Hell's Crossroads

Chapter 5

Nick jerked awake when he felt someone touch his shoulder. He hadn't even realized he'd fallen asleep. Clearing his throat and rubbed his eyes and looked up to see Dr. Michaels, a small smile on her face. Wiping the drool from the side of his mouth, Nick sat up straight, more alert than he was five seconds ago.

"D-Doctor."

"Hey. Nick right?"

Nick cleared his throat again and nodded. Forget the introductions; he was getting straight to the point. "Greg is he...is he okay?" He looked at his watch and noticed it was almost seven in the morning. Had it seriously been six hours already?

"Why don't we go talk in my office, it's just down the hall."

Nick wanted to protest, his heart jumping in his throat with fear. The office was always a bad place to go...had Greg been fine Dr. Michaels would of just told him everything right here. But they were going somewhere private...somewhere where people couldn't see him break down after she told him the bad news. Rubbing his mouth with a shaky hand, he stood up and followed the doctor down the hall and into a small room. He nervously sat down and folded his hands together, staring anxiously at the woman.

"Please...is Greg gonna be okay?"

"I'm going to be frank with you, Nick, your friend is in very bad shape and I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't survive the night."

"Oh god," Nick breathed. "W-What do you mean?"

"When Greg came in he was barely responsive, recovering from being clinically dead for ten minutes. His stats were dropping dramatically and the infection of his wounds were taking hold of his immune system, which is, no doubt, extremely weak. When we got him into surgery, he crashed again. Thankfully we were able to get him back quicker this time. Once we got him back, we put him on a ventilator to help him breathe because one of his five broken ribs punctured a lung. It wasn't too life-threatening and we have him on a chest tube to re-inflate it. What we also found in his lungs is a lot of water, however, we are unable to remove it until he's completely stable, so it's possible he'll have pneumonia."

"H-How...how did he get water in his lungs?"

"This may sound disturbing; the paramedics mentioned that your friends were kidnapped and tortured? It is possible that he could've been drowned or worse...water-boarded."

"Jesus Christ."

"With either one, it's possible that the sight or hearing the sound of running water, like rain or a shower, will drive him into a panic attack. It's also possible that he'll have some PTSD regarding his traumatic event. If that happens, we can definitely get him some help."

The Texan licked his lips, waiting for the woman to continue. Help...like a shrink kind of help.

She flipped the page and started to read again.

"Now, as for the gunshot wound, the bullet lodged into his right mastoid, just below his temporal bone. Unfortunately, we were only able to to remove some of the bullet without killing him or giving him possible brain damage."

"So...So, he still has a bullet in his skull? He's gonna have to live with that?" Nick's heart was slowly breaking with each injury the doctor named off.

"Sadly, yes, but it shouldn't be a problem. However, if it does bring up complications in the future, there may be things that we could do about it...just not at this time when he's not doing so well." She grimaced when she saw Nick's pale, shocked face. "I know this is a lot to digest, but we're doing everything we can to keep him alive. Among all those, he had some pretty nasty stab wounds, both of which got infected. The one on his side punctured his spleen; we stitched that up and thankfully it wasn't too badly hit that we would have to remove it, but he lost a vast amount of blood and we had to transfuse him a couple pints. The other one on the hand was a bit difficult. The knife wound was through and through, but it did damage to some of the extensor and flexor tendons and some nerves; now we were able to fix up the nerves but due to his condition, again, we didn't repair the tendons. We will most likely deal with that on a later date as well as well as physical therapy which depends on his condition." The kid was in shitty shape...and she still wasn't done. "Other than that, Gregory obtained a severe concussion, a lot of contusion's and lacerations on the majority of his upper body."

Nick let out a loud breath while he pressed his fingers against his eyes. "Is...Is that it?"

Kathy flipped the page and her frowned deepened. Nick instantly picking up on her concern. "What? What is it?"

"It seems that...Greg was electrocuted."

