You've all been waiting such a long time that I decided to treat you. This is the final chapter but it's quite long and everything gets resolved. It's been awesome writing this fic and I hope you've all enjoyed and are ready for the final chapter of …
What it's Worth
Many people, upon arriving home from work or some other task, will often say they've had a hard day. It is a common saying. But few can say that they have ever had as hard a day as Gregory Sanders.
In one day he had been kidnapped at gunpoint, threatened, beaten, tortured, frozen and clinically dead, for however brief a time.
Now he slept fitfully, his body attempting to heal itself after the traumatic events it had been through, and his mind was currently blissfully blank, lulled to rest by a mild sedative and exhaustion.
But what he didn't know, and could not possibly imagine, was that as the door to his private hospital room slowly crept open, admitting an unwelcome form, he was in more danger now than ever before.
It was an unseen danger, unexpected, and he was content with the promise of safety his friend had given him.
So unaware of this, Gregory Sanders slept on.
"Hey Brass, you got a sec? It's important," Sara said seriously as she stopped the detective in the hallway.
He had just gotten back from a long and pointless trip out to Riker's with Grissom. Young's accomplice wouldn't even give them the time of day, and from the concerned, nervous look Sara was sporting he didn't think he'd like what she was going to tell him either, but he knew he had to listen none-the-less.
"Yeah, okay, come on in," he replied, ushering her into his office and shutting the door behind him.
She laid a sheaf of papers on his desk with a lot of numbers on them, and stood in front of the leather guest chair but didn't sit down. She was fidgeting, unnerved, and clearly reluctant to begin. He really wasn't going to like this.
"What have you got?" he asked, pre-emptively sitting before he heard the bad news.
"Well, you know how Retter didn't call his lawyer when you and Warrick talked to him? And he won't tell us who he did call?"
"Yeah," Brass nodded, waiting for the bombshell.
"Well, he also deleted his caller's list and address book on his cell so we couldn't track anything down until we got the phone records," at this she passed the papers to Brass and his eyes were immediately drawn to the number that occurred seven times in the last two days, emblazoned with a yellow highliter. The time stamp showed it was the number of the person Retter had called at the construction site.
"I assume you know who it belongs to?" he asked, wanting to end this horrid suspense.
She nodded, "Reverse directory, wasn't hard. Came up Tanner Reid."
"Reid? As in Lieutenant Tanner Reid, from third division SWAT?" Brass asked incredulously, but already knew what the answer would be.
"Yeah. I know you don't want to hear it, but this may have been an inside job," Sara said and waited for Brass's reaction, expecting anger or defensiveness of his officers. What she didn't expect was the all out panic that quickly spread across his features.
"Oh my god, you're sure about this, one hundred percent?" Brass demanded when a horrible, terrible realization struck him.
"I wouldn't have come to you if I wasn't," she pointed out, and he had known that, but didn't want to face what it meant.
"We gotta go, now!" Brass ordered, racing out of his office.
"Wh … why? What's wrong?" Sara asked, following close behind.
"Reid is the officer who shot our suspect down at the factory," Brass reminded her, but this shed no light on the situation for her.
Brass risked taking the time to stop and look her in the eye to make sure she understood the gravity of what he was going to tell her.
"He came to me a few hours ago and said he felt bad for what happened, wanted to make up for it … I put him on watch on Greg's door … alone."
… nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two.
Twenty-two steps per flight of stairs, eight floors, three steps at a time, full speed, and he still might be too late.
Reid. It all fit. The police scanner in the car, the kidnapper's knowledge of police procedure, even shooting Memphis, he had been tying up loose ends to this operation that had gotten far too complicated.
Nick knew there had been something wrong about it all. Memphis had been killed with three direct shots, assassin-style, even though SWAT always bragged about taking down a perp with a single bullet. Memphis had been executed, was collateral damage. Just like Greg.
Of course, they had never been meant to find Greg, at least not alive. If he had died in that freezer then everything would have been perfect – no witnesses, no trail, no evidence. Just a lot of dead ends and Reid would have walked away without a second glance.
But the plan was flawed, Greg had survived, though for exactly how long remained to be seen.
With this in mind, Nick's legs pumped hard and fast as he raced up the hospital staircase, faster than any elevator, as he desperately tried to make it to room 802, to stop a criminal, to save a friend and to keep from breaking yet another promise.
Eight floors seemed like eight hundred and he could feel every previous and passing second that Greg was alone, in danger. Fear pushed him faster than his fatigued body ever should have been able to manage and he paid no heed to the nurse he nearly trampled. He had to keep running, no distractions.
Why he had promised Greg again, he didn't know.
Yes he did. He thought Greg was safe, he thought the danger was gone. He thought it was a safe promise to make. He had been wrong.
He had promised Greg that he was safe, that it was over.
Now he ran and he prayed, because he had been very wrong, and he still had four flights to go.
