When Catherine stepped into the crime lab, she headed straight for the break-room. Teenage daughters seemed to require more coffee to deal with the older they got. She passed Nick, who was on his phone and frowning, and seemed to be leaving a message for someone as he went in the other direction. Warrick was already seated at the table, finishing what looked like it had been a sandwich of mammoth proportions.
“Hey Cath. What's going on?”
“Not much. Between Lindsay and her school dramas and Grissom taking me to interview Natalie Davis's father and his creepy doll, I'm going to be refilling many more times before the night is out.”
“Any closer to actually finding who she is?”
“Not since I last spoke to Grissom. Hopefully we'll get an update soon. She's not a ghost, she has to be somewhere.”
Nick wandered back in, typing on his phone before sliding it back in his pocket. “Warrick, we've got a DB. You want to drive?”
“Sure. We might get there on time.”
“He's dead, there is no on time.” They left, bickering amiably and Catherine shook her head as Sara strolled in.
“Oh, is there coffee? Is it fresh?”
“Yes, and I have no idea.”
Sara grinned and seemed to decide to risk it. She sat down across from Catherine and was about to take a sip when Grissom rushed across the doorway. Her head cocked and she stood up. It reminded Catherine of a puppy listening for something only it could hear. Sara drifted out to the hallway and Catherine stood up to follow her, watching Grissom turn and spot them.
“Another miniature's been delivered. It was on my desk when I got in.”
“What is it?” Catherine asked. She put her cup down on the nearest surface and followed him to his office.
“I haven't looked at it closely yet. So far it's a car in the desert.” He led them in and shut the door. Catherine peered at the model on the desk. It was a car in the desert, but more accurately an overturned car, crashed and wrecked.
“What's that?” Sara pointed at a moving piece.
“It looks like a... like a hand.” Catherine squinted at the tiny piece moving minutely. Grissom reached into her field of vision with a gloved hand and carefully tried to lift the car. It came up off the base and revealed a figure laying on the ground, pinned under the car, with only it's hand having been visible. Horrifyingly, it wore a CSI vest and they all looked at each other, collectively holding their breaths as Grissom gently picked it up.
“It's Greg!” Sara exhaled. Grissom held it under a lit magnifying glass.
“It is. Catherine, Sara, find Greg. He hasn't shown up for shift yet. I'm going to try and track down Natalie.”
The two women sped out of the office. Sara was already dialling her phone, but her face drew in as she listened, then hung up. “No answer.”
“Maybe he's driving.”
“He has bluetooth.”
“Maybe he's sick. Maybe he got food poisoning or really hungover and is sleeping it off.”
“We'll check with Judy and see if he called in sick.” As they walked, Sara tried dialling him again. “Hey Greg, it's Sara. Call me as soon as you get this. It's important.” She hung up as they reached the front desk.
“Judy, has Greg Sanders called in sick?”
“Greg?” The redhead frowned. “No, he hasn't. Is he okay? He's usually so good about that stuff. I mean, when he ever takes time off. You guys never stop working.”
“Thanks.” Catherine turned to Sara and they started to drift away. “We'll head over to his place and check. Just to be sure.”
“Wait, I don't have his new address.”
“He moved? I thought he was still in that apartment off Dennison.”
“No, he took a day off to move a few months ago. I haven't been by yet. We really do work a lot.” Sara felt a pinch of guilt. She'd been so wrapped up in spending her off-work time with Gil that she hadn't realised how much time had passed.
They headed back to Judy. “Judy, we need Greg's new address. He updated it when he moved, didn't he?”
“He did. But, I don't think I'm allowed to give it to you...” Judy chewed her lip. “It's against the privacy rules.”
“Please, Judy,” Sara put in. “I promise we won't tell anyone how we got it, but it's really important.”
Relenting, Judy copied it off the computer and handed it to them. “Thank you,” Catherine said emphatically and they took off.
Catherine pulled the Denali up behind what Sara assumed was Greg's car in the driveway and slammed her hand on the steering wheel. Sara checked the address in her hand unnecessarily before they climbed out and retrieved their kits, but it was pretty easy to figure out where to start.
