Sabrina smiled at the sound of the front door opening, followed quickly by the sound of Dublin’s toenails on the hardwood. She listened as the door shut, as Nick’s footsteps made their way to her. She was leaning against the counter with a coffee mug in hand when he entered the kitchen.
“Good morning, beautiful.”
“Good morning, Detective.” She held up a mug. “Strong and black, just like you like it.”
“Sometimes, I think the most beautiful sight in the entire world is you, standing in my kitchen, offering me a cup of coffee,” he declared. He accepted it, then leaned in to kiss her good morning. “But then you do something else and I change my mind.”
“Do you just wake up with smooth words on your tongue?” Sabrina asked. “Or do you use your morning walks with Dublin to dream them up?”
“Both,” Nick teased. He gave Dublin a treat from the canister on the counter. She took it and wandered off. “Want some eggs?”
“Yes, please.” Sabrina checked the time. “I don’t have time for anything else. I have an editorial meeting at nine.”
“I’ve got to get to the station,” Nick agreed. “The sooner the better.” He didn’t mention it, but Sabrina knew what he meant - Harvey’s case was sucking up much of his time, and while he could get lost in the files building a case against Harvey they didn’t need as they had his admission of guilt, he was dedicated to being home at a decent hour to have dinner and spend the evening with her. “Fried or scrambled?”
“Fried. I’ll make an egg and cheese sandwich and take it with me. Want one?”
“Please,” Nick agreed. “You toast the bread, I’ll work on the eggs.”
Sabrina watched him out of the corner of her eye as he worked. He had been out of his sling for a couple of weeks now, and the range of motion in his shoulder seemed to improve with each passing day. His surgeon was pleased with the healing, said he may never have his old range of motion back to its fullest, but that he could expect at least ninety percent. She didn’t care if it moved at all, so long as he was alive.
He took a few steps to retrieve a pan from the clean dishes in the dishwasher and she noted his faint limp.
“Care to tell me where your boot is, Scratch?”
“Somewhere in the bedroom,” he dismissed. “I’m not wearing that thing today, so give up your quest now.”
“The doctor said…”
“That I can start going without it some,” he finished. “Hence why I’m not wearing it to work.”
“That’s all day, Nicholas.” Sabrina fixed him with a serious expression. “‘Some’ is not ‘all day.’”
“I hate that thing, Sabrina. It slows me down.”
“You wouldn’t have needed surgery if you would have worn it and taken care of your foot properly the first time,” she informed him.
“I had bigger things to worry about than a broken foot,” he reminded her.
“I know that, but you still need…”
“Make a deal?” Nick interrupted. This was a near constant argument between them lately and he was nearing the end of his patience, even if he knew she was only looking out for him. She raised an expectant eyebrow. “I’ll wear that figure eight brace they gave me at my last appointment. My boot - my actual boot - will fit over it. I’ll wear the ones that lace up over my ankle to give some added support. We’ll both be happy - no ortho boot for me, some form of brace for you.”
“Fine,” Sabrina agreed. “But if your foot bothers you tonight, I will say ‘told you so.’”
“I would expect nothing less,” Nick replied. “Want to meet me at Cee’s for lunch today?”
“Can’t - I’m driving out to the edge of town to interview Mrs. Peters about her new business venture. She’s making me lunch.”
“What’s her new business?” Nick wondered.
“She’s starting a farm for children with special needs or that are going through medical treatments,” Sabrina told him as she put two slices of bread in the toaster. “They’ll be able to come visit, pet the animals, explore. It sounds pretty amazing.”
“Don’t come back with a llama or something, okay?” he asked with a twinkle in her eye.
“Why would I need a llama when I’ve got Dublin?” she countered. “I’m occupied for lunch, but it turns out I’m free for dinner.”
“You asking me on a date, Spellman?”
“Call it what you want,” she shrugged. “Chances are pretty good you’ll get lucky if you agree though.”
“Now there’s some incentive,” he teased. “Date night it is.” He flipped the eggs in the pan. Dublin trotted back in and went to Sabrina. She nudged Sabrina’s hand, indicating she wanted to be pat. Sabrina obliged. Nick grinned a bit and seized the opportunity to bring up something he had been meaning to talk to her about for a while. “Speaking of animals, don’t you have a cat that belongs to you?”
“Salem,” Sabrina sighed. “I’ve been an awful cat owner these last few months, but the humans in my life have been more important.” She gave him a sweet smile he returned.
“You could bring Salem here,” he mentioned. “We might have a few rough days with him and Dublin while Dublin gets used to him being in her space, but they’ll be okay. They got along well enough when I’d stay at your aunts’ place with Dublin.”
