Nine Love Songs chapter one - April - By Sara's Girl
Summary - How long does it take to get everything you never knew you wanted? Nine months. Nine Songs. Nine slices of life.
AN – This started out life as a chapter of Real/ize but I've decided to do it as nine smaller chapters instead. Trying to keep them short (for me, anyway). Set between season 2 and season 3, post-Stalker.
Reviews delight and make grumpy writers smile...
Nick stares at the newspaper and sighs heavily, resisting the temptation to bang his head against the break room table. Nothing. Again. He can't believe there is not a single thing. Four weeks, he's been looking for a new apartment and to no avail. Four long weeks. He doesn't want much, just the regular bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, lounge type deal. Somewhere to sleep and cook and unwind after a long shift. Somewhere that Nigel Crane has never set his eyes on. Somewhere where Nick will not feel like he is being watched. As if that's too much to ask.
He's spent his nights – or mornings - since the whole incident sleeping on anyone and everyone's spare beds and couches. Even tried going back to the apartment once they fixed the hole in the ceiling, but he couldn't sleep, and two nights later was back relying on the charity of his friends and co-workers.
Nick stretches his arms above his head and tries vainly to ease the kinks out of his back. He thinks, dully, of another night of discomfort ahead and groans out loud.
Nick opens his eyes and watches Greg pour coffee, but does not reply. He knows that Greg is quite capable of talking for both of them, and Nick is exhausted.
"I have a spare room," he's saying, and Nick looks at him in surprise. "Some help with the rent would be good. In fact, if people don't stop stealing my coffee, I may have to downsize altogether." Greg grins and sits down opposite Nick at the table. He sets his cup down and runs fingers through his hair, nervous energy practically crackling from his skin like always.
Greg Sanders, Nick thinks. Greg is crazy hair, patterned shirts, tuneless music, hyperactivity. He is one of only a few at the lab that Nick has not stayed with over the last month. It never occurred to him to ask, or evidently, for Greg to offer. Until now. He looks at the paper again. Thinks about another night on Warrick's frankly uncomfortable-as-fuck couch with springs digging in his back. He supposes there are worse things than Greg Sanders' spare bedroom.
"Thanks, Greggo. I may just take you up on that."
Greg's smile is electric and Nick stares curiously for a moment or two before the younger man is out of his chair and halfway out of the room.
"I'll help you move your stuff at the weekend," he calls over his shoulder, before he is no more than a blurred, brightly-coloured shape moving rapidly down the corridor and ducking into the DNA lab. Nick yawns, closes the paper and smiles.
It is barely two weeks into their cohabitation when Greg suggests that Nick decorates the bedroom.
"It should be yours, not just my spare bedroom," he insists, flashing Nick one of those heart-stopping smiles and picking at the slightly peeling cream wallpaper. "We should paint it."
And he looks so infectiously excited by the idea that Nick allows himself to be dragged to the DIY store to look at colour charts that he doesn't really understand.
"G, seriously," he says, frowning at yet another glossy page as he holds it closer to his face. "What's the difference between caramel crisp and burnt sienna?"
Nick looks up to the sound of warm laughter and almost jumps at the hand on his arm and Greg's hot breath on his neck as he leans in to look at the chart over Nick's shoulder.
"Two completely different colours, Nick," he chides, his laughter slightly mocking, proximity increasing as he leans right into Nick's back and reaches a hand over to turn the page. "Anyway, we aren't painting it brown, so it's a moot point."
"Your room's brown," Nick mutters under his breath and pulls away to turn around and face Greg.
"Nicky, please. It's mocha, not brown." He pauses, chocolate eyes sparkling. Looses a short bark of laughter.. "Wow, this conversation couldn't be more gay if it tried."
Nick holds his gaze for seconds longer than he intends to, and doesn't know why, but knows he needs to say something. "Want to talk about power tools?" is his eventual offer.
Greg just laughs, warm and genuine this time, and Nick thinks that just maybe, living with Greg will be ok. Fun, even.
