A/N: This is the last chapter – and its super long because I have developed an emotional attachment to it all and couldn't bear to cut it in half! however, I get another shiny complete! I owe a large portion of this chapter to my dear friend 'DearSweetPaperCut' – I could wax lyrical about how wonderful she is here but it would only inflate her ego further and she knows how much I love her anyway ;o) I hope you have all enjoyed this story as much as I have, send me one last review please?
love Charli xxx
Nick watched her leave from the foyer, the blonde woman eyeing him with a smile as he did. Caitlyn was chatting to Tom outside, nervously glancing back and forth as though she could sense his eyes on her. He couldn't hear what they were saying, he wouldn't even attempt to try but as she shook her head and headed in the direction of her car he hoped she had offered Tom a rejection. He could be a hurdle in his path if she allowed him to be.
"You… friends with Caitlyn?" the girl at the desk asked twirling some hair around her finger.
"You could say that, I guess" Nick shrugged "she blew me off"
She moved from behind the desk, smiling at him and drawing her hand across the wooden top seductively. She wasn't as small as he had first thought; the desk had dwarfed her and hidden her slim build and long legs. In the corner of his eye he saw Cait running to catch up with Tom and slip inside his car, it felt like the wall between them was officially back in place.
"Well I get off shift in 5minutes if you're looking for some company…" she purred, her hand now stroking his arm. There was no mistaking the kind of 'company' she had in mind and Nick found himself looking her up and down, contemplating the possibility of an evening of debauchery.
"I'll wait outside" he smiled, watching her retreating form with lust in his eyes. She was going to be trouble, he could feel it. Girls like her often were, girls like her who worked with girls like Caitlyn were bound to be. He had met them many times before; he had slept with them many times before. The kind of girls who worked so hard to be beautiful they forgot what it was, the kind who needed random men to take them to bed to feel desired.
She joined him a few minutes later, her hair pulled loose and her top pulled down. She had smeared some gaudy pink lipstick on her lips and brushed powder across her eyelids in an attempt to perk up from what had probably been a long shift.
"Hi, names Rosie… where are we headed?" she grinned, slipping her arm round his. Her perfume was strong. It filled the air in a heavy haze and irritated his nose.
"Well I have to stop by work for a second" he sniffed, waving the file around "then we can go for a drink"
"Sounds good to me!" she smirked as he led her to his car.
Rosie was one of those girls it was easy to chat to. She had a lot to say and didn't hesitate to say it; in fact, Nick didn't have to talk very much at all. He spent most of the date nodding and smiling in her direction biding his time until they could get down to the real reason for their date. While she chattered he watched her with some interest, she was probably quite naturally pretty under all that make up but she knew it and that immediately made her less attractive. It also made her a target for men like him who had no intention of calling her back. Who had no intention of pursuing a romance with her, she was there to quench a thirst and she was using him as much as he was using her.
They barely made it out of the bar before she was wrapped around him; the feverish pace in which she tore at his shirt and stole the breath from his lips overwhelmed him. He found himself in her apartment on the other side of town without even uttering a single word.
She had a way of pulling her with him on this whirlwind while his mind was still preoccupied with Caitlyn and he couldn't defend himself. Before long he was running his hands across her bare skin and tasting her flesh on his lips. It felt all wrong when he thought about it, so he stopped thinking about it. He turned off the rational part of his brain and he went along with Rosie, tearing moans from her throat and kisses from her lips until they both collapsed into the bed.
"I really don't know why Caitlyn blew you off Nicky… that was amazing" she gushed, while the ego boost should have helped, the mention of Caitlyn's name seemed to weigh heavily on his mind. "The girls got issues… I mean the other day she freaked when I asked her to respond to a missing kid. I just forgot she was in clinical now"
"Why is she in clinical now anyway? I thought she was doing well…"
"She was. Boss had his head so far up her ass he couldn't see anyone else but she came in one day looking like crap, all puffy eyes and pasty skin, went into the boss' office and when she left she had a new department and a promotion" she raised her eyebrows to emphasize her point as she offered him a cigarette from her night stand "I think she screwed the boss… he's totally into her and how else would she get a promotion looking like that?"
