Author's Note: Hello all. Well, I'm sorry to say, but this might be the last story I'm going to write. I dunno – I've lost interest in CSI. Lost interest in, dare I say it, The Love as well. I can honestly say that I'll try my hardest to finish this story, because I owe it to everyone to actually work hard for one story, at least.

Angst/Drama. Nick/Greg. Alternating POV. Slash.

Acknowledgements: Thanks a bunch to Amanda. Not only just for editing this story, but also for encouraging me the whole way through my writing journey.

Another tremendous 'thank you!' goes out to Natasha (or Sara's Girl) for beta'ing many of my stories (including this one), and all your suggestions truly did help me become a better writer.

Disclaimer: I never have owned Nick, Greg, or anyone mentioned in any of my stories. Kind of lame, but it's the truth.

Summary: Five years. Five years of nothing. Five years of wishing. Five years of agony, of defeat. Five years, and then that one moment of hope.

Stolen Time

"There is one kind of robber whom the law does not strike at, and who steals what is most precious to men: time."

~Napoleon I

Weeks …

Nick sat alone, his head resting against the wall. He felt worn out, exhausted, empty. People walked up and down the hallway, each one giving him a sympathetic glance, but no one stopped to talk to him. They knew what he was going through and they didn't know how to help him. No one did. It didn't matter anyways, though – no one could help him. He was beyond help. Beyond grief. Beyond tears or any sort of release. He was just a shell at this point – a living body without a soul.

Grissom stepped out into the hall, nodded at him, and then stepped back into his office. Nick got to his feet slowly and followed him into the quiet and dark room. Grissom was standing behind his desk, and he signaled for Nick to take a seat.

He sat, waiting. His listless eyes rested on Grissom, who was staring down at him. Abruptly, Grissom picked up a piece of paper from the desktop.

"You're resigning?" he asked, his face not betraying any emotion. Nick could only nod in response.

"Nick … are you sure that's the right thing to do?" Grissom inquired, his voice still low, composed. Almost caring.

Nick swallowed and licked his dry lips. "I can't stay here."

Grissom sighed and sat across from him, gently putting the paper down on the desk. He cleared his throat before saying, "We're all going through this, Nicky."

Nick's mind burned with anger for a second – we're all going through this … there was something wrong with that statement. No, they weren't all going through this. Only he knew the true and full amount of what had been lost. Of what could never be regained. He took a deep breath and forced himself to calm down.

"We're all missing Greg," Grissom continued, his voice becoming almost a whisper.

Greg

Nick hadn't heard his name spoken aloud for weeks. Not since the search had ended. Not since hope had been lost.

We're all missing Greg

His mind was almost paralyzed with all the things he could say in response to that:

"I know everyone misses him, but I miss him the most."

"If I can't live without him, why haven't I died yet? If we're all going through this, shouldn't we all be dead?"

"The day he went missing, a part of me died. You all can't possibly be going through the same torture that I am."

But all Nick said was, "I know, but I just … can't. I can't do this anymore, Gris. I need to get away. Away from all the memories. Away from everything."

Grissom's ice blue eyes pierced his own coffee brown ones as he asked, "Away from everyone?"

Nick could only shake his head, his anger abating and then giving way to the pure exhaustion that was settling into his limbs once again.

He was no stranger to being horribly tired, but this time, things were different. This time, he couldn't sleep. Every day, he would lie awake in his bed, listening to the world passing by outside his heavily curtained window. Alone in the house he used to share with Greg, he would wish for the pain to leave him, but that prayer wasn't going to be answered. He was alone with the agony that was eating him from the inside out. From that suffering, there would be no rescue.

"Nick, I can't make you reconsider," Grissom said, his voice reverting to its normal decibel level, "but I wish you wouldn't throw everything away. Greg wouldn't want you to do that. He would say something along the lines of holding everyone closer at this time in your life. You need them. You need us."

Nick stared blankly at Grissom before sighing heavily. He knew that Grissom was right, even though he was sure that he couldn't stay here anymore.

Grissom picked up the piece of paper once again and looked at Nick pointedly.

"You can throw it out …" Nick whispered. He stood and started towards the door to the office when Grissom's voice stopped him.

"Take the rest of the day off, Nick," he said. Nick stopped for a second and then continued out of the room.

---

Nick was back in his house. The house that seemed too big now; too silent, too empty. It was too devoid of life, even though two people used to live here, and now all that was left was a person who felt dead inside.

The living room was in complete and utter disarray. Greg's Xbox games were littered all over the floor, empty beer cans tipped over on the coffee table, and the couch's A&M blanket and pillows were tossed all over. The kitchen was no better, though. A huge mound of dirty dishes was piled up in the sink, the microwave door was open, and every cupboard was also ajar, along with the floor looking like it needed a good sweeping.

The bathroom was just as bad, if not worse. The sink was grungy, empty toilet paper rolls scattered across the black tile floor, and the mirrors were streaked with grime. In the bedroom, where Nick was currently located, everything seemed to get ten times worse. Clothes, both clean and dirty, were thrown onto the floor, the curtains covering the glass patio doors were down, along with all the other heavy curtains, and more empty beer bottles could be found taking up space on the bedside table to the left of the queen size bed.