“I could,” Sabrina reasoned. “I probably should. Zelda has always hated him and that new beagle of hers spends a lot of time chasing after him. Hilda likes him just fine, but he’s my cat…”
“While you’re picking up Salem, you could get the rest of your stuff,” Nick continued. “Your clothes, books, any furniture you might want to bring over…”
Sabrina looked at him. He looked right back, waiting for her response.
“Get the rest of my stuff,” she repeated. “As in… All of my stuff?”
“It’s silly, really, the amount of time you spend wondering if this shirt or those shoes are here or at the mortuary. May as well have it all in one place.”
“But… That would mean… I – live – here.”
“Don’t you already?” Nick countered. “You haven’t spent the night at the mortuary since before Thanksgiving.”
“Before Harvey tried to kill you,” Sabrina clarified.
“I was going for a lighter description, but yes,” Nick agreed. “You haven’t spent the night at the mortuary since before I was shot. I assume you live here, but it would be nice to make it official.”
“You’re asking me to move in?” Sabrina clarified. “Like - officially?”
“Pretty sure I’m not stammering, Spellman.”
The bread popped from the toaster. Sabrina ignored it. Nick turned off the stove eye, satisfied the eggs were done, and gave Sabrina his full attention.
“You’re not stammering,” Sabrina confirmed. “I just – you want me to move in.”
“I really didn’t think this would be this hard of a sell,” Nick said. “We’ve been living together for a few months now, in case you haven’t realized. We’ve been pretty domestic about it all, too. You made me a grocery list just this past weekend.”
“And you called me from the grocery store three times because you didn’t know what things were,” Sabrina couldn’t help but point out.
“You should have specified what kind of garlic you meant,” Nick shot back. “You can’t just write ‘garlic’ and expect me to know that meant a fresh bulb. There’s garlic salt, garlic powder, minced garlic in both shaker former and jar form…”
“Garlic is garlic, Nick. It shouldn’t have been that complicated. And you make pizza all the time - with fresh garlic! Why on earth you couldn’t figure that out...”
“See?” Nick waved his hands to emphasize his point. “We’re bickering like an old married couple over grocery shopping that’s already been done. And I believe just last night you had a few things to say about my laundry habits, never mind the fact that you came home with almond milk and thought that was an acceptable substitute for actual milk.”
“You’re messy, Nicholas, and now that you have two working arms, there is no reason you can’t pull open a drawer and put your shirts - that I had already folded - in them.”
“Again, my point is proven,” he said, eyes twinkling. He went to her and put his hands on her waist. Hers rested on his shoulders as she smiled up at him. “Let’s make this official. Move in. I’ll help you get your stuff this weekend. I’ll make Ambrose help move any furniture. I might even consider putting my laundry away – if you buy real milk.”
“Okay,” Sabrina agreed. “I guess I do live here. We’ll make it official this weekend.”
He leaned down to kiss her.
“Thank you.” He kissed her forehead. “I don’t intend to wake up without you ever again, Sabrina.” He tucked her hair behind her ear. “I love you, Spellman.”
“I love you, Scratch.” She wrapped her arms around him, overwhelmed in the moment by just how much she loved him. He was right - she had lived with him for months. It was only a matter of a change of address form and a few moving boxes now. “Even if you’re messy and won’t drink my plant-based milk.”
He pulled her in as close as he could. The first thing he had done when he was cleared to stop using his sling was hug Sabrina properly. The novelty of being able to put both arms around her again still hadn’t worn off. He hoped it never did.
“Your almond milk is flavored water,” he told her, still holding her close. “Literally. They soak almonds in water and call it milk and that’s the biggest racket the health industry has going for it. That and kale.”
Sabrina snorted back a laugh.
“You said that about cauliflower last week,” she reminded him.
“Last week you tried to convince me cauliflower made a good pizza crust.”
“I did choose the wrong thing to take a stand on,” she agreed. “At least with you.” She kissed him one more time before she begrudgingly pulled away. “Cheddar cheese or provolone on your sandwich, Scratch? We’ve got both. Because you bought both.”
“Again, you just wrote ‘cheese,’” Nick said. “And I didn’t want to run the risk of calling again given the warm reception my last call got.” Sabrina rolled her eyes and put two more slices of bread in the toaster.
“Cheddar or provolone?”
“Cheddar,” Nick relented. “Pass me your coffee mug. I’ll pour it in a travel mug and top it off for you.”
“Thank you,” Sabrina said as she offered him her cup. He winked at her and made sure to get her favorite travel mug from the cabinet.
He would argue about cheese and garlic forever, as long as he got to argue about it with her.