Unbending

A CSI: fanfic by Princess Artemis

© copyright S.D. Green 2005, except what is © copyright CBS, Bruckheimer, Alliance Atlantis, and Zuiker

This marginally follows another CSI: fic of mine, Sun Stealing. Find it at my website or at CSI Forensics. Links are on my author bio page, just click on my name.

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Greg Sanders stood in front of the hospital door, shaking so hard that his friends had expressed concerns that he might hurt himself.

Too late now, he thought. His whole body had been shaking for two days straight. His muscles ached, his joints hurt, and he had repeatedly hit his hands against just about every surface they could find, including his legs and face. He would be carrying a few bruises for a while.

Ever since the paramedics had driven Nick away from Hell's nursery, leaving Sara and Grissom to nearly carry Greg to one of the Denalis, since the ability to walk had, temporarily, deserted him, he had been shaking hard. He had managed to find his feet later, but with how badly his legs shook, he found it easier to shuffle and lean on walls rather than attempt lifting his feet off the floor. When he tried that he listed and reeled like a man drunk; that was, when he didn't fall. The thought occurred to him, in rather an oblique manner, that perhaps he ought to see a neurologist.

Standing in front of a hospital door was no easy task. Getting there had not been easy. Opening the door, however, made all of his previous difficulties feel like tiny bumps in the road. He did want to open the door. He had to. He needed to see if Nick was still there.

But needing and wanting didn't make the door open. He was going to have to stumble his way over there and turn the knob. It scared him, though. He knew the doctors had Nick on a suicide watch, which he understood; it would be madness not to take that precaution. He knew that Nick had arrived here just in time; it had been discovered that he had been stung by fire ants before and had a slight sensitivity to their venom. Multiply that by God knew how many stings; it was only natural he had started to go into anaphylactic shock. It was a miracle he was even alive. If Nick had been a cat, he would have used up at least five of his lives in that horrific twenty-four hours he had spent underground.

Still, knowing and fear didn't get that damned door open. Hissing through chattering teeth, Greg shuffled over to the door, propping himself against a wall while his shivering hands attempted to unravel the mystery of working a doorknob. Why couldn't it have been a handle? That would have been easy, just push down, no attempting to coordinate fingers that refused to cooperate needed. And they really weren't cooperating. He managed to get hold of the knob only to have his hand shake right off it again. He tried both hands, but that didn't quite work either. Greg wanted to shout down the door; he was certain it would be just as effective.

It took him several minutes and more attempts than he cared to count to manage the feat of turning that doorknob. Once he had it, he wasn't risking losing it, so he flung open the door with all his strength and dashed inside before the door could close. Perhaps not his wisest of moves, as he tripped over his feet and landed on his hands and knees inside Nick's room. The door quietly hissed shut and latched, as if no one had just been in pitched battle trying to open it. He should have just asked for help. "D-d-damned door an-n-nyway. I off-f-ficiarry hate doorknobsss," Greg muttered, stuttering. He slurred his words a little as well; it seemed easier to get them past his jaw that way. He learned fast.

Then he looked up, toward Nick, who was sitting on the hospital bed to the right of the door, swinging his legs. Nick's dark eyes were glassy, and every visible inch of him was covered with ant stings, although there were far more of them on his arms and face than on his legs. He gave Greg a weak wave. "Hi," he said, voice soft and worlds away from normal.

"H-h-hiya," Greg replied. "Rearry sp-p-pectacurrar entra-a-nce, don'chu ssink?" he added, crawling toward the bed. It would be much easier to get up if he had something to grab hold of.

Nick didn't say anything.

Shrugging, Greg latched onto the metal bars of the hospital bed and prayed the thing wasn't on wheels. His slow assent might have been painful to watch if anyone had been there to see it that was capable of feeling much pain. Or much more pain, rather. Nick stood up, possibly because his seat had become somewhat unstable with a shivering Greg climbing it like a drowned spider trying to get out of water.

A short time later, but by Greg's count, far too long, he had managed to get his shaking body in an upright position again. While holding onto one of the rails with a death grip, he turned to look at Nick. He turned away fast, staring at nothing just over Nick's left shoulder. He couldn't look at his friend's expressionless face. It hurt too much. Just by appearances, Nick's body was there, but Nick wasn't. That wasn't what Greg had come to see, but he had honestly feared it might be so.

"Whhhy shouldn'tee be?" Greg asked the air. "G-g-got everrry right..."

"Right what?" Nick asked, voice still quiet and void.

Speaking as if to himself, Greg answered, "Y-you've got everry r-r-right t-t-o be annnywhere but here. W-why not?"

Nick didn't respond to that, and he didn't move.

