Nick looked down at his fairly depleted box of condoms and sighed. "And I just bought these a month ago..."


She thought about how long they'd known each other and grinned suspiciously.

He looked at her sheepishly. "Well, I had some other ones but they'd actually expired..." He flashed her a big smile. "Then I met you and decided I needed to invest in some up-to-date models."

She laughed and then looked at him curiously.

"So, what? You thought I was some kind of sure thing or something..."

She looked at him, pretending to be unimpressed and he smiled at her a bit ruefully.

"Hell no... I didn't think you were ever going to realize how crazy you were about me. But a guy can hope, can't he?"

They both dissolved in laughter.

"Well, I guess I better grab my laundry from your room..." She frowned and he looked at her expectantly.


She looked at him seriously. "Well, I'm not sure how I'm going to get in there..."

He looked at her in confusion. "Huh? What do you mean? Why can't you get into my room?"

"I don't think I've walked in there on my own since you gave me the tour. I'm not sure I can do it all by myself..." He laughed and moved towards her.

"Oh, I'll take you back in there alright..."

He came at her with his hands out, eyeing her lasciviously and she squealed and tried to run. He quickly caught her and threw her easily over his shoulder. He gave her behind a swat for good measure and she cried out, laughing.


"Alright. Let's do it."

He stalked heavily towards his room and pushed the door open. She wasn't sure where this was heading, but she couldn't stop laughing. Then he lowered her carefully to the floor and kept his hands on her arms. He looked down into her face imploringly.

"Please... you better grab your clothes and get us outta here before I get the urge to make crazy amounts of love to you again."

She smiled widely. "Well, not like that would be a bad thing, but..." She shrugged and grabbed her stuff. "And maybe we better get some more condoms first... just in case."

He laughed, nodding. "Oh, you aren't the only one who needs to do some shopping."

They walked back into the living room and she jammed the clothes into her bag. They walked out to the SUV and as she climbed in she realized how foolish she felt, getting a drive back to her townhome just around the corner.

"Hmmm. I better get you some gas money; we have a pretty long trip ahead of us."

He laughed and pulled out of his driveway. Moments later, he was pulling in behind Alex's car. As she jumped out of the vehicle, he retrieved her suitcase from the back and made his way up to front door.

I hope the painting still isn't done.

He smirked to himself as he hoped she'd spend the night at his place again.

He was happy to smell the overwhelming paint fumes assault his nose once again as they walked through the door. She looked unimpressed, and began opening windows. He grinned at her disappointment and she turned to see him looking pleased with himself.

"What are you up to now?"

He tried to look hurt at the accusation, but ended up chuckling.

"Nothing, I swear. I was just thinking... I guess you may need a place to stay again tonight?" His hopeful smile made her heart swell.

God, how did I get this lucky...

"Um, yeah, maybe... Is that OK?"

He couldn't believe she was so bashful at this point, after they'd been together for all of last night and most of this morning...

"Alex, are you kidding me? I was actually kind of hoping you would."

She smiled shyly and he moved towards her, wrapping her in his arms and looking down at her upturned face.

"We can break in your bed another time."


She gave him a small whack on the arm as she pulled away. He laughed and played innocent.


She shook her head at him, laughing and headed through the living room towards the stairs.

"Just... sit down and don't cause any trouble, OK?"

He picked up the remote, grinning madly.

Everything had definitely been painted, but wasn't completely dried yet. Her watch said 2:17 pm. She figured with the windows opened, she could probably stay there tonight if she wanted; it would probably be fine. She felt herself smirk.

Ah, I think I better stay at Nick's place, just to be safe...

He helped her bring her stuff in from the garage and she started putting things in their places. Fortunately there wasn't much to deal with. He took her bags of clothing up to her bedroom and frowned as he came back downstairs, seeing her face squinched up a bit as she massaged her shoulder. He moved towards her and put his hand out to help her. She sighed as he gently worked her shoulder muscles.

"Mmmm. Thanks..."

"Still a bit sore, huh?"

"Yeah. I need to find a physio here. I apparently need a couple more sessions."

"Well, you should have just let me do all the lifting."

"Ah, it's no big deal. It'll be fine later." She looked over at the phone.

Hmm, I wonder if I have any messages?

She dialled her voicemail number and was informed that she did in fact have two messages.

