By Kat Reitz and Perryvic

The walls were white.

It was probably what haunted him the most; that the walls had been stark while, crisp fresh paint as if the place was well run, well funded, as if it belonged there. As if it should have been there and there was someone out there watching over everything that went on there, from injections to movements, to surgeries, to making sure that there wasn't a single chip on the walls of room 12C. C, which implied to him that there was an A and a B, which meant that if there was a 12C, maybe there was an 11C, and an B and a B, and a 10, and... too, too many rooms for such a quiet place, for a place where gurney wheels squeaked and uniform-style shoes squeaked over clean tile.

The walls were white, except for that one time, when he'd passed room 9A, (he'd noted at the time, and hadn't thought about it), and there had been spatter on the inside. All he'd known was that it wasn't him, and there hadn't been time to gawk before a hand shoved at his shoulder, jarring him forward again. Another pre-surgery inspection of some kind. He had lost track of days and procedures somewhere in between the going under and coming out of anesthesia. Time blended into the white walls, and that was why he was there.

That was why he was lying in bed breathing hard, when his clock told him that it was only seven pm. That was why the only sounds outside of those walls were silence, animals living and dying in the woods, and the faint whisper of distant town activity that he guessed was entirely in his imagination.

Jackpot didn't make noise, even when you stood in the center of it and waited. If Vegas were a symphony of sound, Jackpot was the memory of the symphony that rose up to fill the vacancy. And memories were all it felt like he had anymore, memories of working, memories of more, of his normal life.

He wasn't ever going to have that normal life again, wasn't ever going to wake up and just roll in to work without thought or consequence, but he held out hope that when he went back to Vegas, normal life would still be close enough to normal to be bearable.

Gil Grissom got out of bed, mattress squeaking as he caught his balance and got to his feet. His physical balance was a little out of kilter, the way his body moved in relation to his hips, bowed legs, feet, not his mental balance. His mental balance had been a tilt-a-whirl that he couldn't get to stop. That was why all of his decisions since it had happened -- or was it, since it had stopped being immediately forced on him and it had shifted to the realm of his own choice? -- had been sharp, hard, cold.

Catherine had told him that. He'd told her he was doing the best he could do, given the circumstances. What was he supposed to do? Unburden himself on his fellow victim and by logic make the other's load twice as heavy?

No. After he'd been told by that obnoxious agent some of what had happened to Greg, Gil had made decisions. Possibly selfish decisions, yes, he knew that, but better for everyone in the long run. Easier for everyone. After all, he'd been in Jackpot for a good three weeks, and everything was fine. Quiet and undisturbed, unlike his sleep. Gil rubbed at his eyes, flicking away the crustiness at the corners while he walked into the bathroom to take some of the nagging pressure off of his bladder.

Never mind that the only thing that would permanently remove it was the proverbial coat hook, a flash of a thought that made Gil grimace as he slipped his pajama pants down and took himself in hand. He'd given up on tying the strings to his loose pajama bottoms, because they chafed, fit ever so noticeably wrong -- at least to himself. But as long as they clung to his hips, settled under the faint swell of his stomach, Gil didn't care. He didn't care who he mooned if they slipped a little because he lived alone and there were only three people who knew where he was.

Ecklie wasn't the visiting sort, Catherine was still angry at him -- and a little part of Gil wanted to snap at her to go fuck herself if she wanted to be angry at him. Jim was busy, and he was keeping an eye on his townhouse for him. That left Gil to cope with his problems, his selfish decisions.

He finished pissing, jiggled the handle because it always stuck in the down position. Gil had already guessed that he was fucked if there was something seriously wrong with it that required him to fix it himself. Not because he couldn't -- he'd helped his uncle fix a lot of plumbing -- but because he couldn't do that kind of hefting and lifting, and for whatever reason, kneeling and bending forward made him just want to vomit.

Seven. Seven meant that he should shave, throw on clothes and a jacket, and hit one of the two not-so-fiercely competing grocery stores in Jackpot before they closed.

Gil hadn't ever expected to fall into a pattern living in Jackpot.

It was as far from the nonstop chaos of the CSI lab as he could imagine and not entirely through choice. He supposed he could have gone back to work after he had recovered, but that would have meant too public an exposure. He had been strongly encouraged to take a break away, at least until this was all over. One way or another.

He had a craving for something. Not pickles, which made him feel sick at the thought, but something savory. At the moment it was an undefined longing but when he got to the store it would probably strike him out of nowhere. It could be cereal again -- that hadn't been too bad. Even if the woman who ran one of the two grocery stores -- that only had a sign calling itself 'groceries, beer, wine' outside -- had given him strange looks, and managed a nervous smile when he'd said it was for an experiment.

It was an honest answer, since he was the experiment. Maybe Chex mix or something would satisfy it. Gil remembered the instruction to give in to his cravings, mostly so he had energy, but to try to eat a balanced diet, and to keep on top of his vitamin pills, and... everything else. There was so much for Gil to remember, to keep in his mind, so many things to avoid for his own health.

That was the real reason why he hadn't been able to go back to work.

After all, how could he work when there was the risk of coming across things in the field, and constant exposure to decaying bodies, and chemicals that could or could not harm what was going on inside of him?

He'd listened as they told him how vulnerable he was, that there was a real risk that he was a ticking time bomb in many respects. That he wasn't designed in his body for this to be happening so he had to be extra careful with everything.

Still, a part of him found it difficult to believe. If he didn't have so many vivid memories of what had happened then he would assume it was some elaborate joke.

It was what any sane man would've done.

Except even things like shaving his face had changed. There was no point in letting his beard grow out, not when it had turned sparse and patchy in ways that Gil could only remember it having been when he was a teenager. Shaving was probably the most familiar thing he could do, so he took his time with it before he headed back to the bedroom to put on clothes.

He couldn't deny the fact he no longer fit in the pants he had worn even a couple of weeks ago. There was a tell tale swell to his stomach, and twinges across his back and front in strange places. Still, it was perfectly acceptable for men to have a beer gut. What made it look odd was that he was losing weight everywhere else. Any spare fat he had ever had.

Gil tried to keep his morbid 'good looking corpse' thoughts to a minimum, while he slipped on the last pair of pants that he knew would fit over the top of boxers that still fit because of the miracle of elastic. He'd have to order a few more sizes online when he got back.

Gil made sure he had his cell phone and his keys, and ducked into the living room to grab his jacket. At least he could hide the paunch a little better with it.

He still found it difficult to think of the word. Pregnant. Impregnated seemed more likely even though it smacked a little of alien probes and conspiracy theories, He was living proof that the technology existed to make a male pregnancy, it was only the ethical considerations that stopped it being tested.

His captors had not been troubled by anything remotely resembling ethics or morals, which was way he was on his way to the store to pick up 'food craving' supplies. It was why he was in Jackpot and not at home in Vegas, working the nightshift, supervising the nightshift.

He missed watching Doc Robbins perform autopsies, and he missed Sara's quirky obsessions, and he missed teaching Greg, and Catherine's struggles with being a supervisor, and Warrick and Nick, and Jim...

Hell, he missed everything about his normal life. Gil closed his eyes for a second, and then zipped his jacket before he stepped outside. Everything he was missing was almost worth it as long as he didn't have to explain what had happened to him back in that facility.

In the mean time, he was writing papers, reading, catching up and trying to deal with the extra stress on his body. Catherine wavered from sympathetic to exasperated. He'd blurted to her, half in shock when the doctors had scanned to see what internal damage the 'experiments' had caused. They'd come back wide eyed and nervous, babbling as if he was the Virgin Mary.

He in turn had blurted it out, unable to contain such a shock behind any wall of secrecy, and it was the one time that he had ever seen Catherine completely floored by something.

He probably shouldn't have said it at all, but he'd been a tangle of fear and unease, and nerves, and it had just... come out.

It wasn't as if he hadn't already known what had been done to him. They'd told him and had talked over him about it to one another, and it hadn't been a secret at the facility. But to see the pictures, and to see it moving when he went to the doctor every couple of weeks... That and saying it to Catherine had made it seem real.

Gil always carefully locked the door behind him when he left, and that time was no exception.

He was aware of what the Agents had said about the need for secrecy. They seemed to think it was a good thing if it could be carried to term. God only knew why. The possibility of male pathogenesis maybe, who knew? Like using the results from horrific war experiments for 'good'.

That and apparently he stood a better chance of surviving if they hit a point where the baby could be delivered and he wouldn't hemorrhage.

So far Catherine was the only one to really know some of what happened, but she felt very strongly about his decision not to talk to anyone else. Particularly Greg.

But Greg... Gil shook his head to himself as he started towards his SUV, unlocking it with a button on his key chain. Ecklie had told him enough about what had been done to Greg that Gil knew he didn't need that particular strange burden added to the mess. Sexual abuse spanning over those three months, being a plaything, an on and off amusement in among the ongoing experiments? Gil couldn't quite grasp that, or grasp how he would have coped if their roles had been reversed.

He didn't have to think to cope with what was going on. He just had to cope. There wasn't any choice but coping. No choice but coping and driving and finally relaxing. The scenery of the mountains as he drove through it, the light of the sun setting through the thick trees, was relaxing to take in.

Maybe he'd get himself a movie or something. The place they'd provided was fully equipped and he was well used to his own company.

The trip to the store never took long and he was almost lost in thought as he walked in. It wasn't a big place comparatively and it was small enough that he was spotted immediately.

"Gil!" Catherine's voice, a little unexpected considering the words exchanged the last time they spoke on the phone. "Had a feeling you might be running low on a few things. I was just on my way over to see you."

Since when was a five hour drive 'on my way over'? Gil tilted his head a little, hands shoved into the pockets of his jacket. She looked... healthy, which was the first thought that came to his mind. Catherine looked healthy and well put together, and Gil envied how she seemed comfortable in her own skin in ways he'd used to be, in ways he wasn't anymore. "Hi."

"I can stay in town if you don't want me around," Catherine said as bluntly as ever. "But. We've got some things to discuss. After the groceries."

She meant business, he could tell that.

But that didn't mean he wanted to deal with it, or with her if she was still in that irked mood. "Since you're here, are you up to helping?" Or was she just going to follow him around with a frown.

"Sure. I was going to get you things anyway," Catherine replied managing a half smile at least. "Want me to push the cart?"

She always seemed a touch patronizing, a little too happy to humor him. "Sure." He was tired, anyway, running on too little sleep again. "How is everyone back home?"

"Mostly good," Catherine replied. "They send their best wishes. I think I've even got a couple of gifts somewhere." She grabbed a cart and started wheeling it round, waiting for him to select what he wanted.

He'd expected a little more time alone with his mind, and to walk the aisles, wander them and remember things as he went. "Case load manageable? Anything interesting come through?" He stopped to get a bunch of bananas, and grabbed a bag of apples, fairly sure that he could eat them all before they went bad.

"We've got someone on loan from the day shift," Catherine replied. "Ecklie at least recognized the need for that what with you being out and Greg pretty much still in the lab." She examined some oranges. "Want some? They're good for you."

"Nnh." Gil shook his head a little, and frowned slightly. "No, I'll pass. I'll stick to eating what I know I like." And what he knew didn't make his stomach jerk unhappily. He really didn't want to do his groceries with her there, but it was too late to tell her to go wait in the car, or... something. "How is he doing?"

"That's what I want to talk to you about. But it's not a subject for the store," Catherine replied glancing at him. "Nick and Warrick cracked a great case the other day. Mysterious car death. Seemed to be no reason why the guys' heart stopped."

"What was it?" He got a little ahead of her heading down the first aisle, leading the way to the small selection of cereal. Everything was a small selection, but Gil still studied it.

"Downed power line. But it needed the guy's watch to transmit it across the heart."

Huh. Gil turned that over in his head before he reached for a big box of cornflakes, and put it in the cart. Electricity needed some kind of conduction, but the tires should have insulated it. "While I do this, why don't you explain to me how the car he was in even ended up grounded?"

"Well..." And Catherine launched into a long and detail recitation of what had happened and how things had worked out in the end despite the fact that 'Mr. Wiggles' had nearly given Ecklie a heart attack with cost, but she'd ignored that and let them do it anyway.

All the way through she avoided talking about Greg, even as a side mention, and he had to admit that piqued his interest.

There had to be some reason why she wasn't mentioning him, except that she'd said it wasn't a subject for the store. Wasn't a subject for the store, well, neither was he, and that was why the conversation was so one-sided. When she paused at him dropping three big bags of Chex mix into the cart, he'd given her a look, daring her to say anything to him about it. And she blissfully hadn't.

Talking about the experiment process and knowing that his people, his friends, had finally started to try real life demonstrations instead of computer simulations was heartening.

She made him buy meat for protein. Fish of some description and hinted that she had brought supplements and other supplies along in her car that were a little more personal. All good stuff and not too embarrassing.

Catherine even insisted on paying as well.

"Catherine, I can..." Gil cleared his throat as they came up to one of the three long checkouts. "I can cover it." After all, he wasn't anywhere near to the point of needing handouts.

"Part of the perks of coming out to visit," Catherine replied. "Lindsay's gone away for the weekend with one of her new school friends. So, It thought I'd come up and check how you were doing, all that."

"I'm doing... okay." He wasn't going to lie and say he was doing great, because he wasn't. He wasn't going to make it sound worse, though. He was... handling it. Coping. Okay. "You really don't have to come out here to see me, but I appreciate it."

"I thought it was in my contract," Catherine replied with a wry smile as the woman at the checkout ran through the items. She seemed to be half listening, but people in Jackpot seemed to do that.

Whatever she heard would make its way into the rumor mill, and Gil didn't care. He didn't spend much time in town because he preferred to be left alone, to stay away from just that kind of chat. "Was it? I didn't read the fine print."

"You should pay more attention to paperwork," Catherine chided and smiled even as the woman announced the total. She was already there with her credit card ready for it.

Gil took a back step, and put his hands up in mock surrender. "You win, Catherine -- this time. You know that whenever I get back to Vegas..." He'd have to revenge himself, or something like it. Thank her for her occasionally painful help.

"I'll look forward to it," Catherine replied accepting her card back and organizing the bags. "I'll follow you home, okay? I'm pretty sure I remember the way."

Gil took a few of the bags, lighter ones, and the milk, following after her out of the store, trailing a little. "It's still in the middle of nowhere. Just follow me and you won't miss the turnoff. I hope your transmission is up to it."

"It'll survive," Catherine answered. "I'm just over there. Put the coffee on when you get there if you get ahead of me."

His stomach sank a little as he veered to put his half of the groceries in the back of his Denali. "Instant all right with you? I've... gone off of normal coffee." Not for lack of experimenting, but the smell had made his morning sickness worse for the first few days in Jackpot. They hadn't let him have coffee in the hospital, or in the facility, and he'd wanted a cup so badly that he'd broken down and gotten a can of frilly instant that didn't quite smell like it could kick his ass, but still tasted right.

"Fine. Yeah, I did that too, with Lindsay." Catherine helped pack things as well. "Too acidic or something. I still have problems with it in the morning."

"I know for a fact that your daughter likes coffee, so logically..." Catherine shouldn't have 'gone off it' like Gil found himself doing. But pregnancies and logic were apparently foreign creatures, so Gil didn't say anything else about it. "Is everything really all right back at the lab?"

"We're stretched, overworked, missing you like crazy," Catherine said succinctly. "But the lab is still there, the work is getting done, though maybe not as swiftly and elegantly as usual."

"Any interesting insect-based cases? You know if something comes up that I can help with, just fax it to me. I brought most of my library..." Gil trailed off as the white truck marked Sheriff pulled up behind them. He had the window rolled down, and leaned out the driver's side a little. "With me. Lt. Brooks, good to see you."

"Mr. Grissom," Brooks nodded at him. "Good to see you out an' about... and with company."

He looked at Catherine who just smiled. "I'm just visiting."

"I'm sure Mr. Grissom said that when he was here for work and then he turns out to come and stay here."

"What can I say? The town left an impression on me." Gil let himself smirk slightly, and then glanced to Catherine, and made sure that everything was in the back and that her hands were out of the way before he closed the back. Brooks still assumed he was married or... something, probably, because Gil couldn't just dismiss the man as ignorant and unobservant. No, Brooks was a better officer than that. "And in six weeks, I've caused you less trouble than I did in three days."

"That's true. Actually, I was wondering if I could borrow your expertise some," Brooks replied. "Got some bones discovered in the woods that a camper brought back in a bag and dumped on my desk. Thought you might be willing to take a look in a free moment."

And catching him when he ducked into town was easier than catching him when he was at home. Gil glanced over to Catherine. "Cath, do you -- it shouldn't take long..."

"Don't let me disturb you two," Brooks said. "Tomorrow will be soon enough, Mr. Grissom, it's not like there's a scene that might be disturbed. Although my desk could be called a crime scene on occasion." He gave them both a grin. "Just drop by when it's convenient."

"I'll probably be by in the morning, then." Gil leaned back a little, and glanced at Catherine, looking for cues from her.

Catherine nodded. "Sure, we'll both come by. That way if it turns out to be anything strange I can take it back to CSI."

"Another CSI right?" Brooks looked at her. "I thought you said it wasn't a glamorous job."

"That doesn't mean that we don't have some glamorous people in our department," Gil countered, turning up his polite smile a notch. "I should have introduced you. Lt. Brooks, this is CSI Catherine Willows. Catherine, this is Jackpot's highest law enforcement official, Lt. Alan Brooks."

"Pleasure," Catherine said shaking a hand through the window. "Just here to see how Gil is getting on with his... research out here away from the mayhem of Vegas."

"Well he's certainly not making a name for himself in town. Wouldn't know he was here if it weren't for the fact an APB goes out every time he shows his face." Brooks replied.

When Catherine gave Gil a curious look, Gil just shrugged his shoulder. "I'm apparently still a curiosity in town, and I've found that it takes very little to amuse people."

"In Jackpot, we line up on the street to see a bug crawl." Brooks replied with a sardonic tone.

Catherine grinned and glanced at Grissom. "Funny you should say that..."

"I've been known to do stranger things to see a good insect specimen. We'll come by in the morning, Lt. Brooks. Thanks for letting me know about it." Gil stepped forward, offered his hand. The sooner they left, the better.

Brooks shook his hand and nodded. "You two have fun okay?" He gave a dry smirk and rolled up the window before moving off.

"Nice guy. Looked like he was hitting on you," Catherine observed as they prepared to go.

"He what?" Gil blinked at her as he turned to the driver's seat of his car. "Catherine, the... I think the thinness of the air this high up has gotten to you. Are you sure you're safe to drive?"

Catherine gave him a look and smirked. "Yeah. See you back at yours. I'll explain it to you there."

"Good. Great. You're going to need to explain it to me," Gil muttered at her, still giving her a look even with her peering at him. It was going to be an interesting visit; Gil could already tell when he headed to get in the driver's seat of his truck.

Catherine was up to something, he knew that. She had a certain look when she was planning something and he recognized it at least. He just generally didn't know what to do with it.

And he needed to know what she wasn't saying.

He needed to know what lay between the lines, but he couldn't even start to guess. Except that there was something going on with Greg, something she didn't want to talk about. And Greg was still in the lab. Good news was news to be discussed freely publicly, so Gil could guess that it wasn't a piece of good news about him.

Gil decided it was going to be a very long drive back to his cabin.

He wasn't that far ahead of Catherine getting to what he was calling 'home' at the moment. It wasn't really. It was a temporary living arrangement and he knew it. Still it suited him for isolation and quiet when Catherine wasn't making so much noise bringing everything in and unpacking.

"What's this in the fridge? Looks like an experiment, not a consumable?" she was complaining, as she stocked the fridge with the professionalism of a single mother.

"Old yogurt. I didn't like the taste, so I've been watching the mold patterns develop. It's been fascinating." Gil leaned in to smack her hand so she didn't move it. She could come in and organize things, but he wasn't going to let her take away one of the few things that he was using to amuse himself. "Just put the lid back on."

"Don't blame me when the mold civilization takes over the fridge," Catherine replied, glancing at him. "So. How are you feeling? Pregnancy wise?"

'Pregnancy wise', like it was normal and his choice, like he should have been overwhelmed with joy. Gil frowned, and looked down at the floor for a moment. He still hadn't taken his jacket off, because he didn't particularly like the way she would have stared at his stomach otherwise. "It's going. I'm coping."

"I bought you over some lotion, really helps with stretch marks. And I don't know if you get cracked nipples or soreness... but I brought you something just in case," Catherine said in a brisk efficient tone. "Oh, and some supplements. Things I found that were good. And you probably need them more because it's not exactly a normal situation for your body."

"I'm already on every vitamin known to mankind, Catherine..." He felt like he was whining when he leaned back against the counter, watching her rearrange things in his fridge. "Look, I... didn't get much sleep and don't particularly want to talk about that."

"I noticed that. Or anything about what happened," Catherine replied a little acerbically. "I still don't know a lot about what happened. The FBI weren't exactly generous with details and neither are you. Makes it difficult to help you Gil."

He didn't quite answer her, just grabbed a microwavable two cup measurer, and filled it with filtered water from the tap. Coffee. He could make coffee and that was some semblance of normality. "It's difficult to discuss. And it wasn't as if I had the opportunity to return to familiar grounds for long, to get my bearings. We were missing for three months. Just assume that it was a bad three months and leave it at that."

"I can't leave it at that. Seriously Gil," Catherine said, losing some of her bantering tone. "Not when I see the consequences every day in two good friends of mine. I came here to issue an ultimatum, Gil. Either you tell Greg in the next few days or I will."

It was hard not to snort at her when he put the water in the microwave, and tapped in for it to boil two cups. "Tell him what? 'Congratulations, Greg, on top of being sexually assaulted, you're now almost a father. With your male supervisor.' That'll go over great."

"Anything right now would be better than nothing," Catherine answered with unexpected seriousness. "You calling him to shout at him would be better for him than this silence. Greg... isn't doing so well, Gil."

No, Gil hadn't supposed that Greg was doing well, but he still couldn't look at her while he thought of what to say. "I don't know what to do, Catherine. It... it's hard to keep myself together; I don't know what good I could do for anyone else."

"You could give him focus." Catherine looked at him again. "He kept himself together worrying about you. Knowing he had to get out for your sake more than his own. That way he could ignore what was happening to him. And you come out and.... He just doesn't see you at all. Or hear from you. I know why, but..." She shook her head. "He's the genetic father, however horrible the process of donating was for him. And a reluctant father is better than none at all."

"And when it goes badly, and I die, and he's not a father at all, then what?" The microwave beeped, and he leaned up to get the mix coffee out of a cupboard. "Could you grab two of those mugs there?"

"Then maybe he won't finish off destroying himself with guilt," Catherine said grabbing the mugs. "I mean it Gil. He's... Ecklie's going to have to put him on medical leave and that might just finish him completely."

"Medical leave. He should have had more time off than he did, anyway. He should have gone back to California and his family." Gil finally glanced over at her, just long enough to reach for a spoon. He took his time measuring out the coffee. "I... don't see how my telling him would help. It would be one more inconceivable responsibility dropped on his lap."

"Greg...." she sighed. "You know how Greg is focused on you, don't you? Or maybe you don't. The two of you can be so much alike sometimes. He thinks you hate him. He thinks you blame him. That's all I can get out of him. He's lost way too much weight, he looks one breath away from Al's slab, and somehow in whatever is going on his head he's made everything his fault. That you got taken in the first place. That things were done to you... all of it."

It stung that Catherine was quite that right, about their similarities. Gil's own musings were a lot like that, the bite of guilt that he knew what had happened to Greg, and he hadn't been able to stop it. And now the result of that -- or at least the initial 'collections' -- was growing in his abdomen.

"What... does he think happened to me?"

"He knows you were hurt. I guess he thinks it was something similar to what happened to him. Not that he's telling anyone any details. Nick and Warrick tried to get him drunk..." Catherine paused. "Male therapy I guess. That's where we got the entire guilt thing from. And now he's not really talking to them either."

Each mug was filled up with hot water over top of three scoops of flavored coffee, and Gil reached for a second spoon so he could stir in his own cup. "Was he supposed to be on shift tonight?"

"Yeah. Work's been holding him vaguely together. But he... well, depends on who you listen to. He says he slipped on a step, Hodges say he saw him pass out." Catherine grimaced taking the cup. "I've been around and he puts on a good show. It's probably how he got his family to go home."

"I should have guessed." Gil led the way over to the sofa in the cramped living room, and sat down heavily, finally unzipping and shrugging out of his jacket. Fuck it. If Catherine wanted to make him deal with it, fine, then he would. "Has he started to turn his cell phone off, or does it still work?"

"Still works," Catherine replied. "At least when he's due in at work." She sat and sipped her coffee

A glance to the clock told Gil that it was almost nine, which was too late to be calling Greg with news like that. "All right. I'll call him. When he's off shift."

"I think you'll find it'll do both of you some good," Catherine said sounding relieved. "And even if you don't want him around he'll know it instead of being afraid of it."

"Mm." Gil shifted his shoulders back, and closed his eyes a little, taking a sip of his coffee. It tasted like hazelnut, and like there was milk already added. "You came all this way to twist my arm."

"Well, and to see you of course," Catherine answered in a more gentle tone. "Jim keeps cursing that he used up his vacation time. Gil, I worry about you, okay? I think about you almost as much as I do about Lindsay, out here alone. I don't think you should be alone."

"Do you know anyone who can spare four months of their lives to keep me company?" Gil quirked an eyebrow at her. "I have a television, a radio, the internet, and an entire town full of nosy people. What more do I need?"

"I know someone who can spare that time," Catherine twitched a smile and looked at the phone again. "Gil, I'm working on what I was like with Lindsay, and yours may be different. It just seems... I just worry that something might happen in the middle of the night and you'll be alone and... well."

"There isn't much of an alternative to 'well', Catherine. Massive abdominal bleeding. If something goes wrong with the... baby, I don't have the option of any normal recourse." He'd die. He'd die if he carried to term, he'd die if he didn't, and Catherine seemed so unsettled by Gil having come to terms that he was probably, very likely, going to die. Gil swallowed another mouthful of coffee. "I just... didn't want this."

"I know. None of us wanted any of this," Catherine answered soothingly. "There is a chance, Gil. I've done what reading I can. They can deliver prematurely, and do what they do for extra-uterine births. Any woman will tell you that the possibility of dying is always there in being pregnant."

Under normal circumstances. When their bodies were built for it. "That's very comforting, Catherine, very comforting. And women are built to do it. It's like telling me that sometimes ships sink, when I'm out on the ocean with a Ford Model T and a can of Bondo."

"If anyone could make that float, it would be you," Catherine said, smiling at him. "And you think I'd let that happen to you? I'm only keeping your seat warm."

Wishful thinking, but it almost made him smile back at her, just a little. "Not let, no." He could call Greg... and invite him up. Do something that proved it to him, because otherwise it would just seem like Gil was crazy.

Not that he wasn't left wondering if he was crazy occasionally. "Since you're here, and we're both awake, and there are hours before morning, you're going to have to help me figure out how to entertain you. Since I'm not letting you reorganize the pantry."

"What do you usually do?" Catherine asked. "I won't make a nuisance of myself, I promise."

"I spend a lot of time bored, if you want the honest answer." He sat up a little straighter, trying to lessen his backache. "On a good day, I go out into the woods and observe insects. But I'm tired today."

"Then you should lie down. Or sleep. I can watch a movie or something. Or we could." Catherine suggested. "How about it?"

He leaned forwards, and set the coffee cup down on the table. She was humoring him, but probably even sitting on someone's sofa watching movies was a break from leading the team when it was understaffed and stressed. "A movie. Sure. Any type in particular?"

"Put on whatever you like." Catherine settled back. "Then I can mock it with a clear conscience."

"Then let me go look for whatever seems mockable. I'll be back in a moment." Gil got to his feet reasonably well, or at least well enough not to look like an idiot, and ducked down the short hallway to his bedroom. The cabin was admittedly small, but comfortable. One person could live in that space with ease, and Gil had enough room and the foresight to have brought along his movie collection.

Now it was just a matter of choosing his favorite form of distraction, something mockable. B-grade horror or foreign action films?

It had been inevitable, Greg supposed, that Ecklie would put him on leave despite the fact that they desperately needed people. Being gently told that he was probably a liability had been enough to send him numbly home. The worst thing was, he couldn't argue.

So at the end of his shift he left and went back home, completely at a loss. The place was clean, almost too clean and he looked at his empty fridge and cupboards and just didn't care.

Eventually he just lay on the couch and stared at the ceiling. Perhaps he could spend the rest of his medical leave like that. That sounded like a plan.

It was medical, after all. Medical leave meant that he was sick, and there pretty much was no way that Greg could argue around that, because yeah, he was sick all right. Sick and tired, and now he wouldn't even have the refuge of the lab to hide in.

He'd only dropped the one thing, just a clipboard, when Ecklie had come up behind him, but that was one symptom of his many problems, wasn't it? He had problems even though he didn't want to admit it. When he couldn't sleep even with the tranquilizers, when he had no appetite, when he felt... empty.

Hollow. No one quite got what had happened, and Greg wasn't sure if he'd 'gotten' it, either, because it hadn't ever made sense in his head. Why him, why them, why...

Why for so long, why did they do that to him, why had they sucked away his ability to smirk at life and revel in processing the clues to his cases?

At least he knew why Grissom had disappeared and not made any contact. He knew it was his fault. The two of them on scene, him hearing something in the darkness and calling Grissom over from where he was

investigating the body. If he hadn't had done that then maybe, maybe it wouldn't have happened. Hell, he knew it wouldn't have happened.

He started shivering; it was almost normal now, all these weird bodily responses. He couldn't get warm with it, but now he didn't care if he seemed to freeze to death. He never actually did.

Grissom would blame him for whatever happened to him. If it was anything like what he went through and he had someone to blame, he'd never look at them again. That was probably why it was so hard to look at himself. Everyone had said that, yeah, no-fault, the cop should've been more alert, but even he'd been knocked out, and that it was really just the people who did it that were to blame, but... But Greg knew differently, because they -- they, them -- had talked about two, and how they'd needed them both.

Greg wasn't sure what had happened to Grissom, except that he'd still been in the hospital after Greg had been released, and then he'd picked up and left Vegas entirely.

Ecklie called it a 'sabbatical'.

Half of him wanted to do that. The other half had been so terrified of being alone again that he had pushed himself to be back at work as soon as possible. On the other hand, people made him jumpy and nervous to the point he dropped things, he nearly had panic attacks and he couldn't cope with them too close. So he'd faked being 'okay'.

His one true talent in life -- faking it. Well enough his family went home not really knowing much more about what had happened aside from the medical reports. Well enough to keep the lab going as if it were business as usual.

He still wasn't sure if he had passed out on the stairs or if his leg had given out from under him. It wasn't really healed.

A guy was allowed to have a shaky broken leg, right? Right, except that had just proven the case for Ecklie that yeah, Greg needed medical leave. Never mind that Greg didn't want the leave, never mind that Greg was going to be content to stare at his ceiling, straining to not not not think about what had happened, about how it felt, about how it hurt.

God, if he started that, he might as well write himself off for the rest of the day. It was too much trouble to move though, which probably meant the memories would get him.

He had prided himself on being pretty worldly; he even thought he had seen a fair amount of weird shit of the Vegas variety, but there was one part of his brain that was completely boggled that he was doing anything as normal as lying on a couch after what had happened to him. He couldn't even think of a comparison.

It was a long leap from 'being fucked on a sterile bed' to lying safe at home. He was perfectly safe there, and no one was going to twist his arm, literally, to get him to do anything. Greg was his own man again, except he was too scared and jumpy and sick to do any of that living shit.

His phone rang.

He literally, physically jumped at the noise. His heart rate spiked up and he stared at the phone for a moment before realizing what the noise was. He ought to answer it. But then it might be Nick trying to apologize again. Or Warrick. Or Catherine trying to get him to talk... shit...

It was answer it or go for the next however long without anyone and he felt himself securely on the horns of a dilemma. In the end, rather fatalistically, he picked it up and answered.

"Greg Sanders."

~"Greg, it's Gil.~" Or, maybe he'd just answer a phone call that stepped out of the twilight zone. ~"How are you?"~

Struck by lightning? Greg was aware that a rather too long pause had passed before he managed to form an incoherent answer that came out as if he were on autopilot. "Fine, I'm doing okay." He couldn't help himself. "Grissom? That's really you right?"

~"It's really me, Greg."~ There was some kind of background noise, but it was indistinct, like a radio. ~"I just wanted to call to see how you were doing, and, uh..."~

Greg desperately wanted his brain to stop panicking and running around hopelessly when he was trying to get things under control and talk sensibly. He tried to harden up his voice and stop the shake showing through. "I'm doing okay, considering I guess. Uh... How are you? Where are you? I... I didn't know if you were okay?"

~"I... just had to get away quickly."~ There was a faint pause, and Gil went on. ~"I needed to clear my head. I'm living up in Jackpot, actually. I'm doing all right. As well as I can be. Greg, I called... because I have something to tell you, and also because I'm worried about you."~

"Worried? Griss we haven't spoken since we got back," Greg said and was embarrassed to hear his voice crack totally unbidden. "I get why, that's not a problem... and I'm guess you're calling to tell me what I already know. If you're waiting to come back to CSI because I'm there, you don't have to worry anymore. I'm not there right now."

Not until he got a clean bill of health, physical and mental -- which would be never at this rate.

~ "What? Wait..."~ The background noise stopped, turned off, and then Gil's voice came back stronger in his ear. ~"That's absurd, Greg. I left because... because I can't explain it over the phone, Greg. It's what they did to me. I need the time off. I wish that you were in the lab because then at least I'd know you were being allowed to try to cope."~

"Ecklie sent me home." He sounded pathetic even to himself and he grimaced. He hated who he was now. He'd always felt pretty okay about himself. Okay, he'd wanted approval from people he respected, but he knew that and rolled with it, but now... there were sometimes he felt like Greg Sanders had died on that lab table and all he was doing was waiting for the rest of him to finish decomposing from the inside out.

~ "He's a bureaucrat,"~ Gil sighed into the phone. ~ "Why don't you come up here? Or, I could drive down to Vegas to get you. If you're going to be on leave, why stay at home?"~

"I... uh, well if you're sure? I can drive," Greg said hopefully. "I thought you didn't want to see me?"

~"I didn't particularly want to see anyone, Greg. I needed some time to come to grips with what's going on. Does your work e-mail still work? I can mail you directions. I'd do it right now, but I'm driving into town to look at some bones that they found."~

Sounded like Grissom hadn't changed. "Uh, better send it to my home e-mail. I don't know if they've suspended it or not." Greg grimaced at that and felt his heart speeding up again. He was going to see him. See how he really was, not those few remembered moments when he had dragged him from his room and they had staggered off, before the bullet had broken his leg. They'd still managed to crawl to hide then. But the images were broken and disjointed and there had been blood...

His breathing had gone shaky. He hoped to god Grissom hadn't noticed him hyperventilating at him down the phone.

~"Greg? It's all right."~ The way he said that, the soft firm tone of his voice, like after Greg had gotten blown through the window and had come back to work, said that Gil knew. Knew and didn't judge him for it, just like he'd done with Greg's shaky hands. ~"I'll mail you directions. And just call my cell when you're going to come up."~

"I'll... uh pack a few things and come up. If you don't want me to stay that's cool, I'll find somewhere to hang out," Greg replied. He closed his eyes a moment, feeling them burn as if he was going to cry or something stupid from just hearing his voice.

~"You can stay, but I can't promise you much by way of space. It's... a small cabin. The sofa pulls out."~ So, a one bedroom place. Well, Gil couldn't have that much money to throw at his getaway plan, so it kind of made sense. ~"I'm looking forward to it, Greg."~

"You're... uh. Okay." Greg was very confused now. "So am I. I... I've been wanting to know how you've been doing and... yeah. You want me to bring anything from Vegas?"

~"Just you. And maybe some movies that you like. Catherine came up last night, and I apparently have bad taste and need to forewarn people of it. She says that action movies should never be subtitled."~

"Oh I don't know. I kinda liked Crouching Tiger," Greg said with the first hint of a real smile he had managed in months. And he was doing it to the phone.

It was a shame that he was wasting it on the phone. There was silence, and then a small, easy sort of laugh. ~"Okay, then maybe I could sneak a few of these past you. The video store in town is still mostly VHS, and after six weeks, I think I've seen them all. You should be proud of me -- I've been exposed to more popular culture in the last few weeks than I was for years."~

"I'll bring some up," Greg promised. He would have promised anything at that moment. "I've got my own collection to inflict on someone. I'll uh... I be there before tonight okay?"

He had to sort himself out. All of a sudden he was alive with nerves and that scary sense of jittering obsession that had got them out of that hellhole they had been in.

~"Okay. Get some sleep, Greg. It's a long drive. I'll see you tonight."~ And just like that, Gil hung up. It had sounded like he was driving, anyway, and full of odd stops and starts and pauses, like he was nervous to make the call.

There was something he had to tell Greg in person.

There was nothing good that he could imagine from that considering. Various scenarios turned themselves over in his head. What if... what if he was dying? What if they had done something like that to him?

Immediately Greg felt a surge of something that made him get up and pace around. Grissom couldn't die. They'd got out. They should be surviving, going back to normal.

Only nothing was going to be normal again.

Greg couldn't fool himself into thinking it was going to be normal again. The fact that he was pacing around his living room, half-cleaning things again, and then stooping to dig through his DVD shelves said it loud and clear. Everyone at work kept waiting for him to fall apart, and Grissom wasn't at work, and he just couldn't get a grip on his own head. Maybe getting out of town was a good idea.

At least it was slightly more constructive than lying looking at the ceiling. Maybe if nothing else he would get some answers.

Grissom had something to tell him.

Six thirty. It flashed at him, once, twice, in bright red LCD, and then he realized that it wasn't flashing at all. His eyelids had been fighting him, while the rest of his body went tense, dragging him out of sleep.

The dreams, nightmares, were always the same. Gil wished that he could dream logically, retellings of the past, perfect steps that would have indicated that his mind was working through it in sleep. But all he could dream of was the pain of a needle sliding into his back, and then laying there, restrained, wrists cuffed out to the side like he was stretched out and ready for execution. And then somehow he was back in the room they kept him in, and cold latex fingers stroked over his stomach, and then dug in, and... And. And there was a jumble of sleepy thoughts that slipped away from him, but there had been blood coating those fingers, and one tiny screaming broken skull.

Gil got to his feet, and padded into the bathroom to get a fast cold shower. It didn't matter that Catherine was asleep on his sofa. His legs were restless, and he was breathing hard, overheated. It didn't particularly seem to matter that it was mid-October and cold as hell out there in Jackpot.

Greg was coming up. Maybe there was no connection -- maybe there was a lot. He might have been fooled if he hadn't been warned, but there had been a few moments when he had been sure that Greg had been about to lose it on the phone.

And that was all right. He'd had to pull off the road for a couple of minutes to finish the conversation, and Catherine, sitting silently in the passenger seat, hadn't said a thing to him about it. It still seemed like a bad idea, but maybe only because he was worried about how he'd react to Greg more than the other way around.

Greg had seemed elated, near to tears, all at the same time. And Gil wasn't sure that he was prepared for that, and he wasn't sure where he was going to put Greg with Catherine there.

It had all come together sooner than he would have liked, but... Gil wasn't going to retract the request, wasn't going to back out of it, anymore than he was going to back away from the shower head that was spraying lukewarm water for him to bask in.

The newly healed scars over his stomach were stretching. Splitting sometimes under the swelling growth within his abdomen. He found himself wondering if the salve Catherine had brought was any good after all that. It didn't look the right shape for just being fat.

How was he going to tell Greg anyway? He'd agreed under pressure to do it, but there were ways and ways.

And no way that made sense. He wasn't meant to break news like that to anyone. Did he just... say it, or? Offer Greg some kind of scientific explanation? Or let it wait and hang between them until Gil had to go to an appointment the next week to get another ultrasound.

Part of him was tempted to do the latter if only because he couldn't see how Greg would accept a statement like I'm pregnant coming from his male boss.

He couldn't see how that would work at all. But on the other hand, letting him see it might just be too much.

Tell, and then show, or show and then tell? Gil leaned back against the shower wall a little, and reached out to turn the water a little warmer. He wouldn't be getting back to sleep, anyway, and maybe a little hot water could help him relax.

God. Greg was more likely to suspect his sanity and he wasn't sure how sane he actually was at the moment. There was this constant touch of the surreal flavoring everything he did. Looking at the bones which turned out to be animal remains had been almost normal and then...

He'd look down and see the slight curve of his belly and know that it wasn't fat.

He'd known, and it always took effort not to stumble over his words, not to lose his train of thought entirely. Lt. Brooks has been glad to know that they were animal bones, albeit large ones, but between Gil and Catherine and one anatomy book, they'd been able to assure him that the long femur-like bone had been the wrong form (and too short) for a human and just about the right form for a wolf.

But Gil had still stumbled over his words for a moment when he'd looked down. And he still had that same feeling, even while he laid a hand over the curve. That was his, if it didn't kill him, then...

Sometime, he had to tell his mother.

Sometime he had to decide what he was going to do. The Agency was all too willing to take any living baby from him. Adoption or something. He had to work on the basis that he wasn't going to be around or that he might not have a choice about it.

There would be Greg of course. Apparently some of the implanted things inside him involved other tissues that were not his own so he had a feeling he knew the source.

And then he had the crazed words of his captors, and between those facts, it was obvious that the other genetic donor was... Gil closed his eyes, and tipped his face up to the shower spray again. Fuck. If he lived, he couldn't quite adopt it out. He'd seen too many bad family circumstances, and while he wasn't sure that he could provide the best kind of environment, at least the child wouldn't ever end up physically hurt or injured by him.

And if he did die, then Greg had some right to a decision.

He had to remake his will. Make provision for what might happen if he died. He wasn't ready for that.

Maybe Gil'd never be ready for it, but he had to, had to think ahead. If it survived, and he didn't, then... and if he died, period, he needed to have a new will. Have people who weren't just his mother to take care of things.

Gil finally stepped forwards, turned the water off, and then stepped out of the shower/bath combination to grab a towel.

The phone was ringing as he wrapped it around him, and he heard Catherine get up to answer. He could hear her exchange a few words before ringing off.

"Greg's on his way up," Catherine called out. "Just leaving and he'll be here soon."

"Just leaving Vegas for here?" Gil cracked open the bathroom door a little to peer out at her.

"Well I think he's more than halfway and he stopped somewhere. Asked if you wanted anything. I told him to pick up something to eat because I'll be heading back soon," Catherine replied as she tidied up where she had been sitting.

Gil closed the door, and reached for his t-shirt and pajama bottoms, taking his time drying himself off. So, two hours. Two hours, give or take a little, and Greg would be there. It just wasn't enough time to work out what to say.

Maybe he could show him. Let him come to his own conclusions from what evidence he could give him. He had the file full from the initial investigations. The doctors would have him in there all the time if he hadn't become so unbearably stressed over it.

It was funny how they'd been shocked, just shocked that he'd been uncomfortable with essentially being held captive in a hospital facility. Again. But that had helped him in making a deal with them, the agreement that he could be fine on his own, that he'd come in for his appointments, that he had a workable cover story if he was found out. That he'd allow them to write articles on him, keeping him anonymous of course, after the act.

He was the goose about to lay the golden egg after all that. He had swiftly found himself blanking out the gushing scientific babble that normally was so interesting. Science was fascinating when it wasn't happening to him in the same way that a decomposing body could be a marvel of ecology in action when it was a stranger but in wearing a familiar face it was a horror.

"If you want me to stay I will, but I think you might both want to talk without me around." Catherine spoke up again.

"I might need you to testify that I haven't gone insane," Gil offered back to her, a little weakly as he pulled the t-shirt on and opened the door again. He hadn't had to shave yet, wouldn't have to until the next day. Or so.

"So is that a yes or no? Or a... I'll be lurking on the edge of town, or exiled to the local bar for an hour or two?" Catherine queried.

"I might exile myself to the local bar for a couple of days or so." Gil turned off the light behind him, and that left the hallway comfortably dark again. "Catherine? How did you tell Eddie?"

Catherine smiled. "You don't want to go there. I threw up on him. He asked me why the hell I'd done that -- that's the clean version -- so I told him."

"I can't exactly vomit on demand," Gil mused, leaning against the wall a little. She at least hadn't tried to turn on a light. "Still haven't figured out what I'm going to tell him."

"I've never known you to lie in your life," Catherine said. "I don't honestly think you know how."

"You don't have to lie if you never give an answer," Gil pointed out. He moved away from the wall, and walked past her, heading for the kitchen. "Do you want something to eat?"

"I'm fine. Still on Vegas time," Catherine replied as she leaned back. "So, you want me to hide out in the back room? Because believe me, I'm willing to confirm it, but I think it's something between the two of you."

"I..." Gil hesitated, and then shrugged his shoulders. "If you want to go, I'll be all right. Greg seems, seemed nervous."

"You don't know the half of it," Catherine answered smoothing the rumples out of her top. "Jumpy as a crack addict and that's in the lab which is his own domain. Al says it's a post-traumatic stress thing. He's living on coffee as far as I can tell."

"Probably hard to sleep," Gil shrugged, saying it like he hadn't just woken up a couple of hours sooner than he'd planned to, and that even his planned sleep ran pretty lean. "He might feel better knowing that he's not alone." He leaned up to grab a box of cereal out of the cupboard. Nothing said breakfast at six thirty in the evening like cereal.

Catherine nodded. "That was the general idea. He might let you help him where he couldn't let us." She shrugged. "I'm sorry I forced your hand, Gil, but I think you'll understand why."

"I think I already understand why, Catherine. He thought I was avoiding Vegas because he was there." Not that it made Gil feel any better or any more sure that he could help Greg cope with himself and with what had happened, but he could try. Or at least try not to freak out at Greg, too.

"You wait until you see him," Catherine said cryptically. "Look, I'll leave just before he's due in okay? Then if there's a crisis you can call me back. He can always phone if he wants to confirm it."

"Okay. I..." Gil cleared his throat a little. "Thanks, Catherine. For coming up." And maybe for forcing his hand, but he wasn't sure of that yet.

"This won't be the last time, Gil. I'm still the nearest thing you have to a pregnancy coach," she said smiling at him.

That was heartening to hear, when he turned around the look at her for a moment before he turned back around to get a bowl and the milk. "I know. But I also know you're understaffed at work, and you probably would have preferred to stay home and sleep."

"Hard to sleep when I'm worrying about one of my best friends. Two of them," Catherine said. "I'll rest better knowing you two have talked even if you end up shouting."

"I promise not to kill him and bury him in the woods if we do." Gil dumped cornflakes into his bowl, and it was hard not to smirk a little at her. "Since I'm not supposed to move heavy objects."

She gave a surprised and delighted grin. "I've missed the patented Grissom snark. I've missed you."

"I've... missed me, too." It was an off thing to say, but his mouth quirked when he said it. Gil dumped milk on top of the cornflakes, and then rustled around for a big spoon.

"You'll be you again," Catherine replied. "A better you. You're too strong not to be. I've never known someone who can amaze me like you do. All the time."

Strong praise, and Gil wasn't sure if she meant it, or was just trying to bolster his spirits. "I'm not sure what's so amazing."

"That you haven't gone... fruit loops. If Eddie..." She shook her head. "Eddie would've killed himself or something equally dramatic. He used to think he was a strong guy."

"Maybe he would have. I..." Gil pulled up a stool and perched on it, sitting at the counter and starting to eat breakfast. "Feel too strongly about suicide. I want to live."

"You will." Catherine seemed absolutely certain. "You survive, Gil. I know you. If anyone can do this, it will be you."

"Going on with that far flung hypothetical, I hope you're willing to share a list of reputable babysitters and daycare providers." If. If, and Gil knew it was a huge if, but he might as well make Catherine smile by humoring her.

"Gil, if there's one thing you won't have trouble with, it's finding daycare or babysitters. I expect your Mom will want to be involved. You might want to think about getting a new house afterwards," Catherine suggested.

"A new house? Where? Hypothetically." He took another mouthful of over-milk sopped cornflakes. "Do you want to take some coffee to go?"

"Odds are you'll have a live in nanny of some description, Gil," Catherine pointed out. "You know what my life is like." She got up and headed towards the kitchen. "Yeah, I'll make some up."

"You might as well leave the can out. Greg's going to want some." Gil lifted his head to watch her duck back into the kitchen

"Most likely." There was a pause before she peered around the door. "You sure you're okay?"