"By doing her job?" Nick muttered, refusing the cigarette and swinging his legs out of the bed.
"Yeah… right. Like that's how she got to where she is now" she scoffed sarcastically as she puffed on her cigarette. Nick was beginning to realize he had made a huge mistake. This girl clearly had it in for Caitlyn. He was simply another method she was using to undermine her.
"Sometimes people are actually good at what they do you know…" he sighed, pulling on his jeans and scanning the floor for his shirt.
"Yeah well, Tom doesn't seem to notice when anyone else is 'good at what they do' I guess it depends what it is they're 'doing'" she rolled her eyes and stubbed out her cigarette, pulling a silk bathrobe around her body and laying back on the bed.
"Tom. You mean that guy… the one she left with?"
She nodded and smiled at him, raising an eyebrow as though to underline her suspicions. Nick wasn't sure how he felt about this revelation, he had certainly sensed something between them in the corridor but it could easily be put down to jealousy.
"Apparently she knew him before she came here but she wouldn't tell anyone how – totally suspicious if you ask me…."
Rosie watched him dressing with an air of indifference and Nick found himself feeling incredibly defensive of Caitlyn. Even if what Rosie was saying was true, he didn't like the way she slated her and he was fairly sure this was a well-rehearsed rant, one that she has spouted more than once.
"I'm… I need to work… early tomorrow…" he muttered, retrieving his shoes and trying not to meet her steady eye. He usually slipped out of these situations while the girl was sound asleep and oblivious to his retreat, this was all new to him. The fact that Rosie didn't seem to be bothered made him feel uneasy. "I'll… see you around?"
Rosie shrugged and pulled another cigarette from the packet while tapping out a message on her phone. Nick had a feeling this wouldn't be the last he would hear of her as he slipped outside and tried to get his bearings. It wasn't the first time he had slunk out of a woman's bed and found himself in a strange place; he promised himself it would be the last time. he hailed a cab and fell into bed, hoping to sleep off the memories of his drunken one night stand and the horrible feeling that it would come back to haunt him.
Greg made his way into the break room his mind filling with memories of the previous night he had spent with Sara. They're evenings together had started to feel more comfortable than he had ever expected them to be- they would talk, laugh and joke as if they were any other couple. The lack of gold glinting on her hand had changed the atmosphere in ways he couldn't explain- his whole being feeling so alive.
Nick was sitting at the table his attention focused on the newspaper in his hand- a coffee slowly cooling by his elbow. He looked up meeting Greg's eye giving him a small nod of acknowledgement.
If Nick was being honest with himself Greg's company had not improved his mood. His friend reminded him of the lover he had lost. The woman he thought he had fallen in love with. Things had gotten messier than he had ever wanted them to- they had gotten themselves tangled in a web of deceit and unravelling had proved itself to be a near impossible task.
Despite the ending of their relationship the fact that they had betrayed Greg played heavily on his mind.
He was more than certain that Greg had been sleeping with Sara- they were so close. They counted on each other so much it wouldn't be hard for anyone to see how things could have escalated. How their friendship could have turned in to more. They knew each other like the backs of their hands, their private jokes and secretive smiles speaking of some deep connection. What he and Cait had done was so different.
It was lust.
Or at least it had been until he fell in love with her. They had both been filling emptiness in their lives with sex.
"What are you up to tonight?" Greg asked casually leaning back against the counter.
"Nothing...why?" Nick cleared his throat taking a sip from his coffee expecting to be asked to swap shifts- tonight was Sara's night off.
"I just thought it'd be nice to grab a beer after shift..." The younger man shrugged with a small smile. "I've been pretty wrapped up in Cait- I guess- it's time to get back to being me"
"You know I've got-" Nick began realising that he was not ready for this. He could not sit with Greg and pretend that nothing had changed between them.
"Come on- it's been ages since we went out for a beer" Greg insisted with a warm smile.
"Okay...okay" He gave in realising that it was time to try and put things right.
"That's great..." Greg nodded a goodbye at him disappearing into the hall way with his mug looking for someone to talk to about his case.
