Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters you've heard of before. The series and setting aren't mine either. But the situation is of my own devising. Ignore all spoilers as they may negate this story.

Into the Deep End
By Gabrielle Lawson

Author's Note: Well, turns out I had at least one more CSI story in me. Maybe more if they play out the trauma right on the show. (Edited to take out more errors. Hopefully I got them all.)

Nick stuffed his keys into his pocket and headed for the door. He was looking forward to work tonight. Greg would be back for the first time since the 'incident.' Just remembering how he had felt, trapped inside his transparent coffin, lent him a concern for Greg and how he fared on the other side of his ordeal. He wasn't fine just because they got him out of the box. Greg had understood that once.

Remembering his own first day back prompted him to check for Greg's car to make sure he had even come. He was glad to find it in its usual spot. What surprised him was finding Greg still inside it.

The window was up and the engine off, but Greg made no move to get out of the car. He still had one hand on the steering wheel, while his other hand covered his lowered face. He seemed to be shaking and didn't notice Nick approach. Without thinking, Nick knocked on the window. Greg jumped back. When he looked up, his eyes were wide and the now free hand shook uncontrollably. Then Nick remembered they'd pulled Greg through the window of the Denali. Nick winced. "Sorry, Greggo," he offered. "I didn't mean to startle you."

Greg tried to wave him off with that shaky hand but Nick wasn't buying it. He walked around the front of the car and tapped the passenger-side window. Greg unlocked the door, and Nick let himself into the seat. "Not as easy as it seems, is it?" he asked as he closed the door.

"When I was in the hospital," Greg confided, finally letting go of the steering wheel, "I wanted to be home. And when I was home, I wanted to be here."

Nick smiled, relieved that it was not going to be hard to draw Greg out. Really helping him... that was a whole other matter. "And now that you're here?"

Greg shook his head. "I don't know what I want."

"I get that," Nick replied. Greg still wouldn't look at him, but Nick had some idea what he was seeing. A hooded mob beating a man to death. Hitting one of them with the car. Greg still had too many bruises to count it seemed, and those were just the ones on the outside. No, Greg wasn't long out of the box, so to speak.

"Greg, a lot of people are going to tell you that," Nick said, looking out the windshield and seeing nothing but earth and fire ants. "Most of 'em are just saying it 'cause they're nice. But I really do get it. I remember a wise, young man seeing my hands shaking and telling me they'd stop. I really do have some idea of what you're goin' through. You don't have to pretend that everything's fine. Not with me."

Greg closed his eyes and dropped his head forward to the steering wheel. But his shoulders dropped and his back relaxed. For a moment anyway. "I feel like I'm drowning," he admitted. "I've got so many things rolling around my head. What they did. What I did. I'm proud and ashamed, happy to be back and terrified out of my mind."

Nick smiled. "I'd be more worried if you weren't. You're normal, Greg. And you know it'll get better with time. Just like before."

"I didn't kill anyone before."

That was the one aspect Nick couldn't empathize with. Getting through the trauma of the assault would be hard enough without the additional element of guilt. "I could keep telling you it was self-defense," he offered, "but you already know that, don't you?"

Greg nodded, his forehead still against the wheel. "But it won't change the fact that I killed a human being, a college kid."

"No, it won't. You'll have to learn how to forgive yourself, I guess. And that'll take-"

"-Time," Greg finished. He let out a deep breath and lifted his head. He rubbed his eyes and then finally turned to face his passenger. "I hate that."

Nick nodded, noticing that a small mob really had appeared out the window. Grissom and Catherine, Sara and Warrick were all out there on the sidewalk. "I get that, too." He put his hand lightly - mindful of likely bruises - on Greg's shoulder. "Anytime you need me, you call. I'm there. I'm not lettin' you drown, Greggo."

Greg nodded, meeting his gaze. "Thanks." He took another long, shaky breath. "So how do I get by today?"

Nick grinned and got out of the car. He walked around the back this time and opened Greg's door for him. "You jump in with both feet," he said, offering a hand. Greg finally saw the others as he stepped out of the car. "And find out you already have friends in the water."

copyright 2006 Gabrielle Lawson