"Okay how?" There were a lot of ways to define okay. He obviously wasn't physically okay.

"I don't know... is there anything more I can do?" she asked, her gaze lingering on him a moment.

"I.... don't really think so." He put his spoon down in the bowl when he shrugged that time. "You've done a lot just by stopping by."

"As long as you're sure..." Catherine trailed off. She reached to grab a weak coffee and gulped at it once she had it. "Okay, I'll get my stuff. Let me know how you guys get on. If you need a bail out or something."

"Or if I need bail," Gil agreed. "Sure. I'll call if I need help."

"Make sure you do." She looked at her watch. "Allowing for the anxiety factor, and assuming he didn't get stopped for speeding, he'll be here in the next hour or so. So, I'm going." She put the mug down and started gathering up her bags and things. "Thanks for the loan of the sofa, but you and I both know that you're not likely to feel comfortable offering for Greg to stay if I'm camped out."

"I was actually trying to think of where he could sleep. I'd suggest the tub, but it's a little too... stark in there." He ate a little more, and then moved to at least scan the room to see if she'd left anything.

"That bag is for you," Catherine said gesturing. "Anything else I can pick up next time I am here. C'mere. I deserve to at least embarrass you with a hug before I go."

He turned a little, and she'd all but engulfed him by the time that his brain started to register the motion. "It's not embarrassing," Gil countered, voice falling quiet as he hugged her back, but not quite as fiercely. "It was good to see you, Catherine. I still check my e-mail, so..."

"I'll be e-mailing, phoning and coming over," Catherine said as if it wasn't a five hour drive. "If you don't answer you know I'll be on your doorstep, okay?" She finally released him. "I've got to go. Take care Gil."

"Will do. Don't worry; I'll keep up on my vitamins and everything else. I at least won't let Greg starve to death, but I can't guarantee much else." He gave her a loose smile, watching her step back.

"Believe me, if that's all you can do, it's an improvement on the rest of us," Catherine said cryptically as she grabbed her bags and headed to the door. "Take care, Gil. Talk to you soon."

He followed after her, dragged forward a little but her sense of energy, shadowing her as she headed for the door. "Okay. Have a safe trip, say hello to everyone for me."

"Will do," Catherine replied even as she headed off down the short driveway. If he'd had neighbors, they would undoubtedly be gossiping.

Then again, it probably would have been the most favorable gossip that he'd had circling him since he'd come there. Gil stayed in the doorway, watching her pop open the door to her SUV.

He still didn't feel ready to see Greg, but then he probably never would. There was no good time to tell someone they had been raped and become a father through a bizarre sadistic experiment and the 'mother' was their boss and incidentally male.

Catherine waved at him through her windshield, and Gil waved back, albeit a little listlessly. He'd deal with how Greg was, first. He'd... handle that, handle it one step at a time instead of planning. And the first step started with finishing his breakfast.

Greg had to pull over a few times on the way to Grissom's, only a couple of them were because he was lost. The others were because he was seriously considering turning around and heading back to Vegas.

Desperation notwithstanding, he was in Jackpot and heading out of town again towards where Mapquest and Grissom's instructions said he should be headed.

He had thrown things in a bag, he had scooped half of his DVD's into another and somehow this was meant to equip him for seeing Grissom again.

It didn't, not anywhere near to it. He wasn't ready to see Gil again, not when the last time he'd seen him has just been a glimpse, a snapshot in time when Gil... hadn't looked so hot, hadn't even been really awake. But he'd called Greg and invited him up, and that had to be good, right?

Except it didn't quell the butterflies in his stomach

He made sure he had money in case Grissom was likely to throw him out, and he checked out for places in town that might help him out. Worse came to worst, he could sleep in his car.

The house was smaller than he expected somehow and he took his time pulling in and getting out of the car. He couldn't do this. He couldn't....

But he had to. He had to, if only to find out what he should have done differently rather than always wondering.

He got out and headed up to the door, a bag in each hand. Greg had to shift one onto his wrist so he could knock since there wasn't a doorbell. But it looked like a small enough place that he could get away with it, with just knocking. Knocking meant that Gil was going to be there soon, that he'd see how he was.

The door behind the storm door started to open.

He looked up, seeing him for the first time in so long. First time really since they had been taken, first time since he could trust what he was seeing and hearing.

Grissom looked... a bit thinner around the face, some tiredness around the eyes but he looked like his Grissom. A knot of tension unraveled in his stomach, even as several more knotted up.

Gil pushed the glass door open, and stepped close to Greg. "Greg. You look... like you haven't been eating well."

Greg nearly smiled at that. That was very Gil. "Catherine said I'd lost a little weight. Guess I haven't really noticed." Only when he couldn't find any clothes that fit him any more.

"A little? Greg, you..." Gil trailed off, and a smile quirked onto his mouth. "Come in."

"S... Sure," Greg picked up his bag again, making sure that his grip disguised any shaking. "Uh... you look like you've lost some too."

"It can't be helped," Gil shrugged. He held the door open for Greg, and gestured him into the partially cramped living room space. Gil's laptop was lying on the coffee table, closed. "Was it a long drive?"

"Well, I stopped off a couple of times," Greg said awkwardly. He didn't know what to say. He'd been hanging in there waiting to speak to Grissom, to talk with him and now he could he'd gone blank. "I didn't really notice it being too long. Catherine gone?"

"She just left." Gil seemed to be as awkward as Greg was, and he was looking at Greg. "I... it's good to see that you're all right."

"Yeah. Yeah, and you. I've..." Greg cleared his throat. "I've been worried."

"I..." Gil took a back step, and finally turned to head into the kitchenette area. "Do you want coffee?"

"Sure." Coffee was safe. It didn't involved saying too much or not enough. Should he start apologizing now? Or... should he wait?

"I don't actually have a coffee pot. If you want real coffee, you'll have to go down to the diner. But the instant got Catherine's approval." Gil started to run filtered water into a two cup measuring cup. "I know it's not Blue Hawaiian, but it's not Maxwell House."

"I'll cope," Greg replied with a faint smile and dumped his bags on the floor. "I, uh, brought some things up with me. Movies and stuff."

"Thanks." It sounded oddly, deeply sincere and Greg couldn't figure out why. "I need to tell you something, Greg, and I'm not a good host. I can't put it off until you're comfortable."

He froze immediately, as his heart started on a maddening race of panic. "I, I guessed as much. No point me getting comfortable before you chew me out."

"I'm not going to chew you out, Greg. I." He shook his head, and Greg could only see the back of his head when he tipped it down a little, adding powdered coffee to each cup. "I can't think of a sane way to say it."

"Hey, I'm cool with the not being sane thing. I know I've been out of it... for a while now," Greg said hurriedly. "I doubt it could be any worse."

He hadn't really been ready to hear Gil laughing. Not that kind of laugh, a low tired laugh that sounded maybe just a little edged in hysteria. "Greg..."

"Okay, now I'm getting freaked out," Greg admitted. He had to curl his fingers in towards his palms to stop it showing that his hands were shaking. "You are okay right? You're not... I mean, you're not going to tell me you're dying are you?" It had to be. It made him feel sick immediately and he could feel what little color he had draining from his face. "That's it isn't it?"

"I... could die. I might not. I have to wait and see." He finally turned back to look at Greg, and leaned against the counter. The microwave beeped, telling them both that the water was done, but Gil didn't move to get it.

"Oh, fuck." Greg looked down at his hands a moment and then back at Gil. He'd been half prepared in his mind but hearing it just finished him. "No. No, this can't be happening, not after everything. We got out. Things are meant to go back to normal!"

Gil gave another rough sort of laugh. "Things are as far from normal for me as possible. I'm... I, I'm pregnant."

Greg gaped for a moment, staring. "Okay. You've successfully broken me out of panic. I get it. I'm ready, you can tell me what's wrong now." He sat expectantly waiting.

But Gil just looked back at him, and then started to shake his head. "I have an appointment in a couple of days. Maybe you'll believe it then."

Greg found his head numb from the inside out, and forming a coherent thought was proving impossible. He could not be hearing what he thought he was hearing. It just wasn't possible. Which left two possibilities -- either Grissom had gone off the deep end, or he had. "Grissom? W-what are you trying to tell me? Really?"

"You were a genetic donor. That... that's what they did to me. They cut me open, and kept doing it until everything was in place, and..." Gil's own hands clutched into fists for a moment. "That's why I'm not at work."

Grissom didn't lie. He might tease a little but he never lied so... they had to be crashing through the thin ice of sanity. "You're telling me that you're having a baby and I'm... I'm the father?" He was aware that his voice had cone high and tight with hysteria, but he didn't even try and reign it in. "But... you're the only person in the world I haven't had sex with!"

He started to laugh in gulping uncontrollable bursts and the complete insanity of what he had just said hit him.

Gil made a choking noise at that. "I didn't even get the side benefit that gets people knocked up, you're right. I... I don't know what to do to make you believe me, Greg. You could call Catherine..."

"Sure... sure I could do that. Because that makes so much more sense," Greg couldn't stop the laughing. "Griss, I hate to point it out but you and I -- both guys. Uterus free zones..."

And how fucking off the wall was that? Gil, pregnant? Gil had apparently been exiled from work because he'd taken a leap into loony lake, even if he wasn't laughing or arguing the point anymore. He rubbed a hand over his face, and turned around to get the hot water out of the microwave. "Forget I said anything."

"I'm, I'm sorry Griss," Greg realized that perhaps he should be humoring him at least. If Griss believed he was pregnant and that was helping him, then he shouldn't try and undermine it. "You took me by surprise. I guess we've both had a lot to deal with. I don't want to ruin things by reacting this way."

"You're not... ruining anything. At least you didn't laugh too hard." Gil poured the water in, still not turning around, and then he grabbed spoons. "Just forget I said anything. Just forget it. All right? I didn't want to tell you, but Catherine was going to, and I..."

"Catherine was going to?" Greg cleared his throat, rough from the unexpected strain of laughing. "Not sure why she didn't. Not like she didn't know I've been off the wall. Maybe I should call and ask."

In reality he wanted to know exactly how far Grissom was gone, and what he should be careful of saying or doing. Should he play along, or try and get him to see sense? Was he likely to freak out? Or was he normal except for that?

Gil turned back around, expression carefully neutral, the grim kind of neutrality he threw up at a bad crime scene that he couldn't think of jokes for, and offered Greg one mug of funny, cocoa-like instant coffee, cradling his own. "I think you should. Or you can just forget it. I... know you don't believe me. That's fine."

Greg nodded slowly, taking a cautious sip and reached for his cell phone. It couldn't hurt, just to have a word. Catherine had to know the full picture.

He pressed the appropriate speed dial and listened to it ring.

One, two, and them a fumbling noise. "Willows."

"Hey, Catherine. It's Greg. I, uh. Grissom and I have just been talking and." Greg paused, trying to work out how to bring it up. "Well, he kinda told me that he's pregnant and I'm the father. I sorta... well, I laughed. A fair bit."

Gil had watched him dial, but now that he was on the phone, he walked past Greg, back into the living room to sit down with his cup of coffee, giving Greg the illusion of relative privacy.

"You... laughed? Oh, Greg... Maybe I should have warned you after all."

"Well, yeah. I, I know that's not the most tactful thing to do but..." He cleared his throat. "I don't want to make things any worse by doing the wrong thing or anything. So, uh, care to fill me in?"

"Greg, he really is."

"He is what?" Greg asked again, looking towards the other room. "I guessed he must have had a rough time. I mean that was pretty obvious."

Gil wasn't looking at him, but at some indistinct point ahead of him, in front of the sofa.

"No, Greg? He really is pregnant. I went to one of his appointments with him. The paunch on his stomach? Isn't from too little exercise."

Greg automatically glanced over to Grissom, for the first time seeing the swell in the abdomen area and feeling that sense of hysteria descend again, more crushing than before. "You're kidding. This is some... joke right? Nick and Warrick set me up."

"Greg, this isn't a joke, and no one has set you up. I thought that you had a right to know and to be involved, and Gil wanted to tell you himself instead of letting me do it."

She sounded serious. Holy crap, she actually sounded serious.

"But, he's male. How..." He was breathing too fast again, and becoming lightheaded. He had little tolerance for shock or surprise at the moment and this certainly counted.

"They implanted a... sort of uterus-thing in him, and I think it's been anchored to his abdominal wall, but I was a little in shock when I read the files, Greg, so it didn't all sink in. But that was what they did to him when you were... being hurt. And I don't know what else they did to Gil, but... well, he's as good at not-talking as you are."

Greg almost physically staggered. He could have laughed it off if it wasn't for the sudden flashback memory of one of them standing over him, taking more and more tissue samples, implanting that thing in him and him asking what they hell they wanted it all for.

He could see the man smile and say, "We'd thought we'd see if we could make something useful out of it. Perhaps a uterus or a set of ovaries. Because that's all of any use that will come out of you."

He'd long since stopped hearing anything in the here and now, let alone what Catherine was saying and noise roared in his ears, and his vision grayed out. There was only one way to deal with this and it lay in unconsciousness.

Everything smelled like coffee, and that was kinda nice for Greg. He wasn't sure how it had happened, but all he could smell was coffee, and there was a cold cloth wiping down his face, and something soft under his head. It still didn't explain why his head hurt, but then again, he hadn't opened his eyes yet.

Somehow he knew he didn't want to even start thinking about why he was like this. He'd spent too long over the past few months waking up in strange places and positions. The coffee was a new one though.

He tried to move his head. "Ow. Ow...."

Fingers pressed on his forehead, stopping him. "Greg. You hit your head when you passed out. Can you open your eyes?"

Ah. Hitting his head would account for it. He opened his eyes carefully, into the very bright light of some sort of flashlight. He had to blink a few times before he could tolerate it. "I think my brains have crawled out of my ears," he managed.

"They might have," Gil agreed, before he shut off the flashlight. Greg could focus Gil into an upside down picture, which meant that he was leaning over Greg from behind him. Sorta. "But you don't seem to have a concussion."

"Great. I think." He had to squint a little. "Why did I pass out again?" Faint was such girly way of describing it. Passing out sounded more masculine somehow. The end result was the same though.

Head met floor, and apparently coffee went all the fuck over the place. "You were on the phone with Catherine." Gil said it, and seemed to wait for Greg's response.

"Catherine? What was I...." His eyes went wide as he felt the memories sweep over him. If he'd been standing no doubt he would have collapsed again. Grissom was pregnant. No, it wasn't a joke. He could remember things that backed it up. None of them were insane as such.

But with any luck he might be soon.

"Oh... fucking hell, yeah."

"Yeah." Gil cleared his throat a little, expression shifting faintly towards anxious. "I didn't think you ever wanted to hear that."

"Well... In a general way, being told I was a father was sort of part of the general life-plan, but in a specific, being told by your boss who is incidentally male, no, I have to admit, I see your reasoning there." Greg was aware that he was babbling, but it seemed to be the way he coped with things. Nick had told him it was the silence in his lab that unnerved him the most, and told him there was something really wrong.

"It's solid reasoning," Gil shrugged a little, and then he sat back and out of Greg's range of vision. So whatever his head was on was probably Grissom's lap. "I'm sorry, Greg."

"Jesus, Grissom, it's not exactly your fault is it?" Greg replied twisting a little to try and see him. "I'm half thinking I've gone completely nuts here. But I remember..."

No. He couldn't go there just yet. Just that it was corroboration for what had to be the strangest revelation of all time.

He really didn't want to think just yet, even if he was twisting in Gil's lap, really close to...

Greg had always kind of thought that he'd have sex with some girl, maybe even a really good girlfriend of his, and he'd accidentally knock her up. And they'd get married and try to make it work, and maybe it would work, because his grandparents were the best couple he'd ever seen.

"You remember enough."

"A few things that were said make a sort of sense," Greg answered "A fucked up type of sense, but... yeah. Okay. I've stopped freaking now, Griss. It can't be good for you sitting with me on the floor here."

"Why's that?" He set the hand towel aside, and laid fingers on Greg's shoulder. "Here, I'll help you up."

"Well, you're... pregnant," Greg said and pushed himself up. "That has to be the most surreal thing I have ever said. I think you need to tell me more about this. My brain keeps threatening to run off and hide and pretend this isn't happening."

"I don't know what there is to tell you, Greg. Sitting on the floor isn't going to kill me, for a start." They were close when Greg pushed himself up, but once Gil started to stand, he stepped back. "You soaked your clothes with coffee."

"Oh. Uh, yeah. Maybe I should change or something," Greg replied awkwardly. "I... this is the reason you didn't call, right?"

"I... thought that you'd been through enough," Gil said simply, reaching out to grab Greg's upper arm gently. Just his upper arm. "I didn't want to make you feel any worse."

Greg found to his surprise that he didn't flinch at that touch which had to be a first. "Griss... I don't know how to explain it. I'm not sure I can. I just needed to know you were okay. "

"I'm okay. Mostly." He didn't pull back from the touch, and Gil kept studying Greg even after he'd answered him.

"Right. Like I'm 'fine'," Greg replied looking at him again. "I'm sorry Grissom. That this happened to you."

It was nearly him. He remembered that too. So very nearly him.

Except there'd been something about his hips being too narrow or his build being wrong. And that they'd made that mistake before or something. Greg didn't really want to remember, but the thoughts were bubbling up now that Gil was looking faintly uncomfortable, now that he pulled back a little. "I'm coping."

"I feel like someone in a soap. A delinquent father, who skipped out on his responsibilities," Greg said, steadying himself. Any minute his mind would wake up and start demanding more information. "I'll get that shower and change."

"The bathroom's just there." Gil gestured for Greg to go down the hallway, a short little hallway that aborted into a half-closed door that was probably a bedroom. "Make yourself at home while you're here."

Greg nodded, wincing a little at the movement of his head. "I will." He started to head off, and then had to step back, half walking into the table to get his bag. "Sorry. Won't be long."

Or at least as long as it took for his thoughts to catch up with him again.

He didn't hang around to see what Gil was going to say, just grabbed up the bag that he'd shoved his clothes into, and dragged it into the bathroom with him. The bath-mat was still wet, so someone -- Catherine or Gil -- had used it pretty recently. It was smallish, but well lit.

He didn't like to shower with the lights on any more. He didn't like to see the evidence of what had been done because he started thinking about it too much and he ended up sitting in the shower, not knowing how long her had been there, freezing cold as he used up all the hot water. Needless to say that wasn't something he had mentioned to anyone.

He wondered how this could be real -- he now knew what 'through the looking glass' felt like. Everything was normal and not at the same time. Greg carefully didn't look at himself as he got in the shower, having stripped off. The shower was intensely hot in comparison to his shocked skin and he nearly yelped.

So. Hypothetically, this was real. What was he going to do about it? There was that urge just to disappear... but however he had been changed; he hadn't changed so much that he ran away from things. Into them, over them, right into the biggest mess ever, but never away.

Besides, Grissom was the one with the worst time. He had at least been abused... normally. In a manner of speaking. This was like Grissom was still going through it.

He didn't know what he'd do if it was him, sitting there, alone in a cabin, knowing that he had something very very unnatural going on inside of him, against his will. And he wasn't even sure what else had been done to Gil, or what was going on inside of his head. Just that he hadn't wanted to tell Greg because he didn't want to... add to Greg's problems?

There were times when Greg knew he just didn't understand Grissom. All he'd ever wanted to do was... to be closer to him. He had been going to say, make Grissom proud of him, but that was more Nick's ambition. His was a bit more personal and he'd known he'd never stood a chance. He knew that he was like a moth circling around a flame and had been now for ages, but he couldn't help it.

And he knew this had ended any pathetic little fantasies he had nurtured.

Fuck his own problems. Grissom had been his reason to keep it together. To get them away from there, and he could be his reason to deal with things. His need was much greater than Greg's 'problems'.

Greg could get a grip on himself, because Grissom had as good as never left the place with what was going on with him.

And Greg was going to be a father. Maybe. Maybe, and hopefully it'd have the right number of limbs and eyes and fingers.

Considering with his preferences leaning towards the male side of bi, being told he was going to be a father had been a dim and distant fantasy. He ought to be pleased. He ought to be but he hated the fact that it was essentially a forced pregnancy. Rape in not so many words. Perhaps Grissom had endured the literal kind as well, but there couldn't be any more profound a violation than that. And like it or not, he was a part of that. Worse in that he had a feeling he might have helped them by answering some of their questions about genetics. But he would have answered anything then. Even random questions about organ donation and rejection and how that worked and genetic manipulation. It mostly seemed that they'd been consulting with him on it, like they already knew the answers but wanted to hear it from another source or they had just wanted someone to talk through their crazed ideas with even if it was one of their subjects. And he would have, and did say anything to make things a little easier for him.

It wasn't like he was capable to unlocking the secrets to making a man pregnant.

They had someone who knew genetics. Questions about the mechanics of cloning and introducing genetic material into an egg and simulating fertilization were imaginative. It could be done; they had done it with sheep, even with human embryos now to get around the various laws. That was the stupid thing -- the science existed to make it possible. The ethics, he'd thought, had firmly barred the way.

Up to the point of some sort of extremist group taking scientific advancement to the extremes of scientific terrorism. One of them had babbled in a disturbing religious fanatic frothing at the mouth way.

Imagine if Man could beget himself out of Man alone. Wouldn't that be a child untainted by original sin? Wouldn't that be like the Virgin touched by God?

Well, Grissom didn't get out much, but Greg was sure he wasn't a virgin.

At least, Greg was pretty sure of that. There had been that whole thing with Lady Heather that had just... yeah. No way was Gil Grissom sexless, even if he was probably not wanting to think about it, and pretty fucking confused just then. Or at least, that was what Greg would've been if he'd been in that position.

And in search of more soap. Gil had some funny stuff in his bathroom, really hot water or not.

Stretch mark cream, muscle relaxants suitable for pregnant women. Things to stop nipples weeping and cracking too much. Stomach settling things and drugs. Immunosuppressant drugs. Hormone supplements. Vitamins, supplements everything.

Greg looked at it all a bit blankly.

It was hard to contemplate it, and he didn't want to touch and paw through it all, laid out neatly, and get the labels and the 'times per day' instructions wet. But it was there, everything that a guy, woman, someone, would need to get through something like that. At least in terms of drugs.

'Follow the evidence' Grissom would say and the evidence was prescribed by a doctor, so unless Grissom was pulling a Millander and concealing his XX, which was impossible because he had seen Gil's DNA, there was a doctor somewhere that believed him to the point of medication.

He was really going to have to do something about his panic attacks.

Just swallow a little spit, and stop breathing. If he started to do freak-out breathing he'd pass out naked in Gil's bathroom and neither of them really needed to cope with the questions that would bring up.

In, out, and in again, and then Greg could breathe enough to get a slow full lungful of air and grab a thing of moisturizing body wash. Yeah, that'd work fine for soap, and he could get back under the hot water again. In he went, breathing in through his nose and out through his mouth. Hodges had taught him that which had been the weirdest thing. Sympathy from the resident Lab Snark had nearly undone him completely.

He scrubbed over his body, rinsing himself off and averting his eyes. Greg didn't want to look at himself, because every scar and every weird little mark that was still there months after the fact was a sharp memory, like a needle in the eye. And Greg didn't want to think about it. He wanted to cope and see what he could do about the thing with Gil.

That was constructive and better than lying looking at the ceiling.

It had been a bad idea. Gil had known that it was going to be a bad idea, but he hadn't quite figured out how bad an idea it was going to be until he'd felt his stomach lurch when Greg had started to laugh. At him. And it made sense to laugh, because how insane was it to be told that? It wasn't the first time Gil had been laughed at, either, but he still tried and stumbled and did things that got him mocked despite it.

He just usually had an easier time brushing it off, and by the time that Greg had turned on the shower a second time, he'd put his coat on, and was scribbling a large note to tack to the wall opposite the bathroom door. 'Gone for a walk, back soon'. Because if he didn't get out of there, if he didn't walk off the twisting unhappy feeling, he was going to do something he didn't want to do.

Gil actually made it out of the door before the shower turned off and didn't really know where he was going to go. He just started walking.

He was a fair way down his drive and heading out to parts unknown when he heard the door go behind him in the distance and Greg calling out. "Grissom? Gil?"

Greg calling after him stuck him with a stab of guilt, and while he stopped walking, it took him a moment to turn around. "I didn't think you'd be done yet, Greg. I was, uh, just heading out..."

It was obvious he wasn't really done since he hadn't got as far as shoes, socks or pulling anything on straight. He looked like a mess. Catherine had been right. When he had first seen him at his door he had felt the shock of it like a punch. Greg had never carried excess weight but he was looking unhealthily thin, his eyes were practically black and he just looked... unwell. When he had passed out and had lost all his color, he looked dead. That had overshadowed the rejection for a short period of time. But now he couldn't avoid it.

"You want me to come with you?" He seemed oblivious to the fact he was bare foot as he headed towards him.

"No, Greg, it's -- it's cold out here." And as much as he wanted to keep walking, he turned back around, and started back towards the house. "The sun's starting to set. At least put shoes and a jacket on."

"Right. Right, I can do that," Greg replied looking at him hopefully. "Uh, unless you really wanted to get away from me? I mean, if you want to be alone, I can stay out of it."

He wanted to be alone. He wanted to think, and not have to answer Greg's questions -- and there were going to be questions -- and he wanted to get some time to shove down the tightness that seemed to be cutting off the edges of his every word when he spoke. "I... just get restless sometimes."

Gil got a hand on Greg's shoulder, and walked him back inside.

Greg looked at him a moment. "I'm sorry about... you know, laughing and everything. There's no excuse for it. I know you don't screw around with people like that."

"That's all right," Gil shrugged, and maybe the gesture was a little tight. "I know how it sounds. My cover story if anyone in town figures it out isn't much more believable."

"Yeah? What's that?" Greg asked still looking at him carefully.

"Female to male transsexual who never had the bottom operation performed." He wasn't sure what that careful look was, but Greg wasn't staring at his stomach like Catherine did.

"Wow. Wouldn't have thought of that. Griss... Gil? Can we sit down and talk about this?" Greg seemed to be focused on that talk which he hated the thought of.

"I guessed that you might have questions. So." He could do it, even as he and Greg backtracked to the living room, and Greg started to look for socks and his sneakers. "Start."

"Okay, I'll start with some general stuff from me," Greg said. "I'm sorry I freaked -- I'm... well I guess you know I haven't been too stable recently and I know now, knowing this is real that acting like I did was pretty shitty." Greg's words were tripping over each other as if he expected to be stopped at any moment. "I guess I want to apologize for that and for not being around when you needed someone. Because I... I know this must be weird in a big way and the least you could expect is someone to be there with you. So. I hope you're not too pissed at me."

"I'm not angry at you." Gil moved to sit down, watching Greg move and fidget, restless. "I kept it from you, because I don't think you need to deal with it. I'm fine. I'm coping."

"That's because you're stronger than me. Me? I would've freaked out by now, I think," Greg replied. "So. Look, I'm on medical leave, which means I want to be here. Help you, be with you so you aren't on your own with this."

Which had been Catherine's idea, but Gil hadn't quite seen the sense of it, either. "Greg, I, it's not like it's some exciting development. There's very little to deal with. If you'd rather be somewhere else..."

Greg shook his head. "I was contemplating staring at my ceiling for several months," he said lightly although it didn't seem entirely like a joke. "It's your prerogative to be looked after right? That's what the father does."

"In an ideal situation, I suppose." And their current situation was less than ideal, but not in the normal ways. Gil leaned forward a little, folding his arms and resting his elbows on his knees. It took a little of the ache off of his back. "This... I don't know what to do. I don't know what I'm supposed to do."

"You're supposed to let people help you," Greg said firmly. "That'll be me if you don't want to tell anyone else, and Catherine, too. And you're meant to concentrate on yourself and relax and let off steam when you need to."

Greg did seem much more together now than he had when he had arrived. Like he had some sort of focus that was pulling him together that he lacked before.

"I'm not very good with letting off steam. I prefer rollercoasters, but I've been advised against it right now." Gil tried to make it a light comment, and knew that he'd probably failed.

Greg managed a weak smile at that. "I'm sure we'll find something. Look, I want you to say what you feel to me if you want to. Don't try and hold off on me because you don't want to add to my problems. Truth is, this'll help more than anything."

"What? You want me to what?" Gil tilted his head, watching while Greg finally stopped fidgeting.

"I want you to be able to say the stuff you can't say to anyone else." Greg said stopping pacing a moment. "I want to be able to help you."

"Greg, I." He tipped his head down, and shook it, trying to think of what to say or how to say it. Gil wasn't good at giving voice to his emotions, and that was why everyone at work thought he was something other than mortal, something both beneath them and above them at the same time. Maybe he was only strong because keeping a calm head was all that he knew how to do.

So, he what? He was angry, he wanted control back but he couldn't have it, he didn't want to die but he couldn't quite kill it, and.... And Greg had laughed at him, just like if he lived, everyone would laugh at the idea of Gil raising any child, because he was an unemotional robot and he could never do normal things even in an abnormal way. "I can't even do this without fucking it up."

Greg moved over to sit himself down next to Gil on the couch. "Fucking what up? You're not doing anything wrong."

Gil didn't look over at Greg, just kept studying the pattern of the rug that covered that part of the hard wood floods. "I can think it, I just... never say it."

"You say stuff with me," Greg pointed out. "Like after the explosion. And, I'm getting better at working out all the subtle nuances of your mood." He reached tentatively to rest a hand on Grissom's leg. "Come on, you know I'm like the world expert on observing you."

"But not as..." Gil sat back a little, and glanced at Greg. "Unfathomable as Sara."

"The Marianas Trench isn't as unfathomable as Sara," Greg managed with a slight smile. "I'm a simple guy."

"No, you're not." Gil gave him another look, and then rubbed at his eyes for a moment, some of the damp stinging feeling edging away. "The best I can promise is to... try."

"Yeah, me too," Greg answered softly. "But that's pretty much all anyone can ask for, right?" His hand moved, hesitantly reached for Gil's shoulder and then slid around him. "Doing the best they can and being there,"

Gil almost wished that he still didn't have his jacket on, the warm leather deadening the sensation of an arm over his shoulders. He twisted, just a little, and halfway leaned into Greg. "Right."

"So you wanna go out for that walk, or sit like this on the couch and heckle at one of my DVD's?" Greg asked after a long pause, looking surprisingly comfortable with the other man's closeness.

And that was good. At least he, and the fact that he was somewhat of a freak, didn't bother Greg, or if it did, it wasn't in any overt way. "I... probably should walk. Are you up to it?"

"Sure. Declared unconcussed right?" Greg said reaching for his jacket. "As long as we don't go on a three mile hike. My leg isn't up to that yet."

"I tire out fast, so it shouldn't end up more than half a mile either way." Gil could tell that Greg was still... not quite together, because he didn't have his shoes on yet. So he leaned forward again, looking pointedly at Greg's feet, and waited.

"Okay, I get it. Shoes. Feet. With you," Greg bent over to drag them on. "I walk around all the time at home without anything on my feet. Very relaxing. Okay, I'm cool to go."

"As long as you don't try to walk through the woods barefoot. I do it around the cabin. It's not as if there's much space." Gil stood up again, and cracked his back.

"That's where we are going? The woods?" Greg asked as he stamped on his shoes and stood as well. "The woods at dusk -- sounds good."

"There are wolves in the woods, so I tend to carry. I haven't seen one yet, but there's always a first." And Gil had wandered off that first time without thinking about that, without stopping to get his gun like usual, but now he was going to get it.

"How do you know then?" Greg asked as he shrugged on a jacket more comfortably.

"Dead animals, appropriately sized feces. In town, they like to discuss how there's a roving band of wild bears, but I think the beer they serve there is toxic. You'll have to stop in and test it for me." Since he couldn't drink, one of them might as well.

"Only if I can bring some back. I'm not leaving you here alone while I go out drinking," Greg replied. "I'll feel like some sort of character in a Hallmark special."

"I wonder what it'd be called. This certainly doesn't seem like a Hallmark special." Gil reached for his gun holster, and shrugged off his jacket to put it on.

"I seem to have lost most of my ability to joke," Greg said as he waited. "It's pretty sad being told you used to be a pretty fun guy." He shrugged a little.

"Who's told you that?" Their conversation was a little meandering, but that was starting to relax Gil by the time that he had the gun holstered properly and zipped up his jacket again. He reached to open the door for Greg.

"Hodges. Can you imagine being told that by Hodges?" Greg stepped outside. "This is the point where you realize your life is in the toilet and someone is working on pulling the flush."

Since Hodges' idea of fun was kissing ass and trying to get the attention of people who had higher positions than him. "It could be worse," Gil suggested. He stopped to lock the door, even though the chances of them being robbed was slim to nothing. "Ecklie could have told you that."

"Measure me up for a box, I'd be heading out feet first," Greg said affecting horror. "My usual sparkling wit is pretty grungy. You probably haven't noticed any difference."

"To be honest? No." Gil led the way past their parked cars, and headed down a path that was pretty familiar to him except he waited for Greg to fall into step with him. "But you haven't been here long and we've both been a little preoccupied."

"Yeah, I guess." Greg kept pace with him, limping with his left leg though he didn't say anything. "Long enough to make a drama out of a crisis though."

"I think you were allowed to faint." Now that he was calmer, past that surging urge to lash out or do something, Gil could admit that.

"I've been having a few problems that way recently." It sounded like he hated admitting it as well. "Hyperventilating and things. It's stupid, but I can't stop it very easily. Not in my sleep anyway."

"Nightmares?" Gil tilted his head a little, watching Greg's face in the twilight. The sun was just on the cusp of falling below the horizon, and it made Greg seem a little less pale.

"Yeah." Greg didn't elaborate on that. "And system shock or something. Medical stuff. I just wanted out of the hospital as quickly as I could."

"Since you're going to be staying here, maybe you should tell me anything I might need to be aware of." There, a little tit for tat.

Greg walked in silence a bit as if he were trying to think of a way not to answer him as they headed into the trees. "I guess... I don't really sleep if I can help it. Eating's been pretty difficult too, not because I can't be bothered but because I can't keep it down. Uh, I find it hard to walk far on this leg. I can't stand people being too close and it's weird because you're the only person who's touched me since that I haven't shrieked like a girl over... I can't stand being on my own. I... don't know, there are probably other things though."

Other things. Other problems, probably, other little twitches, but Gil was pretty sure that if anyone lived with him for very long, he'd piss them off with his own problems. Gil would probably end up pissing off Greg, but for the moment, Gil walked quietly beside him. "Then we can be wrecks together."

"Nightmares, too, right?" Greg shifted just a little closer as the sun colored the sky and made ink of the trees.

"Four hours of sleep a night has proven to be a pretty ambitious goal. And I'm still on nightshift hours." All that did for him was give him an excuse not to interact with people in town much.

"I'll try not to disturb what sleep you are getting," Greg promised. "You need the rest. You could nap maybe at other times?"

"I try. How about you?" Gil dodged a low-hanging branch, looking over at Greg.

"I don't know, I haven't tried. I've been at work and when I'm at home it's just like... trying not to think too much, you know?" Greg replied. He ducked a little at the last minute. "But then all I can do is think, and go over what I did wrong..."

In general, or just at work? "What do you think you did wrong that's keeping you up?" The woods were quiet, and except for them, completely devoid of people. A bush rustled a little out in front of them.

"It's my fault we were caught. Definitely that you were. I called you over, remember?" Greg said calmly. "Stupid thing to do. I should have said I'd heard something and then waited for the officer. Not called you over into danger."

"It's not your fault." Gil shifted his hands, stuck them both in his jacket pockets. "I must have played that moment through my mind a few hundred times every day. No matter what you did..."

"Or what I didn't do. If it had been Nick or Warrick, anyone else, I'm pretty sure they would have put up some sort of fight," Greg replied as if he were reciting facts. "Not dropped like a stone."

"I hadn't put you in the field with Nick and Warrick very often, Greg. Everyone responds differently to danger. There's no way of knowing." Gil shrugged his shoulders, and tried to smile over at Greg. "I didn't put up much of a fight."

"That's all I could think of. How disappointed you'd be that I made such a stupid mistake," Greg admitted seeming to disbelieve Grissom's assertion that he hadn't fought much. Gil could remember him being in the middle of saying something and then a sudden silence. He hadn't had chance to fight.

"It was bad luck. One minute you were talking... I didn't help, trust me, Greg. I didn't put up a fight. I wasn't even carrying my gun." Not that he would have had time to draw and fire, let alone aim. "Don't blame yourself."

Greg shook his head. "I can't let go of it, you know? I needed to find you. I guess I got obsessive about it. Have become obsessive about it. I kept thinking, what if they're doing this to Grissom?"

'This', sexually assaulting him, and whatever else they'd done to Greg. Gil knew it wasn't the right time to pry for answers about that, knew it wasn't the right time to ask what 'this' was. "I'm sorry, Greg. But we're not there anymore."

"No, but you kinda are," Greg replied seriously. "With the pregnancy thing. It hasn't ended for you, and here's me making a self-centered drama over everything."

"It isn't as if the existence of one precludes the existence of the other." Gil glanced left, watching the bush rustle a little again as they passed it before a squirrel bolted out.

"I was bitten by a squirrel once," Greg said randomly. "Had to have the rabies shots, because they usually only attack if they have something wrong with them."

It was difficult to tell if that was a distraction or Greg himself was easily distracted.

"How old were you?" If Greg was going to be random, Gil was going to go along with it, going to play along with it. As long as Greg kept talking while they walked through the well-trodden path.

"About fifteen I think," Greg replied musing aloud. "They had some mother of all needles for that. I wouldn't say I'm phobic about needles just that I have a good base of experience, that I hate them. Scares me shitless giving blood."

"So when I cornered you for a blood donation just after you were hired, that was more than the usual first day employee trepidation?" Gil watched an insect dart by them, and wished he'd been paying more attention so he could have identified it.

Greg actually laughed. "Yeah. There's me, desperately wanting to impress all the CSI's and trying not to be a wuss about it. I was pretty proud of myself actually. Usually when I give blood, I have to force myself. But you and I have the same blood type so I guess you get the same calls about it."

"To donate? I just go... went regularly." One more thing he couldn't do now. He needed his blood.

"Yeah. So you noticed huh?" Greg said. He shook his head. "I go to a lot of trouble to be noticed for the good things, not my screw ups."

"It's not a screw-up. I notice a lot of random things about people." Gil glanced at Greg, watching the tilt of his head. "And I miss a lot of things."

"You don't miss anything worth missing," Greg replied looking out at the darkening trees.

"I miss a lot of things that most people find important." Gil reached out to twist a leaf off of a tree that they were passing. "I assume things I shouldn't, that everyone reacts the way I do."

"Like what Griss?" Greg turned a little to look at him and steadied himself on the other man's shoulder.

"Should I start with the number of times I've been unable to properly connect to my coworkers, or that I thought you needed me to leave you alone?" He turned a little, and let Greg steady himself.

"But then you wouldn't be you," Greg replied and his hand lingered a moment. "And you had reason. You always have a good reason."

A good reason for stumbling awkwardly over social situations? Gil wasn't sure. "Do I?"

"Yeah. Like being pregnant. That's a pretty good reason not to want to talk to me," Greg reasoned.

"No, I... that's not why I didn't talk to you." Gil cleared his throat, and looked out into the darkening woods around them. "I, uh, why don't we keep that topic to the cabin?"

Greg looked around. "Shit. Shit, I'm sorry, I didn't think..." He exhaled a moment. "Sure you want me to stick around?"

"Yes." He could at least answer that fast enough that Greg couldn't doubt whether he was telling the truth or not. But it wasn't because he needed Greg there, but that Greg needed to be near someone. And Gil seemed to be it. "Just... a little discretion."

"Discretion. I can do that. With any luck." Greg looked unnaturally pale in the dusk light, the shadows accentuating the pits and hollows malnutrition had caused.

Gil reached a hand out to touch Greg, fingers staying on his arm because it was 'safe' territory. "I know you can, Greg. I trust that you can, and if you somehow can't... that's why I have a backup plan. I'm starting to feel a little tired. I think Catherine wore me out while she was here. Do you want to head back?"

"It's getting dark. That squirrel may come after me," Greg agreed. "You're feeling okay though, right? Anything I can do?"

"You could stop asking me if there's anything you can do, Greg. I'm fine." He kept any heat out of the words, and turned back around, hand still on Greg's arm. "Leg all right?"

"Aches some. Probably all the driving," Greg replied, shrugging slightly. "So. I think I was meant to bring some food in or something. I... uh... kinda forgot. You want me to cook something for you or go into town for something?"

"You can cook?" Gil tried to keep from sounding dubious, but the idea that Greg could cook hadn't ever crossed his mind before.

"I can cook. I went out with this guy once who was a chef?" Greg replied casually. "I might not be totally expert but I had high standards to live up to when I cooked for him. Taught me a few tricks."

Greg always could do or say something that surprised Gil, and that was no exception. "So you cook, collect coins, play chess, know about surfing and latex..." And. And a lot of other things that Gil didn't know. Except that he was tolerant of eccentricities.

"Yeah. Weird huh? Of course I don't try and do them all at once," Greg replied as they headed back. "So. You feel in the mood for something? I can make something out of anything. I like cooking. It's the eating bit I have problems with."

"You're going to have to," Gil pointed out as he kept up with Greg. It was a slow pace back the way they'd came, and Gil estimated they were lucky if they'd gone a third of a mile.

"I'll find something," Greg promised and walked on in silence for a bit. The fading light very nearly obscured his expression when he spoke again. "I missed you."

God knew why, except that before it had happened, Gil had been trying to make sure that Greg was up on his training; that he was on the path to getting certified and passing his proficiency. "I missed you, too." Even if Jim had joked to Gil a few times that Greg had all but been stuck to Gil's shoes.

"You're just saying that. I know what Brass used to say," Greg answered, but his voice sounded lighter. It didn't take much to affect his mood it seemed.

"I'd like to know since when Jim and I speak with one voice," Gil snorted.

"Well, Sara and the others would go on about me puppy-dogging you. I guess it's a little late for embarrassment." He shrugged. "I make a fool of myself sometimes."

"And I never have?" Gil let go of Greg's arm at last, and put his hands back into his pockets. "Everyone does. And what they think doesn't matter to me, and it shouldn't matter to you."

"No. I guess none of it really matters anymore," Greg agreed even as he walked very close. He ducked suddenly. "Jesus, was that a bat or a cigar sized moth?"

Gil's hand shot out to steady Greg, pressing against his back. "Bat. The moths don't get quite that large around here. If I leave the porch light on, I can show you."

"That'd be cool," Greg replied and seemed to mean it. Just like he seemed to draw something from being touched and his arm gently settled around Grissom again for the last part of their walking back. "I went camping once with a group of college friends. There were these hawk moths? Like flying cigars. Really vivid colors. Though I have to say, we were throwing ourselves to the ground at the time."

"Where were you camping? I know that as a species, they're exceptionally fascinating to look at, even if they do occasionally scare people. We tend to have Sphinx moths around here, more often."

"Somewhere in the foothills of the mountains, I forget exactly," Greg replied easily. "Kind of a shock to the system to find wildlife outside of the bars."

"When you're in college? I'm sure it was." Gil removed his hand from Greg's back, almost reluctantly, and slipped it back into his pocket.

Greg, on the other hand, did not move his, content to walk like that. "Seems like a long time ago now."

"It was quite a long time ago for me. You're not allowed to get nostalgic about college until it's been ten years and you've paid off your loans." He didn't mind the arm around him, the strange way that Greg had decided that he suddenly had a right to be in Gil's personal space.

"Paid all the way," Greg replied with a hint of smugness. "Loans paid off."

"Full ride. You still have to wait ten years," Gil pronounced, randomly deciding to stay firm about that.

"Yes, sir," Greg smiled as they headed back up to the house. "Okay, kitchen will be my first stop. You should sit down."

They crunched over the partially gravely dirt, back to the front door. Maybe they could make it work, if they took it day by day. "If you're going to cook, you need to eat."

"I'll... I'll try. If only to show you it's edible," Greg promised. "Then you can show me the bugs. Or we can watch a movie."

Gil leaned against the door while he dug out his keys, carefully unlocking both doors. "Or both. It's a deal, Greg." After all, the best they could do would be to try. Try and function, try and get Greg better, try to get through every day.

And maybe somewhere along the line some of what was happening would start to make sense.

It was a sad thing to wake up to the sound of whimpering and then to discover it was yourself. Greg had his now customary moment of panicked thrashing around as he came to in an unfamiliar room, looking at an unfamiliar ceiling.

He lay back, trying to force his breathing back into a sensible rhythm so he didn't end up passing out. He could still feel the lump on his head from his rather embarrassing reaction to being told he was a father. He felt like he should have been videoed for some cheap funniest videos show.

He had slept longer, which was a testament to how much effort he had put in the day before. His first night he hadn't really slept at all despite being dog-tired and exhausted to the point of fuzziness. Then he had spent the day being... attentive. Or trying to be.

He had been tired that night when he finally crashed out. But even exhaustion wasn't reassurance enough. He still woke up alone.

The sofa was pretty comfortable, Greg had to admit, for a pullout that had required the coffee table to be shoved aside. But it was on wheelie thingies -- which Gil had said was at Catherine's insistence -- so a good brush of the knee was pretty much all it took to shift the coffee table aside. But it didn't seem to matter where he slept, he was restless.

The clock on Gil's DVD player read 4 p.m., though the blackout blinds didn't let him check by the amount of daylight in the room. The clock was all he needed to look at to know that he really should have been sleeping for another few hours.

He hated waking up in the quiet of the 'night'. All he ended up doing was thinking. All the nights when he had been locked away, thinking and wondering what was going to happen next, when it was going to stop hurting...

And what had happened to Grissom. It was still there, that feeling like a conditioned response. He knew what the psychiatrist said; he knew that the 'obsession' with Grissom's well-being and presence was a projection of the needs and feelings that were denied to himself. Or something, he hadn't been listening that hard, but he knew that maybe they weren't normal. And maybe they didn't go away because the danger had technically passed. He felt it burning in him like a restless internal sun of energy. Where is he? How is he? What's happened to him? How can I make this right? How can I make things better... over and over.

Except now he could answer the questions, even if they were strange, uneasy answers, even if they were answers that made him wonder at his own sanity. Gil was just sleeping in the bedroom, where Greg had put his suitcases because there was room in there; Gil seemed to be doing okay, to be handling things; Greg knew some of what had happened.

And as for how to make it right, better...

All he could do was try; even if that weirded Gil out from the looks of it. Making him dinner, which Greg had managed to eat some of before his stomach felt full, clearing up things. Making drinks, offering to run into town when Grissom made a passing comment about something he might possibly like.

Grissom kept looking at him in a way that made him feel like he was going to run to the hills to get away from the crazy Greg.

Not a good thought, considering his obsession. He listened, trying to pick up any faint sound.

It was easy to pick up on quiet noises, because the cabin was dead silent, except for the occasional click and humming of the heat coming on. It was colder up there than it was down in Vegas, and Greg probably should have brought more warm clothing with him. Sweaters and shit, since it didn't seem ready to go over sixty degrees any time soon and November was creeping up.

Gil snored a little. Or faint noises or something, something that Greg could hear through the partially opened bedroom door.

He sat up, watching the door in the dim light as if that would help him hear and then half considered trying to get something else from his case if Grissom was actually asleep. It took him ten minutes to decide to act and then he was creeping in towards Grissom's room to get a jacket or a shirt. And maybe just to check he was okay.

Just to make sure he was sleeping okay and that everything was okay. That the baby was okay, and that was a thought that twinged at him. Baby. Pregnancy. That he was going to be a dad instead of just a neurotic guy who couldn't get to sleep and needed to make excuses to himself to check up on his object of obsession.

It hadn't really sunk in that he was going to be a father. He wasn't sure if and when it actually would, and he had no real preparation for it as a concept. But then most people didn't.

He crept in carefully, peering around the door to look at Grissom.

Gil was curled up on his side, sheets and blankets wrapped tight around himself, right up to his chin. Fingers were poking out, but that was it. He looked... a little younger with his beard shaved, and Greg halfway wondered why Gil had shaved it after he'd had it that way for so long.

Maybe he'd ask him. He liked him like that -- he looked good, a little relaxed. There wasn't any possibility of anything ever happening with them, not even the faint dreamlike hope he'd possessed that Grissom might wake up gay one day. That wasn't going to happen, and after this ordeal, he'd be lucky if Grissom wanted to see him again. If he survived.