Greg's keys lay on the ground beside his cell phone, on the driver's side. Sara already had her camera in hand and started snapping pictures. When she was done, Catherine picked up the phone to bag it. “Eight missed calls. Most recent one is from you” she commented as she slid it into the evidence bag, but held on to the keys. “We might need these to get inside. I doubt Greg would like us bashing the door in.”
Sara nodded and kept photographing, her lips pressed together in a thin line. She and Catherine methodically processed Greg's car and the area around it, taking prints from the door handle and any place the miniature killer might have touched. Catherine bent to inspect a piece of metal glinting in her flashlight's glow and lit up what looked like a barb.
“Is that from a Taser?” Sara asked, taking a photo of it before Catherine picked it up.
“I think it is. That must be how she incapacitated someone much larger than her to get him in her car.”
Finally, they stowed the last of their evidence in the back of the SUV and they looked at each other.
“Should we check the house?” Catherine asked.
“I guess so. We would for anyone else.” They picked up their kits again and headed to the front door. The women looked at the house for a long moment before Catherine tried the keys until she found the right one. They entered together, flashlights on and already sweeping across the room.
“Not quite what I would have pictured,” Catherine commented as their lights revealed a neat living room with a couch, bookshelves and some framed photos on the walls.
“I don't think he's here on his own,” Sara replied, running her flashlight over two coffee cups on the counter and two of the chairs at the kitchen table not so neatly tucked in as the other two.
Catherine drifted down the hallway as Sara gave the living room a proper look. The newspaper sat on the coffee table and was in two piles, sports and entertainment. It shared space with TV Guide and a copy of the latest Forensics Journal. Sara's eye was drawn to the photos on the mantle and bookcase. She had to admit to a certain amount of curiosity about the girl who was up to living with Greg.
She played her flashlight over the pictures. There was one of the whole team over breakfast one morning after shift, another of Greg with what looked like his parents, one of Nick and Greg hanging out at the beach, another one of Nick and Greg with a woman who looked a lot like Nick and three kids that looked like her, and one of Greg with his eyes closed and his face turned into Nick's neck. Nick was looking down at Greg with a soft look on his face and the penny dropped for Sara.
Catherine came back into the living room with a puzzled look on her face. “I've got two sets of men's clothing in the bedroom and absolutely nothing girly in the bathroom. Did you know that Greg wasn't straight?”
Sara shook her head. “No idea. But, I think I know who he's living with.” She held up the photo and Catherine crossed the living room to take it from her.
“Nicky? Our Nick?” She stared at the photo, then up at Sara.
“I guess Greg's not the only who can keep things quiet,” Sara remarked.
“Oh, god, what do we do?” Catherine looked stricken. “How do we tell Nick that Greg's missing? He's still in the field with Warrick, but as soon as he gets back to the lab, someone will tell him and they don't know-.” She looked distressed and Sara felt her stomach lurch. She knew how she'd feel if something happened to Gil.
“We get back to the lab,” Sara said decisively. “There isn't anything evidence-wise in here and we can come back if we need to.” Sara picked up her case and she and Catherine hurried out to the car. Catherine drove like a maniac back to the lab and Sara even briefly considered flicking on the sirens.
They blew through the lab and found Grissom in the layout room, with the latest miniature on the table and the magnification up on a screen.
“Is Nick back?” Catherine asked.
“No, he's still in the field with Warrick.” Grissom gave them a puzzled look. “Did you find anything at Greg's? Any clues?”
“Maybe the barb from a Taser. I'm going to drop it with Hodges and see what he can find on it. Greg's phone, but I don't think that will give us too much.” Catherine put it and the other evidence bags on the layout table.
“Okay, keep going. We're still trying to track Natalie Davis down.” Grissom turned back to the miniature and the two women left him to it.
They lucked out when they found Nick. He was going over some crime scene photos alone in one of the workrooms and he flashed them a grin over his shoulder as they entered.