It was almost too easy, Lieutenant Tanner Reid reflected as he closed the door of the hospital room behind him.
No one had questioned him, no one had seen him, and no one suspected a thing.
Eight feet away lay just the person he was looking for. It wouldn't take long, he would be out again in five minutes, and it would be so easy. They had all made it so easy.
He knew the kid had friends. Those other CSIs didn't work that hard and for that long to find just anybody, at least not with that much passion, but none of those friends were here with him now, not even Stokes. They were all back at their precious lab, tracking down leads, and trying to help the kid by finding 'Dallas' as quickly as possible, only then would they come visit, not a moment before.
The irony was not lost on him and he almost laughed.
His steps were quiet as he crossed the room, as he did not want to wake the kid, not just yet. Hanging off the end of the bed was a chart containing all Greg's injuries and treatments, which he examined.
Yep, Memphis had done quite a number on him all right, Reid thought to himself, too bad he just didn't finish the job. Would have saved me a lot of trouble.
Putting the chart back down, he knew his next course of action. He walked up the side of the bed and poked Greg's left hand experimentally. No reaction, it was indeed anesthetized. Chuckling inwardly, he quietly took out a set of handcuffs, snapping one half around the metal bedframe, and the other around Greg's limp wrist, noting how it perfectly matched the bruise line from the last pair Greg had been forced to wear. Moving to the other side, he did the same thing to the right hand, with slightly greater care so as not to wake the occupant of the bed just yet.
With his contented grin spreading wider than ever, Reid completed his finishing touches. Pulling quickly, for he knew it would be loud, Reid tore off a long strip from the heavy duty medical tape he had taken on his way in, and before Greg's eyes had even twitched from the sound, the tape was firmly over his mouth.
Immediately awake, Greg tried to understand what was happening. He couldn't speak and barely move, looking down he saw he was handcuffed to the bed. Fear and panic gripped him and he pulled on the cuffs.
Where was Nick? He had said he wouldn't leave.
He looked up at the officer standing above him, and eyed him questioningly – was he there to guard him? – and tried to believe that it would be okay. Something must have happened, but there was an officer here so everything would be okay.
But this hope was shattered when the man smiled at his fear, and then he leaned close to whisper, "Miss me Greggo?"
The answer was clearly no, as a greater fear than he had ever felt suddenly gripped him, and he almost couldn't breathe.
As if the actions hadn't been proof enough, hearing his voice took away all doubt. Dallas was alone in his room, attacking him again, and as he struggled, he screamed for Nick, but little escaped the gag. Even so, Reid wrapped one massively strong hand around Greg's neck to restrict his air and cause fresh pain to old wounds.
"Now don't be like that, Greggo, we've got a lot of catching up to do. Let's talk about how much trouble you're causing me just by being alive, shall we? Then it'd be no witnesses, no evidence, just me ready to grab that damn disk as soon as it got logged into the evidence locker. But no, you had to go and survive being in that freezer somehow, when you were supposed to die like any normal person would have. Not that the situation can't be rectified, but you've been such a pain, let's see if we can give any of it back."
With this Reid released his hold on Greg's neck and he was able to breathe again, though only through his nose. His relief of air was short lived though as stabbing pain from his right hand stole his breath easily. Looking down he saw Reid removing the metal bindings from his broken fingers, leaving nothing to hold the shattered bones in place. Greg tried to pull away, to fight, to kick the man, but even if he hadn't been cuffed to the bed, Reid's grip was strong and held him firmly.
"Now, if memory serves," Reid mused delightfully as he easily overcame Greg's resistance, "this should hurt like hell."
With that he pulled both shattered fingers hard and away from the socket, causing incredible pain from new and old breaks alike. Greg screamed behind his gag and tried to arc away, but there was no escape – pain seemed to be everywhere.
Reid smiled and dropped Greg's hand back on the bed, where it instinctively tried to curl as close to the body as possible.
"Well that makes me feel better," Reid gloated, then patted Greg's chest with mock affection, "Don't you?"
Closing his eyes to block it all out and fight the coming tears, Greg tried to scream once more, praying for someone to hear. Even though he was muffled and not considerably loud, Reid was quick to once again mould his fingers around Greg's neck, cutting off the cry.
"Sorry stud, no one's coming this time, it's just you and me. And pretty soon, it'll just be me."
The pressure increased until Greg could take in no air at all, and suddenly he was suffocating again, dying again, and the frustrating despair of it was unbearable, but he could do nothing. His arms could barely move, his upper body was being held down, and though he could kick with his legs, Reid stood nowhere close to them. This time he would die, there was no doubt, and this death would be no better than dying in the freezer or at the hands of Memphis, and the unfairness made him want to cry out with rage.
As his air slowly dissipated Reid continued speaking, a cruel habit of his to ensure his voice was the last thing his victims heard, "In retrospect kid, you really were an innocent bystander in all this, wrong place at the wrong time I suppose, but that doesn't make you any less expendable."
