"Warrick, Warrick! You gotta let go of Nick!"

He opened his eyes, not knowing where he was or who was screaming.

"We gotta get you out, Rick, so they can work on Nicky, let go Rick. Please let go off him and let us help you out."

He forced his eyes to open and found the door formerly stuck and trapping his leg gone. Catherine was at his side, looking frantic and holding his head, pleading with him. Brass stood behind her, face grim while surveying the work at the scene. The detective acknowledged him with a curt. "Hang in there Warrick, we'll get you out of here soon. You did good." Then he was gone.

He looked to his right, his hand all twisted up in fabric, stubbornly clasping Nick's T-shirt now pooled up around his shoulder while an EMT was struggling to intubate him. The portable vent hummed on the floor of the vehicle.

"Jesus," he breathed and let go of his grip and noticed his own leg in an inflatable cast and his injured hand steadied with a plastic splint.

"Don't move your head, Sir," a voice ordered and a neck brace was clipped onto him before he was dragged out and laid on a gurney. The pain coursing through him had him close his eyes and bite his tongue.

"Rick? You still with us?" Catherine asked.

He had to blink against the harsh light of the sun and the swishing of the rotor blades and the sand they stirred up made the air thick and balmy.

"We may have to take Mr Brown in first and come get Stokes later," the EMT informed Catherine, who had fallen to her knees by his side, trying to shield him from the sand stirred up and the sun's heat. "The doc is trying to stabilize him and that might take some time and if -" The female EMT let her voice trail off talkatively.

"Fuck no!" Warrick groaned. "No, ain't leaving Nicky behind. No way!" He tried to push the EMT away when the woman bent to insert an IV into his arm. "Not going without Nick, dammit!"

"Is it okay to wait?" Catherine asked, "will it worsen Warrick's condition?"

"Not really," the EMT replied, hooking Warrick up with oxygen through a nasal cannula. "Mr. Brown seems to have a closed impact fracture of the tibia and a concussion, the hand might have some hairline fractures or a bad sprain. Won't know that until we can x-ray him. But there's nothing life threatening, his pulse and BP are within normal range and holding steady so we don't suspect any internal bleeding."

Catherine rose and turned to face the EMT, speaking so quietly Warrick couldn't make out what she was saying. The EMT cast a glance over Catherine's shoulder and shook her head. Catherine looked down, devastated and Warrick groaned and tried to get up.

"Stay down!" The EMT's hand was on his chest, forcing him to lay still.

"Nicky?" Warrick gripped the EMT's wrist with his good hand, "what about Nick?"

"I don't know, Mr. Brown, I've been working on you. I'm going to give you something for the pain and go see how Mr. Stokes is doing. Is that all right with you?"

"Just save him," Warrick gasped, "just save my bro."

Cath's hand came to rest on his chest. "Rick, they're doing all they can, it's out of your hands. They're doing all they can." She looked over her shoulder again, squinting her eyes against the bright light and abrasive sand.

The oxygen filling his lungs cleared his mind of the cobwebs and he reached for Cath's hand, gripping it in a silent plea.

"He's lost a lot of blood, Cath."

The strawberry blonde turned back to look at him. "He's on a rapid infuser Rick, they've got it covered."

"I think they broke his ribs before the shooting started. I was out of it but they must have gone down on him hard. He was bleeding even before the shooting started. Foaming. I think he has hemo-thorax, his breathing was just not right. He wasn't even healed from last time, Cath."

"I know, I know. He's on a vent and they're probably trying to drain his lungs, not much else they can do under these circumstances. That's why he can't be moved just yet, they need to drain his lungs for the flight back or the pressure will kill him.

"And if they can't?"

Catherine was silent, bowing her head and Warrick was able to sense her hand tensing in his. Then she lifted her eyes, shadowed with immense sorrow, to lock with his. "He won't be coming with you if they can't, Warrick. You know that, it's against the rules. You sure you want to wait?"

He simply nodded and closed his eyes, trying to block out the bitter realization that he might have to leave Nick behind if things went south. The pain in his chest had nothing to do with his injuries, but it was taking over his senses and he wanted to rebel against it, scream and kick that sense of utter helplessness and petrifying fear he felt gripping him. He swallowed, trying to pull himself together.

"What are they doing to him now?" He asked, trying to sound very professional and failing miserably.