The would-be white duvet cover (that was now really an off shade of white from a lack of washing) was bunched up at the foot of the bed, and the sheets (which were in need of cleaning, too) were twisted and mangled.

Without Greg, Nick had no real reason to do anything. Without Greg, he was bare, just like the house.

Leaning up against the pale wooden backboard, Nick's hand trembled as he looked at a newspaper from two weeks ago. The headline read: 'Search Dies Down for Missing CSI.' A large picture of Greg's smiling and cheerful face looked up at Nick, tearing his heart into a million shattered, jagged pieces. Even though the picture was black and white, Nick could still see a twinkle in Greg's frozen eyes. His eyes always seemed to glimmer and shine, no matter what fresh hell he'd just experienced

Nick forced himself to read the article again, but nothing seemed to catch hold in his brain except for random and disjointed phrases:

Greg Sanders was last seen on 21st Street South, walking towards his home …

police baffled.

No ransom call.

After two weeks of looking and a lack of tips, all leads have dried up.

Sanders is presumed dead.

Presumed dead … the words echoed in Nick's mind, almost making him want to scream, just to hear something else. Anything else except those words, those words that had condemned Greg to death.

Presumed dead by who, exactly? Hopefully … hopefully not by Greg's friends, his family … the people who knew and loved him. Those people couldn't have given up hope already. It had only been a month since he'd been kidnapped. Thirty-one days. That was too short a time to give up.

Even with those indignant thoughts swirling around Nick's overtired brain, he knew he was wrong.

Even Greg's best friends had already given up hope. The people who had worked with him for years, the people who knew him best had stopped hoping that the kidnapper would call, asking for a ransom.

A notice had gone up at work, and despite Nick's best efforts, he couldn't ignore its words: There was to be a memorial service for Greg Sanders next Saturday at the church down the street. Everyone was welcome to attend. Donations could be made to a respectable organization, where Greg's parents had set up a fund that would give money to the only charity Greg ever contributed to – the humane society.

Nick wouldn't be attending.

He couldn't. He couldn't face everyone there. Everyone who would be acting as if it were Greg's funeral, even though (despite the lack of Greg's body) in a sense it was. Greg was no longer alive to the people at the Las Vegas crime lab. He was no longer alive to Sara, Grissom, Catherine, and Warrick. He was no longer alive to Nick, either.

All that was left was a vacant house filled with memories that made Nick want to scream in soul-searing agony. All that was left was a broken heart, a broken life.

If he could have had one thing (besides having Greg back), then he would wish that he could be where Greg was right now – even if it meant dying.

Nick was no longer afraid of death. Death frightened people, he thought, because there was still so much more to live for. There was always a new day and new opportunities that would never arise again. But when a person stops caring, when they stop looking forward to the dawn, then that's when they aren't afraid of death any longer.

He had long since stopped living because he no longer had anything to live for. Nick now hated his job; he couldn't withstand dealing with other people's untimely demises. He had also stopped communicating with his best friends – the people who were closer than family. Warrick hadn't only given up on finding Greg – he'd also stopped trying to get Nick to talk about what had happened. Sara, too, had had no luck with him, and now she didn't try either.

Nick's only light – Greg – had gone out, and now his life was excruciatingly dark, and he had no idea what to do.

In all honesty, what could he do? There was no chance of moving on … he couldn't even cry, how could he even contemplate letting go of Greg? There also was no chance of finding him. The whole crime lab had been working on the case, and nothing could be found.

Nick had been lucky when he was rescued, minutes before death, locked in a plexi-glass box that would have become his coffin. Greg … there were no clues to follow for his case. There had been nothing left behind, no trace evidence, no fibers. It was as if he hadn't even been walking home at all.

A whisper had begun to circulate that he had just fled from his old life. Nick had even overheard some younger lab techs talking about how it was rumored that Greg had moved to Canada to work up at Fort McMurray on the rigs. If Nick had any humor left, he would have laughed long and hard at the thought of him working on an oil rig.

Sighing, Nick lowered the newspaper onto the empty spot beside him on the bed. A pang tweaked his heart cruelly as the realization hit him (yet again) that he was all alone here. No one else lived in the house anymore.

As the almost unendurable pain welled up inside him, he begged to be able to let it out, to cry, to grieve. Grieve for everything he'd lost; grieve for everything Greg had lost. All those plans they'd made together were now destroyed. Greg's future had been desecrated, never to be saved. He might not even be alive. Who knew – as Nick sat with his back to the headboard, Greg might be taking his final breaths somewhere. Blinking for the last time. Feeling his heart beating inside his chest, never to feel the sensation again.

Nick slid down onto the bed and turned over, burying his face into his pillow. The smell of the washing detergent filled his nose, and he was reminded of Greg again. He always insisted on having lilac-scented detergent.

Nick felt a wetness around his eyes and he raised his head, feeling the tears cascading rapidly down his cheeks, dropping thickly and generously onto the white pillow case.

It wasn't fair. None of this was fair, and there was nothing he could do about it. Greg was gone, lost to him, and he couldn't fix it. No one could.

Finally, he let the pain consume him as the tears continued to fall.