Author's Note: I'm a huge fan of CSI and have followed it since the very first episode. I watch it religiously. But when it came to writing a CSI fan fic, I sort of chickened out. I didn't feel I was worthy enough to start one because the show itself is so brilliant that I could never do proper justice to it. I've hesitated a great deal. Then finally, I thought "What the heck – just do it. The worst case scenario - everyone hates it." But I hope you don't. This is my very first CSI fic so please be gentle.

This fic takes place during the most current season.

Title: Bad Timing

Chapter 1: Shots Fired

A loud crack of gunfire disturbed the stillness of a deserted side street right off Clark Avenue, a few blocks behind The Four Queens. Rows of condemned apartment buildings bearing wrought iron fire escapes ran down the lonely block. Several neglected rusty dumpsters were scattered about aimlessly giving light to the stench of rotting garbage. The movement of rats behind boarded walls scratched copiously for a way out and the noises were soon silenced by the deafening sound of gun fire.

A single bullet ripped through the CSI vest and entered his torso knocking him over backwards instantly. The pain was not evident immediately. There was a delay of some seconds before he actually felt the pain. In fact, he had no idea he was even shot until his back slammed against the pavement and the blood started pouring out. The smell of metal and burnt flesh filled his nostrils.

He had been preoccupied with talking on the cell phone and failed to notice that he was not alone in the alley. It was supposed to be perfectly safe to separate from the primary crime scene and go with any leads he may find around the perimeters. It wasn't his fault that he happened to find a small scatter of glass leading from the primary crime scene and into the alley. After all, wasn't it his job to follow the evidence?

The police had secured the area before the CSIs arrived on the scene - so technically, there were no reasons to fear anything out of the norm. But it was his decision to venture beyond the yellow tape. He should not have been too gullible in letting his guard down.

Before he could even cry out for help, the department-issued Motorola flip phone that he was cradling between his ear and shoulder flew out of his grasp and landed a few yards away from his processing kit.

"What the hell was that?" Nick exclaimed as he got up from a kneeling position. He had been bagging and tagging some unidentified fragments he found by the curb when the unexpected sound of gunfire erupted.

"It sounded like it came from over there." Warrick said as he reached for his gun. He already started making his way towards Cholla Street.

"Greg." Grissom said into his phone. "Greg?" He repeated with more stress in his tone.

There was no answer.

A few pieces of plastic chipped off as the phone slammed against the pavement. The spidery crack on the screen zigzagged from top to bottom. The lights flickered hesitantly before completely dying out.

Greg Sanders was lying face up on the pavement with blood gushing out of his wound. Breathing suddenly became a very difficult task. His heart thumped explosively in his chest forcing him to draw labored breaths. He tried to concentrate and look around for clues, but the images swam about him in slow motion.

He couldn't see the assailant's face. It was obscured by a grey hooded sweatshirt drawn over his head. He squinted at the direction of the person who shot him. Based on the agility and built, it was definitely a male, possibly late twenties to early thirties, about five ten, ethnicity – undetermined. The man bent over and picked up something near one of the dumpsters before quickly dashing away. Greg's vision blurred making it close to impossible to tell which way the suspect ran. Everything looked like one big jumble of watercolor.

Greg heard the scuffing sounds of multiple sets of feet quickly approaching. There was no doubt in his mind that those sets of feet belonged to his friends. He kept telling himself that things were going to be alright now that help arrived.

With weapons drawn, Warrick and Nick proceeded ahead with caution. Grissom jogged quickly behind, anxious to see what happened. They noticed Greg lying helplessly on the ground immediately. Their hearts raced as they scoured the area with a serious eye in hopes of spotting the assailant.

Through the stillness of the back street, it was apparent that the assailant, whomever he may be, had disappeared and was long gone. There were no traces of movement or cause for suspicion. In fact, the abandoned alley was riddled with dozens of escape routes. There were alleys that lead into other alleys and yards that lead into other yards. It was as web of possibilities.

