No one saw it coming.
No one, including Nick, and that means of course that he’ll carry his (imagined) guilt to his grave…and probably beyond.
It was seven weeks, three days and half a shift after Nick had returned to work.
His ordeal at the hands of Walter Gordon was over - he’d spent four months recovering, in the hospital and at home and then on vacation. He’d wholeheartedly embraced the therapy he’d been ordered, and then volunteered, to undertake. He’d found understanding and no small measure of relief from the discussions and realisations the therapy had elicited.
The revelation that he had been in a gay relationship for well over three years with none other than Gil Grissom had caused a tidal wave to sweep around the lab and LVPD. Gil and Nick actually agreed that such was the furore around them that it helped ease the pain of the incarceration itself. It was something else to concentrate on rather than, ‘Oh god, I’ve/you’ve been buried alive’.
It was the day after his rescue and Nick was far more alert and a lot less stressed than he had been - but Gil had entered his hospital room while Warrick and Catherine were sitting quietly visiting a quiet Nick. Of course, Gil had been there before but such was Nick’s physical state that he’d been heavily sedated and was drifting in and out of consciousness. So, Gil’s entry to the room the next day was greeted by a sudden emotional outburst from Nick at seeing his lover properly for the first time since before the kidnap. Gil couldn’t not respond and took him in his arms and held him tightly, Nick’s tears wetting his shirt; he murmured words of love and consolation. As did Nick, in return.
Of course, this scene was played out in front of their closest friends. They were still shell shocked from the previous day’s events but nothing could possibly have prepared them for this. Catherine recovered sufficiently to tug on Warrick’s sleeve and nod towards the door - they left the men together to come to terms with both their grief and their happiness. They stood in the corridor outside Nick’s room and still seemed unable to speak, just absorbing this new information. It was obvious to each of them that neither had any inkling of what already seemed to them to be a fairly longstanding relationship. Little did they know that their thoughts mirrored each others. ‘I’m his best friend why didn’t he tell me?’ ‘I’m his best friend, why couldn’t he tell me?’ ‘How did Gris/Gil manage to endure the hours that Nick was incarcerated?’ ‘How long has it been going on?’ ‘How come we’re top level CSIs and didn’t see any evidence of it?’
Over the coming days and weeks these questions would be answered. The simplest explanation served them best - Gil and Nick had chosen to keep their relationship private. It was, after all, no one’s business but theirs - they were at pains to say that they had never lied, never had to really, because no one had ever suspected that either was gay - bi-sexual actually - but both had forsaken women (and other men) to be with each other. The other reasons were for their roles at work - Gil being Nick’s supervisor and despite the permissiveness of society - especially Vegas - PDs generally were less inclined to be tolerant of ‘alternate lifestyles’.
But, for the record, they were out of the closet. Gil had left the hospital after that illuminating visit and returned to the lab - giving quiet, positive responses to all the queries he had about Nick. He made his way to Ecklie’s office, walked in and closed the door behind him. He did muse for several moments that after what Nick and he had just gone through, everything else in their lives would be easy in comparison.
So he told Ecklie. He found amusement in Ecklie’s expression and wished that Nick had been with him to see it. He pushed that thought aside when he realised that they’d probably be fired instantly for rolling around the floor in paroxysms of mirth. Of course, they could still be fired, well he could, for their relationship, given his supervisory role. Ecklie recovered quickly and this was the first thing he pointed out to Gil. Gil was forthright and accepted his responsibility but pointed out that a thorough examination of their work records would exonerate him of favouritism and Nick of making any professional gains. He knew that any team members interviewed would be able to vouch for their integrity. With a heavy heart, he thought, ‘except Sara’.
And that was how things went. Work records were checked and no evidence of duplicity was discovered. If anything, they concluded, Gil had been more demanding in Nick’s assessments than he had been with his other staff. Looks and utterances of incredulity were gradually replaced by those of acceptance. Oddly enough, the most accepting of their friends and colleagues was Greg, with his. ‘…what difference does this actually make - to our work and our friendships’ attitude which helped, considerably, on the path to general acceptance.
Nick began his recovery and Gil was with him every step of the way.
Gil had given Nick the choice, when he thought Nick was up to making that choice, as to how close he wanted Gil to be to him while he embarked on the rocky road to mental and physical health. Not surprisingly Nick had chosen Gil to be with him as much as possible and to share the journey. Gil was not surprised at Nick’s decision and was eternally grateful for the chance to support his partner, the man with whom he hoped to be for the rest of his life.
While Nick spent most therapy sessions alone with the therapist - a very comforting middle aged woman - Gil did join him for a few sessions to discuss the impact of the ‘event’ on their relationship. Both had gained from these meetings. Nick chose to continue with the sessions indefinitely - well the PD was paying - and Gil agreed to accompany him at regular intervals.
This all made it so much more surprising when it happened.
Nick’s return to work was heralded by a party, low key, admittedly, but everyone was happy and the well adjusted Nick was secretly admired by everyone who’d guiltily thanked God it hadn’t been them in that coffin.
The first three weeks had been spent in the lab, at the command of Ecklie. Gil was pleased he hadn’t had to make the decision because he was happy with it and Nick was not. However, Gil soon realised that Nick was not quite as recovered as he seemed. The endless glass of the lab walls confining Nick caused Nick to have flashbacks and (mild) panic attacks. Together with the therapist, Nick and Gil worked through the trauma of those first couple of weeks and at the end of the three weeks Nick was almost comfortable in the environment and not subject to the ‘attacks’ of the first days.
They were smug, the three of them, this was working out and Nick was making an excellent recovery.
Nick’s first foray into the field was with Catherine - he’d deliberately stopped Gil from accompanying him. It was the right decision. Catherine was great. (There’s a pun in there somewhere.) The scene was worked, the case quickly solved and Nick was up and running. In the next few weeks he was paired with all the old crew, including Gil and normality descended, once more, upon the ‘Graveyard Shift’.
Seven weeks and three days after Nick’s return to work he went out alone - his choice, and against Gil’s and everyone else’s, wishes - but Nick was adamant. It was in fact an easy case, a home invasion, quite close to the lab and under strict instructions from Captain Brass, the uniform at the scene attached himself to Nick like they were conjoined twins. Nick was amused, but secretly pleased. It was an easy case and the numbskull who’d left his ‘prints all over the scene was easily identified once Nick had returned to the lab. They’d then found him at his girlfriend’s house with his brains fried from the drugs his heist had procured. So, all in all, a good case to break him into solo work again and only half the shift used to solve the case!
Nick thought that if Gil was free they could have lunch together. He went in search of Gil, who was supposedly ensconced in his office playing catch up with his paperwork. But, he wasn’t there and Nick looked around the lab, asked a few questions and determined that Gil had not been seen for several hours. He was not out at a scene. Nick had a tremulous sensation in his gut and he really wanted, no, needed, to find Gil.
Suddenly, this was urgent, Nick stood still and took a few moments to consider what may have happened - perhaps Gil had left the lab. Nick needed to check Gil’s locker to see if he’d taken his jacket. He walked quickly to the locker room, his overriding thought that they’d made it their normal routine to tell each other their whereabouts at any given time.
For the very first time since Nick had been rescued from his underground prison - he did not know where Gil was.
Nick walked into the locker room and immediately Gil came into his view He was standing in front of his open locker with one hand holding the door open. To Nick, it looked as if Gil was concentrating on something inside the locker.
Nick broke into an immediate grin and said, ”Hey man, thought you’d got yourself lost there, no one’s seen you for a few…you wanna get some take out…” His speech kind of petered out because Gil did not move, at all. There was no response, no body movement…nothing.
In a moment Nick thought he had the answer, of course, something had happened to Gil’s hearing again. That was okay, they could get it fixed. But, even as he thought this thought he knew he was wrong, that this was wrong; that everything was wrong.
Momentum had carried him to Gil’s side in the few seconds he’d been in the locker room. Now standing close to him he touched him, but there was still no movement from Gil, still no response. Nick put his hand on Gil’s arm and spoke his name softly - nothing. He spoke louder and shook Gil gently - nothing. In those moments Nick became panic stricken. “GIL”, he shouted and shook him quite forcibly and while Gil moved it was only in relation to the force of Nick’s movement.
Nick stepped back and tried to breathe deeply, he was aware he was gasping for air. He turned and ran the few steps to the door and swung it open and flung himself into the corridor. Walking away from him, with his head buried in a file, was Archie. He screamed his name and Archie swung around, the shock on his face plain to see. “Go get Doc Robbins now…go get him now…just do it, man….” As he shouted these instructions he turned back into the locker room and was back at Gil’s side again.
Gil remained exactly as he had been before. Nick, acting on auto pilot, started whispering to Gil and rubbing his hand over his back in a soothing motion. “It’s okay, babe, I got you, I got you, I love you and I got you, it’s okay, babe.” He kept repeating these words and actions and was completely unaware of the passage of time - it could have been five minutes or five hours until he heard Doc Robbins behind him.
“NICK. Nick, stop it. Calm down, we’ll figure it out. Calm down.” Al Robbins didn’t raise his voice much but it brought Nick back to earth. “We’ll fix it - lets have a look”. He nudged Nick aside and awkwardly positioned himself as close as he could to Gil. He put his fingers on Gil’s chin and moved his head around so that he was face to face with him.
Al’s look was one of concern; Nick was unable to stop tears from falling down his cheeks, burning his flesh. “Oh God, Oh God.” was all Nick could whimper. The same words echoed in Al’s mind as they both looked at Gil. He was exactly the same as when they had both last seen him…except for his eyes…they were blank; totally devoid of expression, emotion, anything. Al thought of a dead body. Nick thought of loss, the loss of love, the loss of his love.
“I cannot be sure, after all I’m a pathologist, not a medical practitioner, but it looks like Gil’s in some sort of shock - kind of catatonic. If I’m right it’s serious Nick, but not untreatable. Now, Archie, get the paramedics over here - let’s get him to the hospital.” Al spoke with authority, but with a gentle tone.
Archie had been hanging back and having been given his instructions he left the locker room. As he used his cell to call 911 and ask for an EMT, he also kept guard on the door ensuring the privacy of the men inside.
The next hours were a blur to Nick when he looked back on that time. The paramedics arrived and assessed Gil’s condition. All his vitals were fine, a bit on the low side but within normal readings. Still, there was absolutely no response from Gil. He could be moved; Nick took his hand from the locker door and held it in his own. It was like moving a plastic model; he stayed wherever he was put. The paramedics decided against a gurney and moved him to their vehicle in a wheelchair. As Gil was moved along the corridors Archie cleared the way, thankfully not too many people were around - but enough to ensure that this would a newsworthy item for a long time to come.
The ride to Desert Palm was surreal. Usually ambulance trips were full of procedures, keeping people alive, staunching bleeds, feeding fluids - that sort of thing. But, Gil lay quietly, Nick held his hand and murmured to him and the medic, having attached the usual monitoring equipment, sat back and ruminated on the relationship between the two guys they were transporting to the hospital.
On arrival Gil was transferred to an examination room and vitals and blood were taken, a line was put in the back of his hand and a catheter eased into his bladder. Nothing that was done caused any reaction from Gil. But Nick had a clash with officialdom.
They wanted him to go check in and give Gil’s details to the receptionist. He refused. He knew he had Power of Attorney for Gil, as Gil had for him and could give all the information they needed, including insurance details, since Gil’s wallet had been in his pants and was now safely with Nick but he wasn’t leaving Gil’s side and that was that.
Nick won this little skirmish and the receptionist took the details in longhand, in the cubicle, to transfer to her computer. She was actually quite pleased because Nick had the right answer to all her questions and that was a lot more than most of her ‘clients’.
The wait for a consult gave Nick the opportunity to gather his thoughts. There didn’t appear to be any physical injury to Gil or illness. He supposed it could be some sort of head trauma, but Gil’s eyes, despite the ‘blankness’, had reacted properly to the penlight shone into them by the medic. He thought about the Doc’s words - shock, catatonic shock.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - Nick knew all about PTSD - he’d discussed it enough in respect of himself to understand the implications. He also knew that despite his own recovery his therapist had warned him that he must be on his guard - it could bite him on his ass at any time. That was a viable enough reason for him to continue his therapy.
But Gil? The strongest man in the universe. The most rational, sensible, God, the ‘most’ of any adjective one cared to name. Gil had never given any indication that he was heading for a fall. They had cried together (well Nick cried a great deal), visited the therapist together and had talked together - endlessly. And it wasn’t all about Nick - Nick knew that they had talked about Gil and his reactions and needs. Suddenly, Nick felt confident that it was PTSD. They hadn’t even seen a doctor, but he didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to come to that conclusion.