“To what do I owe the pleasure?” His smile turned puzzled when Sara shut the door behind her and he turned around to lean back on the table.
“Another miniature was delivered to the lab,” Catherine said, trying to ease into it. “This time it's targeting a CSI.”
Nick raised his eyebrows. “Me? Are you serious?” he asked, only half joking.
“No, Nicky.” Catherine took a breath. “It's Greg.” Nick's jaw clenched as she continued. “We found his keys and phone beside his car in his driveway an hour ago.”
Sara saw the muscles in Nick's forearms clench as he gripped the table's edge behind him, but when he spoke, Nick's voice was steady. “Okay. Okay, you tell Warrick and I'll be there as soon as I get these filed.”
Catherine placed a hand on his arm. “Nick, it's okay. If you need some time...”
“Time? Why would I need time? What I need is to get this done so I can help you guys find Greg.” Nick turned back to the photos on the table, his shoulders a hard line.
“How long have you been together?” Sara asked, speaking for the first time.
“Together? What are you talking about?” Nick turned around. The jumble of emotions in his eyes made Sara's heart hurt.
“We were at Greg's house - your house,” she continued. “While we were searching, you know what it's like, we saw the photos, the bedroom...”
“It's okay, Nicky,” Catherine added gently, stroking his shoulder. “We won't tell anyone else if you don't want us to, but we wanted you to hear this in private.”
Sara put her hand on the doorknob and Catherine turned to follow her.
“Three years, nearly,” Nick said from behind them. He turned back to his photos. “We've been together almost three years.”
Catherine's eyes were damp as Sara finally opened the door and they left the layout room.
“We need to find Warrick and then see if Grissom has anything new,” Sara said as they strode down the hallway together.
“I think he's going over the tox and trace for his and Nick's DB. Three years,” Catherine said suddenly, quietly. “Nick and Greg, for three years? How did we never notice it? How did none of us even know they were gay, let alone a couple?” she finished, barely above a fierce whisper.
Sara shrugged. “Greg would have stopped in the lab around then. He'd had the lab accident and then started transitioning into a CSI. Maybe we all just chalked any changes up to that.”
They dropped it as they entered the trace lab to fill Warrick in. He kicked a desk when Catherine told him and promised to join them as soon as he could. Grissom rushed up to them as they rounded the corner back to his office. “We've got it. She works for us.”
“What?” Sara exclaimed.
“She's on the janitorial staff,” Grissom finished. “We found out she had a sister who died, a father who didn't cope and the bleach starts from there,” he told Sara.
Catherine shivered. “Uh, that creepy little doll.”
Grissom looked at her. “What did you say?”
“The doll the father had in his act. I know it probably has a name, but it was creeping me out.”
“Not your little bisque doll.”
“I'm sorry?” Catherine looked at him as he turned and hurried for his office. Sara and Catherine exchanged looks and followed. He was scrolling madly through one of the sites Sara recognised he'd been looking at while making his model of the office. He stopped and pointed to the screen as he picked up the phone. The profile was for Noturlittlebisquedoll.
Brass, Sofia, and two other officers broke Natalie Davis's door open and entered, guns drawn. Sara and Catherine stayed back out in the hall, as per Grissom's very explicit instructions.
“She's going out the window,” they heard Brass call and then the clanging of Sofia and an officer running down the fire escape. Brass came back to the front door. “All yours, ladies. It looks like Natalie had other plans. I'm going to go check on them.” One of the officers stayed put by the door, hand resting on his gun.
Sara and Catherine arrowed in on what looked like Natalie's workstation, ignoring the china dolls that lined the hallway in a creepy display from the door in. She had a well-lit, curving desk with magnifying glasses on stands and extra lights at the ready. There were bits and pieces of models all over the desk and it was also covered with sketches and designs. There were a few sketches of Greg, clearly pinned up for reference near one of the tables.