Nick leant back in his chair taking a deep breath realising that perhaps it was time to be the better man- to confess he'd made a mistake and hope that things would improve. More than anything he wanted to redeem himself not only in Greg and Cait's eyes but also his own.
Greg had been one of is closest friend's since he'd moved to Vegas- they had grown older together- they had shared loss, experienced trauma and fought battles together. And for some reason love didn't seem to stop the guilt he felt overwhelming him every time he was in Greg's presence.
Shift seemed to pass quickly- the minutes moving too fast for Nick's liking. He wanted time to get his thoughts together- to work out how he was going to tell Greg but before he knew it he was in a bar listening to Bon Jovi play.
"Hey Greg can I ask you a question?" Nick asked realising that it was now or never.
"Sure..." The younger man took a swing from his beer- glancing around at the crowd before looking back at his friend.
"Why did you and Cait break up?"
"...We were in different places in our relationship. Things just weren't working out. We jumped in, took a risk and it turned out to be a bad decision" Greg shrugged as if defeated and exhausted by the subject.
"Really?" Nick raised his eyebrows not wanting to let on he knew more than Greg thought.
"No" He shook his head. "I told her I was in love with someone else"
"Sara" Greg took a deep breath. "I'm in love with Sara"
"oh" Nick realised he was speechless- he had never expected to hear those words appearing in the air.
"She's... everything I've ever wanted. And I just wasn't ready to let go of her. And I was hurting Cait because this whole time I couldn't stop thinking about Sara." He looked disappointed- it was impossible to miss.
"Did you see Sara behind Cait's back?" Nick needed to know if the premiss he and Cait had based their affair on had been true.
"No" Greg shrugged. "I just didn't stop spending as much time with her even when I know it was upsetting Cait."
The revelation seemed to be crushing Nick's chest- the music suddenly sounding louder, his heart beating faster, and the alcohol taking more bitter.
"How did you know you love Sara then?" He asked attempting to regain control in the conversation.
"Because it's not about sex... she's funny, smart, beautiful... she's such a strong person" Greg knew he needed to stop talking- if he didn't he was going to tell Nick everything. "And Grissom...he... just took advantage of her..."
"Greg there's something I need to tell you" Everything seemed to be crashing down harder than Nick had imagined. Greg took a deep breath glad that Nick had not noticed his use of the past tense 'took'.
"What?" He smiled at Nick wondering what it was that was playing on his mind.
"I...I don't know how to tell you this..." He took a deep breath looking away before looking back at Greg. "I...I slept with Cait"
"You've seen her recently?" Greg frowned at him.
"No...No...while you were together...She thought you were sleeping with Sara. And she wanted someone to talk to. And one thing led to another" The story came blurting out and as he looked up it quickly became clear that this was not going to be a no harm no foul situation.
"What are you talking about?" Greg couldn't contemplate what he was saying.
"Sorry? You slept with my girlfriend and you're sorry" He stood up and Nick found himself following suit.
"Greg listen to me" He pleaded for him to listen.
"What could you possibly have to say?" Greg growled.
"I love her. I'm in love with her Greg. I love Cait the way you love Sara." The words just bubbled up.
"You can't possibly" He shook his head.
"I know... you're angry with me... but it was eating me up not telling you. But I lost her. And I loved her- I still love her. And... I don't know what to do..." He sounded exhausted.
"If you love her- if you really do- you wouldn't have stopped fighting for her Nick" With that Greg turned abandoning his drink as he disappeared out of the bar.
Nick was left standing along baffled by what had just happened- realising Greg was right.
If he really loved Cait- then he couldn't admit defeat- not now.
Starting tomorrow he was going to win Caitlyn back and no amount of sleazy bosses or jealous receptionists would get in his way. Rosie might even be able to help. As he stepped out of the bar and made his way home he sent Rosie a message and got to work.
Caitlyn squinted in the bright sunlight as she pulled into the parking lot at work. She hadn't slept well at all; Nick showing up had knocked her for six. A flood of memories she had worked hard to suppress had washed over her when he smiled at her and she kicked herself for being so weak. She had tried to fly under the radar for this very reason, it wouldn't work with Nick but her heart still wanted her to try.
