A/N – Thanks to everyone who continues to read the story and send me feedback even though the updates take forever. I'm on holidays now so the next shouldn't be too far away. Thanks once again to Ash and Amorith! Friday - Day 6, 13.23
By midday the team had made slow ground, trekking alongside the river. Nick had made himself a walking stick but his knee still bothered him, making their journey slower and Nick more and more frustrated as the day went on.
When they stopped for an afternoon break, Nick announced that he would hobble on ahead to try and save everyone time. Since Grissom had informed them that they got extra points for getting to the meeting point by a certain time, he'd been intent on keeping up with the rest of the group – no matter how much pain he was in. The fact that Nick's knee was making their progress slower didn't seem to bother any of the rest of the group, and they had convinced him to take the rest with them and eat some food.
"You know what I've really missed?" Greg said as the group sat around a small clearing they'd come across. "Bread."
Warrick and Catherine groaned their agreement loudly.
"Soft, fresh bread," Warrick said, nodding, "And meat. First thing I'm doing when we get home is cooking up some steak."
Sara snorted at the hums of agreement followed by the guilty looks she received as they each remembered she was a vegetarian. "I've been having this craving for potatoes for the last three days," she admitted.
"I can't wait for a shower," Catherine confessed, "And you know, a couple of you could do with one as well." She looked pointedly at Greg who simply nodded and gave her a wink.
The mood of friendly camaraderie continued on into the early evening and later into the night when they had finally decided to stop and set up camp. They were still a fair way from the meeting place and had all but given up hope of earning the extra points from arriving there before noon the next day. Nick had apologized, but the others had waved it off, Grissom telling him they would have been hard pressed to make it even if his knee hadn't been hurt.
"Besides," added Greg, "We've done pretty good as far as stealing treasures is concerned, they'd have to be giving out a hell of a lot of points for any of those other teams to catch up to us now."
They sat around the small campfire they'd once again lit, toasting a surprise packet of marshmallows that Grissom had been saving.
"We've done very well," Grissom agreed modestly as he looked around at the small group of people huddled closely together. Deciding this was the time for his supervisory speech, he cleared his throat and went on. "You should all be very proud of yourselves. I think, even if we don't win this competition, we've all come away from this knowing each other a little better and with a clearer perspective on the things that really matter to us. I know I personally, have realized from being out here and away from civilisation that there are some things that aren't as important as I thought them to be. Likewise, there are other things I've come to realize that are important. Like you guys," he said, swallowing hard before making himself continue. "I know I haven't always been the greatest supervisor in history and that I don't always let you all know how much I appreciate you as talented CSI's, let alone as people. But I do. I think you're the best group of people I've worked with, will ever work with and that each and every one of you is a truly special person. I am privileged to know you."
An excruciatingly painful moment of silence followed for Grissom as the rest of the group tried to digest the compliments he'd given them.
Finally, Nick spoke up. "Wow. Griss…" he laughed, "Thanks man," he leaned over and shook the hand of the now slightly embarrassed Grissom.
Greg followed Nick's lead and shook his hand also, "Thank you," he said, grinning.
Warrick slapped him on the back and handed him the last granola bar.
Grissom looked towards Catherine and Sara. Catherine nodded and smiled her approval at him and he gave her a slight grin in return. Sara was grinning at him also, the emotion in her eyes unable to be masked. They shared a meaningful glance before returning their attention back to the conversation that had started without them.
"So what happens when we arrive tomorrow?" Greg asked as he sipped at his cup of water.
"Well once all the groups have made it there we'll all have a chance of gaining more points for our teams – they were vague about the descriptions of how but I'm expecting both physical and mental challenges," Grissom informed them.
"Physical?" Nick asked slightly apprehensively.
"You'll be fine Nick, and it doesn't matter if we don't win the physical challenges anyway – we're the smartest group here," Sara grinned confidently.
Warrick laughed, "You got that right – but I'll run two times if it comes down to it buddy, you don't need to worry."
Nick grinned at his overly confident friends. He knew they were trying to cheer him up, and the thing he loved most was that it was working. He'd never felt closer to a group of people as he did at that moment.
Next to Sara, Catherine yawned loudly and smirked at the Mexican wave-like effect she produced within the group. Within a minute each of them had yawned at least twice signalling that it was more than time to get some sleep. Sluggishly, the group crawled into their sleeping bags, not even bothering with an overhead tarp, and all fell completely and deeply asleep.