That terrified him: that Grissom might die. It was worse than contemplating the same happening to him.

If, if Gil died because of what had happened to him... Greg just didn't know what he'd do. The scientific significance, the reality of what was happening paled to nothing once Greg took into consideration that it could kill Gil.

But Gil was all right. Gil was sleeping, and making a quiet complaining noise before he pulled at the sheets.

Maybe he wanted or needed something. Before he knew it, Greg found himself stepping silently closer. He couldn't explain why it made himself feel better to worry about someone else but it did. Maybe the psychiatrist was right and it was because he could do something about changing things for them and not for himself.

Gil could need him at any time really.

Maybe that was why he was anxious. Just watching Gil shift restlessly in his sleep was enough to put Greg ready to spring into action to do... something. He wasn't sure what, but he could do something. Other than getting that warmer shirt to wear.

Shirt... yeah. How long had he been standing there again? His leg ached. God he hoped he hadn't started losing time or anything. He turned to look for his case, and immediately looked back at a soft sound from Gil. Not awake but...

It was like when he had been a kid and he used to watch for shooting stars with Poppa Olaf. He'd stare and stare at the sky and sometimes he'd see one and sometimes not but he knew if he looked away then something dramatic would happen. So he'd end up with a cricked neck and dizzy from trying to watch the whole sky.

At least Grissom was easy to focus on. Somehow he had ended up sitting, back against the wall just watching Grissom in bed.

At least he was sitting beside his suitcase, so he could paw through it with half of his attention. There was one of his favorites, a comfortable long-sleeved NiN t-shirt. Most of the clothes that he'd packed were 'favorites', old and well worn and familiar to him. Clothes that were definitely his, because he could remember sitting down and stitching clumsy under over stitches to the bottom of the left hem to tack it back up when the original thread had broken there.

One of Gil's legs jerked, and he grumbled something when he moved to draw it back up, curled in on himself.

He was half reaching towards him even before he realized what he was doing. What did he think he was going to do? Climb in with him? He shook his head and grabbed the top, pulling it on carefully, impatient to be able to see again as it went over his head. Grissom watching -- it had to be like bird watching or something. Maybe he could start a club.

It could have at least two members. Sara, Greg knew, would kill to be there. And Gil hadn't called her to be there with him, probably because if Gil had little to no idea what to do with Greg, he would have had a panic-attack's worth of no-ideas about what to do with Sara.

That made him smile just a little as he settled back. Sara was just worried. Apparently they had all been worried. Mainly about Grissom, but that was only to be expected. Grissom was their mentor; he was just a CSI wannabe. Never-going-to-be more like. Getting your boss kidnapped, experimented on and pregnant was probably a bad career move.

Not that Gil would ever say that. Not that Gil, if they could magically somehow get back to Vegas, would say anything to Greg other than 'So, where did we leave off?', and pick up training him again. Maybe, maybe he could Gil to do it while they were there, under the table and unofficially, just so Greg didn't forget everything. Maybe he could ask about that.

Gil twisted in bed, shifting to lie on his back, one arm flung out of the sheets. Restless sleep was just about as bad as no sleep at all.

That couldn't be good for him. He needed to relax more and rest more. Make things as easy on his body as possibly. Maybe he could offer him a massage. Nah, he'd freak. But maybe he could offer it anyway. Gil didn't deserve his nights to be so troubled, when he had a big enough problem to deal with in the daytime.

So, maybe he could give it a shot. No harm, no foul, and Gil had been pretty forgiving of Greg's touchy-feely weirdness. Gil probably didn't get that it was a miracle for Greg not to almost soil himself when someone touched him.

The stupid thing was he knew it was to be expected. He knew all the things they told him which was why he decided he was probably as well off as he could be. He'd sat through the 'trauma of being a victim' lectures over and over. He knew how it fucked him up. How it probably fucked Grissom up. They hadn't discussed the in-depth details of what had happened, but he was pretty sure his ordeal had been more... traditional, and Gil's more medical and creative. He couldn't get his head around all of it.

It was strangest of all to think Grissom was beautiful.

He'd always thought it, pined and waffled from crushing on him to being fascinated by him and back again, and there had been a lot of years and sides of the man that he'd seen to make him decide against crushing on him, but everything that happened... It just seemed to add more depth to Grissom. Even Nick, who'd finally stopped living hand to mouth on Gil's praise, still bloomed when Gil approved of something he did.

It had always been funny how Gil approved of Nick most when Nick was pissed off and veering in a completely different direction than Gil on a case. And if that independence was what Gil admired best in people, then what did it make of Greg?

He didn't know. He had to blink his eyes open a moment, disorientated. He'd built an impossible rescue around the need for Grissom's approval so he couldn't let go of that just then. He'd carried him, and kept moving even after they'd shot him. That was a hellishly powerful emotion.

His counselor had suggested it was either unhealthy, or it wasn't just approval.

Even if it wasn't just approval, then it was probably still unhealthy, but hey. Gil was too fucked up, too, to bother pointing that out to Greg, and neither of them talked about what they'd experienced in that place. Greg... almost wasn't sure if he wanted to know at all. Was pretty sure that he didn't want Gil to know at all what had happened to him.

Gil sighed, and it sounded pretty awake.

Should he try and sneak out or just... hide or confess he was here?

He was never one for being overly backwards in coming forwards.

"Gil? You okay?" he whispered

He went quiet for a moment, and then drew in one shuddering breath, and then another. "Fine. Just... tired, can't sleep."

"That makes two of us," Greg replied and then felt he had to explain. "I uh, came in for another top. I got cold."

"Mm. If you're going to be here through the winter, you're going to need warmer clothes." Gil was looking up at the ceiling, and finally shifted to sit up, the bedsprings creaking. "What woke you up?"

"Usual," Greg said being deliberately vague. "You know."

"White walls." Gil shrugged as he sat up, leaning forward and rubbing at his face. "Been up for long?"

"Not sure. Since around four I guess," Greg answered leaning back against the wall. "Anything I can do to help you sleep?"

"I'm not sure." He lifted his face out of his hands, curly hair sticking up at odd angles before he ran a hand back through his hair. He was wearing a t-shirt, too, but the way he'd leaned forwards, Greg couldn't see what it said on it, if anything.

"Is that I'm not sure in an 'I have an idea but it sounds stupid, or might freak him out' way?" Greg asked interpreting the hesitation as some sort of thought on Grissom's behalf.

It at least got a laugh out of Gil. "Not really. I haven't found any way to get back to sleep after I wake up. It's..." He glanced over at the glowing red LED clock beside his bed, and then shifted to lean back against the headboard. "Five. So I've had four hours, and you've had three? We're both going to go crazy if this keeps up."

"Hey, that's the longest I've had in a long time," Greg protested. "It's more important for you to get rest though. This may sound stupid but I was going to offer to, you know, give you a massage or do the feet rubbing thing. One of my college friends, Julie, used to love that when she got pregnant."

Gil seemed to be staring at Greg, and then his facial expression shifted towards something like baffled. "I... Uh, I'm not sure if it would help, but if you're comfortable with the idea..."

"Sure. I wouldn't offer if I weren't comfortable with it," Greg replied as he pushed himself up. "Don't worry, she made sure I knew how to do it right so it wouldn't do anything to the baby. Can I... uh, come up there?"

"You can't really do it from the floor," Gil pointed out agreeably, still watching Greg like a hawk. "What should I do?"

"Just lie there and relax," Greg said getting up properly and moving to the bed. "However you feel comfortable. I'll work around you."

If it was happening differently, Greg decided it would have been a wet dream to have Gil pushing back the sheets, shifting to get comfortable for a massage. Now it was awkward and Gil looked... funny. Less clothing, sweat pants and a t-shirt, revealed just how much weight Gil had lost, and how much of it still seemed to be sitting at the front of his stomach in that paunch. "I've actually never done this before."

"In which case I'll try not to weird you out," Greg replied, eyes drifting inexorably to that swell. "Shout if it feels weird or anything." Greg climbed up and settled on the bed. "Just relax," he said again as he warmed his hands by shaking them and then reached for Gil.

Gil tried to help him along by moving so that his back wasn't right up against the headboard, giving Greg room to get behind him before he put his hands on Gil. So at least he was willing and able, or just plain willing. The t-shirt material was pretty thin, and Gil felt warm, shoulders hard as rocks beneath Greg's hands.

"Wow. Tense doesn't even do it justice," Greg commented. "Let me just sit and you can lean into me, I'm going to be here a while." It felt good to be doing something useful. Something that might help and he could feel himself relaxing as well.

"Lean into you how... ?" Gil sounded a little nervous, too, holding himself still with the muscles in his back.

"Here." Greg put one leg on either side of him, and propped himself up by the head of the bed so he could take his weight. "Just lean back okay? I won't break. I'm kinda bony, but I won't break."

"If you're sure." He still seemed hesitant to lean back, even though he did it. Gil had been hesitant to tell him at all, because he didn't want to 'add to' what had happened to Greg.

They still hadn't quite worked out how to communicate in that respect. Greg was hoping this was a little more direct. He kneaded at the rock hard muscles patiently and deftly. It had been a while since he had done this to anyone, lover or friend, but he never lost the knack. "Tell me if I hit a sore spot. I'm bound to, tight as you are here."

"Everything is a sore spot," Gil offered, but he didn't try to move away from Greg. He'd dropped his head forward a little, which seemed to be as close to relaxing as he'd go.

"I'll take it easy," Greg promised in a low voice working up the neck and knowing from the feel Gil must have had some killer headaches. It was absorbing and therapeutic to get lost in the patient exploration of touch even if it wasn't the daydream fantasy come to life.

If it was his daydream fantasy, they both would have been naked, and Gil would have been lying on his stomach, and there would have been cheesy porno lighting and oil. Somewhere in the mix, really hard sex. Not both of them in a blind-darkened room in the middle of the day for most people, and him behind Gil just because it was an easy position.

He'd take what crumbs he was given. There was certain liberation in feeling the worst had happened; normal inhibitions didn't apply. He smoothed gentle circles with his thumbs, pressing hard to shake out the crackling tension in the muscles.

Gil finally groaned, a deep noise that didn't seem to be full of pain. It was more strung out with pleasure, and Gil shifted back to his hands finally, head dropping forward a little more.

"Good?" Greg asked in a voice barely above a whisper. "Bet you're getting bad headaches with a neck like this."

"Relatively bad," Gil groaned, shifting his shoulders a little under Greg's hands. "That feels good."

"That's the general idea," Greg murmured. "It'll take a while to get you fully relaxed I think. But hey, I've got time right?"

"Right." Another rough almost-laugh, and Gil leaned into him a little more. "Would it be easier if I took my shirt off?"

"If you're comfortable with that, yeah," Greg replied not missing a moment. "That's up to you."

Up to Gil, but Greg really wanted it to be a yes. Then Gil leaned forward a little, shifting to pull off his t-shirt, pulling it up over his head and them dropping it to the bed. The light in the room was pretty bad, but Greg could make out discolorations on his back. Scars, skin paler than Gil's usual semi-tanned state.

He touched a couple of them gently before he went back to massaging. "They did some to you too then?" he asked eventually.

"They had me restrained for a while," Gil answered, casually, except that Greg could feel the muscles of his back tensing again. "I wasn't 'cooperating' well."

"Mm. I know that one," Greg replied having to resist the urge to land a soft comforting kiss on the back of Gil's neck. His reactions were skewed, he had to remember that. His fingertips traced along the lines. "Then they moved on to experiment right?"

"And experiment, and experiment. I think... they were confused for a while. About who they were going to do this to." Gil's voice fell quiet, the way it did when he was describing gruesome crime scenes to warn other people on the team what they were in for when they joined him on the case. "I'm glad it wasn't you. There were... others there, you know? Other victims."

"I know." Greg exhaled and stopped his fingers shaking by starting the massage again. "It... it nearly was me, but they said my hips were too narrow and my metabolism was too fast. That they'd made the mistake before. They used me as tissue and blood donor I think because we match pretty closely."

He didn't say 'so it's my fault it was you' because he knew it would annoy Gil but that didn't stop him from thinking it. It also hadn't stopped them from doing what they had finally decided he was the 'perfect' type for in the end.

"They'd made that mistake... pretty recently from the look of one room we passed. I keep dreaming about that, because I thought that maybe they'd killed you, or..." Gil sighed, and it was almost as if he did it to cover a shudder. "You're all right, though."

"Yeah, battered and bloodied but I'm okay," Greg agreed stroking at Gil's hair absently. "I was so scared when I found you. I thought you were dead."

"I don't remember you finding me. Was that... just before we were taken out?" The hair stroking seemed all right, too, but Greg hadn't noticed he was doing it when he started.

"I got out. I hunted for you," Greg murmured. "I let out everyone I could but they must have realized I was going to try and find you. I... was carrying you and trying to run, and I just kept running. They were firing at us and I didn't move fast enough and I was hit in the leg, but I kept going. I'd found a phone before I came after you... lifted it off the hook so they could trace us. I dragged us to... the outside and hid us both."

Dry facts made it sound so much simpler than the messy frantic experience it had been, every breath painful, every movement possibly his last and knowing what they would do if they were caught. Kill them, or kill him and keep Gil alive, because Gil had been some kind of commodity. And they were just two of the victims. Greg was glad, in a way, that he hadn't really met any of the others, that he didn't know their stories, that everything was kept as hushed at the FBI could manage it. No media, no hounding, no one asking him questions. It was just him and Gil out in the middle of Bumfuck, Nevada, cleverly named 'Jackpot'.

"I remember the gunfire." Gil shifted his head, glancing back at Greg for a moment before he relaxed again. They were both alive and safe, now. For now. "You're why we're alive."

"I don't remember a whole lot else," Greg replied, shrugging a little. "I passed out. Bled too much or something. Nick said I sort of mumbled some and then went out cold. Stayed that way for a long time."

"You probably used all of your energy up. I'm not light." Greg had trailed off of his massaging, but Gil still didn't move from that position, didn't say anything to stop him from just touching, idling. "I'm sorry. I should have kept in contact with you. I just..."

"No, no. It makes sense," Greg reassured, massaging again. "And my stuff is nothing in comparison." He totally believed that, implicitly.

After all, at least those people were being held, at least they weren't there hurting him still. Gil's ordeal had followed him home. Well, to Jackpot, which was home to Gil for now. "No, what happened to you, Greg... They shot you."

"Yeah. It wasn't how I imagined -- being shot. I mean, doing what we do, we have to think about it and...." Greg paused a moment as the memory came back. "I was running and it was like something like a metal bar had swung and hit my leg. It twisted us against the wall. If I had gone down completely I don't think I would've got back up. It didn't hurt just then, my leg just turned into a useless dead weight." Greg was surprised he could recite the facts so calmly. He could remember the panic, but it wasn't surging over him like it usually did.

It was just like... describing a crime scene to Gil. Except that he was massaging Gil's bare back and shoulders and neck, fingers tracing up and down, over scars and up to the nape of his neck, and somewhat wild curls of hair.

He cleared his throat, trying to focus again on what he was doing. "So I kept going somehow. And then it started hurting, and they were chasing and I knew I had to get outside. I don't know how I did."

The doctors hadn't known how he had either. His leg had been broken and he had still carried on. One of them called it 'wounded comrade' response where someone just kept going regardless of their physical state because of someone else.

Greg hadn't asked anyone if he could have extended 'wounded comrade' response, because he was pretty sure it had gotten him through the whole ordeal to start with, before he'd been shot and had a bone shatter.

Somehow it had made his own ordeal seem less. Less important, less devastating by wondering all the time about Grissom. Daydreaming that at the least they could comfort each other if they had been together. That somehow things would have been better. Instead, that thwarted compulsion had wound tighter and tighter to the point when everything else had broken, that was a bond of titanium and steel. The only thing left.

"Greg?" Gil had turned around, had a hand on Greg's side, and twisted so he could look at Greg. "C'mon. Stay with me, right now. Whatever you're seeing or remembering..."

"Sorry. Sorry..." Greg took a deep breath. "I never know when that's going to happen. Sometimes it just comes in you know?" The hand felt good just there, warm and right.

"I know." Gil didn't embellish, but he didn't need to, not for Greg. Yeah, Gil knew, Gil had scars and worse still with him, Gil was a walking science experiment waiting to go wrong.

Gil was watching Greg like a hawk, albeit a sleepy one.

"Massaging. I'm supposed to be massaging," Greg brought himself out of the zone and started again. "Anyway we got out and I think we hid somewhere. I don't remember much. It might have been a shed or something. A garage. And then it started to hurt. So much I couldn't see what I was doing." His hands were slow and deliberate in his ministrations.

Once he got Gil to turn back around, at least, even if he seemed a little reluctant. But he still leaned into Greg's hands and their careful motions. "You got us out of there."

"After three months. Three months of hell... and this for you." Greg replied in a low voice. He sighed.

Gil exhaled a little shakily, and shifted a hand to rest over his stomach, the curve that stood out while it seemed like the rest of his body was starting to melt away. "It could have been worse."

"We could be dead?" Greg nearly laughed. "Sorry. I'm meant to be relaxing you."

'We could be dead," Gil agreed calmly enough. "Or we could still be there. If this is..." Gil paused, seemed thoughtful. "They're tentatively going to try to remove it in an early c-section in eighteen weeks. The date could shift either way. If we were still there, I don't think they'd be trying to put into such consideration what timing is most likely to keep me alive."

"No they weren't." Greg replied and then winced. "I mean, some things they said make sense now."

"I probably shouldn't ask, but they weren't particularly communicative towards me." Gil shifted his shoulders, and then brought a hand up to cover a yawn.

He remembered to keep massaging. "I'll tell you another time, Gil, after the massage."

"Sure." Gil understood that it didn't matter, Gil didn't protest that he wanted to hear it right then, even though Greg... probably would have. Maybe. "Catherine left me a 'first time parents' book. It said it should start moving more soon. You could probably get a laugh out of it."

"I need to read up on it all again. It's been a long time since I helped out Julie," Greg murmured still continuing with the massage. "She was a roommate at college and her boyfriend got her pregnant and enter Greg who was too geeky and too young to be mixing with the more extreme crowds and.... I spent a lot of that year helping her out."

Of course, helping out a hot fellow college freshman was pretty different from helping out Gil Grissom, the untouchable, brilliant Gil Grissom. Not that Greg thought that Gil was probably any less scared and freaked out and worried. "Then you've had experience. I... just remember Catherine and Lindsey. And that was further back in time than your friend Julie could have been."

"Not by much," Greg answered. "I liked doing it."

He had, he had got swept up in the closeness and miracle of it all and for a time he had wondered, even offered to Julie that he could be little Ben's 'father'. But she'd looked at him and said, "But Greg, you're gay."

He'd made some flip comment about it being bisexual actually and didn't that just prove that he was a sensitive guy? But he'd taken the point. Last he'd heard, she'd moved back home and he'd had an invite to a wedding a few years back which he had missed. He had a sudden thought. "Gil, when it does move, will you... will you let me touch your stomach?"

God, that sounded weird, but he'd loved doing it to Julie, and then listened to her moaning about how random strangers wanted to come up and put their hands on her belly.

"Why wouldn't I? It's... he or she is part of you, too. And if I..." Gil cleared his throat a little. "I want you to feel close to him. Her. If something happens to me..."

Greg's hands clenched a little and he had to will them to relax. "Don't say that. Don't think that," he said immediately. "That won't happen." He didn't go through all that to have Grissom die. "We'll both be there."

"I hope. But..." Gil made a soft almost-laugh. "It's funny. Death hasn't ever bothered me before. But I really want to live, now. I want to get through this with desperation that I, I can't explain."

"Will you hit me if I say maternal instinct?" Greg replied softly, easing Grissom to lie back against him. It seemed like a natural move.

And it must have been, because Gil went with it. He was warm despite being bare-chested, warm enough that Greg could feel him through the t-shirt. "I might." It sounded like Gil was smiling when he said it. "It's... easier not to be overly concerned when it's just you. I know that my mother would cope if something happened to me, but."

"But a baby is something different." And he wasn't sure how he would cope if something happened to Gil. He was still the steel and titanium holding him together even now. He twitched the covers over Gil, so he didn't get cold. "I think you underestimate your importance in people's lives Griss."

"Maybe, but the department somehow managed to go on without me." For three months, and the FBI had taken the case right out of their hands. Maybe if the team had been allowed to look for them, they would have been found and it would have taken less than Greg's phone call to 911 to get them out.

"We're different without you," Greg answered softly. "Everyone is different. It feels different... we work because the job is right but you've always been a part of that. For me."

Great Greg, why don't you just confess your undying love and be done with it. It would have probably saved them both time and embarrassment. Gil sighed, and he seemed to finally relax, leaning back against Greg like that. "You know, we could watch movies and TV until our brains rot out, or..."

"Or?" Greg asked exhaling gently as his arm looped gently around Gil. It felt good, how he had imagined and he was aware he ought not to allow it to feel too good.

"If you're interested, I could teach you things." There was a lot he wanted to learn from Gil, some of it probably not in Gil's idea of a lesson plan.

"How about we do both?" Greg asked. "If I ever make it back to being fit for duty or back in the field, I'd like to be good at it."

"You'll make it back to the field, Greg." Gil shifted, and lifted his hand to muffle a yawn. "I believe you can do it."

"Well, you can impart all your wisdom to me while I look after you," Greg murmured. "Think you can go to sleep now?" He actually felt like he could with a warm weight leaning on him. That was nearly a miracle in itself.

"I think I can. If you want to stay in here, Greg I think this room is warmer than the living room." Gil shifted a little, sitting up and turning around again, and there went most of the warm weight.

"I was... pretty comfortable how we just were," Greg said tentatively. Who was he kidding? "But sure, I could stay in here. Somewhere."

"I don't sleep well sitting up." Gil shifted, and put a hand on Greg's leg as he moved back a little more. "Sorry."

"Right. Right, of course. Sorry." Greg felt like a bit of a fool. "I'll... grab my covers or something. Bring them in."

Gil grabbed his t-shirt, but just held it in one hand, still leaning on Greg a little. "I think I have enough blankets in here. Unless you want to trade the futon for the floor?"

"No... no, I'd rather stay here, if you don't mind," Greg replied hastily. "If that's really okay."

"It's really okay." Gil shifted, waiting for Greg to move so he could put his pillow back in place, pulling tiredly at the sheets. "That felt good. Thank you, Greg."

"My pleasure," Greg said shifting to one side, hoping he had interpreted it correctly that he could stay there, just allowing Grissom to lie comfortably. "Hopefully you can get some more sleep."

Gil shifted to lie on his side again, and shoved his t-shirt up under the pillow as he made himself comfortable. "Nudge me if I snore."

Greg chuckled a little. "I can't imagine that but I will," he promised as he lay down himself. He actually felt like sleeping. God.

Even if he was just looking at Gil's back all night, the back of his neck, the edge of his shoulders before they curled in a little, that protective sleeping position that seemed at odds with the man. "Night..."

Just a few inches between them, but it was closer than Greg had ever suspected he'd get to him, and it was going to have to do. He knew Gil was alive, that he wanted to keep living, and that was something for Greg to hold onto.

Just have something to hold on to was enough to let him feel a drowsiness of his own over take him and he curled in beside him. "Night..." he managed softly and for the first time in nearly three months, he fell asleep without tranquilizers or sedatives.

Slow and disoriented was an almost novel way to wake up. Gil was used to jerking awake, or coming to sharply, digging through the threads of foggy dreams that made his skull ache and his brain throb. His dreams had been distressing, sickening, but they faded away when he opened his eyes. The bedroom was dark, and he was nice and warm, curled up comfortably on his side. No bright white rooms where the lights never turned off, as many blankets as he liked, and a comfortable mattress.

The bed was just big enough for two, and that was why he heard snoring instead of dead silence.

Now that was surprising, as was the flung out arm that half draped over him, and the body tucked in close. Greg. He had to think a while how on earth they had reached a situation where Greg was sleeping in his bed. Admittedly, it looked like he was fully dressed, and not exactly in a conventional post-romantic style but most definitely there.

It came to Gil eventually. He remembered talking with Greg, and agile fingers rubbing at his shoulders, and a sense of almost-relief that had settled over him, a suggestion of... hope that had set in at some point.

Gil looked out into the dark hall that was beyond the bedroom, and closed his eyes again. There was a little feeling, like a bubble popping low in his stomach. So he wasn't the only one awake.

Was that a definite movement? Oh... god, yes it was. The first one. The first internal proof that there was something living inside of him, something real. He caught his breath a moment, undecided whether he should be pleased or horrified and that thoughts of sci-fi films should be pushed far from his mind.

Gil tried to keep his shaky inhalation quiet, even when he dropped a hand to press against the curve of his stomach. It wasn't quite an alien, but he'd had about as much choice as a person in a sci-fi film had with whatever symbiote that had infected them.

It was a flutter, like butterfly wings under his fingers. Life flickering there.

The snoring had stopped beside him and he could hear Greg's breathing going ragged again. Maybe his slight shift away had just been enough to set that off.

Gil shifted, scooted back slightly and put himself back into contact with Greg. It moved again, that same flutter and it made it sharply real. He couldn't feel it through his fingertips, but the skin beneath, inside, could feel it. Moving, rolling around, and getting comfortable. Maybe it was even hungry.

Speaking of which, he was actually a little hungry. He glanced at the clock and was amazed to see how late it was. That had to be the longest sleep he had had in.... well, since it happened.

Greg was making small sounds in his sleep. Half words that were difficult to distinguish. They appeared to be along the lines of 'stop' and 'gotta find' and his own name mixed in.

It took concentration to get all of his limbs moving, and Gil shifted to lie on his back. "Greg?"

That seemed to startle the other man enough to shock him into disorientated wakefulness, gasping for breath.

"Oh man... mmm..." Greg blinked and seemed to realize where he was. "Uh... Gil?"

"Morning." He didn't move to lean up yet, just turned his head to look at Greg, hand still on his stomach.

"Am I really in your bed?" Greg asked, still sounding a little blurry around the edges.

"You are." Gil said it cautiously, waiting for Greg's eyes to focus while he sat up. "Should I turn on a light?"

"Nah, I'm okay." Greg pushed himself up a little. "You okay? Been awake long?"

"No. I just woke up. The clock says nine thirty." This meant that they'd actually gotten a more than sufficient night's rest for once.

"Wow. That's like... sleeping right," Greg replied yawning. He obviously noticed the way Grissom was resting his hand on his stomach. "You feel okay? No pain or anything?"

"It's moving a little. Nothing I can feel in my hand, but..." Gil shrugged, and started to sit up, moving his hands to the mattress to sit up. "Do you want to try making breakfast, or go into town?"

"The baby's moving?" Greg sat straight up. The look on his face was akin to awe rather than shock or horror. "You stay there, I'll make something for you. What do you feel like having?"

Awe, and not shock and horror, which was what Gil wrestled with while he finished sitting up, and then paused to wonder what he'd done with his t-shirt. "I feel like getting out of bed and helping, Greg."

"Okay." Greg rifled around and found the screwed up garment. "Here." He swung his legs out of the bed and thumped to the floor. "I'd almost forgotten what it could be like to actually sleep."

"So did I. I appreciate what you did. It helped." Gil unwound it, and turned it back right side in to pull it over his head again.

"Well, hey if it helps you sleep then we can do it every night," Greg replied, getting up and stretching. "You know, if I was going to work I would have been late waking up now."

"Same here. It's been a while since I got this much sleep." He rubbed a hand through his hair, and finally put his feet on the floor. "We could take a shot at pancakes."

"I do good pancakes," Greg announced happily. He was a far cry from the young man who had stood at his doorway only a couple of days before. He seemed a little more like his old self -- glimmers of it showing through. "If you've got the ingredients, I can do them up for you. And me. I like a nice pancake."

"I do, too. You know, Greg, I can cook. Just for reference, since you seem to be happy to take over the kitchen." While Greg headed out into the hallway, finally turning on a light, Gil followed.

"I like to feel useful," Greg replied in a statement that revealed far too much about him. "If you want to cook then that's cool. I was just hoping to repay your hospitality."

"You're useful. Just promise to show me how you make pancakes," Gil decided as he shadowed Greg into the living room and the kitchen space that it led into.

"Sure. Now these are something that Poppa Olaf used to make for me when I was staying with him. He made the best ever -- without mixes or anything," Greg rambled on. "How do you usually do it?"

"Flour, baking powder, an egg, milk, and that's it, I think." Gil tilted his head, and then nodded to himself. "That's it."

"Sounds like all we'll need. Sometimes we'd put a bit of vanilla in... that tastes good," Greg said as he rattled around in the kitchen looking for pans and bowls and putting them on the side. "He froths the milk but doesn't over-beat the egg. That's the trick to it."

"Frothing the milk?" Gil leaned back out of the way, and watched Greg move

"Yeah. I bought him one of those little hand held gadgets that you can use for cappuccino to use for it," Greg seemed happily distracted by his cooking endeavors. "But I can use a whisk or something. And he said that the trick to a good omelet it to lightly beat the egg. Apparently, whisk it too much and it beats the air out. But with the milk, you beat the air in."

He certainly seemed to know what he was doing. So Gil leaned back, after reaching forward to pull open the drawer that would have a whisk, and just watched, taking in the sight of Greg moving around the kitchen like he belonged there. And maybe he did, better than Gil did. "You know, you're doing a pretty good job without help..."

"I'm trying to impress you," Greg said with a part smile as he took the whisk. "You'll probably heave them all up or something."

"I've had the free time to very scientifically take note of things that make me sick. Normal coffee is one of them." It was hard not to sound a little grumpy at that, but he did have good instant, even if it was so fake that it was caffeineless.

"Probably too acidic. Julie used to like these smoothies I made with fresh fruit and yoghurts. She seemed to think that they settled her stomach. But... I mean it might be different for you. I'm not sure how it's working. It might be that it's difficult for you to digest or something," Greg answered as he cracked eggs into one bowl, put the pan on to heat with a little oil, and then whisked at the milk in another.

"We'll try it some time." Some time. He'd been trying to be cheap with his grocery shopping, because he wasn't getting his supervisor pay. It didn't matter that he didn't have to pay for the cabin, but he was as good as temporarily unemployed. His sick-leave pay had already ended, and living out of a well-padded bank account was... uncomfortable when Gil knew that he hardly had anything going back into it.

Catherine seemed to know that, and her spontaneous trips to get supplies had become more frequent. The FBI kept reassuring him that somewhere he would be recompensed for the time and effort, but he wasn't going to count on that.

"Well I guess we have to go into town sometime right?" Greg asked. "Where is this appointment we're going to?"

"Reno. You'll see when we get there, and it's still a few days away." Gil watched him, and then added, "I was actually thinking about telling you then. Waiting to tell you, I mean."

"Like a... seeing is believing thing?" Greg asked, looking over his shoulder at him. "Maybe I still need to do that, you know? I'm still sorry I reacted like that. I know you wouldn't lie to me."

"It's not exactly something that people expect to run into in their day to day lives. I know seeing it will help..." Gil shrugged his shoulders a little. "If you're all right in here, I'm going to check my e-mail..."

"Sure, you go ahead," Greg replied. "It'll take a little while to do up a stack."

"If you need help..." Gil offered one last time as he turned to head into the living room and towards his laptop. He had a lot of people keeping in touch through e-mail, from his mother to Sara, and he hadn't checked it since Greg had arrived.

It didn't take long to fire up and he kept toying with the means of how exactly he should tell his mother. It wasn't an e-mail sort of discussion. Half of him just wanted to hide it, but there was going to be no hiding the consequences. He probably did need to speak to her face to face. With proof.

So, after the appointment he'd get the newest ultrasound and hopefully it would look less like a blob and more like a baby. That didn't make it any easier, but if he did survive, he couldn't exactly show up with a son or a daughter and not expect his mother to react sharply even if he pretended there was an absent mother. He couldn't do that. It was very hard to lie in sign language; the nuances were more profound in movement than they were in voice and tone. Maybe he should invite her up -- she was continually offering. Worried about him, she said.

No wonder she was worried. He'd been missing for three months, and the department had been all but ready to declare him dead. He hadn't stopped by, hadn't visited, hadn't done more than write stilted letters full of careful wordings because there was no way to give voice to the things that were haunting at the edge of his mind.

Gil tapped the space bar a little boredly while he waited for his mail program to unfreeze and download his mail.

Interesting haul today. One from Brass, who wasn't the world's greatest fan of e-mail. Two from Catherine, a sizable one from Sara. What looked to be a joke forwarded by Warrick and one from Nick. Greg's visit seemed to be a catalyst to get them in contact. Oh yes, and one from his Mom.

Gil hovered a finger over the touch pad, and then moved to and clicked on the one from Jim. It wasn't that he was procrastinating; it was just that he was stalling. Simple as that.

It was short and a little disturbing.

Hope Greg got up there okay. Heard a tip from the FBI that they're closing in on the last couple of people from the 'Experiment Factory.' One guy, a Dr. Rosharo and another who seemed to be one of the muscle -- only caught the first name Andrew but alias of Tiger. Be on the look out. They picked up the trail because they located one of the other victims. FBI doesn't want to worry you, I think. Call if you want to talk about it.


To the point. Gil should have only expected Jim to mail him if it was an emergency, and he clicked reply before he could think of an answer to reply with. Gil shifted, juggling the laptop on his lap, and sat back as he tried to think. Did he tell Greg, and throw him back into a fit of nerves?


I'll call sometime, Jim. Greg got here in one piece and everything seems all right. He's eating, and it's a start. Thanks for the heads up -- I'm not going to tell Greg, but I am going to keep an eye out. Did they happen to harm the other victim, or... ? I'll call when I think you'll be off shift. Thanks.


At least someone was looking out for him. He'd much rather know than walk right into the problem and freeze up or something. It made him a little wary about the other e-mails. He hoped there wasn't too much bad news. He didn't think he could deal with much more.

Gil hesitated over the mails, and then clicked on the mail from Nick. It couldn't be a coincidence that Greg's arrival was heralded with so much mail.

Hi Grissom,
I know I haven't sent an e-mail for a while, but since you've taken time off to be away from the lab, I kinda thought that would be at cross purposes with what you wanted. Anyway, we're all wondering how you are, and Greg too. We weren't expecting Greg just to go off like that -- didn't hear about the medical leave until after he had gone (he told you about that right?). I've had a couple of calls from his parents, really worried because they can't get hold of him and he hasn't replied to e-mails for quite a while. When I said he had been suspended from duty on medical grounds they nearly freaked. Not sure, but I think they might be on their way to Vegas and maybe up to you somewhere. I hope you can get through to him. It was killing us not being able to do anything.
Same goes if we can help you, Griss. You know my number, even if I'm not sure I can do anything to help you that you haven't already done yourself.

Talk to you soon,

Greg had told him that he'd thought about just staring at the ceiling. So was it better to have him back in Vegas doing that, or there with Gil, underfoot and a little overeager, but awake and interacting with his environment? It wasn't a hard question to answer.

If they contact you again, give them my cell phone number. Greg just arrived early yesterday, but he seems to be doing all right. I'm going to make sure that he rests and hopefully by the time that he comes back, that I come back, he'll be closer to the Greg you remember.
I appreciate you sending this mail, and I'd like to hear how the lab is and how all of you are doing.


Somehow things felt a little less disconnected with Greg there. Perhaps they all felt less embarrassed asking that he was okay and using that as a means to say 'hope you're okay, too' without it sounding too contrived or forced. It looked like Greg would have the same problem that he would have about telling them his parents. He wasn't sure what to make of Greg's reaction to pregnancy in general. This 'Julie' had to be young, and he wasn't sure, but it sounded like Greg had wanted there to be more because of their closeness.

It hadn't happened, obviously. Gil peered over towards the doorway into the little kitchen, and then sat back again. Catherine's mails next, because it was easier to deal with her than Sara yet.

So what actually happened? Telling me you're both fine and everything is okay and to carry on driving back to Vegas doesn't fill me with confidence after I've just been cut off by someone passing out on me. I nearly turned right around and came back, you know that?
I hope you aren't cursing me too much. Look, if it doesn't work out, then let me know. I'll make sure Greg doesn't make things harder for you okay?

And I'm still on at the Feds for that 'maternity pay' for you. Damn bureaucrats!

The second one was short and to the point.

How the hell am I meant to get two bodies out of over six foot of solid tar?
Answers on a postcard...

He answered the second one first, after a moment of thinking.

Cath, try liquid nitrogen, If you freeze it, you should be able to chip it away like ice.

Then the first one, but Gil took his time to reread it while he contemplated how to reply.

I'm not sure what to say, except that we're both fine. He's making breakfast now. He seems to have taken the news well, and when he passed out, he managed not to concuss himself. The best I can do is to make sure that he eats and sleeps and keeps mildly busy.
I think that it's going to work out, even if I'm not pleased with the way that you forced my hand. I know that it had to be done. He slept in my room last night, and sometime we need to get him winter clothes. If you maybe can get a spare key from Nick, or... ? And get into his apartment, I'd appreciate if you mailed a box of heavier clothes up here. He seemed to forget how cold it gets up here.


That would cause some raised eyebrows, he knew that. Catherine knew how wary he was about letting people into his personal space. Tar. Damn, he would have liked to try that himself.

He looked at the unread e-mail and hesitated. Maybe he could ignore it.

Except that his mother would be worried, and it wasn't as if they did call each other, and oh. Look, there was still a mail from Warrick to read, and Sara, so he clicked on Warrick's first.

It was in fact a joke, funny enough to bring a slight smile to his lips and a short note at the bottom telling him to stay in touch before Ecklie ate them alive without him.

He shot back a quick mail that he'd be back before Ecklie got that bad, and to keep in touch. Warrick would do all right. Warrick could probably take over the shift for Catherine just fine.

That left the mail from Sara and the mail from his mother.

He wasn't sure what would be most painful. Different difficulties but difficulties nonetheless.

Maybe his mother's would be best. Resolutely he clicked on that one.

It's been a while since we talked Gilbert. Yes, I'm using your full name just so you know I'm not letting you get away with it forever. I know you're protecting me from something -- didn't you always say that you could never get anything past me? I've been waiting for you to tell me, but you talk as if your fingers were broken along with something inside of you. Gilbert, please... I've survived a great many things, and no doubt I'll survive a few more before my time is through. I think we need to have a proper talk about what happened to you in your ordeal. I know you. You don't like letting other people so close that they can hurt you. I'll fly to Vegas the moment you tell me it's possible.

All my love.

Gil closed his eyes for a moment. That was what he'd been expecting her to write; that was what he'd been waiting for. And where to start? That there was something growing inside of him, but his fingers were fine, and he was trying to protect her from something, and that he wasn't even in Vegas anymore.

I should have written you sooner. I know that, but I never knew where to start. I still don't. I'm not in Vegas right now. I'm out on a sabbatical until I'm ready to go back. I'm living in a cabin up in Jackpot, still in Nevada. It's in the north. The other CSI that was taken when I was has been put back on medical leave, so he's staying with me. I'm not sure for how long.
There are a lot of things going on that I can't articulate right now. I can't quite explain everything that happened. There are some things that I need to tell you, but I think e-mail is the wrong medium. At the same time, I don't know how I'd tell you face to face.

Your son.

If he knew his mother, she would come after him one way or another. She had always found her own way in life, and set an example of independence. He'd often wondered if that had been why he never seemed to have a compulsion to have someone, anyone... because she never had.

There was no putting it off any longer. Sara.

Grissom... Gil,
Maybe this is the wrong time or the right time to say something, I don't know. I was never much good at this sort of thing. I can't help but think my last chance is slipping through my fingers somehow. I came to Vegas because you asked me to, because I thought there was something more than just a spark between us in San Francisco. When you and Greg were taken, I could feel everything falling apart. I know it must have been horrific for you. Greg pretty much said it was his fault. I wouldn't blame you if you resented him for that. I just wish you would come back. I miss you so much.
Maybe this experience has changed your mind, maybe.... what I do know is that you need someone who cares with you. Someone willing to do anything for you, someone you trust.
I think you know what I am talking about.
I moved to Vegas for you -- this wouldn't be that big a change. Don't let the moment pass.

Somehow, coming up with an answer to that was harder than sending a mail to his mother. Gil reread it, and then leaned out a little from the sofa. "Greg? Do you need help in there?"

"Only with the eating," Greg called back. "Nearly done." It smelled nearly done as well, rich inviting flavors drifting out of the kitchen. "Don't know where you keep the syrup though."

"Inside door of the fridge. I'll help you in a minute, I just want to finish my mail." Almost finished, except that in his brief exchange with Greg he hadn't come up with a miraculous answer for how to reply to Sara.

But he started, fingers hesitant over the keys.


I'm staying away from Vegas because there are a lot of things going on in my life. I need time to feel more like myself, I need to heal. I appreciate your offer, but the department needs you more than I do right now, Sara. I don't resent Greg. His view of events is skewed with a heavy case of survivor's guilt.

I miss you, too, Sara. But I can't... I can't. I'll try to come back to Vegas soon. A few more months.

It said a little, but not everything. Whatever he said wasn't going to be enough for her. Besides, the odds were firmly in favor of him not being around after a few more months.

"Pancakes are served," Greg called out. "Come and eat 'em while they're hot."

Gil leaned forward and set his laptop down on the coffee table, closing the lid in the same motion. So many bits of information to think about, and making sure that Greg was doing better was a useful distraction from his own issues, wasn't it? "Coming."

There were plates out waiting and places set for them both. "Any interesting bits of news?" Greg asked, placing the haphazard stack of pancakes down in the middle of the table and then snagging one for himself as he sat down.

"Nick says hello, and that your parents are in a panic. Sara... is Sara. Catherine is concerned, and Warrick says hi." Gil pulled his chair out, and slid into his seat.

"Shit. I forgot to call and tell them I was coming up here," Greg looked uncomfortable. "Guess I wasn't thinking straight. Nick..." He grimaced a little and poked at his plate. "I wasn't really speaking to Nick and Warrick."

"Or anyone?" Gil prodded a little while he took two for himself, and offered Greg the syrup first. "I can't criticize, since I've been up here being a hermit."

Greg took it and poured some. "Yeah well. I was okay like that, y'know? Then Nick and Warrick got me drunk and..." He flushed with embarrassment. "I just hated them knowing."

Gil didn't ask what they knew. It wasn't his place to ask that, or expect that he knew as much or more than they did. He just watched Greg pour the syrup, and asked, "Do you regret having told me what I know?"

"No. No, I mean it's different with you because you were there and you know what it was like," Greg replied eating some pancake. "But I told them stuff about... the assaults and things. I'm not sure... I don't know what you'd think of me then."

"You think that I'd think of you in any particularly bad light because you were sexually assaulted? I'd... be a hell of a hypocrite if I thought like that, Greg." Gil splashed a little imitation maple syrup over his two pancakes, and started to cut them quickly.

"Did they? I mean..." Greg was looking at him with anxious dark eyes as if the thought of it happening to Grissom was horrifying in a different way.

"Just once. I think it was before they were sure who the donor was and who was the recipient." Before they knew for sure who was fair game, Gil guessed. He speared a couple of triangles of pancake.

Greg closed his eyes a moment and then looked down at his plate. "I'm sorry. I'd hoped that it hadn't happened to anyone else. Stupid I guess."

"Don't apologize. You had nothing to do with it, Greg. It wasn't your fault." He only stopped reassuring Greg so he could eat a little.

Greg put down his fork a moment as his hand appeared to be shaking. "I can't help it. I can't help feeling that I should have been able to stop it. Every time it happened. I tried to make myself think that maybe... if it was happening to me it wasn't to anyone else."

"And it helped you cope at the time. But realistically, we don't know how many other people were there. We never saw them, and no one's told us what happened to them, or who they were or where they came from. I just kept hoping that whatever was being done to me wasn't happening to you, but just because I didn't think it hard enough..."

"Ecklie told you what they did to me, didn't he?" Greg asked. "He didn't say a word about you. My imagination is pretty bad."

"Bad because it runs wild, or because it didn't come up with much?" Gil set his own fork almost down, playing with another sliver that he'd cut. "He told me what had happened to you, what he could. About your leg and your general condition, when we were discussing what my options were."

"What did he say?" Greg seemed desperate to know. "What do you know?"

"That a bone in your leg was fractured, and that you showed signs of repeated sexual trauma." Gil clicked the tines against the plate a little. "Nothing more. You told me more last night. I know we both told more to the interrogating agents that took our statements."

Greg exhaled. "Yeah. I just feel weird about it you know? More like fucked up. Fucked over. Whatever."

"I understand, Greg. It... It's not comfortable knowing that people know." He picked up the fork again, watching Greg.

Greg did likewise, glancing up at him as he took another mouthful. He looked away again. "I know I kinda flirted a lot but I didn't think I was a slut. It was pretty much all talk. I...."

"You dreamed big?" Gil shrugged his shoulders loosely. "Lots of people do. It's normal to make the motions and not take the steps."

"I guess." Greg was looking uncomfortable. "I guess I feel like no one will want anything to do with me after what happened. You don't know, Griss, I mean... it was bad. Really bad. They weren't worried about me being in one piece."

"I had a little taste of it, and that was... enough to last me a lifetime. I can guess how bad it got. But the idea that no one will want you or that you're used goods... ? It's false. Even if they didn't care about you being in one piece, you have friends and family who do care. I care. Nick cares. Warrick cares -- the whole office sent me mail, just to get an answer to make sure that you're all right. You should check your own mail box before it explodes."

"I don't know what to say to any of them," Greg replied. "Besides, what's happening to you is more important."

And Gil knew what to say to them, himself? "It's... not more or less important. It simply is, and it doesn't trivialize what happened to you or make it less. We were each treated to our own separate hells, and I don't want to play the one-upmanship game with that."

"That's... That's not what I meant Griss," Greg said quietly. "I mean, it is important. It's important to me, you being okay is important to me. I..." He seemed like he was half ready to bolt but he didn't. "I liked you before all this but now..."

"Liked me?" Gil missed it, and had to think for a few seconds before it started to sink in. Of course Greg liked him. Greg had all but fallen over himself in happiness the night before when he'd invited Greg to sleep with him. "I... like you, too, Greg."

Greg gave him a startled look. "No you don't," he said decisively. "You put up with me. You... I guess, you indulge me. That's not the same as liking."

"So you think I asked you to come stay here because I wanted to indulge you?" And how did he fix that? Should he even bother trying to correct that perception, or did he just let it lie because it was easier to do so?

"Didn't you?" Greg asked a little weakly with the sort of expression that meant he knew he had made some sort of grievous error somewhere.

"No." He'd done it partially out of pressure from Catherine, and partially because she'd been so cryptic about how Greg had been doing. And that had been much worse than Gil had previously been led to believe.

Greg just stared at him for a long moment. "Okay. Okay. God I feel like an idiot. I might as well make a complete fool of myself. I'm... I'm obsessed by you. I more than l... like you."

Gil picked up his fork, and started to eat again, giving a faint gesture to Greg to try to do the same. "You were watching me sleep last night? Or not sleep?"

Greg obediently ate a bit more. "Yeah. I guess I was. I woke up with a nightmare and I just needed to know where you were and that you were okay. Not just wanted it, but needed it. They told me it was a coping mechanism but... Gil, I feel... different when it comes to you."

Different. He felt different about Gil, that edge of something more that Gil picked up every time that Greg talked about Julie. Maybe it was that all over again, or maybe it wasn't. Gil ate, watching Greg and not quite answering him, trying to think. "Greg, I... honestly have no idea what to say."

"I know. I know, it's okay. There's no expectations or anything," Greg said hurriedly with a nervous laugh. "I just wanted you to know why I've been doing some of the freaky things I've been doing."

It explained things a little, and helped in an odd way. "I... why don't we just see how things happen, Greg. I wouldn't call anything you've been doing 'freaky', just..." Just not quite normal for someone that Gil had always guessed was your average T&A guy.

"Me being me," Greg ate some more of his pancake. "Don't feel the urge to throw me out then?"

"No, not particularly. We're... I mean, neither one of us is a picture of normalcy right now." Gil ate another forkful, and then started to stand up. "Do you want any 'coffee'?"

"Sure. This being the fake coffee right?" Greg asked looking up. "That will fix everything."

"Fake coffee fixes all?" Gil scooted his chair out, and moved to get the water to boil. "Have any aspirations for the day?"

