An hour outside of Vegas and Grissom had faded into a half sleep, mesmerized by the complete nothingness that was the outskirts of the city. A groggy voice spoke up from the back of the Denali. "Pancakes."
Grissom almost thought he'd dreamed it but roused himself a bit and bent back to look over the back of the seat. Nick was still sprawled out in the back seat, apparently asleep. Grissom looked at Brass to see if he had said anything, then distinctly heard it again. "Pancakes." He looked back again to see that one of Nick's eyes had opened and was attempting to fix on him. "You promised me pancakes when we got back," he said, the string of words an obvious effort.
"I remember, Nick. I promised. Full pancake breakfast."
A small smile later Nick was fast asleep again.
Nick spent four days at Desert Palm and on the morning of his release Grissom picked him up and took him out for a pancake breakfast at the team's favorite greasy spoon diner. Nick had never heard any of the update on Saint Francis, so Grissom filled in all the details. Their talk and laughter was easy and comfortable- a far cry from the drive out before the big event. Grissom jokingly told him that since it was his fancy driving that got them in the mess in the first place, upon his return to work Nick's first duty would be to inventory and assess the equipment they'd managed to recover from the wreckage that was the Denali. He then reassured him that the $40K to replace the truck wouldn't come out of his meager Level 3 salary.
There was no further discussion of Nick's injury and the sacrifices he made. Occasionally, Grissom would flash back to Nick pulling him out of the wreckage and climbing that damn tree… and the brave stance he took when faced with the order to put the bear trap on Grissom's leg. Thankfully, there was enough to talk about that made any awkward pauses mere momentary lapses.
Breakfast ended with Nick's plate still partially full, clear evidence that he wasn't up to full speed yet. No one had ever before seen a pancake left on Nick Stokes' plate.
Nick's one regret was that they were on the best bird refuge in the state of Nevada, and he hadn't seen anything but a bunch of vultures. "Ugly turkey vultures. Heck, Grissom. We've got those in Texas!"
The grisly killings on the refuge had been big news for a few days or so and while most of the details of the CSIs' standoff were kept quiet, word got out, especially among the hunting community, that there was a madman in the woods seeking biblical retribution against those who would dare poach in those woods. The Ranger Service noted a sharp decline in the amount of poaching observed, and the wildlife on the refuge, bears included, flourished.
Red Dragon Imports LLC closed down soon after the death of its owner, Marcus Chang, and with murmurings of "Huo bu dan xing (Bad Luck is sure to be followed by more)", most of the employees fled back to China.
Three months later the two made a trip out to the refuge for a full day of bird watching, and a stop in town to visit old friends. Gene Lawrence smiled proudly when he saw how cleanly the wound on Nick's face had healed. "Told you there wouldn't be a scar!" Sandy gave Nick a big hug, happy to see his robust appearance. Nick took her aside to tell her how much he appreciated her helping him. Those times he was awake and lying on the table were some of the scariest moments he could remember and he was able to show his fear only when she was in the room. Her warmth and reassurances were truly the best medicine he received that night
A year later, the following spring, some hikers came across a body in the woods, not far from the clearing that had been the site of the deaths of Chang and Ronnie Hawkins. There was no need to bring in a CSI team for this body. The coroner, Gene Lawrence, was able to tell immediately what had killed this man. It was evident in the gashes and bite wounds to the head, neck and chest. The man had been mauled to death by a bear. Dental records were able to later prove conclusively that the body was that of Terrance Polk.
A/N: Th-that's all folks! Hope you liked it. I had a blast writing it. I really appreciated everyone who took the time to review my work and am especially gratified to have received good reviews from Kristen999 and Designation, two whose names appear on my Favorite Author's list. Thanks also go out to Emrys and MS2 whose advice was used to "clean up my act" a bit. Next up is my take on Grave Danger … among the hundreds of others, I know, but who can resist the opportunity for some meaty Nicky angst? Not me!
Hope to see you there.