"I want my Crazy Taxi back."
"You're bringing this up now?" Nick asks groggily. He tries to focus on the blurry shape leaning over him, but mostly, he can only identify him by the hair.
Greg bristles. "I just thought I'd mention it, is all. It's been two months since you borrowed it."
He closes his eyes. There's an odd tingling feeling ghosting across all of his skin, but at least he knows it isn't anything real. "You can have it," Nick says. "Soon as I get out of here."
Greg doesn't respond. Nick can hear his fingers tapping along the arm of his chair, though, and he lets the noise ground him. If he lets himself slip close enough to sleep, he can pretend he's at home, and yesterday never happened. If he slips too far, he'll find himself back underground.
He feels Greg's hand grasp his fingers, careful of the bites, and opens his eyes. The hospital lights are enough to blind him, but every time he asks for them to be turned off he sees flashes of concern. Better to just blink until it doesn't hurt. "Nick?" Greg whispers. His voice catches at the end of his name, and he lets go of his hand and curls himself up in the chair.
Nick swallows. "Yeah?" he says, and his voice is hoarse. If it's silent long enough, he can still hear himself screaming.
"I don't really care about the game," he says, after a moment.
Nick nods and closes his eyes. "I know."
"You've become a media darling," Ecklie tells him the next day. "The press loves you."
Nick doesn't really know what to say to that. Ecklie is standing awkward by the hospital bed, wearing a sly half-grin that clearly shows he'd rather be somewhere else. He's trying, though, and Nick is trying to be grateful. "I heard you were willing to put yourself on the line for me," he whispers. He can speak louder if he wants to, but it still hurts to speak at all.
Ecklie glances away a moment before looking back. "I would have done it for any of you," he says. "You're my responsibility."
Nick smiles tiredly. "You're not a bad guy, Ecklie. We're onto you."
Ecklie clears his throat self-consciously. "Grissom wants you back on his team," he says. "If it's what you want, just say the word and I'll transfer you."
Nick wound the white sheets through his fingers. He wonders if Catherine knows about that, and decides he's not sure what he wants. Being back on night-shift permanently wasn't the most tempting prospect at the moment. Then again, daytime wasn't much better.
"Look," Ecklie says, giving another small smile, "don't worry about it now. You've got a lot of vacation time coming your way to think about it. I want you to take as long as you need."
He clenches his hands into fists, and if not for the barrier of the sheet, his fingernails would have broken the skin of his palms. "I don't need any time at all," Nick says. He files buried alive away with rape, two-story drops and being stalked. He's fine. He isn't going to take it with him.
"Your parents went to the airport to pick up your brother and a couple of your sisters," Warrick tells him, as he reluctantly drops down into the wheelchair. Hospital policy, they had told him, even though he could walk just fine.
"Just a couple of them?" Nick says with a slight laugh. "Did you happen to ask which couple?"
Warrick gives a wry grin as he pushes him out the door. "Sorry, man, I didn't."
"Well, anyway, thanks for springing me," Nick says. "I didn't want to have to wait until they got back at four."
"Anytime," Warrick says, and then pauses for a moment. The wheelchair jerks to a stop, and Warrick doesn't start moving again until Nick glances up. "Although, if you don't mind, I think I've done it enough to last a lifetime."
There's an accusation in Warrick's tone that Nick chooses to ignore. When they reach Warrick's Tahoe, he refuses help up and leans against the door until he's strong enough to open it and get in. They still aren't talking when Warrick pulls out of the parking lot, and he turns on the radio to fill the void.
When the song Outside Chance starts leaking out the speakers, Warrick's hands clench around the steering wheel and he barely stops himself from slamming on the brakes. He hits the power button and the song snaps off.
Nick glances at him curiously. "Hey, man, I like that song," he says tiredly.
Warrick looks straight ahead, his expression unchanging. "Yeah, well I don't."
"I heard you were home--how you doing, Nicky?"
Nick's hand slips up to cover his eyes as he lies back on his couch. He almost loses his grip on the phone and fumbles for it, knocking over the prescription bottle on his coffee table.
"Nicky, you alright?"
"Fine, Brass," he says, but he's out of breath, and he doesn't know why it's all of the sudden so dark. It had to be the middle of the day, but the light streaming through the blinds was faint. "How are things at the station?"
"Good," Brass says, but there's something dark about the way he says it. "Bumped that moron that worked the site with you down to traffic."
He says it almost casually, and Nick has to run it through his mind twice, before it sinks in. "Brass, he didn't do anything wrong."
"He never should have taken his eyes off you," Brass snaps. "It isn't going to happen again. It's happened far too many times already."