"Aspirations?" Greg poked at another pancake. "Well you said you might want to teach me stuff. So maybe after I've cleared up and done domestic duties we could do that. Or a movie. I play chess too. Anything really."

Gil flipped the water on, and then peered over his shoulder at Greg. "Domestic duties?"

"You don't think I'm going to let you do all the work?" Greg asked in surprise. "I'm well trained for a single guy. I can do laundry and put stuff away."

"But... It's a small place, Greg. There isn't much to do but set the dishes in the sink to soak." Gil tilted his head at Greg and put the water in the microwave. "I appreciate the offer and I'll remember that when it's been a while since the laundry's been done. We have to go into town to do it."

"Well, I offered," Greg shrugged. "Looks like I get to bug you some more. If you want time alone, just say okay? I won't be offended."

Or he would, and he'd just try not to show it. But it was the best thing that Greg could probably offer and the most that Gil could expect. "If I need time alone, I'll say it. But... It's good to have company."

The microwave beeped at him.

"Yeah. I don't freak out with you close like I do with the others." Greg mused a moment. "I nearly hit Brass when he put a hand on my shoulder."

"You would have hurt your hand if you had." Gil shifted to get the mugs and the powdered coffee, falling into the routine of making it. "I'm glad you don't see me as a threat."

Greg smiled a little at that, the expression seeming to touch him more and more even in the short period they had been together. "Only a threat to my feet."

"And I have no samples of bacteria here." He poured the water over the powder in each mug, and took his time stirring them up. "Chess. There's a set in the bedroom closet."

"You play?" Greg asked watching him make the coffee. "I thought you were into poker?"

"Poker, chess... Games have a human element to the strategies used in them." He turned back towards Greg with the mugs in hand, and set Greg's down before he slipped back into his chair again. His back twinged a little. "I'm a better poker player than I am a chess player. Warrick can tell you that."

"If you can beat Warrick then you have to be. He clears me out of our chips made of chips regularly. Last time he..." Greg paused a moment and shook his head. "God, that was before everything."

"Actually, I've never played poker against Warrick. I meant chess. He's very good at it." Gil took a sip of the luke-coffee, and started to finish his pancakes. For a moment, he hesitated, and then took another from the stack in the middle of the table.

"You like them?" Greg asked. He'd managed about one and a half and was leaning back as if he was full.

"They're good. Are you done?" If he was, he'd have to try to get Greg to eat more later. Gil cut up the one he'd taken, and used it to quickly mop up the last of the syrup.

"Yeah. I guess I'm not used to eating too much," Greg replied. "I'll eat them cold later or something."

"I was just thinking that. I try not to waste food, so..." Gil shrugged, eating a little more before he sat back with his coffee cup in hand, nursing at it.

Greg sipped at his. "I haven't played chess in a while. I might be rusty." He looked at the cup a moment and then sipped again.

"You'll still probably beat me." Gil scraped the last piece around the plate, and then ate it. "I'll get the set out."

"Want to set up in the living room?" Greg asked. "A bit more comfortable there?"

"That was just my thought," Gil admitted as he got to his feet again. "We'll play a few games and then... do whatever. Thank you for the wonderful breakfast."

Greg smiled. "Glad you liked it. I like cooking when I have time for it. I'm usually on the way out somewhere, though, so I do quick and easy." Yogurt. Ramen. Ice cream. Gil knew.

"Well, we won't be in any particular rush up here. You can take your time doing anything you want." And Gil hoped that included Greg mailing his friends and family, but he wasn't going to press more than he'd already done for one day. "I'll get the set if you want to wrap the pancakes up and put them in the fridge."

Greg nodded. "That I can do," he said, standing up and reaching to clear up even as Gil headed off to the other room.

Greg was still jumpy and Gil still wasn't sure how to deal with him, but it seemed that didn't matter to Greg. Just being there was almost enough. It was flattering and a little worrying at the same time.

It couldn't be that simple, and he was no one to rely on. Not him, not the way he was now. He'd meant it when he'd told Catherine that the best he could do was try, but what if that wasn't enough to help Greg?

Gil took his coffee with him, and headed back towards the bedroom. He'd just have to hope it was.

For the second day in a row, Greg was sleeping. He was warm and if nightmares plagued him, the warmth close to him comforted him enough to keep him under.

He had been awkward about asking to sleep in the same bed again. In the end, he had just offered Gil the massage again; and like before, both of them relaxed as part of the process. The downside was that over three months and more of sleep deprivation tried to cram itself into his brain and keep him well and truly asleep.

Greg woke to a cold startled sweat from a nightmare of being trapped and a thumping noise and realized it was someone at the door. Jesus, his heart was racing, but Grissom was sleeping comfortably and that was rare enough not to spoil so he slipped out to send them away. This was the middle of the night to them.

He padded out barefoot, mussed and still unaware of how rough he looked as he cautiously opened the door. And nearly staggered back in alarm.

That was his father standing in the doorway, a crumpled piece of paper in one hand, and the other poised awkwardly to knock again. His mother was standing back by Greg's car, peeking into the windows, their own sedan double-parked behind Gil's SUV. "Greg!"

"Mom... uh..." Oh crap. How had they found him? "Hi..."

His mother was bearing down on him, her dark blonde hair and blue eyes showing clearly where the Scandinavian descent was in their family tree. Greg had taken after his father in many respects. "Greg! We were worried sick about you!"

"Uh, I'm okay, Mom," he protested, trying to work out how he suddenly felt like he was ten again.

"Well, I don't think that's really true, do you?" she said as she reached for him and despite himself he stepped back, nearly tripping.

He wasn't supposed to flinch back from his parents. He knew he wasn't supposed to, because they were his parents, and he wasn't flinching from Grissom, so how fucked up was that? He was sleeping with Grissom, and stumbling back over the door edge was probably going to wake him up. "Rane, don't start yet. Greg hasn't even had time to say hi. We were worried about you and your friends..."

"Dad, I'm doing okay," Greg said nearly tongue-tied. "Why... I mean how did you get here?"

"Well, it seems that some of your friends at least recognize that we might be worried about our son not answering calls, or e-mails or any form of contact," his mother replied. "Peter, tell him how worried you've been. And look at you! Look at him. Have you eaten a thing since the last time we were here?"

His father at least cleared his throat a little, peering past Greg and into the dark little living room. He and Gil had left the chess set up on the coffee table, but it had been pushed back in favor of some of Gil's favorite texts. Gil had seemed to delight in the idea of keeping Greg 'into' forensic science.

"We're letting cold air in, Rane. Why don't we talk inside?"

His parents were an unstoppable force. He'd always known that. "Uh, yeah. As long as we're quiet. Grissom is still sleeping and he hasn't been sleeping well."

"I'm not surprised. I thought he vanished, sweetheart?" his mother let herself in past him.

"He needed time away," Greg defended automatically. "He went through a rough time."

"So, we believe, did you. If you'd talk about it to us." Rane Sanders looked around the place. "I should have brought up some feng shui mirrors. I've just added them to the Higher Nature Catalogue."

The urge to squeak 'mirrors?' at her was hard to resist as his parents all but backed him into the living room. It was dark, but Greg was comfortable moving around in the darkness, while his father steadied himself with a hand on his mother's shoulder. "That might not be a good idea, since I think there're vampires living here."

"Vegas time. Difficult habit to shift, Dad," Greg said absently trying to smooth his hair some more. "I uh... Gil has some decaf coffee if you want some. Um. Yeah. How did you find us?"

"I told you, your friends. The ones you also haven't been speaking to," his mother said firmly. "Or have you forgotten them, too?"

Greg winced a little at that. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you, worry you. I wasn't thinking." It was easier to take the blame somehow. It always was, rather than watch his mother become so wound up she was like a tornado waiting to happen.

"Just the occasional answering of your mail, son. After what happened, it... it's scary to have you drop off like that. You came up here so fast that your friends in Vegas were worried, and after you were put back on medical leave, which we had to find out from a friend of yours..." His father was going on and on, and the only saving grace was the sound of the bedroom door creaking the rest of the way open.

Gil had thrown real clothes on, a button down shirt and pants, which was fine except for the part that he peered out into the hallway with a gun in hand. "Greg?"

Greg looked around from where he was feeling harried and fraught. "It's... it's okay, Griss, it's my parents. They uh, tracked me down."

"Which we shouldn't have had to do. You should have come home with us. You weren't ready to go back to work," Rane spoke up. "Medical leave. That's not good is it? If you had said, you know I would have given you some herbals to boost your system. Lord knows I sell enough of them to know the good things."

Gil hesitated, and then started down the hallway towards them. "Mr. and Mrs. Sanders, it's a pleasure to meet you both." He offered Greg's dad his hand first after having moved his gun to his left hand. There wasn't really any place to put it down, and Greg's father watched the motion. He'd done a few things like that that Greg could remember.

"Call me Peter. This isn't exactly a professional meeting."

"Rane," Greg's mother introduced herself. "We've heard a lot about you, Mr. Grissom."

That was a phrase guaranteed to make Greg even more nervous. "I'll uh, make some coffee then." Or run out of the house, down that path and disappear into the woods. God. How was he going to deal with it? His parents. He couldn't expect Gil to cope with them.

Gil shook her hand, and sidestepped to put the gun down on the coffee table. "Have you? Well, it's good to meet you, too. Greg, the other mugs are over the microwave. So did you two drive all the way up here from San Gabriel... ?"

"From Vegas, actually," Greg heard his father tell Gil. "Nick mentioned that you said Greg needed more winter clothes, so we have a couple of boxes in the car."

Gil had told Nick that? When had Nick spoken to Gil? He knew that he wasn't speaking to Nick and he had to know how he felt about other people at the moment.

"We do tend to get worried when our son goes quiet," Rane said looking at him pointedly.

Gil cleared his throat slightly, and finally leaned away to put the gun down on the coffee table, on top of his laptop. "Mrs. Sanders, after... what happened, it's normal for people to..."

"Stop talking to other people entirely? It might be normal, but it's not healthy, Mr. Grissom."

Maybe it wasn't too late for him to run outside and just hope the wolves were up early and had designs on eating him alive. It was never too late to dream, was it?

Gil sounded like he was at a loss for words when he answered, "Would you like to sit down?"

"Thank you," Rane sat down elegantly. "It's difficult to help someone when they won't be helped."

Greg shifted uncomfortably. "Mom, look I'm sorry, okay? I said I'm sorry... I just... needed to get away." And now he felt like he was apologizing for what happened to him. He was still half tired and dazed and he knew he wasn't thinking as clearly as he should be. "I didn't really think it was a problem."

"Obviously not," Greg's father went on. God that pedantic, lecturing tone meant he was in for it, both barrels from both parents. "Since you didn't answer your mail or your phone, or--"

"Mr. Sanders?" Gil's voice cut him off, tone softly sharp, the way he was when a suspect was lying to him in interrogation when he had the evidence to back up that it was a lie. "Greg came up here to rest and relax, so his medical leave is put to a good use. I know you'd like to carry on with your interrogation, but you're not accomplishing anything with it. If you keep on like that, I'm going to have to ask you to leave my property, and I don't want to have to do that."

From the stunned look on the faces of his parents, Greg was pretty sure that no one had tried speaking to them in that tone of voice before. He would have enjoyed it had it not been for the fact that they were right. He had worried them, he had made things worse and they did get angry when they were worried. That was their way.

"I apologize for worrying you, Mom, Dad. I didn't mean to. I've just been having a hard time."

His mother cleared her throat. "I'm sorry too. We were just really worried Greg," she said in a much softer tone. "It's not like you."

Greg gave a hesitant weak smile. "Yeah well... I'm not much like me at the moment, Mom." And Gil wasn't much like Gil, and nothing was really anything close to normal.

"We just... were so sure that everything was all right."

"People change when they're under duress." Gil sidestepped Greg's parents, and then passed Greg, getting into the kitchen space behind him, a hand briefly resting on Greg's back. "I'll take care of the coffee."

Wow. Hand on the back and he felt somehow more settled.

"Well I wanted everything to be all right," Greg shrugged a little. "I wanted to believe it myself but I guess I'm not as good at bouncing back from stuff as I thought." He nearly winced a little. He was pretty sure that they knew he had been raped and abused but they had never once referred to it openly. Just in terms of his 'recovery' and his 'injuries'. He couldn't go through it with them, not every single little thing. Even the experiments.

"Perhaps we did, too. I'll never forgive myself for not being here when you needed me," Rane said.

That was rich considering that it had nearly been Poppa Olaf that raised him more than his folks since they were busy working. Not that they didn't care -- they were there, and Greg could only imagine what it had taken for both of them to gang up on him like that. Not that his dad was on call or had to worry about that with his position in the force, and with his mom running her own business... Still. It was still short of a miracle.

"Or being able to do more," his father added, looking up at Greg now that Gil had edged him out of the kitchen. At least the coffee would end up made, even if it was on the sweet and undercaffeinated side.

"I'm doing better now," Greg said grateful that it wasn't a lie. "Since I've been up here. It helps being with someone who's been through the same kind of thing. I can talk about it."

"You can talk about it to us, sweetheart," his mother said. "We're your family, we want to be there for you."

"Mom, it's not the sort of thing I can talk about with you guys. It's not that easy." Greg couldn't think how to get it across.

It wasn't normal to connect better with your boss than your own family, except he was. He was because Gil didn't demand a thing of him, except that he eat and get out of bed eventually. Gil didn't have to demand, he gently poked and prodded and herded Greg, and it was okay. It was good.

"What I think your mother is trying to say..." And his dad shot her a look to verify in that weird eyebrow language that yes, he wasn't going to get slapped for going on. "Is that we want to understand and help you. You shouldn't have to feel like we can't help you. We can, and we want to."

"I know that, Dad, and I'm grateful for it but... I'm not exactly comfortable with bringing it all up to myself, let alone discussing it with other people." Greg shook his head. "You don't know... you can't know what happened okay? It's... It's not anything I want either of you to imagine."

"I think we're capable of empathizing," Rane said looking at her husband. "Both of us have had a lot of experience with life. Your father..."

"Will not have seen or experienced anything like what happened at the Experiment Factory in all his years on the force." Greg felt he had to correct them.

"Experiment factory?" The faint confusion on his father's face was strange to see there. Apparently he hadn't heard it called that yet.

"It's what we've taken to calling it, though the FBI coined the phrase," Gil called back from the kitchen. There was a clink clink clink like he was stirring the coffee up "The place had a certain... Mengele touch to it."

Thank God for Gil who, it seemed, had the magic touch of being able to say things that just quieted his parents.

"Experiments... ? Dear god, Greg. What kind of experiments?" Rane sat on the edge of the couch as if preparing to leap up. It made him feel oddly nervous.

"Uh, not good ones?" he said weakly.

Things like knocking up Gil. With his DNA. And good old fashioned rape and.... "No experiment done on a human being is a good one. Greg..." His dad trailed off, like he was at a loss for a moment. "You never said, and we didn't think that was even a possibility."

"Well I assumed you and Mom had be given the low down on my medical state," Greg replied awkwardly. "I mean, while I was unconscious. Uh. Right?"

"They told us a fair amount, but they were worried about how much blood you had lost and internal damage?" his mother said looking alarmed. "They didn't really say anything about how you got it?"

"It's easier to determine cause of injury on a dead body than it is a living breathing person. I'm sure that at the time, they were unaware." Gil shouldered open the door, balancing four mugs. "Greg, do you want to grab a chair and sit down?"

Greg found himself obeying automatically even though part of him still wanted to be able to flee at any given opportunity. He reasoned that passing out had worked before and he would be more comfortable doing that sitting down if it came to it.

"So what is it that we don't know?" Rane asked looking pale under her normal tan. "What exactly happened in this 'Experiment Factory'?"

"I don't think Greg wants to talk about it," Gil offered at the same time that he offered a coffee mug to her. "We were there not for a few hours or a few days or even a few weeks, but three months. A couple of days short of thirteen weeks."

She took it as if he was offering her some sort of lifeline. "But it's not healthy not to talk about it. " She looked at Greg and he glanced up at her. "I mean look at him. He looks ill."

"If you're boosting my confidence, Mom, it's not working," Greg said trying a half nervous smile. "I'm recovering. Kinda."

"How much... medical leave do you have?"

And his dad still seemed a little cowed, now that Gil was in the room with them again, Gil who'd snapped at them with all of the politeness he could probably muster on just a couple of hours of sleep. Gil sat up mostly straight in the chair that he'd grabbed for himself, leaning forward ever so faintly because the hang of his clothes hid things better that way.

"Um, I don't actually know. Until I'm declared fit I guess," Greg replied suddenly realizing he didn't actually know. He hadn't been thinking about anything in the future when Ecklie sent him home.

"You should come home with us," Rane declared and looked at her husband for back up.

"It isn't as if we don't have the... space." Peter looked around the small living room, that didn't even have enough room for two sofas, so Gil and Greg had to use kitchen table chairs. "And the means. You need... could benefit from therapy, Greg, and this being in the middle of nowhere stuff can't be helping."

Gil was quiet, taking a sip of his coffee, watching both of Greg's parents. "It's not dangerous isolation, but a chance to relax. No expectations for some miraculous recovery."

"I really want to be here," Greg said with more firmness than anything else he'd managed to say all through their initial arguments. "I'm not going anywhere, okay? If you're going to keep trying to make me see someone... then I have been. Compulsorily with the department. I've had therapy, Dad, and sometimes it's just too big a problem to fix."

"But with help, they can do all sorts of things...."

"They can't make me forget, Mom." Greg said flatly. "There's no pill that will make me comfortable looking at myself in the mirror again."

Damn, he wished the words back as soon as he said them. His parents weren't stupid.

He was glad that his mother hadn't brought those damn feng shui mirrors with her.

"You.... can't look at yourself in the mirror?" Peter was all but blinking at Greg. "Son, I'm sure that therapy could..."

"It just happened, Mr. Sanders. This recovering takes time. It's not immediate, and I'm sure the kind of therapy that could put a dent into it is the kind that involves being committed. Which would put Greg right back into a situation where he has no control and everything happens to look like the facility that he just got out of did. White walls and beds with restraints."

"White walls and restraints?" Rane's voice had cranked up an octave or so and Greg knew that was a sure sign of trouble ahead.

"I thought you guys knew?" Greg intervened trying to defuse things. "Or had some idea."

"You think we would ever have gone home and left you if we knew?" Rane nearly gasped out. "Do you think I would have taken your word for it that you were okay to go back to work?"

It was a good point. Was that what he thought? Well, yeah it had been. "I thought I said something about it. Most people seemed to know, or work it out."

Thinking about it, they had worked it out. Maybe his Mom and Dad didn't know what certain internal injuries meant.

His dad should have, but his dad wasn't a CSI. So maybe... maybe not. Brass wasn't always so quick to pick up what injuries implied what, and he was a good regular homicide cop.

"Well, we didn't. Jesus, and they let you go back to work?"

"It was probably better than letting him stay in his apartment all day," Gil countered, calmly. So damn calmly as he sipped at his coffee again. It was still pretty hot, but Greg knew it wouldn't last for long. Microwaved water was weird that way. "You can't change what's already passed."

Greg exhaled, noticing that he was gripping his coffee cup with the fervor of a man clinging to a last straw. "I'm sorry, I'm just not comfortable talking that much about it. If you want the technical stuff then yeah, I've got post traumatic stress. That's what they tell me. I've been trying to ignore it and that hasn't been working so I've come here to sort of... deal."

"With someone who is also likely to have post traumatic stress?" Rane looked at Grissom speculatively.

"Gil deals with things better than I do," Greg said immediately.

"And why's that?" Peter peered over at Gil, eyeing him in a way that clearly made Gil uncomfortable.

"Because I do." What Greg had said was true, or at least it seemed to be true. Gil snorted, shaking his head a little. "I appreciate the vote of confidence, Greg. I've had experience with burnout and various other things, and sometimes... this sort of thing is the only way to clear one's head. My head. I don't know if it's going to work for Greg, but it's worth trying?"

Rane looked at them both. "Well, I guess it's a good thing you finally got together before all this happened so you can..."

"Mom!" Greg was practically ablaze with embarrassment. Great, now he couldn't look at Grissom. Oh god, oh god. He might have said something but he had made it seem like nothing not that he'd been talking and talking about what could happen.

And Gil twitched an eyebrow at both of them, at Greg's mom and at Greg, while Greg's father just groaned a little. "Rane..." Yeah, he was in hell and maybe he could pass out. Maybe if he just held his breath...

"I suppose it is a good thing."

Now he was staring at Gil, eyes wide even as his mother carried on.

"Well I guess it was only a matter of time considering how smitten he's been since he started at Vegas. And a relationship can be vital in helping recovery if it can survive the stress."

Greg wondered exactly what horrible misdeed he had done to undergo the peculiar torment of being outed by his own parents.

It was hard to tell which was worse -- that they'd done that, or that Gil was cavalierly playing along with it so Greg wouldn't be further mortified. Or something. There had to be a reason for it, and it was probably related to pity. "I'm afraid I didn't help that by disappearing up here for a few weeks."

"Well I can understand that," Rane said sympathetically. "If you went through a similar ordeal. Of course if you both wanted to come back with us, I'm sure that would be fine, wouldn't it Peter?"

Greg felt like he was trapped in some horrible nightmare that would never end. "Mom, we're okay here. Please."

"Are you sure? It's just... so small." His father looked around again. "Does the heat work well?"

"It's working now," Gil shrugged. "I tend not to run it so high when we're sleeping."

His mother nodded knowingly and Greg was convinced his coffee cup was going to shatter from the pressure his fingers were making. He had to concentrate on his breathing.

"Well. What can we do to help?" his mother was asking and he desperately wanted to say 'leave'. He loved them both but he couldn't quite deal with their own special brand of caring right now.

"I..." Gil glanced over to Greg, and put a hand on Greg's, over top of the mug. It was just a moment, but. "Greg? I can't think of anything."

"I uh... I don't know," Greg replied thinking hard. "I was thinking about getting some more groceries?"

"This reminds me of you being at Stanford," Rane replied. "If getting you to a sensible weight again, and making sure your body is healthy is something we can help with, then we'll do that. Would you like to go out to dinner somewhere? Your father and I obviously can't stay here."

Greg blessed the tiny size of Grissom's house instantly.

"... but we can find somewhere in town, I'm sure. And make sure you have everything you need. I'm not one to throw money at a problem but if it's the only thing we can do..."

"Then we want to do it." Greg's father leaned forward a little, and glanced at his watch. "So, why don't we take you to dinner in town?"

Gil was trying hard not to smile. "The town isn't blessed with a selection of restaurants -- you might have noticed it on the way through."

"They must have something? Or something close?" Rane asked looking between them both.

"I didn't see much. I think there's a diner somewhere," Greg said helpfully. His mother hated diners with an unholy passion that only someone that made a living from health foods and herbal product could muster. His dad would probably kill to go there.

"There's a bar that serves food. It seems to be a local hangout," Gil agreed. He took another sip of his coffee, and shifted, sitting back. It was hard for Greg not to look at the faint curve that he could see beneath Gil's shirt.

"We could try there." Peter looked over to Rane.

Should they tell his parents? How the hell could he tell them that without telling them everything else? Is wasn't that his mother wouldn't understand the technicalities. She was brilliant in her own way and his Dad often joked she knew more than any of their doctors. It was the sheer concept of it. If he did, he'd have to tell them everything, and that filled him with complete dread.

"If there's nothing better..." Rane conceded which was a sure sign she was worried. Greg know she'd make her husband drive fifty miles out of their way rather than stop at a diner when he he a kid.

"I'm sure it will be fine," Greg put in. "Why don't Grissom and I meet you in town a little later?"

His father's eyebrow twitched a little at the last name usage. "It's that small? Look, I'll leave my cell phone on and... your mother and I will try to find a hotel or a--"

"Motel. I think there might be a bed and breakfast. I'd say you could stay here, but all I have to offer is a pullout sofa." Gil said it so apologetically.

"That's very kind of you, Mr. Grissom," Rane replied looking at the sofa. "But I'm not actually sure it would be big enough for two."

"It isn't," Greg said without thinking. "Uh, not really. Give me your number, Dad, and you can call us when you are settled."

"And maybe you can finish up getting some sleep hmm?" Rane said nodding at them both.

Or not, since he was shortly going to be stuck alone with Gil and then Gil'd ask him what the hell was going on. "We'll do that." Gil stood up, and it was like a signal, since Greg's father finished off his coffee and started to stand up, too.

"It'll at least be a couple of hours, so..."

"I'm sure we can find something to look at for a couple of hours," Rane said and Greg belatedly pushed himself up as he saw his mother doing the same. She started to walk to the door as if it was her idea that they were leaving and Greg felt compelled to follow.

Even so he wasn't expecting to be ambushed by a hug. "I'm glad we found you safe and sound."

He could barely hear the words through the rising surge of panic and unreasoning fear, but he forced a stiff nod as his father did the same and he tried to pretend he was normal. Fuck.

Tried to pretend that he wasn't almost hyperventilating by the time that Gil came up behind him. "Do you, uh, have the -- my cell number? It's on and charged. There's no landline phone, so..."

"Unless you've changed it recently, I believe we have it as a contact number," Rane replied giving Greg a strange look.

Greg was busy trying to stop the roaring sound in his ears and ignoring the hint of gray around the edges of his vision. He'd felt so much more stable with Grissom that he'd forgotten how he had been at work, at home.

It had felt like a distant memory, and the idea of going out to dinner with them seemed impossible. In public? Eating and trying to be relaxed, and....

"Good, thank you. It's still the same number." Gil seemed to hurry a little, and he put his arm around Greg's shoulder. "Drive safely."

They gave them both smiles and headed back to their car and Greg found himself leaning into Gil more and more as they waited for the polite moment to shut the door.

He needed to sit down. Quite possibly he needed to put his head between his knees just for a moment. But that, he reminded himself, was a perfectly normal feeling after being visited by his parents.

Grissom finally shut the door and he tried to make it back to a couch.

Gil followed close after him. "Greg? Are you all right?"

"Just... Just give me a minute..." Greg sat down hastily and bent forward to get the blood to rush to his head. "Fuck. Fuck, I've been doing so well with you, I forgot how hard it is with other people."

"That's all right. You did great." Gil perched beside him on the sofa, a hand rubbing hesitantly at Greg's back. "That's a hell of a way to wake up. You were doing fine."

Greg glanced up, aware that he was clammy and cold again and the hand felt warm. "Hey. You're the one that survived the Sanders parental experience with flying colors."

"My mother is a far more subtle manipulator, and comes on much more gently, but efficiently." Gil was watching him, but still rubbing slowly. "You feel cold. Let's get you back to bed."

"Yeah, especially as we now appear to be a couple," Greg grimaced taking a few slow deep breaths. "Dammit, they're my family. I can't have panic attacks at them touching me. How am I going to cope when we go out?"

"Tell me what makes you panic that way," Gil murmured. "And we'll see if we can circumnavigate it."

Greg shook his head. "I don't know. Just... I guess that people only touched me for the wrong reasons from the Factory all that time. I can't help it. I didn't then, that's the crazy thing. I didn't panic when it was happening."

He'd fought, he'd screamed, he'd cried but he hadn't actually panicked.

"I did. So you did better than me." The whole 'my parents think we're a couple' thing apparently had gone right over Gil's head. "So you were all right until they hugged you?"

"I... well aside from terminal embarrassment, yeah. I guess." Greg breathed out and sat up. "That's better. Much better."

"You still feel cold and I think you might do better if you were in bed." Gil kept faintly moving that hand on Greg's back. "Think you can get some more sleep in?"

"Are you coming, too?" Greg asked. He could live in hope. Truth was, he still felt exhausted, even more so for that close encounter.

"Yeah." Fingers slowed, tracing over the ridge of his spine for a moment. "Even if I can't sleep, I'll try."

He looked up at the older man, infinitely grateful for that. He wasn't going to stop it or deny it. He needed it too much to say no. "Thanks, Gil. For all of that. For everything."

"There's nothing to thank me for." Gil stood up, and twisted a little to pull Greg up when he made the motion. "Let's try to sleep more, and we'll deal with them when they call back."

He followed gratefully, if a little guiltily. He kept telling himself he was there for Gil, he was there to make things easier for him and so far there had been precious little evidence of that and a lot more of Grissom helping him.

He was bound and determined to crack this so he could be that person Gil needed. Where he couldn't motivate himself for his own needs, he could for Grissom. For Grissom, he'd already proven he could do something everyone thought was impossible. And with any luck, he could help Grissom do the same.

He could get used to it.

Gil could get used to it, the feeling of Greg weighing down the mattress behind him, of lean fingers half-reaching out in a doze to cling to him, and disappearing again like nothing had happened when Greg woke up. There was no talking about it, no thinking, and no explanation. What was simply was, and that was how Gil needed to handle it. Greg thought he was coping so well, and it made Gil want to cope better somehow instead of gathering up all of the unspoken assumptions in his life and living off of them. But it worked -- the assumption that Jim would understand what was going on, the assumption that Catherine would somehow always be there and help when he felt at a loss, the assumption that Greg's sick-leave would go on and on and he wouldn't be left alone to deal with it.

Gil had a sneaking suspicion that Greg was only going to have a few months, maybe one, maybe two, and then it would be sick restless nights and silence and the twitching knowledge that they were out there somewhere, looking for them. For him and for Greg.

It would have been easier never to have contacted Greg again than it was to contact him and know that it was only for a little while. When Greg got better, if Greg got better, then he'd go back to Vegas.

But for now Gil was getting behind the wheel of his SUV, waiting for Greg to buckle up.

Greg had stayed close, unobtrusively and he looked like he had been thinking as he slid into the front seat. This was verified when he cleared his throat and spoke. "Gil?"

"Mm?" He wasn't going to broach any more topics on Greg unless they were mindless and easy to deal with for both of them, at least until Greg's parents went back to California.

"Do you think we should tell my parents about you. Me being a father?" Greg was staring straight ahead, purposefully not looking at him.

Should they? Probably not. Probably not, because the likelihood of it happening, everything aligning just so, and him surviving and the baby surviving -- and when had he started to think of it as a baby and not an 'it'? -- was so slim. But if it all went wrong, someone needed to know. Someone other than Catherine, because Greg would need more help than just that. He was already enamored with the idea of being a father, or... whatever it would make him. Gil could tell from the way his eyes lit up whenever Gil had mentioned that the baby was moving a little.

"If you're comfortable with it."

"Well, comfort is a relative thing," Greg said and he sighed. "Because to tell them? I know I've got to tell them everything. Or they won't understand."

"I'm not... sure what everything you have to tell them." Gil glanced over at Greg, taking in his slouched posture.

"Everything that happened to me," Greg said glancing quickly at him. "I... I think I probably have to do that at some point. Don't I?"

"If..." Gil trailed off, braking a little as they started down a curving hill. "You want to. I sound like a broken record. I just... can't say what you're comfortable with or not. You don't have to do anything."

"I'm asking you Gil. This is about you. I have to know if you're okay with it. Otherwise I'll say nothing. Or wait. Or whatever," Greg replied. "I've got to start facing things, not falling apart."

"I think they should know. Just in case. And if everything works out, they would have found out eventually. You just... have to make sure they don't tell anyone. I want to keep as few people in the know as possible." People that knew them, at least. He had no control over FBI officers and the doctor that was on the government pay and that doctor's nurses.

"Who does know?" Greg asked glancing at him. "Aside from Catherine obviously."

"Aside from her? My doctor and his nurse, a few FBI officers. The doctors at intake who didn't want to let me leave..." Gil slid his eyes firmly onto the road, concentrating on his driving as he talked.

"And me," Greg said. He exhaled. "Maybe I can't deal with telling them that on top of everything else. You've seen my mom, she's probably gonna freak when I tell them they were using me as a fuck-toy, too." The words sounded uncharacteristically bitter and sharp.

But it was allowed. Greg was allowed to be angry and throw words around. "She is," Gil agreed. "Just... I wouldn't tell her at the restaurant. Tell her what you're comfortable with."

"Maybe... after we've eaten, if you don't mind, I'll suggest I go back with them to their motel or whatever and you can come on back," Greg suggested. "They're not going to believe it unless they have proof I guess. And they can look at the proof all they want in their room, not in the restaurant."

That was logical, even though Gil wasn't comfortable of letting Greg out of his sight. He hadn't been able to handle being hugged by them -- how would he do showing them his scars? Even just talking about it... ? "Are you sure you're... comfortable with that?"

"No." Greg replied and managed to smile at him. "No, but I hate the fact that I'm falling apart all the time. I hate being a person who can't deal with his family touching him. I hate not being able to laugh because it feels like it's something impossible. I hate being a coward."

"You're not a coward. It takes time, and.... I'm just not sure it's a good idea, unless you're sure you're going to be all right. I'll leave my cell phone on, and if you can't do it..." He'd pick Greg back up in a heartbeat.

"They won't go until it happens. You ought to have seen them when I was dithering about telling them I was bisexual," Greg said ruefully. "She practically camped outside my apartment door until I confessed everything. I mean, they were amazingly cool about it. Even Dad, who isn't as comfortable with it, but Mom is of the embarrassingly supportive type. That side of things isn't a problem it's... I don't even know why it's difficult."

"Because you have to remember what happened." Gil shifted his hand on the steering wheel, one handed and loose-moving as he drove. "And memories can be astonishingly vivid."

"I have to do this. Otherwise I'm useless to you," Greg said resolutely. "I mean, look at what I've done for you since I've been here? Not much. Passed out, disrupted everything, pressured you, forced my way into your room. This is not the idea of support I had in mind."

"It's been surprisingly effective." He tried not to grit that out as he took another turn. "Really. I've been sleeping better, it's easier to cook well for two than just one, I... I enjoy your company."

"You like teaching me things," Greg managed another smile at that. "I've made up my mind. I'm going to do this. If I have a reason to do it, then I can. And I think if I can do this once, then... I'll be able to talk about anything."

Gil almost wanted to dissuade Greg at the tones he was using, but it wouldn't have gotten them anywhere. He pressed on the gas a little more, and made himself nod his head. "All right. I just want you to call me when you're done."

"Or I'll get them to bring me home to you."

Home. It seemed strange that after so little time he was referring to Gil's little place as 'home' and coming back to him.

"All right." Gil shifted the way he was holding his steering wheel, and reached a hand over to pat Greg's knee gently. "You'll do fine. Try not to think about it through dinner. I'm sure the local wildlife will distract your mother pretty well."

"I'm okay with you there. Half of it was surprise," Greg replied. "Them turning up like that. I liked being hidden."

"I do, too." Gil cleared his throat a little, "Don't feel bad about not having told them. I still haven't said much to my own mother."

"Then we should?" Greg answered. "If... if I tell mine, then your mom needs to know. She's deaf, right?"

Gil wasn't quiet sure what difference that would make, but he nodded. His hand was still on Greg's knee, and it didn't seem to matter. "She reads lips well, and speaks very well, but yes. She is."

"I want you to teach me enough sign language so I'm not... rude, I guess," Greg asked looking at him. "That's how you two talk, right?"

"It is. But I'm used to translating for her," Gil excused. "We'll figure it out later, I think... we have enough going on right now." Greg's parents, Greg trying to work out how to seize control on his own again.

"Yeah. Sorry, I think I'm just trying to distract myself," Greg said. "I can do this. I can do this... right?"

"You can do it," Gil confirmed. He gave another pat, a gesture he wasn't sure was his to give. It was hard to tell what right he had to do that, except that Greg seemed to react well to it. "You can. I know you're capable, and you can tell them as much or as little as you want to."

"As long as you're sure." Greg exhaled settling a little. He kept glancing sideways at Grissom and back again, still not totally comfortable.

"I'm sure, Greg. You're underestimating yourself." Gil shifted his thumb, tracing the edge of Greg's patella through his jeans. "And I understand why."

"Griss..." Greg had turned to look directly at him. "Gil...." His eyes were very dark and bright suddenly.

"Yes?" Gil could only glance over for a second, because he was trying to keep his eyes on the road. They were almost onto the main road into town.

"I... really, really want to kiss you," Greg confessed quietly. "I just thought you ought to know that."

Like it was a piece of data that Gil was supposed to tuck away and smile and nod to so he could pull it out later and go, 'Yes, evidence of Greg's insanity'. That was the tone Greg used, that softly shirking tone as if he was expecting a bad reaction from Gil. Gil checked his mirrors, and then pulled over onto the shoulder of the road.

Greg was still looking at him. "Either you want me to get out of the car or... ?"

Or. Or he could talk, but it took him a moment and he probably looked like a fish being told it had to breathe air for the first time in its life. "I... prefer physical evidence to statements."

"Phys... oh.." Greg twisted a little and leaned across, tentatively reaching out with one hand to brush the side of Gil's cheek and into his hair as he bent to brush lip to lip, softly, hopefully.

So hopeful and so careful, when Gil knew he didn't need that kind of care but knew that Greg might. He leaned into it, kept the touch gentle for Greg, leaning against his seatbelt as he fell into the friction of lip on lip, just mouths, Greg's a little open. It wasn't a stunning first kiss, but it was sweet and slow, and Gil didn't want to pull back. Didn't really want to go to dinner.

Neither did Greg it seemed even as he drew back a little to peer up at him with dark eyes. "I... I never thought I would ever be able to do that."

Gil exhaled, and reached a hand up to cradle the side of Greg's face, twisting free of the shoulder part of his seatbelt. "Expectations are different from reality?" Gil didn't understand why Greg would have wanted to, but...

Greg smiled. "Reality is better." It was a proper smile, a Greg-smile that said for one brief moment that life was good and the reason why it was good was right here in front of him. "I've always wanted this but I never thought it was possible. Maybe it still isn't but I haven't got much left to lose now."

"Neither of us does." Gil traced his thumb over the edge of Greg's cheek, and leaned in again. "One more, and then we should go before they start to worry."

This kiss was less tentative, more certain and sweet. Greg kissed him like he had jumped off the edge of a cliff and had to fit all of life that was worth living into that contact. It was more complicated than just passion; in fact passion and sex were only the merest part of the kiss, subsumed by need and deeper emotion.

Maybe a little desperation.

Gil kept touching him, tipped his head a little, feeling the wet friction and the way that Greg sucked on his bottom lip for a moment, a touch that was enough to make him groan and lean into Greg more, over the center console and the parking brake, seatbelt be damned.

There were fingers in his hair, gentle and with none of the tremors that he had seen from Greg before. It was as if this was the only thing the younger man was certain of out of everything.

Eventually he had to come up for air. "Told you... I was obsessed."

"Do I seem bothered?" Gil brushed his thumb over Greg's cheek one last time, and didn't pull away to sit down just yet. If Greg's parents hadn't been in town, Gil would have already been making a three point turn to get back up to the cabin.

"I find it difficult to tell," Greg said with disarming honesty. "I... when I come back, can I still share the same bed?"

Gil leaned in again, hand still on the side of Greg's face, and brushed a kiss against his mouth -- faint, with a hint of apology. "Yes." And then he had to sit back, and struggle for a moment to get back into the seatbelt he'd almost crawled out of.

Greg smiled again. "I call that being goal orientated. Reward for going through with this."

"Going home and getting to sleep?" Gil managed to twitch something like a smile back at Greg, and he took the parking brake off that he didn't quite remember setting.

"Yeah. With you," Greg replied again. "That's all I've pretty much wanted."

All he wanted. Gil sucked in a breath, and then shifted, adjusting his seatbelt as he turned the steering wheel and pushed on the gas pedal to pull off of the side of the road. "Really?"

"Yeah." Greg ducked his head looking a little embarrassed. "You've never heard the others joke about it?"

One of the downsides of being 'the boss', Gil guessed, even though he'd been too fully aware of Sara's obsession with him. "No?" They were only going to be late by a couple of minutes. A short delay.

"Ha, I knew I wasn't as obvious as they made out. But you were the boss. And there was... Lady Heather and so on," Greg said. "So, you know, some impossible dreaming going on there."

"There was Lady Heather. I'm not sure what that and 'so on' is related to, though." Gil checked his rearview, and merged over a lane before he turned onto the main street that ran through town. It would coast them right down to the parking in front of the 'restaurant'.

"I'm talking about the fact that the only interest you've ever expressed in anything remotely resembling intimacy was with a woman," Greg replied. "I kept praying that you'd wake up gay or something. Although I'm sure that's pretty much blasphemous."

That made it hard for Gil not to smile, and he sat back, finally getting comfortable now that the drive was over. "I didn't have to wake up gay, Greg. I've found interests both ways since college. I just don't advertise it."

To the point of using non-gendered words, like telling Jim that he had a date, and letting Jim assume. Cops were cops, after all, and Gil was interested in living his life, not getting lectured on it from people who weren't going to be budged in their views anymore than they were going to budge him. "I would have made a move, I guess." Greg paused. "No, that's a lie, I had too much to lose. Now there's nothing."

The first time Greg had said it, Gil was willing to agree. But now, when he could think and process Greg's tone of voice, and find it uncomfortable, he reacted differently. "You have a lot of things going for you, still. There's just less risk. No risk at all, since I..."

"No. No, don't even say that," Greg interrupted. "Maybe it's forced me to act but I don't want you just because of this. Not because this is going to be difficult and there's less risk. If I was interested in less risk I would have said or done nothing." Greg said that firmly and clenched his hand. " You have to make it through this, Gil. We'll talk with the doctors,"

While Gil wasn't sure what any more talking to the doctors would do, except to make the situation clearer for Greg, he nodded. "We will. And you'll get to see it moving. They might even be able to take a guess at the gender." A gentle steering away from the topic, but Greg didn't need any more morbidity.

"A boy," Greg said immediately. "Well the genetic probability is high. Two XY's combining give a 75% chance of a boy. Actually..." He considered. "YY isn't viable so it would be a 66% of viable genetic combinations."

"Right." Right, and the first attempt had been something nonviable, a one in four shot that had meant more surgery, more cutting and drugging and restraints. After all that time in Vegas, Gil knew not to trust the numbers. That there was a slim chance of something happening didn't mean you were safe from it. "I... still don't feel like its sunk all the way in."

"Sorry." Greg seemed to realize he was rambling on. "Anyway... uh.. we're not too late are we?"

Gil checked his dashboard clock, and then his watch. "Not too late." Nothing that couldn't be attributed to a difference between watch readings. He slowed, and started to turn it to park. "That's their car, isn't it?"

Greg nodded and was visibly taking deep breaths. "Yeah. Yeah, I can do this. We can do this and, hey, they're paying right?"

"If they aren't, the place is cheap enough that we'll be all right." He'd have to show Greg his budget, a notebook scratched full of numbers. And he'd have to work Greg into it for as long as Greg was there on medical leave.

He parked, and then turned off the engine, shifting so that his coat hid things better. It was the best reason to only go out at night -- no reason for him to take his leather jacket off.

"I've got money, it's okay," Greg glanced at him as if he might realize there was some tension around the subject, but he didn't say anything. "Hope you don't mind staying close."

Gil hadn't quite popped open the driver's side door yet, but he did unbuckle. "Staying close?"

"Like you did last night. Just to start with," Greg replied. "It helps."

"Oh." Gil nodded as he looked at Greg, and finally started to open the door. "I hadn't thought of doing otherwise. Are you ready?"

Greg took another breath as he popped his door. "As I'll ever be," he said as he got out. He looked grimly determined.

If that was what it was going to take, then Gil would do what he could to get Greg through it, as far as Greg wanted to go. He opened his door, and caught sight of Greg's mother sitting at a table right up against one slightly dirty window.

Dinner was going to be something special.

It was cold in the woods. Correction, Greg thought as his teeth practically chattered together, it was fucking freezing. The woods around Jackpot were dense, overcrowded with trees (unsurprisingly) and treacherous holes that appeared just about Greg-sized.

Now the initial panic had worn off, he was trying to think how in any part of his mind he thought this had been anything like a good idea.

It wasn't. And he knew, knew how could it could get in the desert at night. It was hard to imagine how he'd thought it might somehow be warmer or more tolerable further north, out of the desert, but it wasn't. He could see his breath, and sitting in as small a ball as he could didn't seem to help much.

He shouldn't have tried to walk/run back to Grissom's. It was a decent drive from there to town, even though Gil went the speed limit, and he'd tried to walk it.

But the truth was by the time he had confessed all, 'stripped his sleeves and showed his scars' to paraphrase Shakespeare, only there was no Grissom around to impress, he had been such a turmoil anything that meant moving away from the devastation he had caused had been grasped at.

Rather stupidly, selfishly perhaps, he hadn't factored in how upset his parents would be by what he was saying. That they would be hurt by it; that they would treat him as if his mental state had collapsed and... well, much like he had considered Grissom to be when he first told him.

He'd been too wrapped in the flashback to notice at first. Secretly he'd been hoping they would take his word for it.

And just... leave it at that. Except they hadn't, hadn't been sure, or hadn't wanted to believe it, and Greg had shown them, and he probably shouldn't have. Everything from nail marks to cuts to thin swaths of scar from where they'd taken samples, neat flat scars that had faded from angry red to rare-meat pink to a pink-edged white as were as the most serious ones where they had tampered with him. And the holes that marked cigarette burns and marks that had nothing to do with surgery and everything to do with bored sadists.

He still hadn't shown them everything. And he'd had to run, had to leave, which...

Which if he thought about it was just what Grissom had done after he'd told Greg. He'd put Greg in the shower, and he'd left a note taped to the wall about going out for a walk. And he hadn't let Grissom do it. Maybe they were more alike in the way they dealt than Greg thought.

Except for that part where Gil had had a coat and his cell phone and his gun...

What he would've done for a whistle. That was the trick, wasn't it? To sit still, hug a tree, and blow a whistle until someone found you? Except he didn't have anything on him, and he didn't know WHERE in the woods he was or even how to get back to the road. Once the sun came up, maybe he'd get a sense of perspective.

All he had to do was make it to the sun coming up and not think about the look on either of his parent's faces. Now they knew what'd happened to him, but they still didn't know everything.

He'd tried to tell them everything, he started talking about the taking out of tissue from his body, the genetic samples but all he could see in his parent's eyes when he said about Gil being pregnant was a deep an utter conviction he was unhinged. He guessed it was turnabout being fair play. He had thought the same when Grissom told him and he'd hoped he hadn't looked like that. Pity in his eyes. Horror. Drawing away.

Drawing away and a hint of a calculating look that said they were trying to figure out What to Do About It. Capital letters being a necessity, because figuring out how to get their son committed was probably deserving of that kind of capitalization. Then he'd started to fall apart and he'd gone on and on, and Gil would have understood. If he hadn't run out without his cell phone, if he had actually called him.

There was rustling in the bushes and he stared into the darkness with another surge of panic. Wolves and the locals talked about bears.

Great. Fuck. If there was one thing that he wanted now it was to get out of there and be there with Gil.

He'd kissed Gil. Actually kissed him and thought he was going to explode.

Greg couldn't figure out what was going on in Gil's head, or why or what, but there was a start, there was something, some sliver of a fantasy that Greg had held for years. And now he was going to be eaten by wolves, and that was the dumbest thing he'd ever done. He was still being less than helpful to Grissom, and now his parents were going to try to get him psychiatric help, and he wouldn't need to worry about either of it because he was going to be someone's lunch.

There was a definite animal sort of sound from the bushes and he froze still, staring. What the hell had he done to deserve this? Aside from apparent terminal stupidity?

A large shape was moving around in there. A too large shape. He prayed that it was a deer. Yeah, it could be a deer... but did they really make all that noise?

And did deer look that big, a dark shape in the dark when all Greg wanted to do was hide and sleep? No, deer didn't make that kind of lowing sound, a rumble that made Greg's muscles go tense. Fuck, fuck, he was going to be eaten by wild animals and they'd have Grissom out here investigating his death, and he'd never get to find out how bad a father he was or anything else.

He wanted to live to be a father. He wanted Gil to live to be a father too. Jesus, all this skirting around the issue with hints at obsession and caring and projected instincts. It could be so much simpler if he actually just admitted that he loved Gil. There. So much easier than psychobabble and every other rationale. If he was going to die, he could at least be truthful to himself. He had blamed himself because he loved him, he had held it together by focusing on Grissom because he loved him and finally pulled off the much vaunted miracle escape because he loved him.

Okay it was unrequited but there it was. The truth.

He needed to find a tree. That was a bear.

That was a -- shit, that was a bear, and even though he had his back to the tree, it was the wrong type for climbing. A pine tree wasn't going to help him, not one that tall with branches that high, and he had to damn well get moving before the bear spotted him.

