in the cat makeup in front of him. So much of him wanted to tell her how he felt, but words just weren’t his strength. So, carefully, he wrapped one arm around her and brought her up against his body – clearly closer than the dance rules allowed.

***

“So do you bring all your girlfriends up here and make out with them?” Dawn tugged on Greg’s hair before gently pushing him off of her.

“Only when I know that after my break I get to go back down and wait for Warrick and Nick to give me something to do with the DB they’re working on.”

“You sound unimpressed.”

“I feel like they’re coddling me since …”

“Maybe you need to take it easy.”

“Dawnie … I need …”

“I know. To work. You keep saying that. But there’s no work tonight, Greg.”

“Which confuses me.”

“I told you,” she shook her head, “the demons take the night off. I think that goes for the human ones too.”

“Why is that?”

Dawn looked back into her boyfriend’s eyes, still remembering the moment Sara had called. She’d sat there at the hospital, waiting, praying for his eyes to open again, and when they had, he’d reached for her and she’d cried into his shoulder. Dawn had never figured she could fall for someone like Greg, but he was the only one she could imagine in her life. “Because they’re too damned busy the rest of the year, Greggo.” Tears streamed down her cheeks.

“Dawn …”

“No.” She stared at him. “No. I don’t care if work helps. Tonight you’re staying up here with me and you’re only going downstairs when they page you. The demons take the night off. You should too.”

***

“So what have you got for me, Doc?” Warrick looked down at the body of the young woman and sighed – she was younger now than she’d been in that pumpkin patch. Her sandy brown hair faded under the florescent lights of the morgue, and her skin seemed tinted with a green makeup only found in Halloween stores. Really, he hated the morgue.

“Nothing that’s going to lead you to anything.”

“It’s a sad night when you’re hoping for rape or fingernail scrapings.”

“Nothing that I can tell.” Robbins looked up at him. “It’s one of those nights where I can’t tell you anything but cause of death.”

“What was cause of death?”

“She overdosed.”

“On what?”

“A different mixture of something. I’ll know more when tox gets back.”

Warrick sighed and gave the doc a nod. “Keep her cool for a while. I’m heading back to the lab to check in with Nick.”

“I’ll page you if I find anything else.”

“Thanks.”

***

He admitted that he didn’t always understand her.

He admitted that if he were a man with any sanity left at all, he would never have allowed himself to fall for those beautifully painted lips, the smoky eyes, or the surprisingly gentle touch of her hand.

He also admitted that she was way out of his league.

“Happy birthday, Heaths.” Jim smiled softly and held out the small bouquet of yellow roses. “I hope it’s been good.” He glanced around, nervously, knowing that Heather’s lover was most likely lurking somewhere close. Having never met the man, he knew he was probably over reacting, but a man Lady Heather Kessler could love was a man far stronger than he. For the briefest of moments, he allowed himself to feel a flash of jealousy toward Gil Grissom.

“Captain Brass …” The smile she bestowed upon him made the nervousness and the jealousy completely worthwhile and he shared the smile as she took the roses. “You made it here safely, I see. Your co-workers in tow?”

“Just some of the lab techs. Our gun expert and his wife wanted something to do besides Rocky Horror tonight.” He let out a low sigh and shook his head, “Holy shit, Heaths, you look amazing.”

“Thank you.”

“How are you holding up?”

It took strength she didn’t posses to turn around, so she waited, staring into the yellow of the flowers. “It’s my first birthday since …”

“That’s why I’m here, Honey.”

“You’re here because we are friends, Captain.”

“I’m here because I’m worried about you, Heaths. He forced a command into his voice that he himself didn’t believe he was capable of. At least, not with her. “How are you holding up?” Brass repeated.

“I miss her, Jim.” Still, she couldn’t turn around. “And her father does as well,” she glanced in the direction of where Riel had been working earlier. “It’s hard.”

“What about …?”

“What?” She snorted and turned now, anger and hurt fueling her actions – something she was still becoming accustomed to. Not until Zoë’s death had she allowed emotion to ever overrule her like this and she still had a lot of control to regain. “What about a granddaughter that I have no right to?”

“You’re her blood, Heather.”

“I can’t raise a child again, even my own granddaughter. And she has a home now, Jim, and a family who loves her. No …” the harshness faded and she crossed to him, allowing her fingers to run over the soft cotton of his black t-shirt. “No, I must live with the knowledge that my granddaughter is healthy and well cared for. If she wishes to find me, when she is ready, she will be called.”

For a moment the faces of three young women flashed before him – Elise Baker, Zoë Kessler, and his own Ellie. Two dead, a third barely hanging on, all of them loved dearly by parents who only did the best they could with the tools at hand.

