Title: To the Grave
By: Sam
Pairing: Gil/Nick
Fandom: CSI: Vegas
Rating: PG-13
Summary: What Gil was thinking during Grave Danger. Spoilers for the episode.


And I would be the one to hold you down,

Kiss you so hard, I'll take your breath away

And after I wipe away the tears,

Just close your eyes, dear

- Sarah McLachlan. 'Possession'

It's taken me exactly one hour and fourteen minutes to realize that I love him. Just seventy-four minutes to go from incomprehension to shock, from shock to fear…and from fear to panic.

Officer down – Nick Stokes has been kidnapped from a crime scene – backup requested.

It was easy after panic to recognize the dread that comes when you lose a loved one. Even one you haven't admitted to loving, not even to yourself. At least not in the hot light of the Nevada day. Much less the cold chill of the desert night.

Panic. That sinking weight in your chest that refuses to let you move; that steals your breath and paralyses your mind. I'm vaguely aware of the others rushing by me, rallying like pissed off bees from a hive. One of their own has been kidnapped, everyone wants a piece of the action.

The call of my name breaks the paralysis that's kept me frozen in place. Shaking it off, I swallow and force my body to move; to grab my kit and follow Warrick out into the night.

We have to find Nick. I have to find Nick. He's out there, somewhere. Follow the evidence. The evidence doesn't lie. I can read the evidence. We'll find him and bring him home.

The chill hits me as I leave the building and I pull up the dark fabric collar of my jacket closer around my neck. An absent thought tugs at me, the panic threatening to take hold again, and I hope that Nick was wearing his. Before praying the dead of the night chill is the only thing Nicky has to worry about.

Listen as the wind blows from across the great divide

Voices trapped in yearning, memories trapped in time

The night is my companion and solitude my guide

Would I spend forever here, and not be satisfied?

The scene is not barren of evidence: but it's all useless to me, every last bit. It's what the kidnapper wants us to find, holding nothing of true value. Only misdirection. Nothing that might lead us closer to finding Nick…alive.

But Nicky isn't dead, not yet. He said so and despite the evidence I don't think he has a reason to lie to us. Again, not yet. Soon maybe, but not yet. It's in the evidence he left me. And in the evidence he didn't.

No blood. Meaning Nick was at least alive when the suspect grabbed him. No signs of a struggle telling me Nick didn't fight. Or couldn't. Chloroform maybe. Further proof he wants my CSI alive and that tells me there's more going on here than a simple kidnapping. Ransom is always a possibility; a judge and a prosecutor, Nick's parents are fairly prominent in Texas politics, still…something about that doesn't sit right with me. That piece doesn't quite fit the puzzle he left behind.

Which leaves…what? Leverage against one of their cases? One of ours? Vengeance for a past verdict? A past transgression on our part? On mine?

Dispassionately I rake the scene, already knowing the only answers to be found here are false starts. Shadow trails, leading nowhere. And suddenly I can't take anymore of this. Nicky last stood here, maybe crouched to collect a bit of evidence; took a picture to catalogue it…before darkness…

I turn to go, unable to stay. I can't think here. The scene is only whispering false promises, offering false hopes. It lies and I can't stand the whispers of my conscience anymore.

"Page me, " I throw to Brass as I stumble by. I ignore the saddened look of sympathy and concern, righting myself and keep going. I have to get out of here. I have to breathe. "I'll be at the lab."

And I would be the one to hold you down,

Kiss you so hard, I'll take your breath away

And after I wipe away the tears,

Just close your eyes, dear

The bastard has buried him alive in a coffin!

I can feel the roar of silent rage filling my ears until I can't hear anything but my own blood. Nick's trapped in the equivalent of a pine box somewhere under God only knew how many feet of dirt and we have no idea where to start looking.

Nevermind. That didn't matter. I look around my office, preparing to issue instructions, orders – anything to push past the block of rage. It's the uniform look of complete horror on their faces – Warrick, Catherine, Brass – that makes me turn around and stare at the computer screen.

