Chapter Eighteen

Grissom had intended to just take a shower, change his clothes and head back to the hospital. However once he arrived home, the allure of his bed was too great and he decided to give himself a few minutes to rest his eyes. His body was so completely worn out that he was asleep within seconds of his head touching the pillow and what he had intended to be only a few minutes of repose turned into hours of deep sleep. Only the sound of his phone ringing woke him.

He sat up straight in his bed, immediately aware that he had slept far longer than he had intended. Grissom rubbed away the last vestiges of sleep clinging to his eyes as he muttered a quick apology to Catherine who had been calling to check on him. He promised to be at the hospital shortly and hung up the phone.

Not too much time had passed before he was walking down the hallway towards Nick's room. Catherine was standing just outside the door, waiting for him. When he got closer, she went over to him and gave him a hug. He accepted this gesture without complaint, knowing that she needed the touch of human contact as much as he did right now.

When they pulled apart, Grissom said, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be gone so long."

"Not to worry, Gil. You needed to sleep. Besides, Nick's been in and out of consciousness. Has been for the past few hours." Catherine told him as she patted his arm.

"How is he?" Grissom asked, craning his neck to get a glimpse inside Nick's room.

Catherine shrugged her shoulders in a noncommittal way. "He's going to be okay though he looks simply awful. Emotionally, it's a different story. He's been through a lot."

Catherine related the story of Nick's encounter with Levi and Nathan, giving Grissom a clearer picture of the horrors Nick had endured. She also informed him of Nick's reaction when he had heard that Nathan didn't survive.

"He just needs a bit of guidance and reassurance, I think." Catherine gave him a pointed look.

Grissom sighed and ran a hand through his hair. Instead of answering her, he walked towards the door of Nick's room and went inside. Content to just be near him, the rest of the team was sitting around the bed that contained the sleeping form of their friend.

"Hey Grissom. Get some sleep?" Warrick asked when his boss came over to sit in the empty chair next to him.

"A little." Grissom admitted.

"Well our boy's on his fourth or fifth nap." Warrick shot a weary yet somewhat relieved look at his friend.

"That's good. He needs it." Grissom replied. "And so do you. I want you, all of you, to go home and get some rest."

There were some mutinous glances and protestations, but Grissom would have none of it. Finally, the others stood up and left with the promise of returning as soon as they could. Once they were gone, Grissom moved to Warrick's chair, which was nearer to Nick's face. He picked up the magazine Warrick had discarded and flipped through it, but it could not hold his attention very long. He was too anxious so he contented himself with watching Nick sleep while his mind rehearsed the things he wanted to say when his CSI woke up.

He knew in his mind what to say, but it was the "how" that was still puzzling him as well as the "when." He didn't just want to bombard Nick with a heavy conversation the minute he woke up. That just might add to his emotional state, but if he waited too long, Grissom knew he might never say anything which wasn't good either.

Grissom tapped his fingers on the arm of his chair in an uncharacteristic manner and he shifted in his seat, fighting off the nerves that were steadily increasing. The butterflies in his stomach were fluttering madly, making it almost impossible for him to keep still. Jumping to his feet, he began to pace the floor.

As he was doing this, a nurse came into the room. She shot Grissom a look which told him plainly that she did not care for his pacing and then immediately went over to Nick's side and began to check the monitors.

"Perhaps you'd like to have a seat, sir." she told him pointedly in a falsely sweet voice.. "I find it's better for the patient to wake up on his own rather than be woken up by loud and persistent stomping."

Grissom opened his mouth to respond when Nick's eyes fluttered open. The nurse turned her attention to Nick and smiled sweetly at him. "Hi, hon. Hope you're feeling better. You have a friend here to see you."

She stepped aside and shot Grissom a look of irritation as he moved forward to reclaim his seat next to Nick.

"Hey." Nick greeted somewhat groggily. He fidgeted in an attempt to try and get into a better position to talk to his supervisor, but only succeeded in sending spasms of pain throughout his body. In the end, he decided it was best to just lay still.

"How are you?" Grissom asked, leaning forward for a closer inspection.

Nick waved a hand rather weakly in what was supposed to be a dismissive manner, but it did not do much to alleviate Grissom's nerves. "Like I told Catherine, I feel much better with all these painkillers in me."

