CSI
Se Salva by happyharper13 [Reviews - 0]
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Salvar: to save, to overcome, to preserve, to rescue, to cover, to pass

Salvarse: to survive, to escape

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CHAPTER 7: LA CERRADURA, PART 2


Catherine sighed sadly, staring at the dismal sight and clearing way for Nick. There was barely a need. He hardly noticed her presence as he dashed out of the locker room. Even Grissom could have seen the tears building in Nick's eyes, had he looked. She followed on light feet as he rushed away, hands barely shadowing his quickly tearing eyes.

Nick couldn't even handle clearing out Greg's old locker. It was hard to imagine him being able to take the news that Greg's case was closing -- that his boyfriend's body would, most likely, never be found. Catherine was glad that she hadn't tried to drop the second bombshell on Nick today.

Her eyes intent on Nick, Catherine hardly noticed Warrick standing still -- He's probably already missed his date -- also watching and almost blocking her passage. He was good at camouflaging and pretending not to watch. But she knew better. Nick had already made it to the men's restroom by the time Catherine had spotted her reliable, almost expressionless friend. "You wanna go talk to him?"

Warrick nodded, an understanding passing yet again in a split second before he rushed -- but not quickly enough to be conspicuous -- after Nick into the bathroom.




THE CASINO


Nick finished dusting everything within a five foot radius of the corpse, as well as anything likely to have come into contact with it.

He carefully looked over the dead body for any clues one last time. The corpse looked to be that of a higher-level employee. He was killed cleanly with a shot to the head. No defensive wounds or other markings were present.

Had their processing not been interrupted, they would have still had at least an hour-long wait for Super Dave, the assistant coroner who, like Catherine, had first been dispatched to the desert 419, where Warrick still was. Nick wondered what would happen when Super Dave arrived now, or why Caveliere hadn't noticed anything yet. Then again, the detective was probably expecting them to take another few hours to finish with the scene, so he probably didn't expect to hear anything from them.

Nick looked back at the body, then scanned the room again. The room was so barren. He got up to try to find something else.

That was when he noticed the spot on the wall. It was tiny -- only the expert eye of a CSI trained to notice the smallest details would have seen it. It looked like it could be a fiber, maybe even from the body. The DB was a man, middle-aged and wearing a white shirt and black dress pants. The shirt was only slightly brighter than the room's off-white walls, and Nick hoped the fiber, which looked to be black, was from the vic's pants. It was smaller than a fingerprint and almost camouflaged with the wall. But the key word was almost, as he bent down to inspect it, quickly finding that it was not a fiber over the wall but a hole that bit into it.

Curious, he bent down further to look through the hole, in case there was any clue hidden inside. Looking in, he was greeted not with a small hole filled with insects, nor even with a few stacks of bills. A gap was revealed.

"Hey Greg! Come here!" he whispered loudly to his partner, who stood feet away.

Greg turned his head quizzically. Curiosity was mixed with the lingering stress of the situation on his face.

"Come 'ere. Take a look at this," Nick said, waving Greg towards him. He pointed to the hole.

Greg looked at him inquisitively before a look of realization hit him.

Nick looked at his partner, questioningly, as Greg leaned down to see his estimation confirmed.

"The Braun safe! Congratulations, Nicky! You just found a fortune!" Greg whispered excitedly. The tension on the younger CSI's face was temporarily gone, and Nick himself breathed a sigh of relief in response.

Nick turned around, raising an eyebrow incredulously. "Are you sure Greg?"

"You can go ahead and check it out, but I bet that's what it is. It's sure what it looks to be. By the way, according to my confidential interviews with Lily Flynn, the locker combinations for the safe are likely to be 6-8-47, 6-9-36, 8-2-6 and 22-8-4. "

"You memorized all of those?!" Nick asked, shaking his head in greater disbelief as he tried to memorize the numbers. He looked over his shoulder to confirm that the robbers were still gone.

