Chapter One

Fists lashed out, pounding his arms, chest, and legs. Pain erupted across his body like nothing he had ever experienced before. The attack was unrelenting, unforgiving and born of pure anger. His vision swam as he felt something in his side snap. Probably a rib, he thought absently as he tried to crawl away from their brutality. But they would not let him. They would not grant him that reprieve. They wanted to hurt him and there was no way they would let him escape this attack. As further kicks were lashed against his broken body he knew he was going to die. He didn't know how much more his body could take. He could feel warm blood pouring down his face as he lay still, resigned to his fate. They were too many. He could not fight them all. He wanted to speak, to beg them to stop but his mouth would not work. No sound left his lips. His last hope resided on the dispatch arriving. Five minutes ETA she had said. He didn't think he would last two. He was already beginning to drift in and out of consciousness. He couldn't take much more of this. The pain was too much. He didn't even have the energy to be afraid any more. Every inch of his body ached and throbbed. It was like nothing he had ever experienced. He didn't even attempt to move off the ground as they continued to beat him. He was too hurt. Too tired. His mouth was filling with his own blood and he turned his head to the side, coughing it up. He didn't want to choke on it. He didn't want to die like this. In the back of his mind he knew it was no longer his choice. It was out of his hands.

Greg awoke with a gasp. Disorientated, perspiration beaded on his brow and trickled down his back. As he leaned over to his night stand and flicked the lamp on he was almost amazed to see he was in his own bedroom. For a brief second he merely stared around the familiar surroundings, half expecting it to disappear into that alley way. It did not however and after a few minutes he threw the blankets back and rose carefully from his bed, his hand automatically holding his bandaged side. It had seemed so real, too real. Running his fingers through his sweaty hair he sighed deeply, trying to pull himself together and headed into the kitchen.

The nightmares had begun the first night after his attack. That had been almost three weeks ago. They came every night with renewed ferocity. Sometimes he relived his own beating by the hands of the gang, other times he saw Demetrius James disappearing under the bonnet of the denali. There were others that were worse, much worse, but he tried to push them out of his mind knowing he would not be able to rest at all if he didn't. The images haunted him. The guilt of killing the university student ate at him constantly. He couldn't remember the last time he slept properly.

Pulling the fridge door open he sighed, wishing he had thought to go shopping. It was disturbingly empty. He tried to recall the last time he had eaten a proper meal but he couldn't. Details of the last few weeks completely escaped him. Time had seemingly passed in a haze of nightmares and isolation. Slamming it shut he headed over to the sink instead and ran the tap whilst looking for a clean glass. He filled and emptied the contents of it in four gulps, placing it on the side before glancing up at the clock on the wall. He knew the night shift would just be heading into the lab and wished he was there.

He had been placed on leave for a month to recover but sitting at home was driving him insane. He couldn't sleep and his colleagues slept through the day time meaning he had no release from the prison that had become his apartment. Nick had visited once or twice in the first week after his release from hospital as had Sara and even Warrick but their visits had become diminished since and as a result Greg felt hopelessly secluded. He understood that they had lives of their own - after all his own life was usually completely engulfed by working - but even so the insipid drudgery of recovering was taking its toll on him. He lived and breathed the crime lab. Not being there left him feeling strangely empty. It was all he had. All his friends worked there and with no girlfriend and no family here he had nothing to fill his time with. It was depressing.

He needed to get out of his apartment. He needed to do something. Anything. Sitting at home left him far too much time to ponder over what had happened and pondering over what had happened only made his mood sink lower. He didn't want to keep doing this. He wanted to put it out of his mind. He hadn't meant to kill that boy. He had been trying to protect himself and the man the gang were attacking but even so it had been his fault he had died. He had run the SUV right into him and as a result Demetrius James was dead. Try as he might Greg could not let that go. He was a murderer. By rights he belonged in jail. The law viewed it differently however. Restraint in certain circumstances was allowed. Greg had feared for his life and as such had reacted to protect himself and the other victim. That Demetrius James was dead was sad but according to the police he had used reasonable force under the circumstances. His brief had already assured him the courts would probably give him a slap on the wrists and nothing more. Greg almost wanted them to lock him up. Perhaps it would stop these guilt ridden nightmares.

He headed into the bathroom, flicked the shower on and moved over to the sink. As he did so he caught his reflection and took a moment to study it. The bruises had all but faded now, although the cut to his head was still clearly visible due to the stitches he had needed. Thirteen in total, the wound was seared into his skin forever: a scar of his attack, and a constant reminder of what he had done. Every time he ran his fingers over that raised area he would remember the boy he had killed. Demetrius James. He would never forget that name.

Greg wondered if he could ever get passed this. Absently, he wondered if he should be allowed to get passed this. Murder was still murder, whether intentional or in self-defence. Whatever the reasoning behind it a boy was still dead. Rubbing the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger he sank onto the toilet seat and passed a weary hand over his face. Other than his head wound he had received three broken ribs which were healing slowly and a sprained wrist. Considering the pounding he had taken Greg had come out of the whole thing remarkably unscathed. But not all scars are visible and although he was physically healing, his mental well-being was another matter entirely.