The first one not surprisingly was from her mother and had come in probably sometime yesterday before she'd called her. The second was from yesterday as well. She felt a bit surprised and looked around for a pen and paper. Nick figured out what she was looking for and tracked them down for her.

He watched as she wrote down some numbers, a name and a title. He looked at her as she deleted the messages and hung up.

"The D.A. wants to talk to you?"

She nodded, deep in thought. "Yeah. He wants me to contact him Monday so we can arrange a time to meet."

She started to remember why she'd had to move in the first place.

James Meadfield.

"Do you think he's out of his coma?"

"Not necessarily. They're probably just preparing for the inevitable."

She nodded, deep in thought.

Don't get cold feet now, Alex. You have to follow through with this no matter what. Especially for Lisa Albertson's sake...

Nick tried to interrupt her thoughts, knowing all too well where they were heading.

"So, you ready to do some shopping?"

"Do you honestly want to come with me?"

She eyed him warily, not knowing many guys who actually enjoyed shopping.

"Don't worry; I'm not a metrosexual. I need to pick up some stuff anyway. And I feel like spending some time with you."

She laughed. "So, um, what was the last 24 hours about?"

"I meant outside the bedroom. There's more to us than that, isn't there?"

He gave her a vaguely disappointed look and she felt thoroughly chastised. She moved towards him and took his hand.

"Yeah, there's so much more. I don't know how I got so lucky."

He grinned. "Well, you were just in the right place at the right time, I guess..."

His face fell as he remembered how they'd met. "Oh, Alex, that didn't come out right..."

She laughed and squeezed his hand tighter.

"Don't worry about it. I've decided the whole thing was fate anyway. I could almost thank James Meadfield for bringing you into my life, believe it or not. Almost."

He gave her a half-grin. "I've actually thought the same thing a couple of times myself. As much as I hate the bastard..." He pulled her in and kissed her lightly. "I got you."

She smiled coyly and put her hand to his cheek. "Yeah. Yeah you did."

She stepped back from him slowly. "Shopping?"

He smiled and they went back out to the Denali.

Later that night, Nick followed up with his promise to take Alex out to dinner, and she watched him across the table.

They were munching happily on their seafood and Nick looked up to catch her watching him. She looked down at her food quickly, but knew he was still watching her, enjoying the flush that crossed her cheeks. He reached across the table and grabbed her hand and she looked up, smiling shyly. His warm look almost melted her heart.

"It's not like I mind if you look at me, you know." He smiled a little wider and she looked away uncomfortably.

"I was just wondering if you were, um, enjoying your dinner."

"Riiiight. OK, then, yes. Yes I am... Very much. Food's excellent... and the company's even better."

She grinned at him self–effacingly but said nothing.

As they exited the restaurant and headed back to the SUV, he stopped and turned to her suddenly.

"I had a great time with you today, Alex. I hope we can spend more days like this together."

She reached up and kissed him lightly. "Yeah, me too. I never knew everyday stuff could be so much fun."

He looked down at her and took in her pale blue dress. The low neckline had been driving him crazy since she'd stepped out of her bedroom... He kissed her softly on her exposed shoulder and she shivered.

He smiled into her eyes and pulled her closer. "Cold?"

She smiled back. "Nope."

"Ready to go home?" He stroked her cheek.

"Yes." She loved how that sounded...


"So are you any good?"

"I'm alright..." Nick grinned at her modestly.

Alex knew from experience that when a guy said he was alright at a sport, it usually meant he could seriously kick ass. She looked at him appraisingly.

He can't possibly be in that good a shape and not be a good athlete.

"Are you sure it's OK for me to come along?"

"Why wouldn't it be?"

Well, there's this whole 'messing around with a victim on a case' thing, she thought to herself.

He knew what she was thinking.

"Don't worry about it Alex. It's just a Sunday afternoon baseball game. It's no big deal. And I would really like you to come."

He gave her a hopeful glance and her stomach went to mush.

"Yeah?" She smiled at him, happy as a clam.

He pulled her into his arms. "Yeah."

He kissed her deeply and she caressed the back of his neck. He pulled back a bit, still holding her.

"And Catherine might be there.She sometimes comes by with Lindsey, although I think Lindsey could be moving into the 'too cool to hang with mom' phase."

Alex nodded, understanding.

