Greg's asleep on the couch when he finally gets home, blanket down around his waist and Nick's heart skips a beat at the sight of that chest rising and falling steadily. He knows it's irrational, but it's been a long night and an even longer day, and all he's been able to think about for hours is getting home and seeing Greg. And he knows Greg's fine -- sent him home hours ago with a brief squeeze of the shoulder and a promise that he'd follow as soon as he could, but explosions always make for messy crime scenes, and they've been at it for pretty much twenty-four hours straight.
What he really needs is a shower and a few hours' sleep, because he knows he's going to be called back in long before he's ready to wade through more destruction, but he can't stop himself from stopping next to the couch. He drops his bag by the coffee table, peeling his jacket off and dropping it too before he sinks onto the cushion at Greg's hip. When Greg doesn't stir he just watches -- the steady in-out of his breathing, the way his eyelids flutter with some dream, the slight frown on his features that Nick wants to reach out and smooth away.
He knows Greg still wakes up from nightmares about the lab explosion. He's there for every one, for the cold sweat and the shaking and the 'I'm okay' that he never believes. But he never pushes Greg to talk about it, because he's not sure what to say. He's been there and he didn't know what to say when it was him, so he just makes sure Greg knows he's around and he lets him deal with it the way he needs to.
It's the hardest thing he's ever had to do. Harder than going back to his house after his stalking, harder than that first case after he was held at gunpoint by a distraught wife. Harder than the days when he feels helpless on the job, because those people he doesn't know, but Greg...Greg he cares about, loves even, and knowing he can't do anything makes him feel more helpless than he ever has in his life.
He tried; when Greg first came home from the hospital he tried to do everything, to be everything, because even though their relationship was new he wanted to be sure Greg understood that he wasn't going anywhere. He pushed so hard that it nearly ended them, and he still counts himself lucky that Greg finally called him on it instead of just walking away.
That's a surer sign that Greg loves him than any words could ever be, and he knows better than to take it for granted. So he tries not to push anymore, tries not to be that guy who wants to fix things that are out of his control. And yeah, there was a part of him that wanted to keep Greg as far away from the aftermath of today's explosion as he could, because the nightmares are farther and farther apart these days and he doesn't want Greg reliving it just as he's starting to work it out.
So he was relieved when Grissom told Greg he was needed in the lab, even though he knew Greg was disappointed that he wasn't getting out in the field. He feels a little guilty about it, but that doesn't stop him from being grateful to Grissom for keeping Greg away from the scene while they were still picking bodies out of the rubble. And they're no closer now to figuring out who did it or why than they were when they first got the call, but right now Nick's not thinking about the case.
All he's thinking about now is the steady rise and fall of Greg's chest, warm skin under his fingers when he reaches out to gently shake Greg awake. Those eyes blink open slowly, confused and so much younger than they usually look, and Nick's starting to get used to the whole heart palpation thing. "Hey."
Greg returns his grin and stretches, letting out a content 'mmm' and sitting up far enough to let Nick's hand slip down his chest. "Hey yourself. You just get home?"
Nick nods and settles a little closer when Greg moves over to make room for him, hand still resting on Greg's skin and he feels a little silly, but that doesn't stop him from focusing on the steady pulse beating under his fingers. "I've gotta be back in a few hours, I just came home for a shower and some of your famous coffee."
Greg grins at that, one hand coming up to cover Nick's, threading their fingers together and that kind of easy affection still takes Nick's breath away even after all this time. "You go get in the shower, I'll make the coffee."
"You don't have to, G. You've gotta be back at the lab in a few hours too, you should go back to sleep."
That gets him a frown, then Greg's hands on him to push him off the couch. "Go get in the shower. And don't argue with me or I'll turn on the hot water while you're in there."
Nick laughs and stands up, pulling Greg up with him and leaning in for a quick kiss before Greg pushes him down the hall. His hands slide up Greg's bare back, fingers traveling over scars he knows by touch. His heart skips another beat at the feel of rough skin under his touch, at the permanent reminder of what he could have lost. And he's pretty sure by now that Greg can read his mind, because as soon as he thinks it Greg's pulling back to look at him.
"I can handle this case."
"You shouldn't have to." The words are out before he can stop them, and he regrets them instantly because he doesn't want to start a fight. That's the last thing he wants right now, not when they've only got a few hours before they've got to be back in the lab. But Greg doesn't look mad -- his expression's a mixture of affection and that ever-present amusement Nick's gotten so used to, the thing that made him fall for Greg in the first place and just one reason he keeps coming back for more.
"You worry too much, you know that? That's always been your problem."
One more kiss and he's being pushed toward the shower, stripping off his clothes slowly when he reaches the bathroom. He leaves the door open, listening for the sounds of Greg moving around in the kitchen. And he knows as soon as Greg's done he'll join Nick in the shower, so he takes his time getting out of his clothes and getting the water just the way Greg likes it. Because they've only got a few hours before they're right back to death and destruction and the miserable things people do to each other, but he's going to make the most of every second.