Nick also found resolve. His emotional outburst in the locker room was behind him, he would be strong and focussed for Gil and together they would take this journey. That was a familiar phrase from his own recovery with Gil - but he felt strong and strangely confident - he would do whatever had to be done to be with Gil. This wasn’t a test of their relationship, this was…well…he didn’t really know, but what he did know, completely and utterly, was that they would prevail.
“I love you Gilbert Grissom, don’t you ever forget that. I will always, always, be by your side, babe.” Nick said this aloud and even managed a chuckle because Gil always questioned his ’babe’ status, since he was fifteen years older than Nick. But he secretly loved it; Nick just knew that as well.
The Doctor took his time; Nick was starting to get agitated, when a ‘boy’ bounced in - God, even he must be getting old if doctors were this young. The doctor checked all the vitals, again, and did a thorough physical exam’. As expected he found no physical problems at all, but try as he might he could not elicit a response from Gil. He could move Gil fairly easily, as the paramedics had found, but that was it.
He then spoke to Nick and only confirmed what Nick had expected - Gil needed a psychiatric evaluation. The doctor said that since these guys were usually ‘nine to fivers’, there would be a wait but he had no reason to believe there was any immediate danger to the patient. So a waiting game then, thought Nick.
“Should you be giving him any medication in the meantime?” Nick asked.
The doctor thought for a few moments before replying. “I see no reason to do so. Dr Grissom, despite his state, does not appear to be in any physical distress, his heart, temperature and blood pressure are all good - indications that he’s not in pain - and there is no agitation presented that would lead me to believe he is in any mental distress. I’m not the expert here, but giving drugs for the sake of it would serve no purpose and may delay his evaluation and proper treatment - I’ll get fluids started though, to prevent dehydration.”
Nick thought about this and concluded the doctor was right. When had he become the reasonable man? He thanked the doctor and settled back with Gil to wait. For some strange reason Nick felt better. They would prevail - he’d thought that just before the doctor had arrived and it was exactly the right word, he decided. He kept up his quiet chat to Gil even as a nurse fitted a saline drip to the line in his hand.
Some time later the nurse entered the cubicle again and told him that there were work colleagues in the waiting room asking to see Gil or at least speak to him, Nick. Nick asked the nurse if she would stay with Gil for a few minutes while he went to speak to them. He made it quite clear that he would not leave otherwise. The nurse took stock of the situation and agreed to do as he asked.
Nick went to the waiting room and breathed a sigh of relief when he saw just Catherine and Warrick. They both spoke at once and made towards him. He held up his hand and they stopped in their tracks.
“I know you guys want answers but there are no answers at present. Al said he thought it was some kind of shock and the doctor we’ve seen here seems to think the same - but we’re waiting for a psych eval. Gil doesn’t seem to be in pain or distress and I’m going back to him now. Would you please keep people away until we’ve got some answers? I’ll let you guys know what’s what when I know something myself.”
Catherine recovered first, “Are you okay, Nick - dealing with this?”
“Yes, I am, I’ve had an hour or so just thinking and it’s my turn to be there for him instead of the other way ‘round. I think that this is my test…this is Walter Gordon’s fault and that bastard ain’t going to win, neither one of us will let that happen.” Nick’s resolute tone surprised Catherine and caused Warrick to nod his head; he was satisfied.
“I’m going back to him now…I’ll let you know.” Nick turned away, but was immediately caught up in Catherine’s arms as she hugged him.
The nurse smiled as he returned, he’d kept his promise it was only a few minutes. Why are the gorgeous guys always gay? That was her thought as she left the men alone.
It was a beautiful early morning in the making as the next doctor arrived. An older guy who, at first impression, seemed calm and controlled. He introduced himself as Lyndon Bennett, a psychiatrist who worked some times at the hospital and other times in his private practise; this was his hospital ‘on call’ time.
He explained that he had read the notes made by the ER doctor and would do a quick examination of Gil straight away, but he felt that from what he’d read and seen already he didn’t think he would learn anything more than he already knew from the notes.
And that was exactly what he did. Dr. Bennett spoke, quietly, to Gil as he gently moved his hands and arms and held his chin to move his face towards his own. He then turned to Nick and asked, “May I ask what is your relationship with Dr Grissom?”
“He is the man I love. We have been together in a relationship for very nearly four years and have lived, virtually together, for most of that time, but have properly lived together for a couple of years - give or take.” Nick held Gil’s hand and looked at him as he said these words. As he finished he looked up at Dr Bennett and added, “Gil Grissom is my life.”
“Thank you, Mr Stokes, for your candid disclosure. I am as certain as I can be that Dr Grissom is locked in some sort of shocked state and I will need you to help me with information that I’ll, no, we’ll, need to unlock him.”
“I will not be leaving his side I can assure you.”
“We’ll discuss this later, but for now I’ll arrange for Dr Grissom to be transferred to the Psychiatric facility here in this hospital - I must warn you that it is a secure unit, as much for the safety of patients as for staff and other visitors - but it can be unsettling. He will have a private room with all the usual facilities and we’ll work on a plan of recovery to include medication, therapy and most importantly - you, Mr Stokes.”
The doctor’s speech had been delivered quietly and evenly but Nick was left in no doubt, whatsoever, who was in charge and for the time being he didn’t know whether to be pleased that something was finally happening or apprehensive about exactly what it was that was going to happen.
He managed a deep breath and, “Okay”.
Things moved fairly quickly after the meeting - within thirty minutes Gil was on his way to his room. Actually Nick had been to the unit before, to gather evidence from a patient alleging assault, but his feelings now were totally different. He remembered that just a couple of hours ago his resolve had been firm, now he was feeling…wobbly…was the word that sprang to mind. He hoped that he would be back on track when Gil was settled in his room.
It was a pleasant room, clearly provided for more up market, well insured, patients. Gil was moved into his bed and settled like he’d spent years living there - but his eyes were still emotionless and it suddenly occurred to Nick that Gil hadn’t slept, neither had he. He supposed that it was still their daytime so perhaps that was what Gil was working to. He wished he knew.
Dr Bennett came in a little while later and asked Nick to accompany him to his office. Nick’s immediate response was that he wouldn’t leave Gil alone.
“You will not be with him twenty four hours a day Mr Stokes, and I need you give me as much information that you can about Dr Grissom; I need to build a picture up of the man so I can get a treatment plan up and running. As I told you before you will form a part of that plan along with me and my staff. Do you understand…may I call you Nick?”
“Yeah, yeah okay…” Was all Nick could manage. Hell, this guy was like his old principal, his Daddy and even, goddamit, Gil, rolled into one.
He leaned over Gil and kissed his lips, unresponsive lips that made Nick tear up instantly, “See you soon, babe.” He swallowed and let Dr Bennett lead the way.
In the doctor’s office he was settled in a comfortable chair sitting alongside the doctor’s desk not across the desk. He remembered some dim and distant instruction about a desk being a barrier to communication, but he was more used to being across from a witness or suspect than alongside; he wasn’t comfortable.
A coffee had been provided and Nick looked into the cup, took a few deep breaths and rediscovered his resolve.
“What’s going on, Doc? What’s wrong, exactly, and what are you…we…going to do about it?”
Dr Bennett sat back in his chair and spent a few moments gathering his thoughts.
“Well Nick, this is easy and this is hard. A contradiction. I haven’t done more than a cursory exam’ of Gilbert, is ‘Gilbert’ okay with you…”
“It’s Gil…” But Nick nodded.
“…but I can hardly ask questions and receive replies at this stage so initially I want you to tell me as much as you possibly can about, Gil, about his life, about any trauma he may have had recently…”
Nick’s look as he spoke those last words caused the doctor to raise his eyebrows, “There is something then?”
“Like you wouldn’t believe” Nick responded sadly.
“That’ll be our starting point then but first I need to set a few ground rules for you, Nick. Suffice it to say that it is very important for you to stay focussed - but rested and healthy; you’ll be of no use to man or beast, and certainly not Gil, if you neglect yourself. He is in a shocked state - probably catatonic – likely, if you’re right about the trauma, to be some sort of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’ll be a bumpy ride and I cannot give you time lines or guarantees but I’ve seen patients in worse shape make a full recovery…”
“…that’s good to hear Doc I can tell…”
“…but I’ve seen patients who were not so severely shocked deteriorate further and never recover fully. You must be prepared, Nick. Do you want to take a few minutes or shall we continue?” The doctor had taken in the stricken look that his statement had caused. Privately, he was quite confident; he’d seen enough patients in his career to get a feel for the eventual outcome - but even he wasn’t immune from a bite on his ass.
“No, let’s not worry about me, I will be focussed on Gil and I take on board what you’ve said about me staying healthy. I’ve got my own therapist and I’ll keep her in the loop.” Nick couldn’t resist a smirk at the irony of the situation.
“I hope you’ve got a clear schedule ‘cause there’s a lot to tell you.” And with that Nick started telling the tale of the last few months of their lives. For good measure he threw in Gil’s hearing problems and their formerly clandestine relationship and even Sara, ‘cause God knows she’d not made it easy for them - well Gil really - when she’d discovered their love for each other.
The doctor listened attentively, made notes and asked questions and was very clearly staggered to discover that Nick had been the victim in the case that all of Vegas knew about.
He jumped to the conclusion that it was the key - he wasn’t given to instant decisions since the mind was a very intricate machine and he was never quite sure…but dammit this was a foregone conclusion, of that he was sure…well almost, he told himself.
Nick’s coffee had gone cold but his mouth was so dry he drained his cup and though he was hungry and tired now, he wanted to see Gil again.
“Spend a few minutes with him and then I’d like you to go home and rest, Nick - if you could come back late this afternoon I’ll have had a chance to prepare the plan, decide on the drugs that will best suit Gil’s needs and we’ll go from there. It’s early days and while you should remain realistic about the possible outcomes for Gil you should know that I feel optimistic, Nick, and so should you.” The doctor allowed himself to bolster Nick‘s morale somewhat, because the man had certainly suffered enough himself, let alone his partner, to whom he was plainly devoted.
Nick sensed the soothing quality of the doctor’s words and took them with the spirit in which they’d been given.
Formalities over, Nick made his way back to Gil’s room. He found a young man sitting with Gil and reading a book.
“I think he’s asleep, he hasn’t moved and he doesn’t seem in the least distressed, his breathing is calm and regular.” His name badge said ‘Tim’ and he spoke quietly and politely.
“Thank you, but who are you?” Nick enquired,
“Oh, sorry. I’m a sitter…literally…I just sit and listen or maybe chat or read to patients. Don’t do medical things but you know on a ward like this the medical staff are stretched so you know I’m like a…sitter who keeps an eye on things…” Tim was rambling but Nick nodded.
“Could you give me few minutes alone with Dr Grissom, please?”
“Oh, sorry, of course.” He scrambled out.
Gil was asleep, Nick knew immediately, since he was quite used to watching Gil as he slept. He looked relaxed and rested and Nick could hardly believe how everything had been turned on its head in just a matter of hours. And yet, when he’d been kidnapped Gil had had to deal with it alone and it was much, much worse than this.
“Hey, babe, doc has ordered me home to rest.” Nick whispered these words to Gil so as not to wake him, and very gently stroked his forehead. “I promise faithfully to be back later, in about six hours, and I’ll explain what we’re all going to do to help you, we’ll be Team Gil, babe, Team Gil. I love you and want you and need you, babe, just so you know.” He barely kissed his lips and then tore himself away from the bedside.
Tim was waiting outside; he nodded to Nick and went back into the room.
Nick left the hospital and felt the sun on his face as he walked towards the car lot, stopping dead when he realised he’d arrived with Gil in the ambulance, his truck was still at the lab. He found a cab and went back to the lab.
He entertained the thought of getting in his truck and leaving without actually going into the lab but thought that would be churlish. So, stealing himself, (how many times had he done that in the last few hours), he entered the lab. As he made his way along the corridor he was aware that a number of staff, both graveyard and day shift, were there, looking his way.
When he got to the break room he stopped short of going in, and looked at the scene before him. Catherine, Warrick, Greg, Sara, Doc Robbins, Super Dave, Jim, Sofia and Hodges were sitting or standing, leaning on walls or furniture. They seemed solemn and looked to be talking quietly amongst themselves but as one they noticed Nick standing outside the door. No one spoke but Catherine got up and walked over, opened the door and wrapped her arms around Nick.
“How are you, Nick?” she said and it surprised him.
Me? She’s concerned about me he thought. “I’m good, I’m in control Cath, please don’t worry about me.”
“Yeah, like I’ll take any notice of you.” She said with a smile and continued. “So? Spill it, what’s with Gil, what do we do to make him well?”
