Author’s note: So I get this little plot idea after watching some season 5 episodes and I think it’ll make a nice one-shot. By the time I get to page 18 or so I think to myself that I’ll have it wrapped up in another few pages, but NO! I had to go and keep getting plot ideas and character development and before I knew it the damn thing was 45 pages long! Well you should all just consider yourselves lucky little readers, because since I originally planned this as a one-shot, and it’s completed, I am posting it all, in its entirety, as a single chapter. I expect many cookies in exchange for this kindness.|
Also, I started writing this before season 6 started, then I left it for awhile, so please don’t point out the errors in regards to the show, I realize some things aren’t exactly correct, but it’s all in good fanfictionness.
Disclaimer: I do not own CSI, or anything affiliated with it. In my dreams I own Greggo, and then I wake up and have only these fanfictions, which is almost just as good.
Notes by Admin Shacky20: Hello everyone, not trying to intrude on Goody's story here, but I just wanted to let people know, that yes, her stories are friendship stories, and yes, I asked her to place them here because they are still some of the best Nick/Greg stories I have ever read. Generally this will not be a rule, but I asked her and she graciously agreed. Give them a try, her story "Painful Journey's" is one of my top three favorite Nick/Greg stories and it isn't slash, but the love and friendship are constant, plus it was the first Nick/Greg story to make me cry. I hope you will give them a try because although they aren't "slash" I think you will truly enjoy them.
Category: Angst, Hurt/Comfort, Drama, the usual
Warnings: None really, no spoilers either.
Title: Losing Perspective
When Nick and Greg’s ambulance finally arrived at Desert Palms Greg was immediately sent behind closed doors; he’d been losing quite a bit of blood and they wanted to start working on him as soon as possible. Nick asked when he could see him, but no one could give him a real answer so he was sent to x-ray to wait and a nurse promised to find him when Greg was patched up and settled.
A few hours later, after Nick had finally gotten his x-ray and was told that the bone and tissue in his leg were severely bruised but not broken, a nurse escorted him to a fourth floor hospital room.
When they were at the door she said, “He’s asleep right now, but he hasn’t been sedated, just exhausted I think. Try to be quiet but if he wakes up just explain to him where he is and that he’s okay. He shouldn’t need a doctor but Dr. Miller will be around if he wants one.”
“Okay, thanks a lot. I’ll let him rest, promise,” Nick said as she walked away and he slowly cracked open the door.
Greg was indeed asleep, apparently quite peacefully, and Nick was quiet as promised. Picking up a chair, and making sure it didn’t scrape across the floor, he took a seat at Greg’s bedside to wait for him to wake up, so he could apologize.
As he waited he listened to Greg breathe, noting how it wasn’t near silent. The sound was labored and tired, undoubtedly from the bruised ribs and water he had swallowed. Then there were his other injuries, his face was a mass of bruises, his arm was broken in three places and the bandage covering the long gash along his back was only just visible beneath the medical shirt. He would recover easily enough, there was nothing life threatening, but there was a lot of pain, which Nick felt responsible for.
Almost an hour later Greg still hadn’t woken up, but the door to his room did open once more.
Nick put a finger to his lips to warn Warrick to be quiet as he came in and he nodded in understanding.
“Hey Nicky, nice scrubs,” Warrick whispered as he stood next to him. He was talking about the pale green medical pants and top Nick was wearing. He had been soaked when he came in and the outfit was all the hospital staff could offer him.
“Thanks, I was worried they weren’t my color,” Nick quipped as he leaned back.
Warrick laughed a little but then looked at Greg and shivered, “Whoa, déjà vu.”
“Yeah, tell me about it,” Nick replied, having felt the exact same thing.
Because of the stitches across his back Greg had been placed on his right side to rest – if he had been covered with bandages instead of a sling on his left arm then he would have looked exactly the same as the last time Warrick and Nick had visited him in the hospital. No one liked to think about the lab explosion though so Warrick was quick to change the topic for them.
“How’s he doing?”
“Not bad, not awesome either. Twenty-five stitches in his back, his arm’s fractured in two spots and his shoulder’s dislocated, and lots of bruises, but the doc says he should be fine,” Nick replied unenthusiastically.
“That’s rough,” Warrick commented sympathetically. “How ‘bout you? That leg broken?”
“No, just a deep bruise apparently, I got off lucky,” Nick said unhappily, clearly implying he deserved worse. “How did things at the crime scene go?”
Warrick looked down and hesitated, “Yeah, that’s kind of what I need to talk to you about. Maybe we should go out in the hall.”
Nick was immediately wary, but nodded and followed Warrick out of the room, stealing one last glance to make sure Greg was still resting.
“What’s up?” he asked when they were in the hall.
“Ecklie wants to talk to you back at the lab, ASAP,” Warrick announced solemnly.
“What for?” Nick demanded.
“He didn’t say, but word round the lab is that they’re going to do a formal investigation.”
“Investigation? What, on me?”
“On the whole situation,” Warrick replied awkwardly. “Greg’s hurt pretty bad, they gotta look into it, it’s procedure.”
Nick had known that somewhere in the back of his mind. There was always an investigation when an officer got hurt at a scene, he just hadn’t really thought about it. Thinking back now, he remembered the half dazed report he had had to give after Nigel Crane threw him out a window and knew the investigation wasn’t personal, as Warrick had said, it was just procedure. But it felt personal.
“Did Catherine put him up to this?” Nick demanded, unable to forget her angry words at the crime scene.
You left him!
“Come on, you know better than that,” Warrick replied, his tone disappointed that Nick would think something like that of their own team members.
Nick took a deep breath, “Yeah, I do. Sorry. Long night.”
“I know,” Warrick said, immediately forgiving. “You want a lift back to the lab?”
“No,” Nick shook his head. “I’ll grab a cab. Could you stay here with Greg, please? He shouldn’t wake up alone.”
“Yeah, no problem,” Warrick replied as if Nick hadn’t even needed to ask.
“Thanks. Tell him I wanted to be here and I’ll visit him later,” Nick requested, and again Warrick promised to do so.
It was with great reluctance that Nick eventually started down the hall, watching as Warrick quietly entered Greg’s room to sit with him. Nick sighed. He knew he had made a mistake and now the consequences seemed to be that he couldn’t apologize for it.
When he got to the lab he delayed visiting Ecklie’s office with the legitimate excuse of going to his locker to get a new outfit and change out of his hospital scrubs. He knew that this wouldn’t be an enjoyable experience, investigations never were, especially when they were focussed on you, and he was expecting the worst. What he wasn’t expecting was to see Grissom standing in the doorway of the locker room when he turned around.
“I hear it was an interesting night at the crime scene,” Grissom began, not accusing or implying anything. It was just a fact, but that was Grissom’s way, he dealt only in facts and the truth.
“Yeah, you can say that,” Nick said tightly, not wanting to discuss it.
Grissom took the hint but asked, “How’s Greg?”
“He was asleep when I left the hospital, dislocated shoulder’s the worst of it. He’ll be out a couple weeks,” Nick replied, with the regret in his voice speaking volumes.
“And how are you?” Grissom asked and Nick wasn’t sure how to reply. It was out of character for Grissom to ask about his feelings, they were too abstract and unpredictable, but it should have been obvious that physically Nick was fine, so he probably wasn’t asking that either.
Pulling on his coat, Nick walked past Grissom as he started to leave the room and looked him in the eye as he answered, “I’ll let you know.”
Then he headed for Ecklie’s office.
“You wanted to see me,” Nick remarked unhappily as he stood in Ecklie’s doorway.
“Nick, come on in,” Ecklie beckoned, his tone its usual level of fake kindness. Nick sighed and sat down. “So, I hear you had quite a night.”
“Yeah, it was kinda rough,” Nick agreed, wishing he would get to the point.
“Mmmhmm, and so soon after your last ‘incident’ at a crime scene, it must be hard,” Ecklie noted.
Nick’s eyes tightened; he didn’t appreciate what Ecklie seemed to be implying, “Look Ecklie, if you want to know what happened ….”
“I don’t. Well, I do, but not right now, I don’t have the time. But I will read your report along with the report that Sofia Curtis will be handing in on the situation,” Ecklie announced.
“She wasn’t even there,” Nick pointed out, deciding it was best to argue against the investigator than the actual investigation itself.
“Which will make her unbiased in her observations. She’s waiting to talk to you. I’d be very wise in what I say if I were you.”
Now Nick’s anger was starting to rise, “What is that supposed to mean?”
“Well, your future here could depend on what is found,” he replied as if it was obvious.
“What are you talking about? Since when are accident investigations focussed on a single individual?” Nick demanded.
“Since preliminary reports indicate that it was one individual responsible for the incident and that that one individual has only recently been allowed back on duty after psychiatric leave. Make no mistake Nick, this is not only an investigation into what went wrong tonight and how to prevent it again. It will also be an investigation into whether or not you are in fact fit for active duty as a CSI,” Ecklie warned.
“You don’t think I can do my job?” Nick asked, deeply offended. But Ecklie only shrugged.
“I don’t know, that’s why I’m having the situation looked into. Now, unless you would like to argue some more, Sofia is ready to take your statement.”
There was little to no sympathy in Ecklie’s voice the entire conversation and Nick shook his head in disgust as he stood up to leave.
Then he disappeared down the hall to cool off before he went to an interview that could determine the future of his career.
Judging by the horrible ache in his entire body even though he wasn’t moving, Greg realized it was probably a bad idea to open his eyes. Leaving them closed and letting himself drift back into sleep would definitely be the best way of avoiding the aches and pain waiting for him with consciousness, but his curiosity got the better of him. He could hear a soft beeping and feel stiff blankets covering him, but it was the smell that gave it away.
The hospital. He was in the hospital; nothing could cover up that smell.
His memory was a little fuzzy on the details though and as he slowly forced open his eyes he hoped someone would be there to tell him what had happened.
“Hey Greggo, you with me?” The voice was deeper, smoother than the one he had expected.
“Warrick?” he croaked, then coughed, and his body used pain to tell him to keep still and not do so again.