The pressure increased unnecessarily with these last few words, and Reid leaned even closer as he added, "Besides, I promised Cowboy if I didn't get that disk he'd never see you again, and I'm nothing if not a man of my word."
With this last sneer from Reid, Greg felt the world darkening, his hearing faded away and his thoughts became almost nothingness. Within moments he had fallen so deep into the darkness that he didn't hear the door blasting open, or see the blur of motion as Nick barrelled into the room, not pausing to take in the scene before him, but instinctually tackling Reid, knocking him into the wall. Greg was only aware of the return of wonderful oxygen and was immediately focussed only on getting as much into his lungs as possible.
As he and Reid both connected with the wall Nick was thinking only one thing,
Greg was alive. Greg had to be alive, he reasoned, you don't keep choking a dead man.
But as Nick looked into the eyes of the sick bastard that had been the cause of so much pain in these past twenty-four hours, he slightly reconsidered his position on strangulation. He felt like he could choke this man for a year and it wouldn't be enough. But right now he had to worry about taking him down.
SWAT team members were well trained, and Nick was running purely on anger and fear. He had managed to surprise Reid and knock him into the wall, but as the officer quickly recovered and kneed Nick hard in the stomach, the CSI worried that he would not be landing anymore hits in this fight.
"Son of a bitch," Reid exclaimed before he threw a punch for Nick's jaw.
The Texan was already hunched over from the first blow and ducked a little more to avoid the second. From this position he grabbed Reid's waist and forced him to the ground, but didn't release his hold. The entire way up the eight flights of stairs Nick had cursed that he didn't have his gun and now he was desperately trying to get a hold of Reid's, but he wasn't giving it up just yet. This time Reid's fist did hit its mark and Nick fell to the side when he was struck hard in the temple. The SWAT sniper used that moment to begin to stand and free his sidearm from its holster, which quickly started to move to target Nick's forehead.
Searching desperately from his position on the floor, Nick grabbed the only thing in reach, the leg of a rolling food tray, and pushed it towards Reid with all his strength. It hit the kidnapper in the side and he stumbled against the hospital bed, his right arm lowered, but the weapon didn't fall. Rising quickly, Nick tried to tackle the gunman once more, but he was still no match for SWAT training. Reid grabbed his shoulders first and used his own momentum to flip him onto his back on the hard tile floor.
Nick lay there stunned, trying to breathe, and felt his heart drop past his toes when he looked up to see the cocked gun aimed for right between his eyes.
Reid was panting, angry, and seemed to want the world to know it, "Couldn't leave well enough alone, could you Cowboy? Couldn't have just had the goddamn disk when we came looking. No, we had to do this the hard way, the complicated way, and people got hurt. You know Memphis wasn't a bad partner, I didn't want to kill him, but you had to go get the entire LVPD on this case, and I know you damn CSIs can find shit no one thinks to look for. You brought so much manpower on that drop that we didn't stand a chance. So many people hurt, and dead, and from the looks of things, even more people are going to get hurt now, but at least it won't be me."
As he spoke, Nick had slowly risen to his feet, arms up, breathing hard, eyes never leaving the weapon trained at his head. As Dallas rambled he felt the soul-bearing fear that came when one was near death, because even though it was his job to see what the criminals missed, his scouring eyes could find nothing that would save him from the gun about to fire a bullet through his skull.
"It's been nice knowing you Cowboy."
Fortunately, Nick wasn't the only CSI in the room and Reid was totally unprepared for the strike from behind.
After getting a few lungfuls of air Greg had turned to helplessly watch as Nick fought to disarm and overcome a much larger man, with a lot more combat training. Nick was trying to protect him, to fight for him, and he couldn't even cheer him on. When he saw Reid flip Nick over he knew that the Texan would not be getting another chance to attack. But as Reid rambled, he also took a step back, preparing to fire, and that brought him just close enough to Greg's bed that when Greg pulled back his legs and kicked Reid in the back with all his strength, he was sent flying forward.
Nick had seen Greg move and was ready. Stepping out of the way, he grabbed Reid's shoulders as he went by and added to the gunman's momentum to throw him face first into the concrete wall of the hospital room. Reid hit the wall hard and collapsed, gun sliding from his grasp as he fell unconscious to the floor.
For a moment the room was filled with the most incredible silence, as if time itself was holding its breath.
Then, just as quickly, activity returned. Nick scrambled to pick up the fallen sidearm and held it shakily for a moment at Reid's head, until he was sure the man was truly out cold.
Behind him Greg sighed with indescribable relief as he fell back against his pillow, but this sigh quickly transformed into a heart wrenching moan as his body leaned forward to try and curl around his again broken fingers.
When Nick turned to Greg it was as though he was coming out of a trance. His entire being had been focussed on Dallas and his conflicting desire for revenge and for justice, for death or prison for this murderer. But as soon as he remembered Greg, he was Nick's only concern.