Catherine sorted through Natalie's vanity and and gave her bed and closet a once over. Sara picked up one of the sketchbooks and paged through it. She was stunned to see herself, with Nick and Greg at a crime scene. It was a good sketch, so detailed she even recalled the scene. A car crash they had been investigating a few weeks back – nothing too big or flashy and she didn't remember it until she saw the picture. She was in the distance of the picture making notes, in the foreground Nick was pointing out something to a crouched down Greg from behind him. Sara remembered Nick leaning over Greg like in the sketch, but she hadn't seen the same angle, hadn't seen the way Nick's fingers rested on the back on Greg's neck and his thumb seemed to be stroking Greg's shoulder.
“Cath.” Sara held up the sketchbook and Catherine came over to take it from her and scan through.
“We might have found our motive. If Natalie saw this and correctly figured out their relationship, this may have been how she decided to take revenge for Ernie Dell. Hurt mine and I'll hurt yours.”
“I guess it's a good thing Warrick's divorced,” Sara said wryly, but her heart raced. Grissom had almost come with her, but instead sent Nick and Greg. If the roles had been reversed...
“What do we do?” Catherine's voice broke into her thoughts. She was holding the sketchbook in one hand and looking at Sara.
“What do you mean? We sort through this mess and hope we find something that helps.”
“No, I mean do we show this to Grissom, make it part of the case? If we do, Nick and Greg's privacy goes out the window. But, can we afford to leave it out?”
Sara exhaled. “Jesus, I don't know.” She thought for a moment, tapping her flashlight absently. “Let's keep searching. See what we turn up and if it helps us make our decision in either direction.”
Catherine nodded. “Well, let's keep looking.”
They dove back in. Catherine examined the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen, while Sara continued sifting through Natalie's desk. She found drawings for the other minitures in various stages of their development and more sketches of Greg. Apparently his hair had given her some trouble, but there was no map with a route and an X marking the spot.
Catherine's phone rang. She answered it and spoke briefly to whoever was on the other end. “They've got Natalie. I'm going to head back to the lab and keep an eye on things and Nick away from her. Keep looking and I'll call you if she gives us anything.” Sara nodded and kept searching as Catherine left. Before she started her car, Catherine gave herself a second to close her eyes and breathe deeply. Then, she headed for the lab.
She was glad she'd followed her instincts when she swung past the break-room just as Nick was leaving. His jaw was clenched, his fists were balled and he looked ready to spit fire.
“Not now, Cath.”
She imposed herself between him and the hallway.“Yes, now. Do you really think you going over there and confronting her will do anything? Do you really think she's going to tell you where Greg is?” She ushered him down the hall and into her office, closing the door. He was tense with suppressed emotion and Catherine's heart broke. “Oh, Nicky. Sit down for a minute.” She sat on the couch and he followed a beat later. He clasped his hands together tightly, resting on his knees and finally let his head drop. Catherine put her hand on his shoulder. “We'll find him, Nick. We found you and we'll find him. No one's working on anything else and we have to trust Jim and Gil to get what they can out of Natalie.”
Her phone rang and she stood up to answer it. Nick leaned back on the couch and tilted his head up to the ceiling until she was done. “That was Grissom. They're coming back and we're going to see what we've got. Layout room, let's go.”
Nick stood. “Thanks, Cath.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “We- we didn't want to tell anyone because we didn't want to mess everything up here, and we- I was afraid of how everyone would react. It seems ridiculous now, but it was a big deal to me. I'm glad you guys know, now; you and Sara. Greg wanted to tell Sara and I didn't want him to. But, for this to happen and you to know... I guess it's nice to know that you reacted the way we hoped you would. Man, he's going to be unbearable...” Nick's throat caught and he swallowed.
Catherine gave in to the impulse she'd been holding off on all night and drew Nick into her arms. He pressed his face into her shoulder and took a deep breath before straightening up. She kissed his cheek and he smiled wanly. “Well, then, let's go.”
