Nick had spent five days in the ICU ward before he was moved to a step down unit. He could finally have visitors for more than a few minutes at a time. He had been able to stay awake for a half hour to an hour at a time. Catherine noticed he was mostly quiet though. Never initiating a conversation. Giving brief answers or just a nod or acknowledgement. She was worried about his emotional state to say the least. But she hadn't had a chance to speak to him alone. Every time she tried she was either shooed out by a nurse or somebody stopped in to visit. Catherine was determined not to let that happen today. She would lock the world out if she had to.
"Hey Nick! It's good to see you awake." Catherine gave him a hug before she sat down. Noting the fact that Nick tensed up at the contact.
Nick just shrugged. "Been tired."
"Yeah, well do you feel up to a real conversation today?" Catherine prodded.
Again Nick shrugged.
"I'm worried about you Nick."
"Will you just stop it already? Please." Catherine snapped.
Nick's eyebrows raised in surprise.
"That! Right there. Will you please, just talk Nick?" Catherine pleaded.
"Nothin' to say." Again he shrugged.
"Nick, how can you have nothing to say? You were nearly beaten to death. She was going to… to do worse than that to you. How can you have nothing to say about it?" Catherine was getting irritated now.
"That. Right there. You can't even say what she was gonna' do to me. So why talk about it if y'all can't bear to hear it." Nick consciously kept himself from shrugging.
"Nick, we can't bear to hear about it because it caused you pain. But we will listen because you also deserve to be heard Nick." Catherine countered. She couldn't deny the truth in his words though.
"Did you hear me on the tape I made… in the box?" Nick questioned.
Catherine froze. Has he really thought that that tape would be circulated around the lab? She wondered. "No Nick. I never heard the tape. I did hear the tape you made about what happed to you at the hands of Alison Jericho though." Catherine noticed the slightest flinch out of Nick at hearing her name.
"Why not?" Nick questioned.
"Why would I have Nick?" Catherine was mentally reeling at the change in direction.
"Cath, how do you think I get past the stuff that happens to me?" Nick queried.
"What do you mean?"
"How can somebody who's gone through as much crap as I have, still do this job?" Nick gave her a moment to think about it before he continued. "What's your take on the… more recent tape?"
"I was terrified. I thought that maybe this was one time we wouldn't get you back all the way. I thought that maybe after all this time not dealing with what happened, that she might end up winning after all."
"I was afraid to." Nick quietly confessed.
"Are you still afraid Nick?" Catherine cocked a questioning eyebrow at Nick.
"What'd ya mean?" Nick didn't realize he spoke out loud.
"You said you were afraid. Alison is dead." Catherine saw Nick flinch yet again at her name. "You're still afraid of Alison." Catherine surmised.
"I'm not afraid of her. Remember, she' can't hurt me anymore. I'm done talking for now Cath. I'm tired." Nick went to roll over.
"Nick, I'm sorry. I didn't know what she was capable of when I said that." Catherine recognized her own words being cast back at her. "I thought. No, I assumed, that she had only molested you. I didn't know all the things she did to you. I didn't know she had you for 2 days. Or that she had been stalking you." Catherine was nearly in tears.
"See that Cath? Even dead, she's hurting me by hurting the people I care about. All the things that have happened, they didn't just happen to me. My monsters keep hurting the people around me too. That's why I have to keep them at bay. That's why I can't talk about them." It was Nick's turn to fight back his tears.
Seeing how this was not going as she anticipated, Catherine decided to try a different approach. "Nick, when you were little, what did you do when you had a bad dream?" She implored.
"Uh, I went to my parents room I guess. Why?" Nick was curious as to where she was going with this.
"And what did you parents do?" Catherine pushed forward.
"They let me stay in their room while they… chased the monster away." Nick was beginning to catch on. "Cath it's not the same."
"Why not? Why can't your friends, your Vegas family if you may, chase the monsters away." Catherine hoped she was getting through to him.
"Not the same." Nick turned his head away from her. "These monsters are real." Nick tried to hide the tears flowing down his face. Failing miserably.
"Nick?" Catherine reached out to touch Nick's shoulder when he didn't respond. Causing Nick to gasp and jerk away.
"Sorry." He apologized. "Still a little jumpy I guess. It'll pass. Always does."
"Nick, you have nothing to apologize for. Don't you see? It hurts us that we can't help you. That you're hurting and won't let us help." Catherine tried again to get her point across.