"Sort of," Greg said, smiling. "I'll tell you how I figured it out someday," he added with a wink. "For now, I'll get back to the wall. You check out the safe and I'll cover for you. Don't take long in there. I kinda doubt they were ever in there. If they were, they would have gotten out hours ago."

Nick fiddled around before finding a button on the inside of the hole. A small enough part of the wall pulled back to reveal a lock. Plugging in the numbers Greg had given him, Nick was surprised when the wall moved back, revealing a tiny room barely big enough to contain both Nick and its treasures.

He still couldn't believe the luck of the find. Money could buy anything. By that logic, finding the opulent safe had to win them something. "Maybe, if we're lucky, we can buy them off with some of the money from the safe."

"That doesn't seem like such a good idea," Greg responded, rather despondently.

"How come?"

"We can't just give away money that's not ours."

"We're trying to get out of here."

"Yeah, but it's still not our money."

"Greg. Last I checked, I've dealt with more of this sort of situation than you have."

Greg rolled his eyes. "Yeah. I can barely count back all the times you've been stuck in a hostage crisis at one of the biggest -- and richest -- Vegas landmarks. Cause it's sooo darn many."

"Oh shut up. You know what I mean." Now really wasn't the time for another argument with Greg, even if this one was over professional, rather than personal issues.

"Yeah, but you don't seem to be getting what I mean. This casino" -- he gestured at his surroundings -- "is a big part of Vegas." He paused, clearing his throat. " As in a big part of the Vegas economy. As in, if we just let these guys take all the money here, the casino would lose major money. People would lose their jobs... It would affect the entire city. It's not our place to just give the money away. Not to mention it would be rewarding these guys with what's basically an infinite amount of money."

"There's no such thing as an infinite amount of money. Greed knows no bounds."

Greg chuckled, shaking his head. It astounded Nick how Greg could always find something to laugh or smile about, in even the direst of situations. It reminded him of Sara telling him how Greg had even been joking around -- flirting with Sara, even -- when she'd come to see him after the beating in the alleyway, even as he laid on the dirty pavement, bruised, bloody and in excruciating pain.

"What?" Nick asked, wondering what was so funny.

"You, my friend, have been spending way too much time with Grissom. 'Cause that is not something you'd be sayin' on your own."

"Hey now. Just 'cause I'm a hick doesn't mean I'm not edumacated," Nick joked back, overdoing his accent. Still, he quickly brought himself back to the situation, in all its gravity. "In all seriousness, Greggo --"

"No. We're not giving them the safe. And that's final."

"Greg. You don't have the authority to --"

"Nick. We have to get to work. Now. Before they realize we're not working. We can talk about the safe later. But this damn room has to get processed either way --"

"Not if we pay them off first."

"What makes you think they won't just blow our brains out once they've gotten the chance? Huh?"

Nick nodded, recognizing Greg's logic.

"This way," Greg continued, "at least we're guaranteed some more time. We already know their names, so the likelihood of them just letting us go is pretty darn low. And yes, you may have been in more scary situations on the job, but I still know how hostage situations work. Right now, given the circumstances, time is on our side."

"I'm not sure about that. And, if time is on our side, then why send them over to help processing?"

"To get them to leave. Plain and simple. We can BS all the processing we want. Take as much time as we want. But giving them the money could mess that all up."

"I still don't think you're right about that. Hostage situations are different if nobody knows you're taken hostage. So far, as far as we can tell, there's no lot of SWAT officers waitin' outside to take 'em out. So we might want to get them out sooner, before LVPD shows up."

Greg nodded, recognizing the validity of the statement. "Fine. But, speed aside, we still can't give them the safe. It's wrong."

Sensing the noise of -- no doubt -- the robbers talking coming close, he accepted Greg's logic, for the moment, and closed the door to the safe before returning to work processing.

Soft footsteps behind them tore away their focus.

"How're you two doin'?"

"Uhh." Greg moved over, as if to show Julian his progress.

"I don't see anything." Julian's voice was soft, but powerful, and more than a little creepily foreshadowing.