He got up carefully, trying not to hiss or gasp at the protest over his over strained leg. He was shaking again but now with adrenaline as he edged carefully towards a likely looking tree. It was a little distance away, but it had low looking branches, if he could get there. He moved just a little, praying for cooperation from his body, and from the environment.

No random tree roots, not too much underbrush to trip him up, and the bear seemed not to notice him or care to notice him -- except there was an interesting growling noise and that gave Greg a kick in the ass that got him climbing up that tree.

The sound of the animal coming closer had him scrambling blindly, adrenaline numbing his leg as he got up high. He wedged himself high up and could see through the sparse bows, the bear ambling around, its coat silvered by the moonlight.

Why the hell wasn't it hibernating? Didn't bears start hibernating now? Maybe it was looking for a bedtime snack?

Greg really didn't want to be a bedtime snack. Greg wanted to get home, crawl through the door of the little cabin that Gil had, and sleep. Even the sofa seemed good, homely in a weird quiet way. Gil's laptop and the TV set, the DVD player, the neat piles of books.

It would've been a lot better than climbing a tree.

The tree shook as the bear pushed at it and he clutched wildly to the branches around him.

He wanted to be there with Gil. For Gil. He wanted to make sure he survived. Fuck, he even wanted a kid. Maybe no one would guess he would, but that process had always amazed him. Miracle. And he was part of another miracle as well, no matter how it had happened. He wanted that to work.

For the moment, doing his part to make it work meant surviving the night, even if it meant clutching desperately onto tree branches until daylight. Or the bear went away. Whatever happened first.

The bear seemed to be in love with the tree so he was likely to be stuck here a while. Wherever here was. He just hoped he could last that long.

Who was he kidding? He had lasted through three months of sexual and physical torture. He could last a few hours up a tree. It was only time.

Loneliness was a state of perception.

While he hadn't been lonely before, he felt it now, a loss, a missing space where he expected a little quiet company.

Greg had apparently chosen to spend the rest of the evening with his parents, and Gil had to admit that it was the healthy choice for Greg. Rebonding with his actual family, interacting with other people. It didn't keep Gil from watching the clock.

Only the fact that he was still on Vegas time had him even awake during those quiet hours. They dragged. He hadn't realized how much of a difference Greg being in his space had made.

The kiss had helped. The kiss had been unexpected and.... wonderful. Something to make the ordeal of being in public go away. He had to admit it had helped him and it had seemed to help Greg. He was just a little disappointed that Greg hadn't called to say he was staying there.

Maybe he was just that busy. It was a good thing if Greg was that busy, wasn't it? It was, Gil reminded himself as he sat back, laying his book on his lap and rubbing at his temples.

It was good. Greg was so busy that he didn't have time to call Gil and give him a heads up. It wasn't as if Greg owed Gil the minor nod to propriety that a call would've been. Greg didn't have to call Gil at all, for any reason, if he didn't want to.

The knock at the door startled him. It was early morning for most, but it could only really be Greg coming back. He probably would knock even after everything, especially if his parents were giving him a lift.

He got up wearily, making his way to the door. Gil actually found himself wanting to know how things had gone, and hoped that Greg's parents weren't going to hang around too long, even if he expected some questions.

Uncomfortable questions. Questions he didn't want to think of, and the way they looked at him... Gil straightened his shoulders, and pulled the door open.

Rane and Peter... no sign of Greg. Maybe they had talked Greg to his senses after all.

"Good morning, Mr. Grissom." Rane looked terrible, her throat sounding hoarse as if she had been crying hysterically. "We uh... we have Greg's jacket here..."

"We were hoping he'd want to speak to us," Peter interjected.

Speak with them? Gil opened his mouth, staring at them both for a moment before he could get his mouth to work. "But I thought he was with you?"

Rane stared at him in return. "But he left last night, practically ran out saying he was going to call you for a ride home!"

Peter held up the jacket. "He left this behind -- we thought he'd headed back to the diner to call. Rane was... well, we both were pretty upset. We didn't realize there and then he'd left it." He looked grim. "He... he wasn't terribly stable. He told us this... frankly insane story..."

Greg had left his jacket -- and so his cell phone -- there, and there was... Fuck. They were looking for them, the free running people who were responsible for some of their abuse, and Gil knew that his eyes weren't quite focused when he tried to look at Greg's father. "Get in your vehicle, and go back to town. I want you to -- hold on." Gil back stepped, letting them in. He needed to get his jacket back on, and get his gun. "They didn't catch everyone. One of my friends from back home gave me the heads up on it. I'm going to need you to call the local sheriff's office and report a missing person."

"What? You are saying some of the people who did that to Greg are still out there?" Rane looked shocked. "Peter?"

"Rane love, if Mr. Grissom thinks there's a danger then we've got to take it seriously."

"But... why? Why would they do this?" They stepped into the house, concerned for completely different reasons.

Gil paced into the bedroom, leaving the door open so he could keep talking while he put his holster on. "I don't know, but they attempted to re-kidnap or, or harm one of the other people who were there, and if they found him, and Greg's missing now, then... I want you to contact the sheriff while I check the local paths."

"We can do that," Peter Sanders said, nodding in agreement.

"But... but, Greg wasn't that... I mean, Mr. Grissom, he went as far as to tell us that you were pregnant. I know it's ridiculous." Rane wavered. "But could it be that he's just.... I don't know..."

Mad? Crazy? Certifiable?

Gil fastened his holster as he came back out, halfway shrugging on his heavy leather jacket. "Go on. Keep talking. Because you don't and can't understand what they did to us in there. If you don't want to believe what he was telling you, that's fine. But go talk to the sheriff." He stopped by the table long enough to write down an address and a phone number.

Rane was staring at him. "Are you saying that it's true?"

Her husband took the address. "Rane, I don't care if it's true or not right now. I'm worried about our son and if there's the slightest possibility that he's been taken again we need to act now. He's been missing... nearly ten hours."

"If Lt. Brooks protests that it hasn't been long enough, have him call my cell and I'll forward him to the FBI officer in charge of our case, so he can be convinced of the seriousness." Gil glanced at both of them, and then gestured them to leave ahead of him so he could at least lock the door on the way out.

It wasn't time to think about Greg being really missing yet. It was time to look, and just look, and not let himself think.

Peter Sanders, it seemed, was an experienced member of the force and nodded again. "We're on it," he said curtly. "Rane, come on. Quicker we do this, the quicker we'll find him." He practically had to drag her away but once they were on the move, they did at least move quickly.

Gil didn't wait for them to head down to their car. He started down the side path that branched off of the house that he'd taken Greg down, half-poised to draw his gun if he had to.

He wasn't sure where he was going exactly, or why this was a logical place to start looking, but it was a logical place to get lost around Jackpot. The woods had paths that hikers used but in the dark maybe a short cut would have lead to disaster. Or if Greg had been pursued he might have run into the woods for cover rather than into town. If he had been in town, Gil was sure he would have called him by now. That much was obvious to him. Greg, no matter how upset he was, would not have left his parents or him wondering for that length of time if he had any real choice.

And that was what worried him.

Something had to be wrong. Something had happened to Greg or something was stopping him from calling either Gil or his own parents. Someone like the people who'd taken them in the first place, and Gil's vivid mind was painting pictures of the body of one of the hulking 'guards' laboring over Greg's too-skinny frame, hurting him again, fucking him.

Walking the paths looking for evidence of what had happened to Greg was part hope, part stress-relief.

He remembered what his one experience had been like. He shied away from the thoughts in his head about it, but they haunted him. What would it have been like to have that over and over. And worse? Greg was continually saying that he was the one who had the worst done because of the pregnancy but...

But he didn't really know how bad it had been. Hints and vague suppositions. Extrapolating from behavior that it had been bad.

His insides clenched with the fear of what they could be doing to him. How it would feel to find himself back there. What Greg might be feeling right now.

Maybe they shouldn't have ever gone to the middle of fucking nowhere. Sure, no one would look for him there, but then again, no one -- good people included -- could find him there. Did he really want to stay in that kind of situation, where if things went wrong, Greg could end up hurt?

Gil picked up his pace, and kept scanning the trees on either side of him. "Greg?"

Nothing. Just trees.

He kept walking. Picking the trails that headed between there and town, moving with as much speed as he could muster. He was pretty far in when he smelt something... unsettling. Metallic tinge to the air, the slow familiar buzz of flies gathering. Somewhere off to the right from the trail.

It was a forest, of course. Animals died in the forest, and Gil had come across some interesting dead specimens in his early morning walks, which he tried not to poke at with anything other than his eyesight and occasionally a stick. But his stomach started to sink a little as he started stoically towards the smell.

He could see the color of fresh blood still congealing around a dismembered carcass.

Deer, not human. Thank God. But...

He peered at the evidence. That was no wolf. Something bigger, more powerful had taken down the other creature. Deep solid impressions in the scant leaf litter showed fresh evidence that the local's stories were not all hot air.

Gil sidestepped around it, almost relaxing. There were massive marks on the deer's corpse from claw swipes, and wolves didn't use their paws in that way, not swiping to knock down and eviscerate an animal all at once. Something large, a large cat or a bear, disturbingly close to his cabin at that.

The bear... from the looks of the trail had spent a fair amount of time around this area. He followed the trails of paw prints back a ways up over a rise that looked down towards a clearing that wasn't far from the lower loop of one of the trails from the town from his vantage point. He had to squint a little because there was something slightly odd about one of the trees down beneath him.

There was something in it, and it was bigger than a bird nest. Not a bear, and Gil was fairly sure that no sane bear would climb a tree that small looking.

"Is anyone down there?!"

There was a movement from the huddled mass, and a barely audible "Fuck!" as they seemed to lose their balance and half fell, half slid from their balance point.

"Jesus... Griss?!"

Greg. It was Greg, and he was alive, and for the moment, the fact that he had a steep slope to get down and that he didn't know where Greg had been for almost half a day didn't matter. "Greg! Stay where you are, I'm coming to you."

"I'm trying to stay where I am but I keep kinda falling out of the damn... tree." Greg called out a little shakily. "Whoa..."

And there he went off of his branch, bouncing down the comparatively short drop to the ground.

Gil could just about hear swearing as he hurried down.

It was harder than it had looked, and Gil had never been happier in his life to have decent footing on slopes. He managed to only scrape his palm up while holding onto some hardy underbrush four feet from the bottom. Then he hurried over to Greg, almost tripping over a knotted root. "Have you been up there all night?"

"Uh... mostly. From the point where the bear turned up," Greg was shivering as he tried to push himself up. "A fucking bear! Of all the things to run into!"

"It killed a deer closer to the house." Gil got close enough to Greg to offer him a hand up, and couldn't just stop at that. He had to step forward, had to reach for Greg. "Don't do that again, Greg. You can't just run off like that."

"I... I... was trying to get home." He took Grissom's hand and he felt freezing. "I wasn't trying to run off, just to get back to you." He stood awkwardly, grimacing with pain.

"You're hurt. I think we're closer to the road than the cabin. I'm going to call your parents and we can get them to meet us on the road." He slid an arm over Greg's shoulder, his free hand, and didn't let go of Greg after he'd pulled him to his feet.

"My damn leg," Greg held on to him. "It gave up on me. Then the bear... I thought, the world's out to get me, you know? I was sorta halfway back before I realized I was even walking."

He'd just set out. Probably restless and agitated and tired because his parents had said things that Gil could probably accurately guess at. It was easy just to hold onto Greg for a while, just to hug onto him and nod before he pulled back a little to get his cell phone. "It's okay. I thought someone had taken you again."

"Nah, just a near bear eating episode," Greg steadied himself. "Why would you think someone had taken me?"

"Jim... mentioned something." Keep it vague, keep Greg calm. Keep himself calm. It was hard to keep hugging Greg and dial Greg's parent's phone number on his cell phone. A mostly sharp memory had never helped Gil so much in his life.

"That doesn't sound good," Greg shivered. "I'm okay, really. Well aside from being stupid, but that's more of a chronic problem. How did you know to come out after me?"

"Your parents came up to the cabin with your coat and cell phone. They wanted to apologize." Gil moved his hand, rubbing at Greg's cold shoulder. "Jesus, you're cold. Here, take my coat..."

"You sure? Don't want you getting sick. Because if I'm gonna get sick, it's probably too late by now," Greg managed still shivering. "Shit, I didn't mean to scare anyone. That includes me. Because, you know... that wasn't one of my better moments. Damn bear was in love with my tree or something. Just wouldn't go away right up until dawn sort of time when it headed off over that ridge you came down. But I could still hear... like stuff, you know?"

"It killed a deer." Gil held the phone up to his ear as he shifted out of his jacket, swapping hands, waiting for the ring ring ring to become a pickup while he wrapped his leather jacket around Greg. "Zip it up. I'll be fine for a few minutes."

Greg nodded and slipped into the garment even as the phone answered a little breathlessly. "Pete Sanders." He could hear sounds in the background as if he was in an office of some description.

"I found him. He was up a tree after a run in with a bear. Can you meet us on the road out of town? We're going to head that way, because it's closer than walking back to the cabin." Greg was okay. Cold, probably hungry and tired, but he was okay. It was the most that Gil could process just then, sliding an arm over Greg's shoulders again.

"Thank God." Greg's father sounded relieved. "We'll be there. I'll tell the Sheriff. He was just about to try and get the FBI. You'll be okay getting to the road?"

"We'll be okay getting to the road." Even if he had to drag Greg along, and as tired as Greg seemed, it was possible. He couldn't carry him, though. The best he could do was to loan Greg his jacket. "Call me back when you're headed out." And before he could get a response, he hung up.

"We need to start walking."

"Great. I think I can manage that," Greg said with what seemed like cheerful optimism. It was a little strained. "How close did I get to your place?"

"Probably three miles. And as thick as these woods can get, that's close." Gil started to walk, and then shifted his hand so instead of on Greg's shoulder, his fingers were beneath Greg's armpit, holding him upright. "Let's hope the bear's napping somewhere."

"Yeah." Greg started moving forward, very obviously stiff, cramped and in a fair amount of discomfort. "I... I'd just like to say before the lectures start, I know it was a stupid thing to do and if my brain had actually been talking to me in any shape or form I wouldn't have been out here. Mom and Dad are probably right, I'm nuts."

"You're no crazier than I am. I shouldn't have left you to do it alone. I should have been waiting for you in the SUV outside." Possibly without telling Greg, and damn the impression of them that it gave Greg's parents.

"You know, I thought I took the whole thing badly but... I'm guessing their reaction is more normal." Greg managed short bursts of nervous talking in among their slow progress. "They're probably waiting there with the comfy padded strait jacket or something." His voice shook a bit. "They didn't believe me. I told them and they didn't believe me. I think my Dad would have preferred to have a son that died back there than have one back that had been raped."

Gil moved his fingers every so often, short bursts of rubbing that probably weren't giving the full comfort that Greg needed. "It's hard for parents to deal with. We see it at work, Greg. He probably wishes there was some way he could have protected you. I wish there was some way I could have protected you."

"Like I do for you. I just thought..." Greg squinted a bit at the morning sun. "I was standing there thinking, Wait a minute, why am I the one being understanding? It's not like I even told them some of the really bad stuff in detail. They saw some of the scars. I just... Well I guess I was hoping they might understand a little. Maybe care rather than freak at me."

"They care. It's just a shock, and, maybe they didn't handle it the best way, I..." Would have handled it better, Gil knew. He kept Greg close to him, kept stepping over underbrush and guiding Greg around trees. It was damn cold out, and the wind wasn't helping. "I don't know. You shouldn't have had to do that."

"I've done it now. If it means I'm on my own, then I'm on my own. Ow. Should've had more physio on this leg." Greg was shivering still. "I'm pretty tired. I didn't want to worry you. I just wanted to come home and maybe... I don't know. Reassure myself I wasn't crazy."

"You're not crazy. You're doing better than a lot of people would be in this situation..." Gil steadied himself and Greg by proxy on a tree trunk as he passed it. Hopefully Greg's parents would have the heat on. "Your mother thinks you're a little cracked, but I can't blame her. You probably thought the same about me."

"Well maybe. To start with. But that was because I haven't been convinced I'm not going over the edge." Greg clutched at his leg a moment, wincing. "But I shouldn't have reacted that way. You don't lie to me. It was like... betraying you or something. "

"There's no betrayal in not believing a very far-fetched sounding truth." Gil stopped when Greg clutched at his leg, and tried to take a little of Greg's weight. "Put your arm over my shoulder."

Greg willingly did so. "I decided I didn't want either of us to die when I was sitting up that tree," he said conversationally. "Because maybe I was reading stuff into it, but that kiss. Well, you know. I was thinking as a starting point, it has potential you know?"

"Potential for... ? Just to make sure we're on the same train of thought here." Having deep conversation trekking back through the woods in home of finding a road.

"Us. Things. Maybe like... a relationship. I mean, you might not want one and that's cool but..." Greg had to catch his breath a moment and cough. "You know. No matter what happens I don't want go back to how I was. I don't think I can."

Relationship? As screwed up as they were, and Greg had to use that word, the word that implied stability, if not some semblance of sanity. "I... We could try it. We're both pretty out of shape right now, and I don't know if either of us is thinking with a clear head."

"You could say that about me at any time," Greg said with a partial smile. "Thinking, no, but feeling? This isn't a new feeling."

"No?" Gil had half been counting on it being a new feeling, but it wasn't, so... So Greg would still be leaving when his medical time was up.

"No. But it's a new way of looking at it. Of admitting it to myself." Greg grimaced and then smiled. "I don't care any more. They took everything but this from me and I'm not going to try and hide it anymore, not even from myself. Everything makes a lot more sense when I just admit that I've had a classic case of unrequited love."

"An..." Gil trailed off so he didn't seem like he was just repeating every other word out of Greg's mouth. His mind immediately snapped to Sara, and while Greg had come up, while Greg had gotten them out of that place, Sara had sent meandering letters and tried to cut Greg down, putting words in Gil's mouth. "Huh."

"Yeah, that's about the sort of reaction I was expecting," Greg said softly almost to himself. "It's okay Gil. I just had to say it. No expectations."

"I'm not good with people. If everything goes all right... You need to be around. I don't know what to do between you and me and...." Gil shrugged his shoulders a little, still trudging along with Greg. He could hear cars, so the road wasn't far. Another half a mile or so, then. "I don't know what I'm saying."

"Neither do I, but I'm a little blurry," Greg managed. "See how it goes then. Most people get sick of me after a few months anyway."

"Let's just... talk about it when we get home. You probably can't feel your toes," Gil pointed out, stepping over a felled tree. He was starting not to be able to feel his fingers.

Greg half laughed and coughed. "You're right. Or my fingers. Or most of my face actually. But I can feel my leg. Really feel it. I'm talking crap again, right?"

"You're tired and cold and probably need to eat and sleep, Greg. That you're talking means that you're at least semi coherent." As long as they put one foot in front of the other, they'd eventually make it to the road. Gil just wondered when Greg's parents were going to call him back.

He wondered if what the Sheriff thought about it all. He had unwittingly revealed why he was there if they had been talking to the FBI. He could expect some pertinent questions no doubt.

They stumbled on a little closer to the road and then finally the phone rang even as they could see the road. Greg was looking flushed, which was strange and at odds with his chill even as he reached to answer his cell.

"Grissom." Maybe he could give them all his cover story. It was embarrassing, but slightly buyable, wasn't it?

"Mr. Grissom, it's Sheriff Brooks. I'm bringing Mr. Sanders up from out of town. We had to have the doc see to Mrs. Sanders a minute."

It explained the delay at least.

"Dale?" Gil was going to take some pleasure from knowing that Greg's mother was going to be seen to by a vet. "What happened? We're almost to the road, and we should be easy to spot."

"She got a little hysterical after she spoke to the FBI. Something about going to be a grandmother," Brooks replied. "We'll slow up. You or the kid need medical attention?"

"Nothing serious. Just have the heat on in your vehicle. Greg has a case of exposure." Hopefully mild. Greg was still walking, even when they started to walk down a steep slope that would drop them out to the edge of the road.

"Won't have to have him put down then," Sheriff Brooks said with his wry humor. "We're about three miles from your place. I'll slow down. You on the road yet?"

"Almost. We're about three miles straight out from the cabin, so you might need to back up. We're..." A few half-tripping steps, and they were at the road's edge, the slight lip that would keep traffic from hitting them. "We're on the road now."

"See any distinguishing features?" The sheriff asked even as Greg leaned on him again. "Look familiar at all? We're turning and heading back towards town."

"The cliff edge is about a hundred feet past us..." Gil leaned back a little, turning his head to watch Greg's face. He was cold without his jacket, but Greg had to feel colder.

"I know the place." Of course he did. Brooks knew everywhere. "One minute and we'll be there."

He hung up, and Greg stopped looking at the road surface long enough to look up at him, and meet his gaze. Something was different about him. It was as if, just for Gil, there was nothing shuttering away anything in his eyes. It was like he was saying 'I'm an open book, read me. Browse... whatever. It's up to you.'

Gil didn't know where to start or what to do. He wasn't used to having to deal with people that way, wasn't used to dealing with it and not ruining it. He spilled coffee in those open books, or sent them to jail for questioning, or just misread it. Gil closed his cell phone, and slipped it into his pants pocket. "They're on their way."

"Great. Because I'm feeling a little shaky, you know?" Greg admitted still clinging to him. "Did you say something about my mom?"

"She... apparently had a hysterical moment. The local vet's seeing to her." Gil shifted his stance, locking one leg a little so he could take more of Greg's weight.

"The local... vet?" Greg started half laughing and coughing. "Is this some guarded way of saying my mother is a bitch?"

The Sheriff's SUV was coming into view even as he coughed and clutched at him.

"Not really. The Vet is also the town's coroner," Gil answered blandly, trying not to smile too much while he turned his head to look at Lt. Brook's SUV. Even if he thought that Greg's mother was a bitch.

It pulled to a halt even as Greg's dad flung open the door and ran over to where they both were. "Greg! Thank god... what the hell were you doing out in the woods..."

Greg looked awkward even as his Dad embraced him. "Um. Trying to get home I guess," he mumbled.

"We spoke to the Feds... I uh... look we'll talk about it later, okay?" Peter Sanders stepped back. "We've got to get you somewhere warm."

"It gets pretty cold up here in Jackpot," the Sheriff said as he strolled up. "Mr. Grissom. Glad to see you haven't lost your touch. Bear huh? Unusual for this time of year."

"That's what I thought. It killed a deer about three fourths of a mile that way," Gil said, pointing as he stepped back to help support Greg. "Can you help me get Greg into your vehicle? He needs to be warmer than this."

"I've got him," Peter Sanders said hastily. "Okay son?"

"I'm fine, Dad. Sorry about all the trouble." Greg said automatically. "I didn't hurt myself any more, it's just the leg. It's not up to night hiking."

"Most people wouldn't be up for that," the Sheriff added. "In you get. Back to your place, Grissom?"

"We'd appreciate that." Once Pete had opened the door, Gil moved to get into the back seat with Greg, staying close. He didn't want to sit in the front -- not without his jacket on. In the back seat, it was harder to look at him.

Greg made a few noises of discomfort getting in, but once there, he unselfconsciously leaned into Gil as his father took the front seat and the Sheriff headed out towards their house.

"You sure you're okay, son?"

"Nothing a hot bath wouldn't cure, Dad," Greg replied sounding tired.

And food, and sleep, and some judicious usage of blankets, but Gil understood why Greg was keeping the answer simple. He wanted to ask where Rane was, but he already knew that she was at the Vet's, and that sparked a small piece of amusement in him as he slid his arm around Greg's waist.

"Only you could find a bear, Greg," his dad said in amazed relief. "You should've come back, not tried to walk back."

"I should've done a lot of things, but they involved, you know, rational thought," Greg murmured. "I'm a little light on that at the moment."

"Hiking at night without a coat or a phone? I'd say," the sheriff commented. "But I guess you already know that so no point going over it again right? Let the kid rest."

"I'm not that young," Greg protested. "Kid's kind of extreme."

Kid was very extreme; even Gil hadn't thought of Greg as a kid in a very long time. Young, energetic, silly, yes, but nothing said any of that was bad. It wasn't bad. Greg was so very alive, even now, even half-frozen and tired and feeling kicked down from comments like that. "It is. Just... let Greg rest. Anything else can be dealt with later."

"Just keep him awake until we can offload you guys." Brooks replied. "Mr. Sanders, do you want to stay with your son or head back to town?"

Peter Sanders twisted in his seat and looked back at Greg. "I... uh..."

Greg looked at him tiredly. "I'm just gonna go sleep, Dad. You go see to Mom. She needs you. "

"It isn't as if we'll be hard to find once you're finished." As if they'd be anywhere but bed, in the quiet of the cabin. Gil's fingers moved a little, rubbing over the worn leather of his jacket.

"... you sure?" Pete Sanders sounded torn. "Rane wouldn't want me to leave you if you need help."

"Dad, I've got help." Greg looked at Grissom as they drew to a halt. "I'm okay. I'm cold, and tired and I ache but nothing else happened."

"If you're sure..."

"Sounds like they are, Mr. Sanders. I'll swing by and check on them later on when they've had a chance to rest." the sheriff reassured him. "This is your stop you two. Call if you need to see the vet for any reason." He smiled at them both.

Gil had never been happier to see the back of Greg's beat up blue Jetta in his life. He popped the door open, and started to rifle through the jacket Greg was wearing to get the keys out. "We're fine. Thank you for your help, Lt. Brooks. Peter? Call or drop by later, when Rane is feeling better. There are probably some things that need to be discussed..."

"Yeah, I get that to be an understatement," Brooks replied. "Don't worry. We're pretty filled in on the Feds' side."

Greg's dad nodded. "I uh... we'll talk about it when Greg is feeling better, and his mother." And when he'd had a chance to get used to it, too, from the looks of it.

Filled in on the Fed's side? Gil hoped, hoped that they'd given Greg's mother and father and apparently the sheriff Gil's pre-planned cover story and not the reality. There wasn't much he could do but hope, even as getting out of the SUV he could feel a sinking feeling. "Here, Greg. Steady?""

"Yeah, I'm cool," Greg replied. "See you later, Dad. Say I'm sorry to Mom, okay?"

"Nothing to be sorry for, son. Go get some rest."

That was exactly what he had in mind as he leaned into Grissom as they reached the door. "I'm fucking freezing. Small talk is killing me here."

Gil fished in his pants pockets for his keys. "We're almost inside. Just..." Keys in hand, he almost shoved it into the lock, fingers shaking a little before he turned it. "Finally."

"Thanks..." Greg stepped inside the moment the door was open. He coughed again. "Damn, I don't want a cough. You okay?"

"A little tired, worried." Gil closed the door behind them, locked it, while he readjusted to the almost shivering heat of the cabin. "Here, you need a hot shower..." He stripped his too-big leather jacket off of Greg, let it fall to the floor.

"Sorry. I really didn't plan to worry anyone." Greg started stripping off his pants, and shoes. He seemed oblivious to the fact he was showing what he had hidden so fervently only the night before. "Truth is, I wasn't thinking much of anything."

"I know how it goes, Greg, but..." Gil reached down to Greg's waist to pull up Greg's long-sleeved t-shirt. "Please don't run off like that again. Jim told me that not everyone has been caught..."

"Well, if I'd known that, then you probably wouldn't have got me away from you no matter what," Greg said allowing him to help pull up the top. "Did he say who was still around? I thought they had them all?"

He still hadn't worked out what Gil was doing which was a sure sign it was taking a lot more of his energy than was immediately obvious just to appear normal.

"He..." Gil faltered for a moment. "I'll have to reread the mail. There's two of them, and I've forgotten their names..." They were important, names at the tip of his tongue, but his mind caught and faltered every time he reached for it. Gil dropped Greg's shirt on the floor, and gestured with his eyes. "Bathroom. You're cold."

"Yeah... I am." The younger was oblivious to the fact he was standing there, marks and scars all the more livid because of the chill to his skin. He seemed to be unaware of what he was doing. "Won't be long."

He started walking, staggering towards the bathroom.

Gil was torn between watching Greg, or shadowing him, and he finally started to walk once Greg was halfway to the bathroom. "Greg? Do you need help?"

"Mmm what kinda help?" Greg called back.

"Standing up?" Gil offered it a little lamely, but it only took a few steps to catch up with him. "Or it might be better if you took a bath. I just don't want you falling over."

"Does that mean you want to come in and help me?" Greg asked with the same sort of lack of restraint that someone would show if they were drunk. "Hell yeah!" He turned to look at Grissom and nearly tripped over his clumsy limbs.

The best Gil could do was to reach out and try to steady Greg at his shoulders. "That enthusiastic about a bath, huh?" Gil nudged him forward into the dark bathroom, and hit the light switch with his elbow.

The light coming on seemed to make Greg blink as if he had forgotten something. "Don't... I don't like to use the bathroom with the light on."

He frowned as if trying to remember why that was even as he hesitated about going further.

Gil leaned back, moved one hand to turn the light back out. There was light from the hallway, from open windows, so the bathroom wasn't completely dark. "All right. We can do this in the dark, too. The tub's just a few steps that way..."

Greg made it over and started running the bath, even as he still shivered. "If I'd had the shower I could have pulled you in with me," he said conversationally. "But maybe that's something for a moment when I don't have hypothermia or something else ridiculous."

Gil reached past Greg to put the stopper in the bottom of the tub. "It is," Gil agreed. "Why don't you get in while it fills up? I'll get the gel out from under the sink, and then go make you some coffee or cocoa or.... what would you like?"

"Wow, cocoa. I haven't had that for... years." Greg turned bright, slightly unfocused eyes at him. "Cocoa and then we can go to bed right?" He stripped off his underwear in the dim light and stepped into the steaming bath.

"And then we'll go to bed," Gil confirmed as he watched Greg's eyes. He seemed a little disoriented, almost concussed, and the best Gil could do was make sure he didn't fall asleep in the tub and drown. Exposure could have that sort of effect sometimes, and it had been cold out there, and Greg had little in the way of insulation.

"Great," Greg managed as he lowered himself into the steaming water with a lot of grimacing and muttered oaths as cold skin evidently hit hot water. "Oh God, that's... good. Yeah." Greg leaned back and closed his eyes as the water started to cover him.

It was time to leave, time to back up to the kitchen to make cocoa for Greg, but it took an effort for Gil to back step and head back into the hallway. "If you need anything..."

"I'm great, thanks," Greg replied opening his eyes for a moment and remembering to turn off the water. "Feeling much better already."

"Good." Gil forced himself to turn away, to walk back down the hallway. With any luck, it would be a few hours before Greg's parents decided to come by and say hello, or demand answers. With any luck, he could get some sleep. And with any luck, Greg wouldn't disappear like that again.

Making cocoa was mechanical, easy, a matter of pouring packets of Swiss Miss into mugs and boiling milk instead of water while Gil tried to blank his mind.

He didn't want to think of the consequences of the actual story getting out, though he had a sneaking suspicion that Greg's mom hadn't been very discrete in her shock and hysteria. A lot depended on that and whether the FBI had told them the cover story or the real thing in connection with a possible abduction. No doubt they would turn up at some point as well. As if the whole deal of being pregnant wasn't hard enough to deal with, he had shocks like these to deal with.

He wished Al was there to give Greg a once over. His mind kept skipping back to the evidence over Greg's body that he had glimpsed.

Scars and marks to go with skin blanched from cold. And he could still only guess what had happened. Guess and think, and make mental leaps, and it was making Gil's head hurt. He fiddled with a spoon, and closed his eyes while he waited for the microwave to finish murdering the two cups of milk he'd put in it.

One step at a time.

He could have easily lost him. He remembered thinking the same when Nicky had been attacked by the stalker, when Catherine had been apparently kidnapped, whenever a moment came too close to taking one of his team away from him. But this had been different somehow. He wasn't entirely sure how, but it felt different.

It had been a stupid thing, and common sense showed that Greg had put himself in danger and he was okay so everything should be fine.

He was fine. He was in the bathroom in hot water, warming up after a night out in the cold air. Greg was fine, they were both fine. Stories or not, no matter what information was out there now, Gil would deal with it as it happened, one moment to another to another, for as long as they carried on their charade. For as long as Gil managed to stay alive.

He took his time preparing the cocoa, hearing vague splashing noises from the bathroom that reassured him that Greg hadn't fallen asleep in the bath.

He still wasn't sure what to think about what Greg had 'confessed' to him as they had walked to the road. Unrequited love? Or Greg thought it was love. Sometimes the line between thinking and being were close, close enough to make Gil wonder if pushing Greg away was worth it. Realistically, he was going to be dead soon. Realistically, he had a few months left. And if Greg wanted to believe that he was in love with Gil for those few months, what was the harm?

Aside from the fact that he would lose him. But then he might well be left holding the baby assuming that part of things was successful so perhaps it was the least he could do.

He had a feeling, contrary to surface opinions, that Greg would be a good father. He would never have considered the thought before but he had been surprised. He also got the impression that though Greg's parents cared, their world had never revolved around their son. Not quite. Their jobs seemed a little more to the fore of their concerns, in a different way than Catherine. Catherine made time for Lindsey, did her best in the face of adverse circumstances. Greg would do the same, in a way that even Gil wasn't sure he would. He didn't know what kind of parent he'd be, wouldn't probably find out.

Gil poured the milk into each cup, stirring it quickly.

"Greg, are you all right in there?"

There was a pause before he got an answer. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm warming up." The younger man sounded a bit drowsy, even as there was a splash as if he tried to move.

"Good. I'll be in there soon." Food, too, to go with cocoa, except Gil couldn't think of anything that would help Greg. Protein, maybe? "Are you up to scrambled eggs and toast? Or a sandwich?"

"Sandwich would be great.... I just kinda want to go to sleep," Greg called out and there was more splashing and then the sounds of someone doing their best attempt to get out of the bath. "Shit."

"You all right?" Gil put the mugs down on the counter, starting towards the hallway just in case.

"Fine, fine... just not as steady as I like getting out here," Greg called out. "I made it though. Score one for me. Um... I'll just borrow your robe, is that okay?"

"That's fine." Gil stopped in the hallway, listening for a moment while Greg fumbled in the dark. "If you want to lie down, I'll bring you food."

A tousled looking Greg padded out towards him, enveloped by his robe. "I can hang on for you to join me," he said sounding a little more coherent and he had color in his cheeks.

A little more alive. Gil back stepped, and gestured to the sofa. "Why don't you sit down, and... here, drink this." He reached over the countertop and picked up the mug to shove into Greg's hands. No, he wasn't a nervous ball of energy, or a calm one, not at all.

"Thanks," Greg took it and sipped at it. "Mmm. Not bad Griss. " He sat down carefully. "They will not believe I got treed back at the lab."

"Probably not." Along with everything else that had happened. Gil opened the refrigerator door, and pulled out a jar of jam and a jar of peanut butter. He'd cook something when they woke up -- for now, pb&j would hold them out. He got the bread out, and started to make two quick sandwiches. "Did Ecklie say anything about when you have to go back?"

"No. I didn't even think about that," Greg replied, looking at him. "I... want to stay here through everything."

"I know you do, Greg, but... if you have to go back..." Gil cleared his throat. "I'll send a mail while you eat, and ask."

"I'm not going back." Greg seemed to make that a final decision. "They managed without me for three months. They've had double shifts from me continuously for the rest of the time. They can fire me if they want. I'm staying."

"Greg, that's..." Gil slapped down peanut butter and jelly on two slices of bread, and then laid another piece on top of those two. Then he was joining Greg, sliding a plate in front of him. "Don't quit."

"I'm not going to quit, I'm just going to make my priorities clear," Greg replied taking a sandwich and a big bite from it. "Ecklie believes I'm a strait jacket buckle away from a full melt down."

Maybe they both were. "Oh, does he?" Gil sipped at his cooling cocoa, and settled down across from Greg, sitting there with drying hair sticking up at odd angles.

"Uh-huh. Like my parents do. Until I came here, I wasn't too sure myself," Greg replied as he devoured the sandwich and went back to the cocoa. "I'm not worried about money. Mom and Dad will throw money at us as their contribution. That's what they usually do."

"I'm worried about it," Gil countered, after a sip of cocoa, "because I prefer to be self-sufficient. I've worked since I was fourteen, Greg. I'd be surprised if I'm not a straight jacket buckle away from insanity by the time this is done."

"Then we can live off of my sick pay and savings. I was saving to try and buy a place. I've got enough," Greg said, seemingly fine with the fact that he was evidently trading in all future plans for the here and now.

"It's... not that. We could manage fine off of what I have, just..." Gil cleared his throat before he took a bite. "I don't want you to quit your job for me."

"Griss, I'd never forgive myself for not being here." Greg replied. "This isn't just for you, it's for me, too, okay?"

For Greg, too. Greg seemed calmer around Gil, and maybe that was all it was. Calmer, and a sense of satisfying the infatuation. "I don't know what you're getting out of it."

Greg stared at him a moment. "Are you kidding? I'm getting you, Gil. Or at least a chance at you, and maybe, god... maybe being a father, too, and a reason to be alive."

And if that was Greg's only reason to be alive... Then things weren't really going so well for either of them. Gil nodded slightly, the words not quite sinking in as he finished his sandwich. "All right. I can accept that."

"Good. You ready to go to bed?" Greg asked looking at him again. "I mean, you must be tired, too, right?"

"I had my exercise for the day hiking to find you." Gil leaned his elbows on the table, taking another sip of the cocoa. He hadn't stirred it well, and it got a little thick towards the bottom. "I'm hoping that your parents take a few hours to get around to coming back."

"They will. They've probably had to sedate Mom or something," Greg said exhaling again. He closed his eyes a moment. "We could just lock the doors and hide."

"We could," Gil agreed, softly. He drained his mug, reluctant to waste food, and then set his mug down. "Or we could just go to bed and hide."

"I vote for your plan," Greg said finished his cocoa and clearing his throat. "With immediate effect."

"All right. Finish eating that and I'll change out of these clothes." The fabric still felt oddly cold. Some clothes weren't meant to retain heat and warmth.

"I'll meet you in bed," Greg said taking a last bite of the sandwich. "I'll... try and warm it up for you."

Warm it up for him? Gil headed down the short hallway to the bedroom. He could change in the bathroom if Greg wanted to try to get the sheets warm by getting under them.

By the time he came back, it was obvious what Greg had been intending. He was still wearing the robe but he was well and truly under the covers and already looking drowsy. He seemed to have forgotten their care and boundaries they had worked on before.

Gil wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not, but he was tired, and doing more than peeling back the sheets was too much effort for him. He knelt on the mattress carefully, and then shifted to lie down.

He'd barely settled when Greg curled up close to him. "I promise... I'll do your massage later," he mumbled.

"This is good enough." He wasn't sure if it was, but he let Greg get that close, face to face, and shifted to slide one arm over Greg's side.

"I'm sorry to worry you," Greg murmured again. "Wouldn't do that for anything. It's gonna be okay now, I promise."

"Or something close to it." Gil moved closer to Greg, almost face to face, heads on their separate pillows. "Rest."

Rest, and Gil would pretend that Greg had underwear on.

He probably wasn't aware of what he was doing or saying. People did tend to get a bit disorientated by exposure and Greg was acting like his lucidity was fading in and out. It was probably best to think of him as drunk. As tired as they both were, he doubted he would have any problems with the younger man.

He hoped.

Gil closed his eyes, and tried to relax himself. It wasn't as hard as he'd expected, and after a few deep breaths...


Sometimes, everything didn't work out. It was a thought that crossed Gil's mind more and more, as he lay still in bed and tried to keep breathing calmly. Too early, but they'd gone to sleep early, so maybe waking up at 4 was fine. Eight hours of sleep was pretty good, pretty bearable to be woken up out of sleep by a general sense of anxiousness.

Greg was still asleep beside him, and had barely stirred except to drape arms over him, and shiver a little. Now he was running a twitch warm in his body heat which probably meant he did have a chill, but it didn't seem serious enough to worry about. A few tablets and he would get through it.

The touch of skin to skin was disconcerting though, even if any touches were inadvertent.

He was fine... sharing the bed with Greg. No problem. Being close was almost a comfort, and Greg was very tactile. It was just the knowledge that Greg was naked that was making Gil's muscles go a little tight, half twisted fear, half worry for Greg, and worry that Greg would react badly. So he winced for the both of them when Greg pressed against him again, bare stomach against where Gil's t-shirt had ridden up.

It was definitely time to get out of bed.

There was no reason to wake Greg. He could... maybe check his mail. What with everything, he hadn't yesterday and no doubt Greg's parents and Lt. Brooks would be around in the not too distant future.

Very carefully, he slipped away from the younger man, trying to avoid feeling the brush of his skin against Greg's own.

When he did feel it again, he tried not to let his mind linger on it. He'd slept bare-chested with Greg before, no problem, so it was hard to guess why it was hard now. Something passing, Gil decided as he stood up, getting his bearings in the darkness.

And he was interested to see what their reaction would be to his news. He wondered how Catherine had gotten on with the tar -- he would have liked to be there for that one.

He left the door a little open behind him as he grabbed some clothes and left the room. Waking in a room alone could be disconcerting at the best of times. It was easy to turn on the laptop as he went to make himself some coffee, and maybe toast. Toast he could handle until Greg got up and they decided what they were eating.

Toast just required the toaster and bread, and a little margarine, and Gil keeping an eye on it. He carried the laptop over to the 'dining' table, and leaned against the back of a chair while he waited for the toaster and the microwave to yield him his foodstuffs.

He downloaded his mail even as he made his toast.

Answers to all of them from the looks of it. Oh, and an FBI mail, too; probably checking up on him. Or Greg. One or both. Gil hovered his mouse over one, then chose Catherine's before he turned away to grab his water before the microwave beeped.

Hey Gil,
Well you get the prize for the liquid nitrogen. Sara and I spent forever chipping away at the damn stuff. I'll remember that for the next tar covered DB. Got a good imprint and likeness shaping up and have a lead on this guy... mail order brides. Sara is going overboard on this guy. She could be right, could be an abuser.
Anyway, glad you and Greg haven't killed each other yet. If you got him to sleep, or eat anything, that's more than we could manage and believe me, we were trying. I know you weren't happy about what I did, but I guess sometimes, I have to be the bad guy. Comes from being a mom. Those sorts of decisions start to become second nature after a while. Nick passed on about Greg's parents. If he'd told me before, I would have warned you both, but we didn't know they had come on up until Nick tried to call them at their hotel. He did say that he passed on my message about clothes and stuff, though.
You've got an appointment soon right? See if they can check him out, too. Oh, and finally, I filled in the paperwork for the 'grant' for you. It's a lot of money, Gil. Enough that you wouldn't have to work again anyway -- though I know damn well you will. It's a scientific one, based on the terms you already agreed. I think you've been undervaluing quite how big a deal this really is to them. You're going to be a world changer, Gil. But you've always been that right? Just not quite so spectacularly.
You should get notification from the Feds soon. Let me know if you want me to go to Reno with you, okay?


He skimmed it, and then he poured the hot water into his mug, stirring as he sat down at the laptop. His toast would pop up on its own with a minimum of noise while he started to type out an answer to Catherine. He didn't know where to start, or what to say exactly. Except that maybe, yes, he had been undervaluing how big a deal it was. He preferred it that way, felt a little less like a science project as long as he did that.


Congratulations on the case. When I get back, I'll have to take a look through the file. It sounds interesting. Was he dumping them? Was there more than one body?
We haven't killed each other. Greg went for a long walk last night and was treed by a bear, but that's been our most eventful adventure. He's still asleep, and I've been getting him to eat. He'll probably run a fever for a day or so. His parents have been... interesting so far. I need to remember to get his clothes out of the back of their vehicle.
Do you have any idea how much sick leave Ecklie gave him? I think Greg is going to go with me to Reno, but if something comes up, I'll let you know.

Thanks, Gil.

It was good to know she was still thinking about him. Sorting things out for him. He'd wait and see about the money turning up in his account before he started spending it, though. Hopefully she could find out from Ecklie how long Greg could be off without it being too obvious. He couldn't imagine anyone even offering to give up their job for him. It just astounded him.

He munched on his piece of toast thoughtfully.

Greg would do it. And maybe it was time to stop thinking about things so morbidly? After all, dwelling on it, whether he was being realistic or not, didn't help to change his situation or make it better.

He clicked on the mail from Jim, juggling his toast and coffee mug into one hand.

Still waiting for that call, Gil,
Not like that's anything new. Anyway, the other vic? Tried a grab on him. I know the Feds are downplaying what happened to everyone there, but he was apparently a prototype organ host. Science way over my head but sounds pretty sick to me. The Feds shit themselves over it and stopped spending their time making speeches and caught up with the thug guy, 'Tiger'. Dr Rosharo is still out there. They had the vic for maybe four hours? He's in hospital more for trauma than physical damage.

Keep your head down. I don't know exactly what they did to Greg but he flagged up under several of their 'alerts' after that one. See if he knows anything about the 'organ hosting'. Could be an issue. And watch out for yourself. There's no way that Dr Rosharo and whoever he was working for will let you slip. Though, cold comfort but if I was then? I'd leave it until the last minute then try and grab you.
Call, Gil. Ecklie can't snark like you do.


Call. Call. Gil leaned his chin on his hand, and then smirked a little as he balanced his toast on top of the edge of his coffee mug.

Sorry I didn't call yesterday, but I really have a very good excuse. Greg's parents came into town, and took us out to dinner. And then Greg was treed by a bear, and we had to call the sheriff to find him, but we made it back alive. Mostly. His parents are still in town, so I'm not sure when I'll call you, but I will.
I'll ask Greg about the other issue. We're keeping out heads as low as possible. I'd prefer if I could just stay in this cabin and not have to interact with anyone at all until it's over.


He would like to see Jim. They had senses of humor that connected even if they mocked each other. He listened a moment to the noises in the other room. Greg might be stirring. He was a little worried about the implications of what Jim mentioned though. Organ host? Didn't sound good. Didn't sound good at all, and the best he could do was ask Greg about it and wonder if Greg had been told about it at all. He leaned back and tapped the touchpad to open the mail from Sara. Then the FBI one, and then his mother, and then... then maybe Greg would be awake.

Hey Gil,
Guess I asked for that huh? I understand. Catherine doesn't tell us the details but we saw some of the evidence so I guess it's more than physical stuff that needs to heal right? I don't know why I sent that mail -- if you wanted to act, you would have done a long time ago, I guess. I just thought you might need the support. And maybe I could just be a friend rather than anything else.
I hope Greg is okay. I guess it was easier to take his word for it that it was his fault. I should have known better. Out of everyone I should have known better I guess so say hi from me, and tell him he's got to keep an eye out on you otherwise he answers to me.
You would have liked the bodies in tar, Griss, even if Catherine managed to take off half the face in the process. Meant I got to try my hand at reconstructive casting. You know, I did a good job? I think I have a flair for it. Next time I see that come up as a course, you're signing the paperwork for it.

Hope to hear from you soon,

Gil didn't hit reply right away. He'd save it for later, because he still felt at a loss for a reply to her. It still seemed like a stilted note compared to everyone else's, like she'd carefully chosen her words not to slight Greg more than she already had, or not to slight Gil in the process.

He moved on to the FBI mail, which was in fact confirming the allocation of scientific grant money to his 'case' and his 'voluntary participation'. Catherine had been right; there were way too many zeroes for the amount to feel real.

At the end was a note from one of the Agents who were one his case.

Sorry for the delay, Mr. Grissom. Red tape is the same everywhere. We had an inquiry call made by Lt. Brooks and a Mr. and Mrs. Sanders yesterday. Just confirming that the agreed level of disclosure was used and though not well received, it was apparently deemed sensible.

Agent R. Sykes

Gil sat back, holding the mug in both hands for a moment. One and a half million dollars -- tax exempt -- was a lot of incentive to be more cooperative with the Feds. And it wasn't as if he would have... not gone through with it, even with them hanging over his decisions, even if the thought had skittered through his mind now again, crowded up with bad coat-hanger jokes.

He set his mug down, and started to type as coherently polite an answer as he could manage.

Agent R. Sykes:

I appreciate you informing me what level of disclosure was given. Additionally, I appreciate notification of the grant's approval. On Tuesday, I'll give a full report of what happened re: Lt. Brooks and the Sanders.

Thank you for your time,
Gil Grissom

A little clinical, but then his relationship with the FBI was never cozy. He wondered if any of the other victims had deals like that. Greg seemed to have been cut loose, although that mention about alerts made him wonder.