"Greg!" Nick, being the first one to reach Greg, dropped down beside him. "Damn it, Greg. Damn it!" His shrill distraught voice cried desperately as he inspected the damage.

Greg was losing consciousness fast. He tried so hard to fight it. His heart was slowing down as it pumped more and more blood to the wound to flush out the bullet. Breathing became less labored and the desire for sleep became more dominant. His empty eyes stared at the sky as his life gradually slipped away.

"Greg?" Grissom said while nervously grabbing the young CSI by the collar. "Come on, stay with me."

The sudden shake from Grissom managed to keep Greg from going under. Greg saw the deep concern etched in Grissom's face. Time stood still. With every thud of his heart, it felt like the second hand on the clock dragged slower and slower.

"God, there's so much blood." Nick gasped in horror. His friend was dying and there was nothing he could do about it. He showed no hesitation in getting his hands dirty and applied direct pressure to the wound to deter the bleeding.

Warrick frantically radioed for paramedics. Bent over with hands on his knees, Warrick watched Greg inch towards death. It was hard to remain calm and collected when the victim was someone he knew so well.

Being years younger than the rest of the crew, Greg was everyone's little brother. His colleagues were not his co-workers. They were his friends. As much as he was teased for being "the runt of the litter", they had immense respect for him and were glad he was a part of the team. Whether or not he knew it, everyone became overly protective of him, especially after the whole Demetrius James catastrophe last year.

Greg had the integrity and smarts but with only about two years under his belt, he was still very new to the world of being a field investigator. It was very different than what he was used to, which was essentially the comfort of a boxed-in laboratory. Working out in the field was very different than burrowing behind his high tech ultra-centrifuges and high powered microscopes in an air conditioned crime lab. A field investigator required puzzle solving, theory analysis, and interaction with people. These were skills that Greg needed to polish.

He had the utmost respect and admiration for his shift supervisor. After all, it was Gil Grissom, who took him under his wing and taught him the ropes. He still had so much to learn from Grissom. There were no regrets and Greg couldn't be happier pursuing a profession that he ultimately enjoyed. This was where he wanted to be. He had an appetite for challenge – perhaps this was a little more than he bargained for.

Warrick's sweaty grip on the hand radio grew tighter as he watched Greg's blood seep through Nick's fingers. He couldn't believe that this was happening. It was only a couple hours ago when he and Greg grabbed a quick bite at Paco's Tacos before their shifts started. Warrick remembered how they goofed around and competed on who could fit two tacos in their mouth. Greg was so alive and animated. Now, that same Greg was lying on the floor in a pool of blood.

"You cannot go to sleep. Do you hear me?" Grissom said. "Sanders, that's an order." He added firmly, hoping rank and seniority would convince Greg not to give in.

"What the hell happened? Who did this to you?" Nick blurted as if expecting Greg to start talking to him on the spot. He choked on his words.

If anyone knew Nick Stokes at all, they would know that it took an awful lot to break him. He was a strong-willed, intelligent, brave, compassionate man, who possessed a good sense of principle. He wasn't perfect and, like any man, he had his flaws and made his share of mistakes. But he was noble and had a heart of gold.

Nick believed the impact of one great life-changing event was all it took to shed new light on the meaning of existence. Things were never quite the same after being buried alive. The severe physical and mental torture was indescribable. No one would have been able to bear the punishment the way he had. Certain things still triggered flashbacks and made him rather uncomfortable but he never allowed it to interfere with his work. In fact, there was a period of time where he immersed himself in nothing but work. He wanted to be so exhausted that there were no given opportunities to think. This form of foolish therapy worked for a short while but was an overall unsuccessful way of avoiding the truth. It took many shrink sessions to set him in the right direction again. It wasn't easy. And now, seeing his young friend clinging to life made all the anguish and despair return.

"Help is on the way. You're going to be fine." Nick said to Greg. Somehow, he didn't actually believe Greg was going to be fine. He was so messed up and by the looks of things, it could go either way. Nick tried to get a grip on himself and be optimistic for Greg's sake.