He would call Sara later. Check on her. Right now there was a beautiful woman in front of him and there were tears in her eyes. He had to change that.

“Speaking of being called …” Jim allowed himself to glace around the large suite.

“Riel is occupied.” She chuckled softly at the look on the Captain’s face, “Relax. Come in. Have a drink. Your friends will enjoy themselves downstairs without you.”

He rolled his eyes, but came inside the room completely upon her invitation. “Thanks.” Her smirk was his reward.

No. He could never have her heart or dare to touch her body, but he had moments such as these, and they would have to be enough.

***

He hated that the cell phone cut out in the lab. None of the CSI’s phones did, not even their personal ones, but his seemed to cut out around every corner. Walking away from the lab did him no good because if he did, Nick or Warrick or even, god help him, Sofia would be down here yelling at him to process faster. It wasn’t his fault that anything they gave him tonight would take a good six to eight hours to process. It wasn’t his fault that sometimes science just hadn’t caught up with the speed of a murderer. He was doing the best he could. They could just bite him. Especially tonight.

The lab was quieter than usual, which should have made him happy, but it only irritated him further. Sanders had waltzed off to the roof with Dawn, Grissom and Sara weren’t even scheduled (did anyone else find that odd and obvious?), Catherine was scheduled late, and as for Nick and Warrick, those two were just irritating. So he was stuck, processing backlogged trace right next to the fresh materials found at tonight’s crime scene, and waiting and hoping for Wendy to walk by so he could at least look and dream. To top it off, every time he thought to call and check on his daughter’s Halloween, he had to remind himself that three hours later on the East Coast and even if it wasn’t, Kelly would have put Emily to bed by now.

No, Kelly would have a field day if he dared to call. So he sat and stared at rotating vials and wondered where in hell the interns and assistants were.

Oh wait. That was right. Almost none of them ever got assigned to graveyards. Really, he had to switch to days.

***

There were moments when, even though he knew his Sara trusted him completely, he had to fight the urge to return to the world of vanilla sex permanently. The moments like these, right before the animal in his mind took complete control, when Sara was sprawled out below him on the bed in nothing but a collar, the cord on her wrists, and the chain that bound her nipple rings together; he would remember seeing her naked body for the first time, covered in welts and bruises, he would remember being too slow to act as Dan threw her to the ground and stepped on her fragile arm, snapping it into pieces. He enjoyed the simple moments with her, the cuddling and the soft touches and gently claiming her body with his own as they moved together to bring each other to completion. He cherished those moments as much as he did these, when Sara was completely his – or when he was completely hers. The line for him between dominant and submissive had always been blurred – because as her dominant, he was completely in her power and on the nights when she took ownership, he wanted nothing more than to submit to her.

There were no monikers between them, no change in personality as happened with so many other couples who shared this lifestyle. She was always his Sara, he was always her Gil. For as compartmentalized as his mind was, he could never separate himself enough to become someone different when in the bedroom with someone he loved. Even back, twenty years ago, when Desrae had tied him to the bedposts for the first time and they’d shared hesitant laughter mingled with nervous desire, he had always been completely himself. As one now completely sure of his sexuality and his sense of self, he could never be anyone but himself when with the woman he loved.

He’d ordered silence from her from the moment he’d placed the collar around her neck and yet her complete lack of sound as the hot wax dripped from the candle he held and made contact with her bare skin all but took away any last hope of control. His eyes traveled up her bare back, past the curve of her shoulders and up to where her hands, tied together, clenched in the pillow, the movement of the bones expressing what her vocal chords were bound to not. Above the sweet smell of the taper in his hand, he could smell her arousal, and when her head arched back as the wax again connected with her body; she bit her lip, hard, lest she break the rules he had set forth.

Again, the candle tipped.

***

The smack of the whip forced Archie to jump at least three feet back – and to hide behind his girlfriend. He didn’t want to look into her eyes; he had the feeling she was getting ideas. Not that those ideas weren’t a great idea, but it was still a little scary just how much Anna resembled this woman before them. The dark haired dominatrix circled the couple, smirking, and then placed the whip into Anna’s hands.

“Go ahead,” she coaxed. “Give it a try.”

Archie gulped.

***

“You’re hating every minute of this, I know.”

“Not completely. I have you in my arms. That makes me happy.” Logan leaned down to press a kiss into her hair. “But yes, you owe me later.”

“What do I owe you?” She raised a playful eyebrow.

“Oh, Catherine …” the mutant growled playfully. “What you owe me for coming to watch teenagers paw at each other when I’d much rather paw at you cannot be made up for in the couple of hours you will have between leaving the dance and getting to work.”