"You've got to be kidding me," Nick was shaking with rage. How could they have done these things to the innocent kid? He didn't deserve any of that shit. "Well, they used the paddles on him, couldn't it be from-"

"No, the burns on his chests were smaller than that of what a defibrillator would give...and they were older. Later on, if Greg makes it past tonight, we'll take some chest x-rays to see just how bad the damage is to his heart, if any."

If Greg makes it past tonight. Nick could hardly hold back the humorless chuckle. How could they say that to him? Of course Greg was gonna make it past tonight. He was the strongest man he knew. He had to make it.

"Again, we're doing everything we can; we have him on a number of antibiotics to keep the infection from growing and his fever, which is currently at 104, down. He's in good hands, Nick; and if he's made it this far, I have hope that he won't give up."

Nick sniffed, trying to hold the tears at bay. Greg was hurt terribly...his kid brother was going to be traumatized for life. All these things that happened to him...because he was trying to keep Morgan safe. Greg, why do you gotta be so selfless?

"Mr. Stokes?"

The Texan flinched out of his trance and looked at the woman with tearful eyes in question.

"Would you like to go sit with him? I'm sure he'd appreciate some company."

What kind of question was that? Of course he'd like to fucking see him! "Y-Yes...please."

She led him out and they went up to ICU, passing dozens of rooms with severely hurt patients and grieving family members. Nick's hands shook violently and he felt cold just watching that and wondering what he would see when he got to Greg. It seemed so long before they finally reached Greg's room and Nick was almost scared to go in.

Dr. Michaels felt bad for the man. "He's still unconscious- which is completely normal- so don't expect him to respond. However, it doesn't mean he can't hear you. If you need anything at all, just call the nurse and she'll page me."

"Thank you," Nick said, barely above a whisper. When the woman left, Nick rubbed his mouth and stood in front of the door, his hand hovering over the doorknob. After taking a few deep breaths, he slowly opened it and stepped inside. The smell of disinfectant invaded his nose and all he could hear was the sound of Greg's mechanical breathing and beeping of the intimidating monitors surrounding his small body. "Oh God, Greggo." He could barely stand at the sight of his little brother and he quickly stumbled over to the chair and sat down. "Oh, Greg...this never should've happened to you." He slipped his hand in Greg's cold one, minding the wires stabbed into his veins, and squeezed it carefully. "I'm so sorry, buddy. You can't leave me okay? You have to beat this; you have to push through this for me...and for Morgan...and for you. If you give up, you let Walker win." Nick looked over Greg's body, seeing for himself the injuries that would haunt the kid forever. Greg's head was turned slightly to face away from Nick and he was able to see the large bandage covering his wound and gauze wrapped tightly around his head to hold it down. His lips were pale and the bottom lip was cut; his eyes were underlined with dark shadows which stood out over his gray, badly bruised and cut up face. His eyes trailed down to Greg's bare chest, noticing bandages over some of the larger burn marks, but still able to see some and a lot- and he meant a lot- of goddamn ugly colored bruises. An even larger bandage wrapped around Greg's stomach, covering up the stab wound; he didn't even want to know how bad it looked. His left hand was thickly wrapped with more gauze and Nick just felt nauseous thinking about the knife going straight through the kid's hand.

"Dammit, G." He placed his other hand on top of Greg's, enveloping it between his. He had to warm the kid's skin up...it was disturbingly cold. "It's gonna be okay, bud. You're gonna be okay. Morgan's doing good, too, I think. They said that she only had a concussion and a broken arm. Nothing too serious. You did good protecting her but...you nearly got yourself killed. I don't...Greg, I don't know if I can lose another team member. I mean after Warrick...and then Grissom leaving and then Cath. Our family- our first family- is falling apart. And I can't lose you, too. You have to get better, okay? Promise me you'll get better?"

