Title: Change Is Never Easy (Sequel to One Of Us)

Author: BuffyAngel68

Pairings: Greg/Nick Grissom? (Me to know, you to figure out. Shouldn't be hard)

Rating: PG to PG-13 for a while. Greg and Nick will make it to NC-17 land eventually, but they both have a lot to get through before that happens

Summary: Greg and Nick both face a difficult road to wholeness. The others are doing their best to help, but their own issues keep getting in the way. Meanwhile, Sara is still among the missing. Will she be found before she self-destructs?

-

THE HOSPITAL: EIGHT DAYS LATER

Hitching the backpack higher on his shoulder, Nick rang for the elevator, determinedly pushing aside memories of the scene that had greeted him the day of Greg's second attack. He focused instead on the present and how well the younger man was doing. In fact, Scott Denson was so pleased with his progress that he was allowing Greg to check out a day or two early, as long as someone was with him round-the-clock for the first few days.

As he rode up to the fifth floor, Nick marveled at the change he'd seen in Greg. In a little over a week, he had gone from frailty and silence to overflowing energy and some semblance of a voice, though he tended to push it until it deserted him again, leading Catherine to scold him. He'd never admit it, but once in a while he intentionally weakened his voice just to earn a motherly lecture. The reminder of her caring was a security blanket he clung to in darker moments.

Stepping out of the cab, Nick walked to a bench and set the backpack down. Zipping it open, he rummaged through it briefly to be sure he hadn't forgotten anything, but was careful not to disturb the neatly folded clothing too much. Once he'd reassured himself that his memory hadn't failed on even the smallest point, he closed the bag again, hefted it and moved into Greg's room.

"Hey. It's just me, Greggo. You ready to hit the road?"

Greg, laying flat on his back with one arm thrown over his eyes, lifted the other hand and quickly produced two letters.

NO

Having received a few lessons in the manual alphabet from both Gil and Greg, Nick was now able to interpret the response, but the answer still confused him.

"No? What gives, bud?" he asked gently, dropping the pack and moving into the bedside chair. "Yesterday you couldn't wait to get outta here."

Uncovering his eyes, Greg looked sadly at Nick, sighed and turned to his left so his back was to the other man. Nick, unwilling to let him get away with that, moved to the other chair. "Uh-uh. Talk to me. I can't fix the problem if I don't understand it."

Greg drew and released another deep breath then rasped out an answer.

"Yesterday... it wasn't real. Today I'm... scared."

"I know. After...the world's not the same place. All of a sudden you're wonderin' if everybody you pass on the street is gonna hurt you. For months you walk around with this... tension in your neck an' your shoulders... like your body wants to be ready to fight if it happens again. You check the doors and windows ten times a night, just to make sure nobody broke in durin' that two seconds you weren't on guard..."

Greg gasped quietly.

"Not you..."

"Hell... you were out when I told the story before. Okay... last time, then the subject is closed once and for all. I was... molested by a babysitter when I was nine. I never told anybody until Catherine dragged it outta me about a year ago. Gris I told a few months later an' Warrick found out last week while you were unconscious."

"Why then?"

"Sara."

"What happened?"

"She was talkin' to you like the rest of us didn't exist... like we weren't in the room. From what she said I realized she's a member of the club nobody wants to join... just like I am... and you too, now, I guess."

"God... she okay?"

"We don't know. Warrick tried to talk to her, but she took off. We can't find her."

Greg began to shake and Nick instantly wrapped him up in a hug, holding him tightly.

"The world... sucks." The younger man ground out, burrowing his face into Nick's shoulder.

"Yeah, it does sometimes... it surely does. We still have to go back out in it, though. No matter what, we gotta try again."

"No..."

"Greggo, c'mon... it's gonna be okay. You're not doin this alone. If I have my way you'll never be alone again..."

"Can't go out there... everybody will know..."

"That's what I thought at first. Took me a while to figure out people couldn't see through my skin or read my mind... that they couldn't just look at me an' know what happened."

"It's... too hard..."

"I know... I really do, buddy. You don't have to face any crowds today, I promise. We'll go straight from here to my truck, then to your place and right inside. We'll lock the doors an' close the blinds... you can hide for as long as you need to, okay?"

Eventually, Nick felt a slow nod against his jacket. "Good. I brought some stuff from your apartment. Shampoo, deodorant, shaver... all that. There's some slouch clothes too. You know, no buttons or belt loops. Easy stuff to get on."