"I don't know Rick, the SUV in blocking my view but he's out of the car. They have him hooked on IVs because Gil is holding some blood and fluids in his hand. That's all I can tell you really." Catherine spoke with a voice still thick and garbled, her words almost smothered by the sound from the Medevac's rotors.

"Griss with him?"

"Yeah, he's right there with him. Brass too." Catherine assured him. "We won't leave him alone ever Rick, you have my word on that."

"I should be there Cath, I should be there with him. Griss has a thing for him, doesn't he?"

Cath looked at him with a curious, lopsided grin. "Rick, you're delusional."

"No Cath, I'm not, I've seen it."

"Warrick, just calm down." She craned her head to look in the direction of his best bud again, straining her neck to get a better view.

"I need for Nick to -" The world had started spinning slightly and Warrick swallowed the bile rising in his throat. "I just need him, Cath."

"I know you do." A small pained smile contradicted the forced gleefulness of her voice. "And if you don't tell him, however you men go about that, I'll kick your ass till you do."

She squeezed his hand and stood up.

Warrick followed her moves with his eyes, the headache increasing as he fixated on her. Trying to read any signal, fearing to have to see defeat. Her stance was tense, neck elongated and face concealed by her hair, flexing from the wind the rotors stirred up.

Then Brass appeared, gripping her elbow, talking close to her ear. The pressure on
Warrick's chest increased. "Hey!" He croaked, trying to get Brass' attention. "How's my man doin'?"

Brass turned to him, bending over and laying a hand on his chest. "He's being moved to the helicopter right now, Warrick, they're gonna load you in too and take you to Desert Palms. Sara and Greg are already there, waiting for you. We'll ride in and meet up with you there. Just hang in there, Rick."

"Just get me my main man, will ya." Warrick pleaded, fighting the dizziness creeping up on him.

Jim Brass glanced up at Cath from his perched position, raising his eyebrows. "What's he on?"

"I'm fucking flapping tongue too much, ain't I?" Warrick cracked, realizing his confession as EMTs arrived and blocked his view. In the next moment, he was hoisted up and carried away.

He never heard Catherine's answer to Jim before the medication blacked him out totally.

Waking up to Hodges hovering over you wasn't Warrick's ideal scenario. Not when the man smirked and let out an all too happy: "Back amongst the living, Brown? Took you long enough."


"Want something to drink, Warrick? The hot nurse said I could give you some ice chips if you want some?"

"For fuck's sake Hodges, how's Nick?" Obviously he was on some kind of medication because his initial impulse to throw himself out of bed and go looking for his bud fell flat on its face as he discovered he was unable to move, his body feeling sluggish and un-cooperative. His leg was elevated, hindering him efficiently to move around. He grunted as pain shot though him from his trial.

"You'll get more pain medication in an hour, nurse told me to tell you that. In case you don't need more right now? Want me to call on her?"

Despite his aching limbs, he freed his uninjured hand and grabbed Hodges collar, IV-line flapping. "Listen to me you yappin' fool. You go get me some news on Nick or you'll be looking for your teeth next!"

With a cough, Warrick sank back and let Hodges go.

"Ow, such bouts of aggression. I'll go get Cath or Sara and tell the nurse you're up and cussing." David shook his head and readjusted the collar. Then the blasted man smiled and said: "Nick's in post-op, critical but stable. With some luck he'll pull this one through too. They've fixed the lesions to his lung and nailed his ribs this time. Got extensive damage to his ribcage and the bullet slugged a hole in his intestines too. Not to forget the hairline fracture on his cheekbone, the blow that caused it concussed him slightly. They really did their best to off him, didn't they?"

Warrick noted with surprise how Hodges looked away, obviously fighting to keep the snarly tone intact. Clearing his voice, he continued. "He was under the knife for over sixteen hours, took time because a lot of damage was done to his muscle tissue and tendons. They thought they'd have to amputate but it seems they changed their minds. He's been totally under for another twelve. They'll start bringing him up slowly soon. He'll be weak like a newborn kitten for weeks they say. They marvel at how the man was able to pull through. They don't know my Nicky now, do they?" He grinned, with renewed cockiness, before he turned and left.

"He's not yours!" Warrick felt obligated to inform him, cringing at the dry laughter as Hodges closed the door behind him. Had he been blabbering in his medicated state? Cursing as he realized that David Hodges, man of many evils, now officially was in on the secret. This damned medication would be the end of him yet.