“Here, drink this.” A straw appeared at his lips and he swallowed the water to soothe his throat which was raw from coughing.
“Thanks. Man, if I never see water again it will be too soon,” Greg muttered as he looked himself over and took stock of his injuries. His fractured arm was bandaged tightly to his body so he couldn’t move it, which was for the best, but everywhere on his body ached from bruises and cuts … except his back.
“Why … why can’t I feel my back?” Greg asked with badly hidden fear as he tried to crane his head to see if there was any damage to his spine.
“Calm down, it’s just temporary. You got cut pretty badly, they gave you a local anastethic when they stitched you up. You’ll be all right,” Warrick assured him, understanding his initial fear.
Greg relaxed immediately and nodded, “Thank god.”
“How you feeling?” Warrick asked, cringing expectantly at what he knew the answer would be.
“Let’s just say a DNA lab explosion is looking pretty good right now, least then I got some lovely morphine,” Greg joked lightly, then craned his head once more as if looking around the room. “Is Nick okay?”
“Yeah, he’s fine. Limping a little but he’s a big baby. He told me to tell you that he’s sorry he’s not here, they needed him at the lab, but he’s gonna visit later,” Warrick supplied and Greg nodded at this and managed to hide his disappointment that Nick couldn’t have put aside his work for a few hours to make sure he was okay.
“That’s cool. What about the case? How much did we lose?” Greg asked, hoping his fiasco hadn’t compromised their evidence somehow.
“You mean besides almost losing you?” Warrick teased, then said more seriously, “We got the body transported out in time we think, other than that we mostly just got photos.”
“What about the knife?”
“What about it?” Warrick asked, having not thought of it at all really.
“Can we still use it?” Greg asked hopefully.
Warrick’s eyes widened, “You didn’t lose it?”
Greg shook his head, “I shouldn’t have, I zipped it up in my vest pocket. Don’t exactly know where my vest is though.”
“You were still wearing it when they pulled you out,” Warrick recalled, thoughts now racing madly. “The EMTs probably took it off you in the ambulance. Tell you what, you rest Greggo, I’m gonna go make some calls. I’ll be back in a little while.”
“Sure, no problem,” Greg said, understanding how important a piece of evidence the knife was and that they had to find it.
“You feel better,” Warrick ordered kindly, then waved as he stepped through the door.
Greg laid back down and closed his eyes, succumbing to his body’s demands for more rest. He was soon asleep but no more than half an hour later he received another, more unexpected, visitor.
He had been in the locker room for almost fifteen minutes trying to calm down and get his thoughts in order with no success. These departmental investigations always moved so fast and it was making his head hurt. Nick dropped his head against the cool locker door and tried to relax, to think. In a few minutes he would have to talk to Sofia and justify his actions, and looking back, he wasn’t sure he could. He had messed up and Greg had almost died, he wasn’t going to hide that fact, he couldn’t. But just knowing that he had no idea why he had been so careless was frustrating to him and he wanted answers.
Pulling himself together he stood up and started for the door. He couldn’t keep Sofia waiting any longer and perhaps her questions would help to reveal to him the answers he was looking for.
But as he started down the hall, he couldn’t help running over what had happened one more time in his head:
The road had been closed off long before the black clad CSIs arrived with their kits in the black of night. A uniformed officer was quick to lead them through the crowd of people that always found themselves behind the yellow crime scene tape, feigning concern and shock that they’d been in the vicinity of a crime when they were really just morbidly curious and drawn to the police lights and sirens.
But they couldn’t really be blamed, there was a lot to see, and most of it wasn’t pretty, except for Sarah Mathers.
Or at least she had been pretty before someone stabbed her and left her for dead in the middle of the street.
A witness had barely seen what happened. Turning the corner at one hundred feet away, Terri Mitchell had been taking his dog for a late night walk when he saw the end of a struggle as Sarah Mathers fell to the ground bleeding and her assailant, a white man in a blue hoodie, fled the scene.
Now Sarah Mathers was dead, that much was clear to Nick, Greg and Warrick as they passed under the tape, and it was up to them to find out who had done it and why.
Catherine was already there. Arriving only a few minutes before, she was still snapping preliminary photos of the scene. When the three CSI’s approached, she smiled grimly and filled them in.
“Sarah Mathers, 23, on her way home from her boyfriend’s, lives two blocks away,” Catherine started.
“She almost got home,” Greg commented bleakly as he knelt down to try and see her face.
Everyone heard and nodded but Catherine continued as if he hadn’t spoken, “Stabbed in the chest, died almost immediately. We have one sixty-two year old witness with a very vague description of the suspect and as of now we have no motive.”
“Purse full of cash rules out robbery,” Warrick agreed as he examined the wallet on the ground next to the body.
“Seems pretty sloppy. Crime of passion?” Greg said, throwing theories out there.
Nick nodded, “Maybe, hopefully we’re not looking at a first time serial.”
“All right, well let’s save the theories for the lab when we have more to go on,” Catherine requested, immediately focusing everyone on the work to be done.
“Are Gris and Sara coming?” Nick asked when he didn’t see the other members of their recently re-assembled team.
But Catherine shook her head, “They’re working a robbery in Himren so I’m lead tonight.”
“No change there,” Warrick commented good naturedly since he and Nick were both accustomed to Catherine being in charge.
But Nick slapped Greg on the shoulder, “Greggo will finally get to work with you in supervisor action though.”
“Are there any added benefits compared to working under Grissom?” Greg asked curiously, smirking.
Catherine smiled back, “I won’t lecture you about bugs.”
Greg nodded, “I like her.”
“Good, I hope you’ll like working perimeter too. Nicky, go with him. Our witness called for help and got flustered apparently, didn’t even see which direction the suspect hightailed it, but he’s pretty sure he was on foot. If we know which direction he headed it might give us something,” Catherine explained, easily dishing out instructions. “Warrick and I will cover the main scene.”
“Sure thing. Come on Greggo, time to see how sharp your eyes are,” Nick commented as he led the way to the sidewalk. They were in a residential area with a lot of houses relatively close together. The victim had been killed pretty much in the middle of the road. There were three police cars blocking off the road in the direction they had entered from, but there was no one by the south end, where there were few houses and the road stopped at a dead end. The amount of houses made it seem like there should have been more witnesses, but Nick could understand how no one saw anything.
Most yards had large trees in the front, blocking the view outside, and it was also very late, almost 2am. An area like this and almost everyone would be guaranteed asleep by ten. A lot of yards had bikes and basketball nets too, which meant a lot of kids, and Nick hoped the scene would be processed and they were all gone before those kids woke up for school.
“All right Greg, check the grass carefully for any trace or signs of footprints, I’ll take the concrete,” Nick instructed, knowing that even though Greg was now a fully licensed CSI he still needed a little direction.
“Hmm, inspecting green grass, in the pitch black, for trace and footprints, with just a flashlight. This should be a breeze,” Greg commented sarcastically. Nick could see where he was coming from, the streetlights were aimed at the road, not the grass, making it pretty dark.
“Positive attitude Greg, do what you can,” Nick said, speaking from experience, as he knelt down low to inspect every inch of the concrete.
“What I can do is shed some light on this scene,” he murmured. Nick wasn’t sure what he meant and looked up just in time to see him jogging towards the police barricades several yards away.
Unsure what he was up to, Nick watched as Greg approached the closest police car blocking off the road a few yards away and spoke briefly with one of the officers. After a few words and some pointing, Nick saw the officer nod and smile. Greg returned both gestures and then jogged back to Nick as the cop returned to his car.
Greg was smiling mischievously when he got back, making Nick grin a little as well because the newest CSI had that look on his face. That Greg look that he used to wear so frequently when he worked in the lab and had some kind of outlandish antic prepared.
When Greg was facing Nick, the Texan had to ask, “What did you do?”
Greg just smiled wider and stood straight, waiting. Nick leaned back to look around the younger man and then suddenly was blinded.
“Ah, geez, Greg,” Nick complained, shielding his eyes from the high beams.
Still smiling, Greg did a visual sweep and then nodded, as if pleased, “Perfect.”
Turning around, he waved at the officer who had graciously moved his car so the headlights would shine on the grass, “Thanks.”
The officer waved back and returned to guarding the barricade to keep the onlookers away.
Nick shook his head but had to admit, at least to himself, that it had been a good idea. But that didn’t mean he had to tell Greg outright, “Okay, you can see, but now you gotta find something.”
It only took an instant for Greg’s satisfied smile to transform into focused concentration as he began to carefully scour each patch of grass, “I’ll see what I can do.”
And then there was no more talking from Greg, just work. He moved carefully, diligent but cautious and serious about the task given to him, no matter how menial it may have seemed.
Nick stood surprised for a moment. This was only his third shift back since his mandatory leave after … ‘the incident’, but it was the first time he had worked with Greg in the field since his promotion to full CSI 1. The day after Nick had been dug up from the ground Ecklie had conveniently announced that the separate shifts weren’t having the desired effect he had hoped for, and nightshift was now back on one rotation, with Grissom and Catherine as co-supervisors. That was fine with everyone and there seemed to be harmony once more at the Las Vegas Crime Lab, especially now that Nick was back and they could feel complete again.
As he watched Greg walk slowly across the grass, inspecting each blade for trace evidence, Nick shook his head with a sigh. He hadn’t thought very much would change in the few weeks he had been away, but already Greg was fully functional in the field, focussed and even more mature, a word Nick never thought he would associate with the former labrat.
Surprised but willing to accept the change, he went about his own task. The streetlights were providing a fair amount of illumination but he still used his pocket flashlight to brighten up the crevices between concrete and the edge of the raised sidewalk. There wasn’t much to find – a pop bottle, a tube of lip gloss, a penny – all of which he bagged though nothing seemed criminal or related. The road was sloped and he headed steadily downward. It wasn’t until he was nearly at the road’s dead end that he found anything of interest.
Dropping to his knees, he shone his light down the storm drain cut into the concrete and leading under the sidewalk. The angle made it difficult to make anything out but when he stuck his head in a little he could just make out the glint of light off metal.