His mom's reply.

I was glad to hear from you, Gil. I'll keep this short because I want you to have the opportunity to work out how to explain things to me face to face. I will be coming up to see you this next weekend, unless you specifically tell me not to. I don't think that you will. I can read between the lines. I am glad you have company, though, and I'd like to meet this other CSI.
If you want me to bring anything, I will. I'll stay either with you or in the nearest town. You know I can rough it with the best of them!
But I know you, Gilbert, and that was as tantamount to a call for help as I've ever heard you give in your life. I'll be with you soon, son.


There was another noise from the bedroom -- he'd get up to see what it was in a few minutes, once he replied. Once he thought of a way to reply. Maybe his response to her mail had been a cry for help. Everything still felt desperately surreal, and he was tired, and he didn't want to think of what the Sanders thought of him now that they'd been told his cover story.

Oh, god, they'd been told his cover story.

"Griss?" Greg limped into view looking mortified. "Uh... you okay?"

His head jerked up a little, Greg's presence forcing him to type out the quick reply to his mother of, 'This weekend will be fine. I'm not sure what else I can say, and it'll make more sense this weekend'. No sign off, just a hit to the send button.


Greg was looking at him and looking much like he was remembering something very stupid he might have done. "I got into bed with you like this didn't I?" He glanced down at his robe, Grissom's robe.

"But at least you've tied it off now." Gil forced his mouth to try to twitch into a smile, and he closed his laptop. "I'd just had enough sleep. Did you know that your parents were told my cover story by the FBI?"

"Uh... no." Greg still looked very embarrassed. "You should've kicked me out. Griss. You can tell me what other embarrassing things I did and what the cover story is. I... if it clashes with the fact you're pregnant, then we're in trouble."

"Compliments it, actually. The best lies are ones that integrate the truth." Gil swirled his coffee a little, contemplating how to go on. "Your mother fainted because the FBI officer told her that I was a transsexual."

"Trans..." Greg looked about ready to choke. Gil could see him examining the lie and Greg had to come over and sit down. After a moment of wide-eyed amazement he was obviously trying not to laugh. "Hey, this is good news for my Dad. I'm not technically gay."

"Supposedly you're not chromosomally gay," Gil agreed, trying not to smirk too much. Greg seemed as close to comfortable and loose-limbed as Gil had seen him yet. "It tones down the experimental factor, but it does make it more buyable for your parents."

"But it still happened at the... place right?" Greg asked grabbing a piece of bread to toast. "I need to know the details to play along."

"Those are the details," Gil agreed. "We never worked out how to explain the parentage that way. The cover story is pretty thin," Gil admitted while he stood up. "So... we need to work out the details ourselves. What do you want for breakfast?"

"Well, you seem to be making toast. You want me to cook up something? Least I can do after screwing up everything earlier," Greg replied as he watched him. "And we can work on the story."

"You haven't screwed up." He leaned against the countertop, watching Greg. "I was thinking scrambled eggs."

"Sounds good. You want me to do it?" Greg asked. He grimaced slightly. "Come on Griss, lost in the woods, treed by a bear... Nick and Warrick will have a field day with that. Not to mention I dragged you out there looking for me. Which, incidentally I'm very grateful for."

"Incidentally, I'm glad I found you. Are you feeling better?" Hopefully the Sanders wouldn't be coming by expecting dinner foods when they were both too sleepy to do more than burn something.

"Less cold I guess. I felt kinda drunk earlier on. I was trying to concentrate on what I was saying but I'm guessing I wasn't too successful," Greg said as the toast popped up done. "So... do you want to have it that this was part of the experiment? That maybe they 'reactivated' organs you never had altered?"

"Sounds plausible. It works with the implanted hormone pump." Which hadn't done much more that he could see except kill his beard growth and make him waffle and flip between subtle shades of mood.

Gil leaned to pop open the fridge and get the eggs.

"That's not going to work with your Mom though is it?" Greg said as he spread margarine and ate down the toast. "I mean, she knows."

"That I have a penis?" Gil snorted as he reached for a pan to do the eggs in.

"You do?" Greg teased just a little. "Cool. Yeah, I'm guessing that might have been obvious if you didn't."

"Right. I... haven't actually told her. She wants to come up next weekend." Gil gestured to Greg. "Do you want to crack those while I get the pepper?"

"Sure." Greg stood up and leaned over to grab a bowl. "I'm just hoping that once my parents are clued in, my moment of melodrama will be over. I do... feel better for them knowing about the other stuff. Even if they reacted badly. It's not like this huge weight of something I should be saying or doing anymore. Didn't realize how much it was pressing at me."

"Not talking about it, or trying to keep them from knowing?"

"Not talking and the not knowing I guess," Greg replied. "I still don't want people to know but... I could tell you now. I just don't want to give you any more problems to deal with. So we'll leave that for now."

"It isn't a problem, Greg. Just... I'd rather do it when we have time. And quiet." Just him and Greg, because it made it easier for Gil than it was when he had to fit other people into the equation, when he had to think about parents and friends and.... Everything by the two of them. Or three.

"Yeah. When you're comfortable with talking about some of your stuff," Greg said as he broke the eggs and lightly whisked them with a fork. "I feel kind of one sided here."

"You have been," Gil admitted as he added a little milk to the pan. "And I'm sorry about it."

"Hey, no... I was just worried about overloading you," Greg said hastily. "You might have noticed that I'm not good at subtle."

"Does this really need subtle?" Gil's voice fell low and quiet. "Given everything that's happened?"

"I guess not. A bit late for that," Greg admitted. "Just... I feel bad offloading all my crap. It's just in some ways you'll understand and in others you're the person I most fear reacting like my parents did."

And they'd covered that ground before, even though Gil had a feeling that they'd cover it again. "Greg? I'm not going to react like your parents did. To anything."

"I know. I know... sorry." Greg replied sheepishly. "I'll stop with it now."

Gil felt a pang of guilt, and reached a hand to massage Greg's shoulder. "We both have insecurities. But I saw your scars last night and they didn't make me think any less of you."

"You saw... ?" Greg looked a little alarmed. "What did I do? How... what?"

"You undressed in the living room." Gil's fingers moved a little, faintly rubbing before he prodded Greg into motion again.

"I did?" Greg looked stunned. "I can't even look at myself undress, and I did it in front of you?"

"Mmhm. You were a little disoriented." As if that were some consolation to Greg, that he'd been incoherent and could have done who knew what else while he was that way. "I got some food and cocoa into you, and after a bath, you went to bed."

"Dressed in your robe," Greg pointed out and groaned and mock beat his forehead on the table. "Well that very nearly makes number one on my list of top ten embarrassing moments. Disorientated? I sound as bad as if I downed a couple of bottles of vodka or something."

"Exposure can do that." Gil stepped back, contemplating the fridge door while Greg scrambled the eggs. "Do you want anything else? Coffee? Juice?"

"Juice, if you don't mind. I'm pretty thirsty." Greg said. "Well if I'd known that... it's a cheaper way than getting drunk. I could have spent a lot of time outside when I was a student."

"All the cool kids are doing it now," Gil smirked a little. He leaned in to grab the orange juice, and then got Greg a glass.

"I have a terrible feeling as memories come back I'm going to be horribly embarrassed," Greg smiled a little. "But that's nothing unusual. That's just normal."

"You said a few things," Gil half-warned. "But nothing... that I wasn't already considering myself." He tilted his head a little, eyeing Greg while he poured him a splash of the thick juice. "Do you remember any of it?"

"Vaguely. When I get reminded, I definitely remember saying it." Greg rubbed his forehead a moment. "I uh... did I say something about feelings?"

"Mmhm. But we can talk about it later. I didn't react badly, if it helps?" He offered the glass to Greg.

"Thanks," Greg said as he took it. "Wow, you know I took every boundary and just rampaged right on through them, didn't I?" He drank the juice thirstily.

"I'm still not sure what you mean when you talk about boundaries," Gil admitted as he reached to get plates out.

"Like recognizing you might be uncomfortable with talking too much, or getting too close or any of it." Greg put the glass down. "All the things I've had problems with."

"I'm... mostly comfortable with being close. I don't push myself to discuss it. You haven't crossed any of my boundaries." It was the most he could offer to Greg while Greg finished making scrambled eggs.

Greg got up and padded over to the stove. "You'll tell me if I do right? I'd like to know." He started making the scrambled egg absently. "Any good e-mail? I see you were online during breakfast."

"Sara, Catherine. They both say hello. So does Jim. They caught one of the two people I mentioned..." And it was already out of his mouth when he realized that there was no way of knowing if Greg had known it.

"Oh, God, yeah, you said something about thinking someone might have taken me again," Greg jolted a moment with the memory. "Who were they? I don't remember that."

"One was a thug who went by the code name of 'tiger', the other was a Dr. Rosharo." Gil didn't wait for a reaction, but he did watch Greg's face while he went on. "The victim was involved in 'organ hosting'?"

He didn't need to ask if it meant anything to Greg. The look on his face told him he did know both who the people were and what organ hosting was.

"Which one did they catch?"

"Tiger." Gil paused for a moment, half reaching a hand to Greg again. "The person they caught up with is fine."

Greg hesitated. "I know Tiger," he admitted quietly. "And Rosharo. You probably did, too. He was the one that had the dark ponytail swept back and spouted semi-religious crack with the science."

Gil felt his stomach sink a little as he recognized the physical description. Finally the face had a name, but Gil could only guess that it would sink its way into his nightmares. "Don't tell me which one Tiger was, because I remember Rosharo." Gil shook his head a little as he offered Greg plates. "What's organ hosting?"

Greg clear his throat. "Uh. How best to explain?" He took the plates and served up. "The modifying somewhere in a host body to grow a surplus organ. It shouldn't be possible. But..."

"It is. Did they do that to you?" What organ, what kind of health repercussions were there. Gil had all of those questions, but he didn't ask them. Couldn't just then.

"Yes." Greg looked down at the egg. "Yeah, they did." He didn't elaborate but he glanced down at Gil's stomach a moment.

Something to do with that, then. Gil's mouth compressed, and he finally did move to slide a hand onto Greg's shoulder. "Why don't we sit down and... I don't know. I'm waiting for your parents to show up."

"They might even phone before they come this time," Greg said and sat down. "The stuff that disqualified me for... being in your position made me perfect for that. It's not a big secret. They grew the pseudo-uterus in me that I now know ended up in you. And some other things. Apparently it was a big breakthrough, working out how to stop the body rejecting it while it was growing. People died over it and R... Rosharo kept telling me how clever he was to figure it out."

"People died over... everything that happened in there." Gil reclaimed his mug, and poured milk into it before he sat down across from Greg. "We're lucky. And I plan to start concentrating on that fact. We're alive, we have friends and family that care..."

"Yeah. Yeah we do." Greg started eating his egg. "Choose the miracle rather than the disaster, Poppa Olaf used to tell me as a kid. In Norwegian, of course, so it sounded a lot more impressive."

"It still sounds impressive in English." Gil waved his fork slightly as he talked. At least Greg was relaxed enough to sit across from him, still wearing Gil's robe. "I... think having you here helps."

"Good. I mean that." Greg brightened considerably at the thought even as the phone rang and startled him. "I can guess who that is."

"Three guesses, first two don't count?" Gil popped a forkful of eggs into his mouth, and then got up slowly to answer it. "Grissom."

"Mr. Grissom, it's Pete Sanders. We're one our way over, if that's okay?" came the voice of Greg's father. "If Greg is still asleep though..."

"Greg's up and eating breakfast. Now is fine. I appreciate the call," Gil told him, turning around to look at Greg.

"No trouble at all. Uh, the Sheriff said he'd like to know a little more about the situation if the FBI is involved. Do you want me to call him and tell him to come over now so you don't have to go through it again?" Greg's dad sounded nervous, and Grissom had the vaguely uncharitable thought that he might want someone else there to help deal with Rane.

If Gil were Peter, he'd damn well want someone else there. He kept watching Greg, trying to gauge his reaction to the half-conversation he could hear. "I'm sure he would like to know a little more. If he feels he must, then it would probably be easier on everyone..."

Greg was watching him, seeming to puzzle the bits together. He didn't look happy, but he nodded agreeing to whatever Gil thought was best.

"Great. I'll call him," Peter Sanders said with a hint of relief. "We'll be with you inside of thirty minutes. Anything you want in town?"

The news that he wasn't coming was a possibility. Half an hour was long enough to get dressed properly and try to make himself feel more... like himself. Gil leaned back against the counter, and decided he could get back to breakfast after they left. "Nothing that I can think of, but Greg would probably appreciate some real coffee."

Pete Sanders chuckled a little at that. "We'll get him something. Rane knows what he likes. We'll talk soon Mr. Grissom."

And with that he hung up.

"So are they going to be here in the next five minutes?" Greg asked, glancing down at the robe.

"Half an hour. With the Sheriff. I suggest we get dressed." Gil reached to pick up what was left on his plate. "We can reheat everything after they're gone." If either of them felt like eating.

"Yeah." Greg looked at it. "Tonight, I'm gonna make you something you like as a thank you for roaming around the woods looking for me." He looked up again. "Uh, you have any aspirin or something? I've got kind of a headache. Nothing major."

Of course it was nothing major. Just shock and whatever else could spur up a headache. Barometric pressure to stress and everything in between. "Ibuprofen and Tylenol are in the medicine cabinet." He offered Greg a hand up. "Remind me to get your parents to take the clothes they brought you out of their car this time."

"Oh hey, they brought more clothes?" Greg asked even as he took that hand up. He did look a little flushed, but he was smiling at him again. That was comforting in itself. "I think I packed more movies than clothes. I'll get changed quick." His hand lingered in Grissom's own, as if he didn't want to let go.

It was a nice feeling, even as that odd edge of insecurity rose up, jagged, at the back of his mind. There wasn't any sense in questioning Greg's motives, or wasting either of their time wavering. The why didn't matter as long as Greg got better, as long as they both hung in there. "Or take your time. I don't take long. Use the bedroom?" It was a heavily toned suggestion, because there weren't any mirrors there. No reason to have Greg dressing in a dark bathroom.

Greg nodded and padded off to get ready for the meeting ahead that was bound to be an ordeal for them both. It made him wonder how to handle it with his own mother. He just couldn't imagine her reacting in anything resembling the way that Rane Sanders had. Pete, Pete he could vaguely understand and empathize with but he couldn't imagine his mother going hysterical under any circumstances.

Then again, his mother wouldn't be getting an acceptable albeit strange lie to explain it. Just Gil and fumbling, unsure hand gestures, and no way to work out how to go on. At least he'd have one more appointment under his belt before he had to explain. A little more time of peace and quiet with Greg, which was different than peace and quiet with himself. Gil shook his head a little as he started to try to save breakfast.

All he could do was endure the time ahead and try and get his head around some of the things that Greg had said and done while under the influence of mild exposure. In some ways that was more important than the fact he was going to have to tell Greg's parents he was a transsexual who had made their gay son a father.

Sometimes Grissom had to marvel at Greg's ability to talk. To spin believable hypotheses out of nowhere while very obviously trying to preserve some semblance of dignity for them both.

The look on Peter Sander's, Rane and Lt. Brooks face had that same slightly bemused expression that people often got in Greg's presence when he was in full flow.

"... no, see he's not exactly a transsexual. Not in the classic born a woman, and surgically reconstruct to a man way," Greg was explaining at speed. Or 'clarifying' as he had put it. "I mean, that's a simple way of looking at it. Gil's got a genetic condition, Klinefelters Syndrome. It means he's got XXY for his chromosomes and had what was thought to be a vestigial uterus as well as a functioning penis. Something that they did at the... uh... Experiment Factory, activated and inseminated him. It shouldn't be possible."

And sometimes Gil just wished Greg had left it to him. His own knowledge of Klinefelters was rudimentary, bits of personal research curiosity, and he wished that Greg had conferred with him about it first. And that he'd been able to get dressed and out into the living room before company had arrived and Greg had gotten going. He didn't have to see the look on Greg's face directly to know that he had a mask firmly in place. Gil could tell that much by standing behind him, taking in the expressions on their faces.

"Greg? I think they've heard enough."

Greg looked at him guiltily for a second and backed down. "Sorry. Sorry..." he half mumbled even as his mother began speaking again.

"So, let me get this straight, you're actually pregnant?" she asked, leaning forward. "And Greg is definitely the father, but it wasn't something that happened due to sex?"

"Rane, I don't think that's particularly relevant," Peter Sanders said uncomfortably.

"Well, hell, I'd like to know." Lt. Brooks said. "Because so far I've heard a lot of... stuff about Mr. Grissom's innards, and not a lot about the people that caused it. And frankly, Mr. Grissom, I don't find your insides that riveting." He gave him a wry look.

It was hard not to bristle, while he put a hand on Greg's shoulder. His little cabin wasn't meant for visitors, too short on chairs. Lt. Brooks was standing, and Gil didn't want to retreat to grab a chair from the kitchen. "Surprisingly enough, neither do I. We're mostly being kept in the dark about what's going on. The most we know is that there's a doctor from the facility who's been trying to re-contact the other victims."

"Which would account for the panic when the boy here went missing," Lt. Brooks raised his eyebrows. "Well, I knew you were hiding our here Gil, but I have to say, this is a hell of a secret."

"And you're not even going to be a grandmother," Rane interrupted. Rather unexpectedly she smiled. "I never thought I would have grandchildren! What with Greg being gay..."

Greg very nearly groaned under his breath. "Mom..."

Peter Sanders sat up a little. "Wouldn't this make him technically not gay?" he said hopefully.

That was reaching for it, wasn't it? Gil twitched an eyebrow, and deadpanned, "No?" just because it would make him feel better.

"I'm just saying, because having a kid biologically..." Peter Sanders stated.

"Dad..." Greg tried interrupting.

"I mean, that doesn't exactly say gay does it? Biologically being pregnant is a female thing, I mean, males can't do it..."

"Dad...." Greg tried again.

"So by definition that would make him female... her, female..." Mr. Sanders was carrying on regardless.

"Dad!" Greg had to raise his voice, startling him to silence. "Gil is male okay? And male sea horses get pregnant for your information. And... sea dragons. And I'm still gay. Bisexual. Whatever."

Gil flexed his fingers a little, gently squeezing over lean muscle that didn't have enough padding. "Sheriff? If there's anything else that you might think you need to know..." Because, fuck, he didn't need to know half of what he'd just heard.

"I need to know what this guy looks like, and what sort of a risk he is to other people and to you guys," he said calmly. "The rest of it I can head off, though you'll get strange looks in town."

Greg looked at Grissom and back again. "Dr Rosharo is still unaccounted for. He's around five ten, sort of medium build, and has black hair that he wears back in a pony tail. He has pale blue eyes, and a tendency to spout religious crack. I mean that. Doesn't matter what you're talking about, he'll get it in there somewhere. He believes everything is secondary to his 'mission', which means he will hurt, maim, kill or kidnap if it suits his purpose, okay?"

"Fanatical sums it up well." Gil didn't look over to Greg's parents just then. "If we get any information about his movements, I'll pass it on to you. He's armed, and you can assume that he's dangerous."

Lt. Brooks nodded. "I'll do that. And I'll leave now as you folks have a few things to iron out. Gil, you call me direct any time you think there's trouble. I don't like owing you for before. Seems this is a good way to pay off." He got up unhurriedly. "Best of luck to all of you. I don't want to be called out here for a domestic dispute, so keep it civilized." Rane looked faintly offended at that even as the sheriff nodded and headed for the door.

At least Gil could understand the man. He could tell that Lt. Brooks was going to walk out to his truck, get the door closed, and then probably bust something trying to smother his snickering, and that was all right. That was what Gil got for encouraging the man to ask questions, and there was the faint comfort of knowing that Lt. Brooks believed in letting people live their lives quietly. He couldn't say that Gil had tried to be anything but quiet about it.

It still didn't do much for the tension in the room once he'd closed the door behind himself, leaving them with Peter and Rane Sanders sitting on Gil's sofa.

Rane turned her attention to Gil. "So how far along are you?" she asked brightly as if it was an ordinary question. "Do you know if it's a boy or a girl?"

"Mom?" Greg tried again. "Were you listening to the bit where I explained how dangerous this is for Gil?"

"Pregnancy is inherently dangerous. I had to be hospitalized with you come the end," she dismissed the concern. "So?"

"I, uh..." Gil trailed off, and finally did step back from Greg. "Greg, do you want to sit down?" Now, now he'd retreat to grab chairs.

Greg nodded. "Look, Mom, I'll go through this again. The risks are a lot bigger. I... don't know if there has ever been a successful pregnancy from this sort of background. "

"Then he should be in a hospital," Rane announced as if that was the only answer.

"Mom, has it occurred to you that both of us might be a little reluctant to go near a hospital?" Greg pointed out.

No, no, of course it hadn't occurred to her. Never mind everything Greg had told them the night before, never mind that they knew the fucking circumstances. "But if it's for your health and safety, Mr. Grissom..." Peter offered, scooting forward a little on the sofa while Gil came back towards the sofa and the coffee table with two kitchen table chairs in hand.

"Call me Gil."

"Gil then," Rane said as Greg took one of the chairs and sat down. "They can do a cesarean, which is probably better and less of a trauma than doing it the old fashioned way. There were times when I was having Greg that I was thinking there had to be an easier way. My friend Marjorie Gilson? She had one and it was all over and done with in a couple of hours. Me? I was in labor for over two days!"

Greg sighed a little. "Look, Mom, Dad, I know this has to be a lot to swallow. It's been for both of us, too. I just wanted you guys to try and understand."

"We're, uh, trying, Greg." Peter was eyeing Gil as he sat down, and Gil tried not to think or guess at what Peter was thinking. "I'm not really sure where we're going wrong with it?"

Greg hesitated. "We're trying to be reasonably discrete. Gil's life is still in danger. I still don't think you really appreciate what happened to us, but... I guess that's okay. We'll work this out between us. I just don't want you to be looking at Gil as a way of your son not being gay, or... or any sort of weirdity. You can't tell anyone about this, okay?"

"Our continued safety hinges on it, because not everyone from that facility was caught, and most of them would love to get their hands on some of their old experiments again." Gil leaned back a little in his chair, watching Rane instead of Peter. She seemed insanely happy, improperly happy in Gil's opinion, but maybe he should've been happy like that, too.

"Of course Mr.... uh... Gil," Rane said smiling. "I think it's just wonderful that something so positive can come out of what must have been a horrible ordeal. But I'm sure when you have your son or daughter, you'll realize it was worth going through."

Greg was just staring at his mother in stunned amazement. "Mom, please. Just stop okay?"

"Whatever for?" Rane blinked. "You don't want to raise the child?" She looked alarmed. "Peter? We can't let them put our grandchild up for adoption!"

"Er..." Peter looked at Greg and Grissom reading their expressions. "I don't think that's the issue, dear."

"I'm sure your keen observational eye is an asset to the police force. It's not normal to tell someone who ended up pregnant after rape and assault that it was all worth going through. At least, it's not normal in Vegas to say something like that." The words started to almost roll out of his mouth. "It's one thing to seek out a doctor for some kind of infertility treatment, and another to find yourself a human lab rat."

"I didn't mean to say it like that," Rane replied, sounding a little contrite. "What I meant was a child can be a great blessing no matter the circumstances of birth." She glanced over at Greg who seemed to be gritting his teeth in an effort not to say something. "I didn't mean to offend you..."

"Mom, just leave the subject okay?" Greg tried again.

"Well I didn't know Gil had been raped too," she replied, trying to justify herself. "I thought it was only you."

There was a deathly silence as Greg looked like he had been punched and his mother seemed to realize her unfortunate ability for saying the wrong thing had gone just a little too far this time.

"I... Greg, sweetheart, I didn't mean it like..."

Peter put a hand over his eyes, and groaned a little. "Rane..."

"Like it sounded?" Gil shifted, and reached a hand subtly over to rest it on Greg's leg. "Give rephrasing it a shot."

Rane looked at them all. "What I meant was I didn't realize that both of you had been... sexually assaulted. I mean, otherwise that would have meant that you raped Gil if you're the father..."

Things weren't improving. Gil could see Greg swallowing almost convulsively at his mother's words.

His fingers wandered a little, thumb tracing over a three inch line of Greg's sartorius muscle. Touch made Greg calm, at least, touch between the two of them. "Rane? Take a deep breath and please stop talking."

Following another look from her husband, Rane finally became quiet.

"Sorry about that," Peter said apologetically. "I think I understand."

"Rape is a sexual assault against someone's volition," Greg said quietly. "Making someone pregnant would count, no matter how it was done."

"I get it son. I really do." Greg's father said again, even as Greg shook his head to deny that claim.

"No, Dad, you probably don't. You find it hard to deal with that I like guys, let alone this. But you're trying. I appreciate it, even if I know I disappoint you." Greg tried a twist of a smile, remaining very still under Gil's touch.

"No, you... you don't disappoint me." Gil kept up the faint, meticulous motion, watching Peter's expression shift towards frustrated. "Or your mother. You've done a lot with your life, Greg, and as long as you're happy, or trying for it, I'm not disappointed. I'd, dammit, I'd be disappointed if you were pretending to be something you aren't."

"I saw how you looked when I told you what went on Dad," Greg replied. "You didn't want a son who had... allowed that to happen to him."

It seemed important to him to get to the bottom of this.

So Gil bit his lip for the moment, and didn't barrel over anything Peter might say, in his own knee-jerk reaction. He just kept the stroking up, tilted his head down a little. He needed to sweep the living room -- the dirt trekked in was starting to get out of control.

"You were kidnapped, Greg. You didn't... allow it. I just." Peter paused, took a slow breath that matched the controlled ease that Gil was already breathing with. "You're my son. I still think I should be able to protect you, and while you were missing, everything we did to try to find you just didn't cut it."

There was a long pause and Greg looked at Grissom, his eyes dark. "Yeah. Yeah, I guess I know that feeling, Dad." He exhaled. "We okay with this? Mom, Dad? You going to let Gil and I deal as best we can?"

"Of course. Your mother and I just... worry. I'm sure that Gil's family is just as worried..." He offered that in a tentative way that almost made Gil smile.

"They are."

Greg smiled a little as well. "As long as you know, and you're okay, that helps," he said in a stronger voice. "It's just something Gil and I feel better off dealing with together."

It was strange to think that Greg had only known for a few days himself.

Known and still didn't have proof. How many people would have believed Gil without real proof, more than Catherine verbally agreeing with what Gil had said?

"Are you sure you don't... need help? I mean, dealing with everything," Peter said quickly.

"We're doing all right."

Greg nodded and agreed with Gil's assessment of the situation. "You guys really don't have to stay up here. In fact it might be better if you don't, so anyone looking for us doesn't get an idea of where we are."

As if it was hard to find him and Greg if someone wanted to seriously get to the act of looking for them. His thumb dragged over worn denim again -- Gil hadn't quite stopped rubbing over Greg's leg muscles while they'd talked. "We have a cell phone and e-mail, and I'll make sure that Greg keeps in touch."

Pete Sanders looked at his wife and back at them again. "That's all we can ask for if you're sure you don't want to come back with us. Both of you?"

Greg looked at his mother a moment and shook his head. "Sorry, Dad. I mean we appreciate it, but I don't like the thought of exposing you to the sort of problems we're in. There... there's too many people who'll want to be around and I'm not really comfortable around people at the moment."

"After everything has had time to settle down, it'll be easier." Even if it probably wouldn't be easier for Gil to give out mindless reassurances like that as time wore on, and his own problem became more obvious.

"Are you sure there's nothing else we can do, sweetie?" Rane asked in a subdued voice. "This doesn't seem like much."

Greg shook his head. "Mom, it's okay, really. I appreciate that you came all the way up here for me."

It was a sign that they cared, after all. A sign that Greg's parents were concerned enough by his actions that they'd taken time like that off from work that they'd driven all the way up to Jackpot to find him. "It helps to know that your friends and family are there for you."

"And I'm sorry to make this all such a shock for you both," Greg apologized again. "But we'll be okay."

Peter Sanders nodded and got up. "We get the message, son. Come on Rane, let's leave Greg and Gil here to deal. We can support them wherever we are."

"We're... we're leaving?" Rane got up startled.

"I think that would be best for the time being, as long as they both know that at any time, for any reason, we can be here, or they can come to us." Pete looked at Gil and Greg looking for their understanding.

Gil felt a small inkling for liking Peter Sanders seep into him. It was easier that way, without having to answer any of Rane's questions about what gender the baby was, or how far along it was, or any of the strange cooing she'd been doing earlier that had struck Gil as so intrusive. "We understand that, and I appreciate knowing it."

"Good. Greg, I've left the things we brought from Vegas by the door," Peter said gently but firmly ushering Rane away to the door and Greg got up to see them up. "If you need anything else, give me a call. If we don't hear from you every couple of days, Greg, we'll turn up here again, okay?"

"Got it, Dad. I promise to stay in touch." Greg hesitated as they reached the doorway even as his mother moved forward to hug him and kiss him. The flinch was hidden this time and he managed to accept her contact and concern.

"Take care of yourself, Greg, sweetie," she said as she straightened up. "And of Gil, too."

Greg nodded. "That we definitely agree on."

"It was good to meet you both, though I wish it hadn't been under these circumstances." Gil stood up, shadowing Greg to the door before he offered both of them a hand shake.

Pete shook his hand with a firm grip, and Rane treated him to a hug as well much to everyone's astonishment.

"You make sure you take care of yourself as well, Gil," she said even as she stepped back. "You've got our numbers, Greg's got our e-mail. You let us know anything."

"We will." Gil wasn't quite sure what 'anything' entailed, but it sounded like she wanted to hear any news, good or bad. Gil stepped back to stand beside Greg in the doorway. "Have a safe trip back home."

The watched as Greg's parents left, Greg finally pushing the door shut as their car pulled away.

"I shouldn't be glad they're gone but... Jesus, I don't think I could deal with them being around. Congratulations Gil, you've survived a visit from my mother."

There was something about the tone of Greg's voice, something about the texture of his words, and while Gil couldn't pick up what it was, he could tell it was there. He shifted closer, slid an arm over Greg's shoulder and then slowly, a little awkwardly embraced him. "So did you."

Greg turned into him and leaned, "She doesn't mean it. She never means it. She just has this uncanny way of saying exactly the wrong thing..." he mumbled into him. "Usually it doesn't matter, I don't care but... oh god Gil, do you think the same? That it's like me raping you, having my child forced on you?"

The leaning felt good, and he could feel Greg's words more than he heard them. He moved fingers, a little awkward still, and rubbed down Greg's back. "No. I'm... grateful that it is yours, actually. That it wasn't one of them. If they hadn't kept saying that it was yours, I..."

Greg was holding him as well and he could feel as well as hear the sigh of relief at that. "We were a good match, they said. I... god, it wears me out dealing with Mom. I love her and Dad, but even at the best of times, I spend forever afterwards as some sort of wreck. You were great. And I'm really glad you weren't horrified at the thought it was mine."

The thought that it was there at all was so much more pressing than worrying over whose it was, but Gil didn't say that. He just nodded, and finally started to back up towards the sofa. "You're smart, bright, and ambitious, you like to learn, and you worry about people. You'll make a good father." A better father than Gil himself, but there wasn't any sense in saying that, either

"So will you," Greg said as he eventually sat on the couch. He looked directly at Grissom. "You're not going to leave this all to me, you know." He smiled a little at him but his expression was worried and more than a little serious.

"I hope not," Gil shrugged casually, one arm still around Greg as they settled down, side-by-side, leg against leg. "I just... the way you've reacted helps me. I'm glad you came here."

"Even with the woods rescue and the parents from hell?" Greg grinned a little. "Well, with any luck, we got my obstacles out of the way, so we get to concentrate on you now."

If Greg thought they were going to deal with just one person at a time, he was insane. Gil leaned in a little more, peering at Greg's shifting eye movements. "We can both concentrate on getting better and coping."

"You get closer, Griss, and I might just have to kiss you again," Greg said almost nervously. "It's like a reaction I have."

"Closeness bringing about some strange kissing reaction?" Gil didn't move, shift forward or backwards. "We could test it scientifically, but I'm not sure what the control would be."

Greg shifted just a little closer to him. "Tell me no and I'll back off," he said softly. "I remember some of what I said last night now. I meant it."

"I know you meant it." Not why he meant it, but maybe Greg didn't know why he meant it, either. Maybe Gil was wrong. It didn't matter, not really. Very little in life was perfect or storybook like, very little was ideal. "So, if I say 'yes'?"

"Then I'll kiss you. And I won't do anything to make you uncomfortable, but maybe I'll try and hold you and... stuff," Greg sounded a little embarrassed. "If you'll let me. Please?"

Gil tilted his head back a little, and then sat back, fingers sliding to Greg's shoulders. He felt good, and warm, and Gil knew that Greg was just as likely to flip out as he was to do it himself. And that was soothing, calming, for some absurd reason. "Don't beg. I want you, Greg. Whatever we're both all right with."

"I'm all right with you," Greg murmured and brushed at his lips with a tentative kiss and then again with more purpose and direction, just as he had before. He was still a little warm to the touch but that was all to the good as he seemed to be focused on comfort.

Maybe it wasn't about sex at all. Gil had known attraction that was just about sex: hard breathing, panting, sweating, fingers shaking to get clothes off the moment the front door was closed behind them sex. This was almost immature, slow and careful. Comfort and seeking it much more than it was about sex. Greg's breath tasted like whatever coffee it was that his parents has brought and left for him with a hint of scrambled eggs, and his lips were faintly dry, warm against Gil's. He tilted his head a little, and their noses brushed.


Greg smiled as if Grissom had just given him an unexpected gift and brushed at Gil's hair with his fingers. "So how about we just have a chill out day. I'll make us something nice for dinner and you can teach me about bugs?"

"What kind of 'bugs'?" It was a funny gesture for Greg to make, but Gil tilted his head into the gesture a little, fingers twitching over Greg's shoulders a little. "If you're thinking about dinner already, should I be scared? We did just barely rush through breakfast."

"Well I might have to fix it now," Greg replied. "Any bugs. Work bugs. You were talking me through decay timelines before all this hit the fan." He stroked the older mans hair gently with a slightly amazed smile.

"We could pick up with that again, if you'd like. As for dinner, I don't have any ideas." His only ideas involved skipping food entirely in favor of sitting on the sofa with Greg all day, petting, touching, and kissing. Greg wasn't the only one who was enjoying a little comfort.

"I'll think of something," Greg murmured leaning in to kiss him very softly around his neck and jaw. "Right now, I'm pretty happy right where I am."

Gil turned his head a little, and pulled at Greg gently. "Closer would be good, too, but I like the way this is going..."

"I did say I wasn't going to do much," Greg replied settling onto him. "So I hope this is enough." Light touches and kisses, nothing pressing, nothing threatening.

It didn't leave Gil too sure of what he could do, other than mimic the gestures, stay at and around that level of contact, because if Greg was doing it that way, then it was possibly because that was where Greg was comfortable. Rubbing and nearness, brushes, a faint kiss that slid against Gil's neck. He groaned a little, then sighed when he moved a hand to cup Greg's chin. "You can say no, too. If anything..."

"I'm okay, I'm good... you feel good," Greg murmured. "It's different with you close. I never thought I could... that you would..." There were more gentle kisses.

Soft and hesitant, lingering against his lips before Gil opened his mouth a little, trying to kiss Greg back less stiffly. A soft suck on Greg's bottom lip, more pressure of mouth to mouth, enough to get Gil's heartbeat up a little. Enough to make him think about sex for the first time in too long in a way that could carry some momentum with it. "I don't... date employees. Subordinates. But with everything going on--"

"I think we're beyond dating," Greg acknowledged. "I can't lose you. Be without you. Too long without you there."

It made Gil hope for the best-case scenario, if just for Greg's sake. "I'm not going to make you have to do that. We'll just... do this, stay here, plan from day to day."

"I can work with that," Greg murmured as he resumed the soft touches. "I can work with all of it."

"Good." Gil closed his eyes, and shifted. Greg leaned into him so well, so comfortably, kissed so slowly. He could do that for hours, and just relax with it, and the way that Greg dragged lips over the smooth edge of his jaw seemed to say that Greg could do it, too.

Greg glanced down at his hand as he was sitting with Gil in the waiting room. He was doing it again. His fingers had threaded themselves through Grissom's, searching for the contact they had established over the last couple of days since the Visit of Doom (as he liked to call it in his own mind) from his parents. Realistically speaking, any visit involving his mother was a Visit of Doom, and they were probably beating the Nightmare on Elm Street series or Friday 13th for impossible sequels.

Being treed by a bear was up there with the all time greats though.

Still, as a result he had directly managed to basically foist his unsubtle attentions on Gil, and even when they were talking, or he was discussing forensics, they were rarely out of contact physically.

It was still pretty surprising, to him at least, that Gil was all right with that contact. The idea that Gil wanted, even liked him, enough to bear it was something he hadn't ever expected to find out. Gil Grissom just wasn't supposed to be like that. He'd never been very tactile at work unless it was with a case or insects or some strange experiment, but that didn't count. Sitting curled up on the sofa together with a forensics journal was a far cry from Gil sticking his hands in clay to show Greg that anything could take a fingerprint, and how to lift it. That had been before everything had gone wrong, and even then Gil had felt a need to supplement the things that the Field Training classes just didn't cover.

He felt a little, well a lot guilty that he felt so much better with Gil there. Other people still freaked him out. He was holding Grissom's hand partly because he could feel sweat prickling on his forehead from the proximity of strangers.

He never went too far, if only because he couldn't stand it. And he'd been wearing clothes when they went to bed together. That helped. It helped that Grissom was sleeping more, that he actually smiled at him and when he did, it was like a jolt of wonder every time.

He was so far gone he probably wasn't even on the planet.

Ten minutes over. They must be ready to go in any time now.

It was okay to be nervous about the coming appointment, because he was going to see real hard proof of everything he and Gil hadn't really been talking about. It was just kind of there, and neither of them was making any long-term plans or anything. Talking about being pregnant past a certain point made Gil uncomfortable, made him give stilted one word answers, and Greg could guess why.

A nurse peered out of the door, and nodded to them both. No names, no 'Mr. Grissom, the doctor is ready to see you now'.

It was signal enough for him to get up and follow Gil into the examination room where there were at least three doctors waiting and a fourth one just entering the room. The sight of the white coats sent a shock through him that he hadn't expected. Of course he'd realized there would be doctors there but...

He wondered how Grissom had been doing this alone.

"Mr. Grissom, would you like to lie down, please?" One of the doctors -- Dr. Edward Phillips, Greg noted from his name tag -- came over, smiling at them both. "You've met Dr. Carlin before, our genetics specialist, but I've brought in our surgical consultant Dr. James and an embryonics specialist Dr. Fitzroy. And this is... ?"

Greg was conscious of a glance in his direction.

"Greg Sanders, the... other biological donor." Gil had been talking normally in the car on the drive there, but now he sounded cool and tight. Too tight, too controlled, so maybe he wasn't as comfortable with all of those doctors as he'd seemed to be.

The table was padded, with a sheet of white paper pulled down over it, and Gil managed to lie down on it with as smooth a motion as someone who was fully dressed could manage.

"Mr. Sanders... of course," Dr Phillips nodded and beamed at them both. "Now, let's see how things are progressing. We'll try and avoid gowning you up today, Gil. Do you want Mr. Sanders to stay?"

Gil had to say yes. Gil had wanted him to be there, and Greg didn't really want to sit in a room full of strangers again and wonder, even if he didn't want to be in a white room surrounded why white coats, either. "Yes."

"Mr. Sanders would you mind just going on the other side... yes, that's it. We're going to do an ultrasound and see how things are coming along."

Greg moved around and took Gil's hand again as soon as he settled. They made it sound so... normal. Jolly in a hearty fashion as if he should be looking into stocks of champagne and cigars. He squeezed Grissom's hand a little and murmured, "Doing okay?" as they set up equipment.

"Fine." He didn't sound fine, and his fingers were a little clammy in Greg's hand. Gil had closed his eyes for the moment, and seemed very still as the doctor unbuttoned his shirt and then unbuckled his belt, popping the top button. Different than a gown, sure, but Greg wasn't sure it was any better.

"Okay then. Sorry about this... we haven't yet invented self heating gel but..." Dr. Phillips expertly smoothed some onto the ultrasound and Grissom's stomach.

Greg found himself staring. The swell was more noticeable here somehow, under bright lights and clinical conditions. Maybe there was more shadow. More highlight, he wasn't sure.

The doctor was pressing the sensor into that flesh and looking at the screen, with a frown of concentration. "There we are..." He did a screen capture and held it. "A good clear picture. Gentlemen? Your opinions please?"

He turned the screen around and Greg felt everything normal in the world drain away.

There it was. A little shape, the curve of a curled up little form, the shape of a head and spindly things that could pass for arms and legs. Greg remembered his mother cooing over baby photos of him, and how he'd been one hell of an ugly baby, funny legs and arms and a huge head.

Gil was staring at the screen.

Okay, no panicking, no passing out. He was here for Grissom, and... Oh dear God, he was going to be a father and that was his baby. His and Grissom's. Maybe he should revisit the passing out option.

No. He squeezed Gil's hand again and then reached to brush at his hair again. "Looks... like he'll take after me..." he said softly. "Got the spindly arms and all."

The shape twisted a little, and Gil kept staring at the screen. "Maybe. Is... can you tell what gender it is?"

"Not an expert," Greg murmured listening with half an ear to the doctors talking about developmental rates, and healthy signs. "But hey, he lounges like you do on the couch. Gotta be a 'he' right?"

Statistics and probabilities floated in his head again, mingling with the odds of this all working out in the end. He remembered it all. He remembered Rosharo lecturing him on the processes, when he had no context to know what they were for. He remembered too much of the probabilities and statistics.

He could remember Gil's mostly dim outlook on things, and guess that it might have a pretty solid foundation in reality. After all, the doctors were going on like they weren't there, like Gil wasn't really a person and Greg wasn't standing there. "Maybe." Gil's voice sounded a little wistful.

"No way am I being a single dad, Gil," he said fervently. "You're going to be there, right with me."

"Well Gil, the fetus is developing nicely, no signs of abnormalities," Dr. Phillips finally turned to them both. "We need to take a more detailed look at the supporting structures though, and take your blood and weight and so on. I can do you a print of that if you want. We're recording this meticulously. Now if you could just bear with me, I want Drs. James and Fitzroy to assess the most likely point of a successful Cesarean."

Successful. That was a good word to cling to as the ultrasound went into action again, and Gil was asked to move this way and then more screen captures, more muttered discussions and a crawling sense of worry began to grip Greg's thoughts. What were they seeing?

And what weren't they saying? "I'd like to have a print," Gil said, somewhere in all of the controlled chaos, while he followed their directions perfectly. After all, his life was in their hands, and if Gil flipped out, heck, if Greg flipped out, things might not run so smoothly.

There was a long period of talking. Greg could see Dr. James shaking his head a lot. He swallowed a couple of times and his heart rate rocketed as Dr. Phillips turned and said. "Mr. Sanders, I think you better leave the room a moment. We need to speak to Mr. Grissom."

"If you have something to tell me, you can say it in front of him." Gil's fingers twitched, warm and damp in Greg's grasp, and he squeezed tightly. "He's staying."

"I'm not going anywhere," Greg affirmed, gripping him back.

"Then you might want a seat." The doctor clustered together a moment even as Greg obeyed.

"Mr. Grissom, we have some... bad news."

Nothing good would ever, ever start that way. Greg felt himself freeze up inside.

"Do you recall us talking about the possibility of the placental organ and the pseudo-uterus attaching not just to the gut, but to the liver and the implications of that?" Dr. Phillips said in a low voice.

He could hear Gil inhale, and his exhale was the words, "I recall. Is that what you've seen on the... ultrasound?" Gil opened his eyes, and leaned up a little to look at Dr. Phillips.

"Unfortunately yes. There has been a rather dramatic development into the liver itself. Dr. James is... his professional assessment is that even at this stage, removal would not be successful."

Greg stared. "Wait. Wait, what are you saying?" he blurted out.

Were they talking about removing... the baby, or Gil's liver? Then or later, or... ?

Gil's fingers went a little limp, and leaned back, lay back on the bed. "It's not working right."

"Not working right means that it is salvageable right?" Greg pushed. "Right?" He looked around at them a little desperately.

It was Dr. James who answered. "Uh, what we're saying is that even at this point in time, even the best surgeon in the country couldn't separate the placental tissue from the liver without completely destroying Mr. Grissom's liver. It's too embedded. We always intended to remove the section of intestine that it's feeding from, but... the liver is a different matter. It's almost impossible to stop the bleeding and regenerate tissue. It's too far along."

Greg was on his feet immediately. "Why the hell did you let it GET this far along?!"

He was shouting, he knew he was but he couldn't stop the burst of anger. This couldn't be happening. Not just as things were coming together.

"Mr. Sanders, please." Dr. Phillips held up a hand to placate him. "There was no sign of proliferation into the liver at Gil's last check up. This has been... unexpected."

Like they had a lot of male pregnancies to compare it to.

"Then..." Greg had to grit his teeth. "How are you going to fix this? What are the options?" He could be calm, he could be....

The silence after his words partially answered that for him until Dr. James spoke up. "The best option is to take a tissue sample from Mr. Grissom's liver and wait for a match. If one comes up and we can do a liver transplant we'll have to perform a cesarean there and then. A transplant is his only option for survival."

And livers were in short supply, let alone compatible ones.

And timing it so the transplant could be done and the baby survived was next to impossible. Gil closed his eyes for a moment, and nodded. "All right. Take the sample and if it happens..."

"Mr. Grissom, you have to know that the timeframe is..."

Greg zoned out as he provided the answer in his own head. Impossible. And the chances of tissue rejection were high even with one that matched a compatibility profile. He was stunned, locked into immobility even as he was through virtue of necessity moved away from Grissom and left standing even as two of the doctors prepared to leave. Dr. Carlin. The geneticist.

His instinct completely overrode any panicking messages from his brain. "Dr. Carlin? Can I speak to you? Right now."

"Uh..." He glanced past Greg for a moment, to where Gil was sitting up, and Dr. Phillips was handing him tissues. "I'm very busy, and I need to go look over the tape on this, so if you could make it quick..."

"Somewhere private." Greg said already walking. He couldn't believe that he was even considering this. He'd sworn never to bring it all up, to let what happened to him stop. To make it end and stay only in memory in case other nutcases got a hold of it. He ducked into a small office and waited for Dr. Carlin to join him. "Dr. Carlin, did you get any briefing on my part in the process?"

"Somewhat. I've worked with some of the other victims whose, uh, situation was much the same, Mr., Sanders." Dr. Carlin looked around the room, and then closed the door behind him. It was Dr. Phillips's office, but he was still busy with Gil and wouldn't need to be in the diploma lined room just yet.

"You know that I was altered as part of the experiments and grew the functioning pseudo-uterus that's in Gil?" God, he even sounded like he knew what he was talking about.

Instead of like he was just regurgitating words he'd been told.

"Yes, I'm aware of that..." The doctor paused, and then frowned slightly. "Huh. Now I see. Are you implying..."

"I want to grow a compatible liver for Gil." There, it sounded so easy. "I... I know the process. The details. The designer liked to talk it through." Greg forced himself to breathe. "I know I can produce compatible tissues, and I know the risks and the missing process. This could be the biggest break in organ cloning you're going to get, Dr. Carlin."

"There are rules against it, Mr. Sanders. Ethical reasons that we can't..."

No. No, dammit, they weren't going to tell him no and take that chance away from him. If he could do something, he wasn't going to let rules stop him from helping Gil.

"You pitch it to the right people and the issue of ethics just disappears. I'll sign any damn thing they want if it will save his life," Greg interrupted and he meant it. "I've already been violated. You think I'll be able to live with the fact that I might have the means in me to save his life and sit there and wait for him to die? You can get it passed. I know you can. And you want to. You could be the man who makes the legitimate organ cloning breakthrough. Holy Grail time."

He could tell that Carlin wanted to do it, could tell that a willing volunteer would be amazing. He looked down at the desk he was standing near, and then nodded. "I'll need to speak with some people, and confer with the confiscated notes to see if it can be replicated."

Greg grabbed a piece of paper and scribbled his e-mail and his cell number on it. "Call when they say yes. And if they talk about unacceptable risks of metastasizing cancer tell them I know, and I didn't react that way last time with their latest version. He doesn't deserve to die, Dr. Carlin."