Of course there would be no response. Dr. Michaels told him to expect that. Nick sighed, trying to get his emotions under control. He soon felt very exhausted all of a sudden and while his hand was still gripped onto Greg's, he let the calming sound Greg's steady heartbeat take him away. The adrenaline that he had for the last few days was completely drained out. He just prayed- oh he fucking prayed- to God that Greg would be alive when he woke back up. Because if not, he didn't know how he could continue to work at the lab anymore...or with life.

~+CSI+~

Russell and Sara ended up going back to the crime scene after they had a chance to see Greg. They wanted to stay, but Morgan had Ecklie and Greg had Nick, therefore their friends needed them to put the bastard that did this to them away.

"This is horrible," Sara whispered angrily to herself as she looked at the room before taking pictures. She assumed that this was the place Walker had tortured her colleagues, hence the chair...a chair that had a lot of blood on it. She walked around it and she sighed at the next thing she found...a cattle prod. Nick mentioned something about Greg being electrocuted. Sara let a few tears escape from her eyes at the thought of Greg being tortured in the worst possible way. But it wasn't...because Greg had also been water-boarded. She snapped the a picture of a discarded, soaked cloth on the table along with a bloody knife that had been used to stab Greg and cut Morgan. There was a hose in the corner, still dripping and she knew it had been used recently. How the hell was Greg going to overcome all this? On the ride back over here, she had researched water-boarding and the effects on it's victims. It made her heart shatter. She wondered if Greg was going to be like that later on. After taking a couple more pictures, silently crying in the process, and swabbing some blood, Sara wiped any traces of tears before meeting Russell in the other room.

"So this...this is where they were held?" Sara breathed out, shivering. This is what they had to endure for two days.

"Yeah," Russell replied, straightening out from his crouched position. They could see that the two had been chained to the wall by shackles and spots of blood was splattered onto the floor. "And somehow they managed to escape through that window over there."

"Thank god. Who knew what would've happened if they hadn't."

"Let's not think about that, Sara. What matters is that they're safe and okay."

Sara nodded and bent down when she saw something on the floor. "A bobby-pin. That's probably how they got out of the cuffs."

"Those two are very smart. I had no doubt that they wouldn't survive this."

"They're strong...and Greg is such a good person. What he did for Morgan is unbelievable."

Russell smirked. "Well, I guess you do stupid things...when you're in love. And Greg is definitely a man in love."


He was choking again. He couldn't breathe. He thought they had gotten out. That he and Morgan had escaped, but it must've been a figure of his fevered imagination. They were drowning him again. Greg opened his eyes and expected nothing but darkness...and he was right. The cloth they put over his face blocked all sight...and he still couldn't breathe. He heard running water in the distance and he freaked. Please! Not again! He could feel tears in his eyes as he choked violently and thrashed in the chair they had him tied to. Suddenly there were hands on his shoulders and then calloused hands cupping his cheek. He waited for Walker to slap him, but there was nothing. They were warm, not cold, and the person's thumb was stroking his face. Then he heard the voice...shouting his name. It was southern but more of a Texan drawl than redneck. No, it couldn't be.

"Greg! Greg, wake up!"

Greg blinked his vision into focus and saw a familiar face swim into his line of sight. The person looked scared and they were shouting.

"Greg! Easy, buddy. Just take it easy. It's just me...it's Nick!"

Nick? He frowned and the man placed a hand on Greg's chest.

"Easy, kiddo. They're gonna get it out, okay? The tube is helping you breathe."

For some reason Nick's voice comforted him and he started to calm down even though he was still freaking out on the inside.

"That's it, bud. Just breathe."

Greg closed his eyes and focused on his breathing, Nick's voice keeping him sane.

When Dr. Michaels and a bunch of nurses came in, Nick stood back, wiping his face and listened to the doctor instruct Greg on what to do. He had been in the bathroom, splashing his face to keep him awake- he was on day two of no sleep- when he heard choking and weak whimpers from the room. Greg. He must've heard the water. Smart Stokes. You're an idiot. He had rushed in to see Greg thrashing around, trying to breathe and pure fear in his glazed over brown eyes. It took at least three minutes to calm him down while in the process of pressing the call button. While Nick was watching the procedure, he couldn't stop thinking about Greg and the water...was he always gonna be like this? It definitely wasn't a good thing. He rubbed his forehead and sat down, trying not to look as they extracted the tube from Greg's throat. It was sickening. Five minutes later, the tube was replaced with a nasal cannula and Greg had fallen back asleep. Nick thanked the nurses before going up to Dr. Michaels.

