Title: Crazing

Fandom: CSI

Rating: PG

Characters: Nick Stokes

Summary: Post-"Gumdrops". Nick thinks about the cracks in his enamel. 500-word fic.

Disclaimer: I own nothing. CBS and the series creators own all. I am but a lowly Textual Poacher. (Which is not to say, mind ye, that I wouldn't mind owning Nick Stokes . . . .)

Nick's mother collects Roseville, a type of antique pottery: vases, jars, wall pockets, all pastel flowered affairs, two and three hundred dollars each piece. Nick has never seen the attraction, himself; the beauty of the objects is old-fashioned, heavy with the past, and Nick's never been big on clinging to the past.

But while he was lying in the hospital (with burns in his throat and his nose, from the ether and from the screaming; with bites everywhere -- between his fingers and toes, on his scalp his back his tongue his ears his eyelids, everywhere) his mother left a collector's guide on the nightstand: and in a fit of desperate boredom (Mom and Dad out to get something to eat, Warrick gone to work, nothing on TV) he'd picked it up and thumbed (gingerly, fingers greasy with ointment) through it. Read about ages, glazes, values; about what does and does not affect the cost of pottery vases (Greg'd never let him forget it, if he knew). Read about the thousand subtleties the furnace-heat of firing produces. Read, in the glossary: Crazing: A phenomenon whereby small cracks appear in the glaze of the pottery during firing. Affects the appearance but in most cases does not significantly decrease the piece's value.

Now, months later, in another hospital room, Nick remembers that book. He rubs healed eyelids with fingers that tingle sometimes with remembered bites. Watches her sleep, the little girl with the cracked voice who chews the same kind of bubble gum he does, the girl he had to save because he was saved. Thinks about that moment of fury at the police station, about what Sara said: Six months ago you wouldn't have . . .

He wanted, part of him wanted, to scream Six months ago I hadn't been buried alive. But they know that, both of them. Know what he's been through. Know he's come out alive from the firing. Know he's brought things out with him.

Cold shiver along his back at bug-feet on his arm. Rush of half-remembered terror at the hot dirt-smell from an underground door. Rage at the sullen teenager who knew where the plastic coffin (no, the little girl, remember, the girl with the gum) was hidden.

Hesitation in narrow places: garages, closets, basements.

Cracks in the enamel.

All to be expected, they told him; take it one day at a time, the only way he's ever taken it anyway.

"Do you believe in past lives?"

"No, ma'am."

"Why not?"

"Ma'am, I'm just trying to get through this one."

Nick knows better than to worry about those cracks in the enamel, better than to fear them. It's not that he's broken, or going to break. It's not even that they've changed his worth, made him a bad CSI. They've done none of those things.

Affects the appearance, but in most cases does not significantly decrease the piece's value.

Nick isn't crazy. It's just that now, sometimes, he shows a little crazing.

The End