Author Note: I was really surprised to get any reviews to "Waiting", and in all honesty was completely floored by one of them. A couple said that they wished it was more, and after I re-read it, I had to agree...there wasn't a whole lot of closure. I'm not saying that this one is for that closure, because it's really not, it's just something else that came to mind. I'm really concerned with the lack of Nick's emotional responses that we're getting from the show, so we have to make them up ourselves. Here is just another of mine, a sequel of sorts to "Waiting", which, if you didn't know, was an afterthought to "Gum Drops".
It was too much. Everyone was staring at him, and he felt like a fish in a damned bowl. He had to get out. It was suffocating.
The news of Nick and Warrick's little impromptu fight had trickled through all the regular office grapevines, and everyone was watching him, waiting to see what he would do next.
Going home and going to sleep, Nick answered their unasked questions in his mind, not all that dramatic.
But it was. Sleeping had become a sort of sport for Nick. He had to work himself for it, and if he succeeded in a full few hours with no nightmares, he considered it a victory of epic proportions.
The only problem was that this didn't happen very often.
What did happen was an hour of light sleep, then two spent tossing and turning and checking the black corners of the dark room for an unseen menace, ready to pounce while he was defenseless. This, one a good night, would be followed by another hour or two of fitful slumber. On a bad night, it was followed with a pot of coffee and infomercials.
The gun under his pillow had helped at first. He wasn't really expecting anyone to sneak into his house…but hey, it wouldn't be the first time.
The gun didn't help anymore, because his fear went beyond that. Whenever he was alone, he could feel it in the air, and the air felt bad. Thick and threatening. He had thought he would be able to appreciate it more now, and stop to smell the roses, so to speak.
There were no roses. There was no smelling anything sweet. Every foul molecule in the air was like an attack on his nose and lungs.
Especially his lungs. Sometimes, they tightened without warning, and he had no idea what brought it on. Elevators, understandable. Stairwells, sure. His car, why not? But sitting in his living room, watching a ball game? He had no explanation for that.
In those moments, it was as if his brain had just abandoned his body and left it to fend for itself.
This was what was happening right then.
Nick pushed through the heavy glass doors and took a deep breathe. His lungs fought it but he fought them right back. He balled his shaking hands into fists and flexed his fingers out.
Get a grip, he ordered himself. He was afraid that someone would come upon him in this state, especially Warrick, whom he had just left with what he hoped was a sense that things were going to start getting better.
Not great, not even good, but better. But better than bad could still be bad, just to a lesser degree.
Nick scanned the parking lot for his truck, which he couldn't recall where he had parked. It didn't help that they all looked the same.
It was all he could do not to jump, but he succeeded. He turned, stuffing his still slightly shaking hands into his jeans pockets. "Yeah?"
Sara looked concerned. Dammit.
"Yup." Short, sweet, and to the point. That point on a map would, in all honesty, fall a little south of the border of truth, but was still in the vicinity.
Something flashed across Sara's features. Guilt? "Did, uh, did Warrick talk to you?" It was in form of a question, but she knew the answer, and Nick knew that she knew the answer. It was a lure, to hook him and drag him into the conversation. He was once again nothing more than a fish being gawked at through a thin but seemingly unbreakable barrier.
"Yeah, for a bit." Nick turned back to parking lot. Where in the hell is my truck? He was overcome with an intense desire to be far away. He unconsciously tugged at the neck of his sweatshirt.
"I'm really sorry."
Nick turned back to her, surprised. "For what?"
She wouldn't really make eye contact. "I didn't want you guys to fight. I just wanted…I don't know. To help you, I guess." Her eyes rose to tentatively meet his.
Thank God. Nick spotted his vehicle in the far corner of the lot as Sara was talking. He turned back in time to see her looking at him, and her expression told him that she wanted some kind of response, maybe for him to say something that would alleviate some of the guilt that she was apparently, however irrationally, feeling.
He gave her his best smile. "Thank you, Sara. Really. I promise that from now on, if I need to talk about something, I will."
He was blowing her off, and he cringed when the look in her eyes told him that she knew it.
She shook her head, looking away with a knowing smile. "It's all a lie, isn't it?" She looked at him sharply.
He couldn't think of anything to say.
Sara continued. "Warrick just ran up to me, so psyched. 'Nick's gonna be better, I know he is' he said. 'I can tell'." Tears formed in her eyes. "But I know you, and I know that he does, too, but he just wants to believe so bad that everything is the same."
"It is, Sara. I'm still the same guy."
"Stop it!" She was practically yelling, and Nick cast a worried look around them. He really didn't more spectators to witness round two.
"Sara, calm down," he said.
"Stop telling us what we want to hear," she said, much more quietly, but still with plenty of force behind it.
"I-I can't help it," he said lamely, suddenly fascinated by his shoes.
"Is that what you did just now?" Sara swung an arm to the wide entrance of the lab. "Tell Warrick what you thought he wanted to hear, to pacify him? Answer me," she gritted at his silence.
Nick honestly didn't know to respond. Anger was an expected reaction from Warrick, because he was a very hot and cold kind of guy. But this, from Sara, of all people…he didn't know what to say. "I…maybe…I mean-" he got out before she cut him off.
"He cares about you, Nick. We all do. This is killing him a little every day-"
"And what do you think it's doing to me, Sara?" He hadn't meant for that to come out, and he wished immediately that he could take it back. If he didn't know how to handle angry Sara, he really didn't want to deal with the Sara that was now looking back at him.
Her mouth opened slightly and a tear made its way out of her eye and ran down her cheek. "Oh, God. Nick, I'm so sorry…I didn't mean…"
"It's okay," he said softly.
And here it was. The big money moment. He'd done it yet again. It was all riding on what she did right here.
Sara's shoulders slumped just slightly. She offered him a small smile, and something inside if Nick broke when he realized that she was taking his words at face value. It was what her whole rant had been about, and she was still doing it. She couldn't help but hear what she wanted to anymore than he could help saying it.
It was what he wanted, too, but something deep inside of him still longed for that constant watchfulness and concern, no matter the force with which he pushed it away.
He afraid for the day it receded altogether, and everyone around him accepted this new reality as the norm. He feared that he would disappear into himself completely, and his friends would be left to laugh and joke with a shell.
But for now, he still hoped.
He reached out and rubbed Sara's shoulder, fighting tears for what seemed like the tenth time that day. "I'll see ya tomorrow, okay?"
She smiled and nodded, running a finger under her eye.
"Okay." Speaking barely above a whisper, Nick nodded and finally made his way to his truck.
He wanted to go home.
I may have to continue and do another...should I?