Last chapter, the epilogue. It's been fun, hope you enjoy. I'm kind of sad it's over, but I gotta move on. Oh, and I apologize in advance, I really can't write a good Sara for some reason, her dialogue feels kind of forced, but I tried my best. But at least you still have the final chapter to read of …

Painful Journeys

By Goody

Nick was officially discharged the next day. He had been well enough to go home for awhile, but because of his refusal to leave until Greg's health was ensured they had never bothered with the papers. After waking up awkwardly with his head on Greg's bed, and Greg fast asleep, still sitting up slightly, Nick decided he should leave his friend to rest without him snoring beside him. He tried to escape quietly, but yawned and stretched as he stood, waking up Greg, who had been in a light sleep.

"Morning," Nick greeted, sitting back down and smiling cautiously when he saw Greg's eyes open.

Greg returned the gesture genuinely, and replied lazily, "Hey, you leaving?"

Nick shook his head, "No, I'm here as long as you need me."

But Greg wouldn't have him and shook his head, "I have a feeling you've probably been here long enough. You should go home for awhile, get a shave and some real sleep; no offence, but you look like hell, the seventh layer of." Greg's brow furrowed when he looked at Nick's wrist and saw the hospital bracelet, "Have you even been discharged yet?"

Nick shrugged like it was no big deal, "Not exactly."

"Come on man, go home, I'm fine, you should take care of yourself," Greg implored him.

"How about I stick around until you go back to sleep?" Nick offered.

Greg laughed a little, "That's probably going to be any minute now." He lifted up his arm with the IV, "I think this thing knows when I wake up and just gives me more drugs. Damn thing doesn't even ask if I want them first …"

Greg's voice trailing off at the end was proof enough that the drugs had indeed hit him, as his eyes slowly closed and he was asleep again in seconds.

Nick thought about what Greg said and looked for a mirror, finding one in the room's bathroom. Greg was right, he looked like he'd lost a fight with a gorilla, or a psycho, which he had. He decided it would be a good time to start taking better care of himself so escaped the room quietly, was discharged, then took a cab home, getting a shower, a shave, a good meal and some decent clothes. He had hesitated at the door. He was still jumpy and nervous, especially when he was alone, but it wasn't hard to keep reminding himself that Crane was dead (especially since he was the one who had killed him) so there was nothing to be afraid of.

It felt good to be clean and back in his apartment for awhile; it made him feel more like himself. But he did not stay long. He wasn't really comfortable being alone and he knew Greg wouldn't be when he woke up either. Driving his own car back to the hospital made him feel more in control though, like he was moving on, and he took pride in that.

When he came back Greg was still sleeping and he took his usual spot, but all the activity seemed to have exhausted him and he was soon asleep as well, able to rest easy and take comfort in the reconciliation that had taken place the night before.

A few hours later Greg's door opened a crack. Greg was sitting up in bed, watching TV with the sound down, a snoring Nick in the chair beside him. His pain medication had been reduced so he could stay up longer and be more lucid, which he liked despite the discomfort he was in from his many bruises and injuries. At first he tensed when he saw the door open, wary of any unexpected noises or surprises, but then he recognized Catherine's hair and motioned her in. He also indicated she should be quiet, then pointed to his sleeping companion.

Catherine nodded and came in quietly and Greg smiled to see that it was not just her, but the entire team. He motioned once again for quiet when they were in and they all seemed amused as they gathered around to watch Nick snore.

"Hey Greg, glad you're awake, you gave us all a scare. How are you feeling?" Catherine asked in a whisper as she gave him a hug.

"I'm okay, doc thinks I'll be able to leave in a few days," he answered just as quietly.

Sara pointed at Nick, seemingly debating an idea, "Do you think we should wake him up?"

Greg shook his head, smiling slightly, "No way, he watched me sleep for three days, this is my payback."

Warrick was laughing and trying to keep it quiet, "What did you do to him?"

Greg smiled proudly, "It's a game I made up."

He demonstrated by taking a straw from a pile on the side table and then leaning over to carefully balance it on Nick's wrist. He drew his arm away with a flourish and the straw stayed in place, along with about twenty others that Greg had somehow managed to balance along Nick's shoulders, arms, legs and even behind his ears.

"I've been practicing, I'm building up to trying to get them in his nose," Greg said. His voice was slightly louder than it had been and everyone laughed easily, causing Nick to wake up with a start. He quickly took in where he was and smiled.

"Hey guys … what the hell? … Greg?" Nick asked with amusement as he watched the straws fall from his limbs and onto the floor.

"I got bored," Greg said, his tone even and not really joking. This made Nick meet his eye; there was a look in Greg's gaze that he wanted to make clear now that he was more coherent, it said that they were okay, they could joke and be friends and there would be no barriers between them. It was a look Nick returned with a smile, showing they would be all right, with each other and with what had happened.