Sara dropped a sheaf of papers on the layout table when she walked in, moving to stand on Nick's right side, Catherine already casually staked out on his left. “What I thought was important from Natalie's. Her miniature designs, her sketchbooks and some of the drawings of Greg. And, we found this sketch she drew of you two, at a scene.” She opened the sketchbook and showed Nick the drawing of the car crash. She saw his eyes register the touch on Greg's neck and his jaw clenched again. “We think that might have been how she decided.”
Nick closed the book and looked down at the rest of the drawings, carefully sifting through the loose sheets that had been pinned up around the desk. His fingers traced over Greg's face on one, but he quickly tidied them into a neat pile as Warrick and Sofia walked in.
“Anything?” Warrick asked, and at their head-shakes and Sara's shrug, he sighed mightily. Sofia looked tense and worried and she reached for some of the drawings as if to keep busy. Sara carefully manoeuvred the sketchbooks out of the way and let her pick up the miniature designs and a few of the Greg sketches.
“She really had trouble with his hair,” Sofia commented, trying for a smile.
Grissom came into the room with another folder of pages. “Warrick and I managed to get part of the VIN number off the model car in the miniature. It corresponds with a crash Sara, Greg and Nick covered a few weeks ago. I've got Brass chasing down the scrap yard the car was sent to, but we still don't know what prompted her to take Greg. Why not Nick or Sara, and why not Catherine or Warrick or me?”
Catherine and Sara exchanged looks across Nick. Sara's fingers pressed down on the sketchbook absently before she spoke. “Catherine and I think it might it might be revenge for Ernie Dell. He was her father figure and she would see his death as being our fault. We're a team, hurt one of us, you hurt us all.” She saw Catherine nod at the edge of her vision.
Grissom nodded. “That makes sense. Her own father abandoned her, but with Ernie they had the miniatures together. And, it might have been a case of her picking someone at random. She might have even thought Greg was attractive, young like her.”
“It's not that.”
Sara and Catherine stared at Nick when he spoke up, while Grissom looked puzzled and Warrick and Sofia looked surprised.
“Nick,” Catherine started, but he shook his head.
“No, I'm done with it. I'm not going to lie about it, especially if it keeps us from finding Greg.” Grissom's forehead knitted deeply as Nick took the sketchbook from under Sara's fingers and paged it open to the right picture. He slid it to the centre of the table. “Greg and I have been together for three years. Natalie saw this and that's why she picked Greg; because it hurts more to lose them when you love somebody.”
Catherine immediately put her hand on Nick's back as he kept his eyes studiously on the drawing and Sara seemed to be staring a hole into Grissom. Warrick's look was one of utter shock and Sofia seemed to be mentally reconciling previous information she'd picked up with this. Catherine was going to have to compare notes with her later. Grissom just looked sad.
“Oh, Nicky,” he said. Nick raised his head and looked at Grissom, who looked far from angry, and Catherine knew it wasn't going to be a problem for him.
Grissom's phone rang, shattering the moment and he started before answering it. “Jim? Yes? Okay, we'll get someone there. Yeah, we're on our way.” He hung it up. “The scrap yard towed the real car to Icebox Canyon, and Brass has a rough description of the area. We need someone up in the air with the search and rescue helicopter and everyone else in the cars, now.”
“I'll go up,” Warrick volunteered.
Grissom nodded. “Catherine, take Sofia and one of the SUVs. Sara, you're with me.” Warrick looked at Nick and nodded before leaving. Catherine held up her keys and Sofia nodded.
“Hey, wait, I'm not staying here while you guys go look for Greg,” Nick protested angrily.
“Are you sure you're up to it?” Grissom asked, not unkindly.
“I am. Griss, I need to do something,” he pleaded and Grissom nodded.
“Go with Catherine. We'll meet at the staging point the police have set up and go from there. Radios on and we'll hear if Warrick sees anything.”
They scattered and when Grissom and Sara got in his SUV, he paused for a moment before shifting gears. “All I could think when we saw it was that it wasn't you. I'm sorry it's Greg and I'm sorry for Nick, but I'm so glad it wasn't you.”
Sara covered his hand with hers and smiled softly. “Me too.” He smiled back and pulled out of the parking lot.