Adjusting himself for comfort in the hospital-bed, he cringed at the sight of a pale-blue pair of tattered pajama. When had they gotten him into something that ridiculous? He had only vague recollections of what had been going on. But he remembered the sounds of pain and Nick's head on his thigh, the awful sounds of his labored breathing, all too well. The rest was more or less a blur. He remembered waking up as they rolled him into the ER, Sara's frantic pace hovering over him, sharp needles and poking. Lights shined into his eyes. Rushed voices, somewhere to his far right, talking about PVCs and unstable BP. The hum of the portable x-ray before someone had the sense to numb him out totally.

But he remembered nobody willing to fill him in on Nick's condition the clearest. Eyes unwilling to meet with his. Assurances that did not sound sincere and Greg's face as they declared his neck clear and rid him of the neck-brace. He had turned his head to look for Nick but there were only silhouettes of medical personnel from behind a semi-transparent plastic drape. Then he scanned the rest of the room and spotted Greg by the door, face gray and wide-eyed, stare directed to his right. The expression on Greg's face had made him try to get off his gurney but strong hands had pressed him back down while someone told him to stay put and fiddled with his IV. That was his last memory before he went under again.

Sara poked her head in and smiled. "Hey, Warrick."

He lifted his hand in a salute and she stepped in and pulled up a chair.

"Never been so happy to see your gap-toothed grin, Sara!"

The brunette leaned down and kissed his forehead. "Never happier to see your meek and humble self, Warrick. How's that leg of yours?"

Warrick tilted his head and took a look at the plaster. "I have no idea, why don't you tell me?"

"Well you're going to be under observation here for at least 48 hours due to your concussion and you have a compound fracture so you'll be on crutches for at least a month. Your hand was merely sprained so that will be just fine in a week or two. You were lucky."

"It wasn't luck, Sara. Nicky took the bullets on purpose. I don't know how I'm gonna repay him, ever. Shit, I still remember how he jerked at each bullet tearing into him. Fuck, I'll never forget that."

"Warrick, don't go there."

"I need to see him Sara, I need to know he'll be all right."

"Eventually, Rick, eventually he'll be just fine. It'll take time though, don't expect anything else. The injuries are extensive. I'll see to it you get to see him as soon as he is out of post-op." Sara gripped his free hand. "You two scared us shitless. We heard all those shots and then nothing. We thought you were dead at the scene since no-one let us know a thing. It wasn't until the two of you were in the chopper that Cath phoned in and let us know what to expect."

"How did you know where we were?"

"Nick called in the morning and asked for Brass. Brass was due in court and not reachable so Nick told the temp receptionist he'd be leaving you and coming in himself to fill us in on who he saw in that car. Said something about 'finding no pepper in this cul the sac' had triggered his memory. The temp receptionist didn't know we tried to keep this low profile so she paged Brass, telling the whole goddamned story and one of the cleaners was all ears. Greg saw him and apprehended him. It didn't take much pressure before he squealed. Brass almost ripped the hair off that poor temp. Griss and Cath took off the second they heard Nick had called. Got on the chopper with Brass."

"That's why he almost blew a fuse when I refused to stay behind," Warrick nodded. "He
was pissed like I've never seen before."

Sara smiled sadly, "I think I get the picture, I've seen him fly off the handle." She shook her head at some memory she obviously wasn't about to share with him and Warrick wondered. Then she continued in a low voice:

"Dayshift found evidence of flunitrazepam manufacturing in CAP's cellar, it was a veritable laboratory. Brass went to the judge and got a warrant to search Bannister's house. That must have been when Culpepper got wind on what was going down. Brass just left the hearing and was out after you as soon as he found out Nick had called, cursing the two of you vehemently for not answering your phone."

"Shit, we had it on mute during the night, must have forgotten to turn up the sound in our haste," Warrick groaned. "You would have picked us up directly on the GPS."

Sara nodded before continuing, "Archie managed to pick up your car despite the bad reception in the desert. Nick installed the GPS for you, didn't he?"

"Yeah, said I needed it if I ever got out of Vegas. Archie knew I had one? I gotta get that man anything he wants."

Sara grinned. "When we got to the house, we confiscated the wife's cell-phone and called everyone on her list of contacts. Her hubby was under the alias 'Zeus'. Sick if you ask me. Hodges went through twenty-five numbers until he got the right one. . By that time a PD chopper was already on its way to locate you."