“The doctor is almost certain, and Doc Robbins said it first; Gil’s in shock, most probably as a result of Post Traumatic…” He faltered. “…it's my fault Cath, oh God, I swear I never saw it coming and I should’ve…”
“…Nick! It is NOT. YOUR. FAULT.” Catherine said this most emphatically.
Nick stood there in Catherine’s arms and while he wasn’t crying he felt sorrow almost overwhelm him; momentarily he remembered those first few minutes in the coffin when realisation had hit him. He was stuck.
The friends were silent; they’d heard the exchange between Catherine and Nick. Suddenly they all jumped as Jim brought his hand down on the table with a load bang.
“Come on you sorry bunch of ass-holes, Gil will read us the riot act when he returns and finds we’ve been slacking off in his absence. Gil is sick. Gil will be treated. Gil will get better. So let’s go home, sleep some, and be back as usual tonight and make sure we get it right, for Gil.” He seemed rather pleased at his rallying call and it did have the desired effect.
The mood lifted and everyone moved past Nick to leave, touching his arm, his shoulder - Sofia kissed his cheek - Jim paused by him and Catherine.
“After that little display by yours truly he’d better be back soon or I’ll be getting sick from a sugar overdose.”
Nick chuckled and thought that was just the sort of thing he’d be telling Gil when he returned to the hospital later.
Nick collected his belongings and went home. He showered and did manage about four hours of fitful sleep. When he realised he wouldn’t be sleeping anymore, he got up and made himself a meal of eggs and toast. He drank some juice and made an instant coffee. He tidied up and packed a bag for Gil’s hospital stay and then showered and shaved and left for the hospital barely six hours since he’d left.
After signing into the secure unit he made his way to Gil’s room. Gil was sleeping as peacefully as when he left. Another young man was sitting with him and he looked as if he was doing math homework.
Nick went over to the bed and took Gil’s hand in his and to his delight Gil moved and gently moaned in his sleep, a familiar sound and sight for Nick who very nearly grabbed Gil by the shoulders to rouse him, but just managed to stop himself.
The young man, ‘Mark’, said he would tell a nurse that Nick had arrived because he thought Dr Bennett wanted to know when he’d arrived. No sooner said than Dr Bennett arrived in the room.
“Nick, how are you?”
“Good. Gil moaned and moved when I took his hand. Has he woken; have you given him any drugs?”
Dr Bennett smiled. “As far as I’m aware he hasn’t woken and ‘no’ he hasn’t been given any drugs, we’ve just monitored his situation while he’s been sleeping. Sleeping is a good sign - shows he’s relaxed. Now, would you like to wake him, Nick?”
“Wake him, will that be all right?”
“I don’t know, let’s see.”
“Okay.” They’d been talking in whispers and now Nick bent over Gil and gently kissed his lips. “Hey babe, come on wake up, sleepyhead.” Gil did move and sighed deeply.
Nick increased the volume of his voice. “Hey, come on, babe.” He stroked Gil’s rumpled hair, the soft curls he loved, tickling his fingers. “Gil, I’m here with you it’s okay now babe, come on wake up.”
To Nick’s eternal happiness and astonishment, Gil opened his eyes and they weren’t the blank emotionless orbs he’d seen earlier; these were Gil’s just woken up, don’t want to wake up, go away, eyes. He looked up at Nick and a frown creased his forehead.
“Nick?” Gil voice was quiet and almost tremulous.
“Oh God, Gil.” Nick couldn’t prevent the tears and they fell from his eyes directly onto Gil’s hospital gown.
Gil tracked the tears and looked at the gown and then the bed and the room and then back up at Nick. “It wasn’t a dream then?” His voice was still not ‘Gil’s’ voice.
“Oh Gil, babe. I don’t want you to worry, please don’t worry but it wasn’t a dream, no; you had some sort of episode…a Post Traumatic Stress thing the doc here thinks. This is Doc Bennett; he’s going to treat you. I love you, babe, really love you.” Nick thought he’d throw that in for good measure.
“Gil…I hope you don’t mind me calling you Gil…Nick here said it would be okay. I don’t want to cause you any more stress just now. Are you hungry or thirsty? Let's deal with the basics first. How do you actually feel, physically?”
“I feel weak…like I’ve run out of energy. I’m not thirsty…but I’m being kept hydrated aren’t I…not hungry either. Could drink a coffee…Greg’s special.” He’d lifted up his hand with the drip feed going into it, so he was certainly aware of what was going on.
Gil’s responses lightened Nick’s heart immensely. He knew the doctor would be impressed with Gil’s cognitive abilities after the catatonic episode. Trust Gil…he may have given them all the scare of their lives but he’s ready to sock it to the doc.
“I’ll get some, babe.” Nick’s tears had dried up and he was trying hard not to grin from ear to ear.
“No coffee, I don’t think it’d be a good idea - the caffeine. Juice, herbal tea?”
“Right, now Gil, don’t try to analyse all that’s happened to you. Take this time to be with Nick…I’m sure he will fill you in, but you’ve woken up without any treatment and that’s a very good sign indeed, but you will still need some form of treatment and we’ll need to discuss this at length. But first and foremost - don’t worry.”
“Thank you, Doctor.”
As Lyndon Bennett left the room, he felt relieved. This was even better than he’d hoped for and although Gil Grissom wasn’t out of the woods just yet, he should make a full recovery; he hoped.
“Oh Gil, man, I love you so much; you gave me a fright I can tell you.” Nick spoke quietly and soothingly to Gil. He was perched on the edge of the bed and held onto one of Gil’s hands in both of his.
“I remember some of it Nick. I’m sorry I frightened you.”
“Oh babe, don’t be, please don’t be…just let me take care of you like you’ve been taking care of me, that’s what caused all this you know, well, the doc thinks it is.”
“I can see that. It was weird.”
“You don’t have to talk about it, you can wait, babe…in your own time.”
“No, I feel okay talking, to you anyway.” Gil squeezed one of Nick’s hands and Nick brought the hand up to his lips to kiss it. His tears started up again. He knew Gil didn’t mind about the tears; there’d been lots of tears in the past months and Gil had told him he didn’t mind.
An orderly walked in at that moment with a tray on which were two glasses of juice and a plate of toast. “Dr Bennett ordered this for both of you.” She set the tray down and smiled at them and left them alone again.
There was a knock and the door and Mark popped his head around. “Sorry, but could I retrieve my math homework?”
“Hey Mark, of course you can.” Nick responded.
Gil looked on as Mark took his books of the chair he’d left them on.
“Nick, how long have I been here…you seem to know everyone…”
“Not long, only the early hours of this morning. You were brought from the lab to the ER…we’re at Desert…and then after a consult with Dr Bennett you were transferred up here. It’s the psych’ unit.” Nick would tell Gil everything he wanted to know, they didn’t keep secrets.
Nick was trying his hardest not to ask Gil questions, but he desperately wanted to know what Gil remembered, because he’d said he remembered.
“I was in the locker room…I went to get my jacket I was going to come to your scene…I was so worried about you…I knew you weren’t on your own…but I wanted…no, I needed to see you, be with you, make sure you were okay.”
“Oh babe, I was okay; I was fine, Ted, you know him, never let me out of his sight. I came looking for you and found you in the locker room.”
“You were upset…and shouted and I could hear you…but it was like you were a long way away…and I wanted to get to you to touch you." Gil touched Nick’s face with his free hand. “You rubbed my back didn’t you…it soothed me…I knew I would be alright with you.”
“I did; I got a bit panicky though, but Archie got Doc Robbins and he - well he told me you’d need to go to the hospital and you know the rest. You’re going to have to take things easy for a bit… YOU are going to have to let ME do a bit of caring, for a change.” Nick emphasised his words but they were spoken with love.
“Okay then, I’ll let you…I think I've frightened myself a bit too…never been ‘not in control of myself’…it’s a strange feeling.”
“You‘ll be back to Gil Grissom in no time, just you see, God, look how far you’ve already come and it’s what, fifteen hours, and you’ve been asleep for seven or more of those.”
“You had twenty four hours Nick, twenty four fucking hours and you didn’t sleep.”
“No, I didn’t but I had this lover, you know, he found me and made it all right. I found you back and now I’ll make you all right.” Nick leaned in to Gil and kissed him…the warm lips responding to his…so very differently than when he’d left the hospital that morning.
Gil pulled away and looked at Nick. “I believe you will, sweetheart, I believe you will.”
Gil drank a little juice; ate a little toast; they spoke a little, just bits and pieces, and it was clear that Gil had become very tired. His eyes drooped although he was trying to stay awake.
“I don’t want to sleep Nick, I want to stay awake with you.”
“And I think you should sleep, you need to rest up…” The remainder of his sentence stopped when there was a knock at the door and Dr Bennett came in without waiting for a response.
“Ahhh…Gil, I thought you may be tired. So, I just wanted to speak to you before you’re left to rest again. You do need to rest but I want to run two things past both of you. Gil, I would like to start you on a low dose sedative. Normal treatment for your symptom…but a low dose because you’ve recovered quickly, from the catatonic state that is, I don’t want you to think that you’re better, because we’ve, that’s all of us here, got to get to the root of this problem and solve it, so it doesn’t happen again. What do you say?”
The lovers looked at each other, their hands still entwined. Nick smiled at Gil and Gil nodded.
“Yeah…which sedative are you thinking of?”
“Oh, I’m a fan of the tried and tested; unless you have a reaction I’ll be prescribing a long standing and accepted drug – lorazepam - a member of the benzodiazepines. If you hadn’t recovered lucidity I would have started giving it intravenously, but orally will do just fine. But, Gil, and Nick, I have a request and I’m not certain you will like it but I have my reasons.”
Nick looked taken aback, and his breathing hitched. Gil responded.
“Nick, it’s okay, listen to the man.” Nick nodded.
“You are probably recovered enough to be discharged and treated as an out patient, but having discussed, with Nick, all the problems you two have faced in the past months, I have an idea…not an idea that would suit many of my patients but I think you two could benefit from it….”
“…come on doc, spill the beans.” Nick was impatient. Gil smiled indulgently.
“Gil, Nick, I would like to separate you for forty-eight hours. Keep Gil here to get the benefit from intensive therapy…as I said, not an option for many of my patients but I consider Gil would be an ideal candidate. Nick, I think that the benefits for you would be greater in the short term than Gil undertaking months of weekly sessions. If you can bear the separation.”
Nick looked perplexed and his immediate thought was that Dr Bennett had underestimated him. He would gladly give up forty-eight hours with Gil, if he knew he was being cared for properly and that it would benefit Gil.
“Dr Bennett; I don’t know whether you have grasped an understanding of our relationship. While I love Gil with all my heart and soul…I am not about to fall apart if we’re separated for a couple of days, and especially if those days will be of benefit to Gil. I’m not some sort of obsessive limpet. I do understand what you’re getting at.”
“I’m sorry, Nick, you have been so concerned for Gil, I did think that you would view a separation as very difficult. I was wrong.”
“Maybe it’s me who doesn’t want to be separated.”
Nick and the doctor both looked at Gil. Nick looked quite shocked at Gil’s statement, but the doctor smiled.
“I did know that, Gil. That’s why I think you need a breathing space to think and talk about it…you went into this nervous state because Nick was out of your sight, out of your control, completely, for the first time since the abduction and your conscious mind couldn’t cope, so your subconscious took over to give you a rest.”
Gil looked troubled and breathed heavily. Nick sat on the bed again, beside Gil this time and wrapped his arm around Gil’s shoulders and pulled him towards him - he kissed his temple.
“That’s the truth of it, isn’t it, babe?” Nick whispered.
Gil nodded. “I guess my therapy just began.”
“It did. Here’s your first dose.” He handed a small cup to Gil and it was a small tablet and he picked up a glass of water languishing on his bedside cupboard.
Gil took the tablet and drink and then just leaned into Nick. “May I have a few minutes with Nick, Dr Bennett?”
“Of course, but only a few minutes; you need to sleep…it’s a powerful recuperative tool that I recommend to all of my patients. Nick, please stop by to see me before you leave.”
The doctor left them alone. Nick hugged Gil. “You will be good, won’t you…no throwing your toys out of the playpen.”
“I’ll try…but isn’t that what I’m supposed to do…given the opportunity?”
“Actually, you’re probably right.”
“I think this doctor has a good idea about it all doesn’t he?”
“He does; I gave him chapter and verse this morning…everything, you know me, I like to share.”
“Mmmm…I love you and I’m going to miss you…but before I do I’m going to go to sleep…”
“I can see, sleepyhead.” Nick hugged a very relaxed body to him and then released him to lie on the bed. He leaned over and kissed Gil’s lips; he smiled into the kiss at Gil’s poor attempt at responding through his tiredness.
“Love you babe, forever.”
