Sara paused as she heard giggling outside in the hall. With a frown, she moved towards the break room doorway. She saw Archie and another lab tech she didn't recognize walk quickly by, and lifted her files up against her chest to keep them out of harm's way. They were laughing, but they also looked mildly anxious as they disappeared into the AV lab, and then locked the door.
Confused, she turned to look in the direction they had come from, just in time to see Warrick and Nick round the corner. The file in her hands, the one she had been trying to keep safe, nearly fell from her grasp when she saw them. She bit her lip, deciding that she, unlike Archie, was not so unprofessional as to laugh at her co-workers.
However ridiculous they might look.
And considering how very irritated they appeared, it was probably a good idea. Both men were splattered in various places from head to toe with mud, Warrick more so than Nick, to the point he was leaving muddy footprints in his wake that were sure to infuriate the janitorial staff. Less mud or not, however, Nick looked if anything, in even worse shape. His shirt had been practically torn half off, and the left knee of his jeans was spilt open. She noticed a nasty looking scratch running along his abdomen and winced.
When they finally trudged closer, Sara couldn't help but eye them with disbelief.
"Not a word," Warrick hissed when he saw Sara open her mouth-she snapped it closed but couldn't stop the grin that formed once she had. She was professional enough not to giggle, but she wasn't a saint.
She moved her gaze to Nick, who surprisingly, didn't look in any better of a mood. Usually Nick had a smile hiding behind his eyes, always ready to look at the bright side-at the moment, it was quite conspicuously absent.
"What he said," Nick said tightly, before both he and Warrick continued to move past her towards the locker room.
She stood still for a moment, before spinning on her heel and following after them. Whether they were in the mood or not, no way could she let this go without finding out what had happened. Catherine was coming from the opposite direction, and she quickly moved out the way while the guys stormed past. She stood looking after them for a moment, stunned. "What the hell happened to them?" Catherine asked when Sara reached her.
Sara shrugged, still following them, and Catherine caught pace beside her. "Weren't they working a DB in the desert?"
"Last I heard," Sara agreed. They stepped into the locker room. Warrick's shoes were tossed carelessly behind him, and his shirt was thrown over his locker door. Nick was only just pulling his shirt up over his head, and Catherine was about to whistle for them both when she noticed the cut running along his side.
Catherine moved over to him, as he dropped his ruined shirt irritably to the ground. "Jesus, Nick," she said, wincing in sympathy. "What the hell happened to you guys?"
At first, she didn't think they were going to answer, but as Nick dropped down onto the bench to push off his mud splattered shoes, he sighed and started speaking. "You know that DB I worked awhile back, the hiker killed in the flash flood? The Mountain Shadow Effect?" he asked, his Texan drawl coming out more than usual. Both women nodded and he continued, "Yeah, well, I got to experience it firsthand."
"Like going from day to night in less than a minute," Warrick snapped, unbuckling his pants. Catherine raised her eyebrows as he angrily tore them off, either forgetting they were present or past caring. "I had to save Nick's ass again."
Nick shot Warrick a tight grin. "Hey, I'm the one that said we had to get out of there. But did you listen? 'We're almost done, Nick,' you said, 'we have five more minutes, what can happen in five minutes?'"
Warrick glared at him. "At least I didn't almost get myself killed."
"You almost got killed?" Sara blurted, looking horrified. Catherine didn't look much better as she looked from Warrick to Nick, either reassuring herself they were fine or trying to judge their seriousness.
Nick turned to them. "I wasn't almost killed," he said. "Warrick just likes to think he's a hero."
"Whatever, man, you'd be dead if not for me. Some places that counts for something, you know?" Warrick pulled on a pair of sweat pants, the only spare set he had at the lab, and then grabbed a sweater.
Nick, who was moving a bit more sluggishly, was still trying to peel off his muddy jeans. Catherine, valiantly, resisted the urge to offer help. "Some places," Nick snapped. "But I'm sorry if I can't be too happy about you helping me out when you're the one that almost got me killed in the first place."
"You said you weren't almost killed!" Sara snapped, watching them both with concern.
Nick turned back towards her. "I wasn't," he said quickly.
"Man, you almost fell off a cliff," Warrick snapped. "What do you think would have happened if I hadn't grabbed you? Did you think you'd land in a field of daisies?"
"You almost fell off a cliff?" Catherine snapped. "Nick, I swear to god, you can find trouble anywhere."
"This was not my fault," Nick snapped. "This is Warrick's fault."
"Whatever, Nick," Warrick said, a small grin starting to play across his lips now that he'd shed the muddy clothes. He crossed his arms and leaned back against the locker. "In some cultures, your life would belong to me."
Nick glanced at him irritably. "Good thing this is Vegas then, huh?" He dropped the mud covered jeans next to the shirt and grabbed another pair from his locker. His left knee was red and looked sore, and he winced as he pulled the jeans on.
"You could be more grateful, you know," Warrick said smugly. "Next time I could let you fall."