"I'll call you if I can work it out. We'd need to start as soon as possible, of course, and the pregnancy might not last." There was a pause and the doctor eyed Greg. "If that's what this is about. If that's the reason why you're offering this, Mr. Sanders..."

Greg blinked. "What? What reason?" He didn't understand.

"The baby. If that's the reason why you're agreeing to take this risk, you need to know that it's very unlikely that either one will survive..."

"But with a donor liver, there's a strong possibility that Gil will survive right?" Greg said forcefully. "I don't want him to know unless they agree and it takes. But I promised him we'd make it through this. Both of us. If all three of us can make it through I'll take that as a miracle, too, but I'm not having Gil sacrifice his life to an experiment!"

"Then take that up with him. We could have removed it entirely at the last check up," Dr. Carlin shrugged. "But he wanted to go on with it. No one's making him, and I want you to remember that no one's making you do this, if I get the green light."

No. That was true. Well his therapist had talked about facing his fears. It didn't get any more real than this. It was all overshadowed by that one major fear. He could lose Gil, just as he was finding him.

"Whatever you need. I mean it." Greg offered himself up. "I know it might not work, but I've gotta try. I'll write up notes and send them. I've got a good memory."

And conditioning and association meant he wasn't forgetting that in a hurry.

"All right. Any additional information that might not be in the notes would help. If that's all..." Right, because the doctor was a very busy man, who was probably going to dance a jig the moment that Greg was out of the room.

"I'm going to get back to Gil." And try not to freak out at what he had just done. "Thank you." He turned and stepped away before he could change his mind back to where there was a huge looking needle being maneuvered in Grissom's stomach.

"Oh God." He walked forward, wanting to be there, to do something, but was prevented from getting too close.

"Nearly done, Mr. Sanders... one more sample, Mr. Grissom..." Dr. Phillips was saying.

Gil's eyes were tightly closed, and he grunted by way of answer. There was no way for Gil to be that calm, no way for him to be that under control when Greg was shaking at the sight of it.

The man amazed him. Constantly. He remembered too many needles like that. He... he'd just agreed to needles like that. Fuck. It made him clench inside to see the biopsy needle withdrawn and the rather ineffectual dressing put on the resulting hole.

"There, samples all taken Gil," Dr. Phillips said standing back and Greg moved in immediately to reach for Grissom's hand, to reassure him, to make him unclench from the fear he tried to protect him from.

"I'm here Griss, I'm here."

"Oh, hi. I was wondering where you'd gone..." Gil sounded faintly shaky, and clutched tight to Greg's hand. "Dr. Phillips, can I move again? Are we done?"

"We're done for today," Dr. Phillips said in a sympathetic tone. "We'll get these out for a match. If one comes in, we'll have to go with it, okay?"

Greg stroked Grissom's hair gently. "It's gonna be okay, Griss," he said knowing how inane it sounded. "I just had to step out a moment. You know."

"Okay." He probably thought Greg had been out throwing up or something, and even if that was what Greg had wanted to do, he hadn't. "Is there anything I should do in the meanwhile?"

"Make sure you get a lot of rest, and eat well," Dr. Phillips said. "Drink a lot of water. You might start feeling effects of liver problems. Tiredness, headaches, and so on. You'll need to rest a lot."

"He will," Greg promised for him.

"Rest more than I already am, you mean," Gil amended. He started to fasten his pants again, and shook off Greg's hand in the urgency to get dressed again. "Could I have a copy of the ultrasound? Or one of the stills?"

"Certainly. Hold on, I'll just..." There was the whir of a printer and a fine quality copy printed off. "There." He proffered it to them as a gift and Greg found himself taking it.

Gil was busy buttoning his shirt up, after all. "Could you tell what gender it is, or... ?" Or were they too busy making notes and nodding heads at each other. Maybe it was Greg's imagination, but Gil was starting to sound a little brittle, a little tired.

"You want to know?" Dr. Phillips asked. "It's a boy, Mr. Grissom."

It was still a shock, even though Greg had half suspected.

"It's a boy," Gil repeated. He nodded when he said it, and swung his feet off of the edge of the table, almost ready to stand up. "Thanks."

"Here, let me help you." He could do that at least. It wasn't going to happen. What they all expected, it wasn't going to happen. Hell, he was smart, he'd figured a way immediately. All he needed now was the strength to go through with it. "I'll drive us home right?"

"Sure." Sure, and if he got one more one word answer, Greg was going to twitch. Gil slid to his feet, looking a little shaky, and steadied himself on the table. "I, uh..." He swallowed, and then pulled away sharply, lunging for the trash can.

They just about made it before Gil threw up, Greg having moved to hold him there, steady him. "Easy... easy... Can I have a glass of water here, please?" he called out as he focused on Grissom. "I don't blame you. I'd be doing the same. You okay?"

He choked a little, coughed, chest still heaving as he crouched there. Greg could feel him shaking, breathing too hard. "Yeah, I'll..."

Griss wouldn't want to have a breakdown about it all here. He was entitled but he'd hate doing it here. "It's okay, Gil, we'll get out of here and just, you know, I'll be there. You've been there for me right? My turn for you," Greg said softly, smoothing over his back, touching him gently. God, he wanted to say there was hope, but until it was in him, growing, he couldn't. Not yet. He wouldn't be so cruel as to give something that wasn't real.

He could tell him that he loved him though. That was as real as it got.

Dr. Phillips was still watching him, and somewhere in Gil's mad dash, Greg had dropped the print out. The picture of their child, their son, and it hit Greg all over again that he was a father and that was such a surreal thing to note. He was a dad. Going to be a dad, but none of that mattered if Gil didn't live.

Gil gave him a jerky nod, and coughed again. "Right."

He found the glass of water, and helped Grissom to stand slowly. "Here, drink it slowly." He bent and reclaimed the print and folded it carefully, putting it in his pocket for later. "You need to get to a bathroom?"

Code for, is there any more vomiting you want to be doing? He remembered that from helping Julie. God. Gil had to live.

"No, I, I think I'm all right." He closed his eyes, and sat onto his knees, drinking the water slowly before he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

"Ready to leave?" Greg asked in a low voice. "I think you need to be at home, right? Somewhere safe."

That was where he wanted to be. Half of him was still reeling from the shock of it all. The other half was in real trouble.

"Right." Gil tried to start to stand, and Greg could read the cues enough to try to help Gil get to his feet steadily. "Let's go home. Dr. Phillips? Have your secretary call me for whenever you think the next... appointment should be."

"We'll do that, Gil." The man actually sounded sympathetic to them as Greg very carefully guided Grissom away from the place that was all too close to their nightmares, and likely to generate a few more from the news they had received today. Gil had been told he had a 99% chance of dying in the next few months. Just the thought of it made Greg panic, so he could only imagine what else was going through Grissom's head.

They nodded to the receptionists, made their slow way out of the building towards Grissom's Tahoe, not saying anything. He wanted to hold him, comfort him. He wanted to scream how it wasn't fair to the world, that neither of them deserved this. That they had escaped and they were meant to live.

He didn't care that they were in public, he didn't care about anything except for Gil there and then. He turned when they reached the car and just hugged him. Held on to him like he was never going to let go.

Greg didn't want to ever let go. He wanted to have Gil safe and sound and with him forever, and...

Gil hugged him back, the motion oddly desperate, and he bent his head in against Greg's shoulder. He didn't say anything, didn't make any noises, just held Greg as much as Greg was holding onto him.

What could he say? It's going to be okay? That would seem meaningless. But he had to say something. Something.

"I love you."

Jesus Christ with a fumette up his ass, he'd said that aloud

And for that little bit of pouring his heart out, Gil nodded his head, inhaled, exhaled, and made a choking noise that wasn't quite coherent. He still didn't pull back from Greg, just stood out there in the heat that was a five hour drive back to Jackpot.

It was cresting into dark by the time that they arrived in Jackpot, and Gil had slept on part of the drive. He'd always found driving very relaxing, and after that stab of emotional exhaustion, he'd nodded off in the silence. There wasn't anything he could think of to say to Greg, wasn't anything he could do, wasn't anything he could think except that...

That yes, now he had permission to prepare for a worst case scenario. Now he had permission from reality to rewrite his will for the worst case scenario, now he had permission to plan for the scenario, and it was strangely relaxing. There would be no repercussions for what he and Greg were doing, and he wouldn't be going back to the lab, and nothing he did held long term implications anymore.

He was going to die. He wasn't ever going to meet his son, wasn't going to see him grow up, wasn't going to see what happened with Greg after all of that. Wasn't going to go back to the lab like he'd promised everyone, wasn't going to do a lot of things.

It struck him, as he walked through the front door and headed for the thermostat to turn it up, that he wasn't ever going to ride another rollercoaster, and somehow that stupid thought was what pressed silence into a throat constricting urge to cry.

"You hungry?" Greg said suddenly breaking the silence that seemed to have stretched impossibly between them. "I..."

He sounded like he was struggling too, and Gil didn't doubt for a moment that he was. He could almost feel the way Greg was desperately trying to think of something, anything to help him. It was selfish but he liked that. He needed that right now.

Gil turned the heat up a little, and shoved his hands back into his pockets before he turned back towards Greg. He liked that Greg wasn't demanding things from him, answers or explanations. "Not really." He didn't want to eat, didn't want to sleep, and didn't want to rest anymore. It would have been all right to have a ticking time clock of death hanging over his head if he'd been back in Vegas. If he could work and make a difference in the world, and solve cases, and enjoy himself. In Jackpot, he was trapped there, stuck 'resting', living a limbo state until his liver failed and he died.

A fitting end to someone who'd been a ghost most of his life.

"I'll make something in a while," Greg said automatically moving to make coffee for both of them, a habit of only a few days, but a comfortable one. "We can sit if you want. Or... not. Or anything."

It took an effort to swallow back emotion enough to speak, but he managed it. He didn't break down back there at the doctor's, and he wasn't going to break down now. "I'm sorry that everything's working out like this."

"It's not your fault, Griss," Greg replied. He seemed to rally. "And miracles happen, right? There's hope. Some hope. There could be a donor."

"And what if there's a donor in a week?" Gil watched Greg's face, trying to gauge how he'd take that. "Or two weeks. Or three weeks. What if by some miracle they found one right away?"

"I..." Greg paused again. "I don't want to choose, Griss. Because I don't want you to feel you have to do anything because of what I feel."

"Just... what do you feel? Could you work with me, could you face me if I did that?"

"Yes. Yes, I'd take you any way I could have you rather than losing you," Greg said vehemently. He seemed to be embarrassed by the strength of his feeling.

It made Gil want to step towards him, made him want to hug him again, but he just clenched his fists in his jacket pockets. "I don't know what choice I'd make. I don't know if I can."

"Don't make anything yet. If it happens then I'll support you. Whatever," Greg said earnestly. "You know that right? I love you Gil. I meant that. I'd want you and G junior if I could. If there's a way to make that happen, we'll do it, but don't think that I'm going to hate you for any decision you make. Okay? That's never going to happen."

"I..." Just couldn't decide either way, and if he was going to make a decision like that, he needed to make it in advance. He needed to get comfortable with it. And he couldn't start, couldn't weigh it in his mind. One choice was murder in his own mind, one choice was suicide. They didn't weigh against each other, and he just couldn't decide that one was better than the other. "Don't think I could make that choice. I..." It was hard to breathe, and he shifted back to sit down.

And of course, the moment that he thought about potentially aborting his son was when the little bastard kicked at him, a soft flutter of motion against his insides as if to say 'hey, knock that shit off'.

"Then don't right now. It's not happening now, okay?" Greg said sitting down with him and arms were around him immediately. "We can hope right? We can hope if it comes up that Junior will be old enough, and you can live too. We can hope... I don't want to be left alone."

"I don't want you to be left alone," Gil agreed shakily. Greg didn't feel so warm through a leather jacket, but he could still feel the motion of Greg's hands. "We'll need to name him."

"Most of the names in my family are incomprehensible. Poor guy would get the shit kicked out of him if we called him Olaf," Greg leaned in and kissed him again, soft and warm. "These considerations are important. Maybe it should begin with G, huh?"

"I always thought that people who did that to their kids were crazy. Whole families of names starting with one letter." Gil exhaled, trying to relax, but it came out more shaky than smirking. "We could do it."

"Saves on the monogrammed towels," Greg said lightly. He gathered Grissom closer to him. "Everything... everything since I got here, you've been helping me. You don't have to give all the time, Griss. This is where it comes back to you, okay? You can shout, you can curse, you can throw things around or just sit and I'll be here for you. That's not going to change. "

Gil still couldn't wrap his mind around why. Why Greg was offering that kind of support, except that Greg had said why, only there had to be a why behind that, too, an ultimate why. Gil sighed, leaned into him, and then started to try to shrug out of his jacket. "He's doing tailspins inside of me. All of the excitement, I guess."

"Can I feel?" Greg asked tentatively. The few days before when they had been worlds apart were long gone. "I mean, even if I can't feel anything. It might settle him down."

"I don't think you'll feel it, but... Go ahead." Since Gil was moving already, shaking his jacket off and dropping it onto the floor.

Greg did the same, before laying a warm hand over the swell of Gil's stomach. It was soothing in its own way, warmth and gentle heat, and a soft stroking. It didn't seem to matter that he wouldn't feel anything; the touching was enough.

Gil exhaled a little, and shifted so he could watch Greg's motions. "It'll probably be another week or two before it's strong enough that you can feel."

"How long... I mean, I just realized I don't know how long it is." Greg said still soothing him with that hand.

It made him fall quiet, made him want to settle back on the sofa and hum or sigh, or just fully relax. But he was still too wound up to do that even though Greg had miraculously talked him back from the brink of throwing a fit. "How long what?"

"How far along you are," Greg murmured. "I just kinda realized I don't even know the basics of where we are. Three months or so? More?"

"Fifteen weeks, roughly, at the start of this week." A few days more than that, but Gil wasn't ever sure what the exact day it had all started had been. He was a little fuzzy on it, and no one had ever thought to give him notes.

Greg nodded and kissed him again, his hand still warm and just there. "We have time..." he said a little cryptically. "I mean, time for us to be together."

It was a strange comment, but given the strange things that they'd both heard, and Gil's near outburst, it blended into the background as Gil closed his eyes. It was good just to be there, and while he'd resigned himself to trying to make the best of it before, he still might as well make the best of it.

Because that was really it for him. Just a few months more, in all realism, because there wasn't going to be a magic liver. He had until they decided the baby was strong enough to survive on its own -- what was that, another fifteen weeks? Maybe sixteen or seventeen, but that depended on the doctors and not Gil. So on the outside, he had four months to live. Maybe closer to five.

"There is."

Greg stayed in comfortable silence for a long moment. "You know I really want to be with you right? Always have. I don't want you thinking this is just about Little G Junior, I just... well I never even thought you would look at me. I mean not in a lack of self-confidence way, because you know who could miss the hair and everything, but in a 'hey, Greg's male and I'm straight' way."

"Greg being male is fine since I'm not particularly picky about gender. Greg being my trainee CSI, now..." Gil shifted, and somehow Greg ended up with his head on Gil's shoulder. He shifted an arm, slipped it behind Greg's back. They could at least sit like that until something turned numb.

"Work thing, huh?" Greg murmured. "I wouldn't compromise the work thing, I mean I hadn't flung myself on you so far, or on my knees at you which believe me hasn't been easy..." He smiled a little, nuzzling in close. "But, you know... if we got a miracle and that was a problem, we'd work around it."

Work around it. That wasn't exactly what Gil would call it, but he managed a nod, feeling Greg's warm breath ghost against the collar of his shirt. "That's good to know. I still can't say I could make a decision, so... We'll cross that bridge if we get there."

"That's okay. Really, really okay. I'll call my Mom at some point and ask her what's good for livers and stuff. " Greg smiled again. "That's one thing she's good at. Herbs and stuff... supplements."

Gil wasn't sure he'd trust her with that, but if Greg wanted to try it, and it might make his quality of life better, then he wasn't going to say no. "It's a good thing I've already given up real coffee."

Greg's fingers on his stomach was terribly distracting.

"Oh shit, I was making you coffee, wasn't I?" Greg moved. "Stay there, I'll be right back."

He maneuvered himself up off the couch. "Want anything else while I'm up?"

"No." Just for Greg to sit back down, because he felt a little stupid sitting there, half sprawled out, arm over the back of the cushion, shirt hiked up. He sat up, and pulled his shirt back into place.

"Won't be long. Unless I get abducted by aliens midway through making the coffee," Greg said with a hint of his normal levity. Gil could hear the effort going into it, but it helped. Just a hint of normality, not the jittering wreck who had been on his doorstep barely a week before.

He had so much he had to get settled. His will, what to do about Greg, everything, and he didn't want to do any of it. He wanted to sit listening to Greg rather noisily making him coffee in the kitchen, anticipating him coming back and being there.

It wasn't even really real coffee. Caffeine free, fluffy instant fake coffee -- what a coincidence that he'd already been being kinder to his liver, even if it had been because the smell of real coffee had made him sick.

There was a sound that seemed close to Greg juggling spoons out there, and while he waited, he straightened himself up, stretched, sat forwards.

Four months, five months wasn't that long in the scheme of things. Would it be selfish or cruel to let Greg believe it was love for that time knowing he was going to die? Or was it practical?

He was going to leave Greg with a lifetime of responsibility. Not something he had chosen or planned, and yet he was going to have to deal with.

If Greg wanted to think that he was honestly in love with Gil... It helped them both. Maybe it wasn't the most morally sound thing Gil had ever done, but it was something for Greg to hold onto, something for Gil to hold onto. It helped them both feel a little less freakish, a little less trapped on the outside looking in, a little more able to cope.

No harm, no foul, right?

He needed him there. Even with all of the drama and excitement since his arrival, he had been doing better with Greg there. Talking with him. Playing chess. Holding him gently and giving him the intimacy he hadn't had in years. He wasn't a robot. He wasn't as unfeeling or clinical as most of his team seemed to think. Pushed to the edge blurting out his faults. That was what he seemed to be, not who he was.

At least the decision wasn't one where there was truly a 'on one hand' and then a 'on the other hand' going on. There was just one choice, no matter how he looked at it, and it was to take it day by day.

Somewhere in there, he needed to plan on writing a will. He wanted things to go as smoothly for Greg as possible, and that meant with the 'grant' money that Greg could start out a comfortable life with for himself and... well, they'd need to decide on a name, too.

But not just then. Not just then.

His mother had arrived the night before. Morning. It got a little confusing when people were on different times. She had said not to worry about her and Greg had made the sofa bed up for her and been a little awkward to start with, but soon his mother's charm had won him over.

That was why it was all the more surprising to find Greg gone in the morning. After all his talk of him being there for him, not leaving him, rather abruptly he wasn't there and one of his bags was missing.

His mother, of course, was up and contemplating a paper with great intensity as he made his way out of bed. It took up to the point where his presence caused a change in light for her to look up and smile.

~Good morning... or evening dear. Do you have breakfast at this time or skip straight to dinner?~ she signed at him. She looked elegant and composed in that tiny kitchen. His mother looked elegant and composed even when she had been up to her arms in wet clay.

Gil peered around the living room, and then wrapped his bathrobe a little tighter around himself. ~Whatever seems best at the time. Have you seen Greg?~ Part of Gil wanted to say 'run down to town for something' or 'gone for a walk' but that didn't explain why one of his suitcases was missing.

~I spoke to him before he left~ his mother replied easily. ~He said he was going to give us a couple of days to talk about things. He did say that you might be surprised by this and to apologize, but he thought it was better that he didn't get in the way. I take it that whatever it is, it is serious... he didn't look like he particularly wanted to go.~

~Did he say where he was going, or... ?~ Maybe back to Vegas. Maybe he'd be coming back with more of his things. It seemed a little strange, no, a lot strange, because it irked Gil that Greg had left after they'd agreed, and he'd assured Greg that it was for their safety if they stuck together.

~No. Looked like it wasn't a particularly planned trip. That young man seemed almost... well, afraid Gilbert, I'm not sure why.~ The expression on her face made that statement into a question. ~Do you want to get dressed and then perhaps you can discuss this great mystery?~

He hesitated with his hands, and peered over at the door before he nodded. ~I'll be back in a few minutes. If you want to turn up the heat, the thermostat is over there.~ Gil pointed to it, and tried not to look too much like he was at a loss for what to do.

She signed and said, "Okay," and turned to the kitchen. Gil considered that he seemed to take people into his house determined to take over his kitchen.

If Greg had gone back to Vegas and left him to tell his mother alone, he was...

He was getting angry about it out of proportion to what was going on. In the mean time, he had to work out a way to get through all this to his mother. All of the revelations. Damn Greg for leaving him now.

He'd been there when Greg's parents had come, he hadn't let Greg face them alone. He'd let the embarrassing cover story explain it for him, and had let Greg go on and on, and he'd just... Done what he could. And now Greg wasn't there when he needed him there because Gil still hadn't worked out how he was going to tell her. And he had about the five minutes that it took to get dressed to come up with something.

But then his mother had always been a lot more perceptive than either of Greg's parents seemed to be. He had his intelligence from her, the sharpness and self-sufficiency. His mother had managed to divorce in an era when single mothers got little help and divorce was tantamount to sacrilege. She, in short, could not be bullshitted in any shape or form.

Lying with his hands was very difficult if the other person knew him. A lot of people had learned not to play poker with his mother, but usually after she had cleared them out. If she ever had a project needing funding, she would drive up to Vegas and stay for a few days while earning enough at black jack or poker to get her whatever she needed. That always amused him. He'd funded himself through college using the same skills.

That was self-reliance, even if it was through unconventional needs. He'd been brought up not to really need anyone, but he did and Greg had left, and he shouldn't have gotten attached to him in the first place. He should have just stayed damn well alone, and not let Catherine interfere and not have invited Greg up or let him sleep in his bed, or...

He was giving himself a headache instead of trying to put on pants.

Let himself be vulnerable.

But he was. He was fucking pregnant, and he was going to die. That was the unvarnished truth and without Greg's comfort that was all he had. The evidence; he was on his own, he was having a medical impossibility and he was going to die at the outside in five months time.

There was no easy way to break that sort of news.

He dressed carefully and hesitated before walking back out to see his Mom. The scents were ones from his youth. Grilled grapefruit with sugar, the smell of oranges that were freshly squeezed. A late continental breakfast like he used to have, looking out over the ocean.

Just the sort of argument to have one's mother doubt one's sanity over. Gil paused, and then tried to remember where Greg had put that picture, the ultrasound copy. It was already looking a little worn, a little cherished, but Gil couldn't quite remember where Greg had put it.

And he couldn't call Greg, could he?

They had been curled up looking at it -- him -- when they went to bed. Greg had been making jokes about how the fetus seemed to have the forensic scientist bowed head looking for trace. He'd laughed. God, he'd laughed and...

Ah, he'd put it in his drawer so it didn't get crumpled any more. He could at least use that.

A little shred of evidence when he was already so sure everything was going to go badly. He leaned towards the drawer, and picked it up. There was a crease over the middle that made it pocket size, but Gil didn't fold it, just held it in his hand as he headed for the bedroom door. He was pregnant, and Greg had left, and he was going to die, and that little solace that he could at least enjoy his last few months was slipping away.

If he was Greg, he couldn't be sure that he'd be back. No sane person would come back, and Greg was loosely sticking to his half-promise of not letting Gil be alone, wasn't he? He'd waited to leave until Gil's mother had been there. It was almost considerate of him.

It was a damn good thing he was talking with his hands and not his voice, because by the time he walked into the short hallway and then the living room and kitchen again, his throat was too tight to manage it without breaking.

As soon as he was in sight, his mother's hands started talking in among putting out food. ~I did a breakfast of sorts. That's the thing about living alone, I can have breakfast whenever I feel like it.~ Her blue eyes locked on his and after a pause she said in a rare spoken phrase, with the faint burr that came with her attempts at enunciation. "Sit down Gilbert. Talk."

~I still don't know where to start.~ But he had the picture in his hand, and it seemed obvious that that was it. That was the start point. Just hand her the picture and sit down, and... And.

Gil sat down, the scuff of the chair lost to his mother except as vibrations, and he offered the picture over to her with a shaking hand.

She took it and rather prosaically pushed him over a grilled grapefruit in return as she looked at it in silent detail. She looked at it. Then at her son. Then back at the paper, her finger tracing around the defined fetal shape.

~This is the news? You are a father?~ she asked with only a hint of hesitancy in her hands. ~ I thought you were with Greg -- or is there a tale behind this that I should know?~

~It's complicated. When Greg and I were missing, in that facility, we... ~ He paused, not quite reaching for a fork. ~Were experimented on. It was a very long three months.~

~Eat.~ she signed absently as if he was still the young child at the table. ~You didn't say this before Gilbert. I thought you were held hostage that time and when I saw you in hospital... ~ She paused again. ~Well now. Experiments. Torture, are you saying?~

Her blue eyes were sharp and filled with anger for him, not against him. No hysterics for her, just building maternal wrath.

~Physical, mental, and medical.~ He absently stuck his fork in the grilled grapefruit, and started to eat. There wasn't anything else to do while he tried to slowly build back to the point that he'd started with. He was a father, or was going to be. Or maybe he was going to be a mother. He wasn't sure how that should be catalogued.

~And Greg was the one with you. No wonder he seemed so afraid.~ There was no gentle squeeze of his arm, because in their house, to touch like that meant sacrificing communication. Gagging themselves with an action and intimacy that was mute in relation to what they could be saying. ~Oh Gil... They hurt you. Made you feel in pain and out of control?~

They both knew that was what he hated. Had always hated.

The nod was the first thing he could think of giving, followed by a weak gesture to the picture. ~He's Greg's, and mine. They had done a lot of experimenting before they got to us. I remember seeing rooms covered in blood because things went wrong sometimes... ~

~Greg's and yours?!~ There was a flicker to her signing that he always interpreted as 'Oh my!' because it was hard to imagine his mother swearing although there had been on memorable occasion where she had shown that a deaf person could reel off invective just as effectively and with greater style than anyone else.

~There's a surrogate mother?~

He took his time and then borrowed a little more, slowly chewing that piece of grapefruit before he made the simple gesture of pointing to himself that explained it all.


She didn't laugh. She didn't say, 'no, that can't possibly be true, or question his sanity. She just sat and watched him as he ate the grapefruit.

There had been a point in his life where Grissom had believed that his Mom had to be related to Superman simply because of her x-ray vision. She always said it was her artistic vision and no, they weren't going to change their name to El rather than back to Grissom so he could be Gil-El.

He had been six at the time, but the lingering feeling that she could just look and see his thoughts, feelings and the truth had never left. She waited for him to finish and then gestured. ~Can you stand up? I'd like to see~

It was easier to sign without a fork. ~It's not very visible.~ And it, he, was attached to Gil's liver. Killing him, and every bitter turn Gil took towards somehow undoing the decision he'd first made inevitably swung back towards being glad he'd made it. It was insane, and hopefully Greg would never tell their son, if he survived, that his other father had often thought about aborting him somehow, and then had decided against it. Repeatedly.

Gil got to his feet almost obediently, eyeing his mother.

She stood, shorter than he was by a good four inches but she never seemed that way in his mind. She towered there.

She stepped around him, frowning a little looking at the shape of him. She was an artist; she sculpted and she'd shown him sometimes how she talked with the clay in a language of movement they both understood. But she'd also taught him how deeply she had studied anatomy to be able to sculpt the human form. That many artists knew what was inside with a depth that a doctor would envy.

~I see it now I'm looking~ she said eventually. ~I think I may have to sit down a minute.~ She did so, her signing trembling just a little as she did so.

~Greg fainted when I told him. Sitting down... sounds better.~ Gil pulled out his own chair, a little crooked, and watched her sit down across from him. ~The last appointment I went to... They gave me that picture. It's not working out so well.~

~I can see that~ she replied after a pause to breathe. ~It's not sitting right. Too high. How... not so well is it Gilbert?~

~Attached to my liver. They'd hoped that it would just be intestines, but the blood flow, it... ~ Gil's fingers faltered, and he gave a shrug, swallowing to knock back the sting behind his eyes and his sinuses. ~I'm not going to get to meet him. It's like something out of a bad science fiction novel.~

His mother made a brief abortive movement with her hands and then turned away. It was difficult to hide the noise of crying when you couldn't hear it yourself. She put her hands over her face, in an attempt to stop it, but she couldn't. In the end as she couldn't say anything. She closed in on him and just held on to him, shaking with nearly silent sobs.

He hadn't expected her to do that.

Crying for him when he couldn't bring himself to let go like that, when he couldn't, when it was the last piece of control that he had, a last little sliver, and every silent shake she gave wormed it a little further out of his hands. His hands found their way onto her back, and he bowed his head a little, trying to ease her tears even while he sucked in a gasp, breathing through his teeth to choke it back himself.

And then Gil couldn't manage it any more.

When her arms reached around him like they had when he'd been so young, and too bright, too clever, too different for people to be comfortable with, he started to cry. Cry for himself, for the baby, for all the things he was never going to do. Facing that sudden realization that already there were some things that he would never do again. A final time had passed and from this moment onwards everything could be the last and only time he would do it again.

It wasn't fair. He hadn't asked for this, he hadn't volunteered. His life and future had been taken and there were still great puzzles out there to be solved; notably there had been the great puzzle of Greg and then fatherhood. He just wasn't going to be able to do it.

He wanted to do it, and he wasn't going to be able to.

It took forever for Gil to start to calm himself, to bring tears back from the edge of hysteria as he just sat there, being held and hugged and petted. He'd always been comfortable with death, the fact of his death, and now suddenly he wasn't quite so comfortable.

Perhaps when there was only himself to worry about, reconciling his own mortality was a simpler thing. Now... now there was his son, Greg, his mother. He'd always said that one day when he left the lab he would just... go.

Stupidly, he had thought he could do that with life as well.

~I'm not going to ever be fine with this dearest,~ his mother signed to him. ~Not with losing you, but... ~

He was sitting back by then, wiping at his eyes until he had to answer her. His fingers were still shaky, but Gil was trying to be crisp, coherent. ~I didn't expect you to be fine with it.~

~And you won't get trite words either, not from me. Our world has broken....~ She wiped at his eyes with her hand. ~So. Now it comes to what we do now. How much you want help, what I can do to... do anything~

~I don't know what help I need. Greg and I had just been planning on just... being. I haven't made any long term plans.~ Gil paused to wipe as his own eyes, sucking in a shaky breath. He wasn't all finished yet, but he was feeling better.

~The art of being in the moment and planning for the future.~ his mother smiled a little wanly. ~Being the artist and still getting food on the table. Well. I can organize artists, I can definitely organize anything else. If you and Greg want just to be, then that's best, and I'll sort out other arrangements. I understand now why he didn't want to be here. You might not have wanted to let go like this with him here... ~

Maybe that was it. Maybe, but Gil didn't think it was. There hadn't been any awkwardness just a few hours before, there had been ease and Greg getting into bed with him and a few words and jokes. No hint that Greg knew Gil was holding anything back. ~Possibly. I need to rewrite my will.~

~We'll talk about what you want and I'll get Jim Blackstone to legalese it up for you~ his mother signed to him again, and then shook her head. ~I knew you were hiding something from me, but never in a hundred years would I have guessed this.~

Who could have guessed? Not Gil, if the tables had been turned somehow. ~There's grant money. I want Greg to have enough to live on, enough to enjoy himself. He's... been getting better, but he wasn't holding it together well before.~

~Come, let's sit down. I think you need to tell me everything you can dearest,~ his mother told him. She had that strength in her that Catherine seemed to share. Maybe that was why they had become so close as friends. ~I need to know all I can, as one way or another I will be involved with Greg, and I want to understand what I can.~

He stood up, legs shaky as he started to move just the short distance to the couch. Only once he was sitting down again did Gil start to sign. ~I don't know where to start or what you want to know.~ Or what he could tell her.

~That which you have told everyone, and that which you have told no one ,~ his mother replied astutely. ~You know I will not be shocked by graphic details.~

~I don't want to discuss the graphic details. I was there for three months -- we don't want to spend the next few days reliving it.~ He'd already relived it once for the investigators, and that had been enough. Greg had gotten bits and snippets of it, hesitant hints that they shared similar issues.

~Then tell me about Greg, and what you want~ she replied. ~Honestly and truthfully what you personally want.~

~What I want is an impossibility.~ Gil's eyes were feeling tired, and he had to close them for a moment before he said more to her. ~So I'll settle for wanting Greg to have custody somehow.~

~And if he's not doing so well as you say?~ she questioned gently.

~You, then, and his parents. I just want him to be well taken care of. To have family.~ Since Gil wasn't going to be there. And while Greg had been getting better, Greg also kept insisting that maybe they'd get that miracle after all. Could Greg cope if Gil died? It was an egotistical question, but the way that Greg acted, Gil had to wonder it.

She nodded. ~You have been together?~ she asked matter-of-factly.

Gil's mouth twisted a little. That was one more thing he could strike from the list. ~No.~

~But you care for him. And he thinks the world of you. He is... the lab technician?~ She asked watching his face before his hands.

The one who'd been blown through the window. She remembered that and Gil wasn't sure why he'd thought she might not. He nodded, and then signed, ~That's Greg. He's been studying to be a full CSI, but I've never had a chance to give him his last proficiency.~

~I remember. You talked about him. The one who tried just a little too hard for your attention,~ she said with a faint smile.

~He always has. A little too loud, a little too excited, or... And now I want him back that way. He's been so quiet. They almost broke him.~ Almost. Hadn't, because Greg was coping well.

~Almost doesn't make it complete. He's stronger than I think most people give him credit for. Maybe even than he thinks himself,~ his mother said. ~Under other circumstances I think I would be approving of something else altogether wouldn't I?~ She gave a slight smile to him, which looked strange with the tears still drying on her cheeks.

It served as a reminder for Gil to wipe at his own cheeks again, beneath his eyes. ~Possibly, under other circumstances. As it is now, we're... each a mess.~

~Life tends to end up that way,~ his mother said. ~I always hoped you would fall in love. The tragedy is that you have so little time. I don't want you to waste it.~

~I'm not wasting it.~

~I know dearest~ She leaned for a moment, having to sit up to kiss him on the forehead. ~Now, tell me exactly what you want to leave to anyone, if there are any special dispensations and requests, and I'll promise to try hard not to cry any more.~

That was his mother, all right. Gil rubbed at his eyes, and shifted to sit back before he started to outline it all to her with hesitant hands. He didn't have to think about it very hard. He knew what he wanted who to have. He had at least thought about it before. In his line of work, it was hard to ignore the presence of death. The main difference was that he needed to make the dispensation for offspring which he had never had to take account of before.

It made it more real, every signed word and mouthed sentence. His mother's tears, because promise or not, there were more, showed him clearly that he was losing everything. It hurt. It hurt as he divided up his memories to give to his friends, past and present. It hurt to give in and not live in Greg's world of fantasy and hope.

He could only hope that Greg could stand this, that he would, if their son survived, manage to go on for his sake. He'd never even considered he could have that sort of an impact on someone's life but he'd seen Greg when he first arrived and knew that longer like that would have finished him.

The very best that Gil could hope for was that he could bolster Greg enough that he'd carry on despite everything that had been done to him. And that he'd come back.

Greg sat outside the cabin, his hands still gripping the steering wheel with a desperation that amazed him. Grissom was going to kill him. He was going to make him wish he was back strapped to a lab table and after the past couple of days where there had been lab tables and no strapping and how badly he'd dealt with that, he knew how painful it was going to be.

The upside? They'd set the process in motion. The downside? He wouldn't know if the drug cocktail and bizarre genetic payload sitting in that artificial area in his abdomen was going to produce a liver, or... a shit load of very rapid growing cancer. Which apparently had been the way most of the other altered 'donor hosts' had died. Often rather painfully and swiftly.

But, he reasoned with them, that had been with the old method, and he had been treated with the 'new method' -- the one from the notes in his head and if it fucked up, then it was his memory at fault not the process.

Okay, he was going in. And possibly away if Gil threw him out again.

He got out and walked up the path slowly, knocking on the door quietly. If Griss was asleep, he didn't want to disturb him.

There was quiet for an answer. Gil was still there in the cabin. His SUV was sitting there, even if Gil's mother's car wasn't there. Maybe they'd gone into town for something. Groceries, maybe. Or maybe she and Gil had said -- signed? -- fuckit and had gone back to California together, and Gil was leaving him the SUV so he didn't get trapped up in the hills if it started to snow.

He'd just started to waffle between knocking again and turning away to wait it out in his car a little longer when the front door opened.

He dredged up a hesitant smile. "Hey Griss, uh..." He paused a moment and looked down. "Should I... I mean, I... uh. How much are you pissed off with me right now?"

It was hard to guess from the look on Gil's face whether he was angry or sad. Bright blue eyes were closer to gray, and his mouth was tugged downwards, no hint of a smile. "Should I be? Where were you?" His fingers twitched a little, like he was repressing the urge to sign.

"I, uh." He was hopeless at lying to Grissom, and he knew it. Part truth then. "Thought after the disaster that was my Mom and Dad, and the latest news I ought to let you have a bit of real family time. So I took off and bit the bullet and let the doctors check me over like they've been talking about for a while."

"You could have just told me." Gil stepped back, and reached for Greg in the same gesture, pulling him into the warm cabin. There was a sound that told him the TV set was on, but that the volume had been muted, a faint electric hum.

"It was a sort of spontaneous decision," Greg answered, stunned at being pulled inside. In fact, it had been more the spontaneous text message telling him to get there as soon as possible that had triggered it. "I... you're right, I should have said something. Um. I was sort of expecting more shouting?"

"I'm too tired to shout. Just take your coat off and put your bag down and don't do that again. I woke up and you were gone, and I..." But he couldn't get his coat off because Gil still hadn't let go of his arm.

"I'm sorry. I mean, it seemed like a good time with your Mom here because otherwise you would have been sitting in the hospital, and I was freaked out enough by just standing around when you went without putting you through that," Greg replied deciding to turn into that embrace. "And... you're tired? Not been sleeping?"

"Not very well." Gil's arms wrapped tight around him, really almost too-tight for comfort, just a little kind of desperate tight. "So you stayed there for four days?"

"Well by the time they got everyone in and had a good, 'Oooo! ' and 'Ahhhhh,' at the freak-show in my stomach and then went off to get all their buddies to join in..." Greg shrugged. "Best part of a day to drive back. And yeah, some freaking out too. I'll admit that. I freaked about... you know. You get things worked out?"

"Yeah. Financial things, and..." Gil gestured vaguely with his free hand. "Chain of custody. Things that need to be taken care of. She took the news better than I'd thought she would."

"Your Mom is cool," Greg said sincerely. "She reminds me of someone. I wouldn't want to get on her wrong side."

"It's probably not wise. I've seen her tear apart men who were more self-assured than you, with very little effort." Gil stepped away from Greg, watching him. "Here, sit down. You look like you haven't relaxed in days."

"Well, I haven't. There was the hospital stuff and then being sure you would kick my ass," Greg sat on the edge of the bed , looking up at him. "I'm really, really sorry, Griss. I know what I said, and I know it sucked that I did it that way. And I know I don't really have any right for you to forgive me for it, but... we're okay, right? I don't want to be sitting here wondering if you're secretly really pissed at me."

With the way that Gil sighed, it seemed very probable that Gil was pissed at him still. Then he moved to sit beside Greg on the bed, shoulder to shoulder and comfortably close. "I'm not... exactly happy that you walked off like that, Greg. We... don't have too much time, and I want to enjoy what we have."

"So I should move on to the 'making it up to you' part of things pretty quick huh?" Greg answered, reaching to take Grissom's hand. "That's cool, I'll do anything you want, Griss."

Gil's fingers intertwined with his easily. "No, Greg. You wouldn't. And I know I wouldn't. Couldn't. But we know enough about each other's zones of comfort that..." That Gil felt at ease leaning in towards Greg, lowering his head to take a kiss from Greg's mouth, soft pressure and a sad sigh before Gil reached his other hand to slide around Greg's waist.

"I've missed you."

Greg nodded, feeling a choking sensation in his throat. It had to be worth hurting Gil like this. It had to work. "I... I've missed you." He swallowed again. "I would. For you. I could, for you."

He'd carried Grissom, heavier than him, with a bullet in his leg and broken bones. He'd survived and escaped because of him. He could do anything, would do anything and he was pretty sure that wasn't a lie.

"Don't have to. I want you to relax and be happy." Gil murmured it against his mouth, and leaned a little, urging Greg to lay back. Apparently it didn't matter that he was still dressed, because Gil was pressing him back carefully, sucking on his lower lip in a way that sort of reminded Greg that he needed to shave.

Gil was being pretty forward, as it generally ended up as Greg touching, soothing, and kissing him. He must have missed him. He let himself fall back carefully, kicking off his shoes and responded to the kiss, using what nonverbal communication he could.

I haven't left you, that kiss said. I'm sorry I hurt you.

I'll always come back, another stroke replied to all of Gil's silent questions, apologizing with kisses and caresses.

It was the best he could do when he'd already half-broken one verbal agreement and couldn't promise that he wouldn't have to leave again. He might, because he had to keep the liver monitored, if it even turned into a liver instead of an explosion of death in his stomach. Then he and Gil could slide downhill together for a few months before they both died, and that was somehow better than the thought that the precious clump of cellular tissue wouldn't take at all.

They ended up on the bed like that, and when Gil finally pulled back to peer down at Greg, it was with the funniest expression he'd ever seen on Gil's face, a startled moment of 'how did I get here?' followed by, "You should put your pajamas on."

Greg smiled up at him. "Yeah. Though I'm quite liking it in this position," he said trying not to laugh too much. It was so unusual to see Gil like that, surprised and at a loss.

"I could help you get your shirt off." Gil leaned back a little. He was kneeling to lean over Greg, weight on one palm before he leaned back onto his knees and put a foot on the floor.

Greg raised his eyebrows. He could deal with that from Grissom. Not from anyone else, but from him, yeah. "I'm cool with that. I could use the help."

Gil's hands were so careful on him when he leaned forward to pull up at the bottom edge of Greg's sweater. His fingers were warm, and the backs of his knuckles skimmed Greg's skin before Gil pulled the stretchy knit carefully up over Greg's head. It spiked his hair up even more, but what did Greg care? He had someone being careful, not 'you'll break if I'm rough' careful, but considerate, maybe a little awed careful.

Like Gil really hadn't expected Greg to come back. His fingertips lingered over the dressing on Greg's abdomen. "Is this okay?"

"Yeah. Yeah it's nothing. Just... you know biopsy stuff. Samples." Greg replied, relieved he had chosen to tell a half truth. Grissom wouldn't miss anything, he knew that.

"Next time, take me with you," Gil murmured while he absently folded Greg's sweater. Then he was on his feet, heading to retrieve Greg's pajamas. They were the ones that Greg's parents had brought him from his house, flannel pants and a thick sweatshirt, and as cold as it got in the cabin, even with sharing the bed with Gil, it was a great idea. "It's easier when you're not alone. That last appointment I had was easier."

"... Easier? " Greg felt his jaw drop at that. "That was easier?"

How could it have been? Gil had been told he was going to die!

Gil grabbed the clothes as he turned back to Greg. He was already wearing his, so he'd obviously been trying to nap and doze while Greg had been gone, but it didn't look like it had taken well. "It was easier. Every other time, it's been... strip down to nothing but a gown that they pulled up, and... There was a little less of the 'look at the freakshow' factor with you there. Possibly because you were there."

Greg reached to take the pajamas from him. "Yeah, they're keen on those hospital gowns. Like everyone wants to see my skinny butt hanging out..."

"I don't mind seeing it. But it should be your choice, not... theirs." Gil shrugged. They did have a way of being pushy when he'd been there, Gil's doctor had unzipped his pants on him, and while it was so he could put the gel everywhere he needed to, it was still pretty damned uncalled for.

It had taken him several attempts to lie still and let them do what they wanted when he was done being looked over. He slipped on the top and then wriggled out of his jeans, and pulled on the pants. "I'm still not really comfortable with the idea. This is much better. Coming in?"

"Yeah." At least the 'yeah' he gave that time was a little more enthusiastic than it had been when Gil had confirmed he'd been talking with his mother about a will and things. Gil half-folded Greg's jeans, then didn't really bother at all but crawled onto the bed to join Greg.

God, he'd missed him. Just, everything about him. Before he thought about it, his arms were around him, holding, touching and he was nuzzling in. "I missed you..."

"It's good to see you, feel that you're safe." It was a little more articulate than Greg's sighs and nuzzles, the way he wanted to fall into the sensation of arms bumping into each other as each tried to hold the other.

It was the only comfort he was allowed to give at this stage, so Grissom would get every single bit of it. "I want to hold you all night, and I promise I'll be here in the morning."

Sappy words, but Gil smiled a little as he shifted so they could both lie down. And that half-smile, tired as it was, was so much better than the frown that bordered on angry.

It didn't look like he was going to get to the massage part of their nighttime routine, but he was definitely welcome again.

There were times when he realized that he missed something, something sometimes as simple as being down on his hands and knees under a sink with a flashlight.

He counted five, six, seven, until the gleam of his maglight sent them scampering. That was an interesting, integral chunk of information right there, the knowledge that they were the kind who disliked light. That was what Lt. Brooks had told him, after all, that he kept hearing a skittering sound when he turned on lights.

"Quite an infestation you have, Lt. Brooks. They're Periplaneta americana," Gil announced as he crawled backwards, and sat back on his knees.

He could hear Greg snort behind him.

"I didn't ask for their first names when they were tap dancing over my paperwork this morning, and diving for the floor when I turned on the light," Lt. Brooks said sourly exaggerating slightly. Gil was sure they wouldn't have made it up on the desk. "Biggest damn roaches I've seen."

He heard Greg chuckle a little at that as well.

"Until recently, I raced Madagascar Hissing Roaches. Trust me, there are larger cockroaches than the ones under your sink." He smirked up at the Brooks, still not getting up. "There are two things you need to do to deal with this. First, get the leak under there fixed -- they're dependent on the water supply, and old wet wood is a light decaying snack for them."

"I'll get someone in. No bug spray or anything?" Lt. Brooks asked.

"Griss doesn't like killing them off," Greg chipped in from where he was standing behind them both, moving over so he could give Gil a hand up if he wanted it. "I've seen him keep beetles from DB's as pets as a reward for their hard work."

Lt. Brooks looked at him. "Now that I can believe. Don't ever let anyone say you're not weird."

"I've yet to hear that accusation," Gil shrugged lightly. "What I was going to add, but neither of you seem to be listening, is that in these circumstances, it's unsanitary to have them living in your jail like this. First was the leak, and second... There's a borax solution that you can spray that will take care of it. One cup of borax to one gallon of hot water, dump it into a spray container, or a pump spray, or whatever you prefer, and apply liberally to their pathways." Gil reached to take Greg's hand, steadying himself with it as he did stand.

Greg pulled him up.

"Borax. That's not going to knock us all out or anything is it?" Lt. Brooks asked, looking dubiously at the cavity under the sink.

"People add it to their laundry, Lt. Brooks. It's a brand name for boric acid, and what it does is dehydrate them as they cross over it and ingest it." Gil leaned into Greg for a moment, then pulled away, mindful of Brook's presence.

"Which they don't like," Greg added smiling a little at Grissom. He looked like he was going to ask if he was okay, but didn't quite go that far.

"Well, I'll get that done. Been a slow day in the office. The most exciting thing going on around here is the fact that your bear seems to think it's going to be a bad winter and he's trying to eat cattle instead of hibernating," Lt. Brooks said. "First sign of snow and it'll be holed up. You two prepared for that up here? We can get snow here. That surprises some folk."

"I took my entomology degree in Michigan. I have chains for the tires in the back of my SUV." Along with water, food, gasoline, flashlights -- it was always good to be prepared for the fact that they could be snowed in for a few days at a time.

"I'll try and warn you if we get anything in. There's always someone I have to trek out to with food, even one of the regulars. Kinda fun in a way," the sheriff said with a smile.

"We need a bigger freezer," Greg said. "Get some stocks in." He looked thoughtful. "Unless you think we should go back... you know."

"I'd rather not go back right now. The winter isn't so bad that it'll cause us a problem, Greg." Gil glanced over at Lt. Brooks. Was he trying to scare them off?

"Just sayin'," Lt. Brook said. "So no other incidents I need to be aware of?" he asked them both.