Gil was asleep and Nick pulled the blankets up around his chin. He turned off the light above the bed and despite his brave words, yet again he was very close to tears. He shook his head and chuckled at himself, dropped a kiss on Gil’s forehead and left the room, turning at the door for a last look. God, what a wuss he was.
He made his way along the corridor to the doctor’s office and knocked on the door. He was called inside and offered a seat.
“Nick, thanks for stopping by; I’m sorry I dropped that little bombshell on you and I’m sorry for underestimating you. I did, you know.” He laughed softly. “I got Gil’s dilemma straight away and totally missed the point with you - you are an interesting subject you know, I bet you fascinate your therapist…you are deceptive. A warm fuzzy exterior hiding a steel enforced character beneath. If I’m not mistaken, this time, that strength of character is what enabled you to survive your ordeal. That, and your complete trust in Gil, it didn’t waver did it?”
“No…not much anyway.” Nick was impressed now; this doctor was repeating the words, almost verbatim, of his own therapist. He was always able to turn on the tears; a little softy with five older sisters, it had come in very useful when he was a young child. Unfortunately, it hadn’t worked so well once he got to school, but he’d adapted and that was where his strength of character had been honed, against the bullies. They didn’t win, he’d never let them; not then, not now.
“I just wanted to explain a bit of this treatment plan I have for Gil; luckily, for all of us, and especially Gil, he’s recovered his consciousness. So I’ve revised it and it is now basically how I described it to both of you. It is because of Gil’s character, which you so accurately described to me, and what I have been able to see just a little of this afternoon. It’s a bit like a drug addict facing ‘cold turkey’…a sudden and drastic measure to overcome the immediate problem and danger.”
“You mean about his having, what do they call it, ’separation anxiety’?”
“That’s it exactly. I wouldn’t have expected you to know about it; it’s more common in women and children, but is not unknown in men. The trauma of your abduction and the exceptional circumstances of him watching it unfold before his eyes…you know in truth, I don’t think I would have been able to do that. That wasn’t reported anywhere, was it?”
“No, the perpetrator killed himself, I told you, in front of Gil. The details were never released because there was no court case.”
”Yes, I remember you saying.”
“So, you think that this will benefit Gil? What if it doesn’t?”
“I do think it will, but it will be very obvious, very quickly, if it’s not going to work. Now, do you want to call me up, regularly, for an update ? I don’t want you to even speak to Gil and I’d prefer not to pass any messages on to him…I do want you to be ‘separate’.”
“I understand. I’d like to call you as soon as I can for a progress report. I understand about the messages…but will you do one favour for me?”
“Before you start, tell him I love him and if he wants to stop at any time he can, and I will come to him.”
“Standard procedure anyway - about the stopping part. I promise you that I have every intention of making Gil better and hopefully stronger too, self aware, although I bet he knows most of this anyway.”
“You know Doc, I bet he does, he does tend to know a lot of things….”
“…and so do you.”
“Thanks Doc. Take real good care of him and I’ll call tomorrow…what time?”
“Eleven should do it; here’s my card and that’s my cell, I leave it on so if I’m not able to respond, leave a message - I’ll come back to you, I've got your details, haven’t I?”
“Yeah. That it?”
“It is. I look forward to seeing you in two days. Nick, I’ll want to see you before you see Gil, so let me know when you’re coming in. Okay?”
“I will. Thank you Doctor.” Nick stood and shook the doctor’s hand. “Good luck.”
“No luck involved Nick, it’s all science, looking at the evidence and interpreting what you see and coming up with a plan for treatment.”
“Now, where I have I heard that sort of mantra before?”
They both laughed. Nick knew the answer; Dr Bennett guessed the answer.
Nick went home and decided that he was best off at work; they would be Gil down, they didn’t need to be Nick down, too, and he would be occupied - that was his main reason.
Before he went into work he called Ecklie at home and updated him on Gil’s condition. Ecklie had been surprisingly supportive, but then Nick had peppered his update with references to Post Traumatic Stress following his own abduction. Just so Ecklie knew that this was a work related issue, enforcing the idea and that there would be no doubts.
So he reported for duty as normal, but to a barrage of questions about Gil.
“Hey, calm down; look I don’t want to keep repeating all this, how about we all go in the break room and I‘ll let you all know in one go?”
“Nick. that‘s too reasonable, I want to know now.” That was Catherine’s best attempt at petulance, but she surmised that as Nick was at work and seemingly fairly relaxed and happy, the news would be good.
The staff in the lab who wanted an update, nearly all of them, crammed into the break room.
“Okay guys; this is as much as I’m going to tell you…I think I should try and preserve Gil’s privacy as much as I can, not that he won’t be stunned at how many people are genuinely concerned about him, and as soon as I can, I’ll tell him.
“He recovered consciousness this afternoon…that’s how the doctor put it; he will be undergoing intensive therapy for a few days. This is very likely a result of Post Traumatic Stress, and I don’t have to tell you where that’s come from. But he’s going to be okay, I’m sure and Gil’s sure, and most importantly, the doctor's sure.”
“Nick that’s good news, man.” Warrick sounded really relieved.
“It is; when is he coming out of the hospital and when can I visit?” Catherine wanted to know.
“He’s staying in the hospital for a few more days at least, and I’m sorry but it’s no visitors.” He left out the fact that it included him.
“I can understand that, what about medication?”
“Under review.” He’d told them as much information as he felt comfortable doing, but it was still most of it, and he was sure it was probably more than Gil would have liked, but he’d be forgiven, he knew that.
“Should we be getting to work then?” Sara desperately wanted to know how Grissom was, but didn’t want that desperation to be apparent. She believed, absolutely, that she got away with the charade.
“Good idea, out and at ‘em. Ecklie has asked me to hold the fort, so assignments…”
Catherine paired herself with Nick. That way she could look out for him and get as much of the untold story as she could from him. It didn’t work; Nick worked as well and as studiously as he normally did, but mentioned no more about Gil’s condition than he’d told all of them before shift. She was annoyed, but secretly proud, that Nick protected Gil so much.
Shift ran over, as it normally did, and it was nearly ten in the morning before Nick arrived home. He was pleased, it gave him time to shower, tidy up, prepare and eat a snack and wait for eleven o’clock, on the dot, to call Dr Bennett.
He didn't have to wait that long; his cell rang as he opened the front door. He didn't recognise the caller's number and was instantly panicked.
"Nick?" An unfamiliar voice.
"Yes, who's this?"
"My name's Tiny and I'm a night nurse on psych. Look, Gil asked me to call and tell you he's okay, he misses you and loves you and don't tell on him, or me, to Dr Bennett. You got that?"
"I go it! Thanks Tiny, I owe you - big time."
"Man, don't forget it, hey, hope to meet you sometime and Gil, you know, he's gonna be good."
"I know it."
"See ya. Bye."
"Bye, and thanks again."
"You're welcome." And he was gone.
Nick sat down on their couch and cried and cried, with sheer relief and then he laughed, trust Gil to find a way to break the curfew! Man, did he love Gil Grissom.
He still needed to call the doctor at eleven, but he would do so with a lot less trepidation that he'd previously thought.
Gil had woken just after midnight and took a few moments to remember where he was. He felt immeasurably better than he had earlier. The sleep had really refreshed him and he was hungry…he didn’t know what he wanted, just a snack of something. The nurse came in after about two minutes. He surmised that he must be on CCTV and looked around the room and found the likeliest spot for a camera.
“That’s right…that’s the camera.” The nurse was a huge man. Gil thought that he was remarkably light on his feet as were a lot of men of his size and he pondered that for a few moments.
“You okay, need anything?”
“I would really like a shower, and then I would like a sandwich of some sort…maybe cheese and tomato…I don’t suppose that’s very likely in the middle of the night.
“I can try if I ring down to the staff cafeteria they can make one up, if they’ve got the time and the inclination…you never know. I’ll disconnect your IV and cover the port and I’ll remove the Foley…the catheter…you can then take a shower, I have to stay in attendance. I can call down about the sandwich.”
“Can you make the call first and maybe it’ll be here after I've showered.”
“Are you a betting man?”
“Just as well.” The nurse left as quietly as he’d arrived and Gil chuckled. He’d noticed that his name badge said ‘Tiny Thomas’.
Gil lay there waiting for Tiny to reappear. Hospital. A psychiatric unit. Alone, without Nick, for two days. That caused his chest to constrict and he took several deep breaths. He wasn’t stupid - he knew what had happened and that his actions were unreasonable, he had wanted to go and check up on Nick. He’d needed to see him and as he’d gone into the locker room, he’d had the strangest sensation he’d ever felt.
As he was walking towards his locker, he’d felt as if his body was moving but he wasn’t. When Nick had found him Nick had seemed as if he was a long way away from him and although he could feel Nick’s hand it was a touch from long distance. He was there but he wasn’t; Gil shuddered as he recalled the sensation.
But as he lay in the hospital bed, he felt safe. He knew he wouldn’t see Nick for two days but he knew he would be safe and in some strange way he knew he’d get better…he wasn’t prepared to lose after all he…they…had been through.
Tiny came back and smiled. “Your lucky night. One c/t on whole coming up. Shower Mr Grissom.”
“Call me Gil…if you explain ‘Tiny’.”
“I was a small baby, you believe that? Ma and Pa called me ‘Anthony’…and it became ‘Tony’…and when I didn’t stop growing it just became ‘Tiny’.
“I can see that, what are you - six eight?”
“Near enough; and a half. Was gonna play basketball but damaged my ankle and knee in a road accident…so I did the next best thing and became a nurse. Lie back”
“A natural progression.”
“Yeah, pay being the same an’ all.”
“Ouch. I would imagine.”
“So Gil, what do you do?”
“I’m a forensic scientist, specialising in entomology.”
“Lots of shit, usually.”
“Don’t go there, man.”
“You’re a nurse.”
“Up here man. Don’t get so much of that…I’m a squeamish nurse.”
“Right. Remind me not to ask for a bedpan.”
“You got it.”
Tiny had removed the catheter and then the IV line and covered the port in the back of Gil’s left hand. Gil swung his legs over the side of the bed.
“Hey, not so quick there Gil, you’ve been in bed for nearly a day, need to do this slowly and carefully; got it?”
“Yes, thank you.” Gil eased himself to his feet and Tiny supported him around the waist. Gil was in a hospital gown and had pushed his feet into a pair of slippers.
He was surprised at how weak he felt and he would have fallen if Tiny hadn’t hold of him. Perhaps he was sicker than he felt, than he’d imagined he was. He was in a psychiatric unit, he reminded himself. He was locked in; he suddenly wondered if he’d been sectioned. If he could leave of his own free will. Did he have a ‘free will’ left?
As he thought these thoughts, he wondered if Nick would have told him if he’d been sectioned. Perhaps he was, perhaps he was locked in and perhaps Nick would never come back for him. Perhaps.
Suddenly he felt very heavy and he could no longer walk. Tiny was holding him up entirely now and even as he thought these thoughts the tears began. Within seconds, he was holding onto Tiny’s tunic with both fists, sobbing into the soft material.
As if he would never be able to stop.
“Okay Gil, gonna turn you slowly around and we’re gonna head back to your bed and settle you down again and I’ll stay with you. Come on now, easy does it, there.”
It was only a matter of about six feet and Gil shuffled the distance with the support of Tiny. Tiny laid him down in his bed and moved him onto his side. He pulled off the slippers and covered him up with his blankets. He pulled a few tissues from a box on the bedside cupboard and put them into Gil’s hands and then pulled up a chair, sat right by the top of the bed and wrapped an arm around Gil’s shoulders.
He didn’t speak and Gil couldn’t.
Gil was consumed with grief. Nick. His Nick. In a casket, crying, shouting, trying to get out. In bright light. Being eaten alive. His Nick. The screen; every single moment captured, the crying, the shouting, trying to get out, holding a gun.
Holding a gun. Holding a gun. Waiting for him to shoot himself. Waiting. Waiting.
Gil started to gag and heave and Tiny moved quickly, retrieving an emesis bowl kept inside the cupboard. He held Gil as he vomited fluid and bile into the bowl, heaving, trying to vomit, cry and breathe at the same time. He was catching his breath and his tears started to subside a little. Tiny reached for the water and held it for Gil to take a sip.
He took a few sips and then his head fell back against the pillow
“Over the worst?”
“You okay for a minute, I’ll fetch a mouth wash for you and a juice…do you think you could manage that…apple maybe?”
“A cherry soda? I don’t know about that man, I can find out if they’ve got one downstairs. You okay to lie there?”
