AN: I know, not technically a country tune, but I swear, just a little tweaking to the instrument tracks... and it so could be! Anyway, I'm temporarily claiming it for the Kingdom of Country, okay? No other song fits this story arc so perfectly...
PAUSE OFF: CONTINUE TO SAPPY, ROMANTIC, TEAR-JERKER ENDING
END OF SHIFT:
"So, it couldn't be right. The fingerprints are too small and way too low on the door-frame."
"But there's no record of them having a child..."
"Yeah, I know, but..."
"... or in their immediate family either."
"So who the hell had a baby in there? And when?"
"Jeez! What, Nicky?"
"Shift's over an' if I don't go right now I'm gonna lose somethin' that... I just can't lose. Okay?"
"Oh my God. No wonder I couldn't get you off the laptop on the way back in... That amazing, huh?"
"Beyond that... beyond words. You go read it, we'll talk about the case tomorrow night, yeah?"
"Of course. Go! Find him and get all this drama over with!" she laughed, shoving Nick gently in the back to get him moving. The moment he ran off, grinning like a fool, she headed for Archie's lab to get caught up on the latest installment of the online love story that, very soon, might just be blossoming in real life.
Nick stared at the ten handwritten notes he clutched, shaking his head and chuckling at the evidence that Greg was as anxious, nervous and frustrated as he was. All the notes contained the same message, but the younger man had scotch-taped a copy in every single place he thought Nick might search for him, including the men's room, unwilling to take a chance that his urgent request could be missed.
+++ Meet me out back? Please? +++
Still grinning, Nick carefully folded the papers, slid them into his jacket pocket and took off for the smoking area behind the building at a fast jog.
"Greg? Greggo, where the hell... there you are! Look..."
"Shhh. One more song okay? Then... well, then you answer the question one more time. Then we talk."
"Greg..." Nick moaned, but got only a sweet smile and pleading eyes in response. "Okay, okay, okay." he conceded, waving at the small boom-box Greg was holding. "Go ahead..."
Greg's grin got broader and he wiggled slightly in anticipation as he pushed the button. The lyrics that were soon pouring from the speakers made Nick's heart soar as he realized what question Greg wanted a second answer to. Despite catching several half-hidden spectators out of the corner of his eye, he let the music continue.
* ... Now it dawns on me probably everybody's talkin'
And there's something here I'm supposed to realize 'Cause your secret's out, and the universe laughs at its joke on me I just caught it in your eyes, it's a beautiful surprise
When did you fall in love with me?
Was it out of the blue 'Cause I swear I never knew it When did you let your heart run free?
Have you been waiting long?
When did you fall in love with me? *
Nick wanted to speak, to move, to punch something. The emotions expanding inside him were rapidly becoming too much to contain, but somehow, he held on. The song was very familiar, one of his favorites, and he knew what was coming, so he gritted his teeth and stayed still. Knowing the song just as well as the other man, Greg set the stereo on the ground, swiped at his watery eyes and, not-so-patiently, waited to see what Nick would do.
* Make your way over here, sit down by this fool, and let's rewind C'mon, let's go back and replay all our scenes You can point out the hints, the clues, the twists and the smiles this time All the ones that slipped by me
I bet my face is red, and you can hear my heart poundin'
Well I guess it don't matter now that I realize 'Cause baby I missed it then, but I can surely see it now Right here before my eyes You're my beautiful surprise... *
At last, as the song swept toward its conclusion, Nick shot a quick grin shot towards the watchers gathered at the door, strode to Greg, pulled him onto his arms and lifted him into the air.
"So... cowboy up, cowboy. When?" Greg whispered, wrapping his arms around Nick.
"Feels like always. Started the moment I saw you... an' it's only gotten stronger. *Is* my face red?"
"A little... your heart's *definitely* pounding..."
"Yeah... figures I'd have an attack an' keel over just when I found my reason to live."
"Don't you dare..."
"I meant all of it, Greggo. It wasn't just to make you feel better. I meant every word... with my whole heart..."
"Quiet... listen and follow directions..."
* ... I never saw the signs Now we've got to make up for lost time And I can tell now by the way that you're looking at me I'd better finish this song so my lips will be free... *
Nick laughed boldly and did as he'd been asked, kissing Greg deeply and spinning him around to the accompaniment of wild applause from the small group behind them.
A few moments later, Nick set the smaller man on his feet again, but continued to hold him as he seemed unsteady.
"Whooo! Little dizzy..."
"Maybe, but that's what I love about you." Nick snarked.
"C'mon, you two. Breakfast." Catherine ordered, waving the pair back into the building. Their friends parted and allowed them to pass, offering slaps on the shoulder and joyful congratulations as they stumbled through the gauntlet.
"You buying?" Nick asked.
"Are you crazy? After all you've put us through tonight, picking up the check is the *least* you can do!"