When he growled like that, Catherine understood completely why he was called Wolverine. A giggle threatened to bubble up as she remembered one time telling Gil that she’d never bop a six-foot weasel. Well, a six-foot-three-inch wolverine definitely got her attention. The songs switched again, this time to some garishly awful piece of pop punk that not even Lindsey would listen to and both adults cringed. But being good parents, they only linked their fingers and stared out at the dance floor. After all, someone had to watch these kids and a night-shift working, work-a-holic mother and an accidental mutant step-father were apparently the best parents the high schoolers had.

***

“So your sister’s a Vampire Slayer.”

“Yes, Greg.” Dawn rolled her eyes as she poured over case notes that might end up being a link to the killer.

“And you know lots of witches.”

“A couple of them. One of them is powerful enough to destroy the world and I have her on speed dial.” She hoped he’d get the hint.

He didn’t.

“How much world destruction are we talking here?”

She looked up at him and pointed to the pictures he was ignoring. “Didn’t Warrick give you something to do with which to occupy your time?”

“And you don’t have to look through those case files here. You chose to come in here and I’m choosing to ask you questions while I look at these photographs.”

“You’re a pain and we aren’t going to find anything to link this murder to anyone.”

“Giving up so soon?”

“If it’s witch craft, which I’m betting that it is –“

“Doc Robbins said that she overdosed.”

“But they can’t identify the toxins, Greg. The tox report came back looking like some kind of mystical periodic table of elements, remember?”

“Just because …”

“No. It’s witchcraft.”

“What, so you’re a witch now?”

“No. I just stood at the side of one while she tried to DESTROY the WORLD. OH yeah, she helped to save it to so get off my back about witchcraft.”

“My Nana Olaf –“

“Was probably one of the best witches out there. Right now though, Baby, if you don’t stop talking so that I can read, I’ll send you back to her. In pieces. Care of a couple of witches that I know."

Greg got the point. He shut up and started peering at the photographs again.

Dawn felt bad. She shouldn’t have teased him about beating him up. “I didn’t mean to snap.”

“It’s okay.”

“No,” she kept reading, kept studying, as she’d always done, no matter the investigative situation she was in. “I’m just sensitive to other world stuff. When you’ve seen …” shaking her head, she looked up at him, meeting the soft hurt in his eyes with her own insecurities. “What I’ve seen is no different from what we see here every night, on this job. It’s why I’m here, Greg. I need answers that witchcraft can’t give. And now, thinking that this case might be it … I don’t know how I feel."

“Call your friend. She’ll help you.” Greg gave her a soft smile and then turned back to the photos.

“Really?”

“A lead is a lead, Dawnie. Maybe this witch of yours can help us catch the demon at large.”

***

“So,” Warrick drawled as he sat down next to Nick, “Does Tricia hate you?”

“Nah, she’s always been cool whenever I’m around.” Nick barely looked up from the shift report he was beginning. “She just doesn’t know yet …at least, I think she doesn’t know.”

“She going to hate you when she learns?”

“Well, Alex’s wife hates me, so …”

“Vartan didn’t leave her for you, why …”

“I’m an easy target.” Nick shook his head. “Can we not talk about it right now?”

***

Just the touch of Gil starting to peel the cooling wax from her skin made her climax and she collapsed into the pillows, biting at the material and clenching her hands while she felt Grissom shift over her. The hand sliding over her ass was her only warning before he spread her legs and plunged into her still pulsing body.

She wanted to scream. She just held her breath, the enforced silence making it even more intense – he liked to do this to her, to see how far she could hold it until she broke. Sometimes she broke on purpose – his punishments for transgressions were quite enjoyable and she was known for being rebellious. But he was calling the shots tonight, and despite the orgasm still racing through her body, she wanted nothing more than for his needs to be fulfilled.

When he called her name moments later, thrusting one last time, she knew he was happy. And when he could move again, he untied her hands and rolled her so that he could cradle her against his body. This, more than the sex and the passion, was what they craved – the gentle, sweet touch of another human being; a human being who understood their deepest desires and darkest secrets. They’d found each other, here, under the lights of Vegas. Sometimes, it wasn’t just the dead who lurked in the shadows. Sara smiled as Gil shucked off the now wet comforter and leaned over to blow out the taper. His arms around her as they snuggled under the sheet were more than enough to keep her warm and secure. He released her from her silence, but words felt strange to her, and instead she just wrapped herself around her body.

Actions meant so much more than words anyway.

***

She was going to be late for work, but she didn’t care. His hands, always appearing so rough to everyone else, were nothing but soft and gentle and caring as they caressed over her hips, keeping her close against his body while his lips, those perfect lips, kissed and sucked and touched in places that she never knew were erogenous zones for her. Catherine knew he was still aching from Jean and that his feelings for Marie would always be insanely confused. She accepted that. She welcomed it. After all, she hardly came free of baggage herself. He welcomed her baggage. He sat at her bedside when he couldn’t sleep and he held her when her nightmares became too much.

