Author: PonchoLives
Title: Mixed Messages
Category: Drama/Angst
Disclaimer: I own nothing except the laptop on which this story was composed.
Summary: This takes a peak into what Nick might have been thinking when he finds out that Grissom recommended him the promotion. This is a sequel to my one shot "Resignation and Rejuvenation".

Author's Note: I was encouraged to write a sequel to my "Resignation and Rejuvenation" one shot so here it is. I've also been inspired to make this into a kind of mini-series so to speak. I'm forseeing at a few more installments down the road, so I hope you enjoy this one.

Nick Stokes made his way down the hallway of the lab, having just wrapped up his own robbery investigation. Rumor had it that Grissom was heading up a murder case involving two kids who were trying to scam Sam Braun. Since he was done with his own case, he thought he'd lend a hand if Grissom needed one.

He was walking past the receptionist's station when Judy called his name.

"Nick! This letter came for you." she told him, holding up a letter.

He moved towards the station and grabbed it from Judy's outstretched hand. Giving it a cursory glance, he saw that the envelope had the official department stamp on it. A million thoughts ran through his mind as he wondered what the contents might be. Was it good news? Was it bad news? It could be anything.

Ridding his face of any sign of concern, Nick fixed the receptionist with a trademark grin and said, "Thank you, Judy."

She blushed and returned his smile before burying herself in her work again.

Nick fought the urge to tear open the letter and find out what it was all about, but the hallway wasn't the place for that. He needed some place a bit more private.

Sticking his head in the locker room, Nick saw that it was abandoned so he sat down on the bench. He opened the door to his locker in an effort to shield himself a bit more from the gaze of the casual passer-by and opened the letter. As he began to read it, his mouth fell open.

The letter was informing him that Grissom had recommended him for the promotion but that the budget for the position had been cut. The much-desired position had nearly been his, but it had been snatched from him. Nick wasn't overrun with feelings of disappointment though. He was in too much shock to be disappointed.
Grissom had recommended him? When? Why? Nick had never got the slightest impression that Grissom had even been considering giving him the recommendation. He would have thought that this was some elaborate joke on Grissom's part but he knew that his supervisor didn't have it in him to pull this kind of stunt.

This was a wholly unexpected turn of events. Dorsey had told him that Grissom had recommended Sara and he had believed it. Perhaps he had been stupid to do so. Grissom must have really thought that he deserved the recommendation.

His internal dialogue was interrupted by Sara.

"Hey." she greeted.

"Hey." he said half-heartedly and looked down at his letter again as Sara opened her locker.

"Everything okay?" she asked, concerned.

Nick held up the piece of paper in his hand. "This is about the key CSI position. Grissom recommended me."

Nick was too wrapped up in his own thoughts to notice Sara's forced tone. "Congratulations."

He tucked the letter back into its envelope and put it in his locker. Trying to keep his tone casual, he said, " It's not necessary. Position was cut. Budget had room for the new promotion or a new qiagen, bio robot ez-1. Greg will be thrilled."

As he spoke, he began to check his weapon. It was an action that he had always found strangely calming and after reading that letter, his emotions could stand a bit of calming. He tucked the gun in his holster.

"Yeah." Sara replied with less enthusiasm.

Shutting his locker door, Nick turned and glanced at Sara before heading for the door. "Oh, well, it's just an honor to be nominated, right?"

Had Nick's emotions been less conflicted, he might have noticed Sara's dejected countenance, but he was too wrapped up in his own thoughts to take notice of her. Otherwise, he might have been sympathetic to the fact that Sara had not been the one recommended.

Not only did Nick want to know why Grissom had recommended him, he also wanted to know why Grissom had not told him to his face that he had recommended him. He was feeling conflicted and incredibly frustrated.. He had finally felt that he reached the place where he no longer needed Grissom's approval, that he the only validation he needed was his own. And yet, here he was scrambling to find out Grissom's motivations as if it truly mattered.

There were two parts of him waging an internal battle.

"So which is it, Stokes? Do you need his approval or not? Does it really matter why he recommended you and that he didn't tell about it? After all, you got the recommendation. What more do you want?" a little voice inside of him nagged.

"I want to hear him say it." he answered.

"Say what?" the little voice asked.

"That I'm a good CSI." he admitted.

"So you do need his approval." the little voice mocked.

"No. I know I'm a good CSI. I do. I just want to hear him say out loud that he knows it." he told the voice defiantly.

With a nod of determination, Nick knew that he had decided what he was going to do. He would talk to Grissom about the recommendation. So deep was his desire to hear Grissom speak for himself that he had to consciously restrain himself from marching straight into his supervisor's office with the demand for an explanation. This was not the time. There was a case that needed to be solved. Personal matters could wait.