Nick, washed in sickly green, his own face a mask of terror and fear, tears sliding over his cheeks, his hands scrabbling at the Plexiglas lid as he fought not to scream. That would only steal what little air he had and it was obvious Nick had realized this the moment Warrick had pushed the button and the light had been activated. Grissom shuddered in sympathy, knowing Nick had most likely woken to complete darkness, trapped and locked in a tight box, not knowing where he was or if anyone was coming for him. Did they even know he was missing yet?

Everything in him not wanting to shout demands or curl up in defeat under his desk – useless – and cry, wanted him to reach out to Nick. To place his hand on the screen and somehow will into it that he wasn't alone. That his friends were there with him. Would find him…

That Gil was there with him. Would trade places in a heartbeat if it meant Nick's nightmare would be over…

I'm vaguely aware of Sara's gasp as she clutches the doorframe. Transfixed by the sheer horror, like the rest of us. An audible gulp and there is anger in the words that snap me out of the gut wrenching sight.

"Dispatch got a call – the bastard wants a ransom…"

Through this world I stumbled so many times betrayed

Trying to find an honest word to find the truth enslaved

Oh you speak to me in riddles and you speak to me in rhymes

My body aches to breathe your breath, your words keep me alive

SWAT and Vegas PD swarm around me. There's a hand on my arm, my elbow, someone trying to help me up but I'm not much help. The fury followed by icy calm that had sustained me through the ransom drop rushed out of me the second the kidnapper pushed the button, igniting the C-4 strapped to his chest and blowing himself to palm-sized bits.

No doubt I'm covered in them but I'm just too tired, too dejected to care.

I want to rage, want to weep but I'm too tired for either. The man hadn't wanted money. He had lied. Just wanted to question Grissom, interrogate him about Nicky while turning the screws.

A random target. Random. Of no importance save the fact he was one of Grissom's guys. Even if he wasn't anymore. The lab was the target. Not Nicky. The fucking LAB!

Anger; a brief flare and it, too, was gone leaving Gil Grissom alone on the cold stone floor of a long forgotten warehouse in the middle of nowhere, covered in blood, brain matter and guts. His one last hope of finding anything more than Nick's body was as dead as their only suspect.

One shuddering breath. Two. Blue eyes blurred with fatigue and tears stared passed a hole in the corrugated roofing to the stars beyond.

One breath, Nick. One breath. I know you can do it. Now two. I would breathe for you Nicky if I could. So you breathe for me, Nicky. I'm coming for you. Hold on. Just hold on….

And I would be the one to hold you down,

Kiss you so hard, I'll take your breath away

And after I wipe away the tears,

Just close your eyes, dear

"Nothing. Nothing! Dammit!"

Papers fly off my desk to flutter scattered about my office. I ignore them, placing my hands down flat on the cool wood and steel, head hanging and pounding behind my temples. I fluctuate between despair and rage now; both listlessness and agitation I try to keep from my team. If I can't be strong for Nick I can at least hide this weakness from my team. I won't be taken off this case. Not until…no, never.

The pounding increases and my stomach rolls. My fists clench on the edge and I resist the urge to throw something else. To hit something. Bring the sonofabitch back and kill him myself.

No, I will be here until the end. It's the least I can do for a man I respect and admire. For the man I love. I will be the first face he sees. One way or the other.

Into this night I wander, it's morning that I dread

Another day unknowing of the path I fear to tread

Oh into this sea of waking dreams I follow without pride

Cause nothing stands between us here and I won't be denied

Jesus Nicky. Jesus. Don't do that. My heart can't take it.When Warrick told me you had the gun to your head….

I couldn't feel anything but numb. Numb all the way through. Until the words fought past the cotton and the ringing, past the denial…you had shot the out light instead. Connected to the fan feeding you your only air, every time we activated the light to see you…instead of letting you know you weren't alone, that we were watching over you, we were killing you. Only we didn't know it.