"Cool. I'd love to see her again."

As they made their way into the ballpark, Alex was happy to see Catherine talking to some of Nick's nightshift colleagues. She smiled when she saw Alex and headed in her direction.

"Hey there! Are you here to help me cheer on our guys?"

"You're not playing?"

Catherine snorted. "Uh, no. Not my thing. I prefer to watch men run around getting all hot and sweaty rather than get that way myself."

Alex raised an eyebrow and Catherine smiled.

"Let me rephrase that..."

The two women laughed and Alex looked over to where Nick was stretching out his arm. Catherine followed her gaze and smiled.

"So, how are things?"

Alex turned back to Catherine and she laughed at the insinuation behind the question.

"Things are... amazing."

"So, I guess you're not too bummed that you couldn't get a ride home with me the other day?"

Alex laughed again. "Well, Catherine, I wouldn't say that. I would have loved to hang out with you."

Catherine raised her eyebrows in disbelief.

"Well, normally I'd agree with you, but something tells me you had a better time with Nick."

Alex flushed and looked down at her feet. "Well..."

"Hey, it's not like you have to argue on this one. It's a good thing." She looked over at Nick and smiled. "Nicky's a good guy and he deserves to be happy. I think you can do that for him, Alex."

She looked back at the younger woman and smiled warmly.

Alex smiled back at her. "I hope so. Because he makes me really happy."

Catherine patted her knee. "That's all that matters."

She looked up as a young strawberry blonde girl approached them with a basket of french fries. "It's about time. I thought you got lost over there."

"There was line up, mom."

She smiled at Alex shyly and Catherine introduced them. Lindsey offered her some fries and she accepted. Catherine took one look at the pile of ketchup on them and passed.

They looked up as the teams got ready to start the game. Alex smiled as she noticed Mark Barnes playing first base.

I hope his knee holds up... If they win, I'm sure it will be fine, but if they lose...

She shook her head in amusement.

Catherine shouted at the young man at bat. "C'mon Bobby! Let's get on base!"

Alex was enjoying herself and she and Lindsey munched happily on the french fries. As the game went on, Alex got them all drinks to contribute and as she sat back down, Nick trotted out to short stop. He hadn't been up to bat yet, but she watched him clutch his glove in anticipation out on the field, and looked forward to seeing him in action.

She wasn't disappointed.

He was fast, agile and graceful all at the same time. No ball that went anywhere near him slipped past. He looked so... athletic. She felt a small surge of pride, followed quickly by a slight tingling feeling...

They managed to keep the day shift team down to no runs and ran back in for their chance at bat. As the day shift ran out onto the field, she noticed Jim Shelley heading out to right field and she smiled.

I didn't notice him before.

She looked around hoping to catch a glimpse of his wife, but had no idea who it could be.

As the game came to a close, Alex, Catherine and Lindsey cheered. In addition to a few hits by other guys on the team, Nick and a handsome Asian looking man named Archie had managed to bat in quite a few runs and they soundly beat the dayshift team.

Alex laughed to herself as she watched Barnes limp off the field, favouring one knee. Catherine saw her smile and made her own interpretation. She looked to see where her daughter was playing behind the stands and grinned at Alex.

"Nothing like watching a guy do a hot job on the baseball field to get you in the mood, huh?"

Alex almost snorted her drink out her nose, then laughed and nodded.

"Yeah, it's not so bad actually."

They stood up and made their way over to where the men were gathering up their equipment. Alex couldn't see Nick, but Jim Shelley was standing behind his team. She made her way over in his direction, smiling. He was bent over, putting some gear into his bag.

Just before she got to him, however, Mark Barnes stepped in front of her. As if on cue, she felt nauseated all of a sudden.

"Hey there. Alex Winters... Didn't expect to see you here. Come to watch me in action? It's too bad my knee was acting up..."

She groaned inwardly, not wanting to get on this subject again.

"Um, no. Sorry; I was actually here to watch the night shift team..." She looked past him to where Nick was changing out of his baseball cleats.

Following her gaze, Barnes frowned. Shelley looked up then and seeing Alex, he waved and started towards them. Barnes spoke again and she turned back to him.

"You're here with Nick Stokes? That's interesting."

She raised her eyebrows at his tone, but said nothing. Her stomach was beginning to churn uncomfortably and she felt a little woozey. Shelley finally reached them just as Barnes continued.