Some time later, Joseph Greene had been arrested for murder and Sam Braun's name cleared. Nick had done his best to keep his focus on the task at hand, all the while ignoring his emotional state. Now, he stood outside of Grissom's office. It was time to get some answers.

Nick knocked sharply on the door to Grissom's office. Grissom looked up from his work and gave Nick an inquiring look. "Yes?"

"Got a minute?" Nick asked.

Grissom nodded and waved him in. The younger man entered and closed the door behind him, an action which caused Grissom to arch an eyebrow in curiosity.

"What's on your mind, Nick?" the man asked as his CSI took a seat across from him.

Nick held up the letter in his hand so Grissom could see it. "I got this today. It's a letter saying that you recommended me for the position as Lead CSI, but that the position was cut."

Grissom lowered his head a bit. "I just got a letter myself saying that they had decided to cut the position. I'm sorry, but I don't think there's anything I can do about it."

Nick shook his head. "That's not what I'm upset about. I mean, I'm disappointed, but I'll get over it. Why did you recommend me?"

This was the second time Grissom had been asked this question. He wondered how Nick would respond to his answer. "Because you didn't care if you got it."

Nick stared at him, dumbfounded. "That's it?"

"Basically, yes. It illustrated to me that your real passion is for solving the crime rather than achieving personal success." Grissom said matter-of-factly.

"So it had nothing to do with my abilities as a CSI?" Nick asked. He could barely comprehend what he was hearing. He thought Grissom had been complimenting him, but maybe he had been wrong about that as well.

"I didn't say that. You and Sara were equally qualified for the position. This was one area where the two of you differed and I felt that difference was important." Grissom told him.

Nick was not sure what to make of Grissom's answer. It wasn't the answer he was expecting to hear and now he was hesitant to ask the second question that had been plaguing him. Resolution had taken hold of him though and Nick sighed and took a deep breath. It was now or never.

"I want to know why you didn't tell me that you recommended me. I was quite surprised when I read this because, frankly, after our conversation after the Rita Weston case, I assumed that you had recommended Sara for the position." he asked, fixing Grissom with a piercing stare.

Grissom was a bit taken aback by Nick's blunt honesty. He wasn't sure now where this conversation was headed and he decided to let Nick steer its course. "Why would you assume that?"

"Well, for one thing, someone told me that you had recommended her." Nick said.

Grissom shook his head. "You should know better than to take any stock in office gossip, Nicky."

"It's more than that, Gris. We got into that discussion about ignoring the human element, which is something you tend to do, and I said it was important. You put me down because of my opinion." Nick said with exasperation.

"Just because you and I have deferring opinions on that issue doesn't mean I don't respect your abilities as a CSI. And I never said that the human element or your ability to empathize with victims was a bad thing. I implied it had the POTENTIAL to be a problem as it could cloud your objectivity which it has in the past. Part of my job as your supervisor is to help you realize your potential problem areas so that they don't hamper your ability to do your job."

"Yes, you've got that down pat. All you ever seem to do is find fault in me and the way I do my job." Nick said bitterly. He looked away in disgust.

Grissom was rather surprised by this remark. "I recommended you for the promotion, didn't I? That should communicate to you that I have confidence in your abilities. I wouldn't have done so otherwise."

"That's the problem! I shouldn't have to read in a letter that you have confidence in my abilities. I should know it by the way you interact with me, but I don't get that impression from you. Why didn't you tell me to my face that you were recommending me? Why did I have to read about it in a letter? All impersonal like that? It's like you don't even care." Nick sighed with frustration.

Grissom was at a loss for words. He was shocked that Nick didn't think he had any confidence in his abilities. He didn't know what to say. He didn't know if there was anything he could say. What did Nick want from him? Part of the reason he had recommended him for the promotion was that Nick finally seemed to be at place where he no longer needed his approval. He finally seemed to be confident in his own abilities, able to really come into his own as a CSI. Yet here Nick was, sitting across from him and wanting to hear verbal praise. Gil found it all very confusing.

He finally opted for honesty. "I don't know what you want me to say, Nick."

Nick looked his boss in the face, saw the confusion etched all over it, and suddenly realized his mistake. He had been foolish to think that Grissom would understand his frustration. How could he? The man had never been able to understand him so why should this time be any different? Nick mentally kicked himself for his stupidity.

Once again, he realized that Grissom would be unable to give him what he wanted because he didn't understand. Grissom didn't understand why it mattered to him. Nick was ashamed at how quickly he had jumped at the chance to hear the praise he told himself he didn't need.

"You don't have to say anything at all, Gris." Nick said, allowing a sad smile to play across his face.

A disturbing silence fell between them. Finally, Nick said, "Thanks for the recommendation even though I didn't get it."

The younger man stood up quickly and practically fled out of the office before Grissom had the opportunity to speak. Gil sat for a few moments in a bewildered silence before returning to his work.