Grissom hesitated at these words and in shame, lowered his head a bit. "Catherine told me what happened. I'm sorry you got hurt and I'm sorry I wasn't there to help you. It was not my intention to leave you behind."

"It's not your fault. You didn't do it on purpose. Things were crazy in there with all that smoke." Nick said, trying to make his voice sound more casual than he felt.

"I'm sorry about Nathan too. I know what he did for you. That was truly heroic." Grissom said quietly.

Nick's gaze faltered at the mention of Nathan's name. His voice was barely above a whisper when he spoke. "Well at least he died knowing that he was doing that right thing. That's gotta be a little bit comforting, right?"

His brown eyes looked back up at Grissom. There was so much pain and uncertainty reflected in them as they scanned Grissom's face for some kind of reassurance. Grissom opened his mouth to speak, but was cut off when words began tumbling out of Nick's mouth at a rapid pace.

"Grissom, I am so sorry for everything that happened. It's all my fault. I messed up big time and got Donna and myself in trouble. You had to come in and clean it all up. You have no idea how sorry I am. Everything you said about me was true, Grissom. You were right and I was too stupid to realize it until it was too late." Nick hung his head in sorrow and pulled at the sheet that was covering him.

Grissom suddenly reached forward and grabbed the young man's hand. Though both men were unaccustomed to sharing a moment of physical contact with one another, they didn't fight it. Nick looked up, allowing Grissom to see the mixture of pain and despair clouding his features.

"No, Nick, I was completely wrong about you." Grissom said firmly, not taking his eyes away from Nick's. "I implied that you were someone who engaged in heroics for the sake of garnishing attention. That it was some form of selfishness and arrogance that made you think you could save people. That's not true at all. You put yourself at risk because you deeply care about others. I have never known a person to be so genuine in their concern for others as you are. You're willing to risk it all in order to help others. That's a rare quality to find these days and I never fully appreciated it until now."

Nick seemed mesmerized by his words, a thing for which Grissom was thankful. It meant that Nick was not going to try and interrupt him. Now that he had started, Grissom didn't want to stop. "When you went missing, I finally got a taste of what it must be like to be you. I threw myself into the task of finding you. I put myself in harm's way in order to help you because I couldn't bear the thought of something terrible happening to you and knowing that I could have prevented it. I don't say this to brag because my recent actions are nothing to be proud of. I say this because I feel that I'm starting to understand what's going on inside that head of yours. I'm starting understand your motivations. I'm starting to understand you and I like the man I'm getting to know."

"My actions over the past month have been unforgivable. I was deliberately mean to you and made every attempt to put you down. I want to apologize for that though I don't deserve your forgiveness. As your supervisor, you needed me to help you, to give you guidance, and I did not fulfill my responsibilities to you. You needed me to listen and I refused to. My ill treatment of you was the reason you went running into danger in the first place." Grissom said in dismay.

Nick shook his head. He couldn't let Grissom take all the responsibility. Not when he was the one who had acted rashly. "No way, Grissom. I made that decision on my own. You and the fight we had played no part in that choice."

Grissom gave him the smallest hint of a knowing smile. "Yes it did, Nick. You don't have to protect me."

Grissom lowered his head, allowing himself to break eye contact for a few moments as he gathered his thoughts. When he finally raised his head again, he said, "I'm not the kind of man who can easily say what's on his mind. I'm not someone who's in touch with his emotions and who knows what he's feeling. That's just not who I am, but it's who you are. I think that is part of the reason you and I have difficulties communicating and being honest with each other. We're just wired differently. I'm not trying to excuse myself from any blame. I'm just trying to be honest with you. Maybe for the first time since I've known you. When you were taken, I suddenly realized why I had been so angry with you over the past month. As it turns out, I wasn't really angry with you at all. I was scared for you."

Nick made as if to respond to this, but Grissom held up a hand. He wanted to finish his thoughts uninterrupted. "I know that your gift of empathy is just that - a gift. No one else on our team has the strong capacity for concern for others that you do, and I think it's a quality that makes our team stronger."

