A.N: To anyone who just randomly happened on this fic, you'll probably want to read "Luck and Destiny" and "Justice and Desire" before you read this one to get familiar with the Nick/Alex backstory... But then again, you may not need to. Who knows?!!
Wow, I can't believe I'm writing more on these two, especially when I have only the vaguest idea of where I'm going with this. Actually, vague might be an overstatement! I just sort of had a craving to write... So, I guess I'll just warn you now: Read at your own peril, and be prepared for some serious fluff!
"Well, if you'd leave your phone on, you wouldn't have this problem." Alison looked back at Alex, a mild reprimand in her voice.
"Yes, thank you for that helpful piece of advice. Sheer brilliance, really." Alex smirked back at her young friend. "The problem isn't that I turn it off. It's that it turns itself off. I'm going to take it back to the shop, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. So get off my case. And besides... it's only coffee."
"Yeah, but you would have seen him. He's so gorgeous... I really need to make him my very own..."
Alex laughed out loud. "OK, now you're starting to worry me."
Alison grinned back. "Relax, I'm just joking... mostly." She laughed again as Alex shook her head. "And besides, I think he's into me too... I caught him looking at me yesterday morning when he thought I was looking the other way."
"Ah, it must be love." Alex grasped at her heart comically and the younger woman laughed and smacked her arm.
"Hey, just because you found Mr. Right doesn't mean you're the expert on love."
Alex laughed. "I didn't say I was..." But she couldn't help but smile as she thought about Nick. A month and a half later and she was more in love than ever. As if on cue, her cell phone rang in her bag.
Alison smirked. "Oh yeah, sure. Now it's on."
Alex raised one hand to proclaim her innocence as she pulled out her phone. "I told you it's not my fault, it's the phone." She hit the answer button without looking at the screen. "Hello?" A voice on the other end warmed her heart.
"Hey sunshine. How're you doing?"
Alison watched a smile form on her friend's lips and didn't have to guess who it was. She shook her head grinning and motioned towards the car before she walked away.
"Hi there. I'm great. Just finished a lecture. I'm going to drive Alison home. Whatcha doing?"
"Sara and I worked overtime this morning and we're just going to grab a bite. Want to join us?"
"Yeah, definitely. Where are we meeting?" Alex got the info and hung up, smiling.
She looked forward to their weekends together, but she often missed him during the week. Since Nick worked nights, they tried to sneak in time together whenever they got the chance, but unfortunately conflicting schedules often meant only an hour or so here and there. So she always jumped at a chance to see him.
She unlocked Alison's door for her and they pulled out of the campus parking. "Alison, I'm meeting Nick for brunch- You want to come?"
"Nah, I don't want to invade on your precious Nick-time." She grinned mischievously at Alex, who laughed back.
"Don't worry, a woman that Nick works with will be there too."
"Oh yeah? Is she pretty?"
Alex smiled. Typical Alison; always sizing up the competition, whether there was a target or not. "Yes. Very. And tall and thin too."
"And you're not worried?"
"That she and Nick...? Nah."
Alison smiled and sighed longingly. "Man, I need to find myself someone decent. I'm tired of these..."
Alex cut in. "One night stands with super hot guys?"
Alison laughed. "I'm not that bad, am I?" Alex laughed and Alison continued. "Seriously, I think I'm going to ask that guy out the next time I see him."
Alex nodded, envious of her friend's self-assurance. She'd never been able to just ask a guy out like that.
"Cool. You should. So... Are you coming or what? You don't have anything else to do, so I think you should."
"Thanks for rubbing that in." She pretended to be annoyed and Alex laughed again. "But, OK. I guess I will come then."
After brunch, Alex dropped Alison home and then headed towards Nick's place. She smiled as she pulled in behind his Denali and found him leaning up against it, waiting for her. He walked up to her car, opened her door and reached for her hand.
She smiled up at him as he helped her out of the car, and then whooped in surprise as he picked her up off the ground and held her there for a deep kiss.
"Wow." She smiled at him as he lowered her slowly down his body and back onto terra firma. "This hotel has very friendly service."
He laughed. "And they also have rooms by the hour... Care to join me inside?"
She laughed back. "Oh, that sounds so... lascivious. You've peaked my interest. Lead the way."
He grabbed her hand and they made their way inside.
Later, as she snuggled against him, she once again felt the urge to count her lucky stars. She'd never been this happy in her entire life, and the man beside her was the reason. She nuzzled his neck and whispered into his ear.
"I love you, Nicholas Stokes."
He pulled her closer and kissed her temple. "You better."
She sighed in his embrace and stroked his chest slowly. Then she let out a little groan of regret.
"Arg. I don't want to, but I better leave and let you get some sleep." She started to move away and he pulled her back down to him.
"Wait... Can't you just stay a little while longer? At least until I fall asleep?" He smiled at her hopefully and she couldn't stop the smile from forming on her lips. He smiled wider, knowing he had her.
"Man oh man..." She chuckled in exasperation as she snuggled beside him once more.
"What?" He grinned into her forehead.
"You know that smile of yours is like a secret weapon or something, right? I seriously can't resist it."
He laughed and smiled even wider. He tried to sound innocent as he replied. "I don't know what you mean...?"
She giggled and leaned her head back to look him in the face. He was still smiling and she gave him a chastising look.
"Yeah, we'll see... One day I'm going to meet all these sisters of yours, and then I'll get the real story."
He laughed and kissed her softly. He looked back into her eyes, smiling again in amusement. "And they'll tell you what a sweet innocent boy I was."
"Hmph. Yeah right." She put her arm back across his chest and kissed him lightly again. "We'll see... We'll see."
She was throwing some books in her knapsack when her phone rang. The call display showed "unlisted" and she smiled. Must be Nick...