"Greg! Oh god, are you all right?" he asked as he holstered the gun in the back of his jeans. The younger man looked like he was in pain, but Nick couldn't see any further injuries and as Greg's chest heaved like a sob without tears, Nick's first action was to lift up an edge of the medical tape, "I'll be quick."
Greg hissed as the tape was removed and laid back down, closing his eyes as he seemed to be trying to control his breathing or will away the pain.
"Are you okay? Where are you …? Oh crap," Nick saw the bindings holding Greg's fingers still were gone and both fingers were turned out at unnatural angle. "Jesus, you need a doctor."
"No," Greg hissed as he opened his eyes and sat up, focussed solely on his restraints, "Get these off me. I need them off."
Despite the pain Greg tugged at the cuffs himself, trying to pull himself free and only managing to rattle the bed railings.
"Easy Greg, take it easy, it's okay," Nick said as he tried to gently restrain Greg so he wouldn't hurt himself, but this seemed to do more harm than good, as Greg became more agitated and desperate, pulling harder each time the cuffs didn't come off. He couldn't stand to be restrained again so soon, powerless again, submissive, it was almost maddening.
"Get them off, please. Get them off! Get them off me, get them off!"
Still trying to keep him still Nick replied, "Easy Greg, I'll get them off, I promise, but you have to calm down so I can get the keys."
But Greg seemed unable to hear him. His eyes had moved from watching his trapped hands and were now transfixed on the motionless form of Dallas on the floor. He never looked away from the unconscious criminal as he continued to struggle and plead.
"Get them off. Get me out of these, please. Get them off!"
Before Nick could say more there was a voice behind him.
Nick turned and was angry, frustrated and relieved at the same time at the person he saw.
"Hitchman, give me your cuff keys!" he ordered, knowing that Greg was hurting himself more with each second he thrashed against the restraints.
But the officer was stuck in the doorway. The sight was a lot to take in. A destroyed hospital room, an unconscious SWAT officer he considered a friend, and two CSIs, one handcuffed to a bed, the other holding his friend down.
It took a second yell from Nick before he could snap into officer mode and take action.
"Hitchman, keys, now!"
"Yeah, right here," he mumbled, walking awkwardly around Reid's unconscious body to Greg's other side. Even with him there Greg kept pulling and thrashing, his hand was anesthetized but the rest of his arm worked just fine and his wrist was starting to bleed. Not wanting to hurt him more, Hitchman let Nick hold him still while he unlocked the cuff.
Behind them, nursing staff and doctors were starting to gather and ask questions, but they were ignored for the time.
When's Greg left hand was free he stopped yelling for his freedom, in fact he stopped yelling altogether. As Hitchman passed the keys to Nick to unlock Greg's right wrist, the young CSI was breathing heavily with panic, legs pushed underneath himself like he was ready to pounce, and eyes still fixed on Dallas, despite the few nurses now in his way.
"It's okay Greg, relax," Nick requested as he undid the second cuff.
Greg might as well have been a spring. As soon as the restraint was gone he leapt off the bed, headed straight for the far side of the room, and as far away from Dallas, as quickly as possible.
Hitchman instinctually wrapped an arm around his chest, trying to stop him, but Nick yelled again.
"No, don't touch him, let him go."
The officer did as asked and Greg immediately continued on his path for the room's farthest corner. When he got there he seemed to shut down as the desperate panic was replaced with stillness. His breathing stopped altogether for a moment as he faced the wall, right hand clutched to his chest, then there was one hoarse gulp of air, unevenly followed by a few more. His expression was unseen, but would have shown frozen fear, confusion and shock cutting so deep that it was as though his body couldn't handle the trauma his mind was telling it that it was going through.
"What the hell is going on here?" several doctors demanded, but they got no answer yet.
A few nurses tried to approach Greg to check on him, but Hitchman thankfully held them a few meters away as Nick slowly inched his way towards the traumatized younger man and tried not to startle him.
"Greg?" Nick whispered softly, hoping to get him to turn.
But Greg stayed in his corner, eyes closed, forehead leaned against the concrete as his body struggled to try and make itself breathe.
"Greg, are you okay?" Nick asked as he continued to inch closer, noticing how every muscle and nerve in Greg's body was tensed to an exhausting degree. He could also just make out Greg opening his eyes, and there was fear, but also confusion and frustration.
"No. You said it was over," Greg hissed. His tone held the fear and confusion that goes along with emotional collapse, and there was just a hint of accusation that cut Nick deeply.
"I know, I'm sorry. I thought you were safe, but they're both gone now, we got 'em, they can't hurt you," Nick said with heartfelt sincerity as he slowly placed his hand on Greg's shoulder in what he thought would be a comforting gesture. Instead Greg pulled back as if burned and pushed his back against the wall. Nick moved back as well, giving Greg the space he clearly needed.