He's funny, clever, easy to talk to...Nick realises that outside of the lab, the traces of irritation that sometimes characterize their relationship are missing. They verbally poke and prod and push each other all the way around the store, but Nick finds he's enjoying himself. In a DIY store. He's still smiling when they are standing next to each other at the checkout, even if Greg looks mildly disgusted at Nick's choice of paint colour.
"You said I had to make it mine," he points out reasonably.
"Yeah, but within reason." Greg raises one eyebrow without looking at Nick.
The blonde girl standing behind the register is smiling as she hands Nick his change and presents him with his purchase in a strong plastic bag.
"Can I just say," she whispers, leaning forward almost conspiratorially. Nick leans forward too, in spite of himself, drawn in by her earnest tone and warm smile. "You two make a lovely couple."
Nick stares for a long time. He only stops when she finally turns away to serve someone else and then he walks out of the store, heavy bag digging into his palm and bumping painfully against his thigh as he moves. Head in a whirl.
Why would she think that?
It's only when they are almost at the car and Nick looks at Greg fiddling with his keys that he realizes Greg is blushing.
Nick doesn't expect Greg to actually help him paint, but he does. He puts on an old t-shirt and a pair of threadbare jeans with holes in them and sets to work. At least, he does, after he has spent a good couple of hours sitting cross legged on the bed and watching Nick strip off the old wallpaper.
"You missed a bit," he points out helpfully. "And green really isn't a bedroom colour."
Nick rolls his eyes at the wall, his back to Greg, but he suppresses the biting remark, even though it must be the fifth time Greg has informed him of that fact since they left the store. He's relieved that Greg is saying anything, if he's being honest, because the couple of minutes of silence that followed the cashier's remark was almost painful. Nick isn't accustomed to a silent Greg, and he did not like it. Which surprises him, now he thinks about it, because he always thought it was Greg's incessant talking that put him on edge in the lab.
Maybe it's something else. Nick wipes his hands on his jeans and takes a deep breath before he has to turn around and look at Greg. Because ever since she said it, he can't stop thinking about what it would be like to kiss Greg.
And that is nothing if not inconvenient.
When he turns, Greg isn't there. The bed is empty. Nick whips around and takes a sharp intake of breath when his eyes fall on Greg, crouching on the floor, dipping his brush in the pale green paint with a look of complete concentration on his face. Nick has seen that look in the lab a thousand times or more, when Greg is manipulating precise quantities of dangerous chemicals, or making coffee exactly the right way, the way only he knows how. And yet here, that lowering of eyebrows, the slight pout and narrowed dark eyes, ensures that Nick cannot look away.
Eventually Nick lets his breath out in a noisy rush and Greg looks up at the sound. His eyes widen and warm and glint and he smiles broadly, a flash of pink tongue visible for just a second and Nick knows he follows it with his eyes.
Greg stands slowly, turning the brush carefully in his hand to keep the thick, glossy, mint-coloured paint from dripping onto the floor. Nick can taste mint-choc-sweetness on his tongue and he thinks maybe that's why he chose the colour that Greg seems to detest.
"Are you done staring? 'Cause this room won't paint itself, now will it?"
Greg's grin turns lopsided and Nick swears there's another faint pink tint to his cheeks despite the bold words. Nick is rooted to the spot and before he knows what's happening he has a paintbrush in his hand and he's applying colour to the bare wall with slow, careful strokes. Gripping the handle tightly and concentrating on keeping the coat smooth and even. Not on the fact that Greg is standing not six feet away and that Nick is now hyper-aware of his every move. Not on the fact that his heart is racing like it hasn't done in a very long time. And certainly not on how the dynamic between himself and Greg has made a dizzying shift from mild irritation to amusement to this. Tingling, tight fear and anticipation.
Nick wonders how Greg is able to make painting look almost erotic. He has given up and is watching the younger man out of the corner of his eyes as he paints. Taking in the head on one side, carefully dishevelled bleached blond spikes, lips slightly parted. One hand shoved casually in the pocket of thin, loose jeans as the other slowly strokes the paint onto the wall with soft, languid movements.