"It's just that you're not really his type, so I'm a bit surprised...His tastes normally run to the more... exotic. And the more expensive."

Having only caught the tail end of the conversation, Shelley looked confused.

"What the hell are you talking about, Barnes?"

"You haven't been around long enough to know the story, Shelley. A couple years back, Stokes got in shit for screwing around with a prostitute... and she ended up dead. He was even a suspect briefly but it ended up being her pimp in the end."

Alex looked more than a little surprised at the information, and a little green in the face on top of that. Shelley eyed the other man warningly.


"What? It's not like I'm making it up."

Alex was feeling sicker by the moment and decided it probably had been the french fries. She turned a pale face away from Barnes and Shelley eyed her with concern. He placed a hand on her shoulder just as Catherine and Lindsey walked up. Catherine noticed her green pallor immediately.

"Alex? Are you OK? You don't look so hot..."

The group of people around her was actually making her feel worse, actually. Years of drinking too much in university had made Alex aware of one of her more obscure characteristics: When she was sick, she wanted the whole world to go away so she could suffer alone in quiet. She looked at Catherine through ill eyes.

"I think I need to get home. Quick."

Barnes stood smirking in the background and Shelley felt the urge to wipe the smile off his smug face. He wanted to ask Catherine about what Barnes had said, but knew now was definitely not the time.

Just then, Nick made his way towards them, calling out.

"Hey guys, I'm desperate for a beer and the boys are heading out to celebrate..." He stopped as he saw Alex's unhealthy appearance. "Alex? Are you OK?" He moved towards her and put a hand on her arm.

Barnes took this moment to slink off. Shelley watched his back in disgust.


"I think she's going to be sick... Listen Nick, why don't you go have a beer and I'll take her home." Catherine suggested.

"No, I can take her. Just let me..."

"Nick... I'll go with Catherine."

She was worried he'd want to stay with her once she got home and she really didn't think that'd be a good idea. She needed to spend some quiet time alone in the bathroom... Plus, she didn't want to spoil the rest of his afternoon, especially since he had to work that evening.

"Go have a good time with the guys. It's OK."


"Really. I just want to go home and sleep this off. I'll be fine."

"OK... But I'll check in on you before I head to work tonight, alright?" He didn't look happy about the whole thing.

She nodded.

"Can you just call me? If I get sick, I'll probably need some sleep badly."

Again, she knew the patterns. Sure, this nausea wasn't from drinking, but the results were the same. She was pretty certain that there was some serious vomiting in her near future. She looked at Catherine.

"Can we go, Cath? I feel like shit..."

She cringed guiltily as she noticed Lindsey still standing there and apologized for her language, but Catherine just laughed.

"Yeah, let's go."

"Ok, well... see you later."

He leaned in and kissed her lightly on the cheek. He pushed her hair back.

"Feel better, OK?" He looked at her grimly.

She tried to smile at him but couldn't quite pull it off. "Thanks. See you."

Catherine grabbed her arm and headed towards her Denali, Lindsey close behind. Alex climbed in the back, rolled down the windows and laid across the seats. Catherine frowned back at her.

"Let me know if you need to stop on the way."

Alex grunted out an OK and covered her eyes with her hands, trying to focus all of her energy on not throwing up.

Nick watched the SUV pull out of the parking lot and felt a little helpless. He tried to chalk her distant attitude up to the fact that she was feeling sick, but something about the whole scene left him feeling uncomfortable.

Alex made it home without incident, but she threw up every ten minutes for about two hours after that. As she passed out exhausted, she sighed.

This wasn't how I'd planned to spend my first night in my new bed.

She awoke some time later in the dark to the sound of the phone ringing, but she couldn't find the energy to get up and answer it. She drifted back to sleep.

The next morning she woke up dehydrated. Drinking glass after glass of water, she thanked God that she felt better than she had yesterday. She checked her messages: One from Catherine and one from Nick.

Poor guy.

He'd sounded a bit anxious to hear from her and had asked her to call him during the night on his cell phone if she woke up. She probably hadn't been at her best when she'd blown him off in favour of a ride with Catherine... She felt a moment of regret as she thought about it.

God, I'm unpleasant when I'm sick...