It was Sara who broke the brief moment. She cleared her throat loudly to get Nick's attention, and when he looked she made a show of scratching her ear. Nick got the idea and did the same, surprised and a little embarrassed to find a straw behind each of his ears.

Not wanting to get yelled at, Greg turned to Warrick to avoid taking the blame, "Hey, thanks for the poster, I love it. It kind of makes waking up a treat."

"That was pretty much what I was going for, I'm glad you like it," Warrick replied, happy it had made a difference.

"I'm surprised they let you keep it up," Grissom noted, not recalling ever seeing a temporary patient put up decorations before.

"Don't you think that it's been easy. I woke up and a nurse was trying to take it down. I had to take matters into my own hands, it got extreme. I had to threaten her," Greg replied dramatically.

"With what?" Catherine asked.

Greg shrugged, "I have my ways."

Nick huffed, "A bedpan." Greg looked at him in surprise, "The nurse told me on the way in, very scary."

Greg was not put down, "My ways are not everyone's ways, I've accepted that."

Everyone smiled and then Sara stepped forward, "Well, if you liked that then this should go over just as well." And handed him a small wrapped box. He took it excitedly and shook it.

"What is it?" he asked, not moving to open it, but trying to guess as he shook.

"Telling you would kind of defeat the purpose of me wrapping it, wouldn't it?" Sara asked. Greg eyed the professional looking wrapping paper and looked sceptically at Sara. She shrugged nonchalantly, knowing she was caught in her lie. "Okay, it would defeat the purpose of the store clerk wrapping it, happy?"

"Yes. Yes I am. Thank you," Greg said, smiling as he started to tear the paper off, which wasn't an easy task one handed. His dislocated shoulder was hurting pretty badly, but he covered it up well, not wanting his friends to be uncomfortable and also not wanting to be pumped full of meds while they were visiting. The rest of his body was sore too, ribs especially, but he was not willing to complain and just tried not to move a lot instead.

"It's from all of us," Sara added as he unwrapped. When he got to the box underneath he was surprised, but not unpleasantly. It's just, he had expected music.

"A cell phone," he declared, half a statement, half a question.

"Well, we found yours kind of … destroyed, thought you'd need a new one. State of the art, of course," Catherine commented.

"It's not like you can do field work without one," Grissom added, knowing the promise of added field hours would boost Greg's spirits, although they already seemed strangely high.

"Yeah, I guess I forgot I didn't have mine. Thanks, I love it," Greg said then quickly passed it to Warrick to rip out of the case for him so he could play with it.

"You're lucky man, I'm probably going to have to wait a week or two until mine's out of the evidence locker," Nick said, remembering how he had left his behind very early on their day from hell. He was proven wrong though as Grissom pulled a familiar object from his pocket.

"Ask and thou shall receive," he commented.

Nick was surprised but accepted the phone, "Oh, thanks Gris, that's awesome. So, the case is closed then?"

Grissom nodded, "Yep, Nigel Crane's file is officially shut. You can both move on, as far as PD's concerned it's over."

Nick nodded hesitantly, showing little emotion as he was unsure if it would be morbid that he was glad he had killed someone and would pay no consequences. The excited voice behind him didn't give him a chance to contemplate his remorse though and he turned around to watch what was happening behind him.

"Hey, it's got a camera!" Greg exclaimed, hitting buttons furiously to learn how it worked. He pointed the lens outwards, "Sara, smile."

"Don't even think about it, unless you want another broken arm," she warned, putting a hand over her face.

"You wouldn't dare, I'm practically a cripple," he replied, not lowering the phone.

She lowered her hand and her eyes narrowed in mock seriousness, "Try me."

Greg looked contemplative and then slowly lowered the phone, "All right, you win."

Sara relaxed and looked triumphant, but Greg quickly hit a few buttons to turn off the sound and flash and then snapped a picture from below. Warrick suppressed a laugh as he watched over Greg's shoulder as the sneaky labrat quickly put the phone away afterwards, leaving Sara oblivious to what had happened.

The rest of the visit passed by quickly. Everyone's spirits were up with the obvious improvement in Nick and Greg's health, both mentally and physically. The conversation was kept light, work was talked about for awhile, specifically when Nick and Greg could return. Physically they were recovering well, but Ecklie was set on waiting until they passed a psychiatric exam to ensure they were both fit for work after their traumatic ordeal. Grissom didn't mention this just yet, but knew both men would have to face it eventually. The mood remained cheerful throughout the visit, as the team was just happy to be complete once more. No one mentioned Crane or what had happened, and at this point, probably never would. It seemed an unspoken agreement had been reached to work hard to put this behind them all, as though it had never happened, which seemed fine to everyone.

