Catherine Willows had been having a busy night. There had been a robbery at a convenience store in the middle of the night, leaving three people dead. It had just so happened that those same three people were her only witnesses, making her job all the more difficult. The crime scene took hours to processes, but all fingerprints and bullet casings and DNA had come up clean. More than likely, the robbers had been kids without a record pulling their first job.
At least she had surveillance tapes - the same ones she was knee-deep in with Archie in the A/V lab. And while the perps had been wearing masks, there had to be something she was missing.
There was a soft, timid knocking on the door, and she didn't have to look to know who it was. Steeling herself, she placed a hand on her hip, trying to force down her exasperation.
"What is it now, Gris?" she asked, never taking her eyes off of the display before her.
"How did you know it was me?" he asked, leaning casually in the doorway. "And how do you know I have something for you to work on?"
"I have a penchant for smelling fear in men," she deadpanned, facing him. "You have a particular scent when mustering up the courage to give me yet another case."
Grissom smirked, only allowing the corner of his lips to turn upwards in an attempt at stealth. Still, Catherine saw it. She hated it when he did that. One disarming smile, no matter how small, always ebbed away her frustration and she sighed, giving in.
"What have you got?" she asked.
He stepped forward, handing her a dark manila folder, but she didn't take it quite yet. "There's a triple homicide in the projects. I know you're busy, so I'd like you to take Nick and Greg to speed up the processing."
"And what will you be doing?" she couldn't help but ask, masking the snideness in her voice as best as possible.
"Body in a trash bag in the sewer. Looks like it's been there at least a week, according to David," he replied, and then raised his eyebrows. "If you'd like to trade..."
"I'll take the triple homicide," she replied quickly, snatching the dark manila folder from his hand before he could change his mind. "But you're telling Nick and Greg they have another case. They've been working together for seven hours on a series of break-ins. If you think Greg talks too much without caffeine, imagine him on five cups of coffee. Nick's ready to snap, and I'm not going to be the straw that breaks the camel's back. I don't have a death wish. At least, not tonight."
There it was again, that tiny smirk, and this time Catherine was satisfied.
As predicted, Nick stormed out of the Crime Lab in a whirlwind, and Catherine was almost surprised when he didn't leave a trail of devastation in his wake. She almost expected small objects to be picked up by the wind tunnel left behind him, but instead all that followed was an obscenely awake Greg.
"Hey, Catherine," the young CSI greeted, holding his equipment at his side. He must've sensed her piqued interest at Nick's behavior, quipping lightly, "He's a little bit cranky tonight."
"What gave it away?" she asked, stepping in stride with Greg to exit the building. "How is your case going?"
"It's...going," he replied, shrugging. "We're still working on it. It's nice to get a break and do something else for a little while. Maybe we'll see something new when we come back to it later."
Leave it to Greg to see the bright side in everything, Catherine mused idly, spotting Nick standing beside his car. God forbid anyone else drove to a crime scene - not that anyone else wanted to. Leave Nick in the passenger's side and somehow he still managed to drive, giving directions and criticizing and eventually evoking an argument that would only end in handing the wheel back over to Nick.
"Can I drive?" Greg dared to ask, although his shit-eating grin gave away his jest. Nick merely rolled his eyes, climbing inside of the vehicle with a grunt.
Catherine tossed a warning glare at the young man, not wanting to deal with an even crabbier Nick on the drive to the crime scene. He merely smiled as he pulled open the passenger's side door, leaving Catherine to temporarily inhabit the seat directly behind Nick. She climbed inside, settling down heavily and momentarily pleased to have a short respite from the chaos of the night shift.
Leaning her head back against the rest behind her, Catherine's eyes fell on the profile of the lab-rat-turned-CSI. His style had become much milder over the past couple years - especially after the beating - and to some degree it had broken her heart. Since then, she'd always wondered if it had been an attempt to draw attention away from himself, to be plain and unnoticeable. Maybe if he blended in with everyone else no one would bother him. There would be no snide remarks from the police department or sympathetic eyes following him in the crime lab. And there would definitely be no reason to pick on him and provoke a fight.
Or maybe his more conservative new friend was rubbing off on him. It was no secret that Greg had taken the place of Warrick in Nick's life, even before Warrick's premature death. Once Tina had became the center of Warrick's attention, Nick had drifted elsewhere. To Catherine's surprise, he had found a friend in Greg. Often they spoke of going out after work, or their camping trips on the weekends, or some rowdy club that Greg had dragged Nick to.
One of the more shocking occasions was when Nick had come to work in a short-sleeved shirt, a piece of black, shiny plastic stuck to the skin on the back of his arm.