The mixture of voices and sounds made very little sense. Greg needed to tell Grissom something. He opened his mouth to speak but any a few grunts came out.

"Grr-hiss." Greg purred as he tried to form words.

"Greg?" Grissom leaned closer. His eyes focused on Greg's lips.

"Muh-Man." Greg whispered with great difficulty. He made attempt after attempt to enunciate words but instead, the painfully incoherent sounds were impossible to understand. One of his trembling fists grabbed a hold of Grissom's collar in deep frustration.

"T-to-hook so-th-ing" Greg struggled. He said with an agonizing cough. Aggravated, he let out a heart wrenching sob.

There were two words that haunted him – Demetrius James. Roughly a year had passed since it happened, but he remembered it like it was yesterday. One doesn't easily forget something that traumatic. Not only did he survive a vicious beating, he was consumed with the guilt of having taken someone's life. Life was tough on Greg for a while but he eventually pulled through. If it wasn't for his friends, he would've clearly drowned in the frenzy of trials, tedious hearings, and gruesome accusations.

There was no use in pretending that everything was going to be alright this time. He may have survived the aftermath of being jumped and the Demetrius James ordeal but he was no match for a bullet. People die easily from gunshot wounds. He had to accept the facts and the facts were not promising at this point. He was going to die.

"You're not a quitter, Greg. You've come too far for that." Nick said defiantly as he continued to apply pressure to the wound with both hands.

"Grrr-hiss." Greg whimpered. His grip on Grissom's collar softened.

"What are you trying to say?" Grissom asked. "What did you see?"

At that moment Grissom noticed something in Greg's eyes that sent chills down his spine. Greg's big doe brown eyes became dark and hollow, like as if he knew his life was going to be over in a matter of seconds. He was sorry that his friends had to see him suffer. Even more so, he was sorry that they had to watch him die. He never expected to go out this way. It wasn't something that could have been prevented. Death was a mysterious subject.

"Greg, I know what you're thinking and it's not right. I don't want you to give up, ok?" Grissom spoke authoritatively. Suddenly, it was Holly Gribbs all over again. The horrific images of that day came back in full blast. "After Holly, no one's allowed to die on my shift – not Nick, not Sara. And certainly not you." He must not allow it to come to that for the youngest member of the team. He winced as if feeling Greg's pain.

"What's taking the medics so long?" Warrick shouted into his hand radio shortly after hearing Greg's scratchy cough. He was plagued with the unpleasant idea that Greg could be choking on his own blood. His semi-panicked voice was followed by a wave of static over the radio. A voice reassured him that the paramedics were on their way.

Just as Warrick released the talk button on his radio, EMS sirens could be heard from a distance.

"Hang on, hang on." Warrick pleaded. "Tough it out." He muttered.

Warrick Brown was born and raised in Las Vegas. Unlike Nick, he didn't come from a wealthy background. He was brought up by a strict grandmother in the ghettos of North Las Vegas. Life was hard. They lived in a cramped third floor apartment on Craig Road, east of the I-15. The low income apartment building wasn't exactly an ideal place for children but anything was better than sleeping on the streets. Warrick didn't have much, except for an overprotective grandmother who was determined to straighten him up and keep him out of the gutter.

Whenever he got into any sort of trouble that required his grandmother to come bail him out, he received a well-deserved whooping the minute they got home. He had plenty of those to make it memorable enough to last a lifetime.

He was a scrawny dark-skinned boy with beautiful green eyes that hid behind bottle-cap glasses. Often bullied and teased at school, he was always caught fighting, which in turn repeatedly got him sent to the principal's office. Detention became a casual word in his vocabulary and a sore derriere became somewhat of a routine. Perhaps his grandmother's method of discipline would be a bit harsh for this day and age, but it sure worked on Warrick back then. He still frequently made jokes about his phobia of twelve inch Westcott wood rulers.

