Alex hung up the phone, frowning. A triple shift?
Once again Nick was working a seemingly endless stream of shifts. She was tempted to call the Human Resources department for the LVPD and see if this wasn't some sort of infringement on employee welfare or something.
Oh, it's an infringement alright. On ME.
But there was very little she could do about it. The fact of the matter was that Nick frequently had to work over-time and that was that. And she loved the heck out of the guy so there was very little she would do about it even if there was something she could do, which there wasn't. He loved his job and she loved him, so...
Besides, he always made their time together special when he was off. And even if the only time they got to spend together lately was sleeping in each other's arms, she loved it just the same.
She smiled as she thought about how she'd go to bed alone but then wake up in the middle of the night to find herself wrapped in his arms, his even breathing whispering on her neck. She rarely heard him come home, and he always tried not to wake her but he always ended up snuggled against her once he started to fall asleep. She loved their little routine and she always savoured the feel of him next to her.
She resigned herself to another day alone and sat down on the sofa, trying to figure out what to have for dinner. She'd just returned from a jog and she was starving. Or maybe she should shower first...
Nah, I need food. Dinner for one, anybody?
She shook her head, grinning at her own self-pity.
Get over yourself, Winters. You know how lucky you are to have Nick.
She had just decided on making herself some macaroni and cheese when the doorbell rang. Frowning at her sweaty appearance and possibly less than pleasant odour, she made her way over to the door and looked through the peep hole.
Nick grimaced into his rearview mirror as he pulled back into the CSI parking lot.
A triple. Excellent.
Once again, Alex hadn't been overly impressed when he'd told her he was probably going to be working more over-time. She hadn't said anything, but he knew she was unhappy just the same. She always tried to hide her disappointment; she was a real trooper, but he could sense it nonetheless.
And he couldn't blame her. It seemed like once the doubles kicked in, he was locked into them for a month at a time. He was actually having difficulty remembering when his last full day off was...
Damn, I'm tired.
He walked through the lab yawning, evidence bag in hand. He loved his job, but he was exhausted. And he missed spending time with Alex. Letting her down again only worsened his already grim mood... The case they were on was driving them all crazy.
He sighed and pushed one of the lab doors open to where Catherine stood inside.
"Ah, Nicky my boy. I was just about to call you."
Great. Now what?
This case was taking them around in circles and he was well beyond frustrated. They all knew the boyfriend did it, but while the evidence always pointed back roughly in his direction, they hadn't found anything yet to actually link him physically to the murder. Nick, Warrick and Catherine had been dancing around this particular suspect and the excruciating lack of substantiating evidence for days. And Nick was starting to feel like he lived here.
And he was also starting to think he should just take a page out of Cavaliere's book and try to intimidate a confession out of the boyfriend...
"Well, Brass just checked in. Seems like the boyfriend finally gave it up. We now have a signed confession."
"Seriously?" Nick was truly amazed. He'd sat in on some of the questioning sessions and the boyfriend had been as cool as a cucumber. He wouldn't have guessed the guy would cave.
"Yep. So guess what?" She smiled at him sweetly and he grinned back.
"I can log my evidence and go home?"
"You betcha." She patted his arm. "And say hi to Alex, if she's still talking to me after all the O/T I've had you logging."
He laughed, nodding. "Don't worry, Cath. She told me she saves her annoyance for the criminals who don't realize we need days off."
She laughed now too. "Well isn't that enlightened. I wish Eddie had been as understanding back in the day." She looked at the evidence bag in his hand. "Hurry up and finish that so you can go home."
"You don't have to tell me twice."
He wandered around the corner to finish up and considered calling home to let Alex know he was coming home.
Nah. I think I'll surprise her...
Nick noticed a newish looking Ford sedan in the driveway next to Alex's car so he parked in the street.
Weary and mildly annoyed, he was also disappointed that Alex had guests and figured that maybe he should have called to tell her he was coming home after all. Maybe she would have gotten rid of them and they could have spent some much needed time alone together...
He smirked at his misfortune; he couldn't seem to catch a break lately.
