Nick woke up with a start. He was having a dream that he was still in the box. He took a tentative look around. He was in a hospital room. Warrick was laying on his right side, head on the mattress. There was a soft glow coming from somewhere on his right. There was a soft glow of a florescent light coming from behind his 'fro. Catherine was on his left, she was also sleeping as she sat watch over him. A singular display of flowers with a Mylar balloon sat on the window sill. The sun was coming up. He wondered who had connections with whom in order to get him into a private room. He laughed inwardly because he was too weary to laugh outwardly. That should really be the least of his thoughts, he was lucky to be alive, let alone in a private hospital room. He tried to lift one of his hands, in order to nudge Warrick, his friend for so long, but both Warrick and Catherine had one of his hands as well.

"Hey," he croaked instead to Warrick. The level 3 CSI slowly lifted his head from the hospital sheet, and blinked his green eyes in the ambient light. He took his hand from Nick's grasp and rubbed his eyes and the newly formed crick in his neck from having slept in a sitting position.

"Whoa, hey. . .how you feelin'?" His laid back slang flowed easily from his lips. That's what Nick liked about Warrick. He had a calm, laid back manor that was easy to catch, if you stuck around long enough. Nick smiled.

"Just like new," he drawled. At that moment, Catherine lifted her strawberry-blonde head and mirrored Warrick's actions. She was Warrick's exact opposite. Almost everything was a crisis, but this forced her to put things into perspective and focus. She worked faster than Warrick and him. It could have been her years on the job, but he was sure it was the focus from the pressure she put on herself.

"Oh, thank God." She said in hushed relief.

"You had doubts?" Nick drawled in his southern accent.

"Not at all, it's just, I need to get home and go to sleep." Catherine joked. She figured that after what everyone had been though jokes would be welcome. It got the desired effect. The few of them in the room chuckled softly. Laughter was an excellent form of release.

Nick remembered the ambulance ride. Catherine and Warrick had been the first to react and climbed in to keep him company. Then came the oxygen mask and the antihistamine shots in case of reaction from the fire ants and to help get the swelling down from the bites. Nick passed out from exhaustion on the way. Sleep would never have been attainable in the box, and he never knew the light was the gang checking in on him until later. It was ridiculous to reason it, but there he was, and then of course the creeping, crawling of the ants, and the stinging bites. He knew he'd have nightmares, and sleepless nights coming up. He knew he could work through it, right now he was just glad to be alive.

"Thanks for finding me." Nick said. He never did get a chance, with the urgency of making sure he was alive, there was no time for thanks.

"Are you kidding? You kept us all awake there cowboy. We've all been up since this whole thing began; the entire department, "she elaborated, "No, seriously, we wouldn't have been able to sleep anyway. I'm just glad we found you in time." Tears welled in her eyes.

"Yo man, that should've been me in that box, not you," Warrick said letting the guilt creep over him, he didn't want to let himself think about what happened to Holly Gribbs. He had left her alone so he could run a bet. He had gambled again, this time with Nick. He never knew the consequences would lead to this.

"Hey man, we each face the same risks everyday, it could have been the other scene that was booby-trapped."

"True," Warrick nodded, letting the guilt subside somewhat.

"Hey, Sara and Grissom are outside, I'm going to let them know you're awake. Your parents are on the way." Warrick and Catherine left together, hand in hand Nick noted, Catherine resting her head on Warrick's bicep, her height not allowing for further reach. The brief embrace was over before it began. They paused just before they left, regrouping to exit singularly.

Sara entered followed closely by Grissom. They didn't split up, but instead stood on the same side of the bed, on his right. They were going to make it brief, neither one being very good at expressing emotion in stressful times.

"Hey, Nikki. . ."

"Poncho. . ." The greetings were practically on top of each other, each wanting to say something very badly, but not knowing how.

"I'm glad you're ok," Sara started, "I can't imagine if we didn't. . ." she trailed, unable to finish the thought. Her eyes brimmed with unshed tears.

"But you did," Nick cut off her train of thought.

"Get well soon Nick, the lab needs you," Grissom said. He meant every word. For Grissom, that was saying a lot these days.

"Thanks Grissom, for coming through. I know I disappoint you sometimes-"

"Nick, concentrate on getting well. No apologies, no regrets for things done or not done. You're safe, and you're going to stay that way."

Suddenly the door opened and Mrs. Stokes swiftly entered, coming around the other side of the bed. She didn't say anything. No words were necessary. Instead, she lowered her head to Nick's chest and cried. She lifted her head and put her forehead to Nick's. He was now crying again too. This time, the tears were of relief. Grissom and Sara backed out of the room giving them privacy. It was then they saw Judge Stokes enter quietly and take up the space that they left.

"I'm glad he's going to be okay," Sara quietly confessed to Grissom out in the hall. She took his hand, and made no move to let go. Neither did Grissom.

"Me, too." Grissom quickly agreed. They met up with Catherine and Warrick.

Brass came striding up the hall. He had been and come back with news, seemingly the messenger of the day. He reported Nick found to those that hadn't heard, and had orders to bring back from the Sheriff.

"Everyone go home, and get some sleep. The Sheriff has ordered everyone back on duty, as soon as we are able now that Nick's been found. Take as long as you need within reason. The Sheriff has given us 24 hours. We all have to be rested; there will be a lot of work at the lab to catch up on." Brass passed on the message to the four CSIs standing paired in the hallway.

"I'll see you next shift," he said in farewell and went to check on Nick in his room. Catherine and Warrick departed, but Sara had yet to return Grissom his hand. She was staring blankly ahead, exhaustion long since set in. It was as though she was drawing on whatever little strength Grissom had left to share between them, not that he minded today. Ironically, her grip was quite strong, in fact:

"Sara, my hand is getting numb." He said gently.

"What? Oh. . ." she immediately removed her hand as though she touched something hot.

"Right. See you next shift." She slowly walked down the hall looking at everything as if for the first time, her thoughts were far away. It was as though she wasn't quite aware of herself. Grissom watched her go and began the trip down the hall himself. He went home. He couldn't imagine what the paperwork was going to be like, but he did know one thing: he probably wasn't going to like it.

-FIN-