"I thought I heard a helicopter but I thought I was hallucinating at that point."

"Nope, you heard them all right and landed about ten minutes after the shoot out. We had the call on speakers and were listening in on the ruckus. It was pure hell. Brass was on the helicopter and assessed the scene before it was cleared for the EMTs and the on-call ER docs. Griss and Cath broke every rule and regulation and checked up on the two of you even before the scene was cleared. You were allegedly holding on to Nick so the EMTs were rather crammed working on him. You just wouldn't let go." She smiled at him. "We got them all Warrick, we have all of them and most of them can put the address up state as permanent domicile for life. Their main hitman squealed like a baby when he realized he was out in the cold. Just wandered into the PD and promised to rat them all out."

"At least there's no price on Nick's head any longer."

"Nope, he can return to regular life and domicile. Speaking of that, I heard you blabbered while under the influence," Sara beamed.

"No suaveness in the world will liberate me from that, now will it? Even Hodges is having a field day about my little speech. Word does travel fast in here."

"Nah, we already knew, long ago. We laid bets on how long your marriage would hold and how long it'd be before you took up domicile with Nick. I won!" The gap-toothed brunette triumphed despite Warrick's glare.

"So you all think you figured the equation out, huh?" Warrick sighed.

"It has been rather evident the whole time and the way you broke down when Nicky -" she paused, swallowing before she continued. "You know, the incident made it all so clear."

"The incident, huh?"

"Still can't say it out loud." Sara shook her head. "It's silly, I know, but certain pictures pop up in my head every now and then and I just freak."

Warrick closed his eyes. "I know the feeling."

A nurse woke him next, smiling and patting his arm as she checked his neurological status and informed him that he was well on the mend. He asked for the time and found out it was approximately 32 hours after the incident. He was served some inedible food and his questions were still not answered to his satisfaction. That's when he started counting the hours.

It took 49 nerve-wrecking hours before he finally saw Nick. After eight, he was so edgy they doped him up and he slept for the next ten. Then he scared two nurses into suggesting a psych-consult to his attending doctor. Who really did get Nick's doctor to explain why they still had Nick in ICU and only people sure of their footing were allowed in.

Warrick still wasn't pleased.

The next two hours he spent learning how to walk with crutches and tried to take a detour to the ICU but was stopped by Catherine.

Tina showed up with a flower and they sat there for a while, in a very awkward silence. Talking about anything except what had happened between them. It felt almost like there had never been a marriage to begin with. When she left, she put down the papers declaring that the speedy divorce was completed on his nightstand. She had taken her maiden name back. He found out through her that they had been on national news, no names but two forensic scientists in a shoot-out in the Nevada desert, taking down the mob and breaking a federal scandal. She was out of there in an hour.

He moped for three long hours after that. Cath called Griss and had him try to talk some sense into him. It didn't work because all they ended up doing was talking about Nick, remembering things he had done and said, and that had Warrick decked for the night. He slept, heavily doped up, for 11.5 hours straight. He checked and continued counting.

The next morning Greg tried to cheer him up with insipid stories about weird cases. That did not work either and he found himself telling Greg about the time he and Nick had fought over the man getting hurt in the backseat of a car and how they had spun wild theories and made bets. Only find out both were wrong. Greg lasted for little over 1.5 hours before his yawns had Warrick point to the door and tell him to go home. Brass popped in next, looking haggard and not divulging any information about Nick at all, which grated Warrick's nerves enough to have him mumbling and cursing at the nurses for an hour afterward. The rest of the day he perfected his crutch-walking, took a long shower and was trying to keep his mind off Nick by looking at stupid talk-shows. It didn't work and he found himself hearing Nick's whimper from the car over and over again. It wiped him out and he dwelled in some sort of semi-wake state for nine hours, he counted them all.