Curiosity now peaked, Nick looked up to find some help. Greg was the only one even in earshot, still a few yards behind, crouched low to see since the police car headlights could only reach so far.
“Hey Greggo,” Nick called out, waving him over, “Bring that light over here and give me a hand with something.”
Greg trotted over eagerly, saw what Nick was looking at and crouched down as well, adding his flashlight’s power to the search.
“What do you got?” Greg asked as he tried to see down the drain, which was no easy task. It was a storm run-off drain and it was about twelve feet to the bottom, but even so Greg could make out the shimmer that had caught Nick’s eye.
“You see it?” Nick asked when he saw Greg’s eyes focus in.
“Yeah,” Greg said as he flattened out on the concrete and pulled himself closer. He was able to stick his head much further into the drain than Nick had and confirmed their suspicions.
“Yeah, that’s a knife, killer must have ditched it. I can’t believe it didn’t hit that water,” he commented, indicating the thin stream below.
“It might not matter,” Nick said, downcast as he tried to take a closer look as Greg had done, “I don’t see how we’re going to get it out of there, there’s probably not a drain opening for miles that we can get in through.”
“What about a manhole?” Greg asked, indicating the one in the middle of the street.
“Nah, that’s for sewage, this is a storm drain, they’re completely separate,” Nick explained. “The only way in is either right here or a maintenance opening, and those are spread out pretty far. Maybe I can rig some kind of ‘grabby tool’ to snag onto it. Probably end up dropping it though.”
Beside him, Greg sighed heavily as he pulled himself to his knees. It was the sound of resignation, he was ready to do something he wasn’t all that happy about.
“I’ll go get it, just let me get some waders,” Greg requested.
Nick laughed, “Go get it? What are you talking about, this is like a one foot drain, you can’t fit through there.”
Shifting and blushing mildly, Greg avoided eye contact, “Yeah, I can. I went down one before, last year to recover evidence.”
“You can fit through this tiny, little drain?” Nick asked, smirking a little, enjoying his brief torment of Greg’s light physical build.
“It’s not something I’m particularly proud of, so if you want to keep it down,” Greg requested as he shucked off his jacket. “Damn Sara for not being here.”
If the brunette had been there Greg would have suggested she go down, since she was even smaller, but since she was off with Grissom somewhere that only left him, because they both knew Catherine would not be going down there. She was a supervisor and could pass those jobs off, so Greg wasn’t even going to ask.
“How are you going to get out?” Nick asked when Greg came back over with some high duty rubber boots.
Taking a seat to change his footwear, Greg explained, “There are these bar/handle things under each drain, they’re easy enough to climb. It’s pretty much just a piece of metal sticking out of the wall, but it does the job.”
Shining his light into the dark, tunnel-like drain once more, Nick shuddered unexpectedly.
He was very glad he was not going down there.
Tight and dark and underground, he thought it would bring back a lot of unwanted memories.
Glass walls, dirt, flashlight …
No! He would not go there, he told himself, but could already feel his breathing increase slightly as a mild tendril of panic traced down his spine.
Taking a deep breath, he saw the memories, but didn’t let them control him, he controlled them, and then he quickly felt himself calming. It had only taken a moment, and as happy as he was to be back at work, he had to admit that his three weeks of therapy had really taught him some useful techniques to help deal with anxiety and stress.
Pulling on the high boots, Greg was also glad Nick wasn’t going down into the drain. The opening wasn’t really all that small, Nick may be able to force his way down if truly necessary, but Greg wasn’t going to make it necessary. He had noted the cramped space and darkness of the drain line and was not about to make Nick face that. As much as he believed his friend was all right after his horrible ordeal, he knew there was also no reason to expose him to any memory-triggering, uncomfortable situations.
Boots on, Greg stood up, ready to go.
“You sure about this?” Nick asked, not wanting Greg to feel obligated if he didn’t think it was safe.
“Trust me, I’m fine. Besides, that’s like the best piece of evidence possible in a case like this, we can’t just leave it down there,” Greg pointed out as he laid on his stomach on the concrete and got ready to back down into the drain feet first. Nick stayed close, spotting him in case he slipped or needed help. The top of his leg had just disappeared when he said, “Okay, I’m on the first foothold, I should be fine.”
“All right, be careful,” Nick requested, releasing the hold he had been keeping on Greg’s arm.
“Sure,” Greg said, but before he started backing down he cast a glance to the rest of their team, still working a long distance up the road. “If anyone comes down and asks though, I’m down here saving a puppy.”
“Puppy. Trust me,” Greg smirked.
“Tell them yourself. Now go get that knife and get back up here,” Nick ushered him.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m going,” Greg mumbled as he pushed himself backwards. Though the fit was a little tighter than he remembered, he eventually made his way through the small opening. He had one foot on the first metal step and was feeling around for the second. Easing down a little further he finally found it and noticed that these footholds were spaced further apart than in the last drain he had climbed down.
Despite Greg’s apparent ease and casual attitude, Nick was still tense as he watched.
“You still good?” Nick asked as Greg slowly disappeared.
“Yup,” Greg said quickly as he tried to focus. He was almost out of sight, one hand still clutching the edge of the sidewalk, the other reaching down to grip the first handhold and both his feet were now on the second. Taking a deep breath he let himself drop, knowing his legs would hit the next bar directly beneath him and stop him.
It was quite a surprise when he found his feet hit nothing but open air.
“Jesus!” Greg squeaked out as Nick watched him disappear from sight.
“Greg!” Nick lunged forward but was unable to grab Greg’s hand before it slipped from the ledge.
As Nick tried to lean into the drain to see what happened, he could hear scuffling, but no thud of anything falling or landing.
“Holy … oh my god,” Greg cursed as he struggled to catch his breath.
“Greg! G, you okay?” Nick asked, immediately calming when he saw Greg had only fallen a foot or two.
“I’m good,” Greg called out, still getting his breath. With both hands tightly gripping the first bar, he looked as though he was hanging but he in fact had one foot now placed firmly on the third foot hold. “Whew, sorry. One of the bars is broken off a little, my foot missed it the first time. I’m okay.”
The bar was actually almost completely gone, and Greg had only the edge of one shoe holding him.
Nick sighed but was not completely relieved, in fact he was far from it as was obvious when he pushed his arm into the drain.
“Here, take my hand, you’re coming up. We’ll go find a maintenance entrance, there’s no point in you going down like this.”
“I’m fine Nick, really. We’re not going to spend an hour going through tunnels for something we can grab right now,” Greg answered, touched but also wanting to do this. He was proud to be a CSI now and felt comfortable in the field, but still thought he hadn’t quite proven or distinguished himself, which is why he started heading further down the drain wall, even while Nick was still offering him a hand out. “Feel free to shine your flashlight down here if you want though, help me make out where I’m going.”
Pulling his mag-lite from his pocket, Nick reluctantly did as asked and tried to make himself relax by lightly taunting, “I thought you were the drain expert. What do you need light for?”
“Last time I did this it was during the day,” Greg answered seriously, not noticing the attempt at levity. The light did help though. Able to see each upcoming foothold Greg finally made it to the bottom with as much ease as could be expected.
“I’m down!” he called out to Nick as he dug his own flashlight out of his pocket.
“Great, grab that knife and then get out of there,” Nick instructed.
“Take it easy, I’m working on it,” Greg replied good-heartedly, curiously sweeping his flashlight beam around the dark tunnel. Sniffing, he was surprised there was almost no smell.
Thank god it’s not a sewage drain, he thought to himself, not wanting to imagine what that would be like.
Eventually his light hit the object he had been sent for. The light reflected off the metal of the blade, but the blood on it reflected nothing. Crossing the thin stream, Greg found it was a little deeper than he had thought, above his ankles, but was out of it in a second as he crouched down in front of the small ledge the knife had landed on.
Taking a small disposable camera out of the front pocket of his vest, he took a few snapshots of the knife’s location and then removed a swab from his vest supplies and ran it over the blade. He already knew what he would find when he poured the phenophaline on the reddened swab, but procedure required that he verify it as blood, which it was.
He labeled the swab, took a few more photos and then bagged the knife as well. Everything he did was thorough and exact; he had made enough mistakes in the field in his short time to know when to go slow and think, especially when dealing with such important evidence. And though he was proud of his thoroughness, twelve feet above him Nick was moving on from concern to boredom.
“You almost done, G?” he asked, shining his light down but finding himself barely able to see the outline of Greg’s head.
“I bagged the knife. Give me a few minutes, you never know, killer could have dropped something else,” Greg theorized, not wanting to miss anything. There was a dead girl a few yards away, and the least Greg could do for her was walk through a drain tunnel to try and make sure her killer didn’t get away.
“Yeah, good idea,” Nick said but had little enthusiasm for waiting around. He stood up to stretch after crouching so long at the drain and as he scanned the area his eye caught something on the sidewalk. He almost took a step closer, then backtracked. “Greggo, you okay for a minute?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” was the immediate reply as Greg’s focus was still on the tunnel floors and walls.
“Okay, I’ll just be a few feet away, yell if you need anything,” Nick said. Greg hadn’t even finished his dismissive wave before Nick was crouched on the sidewalk, pulling out a swab to take a sample of one of the two blood drops he had found.
“So, is this spatter dripping off you or did Sarah put up a fight?” Nick wondered aloud as if talking to their killer. In his mind he pictured their suspect running away with either drops of Sarah’s blood falling from his hands, or his own blood spilling through his fingers. He took a few pictures and then carefully started to make his way through the grass; a few feet away he found another blood drop. After marking it, he tried to follow the trail.
Meanwhile, after the discovery of the knife, Greg had found nothing else of significance in the storm drain. The walls and ground were bare of any objects and even a quick sift through the thin stream had come up with nothing.
But now that he looked, wasn’t that stream a bit higher than it had been when he came down?
It was probably just a trick of the mind, but Greg decided not to chance it and was satisfied there was nothing else to find in the tunnel so started to make his way out.
“Hey, Nick!” he called out before he started up, knowing he may need a hand over the gap where the handle had broken off, leaving nothing to hold onto.