"What have you done?" he asked Greg.

"I... I just got here. I started dusting the wall --"

"I've been watching your friend here" -- he gestured at Nick -- " for over a half hour. And I've seen how long he takes to dust walls. He finished at least a full side of the wall in that half-hour. Sure enough, it looks like he's gotten a third of that wall over there done, after ten minutes. But in the same ten minutes you've gotten done maybe a foot or so. You wanna explain to me why that is?"

Greg gulped. "I... err... helped him with that wall."

"You're lying."

"No, I'm not."

Julian leaned in. "I suggest you start telling the truth or it's gonna get uglier here. The girl in the other room is special. To Ari. As I'm sure you've noticed. That guy, your boyfriend" -- he gestured at Nick again -- "actually gets his work done. He's useful." He leaned in to look Greg in the eye. "You, however, are disposable. You're not workin' fast. In fact, judgin' by the progress you two have made in the last ten minutes, and by the amount of talkin' I'm hearing from this room, I'd say that, if anything, you're slowing down the work here. And that makes you less than disposable. It makes you trash. Something that maybe we should dispose of."

Greg shivered and leaned as far away from the man as he could. Julian seemed uninterested in his movement and backed up himself before leaving the room. However, when he headed not for the room he'd been clearing out, but for the one where Ari and Catherine were, Greg and Nick both knew that they were in trouble -- or at least one of them was.




PRESENT


Nick was washing his face. Warrick knew instantaneously what that meant. Nick had been nowhere near hygienic in the past month, to the point that Warrick and Catherine were left to remind him of simple things like washing his face, shaving... They'd gotten to the point of trading off weeks to stop by Nick's apartment to pick up his laundry. The man was a mess, to say the least.

And, the mess that he was, Nick wasn't washing his face because of dirt. Warrick gently walked up behind him, and Nick didn't even notice.

Nick looked up from the sink, checking his face for signs of crying, when Warrick's eyes met his in the bathroom mirror. Nick's sad expression morphed quickly -- but not quickly enough -- into an almost angry stare, as if challenging Warrick's place behind Nick at the sink.

"There are more sinks."

"My hands are clean. Because, unlike you, I've been on top of my hygiene lately."

Nick scowled. "If I want to grow back my hair and stuff, that's up to me." It's not like Greg's here to complain anymore.

Warrick rolled his eyes. He knew Cath had already played 'good cop,' or maybe the gentle mother, in the locker room to Nick. That clearly hadn't worked. It wasn't about telling Nick his grief was wrong, but he needed to be functional. "Dude. Cath and I have been doing your fuckin' laundry for the past month." Seeing Nick's hollow eyes, Warrick couldn't resist losing at least part of his 'bad cop' routine to his gentler side -- the one that had been Nick's best friend, and felt for his friend's anguish. It's Nick, for cripes' sake. Softening his voice, Warrick spoke again, knowing Nick probably wouldn't respond anyways. "You're not acting like Nicky anymore. You haven't been yourself."

Nick furrowed his brows at the last statement before replying sharply -- bluntly -- "Well, Greg isn't Greggo anymore, either."

"Nick --"

"I'll wash my own laundry from now on. I'm a grown man."

"Well, you're not acting like it."

Nick scowled. "What do you want, Warrick?"

"To help you!" Warrick couldn't help but shouting. It had seemed obvious to him. "Honestly, getting out of doing extra laundry didn't make that much of a difference for me anyways," he added, shaking his head with a sad chuckle. "I just want my friend back."

Nick looked to be contemplating Warrick's last words. He gently nodded his head in understanding, before speaking. "It's just... today... Cath and Griss wanted me to clear Greg's locker. And... I..." He struggled for words. "I just couldn't. I couldn't... just... say goodbye like that. I couldn't admit that he's not coming back."