She looked at the time and realized he was probably off work now. She tried his work cell phone and got the unavailable message, so she tried his house. No answer. She thought about leaving a message, but decided she'd rather hear his voice. Just then the phone rang and she smiled.


She answered, but was disappointed to find the District Attorney's assistant on the phone, asking her if she could make it in this morning. She agreed to meet just after 11am and hung up.

Before she jumped in the shower, she called Catherine to thank her for the drive home yesterday. Catherine informed her that Lindsey had gotten ill later that evening and Alex sighed.

"It was food poisoning then."

"Yep. I'm just about to call that canteen and give them a piece of my mind, lemme tell ya."

Alex snorted. "Give 'em hell for me too, will you? I won't have time to call; I'm heading to the D.A.'s office after a quick shower..."

"The D.A.'s office? That's interesting. Well, anyway. Good luck. Hopefully I'll see you soon."

Alex hung up and wondered what was so interesting about her seeing the D.A... But then she realized that nothing seemed to be normal with her whole case and decided to let it go.

She jumped in the shower, and as she started to shampoo her hair, she suddenly remembered what Barnes had been saying yesterday... She'd been a bit spaced out at that point, trying to fight off the waves of nausea, but she recalled him mentioning Nick being with a prostitute who ended up dead...

Nick and a prostitute?

She frowned as she started to rinse out the shampoo, feeling quite unsettled by the idea.

Nick walked up to Alex's front door and knocked. No answer. He knocked again, harder. Still no answer.

He frowned. Her car was still in the driveway... He'd already tried to call her, but he'd only gotten her voicemail.

He sighed and walked back to his SUV.

Alex wrapped a towel around her wet hair as she stepped out of the shower. She pursed her lips in thought.

Well, I'd pretty much question just about anything that comes out of Barnes' mouth anyway, so I'm sure he's not telling me the whole story. I can't imagine Nick with a...

She smirked into the mirror.

Besides, I trust Nick. I'm sure he'll tell me what really happened when he's ready.

She quickly dried her hair and headed downtown to the D.A.'s office.

She'd been expecting some uncomfortable questions, but she'd assumed they'd only be about what had gone down in her apartment with James Meadfield. She felt her heart sink as the man asked her about her relationship with Nick and she admitted that they'd been seeing each other since she'd returned last week. The man sighed and rubbed at his temples.

"What you need to understand here Miss Winters is that the Meadfield's have hired top guns for defence attorneys. Top top guns."

"So what does that mean exactly? How much more evidence could you possibly need to put this guy away? I mean, Jesus..."

"Yes, we have more than enough evidence to put this man away. That's not the problem. The problem will be for how long. If there is even an inkling of unprofessional actions coming from the LVPD, it might put a shadow of question in the minds of the jury, and trust me; these attorneys will take full advantage of everything they can and they'll twist it all out of proportion. Anything to save their very rich and very well-known client from excess prison time."

"But how can me dating Nick after the fact have anything to do with this. I just don't understand."

"Again, it ties into the character of the whole LVPD..."

"But we started dating after the whole thing happened."

"But it won't look that way. It's my understanding that Mr. Stokes was far more heavily involved in this investigation than the usual Crime Scene Analyst would be. And in particular, he spent a lot of time with you."

Alex frowned and let out a sigh. Her heart was feeling heavier with every moment. She knew where he was going with this...

"But we've already been dating... Does it even make a difference now?"

"I'm under the impression that nobody from the defence knows yet... Especially since I personally wasn't aware of it and I've had people all over this since I first heard the name Meadfield connected to it. The PD kept it under wraps nicely, thanks to Sheriff Atwater, I'm sure. I think we've gotten a lucky break here and the Meadfield defence is unaware of the fact."

Alex frowned and stared back at the D.A. He continued, putting the nail in the coffin.

"And the department won't want to look like fools, Miss Winters. You're not helping this man's career any by staying together right now either. That's another thing you might want to think about."

Alex withered before him and he knew he'd gotten through to her.

She sat up suddenly. "But if Meadfield's in a coma... Can he even be tried right now?"

She looked so hopeful; he felt a twinge of guilt as he replied.

"That won't be an issue. He came out of the coma this morning."

Alex looked at him, stunned. She felt her whole world crumbling again and it took everything she had in her not to cry.