But you did, Nicky. You did.

I'm getting too old for this.

Your trail has gone cold and we have nowhere else to look. Nothing we've tried so far has led anywhere and I don't know that we'll find you before your air runs out. I hate to admit that but…I have no idea where to turn next. How do I know that this path I'm on will lead me to you in time when the only thing I can do worth a damn is put one foot in front of the other and pray like hell you'll be at the end when I get there?

But I won't give up if you don't give up, Nick, and you're still fighting. So…please. Just….don't give up. And I won't. I promise. I won't give up, Nicky.

One more step. Just one more…

When - when – I find you Nicky. I'll tell you. That, too, I promise.

And I would be the one to hold you down,

Kiss you so hard, I'll take your breath away

And after I wipe away the tears,

Just close your eyes.

"Here! He's here!"

I ignore the dozens of bobbing and zigzagging flashlights, too caught up in frantic digging to pay them or my cracked and bleeding hands any attention. I don't see the strobe the wildly dancing beams are making of the night around me, which is probably a good thing for my already abused brain. I can feel the migraine that has been threatening now for hours, seems like days, but I ignore it, too. It's all about the hard packed earth in front of me.

"Nick! Nicky can you hear me?"

There! Muffled thumps. We're getting close. More digging; I have help now…

The clear Plexiglas is the sweetest, most beautiful thing I've ever seen; that is, until I look past the surface and spot Nick. Beaten and battered and all but eaten alive – the sight of him alive and aware enough to panic now that help is so close is enough to redouble my efforts at getting him out and into my arms. Where I'm very much afraid I will never have the strength to let him go again. And I'm too far gone to care that over half of the force is out here tonight to witness it when I lose it.

Forget about solo cases. Forget about separate shifts. I'm never letting him out of my sight.

My cell rings but I ignore it, continuing to dig, to brush dirt off of Nick's casket. There's a voice calling my name and suddenly Warrick's beside me holding my wrists and I realize there's blood in the dirt. My blood.

"Gris – I've got this. It's Hodges…" I must have looked out of it because he clarified, "He called Catherine when he couldn't get you."

One whimper from Nick when I start to leave is all it takes. Placing my hand against the clear plexi, I demand, insistent, "Nick – Nicky! Poncho! Look at me." I hold on until his eyes meet mine. Fear, pain, panic…until they clear just a little and I nod, letting him know I know he sees me. "I'm not leaving. Just breathe for me. That's it. Slow."

Something comes between us and I growl when I realize it's Catherine's cell phone. Never breaking our connection, I hold it up to my ear with the hand not mirroring Nick's pressed against the lid. "Grissom." I feel my face drain of all color and it's all I can do to keep myself from falling over until the wave of dizziness passes. There's pounding on the Plexiglas and I open my eyes – when had I closed them? – to Nick, once more struggling and fighting to get out.

Warrick is trying to pry open the lid. I stop him like he stopped me earlier; dropping the phone in order to grab one of his wrists, not willing to break my connection to Nick. "No. There's…" Deep breath old man. "There's a problem. Get out of here – now."

I don't wait to see if he does it though by the scuttle of dirt, he does. I hear Catherine above, explaining everything to him, to everyone – hear Warrick's broken cry of denial – but once again my focus is on Nick. He's still fighting, knowing something is wrong and I'm the one that told him.

"Poncho!" I demand, but it doesn't work this time. I try again. Poncho may be his dad's name for him, but I have one of my own. "NICKY!" Thank god it works because I'm just about out of rope, steam and miracles. He stills, head whipping back to study my face through half swollen eyes. I won't lie to him. "Nicky. There's been a change in plans. I'm going to get you out of here now, ok?"

A pathetically relieved jerk of his head and whimper is all I get. His eyes are glued to mine and I know he's waiting on me to tell him what we're going to do.

