Sara's leaning against the wall just outside the break room, watching him walk down the hall. She's wearing the same sad smile she's been sporting since she got back, and she looks like she's been through the ringer. Not that Nick can blame her; she came back for a funeral, and in the process she's had to rehash the end of her relationship with Grissom and an old case that cropped back up at exactly the wrong time.
He stops next to her and leans back against the wall, nudging her shoulder with his own. "Waiting for somebody?"
That gets him another sad smile, but Sara doesn't answer. Instead she looks around at the lab, taking in the hall stretched out in front of them and the people from the day shift starting to trickle in. "There are things I really miss about this place."
"You could always come back," Nick suggests, though he knows she's not going to. He can tell how much the past week has rattled her, and it's obvious that whatever broke in her when she left hasn't fixed itself with time.
"No, I can't," Sara answers, and yeah, she sounds a little sad about it, but he can tell her mind's made up.
He's not sure how long they stand there, watching the wheels keep turning around them without saying anything. And there are some days when he starts to wonder if it's worth it, sure, but he can't imagine life without this place. Then again, he's never really tried, and if Greg announced suddenly that he was moving to L.A. to make movies, he'd have to give it some thought.
Nick's imagining just that when Sara turns to look at him again, her smile reaching her eyes this time. "You smell like Greg."
"What?" he asks, and he's positive he heard her wrong, but he feels himself blush anyway. And it's not that he's been trying particularly hard to keep his relationship with Greg under wraps lately, but Sara's barely been in town a week and he didn't think they were that obvious.
"My first day back, when you hugged me. You smelled like Greg," she says, and now she's just laughing at him.
His first impulse is to deny it, mostly because old habits really do die hard, but enough has happened in the past few months to convince him that it's not worth the effort. It turns out that it's easier just to be who he is, and it makes Greg a lot happier, so it's worth the risk. "Yeah, well, I could think of worse things to smell like," he answers, still blushing but he grins at her anyway.
"Like decomp soup?"
Nick laughs at the memory, picturing Sara trying everything in the book to get rid of that smell, and Greg teasing her mercilessly through their entire shift. "Man, that was a long time ago."
"And yet it still ranks as one of the top five most disgusting days of my life."
They've both seen a lot worse on the job than a liquified body in a gym bag, but at least that case they can laugh about. It's not one of the ones that keeps them up nights, anyway, and when he thinks about it that way Nick can sort of see why Sara got out when she did.
"So do I want to know why you know what Greg smells like?"
"We worked together a lot when we were on swing shift," Sara answers. "And he hugged me right before you did."
Nick lets out a soft laugh and shakes his head at her. For a second it feels just like old times, back before everything got so complicated. Back before Sara and Grissom, back when Nick could believe that he and Warrick were tight and that they'd all always be right here, getting through the tough nights together.
"I knew about you and Greg before," she says, matter-of-fact, like it's no big deal. And it's not, really; he's not even all that surprised, because Greg and Sara did spend a lot of time together when they were working the swing shift, and Greg's not that hard to read. "I have to admit, I didn't really expect it to last."
That's not a surprise either, but Nick bristles anyway. He crosses his arms over his chest, hands clenched tight around his arms and when he realizes what he's doing he wants to laugh. Because it almost didn't last, and that's his fault. Mostly his fault, anyway, for believing that he could keep their relationship a secret from the people closest to them and still hold on to Greg. But it turns out they've all had secrets all along, and he doesn't want what happened to Sara and Grissom or even Warrick to happen to him.
"I didn't know Warrick had a kid," he says, making an effort to unfold his arms as he speaks.
"Right. That's the whole point," Nick says. "We were supposed to be friends. We worked together a long time, and I thought I knew pretty much everything there was to know about him. But he didn't tell me he had a kid, and I didn't tell him about Greg." Nick shrugs and looks over at her, grinning sheepishly at her expression. "Maybe he knew and he just didn't want to, you know? But we didn't talk about it."
"That doesn't mean he wasn't your friend."
"I know," Nick says, and he means it. Warrick was a friend, and Nick loved him. It still hurts to think about how much, and he has a feeling it's going to for a long time. But losing him made Nick think about...well, everything, so in a way he's sort of grateful for what happened. He can't say that out loud without it coming out all wrong, though, so he's glad when Greg finally appears in the hallway. He's walking slow, but when he looks up and sees them he smiles and picks up his pace.
"What's up?" he asks, grinning at the two of them and Nick has another flash of days gone by.
"Just waiting for you, G," Nick answers, and it's worth it just to see the expression on Greg's face. "You ready to go?"
"Yeah," Greg answers, glancing over at Sara with an apologetic smile.
Sara grins back at him and pushes herself off the wall, arms crossed in front of her and if Nick didn't know better he'd think she was nervous. "Actually, I just came to say goodbye."
And he's not surprised, but Nick's still sorry to hear it. They've been so swamped that they've barely gotten to see her, and letting Sara go feels sort of like losing something all over again. Greg doesn't look all that surprised either, but Nick knows he's disappointed. Sara did more of his training than any of them out in the field, and Nick knows how much Greg misses her.
"Sure you have to leave right away?" Nick asks, pasting on his most charming grin. "At least let us buy you one last breakfast."
"Maybe next time," she says. She steps forward, hugging Greg tight for a long moment before she lets go and reaches for Nick. When he pulls her close she breathes in deep, pulling back just far enough to whisper in his ear. "He smells good on you."
Nick laughs and lets her go, heat creeping up his neck all over again. He waits until she walks away to look over at Greg, smiling at his expression. "What was that about?"
Nick slides his arm around Greg's shoulders and steers him toward the door, digging in his other pocket for his keys. "I'll tell you all about it when we get home."