They loved each other, in their own way. She’d never dream of caging a wild animal, but if he wanted to stay, she would always leave the door open.

***

“Daddy?”

Alexander Vartan looked up at the soft sound of his princess’ voice. “What is it, Trish?”

“I’m thirsty.”

“All that sugar.” He chuckled and got up, gently pushing her ahead of him into the kitchen. “You have fun tonight?”

“Yeah.” Tricia took the glass of water he poured and curled up at the table. “I like Nick, Daddy.”

“Yeah? He’s a good friend.” Alex felt his heart skip a few beats.

“And it’s okay if you like him,” Tricia grinned, “I think he likes you too.”

Vartan just threw his head back and laughed.

***

“How was work?” Sofia leaned in the doorway to the bedroom, watching Maggie run a pick through her untamable curls. Something was wrong, she could tell; it wasn’t just her own exhaustion from a case that she had a feeling would never be solved.

Maggie allowed herself some time to respond. There were days she missed Chicago, missed her family, and days like tonight, when she had to deal with all the kids who thought it was cool to hit Freemont street on Halloween. Being an ER doctor in a city that dealt sin and death to kids was enough to crumple anyone’s spirit. But being in Chicago meant more time away from Sofia, and she loved her too much to ever endure that kind of separation again. “Tiring.” She admitted. She smiled as a wine glass appeared in front of her. “What, is this the pagan telepathy making itself known?”

“Ha.” Sofia sank onto the bed, tucking her legs up. “It’s girlfriend telepathy.”

Maggie cast her a soft smile. “I know.” She took a long sip of the Merlot and sighed as the liquid slipped down her throat. Perfect. Sofia had the knack for picking the right wine to fit any mood. And it appeared that the mood was definitely a shared one tonight. Knowing better than to ask right away how Sofia’s night was, Maggie just put her feet up against the edge of the bed and regarded her girlfriend lovingly.

The only color in Sofia’s outfit came from the silver Pentacle with the garnet stone that hung on the watery chain around her neck. Maggie knew enough about the other woman’s faith to know that most people practiced how they wanted to practice and that the costumes and jewelry came and went with mood, but for as long as they’d been together, that Pentacle had been Sofia’s tradition. Part of her was very glad that Sofia practiced solitary and in hiding – it was hard enough being a woman in the police world. Adding homosexuality and paganism to the mix only made for a heartbreaking cocktail. There were days she was glad for the rumor mill that put Sofia with men such as Gil Grissom or Conrad Ecklie – it made all of their lives easier.

Sofia smiled and looked into her girlfriend’s milk chocolate eyes, eyes made softer by the flickering of the candle light from each room in the large apartment. Below them, the lights of Vegas night drifted up, casting a reddish neon glow into the rooms with open windows. There were days she wanted to out herself to the world, to explain that while she’d had boyfriends in college, when she made it to the police academy she’d realized the truth about herself. She wasn’t out because even her mother didn’t know yet. Allison Curtis was more than willing to live in denial that her daughter’s “roommate” was indeed just a roommate. Maggie’s parents knew, and loved her, but she knew that her own mother would have a heart attack if she found out that her beautiful, long legged, blonde angel was really just another dyke.

“You gonna catch this one?” Maggie moved over, still sipping the wine, and slipped her arm around Sofia.

“Probably not.”

Maggie nodded. “Hey - "Get busy living or get busy dying." What’s it from?”

“Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, Alex.”

“For a bonus point of an extra orgasm later, who said it?”

“Stephen King wrote it you nutcase.”

“It means something.”

“It fits this town perfectly.” Sofia laid back, bringing Maggie with her. “In this town all we do is live and live busily. And then, we get down to the busy business of dying.”

“That’s not what it means.”

“It’s what it means tonight.”

“You okay?”

“She was nineteen. She was a pagan. She was at a ritual of her own making.”

“You really aren’t gonna catch this guy, are you?”

“He’s disappeared into the mists. And the sun is rising. The veils are closing. He’s gone.”

“They’ll open again, Sofie.”

“He may not come through.”

“But if he does, you’ll be ready for him. It’s his turn to get busy dying.”

“So that others can go on with the business of living?”

“Something like that.” Maggie touched the Pentacle around Sofia’s neck. “Happy New Year, Baby.”

“May the old be banished and the new prosper.”

“Something like that.”

“Something like that.”

“Exactly.” Maggie chuckled and turned and kissed Sofia, this time with purpose.

***

The sun rose again, fighting for it’s time in the sky against the ever encroaching darkness; the creatures of the night found sleep, tucked away in their shadows, bathed and cleansed and ready for the next, the longer night.