Greg's gaze flickered, it moved from Nick to Dallas's motionless body, to the bed with the cuffs still hanging from the railings and suddenly it was too much. The memories of the past day were too fresh in his mind for it to be able to endure something so equally as traumatic so soon. Someone had tried to kill him, again. Just like Memphis had almost killed him, but hadn't, because he was going to come back for him and it would have been so much worse. But he had been beaten and threatened and kidnapped and frozen, and alone, and it was all too much to handle.
Then suddenly with the memories came the cold. He was so cold and shivering again and it seemed like nothing could ever be warm, or okay, again. The fear and the stress and the pain piled onto one another and after so much, Greg finally broke down.
Tilting his head back, it chilled Nick to the bone as Greg began to laugh, but there was no joy in it, only nervous desperation and the sound of complete emotional breakdown. It was a quick, gasping laugh, and as he began to slide down the wall towards the floor it soon transformed into bitter tears mixed with angry, choked sobs.
Now sitting on the floor Greg rested his forehead against his knees and amidst the ragged laughter and frustrated tears Nick could hear Greg mumbling with each laugh, "Gone … gone … no …."
"Greg …" Nick started, even though he didn't know what he was going to say, but he was interrupted by a hand pushing him lightly aside.
It was Dr. Sargent. He had made his way past Hitchman and was crouching on the floor next to Nick, trying to examine Greg.
"Mr. Sanders, I need you to calm down and breathe for me, it's all right. I just need to examine you," Dr. Sargent requested, but Greg shook his head and pulled back further when the doctor tried to touch him.
"Call him Greg," Nick suggested.
"Greg please, breathe, relax, it's okay, I just need to look at you," Dr. Sargent tried again. This time when Greg was touched his reaction was almost violent.
"No!" he yelled, tears now flowing freely as he pushed himself further down the wall, legs tight to his chest. "No, no … never … never be gone, they'll never be gone."
It was as though Greg was quoting some kind of horrible memory. Just saying it seemed to be hurting the young CSI.
It was clear that Greg would not allow anyone near just yet, and Dr. Sargent took a step back and motioned for Nick to come closer.
"I have to examine him but I'm reluctant to try to sedate him in the condition he's in. Can you calm him down?" the doctor asked.
"I've been trying," Nick admitted, but knew that there was more he could do. "Okay, take a few steps back maybe, give me another minute with him."
Dr. Sargent nodded and stood a few feet away, whispering to a nurse to get a sedative ready.
Crouching down on his knees once more, Nick tried again to be a soothing presence for his friend.
"Greg. Greg you gotta listen to me, you gotta let the doc take a look at you, okay?"
The disturbing laughter had stopped and there was now only ragged breathing and tears as Greg leaned his head back against the wall, eyes clenched tight.
"G, I'm sorry, I know it's hard, but you gotta get checked out," Nick continued. He thought Greg was ignoring him or didn't care he was there, but when he opened his eyes and stared right at Nick with those pain-filled eyes, it was clear Greg had known he was there the whole time.
"You said it was over," Greg whispered again hoarsely, shaking his head a little. This time there was less accusation, instead there was loss. Greg had nothing to believe in, there was only confusion and nothing to hold on to that wasn't terrifying.
"I know Greg, I know, I'm so sorry. But they're gone, it's okay," Nick assured him, but Greg could no longer believe his words because he knew the truth. Memphis had told him what seemed like a lifetime ago.
"They'll never be gone," Greg repeated, haunted, shaking.
Nick gulped and knew Greg deserved the truth, not comforting lies, so decided to speak from experience.
"You're right, they'll never be gone. They'll stay with you and maybe change you and how you see things, but they can't control you, not if you don't let them. You just have to be strong Greg, stronger than them and stronger even than you think you can be, and then you'll control them. This becomes part of your life Greg, it doesn't become your life. And I know you probably feel alone right now, but you're not. We're all going to be here for you, I'll be here for you."
Head down, Greg finally seemed to be listening. He was still tense and shaking, but at least his breathing was under control now as he nodded upon hearing Nick's words. Seeing this, Nick placed a hand on Greg's shoulder and finally wasn't pushed away.
Nick smiled and came a little closer, "Life goes on Greg, I promise."
At this Greg flinched and shook his head, but did not pull away. Instead he met Nick's eye, "Don't. Don't promise, just do it."
Understanding, Nick nodded, "Yeah, okay, I can do that."
That was all Greg needed to hear. Doctor Sargent came over and all wounds that could be seen were patched, but those under the surface would be a long time in healing.
Twenty minutes after Dallas had been taken down Nick was back in the hospital waiting room. He had gone with Greg at first when Doctor Sargent had him moved to another room for treatment but after he was examined they had asked him to leave while they bandaged and treated him. As soon as he entered the hallway the first person he saw was Officer Hitchman, who appeared to have been waiting for him.