Grissom sighed as he moved into a more serious matter. He wanted to be completely honest with Nick and while that meant apologizing, it also meant voicing some of his concerns. "However, I won't lie to you when I say that it concerns me at the same time. You care so much, Nick, and sometimes, I'm worried that you care too much. It can lead you into danger. It has before and it could happen again. You've gotten lucky and survived these instances unscathed for the most part, but next time you might not be so lucky. I need you to promise me that you'll be careful. I need you to promise me that you'll think before rushing in to save someone either physically or metaphorically. I'm not just worried about your physical safety. I'm worried about what it's going to do to you emotionally when you can't save the people you care about, because the truth is Nick, you can't save everyone. Not all stories have happy endings. You will fail some people or they will fail you, and I'm worried about what that will do to you over the years."

Grissom watched as Nick looked away, absorbing the words he had just uttered. He could tell that he had struck a chord with the younger man and was thankful for all he wanted was for Nick to truly hear what he was saying.

"Understand that I am not trying to chastise you or make you feel guilty. Contrary to popular belief, I don't revel in the task of pointing out your flaws. Everyone has their problem areas. I have plenty as I'm sure you know full well." Grissom was pleased to see a small smile tug playfully at the corner of Nick's mouth.

"I'm being honest with you because I care about you. I want to look out for you. Not because it's my job, but because it's my privilege." Grissom said with heartfelt honesty.

Nick nodded in understanding. His voice cracked a bit as he said, "Thanks Grissom. I'll keep what you said in mind."

"That's all I'm asking." Grissom said quietly. He squeezed Nick's hand once more and then let it go. He got to his feet.

"Well, I better go or that nurse will have my head. She seems to think that my presence is impeding your ability to recover." Grissom told him in an attempt to lighten the mood.

"Despite my appearance, I am feeling much better. I'd be back at the lab tomorrow if they'd just let me out of this bed." Nick said as shifted around on the mattress.

"You're not coming back to the lab for a while. Not until you prove to me that you're healthy and whole. Now I want you to get plenty of rest and don't give the nurse any trouble." Grissom wagged a finger at him.

"Yes, sir." Nick smiled as he gave a mock salute.

"Take it easy, Nick." Grissom smiled and left so his CSI could get some rest.

"Opening up that air vent was a nice move, man. I don't think I would have looked there." Warrick patted his friend on the back with a smile as they walked down the hallway of the lab.

"It just came to me." Nick admitted with a shrug. "But the important thing is that we got him. Mr. Rogers is going away for a long time."

Warrick shook his head, suppressing a laugh. "Stop calling him that."

Nick held up his hand with an air of innocence. "What? That's his name. Bernard Rogers."

"It's the way you say his name. Every time we spoke with him, I kept waiting for him to ask me if I wanted to be his neighbor." Warrick grinned.

Nick smiled, unable to contain his good mood. He had just wrapped up his first case since returning to work after spending four weeks recovering from his injuries. He had gone nearly stir-crazy sitting around his house for the past few weeks, but he was house-bound no more. Things were going well and he was glad to be back.

As they passed one of the layout rooms, Grissom came out to meet them.

"Solve your case?" he asked by way of greeting.

The younger men nodded in unison and Nick replied, "All that's left is the report."

"Well, since you're done, I could use your assistance." Grissom said turning to Nick. "I'm sure Warrick can write the report on his own."

Shooting a smirk in Warrick's direction, Nick followed in the wake of his boss. He entered the layout room, finding it the table covered with evidence pertaining to Grissom's latest case.

"What's up?" Nick asked, examining the table. There were crime scene photos laid out to one side next to a blood-stained shirt.

"I need your help making sense of some blood patterns I found at the crime scene and on my victim's shirt. I thought it might be good to let a second pair of eyes take a look." Grissom informed him, picking up a photo.

Nick felt a stab of pride that Grissom had solicited his opinion. "Sure. I'd be happy to help."

Grissom hesitated, the photo still clutched in his hand. "It's good to have you back. The lab's not the same without you."

Smiling, Nick took the photo. "Thanks, Grissom. For everything."

"No, thank you. Thanks for giving me a second chance." Grissom gave him a small smile.

After a moment of silence, they turned their attention to the photos and began to work together, each man feeling a great appreciation for the other.

Author's Note: Well, that's all folks! Hope you enjoyed it! Thank you for the kind reviews! It means a lot to me. I just wanted to say a special word of thanks to Kristen999, who gave me so much encouragement while I was writing this story. Thank you, Kristen!

Now it's on to my next piece! Another light-hearted romp just like this one!