Then Jillian showed up, all frazzled and with a tic under her left eye, a nervous manifestation that made Warrick vividly recall the bruise under Nick's. He found out through her that nobody had called her and informed her about Nick's condition this time. She had heard about it on the news and tried to call both Nick and him without success. Conrad Ecklie had saved the day by filling her in and promising to tear Gil Grissom a new one. Well, she used much more civilized description of the intention but the meaning came through nevertheless. Then she had found a flight and herself in vigil over her baby boy for the second time in less than a month. She looked ten years older and didn't stay long but left a nice looking arrangement of flowers on Warrick's nightstand. Warrick was wiped out by then and by nightfall he begged the nurses to put him under. And that was just after he had suffered through Hodges' tale of how he'd saved the day. Archie did actually flee at first chance. After telling Warrick he had seen Nick through the window in the ICU and Warrick freaking out because he wasn't able to cite BP, heart-rate and polsox's readings. The nurses gladly obliged and he fell into a restless sleep with vivid nightmares, consisting of him stumbling through the hospital corridors, looking for Nick and never finding him. The whimpered sounds of agony he remembered from the hot car in the desert playing like background music.

The night wore him out and in the morning he was laconically defeated and refused to take his physical therapy and remained in bed. It had been 45 hours when he woke, all counted. Even with his eyes firmly planted on the TV, his mind still drifted to Nick in the SUV, the shivers and then the silence that had him rack up the sound of the TV in the room until the poor soul in the other bed called for a nurse and demanded another room.

Grissom turned up, trying some small-talk but soon gave up and disappeared.

Forty-eight minutes later his room was vacated of co-patient and flowers, only to be filled with a myriad of medical machinery a moment later. Orderlies and nurses with hushed voices trampled in and out of the room.

Warrick merely watched the commotion, counting every minute that passed.

When 47 hours and forty-three minutes had passed, Catherine turned up.

"Hey Warrick, any mood improvement today?"

He just glared and watched her pull a chair from the corner of the room. Dragging it up to his bed and seating herself before reaching out for his good hand and clasping it in hers.

"Now Warrick, listen to me -."

His heart literally skipped a beat and the room took a strange tilt to the left before he got his bearing back. "Jesus Cath, is he worse? What the - ."

The door opened and two nurses piloted a bed inside.

Warrick gripped the railing of his bed and rose to a sitting position. Heartbeat increasing until it hammered in his temples.

"Warrick," Cath warned. "Chill!"

"Nicky," he got out with a rushed exhale. Grissom and Sara were blocking his view, casting warning glares at him while the nurses put the brakes on the bed and hooked Nick up to the oxygen, the polsox's and numerous other machinery that had Warrick's throat ache.

A petite ashy-blonde leaned in over Nick, smiling at him while she moved the stethoscope over his chest before turning her head to read a screen behind the bed. "Mr. Stokes, I'm going to give you some enalapril to lower your BP, your body is still in massive shock and producing too much adrenaline. This medication will widen your blood vessels and help your heart. You might feel a little dizzy and sleepy. But we'll be checking your read-outs constantly and check up on you every fifteen minutes."

A green clad young man with the name tag 'Aschmon' walked up to administer the medication. "You're doing remarkably fine, Nick," he assured.

The ash-blonde shook her head in Grissom's direction as she headed for the door. "This is highly unorthodox."

Warrick finally got a full view and let go of Cath's hand, dragging his left leg to hang over the side of the bed with a groan.

Nick craned his head to look at him and his hand moved towards him, in search of contact. Then he must have realized it might not be proper and he let his hand sink back but his teary eyes locked onto Warrick's with something akin to an apology for his needy behavior.

Warrick just looked, taking in what he'd been sure he'd never see again; his main man battered and sore but so fucking beautifully alive.


The voice was barely audible, muffled behind the oxygen mask and the sound of the machinery surrounding him. But Warrick's heart launched into a strange kind of unsteady staccato and he rose off his bed and took one step and was about to fall on his face before Cath sighed and pushed the crutch under his armpit.

Then he was standing by Nick's bed, holding on to the frame and looking, just looking. The bruise under Nick's eye had taken on a bluish-yellow tinge under the bulky pad covering his cheek-bone. The oxygen-mask covered half of his face. IVs were inserted in the hand and at his clavical bone. His right leg was slightly elevated, covered in bandages from the tip of his toes to over his knee. But god dammit – he was the most beautiful sight Warrick had ever laid his eyes on.

"Fuck, Nicky!" he got out, cursing himself for his lack of eloquence.

Nick moved a hand and laid it on top of his that was still gripping the rail hard. Nick's eyes were watery and dark, voice hoarse and not much more than a garbled whisper. "Y' kay?"

"Yeah, yeah, bro, I'm fine," Warrick nodded, letting go off the railing to twine his fingers with Nick's.

"Sit down Rick," Sara ordered from behind him and he sank gratefully to the chair someone had placed right under his ass.

