Title: Out of Focus
Disclaimer: Not mine, never will be.
Spoilers: It's set at the end of Grave Danger.
Pairing: Nick/Warrick if you sqint. I believe the proper term is pre-slash.
Summary: Nick is finally out of the hole.
A/N: Thought I'd give Nick's POV a go. Not quite sure how it turned out.
His fingers kept gripping at Warrick’s arm. Much as he knew he should let go, actually doing it was proving to be impossible. Because so long as he could touch Warrick, it meant that it was all real. That he wasn’t just hallucinating. That he wasn’t dead. Nick’s whole body stiffened for a brief moment before he forced himself to relax and loosen his hold on Warrick’s arm.
“When I give the word, you breathe deep and hold it. You got that, Nicky?”
Letting out a long exhale, Nick nodded his head. “I got it.”
Warrick’s smile made him feel calmer. “See you topside, buddy.”
And more confident that he wasn’t going to die.
“See you topside.”
Still, letting go of Warrick then was the hardest thing he’d ever had to do. He held on as long as possible, fingers sliding along Warrick’s arm until he reached the other man’s wrist. Before he could stop himself, Nick latched on tight to Warrick’s wrist and was relieved when Warrick held on just as tight to his. Warrick allowed him to be the one to let go. It took a moment, but he was able to relax his fingers enough to release Warrick’s wrist.
“I’m okay now,” Nick mumbled, giving Warrick’s hand a brief squeeze before releasing it completely. “I’m okay. See you topside, right?”
Warrick smiled confidently. “Right. Remember what I said.”
“Hold my breath when you give the word.”
Calm as he wanted to convince himself he was, Nick still couldn’t swallow the sob as Warrick turned away. Breathing in deeply, though, Nick was able to prevent a second one. It was almost over. All he had to do was wait for them to pull him out. Another minute and it would be over. Warrick had promised…. Hadn’t he? Nick wasn’t so sure anymore. What was real and what wasn’t. It was all just a mess in his head. Too much. And he didn’t know how to—
“Breathe deep, Nicky!”
Nick did just that. For one endless second, though, he kept his eyes open. He started to panic when he saw the dirt tumbling towards him. A rapid fall of dirt that was going to swallow him whole once again. He’d be buried alive. Nick scrabbled for the cable, gripping it tight and squeezed his eyes shut even tighter.
Everything happened all at once then. With all of the dirt cascading around him, burying him, it took Nick a moment to realize that he was being wrenched forward. Out of the box. The forward momentum made it feel even more like he was being buried and Nick had to fight the urge to scream. Until the explosion behind him forced the air from his lungs with a violent gasp. Any breath left in his lungs was gone when he slammed into the ground.
At first Nick was certain that he was dead. He couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t see, and the only thing he could feel was a fiery pain that bordered on numbness spreading throughout his body.
Then the shouts began to filter in and the darkness was no longer quite so dark. Slowly Nick began to blink his eyes open, the rest of his body much slower to move. When he tried to breathe he inhaled only dust, his entire body spasming in the wake of the coughing fit it produced. Nick jerked when something thumped down beside him, but relaxed when familiar hands lifted his head and shoulders out of the dirt and onto a more comfortable surface. Jeans. Knees. Thighs. Someone’s lap.
“Get the paramedics over here!”
Nick did his best to keep the cry from building up in his throat, but it came out regardless. He was out of the hole. He wasn’t lying on anything slick or confining. He could move. There were other people that he could touch. The fingers stroking through his hair and pushing it back from his face were infinitely more gentle than the last hands he could remember touching him.
Eyes drifting shut against the chaotic, bouncing lights, Nick fumbled for the hand that was resting lightly on his shoulder. He grasped the fingertips between his own and wiggled them until there was enough space for him to threat his fingers through entirely.
“The paramedics need to look at you now, Nick,” Warrick said quietly in his ear, a warning that Nick was grateful for a few moments later when he felt several pairs of hands on him.
Nick hated that he flinched when the EMT’s started to roll him away from Warrick, but he couldn’t stop it. Right then, Warrick was safe and the paramedics were unknown. One of them could have stuffed him in the box. Been the one on the tape. Taunting him. Telling him that he was going to die in that hole…. What was to stop the guy from pumping him full of the wrong medication? Even if he wasn’t able to make it look like an accident, he might not care. He would still have won because a CSI would be—
“Calm down, Nicky,” Warrick ordered, his voice hard, but at the same time still calming enough to bring him out of his panic. “I know you’re enjoying all of this fresh air, but don’t go hyperventilating on us.”
“S-sorry,” Nick gasped out as he struggled to take slow, even breaths. His eyes fluttering open, Nick began to search out Warrick and was relieved when he found him right away.
Smiling softly, Warrick gave his upper arm a brief squeeze. “No need to apologize, bro. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
This time when the EMT’s began working on him, Nick kept his eyes opened and fixed on Warrick. So long as he kept Warrick in his line of sight the shaking didn’t get too bad. He could keep his breathing even and didn’t flinch at any surprise contacts. Not much, anyway. When they blocked his view of Warrick, however, it was a completely different matter. His reactions must have been severe because he felt a sudden jab in his arm then things became more muted.
Nick didn’t even realize that he was calling for Warrick until he felt a hand clamp down just above his left ankle and a soothing voice tell him, “I’m right here, buddy. I’m not going anywhere.”