"How's he doing?" He asked nervously, sticking his trembling hands in his pockets.

"Surprisingly well, actually. He's already made it past 48 hours."

Nick smiled. "Really?"

"Taking out the tube means he's able to breathe on his own. His vitals are now stable and I feel it should be safe to go remove what water is left in his lungs and see what we can do about his hand."

"Thank god."

The doctor smiled and rested a hand on the Texan's shoulder. "He's a fighter, I can tell you that."

"Damn straight," Nick sighed, looking at his unconscious friend.

"If you want to go take a break, get something to eat and call your friend's with the news, I'll have him back in a half hour."

"Thank you." They shook hands and Nick watched as Greg was wheeled out of the room, leaving him standing there...not sure what to do. He was excited to say, nonetheless, because Greg was gonna be okay.

"Wow." His heart thudded in his chest. He had to go tell the others...more so Morgan. She was gonna be so relieved.


Morgan went to the nurse's desk, signing her discharge papers hastily, and messily since her right hand was in a sling, so she could go search for Greg's room. They had kept her unnecessarily long, because her father insisted she rest. She had been dehydrated and malnourished, but she hadn't cared; she needed to see Greg. She had to make sure he was still hanging on. When she finished, she pushed the clipboard towards the nurse and didn't wait another second. Morgan rushed into the elevator and pressed the button for the ICU floor. It seemed like forever by the time she got up there; she was agitated and she was tapping her foot impatiently. As soon as the bell rung, indicating the car had stopped, she barely waited for the doors to open, squeezing past and running into someone, nearly knocking her off her feet.

"Sorry, I- Nick!"

"Morgan! Thank god you're okay," He said, giving her a gentle hug. "I was just coming to find you."

"How's Greg? Is he...he's okay, right? Sara and Russell said he might not make it.

"He's fine. He just got rid of the breathing tube and the doc is taking him for a couple more tests."

Morgan chuckled in relief, putting a hand over her mouth. Tears welled in her eyes and she began crying in joy but also letting out the bottled up emotions from the past week of hell.

"Hey, don't cry," Nick whispered, wrapping his arms around her and bringing her to his chest. "He's gonna be okay. You both are."

"I know I just...you didn't see him Nick. It was horrible and I could always hear his screams. I'm never gonna be able to get that out of my head. And then...then when we were running...he just wanted to give up...wanted me to go on without him."

"But you didn't let him and both of you are alive. You made it, okay?"

Morgan nodded and sniffed, wiping her face with both hands. "So what...what do we do now?"

"We take a breather and get a coffee. The doc said it'll be at least half an hour before Greg is brought back to his room."

"Okay. Sounds good."

Nick rested a hand on Morgan's upper back and smiled as he lead her down to the cafeteria. "I'm glad you're okay, little sis."

Morgan smiled and rested her head on his arm; her mind was somewhat at ease, but never far away from thinking about Greg.

Half an Hour Later

Morgan sat by Greg's bedside, watching him breathe softly. She was almost afraid to touch him because he looked so broken already. Wiping her nose and trying to keep herself from crying, Morgan entwined her fingers with his and sighed.