Warrick contemplated his options. It was tempting to go for tough love again, explaining that Nick had to accept that Greg wasn't coming back, whether he wanted to or not. Because, ultimately, that was the truth. Greg wasn't coming back. Seeing the tears threatening release yet again, however, forced the softie out of Warrick, and quickly at that. "I'll clear his locker out for you, if you want."

Nick was silent for a moment, considering the proposal. "There's a big backpack I left in the locker room. Can you just... stick everything in there? Carefully. I'll sort it out later."

"Sure."

A small smile blossomed on Nick's face -- the first one Warrick had seen on Nick all day. Warrick doubted he was doing the right thing, but it made Nick happy, and Catherine would hopefully be appeased by the temporary resolution. If Nick -- or, more appropriately, Greg's family -- felt like sorting through it later, they still could. But this allowed more time for Nick to find closure on his own terms. And God knows closure is what Nick needs, Warrick thought with a sad sigh as he closed the door.

Warrick headed to the locker room, grabbing a bag from his own locker -- it was nicer than the backpack Nick had left out -- and carefully began folding the contents of Greg's locker and tenderly putting them in the backpack. He finished quickly.

Grabbing his keys out of his own locker, he headed out.




THE CASINO


Julian returned from the room, face still stoic. Greg and Nick silently let out breaths of relief as the older robber moved toward the room that Biggs and Richie were supposed to be clearing.

But their relief was cut off mid-breath when Julian looked back at them with a chilly, frightening smile.

"One of the boys will want to give you an incentive not to take your time and lie to me," he spoke, again smoothly and venomously, to Greg. Greg shivered.

Richie reappeared in the room, scowling. Greg could tell in an instant that they had had little luck with cleaning, and with finding whatever it was they were looking for.

"You got somethin' for me to do, Julian? Or somebody?"

Greg glared. "The only thing for you to do is what you were doing. So get back to it if you want to get out of here."

Richie growled, and Greg instantly knew the smart talk had been a bad idea, as Richie approached him.

"You gonna get snooty with me, boy?"

Greg stood up to face him, and show that he was no longer a boy to be taken lightly. No matter the derogatory names the world seemed intent on throwing at him, he was a man.

"You wanted us to help process and clear the scene of your crime. It's hardly beneficial for you to agitate us while we're attempting to do what you asked of us."

"Quit it with the big words," Richie replied, glaring Greg down. "Tryna sound all smart, huh?" he added as Biggs entered the room. "I'll show you."

Greg eyed the increased threat, watching Biggs' eyes turn into a leer. Greg took a step back.

"That's right, boy," Richie said, sneering. "Back it down." He pulled out a gun and twirled it around. Greg was surprised that he'd just thought to use that, but, then again, he probably wouldn't have needed it in the first place against Greg.

He pointed it at Greg, gesturing to sit down. "Hands on your head."

Greg glared. The additional order was unnecessary. Greg clearly wasn't carrying a gun.

"Biggs, you wanna search 'im? Or can I?"

"Be my guest."

"You already searched me," Greg replied with gritted teeth. But the men ignored him, continuing as if he hadn't spoken.

"Nice. You spot 'im, then."

"Sure thing," Biggs replied, taking Richie's gun.

As much as Greg would have liked to take the opportunity to knee Richie in the groin or such, and bolt, he knew the idea was beyond unrealistic.

He could feel Richie's breath on his neck as the smaller man moved behind him to frisk him for a weapon. Greg rolled his eyes, and tried to distract himself from the moment, as the hands made their way over him.

That was when he heard the tapping. It was coming from the wall -- from Nick. Nick stared angrily at him, mouthing the word 'safe.'

Greg rolled his eyes. He wasn't giving the combination over.

Richie repositioned himself in front of Greg, and sneered up. Greg could feel a larger body -- no doubt Biggs -- move behind him.

Julian seemed to have picked up on Nick's words. "What's your boyfriend tryin' to say to you?"

"None of your business," Greg replied icily.

"You gonna tell me what he's goin' on about?" Richie asked, still sneering.

Greg just glared back.

