Notes: post 2x07. Ignores all subsequent episodes.
Disclaimer: I do not own Primeval, and I am not making any profit from this work.
Nick knew he was going mad.
Stephen had died. Stephen was gone, gone forever, and Nick had watched that horrific death. He had seen it all, and it was burned into his mind like some vulgar tattoo from days gone by, when they punished people with brandings or chopping their ears off. He couldn't escape it, couldn't remove it, couldn't stop seeing that ghastly splatter of red across a pale, smooth floor.
But Stephen was still there.
He knew he was losing it. Had a screw loose. The death of his best friend, and the guilt he carried around with him, was obviously driving him over the edge, up the wall, round the bend.
But he couldn't escape the fact that Stephen was still there, either.
At anomaly sights, he would turn to look at the rest of the team and Stephen would be there, lounging against a tree or a building in that manner he had when he wasn't quite awake yet, or was ready to go sleep. Or, knowing Stephen, had gotten some injury he wasn't revealing to everybody else.
And Nick would blink, and he would be gone.
In the office, he would often hear the door slam when it never moved, and the familiar tramp of Stephen's boots across the floor. Occasionally he would hear the squeak of Stephen's chair, only nobody was sitting there.
Once, about a week after he'd died, Nick had left his house and found Stephen leaning against his car, waiting for him.
"Come on then," Stephen had complained, clear as day and just as tangible. "What are we waiting for?"
"You shouldn't be here," Nick had croaked, white-faced and trembling.
Stephen frowned, tilting his head to the side, and said: "Why? Special instructions?"
"Am I?" Stephen said, far too placidly, and Nick knew then that it was nothing more than his grief-crazed mind making things up. "Oh. I don't remember that."
"Well, you are," Nick assured him, voice shaking, and got into his car. When he looked across at the passenger seat and door, Stephen - or the apparition of Stephen - was gone.
He could tell that the others sensed something was up, but they didn't want to breach the subject with him. Hell, they'd already thought he was going mad before, when he'd come back to find the wrong world and timeline.
But this...this was madness.
And yet...Stephen showed no inclination to go away.
At first, they were just little glimpses. He would stray in and out as if Nick was idly daydreaming him there. Leaning against the car, hovering in the trees - he even turned up once on the wrong side of an anomaly, on a hillside peering out at the view. He had turned to give Nick one of his little half-smiles that meant 'nothing of interest' and vanished.
And the vanishing...Nick would blink, and he'd be gone.
But as time passed, it was as though Nick's mind was grabbing hold of what he could keep of Stephen. As if he was so desperate to make things alright again, to fix things, that he would take whatever he could get, even if it meant he was going mad.
The other part of his mind - the rational, scientific, sensible part, said that he couldn't go on like this.
"You have to go," he told Stephen after he appeared in the car on the way home. Nick had just glanced up at the rear view mirror, and there he was in the passenger seat.
"I don't know. Wherever ghosts go," Nick said agitatedly. "You just have to go. You're driving me mad."
"I'm not driving anybody mad," Stephen said. "I don't exist anymore."
"You're driving me mad!" Nick yelled.
"You're just imagining me," Stephen said. "You feel guilty."
Nick pulled over, ignored the car horns behind him, and switched off the engine, leaning his head on the steering wheel.
"Of course I feel guilty," he snarled. "You went and bloody well died so I wouldn't! After all that shit between us, you went and died for me anyway!"
"Yes," Stephen said.
"Why?!" Nick begged the question.
"Maybe you're forgetting," Stephen said, stretching lazily, although the seat made no sound, "but you were prepared to walk into that room too. You weren't going to let me die either."
Nick didn't say anything.
"For the record," Stephen said, "it's alright, you know."
"That you were angry. Anybody would be."
"Don't justify that," Nick growled. "I threw away eight years of..."
Stephen sighed heavily, in that exasperated fashion that said that Nick had gone over something over and over again - before, it had been saved for theories Nick had read about, or drunken nights out to celebrate getting through one of the paperwork mountains in Nick's old office. Just one of a list of things that Nick missed.
"I miss you," Nick said.
"Yeah," Stephen said. "So stop kicking yourself."
"I thought you said you didn't remember how you died?"
Stephen smiled, a little wryly, and said: "Oh, I can lie when need be."
Nick blinked then, even though he was sure he'd blinked before, and Stephen was gone.
After that, Stephen didn't visit so much. He was still around - he would appear in crowds, at anomaly sites, and occasionally in Nick's car and Nick's home. But he didn't say much, just watched them for a little while and vanished again.
Nick wasn't sure he believed in ghosts. But whatever Stephen was now, he welcomed the return, however strange and fleeting.
He couldn't let go...not yet.