From his inspection of the blood trail, Nick only barely heard Greg call out, and from his tone it clearly wasn’t urgent.
“Yeah, just a sec Greg, I think I found something,” he yelled back as he moved farther away, trying to find the end of the trail so he wouldn’t have to backtrack and mix his own footprints in with any he may find.
“Well thanks so much,” Greg mumbled sarcastically as he started climbing, deciding he could probably get out without help. He was a few handles up and finding the climb out a little harder than the climb down had been without any light source to help him, but by count he knew that there was one more good handle before the broken off one. His plan was to push off the last handle swiftly so as to jump past the gap and grab the next bar. Taking a steadying breath he tried it, and it would have worked too, if only the metal handle that had been supporting most of his weight hadn’t broken free from the wall at the exact moment he was about to push off.
This time, Greg didn’t even have time to swear as gravity proved its dominance and he started to fall. The drop was so sudden he barely had time to register it before the ground rushed up to meet him and he landed hard and with a splash on the tunnel floor.
The air was immediately gone from his lungs, and for long seconds he simply remained curled on his side, frozen with shock and pain. As he struggled for precious air and tried to will away the throbbing in his left side and arm he was practically unaware of the increased speed and intensity of the water that was now flowing over him.
It was more than half a dozen short, unsatisfying breaths later that he was even able to expand his chest mildly and start to slowly rise from the ground, hair and clothes dripping savagely. It was a hard transition from all fours, but when he finally managed to stand, favoring his left side with his right hand on his chest, he would have groaned from pain if only he could have spared the oxygen. Everything hurt. He had been completely unprepared for the fall and struck the concrete below him as hard as possible. His hip was at the very least bruised to the bone, his chest continued to refuse to fully expand and his left arm’s unresponsiveness practically assured that something was broken.
But even with all these injuries demanding his attention, and his breathing still not working quite right, Greg’s focus was now solely on the water pooling at his feet.
The water that was now almost to his knees. The water that was moving so quickly and with such force that it threatened to knock him down once more. The water that showed no signs of slowing, but of growing in strength.
The water that he wanted no part of.
Scrambling now, and fighting down panic even as he struggled to breathe, Greg moved directly under the drain opening. He wanted to call for help, but nothing would come.
“Ni … Nick …” he squeaked out but once, barely audible to his own ears, before he was collapsed against the wall, coughing hoarsely to rid his lungs of water he didn’t know had gotten in there.
As he struggled for air he had his right hand clutched tightly around the only handhold in reach, which was the only thing keeping him upright. The water was getting higher and more rapid, made worse by the fact that the drain was inclined with the hill it was under, which doubled the force trying to overpower him.
When he finally stopped coughing, his breathing had become quick with panic and it took everything he had to keep his grip on the inches long bar that he had wrapped his right arm around. He was shivering already and his feet kept slipping out from beneath him as the water tried to take him with it and other objects caught up in the current – branches, bottles and trash – struck him hard in the legs when he got in their way. He knew he had to climb, had to get out, but his left arm had decided to mutiny against him. It was totally unresponsive. Clutched tightly to his side, it was a deadweight that couldn’t help him; something had snapped when he fell. And with the current of the huge torrent of water already so strong, he knew if he moved his right hand for even a moment to try and climb higher, then he would be immediately swept away.
Holding on for his life, Greg’s mind flashbacked to photos he had seen of bodies that had been victims of these storm drains.
He lost all his points, Grissom had said of the body, whose fingers, toes and nose had all been worn away from tumbling down the drain tunnel.
But Greg was quite fond of his points and drew as much air into his lungs as possible in his only hope to keep them intact.
After finding another two more blood drops further along in the grass, Nick decided that their suspect wasn’t injured and these were spatter droplets, as they were more spread out as they went and he couldn’t find a trace of any more to follow. As he stood to take a final overview shot of the trail he had marked, two things happened. First, he heard Greg calling out his name, his tone now definitely urgent, practically desperate. The second thing happened as he turned and he felt the first raindrop strike his hand.
This lone droplet was the only warning before the torrent of hail sized rain began to fall, destroying everything they hadn’t collected yet. Blood washed away, hair and fibers disappeared and even what evidence they had could be considered contaminated.
Far up the steep hill, the body of Sarah Mathers was quickly being zipped up by David as Warrick and Catherine scrambled to snap photos and collect evidence.
But as Nick ran back to the sidewalk, quickly becoming soaked, he was not the least bit concerned about the crime scene. The ferocity and suddenness of the rain indicated that it hadn’t started here, it had begun somewhere north and moved over top of them, which meant the storm drains would already be starting to fill from the higher areas and Nick had a horrible feeling that he knew why Greg was yelling.
Dropping to his knees in front of the drain opening, Nick shone his flashlight into the dark tunnel. The first thing he saw was water, deep and powerful, moving with so much force that it was creating rapids on the surface. But there was no sign of Greg.
Leaning in further he finally found the newest CSI directly under the drain opening, drenched and holding onto a metal handle for dear life.
“Greg!” Nick yelled again to get him to look up.
He did so, and upon seeing the Texan his heart-gripping fear slightly lessened, “Nick! Get me out of here!”
“Start climbing!” Nick demanded since it was the most obvious thing to do.
“I can’t, I fell! My arm … I think it’s broken!” After the words were out, Greg groaned as a new rush brought the water above his hips and gave the current a renewed strength. It was almost impossible to stay planted in one spot as the torrents of water kept sweeping his legs out from underneath him and Greg knew if he lost his hold on the metal bar he would be lost to the current, and perhaps forever.
And to add to his troubles, the drain opening above him was now doing what it was designed for as all the spill-off from the road traveled together down the sidewalk and disappeared through the drain, creating a waterfall effect directly on Greg’s head. The sudden downpour from above shocked him and he almost lost his grip, but he somehow managed to pull himself forward and get a better hold. The water falling on him was so heavy he had to keep his face down towards the rising water just so he could breathe without sucking in a lung full of water.
“God damn it!” Nick yelled as he tried to keep the water from somehow making it to the drain. It only took him a few seconds to realize he needed to focus on the bigger problem. He looked up and saw no one had even noticed him scrambling by the drain, the rest of the police and forensics teams were too busy trying to salvage what remained of their crime scene in the sudden torrential downpour.
“Greg, hold on! I’ll be right back, just hold on!” Nick yelled out then bolted away up the road, not even waiting to hear a response from his trapped friend.
“Nick no! Wait!” Greg yelled, barely audible through the rushing water and suddenly more scared of being left alone than of drowning. He usually liked water, loved to surf and scuba dive, but right now he was in a living hell. Every part of him ached, not just from the fall, but from the assault of the raging water and the objects in it, not to mention the strain on his body to keep from being swept away by rapid rain water, which was now coming at him from all sides. But even worse was now he was alone, he could feel each ache, was aware of each shiver in his body and understood just how tired he was becoming.
Running at top speed, Nick didn’t even wait until he was close to the team before he called out, “Warrick, come help me! Get a rope, a strong one, and meet me at that drain!”
He was barely comprehensible and Warrick was busy trying to salvage evidence.
“We’re losing the whole scene Nick, we’ll never save something down there in this rain, just leave it,” he advised, shouting over the rainfall, then turning around to snap his last few pictures.
It was only a microsecond before Nick was behind him, grabbing his arm and spinning him around to face him:
There was a moment of shocked silence and confusion as Warrick’s gaze flicked from Nick to the drain and Catherine came up behind them.
“What?” she asked.
“Greg, he’s trapped down there, now get a rope and come help me,” Nick demanded once more. Warrick only hesitated for a second, still processing this news, before he turned and did as asked, not noticing as Nick raced back to the drain opening, Catherine not far behind him.
“What’s he doing down there?” she asked as they ran.
“I found the murder weapon, he went down to get it,” Nick replied even as he dropped to his knees once more. “Greg! Greg you still there?”
Now struggling to breathe with so much water attacking him, Greg’s reply was broken and garbled, “Nick … Nick help!”
His only saving grace thus far was a jutting out stone that he had braced his foot against which was helping to keep him planted to the spot under the drain, the only place he could hope for rescue.
“Greg, hold on! We’ll get you out!” Catherine called out assuringly as she fell to the ground beside Nick.
“Cath, we’ll need some uniforms to help us. Once I get him we’re going to have to be pulled out,” Nick shouted above the roar of the pounding rain and the panic in both their ears.
“You can’t fit down there,” Catherine argued.
“I’ll make myself fit,” Nick replied cryptically. He was clearly focussed and already moving to meet Warrick with the rope. “Here, give it to me, I’m going down.”
Warrick hesitated but Nick was determined and grabbed the rope end out of his hand and clipped it onto his belt.
The clicking and the sight of a rope around a buckle gave Nick a brief, but horrifying déjà vu of himself being hauled out of a grave. Shaking his head, he knew now really wasn’t the time.
“Help! Any ….” Greg’s plea cut off and everyone turned. He hadn’t run out of breath, and his voice hadn’t been garbled by water – it had disappeared. Two overlapping events – the breaking away of the stone he was braced against, and the sudden surge in water that almost came to his shoulders – had caused the youngest CSI to simultaneously lose his balance and his grip. At the mercy of the water he was immediately swept away, dragged beneath the current and started to roll.
Nick was immediately at the drain opening once more, shouting, flashlight covering every crevice but there was no sign of their teammate.
“Greg! Greg can you hear me? Greg, answer me!” Nick yelled into the opening, but there was no reply.
Behind him, Catherine and Warrick were still working. Catherine ran to get a few officers to help them if needed and Warrick finished buckling Nick in as quickly as possible and then gripped the line tightly.
“You’re all set,” Warrick said, torn inside. He didn’t want him to go down. Even though he knew Nick could handle himself and had been through worse, he didn’t want him to risk it. The dangerous current was bad enough, but add Nick’s unstable emotions and everything could go wrong. But he was determined and was going down there, that much was obvious.
Nick nodded and immediately started down the drain opening, the water helping him squeeze through, though he still got scratched around his midsection and back. But before he was gone he looked Warrick solemnly in the eye, “You do not pull me up until you get the word, you hear me? We are not leaving him down there.”