He sighed as he turned his key in the door and stepped inside. Moving into the living room, he was surprised he didn't see the owner of the Ford anywhere. Or Alex, for that matter.
Maybe they went for a walk somewhere.
Disappointed yet again, he figured he could at least get some sleep. He stretched his tired arms over his head, yawning again. He'd barely started to move towards the bedroom when he stopped short.
A man clad only in a towel had suddenly stepped out of the bathroom and into the hallway, still damp from a shower.
Nick's brows went up in surprise, but before he could say anything to the guy, Alex came out of the bedroom, her own hair damp. She was about to speak to the man when she noticed Nick standing in the living room.
Her sudden smile froze on her lips when she saw the look of shock and confusion on his face.
Then she said words she never thought she'd hear coming from her lips:
"Nick, wait- This isn't what it looks like..."
It sounded lame even to her own ears. And when Nick pursed his lips and shook his head before he turned away from her and walked back out the door, the look of shock having been replaced by one of hurt, she almost wasn't surprised.
Her breath caught in her throat, and her feet seemed suddenly rooted to the floor.
Oh my god... Nick?
Nick clenched his fists as he walked outside, fighting back the sob that threatened to escape. He couldn't even begin to wrap his mind around what he'd just seen. Alex and...
Who the hell was that!
Was she actually fooling around on him? It was inconceivable to him... Not after everything they'd been through together, and everything they meant to each other. Or at least everything he'd thought they'd meant to each other. He stalked towards his Denali, hurt and angry.
How could she...?
When he finally reached the vehicle he leaned his forehead against the side, swallowing heavily in a dry throat. He loved this woman more than he could even express in words and he'd been certain she felt the same way. He felt a distinct aching in the region of his heart.
This couldn't be happening. They were getting married in less than 4 months...
Then who the hell was that guy in the towel? Would she really do that to me? To us?
And then suddenly, he leaned back and looked very seriously at his reflection in the door window as the thought took hold.
No. No, she wouldn't.
He frowned heavily at his reflection as he realized he hadn't even given her a chance to explain. They'd already been down this road before, and if nothing else they'd learned to communicate much better... Until now.
How could he have been so stupid? Alex deserved more than that from him. So much more.
He slowly turned around to head back inside, hoping she'd still feel like talking to him after he'd acted so foolishly and jumped to conclusions... and then he stopped again when he saw Alex standing on the walkway staring back at him. And the expression on her face tore at his heart.
Still rooted to the carpet, Alex couldn't believe what was happening. Could Nick honestly believe that she...that she was fooling around on him? She looked at the towel-clad man standing outside the bathroom door looking at her sheepishly.
Nick thinks I slept with Mike!
She couldn't get a handle on what she was feeling just then, as so many emotions were shifting through her: hurt, disappointment... and fear. Fear of losing Nick.
She snapped out of her reverie to look at Mike. He put his hand to his chin as if in thought, speaking with a bemused air.
"Um, Alex... I think you better go after him."
She felt her brain finally seem to click back on and she nodded as she rushed out the door.
And now here she stood, staring at Nick and completely at a loss for words. And she was scared; really and truly scared. He meant everything to her and right now he looked so hurt, it was breaking her heart. She saw him swallowing as he slowly moved back towards her and she held her breath.
"Alex... I..." He finally reached her and he blew out a harsh breath. She looked up at him nervously and he frowned.
Damn, she looks so worried...
"I'm so sorry for walking out on you back there. I... Why don't you... why don't you tell me what's going on?"
"You mean you'll... you're willing to listen to me now?"
He frowned some more as he heard the tinge of skepticism in her tone. He reached out and tentatively took her hand.
"Yeah... Yeah, I'll listen." He found some solace in the fact that she didn't pull her hand away, and he hazarded his own question. "Who... Uh, who's that guy in there?" He avoided mentioning the mystery man's state of undress and watched her closely. She looked so anxious...
And as much as it pained him to stress her out, right now he just needed to know that he'd misunderstood what he'd seen. He needed to hear it from her.
"He's just a friend, Nick."
Her eyes were serious as she spoke and he began to feel even more awful about walking out. And when she continued he felt even worse. "One of my closest friend's boyfriend actually. You know... my friend Julie from university?"