Just as they reached the staging point, Warrick radioed in that they'd found the car. Catherine wasn't there yet, but Grissom and Sara jumped back in the Denali and Sara wasn't sure where Grissom had discovered this rally car driver part of himself, but she was more than happy to let him go. When they found the car buried in sand, she didn't even wait for a shovel, she started digging the the sand with her hands, calling Greg's name.
Grissom got a shovel and the officers with them started helping and they managed to unearth Greg's CSI vest. Sara looked at it oddly, not sure if this was good or bad.
“He must have gotten out before the flash flood buried the car. It's unzipped, not torn and none of the straps are torn off, either.” Grissom looked up as Nick, Catherine and Sofia came hurrying down the dune. “We found his vest, and we think it means he got out and started walking,” he summarised quickly, as if to ward off the worry on Nick's face. Nick took the vest from him and Catherine looked out across the desert.
“It's a big desert, Gil,” she said quietly
“And we're not leaving until we find him.” He turned and started scanning the sand like Catherine was. “There! I see footprints! Cath, you get in the car and start driving parallel. Sara and I are going to follow these. We'll leave the car to the police.” Nick followed Catherine and Sofia followed him, and Sara followed Grissom out into the desert.
They walked on, following what they hoped were Greg's footprints. The footprints shuffled and stuttered in places and Sara kept worrying. “He's been out here a long time. No food, no water and it's a hundred degrees. We have to find him soon...”
Grissom took her hand and they kept walking.
In the Denali, Sofia scanned the road ahead while Catherine drove and Nick watched the desert from behind Catherine. Greg's vest sat on the seat beside him and he was resolutely not looking at it, though his fingers stroked over the 'Sanders' embroidered on the chest over and over. Past miles of sand something caught his eye that didn't belong, a flash of something not found in nature.
“Slow down, slow down,” he hollered as it flashed again. 'Cath, stop the car.” She pulled over in the sand and he didn't wait for the car to even stop before he was out and running. His breath burned in his chest and his heart constricted as he finally skidded to a stop beside a scrubby bush and Greg lying under it.
Greg was dirty, scratched and badly sunburnt. He didn't move or open his eyes when Nick called his name. Catherine appeared beside them, a bottle of water in each hand and they began pouring them over Greg's head and upper body.
“Greg, Greg, can you hear me?” Nick emptied his bottle and was stroking Greg's burning forehead. Sofia arrived, carrying another six bottles and he heard her radio in for the medical chopper as Catherine started drenching Greg again. He felt under Greg's jaw and turned to Catherine. “His pulse is so slow, it's hardly there. Greg, can you hear me?” He wrapped his hand around Greg's and took another bottle of water from Catherine.
They continued like that until the helicopter arrived and they strapped Greg onto the stretcher. Nick helped the paramedics get the stretcher into the chopper, then squared his jaw. “I'm coming, too,” he called over the roar of the blades and jumped in as they waved him on. He sat back as the paramedics put an IV in and an oxygen mask on and rested his hand on Greg's ankle as they flew. Halfway there, Greg's eyes flickered open and his heart rate spiked until Nick got into his field of vision. His fingers twitched and Nick couldn't care any more as he reached forward and covered Greg's hand with his own. Greg's heart calmed and his eyes drifted closed again and Nick stayed there until they reached Desert Palms.
The doctors and nurses rushed Greg off and Nick stood to the side and let them. He pulled out his phone and called Catherine. “We're here, he seems okay. Can you stop by my- our house and get something for me? In the drawer of the desk in the office there's an envelope labelled POA – Greg's. Thanks. I'll see you soon.” He hung up and walked back into the hospital to find Greg.
Twenty minutes later Grissom and Sara, both still dusty and hot, rushed up to where Nick was sitting in a waiting room off the ward where Greg was.
“I don't have much information right now,” Nick said, standing up and Sara hugged him fiercely. “He doesn't need any sort of surgery or anything, but they haven't give me much other than that. He opened his eyes on the way over and his heart was beating, but that's about it. I think he's going to be okay.”