Rosie eyed her funny as she strolled through the foyer, not that it was unusual for Rosie to be glaring at her it just seemed like she was itching to say something to her. It didn't take long for her to follow into her office with a handful of messages that she probably could have given her at reception. Caitlyn rolled her eyes before turning to face her with a smile.
"Hey, um when will you be going for lunch today? I… I just need to know for… well Tom asked me to start logging everyone in and out…" she said with a false smile plastered to her features.
"I'm not sure, probably about 1? Tom should know already, we're going together!"
"You know… that guy you were taking too yesterday?" Rosie perched on the edge of her desk and started fingering the paperwork absentmindedly.
"Nick? What about him?" Caitlyn could feel her chest getting tight as she met Rosie's eye and recognized the mischievous glint reflected back to her. Jealousy was not something she would have expected to be feeling at all.
"Are you two… you know" she shrugged "is there something… going on between you?"
Caitlyn sat back for a second and thought about the question. As much as she would like to warn Rosie off Nick she knew she had no claim over him. Even if it hurt to think of him with someone else, it was bound to happen sooner or later.
"No, Nick and I… we're just friends… not even that actually…I'm not really sure what we are…"
"So, its ok if I… well you know" she beamed with a nod of her head.
"Sure, it's… nothing to do with me" Caitlyn shrugged with a half-hearted attempt at a smile.
"Great!" she beamed, twirling around and bouncing to the door "cause, I kinda already did"
She wandered back along the corridor and Caitlyn sat staring at the desk in front of her trying to control her emotions. Rationalization's only worked for so long, the fact remained that this bothered her. It bothered her a lot more than it should have and Rosie would take a great deal of pleasure from that.
At one o'clock Nick sat in his car watching the doors of family services, as instructed. Caitlyn appeared with Tom close on her heels, heading to lunch, just as Rosie had predicted. He had told her he wanted to return the file without bumping into Cait gain, that wasn't entirely true though. While he was in fact returning the file he had something else he had in mind that Caitlyn couldn't see. It had to be a surprise or it simply wouldn't work. Romantic gestures were so much better when they were unexpected.
Rosie ushered him in with a sultry smile, clearly enjoying the prospect that he was now avoiding Caitlyn. He headed straight for her office, knowing her inclination towards super short lunch breaks didn't buy him a lot of time. He breezed out of the building, muttering his goodbyes to Rosie and feeling very optimistic about the night ahead.
When Caitlyn returned she felt somewhat more in control, Tom had talked it all through with her and clarified her position in the whole sorry scenario. He had been a godsend for the few months, when everything was falling apart he had been there helping her put it all back together, now it felt like all their hard work was beginning to come undone and he was right there by her side trying to seal the cracks with her.
She knew about the rumors flying around the offices, they both did and although Tom claimed it didn't bother him she knew that he worried about appearing to favor certain people over others. They had discussed it at length over many glasses of wine, especially when a new position became available and he had to fill it. She didn't envy his position of power; it seemed like a lot more stress and politics than it was worth.
She hadn't counted on a parcel sitting on her desk with a hand written letter and a yellow tulip that would send all their lunch hour hard work crashing into oblivion. She hesitated for a second, her fingers tracing the 'N' written on the corner, wondering if opening the parcel was worth the turmoil it would no doubt initiate. Yellow tulips were her favorite, she couldn't remember ever telling him that and yet somehow he knew. They symbolized 'passionate love' too, she wasn't sure Nick was the type of person who would have realized that though, he had more than likely just picked the nicest flower he could see at the time.
"What's all this then?" Tom joked from the doorway, grinning at her as she sniffed the tulip and stared into space. He crossed the room and took the chair across from her, frowning at the package and the letter.
"They're from Nick…" she declared as though that explained everything.
He reached out to pick up the package but she put her hand over his and met his eye with a small shake of her head.
"I don't know if I should open it…"
"What… you think it's a pipe bomb or something?" he laughed before realizing she was serious about not opening it "you can't not open it…I'll open it!"
He snatched it from her hands before she was able to respond and waved it in front of her eyes as she slipped the letter across the table, closer to her body hoping he wouldn't notice she hadn't opened that yet either.