Inside Warrick was reluctant again, but Greg was one of their team, hell, one of the family and they had to do whatever was necessary to get him out safely.
“You got it,” he answered, and he knew he meant it. “Bring him back, man.”
Everything was black and cold and harsh. Greg’s wet clothes dragged him down even as the current batted him around, plunging his head in and out of the water as his hands scrambled for anything to latch on to. It was his ribs that hit first.
The grating was shaky, meant to have been replaced years ago, but it was holding against the current, and as his body jammed up against it, so was Greg. Gasping for air as he broke through the water, he scrambled to clutch on to whatever had stopped him from being hauled away by the current. Eventually his fingers were laced through the wire bars on the tunnel grating and he had as strong a grip as his weakened body would allow. He hurt in so many places he couldn’t name them all but ignored it. As the water pushed him roughly against the metal bars his only thoughts were to breathe and hold on.
The water was so high that Nick just let himself drop into the tunnel instead of wasting time climbing down the handles Greg had used. As soon as he landed he pawed at the wall for any kind of handhold to anchor him against the powerful current of water, and eventually steadied himself under the drain.
“You okay?” he heard Warrick call out from above.
But Nick didn’t look up, his eyes were scouring the drain ahead of him, illuminated only by what light got through the sidewalk openings above. It was hard to see and even harder that he didn’t see what he was looking for, until Catherine returned on the road above and shone a light down the drain to help.
There he was, just above the water line, barely visible.
“I see him! I’m gonna need about forty feet of slack!” Nick called out.
Warrick, with the added help of several police officers, released enough of the line for Nick to let the water pull him to Greg’s position. As he got closer he could slowly see how Greg was doing. He was pinned against half a sheet of tunnel grating, holding on for dear life. Normally the grating would keep large objects from making it too far down the line, and also keep people out, but half of the grating had torn away at some point, and the section that was left didn’t look incredibly sturdy.
“Greg!” Nick yelled when he was closer, needing Greg to know that help was coming.
But Greg wouldn’t turn around. His whole body was tensed and locked in place. His grip was unsteady as was the structure keeping him there and he was so focussed on not moving and thus staying alive that he didn’t hear Nick call his name.
Seeing the lack of reaction Nick waited until he was almost at the grating before he called again, “Greg!”
This time the youngest CSI’s head snapped around and his body shuddered with relief.
“Just hold on, I’m coming!” Nick yelled as he continued sliding along the wall with the current, not wanting to get swept away in it. Still pushed against the wall, he eventually hit the grating as well. Greg was still a few feet away and holding on as best he could, but it was obvious he wanted out of there and tried to inch his way closer to the wall.
“Stay there!” Nick yelled as he pulled himself across the grating. “I’ll come get you!”
“It can’t … hold us both!” Greg argued, gasping, but Nick insisted.
They were both shivering from cold and fear by the time Nick got close enough to grab a section of Greg’s shirt.
“I got you, I’m gonna get you out of here,” he promised.
Now practically face to face, he began instructing Greg on how they were going to get out.
“Okay, I can only hold onto you with one arm, so put your arm around my neck and hold on!” Nick yelled above the rushing water. Greg nodded in relieved understanding but didn’t move yet as Nick continued, “Warrick and the others are going ….”
He never finished his sentence. They both heard the ominous creek of metal finally giving under too much pressure and no sooner had the sound registered than the grating was swept up in the current.
“No!” Nick denied immediately, tightening the grip he had and trying to get a better one. Warrick had stopped sending down slack so he didn’t get pulled away by the current, but now the only thing keeping Greg from getting swept away by the still rising water was Nick’s grip on his left sleeve.
Greg was immediately plunged under the water when the metal grating finally gave, and to keep him from being pulled away Nick had taken a firm hold on his broken arm. The pain made him scream but all that reached his lungs was water and though he was in the middle of being rescued, now he was drowning. Nick continued to pull him closer though and Greg struggled to latch on in return with his good arm. He finally got a hand on Nick’s shoulder and his head came up from the water.
As he gasped, Nick tightened his grip on Greg and the rope around his belt and yelled as loud as he could, “It’s okay Greg, just hold on. Warrick! Pull us up!”
Almost immediately there was a new tension in the line, and suddenly the two drenched CSIs were moving against the raging current of rainwater.
Greg was hacking and coughing as they both tried to stay above water and it was clear his energy was almost spent as his grip around Nick’s neck started to slacken.
“Greg, hold on! Stay with me!” Nick ordered as he tried to hold on tighter and shake Greg slightly to wake him up.
Greg couldn’t speak, his lungs were too waterlogged, but he managed to nod against Nick’s chest and tighten his grip. It wasn’t much though, he was exhausted and his vision kept fading out from the intense pain in his broken, unresponsive arm. Left to his own power he would never have been able to stay latched on and be rescued. It was mostly Nick’s strong grip around his waist that was keeping him above water and alive, for which he was eternally grateful.
Suddenly, when they were almost under the drain again, Nick nearly lost his own grip on the younger man when something big and metal struck his legs under the water. The shock of the strike was so surprising that his whole body went numb for a moment and Greg nearly slipped away. When he felt him slide Nick pushed away his own pain and then let go of the rope to latch onto his friend with both hands.
The action nearly put them underwater again, but Nick quickly adjusted his grip and soon they were moving once more.
“Nicky!” They heard Warrick call.
“I got him, we’re okay! Keep pulling!” Nick yelled as they moved under the drain opening. Water fell on their heads from above as the waterfall of spilloff from the street continued to flood the drain, but now they were slowly moving up.
“Greg, I’m gonna have to climb a little, so hold on tight,” Nick instructed as he kept one arm around Greg but used the other to latch onto the handles in the wall. He could feel the younger man shivering from cold and exhaustion and prayed he had enough strength to keep holding on.
“’kay,” Greg coughed out as he held on as best he could with one arm. Finally they were at the top and could see several helping hands pushed down the drain opening.
“You first Greggo,” Nick ordered, pushing Greg up a little so the hands could pull him the rest of the way. One hand grabbed his outstretched right arm and he started to lift out of the dark tomb. Another hand tried to get a hold of his left arm for more leverage and couldn’t hear his cry of pain through his coughing so kept pulling until he was in the open, rain-soaked, air was once more.
Once out, Greg collapsed. The unbelievable aches and stabbing pain in his body were enough to exhaust anyone, but add the cold of the water and the fear of death in a dark drain tunnel on top of that and it was no wonder that he simply sprawled out on the concrete on his stomach and closed his eyes with his wheezing coughs as his only signs of life.
“Greg, can you hear me? Greggy?” Catherine was hovering over him already, patting back his thoroughly soaked, flat hair as an officer stood above them holding a huge umbrella to try to keep Greg as dry as possible.
As hard as he tried, Greg couldn’t acknowledge her. All he managed was to slit open a single eye, briefly make contact, then cough again and return to his stupor on the wonderfully solid ground.
Behind them Nick was emerging from the drain as well with a hand from Warrick. It was a tight squeeze once more but eventually he was free and beside Greg, not sprawled out like the younger CSI, but on his knees, coughing and getting his breath.
“Greggo? You okay?” He asked, gasping as he laid a hand on Greg’s back. Greg flinched and pulled away a little but showed no signs of real consciousness. Nick tried to scoot up further to see his face. “Greg … oh no.”
Nick’s hand was red. He looked down to where he had touched Greg’s back. The black clothing and forensics vest told him nothing but as he lifted up the hem of Greg’s shirt his heart sunk. Catherine was looking over his shoulder now, with Warrick standing even above her.
“Shit!” she exclaimed as she bunched up her own jacket and pressed it against the deep, bleeding gash across Greg’s back.
“Where are those medics?” Warrick demanded of someone behind him, but it was unfounded, the flashing lights could be seen turning the corner. Luckily the paramedics that had been called to try to save Sarah Mathers’s life earlier in the night had not gone far, but they were puzzled as to why they were being called to the same scene for the second time.
“Should we roll him over?” Catherine asked of David Phillips as he joined her to kneel next to Greg. He may have been a coroner but he was also a licensed doctor, which was just as good until the medics got to them.
“Just on his side, this position’s impairing his breathing,” David replied as he started to move the lifeless body.
“His right side,” Nick added from a few feet away, after stepping back to give others room to help Greg. “His left arm’s broken.”
“Kay,” David nodded and moved Greg onto his right. “Keep applying pressure Catherine … his breathing sounds a little shallow, I think he still has water in his lungs. He’s too tired to cough it up.”
“Is he gonna be all right?” Nick demanded, still gasping.
Regretfully, David could only shrug, “The cut’s pretty deep but his breathing and heart’s stable. We’ll have to wait for his hospital exam to be sure though.”
As Catherine continued to use her coat as a makeshift bandage for Greg’s back, she was whispering softly by his ear, “It’s all right Greg, we got you. We’re gonna get you to the hospital just hang on.”
A few feet away from the commotion, Nick was bent over his knees still trying to get his breath.
“You okay?” Warrick asked him as he offered him a hand to help him straighten out. Nick accepted it but when he stood favored his left leg.
“I’m all right, something hit me in the leg, but I’m good,” Nick replied, coughing one last time as he kept his gaze fixed on the people working around Greg. He looked up to see Warrick studying him skeptically though. “Seriously man, I’m fine. No crazy flashbacks or anything, I was too busy to even notice I was underground. I’d worry more about Greg if I were you.”
“All right, hey look out,” Warrick guided Nick back a step to let the paramedics by with a gurney.
Once they got there David filled them in on the specifics of Greg’s injuries as they put a real bandage on Greg’s back to slow the bleeding from the deep gash and then moved him onto a stretcher. They wanted to get him into the ambulance as quickly as possible to assess his injuries and treat him in a dry environment. Catherine was beside the stretcher every step of the way and even moved into the ambulance. They didn’t leave though. One medic put an oxygen mask over Greg’s face while the other announced that the slice on his back was pretty deep but hadn’t hit anything vital except perhaps a rib or two.