"How is he?" the policeman asked immediately.
Nick sighed and was curt, "He'll be all right I guess, throat's a bit more mangled, fingers too."
Hitchman nodded then went right into the few sentences he had been practising, "I'm sorry I didn't get up here sooner. I didn't know what the hell you were doing and I was gonna follow you but my phone rang and it was Brass telling me to get up here with you, but I made him explain first so I didn't get here till …"
"It's all right Hitchman, it all worked out in some strange kind of way. Did Brass say he was coming down?" Nick asked.
"Yeah, he should be here soon."
Then Nick's expression grew dark, "What about Reid?"
"He's been admitted, he's still out cold, has a concussion or something. He's cuffed to the bed, I left hospital security with him," Hitchman replied.
The sound of rushing feet made them both turn to see Brass and Sara coming down the hall towards them.
"Nick, how's Greg, is he okay?" Sara asked before she had even come to a stop.
"He's pretty shaken up, they had to sedate him to treat him. His fingers are broken again and he probably won't be able to talk for a few days with his throat starting to swell so bad," Nick reported.
"But he's all right?" Sara urged, having not heard the story of the whole encounter.
"He's … confused. I think he just needs some time, he'll be okay," Nick answered, knowing she was asking more about his mental condition at this point. "How did you guys know Reid was Dallas?"
"Phone records," Sara said. "He was the person Retter called at the construction site."
"How are you doing?" Brass asked, seeing the new bruise forming around Nick's temple.
"Hmm? Oh, I'm fine, bruises, it's nothing," Nick replied, then his gaze immediately went back to Greg's door.
"You gonna stick around here for awhile?" Brass continued.
Nick nodded, "Yeah, I'm not leaving again."
"All right, I'm heading back to the station to see if I can get anything more out of Mr. Retter now that we have all his accomplices. Hitchman, go sit with Reid and call me when the son of a bitch wakes up," Brass said, easily dishing out the orders.
"I'm gonna stay too," Sara cut in before the detective could give her a job.
"You don't have to," Nick told her, feeling fine waiting on his own.
"No, I want to be here, for Greg," she replied sincerely and it was clear she was there to stay.
"Fine, but if you're just going to be waiting do me a favour and call Grissom and the others, update them on what's going on," Brass requested.
"Sure, no problem," Sara agreed.
With assignments handed out Brass's job was done and he turned with Hitchman to go down the hall, "Tell Sanders to feel better too, whenever he wakes up."
Sara waved half-heartedly to this, but Nick was already dropping his exhausted body into a chair in the hallway. The fatigue and stress radiating off him was almost palpable as he sighed heavily and rubbed his eyes. Taking a quiet seat next to him, Sara knew a heart to heart was probably necessary.
"How you really doing?" she asked.
Nick looked at her and almost ended the conversation with a curt 'fine' but then decided he really did need to vent, "I don't know, this whole damn situation, it's all been so frustrating! And Greg's been through something so much worse. I mean, how many times can you handle someone trying to kill you in one day before you break a little? And it's not like I've been a big help."
"Hey, you got him out of that freezer and you just saved his life again. What more do you want?"
"I want this to have never happened at all. I want to have stopped these guys the second they got into Greg's car. I want Greg to be able to sleep at night after this. I want to have been able to keep my promises," Nick rambled, really feeling the guilt once more for having left Greg alone. "God, he nearly died again. If I'd been a few seconds later …."
"You weren't. You were there for him, he's alive, he's going to be all right," Sara said forcefully, trying to push these ideas into Nick's head.
"He saved my life Sara, did you know that. Greg, in the room with Reid. I couldn't take him down and he was gonna shoot me, but Greg kicked him in the back. After everything he went through, he saved my life. How do I repay him for that?"
With a half smile and shrug, Sara replied, "Seems like you'd kind of be even."
"Yeah, maybe," Nick said quietly as he leaned back and his expression quickly shifted far away. Seeing he was falling into a contemplative state, Sara patted his knee and stood up.
"I'm gonna go make those calls, I'll be right back."
Nick nodded as she left but said nothing, he was busy working out some math.
An hour later Doctor Sargent came to speak with Nick and Sara. Greg would recover well enough physically, his fingers had been reset and his throat needed time to heal, but he would be fine. He had also been sedated, and to ensure he got enough rest after going through another traumatic event he was being denied visitors for at least ten hours, so he could sleep undisturbed.
Nick was annoyed by this at first, but also understood why it was necessary, and after about twenty minutes of being persuaded by Sara, decided to go home for some rest himself. He felt guilty about leaving again the entire ride home, but knew that after a few hours sleep he would be rested enough to stay with Greg the entire next day and be there when he woke up.
Unfortunately when he got home, sleep was fleeting. Nightmares, memories and anxiety made rest almost impossible, but pure fatigue eventually caused him to sleep for almost five hours. It was good enough, and after a quick meal he was back at the hospital.