A burgeoning relief sneaked through his veins. He nodded guiltily, realizing what an ass he'd been.
"Yeah... Julie. I... Uh..." He ran a hand through his hair. "Jesus, Alex... I'm so sorry. I don't know what I was thinking..."
She was starting to feel better now herself and she risked a small amused smile. "Maybe you were wondering what your fiance was doing with a strange guy in a towel in your house?"
She gave him a small smile and he felt incredibly relieved... and even more stupid. He reached out and grabbed her other hand, groaning with regret.
"I'm so sorry, honey. I wasn't thinking straight. I'm just so tired, and the case was a nightmare..." He drew in a deep breath. "... None of which are good enough reasons for being such a dumbass. Can you forgive me?"
She squeezed his hand a little tighter, smiling gently. He did look tired and her heart went out to him uncontrollably. "Of course I do. And it's OK... I know how it must have looked." She sighed, and her smile reverted back to a smirk once again. "Although it probably wouldn't have been so bad if Julie hadn't been taking a nap in the spare room at the time..."
Nick groaned again and pulled her into his arms. "You mean she was actually here the whole time, too? God, I'm such an asshole."
She squeezed him tight, smiling into his neck. "Maybe, but you're my asshole."
He laughed softly, hugging her back. "Thanks."
She ran her hands up his back, sighing. "I was worried I wouldn't catch you in time... That you'd tear off in your SUV and I'd be left standing at the end of the driveway alone, like some bad movie."
She felt him chuckling in her arms and then he leaned back and smiled down at her."I didn't get very far... I just had to wait for my brain to catch up with my heart."
She reached up to touch his face, smiling tenderly. "I love you, Nick. There could never be anyone else for me."
His chest tightened as he gazed back at the woman he loved so much. "I know, darlin'. I know. I won't forget again." He hugged her close once more. "Man, I love you."
"Yeah, you do. And now we need to get back inside and you can explain all this to Mike..."
Nick sighed loudly . "Damn... Well I sure made a hell of a first impression."
They made their way back up the walk and Nick held her close to his side. He kissed her forehead as he spoke softly.
"And by the way, honey... It's not my house. It's our house. OK?"
She smiled and nodded, pushing more closely into his side. "OK."
"So, you still want to marry me?"
She stopped and turned to look at him. "More than ever." She leaned up and kissed him deeply in emphasis and he felt all the stress of the last few days, and more importantly the last half hour, dissipating quickly.
When they finally drew apart, she smiled at him. "Ready to meet one of my best friends?
He grinned. "I'd love to..." He caressed her cheek longingly, an amused sparkle in his eyes. "... and then can you get rid of them?"
Alex peered through the small gap in the door and grinned. Then she looked furtively over her shoulder into the room behind her before whispering to him. "Um, Nick... I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to be here right now. It's bad luck.'' She smirked and he grinned, laughing lightly.
"Sweetie, we've had so much bad luck between the two of us, I don't think anything else could possibly go wrong. In fact, I think this might have some sort of balancing effect, from a cosmic sense."
She laughed and leaned her head against the door jamb. "Don't tell me you're getting all existential on me, and less than half an hour before we get married?"
He grinned. "Well, you know what they say: Love can do strange things to a man."
She smiled wider. "So, is there any particular reason you're here?"
"Ah, you know... Just wanted to make sure you weren't planning on slipping out the back door and leaving me stranded at the alter."
She reached out the doorway and touched his cheek. "Not a chance. You're stuck with me." She rubbed his face tenderly and then looked over her shoulder sheepishly. "Besides... This is Texas. Your sister has the shotgun trained on me at all times!"
He burst out laughing and Alison's ears perked up from inside the room and she looked at Nick's sister Jessica, shaking her head. "The guy can't even wait another hour to see her."
Jess shook her head in amusement.
Alex grinned as she heard a chorus of "Nick, you better get out of here!" and "Nick,beat it!" from her mother and her bridedmaids in the room behind her.
She pulled his face closer and kissed him chastely. "I'll see you soon... and hopefully you'll have pants on by then!"