“Is he going to be okay?” Catherine asked.
“Yeah, he should be fine. Just exhausted and waterlogged. His arm feels like it has multiple fractures, but there’s nothing life threatening,” the medic replied then asked if any one else needed medical attention.
Down the street the police officers were returning to their jobs of investigating and holding back the crowd now that the commotion was over and Nick and Warrick slowly made their way towards the ambulance, with Nick’s limp slowing them down.
They could see Catherine talking over Greg with one of the medics. As they got closer she nodded and jumped out of the ambulance just before they got there.
“How’s he doing?” Warrick asked.
Catherine flipped her drenched hair off her face and from the look in her eyes it was clear she was furious.
“His left arm’s fractured, the gash on his back may have caught a rib and he’s passed out from exhaustion apparently,” Catherine answered Warrick, but then her eyes blazed as she turned and demanded, “You better have a damn good explanation for this Nick.”
Nick’s eyes widened in surprise at the attack of protective maternal instinct from Catherine, “I … what?”
“Yes, you Nick. You were in charge of him, what the hell was he doing down that drain?” she continued, still showing no sympathy, just outrage.
“I … I told you, I found the murder weapon. It got tossed down there. I said we should find a maintenance opening but Greg said he could get it no problem,” Nick replied, slightly defensive and offended by Catherine’s attitude.
“And you just let him go down there by himself, with no back up?” Catherine questioned, never losing the eye contact that conveyed her fury.
Nick’s brow furrowed, “I trust Greg to process evidence by himself.”
“It’s not about trust Nick, it’s about supervising and responsibility. He could have died if ….”
Sick of being lectured, Nick interrupted her, “Look, Greg said he knew what he was doing. I told him he didn’t have to go down there.”
“Nick, this is Greg, everything he does is to prove to us that he deserves his spot on this team. He’s a level 1, he’d agree to jump off a cliff if it would help a case. You’re a CSI 3, you were supposed to watch him and you should have known better,” Catherine pointed out, still angry but now also showing hints of disappointment.
“I had no way of knowing there was going to be a freak rainstorm, Catherine, it should have been completely safe,” Nick replied.
“Completely safe? Then how come he couldn’t get out?” Catherine asked.
Nick hesitated and became the first to break the eye contact as he looked away, “I … I don’t know. I kinda … stepped away for a minute.”
“You stepped away?” Catherine repeated incredulously.
“I found a blood trail on the sidewalk. Greg said he’d be all right so ….”
“So you left him?”
Nick hung his head and nodded, “Yeah.”
“Well that’s perfect ….”
“Hey, guys!” Warrick yelled as he stood between them and tried to break up the intense argument before it escalated further.
“Just forget it Warrick,” Catherine pushed her hair back again and took a deep breath to calm herself. “Nicky, go with Greg, get yourself checked out, Warrick and I will finish up here.”
“Cath, I ….”
“Save it,” she cut him off, not wanting to hear it right now. “We’ll talk about it later.”
She ended the conversation by walking away. Warrick patted Nick on the back as he started to follow her.
“Don’t worry about it man, I’ll catch you later. Take care of Greg.”
“Yeah, sure. I’ll call you when we get to the hospital,” Nick promised.
Warrick nodded to this and then jogged after Catherine, knowing they had a lot of crime scene to clean up.
Turning slowly, Nick sighed as he limped a few steps and then pulled himself into the back of the ambulance to take up Catherine’s vacant seat.
“This the bus to Desert Palms?” he joked weakly as he sat down.
“Only if you got a ticket?” one of the medics replied as he eyed Nick questioningly.
“I’m with him,” Nick said, pointing to Greg’s still form. “Something did hit my leg though, it’s kinda hard to walk.”
The same paramedic then knelt in front of Nick as the ambulance started to pull away, “Let’s take a look then. Can you straighten it out?”
As the man put one hand behind Nick’s knee and the other on his ankle, Nick lifted the leg until it was straight, but was hissing in pain.
“It’s really not that bad, you should finish up with Greg first,” Nick requested, both to make sure Greg got fully checked out and so the medic would stop pulling on the painful appendage.
“We’re pretty much done prepping him. We can’t stitch him up in a moving ambulance or set his arm without x-rays so we’re basically just trying to make him comfortable until he can get admitted,” the second medic explained as he placed another blanket over Greg.
“Speaking of which ….” The first man released Nick’s leg gently then reached under the seat he was on and pulled out another standard gray blanket and handed it to him. The Texan hadn’t even really noticed he was dripping everywhere, but gladly took the offering and wrapped it around his shoulders.
As the EMT then continued his examination of Nick’s leg, Nick looked to Greg to distract him from the pain. Usually Greg was good at that, distracting people, entertaining them, sometimes unintentionally, usually quite intentionally with his over the top antics. But now he was still and quiet, there was nothing loud or distracting about him. Even his hair, which was normally so eye drawing was flat and plain as he lay on his side, cocooned in blankets and coughing weakly from time to time.
And it was his fault.
Catherine was right, he never should have let Greg go down there. Especially by himself and with no sure way to get out again. And he definitely never should have left him alone, no matter how safe it seemed. It was his job to stay with Greg, not necessarily to watch over him, because he was competent in the field, but mainly to watch out for him, because he still lacked experience, and Nick hadn’t done that.
“Nothing feels broken,” the medic announced suddenly, breaking Nick from his thoughts. “But we’ll get you some x-rays to be sure. You’re both in pretty rough shape though. If you don’t mind me asking, just what happened back there?”
“I made a mistake,” Nick replied simply and was silent until they reached the hospital.
Disturbingly enough they had to conduct the interview in one of the police interrogation rooms, to ensure privacy and maintain formality. Sofia had a notepad and a tape recorder to take note of the conversation and was waiting and ready when Nick came in.
“Hello Nick,” she greeted him, standing to shake his hand.
He returned the gesture weakly and then dropped into his seat with only a ‘hey’ in response.
“I’m sorry to have to do this so soon after what happened out there, but it’s best to do these things quickly, when they’re fresh in your memory,” Sofia stated somewhat obviously.
Nick grinned without amusement, “And before I have time to change my story and talk to my teammates?”
“That’s only if you have something to hide. Do you?” Sofia asked, sounding strangely wise, not accusing.
“No, I’ll tell you what happened,” Nick promised, already having decided to take responsibility for his actions.
“Great, why don’t we start from the top then.”
And Nick did. He described the crime scene, the location of the other officers, the finding of the knife, Greg volunteering to go down and Nick’s protests.
“So you didn’t think he should go down?” Sofia asked, interrupting.
“I was nervous he might not know what he was doing, but he convinced me to let him go. Said he had gone down one before to collect evidence on a different case, so he seemed the best suited for the job,” Nick replied, working very hard to stay patient the entire time.
“You never volunteered to go down yourself?”
“It didn’t seem like I would fit,” Nick defended himself.
“You fit down easily enough a few minutes later,” she pointed out.
“That was a life or death situation, things change.”
“You’re sure that’s the only reason you didn’t want to go into the drain tunnel?” Sofia asked, making it clear what she was implying.
“Don’t feel like you have to tiptoe around the subject, I got buried alive, I got over it. I’ve already spent more hours than I’d like to count talking about my feelings on the subject, and you’re no psychiatrist, so please don’t try to analyze my psyche,” Nick requested, his voice tinged with justifiable anger. “So to answer your question, I would have gladly gone down if the drain had been bigger and Greg didn’t have more experience in the matter, but he said he knew what he was doing. I wasn’t intimidated by the scary, dark, cramped tunnel, okay?”
“Fair enough. So you let him go down by himself.”
“And while he collected the evidence, you were ….”
“At the drain opening, I was watching him and giving him some light.”
“How was Greg supposed to get out exactly?” Sofia asked with seemingly sheer curiosity.
“There are metal handles under the drain, he climbed those to get down, he said he could climb them to get back up,” Nick explained.
“You are aware that CSIs are required to have harnesses and repelling gear available in their vehicles at all times. Did you suggest Greg wear one?”
“It didn’t seem necessary at the time. It should have been in and out.”
“Yes, it should have been,” Sofia commented, showing her first real display of emotion. She had worked with Greg for several months as a member of the nightshift and, as many before her, had grown quite attached to the young CSI and wasn’t happy he was in the hospital. Never having worked with Nick she felt no need to sympathize with him and beneath the surface she was angry that his irresponsibility had gotten Greg hurt. “We’re here to find out why it wasn’t. Now, what happened next?”
Nick sighed heavily. The rest of the interview went on much the same way. Sofia would ask questions she somehow already knew the answer to and then relentlessly hound Nick with scenarios he could have tried and ask why he hadn’t.
“Could you have gotten someone else to stay with Greg?”
“Did you have to check out the blood trail that very moment?”
“Did you know it was going to rain? Had you checked the weather that night?”
“Why didn’t you respond when Greg called out?”
Nick answered each questioned truthfully.
“Yes… I suppose not … no, I didn’t … I didn’t want to contaminate the trail with more footprints than necessary ….” And so on and so forth.
When it was over he was exhausted and guilt ridden. Sofia had come up with every other possible course of action he could have taken, and they all ended up with Greg not being in the hospital and their evidence safely recovered with no incident whatsoever.
As she closed her notebook and turned off the tape recorder Sofia was tense with reined in anger. She clearly wasn’t impressed with what she had found and Nick knew her report would reflect just that. He considered just standing up and leaving, but with the recorder off and notebook closed, he thought now he could at least explain himself.
“Look, Greg’s great in the field, he’s really grown a lot, and I trust him to do his job. That’s why I let him go down there. I would never let him do anything I didn’t think was safe, and I know your report can’t reflect that, but I just think you should know.”
Sofia didn’t smile or move, she just raised her eyebrows in interest and said softly, “We’re done, you can go, get some rest.”
Nick huffed, unimpressed, but followed her advice.
“Hi Greg,” Sofia said, smiling warmly when he opened his eyes. She had finished up her interview with Nick more than an hour ago and had then headed for the hospital, arriving shortly after Warrick left Greg’s room to track down their murder weapon.