And even though Warrick was right there—he could still feel the hand on his leg –the ants still came back. Crawling all over his skin. Little tiny pricks where their legs sunk into his flesh. Jabbing into him again and again. All the ones that hadn’t been killed coming to kill him. He didn’t have his gun anymore. It would be too slow. They’d eat him alive. Burn him up from the outside in then devour. Medium rare CSI level three; a special treat for the bugs. Then he was strapped down and couldn’t fight back. Couldn’t try to bat them away before they picked him clean. It would make a good lecture for Grissom. The rate at which 5’11 180lb Caucasian male is finished off by a nest of fire ants. Grissom would probably use a different word than “finished off.” “Consumed,” more likely. A much more civilized way to describe it.
“Focus, Nicky. Look at me.”
With all of the bright lights there had to be a camera around somewhere capturing it all. Documenting it for Grissom and his ant lecture. See Nick squirm. See the ants devour. Hear Nick scream.
The shout was enough to snap him out of whatever nightmare he had been sucked into. Eyelids fluttering it took him a minute to focus on the face hovering above his. Warrick would make the ants go away before they ate him. Warrick wouldn’t let Grissom make a science experiment out of him. Nick tried to lift his left arm and reach for the other man, but couldn’t. He really was strapped down…. The ants were still there. It wasn’t a nightmare.
“Take it easy, Nick,” Warrick soothed, resting a hand on the top of his head. “You’re strapped down so that you don’t go flying around the ambulance while we take you to the hospital. Nothing’s gonna happen to you. I promise. I’ll keep you safe.”
Swallowing the bile he could feel rising in his throat, Nick forced a jerky nod of his head. Warrick wouldn’t lie to him. If Warrick said he’d keep him safe, he’d keep him safe. Nick just didn’t want to be strapped down any longer and tried to move against the restraints. If he could just get one arm free he’d be able to get rid of the ants if they came back. The ants were small, Warrick might not see them.
“Hey, cut that out, Nicky, you’re going to hurt yourself,” Warrick called through the haze wrapping itself around him once again.
He felt fuzzy, not entirely awake, but he could feel the fingers pushing his hair back from his face. For the moment it was enough to keep him calm. Enough to remind him, even with his eyes closed, that he was no longer trapped in the box.
Until the moment they were gone. Then, as much as he wanted to stay calm, he could feel his body start to tense. Nick wanted to scream, but couldn’t muster up the energy. Instead he stretched out his left hand, fingers splayed, hoping that Warrick would grab on again.
“I gotcha, buddy. I’m here,” Warrick murmured, grabbing hold of Nick’s hand.
Relieved, Nick squeezed back then gave into the exhaustion that was tugging at him.
“—two, three, lift!”
Nick came awake just as he was jerked off the stretcher. He instinctively squeezed his left hand, but there was no hand for him to grab onto.
“He have any allergies we should know about?”
Eyes open it was too bright. Like the light in the box.
“None on record. His supervisor confirmed it en route.”
Eyes closed it was too dark. Like being dead.
“Okay, strip him.”
Too many hands were on him all at once. Scissors ripping, hands pulling off his clothes.
“His BP’s rising.”
“Mr. Stokes, I need you to calm down. We need to remove your clothes so that we can assess the damage.”
“War-rick,” Nick ground out, trying to make a grab at whoever was taking his clothes. He missed every time, his responses sluggish. Twisting away from them didn’t help. They only held on harder.
“Mr. Stokes, please calm down. I don’t want to have you restrained.”
Someone tugged on his boot then and Nick kicked out. His foot met resistance and there was a crash.
“Get the restraints.”
“Warrick,” Nick sobbed out, rotating his head in the direction of the voice.
Everything was still too bright.
“You’re not restraining him.”
“I’m sorry, sir, but you’ll have to leave.”
“Not if you think you’re gonna tie him down. The guy just spent a whole day buried in a glass coffin. You’re not putting those cuffs on him.”
Nick wiggled his toes. His boots were gone. His pants were being tugged down. Shorts too.
The bright white light was replaced by green. Green eyes. Warrick’s eyes. Upside down.
“Calm down, Nicky. They need to take your clothes so they can see just how bad those ants got ya,” Warrick soothed, holding Nick’s gaze. “The sooner they check you out, the sooner you get some clothes back. I promise not to peek.”
Nick didn’t know whether to scream, laugh or cry. He did them all.
“I’m not leaving, Cath. You should go home to Lindsey, though. Get some sleep.”
“What about you? You look about ready to drop.”
“I’m gonna stay here till Nicky wakes up. I can catch a few zzz’s in this chair if I need to.”
Nick tried to open his eyes so that he could let Warrick and Catherine know he was awake, but everything just felt so heavy. Even his eyelids. When lips pressed against his forehead he managed to twitch his eyebrows a bit.
“Sleep sweet, Nicky. You too, Warrick.”
“See you later, Cath.”
It was utterly silent once the sound of Catherine’s footsteps faded away and Nick could almost believe that he was still asleep except for the gentler pressure of another hand holding onto his. It took several tries, but he managed to tighten his fingers around the ones holding onto his.
“Nicky? You awake?”
Nick sucked in a deep breath and on the exhale managed to push Warrick’s name past his lips.
“Hey there, Nicky, welcome back,” Warrick whispered, leaning in close. “You had us worried there for a bit.”
“Sorry,” he mumbled, forcing the word out of slightly rubbery lips.
“Hey, Nicky, no. Don’t you go apologizing to any of us. You haven’t done anything.”
Nick stayed quiet for a few moments, building up the energy to get the next sentence out. He didn’t want to make Warrick worry anymore. It took a little bit of effort, but he managed to get his eyes open. It took a minute for everything to focus, but thankfully the lights were dim and didn’t hurt his eyes. Not like before.
“Thanks fer stayin’,” Nick yawned, exhausted even though he’d only been awake for a few minutes.
Warrick squeezed his hand briefly. “Wouldn’t be anywhere else, buddy.”