He's standing in the run down construction site with a man at his back, his guns trained on his head. He can almost feel the little red dot of his weapon, burning a path of potential through his skull. He takes a step forward, urged by the command of the Pusher, and feels the man echo his movement.
Nick's eyes are scanning around him, slowly forming a plan. He just needs to walk a few more steps forward.
"This isn't going to achieve anything," he calls over his shoulder. He takes another step. He's buying time.
"Did you're little Watcher tell you that?" the man sneers, but he steps forwards too.
"No." Another step. "She told me you were going to die though." He hears the man hesitate. He can almost hear his brain processing. Of course, he had made that up. He hasn't seen Cassie in days, no idea where she is. He doesn't even know if she's alive. He takes another step and the man follows him. He's close enough now.
His eyes slide to the side as he prepares to target the great bamboo structure next to them. But before he can there's a noise behind them both. He doesn't move, still feeling the red dot trained to his head, but he hears the man turn and then a second later there's the snap of his gun. Nick flinches automatically but the bullet isn't destined for him. He doesn't know who it was directed at but he sees it as an opportunity and pushes at the bamboo. One of the supports snaps and with an almighty rumble is begins to crash down into itself. Nick throws himself to the side as it disintegrates into rubble, deadly shards of bamboo poles flying through the air on top of where he just stood. He doesn't see the man, who was too distracted by his target to notice the threat till it was too late, but he hears his ear splitting scream as he is skewered by the bamboo and buried under a pile of broken scaffolding.
Nick coughs, waiting for the dust to settle down, lifting his head slightly. It wasn't as hard as he thought it would be, the Pusher was stupid. Slowly, grumbling, he climbs to his feet, stepping over the rubble and trying to wave the dust away. He sees the body of the Pusher, blood seeping from unknown places, and quickly takes the gun from his hand. As he picks it up he suddenly remembers the gun shot, and he looks up.
"Cass!" he exclaims in surprise, seeing her standing on the other side of the rubble, looking at him with wide eyes. She'd distracted the man long enough for Nick to bring the scaffolding down.
"Nick-" she begins, and then suddenly collapses to the ground.
'CASSIE!" he bellows, leaping over the Pusher and sprinting towards her. He skids to a stop beside her and throws himself to his knees. "Cass what is it?" he asks urgently. She's shaking, her eyes wide and scared. His own eyes run over her and finally see the dark bloom of a bloodstain, hidden under her jacket. He moves it aside gently and inhales sharply as he sees the blood, spreading under her ribs. He remembers the gunshot and his own blood goes cold.
"It's gonna be alright," he says quickly as he pulls off his jumper. His fingers fumble in his panic but eventually he balls it up and holds it to her. His mind is racing over what he can do. He comes up blank. Blank and helpless.
She exhales shakily. "There's n-no tiger," she gasps.
"What?" he replies, barely hearing her as he frowns, lifting the jumper and inspecting the bullet wound.
"N-no t-tiger," she repeats, the words barely comprehensible through her chattering teeth.
He looks at her properly, still frowning, until he realises what she means. "That's because you're not dying stupid," he says, managing to get a smile from her. Through his panic his breathing is matching hers- short and shallow. "I'll find a Stitch," he says with more conviction than he feels. His insides are twisting in turmoil, his muscles aching with tension. "I'll find a Stitch and-"
She lifts a shaking hand a few centimetres and he feels her fingertips brushing his arm. There are tears running from the corners of her eyes and falling into her hair, her crazy, colourful hair. He tries to smile at her, taking her hand in his. "You get things wrong sometimes," he says, repeating her own words to her.
"And I'm a c-crappy art-ist," she whispers.
"And you're a crappy artist," he repeats, giving a sad laugh through the tears that are beginning to gather in his throat.
"Nick," she whispers and he blinks, nodding.
"I d-don't want...to die." Her skin is almost completely white and her lips have a tinge of blue. As he watches her eyelids begin to flutter.
"You're not going to die Cassie," he orders. He doesn't care how difficult it will be to find a Stitch, he's not going to sit there and watch this 13 year old girl die. He pulls her tiny hand into his and holds it tight while he pulls his phone from his jeans pocket. "Don't go to sleep okay?" he says sternly to her while he dials. He calls Hook and tells him he has to find a Stitch. Obviously his tone of voice tells the Shifter enough because he doesn't ask questions.
"Can you get to the Weijing Building?" he simply asks. It's his apartment. He must know someone.
Nick looks down at Cassie who is struggling to keep her eyes open. "Yes," he says simply and hangs up. "We're going to meet a Stitch okay?" he says to her gently. She opens her mouth but no words come out, just a hitched breath. The tears have stopped trickling down her cheeks but he thinks that's a bad sign because her eyelids drift closed a second later. "No. Cassie!" he scolds and her lips move slightly in the tiniest of smiles.
Without wasting any more time he carefully picks her up, one arm under her shoulder blades and one under her knees. Her head rests against his shoulder, her blonde hair trailing down her back and her arms hanging lifelessly. Even though he is as careful as he can be she makes a slight moan as he lifts her into his arms, and he apologises in her ear.
It says something about the city that they get only a few curious looks as he carries her the several blocks to the apartment. He walks as fast as he can without jolting her but he has to resist the urge to break into a run. His heart is pounding in his chest. He bumps into someone as they hurry through the crowds. He doesn't apologise or acknowledge the angry shout because he's too aware that, although her arm hit the stranger, Cassie doesn't respond at all.
He takes the stairs because the lift seems to be too slow and Hook's apartment is only on the second floor. He kicks at the door and it flies open almost immediately, the worried face of the Shifter on the other side. Nick strides into the apartment looking for the Stitch.
"Put her on the sofa," says a small woman, walking out of the other room. Nick gives her one quick, analysing look, before doing as she says. He kneels and gently lays Cassie down. She doesn't respond at all as he puts her down and he can barely detect her breathing. The woman walks up behind him, so he swiftly brushes a lock of Cassie's hair behind her ear and steps back, knowing he can't help.
He walks away into the other room, Hook following him. He begins to pace around the large kitchen, nibbling nervously on one of his fingers, while Hook simply sits and watches him. At the sound of a short scream from the other room his head shoots up. It physically hurts him to hear her in pain. But at least she's alive. He rushes to the doorway but can't bring himself to go any further, so he hovers there, using the door frame for support and watches the Stitch do her work. Cassie screams a few more times, her back arching up in pain. He doesn't even notice he's grinding his teeth.
Eventually the Stitch rises to her feet and looks towards him. It's all the signal he needs and he rushes forwards. He crouches beside the sofa and reaches for one of her hands.
"Fixed?" he hears Hook ask behind him and the Stitch replies but he's too busy staring at her. She looks awful, if he's being honest. She's just as pale as before and there are dark circles under her eyes. He touches her blood soaked clothes but there isn't any sign of the bullet wound.
"Cass?" he asks softly, touching her hair. Her eyes flutter open a crack and she looks at him, exhausted. He gives her a smile and she mirrors it weakly.
"No tiger," she murmurs.
"No tiger," he agrees. She closes her eyes again but he stays where he is, watching her while she sleeps.