"Ok, Nicky. We have a slight problem but it's going to be ok, you understand? I'm going to open the lid, but I need you to stay perfectly still. Explosives Nicky. On a pressure release. Ok?"

His head rolls violently from side to side and he's all but shouting with a voice long past gone. I read his lips as I did in the lab, his eyes screaming at me.

/Get out. Leave me./

No way in hell, Nicky. To the end, one way or the other. He needs to know that.

"I'm here Nicky, with you to the end, you hear me?" I wait until he nods again, tears leaking down his temples to drop onto the bottom of the clear casket floor. His hand meets mine again on the lid. "Ok, here we go…one step at a time."

The lid is off and I can feel Nicky shaking, trying desperately not to move. He's crying in earnest now, body vibrating between the force of the release and the iron restraint it's taking him not to scramble out of his prison. Only the fact that he would kill us both keeps him there. His control breaks enough though that he grabs my forearm, hand gripping well enough even with the ant bites that I know nothing short of a crowbar is going to pry him loose. That's fine, I need the connection as much as he does.

"Good. Ok, good. I'm here." My hand squeezes back, gripping his arm much as he has mine. An old warrior's brace. "We need to equalize your bodyweight and then we're going to get you out of here. Jim…"

Catherine answered while Jim orders the backhoe into position. With enough dirt and enough luck, the trigger won't be able to tell the difference between Nick's weight and 200 pounds of dirt. "Gil, you need to get out of there."


Nick's voice, battered, hoarse and all but gone, stops me, demanding, "…ou..t…'il..ou'…"

"Nick's right, Grissom. We can hook onto Nick's belt to pull him out but you can't be in the way."

It's on the tip of my tongue to refuse until Nick's grip on my arm turns painful. He's using the last of his strength to tell me to go. His eyes bore into mine…and I suddenly realize I won't be the only one making midnight confessions when this is all over.

"Ok, Nicky," I tell him. "Okay." By this time Brass is back and everyone is in place. Warrick feeds the cable down to me and I clip it on Nick's belt buckle, never breaking eye contact. "I want you to close your eyes and hold your breath."

His lips move and I don't know if he's trying to save his voice or make sure noone overhears him when he tells me that he loves me. It doesn't matter. I return it the same way. His response is a shuddering breath before clamping down on the new wave of tears, chin jerking as he fights to hold back the sob.

I can't leave him. I can't…

His eyes open and I grip his arm once more before letting it go. Before letting Nick go. "Okay here we go."

I'm out and grabbing a hold of the cable before I can change my mind. Three comes much too fast and yet fast enough. I feel the sudden tension and release on the cable as the dirt covers Nick, burying him again, and the sudden free flight as we pull him out. The bomb goes off anyway but Nick is already clear, on his stomach and lying fairly still a few feet away. Only his hands were moving; twitching and scrabbling at the dirt under his cheek. Involuntary movements caused by shock or the ant venom.

And I would be the one to hold you down,

Kiss you so hard, I'll take your breath away

And after I wipe away the tears,

Just close your eyes.

By the time the medics have him settled and strapped onto the gurney, my hands have been cleaned and bandaged and Nick is just about out of it. Warrick is riding with him and it's the hardest decision I've ever made, staying behind. I won't process the scene – I can't. But the scene isn't the only unfinished business I have around here.

I don't look at Ecklie – don't take my eyes off the ambulance speeding Nick away to the hospital – when I finally speak, I'm not sure I recognize my own voice. "I want my guys back." I don't cringe at the worn, faded quality, nor the harsh way the words come out. As long as I get Nick and Warrick back on my shift I don't care what else happens.

Ecklie doesn't answer, but he doesn't have to. He knows I mean what I say and it's in his best interests to give me what I want. I don't look back as I get in my Tahoe and drive away.

A short detour to my townhouse for a shower and change of clothes – the ones I'm wearing are evidence since I was practically lying on the damned coffin – and I'm on my way to the hospital. To Nick. Confessions can wait but Nick can't.

Not anymore.