Warrick had street smarts and knew not to linger around certain places long enough to get mugged or shot. North Las Vegas was a transient neighborhood and an even "less desirable" place to live. During broad daylight, it was tolerable. But after sunset, shady people milled the streets baiting trouble. Warrick knew the area like the back of his hand. He learned all the safe routes and ways to escape trouble. It was survival and helped tremendously during his days as a casino runner.

Survival was probably the thing he clearly understood. He overcame his gambling addiction. After all, it wasn't his fault that math happened to be his strongest suit. There was nothing wrong with counting cards, or at least so he thought. He survived the crash, as well as the burn. Greg's case, however, was grim.

"Here they are!" Warrick exclaimed as he spotted the ambulance. With lights flashing and sirens wailing, the ambulance rolled to a complete stop a few feet away from where they stood.

"It's gonna be ok, Greg." Nick said affectionately, treating Greg like the kid brother he never had. Nick was the youngest of seven children. With five older sisters and one older brother, he had plenty of people watching his back. Life didn't give him the opportunity to be a big brother. Things sort of changed when Greg made CSI level 1.

Meanwhile, Grissom held a stern face as he stared at Greg shivering on the ground slowly fading into shock. On the outside, he appeared unaffected by it all but down inside, he was just as hysterical as Nick and Warrick. He had his own way of dealing with things.

Dr. Gilbert Grissom was more than just the team's shift supervisor. He shared a special bond with his subordinates. Having grown rather attached to his team through the years, he felt they were his responsibility. He would do anything in his power to protect them. Warrick, Nick, and Greg were like his surrogate children and Catherine, like a surrogate sister. He knew how hard to push them to maximize their potential. He gave them advice when they sought it, pulled strings when they got into jams, and gave them second and third chances when they needed them.

Just because he didn't succumb immediately to vulnerability didn't mean he was heartless. In fact, he cared immensely – sometimes, a little too much. It had nothing to do with professionalism. Rather, it was just the Gil Grissom way. Greg's situation was getting worst by the minute and it horrified him.

With a solemn expression and lips pursed, Grissom stood watching the paramedics work on Greg. The kid's shirt was mutilated to reveal a bloody chest. Swift in their actions, the paramedics went through several blood-soaked gauze pads before getting a hold on the situation. Greg was barely conscious when they loaded him into the ambulance.

Perhaps it was temporary shock or a lack of knowing what to do next. Grissom appeared lost to the world. He knew things were happening around him but all of it seemed unreal, like as if he was watching a movie unfold before his eyes. This was serious. It was life or death. Somewhere in the haze, he heard Nick say something about riding with Greg in the ambulance. Warrick said something to him but he didn't hear it.

"Grissom, you ok?" Warrick finally said after Grissom did not respond.

"Huh? Oh, I'm fine." Grissom broke out of his trance when Warrick touched his shoulder. "What did you say?"

"Brass is on his way. But we're not done processing the crime scene." Warrick said like as if he was torn between completing his job and being with Greg at the hospital. "I'll wrap up what I started - the primary crime scene, then check on Greg at the hospital." He added responsibly.

And that was the reason why Grissom considered Warrick his successor. There was something about Warrick that made Grissom see beyond the old habits. While Grissom was the glue that held the team together, it was Warrick who was the anchor.

"I'll call Catherine and tell her to help." Grissom said as he fished his cell phone out of his pocket. He was eager to put the pieces together and find the person who hurt Greg.

Only a handful of lonely cars remained in the parking lot of the Whole Foods Supermarket. The most convenient time to do grocery shopping was in the evening. There were fewer crowds and more parking spaces. Catherine was placing two armfuls of grocery bags into the trunk of her SUV when her phone buzzed inside her handbag. Slightly disheveled from handling the heavy bags, she brushed back a piece of blond hair that had fallen over her eyes.

