363.25: "Please Limit Your Selections to Twenty"

~ Written for the Gil/Nick ficathon.

"Please don't damage the books," the woman said, giving the gathered CSIs a scowl. Nick felt himself flinch reflexively -- Mrs. Hardesty, the librarian at his old high school, would be pleased to know her years of training were still in effect.

He noticed he wasn't the only one flinching, though Grissom was already saying, in that smooth tone of his, "We would never needlessly harm any book, Mrs. Macklin." He'd brought up his hands in a placating gesture, looking every inch the harmless professor.

The librarian seemed mollified -- probably due to Grissom's obvious academic look. She could probably smell the bibliophilia on him, and figured she could trust him to keep the other CSIs from folding, tearing, or mutilating the books.

Nick didn't bother telling her they were *all* bookworms of one sort or another. But it didn't matter, because ultimately they had a crime scene to process, and the Las Vegas Public Library could invoice for recouping damages the same as everybody else. He did feel bad about all the damage he saw as he moved down the aisle, following the splatter line of blood. There wasn't much on the spines of the books above the bottom shelf, but the bottom shelf itself was a lost cause.

He wondered if it would be significant that the section he was standing in was 910: travel. Nick started taking pictures and listened with half an ear as Grissom and Warrick discussed evidence as they came across it. There had only been one witness, an old homeless man taking advantage of one of the reading chairs to grab a nap. Brass already had the guy's statement, but none of them had any idea just how accurate it would turn out to be. The guy had still been pretty drunk, three hours after the body had been found.

Nick glanced back at Warrick. "Makes you wonder," he began, and Warrick gave him a confused look. "Why it took so long for anyone to find the body -- the library doesn't close until 9 p.m. and the guy was killed between seven and eight."

They were kind of back in a corner, but Nick was still amazed that somebody could get killed -- with this much blood everywhere -- and no one noticed.

Warrick shook his head, then looked more closely at the books. "Guess geography just isn't the big draw." He grinned, and peered more closely at a book without reaching over and touching it. "Geography for the world tourist," he read. "Sounds riveting."

Grinning, Nick caught Grissom's look as he walked up behind Warrick. He hurriedly went back to taking photos, though he knew he wasn't fooling Grissom.

"Find anything?" Grissom asked, and Nick heard Warrick jump.

"Found a travel guide to the French Riviera," Warrick said. "You wanna check it out? You've got that vacation coming up."

Nick laughed, and glanced up to see Grissom's dry look. "No, thanks. I haven't actually decided to take any time off yet," he said, moving past Warrick to crouch down and look at something Nick couldn't see.

"Oh, yeah," Warrick said. "You have. Catherine said she signed your signature on the forms already. So," he continued, pretending to ignore the surprised look that appeared on Grissom's face. "Where are you going?"

"I know where I'd go, if I had two weeks off," Nick said.

"Texas?" Warrick raised an eyebrow.

"God, no." Nick shook his head and snapped a few photos of the "Far East" section. "Don't get me wrong. I love seeing my relatives, but -- there's so many of them, going back there is exhausting. Every day you're off to visit more cousins and grandparents and nieces and nephews. The last time I went home, I needed a week afterwards just to sleep."

"So where would you go?" Grissom asked, and Nick looked up in time to catch the expression on Grissom's face. It was the look he'd started seeing only a few months before -- and he still hadn't decided if it just hadn't been there before, or if he hadn't been looking closely enough to see it.

He wasn't used to the impression Grissom was giving him, that he was somehow sincerely interested in what Nick had to say -- about something not case-related. But there was no way in hell he was going to do anything to jeopardize it.

"I'd go to Alabama," he said, giving Grissom a smile as he moved down the aisle, still snapping photos. "Got a sister in Birmingham, so my folks couldn't argue about me wasting a vacation not seeing any family. And a friend of mine works at UAB there -- hell, you'd like him, Grissom. He's on the staff of the Forensic Biology Lab."

"Really?" There was a startled blink, then Grissom looked even more interested.

"I thought the idea of a vacation was to get *away* from work," Warrick said, pointing to a piece of fiber for Nick to get a shot of before picking it up with a pair of tweezers.

"The idea of a vacation is to relax and have fun," Nick said, shrugging. It was no secret that Grissom's idea of fun was the same sort of things he did at work. "We can't all be beachcombers and beer drinkers."

"Is that what you do on vacation? Sit on a beach and drink tequila?" Warrick grinned. "Pretty girls in bikinis... oh, yeah." He nodded, eyes focusing on the image he'd just given himself.

Nick laughed again. It was on the tip of his tongue to say what sort of view he really liked -- but all he said was, "Actually, I really am going to go to Birmingham when I get some time off."

His sister would only want to meet for lunch a couple times -- she'd moved away from Texas to get away from family, no matter how much she liked them. Then his time would be his own, and he could hang out with Dave at the university and spend his evening bar hopping at places where he wouldn't have to worry about anyone spotting -- and recognising -- him.

"I hear they have a pretty good science museum," Grissom said casually, a few moments later.

"Yeah, the McWane Center," Nick nodded.

"You're serious," Warrick gave both him and Grissom a doubtful look. "You'd spend your vacations doing geeky stuff?"

Nick and Grissom looked at Warrick, then each other, and shrugged. "Yeah," they said at the same time.

Warrick shook his head and stepped past Nick, muttering under his breath. Nick gave Grissom a grin, laughing silently. He felt his grin freeze, when he saw Grissom just standing there, looking at him.

"Gris?"

There was a second when Nick could have sworn he was about to say... something. But Grissom just blinked, and nodded at the next section of blood-splattered books for Nick to photograph. Nick raised the camera and focused, and told himself that someday he'd find out just what was going on in Grissom's head.

Maybe... maybe he'd ask Catherine when Grissom's vacation was, and he could see if he could swing a few days, himself.