Gil nodded again. He felt relieved for having cried but embarrassed that it had suddenly overwhelmed him. Why now? He wanted Nick. He started crying again…this time not the wracking sobs, but crying like a child desperate to be loved and comforted. By Nick. He wouldn’t see Nick again for two days…what if he never came back, what if he was kidnapped again? What if he was stalked, what if he was shot? He wanted Nick. He wanted Nick. His Nick. He was crying hard into his pillow. Tiny came back.
“I’m back. Jerry’s gone for her break, she’s gonna look for a cherry soda for you. I bet your Mom used to give you one when you were upset as a kid?”
Gil heard Tiny and shook his head. His Mom gave him a cherry soda if he’d been a good boy, not if he was upset…he didn’t get upset that much…not like now. His Dad died and left him. His Mom died and left him. He only had Nick left. What if Nick left him? What if Nick died?
“You got cherry soda for something though, didn’t you?”
“Mmmm. Good boy…for being a good boy.” Why the fuck was he telling a complete stranger about his childhood treat?
“Yeah…well let’s hope Jerry can find one for you. A bit of comfort, eh? We can all do with that.”
Gil was feeling calmer. He wished Nick was with him, but he was feeling a little more rational. Nick would be at work. He’d go in because they’d be two men down otherwise and he always thought about others. That was Nick. His Nick.
The tears started again. He thought now that he knew why. He didn’t cry. Well, he rarely cried. They were all bottled up waiting to flood out. In private, Nick cried all the time. He cried at TV shows and films and some music that Gil listened to that he said sounded sad and he cried when they made love, when he was happy.
He said he’d always been a ‘cry baby’. It’d seemed okay when he was a little boy, because his Momma and his nurse and his five sisters all made such a fuss over him. But, he’d had a nasty shock when he’d gone to school and the teacher had told him off for being such a cry baby when he couldn’t play with a toy soldier that…Petey...that was the boy’s name, Nick had said, Petey had been playing with the toy and Nick wanted it and he was used to getting his own way, but that was the end of that…and Nick had learned a very early lesson. Don’t cry at school; boys didn’t cry in public. So he didn’t.
Nick cried in that casket. He didn’t know everyone was looking at him. Gil couldn’t cry. He didn't dare cry. He would never have stopped...and now that he had started crying...he couldn’t stop.
Tiny was sitting in the chair next to the bed; actually, normally, Gil would have thought he was invading his personal space, but right now he was really glad of the physical closeness, he found it comforting, in the absence of his Nicky. Gil chuckled through his tears as he thought of Nick. Nick would be crying with him, he had no doubt of that, he could empathise at the drop of a hat...but once again, the thought of Nick brought him more tears.
Hiccoughing through tears he asked Tiny. "Have I been...sectioned...have I got to...got to...stay here?"
"Good Lord, Gil, no, of course you haven't...obviously the good Dr Bennett would like you to stay and see your treatment plan through, but if you really want to go, you can. Do you?"
"Not exactly. If I haven't been sectioned I guess I'll stay, but if I'd been sectioned...I think I'd be...what did Nick say...'throwing my toys out of the playpen'."
"Now you don't strike me as being that kind of guy."
"I don't think I am...well, not normally...but then this isn't...I'm not...normal, am I?"
"What is normal? Who knows? I don't, that's for sure."
"I think that's a fair point."
"Thank you...I thought so."
There was a knock at the door and a young woman put her head around the door. "Cherry soda and c/t on whole?"
"That's us, Jerry. Thanks." She deposited a paper plate with the sandwich and the bottled soda on the bedside cupboard and left them alone again.
"Still want your sandwich, Gil?"
"I don't think I could...sorry after all the trouble you went to...but the soda...could I just take a sip...it's been years, you know, many years, since I last had a cherry soda."
"Go ahead. Use your water glass. Here." Tiny opened the bottle and just poured a little soda into the glass. Gil pushed himself up on one arm and sipped the bright red fizzy drink.
He wrinkled his nose and then chuckled. "Well that's a whole lot sweeter than I remembered, but, you know what? It's really nice and it does remind me of the old times, when I was a boy and times were good. How strange is that...that I should have images like that after all these years and after a sip of a cherry soda."
"It isn't strange at all, I think you've just had a major incident and you want to recall good times and very clearly cherry soda is something you associate with good times and therefore it's made you a little happier."
"Blindingly obvious, isn't it? I am somewhat fascinated by the capacity of the human mind to cope with issues; even my catatonic incident, as you call it, was a coping mechanism...I think...to stop me going into some sort of overload...or, it was the overload, to make me come to terms with it...Nick. Nick coped, perhaps I was afraid that if I let go I wouldn't cope like he did and I would fall apart...I was right."
"Well that's a very good assessment of your situation. There aren't a lot of patients that come in here, Gil, who are able to understand and rationalise like you've just done. It's refreshing and if you don't tell Dr Bennett I said so...I think you're going to be fine."
"I hope so."
"Tell me about Nick."
"Yes. Nick. I wasn't looking for love or commitment. I'd known him for years as my colleague; I was, still am, his supervisor. I always thought of him as one of the most gorgeous young men I'd ever set eyes on. But I was convinced he was straight and I was his boss. So, for years I fancied him but never said a thing and then this one case we were working up in Jackpot...we had to stay overnight and we got to chatting over a beer and he said a few things about himself and then he stopped and became very defensive, flustered, almost...I just had a bit of an epiphany and said, 'Nick, are you gay?', and that, as they say, was that, We fell into bed...not that day but not too many days later and we've been together ever since, although I've tried very hard to drive him away."
"So why do you do that when it sounds like you have a good thing going?"
"Oh, the old story; older, commitment phobe, too beautiful for me...too young...I get in trouble now for calling him young, he's in his mid thirties...and he's on the look out for his first grey hair...wants to be distinguished. He wasn't going to let me push him away, he's tenacious, he looks young and gullible but believe me he's strong...he's got a strength of character that few men possess. How he survived...I don't know...."
Gil lay back on his bed and his tears started again; he wept quietly. Tiny took the glass from him - he'd drunk nearly all the soda - and Gil lay on his side and wept tears for what could have been...but even he had the presence of mind, in his grief, to realise that it hadn't happened. He still had Nick. His Nick. His tears dried up and Tiny handed him the box of tissues for him to clean himself up a little.
"I really could use that shower now, what do you think?"
"We could give it a try. What about the sandwich afterwards?"
"I could give it a try."
And that's what happened. Tiny sat on the seat of the toilet while Gil showered. Gil was okay to dry himself off and felt so much better for the shower, although really it was the release of the tears. When he was settled back in bed in clean pyjamas, his drip re-attached, Tiny handed him the sandwich and he ate it all.
"I reckon we make a good team, you and me, Gil. It's nice to chat to a patient who understands what's happened; no, it's not nice...it's rare. And nice."
"You're welcome. You'll be reporting back to Dr Bennett." It wasn't a question and Tiny knew.
"Of course, I want him to know I've been doing his work for him." Both men laughed. "I'm not actually wrong about that, this is what he's after Gil - what happened, why it happened and stop it happening again." This time both men were sombre.
"I think I know the answers to all of those questions."
"I know you do; just a case of putting it all in perspective and recovering, sounds easy to say and it won't be that easy Gil...but you've got Nick and it sounds to me as if you're one helluva a couple."
Gil looked at Tiny. "You know you could be right Tiny....you could well be right."
Gil settled down in his bed and was droopy eyed and tired. He thought he could well sleep again, even after all the sleep he'd had in the preceding day. It was just after two in the morning and Nick would be at work; diligent and beautiful...his lover. He drifted asleep and Tiny covered him up with his blankets and smiled. He'd got a lot of notes to make about Gil Grissom; Lyndon Bennett may be paid the big bucks, but Anthony 'Tiny' Thomas could do the biz...just the same.
At seven thirty the next morning, Gil's bladder woke him up. Tiny hadn't re-inserted a catheter. But the drip was still attached and Gil used the call button. Tiny came in a few moments later.
"Morning Gil, I'm just finishing up my shift; I wondered if you'd be awake before I left."
"Bladder needs attention; can I go or do I have to fill a bottle?"
"I think you can go; hold on." Tiny disconnected the drip. "I injected your dose of lorazepam, you were sound asleep and I didn’t want to disturb you. Come on. "
He helped Gil get up from the bed and although Gil still felt weak, he felt better than he had five hours ago. He relieved his bladder and then washed his hands and splashed his face. He found his toothbrush and toothpaste and was about to clean his teeth when he realised he may be holding Tiny up.
"Sorry Tiny, you want to go home."
"Got a few minutes, you go ahead. What do you want for breakfast?"
"Not much, I still feel full - that sandwich was good."
"What about toast and juice, with tea; no coffee – banned - drives the inmates wild."
"Not what Dr Bennett would have told me. What time am I down to see him?"
"Eight thirty, he got here a few minutes ago and he's reading my novel as we speak."
"Hope you didn't embellish too much."
"Do you think I should have left out the bit about talking you down from the roof?"
"Very dramatic; the rope burns and stitches in both wrists would have sufficed."
"Jesus, Gil, you'll get me fired; look, I'm on again tonight, I'll see you then, if you're awake...you can tell me how it went today, if you want...?"
"I look forward to it...Tiny, would you do me a big favour?"
"Drugs are a no-no." Tiny laughed.
"No. If I give you Nick's cell number will you call him and tell...tell him I'm okay and that I miss him and love him...can you do that, will you get in trouble...we're not supposed to be in touch for forty eight hours; I suppose that's about thirty five hours now."
"Not that you're counting. Come on then and don't tell Doc Bennett." He gave Gil his note pad and a pen.
Gil wrote the number down and hoped that Tiny would do his errand. It was cheating and Gil Grissom was not a cheater...but these were exceptional times.
"I owe you, Tiny."
"You do and if ever I need an insect identifying, you're the man."
"It's a deal." They laughed and shook hands on it. Gil was back in bed now and back on his drip; and Tiny left him alone.
Gil thought he felt remarkably normal for a man who'd had a mental breakdown twenty four hours ago, no doubt it was the calm before the storm. He fully expected that he would be in tears before the hour was out, as his therapy with the doctor started.
He hoped Nick was okay. But he knew he would be; Nick coped.
He did eat his toast and drank his fruit juice, and at eight twenty five a new nurse came into him. "You need the bathroom before I take you to see Dr Bennett? I can take the drip out now altogether."
"I don't think I do but I'll go freshen up...is that okay?"
"Course it is."
Gil squeezed a little urine from his bladder and then washed his hands and face and then brushed his teeth. He took his time; he was dreading his appointment with 'the doctor'. But he was ready all too soon.
"Will you walk or shall I get a wheelchair?"
"I can walk...I think."
"Come on, hang on my arm."
"Thank you, my dear."
They walked the short distance to the doctor's office and the nurse tapped on the door; she didn't wait for a response just propelled Gil through the door into the presence of Dr Bennett, who stood and waved Gil to a seat by his desk.
"Gil, good morning. Are you okay sitting to the side of me or you can lie down in the recliner if you wish? I want you to be comfortable."
"If you want me to be comfortable, then you should discharge me."
"I know you're not joking. I guess you're apprehensive but I've read Tiny's notes. I believe you made significant progress in the night. Tiny's very good; he's got a way with him; I think he should take that extra step and train as a therapist, he'd get a lot more money for a start. Did he promise to call Nick?"
"I'm pleading the fifth." Gil smiled.
"It's exactly what I would have done - about the call and pleading..."
"I'll take the seat, here." Gil sat down in the first seat offered and fidgeted a bit to make himself comfortable. There was a water pitcher and glass on the desk beside Gil.
"I took the liberty of getting a couple of cherry sodas in and if you want one, just say..." He saw Gil start to blush. "...hey, Gil, take any comfort you can, this is likely to get rough."
"I have ground rules, and I believe you will adhere to them, you seem that kind of guy."
Gil smiled and nodded.
"Please be honest with me, however hard it will be, it won't help YOU, if YOU don't let go. If it gets too much I will know and will ease up, but you must be prepared for the road ahead. As a consolation Gil, I really do think you made some real headway last night. Tiny's notes are comprehensive and I may refer to them or not, let’s see how we go. Don't be afraid, I will catch you if you start to fall and don't be embarrassed; you can tell me anything and it will be absolutely confidential...I won't tell Nick…but I guess you will anyway. I promised Nick, before he left last night, that I would tell you that he said he loved you and that if you do want to stop you can at any time. I hope you don't stop though, Gil."
Another smile and nod from Gil.
"And, for my finale I will say that I have very high hopes of a complete recovery for you...and I can tell you Gil, that I NEVER normally say that my patients; you're only the second person I've said it to and he recovered too. You good to go?"
"Yes. I am very nervous...it was spontaneous with Tiny last night, and you're right about him, he was an enormous help to me...he didn't do much at all...I guess a classic case of 'less is more'?"