Digging in her junk-filled handbag in search of her ever buzzing cell phone, she made a mental note to do some serious organizing when she got home. The caller ID on her phone indicated that the call was from Grissom. She answered it as she snapped the trunk shut and walked towards the driver side with keys dangling from her keychain.

Catherine's day off provided the opportunity to relax and get some personal things done. It wasn't everyday that she got to sleep in, work out at the gym, have a well-balanced meal, soak in a two hour bath, pick up Lindsay from school, drop off Lindsay at her slumber party, do the week's grocery shopping, and go for a Starbuck's iced mocha frappuccino. She was having a pretty decent day up until the phone call from Grissom.

"Catherine, Greg's been shot." Grissom's tense voice said the second Catherine picked up.

"Oh my God!" Catherine gasped. "W-what happened? Is he alright? How is he?" She stammered. Her eyes began to water as she absorbed the grueling details.

She fumbled nervously with her keys as she tried to open the car door while holding the phone to her ear. Ever since Greg's injury during the lab explosion, Catherine kept a close eye on him. Because of her own negligence, she was held liable for what happened. She felt even more guilt when Greg easily forgave her and called it nothing but an accident. After that, she stayed with him at the hospital every day throughout her suspension.

The news of Greg being gunned down brought great distress to Catherine. As assistant shift supervisor, she had an obligation. Like Grissom, she was responsible for the well-being of her team.

"Where do you need me to be?" Catherine said into the phone.

A pause as she listened to Grissom's instructions.

"Ok, I'll be there in fifteen minutes." Catherine said as she started the ignition.

(Dear Lord, let the kid be alright) She prayed.

The unusual stillness of the waiting room at North Vista Hospital screamed with each wrecking minute. Over two hours ago when they arrived at the hospital, they told Nick he wasn't allowed to accompany Greg into the ER. He was limited to only the waiting room. They reassured him that he would be the first to know any news – good or bad. But somehow that wasn't good enough for him.

Nick was antsy. He sat down, got up, sat down, walked around the room, sat back down, got up again and resorted to pacing. He couldn't just sit there patiently – not after what happened in the ambulance. The knot in his throat refused to untwine. Nick never thought he could be so affected. He couldn't imagine life without Greg. Greg was part of the family. Not wanting anyone to see him cry, he turned to face a poster that was taped to the wall. He stared at the words but nothing sunk in. A stray tear fell from his eye, which he wiped away immediately.

At the beginning of the shift, Nick would always tease Greg about something in the locker room before heading out - whether it was about the kid's hair or his lack of dates, or the funny way he dressed. Nick never let a day go by without having some fun with Greg first. His antics were not intended to hurt Greg. It was because Greg was the youngest and that made him an easy target. Greg never complained about any mistreatment. And no one would've guessed that all the joking around was actually Nick's good luck routine.

Even field investigators had their share of danger on the job. After all the unthinkable tragedies that fell upon the team, they each had their own superstitions. Everyone's day began and ended in the locker room and this was a good place to witness their quirks and rituals. Warrick kissed the small gold cross that hung on a chain around his neck. Catherine touched her photo of Lindsay, which she taped to the locker door. And when Sara was still with the team, she used to keep a little plastic bobble head figure of a white terrier on the top shelf of her locker. She would give the dog a little tap on the head for good luck. And as for Nick, it was teasing Greg. He considered Greg to be his lucky charm.

As a rookie, Greg expected lots of hazing. After all, he had to earn his place from the other team members. The others find it most interesting that he never complained about the abuse - not even when he was forced to do all the tasks no one wanted to do. He swam neck deep in filthy dumpsters, sifted through animal dung with his hands, climbed down manholes, climbed up treetops, fished through raw sewage, crawled through dusty air vents, and became an instant guinea pig whenever the others needed to conduct experiments or reenactments.

Virtually all CSI level 1 went through the same initiations. It came with the territory. Because of this, Greg never let the teasing and joking bother him. Somehow, he was used to it. He had experience in that department. It wasn't easy being a child prodigy and going to a school for the gifted. He got teased plenty in those days. The only difference between then and now was that these were his friends. Their teasing was affectionate.