Stepping into the shower he stuck his head under the steaming hot water and leaned his good hand against the tiled wall. Letting the water run off his skin he was oblivious to everything other than this simple act. He wished he could wash the blood off his hands as easily but nothing could ever erase what he had done. Somehow or another he would have to learn to live with it.

By the time he stepped out of the cubicle the water had run cold and grabbing a towel he wrapped it around his waist before making his way back into the bedroom. Knowing he wouldn't sleep now he pulled on some clean sweat pants, but left the bandage off. It wasn't really doing anything anyway and only served to irritate him. Brushing his fingers through his wet hair he headed back into the living room and switched the TV on.

There was nothing on and despite having over a hundred and fifty channels on his recently installed cable – Nick's bright idea, not his - he ended up flicking it onto the news and half-heartedly listened to the reporter talking about murders, criminals, and all the usual crap Greg usually worked against. Absently he wondered if the team were working on any of the stories she was talking about but decided it was better not to think about it. Doing so made him yearn even more to be back at work and that only served to upset him further. It was a little after eight in the morning before he finally sank into a restless sleep.

At first he wasn't sure what had woken him but when he finally roused himself properly he realised someone was knocking on his door. The TV was still droning in the background and he flickered his eyes to the bottom of the screen noting the time. It was 10:30am. At least he had gotten a couple of hours sleep.

Pushing himself to his feet, he half staggered across the room. His body hadn't quite woken up properly and it took him a moment to fumble with the security chain before he pulled the door open.

"Hey." Greg blinked as the sunlight hit him, wishing he didn't have a ground floor apartment with an outside door. As he rubbed the sleep from his eyes, Nick took a moment to study him. "You look like hell man."

"Thanks… I think." Greg murmured, opening the door further to allow him entrance.

Still garbed in his black CSI vest, Nick Stokes stepped into the apartment, removing his sunglasses in the process. Greg had known Nick for a long time and he considered him a good friend. There was something about him that he found comforting. He was easier to talk to than the other members of the team and as such Greg was at ease with him. He surmised it was possibly due to the fact Nick had such a large family and as such was used to dealing with people all the time. Either way Greg was grateful he was here. He missed human interaction.

"Did you sleep on the couch?" Nick asked glancing at the blanket draped on the arm.

"I fell asleep in front of the TV." Greg explained, not really wanting to go into details. "You just got off shift?"

"Yeah. Busy night. Three homicides but Griss has got one figured already and Sara and Warrick are working on the other leaving me and Catherine on the last. We've been slammed since you-"

He broke off frowning a little but Greg knew what he was going to say. Yet another thing to feel guilty about Greg sighed. His friends were being pushed to the limit because he wasn't there to take some of the slack.

"I didn't mean…" Nick trailed off again. "Sorry."

"Don't worry. Besides, maybe it will make you guys appreciate me a little more." Greg said feigning a smirk but Nick wasn't fooled by it. Greg could tell by the fact his brow remained tightly knitted. Dropping the act Greg exhaled deeply.

"You want a coffee?"

"Nah man. I gotta go home and sleep and the way you make coffee I'll be up for the rest of the week."

Greg did laugh at that. It was a short sharp bark but it successfully cleared the air and after a moment Nick joined him.

"I don't drink it that strong." Greg protested half-heartedly.

"Face it, Greg, you're a caffeine junkie."

"Maybe I should start a self-help group."

"I'll be your first member." Nick smiled.

"So how's the lab?"

"Same old. We got this new CSI level two on the night shift. She's a little peculiar."

"Peculiar? Like train-spotting peculiar or carves up animals and drinks their blood peculiar?"

"Neither. She's just… hormonal I guess. I dunno. I mean she has everything done on time but she is never happy about giving you your results. She throws more tantrums than a toddler."

Greg raised his brow. "Is she supposed to be running around, wind in her hair, the 'hills are alive with the sound of music' style when she's giving results?"

"No." Nick pulled a face. "I don't know. There's just… something. You'll see what I mean."

"What's her name?" he asked curiously.

"Adrienne West." Greg's pulled his brow into a tight frown.

"Do you know her?"

"What? No. Just thinking."

In truth he was wondering if she was better than him. Would they replace Greg? A million and one insecurities suddenly hit him. Was he being replaced? Maybe she was his replacement. He felt his breath catch in his chest. Maybe Ecklie knew Greg was going down for Demetrius James. Maybe they thought he was a liability. He had been told to wait for backup and hadn't. Now someone was dead. But Grissom hadn't said anything to him. He had reassured him. Surely if he was being fired Grissom would have said something, wouldn't he? Greg knew deep down he would have but sat in his apartment listening to Nick he wondered if there was more to this than anyone was telling him. He rose from the sofa, running his hand through his hair.

"Are you ok, Greg?"

He stopped pacing and turned back to him, dropping his hands onto his hips. "Just tell me one thing, Nick."

"Sure." He said with a nonchalant shrug of his shoulders.

"Is she better than me?" Nick gave him a strange look before smirking.

"Not even close."

A/N I've never written a CSI story before but love the show. I've had this idea for a while but only really pulled it out of the vaults recently. I've really just put this out to see what kind of response it gets. I'm slightly nervous about it! Anywho, let me know what you think. The first chapter is pretty much just getting the events of what happened in Fannysmackin' out of the way.