Of the characters only Libby and a few assorted goons, thugs and bad guys are my invention. The rest belong to CBS and people who are definitely not me; I'm just borrowing them for a little while. No harm, no foul.

Set in season 6, a day or so after the end of Gum Drops

With many, MANY thank yous to procrastin8or951 for the help and beta'ing

A Crystal Vision

It was Lake Mead. That much Nick was sure of. It had to be Lake Mead he was looking at; the question was, why? He took a step forwards and realised two further things. The ground was abnormally warm and his feet were bare. A growing feeling of unease made him take another step forwards but now his bare feet seemed to be mired in thick, too-warm mud. What was going on here?

Stopped from moving forwards, Nick turned his attention to the rest of his surroundings. There was a Denali behind him, skewed at an angle with its doors flung wide open. His? Had he been in that much of a hurry to reach this spot? Why?

Movement to his left caught his attention. There were three men, all built like quarterbacks, all dressed in black, all aiming guns at a kneeling figure on the lake shore. Beyond them was a wispy figure of a girl. She looked familiar but she was too far away for him to make out more than the barest details. The kneeling figure was much clearer. Close cropped dark hair. Black stab-proof vest. Dark jeans. Rust-coloured shirt.

Glancing down at himself, Nick realised that the kneeling figure was wearing item-for-item the same outfit as he was.

Cold sweat trickled down his spine. What the hell was this?

He tried to focus on the girl. Perhaps, if he could identify her, he could work out what was going on, but no matter how hard he tried, no matter how hard he stared, he couldn't see her clearly. A phantom behind an all too real stand off.

And then the three gun-toting goons fired and she screamed and Nick found himself surging upright in bed, half expecting to feel the burn of three bullets ripping into his chest.

It took a moment or two for reality to register. That there were no gun shot wounds; there was no smell of cordite; there were no goons; that he wasn't on his knees on the shore of Lake Mead; that he was, in fact, at home, in bed and everything was just fine and dandy.

He swallowed, hard. He'd had nightmares before; hell, he had a regular rotation of the damn things, from being held at gun point, to being thrown through a window to being eaten alive by fire ants, with the odd digression into some of the weirder and sicker cases he'd investigated just for a little variation. This, though, was not a nightmare. It wasn't a memory that his battered psyche had picked on to replay in technicolour detail. At the same time, though, it was far too lucid to be his subconscious attempting to process something that had happened in the recent past. It was weird - and that was the only word he could come up with.

Nick scrubbed a hand over his face in tired fashion and eyed the bedside clock. The red digits mockingly informed him that it was six o'clock in the afternoon. His alarm would be going off in another hour. No point in going back to sleep. As bad as he felt right now, he'd feel even worse for getting that one extra hour of sleep - and that assumed he would actually manage to sleep, which he doubted. Getting back to sleep after such a vivid dream was not an option his mind let him take. Not without serious chemical help.

He rubbed his face again and flung the twisted bedding aside. If he wasn't going to sleep again, he might just as well start his day early. Give him more time to catch up on the household chores that had been overlooked while he'd been up in Pioche. His mouth twisted in a wry smile. There was laundry that needed to be done, groceries that needed to be bought, floors that needed to be cleaned. It was all mindless stuff when what he really wanted was distraction, but it was the best he could do. At least for now.

The knock on his front door brought a halt to his musings.

Reflexively, Nick glanced back at the clock. Five after six. Who in the hell would be knocking on his door at this time of day? Wouldn't be neighbours, they knew he worked nights and tended to be asleep right now. Wouldn't be any of his coworkers for the same reason. He wasn't expecting any visitors, so that pretty much ruled out friends and family - and, heck, they all knew he worked nights, too. That just left cops and door to door salesmen. He grimaced. Neither was an appealing prospect.

There was another knock. More frantic this time.

"Gimme a minute!" Nick called. He hauled on a pair of ratty sweats and a stained t-shirt, then made his way towards the door. Past experience and present paranoia tempted him to grab his gun as he passed it, but he shoved that thought away. No need to escalate if the caller was just a travelling vacuum salesman.

The caller either hadn't heard his yell or didn't care. They made another assault on his door, suggesting that whoever it was considered this visit to be urgent. That probably ruled out every other suspect barring the cops.

Nick sighed. This couldn't be good. He took a second to peer through the spy hole to confirm his visitor was a cop. The next moment, he was ripping the door open and staring face to face at the waif-like teenage girl standing on his doorstep.

"Surprise, Uncle Nicky!"

To be continued...