"Exactly; you do all the work I'm afraid and I hope to take all the glory. How long have you and Nick been a couple?"
"About four years."
"Tell me about your first kiss."
Gil looked incredulous; this wasn't how he thought it'd start. Dr Bennett raised his eyebrows at Gil's look and Gil chuckled and shook his head, in for a penny...
"We were in Nick's condo...we'd been on our first date and Nick had invited me in for, 'a coffee', and he really did serve me one...and I laughed and he was hurt. I took him by the shoulders and kissed his lips. They were warm and soft and yet unyielding in that way that men's kisses tend to be...makes me prefer them to the kisses of a woman. I was pretty much hooked before the kiss but during...and after...that was it, really."
"When did you know that you loved him?"
"Oh, that night I think...on my way home in my truck...it struck me that 'this was it'; quite a revelation really."
"Had you made love after the kiss?"
"NO! After that kiss I made my excuses and left, almost immediately."
"Wasn't Nick upset?"
"He laughed at me, actually." Gil laughed a small laugh as he remembered his fright and flight, and Nick's calm and happy demeanour. "He said to me, 'you've had a taste and you'll be back'; of course, he was right and I was...I couldn't stay away from him..."
"So when did you start to think you weren't the right man for him?"
"It wasn't so much that I was the wrong man...the whole situation seemed wrong. I was, I am, fifteen years older and he was so...beautiful, and had the whole world to choose from, why would he want me?"
"Do you suffer from low self esteem?
"I wouldn't say so...I think people generally think I'm a ‘know it all’...it's just that Nick was so...is...so wonderful. I couldn't imagine that someone so young and...But he did...he was tenacious. I used that word last night with Tiny and it's the right word...he wouldn't let me go, he wanted me and he was determined to keep me...regardless of what shit I threw at him..."
"I wouldn't turn up at the right time; I sometimes didn't turn up at all. I told him to leave me...I told him to go and he wouldn't, he was always there...until he was almost living with me and I forgot to ask him to go and I always kept my dates with him. He just became part of me...and I couldn't lose him and we were so good together and then he was fucking abducted...for the first time in my life I could have killed a man...with my bare hands and I couldn't because that fucking bastard killed himself and left just a camera image of Nick...
"...he was so frightened in that coffin...box...coffin...and I couldn't touch him or talk to him...and he cried and spoke to me on a tape...and I sat there and watched and didn't have any emotion...dry eyed when the man I loved with all my heart and soul was dying before my very eyes...and I couldn't do anything...he was being taken away from me...moment by moment as penance for trying to push him away from me...it was my fault. If I hadn't loved him he would have been okay...it was all my fault...he was so beautiful...and I loved him so much, too much..."
The tears had been rolling down his cheeks for a few minutes but he suddenly started sobbing as he had in the night. Lyndon Bennett was somewhat taken aback; it had been far too easy, Tiny had been spot on. He'd said in his notes that his wound was gaping open just under the surface and he would break quickly and totally. All Dr Bennett had to do was start with Nick. Tiny was good, there was no denying that fact.
Gil's head was down in his hands and he passed the tissue box to him and he spoke softly.
"How did you love someone too much, Gil?"
"I...if I hadn't loved him...he wouldn't have...been taken."
"How did he get the assignment?"
"He flipped a coin."
"Did you do that?"
"So how did you loving him cause his kidnapping?"
"Because I'd spent so much time trying to push him away that when he'd stayed...he had to be taken from me...punishment...my punishment. My fault."
"Right; I need to understand this a bit more Gil, explain it to me again."
"I had spent nearly a year pushing, pushing him...but he always stayed with me, always said that we were meant to be...until I believed him and we were together..."
"For how long, again?"
"Four years...we've been a couple for four years..."
"So you spent the first year trying to get him to leave you and then you were together for three years - approximately - and then he was kidnapped and it was your fault?"
"YES...no...I don't know...it was my fault...why else was he taken from me?"
"Tell me again, I'm still unsure."
"I've told you...it was my fault because I tried to get him to leave and he wouldn't, so in the end someone took him from me anyway."
"Did you know the kidnapper?"
"So how did he know to take Nick?"
"Because...because...it was my fault."
"How was it, tell me again?"
"I'VE TOLD YOU." Gil shouted at the top of his voice.
"Yes, you have, but I want you to tell me again because I'm having difficulty understanding the...rationale."
"Oh, for fuck's sake. I tried and tried to get Nicky to leave me...and he wouldn't...do you get that?"
"Yes I do. Go on."
"For a year...and then he was kidnapped after we were together and so happy and I loved him and he loved me and Walter Gordon kidnapped him..."
"Did you know this Gordon man?"
"NO...I said I didn't..."
"NO...no one knew him...he selected him at random..."
"Nick was randomly targeted...I knew that."
"Yes, I did...it was absolutely random...it could have been Warrick or Nick...or even Catherine...but it was Nick because he lost the flip of a coin with Warrick."
"So why did you think it was because you needed to be punished?"
"I've no idea."
"Then I think, Gil, we need to find out, don't you?"
"Yes...if I must...sorry about..."
"…don't be...a good exchange. Take a rest, drink?"
"I wouldn't mind a brandy."
"I bet. Sorry. A cherry soda?"
"Why not? Yes, I'd like that."
"Can you see what I'm getting at here, Gil?"
"Oh, yes. It's weird because I know the truth and the reasoning and yet my mind has built up a separate reason entirely...I suppose some sort of coping mechanism...and I just need to remember the real reason and get rid of my own delusional reason, I think."
"Well, now I have to ask myself if I'm really necessary. I'm only joking, because I'm acting as a catalyst...steering you in the right direction. Making you see the real reason; these next two days you really will break the back of it and I'll see you at regular intervals as a safety precaution. It’ll keep you on track, and I’ll keep you on the lorazepam for a couple of months, at least."
"Will I have another catatonic....episode?"
"You've had one and I'd never rule it out, but in my professional opinion it's very unlikely, because we're already dealing with the reason for it and we're going to do so for at least another hour this morning and then this afternoon; maybe even this evening and again tomorrow. This intensive stuff is going to be hard on you Gil, there’s no two ways about that, but you are the kind of man that will ultimately benefit from it, get it done and over with."
"You're right...I can see that if I was doing this week by week I think that'd drive me mad...well, additionally mad."
The doctor laughed. "You're not going to believe it Gil, but you're one of my saner, more sensible patients, but don't tell anyone."
"You got it."
"What did you feel looking at Nick on that monitor?"
And just like that Gil was back in the lab looking at Nick writhe in agony as he was bitten nearly to death.
"Cold and useless...sick, helpless...so in love...the pain...I wanted to be there instead of him to take away his pain and I couldn't do anything...I just watched like it was the news. Pretended it wasn't happening to him...it was someone else...but it wasn't...it was him and I was fucking useless...I couldn't help him...I couldn't even tell him I was sorry..."
"…why were you sorry?"
"Sorry? That it was him and not me; sorry that I couldn't take his pain away; sorry...that I had tried to get him to leave me and now he was going to leave me and I'd be sorry then...sorry that I hadn't got the guts to finish with him properly...I always left the ball in his court..."
"So he'd come back to you?".
"Yes...so he'd always come back...and he did...always.”
"They were only half hearted attempts then, did you really want to be rid of him or were you testing him?"
"Testing him. To give him the chance to leave you but expecting him to stay so that if he actually did leave you could say it was you who told him to go...not him leaving you?"
"I...no...no...I didn't…I did...that's what I did...I didn't ever want him to leave...but I thought he would tire of me...so I gave him a get out of jail free card...and I could have said I ended it...not him...I was being a fucking hypocrite."
"No; just a typical self-preservation technique, sub-consciously, just in case he really didn't want you, but he did, didn't he?"
"Yes...he did...whatever I did he wouldn't let go, let me go...he said...yesterday...that he wasn't an 'obsessive limpet', but he is a limpet isn't he...my limpet." Gil smiled as he recollected Nick's admonishment of the doctor.
"Yes, and I read him wrong; like you say, he's tenacious."
"He has such inner strength and I underestimate him...no scratch that...everyone underestimates him...he is strong...he's my strength...he is my...my life."
"Did you think your life would end if Nick's did?"
"Yes...of course...I don't know about death...suicide...but my life would have been empty...I wouldn't have been able to continue...perhaps I would have killed myself...I don't know...that's what Nick said...about it..."
"…what did he say?"
"That nobody knows how they'll react to any situation until it happens...he lived...he didn't kill himself."
"What do you mean?"
"He didn't kill himself in the coffin...he had a gun, a loaded gun."
"Yes, so the kidnapper gave him an option to end his life if he couldn't wait it out, or until the oxygen ran out?"
"Exactly...Nick had the gun...he didn't use it...he said he nearly had but he held on for me...to find him..."
"Right. Would you have used the gun if you'd been in Nick's position?"
Gil looked at Dr Bennett...and he knew, as the doctor knew, that they'd just arrived at the crux of the matter. He opened his mouth to speak and then closed it; he couldn't speak.
"Let's finish this morning on that, shall we? Go and have some rest Gil and try to eat something if you can and try not to dwell too much on what we've said and where we're going. I must say that you have made giant leaps this morning. You know some people take months to reach this level of awareness and some never do, so look on this positively. Nick is calling me at eleven and I wasn't going to tell you, but as a treat do you want to leave a message?"
Gil actually grinned. "A cherry soda message."
"A cherry soda message."
"I miss him...I love him...don't forget to feed Cleopatra and the girls...I love him, basically..."
"Racing cockroaches; he won't forget to feed them...he always remembers to do everything."
"I wish I hadn't asked. Couldn't you just have a dog?"
"Poor thing would be neglected; we work a lot of hours. Cockroaches amuse themselves...tell jokes...make up stories..."
"...do I have to add 'delusional' to your notes, Dr Doolittle?"
"No...they just talk among themselves...they don't include me."
"Fair enough! I'll get a nurse to take you to your room; good session Gil - a good session." He pressed a button and a few moments later a young man entered.
"Please take Gil back to his room, to be back here for two thirty this afternoon. Later Gil."
"Thank you doctor...don't forget to tell Nick."
Lyndon Bennett sat back in his chair; if only all his cases were as straightforward...he'd get less headaches.
At eleven, on the dot, his cell rang. "Lyndon Bennett."
"Dr Bennett. Nick Stokes; how's Gil?"
"We've had a very good session this morning Nick and let me tell you he's an exceptional subject and also let me break my own rules. He says to tell you he misses you and he loves you and don't forget to feed the girls....Cleopatra and the girls."
"I haven't forgotten." Nick laughed.
"He said you wouldn't have. He really is doing much better than I anticipated, but you knew he was okay anyway."
"Gil pleaded the fifth, but I guessed he would get someone to call you...I'm okay about it, don't worry."
"Worry about what, Doc?"
"Nothing at all Nick, nothing at all. Call again at six, that's if you want to."
Gil lay back on his bed; he did feel tired, drained....but funnily enough, considering all his emotional turmoil, he felt calm, he needed all this - he could acknowledge that. The catatonic state had actually scared the shit out of him. He would do anything at all to prevent another one ever happening...he could still hear Nick's panicked voice as he tried to rouse him. He also knew what had caused it...directly...that Nick was out of the lab on his own, for the first time since THAT night. Even though the uniform was with him he was out of Gil's sight and out of his touch. He remembered walking to the locker room convinced that he would never see Nick again...alive...again...
But, indirectly? He thought he knew the answer to that too; he'd say so to the doctor in his afternoon session. No reason to prolong the agony, if it was what he thought it was.
Suddenly he was being woken up by a nurse, she had a bowl of chicken and vegetable soup. ‘Did he think he could manage at least some of it?’ He thought he could try and in fact he ate it all; considering the bad press of hospital food, it wasn't too bad.
At twenty-five past two, a nurse came to collect him again. This time he was more eager and had already paid a visit to the bathroom. She walked him to the doctor's office, knocked on the door and let Gil walk straight in. He went to the same chair and sat down once more. Dr Bennett smiled at him and sat back from writing on his laptop.
"Yes. I would like to begin...if I may?"
"Fire away; I bet you have something constructive to say."
"I think I do. I have thought about this morning's session and where you were leading me...by the nose, if you don't mind me saying. I was obviously ripe for the picking." The doctor smiled and Gil continued. "The issue with the catatonia, I believe, was the accumulation of everything...and brought to a head by Nick going out on his own for the first time since the abduction. Now, even though I have accompanied Nick to some of his therapy and spoken about some of my feelings and reactions...it was very much with the emphasis on Nick and what he endured and how he coped and what he needed to do to maintain his recovery...and how I could contribute to that.