"Hey Greg...it's me...Morgan. I don't know...I don't know if you can hear me, but if you can..." she reached up and stroked his blonde hair softly. "I'm really glad you're okay. I don't know what I would do without you." She grabbed his hand again. "I can't believe...well maybe I can believe that you would sacrifice yourself for me. Everybody saw it; the crush you had on me and I was totally oblivious...until Nick told me what happened when the helicopter had been high-jacked. You almost tore that girl apart to tell you where we were. Greg...you are the only guy I know that has stood up for me and did what you did in that cabin. And even though you were super crazy I...I appreciate it and," she looked at Greg's lips, pale but thankfully no longer blue. They were parted, a wheezing breath coming out of his mouth, but still breathing anyways. That's what counted. His face looked horrible; bruised, pale, and shadowed. "I'm sorry Greg. This wouldn't have happened had we waited for back-up. Please...if you can hear me, Greg, wake up. I...I love you." And without thinking she stood up and kissed him on the cheek. The man suddenly moaned softly, his head turning towards her, but he immediately settled right after. Morgan sighed in disappointment and was about to stand up when she felt the slightest tug on her hand.

"Greg? Can you hear me?"

The older CSI's hand squeezed hers again but then didn't do anything else after that. Morgan grinned and sat back down, determined to sit there until the man woke up. "I'll be right here, Greg," she whispered tightening her hold around his fingers. "I'm not going anywhere."

The next morning, Morgan was curled up in the chair, dozing and hand still clinging onto Greg's when she heard him groan weakly. The blonde gasped and straightened out, eagerly waiting for the man to wake up.

"Greg? Can you hear me?"

Greg's forehead scrunched up and he groaned. "M-Mom?"

God, he sounded so weak and pained. Morgan smiled sadly. "No, it's Morgan."

Greg's eyes blinked open and he looked at her with confusion. It worried her. One of the things the doctor had mentioned was that it was possible Greg would have memory loss. She hoped she was wrong. "Do you remember me?"

Greg stared at her with his glazed over brown eyes for a moment. "Y-Yeah...f'course."

Morgan let out a sigh of relief. "Thank god." She sat back down. "Do you...remember what happened?"

Greg coughed violently, his chest and lungs still bothering him. His head was killing him and he couldn't think straight. "N-No." Only then did he realize he was in the hospital...and his body ached. "Why m'I in the hospital? Why can't I remember?" He asked in a wobbly voice.

"Hey, it's okay," Morgan smiled, placing her hands on his shoulders. "Look at me."

It took a second, but Greg looked up and the second their eyes connected, his head pounded and a white light flashed in front of his vision.

"Guess what, Brody, your wallet is gonna feel one hundred dollars lighter in a few minutes!"

"Doyle, get the girl."

"No!"

"It's gonna be okay, Greg. Just breathe. I'll protect you."

"I should...be telling you...that."

"Why? Because you're they guy and I'm the girl?"

"What if they...Greg they'll kill you."

"And I'm just...I'm just gonna have to accept that."

"Greg, I can't lose you."

"Now, I'm gonna ask you one last time, boy; do you. Have Anything. To say?"

"Go fuck yourself."

He couldn't breathe, the water was choking him and he was being drowned.

"Greg!"

He couldn't see anything. The cloth over his face was too dark. He should've talked; he should've given them what they wanted. His legs flailed and his body tensed up as his lungs screamed for air.

"This is cattle prod with 100,000 volts."

He felt paralyzed; his body trembled violently and his heart was going a million miles per second. His muscles burned and he just wanted die so the pain would stop.

"Greg, please! You're scaring me!"

"P-Please! Pl-please...s-s-stop!"

"I will only if you comply with me." Why didn't he just give in? He should've given in, then maybe Walker would've let him die.

"But when the blade moves at at a greater speed..."

Stinging pain erupted in his side. The bastard had stabbed him. He felt walls closing in on him; he still couldn't breathe.

"Greg, come on," Morgan said, tugging on his sleeve. "Come on, we gotta go, please."

"N-No...you gotta...you gotta go w-without m-me. I can't...I-"

"You can Greg," Morgan encouraged. "Please."

"M'sorry...t-too weak...m'weak."

He was always too weak. Why did anyone put up with a weak, screw-up like him? He deserved to die. Even after Demetrius James and beating...he deserved to die...he deserved to go to jail.

Someone was crying and shouting his name. "Greg, look at me!"