Friday - Day 7, 05.12
They circled the dying glow of the campfire, spying out the sleeping group – oblivious and totally unprepared. Grissom was breathing deeply, heavily. He mumbled something incoherent – in his mind he was telling Sara that it was okay that the clowns didn't want their photographs taken, even though she was convinced it would be just the evidence they needed to convince the jury of the murderer's guilt. In his sleep, he sensed them closing in. They were going to take something away – steal something. Evidence. What case was he working? Where was he? His mind struggled, confused. And then he remembered. He was in Canada, playing a game. An important game. They'd all fallen asleep. Who was watching for spies? Who was protecting their treasures? Wake up, he told himself. You need to wake up now.
Like a drowning man finally breaking the surface of the water, Grissom awoke with a giant gasp and threw himself upright. He struggled to catch his breath, unable to subside the growing panic that raced throughout him. He turned wildly around, trying to see the people who had been spying on his team and then checked to see if the packs had been touched. They hadn't, and there didn't appear to be anyone around. His breathing began to steady and he realized Catherine was waking up next to him.
"What's going on?" She asked sleepily and squinted at him through groggy eyelids.
Grissom scanned the campsite again, reassuring himself that he had only been dreaming. He knew it was illogical, but he still felt like someone was watching them. It was early morning, a blue tinge blanketed their surroundings and the trees stood quiet and still, silhouetted against the early morning sky.
"Grissom?" Catherine asked again, a little more awake.
"We forgot a sentry," he said calmly, "I'll do it."
Catherine studied the man beside her and sighed. He was one of her oldest friends, yet in recent years they had grown so distant toward each other. She felt as if she hardly knew him anymore.
"I'll sit with you," she said and gave him a lopsided grin as he gave her a look of mild surprise.
"What about your beauty sleep?" Grissom asked innocently.
"Do you think I need it?" she asked, silently daring him to put his foot in his mouth.
Grissom smiled smugly to himself – no answer was most definitely the best answer in this situation.
Catherine rolled her eyes at him, but inside she was glad that they still had the ability to banter lightly with each other. It seemed to be a sign that their friendship was not so lost as she secretly feared.
"Besides," Catherine said, "It's almost time to get up anyway. We'll let the others sleep a little bit longer I suppose."
"As if we could," grumbled a muffled voice in the direction of Greg's exhausted frame, "with you two singing songs and dancing around the campfire."
"I'm going to really enjoy going back to sleeping in my own bed, in my own apartment, with absolutely no one else around," Nick mumbled sleepily. "For the first couple of days anyway," he added as an afterthought and heard Warrick snicker beside him.
Grissom raised his eyebrows at Catherine who grinned back at him before turning towards Sara. She poked her and heard a surprised groan in response, "What about you? You awake too?"
Sara opened her eyes and stared at the other woman, "Well if I wasn't before, I certainly am now – what do you do at the gym? Exercise your finger muscles? That hurt!"
Sara, thought Catherine, was most definitely not a morning person. She smiled sweetly at her before sighing dramatically and standing up.
"Well since we're all awake," she announced, "we may as well get up and start going."
Trudging over the forest landscape, Sara walked in step beside Greg, watching Grissom and Nick who were walking in front of them. The group had decided that Nick would set the pace for that day. With his knee feeling only slightly better, they realized that even with their early start they would not arrive at the rendezvous point in time to get the extra points. Grissom and Nick had been speaking in low voices, and Sara guessed that Grissom was using this opportunity to have his 'talk' with the Texan. It reminded her of the talk she'd been having with Greg down by the river a couple of days ago.
"So this person you go and talk to, about the explosion in the lab," she began and saw Greg turn to her in her peripheral vision, "Do you think I should go and talk to them?"
Greg was surprised she'd brought the subject up again yet extremely relieved that she was talking to him at all after his crack about her getting naked the other night. He'd been secretly scared that she'd taken a real offence to it.
"It's entirely up to you, Sara," he said seriously, "Personally I think it's really good to talk to someone about everything. And it's a stranger, and a professional – whatever you say to them, they don't judge you. And they actually help you too," he grinned. "I meant what I said though," he added, "if you don't want to talk to a stranger, you can talk to me. Anytime."
She turned to look at him, touched by the genuine smile he was giving her, and couldn't help but smile back at him.
They continued walking, slowly making progress towards their final destination.