"But the real issue became clear to me...well, I think it did anyway, at the end of the session this morning, and it may be the underlying factor in all of this...okay to continue?"
"Please do. I have a feeling about this."
"Nick didn't kill himself in that coffin, though he had the opportunity to do so...he found the gun almost immediately and knew that it was loaded. When he realised his predicament...he was panic stricken and frightened beyond reason...yet he remained...for the most part anyway, calm and sensible. He's told me and his therapist that he believed...until near the end when he started to hallucinate due to the hypoxia...that he truly believed he would be rescued...that I...specifically...me...I would find him...rescue him...save him." Gil's tears were falling silently again, though he was unaware if them.
"It was a team effort...we were all in the right place at the right time to discover the pieces of the puzzle...but while my lover was being eaten alive by fire ants..." Gil saw Dr Bennett wince as he said this. "I was calmly watching his panic stricken behaviour on the screen...his pain, his endurance...and now I know that I was just waiting for him to kill himself...to blow his brains out...because I think...I know that is what I would have done. I would not have waited for Nick, as he waited for me...and I am consumed by that thought...he endured all that...for me...when I couldn't have done it for him.....
“Oh God, how can I ever face him again...knowing that...he did so much for me and I could never have done the same for him...I am not worthy of his love...I have failed him...he should have left me...." Gil was sobbing and rocking back and forwards in his seat holding himself in a hug. He could hardly catch his breath and he was almost wailing with the grief he felt for his own failure to live up to the expectations of his wonderful, beautiful lover.
"Gil, Gil, here..." Dr Bennett tried to hand Gil and wad of tissues, but Gil was too consumed with his feelings to react to the doctor.
"Gil, Gil. Gil; he knows...Nick knows. He knows exactly what you think because he told me...he knows Gil...Nick knows..." Gil was looking at the doctor now, his words registering.
"He...knows? He knows...about me...failing?"
"He knows, because he told me, but he doesn't see it as failure at all. He told me you were consumed by guilt about it, you and...Warrick? You've told him that you thought you might have used the gun and once more, it seems, you've underestimated him.
He told me that he's told you many times that no one knows how they'd react in that situation until - God forbid - it happens to them. He knows you better than you think."
"And he still loves me?"
"Oh, I think I can safely say, Gil Grissom, that your young man just about worships the ground you walk on..."
Gil's shaky recovery faltered at that and his sobs started up again; Dr Bennett mentally kicked himself for the slip up, but then thought 'what the hell, he needs to release all this pent up guilt. A good cry never hurt anyone...too much'.
They sat in their respective seats for a few more minutes. Dr Bennett reflecting on his redundant need to tease the truth from Gil and Gil finally realising that it was okay by Nick, for him to be less than perfect. Dr Bennett may have been a little worried if he could have read Gil's mind at that moment, for Gil was busy giving Nick 'superhero' status; not only surviving the ordeal where others, he, might have given up, but also understanding the feeling of inadequacy that his survival generated within Gil. In Gil's opinion, Nicky Stokes just happened to be the most perfect man on the planet.
As Gil recovered his composure he sat back and heaved a sigh. He looked at Dr Bennett.
"That's it, don't you think?"
"I most certainly do. Don't get me wrong, I think you still have a lot of work to do Gil; but in just a couple of hours you have, almost singlehandedly, arrived at what I – we - both consider to be the heart of the matter. And, whatever you feel about yourself for thinking you could not have endured the ordeal as Nick did, I would beg to differ. Nick is absolutely right, no one knows until it happens to them, no one. In your case I bet you would have done the same as he did, because you wouldn't have been able to leave Nick voluntarily, anymore than he would leave you. I've only known you and Nick for a day, but that's the impression you give. Don't be so hard on yourself Gil...Nick isn't...and he loves you.
"It's easy to say..."
"…yes, but you have said it now and it will get easier for you, believe me, Gil, you have made an enormous leap in just two short sessions. That is incredible and a testament to your generally sound mental health; this has been a nasty blip and you'll be on the lorazepam, like I said, for a few months...they actually take about a month to be fully functional. Go and have a rest now, you deserve it; is there anything else you want to add, before you go?
"You really think I'll make a full recovery?"
"I'd put money on it."
"And Nick knows?"
"He does, and he loves YOU, Gil, as you love him, a rare occurrence, believe me."
"Why did I let it get so bad, I am usually...I don't know...well adjusted?"
"I don't know the answer to that Gil and that is what we are going to explore. I think it is interesting that you spent - was it up to a year - trying to drive Nick away, even though you loved and wanted him; he wouldn't go because it appears to me he knew that you loved and wanted him...an interesting dichotomy. He is a strong willed individual, there's no doubt about that and so are you; perhaps you go so well together because of the way you both are but with differing strengths. We'll see. You okay to go? Do you want another cherry soda?"
"No, I am okay...despite all this...I do feel better."
"You should feel better you've made sense of something that has been troubling you very deeply for some months. I want to see you again tonight, before I go home...just for a follow up session, then again in the morning at least; we'll see how we go."
"Thank you doctor."
"You're welcome; I'll gladly take all the glory for making it better, but it was you who did all the work, and Tiny...he'll be pleased to see you tonight."
"Yes...he's a good guy."
"Off you go then and rest easy, the worst may well be over."
"I hope so."
A nurse appeared at the door and escorted Gil to his room. He was amazed to see that it was after four thirty....he been with Dr Bennett for over two hours and he'd thought it was about half an hour. Only twenty six hours to see Nick...if Nick wanted to see him. 'Gil Grissom...HE DOES!' Gil chuckled to himself...he was just that lucky...Nick did love him.
Gil fell asleep, emotionally drained, but content for the first time in a long time. He’d thought he might buy Nick a little present of something or other, when he got out of here.
Nick called at six o'clock, exactly, just as Dr Bennett expected.
"How's he been this afternoon?"
"I must say, Nick, that he has done really, really well and not because of me - because of his own determination. He is an exceptional man, there's no denying that and very much in love with you. That's the driver for him Nick; getting better for you, and he definitely will, in my humble opinion." The doctor laughed, he never gave out such optimistic prognoses.
"I never doubted it for a minute...well, I did when I found him, but he's got to get better for me, and he will."
"The same as he said. Look I know I said that I wanted to keep you apart for forty eight hours, but he's made such an excellent start; I never imagined we would be at this stage on the first day. In fact, I didn't think we'd really reach it tomorrow either, so come in and see him, he'll be delighted I'm sure...and you?"
There was silence on the 'phone. "Nick?"
"Yeah...that would be really great Doc...thank you."
Lyndon Bennett realised that Nick was so happy at the unexpected reprieve, he was choked up.
"You're welcome. You can come now; he's very tired but I'm sure that won't stop you visiting with him."
"Nothing will stop me, now I've got your go ahead...will I see you?"
"Well, that depends, I did intend to spend a little while longer with him before I went home, if he agrees, and only if he agrees, perhaps you could join us?"
"Whatever is good for Gil, will be good for me."
"Right. I might see you in a little while then."
"See you...and thanks again Doc."
The doctor put the cell down and wondered if his wife loved him that much; not for the first time he wondered if he loved her...at all....
At five minutes to seven, Nick knocked on Gil's door. He'd left almost immediately after speaking to the doctor but had to battle traffic. But here he was and Gil was asleep. He walked over to him; to Nick, Gil looked pale and drawn. He very gently smoothed his hand over Gil's hair and forehead and Gil acknowledged the touch and moved into it and then something made him wake. He looked at Nick and was instantly panic stricken.
"Nick...Nick...oh, Jesus...have I had another catatonic episode...oh God...Nick..."
For a moment Nick was taken aback and then realised as Gil struggled to sit up.
"NO! NO...Gil...it's okay, it's tonight, the first night; the doc said you'd done so well I could come in and surprise you I guess we both forgot that it might be a nasty surprise, if you didn't know. Babe; it's okay, you've impressed him...actually...he said you'd done really, really, well and that you were an exceptional man. He didn't need to tell me that though, 'cause I knew. "
"Oh Nick...I've missed you so much; I love you. Here." Gil held his arms open and Nick sat on the bed and fell into them.
"Babe...I'm sorry that was horrible for you, I didn't think…"
"It's okay; it's fine. As long as you're with me I know I'm going to be fine. Hey, you're here...early...you're here with me." Gil held Nick tightly and stroked his back.
"Do you reckon, babe, that we are, I don't know, co-dependant? We need each other to be complete."
"That's a very good analogy and I think you might well be right. It seems to me that I was only partly functional before you and you have awakened in me...all these emotions...and while this turmoil has been pretty gut wrenching, it's worth every moment for times like this, when I can hold you tight to me...you're not going to leave me are you...ever?"
"Never; don't even say it..."
"…it wasn't really a question, because I know you're not; it was a statement of facts.
"That's okay then. What about the doc, letting me come back early just because you've been a star pupil...how did it go?"
"Well, I can't deny that it was very emotional...I spent a lot of the time in tears...sobbing about it all; it's the abduction, of course, but he thinks there are some underlying issues...trying to drive you away like I did. But what I felt most guilty about and I know we've discussed it...is the fact that I thought I might well have used the gun...if I had been in the…coffin...when you didn't..."
"Yeah, and what did I say...you don't know and what's to say I wouldn't have used it if you'd been a little longer, though the oxygen was running out because I had that strange hallucination."
"I know you've said it to me and you said it to Dr Bennett as well...you guessed what was wrong, didn't you?"
"Not exactly; Doc Robbins said it was probably Post Traumatic…and I fit the pieces together."
"As only you can do; I love you sweetheart , more than I have ever loved anyone, ever, before."
"I know you do and lucky for you, man, I love you right back."
"Good job we got together isn't it...we being just right for one another?"
"It is. The doc...Bennett, that is, has asked if I would join in tonight with a short session but only, babe, only, if you want me to be there, if you don't, that's okay by me..."
"…I would like you to come with me...there isn't anything I can say...or Dr Bennett, that you cannot hear. Did he say why?"
"Right; hey, you, come here, give me a kiss." Although Nick was in his arms and their lips were no more than a few inches apart.
Nick moved his lips up to meet Gil's and their kiss was chaste and sweet, but Gil moved on hand up to cup Nick's cheek and pushed his tongue between Nick's lips; Nick moaned and opened his mouth and their chaste kiss became more; their tongues swirled around each other's...Nick pulled away...
"Gil...I love you...so much."
"I know you do; what about a vacation when I get out of this place?"
"That would be good, hey, what about Hawaii...I've always wanted to go."
"Hawaii it is, then." Gil kissed Nick again and this time they were interrupted by an orderly, bringing a meal. "Sorry about that you guys...do you want a drink?" She addressed Nick.
"No m'am, I'm fine. Thank you."
"It's beef stew and vegetables, are you okay with that?" This was addressed to Gil.
"That's okay...I'll try and eat as much as I can."
"You do that, honey." And off she went.
"You know, all the staff here are really nice...hey, what about Tiny, he called me this morning you know, and the doc knew."
"Yes, he did; Tiny is a great guy, literally, he's a night nurse. I had a bit of a breakdown in the middle of the night and he was really good. Would you believe he's six feet, eight and half inches tall and as gentle as a lamb. Dr Bennett reckons he should train as a therapist..."
"What breakdown in the night?"
"Just a realisation I think, of the catatonic state and what caused it and the thought of losing you...I know you're not lost..."
"Not then and not now; hey, I forgot, I went to work last night and told everyone the bare facts and they all wish you well and send their love. Sara, I think, wants to come to the hospital and sleep with you and turn you straight...do you think I should let her?"
"Yeah...no problem. Everyone?"
"Most of the lab staff, if not all; you are a much loved man, Gil. I don't think you realise just what these guys think of you."
"Geek...bug man...gay guy...the guy who got the prize?"
"Well, I am a prize catch, there's no denying that. No, they like you because you're a likeable man; Gil, you're a good guy."
"A good guy...huh...good when I give you a good fucking?"
"Especially good then and don't get carried away here...come on, eat your dinner."
"Spoilsport, a guy can dream...can't I?"
"Not in the hospital, and especially not in the psych ward...they'll think you're a sex addict and treat you for that...and that would be a shame."
"It would, you're right; you'll have to take care of business yourself, Nick."
"God, I can manage a few days without sex, Gil."
"Really? Are you sure?"
"Yes I am; if I'm not mistaken you're the dirty old man - I'm the innocent toy boy."
"Okay; I'll remember that the next time I hear you begging for me to let you come."
"Gil, eat your dinner and think noble thoughts, think about autopsies."
"Are you implying I'm a necrophiliac?"
"Ugh...no...that's a fetish too far."