Grissom smiled in relief. “That's good.” He paused, and then reached out and patted Nick on the shoulder warmly. “And, I'm happy for you. I'm glad you're happy.” Nick ducked his head, but he smiled at Grissom and the three of them sat down to keep waiting.
Nick's phone rang and he looked at the caller ID. “Hey Addy. Thanks for calling me back. Listen, Greg's had an accident at work. He's okay- No, not like last time. He's going to be fine, but we're at the hospital. I just wanted to let you know. Let me find out more before you and Ted get on a plane. Okay, I promise. As soon as I can.” He smiled. “You too. Bye.” He looked at Grissom and Sara. “Greg's mom. She would have shot me if I hadn't let her know.”
Catherine and Sofia arrived ten minutes later and Catherine handed Nick the envelope he'd asked for. She also hugged Nick soundly and wiped her eyes when she let him go. Sofia hugged him, too and smiled when Catherine sat down on Nick's other side immediately and took his hand in both of hers.
When Warrick arrived a few minutes later, everyone turned to look. He held up his hands in apology. “Sorry, not the doctor. But, Brass is coming in a minute. He wanted to make sure Natalie's booked through properly.” Catherine was watching him sharply as he came to stand in front of Nick and rested a hand on Nick's shoulder. “Hey, how's Greg?”
“From what we can tell, he's going to be all right, but they haven't told us anything else.” Nick still looked a bit wary, like he was waiting for Warrick's delayed reaction to him and Greg.
“That's good.” Warrick poured two cups of coffee and sat down in the chairs across from Nick, handing him one. “I have to ask you, man, and I know I'm not the only one who wants to know.” Nick stiffened as he continued and Sara looked ready to jump in. “Sanders, really? How does that even compute. I mean, he loves Marilyn Manson, for one.”
Nick's relieved smile could have lit up the strip. “Well, for starters, he's not allowed to play it around me.” Everyone chuckled and the tension lifted just in time for the doctor to come in.
Nick stood. “We're his family.”
The doctor's eyes swooped over Warrick, Grissom and Sara. “Related family?”
“I'm Greg's partner. His parents are in San Francisco.”
“I don't know if I can...”
Nick interrupted the doctor with the envelope Catherine had brought. “I have his power of attorney. He'd want them to know, too.”
The doctor looked it over and nodded. “All right. Greg's severely dehydrated and sunburned and he'll need to stay for another day or two. It depends how well he recovers after that point, but he's pretty healthy to start with, so I can't imagine he'd be here much more than that. I wouldn't advise he return to work right away, but again, we'll know more about it when some time has passed.”
“Can we see him?”
“Of course. He's not totally awake and I'd like only two at a time, but it should be fine. I'll take you first, Mr Stokes.”
Nick followed the doctor back and everyone else nearly collapsed with relief. Catherine put her face in her hands and stayed that way, breathing deeply. Sara steepled her hands in front of her face and closed her eyes. She could feel Gil relaxing beside her and could see Sofia's hands unclench from each other. Warrick rubbed his hand over his face and Brass finally burst through the door, his tie long gone and his jacket creased to hell.
“He's going to be fine,” Grissom replied. “Nick's with him now, and then they'll let us see him.”
Brass blew out a breath and wiped his face with his handkerchief. “Natalie Davis is both booked and completely mental. She's gone catatonic and won't speak at all. We'll see how long it lasts. And, what's this I hear about her going for Greg because he's dating Nick?” He looked halfway between complete disbelief and utter scepticism.
“True. Nick said about three years now,” Sara supplied.
“Some things you just never see coming.” Brass shook his head and got up for a cup of coffee.
A nurse came and got Sara, saying Nick had asked for her and Catherine. They followed her to a small single room, where Nick sat beside Greg's bed, holding his left hand between the IVs. His other hand was in a cast over the wrist. Greg's face was red and blistered in some places, as were his arms, but his eyes were half open.
“Hey,” he rasped.
“Hey Greggo,” Sara said softly. “How're you doing?” She came to the other side of the bed and touched his hair gently.