As much as he was enjoying their company though, it was not long until Greg was yawning and was barely able to keep his eyes open, let alone take part in the conversation. The team took this as their cue to leave and let him get some rest, despite Greg's protests that he was fine and wanted them to stay. Nick would have none of it and ushered them out and ordered Greg to sleep. He checkmated this by leaving himself so Greg would have no distractions, and it worked; he was asleep in seconds of their departure.

The team said good-bye in the hall and left one by one until it was just Warrick and Nick.

"He seems to be doing really well," Warrick commented, "I'm guessing you guys talked."

"Yeah, last night. He didn't remember too clearly what had happened, so I told him … everything. And he … accepted it. What I did, what I said. He forgave me and he … thanked me, for trying to help him," Nick said in awe, still shocked by Greg's willingness to forgive what he had seen as such a grave betrayal.

Warrick smiled, beyond happy his friends were healing from their ordeal, "I told you he'd understand, you didn't give him enough credit."

"Just like Crane," Nick mumbled, then looked Warrick in the eye, "I guess none of us really give him enough credit."

Warrick nodded then touched Nick's good shoulder to lead him away, "Come on, I'll give you a drive home."

"Actually I drove myself, but if you want to follow I wouldn't mind some company for a few hours."

In truth, Nick yearned for the company, not looking forward to being alone any time soon. He knew he was covering it well, but he was still jumpy and paranoid every time he walked outside or entered his own home and Warrick's presence would easily distract him, keep him from being scared. His wish was granted as Warrick nodded again.

"Sure, let's go."

Nick smiled in relief as they made their way to the parking lot.

He was alone.

It was dark. There was glass everywhere, blood everywhere, screams in his ears, pain in his body.

He was alone.

Metal glinted in the darkness. Rope, pain, guns, everywhere. So dark, but he could see. So scared, but there was nothing for support, for courage. Just pain.

He was alone.

Footsteps in the dark. Cellphones. Footsteps. Cellphones. Pain! Knife.



He was alone.



Greg was breathing heavily when he realized he was sitting up. He stared ahead, wondering where he was, for a moment only able to see the horrible dream. He felt a hand on his shoulder and spun around quickly, nervous and tense. He saw the hand belonged to Nick, who looked worried, and Greg immediately began to relax, forcing himself to breathe and calm down.

"You okay, man?" Nick asked. He was standing, but leaned over slightly to be at Greg's eye level.

Greg saw a book discarded on the floor and guessed Nick had been reading while he slept. It seemed a thoughtful gesture of Nick just wanting to watch over him, but in truth Nick had been unable to sleep at home, especially alone in the entire house and had come back here, feeling strangely comfortable in the hospital room.

Greg tried to smile as the haunting images washed away in his mind, but he didn't quite make it, "Yeah, I'm fine, thanks. Too much hospital food I guess."

Nick smiled sadly in understanding as he sat back down; they both knew what Greg had dreamt about, but neither wanted to speak about it. Enough had been said for now.

"I hear that stuff can get to you. Did you pull something? Do you need a nurse?" Nick asked, becoming concerned again when he saw the pain lines on Greg's face when he laid back down.

"No, I'm fine, I just moved too fast," Greg explained, placing his good hand over the arm that wore a sling so he wouldn't jostle it further as he moved. Nick still looked concerned so Greg decided to try and distract him. "Hey, I thought we were both gonna sport the look? What happened?"

Nick raised an eyebrow and then followed Greg's eye to his shoulder, which was no longer encased in his sling, "Oh, doc took it off a few hours ago, says I don't need to wear it as long as I'm not doing any lifting or straining myself."

Greg looked at his own sling in disdain, "What about me?" he asked hopefully.

"Sorry, you've got a few weeks; muscles and bone heal a lot slower than a bullet wound apparently. Actually I wanted to thank you for patching me up the way you did back at that house, Dr. Connell said it was pretty much the only reason I didn't get any kind of infection like you," Nick said thankfully.

Greg brushed him off, "No big deal, I didn't have anything better to do." Then he became serious, "Besides, that's what we do isn't it? We help each other."

Nick smiled almost sadly and nodded, "Yeah, yeah we do."

A pause as both reflected and then put it behind them.

"You should get some sleep," Nick suggested.

Greg nodded and laid back down, not having to ask if Nick would be there when he woke up.

The next day Greg was all ready to be discharged. He had healed enough to be allowed to go home as long as someone was there with him, not only to help him around the house, but also to help him cope with the mental difficulties of trying to ease back into his everyday life. Luckily for both of them Nick was recovered enough physically to be that person, and gladly agreed to stay at Greg's place to help any way he could.

When Greg woke up in his hospital bed for what would be the final time, he was not surprised that Nick was already there, but smiled when he saw he was fast asleep in the chair next to him, something Greg had not caught him doing for days. Then an idea struck him and his grin turned mischievous as he reached into the drawer of the bedside table.