She nodded in a subdued manner and he knew he had her. He felt a bit bad again as he watched the emotions playing across her face but it had to be this way.

She swallowed visibly and then she nodded to him, her eyes troubled as she spoke.

"OK..." She blew out a breath. "I understand."

"Miss Winters, we're going to put him away for life. I promise you that."

He smiled slightly at her and she nodded numbly. He walked her to the door and she left without saying another word.

As she headed outside, she stopped as she saw two people walking towards her up the stairs. She took a deep breath as they got closer and stopped in front of her.

She spoke first.

"Mrs. Albertson... I'm... I'm so sorry for what happened to your daughter, Lisa. I'm going to do everything I can to make sure James Meadfield spends the rest of his life behind bars."

The older woman smiled at her sadly. "Thank you... thank you so much. After what I said to you.... I'm so sorry."

Alex stopped her, seeing the tears forming in her eyes.

"No, it's OK. Please, don't even think about it... I understand completely."

Mrs. Albertson grabbed Alex's hand and squeezed it, and Alex felt the tears fighting behind her own eyes. She looked at Lisa's brother and he too smiled sadly.

"Thank you... and we're happy you're OK. We read about what happened..." He looked at her with concern.

Alex nodded and tried to smile encouragingly.

"I'm fine. And I meant what I said. I... I know it won't bring her back but... I'll do anything to make sure he never sees the outside of prison ever again."

He nodded at her again. "Thank you."

He looked down at his mother and she released Alex's hand. "We better get going. We have a meeting inside." Alex nodded and watched them walk into the building.

She walked down to her car and sat behind the steering wheel, tears streaming down her face.

How am I going to...? God, Nick... I just want to be with you...

She wanted to scream in frustration.

This is so fucking unfair!

She looked down at the keys in her hand and sniffled.

I can't go home right now...

She started up the car, pulled out onto the road and headed for the city limits.

She just wanted to drive until all of this started to make some sense...

As the sun was setting, Alex made her way back down the street towards her townhouse. Her eyes felt raw and she didn't think she had any tears left inside her to cry anymore. She'd driven for hours and hours along the highway, arguing with herself the entire way.

At first she'd thought she could just tell Nick they needed to cool it for a while until this all settled down... Then she'd reminded herself that he'd already gone against the department already by dating her. He'd acted as if there were no consequences to worry about. If she told him her worries about them being together, she knew he'd try and get around it somehow, saying it was no big deal again...

Then she thought maybe she should just go back to Vancouver until she was actually needed in court, thereby removing all temptation. But then she'd given herself a mental shake.

You're 30 years old, Alex. It's time to stop running away from your responsibilities and be an adult for a change.

She pulled into her driveway, looking longingly down the street in the direction of Nick's house as she walked to the front door.

She finally went inside, but didn't turn on any lights. She didn't think she could handle it right now. As she walked over to her phone, she went through her final decision in her mind once more and felt her heart slowly dying inside her.

She picked up the phone and dialled up her voicemail. Three messages. She hit Delete All without bothering to listen to them and dropped the phone back on its cradle. She walked slowly upstairs and threw herself on her bed, facedown.

As Nick drove by Alex's house on the way to work, his heart sped up; her car was back in the driveway.

He pulled in behind the Toyota and tried to compose himself. There were no lights on inside, but he wanted to try anyway. He walked up to the door and knocked... once, twice, three times. No answer.

He waited a moment longer, staring up in the direction of her bedroom window and hoping...

He felt his shoulders sink and he went back to his Denali.

Alex heard the knocking and sat up.


She felt her heartbeat speed up and then she slowly lowered herself back down on the bed, staring up at the ceiling in the dark. She had to do this, but she knew she was too chicken to tell him in person, there was no doubt in her mind. She was going to call his home phone once she knew he was at work and leave a voicemail.

She waited until the knocking died out and she went through it all again in her mind, what she would say...

She noticed that she hadn't run out of tears after all, as she felt them streaming down her face again. She'd already accepted that, after Nick saw how willing she was to just throw away what they had so easily, he'd have no problems getting over her. He was too amazing to waste his time on someone who could be so stupid.

She sniffled as she realized he could probably have anyone he wanted anyway...

She knew she was destroying any chance she had for a future with him, even after this whole Meadfield thing was finally behind them. He'd never be able to trust her again.