"Why's it takin' it so long to process, kid?" replied the gruff voice -- Biggs -- behind him. "It seems like you needed an incentive, huh?"

Greg shook his head.

Richie's glare was venomous. The hands grabbed his shirt collar, and moved down his chest, kneading hard, as Biggs held Greg's back steady.

Greg grunted at the pain.

Biggs yelled out, "Hey Ari! We got somethin'!"

Greg could hear a gentle shuffle in the other room and, gradually, Ari made his way in, carefully aiding a still-wounded Catherine.

"What seems to be the issue?" Ari asked impatiently, as he shot worried glances at Catherine.

It was Julius that replied. "Something's up with this one." He pointed to Greg. "He's either a really bad investigator, or he's been spending his time on something else."

Greg glared, but underneath he was genuinely worried. Julian had an uncanny ability to guess his activities, or so it seemed.

Biggs leaned in, to whisper urgently in Greg's ear. "So what was it you were doin,' huh?"

Greg ignored the question, despite the hands' painful progress.

Richie's sneer turned away from Greg, and towards the wall. Greg gulped. It turned back to the leader.

The leader turned back to Greg. "Is there a reason you're not answering my colleague's question?"

Greg snorted at the word 'colleague.' "I was processing the scene. Like I told your other colleague." He tried to lift a hand to point to Julian, but Biggs retained a hard grasp on Greg's arms, so the CSI simply nodded his head toward the older robber.

Ari spoke this time. "You're hiding something." His voice was even more frightening than Julian's -- it wasn't quite low, nor was it quite high. It was, however, more than quite confident.

Greg shook his head furiously, still too terrified for words.

"Just leave him alone. He was just working slowly. He can speed up. Just leave him alone so he can concentrate. So we all can concentrate." Greg was grateful to see that Nick was, in this case, the voice of reason.

"Fine, Tex. Tell us what he's hiding," Julian replied. "Because I know he'd hiding something."

"We found the safe."

"The safe?" Julian raised an eyebrow.

Ari, however, broke the excuse. "That still doesn't cover all the time he wasn't doing anything."

Greg looked over at Nick, pleading with his eyes for Nick to not say anything more, but it was all in vain.

"We were arguing about whether to open it."

"How is that relevant if you don't even know how to open it?" Richie replied, eyebrow raised in clear anticipation of a verbal victory.

Nick looked over at Greg apologetically before replying. "We do know the combination."

Even Julian gasped, though it was quickly replaced by a guffaw. "Like hell you do."

"We do. Or, rather, Greg does."

"Does he?" Julian eyed Greg with increasing interest. "Prove it."

Greg shook his head vehemently.

"Well then. I'd say your bluff is called." He turned to Richie, who punched Greg in the stomach. "That's for your lie," he said to Nick.

Nick glared. "I'm not lying. Greg. Tell them the combination."

Greg shook his head again.

"I swear, he knows it."

"Well, in that case, we'll just have to beat it out of him," Julian replied stiffly. He turned to Ari, who nodded his head in affirmation.

Richie grabbed Greg's chin, forcing him to look Richie in the eye. "You're gonna tell us how to get in. Otherwise, we're gonna make you regret it."

Greg realized the meaning of Richie's words when Richie's hand found its way back onto Greg's chest, falling down to grope him. Greg squirmed and let loose a small cry at the sudden, painful contact. But he still shook his head. Especially now, knowing what the men were capable of. He wasn't going to give them the money that would, no doubt, guarantee them free run of the streets.

Greg was relieved to finally feel the release from Richie's hands. The leader -- Ari -- moved toward him, looking him in the eye.

"Tell us now." The man's gaze was intense, and Greg practically squirmed away, just from the hard stare of the deep blue-green eyes.

Greg didn't answer. He was too scared to think, which meant no risking giving away any information.

"Where is the safe?"

Ari's hands gripped Greg's chin more harshly, and Greg could feel the hard, strong skin and nails biting into cheeks.

Ari gestured outward to his three co-conspirators. "You know what they'll do to you if you don't cooperate?"

