Title: Recovery
By: Sam
Pairing: Gil/Nick
Fandom: CSI: Vegas
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Nick's mindset during Gum Drops. Spoilers for the episode.


I could feel her. There was...there was this breath in the air. A ghost of bubblegum and sunshine that hang in the air of her room, speaking to me. Telling me it wasn't too late. Begging me to find her.

I know what you're thinking. Because for a while I was thinking it, too. Nicky's lost it. He's too close. Too sensitive. That I was seeing what I wanted to see. Hearing what I needed to hear to keep me going. To keep me looking for her. The way the way Grissom kept looking for me.

Survivor's guilt.

That my own kidnapping was interfering with my judgment. My ability to do my job which was to collect the evidence. To read the scene.

Only I know was just close enough. Maybe it was like Sage said. Maybe I was open to...to Cassie or maybe something else. All I know is that the evidence was whispering to me. Telling me what a smart little girl Cassie McBride was. The bubblegum drops...the cough medicine. She was out there and I had to find her.

Because I needed her to be alive. Some visceral part of me still lost and buried in the ground needed to find her alive - like I was just to remain whole. To stay sane.

Sara was right. I lost it in interrogation. When Archie cobbled together the image of Cassie unconscious and held in the backseat of that kid's car...yeah, I lost it. I would do it again, though. If it meant getting Cassie back. In a heartbeat.

Spotting Cassie on the bank of the lake it was my salvation. I admit it. Alive. She was alive.

I know I know now how Gil must have felt. How I couldn't get air in my lungs or breath past my lips or my voice past the lump of tears in my throat, kneeling there over her body, unable to stop from shaking long enough to find a pulse. How help how help couldn't get there fast enough.

I stayed with her at the hospital even though I had a mountain of reports to fill out and evidence to log. Warrick and Greg took care of it for me, telling me without words that they were there for me. That they understood why I had to do it. Sara says Cassie didn't know I was there. But I know she did. The same way I knew, even when drugged and asleep, that Grissom never left my hospital bed. That's why I stayed. To give Cassie the sense of safety and stability that Gil gave me.

Cassie's in good hands now. An older couple in the foster care system offered to take her in on a permanent basis as Cassie had no family left to survive the massacre that played out that night. I know she's safe. I still have contacts here and there and I had the couple checked out myself.

I wanted... A part of me wanted to adopt her myself. Crazy, I know. I know, but I won't deny the thought crossed my mind. For all of about three seconds, but it was there. Another unreasoning fear from my trauma. I know it would never have worked out, even if the courts allowed it. My life if no place for me right now, let alone a 10 year old child.

But as long as she's safe I can tell that fear to go take a nice long walk. And she is safe. So it's okay.

It's late when I get home. Grissom's probably asleep already. Down the hall in our bed, wrapped up safe and snuggled in the baby blue sheets; salt and pepper curls laying tousled and messy on the pillow.

I'm hungry. Feels like I haven't eaten in days. Not since the case began; since Cassie disappeared. Too wrapped up in the following her gumdrop breadcrumbs to do more than pick at whatever was in front of me while going over photos and files and suspects.

That's all over now and as hungry as I am now, the need to see Gil, to see him sleeping normal and solid, waiting for me, is stronger. So much stronger.

I find myself locking the door and turning off the light he left on for me so I wouldn't come home to darkness, slipping quietly down the hall so I don't wake him. Ever since...well, I can't stand the dark. We're working on that.

I get into the bedroom and I'm taking off my shoes when I hear his voice in the darkness. Gil hates to sleep with a light on; but that doesn't really bother me because when he turns it out, I'm already there beside him, wrapped up tight in his arms and I know, though I'm in the dark, I'm not alone.

"You should eat something."

I don't know why I find this funny after just having had the same thought myself, but I do. Only the laugh comes out more of a sob and he's suddenly there, just like always. Around me and holding me tight and I'm suddenly sobbing, shaking and holding on to him like any minute now I'm going to fall apart. I just might.

I'm holding onto him and he's holding me and I know I know Gil would never have given up. Never let me go.

"Come on, Nicky, let's get you into bed." A hand cards through my hair as he runs the other down my back, soothing the tremors. "I'll be here when you wake up."

Nightmares. I have them all the time now. Being buried alive is a big one but there are others. Calling out into the darkness but no one can hear me. Or no one cares to try and find me. Doesn't take a shrink to guess where that one came from, I can figure that one out on my own. Doesn't take one to figure I'll be having nightmares tonight, either or that this case has really stirred me up.

But Gil knows that. And whenever the nightmares get too bad and I can't breathe, Gil is always there. Breathing for me.

I never will forget the first time that happened. I was still in the hospital when it hit and I woke up gasping for breath. But I was still locked in the nightmare, panicked, and I was hyperventilating, unable to draw in the air that was there but too far out of reach. Until Gil held me down, placed his mouth over mine and exhaled, breathing for me until I broke past the fear and could breathe on my own.

Of course that's the first time he kissed me, too.

Grissom never gave up on me; not while I was missing and all thoughts of rescue seemed hopeless, and not after. The times I'm a pretty damned good CSI and the times I'm a shaking, whimpering mess. That's why I couldn't give up on Cassie. Because she deserved so much more than just a scientist processing the scene. She deserved a voice. A voice in her darkness.

I needed to know I could do that for her. That I could still be that for someone else.

That's all right though. That's okay. That's right and that's what we do.

We hold on.

When there's still hope and when there's a chance to beat the odds, no matter how remote how slim we hold on. Hey this is Vegas. It's all about beating the odds.

But in my case in my case it's also about recovery. And I'm doing just fine.