The characters and situations in this story belong to Alliance Atlantis, CBS, Anthony Zuicker and other entities, and I do not have permission to borrow them. No infringement is intended in any way, and this story is not for profit. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any.

This is in response to an improv challenge at the Unbound forums; the first and last lines were given, and the word limit is 1,000.

Spoilers: none, but this is a futurefic.


"Just what exactly do you think you're doing?"

Nick folded his arms, assuming a stern expression, and the culprit he had in his sights straightened with a guilty look. "Nothing."

"Don't give me that. You were snooping."

Catherine put her hands on her hips, but he'd caught her fair and square, and her moxie had no force. "I was...investigating."

"In the fridge. Which you were told to stay out of."

"I was thirsty!"

He took a slow step closer. "And what did we tell you?"

She gave a sigh that wavered between petulance and amusement. "To ask one of you if I wanted a soda."

"And Greg's in his lab. Has been all night." Nick jerked a thumb over his shoulder, smiling, knowing he was being smug but savoring it. It wasn't often that he got to pull rank on his colleague.

"All right, all right," Catherine said impatiently. "I'll stay out of it." She shifted aside as Nick crouched down to extract a can of her favorite beverage. "Not that there was anything to see in there anyway," she muttered as she took the drink.

"You got it," he agreed cheerfully, enjoying the slow creep of realization over her face.

"You didn't think we were that easy, did you?" They both turned at Sara's amused comment from the doorway.

Catherine set the unopened can down with a snap. "A decoy?" she asked incredulously.

"A decoy," Sara agreed, grinning.

Nick could just see Catherine going through a number of swear words, but apparently she couldn't decide on one appropriate enough, because she just shook her head and started for the door. Swiftly, Nick snagged the can and tossed it to Sara, who caught it neatly and presented it to Catherine as she passed. "Behave," Sara admonished, "or we'll tell Warrick on you."

Catherine snatched the can and strode off down the hallway. Nick met Sara's eyes, and in a flash of mutual thought they listened. The hiss of overflowing soda wasn't audible, but the snarl was, and they both broke out laughing.

"She'll kill us later," Nick said finally, fishing out his own soda.

"Yeah, but it'll be so worth it." Sara pulled out a chair and sat.

"You'd think two weeks' vacation would be enough revenge. We're gonna go nuts around here."

Sara snorted, leaning one arm along the back of her chair. "C'mon, Nick, where's your inner overachiever?"

"He burned out." Nick's beeper sounded, and he glanced at it, then chugged his soda. "Duty calls." He crumpled the can in his fist and tossed it into the garbage. "Two points!"

As he left, he heard Sara sigh and the scrape of her chair as she rose, and grinned. One sure way to get her goat was to put cans into the trash instead of the recycle bin.

Smothering a belch, Nick made his way to QD, where Ronnie had finished an analysis of handwriting samples. "So where's the party?" Ronnie asked casually.

Nick shook his head as Ronnie turned on his display. "How do you guys find out about this stuff? And it's not a party, it's a send-off."

"Gossip is the one human creation known to be faster than the speed of light," the other man returned sagely. "And knowing that one bit of information will put me at the top of the game, at least for the night."

"And push my stuff up to the head of the line next time?" Nick bargained. He knew Ronnie wasn't bucking for an invitation; this was strictly a CSI thing. The more general event had already taken place, and Ronnie had joined Greg and several of the secretaries in boogying expertly half the night.

The QD tech merely blinked at him, but Nick chose to take it as agreement. "They're going to get a last-minute call out to Star One Limo."

"Ah. Good choice."

Nick checked his watch as he left QD, and swore quietly, hoping desperately that the criminals of Las Vegas would keep quiet for the rest of the night. He didn't think Grissom would make anyone miss their flight, but the send-off could be cancelled with the proverbial snap of their supervisor's fingers.

But Lady Luck seemed to be favoring lovers and crazy criminalists that night. An hour before the end of shift, Nick found himself in the locker room, getting ready to look disappointed when Catherine and Warrick were sent on their fake call.

The door opened, and Warrick swung in, looking the slightest bit hurried. Nick took a long look at his best friend, aware again of how their priorities were suddenly different, how many things had changed last week with the exchange of a few words and a couple of symbols.

"Hey, man." Warrick opened his locker. "Working hard or hardly workin'?"

"Bite me," Nick said amiably. "She still think you're going to Seattle?"

"Oh yeah." Warrick's grin was wicked. "It took some doing to lay hands on her passport, but it's all lined up, ducks in a row." He mimed a pistol, making popping noises.

"And Linds goes next week?"

"Yep. That kid's a born actress. Got her swimsuit on the sly and everything."

Nick chuckled. "Saint Croix won't know what hit it." Rising, he held out one hand. "Congrats again, bud."

They clasped hands in a strong grip, Warrick's eyes alight with the joy of a long-held dream come true, and gold gleaming on his other hand. Nick watched him, satisfied.

Sure, some things had changed. They were walking different roads. But they were still friends, and always would be.

There was no changing that.

The door opened again, and Sara strode in, only to halt at the sight of them standing with their hands still linked. She blinked. "Does Catherine know about the two of you?" she asked mildly.

They snatched their hands back, and then as if on cue, all three burst out laughing, tension streaming out in the hilarity. Nick wiped his eyes. "Okay, that was weird."