The robber ran his hand softly up Greg's chest, eliciting shivers from his captive.

Greg turned his face downward, or at least as downward as it would go, in shame at the implications. He gave a small nod.

Ari's voice grew gentler. "Then why won't you give us the answers?"

"Because it's not the right thing to do." The answer was soft, scared and vulnerable.

Ari shook his head, clearly in exasperation at Greg's obstinacy. He gestured to Biggs, who moved forward. Greg felt Richie grip on his back tighten. What's going on? Why are they moving?

Greg was terrified, not knowing what was coming next.

The fist in his gut interrupted his train of thought. He doubled over, against Richie's tight shoulder lock, and let out a startled cry.

As soon as he had fallen, hands reached down to pick him up again. Greg squirmed against the arms holding him still.

Ari edged toward him, staring him in the eyes again. Then, he reached down for the hem of Greg's t-shirt. Greg squirmed again as the t-shirt was brought up and over his head, effectively blinding him. It covered his head, and he worried about suffocating. He hated not seeing what they planned on doing to him.

A new pair of hands -- probably Ari's or Julian's -- reached down to trace his stomach. He felt the hands push and prod, as if searching for something. Finally, they settled on a spot, and Greg knew why. They didn't want to kill him. Greg screamed in pain as a sharp pain hit the spot, even as he knew, thanks to Ari's knowledge of anatomy, that the knife or whatever it was had avoided any key internal organs.

Greg moaned, and he could hear Richie chuckling in his ear.

Greg was finally allowed to fall to the floor, but was quickly met with cruel kicks to the stomach. He could hear -- and feel -- at least one rib cracking. He whimpered in pain at each blow. Breathing was hard as it was, and he couldn't see the source of the blows through the t-shirt still covering his head. He felt panicked, blind and helpless.

He tried to roll over, but was rewarded with a kick to the back. Another foot slammed down on his side, eliciting another shriek of pain.

Suddenly the attacks stopped, and Greg groaned in relief, finally succeeding in curling into a protective ball. He could feel someone approach him; the heated breathing gave whoever it was away. Greg flinched reflexively from the presence.

He felt hands reach for the shirt that still covered his face. Greg was both relieved and afraid to have the obstacle removed, improving his breathing, but forcing him to face one of the assailants. He immediately tried to shirk away from the face as soon as the shirt was off, but a hand stopped him, eliciting a scared whimper.

"This is your last chance. Tell us how to get into the safe. I know you know how." The man gestured at the safe. "Or, at least, your boyfriend seems to think so. Either he's a liar, or you are. Either way, one of you is going down."

Greg glared. Even if Nick seemed to think giving them the safe would help in some way, Greg wasn't giving in. He didn't know who the robbers were or what they wanted, but they definitely were not touching Nick. Which meant Greg played the liar.

The man was about to say something when Catherine rolled over, pushing a reassuring hand towards Greg. But her eyes, Greg could see, were clearly on the man standing over Greg.

"Ari. Please. Don't hurt him."

The man took a step back, clearly taken off guard by the request.

Her voice grew softer, but more imploring. "Don't -- Stop touching him. He's not Tam."

The man stared at Catherine, horrified. "How -- ah --" He struggled for words, like someone gasping underwater for some airy relief. Finally he cut off the stumbling with curt, angry words. "You don't know what you're talking about, Cath."

"Greg isn't going to tell you how to open it. He's a stubborn one," she almost sobbed out, with a mirthful, sad, dry chuckle. "Ask Nicky."

"I'm fairly certain that if Nicky knew the combination, he would have given it to us by now."

Catherine shook her head. "He only needs to know part of it. I think I can figure out the rest."

Somehow, her words seemed to convey more than Greg could see to the man, who now seemed speechless. Still visibly perturbed, for whatever reason, by the conversation, he nodded, following Catherine's instructions to the far wall. He paused before turning back, where he reached for Catherine and gently helped her up. Together, they hobbled over to the wall to speak to Nick.