Gil was eating his food by this time but the colour had returned to his cheeks and he did look better than he had when Nick woke him up. They always shared this happy banter whenever they were alone, it was how they were together...happy and relaxed; it was also an antidote to work, dealing, as they did, with death and misery almost on a daily basis.
"You’d have thought Sara would have got the message by now."
"I know. What's worse is that she thinks it's a secret and there can't be anyone in the lab who doesn't know. Greg quite likes her you know...I think he'd ask her out if it wasn't for her obsession with you."
"Greg and Sara? I can't see that at all; he's off the wall and she's so...not off the wall."
"That was a profound comment, babe."
"It was, wasn't it? It's the therapy, making me see things in a different perspective."
"Yep. This stew is good...you should learn to cook more, you need to tend to your poor old lover's needs."
"Gil…would you marry me, if we could, in Nevada…you know this civil thing?"
"That's not a very romantic proposal, but of course I would, we could go somewhere where it is legal."
"Yeah; is it legal in Hawaii?"
"Don't know; you could google it."
"I could. That's it then...we're engaged."
"Seems that way."
"Wow; that was easy, I've been stewing over that for weeks."
"Why didn't you ask before?"
"Don't know; I thought you'd think it was a bit stupid...anyway why didn't you?"
"I have no idea; it's not stupid...it's...perfect, absolutely perfect."
"It is, isn't it?"
"I've never been engaged before...oh, I have. There was Louise."
"Louise? Louise? Why haven't I heard about her?"
"Actually, she was the love of my life and I have to tell you, Nick, that I was prepared to leave home for her...we were going to go away together but her mother wasn't very happy about it...and Louise chickened out when she realised she'd have to do without her milk and cookies!"
"Man...you had me going then, so how old were you?"
"I think I was a very mature seven, I was going to provide for her out of my eleven dollars savings."
"Provide for her...hey, maybe I should give up work and you could 'provide' for me."
"You can if you want...you know I would."
"I was joking, man, I couldn't let you go to work on your own Sara would get her claws into you and God knows how many gay men would be chasing your tail - no way!"
"Put like that I think you're being a killjoy. Nick...we're engaged."
"I know...good isn't it?"
"I hope they do the marriage thing in Hawaii; if they don't can we go somewhere that does do it?"
"I think we should."
"You've managed all that stew, you must be getting better."
"I am...nearly all better already. The doctor said I'll have to stay on the lorazepam for a couple of months at least, but it takes a month to kick in...I might ask him if it's worth it...I feel better already and it seems a bit pointless. What do you think?"
"Don't know...doc knows best. Did he say anything about the catatonic state?"
"Not really...except that he thought it wouldn't happen again, now that I've confronted my fears and we can talk about them. I wonder if there is a real problem that I don't know about...you know I spent a lot of time trying to frighten you off...good job you've got staying power."
"Man. Once I got my teeth into you there was no way I was letting go; I said I wasn't an 'obsessive limpet'..."
"…but you are a limpet, at least, I said that to the doctor. Funny how we think the same things."
"Thank you very much."
"I like that you're a limpet, it's a good thing you are.”
The nurse came in just then, followed by an orderly. "Are you ready for your next session, Mr Grissom?"
"Gil. Yes, of course I am and Nick is coming with me."
"That's what the doctor hoped. Come on."
They went to the doctor's office; this time Nick held Gil around the waist. There were seats set side by side for the two men.
"Come in...are you staying Nick?"
"He is." Gil responded.
"This'll be weird...it's always been me having the therapy and Gil supporting me...this is a turnaround."
"Not one that you'll be uncomfortable with though, will you Nick...Gil?"
"Not at all...Nick and I have no secrets...well now that I've told him about Louise, we don't."
"Don't ask Doc...it appears I'm not the love of his life, there was a floozy called Louise, forty odd years ago..."
"That must have come as a shock, Nick?"
"It did, but I'll share with MY therapist and see what she says."
"I think you're reading too much into it Nick...she dumped me on her mother's advice."
Nick laughed and bumped Gil's shoulder with his own...but gently. "So Doc? Why do you want to see us both?"
"Well, I do want to discuss Gil's revelations to me - although he says you know - and the treatment plan. It's funny you mentioned your therapist because I imagine she's built up quite a rapport with you Nick, and maybe even you, Gil, so I was wondering if there would be any mileage in joint sessions. The four of us, not a usual treatment tool, but not unheard of either."
"If you think it would be of benefit, I don't have any trouble at all with it; what about you babe?"
"None...I'm comfortable with Eileen Morris."
"Oh, Eileen, I know her well. Good choice; she's distinguished in the field of PTSD. In fact you may wish to have her as your own therapist after I discharge you."
"No...two specialists are better than one and you'll give us a different perspective...what do you think, Nick?"
"Yeah; I agree with Gil, as I mostly do, of course." He laughed. "Hey Doc, you'll never guess...we've just become engaged...we're gonna do this civil partnership thing just as soon as we can...it'll be good; I might even become a stay at home wife."
"You consider yourself the 'female' in the relationship, Nick?"
"Now hold your horses there, Doc, that was a joke and it doesn't mean anything...so don't jump the gun. Do you want to know who the top is and who's the bottom?"
"Nick!" Gil was incredulous but the doctor laughed.
"That's the sort of thing these psychiatrists like to know babe, to get a handle on the relationship...to see who holds the key position...as it were."
"He's right Gil, as a matter of fact, but will you let me guess you're respective positions?"
"If you must." Gil was somewhat indignant.
"My guess is that you share the honours pretty evenly." Judging by Nick's grin and Gil's scowl, he'd hit the jackpot.
"How did you know, Doc?"
"You seem very evenly balanced and it was a natural progression to assume that you would share the sexual aspect. You are...finely tuned, or maybe finely 'attuned' to each other. It's quite rare I think and congratulations by the way, I think you'll be a perfect married couple - even if you don't get to stay at home, Nick."
"Thanks Doc, you're the first to know...we're going to go on vacation somewhere they allow it."
"That's good. Nick, I wanted to ask your opinion about Gil here; do you feel he has low self esteem?"
Nick looked at the doctor and then at Gil...he smiled at Gil.
"Not at work...he's just about the best in his field and easily the best forensics man at the lab...he knows every job, so from a professional point of view that's a definite 'no'. But, privately. I'm not so sure...he is confident and assured when we go out and between us now, everything is really great...but...he didn't think he was good enough...if that's the right expression, you know he tried his damnedest to get me to leave him...but he never meant it...at least I don't think he did...did you?" He turned to Gil with this question, and Gil was looking at him with amusement.
"Why do I get the feeling Nick Stokes that you've been playing with me...like a cat with a mouse. I thought I was the one with the upper hand and all this time it was you...just leading me...like a lamb to slaughter."
"And didn't you go willingly?"
"I did. You know that old saying, 'there's no fool like an old fool'? Fits me to a 't'...doesn't it."
"You are not old Gil...you are absolutely right for me...okay?"
"Gil? Can I just ask you if you are an only child and if you lost a parent when you were young...or had any issues that might cause you to worry about being 'deserted' or abandoned'?"
"This is getting down to the nitty-gritty isn't it? Yes, I am an only child; I had a very loving mother and father...that is, until I was nine, when my father died suddenly...on the couch in the living room. No one spoke about it to me; he was just dead and gone. My mother was distraught...but wouldn't...couldn't…talk about it to me, although she was able to speak, she was profoundly deaf...and Dad had been the outside lifeline for her...until then, then I suppose it became me. But she got better eventually coming out of her shell and ran a little business to keep us going. But she never spoke of my father again....and I regret not asking her about him.
“I had to look up the records to find out that he had a massive MI and that it was a pre-existing condition...I never even knew that. So, I suppose I was abandoned...in a manner of speaking. Could that be the problem? I was suddenly left and I wanted to guard against it with Nick, giving him every chance to go and leave me before I was...hooked...although it was too late after that first kiss."
Nick had taken one of Gil's hands in both of his, and he lifted it to his lips to kiss the back of the hand.
"It's all so complicated isn't it, with all the family stuff and the undercurrents?"
"I'm the one supposed to making the connections here, gentlemen, you're making me redundant." Dr Bennett was being good natured about this exchange, it was actually good to have a patient who really understood and who wanted to get better and even if Nick was 'the wife', his husband understood him and vice versa..
"But, you're right. I'm not particularly a Freudian or Jungian, but you'd be surprised just how many problems do stem from sexual matters and then from familial issues. Gil, that childhood sense of loss is still with you and here you have a man, whom you love as much as your father, in a different way, of course, but it would be completely plausible for your subconscious to push him away for fear of being hurt...but then when he might be forcibly taken from you, for you to experience - again at a subconscious level - that terrible fear of 'loss'.
"I think it's only because you are actually able to rationalise so well in your normal environment that has kept you in one piece for so long; maybe that you haven't loved as deeply. This is what we have to explore and put to rest, but we're well along that road already. I think we've done more than enough today, so why don't you go back to the room and start planning your wedding? I'll see you, Gil, in the morning and if you call in at eleven again Nick, I'll let you know what time to come and get Gil; he'll definitely be discharged from here tomorrow and we'll arrange the follow up appointments. Okay?"
"I was thinking about the lorazepam, doctor, I feel so much better already and you said that they take about a month to kick in...do you really think they're necessary?"
"Yes, Gil, I do. You do feel better because it's all out in the open but don't forget you did have that catatonic episode, only yesterday, and although I'm sure it will be your first and last...I want you to be able to function normally and we still have a lot of work to do...think of them as a modern day equivalent of cherry soda. They'll give you, and me, a little safety blanket. And don't stop taking them, just because you think you don't need them, I don't tell you how to investigate a murder, so give me a little credit...will you?"
"Right. That's a reasonable request."
"And I'll make sure he takes them."
"I bet you will. Gil, I have to say he does act a bit like a wife doesn't he?"
"You should here him nag me about being tidy about the house...putting my dirty washing in the basket..."
"…ah-ah; but I never have a headache, do I?"
"That's true...you don't."
"So quit moaning and let's get back to your room."
"And watch what you're doing - the rooms have CCTV monitoring."
"No...can't you turn it off?"
"Show a little restraint Nick, I am in the hospital."
"Me...you're telling ME to show....now that does call for some punishment."
"I don't think I need to hear this, gentlemen; until tomorrow."
"Sorry doctor." Nick was reasonably contrite.
Back in Gil's room, Nick settled him in bed. "How do you really feel Gil? Tell me, no bullshit."
"Okay...well, how do I feel? D'you know...I feel a bit stupid..."
"…DON'T say that, it's not stupid at all..."
"…hear me out, you asked how I felt."
"I feel stupid for not recognising my own…I don't know...vulnerability, I suppose. I have been so concerned for you and rightly so, but all the time I knew I had these strange...feelings...that I wouldn't be able to cope, somehow. I suppose because I didn't know exactly what I felt...it was all so alien that I made things up in my mind about why it happened...it was my fault..." Gil put his hand up to stop Nick interrupting again.
"You can say it wasn't my fault and I know, absolutely, that it wasn't...but it didn't stop my mind making up its own rules. I thought they were coping mechanisms, but they weren't, they were 'hiding the truth' mechanisms...and now it looks as if I do have some fairly serious issues about relationships, following my father's death. I really regret not pushing Mom to talk about him; in retrospect it's easy to say, but I think it would have helped us both. But I'm going to sort it all out...I owe it to you..."
Nick was going to interrupt now. "…you owe it to yourself Gil...but I don't want you thinking that you don't do this relationship stuff, because you do, okay you were a bit shaky to start off, but once I'd licked you into shape you've been great; we've been great...together...and that's down to both of us."
"I think you're right; we learn by trial and error and by example and you have been my role model and that's despite all your own problems...God...we're a matching pair. Joint therapy, what an embarrassment for someone who always thought he knew it all."
"You do know it all, you heard what the doc said, you've worked it all out for yourself in double quick time...you’re a regular show off...still."
"You've got a cheek...you know that...with your flash smile and Texan swagger..."
" …I do not swagger!" Nick put on his best Texan twang to deny the accusation.
"Of course you don't. Here Nicky...come give me a hug...oh, God...you don't think we'll have to do group hugs do you?"
"Nope...you're hugging no one but me."
"Thank goodness; I don't think I want to do 'touchy feely', thank you very much."
"You touch and feel me."
"I think that may be entirely different."
"Ain't that the truth! Are you really okay now?"
"I am; I don't really want to take the sedatives...but I'll defer to the doctor, they’re a low dose; like he said I don't like people telling me how to do my job."
"At the risk of repeating myself...'ain't THAT the truth'! Hey...I know what I was going to ask you, what's with the 'cherry soda'?"
"Ah, the cherry soda..."