"Morgan, I love you!"

And then their lips touched and it was everything he ever wanted in life.

"I'm not leaving you, Greg Sanders."

Bang!

"Greg!"

He snapped open his eyes, breathing heavily and looked around to see that he was still in the hospital. His eyes were wet and his head hurt...but he remembered everything. And it was becoming too hard to keep his emotions in.

"Greg, are you okay?"

He looked up to see Morgan staring at him worriedly, tears in her own eyes and terror on her face.

"Y-Yeah, m' fine." Huge lie. He didn't want her to see him break down. She already had seen him give up multiple times; a weak, stupid person. He couldn't let her see him- a guy that was supposed to protect her- cry like a baby.

"Are-"

"Um...could you...could you find Nick for me?" He choked.

Morgan was a bit confused, but she didn't want to upset the man any further. "S-Sure. I'll be right back." When she left the room, she was uneasy. Greg suddenly had a hard time breathing and was gasping for air. He had gripped her arm tightly and it seemed like he was lost in his own memories...memories of his torture. Something was wrong and she knew that Nick would be the only one who could get through to him right now. She found the Texan sipping coffee in the cafeteria and the second he saw her, he stood up, sensing something wasn't right.

"What happened?"

"Nothing it's just...something...he couldn't remember what happened and then he was having a hard time breathing...kinda like a panic attack. I almost got the nurse but he snapped out of it and then asked for you."

Nick looked at her worriedly. "I'll go see what's up."

When he went into the room, he found Greg staring up at the ceiling, breathing heavily...like he was trying hard not to cry.

"Greggo?"

The blonde's head rolled on the pillow and he smiled faintly, sitting up carefully. The kid looked horrible...haunted.

"Hey, buddy," Nick grinned, going over and pulling Greg into a gently hug. He was so happy he was alive and okay. It had been a long ass week and he seriously thought he would be losing his little brother. After they pulled away, Nick sat on the side of the bed. Time to see what's going on. "How're you doin'?"

Greg shrugged and looked down at his hands. He didn't know why it would be better for Nick to see him cry. What if he made fun of him? Called him pathetic? "I'm okay," he whispered. The dam was cracking.

Nick placed a hand on Greg's shoulder and squeezed it. "Greg, I know you're lying."

"No, I'm not," he said a little too quickly. His hands started shaking and he tried to make them stop. Nick must've noticed too, because he placed his hands over his.

"Yeah you are. You have a tell; your left eye starts twitching and your hands shake. What's the matter?"

Greg remained silent, unable to meet Nick's eyes.

"Hey." Nick cupped Greg's face and lifted it up, trying to get a read on what his friend was thinking about. "Come on, bud, you okay?"

He couldn't help it anymore. Greg's body started quivering with heart-wracking sobs. "N-No."

"Oh, Greg," Nick said quietly as he brought his arms around Greg's back and started rubbing circles comfortingly. His heart broke for the man; he went through hell...got tortured and may be traumatized because those assholes decided to do the worse to him. To scar him permanently. It was gonna be a long way to recovery...for all of them. "It's gonna be okay, buddy. You're gonna be okay."

"N-No...no I won't...I'm w-weak. I s-should've died," Greg sobbed into Nick's chest.

"Don't say that G. Don't you dare say that. You are strong and brave; you guys made it out of that basement and survived. I'd say that's not weak. You're gonna get past this, okay? I'm gonna help you; just trust me. You went through a lot, I think you're allowed to cry."

Greg didn't respond, only crying harder. Nick shed a few tears himself, hating the sound of his little brother's anguished cries...it hurt. For the next ten minutes, the Texan soothed the younger CSI, determined to make him feel a little better. "It's gonna be alright, Greggo. It's gonna be okay."

Outside the room, Morgan wiped her eyes and sniffled. She didn't know Greg had felt this bad...this worthless. Her heart shattered. She walked away, letting Nick comfort Greg on his own. But she would be back. Greg was hurting and it was her job to make him better.


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