"Let's leave them alone," Cath spoke.

"See you later, Nicky," Sara said, leaning in over Warrick's shoulder and caressing Nick's hair while lowering the rail and winking at Warrick. "Behave, guys!"

"We'll go get us some coffee," Cath declared. "I'll be back later." She couldn't resist touching Nick's uninjured leg under the cover and squeezing Warrick's shoulder briefly.

"I'll be just outside," Grissom stated. "Call if you need something."

Warrick didn't manage to take his eyes off Nick and merely nodded, his hand gripping Nick's tightly. He had no words at this moment, just a maelstrom of emotions raging inside of him. The last visual memory he had of Nick was him lying in his lap, blood bubbling out of his mouth with each labored breath. It was hard to shake. And the helpless terror he had felt still dwelled inside him.

Hearing the door close behind their colleagues, he finally blinked, unable to stop the tears. "Shit bro, you scared me!"

Nick turned his head away and tears wetted the long lashes. He didn't need to say a word; Warrick already knew what he was thinking.

"Hey, hey, hey," he crooned. "Don't go there Nicky. I'm fine, you'll eventually be fine and it's over now. We made it, bro. No 'what ifs', nothing like that, Nicky. I know it's who you are but, please, not this time. It wasn't your fault and you gotta promise me not to beat yourself up over it. You told me to stay back and I'm thanking every fucking god I've ever heard of that I didn't. If -"

Nick blinked and swallowed; his free hand going up to the oxygen-mask as if to remove it.

Warrick gripped the hand with his plastered one and forced it back down. Nick's eyes took in the bandage and he closed his eyes with a whimper.

Warrick shook his head. "Look at me Nicky, don't do this to yourself or I'll have to beat your skinny ass. Maybe you don't remember what happened and when you're better I'll fill in some of your blanks. Can't say I remember everything myself, but I remember this: Ya da man, Nick." He grinned, clutching the hand in his tighter.

Nick blinked his eyes rapidly, tears gathering in the corners.

"You - fuck bro, what you did out there, I won't ever be able to thank you enough for that. An' I'm not big on thank you's, I just – shit man, you kicked ass. Ya hear that, bro? I'd high five you but -"

Black eyes turned in his direction.

"I'm telling you, man. I don't wanna hear no 'I'm sorries', no 'it's my faults' and no guilt. Man, I thought you were gonna die on me, you think I give a flying fuck about anything else than the fact that you're still here? Mule-headed as ever. It's over, you got 'em." He cursed himself for the fact that his voice was yet again getting all hoarse from tears.

Nick's eyes were getting unfocused and his hand shivered slightly as he tightened his grip on Warrick's.

"That's right Nicky, you did yours. Now all you gotta do is rest. Rest up and heal. I gotcha Nicky, not going anywhere, I love you man."

The dark eyes focused on him again, lips moving under the mask and hand squeezing his briefly. Warrick smiled, rubbing his thumb over the base of Nick's hand.

Nick struggled to free his hand anew and this time Warrick relented and lifted the mask slightly.

"Still gonna whup ya!" Nick drawled.

"Huh?" Warrick leaned in closer.

"Fo' not stayin' behind."

Warrick grinned, relief flashing through him like a tidal-wave. This was his fucking Nicky all right. It wasn't over yet but one thing he had learned was to have confidence in Nick. Against all odds, he'd pull through this too.

"I know, boss," Warrick crooned. "No need to talk right now. We'll get to the ass-whoopin' later, just catch some z's."

Nick eyes fluttered shut and the hand clasping his relaxed slowly. Warrick held tight, watching while Nick slipped into a deep sleep.

Warrick found himself chuckling amidst tears. He rested his forehead on Nick's hand while tears trickled down his cheeks and wetted the sheet.

That's how Grissom found him five minutes later. Tear-streaked, with a huge grin on his face, his 'cool cat from the hood' attitude forever dented.

He looked up at Grissom standing by the bed. The man looked downright haggard but his eyes rested calmly on Nick. Hand briefly touching Nick's toes under the cover and a curious little proud smile curled his lips.

"My man's gonna be fine. I'm gonna see to it he's all fine," Warrick declared, stating ownership, pride and gratefulness. "Coz' he just promised to whoop my ass for not staying behind."

"I know," Grissom acknowledged, the bemused smile widening. "Never doubted it."