As Nick's shift finished, he stood in front of his locker feeling tired and irritable. He'd hardly gotten any sleep yesterday as he'd tried to reach Alex, and then they'd had a long, uneventful shift which had left him with entirely too much time to think.

Alex, what's going on?

Catherine approached him from the side, noticing that his mood hadn't improved from earlier in their shift and she wondered if now was the best time to tell him what she'd just heard...

She decided he needed to know and took a deep breath. "Nick?"

He looked up at her in question. "Yeah?"

"You OK, hon?"

"Yeah. I'm just... tired."

"Hmmm. Well, listen... Maybe this is a bad time, but..." She eyed him warily and he looked at her curiously.

"What is it, Catherine?"

"I... I just heard something from one of the day shift cops that I think you should know..."

He watched her, waiting for her to continue and she sighed.

"Look, at the baseball game the other day... Well... Somebody told Alex about you and Kristy Hopkins."

He looked stunned. "What?"

She questioned him gently. "Have you told her about that yet?"

He blew out a long breath and spoke in a small voice.

"No...I... I was going to tell her, but we only just..." He looked distracted and then hurt. "So, she wasn't really sick was she? She just wanted to get away from me...?"

"No... No Nick, she really was sick. That I can guarantee. She and Lindsey both got a case of food poisoning from some french fries at the ballpark. She was definitely sick, trust me."

He still looked confused, and then suddenly he became incensed. His voice was menacingly low.

"Who told her, Catherine?"

"He didn't say who it was, but I'm betting..."

"Who didn't say? Who told you this?"

"Jim Shelley. He wouldn't say who it was but..."

"Barnes. Fucking Barnes."

Nick slammed his locker in anger just as Sara entered the room. Both she and Catherine flinched, but she decided to stay out of it for now. Nick was furious.

"I'm going to kill that son of a..."

"Nick, come on. The guy's an asshole but what's done is done. The person you need to talk to here is Alex. I know she'll understand. She cares about you way too much not to, and you didn't really do anything that terrible... If you just talk to her, I'm sure she'd..."

"I would talk to her, Catherine if I could fucking get a hold of her! I haven't heard from her since the game."

His voice was a little shakey and Catherinehad a sinking feeling in her stomach.

"Oh... I... But I talked to her Monday morning, before she went to see the D.A."

This didn't appear to make Nick feel any better. She stared at him in confusion and he suddenly turned and walked out of the room. Sara looked at her.

"What was that all about?"

Catherine sighed, shaking her head.

"I wish I knew."

Nick drove back to Alex's place and leapt out of the Denali, hurrying to the door. He stopped himself just short of pounding both his fists on the door. Lowering his head for a second, he tried to calm himself down.

He knocked several times, but when there was no answer he called through the door.

"Alex, are you in there?"

No answer.

"I'm just worried because I haven't heard from you in a few days..."

No sounds, nothing from inside. But he knew she was in there... He looked down at the ground, feeling utterly powerless. He walked back to his SUV and drove himself home dejectedly.

As he entered his house he picked up his phone and checked for messages. His heart sped up as he heard Alex's voice on the first message.

"Nick, it's Alex... Uh, I'm sorry I haven't called... I was pretty sick and then I had to see the D.A.... And then you were working too... Um, anyway..."

He heard her take a big breath before she continued and he began to worry.

"I, uh... I don't know how to say this... I... I think maybe things have been going a little too fast with... with us, and I was thinking maybe we should slow it down... Uh..."

She paused again and he felt his stomach churning.

"I... I've come to realize that a lot has happened to me lately and I... I haven't taken the time to try and sort it all out and..."

He listened as she sobbed a bit and he felt his own eyes glassing over.

"I'm sorry, Nick... I just think I need some space right now... to get myself together. I'm so sorry... Maybe later we can... Oh God, I don't know. I'm sorry."

And the message ended.

Nick stared at the phone in his hands and leaned back hard against the wall, unable to believe what he'd just heard. He played the message again, thinking he'd missed something.

After the third time, he slid slowly down the wall and leaned on his haunches, his face in his hands.

No, Alex. No...

A.N: And that's it! Oh, I'm mean, I know! Come back in about a month, I should have Part 2 started... ;)

And I know I was stretching it a bit with that whole professionalism bit, but I had to use an angle so...

I'm off on holidays now! Bye!