Greg stared, astonished by the betrayal, even as he was grateful for the temporary reprieve in violence towards himself.

He watched Nick repeat whichever numbers he had managed to remember to Catherine. And then he saw Catherine's face light up. Greg should have guessed that Catherine would have been able to make the connection. It was just his luck that one of the other two people alive, in the whole world, that knew the combination for the safe, was in the same room and willing to give the information over.

He saw Catherine and the man moving around in front of the hole, and crossed his fingers that something good would come of their actions. At least Catherine seems to get along with him...

Then the door opened.




PRESENT


Wendy was distracted from the pile of DNA samples waiting to be processed by a tap on the shoulder. Finally, she thought, as she looked up at Catherine's smiling face. More to do for the case.

She had worked her butt off at the scene, but the thoroughness, Wendy knew, would be worth it. She wanted to know her case inside and out. Rather start off putting in 120 percent and slow down from there, as needed, than to start off doing the minimum amount of work per case, especially when even having a career as a CSI depended on it.

She followed Catherine out of the lab, presumably to view results or interview the source of the hair found on the dresser.

That work ethic had always been her style. That was what had allowed her to finally succeed as a DNA technician for the Vegas crime lab, where two before her had failed. Greg, she suspected, had succeeded due to a combination of hard work and phenomenal brain power. People had given him crap -- a lot -- especially as a CSI 1, but they failed to appreciate just how smart he was. She had little doubt that he could have beaten any other lab employee -- maybe even Grissom or Sara -- in a game of chess, a Mensa puzzle or any other test of mental prowess. He had been a force to be reckoned with, which left her all the more unsure of her path toward replacing him.

Wendy was immersed in thought as the pair headed toward the locker room.

She had always taken pride in beating men in their own games -- fields they expected to excel at, and men that took her as a trophy wife bimbo type, not an intelligent, sentient being. She had always taken pride in their looks of surprise as she, through sheer hard work, surpassed their own efforts. But she had no intention of beating Greg, or rather, his record, as a CSI 1. She doubted she even could. Greg had never been the kind to underestimate, and certainly not the type to dismiss someone's mental abilities because of a pretty face. He had been, truly, a good person.

She struggled against his shadow, legacy and memory every day, as both a person and as a professional.

Which made Catherine's next words evoke all the more thundering of emotions.

"Wendy. You've done a good job. I know you haven't passed all of your proficiencies yet, but I trust you will. Gil, Warrick and I all do." Nick's name wasn't even worth mentioning, Wendy knew, because he probably wasn't even aware that she was training to become a CSI, given his oblivious hyper focus of the last month.

Catherine led the way to the locker room, pointing at locker number 7.

"Here's the key to your new locker."




THE CASINO


Nick kneeled over the prone man in front of him, watching beads of sweat cling to flushed skin and, ever so slowly, disappear down the ridges of Greg's face and arms and neck. Nick ran a hand over his boyfriend's face, and Greg leaned in to the gesture.

"How'd you get yourself into this, Greggo?" Nick whispered as he stroked Greg's sweat and blood drenched hair. "Why not just cooperate?"

"Had to do the right thing," Greg whispered, looking up into Nick's eyes.

Nick sighed, understanding, at least somewhat. "You're lucky that wound was planned out. And that Ari knew what he was doing. That he was trying not to kill you with that one, because he easily could have."

Greg looked up and nodded without meeting Nick's eyes. "I can get it checked out when we get out." His voice was surprisingly -- and scarily -- hoarse, which almost brought tears to Nick's eyes.

Greg gently pushed one of Nick's hands away and Nick looked down questioningly.

"Don't touch. I've got evidence."

Evidence. The word had never held such horrific possibilities before, Nick thought with a startled shudder. The robbers clearly understood the concept of investigating crime scenes. They would understand that they'd left evidence all over Greg from the beating. And they couldn't leave behind evidence.

Nick choked back a sob and clutched Greg closer.


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