"What's it gonna be girl?…. If I open it there's every chance I will be the one who falls hopelessly in love with him and somehow I don't think I'm his type!"
"I thought we agreed I was moving on?" she huffed, reaching out her hand towards him and fighting the smile tugging at her mouth "oh give it here!"
The thick brown paper unfolded easily but she hesitated before revealing what was inside, well aware of Tom's eyes watching her every move and scanning her face to read her emotions. The paper peeled back to reveal an obnoxious striped cover book with a couple locked in an embrace on the cover. Her mind was instantly transported to their last conversation 'Mills and Boon'. She couldn't resist the chuckle teasing on her lips as she brandished the book at Tom.
"'The Male Animal'" he read aloud, turning the book over in his hands "is he trying to tell you something Cat? I wasn't told he was an animal"
"Shut up Tom… it's a long story!"
"About book club huh?" he smiled, turning the book around so she could see the note stuck to the inside cover. "Tonight at 7… looks like you have a date" she snatched the book from his hands "are you going to go?"
"No!" she answered a little too quickly. "I'm not going there again, it wouldn't work…"
"Ok then" Tom nodded, sending her a knowing smile as he heaved himself from the chair and left her office "I won't wait up"
When she was sure he had gone she retrieved the letter from its hiding place and stared down at it in her hands. It felt heavy, like inside that letter there were words she didn't want to hear, confessions and secrets she didn't need to know. His heart was in her hands and she was terrified that if she opened the letter she'd only end up breaking it again.
In the end work took over and the letter was stashed in a drawer for the rest of the day like the telltale heart thumping in her conscience as the hours ticked by incredibly slowly and the paperwork stacked up. She was off shift at 5pm, it feasibly gave her enough time to go home and change. If she wanted to, that is. The clock on her wall seemed to have frozen time; she could have sworn it had been 4.30 for the past hour at least.
Her eyes seemed to be constantly drawn to the drawer as she signed form after form and wished the hours away. When the clock hit 5pm she sat back in her chair and stared once again at the drawer, her hand stroking the book as it sat on the tabletop beside her.
"Come on, I'll drive you home to get changed…" Tom smiled from her office door.
"Changed for what?" she replied, pretending she didn't know what he was talking about. Tom simply raised his eyebrow and gestured for her to get a move on. She gathered up her things and slung her jacket over her arm, almost forgetting to retrieve the letter from its hiding place and having to run back to get it. Rosie glared at them as they left together, Tom's hand casually resting on the small of Caitlyn's back as he guided her through the doors and nodded goodnight to her.
Nick waited in the restaurant in his best suit fiddling with the edges of the napkin nervously. She could see him through the glass in the door and while part of her wanted to smile and sit across from him like they had never been apart, another part of her was terrified of opening that door and looking into his eyes. She still hadn't read the letter, it burned in her purse willing her to read what he had wrote before making her decision. Tom had insisted it could do no harm, that it was just words and if nothing else it would let her know where his head was even if she didn't know where hers was.
With trembling hands she took out the white envelope and turned it around in her hands, carefully unfolding the flap and slipping the paper out. It had been so long since she'd had a hand written letter; it seemed something so precious and meaningful in these days of emails and text messages.
'Caitlyn, I know you probably don't want to hear me out or see me right now. I'm not great with words, it's not easy to write down exactly how you feel about someone when they are doing all they can to push you away. It's not easy to know that we could be perfect together but be afraid to push it too hard in case you genuinely don't want anything to do with me. I don't really know what to do for the best, maybe I should let you leave, maybe you can have a beautiful life without me and you can be happy. I can't be though. I've been trying, believe me I wanted to get you out of my head but I couldn't. You're still a part of everything I do. Everytime I close my eyes I see your smile, I can feel your arms around me, I can smell your skin and I've never felt like this about a woman before. I've never had this need to be close to someone, I've never felt hollow at the prospect of not being with someone but I am now and I don't know what to do with it. I don't want to ask too much from you, I know it's hard and we didn't meet under the best circumstances. I don't expect everything to fall into place right away but I love you and all I'm asking is that you try. Nx'
Her breath caught in her chest at the honesty in his words. Nick wasn't generally a romantic person; he kept his cards close to his chest most of the time she knew it had probably been hard for him to write it. She took a deep breath and turned back towards the restaurant colliding with Nick coming through the door.