“Hey,” Greg replied trying to hide his surprise.
“I hope I didn’t wake you,” she added, sounding sincere.
Greg smiled in assurance she hadn’t, “Not unless you’re the reason my arm’s fractured in three places.”
“No, we have someone else to blame for that,” she mumbled as she looked down at the notebook on her lap.
“What?” Greg asked, only half hearing her, but she shook her head and forced a smile.
“Nothing, sorry. How are you feeling?”
“I’ll live, I’m told,” he replied. “Even though I feel like I’d rather not.”
“Well that’s always good to hear,” Sofia commented, smiling to hear Greg joking and generally healthy. Reports had been filtering through the lab all night, exaggerating the injuries he had sustained, someone had even said he was in a coma, and she was happy to see the reports were mostly false and there was nothing too serious or life threatening.
“So, you’re here to ask me questions, right?” Greg asked suddenly. Sofia seemed surprised, and a little relieved she didn’t have to breech the subject herself, and nodded.
“Yeah, how’d you know?” she asked curiously.
“Notepad and tape recorder were a good sign. And, no offence, but you were the last CSI I expected to come visit,” he explained as he stretched timidly to try to wake himself up without hurting himself unintentionally.
“You feel up to talking?” Sofia asked, not wanting him to push himself too hard.
“Yeah, I’m good, just help me sit up, will ya?” Greg requested, he was still laying on his side but if they were going to be talking he wanted to be face to face. He was starting to regain feeling in his back, which wasn’t very pleasant, but a few pillows would provide enough cushioning to make the pain from the stitches and bruises easy enough to ignore.
“Yeah, sure,” Sofia quickly replied and stood to help him shift backwards and rearranged the pillows he couldn’t reach. When he was finally settled she sat down again, hit record and got her pen ready.
“Okay, sorry to have to do this so soon after what happened …” she started, but Greg waved her apology away.
“Don’t worry about it, I think Catherine and Warrick started asking me questions about the lab explosion a whole thirty seconds after I was allowed visitors, so I kind of know how it goes. But, they also brought me flowers,” he added smirking.
“I didn’t bring you flowers,” Sofia replied non-apologetically but returned the smile.
Greg half shrugged, “Might have been nice.”
“Yeah, talk to the rest of your shift about it. About what happened at the crime scene. I don’t want to keep you too long so I’m going to tell you what I know, you just verify if that’s how it happened and feel free to add whatever you like,” Sofia instructed. Greg nodded in understanding and she began.
It was all simple enough to start out with. He agreed about the time, where all the other officers were positioned, that he and Nick had been assigned the perimeter and Nick had called him over to try and see the knife in the drain better.
“And you volunteered to go down by yourself?” Sofia asked.
Greg nodded, “Yeah, it didn’t seem like a big deal, it was either that or spend hours walking through the tunnels from a maintenance opening and that didn’t seem like an option.”
“Okay. Did Nick try to convince you not to go down?” she inquired next.
“Not really. I mean, he wasn’t all that comfortable with the idea at first I guess, but I told him I knew what I was doing and then he was cool with it,” Greg explained.
“You had gone down a similar drain tunnel before?” Sofia asked in a way that said she already knew the answer but needed specifics.
“Yeah, last year. I was supposed to find a pop bottle used as a silencer, I found a police uniform instead and had to go and retrieve it,” he said, finding the questions becoming slightly off topic but not wanting to say anything.
“And who was with you then?”
“The first time? No one,” Greg shrugged again.
“So you felt comfortable and safe going into the storm drain,” Sofia pushed, seemingly searching for certainty.
“Sure, there’s bars to climb to get in and out, and Nick was there, I wasn’t really worried,” Greg replied honestly.
“You didn’t think to wear any kind of safety equipment,” Sofia pointed out.
“I never really considered it, it’s not like I was scaling a mountain. It’s just a tunnel with a ladder built into the wall, hardly seems necessary.”
“And Nick. He didn’t think you should take any precautions in going down there?” she questioned.
Greg’s expression tightened suspiciously at the question and the tone of her voice when she asked it. He replied slowly, almost guarded, “He told me to be careful and that I didn’t have to do it if I didn’t want to.”
Again Sofia stated her questions with facts she already knew, “But he didn’t offer to go down himself or to accompany you?”
“It was a one person job, and it didn’t look like he would fit, that would make no sense,” Greg pointed out casually, but was starting to feel slightly defensive of his friend. None of Sofia’s questions seemed to put Greg himself at fault in any way, but many of them focussed on Nick and it was unsettling to the young CSI.
“Of course,” Sofia nodded, then continued without missing a beat. “Now, when you first started climbing down, you almost fell didn’t you? One of the handles was broken.”
“Yeah, I slipped a little, but I was okay,” Greg said, shrugging the incident off.
“And you kept going.”
“It wasn’t a big deal.”
“What did Nick do?”
“He wanted me to come out.”
“No, I told him it was pointless to walk through maintenance tunnels when we could get the knife right away.”
“And he was okay with that.”
“There wasn’t much he could do, I had already started going down,” Greg said, as if Nick couldn’t have possibly stopped him.
“But he didn’t order you to come back up when the circumstances seemed unsafe?” Sofia kept pushing and Greg felt the need to push back.
“He doesn’t ‘order’ me period. We’re friends. I volunteered to go down.”
“But he was uncomfortable with you going down there,” she said again, never showing any emotion on the subject.
Greg sighed and suddenly felt exhausted, but continued, “At that point, yeah, I guess so. Once I got down safely I think he felt better about it.”
“Too bad he wasn’t as concerned about getting you out safely,” Sofia added. She was mumbling but Greg understood her just fine.
“What is that supposed to mean? Look, Nick didn’t do anything wrong,” Greg stated, deciding to finally get to the point of all the questions.
“The facts beg to differ,” Sofia pointed out softly.
“What facts?” Greg demanded.
“The fact that he didn’t follow proper safety procedures, did not come over to help you, and that he left you alone in the first place, with no back up in an uncleared scene,” Sofia rattled off.
“An uncleared scene? I was in a storm drain, how could that possibly ….” Greg was becoming increasingly upset and defensive which was straining his voice badly and he was cut off mid-sentence when a harsh coughing fit hit him. Clearly he hadn’t coughed out all the water in his lungs like he thought.
“Greg, easy, take it easy,” Sofia coaxed him, cringing as his body shuddered with pain from each cough. She stood up to try to get him to lay down again and that’s when the door to the hospital room opened once more.
Warrick’s eyes widened in surprise to see Sofia of all people in Greg’s hospital room, but more than that she was leaning over the young CSI who was going red from a harsh coughing fit.
“What the hell’s going on? What’d you do to him?” Warrick demanded of Sofia as he quickly ran to the bedside.
“We were just talking,” she defended herself, then reached for a nearby glass of water. “Here Greg, drink this.”
Still coughing Greg waved away the offer. When Sofia didn’t put the cup down Warrick took it from her hand and placed it back on the table.
“He swallowed a few liters of water down that drain, the last thing he needs is more,” he explained.
The coughing fit tapered off on its own eventually, but by then Greg was exhausted and closed his eyes as he laid his head down and enjoyed breathing freely with the pain from his many minor injuries quickly fading.
“You okay G? You need anything?” Warrick asked, but Greg just shook his head and didn’t move.
“No, thanks,” he croaked.
“I’ll come back later to finish this up Greg,” Sofia said suddenly, gathering up her materials. “You feel better.”
Greg just nodded as she left and Warrick sighed in disbelief as he pulled up a chair and waited for Greg to get enough strength to talk again.
“So, what was that all about?” he asked.
Greg shook his head sadly, “She’s doing the investigation. She wants me to say Nick’s responsible for everything that happened.”
“Is she wrong?” Warrick asked softly after a pause, not accusing but inquiring, as if asking Greg to really think about it.
“Not you too man,” Greg pleaded, not wanting to think any more on the complicated subject.
“I’m just asking, if Nick did something wrong at a scene, it’s gonna come out sooner or later, trust me, I know,” Warrick said, clearly speaking from experience. “Sometimes it’s not easy looking over a rookie.”
Greg recognized this as well and asked, “Holly Gribbs?”
“Yeah, I made a lot of mistakes back then, but the sooner everyone knew, the sooner it got better,” he explained.
“But why the eagerness to blame this all on Nick? I was the one in the storm drain, isn’t it more likely that I screwed up? That this is my fault,” Greg pointed out. It was confusing how whenever there were mistakes in the field, it was usually blamed on him, but the one time he wasn’t at fault, and wanted to be blamed, no one would consider it.
“You’re a CSI 1, Nick’s a level 3. Like it or not, he was in charge of you, whatever went wrong is going to more than likely fall on his shoulders. And you know what he just came back from, he’s been out on medical leave for weeks. If he’s not ready to be out in the field yet then, like it or not, something has to be done,” Warrick continued explaining calmly, trying to use his past mistakes to help Greg do the right thing.
Greg sighed and closed his eyes, hating himself for what he was about to say, “He didn’t come over.”
“When I was down there. He left to check something else out, when I called for a hand out of the drain he didn’t come over, told me to wait. The water was starting to rise so I tried to climb out myself, that’s when I fell and busted up my arm. That’s why I couldn’t get out,” Greg felt like a traitor saying it, even though it was true and wasn’t sure if he could repeat it again to Sofia. Looking back, it seemed so condemning.
“That’s what you gotta tell her then,” Warrick pointed out.
Greg wanted to yell in frustration, “But I didn’t tell him there was any water, he didn’t even know what I wanted him for.”
“He still should have come over man, more than that he never should have left you alone in the first place and you know it. Just tell the truth, it’ll be all right,” Warrick advised.
Laying back down in frustration, Greg had to disagree. Somehow the truth didn’t seem right at all.