Greg glanced at Nick, then returned his gaze to nothing. He was fighting tears, had been fighting them for days. Sometimes he gave in, but almost never when anyone was around. It wasn't that he was ashamed of tears; it was that he never wanted to inflict his unhappiness on anyone else if he could help it. Fortunately, he was so very rarely unhappy enough to cry that it didn't matter much. Perhaps later, when he thought she had fewer of her own unshed tears, he might feel comfortable crying in front of Sara. A few days ago, if the occasion demanded it, he wouldn't have hesitated to cry in front of Nick. But that was a few days ago; life had changed a lot since then.

He flicked his gaze at Nick again, for an instant. Maybe life hadn't changed as much as he thought. Maybe he just needed to give a little, make things a little more normal. Still pointedly looking at nothing, Greg raised a tentative, shaking arm. Then, with great care and deliberation, he set his hand on Nick's chest. It was a relief to feel a strong heartbeat there, when the rest of Nick looked so lifeless. A little more normal, with a twist, since Greg was not the one who touched people; it was the other way around. "S-s-some's stirr zerr, zere's d-dat at at at r-r-reasst, mm, llleast." Wasn't helping his shaking any, though. Nick alive wasn't enough.

Out of the corner of his eye, Greg saw Nick look down at his hand, and confusion played over his previously still face. Nick picked at one of Greg's twitching fingers as if it was some foreign object. Greg resisted his natural urge to snatch his hand away; he was trying his best for some sort of normal interaction, even if it was the first time he'd ever touched Nick the way Nick had so often touched him. He felt uncomfortable, his own sense of personal space berating him, but he'd beat it down before on Nick's behalf, and he had no trouble doing it again.

Nick quickly shook his head, and pulled Greg's hand off him. "That's not right," he said, Texas accent about as thick as Greg had ever heard it. He sounded confused, which was a damn sight better than void in Greg's opinion. It was something.

He risked a glance at his friend, and would have laughed if he weren't so miserable. Nick was holding Greg's hand up by one finger, as if it were one of Grissom's bugs. He was looking at it in much the same manner. "No, no, that's not right. That's not right."

Looking away again, Greg asked, "W-w-what's n-n-not right?" He didn't feel offended.

Letting go of Greg's hand, which dropped slowly, Nick shook his head again. Greg wondered if Nick was waking up, or fighting sleep. The way he was shaking his head, he thought Nick might be trying to wake up. Greg didn't find that strange, considering. What better way to recuperate from a visit to Hell than by taking a mental vacation?

"Well, that. That's not how it goes." Nick's voice became more animated with each word. A faint smile, a ghost of a smile, touched Greg's mouth. That was better. Not quite Nick, but there was hope in him now that maybe Nick might be there again someday. He was beginning to have trouble fighting his tears.

Abruptly, Greg found it difficult to breathe, which was a direct result from the near rib-crushing hug Nick was giving him. "Thanks man, for tryin'."

Instinct brought up the hand that wasn't holding onto the bed rail for life, and a startled Greg set his arm on Nick's back. It was nothing that could be called a hug. Nick shifted a few times; Greg thought he was trying to put his hands and arms in just the right spot, but it took him a few moments to figure out why.

At first, Greg thought it was exceedingly strange that almost all sensation except pressure had disappeared from his back. Nick was still hugging him hard enough to make breathing difficult; he should have felt more than faint pressure. If the sniffling near his right ear was any indication, Greg should have felt something on his shoulder and neck. More than just body heat on his ear, anyway.

When realization caught up to him, his breath caught. Nick was doing his best to keep as much of his embrace over Greg's burn scars, knowing they were for the most part numb. Not because he had some weird thing where he wanted to touch his scars, but because Nick knew enough about Greg and his personal space to try to minimize his discomfort. Nick rested his head on the right because Greg's scars were on the right. If Greg couldn't feel it, there was that much less contact to deal with. Greg couldn't fight his tears anymore, and he chuckled a bit, a soft sound.

"What's funny?" Nick asked, still sniffing on his own tears.

Greg returned the hug now, with both arms. He was still shaking, but not as hard. He couldn't think of anyone, in the state Nick was in, after all he'd been through, who would have been so considerate of his feelings while still so badly needing someone to show and be shown the sort of affection bear hugs entailed. Only Nick would try his hardest not to hug someone who generally disliked being touched while still hugging the life out of them. And Nick was crying...not that Greg liked hearing his friend cry, but he thought it was probably a good thing. Certainly better than that empty voice he had heard earlier. "N-nothing's f-funny. I I I'm just happy y-you're still here."

"You sure?" Nick's tone had become dark, uncertain. It wasn't that Nick questioned Greg's happiness, but that he questioned the idea that he was still himself.

Greg nodded. "I'm certain, Nick. Posit-t-tive." And he was. Nick was still there, the steel in him not touched in the slightest. It would be a while before Nick was fully himself, just as it would take time before Greg stopped shaking, but it would happen. It would. "I'm positive."

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The End


Author's note: Probably exaggerated the shaking a bit, but only for Greg's situation. I know whereof I speak...or try to, anyway.