Nick felt guilty and wished he hadn't been so harsh on Greg. He wanted to take back all the times he treated Greg like the office gofer and servant to the higher-ups. Greg was a real trooper for not objecting to do anything. Even as a lab technician, everyone had such high turnover expectations of him. He had a skill for processing things quickly and doing his job with utmost accuracy. Nick and the others knew Greg's capabilities and often took it for granted.

He got used to the soft murmur of conversation between nurses when they passed by. The secretaries behind the front desk pecked away at their keyboards and answered ringing phones accordingly. Down the next corridor, a lonely janitor's squeaky mop squished back and forth as he washed the floors. A few hospital personnel came out of the elevators, which were adjacent to the waiting area. An occasional overhead page for doctors caught his ears. He may appear to be engulfed in reading the poster on the wall but his mind was clearly somewhere else.

"Nick." A voice called from behind.

Nick spun around and realized the voice belonged to Grissom. Warrick and Catherine were right behind him. They approached him with solemn faces in hopes of good news.

"We came as fast as we could." Warrick said. "The crime scenes weren't just going to process themselves." He added whimsically to lighten the tension.

"I'm sorry." Nick replied. "I didn't mean to ditch you guys like that."

"No, Greg needed someone to be with him." Grissom said.

There was an awkward pause.

"Have you heard anything?" Warrick asked.

There was another awkward pause.

"We're not too late, are we?" Catherine swallowed. Seeing Nick's glassy eyes gave her the impression that something was wrong.

"No, he's still in surgery." Nick responded.

"Oh. You scared me for a sec there." Catherine said with a sigh of semi-relief.

"No one's come out of there yet." Nick said. The wait felt like an eternity.

"He's a tough kid. He'll pull through." Catherine said optimistically.

A moment of silence proceeded.

"It's going to be a long night. I'm going to get some coffee, anyone want a cup?" Warrick said breaking the silence.

"I'll go with you." Catherine volunteered.

They headed towards the coffee machine down the hall.

"Are you ok?" Grissom finally said as he took a seat next to Nick.

"Yea, fine." Nick answered quickly. He thought about it for a moment then revised his answer. "Actually, I'm not." He confided.

"I don't think any of us are fine either." Grissom replied.

"This wasn't supposed to happen to Greg." Nick ran a hand through his short brown hair. "I keep thinking if there was something I could've done. Had I been there, maybe things would've turned out differently." He rubbed his stubble-free angular jaw.

It didn't surprise Grissom to see Nick so disturbed by this whole incident. Nick often threw objectivity out the window and allowed himself to get too close to the victims. He empathized just a little too much. Though reminded numerous times by his colleagues to distance himself from the victims, he couldn't help but be human sometimes.

Grissom was just as torn as Nick. This should not have happened – not under his supervision. Greg was very capable of working on his own. He did not need a babysitter. But Grissom was in charge. He felt he should have gone with Greg into the alley.

"Come on Nick, there was nothing you could've done." Grissom said calmly. "I take full responsibility for my team's actions."

"What if Greg doesn't make it? What if he dies?" Nick said.

"He won't. He can't." Grissom said. He seemed calm, even under the most trying circumstances. Gil Grissom was not known to freak out about anything. He was a mellow individual who always had his feet firmly planted. He didn't allow things to get to him. The lack of expression was often misunderstood for callousness.

"He went into cardiac arrest in the ambulance. It took two tries on the defibrillator to bring him back, Griss." Nick said as he shook his head in dismay.

"I'm sorry you had to see that." Grissom stared at the tips of his black leather Rockports.

"Maybe it'd be different if it was someone I didn't know. But it's Greg. We've had so much history together." Nick said. "Everything is so unreal. I just have this really bad feeling."

"Hope is the last thing that dies in man; and though it is exceedingly deceitful, yet it is of this good use to us, that while we are traveling through life it conducts us in an easier and more pleasant way to our journey's end." Grissom recited most thoughtfully.