Greg was still being denied visitors but he said he would wait, and as he did information and revelations were revealed to him as officers and CSIs alike came by to visit.
After finding out that Reid had been taken into custody and would be charged with murder, kidnapping and attempted murder at the very least, and that he was going to be charged as an accomplice, Malcolm Retter confessed to everything the group had been guilty of. He admitted to having hired Dallas and Memphis to break into the Waller home and get the disk, then kill the couple. Unfortunately they had done things in the wrong order, and their inability to find the computer disk had caused the entire mess.
When asked about motive Retter reluctantly pointed the finger to an unknown player in the game, Robert Finch. Owner of a computer software company of his own, his merchandise had been second to Waller's for years and he knew Waller was coming out with a new product that would put him under for good: a decryptor that could break any code on any server, putting all the online information in the world at a person's fingertips, unless the opposing company had the decryptor as well. It was the Holy Grail of computer software and Finch knew it would be the hottest item on the industrial market. It was Finch who had given Retter the money he needed to start his own business after years of being in small time organized crime, and he had called in the favour. Retter had no choice but to agree, Finch had a file of blackmail worthy documents about Retter and had no qualms with mysteriously letting the police aware of any of them.
As for Dallas and Memphis, Retter had worked with Memphis before and asked if he knew anyone else for the job. He had been the one to bring in Reid. After some digging it was discovered that Reid was actually cousins with Memphis's former accomplice that they had visited at Rikers and that was how he had met Memphis.
And when Retter's pen signed his confession, the case was closed and all the players were put away, some in the ground, some behind bars. Retter received twenty-five to life for conspiracy to commit murder, as did Robert Finch, and Tanner Reid agreed to a plea bargain to avoid the death penalty and received life in prison with no chance of parole.
And as for the one man who was left alive, the victim of so much, that somehow survived, he had a lot of visitors and a lot of healing to do.
"Hey Greggo, welcome back to the land of the living."
Eyes opening slowly after a long, drug induced sleep, Greg tried to respond to Nick's blurry outline.
But nothing would come out.
"Don't try to talk, doc says your throat's swelled pretty badly. Probably gonna be a week before you're up to any kind of conversation," Nick lectured from Greg's bedside.
Greg nodded in understanding of this but then motioned for a drink.
"Yeah, sure, here you go," Nick said holding out a glass with a straw. When he put it back down, Greg lifted his right hand and inspected it. The first two fingers had been reset but only hurt when he moved them, the rest of the hand was fine though. Seeing and feeling this, Greg motioned for a pencil.
"You want to try to write?" Nick asked skeptically. When Greg nodded he still seemed unsure, but rummaged through a table drawer and took out a pen and paper. "All right, you can try, but don't hurt yourself."
Greg propped the paper on his knee and spent a moment trying to adjust the pen between his few usable fingers. Nick watched, resisting the urge to help and recognizing Greg's determination to do it himself and feel in control.
Eventually Greg got it figured out and wrote out a scribbly, "Ur still here. Thanks."
"No problem man," Nick said, but Greg was already writing something new.
"He won't be seeing daylight for a long time. You've been out for awhile and we've had evidence processing all day, he's already taken a plea agreement, life in prison to get out of the death penalty," Nick answered, happy to see Greg's expression change from tense to relieved and satisfied.
After taking a moment to appreciate this fact, Greg wrote, "Testify?"
"You? No, you won't have to, it's all over, that's part of the bargain. You never have to see him again if you don't want to," Nick assured him and Greg smiled faintly in thanks.
As Nick was trying to decipher the messy handwriting and short hand, he almost didn't notice Greg pointing to the fresh bruises on his face.
"Oh, yeah, I'm fine, bastard got a few hits in, it's nothing, thanks to you," Nick's casual demeanour became serious as he continued. "Thanks Greg, for not giving up in there. You kept fighting even after all that, and you saved my life. I won't forget that."
Greg smiled again and looked away, embarrassed by the sentiment and suddenly glad he wasn't required to talk in fear his voice would crack with emotion.
"Me 2. Guess we're almost even."
"We're more than even, but I'll find a way to make it up to you," Nick promised. Greg smiled at this and then yawned, flinching when his massively bruised throat muscles were stretched. "Doc says you should try to get as much rest as possible. I'm heading back to the lab soon and Sara's going to come sit with you, but do you need anything before I go?"
Greg thought about it as Nick stood and pulled on his coat. It was a few seconds before Greg turned the paper towards him to read and Nick chuckled at what he had written:
"Get well soon presents?"
"Yeah, nice try Greggo. You never know, maybe we'll all chip in and get you a fruit basket … a small one. Now get some rest," Nick ordered as he started for the door.
When he was almost gone Greg held up the pad one last time, smirking sarcastically, "You wound me Stokes."