"Why should you guys have to carry my ugly stuff around? Do you know how hard it was to make that damn tape? I never wanted anybody to know the things she did to me. I only did it because I couldn't stand the thought of any more kids being hurt by her. I wish she had just killed me the first time. It would have been a lot less painful than to live with the fact that 13 boys died because of me. That Jane Galloway died because of me. That Haley died because of me. That Warrick died because of me. It hurts Cath, it hurts so much." Nick couldn't control his anguish any longer. He had been keeping the pain inside too long, and he couldn't hold it any longer.
Catherine collected him into her arms and rocked him till he fell asleep. Then she sat and waited for him to wake up. I only know how painful it is to watch you beat yourself up Nick. She thought as she waited.
"What time is it?" Nick asked groggily.
Catherine hadn't realized she fell asleep until Nick's voice roused her. She looked at her watch. "About dinner time. They should be bringing you a tray soon. How ya doing?"
"Okay I guess. A little embarrassed though." Nick chuckled nervously.
"Don't be. You needed it. And you deserve to let it out. But there's more to it than that Nick." Catherine leaned closer. "You need to talk to somebody. A professional."
"No! Cath, I can't even talk to you guys. How can I talk to a shrink?" Nick really didn't want to air his feelings to a stranger. The thought terrified him in fact.
"Well Nick, you said you don't want to hurt us. So to do that, you have to stop hurting yourself. To stop hurting yourself, you have to have a release for all the guilt you've been carrying around. So unless you're going to suddenly become selfish, you need to do it for us." Catherine concluded.
"Sometimes I think I talk to much." Nick declared. "I can't regress into being a victim again Cath. I can't do it!"
Before Catherine could comment further the nurse came in with two dinner trays. "The Dr. Oneida told the staff to make sure Mr. Stokes visitors didn't go hungry." She explained with a smile as she pulled the bedside table from the vacant bed over for Catherine to use. "He also said to give you this card." She handed Nick a business card for a Dr. Sharky.
"Who's this?" Nick asked.
"The psychologist he set you up with. You have an appointment a week from today. Dr. Oneida said you'd be home before that though. So he wanted to make sure you got the appointment card." With another sweet smile the nurse left.
Nick turned to Catherine. "You knew about this didn't you?" He asked.
"Honest, not a clue Nick. But I do like the way he thinks." Catherine smiled
" I don't think I can do it." Nick pleaded.
"You don't want to be a victim again." Catherine finished his unspoken thought for him.
Nick just shook his head. Looking wearily at Catherine.
"Do you really think you haven't been a victim all this time?" Catherine inquired.
"No, I've put it behind me." Nick stubbornly replied.
"But have you really gotten past it? Or does it lurk in the dark corners of your mind and poke it's head out at the most inconvenient times?" Catherine knew the answer. But if Nick could admit that his trauma's still affected him, it would be as big of a step as an alcoholic admitting they had a problem.
Nick didn't answer for several minutes. Catherine was starting to worry that he wouldn't. That the opportunity was going to be lost. Catherine noticed movement in the hall out of the corner of her eye.
"I haven't gone a night in the past 20 years without a nightmare." Nick confessed. His voice gravely with emotion. "If it isn't one event it's another. The nightmares are getting more complex." Nick looked at Catherine pleadingly. "I just want to stop being afraid to go to sleep."
Catherine was a little dismayed at the frequency if Nick's nightmares. She realized it only made sense that there would be nightmares. But she never anticipated it would be nightly.
"Then we want the same things Nick. Why don't you give it a try at least, you know, with the therapy?" Catherine took Nick's hand. "We can help you with the nightmares in the mean time." Catherine nodded towards the door.
Greg, Brass, Mandy, Archie and Ray stood in the doorway, nodding in unison to Catherine's statement. Nick's eyes went wide with surprise.
"Hey guys!" Nick motioned them into the room. "I guess the cat's out of the bag, huh?" Nick timidly admitted.
"Nick, the only one you've been fooling is yourself." Brass informed him. "We've just been patiently waiting for you to ask, that's all."
The next hour was spent talking about anything and everything. Including filling Ray in on the history of Nick Stokes.
At about 9:30 the nurse shooed all of Nick's visitors out and turned off his light. Nick rolled over and fell asleep almost instantly. And Nick dreamed.
The end!I would lie to thank every one who reviewed my story. I could not have written this without all of you.