“I feel like shit and I also hear I didn't get to see Grissom's face when Nick told him about us.” He smirked and both women smiled.
“He looked... puzzled,” Sara supplied and Greg smiled.
“Outwitted him, finally.”
Catherine came around and Sara moved over so Catherine could kiss his temple gently. “Also, Lindsay is going to be terribly disappointed she doesn't get to marry you. I think she was holding out hope.”
Greg chuckled, but it turned into a cough and Nick gave him a drink of water. Catherine looked worried and moved toward the door.
“We should let you rest. I know everyone wants to see you, so we'll let them and then you can rest.”
“Okay,” Greg acquiesced, which showed more than anything how he was really feeling. Sara patted his leg one more time and followed Catherine out after she gave Nick a squeeze on the shoulder.
Warrick and Sofia were next. Sofia gave him a gentle hug and told Greg about chasing Natalie down the fire escapes and how possibly less than careful she'd been when catching her. “I'm a woman, too, so I can do that,” she confided with a small smile and Greg grinned.
Warrick leaned over the end of the bed and squeezed Greg's ankle. “I'm so glad you're okay, man. We were pretty worried.”
“Thanks,” Greg said, smiling faintly. “I was a bit worried, too. Also, I think I'm tired of the sun. Nick, can we move to Vancouver? It rains a lot there.”
“You'd be miserable and beg to come back,” Nick replied fondly.
“True. It's not easy to be difficult with someone who knows you inside and out,” he directed at Warrick, testing.
Warrick just smiled. “So true.” Greg seemed to accept that as the right response and smiled back.
“We should let Brass and Grissom in so that Greg can get some sleep,” Sofia said, standing up from the chair on Greg's other side. Warrick nodded and they said their goodbyes. Greg yawned just as Brass and Grissom came in.
“I won't stay long,” Brass said. “Just wanted to see how you were and that you're in one piece.”
“All limbs attached, but I think I lost ten pounds in sweat alone.” Greg grinned.
Brass gripped Nick's shoulder as well, giving him a look that was one cop to a former cop. It said 'I've got your back' and Nick let go of Greg's hand to pat Brass's wrist before Brass let go and headed out of the room.
Grissom took the chair Sofia had vacated. “How are you feeling, Greg?”
“My skin is hot, my tongue still feels like a cotton ball and I'm thirsty. I was stunned and drugged by a crazy girl and put under a car. Plus, my privacy sort of got tossed out the window in the pursuit of great justice. So, pretty awful.”
Grissom smiled faintly. “I'm sorry, about the last especially, but I'm glad we know. We're your friends, Greg, and we just want you to be happy.”
“Thanks,” Greg said and then smirked. “But, all that coming from Mr I'm-in-love-with-Sara-Sidle-and-aren't-telling-anyone?” Nick and Grissom looked at him with matching expressions of shock and Greg laughed until he started coughing. Nick held up the cup of water for him and Greg sipped it out of the straw with a triumphant look on his face.
“And how did you come by this, Greg?” Grissom asked in a measured fashion.
“I have eyes. You bring her lunch sometimes, know how she takes her coffee and have trouble stopping watching her when she walks in a room. Believe me, I know the symptoms.”
Nick chuckled and squeezed Greg's hand as Grissom's look changed to chagrin. “I guess there's no stopping a good CSI,” Grissom said finally. “You won't tell anyone?”
“Of course not,” Greg scoffed and Grissom smiled.
“I'll tell Sara on the way home. I should be going anyway. Nick, take tomorrow off and let us know how Greg's doing. Let me know if you need more time and I'll sort it out.”
Grissom stopped and rested his hand on Nick's shoulder like Brass had. Nick looked up at him and smiled before Grissom left and Nick turned back to Greg. When he got back to the waiting room, Sara was still there, reading a terribly outdated magazine and waiting for him. She stood up and held her hand out to him.
“Let's go home. I'm exhausted and we have work in six hours.”
“Sounds good. I do have something to tell you on the ride home.”