In the doorway Nick sighed and became contemplative as he saw Greg's eyes shut to venture back into sleep.
"Well, I won't do that again," he promised quietly. Then he clicked off the light as he stepped into the hallway and left his friend to heal.
Finished! This ending feels slightly abrupt to me, I usually drag these things on for days, but it also feels kind of right to end it there and I'll let your imaginations fill in the rest. I suppose it's my own version of 'they lived happily ever after'.
Hope you have all enjoyed, it's been a pleasure writing for you. When will there be another story you ask? Ah, there's the rub, see I plan on sticking to CSI for a bit longer (even though I'm really getting hooked on Supernatural), but I have a list on my comp of I think 14 Greg story ideas and it's really quite hard to pick which one to do, but as soon as I narrow it down, pick one, and flesh out some plot details, you guys will be the first to know.
Ah reviewers, the reason the stories get finished at all. Here are my eternal thanks:
Animegirl – Yeah, I've been told I'm evil, sorry about the cliffie. And no, I don't write Nick/Greg slash, just friendship fics, although I do indulge in reading them from time to time. Sorry.
Nicole101 – lol, well, if you're a Cliffie Queen as well perhaps your readers enjoy you getting a taste of your own medicine. Thanks for reviewing.
Shinodabear – Wow, well thank you as well and you're very welcome. It's so good to know people are enjoying the fic and that I'm doing a good job. It's not a horrible review at all, saying anything is awesome.
HauntedPast – Good to hear you like the twists, I was a little worried it was all getting too complicated. Thanks for reviewing.
Guardian6 – Oh, you could write any nicer reviews? I think not, you're amazing. The time you put into reviewing is touching, thank you. But you're right, I'm lucky I haven't been shot yet so I have to keep my identity and address a secret. Thank you for enjoying the details so much, it's awesome that you're so involved in the fic, and I really appreciate hearing that my clues were all subtle. As I wrote, since I knew what they were, everything seemed kind of obvious, but I'm glad it was just kind of teasing in the end. Hope you liked the ending, I should have another fic started shortly. Goody.
Kenzimone – OMG! That would have been incredible. Nick runs up the stairs to get to Greg and breaks a leg on the way, would have been wonderfully angsty, but I already had the format for the scene all set up in my mind, really great idea though, I may use it somewhere else. Glad you liked the twist and hope there was enough Greggo torture for you, it's what I feed on.
Sillie – You okay? Good. Yeah, your instincts about Reid were right, he's a bad guy. Thanks for reviewing so often, it was much appreciated throughout the fic.
Jackie – Well, you were right, I was wrapping up the story, I just had to get another little twist in there at the end, I've been waiting to write that scene for the entire fic so I was really glad to finally post it.
James'Grl – lol, I won't tell if you won't tell. Then again, it's not a big secret with my boyfriend that I'm a Greg fan, I have a pic of him as the background on my computer after all, but he might not have noticed. Thanks for all your reviews, hope you liked the ending.
SilverBlood666 – Sorry I didn't get this chap up at any time near your birthday, university has been hectic. Hope it was a good one though.
Daisyangel – Your review gave me such a 1960's Batman flashback! "Holy mother of all fanfic batman!" It was great! Thank you! Yeah, cliffhangers anonymous might be a good idea but I think I'm getting better. The next fic I have planned might be a oneshot, so there's really no way to have a cliffhanger there.
Utemia – I think I explained in the fic pretty well, but I'll sum up again what was going on with Dallas and Memphis. It's pretty much that when Dallas got to the police station he realized how many people were working on the case and how hard it would be to get away without being found out, so he decided to just cover up all his tracks. He killed Memphis so he couldn't talk and then Greg was supposed to die so he couldn't testify in court or anything and then when everything settled down he was just going to steal the disk from the evidence locker. But Greg survived and that screwed up his plan once more. Hope that clears everything up.
Rozzy07 – I love how everyone enjoyed the twist, makes it all worth it. Oh, thank you, I work hard at the dialogue so I'm glad to hear it works so well.
Kittyluv – Sorry about that, I'm from Canada and our Thanksgiving is WAY earlier than yours (I assume you're in the States). Still though, I didn't update nearly as soon as I wanted, so sorry again.
Emmithar – Thanks for always reviewing. I have heard a lot of good things about your stories and I want to apologize for having never gotten around to reading any yet, I'm so busy these days. But I will read them someday, perhaps over Christmas, because I hear they're awesome, therefore I feel great for getting reviews from you.
Many wonderful and heartfelt thanks to all my other reviewers as well, Damien455, frostfalcon, Kate Maxwell, Analisa the Great, AcidOverRideChic, Tefla, dumbandhappy, takimiromy, rikkairora, Red Tigress and rojaji. Sorry I didn't have time to respond to you all.
It's been a blast everyone. Thanks for reading and I'll hope you'll return whenever I get a new fic posted. Later days, Goody.