Exhausted physically and mentally, Greg slept for several hours after Warrick had left. He had come to a decision, the only one there was really, to tell Sofia the truth about everything that had happened, and though he wasn’t happy about, at least having decided he found he could rest. Of course it also helped when Warrick told him that his Forensics vest had been boxed up in the Personals department and he’d successfully recovered the knife. Thankfully Greg had sealed the plastic bag tightly and no water had gotten in so the blood evidence was still good and they may even be able to pull some fingerprints. Greg was relieved to hear that the case wouldn’t suffer from what happened and was even slightly proud for recovering the only real piece of evidence found so far.
Even with these conflicting positive and negative feelings, he managed to sleep through the night and part of the day, exhaustion taking its toll. Unfortunately, he slept so long he had no idea that he had had another visitor in the night, a certain Texan who couldn’t get to sleep at home so had come back to sit with him, and had to go into work no more than an hour before Greg woke up.
The only sign that anyone had even been in the room was the chair pulled close to the bed and the new issue of Rolling Stone magazine left on the bedside table with an affectionate note: Don’t hit on too many nurses. Feel better, Nick.
A few hours later Sofia came back to talk to him, and as they started he suddenly felt like he would prefer another dive in a flooding drain tunnel than answer the questions she was asking. But he was a CSI, they discovered the truth, not cover it up, and he told her everything, and felt like one of the rats that had raced out of that drain ahead of him.
It was a few hours into shift when Nick got called into Ecklie’s office once more. With the investigation at the crime scene still pending he had been confined to lab work all day, but that was all right since the only evidence they had for Sarah Mathers’s murder was photographic and the rest had washed away.
Ecklie was waiting for him when he got there, imitating reading a report that Nick knew he had already read – it was Sofia’s final findings.
“Well, guess I was right in not expecting this to be a social call,” Nick quipped in greeting as he took a seat.
Ecklie wasn’t amused and his expression said as much, “It isn’t, not in the least. In fact, this is very serious, I just finished up Sofia’s report.”
“And?” Nick tried to remain casual but he was curious what she had written, whom she had condemned.
“And there were a lot of mistakes made. Despite his earlier adventures in a similar drain tunnel, Sanders never should have been down there without safety equipment, by himself. As a rookie he shouldn’t have been left alone at any point in what was clearly an unsafe area, and his ‘request for assistance’ definitely should not have been ignored,” Ecklie rambled off, obviously having been practicing. As he closed the file he added the final touch, “And on top of all that he was sent, unarmed, into an uncleared scene.”
“An uncleared scene? Come on, it was a ditched knife, you want me to send an officer down there first to check it out?” Nick asked, honestly believing what he said and not just being defensive.
Ecklie’s brow furrowed and he arched his fingers in front of him on the desk, “Did you know we had a call about another body found a few hours ago, not far from where that young girl was killed?”
“Yeah, through the grapevine, but I couldn’t go out. I don’t even know COD. Why, did our killer strike again?”
“Not exactly. The body was male, white, 27, prelim COD was drowning. He was wearing a blue hoodie when they found him tangled up in some grating near the south drain tunnel opening. Description sound familiar?”
Nick was staring slack-jawed, “The suspect? He was … he was down there?”
Ecklie enjoyed his quiet triumph as he held all the information over Nick’s head, “Not just a suspect, our killer, prints from the knife Sanders thankfully managed to save matches the body’s. Case closed. And yes, he was in the drain at the same time as Sanders, most likely running away, but we’ll never know for sure, because the scene was never cleared, as I said. We do have these safety protocols for a reason Nick, I know you’ve worked here a long time but that doesn’t mean you can just throw procedure out the door.”
Still sitting in mortified silence, Nick actually understood completely. The whole time he had been questioned and investigated he had felt untrusted and hunted, like they were out for blood because he didn’t follow the lab’s arbitrary rules, or that they were testing him after his ordeal, probing for holes in his psyche and ability to handle stress. But what hadn’t occurred to him was that the procedures were there for a reason. They weren’t just a trap to ensnare CSIs and get them in trouble if they weren’t followed, they were necessary. For the first time it hit him that this wasn’t a witch hunt out for his blood, this was protocol, and it was necessary, because Greg easily could have died, and it never should have happened.
“Oh my god,” Nick whispered quietly to himself. He had sent Greg alone into a cramped, dangerous tunnel, with a murderer lurking who knows where, and then he had left him to wander off and study some blood trail. He almost felt physically ill and barely heard as Ecklie dished out his punishment.
“Now, I realize you’re still … rusty in the field after what happened and I’m willing to be lenient. You have a one week suspension, along with a note on your record. Upon your return you’re going to be required to re-take your psychological evaluation and also pass a crime scene safety procedures exam, understood?” Ecklie asked, growing irritated that he had to wait for an answer as Nick pulled together his thoughts.
“Huh, yeah, that’s … that’s beyond fair. Thanks,” he replied, still in a bit of a daze.
Ecklie just started tapping a pencil and stood to indicate they were done, “I’m glad we agree. Just count yourself lucky that Sanders will be okay.”
“I do,” Nick said sincerely as he stood up and rushed out, never making eye contact as he focussed on his destination.
Ecklie sighed and sat back down, not caring to watch him go. Pretty much all the CSIs were out on assignment that night, so no one actually saw as Nick raced out of the building, into his car and drove straight to the hospital.
When he stepped off the fourth floor elevator he immediately started towards Greg’s room, but the admitting nurse stopped him and made him sign in.
“Who are you here to see?” she asked as Nick scribbled his signature.
“Greg Sanders, 408,” Nick replied absently.
“Oh, he’s being released soon. Are you driving him home?”
Nick’s eyes widened but he nodded quickly and smiled, “Yeah. Yeah, I sure am, he can’t really handle the wheel with one arm.”
“Of course not, you can go right in then,” the nurse said in dismissal and went back to her paperwork.
Nick walked briskly down the hall and knocked when he came to room 408.
His brow furrowed when an unfamiliar female voice called out, “Come in.”
Peaking his head in he saw the voice belonged to a nurse who seemed to be instructing Greg on how to put on his sling properly by himself. It was one of the complicated ones with the velcro strap across the chest to keep his arm still and Nick couldn’t imagine how Greg was supposed to get it on himself, but there must have been some trick to it.
“Hey Nick,” Greg greeted him with only a little hesitance. He was glad to see his friend but felt like a slimeball for the report he had made to Sofia.
“Hey G, heard you were getting out today, thought you might need a lift,” Nick replied, deciding to go with the excuse the admitting nurse had given him.
“Yeah, that’d be great, just give me a few minutes,” he requested.
“Sure,” Nick said, nodding as he took a seat and half-listened as Greg and the nurse went over his instructions for home. Lots of rest, nothing too strenuous, and always wear the sling were the main ones.
“You’re all set Mr. Sanders, feel free to come back if you have any problems with anything,” the nurse recommended when they finished.
“I will, thanks,” Greg promised as she left.
“You’re getting out pretty quickly, that’s a good sign,” Nick pointed out as he stood up.
“Yeah, apparently being stiff as a board isn’t grounds for a long stay,” Greg agreed as he stood up slowly, his bruised body not appreciating the movement.
“I remember,” Nick said, recalling how he had been sent home the same night Nigel Crane attacked him the first time. He hadn’t been able to walk very well but his injuries weren’t serious so they had sent him home to his own bed, which appeared to be what they were doing with Greg.
“So, how’d you know I was getting out?” Greg asked as Nick carried his stuff for him.
“Um, I didn’t actually. A nurse told me on my way in, I actually came down to apologize. I never should have left you alone down there, G, I nearly got you killed, I’m so sorry,” Nick said sincerely, clearly regretful.
But despite the honest apology, Greg immediately smiled and laughed.
“What?” Nick asked.
Greg shook his head, “It’s just that, I’ve been trying to figure out how to tell you I’m sorry.”
“For what I told Sofia for her report. I tried to explain how I hadn’t told you what was wrong when I was down there and that I was sure I knew what I was doing, but it all just seemed to come out wrong and you looked like the bad guy, and … well, I didn’t do you any favors,” Greg admitted softly.
Now it was Nick’s turn to smile, “Greg, I think the point you’re missing here is, it was my fault. I never should have left you alone, no matter what.”
“You couldn’t have known something would happen,” Greg pointed out uselessly.
“It doesn’t matter,” Nick replied, his tone making it clear that he had accepted his mistakes and his punishments for them.
“So, what happens now?” Greg asked, shifting uncomfortably.
“I got a week suspension and have to do redo my psych eval,” Nick replied.
Greg’s forehead crinkled in confusion, “Your psych eval? What’s that have to do with anything?”
“Well I’ve been thinking, and it may have a lot to do with it. I know crime scene procedure better than the back of my hand and if I’m really honest with myself, I know that last year I never would have left you alone in that drain. Truth is, I was flashbacking a little before you even went down there, and subconsciously I think I just wanted to get away from the memories,” Nick explained, finally feeling like he was being truly honest with himself and his friends.
“Cause the tunnel was kind of like that box you were in?” Greg surmised and Nick nodded, “I guess I can understand that. So how will you know when you are over it?”
Nick could only shrug, “Just gotta take it one day at a time and just be aware of it, that’s all I can do.”
Greg nodded, looked away and hesitated a little before he spoke again, “So … we’re cool?”
Nick smiled, “Yeah, we’re cool, long as there’s no hard feelings.”
“No, I … no hard feelings,” Greg smiled back, relieved. “And don’t blame yourself or anything, I think we can both agree that mother nature and shoddy storm drain craftmanship are to blame for all this.”
“I think I can live with that,” Nick replied as they finally stepped out of the hospital room and into the hallway.
“But, one more thing,” Greg said suddenly, stopping them in the doorway. “Thanks, for getting me out of there in one piece. I know it must have been hard for you to go down there.”
“No problem man, but if you want to show me your gratitude, promise me one thing,” Nick requested.
Greg looked at him suspiciously, “What?”
“Next time we find something down a storm drain, we make Warrick go get it,” Nick said with mock seriousness.
Greg laughed and nodded, “Sounds good to me.”
I know, it doesn’t have the usual emotional depth of my other fics, but I honestly couldn’t sleep until this thing got finished, so here you go. Just a nice piece of extended Greggo angst that got away from me storywise.