Beep beep, beep beep.

Nick awoke with a start and had to grab the arms of the chair to keep from toppling out of it.

"Wha …" he asked sleepily as he fumbled to open his phone as quickly as possible as the ring continued beeping. He hit talk and brought it to his ear. Not wanting to wake Greg, he whispered, "Hello?"


Nick turned around when he heard Greg's voice on the other end and gave the grinning man a look of mock annoyance as he put his phone away.

"You phoned me from two feet away?" Nick questioned, already knowing what the answer would be.

Greg shrugged but did not put his phone down, "I waved but you didn't see. I also got a great pic of you sleeping. Look," he held out the phone, "just a tiny bit of drool."

"Give me that," Nick demanded, trying not to laugh as he lunged for the phone to erase the picture. He didn't question when Greg didn't try to fight as the phone was torn from his hands. Then Nick swiftly hit delete and then whooped in victory, "Ha! It's gone!" as he handed it back.

His victory was short lived and he was not encouraged when Greg looked amused instead of defeated.

"Not really, I emailed it to everyone before you woke up, night and day shift. I only had to hit like three buttons, and zip, it's gone. Don't you love technology?"

Nick looked crestfallen and then looked at the phone; it indeed had internet capabilities, "No, not really, it's too often used for evil, you little creep."

Greg flinched at the name. It wasn't a big deal, it had been said jokingly, but just the words, coming from Nick, brought back intense memories of being back in that horrible house, of the deep sense of betrayal he had felt in those moments.

The mood immediately became sombre as Nick realized too late what he had said, "Geez, Greg, I'm sorry, I'm an idiot. I didn't mean that. I …"

Greg made himself smile, not willing to let these memories ruin what had been a very comfortable friendship before, "No, it's okay. You've called me worse before, and not just, you-know-when. It's cool, I want us to be cool, and not only in the obvious MTV way that I am always cool."

This thankfully made Nick smile, Greg's humor was odd but it worked, "Yeah, we're cool, no problem. So, are you ready to get out of here or what?"

"Definitely," Greg answered immediately, buzzing for a nurse so she could get a doctor who could officially let him out of this healing cage.

It took about an hour to get everything ready and signed and listen to the doctor's instructions for when they got home, but eventually Nick was finally wheeling Greg out the front doors of the hospital and into the sunlight he hadn't seen in over a week. Once they were past the doors Greg slowly stood and got out of the wheelchair, which an orderly took back inside. He stayed like that for a moment, just enjoying being outside and standing on his own two feet. It may have been a little painful but it was freeing.

Nick smiled to see him so happy but had to snap him out of his trance and nudged his good arm, "Come on, I'm parked over here."

"Yeah, I'm coming," Greg replied absently, breathing deeply as he followed Nick stiffly. Nick kept the same pace as Greg, eager to be there if Greg needed anything, but he was doing fine on his own. That is, until they rounded the corner to the parking lot.

Greg immediately froze at the sight of the lines of parked cars. It was ridiculous, he knew. This was a different parking lot, at a hospital, it was the middle of the day and it was above ground. But either way he still could not help flashing back to where their horrific journey had started, the underground parking lot of his building where Crane had abducted them. And as irrational as it seemed to even him, he felt cold terror paralyze him at the thought of going into this parking lot.

Beside him, Nick stopped when he did, and had no trouble reading the expression on his face and empathizing. He had frozen up the same way a few days ago when he pulled in to visit and had been unable to make himself even park in the lot; instead he parked on the road a block away just to avoid using the lot. But he had slowly forced himself to face his fear, to make himself believe that nothing would hurt him, and now he was ready to do the same for Greg.

"Hey man, it's all right. Just a parking lot, nothing special, nothing to worry about. Nothing," Nick emphasized, trying to gently coax Greg to move.

Greg looked up at Nick, trying to believe him, but was ashamed that he was still unable to move, "It's just hard … to get it out of your head."

Nick nodded, understanding, "Yeah, I know, it's all right G, the same thing happened to me. It gets better every time, trust me. You can do this, we both can, little steps okay. I'm right here, Greg. I'll always be right here."

Greg met his eye and saw the sincerity there and believed him. Nick would be there, as he had always been there, and they would both survive this, and heal, with each other's help.

Trusting Nick, Greg took a breath and then took the next step.

The end.

Ah, finished. And so ends my CSI fic. I don't know if I will do another one, I have an idea, but I also have two other fics that I am getting a lot of pressure to finish and I have to take care of those first. I hope you all enjoyed this though, I'm not exactly 100 happy with this ending, but I've never really liked any of my endings, so I'm not going to dwell on it.

Thank you to all my great reviewers for encouraging me, and to those who don't review, I hope you still enjoyed. Bye all, it's been fun, Goody.