"Let me guess, Keats?" Nick attempted.

"No, eighteenth century French writer Francois De La Rochefoucauld." Grissom corrected.

"That would've been my second guess." Nick said sheepishly and offered a wry smile.

"I'm sure." Grissom smirked amiably.

"Basically you're trying to say keep a chin up." Nick said.

Grissom nodded.

Four cups of coffee and six Ring Dings later, the team was starting to get anxious. They were not able to get any information out of the nurses. The doctor and specialists they called in were nowhere to be found. There was nothing anyone could do aside from watching the clock on the wall.

Grissom had gotten several calls within this time period. Brass called several times to inquire about Greg as well as give an update on the manhunt, which was difficult being that the only one who saw anything was probably Greg. The phone call from Ecklie was not unpleasant.

At current time, Gil Grissom and Conrad Ecklie had a truce. Ecklie no longer felt threatened by Grissom once he realized his position as Assistant Director of the crime lab was secured. He made Grissom out to be a liability when in fact, he was the competition. Ecklie was all about bureaucracy and office politics – and Grissom was not. But the hostile feelings generated towards each other have taken a backseat whenever one of the members of the team was in deep trouble. Ecklie wasn't all bad. As much as he belittled Grissom's team, it was he who pulled all possible resources to help Nick and Sara in their times of need.

David Hodges was one of the first to call Grissom when he so conveniently happened to overhear Ecklie on the phone. Brown-nosing was his specialty around the lab. Perhaps sucking up to the superiors and being a pain in everyone's ass, was all anyone believed he was capable of. Of course, Hodges' main concern was not for Sander's health - which wouldn't surprise anyone one bit. For his own selfish reasons, he needed to get on Grissom's good side. Hodges knew about Grissom's tight bond with his team. He figured if he knew how to play his cards right, he could have Grissom eating out of his hand.

Grissom could tell Hodges kept the news all to himself. That was typical of him. A call from the rest of the lab techs was received a half hour later. As usual, Wendy, Mandy, Archie and Henry all fumed that Hodges had the nerve to wait so long to tell them about their friend and former lab mate. They huddled anxiously around the conference room phone and put Grissom on speaker. With heartfelt concern, they wanted to know what happened. And because Grissom knew their nature was genuine, he told them more than he told Hodges. The impact of the news hit everyone pretty hard.

As for Catherine, Warrick, and Nick, the time spent in waiting at the hospital was critical. None of them could go back to work without knowing Greg was stabilized at the very least. The conversations were kept minimal as they shared their grief.

Grissom was trying to steady his nerves by taking up a copy of the National Geographic from the magazine rack. Reading was his remedy for stress. Some people smoked when they got nervous, Grissom read. The article on the lowland gorillas of the Congo never really stuck. He stared at the picture of a gorilla on the adjacent page for the longest time.

Catherine fidgeted with her blackberry and occasionally looked up to see what everyone else was doing. She allowed Warrick to get a refills on her coffee.

Warrick was addicted to coffee. He made frequent trips to the coffee machine down the hall, though it was done more out of distraction than a need to quench a thirst. Warrick couldn't stand the wickedness of silence.

Nick sat with his head buried in his hands. He had no desire for food, coffee, or magazines. He couldn't bring himself to think about anything except the seriousness of Greg's condition. It was hard to erase the desperate look on Greg's face just seconds before he passed out.

About four hours into the wait, a man dressed from head to toe in sea foam-colored surgical garb trotted into the waiting area. Perspiration shadows could be seen around the chest and armpits of his scrubs. One end of the surgical mask was still looped around his ear. Looking quite tousled and exhausted, he brushed the sweat off his brow with the cuff of a sleeve.

Grissom, Catherine, Warrick, and Nick got up from their seats immediately when they saw the doctor. It was like as if royalty had walked into the room. Adrenaline rushed in their veins.

The wait was finally over.

End of Chapter 1