Nick feels warm, and he can't explain it. This is Greg, for god's sake. DNA Greg. Greg of the strange clothes and stranger hobbies and blatant, sledgehammer–subtle flirting with every woman in sight. Though Nick has heard rumours that Greg likes a little bit of everything, actually, and he can't stop wondering if that is true.
When the lips quirk into a sly smile, Nick knows he's been caught and he looks away. Tries to fight down the heat rising on his face because, goddammit, Greg Sanders painting a wall does not make Nick Stokes blush.
No sooner does he start moving his brush again, however, than Nick feels something cold splatter on the side of his face. It takes him a second to register it through the immediate shock.
He has just has paint flicked at him.
And he has to take a moment to close his eyes and remind himself that he is a thirty-one year old man, standing in the spare bedroom of his co-worker's apartment, and not some character in one of those awful romantic comedies that his mother likes to watch when she thinks no one is watching. Nor is he in high school. And yet something is rising up in his chest and bubbling over and he doesn't know if he wants to laugh or fuck, and that is a strange sensation in itself.
He doesn't do either, but raises his hand to his face and wipes thick, cold globs of paint off his cheek. Flicking a glance over to Greg who is painting with such a painfully studied look of concentration and innocence on his face that Nick can't be held responsible for what he does. Dropping his brush onto the paint-tin lid, he catches Greg by the wrist, pulling his brush wielding hand away from the wall mid-stroke and spins him around.
Greg's eyes flash and he smiles through his surprise as Nick watches him for a long silent moment, ignoring the hammering in his chest, and wipes paint-covered fingers messily down the left side of Greg's face.
"Now what are you gonna do?" Nick challenges, and he's only mildly surprised to realize he's whispering.
Greg grins and raises his free hand to drag across his face, only succeeding in smearing the green mess across his lower lip and under his eye. Nick watches, entranced by the simple movement and noticing for the first time how long Greg's eyelashes are. The rapid rise and fall of his chest underneath a ragged, stained blue t-shirt. He can't seem to let go of Greg's wrist, even though he is now dripping paint from the ends of the brush onto the floor.
"This," replies Greg, so confidently and teasingly that it takes Nick's breath away.
Or what's left of it, because seconds later his mouth is captured in a kiss so soft and searching he feels like he may never breathe again. Greg takes just one step closer and leans in, body not touching Nick's but winding his free hand into Nick's hair and the other easily pulling out of Nick's weakened grasp and circling the small of his back, not letting go of the paintbrush so that Nick feels cold, squelchy moisture soaking through his t-shirt as he tentatively brings his hands up to Greg's face and kisses him back.
Greg's lips are soft and sure and Nick shivers at the pressure, movement, slide and taste of salt and sweetness and the paint slicked across the corner of Greg's mouth, now drawn under Nick's fingers as he touches Greg's skin.
It's short, far too short, and he's only just opening his mouth to Greg's and feeling the soft, hot slide of his tongue against the other man's when Greg pulls away, looking breathless and slightly dazed. He's smiling lazily and Nick notices that his eyes are huge, shiny like melted chocolate. Greg licks paint from his lips and makes a face. Extricates his paintbrush from Nick's t-shirt with a wet, scratchy sound and leans to dip it in the tin.
Nick watches him, rooted to the spot, trying but failing to process what just happened. Finally, he takes a deep breath, screws up his courage and pulls Greg back to him, spinning him around by his shoulder so he almost stumbles. Hand on the back of Greg's head, he presses their lips together firmly, eliciting a soft moan from the younger man, flicking a searching tongue inside his hot mouth briefly before releasing him. Nick picks up his own brush and turns back to the wall, smiling against the cyclone spin in his head.
"Don't flick paint at me," says Nick.
Nick doesn't see Greg's face, but he does feel the cool sting as the thick liquid flies from the tip of Greg's brush and hits his skin, this time across the back of the neck.
Head under water
And they tell me to breathe easy for a while
Breathing gets harder
Even I know that