"Hold on a second, Nicky," she'd said, grabbing his arm and picking off the foreign substance. Studying it quizzically, she'd asked, "What is that?"
With a flush in his cheeks, he'd replied, "Liquid latex."
"What?" she'd exclaimed, startled. "Now I know you have been hanging out with Greg way too much."
He had only shrugged, simply saying, "He said I might like it."
It really puzzled Catherine, wondering how this unlikely friendship had lasted all these months when the two seemed so...different.
Although, like she had mentioned, Greg had become much more modest. And Nick had started doing new things that she would've never imagined. Liquid latex? Nick? Come on.
A movement caught her eye, distracting her from her thoughts. Greg raised one leg, resting his foot directly against the dashboard of the truck. Nick's truck; his precious baby that was always washed and waxed to perfection. She waited with bated breath, grinning at the unsuspecting Greg, waiting for Nick's warpath to engulf him...waiting...still waiting...
Nothing. Not even a second glance from the driver. What was going on here?
"Nicky, are you feeling okay?" she asked.
"Yeah," he replied, sharing a look with the younger man before peering at her through the rearview mirror with confusion. "Why do you ask?"
"Because Greg just put his foot on your dashboard, and you didn't say a word."
Suddenly, Greg looked at the foot in question, widening his eyes and dropping it slowly to the floor, as if to go unnoticed. Nick only rolled his eyes at the young man, as if this hadn't been his first offense. Catherine narrowed her own eyes, the beginnings of suspicion inching up the back of her brain.
Something was going on here, but she wasn't sure what.
That was when Greg reached forward and flicked on the radio, pressing the preset stations with distaste. Everything was programmed to country, and Greg was definitely not into country.
"Jesus, Nicky," Greg groaned. "What did I tell you about this stuff?"
"Whatever, dude," Nick replied, as Catherine wondered when Greg started calling him Nicky. "If you don't want to listen to it, don't. Just stop complaining about it."
"Fine," Greg shot back, pouting adorably. The young man tuned the radio to some kind of indie station that Lindsey also liked listening to; her daughter was into all that kind of music, and she was also beginning to wear the logos and band names and crazy patterns. All it served to do for Catherine was heighten her fear that she was going to have to deal with another Greg, but this time indefinitely.
However, Nick dealing with Greg - more importantly, Greg's music, especially in his own truck - was something Catherine did not expect. She also hadn't expected that leaving shoe prints on the dashboard of Nick's precious vehicle would be acceptable. Here she had been thinking the crime scene was supposed to yield clues, not the ride over. But it was always the little things.
Something was definitely going on here, and she was determined to figure it out.
"Hey," Nick began suddenly, as if remembering something. He regarded Greg briefly, before turning his eyes back to the road. "Did you ever find out about that stereo your mom wanted to sell?"
"Yeah, she said since it's you," Greg replied, "you can have it."
"She doesn't have to do that."
"You know she can't say no to you."
"Tell her I'll trade that magazine stand she likes," Nick said, and when Greg looked puzzled he elaborated. "You know, that little brown wooden thing you hate?"
"Can you at least pass it off to someone I don't know?" Greg asked, grimacing, as Nick pulled into a gas station. "I don't want to see that thing ever again."
"Shut up," Nick quipped, grinning for the first time that Catherine had seen all night. "I gotta get gas. I'll be right back."
Catherine sat in the car with Greg, beside herself. What was happening here? And why hadn't she noticed earlier?
"So," she began slowly, as Greg rested his foot against the dashboard once more. "It's our weekend off. You guys have any big plans?"
Greg shrugged. "I was thinking about going to this concert. This band called Against Me? So punk rock, I think it's gonna be a great show."
"And Nick?" she asked, trying to sound as innocent as possible.
"I think he's going to catch some kind of gun convention," Greg replied, craning his neck to look at her. "Bunch of rednecks showing off their toys. Nick'll be right at home."
"Oh," she said, leaning back in her seat. "You guys don't have any plans?"
He frowned. "I just told you."
"You know," she stammered, trying to clarify. "I mean...together."
"We were thinking of seeing Brokeback Mountain again," he stated casually, and Catherine's eyes widened so much she was afraid they would fall into her lap. Greg grinned and rolled his eyes, and she suddenly felt embarrassed for being so flustered. Of course he was joking. Right?
"Come on, Catherine," he continued, swatting at her knee playfully. "I'm not going to make it that easy for you."
Maybe it wasn't what it seemed, she thought. But before Greg turned back to the windshield, he looked past her and to the man pumping gas into the vehicle. And those brown eyes lit up like she had never seen before.
Maybe, she mused. Maybe not.