"Hi. Miss me?"
She laughed. "And how." She looked at the clock. 10 pm. "Are you just getting up now?"
"Nah, I've been up a while. Tried to call you earlier but you weren't there."
Yes, I was...
"Oh, must have been when I was in the shower. Bummer. Are you getting ready for work?"
"Yep. Thought I might say hi on my way through..."
"Ah, damn. I'm just heading out to the computer lab at school."
"Yeah, it's quieter at night, so it's easier to get stuff done."
"Hmmm. Is that a good idea, Alex? I don't know if I like the idea of you-"
"I won't be alone. There's a group of us. Our assignments have just started appearing and we're all sort of in it together. It'll be fine, don't worry. Plus, campus security is always wandering around. Seriously Nick, don't worry. I did this all the time last semester."
Nick frowned. Security guys were usually not the most conscientious folks. Hell, who could blame them? They weren't exactly the highest paid guys around.
"Well, alright but... Can I call you later tonight if I get a break? I'd just feel better about it. How late do you think you'll be?"
"Well, we never usually stayed past 3am last term, so that's probably a safe bet."
"Hmm. That's late. Alex..."
He sighed. After all they'd been through together, he'd been unable to shake this over-protectiveness he always had about her. So far, she'd seemed to be OK with it, but one day he knew he was going to try her patience.
"OK. Just take your cell phone. And try and make sure it's actually turned on for a change..."
She heard his half-amused/half-impatient tone and groaned.
"Jeeze, are you and Alison comparing notes? I keep telling you people it turns itself off. It's not me!"
He laughed at her defensiveness. "OK, OK. Honest mistake. I mean, you're always telling me how much you hate talking on the phone, so I just assumed you don't like to have it on very much." He could hear her getting ready to say something else but he continued. "Then why don't you just get it fixed or replaced or something?"
"I'm going to. I just haven't gotten around to it. Man-"
"OK. Whatever. I'll try and call you tonight, if that's OK."
"Yeah, of course it's OK. Listen, Nick... I have to get going."
She breathed out in exasperation, realizing she was getting worked up over nothing. After all, Nick was just showing honest concern for her. It was amazing that he cared so much, in fact. She was a very lucky woman. She smiled self-deprecatingly to herself.
"I may not like talking on the phone much, but I always love talking to you."
She could hear the smile in his voice as he replied and she felt instantly better.
"Good thing, because I'm always going to need to talk to you. Especially if I can't see you all the time."
"Have a good shift. I love you."
"I love you too. And play nice with the other girls."
She hung up the phone laughing and headed out to meet her friends at the computer lab.
Alex and thethree other girls from the teaching program had one of the computer rooms all to themselves. Alex had looked pointedly at Alison as she turned on her cell phone and placed it on a desk.
"There. How much you want to bet it's turned off all on its own at some point... And I am not going to touch it once, unless it rings." She smirked at Alison.
"Wow, relax... I believe you. Just get the thing replaced and move on. Sheesh!" She laughed and pulled out her books. "Now if you're done pleading your innocence, can you help me with this stupid assignment?"
Alex grinned. "Maybe. What's in it for me?"
"The pleasure of my friendship should be enough." The two other girls grinned and Alex snorted.
"Hmm. I'll think about it."
They set to work on their various assignments. After what seemed like forever, Alex had finally gotten a thesis organized for her essay. She leaned back in her chair and massaged her neck muscles.
Man, these chairs do havoc on my back.
She looked at the clock in the corner of the computer screen. 1:30am. She looked over at her cell phone, wondering when Nick would call...
"Ah hah!" Alison and the other girls looked at Alex in question.
"Look at that. My phone is turned off. All by itself..." She grinned triumphantly at the other women.
Alison shook her head laughing. "I already told you I believed you."
"Yeah, but I still needed to prove it. My pride was at stake here!" They all laughed and Alex turned on her phone. 1 message.
She listened as Nick's disappointed message played out. She didn't like to call him while he was working, but if she made it quick...
The phone rang briefly and then he picked up. "Nick Stokes."
"Hello, Nick Stokes. Alex Winters here. I just wanted to let you know that I have incontrovertible evidence supporting the faultiness of my phone. I have witnesses."
He laughed on the other end. "Excellent, excellent. Good work. Want me to bring you over an evidence bag, to make it official?"
She laughed back. "Not necessary. Sorry to call you while you're working, but I wanted to let you know everything's fine. I'm going to head home in about an hour or so, I figure."
"Good. And I'm glad you called. And... An hour and half, huh? Hmmm."
He trailed off and she queried the pause. "What?"
"Well, I'd be happier if you called me again when you get home. I know, I know, I'm being over the top..."
She smiled. "I don't mind. I'll call you when I'm safe and sound. I promise."
"Thanks. I'd just feel better." She could hear the relief in his tone and she smiled. She'd definitely gotten lucky when she'd been assigned a guardian angel.
Maybe somebody up there likes me after all.
As she finished up some notes, Alex eyed her friends tiredly. "Guys, I'm thinking of heading home now. Everybody OK for rides?"
They all nodded and she started to pack up her stuff. She grimaced as a cramp suddenly took hold in her lower stomach, and Alison looked up in concern at Alex's small intake of breath.
"You OK, Alex?"
"Yeah, just a cramp. I'm about due for my period, so..." She waved it off. "No biggie. I'll see you guys later."
As she headed out to her car, she frowned. She'd been on the pill for years, specifically because she'd always suffered such bad menstrual cramps. It had been years since she'd had them. She rubbed at her lower belly slowly, trying to work out the tension.
Great. I hope these don't get any stronger... I'm tired and I need some sleep.
She climbed into her car and started to make her way home, hoping she wouldn't be needing muscle relaxants later.