Nick sighs. He runs a hand through his hair and notices belatedly that Warrick is in his kitchen, asleep with his head down on his dining table. He doesn't know how he got there. "It doesn't work like that, Brass, and you know it. Things happen, you can't--"
"It's not happening again," Brass interrupts tightly. "I mean that, Nicky."
"Brass--" Nick starts.
"You take care now," he says, and then hangs up.
Catherine looks nervous when he opens the door, and sees her on his front porch. He steps aside, and she walks in without glancing back. Her hands can't seem to stop moving, and Nick closes the door and leans back against it, watching her.
When she finally turns to look at him, she's smiling, but it looks forced. "You look good, Nick," she says.
He smiles back faintly. "The bites are clearing up." She nods, but says nothing else, and Nick's eyes narrow in concern. "Warrick told me," he says, "what you did. Catherine, I don't think I can ever thank you for that."
Catherine's eyes meet his with confusion. "What?" she asks, and then it clicks. "Oh, the money. That didn't work, it was a waste of time."
"I know what it must have cost you," he says quietly. "And I'm not talking about the actual money."
She presses her lips closed and tilts her head back. "We were so damn helpless," she says. "I had to do something."
"I think you're underestimating what you've done," Nick whispers. "All of you. I wouldn't have gotten through that if hadn't known you were looking…"
Catherine closes the distance like it isn't there, wrapping her arms around him and holding in a sob. Nick holds onto her just as tightly, but he hates that she's crying because of him. "So," he says, intent on making her smile, "you really think I'm worth a million dollars?"
"Oh, Nick," Catherine says, holding him tighter and giving a kind of desperate laugh. "You're worth a hell of a lot more than that."
"They're homemade," she tells him. "I made them from scratch."
Nick eyes the bag of cookies dubiously. "You cooked?" he asks, and Sara rolls her eyes and shoves him slightly.
"Don't get used to it," she says. "Sometimes I just need to bake."
Nick threw her a grin and set the bag on his kitchen counter. "Sara Sidle, you are just full of surprises."
Sara's return smile seems to congeal, and she takes a step back, spinning around to stare at the other wall. "This isn't right," she whispers. "God, I…" She runs her hands agitatedly through her hair, fighting a sudden urge to scream.
Nick steps up beside her and grabs her hands, stilling them, forcing her to look at him. "Hey, hey, hey…it's alright, Sara, I'm alright."
"Things aren't...you can't just act like nothing happened, Nick," Sara says, but her voice breaks over the words. "You're supposed to be angry."
Nick tries to act like he doesn't know what she means. "What, with you?"
"With the monster that did this!" she snaps. She feels tears building up, blurring the bottom of her vision. She blinks, thinks of that asshole in little tiny pieces, and lets them dry.
"He's dead, Sara," Nick whispers, releasing her hand. "I'm not."
"I need to see her," Nick says.
Grissom eyes him over the rim of his glasses. "Catherine wants you to meet her and Lindsay for dinner," he says, as though Nick hasn't spoken. "I can drive you, if you want."
"I can drive myself," Nick snaps, harsher than he meant to. "Grissom, I need to see her--whether you help me or not."
Grissom doesn't look at him. He wanders over to Nick's bookshelf, and fingers the spine of each book. "Have you decided yet if you're going to come back to my shift?"
"You're not listening to me, Grissom." Not that Nick blames him that much, since he isn't really listening to Grissom either. They're having two completely separate conversations, but there really isn't anything new about that.
Grissom turns to look at him. "You have to let this go, Nicky. We think she knew about this plan, he went to see her. Visiting her isn't a good idea."
"I didn't say it was a good idea," Nick says, trying to stay firm. "I said I need to see her."
Grissom shakes head. "What you need is to let this go."
"I have," Nick says, turning away.
Grissom stepped up behind him, crowding Nick's newly cherished personal space. "I don't think you have."
Nick tries to pull away, but between Grissom and the wall there really isn't anywhere to go. He can feel his breathing speed up and he lets his head fall back against the wall, and then slips to the floor. He places his head in his hands, but Grissom kneels in front of him and pulls them away, forcing him to meet his eyes. "Let it go," he says. "You're the strongest one of us all, Nicky, I know you can get past this."
Nick watches him for a moment, not believing what he's heard. Grissom believes in him, which was something, but he still doesn't understand him. "I need to see her," he says again.
Grissom glances at the floor a moment, and then nods. "Okay," he says, and Nick pushes to his feet. Grissom doesn't understand that there's nothing left for him to let go of. He doesn't understand that Nick takes nothing with him.