Greg picked up one last picture and held it up, wiping at the thin layer of dust on the frame. It was the last thing left to go in the box, the last piece of him – of them – left in the room. He remembered the night the picture was taken – his parents had come to town to celebrate his promotion to CSI level one, and they'd all gone back to his parents' hotel room after dinner. He and Nick had been out on the balcony and he'd expected his mom to come out and yell at him for sitting on the railing, but instead she'd taken out her camera and snapped a picture of them before they could argue with her.
He'd forgotten about it until a package had arrived a couple weeks later; inside was the picture in a simple silver frame, with a note from his mom telling him that she'd framed it for him because she knew he'd never get around to it. There were other pictures of them – together and separately – in the boxes stacked up by the door, but this one had always been his favorite.
Part of it was the memory of that night, the thrill of finally getting out of the lab and into the field full time. There were times he wasn't sure he'd make it, so when he did it had meant more than anybody knew. Well, anybody except Nick. Nick could always tell when there was something bothering him, and he was the only person who could bully or charm or flirt Greg out of whatever mood he was in.
That was a long time ago, Greg reminded himself, exhaling heavily as it sank in how much had changed since the night that picture was taken. He carefully set the picture in the last box, glancing around to make sure he hadn't forgotten anything before he closed it and carried it to the stack near the door.
As soon as he set it down the door swung open, and he swallowed another sigh as he watched Nick walk into the apartment. "Hey."
"Hey," Nick echoed, and if Greg wasn't so distracted by his own misery he would have laughed at the look of concern on the other man's face. "You…uh…you get everything?"
"Yeah," Greg answered, glancing around needlessly. He knew he'd gotten everything; he'd checked at least ten times, but he couldn't help wanting to hold on to this for just a few more minutes. He couldn't even begin to count all the memories this place held for him, and to think that he'd be walking out that door soon and leaving it all behind…he shook his head to try to clear the cloud of misery that had begun to settle over him as he packed up the last of his possessions. "Look, Nick…"
A frustrated sigh escaped the other man's throat, and Greg knew what was coming before Nick even said it. "G, we've been through all this. We agreed it's for the best."
"I know, it's just…" He trailed off, searching for a way to make Nick understand why he was having second thoughts.
"We can't make it work," Nick continued when Greg paused, and it was obvious from his pleading expression that he was having just as hard a time with this as Greg was. "We tried for almost a year, what more do you want?"
And now Nick was on the verge of angry, something Greg still couldn't stand to hear even after all this time. "I know. I know it's over, all right? It's just…this is the place we had our first…everything. First kiss, first fight – the first time I blew you was in this room." Nick grinned at that memory and Greg felt himself grinning back in spite of his mood. "Hey, you remember that time with the champagne and the leftover birthday cake?"
"Like I could forget that," Nick answered, something sparking in his eyes that made Greg's heart skip a beat. Then his expression shifted back to helpless regret, and Greg's heart sank right back into his stomach. "It's not like I didn't have a good time here, G. We both did. But that doesn't change anything."
Greg sighed and nodded, not trusting himself to answer. He knew exactly what Nick would say if he did; they'd had this argument plenty of times in the past two months, and he knew they were doing the right thing. That didn't make it feel right, though, especially not now that they'd finally reached the point of no return. "So that's it," Greg said, his gaze trained on the floor so he wouldn't have to see Nick's expression. "The end of an era."
"Yeah." Nick's voice was low and closer than it had been a few seconds ago, and a shiver ran up Greg's spine at the familiar sound. He glanced up just in time to watch Nick smile at him, and even though it was the placating smile he knew Nick used to get him to agree to whatever Nick thought was best, he knew he was going to fall for it. Again.
"Half my stuff's been in storage since I sold my house and moved in here. It's time, we both know it. Besides," he added, reaching up to curve the fingers of one hand around the side of Greg's neck, "the sooner we move into the new place…" he paused long enough to brush his lips across Greg's cheek, "…the sooner we can start on a whole bunch of new firsts, right?"
That was hard logic to argue with, and Greg found himself smiling against Nick's mouth as the other man brushed their lips together. He still wasn't that happy about leaving behind the place that held all the memories of the first year of their relationship, but he was starting to like the idea of a new beginning.