"Next time maybe you'll listen when I say it's a bad idea to stand on a ledge in the middle of a flash flood!" Nick snapped, as he pulled out another shirt. The anger seemed to drain from him as he put it on, and he seemed to have forgotten Catherine and Sara were both still present and silent behind them, listening to the conversation with something between amusement and horror. "Okay," he said. "Alright, fine, I'm grateful."
"You still don't sound grateful," Warrick said, but he was definitely looking pleased with himself now.
"You try having the ground break away under your feet and see how grateful you are," Nick said tiredly, buttoning up his shirt. It was the greenish shirt that Sara didn't like and he hadn't worn since she told him so, but he didn't much care at the moment, and if she wanted to say something about it now he was ready for her.
"Are you sure you're both alright?" Catherine asked, her voice sounding strained. She knew how dangerous flash floods could be, and either of them could have been seriously hurt. All things considered they were lucky to escape as they had, as sorry a state as that was.
Nick gave her a tired smile. "Hey, we're fine-you know you don't have to worry about us."
Catherine was staring at him incredulously, but he had turned before he caught the look. All she did was worry when it came to them, Nick especially, for reasons that were obvious, and this little incident was certainly doing nothing to put her mind at ease. Sara looked no better, having never, in her entire time in San Francisco, had any of her fellow CSIs or herself in any kind of dangerous situation-and having had a disconcertingly large number of them since coming to work here.
"Besides, like I said, this is Warrick's fault." Nick closed his locker and then looked down at his muddy clothes contemplatively, possibly deciding whether it was worth it to try and salvage what was left of them.
Warrick grinned, and Sara watched the interaction confused. Nick wasn't the type to take something so lightly, and she was surprised he hadn't so much as said thank you to Warrick, but Warrick didn't seem to really mind. She thought something else was going on, and when Warrick spoke again he proved her right. "You're just upset because you lost the bet. You don't get out of it by trying to blame this all on me, man, you lose."
Catherine narrowed her eyes. "What bet?" she demanded. Aside from the fact she didn't really want Warrick betting at all, she had a bad feeling about what it might be based on.
"I was on Nick's case for always nearly getting himself killed," Warrick said, wearing a smug grin. "And he said it could have happened to anyone. So we made a little bet, didn't we, Nick?"
Nick glanced at him resentfully. "I bet Warrick that I wouldn't almost get killed again for at least a year."
Sara winced. Much as she wished that would be as easy a bet as it sounded, she knew better. Catherine just looked resigned. "What were the terms?" she asked.
Warrick grinned brightly, all evidence of his earlier foul mood now gone without a trace. "He's gotta buy me breakfast for a month."
"Well that's the least he could do anyway," Sara said reasonably, ignoring the scathing look Nick threw in her direction. "I mean, you did save his life."
"Was no one listening?" Nick asked, his voice strangely calm. "Let me set the scene for you; Super Dave had just ridden off on his merry little way with the body, because he's got more brains than the both of us and knew it was time to get the hell outta dodge, and the sky is getting strangely dark. Warrick, oblivious, is standing on the edge of a cliff as it starts to rain, and he wants five more minutes."
Warrick winced at this, looking somewhat sheepish. "I didn't know the ground was going to just break off like that, and I'll remind you, it wasn't me kneeling on the absolute edge."
"You told me to!" Nick snapped indignantly.
Warrick winced. "Well, you're smaller."
"Hey, maybe they could have put that on my grave stone." Nick grabbed his clothes up and threw them in the trash bin, having decided that they were definitely not worth the trouble. "Here lies Nick Stokes: Died because he was smaller."
Catherine shook her head. "Guys, come on. You're both exhausted, you've been through a lot-maybe this isn't the best time to get into this, huh?"
"Get into what?" Warrick asked. "We're cool, right?" He glanced at Nick, who nodded.
"Yeah, man." Nick paused, and then tried his luck. "And we should probably just forget that whole bet thing, don't you think?"
Warrick grinned widely. "Not a chance."
Nick leaned against his locker tiredly, but that grin that hid behind his eyes was back where it belonged. "Damn," he said. "It was worth a shot."
Sara and Catherine shook their heads at them both. Nick and Warrick could practically hear them saying 'Men' with absolute incomprehension, though both of them had more tact than to say it out loud.
Grissom wandered in a moment later, and frowned when he noticed the tense state of his team. His eyes strayed towards Nick. "What are you dong here?" he asked, his frown growing.
Nick stood up straight. "What do you mean?"
"I want you to get that cut checked out, Nicky, you should have gone straight to a doctor." Grissom stared the younger man down, and Nick, for his part, simply stared back with disbelief.
"How did you even-" he started.
Grissom cut him off before he could finish. "Warrick, see to it that he gets that checked out, would you? It might get infected and it probably needs stitches."
Warrick nodded and Catherine stared at her boss bemusedly. "I wonder about you sometimes," she said.
He grinned at her. "I have spies everywhere." He spun on his heel, heading back out the way he came, but not before calling over his shoulder, "And don't forget it."
"But he couldn't have-" Nick said, still sounding disbelieving.
Warrick just shook his head with a grin and grabbed the still protesting Nick by the arm. He led him to the exit. "Saving your sorry ass again," he muttered as they disappeared from view.