When the Smoke Clears by Emily [Reviews - 3]

A/N: This story was not written as part of the "Smoke" challenge, but inspired by many that were. I understand that smoking can LOOK sexy, but I draw the line at kissing.

When the Smoke Clears

“I’m taking a smoking break.” He announces it to no one in particular, but Nick knows
it’s an arrow let fly just for him. He grits his teeth and buries his face in the tox report he’s trying
to read. He’s not going to give Greg the satisfaction of a response.
Behind him, Greg’s hands drop to his sides. “I said, is it okay if I step out for a minute? I
need a smoke.” There’s a hint of whine in his voice, as he stares coldly at the nape of Nick’s
When Nick doesn’t make a reply, he storms past him, shoulders brushing violently
together. Nick lifts his eyes, watches Greg disappear down the hallway and out the back door.
And damn that lab coat fluttering around slim hips.
Catherine peers around the door at Nick, jerks her head after Greg. “What’s his
“He’s going out to have a cigarette,” says Nick softly.
Catherine looks mildly surprised. “I didn’t know he smoked. When did he start?”
“He doesn’t, and he starts whenever he’s angry with me.”
She nods slowly. “Ah.”
Nick grumbles to himself as he stalks after Greg down the corridor. Like work wasn’t
enough stress. He rubs the back of his neck, wishes Greg could find some other way to get back
at him.
It wasn’t even a big argument, really. On the Angry Greg Richter Scale it was MAYBE a
three. Nowhere near the magnitude of the “Want You To Tell Your Parents” fight, or the “I
Want a Puppy” fight. Nick grins ruefully. It was the bi-weekly, “I Want to Kiss In Public Even
Though I Know It Makes You Uncomfortable” fight. They had been... where had they been?
The movies. It was dark, Greg reasoned, and nobody cared anyway.
“I’d still rather not,” whispered Nick, not wanting this to become a scene.
“But I... I bought the tickets,” Greg stammered. “And the snacks. I even kicked those
little kids out of the couple’s seat.”
Nick was glad the previews were so ungodly loud.
“So you expect a kiss because you bought me food?” He raised an eyebrow. “Exactly
what kind of girl do you think I am?”
Greg’s look murdered his attempt at a joke. Greg spent the rest of the film sitting as far
away from Nick as possible, and then in the very middle stood up, brushed past Nick without so
much as an “excuse me”, and returned ten minutes later reeking of cloves.
So this is how it's going to be.
Nick opens the door into the alleyway, where Greg is propped against the building, his
back to the wind, fiddling with his zippo until the tip of his cigarette glows red begins to crackle.
He looks up at Nick, a self-satisfied smirk playing across pursed lips.
Nick wants to pull the thing from his mouth and grind it into oblivion with his heel, but all
he says is, “C’mon Greg, knock this shit off.”
“Did you know,” asks Greg, exhaling and leveling his eyes at his cigarette, “that cigarettes
kill more people in the United States than alcohol, car wrecks, suicide, AIDS, homicide, and illegal
drugs combined?”
Nick glares at him. “Greg...”
“Did you?”
He takes another drag. “And, that in addition to lung cancer, smoking causes heart
disease, aneurysms, bronchitis, emphysema, and stroke?”
Nick is speechless, and starting to feel a headache coming on. Greg just smiles
vindictively, eyes Nick through the veil of smoke that ghosts the air between them. Greg
has to admit to himself that maybe he’s just a little too sadistic, that it hurts him to see that
wounded look in Nick’s wide, dark eyes. Eyes that match his. Eyes that are always watching
over him, protecting him...
Nick furrows his eyebrows, squares his jaw and turns away from Greg, letting the metal
door slam alarmingly behind him as he returns to the lab. Greg pouts and finishes off his
When Greg opens the door to their apartment around four in the morning, he expects to
find the usual; Nick sleeping naked and snoring softly on the couch, having left and made the bed
for Greg. But the couch is empty, and so is the bedroom.
Greg feels a trace of worry creeping into his voice.
“Nicky? Where are you?”
He smells damp morning air, the rush of traffic a little louder than usual, and he realizes
that the bedroom window is open.
“Nick?” His mouth drops open at the sight of Nick sitting on their fire escape, a thick
cigar rolling between pale lips, smoke pouring from his nostrils. Greg clambers out of the
window, towering over Nick, his hands on his hips. “What are you doing?”
“What do you mean?” asks Nick, so casually that Greg feels his cheeks burning crimson.
“What are you doing?” Greg repeats, motioning towards the cigar.
“Oh this.” Nick shrugs, blows a wreathe of smoke that buffets Greg in the face. Greg tries to
stifle a cough, blinks the sting from his eyes. “What, can’t a guy enjoy a cigar after a long day at
the lab?”
“Put it out Nick.”
Nick bats his eyelashes, inhales. “Excuse me?”
“Just put it out.” He makes a swipe for it, misses, and Nick frowns.
“Seems more than a little hypocritical, doesn’t it? I mean, they’re my lungs, after all.”
Greg’s tongue is in a knot. And he hates Nick for this, because Nick abhors smoking and
it makes him ill. Nick is going to make himself throw up just to teach Greg a lesson.
“Nick...” Greg drops to his haunches, gently pushes Nick’s arm aside and holds his wrist.
“Please don’t.” He never used to beg.
Nick arches a dark eyebrow at him, flicks ash from the tip of his cigar. “Promise me you’ll
never smoke again?”
“I promise,” says Greg slowly, slipping the cigar from Nick’s hand, pressing out the
embers against the cold metal step next to his sneakers. When he glances up, Nick’s head is
cocked sideways, affection playing across his features.
“Whatcha thinkin’?” asks Greg.
“I’m thinking I want to kiss you,” he answers.
“Well then.” Greg crawls over to Nick, leans in, closes his eyes and feels... Nick’s hand
against his lips. His eyes open, asks what the hold up is.
Nick blushes, says, “Can we brush our teeth first?”
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