"We need to stop meeting like this!" Nick laughed, his hands holding onto her arms momentarily "I thought you were going to blow me off again"
"I was… I mean… I wasn't going to come but…" she wasn't sure how to justify her disappearance or her avoidance of him ever since.
"You read the letter?" he guided her to one of the benches on either side of the doorway and sat beside her "I don't want to force you into anything…"
"You know what? I was doing just fine without you! I was fine before and I was fine after. I was doing OK Nicky and then you turn up again and turn it all upside down! My life was on track…."
"My life was empty" he stated sadly, taking her hand in his gently.
"Oh is that right? What about Rosie then?" she snapped, pulling her hand away and standing up.
She was getting irate; her dad had always told her that men will say whatever they needed to get what they wanted. It was just words, it didn't mean anything. She was beginning to think he had been right.
"Rosie… Rosie was nothing. What about Tom?" her eyes shot to his and she found herself laughing at his misunderstanding.
"Tom's gay Nicky… you're probably more his type than I am!"
A silence lingered between them and Caitlyn surrendered and took the space beside him once more with a sigh. Nick draped his arm around her shoulders.
"Can I have another do over?" he smiled in her direction, moving a strand of hair gently from her face. "I'm not doing great at the whole impressing you thing…"
"No you're not gaining any brownie points right now" she smiled slightly, holding his gaze for a moment longer than normal. The air seemed to still around them, the darkness of the night closing in and wrapping them in its heavy embrace. Caitlyn's eyes glistened in the moonlight as she met his eye, her tongue moistening her lips, drawing his attention to them immediately. His heart was pounding in his chest, making him breathless.
"I can't be without you…" he whispered into her hair as he dipped his head towards her.
Caitlyn turned her attention to her hands, her fingers fiddling with her nails. She was so nervous her hands were trembling and her bottom lip was red from biting down on it.
He reached out and covered her hands with his, the gasp escaping her mouth at the sudden physical contact sent shivers all over his body and when she tore her eyes from her hands to his eyes he found himself slowly leaning towards her again. His hand stroked the soft skin of her face, making her eyes close and her breath still.
"It won't work Nick…what about Greg? What if he finds out?"
"He already knows… I told him everything. He… told me to fight for you" he soothed, not removing his hand from her face or his eyes from hers. She didn't lower her gaze either, both of them locked in position as time melted away from them.
"Why did you have to do this Nick, you could have left it well alone"
His lips caressed hers; gently savoring the plump, soft flesh and the glorious taste she lent him. She didn't fight him off but neither did her lips dance on his when he pulled back he saw tears in her eyes and a quiver on her lips.
"I couldn't… I'm so totally in love with you I can do anything but leave it alone!"
Caitlyn's fingers intertwined with his, her other hand snaked around his neck and before he realized what was happening she was kissing him. Really kissing him in an embrace filled with emotion and promises.
"You're an idiot, you do know that don't you?"
He nodded in response, willing to agree to anything at this point as long as he didn't scare her away.
"If it means we can try again….I'll be whatever you want me to be" he winked, immediately receiving a playful slap on the arm from Caitlyn.
"Don't push it lover boy, it is a woman's prerogative to change her mind!" she smiled, her hand now resting on his chest, feeling his heart beating onto her fingertips through the thin fabric of his shirt.
"Then will you change your mind and have dinner with me please?" he stood up and reached out his hand to her, hoping for a second chance to make it work. Caitlyn smiled, her hand slipping into his as he pulled her to a standing position and hesitated when he found himself holding her in his arms. Her body was almost pressing against his, the heat and scent of her skin temping him. He dipped his head, finding her lips again and dancing around her tongue with his before breaking away and placing delicate kisses across her jaw and neck. When she pulled away the pink flush of desire cast over her skin made him smile at his victory.
"I'd love to" she muttered breathlessly and he led her back into the restaurant eyeing his prize as she walked before him.
He had known from the second he met her that they should be together, it had just taken her this long to catch up.