"Okay... thanks."

"No problem..."

-

An hour later, with a little help from the nursing staff, Greg had managed to shower, shave and dress in the sweats Nick had brought. By the time he was done, however, he was exhausted, pale and drawn. Nick wrapped an arm around him and walked him back into his room, lowering him to sit on the bed.

"You stay there, okay? I'm gonna go get a wheelchair an' be right back."

"No..." Greg protested, scowling. "No chair."

Nick sat beside him, one arm still curled across his back in support, and spoke gently.

"You've come a long way back in the last week, Greg, I know that. Thing is, you weren't allowed to do much but turn over in bed and sign to Grissom. Takin' a shower an' gettin' dressed may not seem like such a big thing, but it's more than you've done in about half a month. So it took most of the energy you built up. That's nothin' to feel bad about."

"Not a... baby..."

"I know that too. Look, you're gonna be back on your feet an' back at work before the lab knows what hit it, so... let me do this for you now. Let me do what I can... while I can. Please?"

Though his hands clenched the edge of the mattress in frustration, Greg nodded. "Thanks. You feel like waitin' here or comin' with me to get the chair?" Nick asked, hoping that having the option would ease the tension between the two of them.

Smiling faintly, Greg stood, hesitated as he found his balance, then wrapped his own arm around Nick's waist. The older man picked up the nearly empty backpack and they slowly left the room together.

-

45 MINUTES LATER:

As they walked to his door, Greg was still reluctantly accepting physical support from Nick, but slowly beginning to see the advantages. Nick was taller and provided a strong, warm barrier between him and a world that the young man wasn't yet ready to confront.

At the threshold, however, Greg paused while Nick moved inside.

"What is it? You okay, Greg?"

"My place... it's too clean."

"Yeah... about that... I was gonna tell you but I was afraid it might piss you off..."

"You guys were here..."

"Only in the first day or two. Gris thought if they could find out where you went that night they could get a lead on who hurt you, but nothin' turned up. They only touched what they had to. After they finished they cleaned up all the print powder an' put everything back where they found it."

"They... not you?"

"I couldn't. After what you'd already been through... it felt really wrong."

Greg's bewildered expression resettled into a diffuse smile.

"Thanks." He replied, moving into the apartment under his own power. He headed immediately for the couch and dropped onto the cushions with a fatigued sigh. Nick moved around the relatively small space turning on a light or two and then securing and darkening the apartment just as he'd promised. His work done for the moment, he stopped at the corner of the couch.

"You hungry? I had to trash most of what was in the fridge, but I can call out for anything you want..."

"No. Tea..."

"Sure. I can do that. Hang on..."

Nick made two cups of the warm soothing liquid, laced Greg's with a generous dollop of honey and took both back into the living room, easing down onto the sofa beside his friend. The first sip led Greg to close his eyes and made his smile broaden as the rawness in his throat eased.

"Perfect."

"Thank God. I don't drink tea so I wasn't sure if I made it too strong or too weak..."

"It's great."

For a long while the pair sat in contented silence, sipping occasionally, not feeling the need to fill the time with words. When he was finally done, Greg sat forward, placed his cup on the table and produced a genteel yawn.

"Nap time?" Nick asked, chuckling.

Greg nodded.

"How long can you stay?"

"I promised the doc a week. After that... it's up to you. Whatever makes you feel most comfortable I'll go along with."

"Okay. A week... then we'll see." Greg agreed, rising to head for his bedroom

"Sleep sweet, man. I'll be right out here if you need anything."

"Sleep sweet? Never heard that before."

"My mom used to say it when I'd wake up from a nightmare. I was always amazed that she was cool with not knowin' what scared me so bad. I just couldn't say the words..."

At the thought of what terrors might be waiting for him, Greg blanched a little. Instinct was compelling him to dive back into the comfort Nick was so ready and willing to provide, but pride and years of hard won independence made him hold his ground.

"Sleep sweet... I like it."

"It always made it better for me. Maybe it'll work for you too."

"Maybe. You'll be here?"

"Yeah. Right here. Not in this exact spot on this cushion, but..."

"Funny..."

"I thought so. Go get some sleep. If you're ready to eat when you wake up we'll figure somethin' out."

"Food... right. I remember food... clear liquid... comes through an IV line..." Greg mumbled as he shuffled toward his room. Nick laughed and moved into the kitchen to search the cabinets for edibles and begin a shopping list.

-

TBC...