He looked down at his dress shirt hanging over his Calvin's and chuckled. "I'll see what I can do."
She took a peek at his butt as he moved away until Maddie pushed the door closed and gave her a chastising look.
A tanned hand slid softly across her abdomen and Alex stirred. She stared up at the smiling man leaning over her.
"Hi." She stretched an arm out and ran a hand across his thigh as she smiled back.
"Hi." Nick leaned in and kissed her tenderly. His hand caressed her arm as he sat back up. "You dozed off."
"Yeah, I guess I did." She stretched languorously on her towel and closed her eyes, still smiling as she sighed contentedly. Nick couldn't resist running his hand across her brown stomach again. She slowly sat up to face him, also unable to resist touching him. She stroked his side as she leaned in closer. "Enjoy your swim?"
He admired her from hooded lids, nodding. "Mmmm hmmm." His fingertips whispered down her back, stopping to whisper along the top of her bikini bottoms. She resisted the urge to sigh again and smiled at him suggestively. "Hungry, Mr. Stokes?"
His eyebrows quirked up and he grinned back. "Always... Mrs. Stokes."
He rose slowly, pulling her to her feet and grabbing her towel and bag for her.
He watched as a drip of perspiration slid down between her breasts, and his pulse jumped. They started up the beach towards their cabin and Alex leaned happily into Nick, despite the tropical heat. As they entered the cabin, he pulled her into his arms, looking down at her with a seductive smile. "So, what are you hungry for?"
She reached her hands up to the back of his neck and massaged him softly. "Hmmmm. I don't know." She moved closer in his embrace and her lips grazed his neck lightly. "Maybe a little..."
He scooped her up in his arms and growled into her ear. "Me?"
She moaned a little as his teeth tugged gently on her earlobe. "Oh... That sounds good..."
He laid her down on their bed and she grinned up at him as he began to crawl up the bed towards her. "But..." Her eyes driftted down his body."...I think it may be more than a little..."
Nestled in Nick's embrace, Alex smiled to herself.
Is it possible? Could I really be this lucky?
She ran a finger down the arm encircling her and sighed as she felt him kissing her hair.
"I love you, Nick. So much..."
He breathed out deeply. "I love you too, darlin'." He pulled her around in his arms until she was resting on top of him. "And we made it!"
She laughed and kissed him softly. "Yep. We sure did. Maybe our luck is finally changing for the best, huh?"
He smiled back, playing with her hair. "God, I hope so... But still..." He pursed his lips and she tilted her head in question.
"What if it's not always... well, good?"
She frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Well, I guess I'm saying that... I mean, hopefully things will always go smoothly for us... but what if they don't?"
She smirked. "So what if they don't, Nick. 'For better or for worse', remember?"
He smiled up at her, stroking her cheek. "Yeah?"
"Yeah." She shook her head slightly in amazement. "Um, honey... In case you forgot, we're already married. Why are you asking me this now?"
He chuckled and pulled her closer, kissing her ear, her neck. "I guess I'm just paranoid because everything seems to be going so well for us lately."
She laughed, kissing his neck. "Oh, I don't know about that... There was that inconvenient ketchup stain on your tuxedo pants on our wedding day..."
"Yeah, but my mom fixed it. No harm no foul, and nobody knew the difference."
"True. OK, so I guess you're right. Things have been going surprisingly smoothly for us."
"Well... I think it just means that karma finally came around for us, sweetie. The universe has finally realized that we were meant to be together. It was destiny."
He chuckled again into her warm, soft neck. "Uh Hoh... Now who's getting all existential?"
She scootched up his chest a little further, lifting her head to gaze intohis eyes. "Love does funny things to a woman. But I'm right though, aren't I?"
He smiled widely, nodding. "Yes, ma'am... You sure are. I think we're going to be OK."
She leaned in to kiss him deeply, and then she looked into his eyes again.
"Better than OK, my love." He moaned softly as her hand slipped lower down his body to stroke him softly. He pulled her tighter against him, growling into her throat.
"Oh, helllllllll yeah..."
And they live happily ever after. Seriously. ;)