Greg awoke in stages. First, he was aware of the hissing. Next, the steady beep-beep-beep of the heart monitor. Lastly, the pain. Although he could feel the IV needle poking into the top of his hand, he was getting no relief from the pain killers and medication it was feeding him. His chest felt like it had been crushed inward, and the resulting throbbing and burning made him want to cry out.

Slowly opening his eyes, he became aware that he was not alone. In the chair, immediately to his right, Grissom was sleeping. Greg felt the weight of Grissom's arm on the edge of his hospital bed, and he tilted his head slightly to get a better view of the older man.

In his sleep, Grissom's face looked remarkably child-like. The tenseness that Grissom always carried there during his waking moments was gone, smudged and softened, released by sleep. He was surprisingly happy that Grissom was still there.

"Gris?" Greg's voice was hoarse. He experimentally tried to clear it, hissing in pain as the indrawn breath stretched the muscles of his chest. He felt like he was being ripped open.

Grissom opened his eyes groggily, sitting up, concern immediately replacing sleep in his eyes. The tension in his face was back.

"Greg? Are you alright?"

"As good as can be expected, I suppose." Greg tried for a light tone, but his voice was bitter. "Listen, I'm thirsty and I need to pee. Can you get a nurse for me? I don't know where the call button is."

Grissom quickly paged the nurse. "They brought you some food earlier, but you were sleeping. I let them take everything away except the green jello - just in case you wanted to eat something."

Greg winced. "That's supposed to make me want to eat?"

The nurse bustled into the room. "Well, it's good to see you're awake, Mr. Sanders. I assume you have to attend some personal needs, and I need to check a couple of things." She looked pointedly at Grissom as she began drawing the curtains. "I'm sure your friend here will be more than happy to wait outside. We'll only be a minute."

Grissom looked at the nurse, backing slowly out of the room. "Is he allowed to eat anything? Can I get him something at the cafeteria?"

The nurse looked at the chart. "He's only allowed soft foods and drinks right now. I see he has some jello here - he can eat that."

"If I brought him up a milkshake, could he have that?"

The nurse nodded. "Yes. A milkshake would be fine."

Greg interrupted. "Chocolate." He smiled at Grissom weakly as the nurse finished drawing the curtain. "Thanks Grissom."

* * * * *

The lounge room was silent. Nick and Sara were side by side, sleeping on the small two-seater, Warrick was reading and Catherine was playing solitaire. It was a slow Thursday night, and everyone was grateful for it.

Warrick sighed, dropping his magazine and stretching his arms over his lanky frame. "I wonder how Greg is doing?" Standing he walked over to Catherine, pointing out a move she had missed, before passing by to pour himself a coffee.

Catherine bit her lip as she studied the cards. "Gil said he was still sleeping the last time he called. Hasn't woken up since we left." Sighing in frustration, she dropped her cards and pulled them all together, straightening them out as she began shuffling again. "Can you pour me one of those?"

Warrick complied, sliding into the seat opposite Catherine. Catherine silently handed him the cards when he reached for them, and he quickly dealt a hand for each of them, plus a dummy. "Twenty-one okay for you?"

Catherine nodded. "Fine." She watched as Warrick deftly worked the cards. "This is going to be so hard on Greg." She bit her lip as she tossed three cards. "Hit me."

Warrick quirked an eyebrow at her. "I can't imagine it myself. If it was me, I mean." He replaced two cards in his hand with new ones. "And Grissom is really taking it hard. I've never seen him break down like that before. To be quite honest, I didn't think he could be emotional like that."

Catherine smiled, softly. "Gil's a very emotional man. He just likes to pretend he's not, and he's gotten too good at hiding it. I was glad to see him - react - like that to Greg's situation."

Nick had woken up and was listening to the tail-end of the conversation. His hand was lazily rubbing Sara's shoulder. "It was good. Greg needed to know that we're all there for him. Especially Grissom."

Catherine looked at him curiously. "Why 'especially Grissom', Nick."

"Because Greg really admires him. And for the longest time, he didn't think Grissom liked him all that much. It's just important he knows." He grinned suddenly. "Aren't you two supposed to be playing cards?"

Warrick looked at Catherine and shrugged. "So much for that." Looking at his watch, he sighed. "4:30 am - another 3 ½ hours before shift ends, and another hour after that before we can visit Greg. This is the slowest night in the world."

* * * * *

Greg was almost asleep again by the time Grissom returned with the promised milkshake. "Sorry I was gone so long. Should have realized the cafeteria isn't open this late - or early - depending on your perspective. I went to Dairy Queen for you. And I even talked the nurse into giving me a bendy straw so you can drink easier. How are you feeling?"

"Sore." Greg sighed. Grissom positioned himself gingerly on the edge of the bed, holding the milkshake for Greg.

"That's to be expected. While the procedure you had wasn't major surgery, it's still pretty serious." Grissom paused as Greg sipped on the straw, noticing the brief stab of pain that crossed the young man's face as he tried to drink. "Maybe we should let this melt a little more."

Greg sighed in frustration. "I can't even sip a fucking straw. This really sucks, Grissom!"

"No pun intended. Ba-da-bump!" Grissom's tone was grimly ironic, earning a small smile from Greg.

"You don't have to stay with me, you know."

"I know. But I want to."

"It's not your fault I screwed up." Greg's tone was resigned. "I should have just refused to get drawn into that little competition."

"You didn't screw up, Greg. You made what you thought was the right choice in that situation. That Edd guy was working the crowd - there was no way they were going to let you off the stage. I wasn't lying when I said you broke the case for us."

Greg's smile was wobbly. "You're just saying that because I'm in the hospital."

"No. I'm saying that because it's the truth. And when you get on your feet again and back to work, you'll have the opportunity keep solving cases."

"If I ever get better." Greg's voice was so soft, Grissom barely heard it. "Maybe, they won't let me come back. Physically, I might not be up to it."

Grissom's tone was firm as he responded. "They can't keep you from returning. You've just had a set-back here, that's all. You heard what Dr. Mellows told you earlier - there's no reason why you can't return to work eventually. With therapy and regular check-ups, you'll be back to normal in no time."

"How can you say that? I'll never be normal again." Grissom was surprised at the sudden tears that flooded the young mans' eyes. "What's so normal about having a battery in your chest when you're my age?" Greg glared at Grissom bitterly. "Why me? Haven't I had enough to deal with?"

Grissom slid from the side of the bed into his chair, pulling it closer to Greg. "We all have our demons, Greg. We all have our own crosses to bear. But you don't have to do this by yourself - you're not a martyr."

Greg looked at Grissom, his face impossibly young. "I'm scared, Grissom."

Grissom took Greg's hand in his own. "Of course you're scared. Who wouldn't be? But you have to be angry, too, Greg. Angry enough to not give up. I know you've been on your own for a long time now - I. I have too. But you know what I've learned? It's not good being by yourself. And I wasted a lot of years trying to convince myself I didn't need anyone. But I was wrong. I need Catherine, and I need Sara - Nick - Warrick. And I need you Greg. I meant what I said earlier. You're my family." He gripped Greg's hand tighter in his own. "And if you're my family, that means I'm yours."

Greg didn't respond, and Grissom felt no need for further words. He simply sat there, watching over Greg as he drifted back into healing slumber, a small smile playing about his face.


Author's Note: I promise we'll get into an interesting case soon enough, but the first few chapters of this story will focus mainly on Greg and the team's reaction to his near miss. So expect a lot of angst and personal revelation. And let me know if you like what I'm doing. If the character growth isn't believable, I want to know.