"No, everything's been quiet. We haven't heard anything else about the missing doctor, and Greg hasn't gotten himself treed by any bears recently." Gil slipped his hands into his coat pockets, and shifted to lean on his heels a little. "I'd suggest you go to the grocery store tonight and get the Borax, and spray right away."

"I'll do that." The man nodded. "Thanks for coming in."

"I'm sure Griss enjoyed it," Greg said. "We got to pick up our groceries."

"I think the insect hunt was the highlight of my trip to town," Gil drawled. He took his hands out of his pockets long enough to zip his coat up the rest of the way. "It was good to see you. Good luck with your cockroach problem." And then he turned back to Greg with more than a little of a sense of relief in the motion.

Greg ushered him outside, trying not to look too overprotective in public. "You okay, Gil?" he asked in a low voice as they headed out of the building. "Bending up and down can't be good for you."

"It's fine for me, Greg. I didn't offer to do the spraying myself because I know you'd..." Gil waved a hand. He was a little tired from crawling around under the sink there, but it seemed like everything tossed a handful of tiredness on top of him.

"Steady. Steady, I think you need to sit down," Greg said sounding worried. "Let's get to the car, okay?"

"I thought we were headed that way anyway? Greg, I'm fine. You don't have to smother me," he told him firmly, quietly, pushing the door open so he could get out.

"We are, I'm just reminding you," Greg was hovering anxiously nonetheless. "Maybe we should skip the groceries."

"Am I ordered on bed rest, Greg?" He reached for his car keys, and half-held them out as if he was waiting for Greg to take them.

"Only if I can come, too," Greg grinned a little. "Sorry. I'm fussing, aren't I?"

"You're fussing." Gil clutched at his car keys, and walked the handful of feet to unlock his vehicle. "But since I haven't let you seriously fuss for a few days, I should have expected that it was coming."

"I like fussing," Greg replied. "You want me to drive? If you're feeling tired."

He'd been wondering when Greg was going to ask that, and just then, there wasn't much point in fighting it. They'd had a good week since Greg had come back from his appointment, a mellow week. A week full of reading and research and a lot of comfortable lying around, and Greg only half-smothering him.

"All right. You can drive."

"All right! Road trip!" Greg teased a little taking the keys. "You could always give in and take the milk thistle extract my Mom sent you. That might help."

"I've been contemplating it," he told Greg as he walked around behind the Tahoe, and popped open the passenger side door.

"It's meant to be good for the liver she said. I'm thinking anything that helps has to be worth a shot right?" Greg sat in the drivers seat. "You want me to drop you home and come and get the groceries? It's not a problem."

"If I get tired, I'll wait in the car." Gil buckled the seat belt carefully, mindful of the irony that if he didn't, he'd die in an accident, but even if he did he was just as likely to die in an accident. "I promise."

"Good." Greg turned the key in the ignition. "I'll hold you to that. And I promise not to buy too much junk if you let me in there alone."

"We need food we can eat and make things with when either of us has the energy to. If you could cook with Snickers bars..." Gil laid his head back against the headrest.

"Hey, I'll always cook, no matter how tired," Greg assured him. "Worse comes to worst, I can probably stagger to a phone and call the town's one and only take-out. But I take the hint about Snickers bars. Energy food."

They were headed to the store and Greg kept glancing at him. "I think you should just have a nap, Griss. You look kinda wiped. "

"I'm fine, Greg." He still closed his eyes, and started to reach forward towards the radio when he felt a hard tap on the inside of his abdomen.

He obviously looked startled and Greg was obviously watching him in the mirror because he immediately said. "What? What? Do I need to stop the car? You okay?"

"He's starting to kick harder." Hard enough that maybe Greg could feel it, but Greg was driving and couldn't exactly lean over and grasp Greg's hand to put it over his stomach.

"He is?" Greg looked almost nervous and excited at the thought. "Two minutes and we'll be parked up and if he's still going, can I feel?"

As long as no one was watching them. Gil sat back, not having even made it to turning up the radio, and rested his hand at the curve of his stomach. "Of course. He's really starting to get some range of movement, I think."

"Cool," Greg replied with a brilliant grin and practically slewed the car into the car park near the store and went for the most out of the way spot. He very hurriedly untangled himself from his belt and turned off the engine, but there was nothing hurried at all about the way he reached over with the palm of his hand to settle on the swell of his stomach.

Gil shifted his fingers, pressing his hand down over top of Greg's. "I'm not sure if he'll do it again." And there was the possibility that Greg wouldn't be able to feel the motion through the multiple layers of fabric.

"Well if he doesn't I'll just gain satisfaction from randomly petting your stomach," Greg said, his fingers warm under Gil's own. "And thinking of possible explanations should anyone see us like this."

"Muscle cramps? Prelude to doing something illegal in the back seat?" He offered either of those lightly for Greg to choose, and then reached up to unzip his coat. "Here, hold on a minute."

"Holding," Greg said, shifting slightly. "Something illegal definitely."

It was easy to brush Greg's hand aside, and then he had his coat open, just his sweater between Greg's hand and skin, and it wasn't even a thick sweater. Thin acrylic was more than warm enough. "That should help."

"You know if there weren't the good citizens of Jackpot lined up in a row to watch us, I would ordinarily be all over you," Greg said, leaning close nonetheless.

"They're lined up in a row?" Gil turned his head, peering out of the window off to his right, just to check. Just to make sure that Greg was joking him.

Greg grinned. There was no one there but a little old lady putting her shopping unsteadily into the trunk of her car. "Made you look," he teased. "As if I would share you with them."

"Huh." Gil smiled a little, and was just leaning his head back against the headboard again when he felt another sharp rolling thump.

"God..." Greg looked at him, eyes wide and amazed. "I felt it! I felt him!" He looked like someone had just told him he had won the lottery. "Wow...."

It wasn't much of a lottery that they'd won, but it was also a small miracle, proof of the tenacity of life. And Greg's smile was something else, wide and full of awe. "He's healthy."

Greg leaned over and kissed him, heedless of anyone watching. "Yeah. A fighter. Like his... mother? Father? You."

"I wish you luck trying to explain that to him." Gil massaged gently at Greg's fingers, and slide his gaze over.

Greg was looking down at their twined hands. "I don't want to think about that..." he said softly. "Not being without you."

"Maybe we'll luck out. Maybe not." Gil gave a shrug, and tried to twist the moment towards something a little less depressing. "I'll still make you explain it to him. You get excited when you really get going."

"Okay... I'll explain that, and you get the facts of life talk. Which will be confusing, considering." Greg squeezed his hand slightly and made an effort to lighten up. "We're still nowhere with the name. I was thinking of combining our names, but Gilgro sounds like something for tropical fish. Gril... well, cooking utensil. Gregbert... least said about that the better..."

"I wouldn't ever mention to anyone we know that it had crossed your mind, Greg." Gil patted Greg's hand again, then slid his fingers down to zip his coat back up. "We should go in. Just remind me when we get back to the cabin to bring up some names lists?"

"I can do that. And if you feel tired in there, just come on out, okay? Otherwise G Junior will be walking you out through your stomach," Greg warned as he opened the door.

Gil unbuckled the seat belt, and took his time zipping his coat all the way up. "Just remember to walk slow enough for this old man to keep up with you."

Greg smiled at him again, and only a glimpse of the worry and concern he was getting all too used to seeing there was showing. "You don't just keep up, Griss, you lead the way. You know that."

Lead the way. A small concession of control to Gil -- letting him lead the shopping. Greg was waiting when Gil got out of the passenger side door, and he waited while Gil straightened his clothes after the stroking he'd gotten. "Maybe I can lead you safely past the junk food."

"Catherine wouldn't approve," Greg replied. He paused a moment. "We'll have to tell her sometime, Griss. The others."

"Which others?" Gil shoved his hands into his coat pockets, and started to walk close beside Greg, shoulder to shoulder while they headed for the grocery store door. "I can't, not without explaining everything. Catherine is it."

"Not now... when you're ready," Greg said. "You know... she'll react badly."

"Maybe." Maybe she didn't have a place to react badly and maybe she wouldn't react that way at all. Gil couldn't guess, couldn't guess why she'd be outraged. It was Gil who was dying, not her. It wasn't her right to be angry. It was his. And he was. He never thought he would be, but that depended on having something or nothing to lose.

He considered it ironic, as they walked in the store, and the subject dropped because they were in 'public', that things worked out so he gained and lost everything at the same time.

Somehow that didn't seem right any more.

There was solace in sitting in a quiet kitchen, fiddling with a cup of herbal tea while he looked out of the window towards the mugginess outside. It had snowed the night before, and Catherine had nearly not-arrived. She was still asleep on the sofa, through some miracle, after her long drive up there, hair fanned out over the borrowed pillow, curled up and buried deep in flannel blankets.

Gil would've liked to be asleep, but the bed moving, sinking a little and then coming back up, had woken Gil. Sometimes Greg had nightmares, still, sometimes he was ill, and Gil liked to wake up for that, liked to keep an eye on Greg in the silence.

But Greg wasn't there to keep an eye on. Just Catherine, and the tea that Greg's mother had mailed him. EveryDay Detox, or something like that. The name of it made Gil feel a little bit like a druggie, but at least he wasn't the person rushing off in the middle of the 'night' because of a brief cell phone ring.

The note left behind him was sparse enough to be irritating even as it reassured him that Greg hadn't been abducted. 'Back tonight' was scarcely informative and it was just enough to get Gil's head thinking the wrong way. Getting angry rather than worried.

There was a sound from the sofa and the groan of someone who had a cricked neck from sleeping uncomfortably.

"Greg? If that's you, put on some coffee..."

"Greg's gone out. I have some tea that tastes like licorice, if you're interested."

There was a pause and a slightly wild haired Catherine appeared with a robe around her. "Greg's gone out? When? What time is it?"

"It's about six, I think. He left around noon." Hours and hours for Gil to chew it over in his head -- he wouldn't have gone off to another doctor's appointment like that, would he? The first time had made sense, in a way. Greg hadn't wanted Gil to be alone, but this was starting to get ridiculous. If he was going back there, Gil had wanted to be there with him.

He was sure he made that clear. Crystal clear.

"Noon? But that's not long after we went to bed. And it's snowing." Catherine was aghast. "I thought you guys were going to tell me the ominous sounding news together."

And they had planned on it, hadn't they? But again Greg had left Gil holding the ball. Once had been fine, but it had been Greg's idea to tell Catherine, and now he was gone again. Probably the only reason he hadn't run off when his parents had visited had been because they were his own parents and they would've gone after him. "I thought so, too."

Catherine smoothed back her hair, and came and sat down, pulling her robe tight. "You look... pretty pissed about it."

Gil took a sip of the tea, and set the mug down very carefully. "He disappeared when my mother came, and didn't come back until after she'd left. This is starting to become a pattern."

"Why? Because it's something difficult to say?" Catherine asked resting her elbows on the table. "You might as well tell me if our boy wonder is doing a disappearing act until it's done."

"The pregnancy isn't quite going... right." He fiddled with the mug, sliding his fingers in and out of the ceramic loop.

There was a long silence as Catherine looked at him. "How... not quite right Gil?" she said finally.

Fatally not quite right. "He's healthy. There's every chance that he'll make it to term, but... the uterus that he's in wasn't content with attaching to part of my intestines for blood flow. My liver's gotten tangled into the mess, and..." Gil shrugged, pushing down hard on the emotions that were boiling up. "And here I am, drinking tea that I can just hope might give me a few more days.

Catherine just stared. She didn't ask him to repeat himself, or say anything to asinine. "If your liver is..."

She understood, possibly more than his mother had. "Oh God Gil. Jesus Christ, no...."

"I'm on a donor list. If one magically appears in time... And if one doesn't, then." Gil couldn't quite look at her. "Then I've had a good life. I've done a lot."

"No. No, this can't be happening because it was working. You were the damn miracle, Griss!" Catherine said sounding forceful and almost angry herself. "Finding you and then this... it's not meant to go like this!"

He had known that Catherine would react with fire and anger herself. It was a volatile combination with the two of them in that sort of state of mind.

"Do you think I wanted it to go like this, Catherine? I spent three months in that hell, just waiting to die, and then I manage to get out, and then... This, and whatever's going on with Greg. I've been coping and handling it, and now it doesn't matter because I'm not going to make it after all." A little false hope had been all it was, and he was tired of holding onto that bit of false hope.

"So where the hell is here when he should be here with you? There's nothing... nothing more important than being with you right now." Catherine's ire found an easy target in their absent lab tech and trainee. "You need him. If this is what he's been like... I thought that he was helping you!"

"He is." Gil reached a hand up to rub at the bridge of his nose. "The last time he ran off, it was to finally let the doctors look at him, which was fine, but I would've appreciated a little warning. This time, I heard his cell phone go off. I don't know where he is."

"That's no excuse," Catherine said frowning. She sat looking at Gil a moment and she ducked her head down a moment, blinking rapidly. "How, when do they think? Full term?"

"Probably not. They haven't been too explicit with me about it. The last visit was mostly taken over by the realization that he's latched onto my liver."

She nodded at him, biting her lip a moment and wiping angrily at one of her eyes with the back of her hand. "Right. I guess... I guess there's nothing I can do to help?"

"Happen to have a spare liver?" It was a weak joke, but he still made it when he lifted his head to look at her again.

"Well you know, we might run across one in the DB's at work," Catherine said and it was almost shocking to see the tears in her eyes. She was talking and carrying on as if they weren't there, but they were. She couldn't hide that. "I'm your friend, you know we'll find one somewhere if there's one to be found."

"Catherine..." Gil leaned forwards, and reached to take her hand. Just briefly, just briefly. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have mentioned it."

His hand was gripped suddenly with that same fierce strength he associated with her. "Yes, you should. You should. You don't deserve to be alone with this and I am going to kick Sanders' ass when he rolls back in. You're a lot of things to me, Griss, you know that. I don't know what I'll do with a Grissom shaped hole in my life."

"What did you do when we were missing?" he asked her, and then almost wished right away that he hadn't asked it. Because it was going to be as if he and Greg hadn't ever come out of there after all. Or at least, that he hadn't.

"Hoped. Wore ourselves ragged trying to find you out of hours. All of us. Called in every FBI favor we could. Fed them parcels of information that they never seemed to do anything with," Catherine said. "We weren't ready to give up on you. None of us. Brass is now well known and feared through the entire Federal Bureau."

He liked that idea, the texture of the concept that his friends had gone that far for him.

You didn't go that far for a corpse. "We can keep hoping."

She nodded. "Sometimes that's all that keeps us going. Look, I'm going to get dressed, and then we can sit and... talk or whatever. And then when Greg makes a reappearance I am going to rip him a new one for ducking out on you. There's nothing more important than this."

"There might be," Gil shrugged. After all, he didn't know what Catherine thought was going on, but it was less of a fairy book love tale than two desperate people who wanted a little light in their lives. Who was he to demand anything of Greg?

"No. There isn't. For God's sake Griss, don't take the knock like a martyr. Sometimes things are just wrong," Catherine said as she stood up. "Friends don't treat each other like that. And if you're going to be more... you can't have him ducking out when the going gets tough. Because sure as hell, it's going to get tougher."

"We're not going to be more than friends, Catherine. I'm going to be dead in a few months, which is a lot less time than either of us needs to get ourselves together. I'd just..." Gil's sinuses were starting to sting. "I don't want him to remember me as that pissed off bastard who left him with a son to raise by himself. I'm trying to understand whatever the fuck it is that he's doing."

"Fine. I'll be the bad cop," Catherine said turning to go to the bathroom to get changed. "Because I sure as hell am not going to let him get away with it. Because it's hurting you and you don't need any more than that."

He couldn't say anything to that, and by the time actual responses did peek into his mind, it was too late. Catherine had closed the door, and it was once more just Gil and the tea, and quiet. And a maddening urge to do a three month countdown to death, except he might get a few more days, a couple more weeks, than just that. It was a guessing game, but he knew it was coming.

Didn't want it to, but knew. Knew that he wouldn't ever do more than pet Greg in bed, than sleep close and wonder what would have happened if everything hadn't gone so wrong. Nothing would have happened, most likely. Nothing at all.

It was late by the time the pair of them heard a car struggle up to the house through the snow. Late enough that Grissom had found himself worrying and getting stressed by the length of Greg's absence. Not that talking with Catherine hadn't been distracting. But it was well on the other side of midnight and they stopped their conversation.

"The wanderer returns, I suppose," Catherine said her expression shifting.

"Hopefully he had a reason for that." Gil sat up from his slouch on the sofa, and then stood, stretching his back and cracking a few joints. He'd gotten properly dressed, and it had helped him feel better.

Catherine stood as well. "Yeah, well we'll see about that." She watched the door like a hawk, stepping forward even as it opened and Greg stepped in looking tired and brushing a few flakes of snow from his hair.

"Where have you been?" Catherine said immediately, and Gil saw Greg look up like a deer in headlights.

"Uh, hi, Catherine I... I was hoping to be back earlier but... snow and..."

"Answer the question, Greg, where have you been? Hmm? Because it better have been good to make up for the fact I'm going to kick your ass for dropping Gil in it." Catherine took a step forward and Greg stepped backwards instinctively.

"Catherine, don't. Give him some room." Gil said it firmly, but didn't quite move away from the sofa.

"No, Gil, if you're not going to stand up for yourself then I will," Catherine replied. "You dropped out of sight just when Gil needed you most! What the hell were you thinking?! Or were you even bothering?"

Greg was sidestepping back to the wall as Catherine advanced. "I... there was a call... I didn't want to..."

"But you did. What could have been more important than being here?" Catherine asked.

Greg's eyes were darting around looking instinctively looking for escape and Gil recognized the look on his face.

Fear, pure fear, not at Catherine, but sparked up by something else, and in the aftermath of a medical appointment, anxiety ran high in a person. It ran high in Gil, and after that all he wanted to do, all Greg seemed to want to do, was come home, eat a little, and sleep, snuggle. Affirm that they were both still alive.

He should have been angry as all hell, and here he was, walking towards Greg. "Greg? Come here, sit down. You look like you need something to eat."

Greg had managed to back himself up into a corner and was holding his arm out to warn them back away from him. Catherine missed it initially as she looked back at Gil to see what he was doing. "Griss, you're the one who was upset this morning, why..." She turned back and looked startled. "What's wrong with him?"

"I think he went back to the doctor's. It's... hard." Gil took a slow step towards Greg, hands carefully spread so Greg could see he didn't have anything in them. "Greg? C'mere. It's all right, no one's angry at you. You're home now."

"I..." Greg made an effort to focus on him. "I'm... sorry. Sorry... don't..." He sidled away from Catherine towards Grissom as if he were a safe zone, even as Catherine watched more than a little stunned.

Grissom could understand why. She'd remarked at how well Greg had seemed to be doing since she'd last seen him, and now this.

Greg almost fell into Gil's arms, and Gil felt guilty for having set Catherine off in the first place, while he wrapped his arms around Greg. He was cold, and a little wet from the snow, and shaking beneath his layers of clothes. "It's all right. You're okay, you're safe here."

Greg just nodded and held onto him a moment, obviously trying to calm down.

"I thought he was... I didn't think that would set him off..." Catherine said a little amazed, giving them room. "I just wanted him to know what it's been like for you."

Greg nodded his head. "I know. I know. Gil... something you need to know..."

"It can wait. Let's get you sitting and calmer. Here, can we take your coat off?" Gil pulled back a little, moving carefully.

"I need to tell you now. Right now," his gaze flickered to Catherine. He shrugged off his coat though, fumbling in a pocket and pulling out a folded piece of paper.

Grissom had no real idea what Greg was trying to tell him but he could get him to sit down before he did.

"Then sit down, first." He let the coat fall to the floor; they could pick it up later, but right now he guided Greg to his spot on the sofa, and rubbed his hands gently at Greg's shoulders. "All right?"

He nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm okay. " He sat down and proffered the bit of paper to him. "Something for you," he said, his voice shaking a little, even as Catherine sat down silently.

It was an ultrasound.

It was an ultrasound of an indeterminate chunk of matter, and for a moment Gil's stomach leapt in his throat in a flash of fear. But it wasn't that, they hadn't done that to Greg, too. This, though. "They... is it cancer?"

Greg shook his head and actually smiled. "I've got to tell you, Griss, you're the father of a fine nearly four week old healthy baby liver. And not a cancer in sight."

"You..." A liver? Greg was--

But then he remembered. The organ growing, where the uterus had been created and come from. Greg's body, and while he'd let that thought pass through his mind before, it was hard to do it now. "You let them do that to you again? For... me?" Gil kept rubbing at Greg's shoulders, not quite sure of what to say. Except that his little fire of false hope had just had an armful of kindling thrown on top of it.

Greg nodded, smiling a little hesitantly. "You know I was going to sing, I'm having your liver... what a wonderful way to say I love you, but... I'm sorry, Griss. I wanted to tell you and it was doubtful if it would do that or... you know, and I didn't know until today..."

It was easy to lean in, pressing forehead to forehead against Greg. "If it had worked or not. Don't apologize. I shouldn't have..." He could feel Greg breathing, still unsteady. "Have gotten angry."

Catherine cleared her throat. "Uh, Griss, what are you talking about?"

It occurred to him then that she might not know about Greg, even if she knew about him.

Greg was leaning into him, doing the deep breathing he'd heard him use before to settle down. He'd most likely been very wound up all day and not expecting such full on aggression when he got back home. He... still couldn't get his head around it.

Greg was growing him a liver. And some doctor thought it was a good idea to put Greg in that kind of danger. "Greg was worked on in that place, too. They had an organ cloning technique... it wasn't usually successful."

"Organ cloning?" Catherine looked at Greg a moment. "What the...."

"They altered me so I could grow things in a sort of incubator pouch," Greg reeled off. "Like some sort of kangaroo or something. There was a... well I think only two of us survived growing anything. The drugs they give you tend to sorta make rapid growing cancers if they cross over into the bloodstream to start with. But... but I knew it could be done because they did it to me for Grissom for the uterus thing and that treatment didn't kill me so..."

Catherine blinked and stared at him.

"So... how the hell did you get to be growing something now?"

Greg shifted uncomfortably. "I asked them to," he said quietly.

"Which you shouldn't have done," Gil whispered, voice a little firm as he rubbed fingertips over Greg's shoulder blades. "What if it hadn't taken, Greg?"

Greg shrugged a little and just looked at him for a moment. "I knew you thought what I was saying before was just words." He exhaled. "I remembered the formulas. I remembered the procedures, everything they told me. Dr. Carlin was about ready to have a scientific orgasm I think."

"I didn't think it was just words, I... just didn't think you were trying to encourage me to believe in a miracle because you'd been planning to grow a liver all along." Close like that, there wasn't much of Gil that Greg could see. His eyes, the bridge of his nose, that close face to face.

"Yeah, well I have a history of fucking things up so I couldn't get too specific," Greg replied and he looked like he wanted to kiss him.

"So... he's growing a liver for you? Is it compatible?" Catherine asked sitting up alert.

Greg turned towards her a moment. "It's a clone of his liver, Catherine. It's a replacement. All we have to do is... get there. Get to the point where it's grown big enough and Little G is ready to make an emergence. Then, I have it out, they give Gil a cesarean and take out his liver and give him the new one. There will be no rejection problems for him. Only the normal risks of infection."

Like it was just that easy, but it seemed so much more likely now that there was something in the works to replace his own liver. "You're going to have to rest. Maybe now you'll take up my offer of swapping off who makes dinner."

Greg smiled a little and settled back.

"This seems so... unbelievable. A minute ago we all thought Griss was dying," Catherine said, trying to get her head around what was happening. "And you pull this out of nowhere. Was this where you went to last time you dropped out of sight?"

Greg managed a nod. "It was only meant to be overnight but I kept... kept having problems. And there were more tests than I thought." He looked apologetically at Gil.

He exhaled, and leaned in a little more, still hugging Greg. "It's all right. I'm sorry, if I had known..." He'd been mellow with Greg that first time, and Greg couldn't even guess at how pissed off he'd been when he'd disappeared a second time. Didn't know what Gil was apologizing for. "I'm glad you're back."

"Yeah. Me, too. And that the news is good." Greg seemed grateful for that closeness. "So, we're good right?"

"Greg, you pull this off and you are more than good," Catherine said fervently.

"We're better than good." Ever if it didn't work. Gil shifted, cheek to cheek with Greg, fingers still rubbing. "You scared me. If you have to go back for another appointment, you're damn well taking me with you."

"Well now you know, I can but I couldn't before without... well if it had screwed up that would have been really cruel," Greg said. "But now it seems to be working, I'd want you there. We can probably get our appointments together."

"But who'd drive home?" He could feel the motions of Greg's jaw, forming the words, could hear them close to his ear. Greg was home, and Greg was safe, and it was funny how that, more than Greg's surprise, had let the release valve off of his anger.

"Hey, I drove from Reno," Greg replied. "In the snow. Although the snow is mainly around here. I didn't drive off the road."

"Which counts as a plus." Catherine said watching them both. "Look, you guys obviously need some private time. Or some rest. You want to go to bed, or for me to duck into town and get something for us to eat or something, if anything is open all night, that is?"

"Trust me, nothing is open all night. The bar closes at ten on weeknights." Gil closed his eyes a little. "I think... Greg? Are you hungry?"

"I'm more tired than hungry," Greg said. "I could eat, but don't worry. There doesn't need to be a special trip out."

"There's food in the fridge," Gil agreed. He pulled back a little, and looked over at Catherine. "Do you want to help me get something together in there?"

"Sure. Or I could just get it for you and you talk to Greg here," Catherine said as she got up. "You two carry on. I'll get something up together even if it's one of those frozen pizzas you seem to live on."

She smirked a little and very deliberately walked into the kitchen, closing the door behind her.

Greg relaxed a little more. "You were pissed at me, weren't you?"

Gil shifted, and stretched one arm over both of Greg's shoulder as they settled in side by side. "Yes. I was. Sometimes I get irrationally angry, and... It builds."

"It wasn't so irrational. I mean, based on the evidence you had," Greg replied, leaning in. "I knew that. I was just amazed you were so calm before."

"I don't want to be alone. I don't want you to go away, and I was so scared that you had..." That it had overshadowed anger, relief flooding over him that Greg was back at all.

"Never. And that's pretty much the way I felt. About you." Greg looked at him. "It was like when we heard about the liver, I didn't even stop to think. There was no other option. I cornered Dr. Carlin and just gave him his dream option on a silver plate and forced him to take it, even though I was sorta falling to pieces. I couldn't be without you. I didn't want to do it... but I needed to, you know?"

Gil managed to nod a little shakily at Greg. "Needing and wanting aren't... often the same things. I want my privacy, I want this to be over, but..."

"But we're going to make this together." Greg reached and stroked at him. "Both of us. I love you Gil. I more than want you, I need you, I guess. More than I realized."

Fingers brushed his cheek, slid down the side of his neck. Every intimate relationship he'd ever had had ended with him. Him, fucking it up, and Gil couldn't guess what odd quirk of his would set Greg off running, but it would happen. "We're going to have to figure this out some time."

"What's to figure? I'm not going anywhere unless you want me out of the way. If there's someone else..." Greg suddenly looked stricken. "I didn't even think about that. You and Sara?"

"What?" Gil twisted to lean in towards him again. "Have you heard a word I've said about her, Greg?"

"Well it was just an example. I kinda pushed my way in here, didn't give you a choice. I mean I know things went to hell when we were missing, but I guess I didn't think you might want to go a different way afterwards," Greg said looking at him. "I mean, I was pretty surprised you were into guys at all, and... shit, I don't know what I'm trying to say. I think I'm trying to say, I want you, I need you but if you don't want me, that's okay. I'll deal."

"You hear, but you don't listen, Greg. We need to work on that, between us, and if you ever want to take your proficiencies. I said I don't want you to go away. I've said that I want you. I like you sleeping in my bed. I enjoy kissing you. I look forward to at least being peripherally in your life because of this... Because of him." And when he said it, he laid his free hand on his stomach. Him. "We'll figure it out."

"And if I say I want more than peripherals?" Greg said hopefully. "I do listen, I just... I guess I try to stop assuming things anymore. I want the future if we make it through all this."

Maybe he wanted the future now, but... Gil nodded. "We'll aim for that, then. And figure it out as it happens."

"Good. Because you know, I think the next few months are going to be pretty crap for us both," Greg replied. "Healthwise and stuff."

"We can suffer together?" Gil shifted, scooted over an inch, and got his arm behind Greg better. Greg was finally starting to feel warm to the touch again. He must not have been running the heat high enough in his Jetta. "We'll manage."

"Yeah." Greg leaned in. "If Cath's not here, can I kiss you now? I had all these great things in my head about telling you and... I kinda blew it."

"Catherine came at you with everything she had. A lesser man would have been twice as scared." He leaned in to meet Greg, closing the space between them so that kissing was a matter of Greg leaning up. Gil would have leaned down, but Greg still felt shaky and any amount of control would help him get back to himself better. No matter how small. "Yes."

The touch of lips to his was soft, but gaining in confidence. Ten seconds into the kiss and Greg was getting serious about it. There was enough emotion in there to show exactly how wound up Greg had been over the last couple of weeks, holding back until he knew what was happening. Now, it was set free.

More than a little desperate, more than a little weary and exhilarated, and -- it was a jumble, and Gil wasn't sure of everything that was going on, but he was sure that he could kiss Greg back with just as much intensity, that he wanted to move closer, hold onto Greg and not let him go.

Greg's hands were on him, around him and the two of them were kissing and touching as if they were moments away from going a lot further. There was never anything faked in Greg's physical affection. In some ways, Gil used it to find the truth of what he was saying.

He couldn't quite lie with motions, couldn't lie with kisses and touches. And the truth in the motions was that Greg wanted to do it, desperately. Gil leaned back a little, and moved a hand to stroke Greg's hair. "It's okay."

"I'm scared of doing it, Gil," Greg confessed. "I shouldn't be but I am." He leaned into him, and Gil could feel how hard the younger man was trying not to cry or embarrass himself.

"There's nothing wrong with being scared." Gil let Greg lean in, let him hide his head up against Gil's shoulder. "I'm scared, too."

"It seems stupid to be scared after asking for this," Greg said murmuring into him. "Really stupid. But I guess... that's me at the moment."

"You thought with your heart and not your mind." Gil wasn't sure he could do that, wasn't sure what he'd do if he'd been put in that position, if things had been reversed. He stroked fingers over Greg's temple.

"That's probably a sure way to fail a final proficiency, huh?" Greg replied shifting so he looked at him. "You know, this probably means that we're going to have the problem of working out what happens about work. About living arrangements. About all of that."

"We'll figure it out when we get there. There aren't any rules against it, you know." Just Gil's personal rules, just Gil preferring that work didn't get messy and confused.

Greg nodded and lay his head down on Grissom. "I'm gonna get fat you know," he said lightly. "Maybe not as bad as you though." He smiled a little.

"Try that joke again, Greg. Go on. I wasn't prepared for it the first time." From frenzied kissing to sitting there, cuddling and resting.

"You might hit me," Greg grinned. "Besides, I like your stomach. I'd like more of your body if it wouldn't freak you out."

Gil had a sneaking suspicion that Catherine was standing at the door listening to them. "It doesn't freak me out, Greg."

"Maybe later then, huh?" Greg murmured even as the kitchen door opened and Catherine came through with some hot and slightly unhealthy junk food.

"Ready? We have pizza, fries... not the best diet in the world but I did some beans and salad too..." She said bringing in a tray. "I figured you could help yourself."

It was a cue to sit up and move away from Greg. They were used to curling up like that, being close without doing much else, and Gil had to be mindful not to do that while there was company. "Thanks."

"My pleasure," Catherine replied. "So. You two good? And I definitely don't have to work out a way to tell everyone that they might not see Gil again?"

"Not if I can help it," Greg said reaching over to snag some food onto his plate.

"I never thought I'd have to actually think about what comes after all of this," Gil mused, trying to keep his tone light. "I was prepared to live up here in Jackpot until the end."

"Well you won't be giving birth here," Catherine pointed out. "You might want to think about getting something worked out in Vegas for afterwards. I mean, for a start the pair of you, from what I understand, are going to have had major surgery right?" Catherine pointed out stealing some pizza herself.

"I... I guess," Greg replied. "Why?"

"Well you're not going to feel like sorting out things for the baby, then, are you?"

"As far as I was told, if things go well... The Feds are going to manage a cover story for me as to where he came from." After all, Gil wouldn't know where to start if he had to forge things like a birth certificate, social security number...

Catherine gave him a look. "Yes, and what about the basic things like, oh, say, a nursery, baby clothes, somewhere for him to sleep, someone to look after him hmm?"

Gil leaned forward for a slice of pizza, cocking an eyebrow at her. "I just expected them to magically appear. No, actually I haven't had the opportunity to think about it. Until about an hour ago, I thought I was going to be dead in a few months. Could we... just put this off for a day?" After all, he was going to be a premature delivery, no matter what. That meant sterile boxes, and possibly ventilators, and tubes and IVs. No going home immediately for any of them.

"Sure." She smiled a little. "God, I sound like my mother. She did this to me over Lindsay."

His mouth twitched a little, and he folded his slice in half. "Well. That's good to hear. I think before that happens, Greg and I need to... figure out what we're doing, but right now? Food, and then rest."

Greg nodded agreeing, with a mouthful. "Mmhmm. I'm pretty tired. Don't think I got much sleep last night."

Catherine nodded. "Sure. I'll go on back tomorrow. Something tells me that you guys need to do a lot of talking."

A lot of talking. "I appreciate you coming up, Catherine. I'm sorry you got to ride the rollercoaster with Greg and I for a couple of days."

She smiled at them both. "Hell of a ride, guys. And only you two could come up with this sort of mayhem. Anyway, I expect you'll have messages to send to people and I'd be in the way. I can drop back in and see what the temporary secondment tech guy we have in has screwed up on now. " Catherine seemed to recognize the need for them to get away from weighty subject. "First time I've every really seen Nick lose his temper. I mean, seriously lose his temper. He was stuck in the lab waiting for a skin tag to go through and he wasted most of the shift because the guy... well he 'lost' the hair...."

It didn't stop Gil from almost choking on a pepperoni. "He what?"

"It's true!" Catherine said with amused delight. "I thought Nick was going to break his jaw he had it clenched so tight."

"I would've..." Gil shook his head a little, and finished chewing his mouthful. "Strangled him. Did he 'find' the evidence again? In court, that opens it up for a challenge..."

"Yeah, he did. And get this... turns out it was behind some other paper work because it 'wasn't important'," Catherine said.

"Geez, Nick would have broken me in two if I said something like that," Greg pointed out. "And Griss? Staked me out, fed me to his ant colony."

That had to be one of Gil's worse nightmares when it came to the lab. "Yes, Greg. I would have, so remember that when we go back to Vegas. Catherine, who headhunted this idiot?"

"Ecklie, who has been smarming up the ladder and heroically 'overseeing' night shift in your absence," Catherine explained. "The fact is, there aren't that many DNA experts out there. We've had three in, one walked out on the first day -- not even a busy shift, the second lasted about a month before they went off sick with stress... and... well... lets put it this way, Greg, you're being missed. And what with Ecklie, Griss, you are, too. The paper work is getting done, but cases aren't being solved at our normal rate."

"I have to come back just to rectify that." Gil took another bite, smaller this time, and chewed it before he went on. "Greg, do you think your mother has health supplements for this?"

"Curing the lab? We could just lock her and Ecklie in a room and see which one makes it out alive," Greg said stealing some more pizza. The salad was being ignored.

"I think your mother would win. By virtue of Ecklie's head exploding," Gil smirked. He'd reach for the salad, after he ate that one and only piece of pizza.

"Your mother can't be that bad," Catherine drawled. "Can she?"

Greg snorted. "Just ask Griss. He survived the Visit of Doom with me."

"She has a skill of opening her mouth and inserting her foot. Somehow she... meandered around from not understanding why I wasn't jumping with joy that I'm pregnant, to implying that Greg had raped me. It was a very long conversation, and I still don't know how she managed to -- every time! -- say the wrong thing."

Catherine's mouth dropped open. "She didn't?!"

"Visit of Doom," Greg intoned solemnly. "It's taken her years of practice. She doesn't mean it maliciously at all. Lets just say that if you said you had put on weight and were feeling fat she would nod and say, yes, I can see that you have seen 'nature's bounty'."

Catherine started laughing at that.

"Everything is like that. From what you want for dinner to the great serious topics. It was... stunning to hear." Gil shook his head a little. "She's nice, and she means well, but."

"It explains a lot about Greg," Catherine twitched a smile. "How he can tune out our griping."

"Hey, I've had selective hearing for years," Greg admitted. He sat back looking full. "I think I ate too fast."

"That's why man created rubbermaid. So we can be lazy and recycle food." Gil was taking his time, slowly eating the crust. He was tired, but he hadn't had morning sickness the past week or so, and he wasn't about to tempt it by eating too fast.

Catherine nodded. "You need to cook something decent, both of you," she chastised and Greg looked affronted.

"Hey, I cook good stuff don't I, Griss? Real food."

"He does. Things with chicken and pasta, and greens, made from scratch, Catherine. I'm sure it's the scientist in Greg. We only eat this stuff when we're tired."

"Uh-huh, I believe you," Catherine said dubiously. "So you guys turning in early or you want to watch a movie or something?"

Greg glanced at the both. "You guys can stay up a bit if you want but unless you want to carry me in to bed later, I better go in a minute."

And while Gil was half-tempted to offer to carry Greg to bed, he knew damn well that he wasn't supposed to lift anything over five pounds. "I'll help Catherine clean up in the kitchen and I'll join you, too."

"Cool," Greg said levering himself up unsteadily. "I'll take a quick shower and see you in there." He was yawning even as he limped off towards the bedroom.

Catherine watched him go and gathered up some of the bits and pieces shaking her head in obvious amazement.

"Unbelievable. The pair of you."

"What?" He paused mid-bite of the last of his crust, and then popped it in his mouth and chewed. For frozen, it cooked up damn well.

"Just this whole thing," Catherine replied. "Medical miracles tossed into conversation. That sort of thing. Do you have any idea what this is going to mean?"

"That if we both survive it, we're going to have a small human being to raise for the next eighteen years?" He said it lightly while he leaned to put some salad on his plate, planning on eating them plain and dry. Sometimes vegetables just tasted good, and he'd had a craving for crunchy things lately, anyway. "Catherine, I know the implications in the medical world. I'm somewhat desensitized to it because I had a madman ranting to me about it for three months."

"I guess I'm not quite as desensitized. I'd just got my head around you and male pregnancy and then we get Greg, grower of vital organs on demand." She looked at him again. "It's incredibly wrong what they did and yet... I can see where it's going to go. "

He crunched down on a lettuce leaf. "Where's it going to go?"

"It'll save a lot of lives if it's made safe. Most people would have a family member who would grow a replacement organ to save a life. Or... god..."

"I know. The medical uses are far reaching. But I'd rather not think about it. It wasn't a choice for either of us, and what Greg just did was a gut reaction more than a choice. I appreciate it, and I'm going to make sure he understands that, but."

Catherine nodded. "I'm just glad he did. If it means we don't lose you." She stacked the dishes. "You can let me know when you want me to start looking for nannies or anything else."

"Nannies?" Gil tilted his head a little, watching her start to clean up while he still nibbled slowly at his meal. "I don't even know if there are people who offer daycare... night care?"

"There are if you can afford it," Catherine replied. "Fortunately I had my mother around, otherwise I would have been broke. You can get someone as a live in, or have him around with them until one of you is off shift. A live in might be an idea if only because of the erratic shifts. Unless one of you two are thinking about being a stay at home dad." Catherine said practically. "And if you can afford it, nurseries are well worth it. They keep them active and stimulated. Because with all the best will in the world, when you get back from work, running around is the last thing you want to do. But you end up doing it anyway."

"Stay at home dad? You know that Greg and I could never... I mean, we both enjoy working." And he'd already experienced the edges of depression just being away from work up in the cabin.

"Well then, think about the nanny option unless your mom is willing, but I think she has her own business, right?" Catherine pointed out.

"She does. I was thinking daycare. Night care. Whatever they call it. Half of Vegas works nightshifts, and between the two of us, Greg and I can afford it." Between the grant and Gil, he could afford it. Even with just that grant. "I can't believe that I'm even thinking this at all," Gil noted after he chewed a piece of carrot.

"Believe me, you'll need the help. Have either of you had any experience with babies?" Catherine asked walking to the kitchen a moment, before returning for more empty plates.

"Cousins. I was the oldest." It wasn't that he was baffled to be thinking about; it was that he was going to be alive. Maybe. It still wasn't a sure thing, but there were no sure things in the world. No one got a sure thing. But he had a chance, and he hadn't been expecting it before. He had a chance.

He might be alive to meet the little person who chose that moment to flip around in his stomach. Little bumps and knocks that probably abused his liver.

"At least I won't be showing you how to put on a diaper then," Catherine paused and smiled at him. "I'm going to love watching you do this, Griss, absolutely love it."

"Watching me interact with a... with my son?" Gil didn't have to work to pull up a smile from his short catalogue of emotions, and nodded a little. "I'm looking forward to it. It's so much better than the alternative."

Catherine nodded. "Much better Gil. Believe me, much better for all of us."

She disappeared again with more plates, leaving him with a faint glow of hope surround his prospects. It had been quite a turn around and in under an hour. Not long ago, he had been wallowing in a certainty of impending death. Now, he had a strange and reckless hope inside him. The fact it was still dangerous, now for both of them, hadn't gone unmissed. It just seemed wrong that something as crazy or outrageous as Greg's gesture could go unnoticed and become wasted.

He was choosing to gamble on that chance now, and in doing so everything had changed once again.

If they died, if they both died...

Gil liked to think that reality wouldn't be so cruel to them both a second time. And maybe that made the difference, that it could be that sharp with Gil again and again, but not Greg. Greg was young and full of enthusiasm, and it always saddened Gil worse to see someone like that cut down in their prime. Kids. Greg reminded Gil of kids, and not in a bad way.

And now they were going to have one together, and...

They still hadn't chosen a name.

Things were a little less strained after Catherine had gone, and Greg had genuinely been tired. They spent a long time in bed sleeping, and then it just seemed, with the snow outside and the warmth where they were, it was easier to make small dashes to the kitchen or bathroom and then return to the cozy nest that they had made of their bed. In fact, Greg decided it wasn't really strictly necessary for them to ever leave the bed again.

In his dreams at least.

Instead they talked. Rambling talks from the ridiculous to the serious. Taking the first few tentative looks into the future that might be, even with the dangers they now both faced from major surgery. Greg liked it. It was as if he'd never really had a future before, and now he was plotting to protect it.

"So...." he murmured, as he lay half curled, resting his head on Grissom's chest. "We still don't have a name."

"Mmm." Mmm, when Gil made that noise, it rumbled in his chest, a vibration that Greg could feel against his cheek. He liked the feel of Gil's t-shirt fabric, old and worn. "You're right. We don't. We should think of one and have it written down."

"Got any ideas?" Greg asked hopefully. He had one hand rested on Gil's stomach, even when he closed his eyes. He'd sometimes feel a flutter of movement under his fingers and could feel himself smile. "Assuming you don't want Gilbert or Greg Junior."

"No juniors. It..." Gil rubbed at Greg's shoulder. "Puts expectations on their shoulders. I want him to do whatever he wants."

"Okay then, no Juniors," Greg agreed. "Random names beginning with G. Um." Of course his head went empty at that point. "George. Nah, sounds a bit... dull. Um. Gene would be pretty ironic considering."

"Genome?" Gil guessed lightly.

"Now there's a name that would get a kid beat up at school," Greg replied with a snort. "Okay, no Gene's, no Genome's. Uh... got any family names around? Norwegian ones are asking for trouble. Greg was about the most sensible one they could find. Gregory. Gregor. Poppa Olaf still calls me Gregor."

"I'll have to meet your Poppa Olaf some time." His fingers crawled up to rub gently at the nape of Greg's neck. "G names. Why are we doing G names again? I can't think of any."

"He practically raised me," Greg replied. "Mom was setting up her business, Dad is on the force. Poppa Olaf had early retirement. He looked after me. Was responsible for my really bad spelling. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. " He grinned a little. "We're doing G names because we're both G names and it seemed like the thing to do. Hmm... Okay... Gaylord?" Greg started snorting in laughter at his own suggestion against Gil's chest. "Sorry."

"Gaylord? Greg, it's hard enough that he'll have two fathers, but Gaylord?" Greg felt a gentle thump against the back of his neck. "Gareth?"

"Gareth... yeah, that's pretty good." Greg considered it. "Or Geoffrey. Neither of them could be shortened to anything too horrible." He tried to imagine what he would call their son. Gary for Gareth, Geoff for Geoffrey. He smiled. "I like either."

"Yeah? Anything else we can think of? There's Grant, but it rhymes with ant." Gil lifted his head a little, and kissed the top of Greg's head. "What do you think?"

"Good solid manly name," Greg agreed. "If we have a shortlist then that's a start right?"

"A shortlist of two names? We could flip a coin. And he does need a middle name," Gil pointed out. His fingers slipped a little beneath the edge of Greg's t-shirt collar.

"You never know, he might look like an Alexander or something," Greg replied, stretching languidly. "Mmm. That's nice."

Neither of them didn't care if he looked like an Alexander or a Fred or what. As long as he had the right number of limbs, and roughly the right number of fingers and toes, give or take one either way. "Maybe I should give you massages?"

"Have you ever given anyone a massage before?" Greg said lazily, even though he felt a stir of interest at the thought. And every time there was that interest he would have self doubt creeping in. Could he cope? Would he? What if...

What if they just tried?

"Surprisingly enough, I have." Gil kept touching him, tickling at the edge of Greg's neck. "Can I take your shirt off?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I think I'd like that," Greg murmured in response. "It's not like you haven't seen everything already with me disrobing in the middle of the living room."

Gil had seen the scars, and that made it okay. Gil could touch him and he didn't flinch. It always gave him hope, like the stirrings of want and desire that were quashed by panic and fear did as well. He still felt it. He just wasn't sure of himself, and he wanted to be.

"That's true. Would it make it easier if I stayed fully dressed, or?" They were still lying, Greg still on top of him, and it helped the conversation flow.

"You know, I think I've experienced enough of your body that I can cope with it being naked," Greg answered hoping that Grissom would see the implicit invitation in his answer.

"That's a yes?" Gil shifted, and gently started to guide Greg to sit up with him. "Here, let me help you with your t-shirt."

He sat up and then pulled and maneuvered his arms so the top would be easy to remove. "It's a definite yes."

Gil got his fingers under the edge of Greg's t-shirt, and started to pull to roll it up over his head. "I like that yes."

One t-shirt off and bare skin revealed, Greg shivered slightly. "So uh, where would you like me?"

He seemed to think about it for a moment, and then suggested, "Would you prefer to be on your stomach, or sitting up?"

He had to think about that. Sitting up was less likely to lead elsewhere. Lying on his stomach would be an invitation. "I think I'll lie on my stomach while I can," Greg replied as if it were the only reason. He wriggled over and turned himself to sprawl face down.

He was really glad that he still had pants on. There was shifting behind him, and the bed squeaked a little while Gil stripped off his t-shirt.

"That sounds good to me."

He pillowed his head on his hands and the pillow. "I'll try not to be jumpy. So where did you learn massage?" Greg started talking to ease through his nerves.

"College. It seems a good time to pick up most questionable skills. I had a girlfriend who decided that I needed to be trained." Gil moved to sit not over Greg's hips, but beside hi, knees tucked against Greg's side. "In everything."

"Everything huh?" Greg twisted his head to look at him. "That sounds interesting."

"It was. I wouldn't be surprised if she's now somewhere in Lady Heather's line of work." Gil said it lightly, while he leaned in to place his hands on Greg's shoulders. Yeah, that was nice, warm hands over his stiff muscles, and Gil not-caring about his scars.

Greg's mind wandered randomly over the possibilities and he smiled. "I think it'll be a while before I'm up to experimenting that way again," he said. "Though I was up for most things before..." He stopped a moment forcing himself to exhale and relax.

"I prefer my sex life not to be like a theater. Not... that I've had a sex life for a while." After all, Gil was a knocked up man of fifty. That pretty much made sex a weird-no. Except there was a lot of cuddling and stroking and sleeping and Gil was really getting his thumbs into a knot at the base of Greg's neck.

He groaned and felt everything unravel including his inhibitions. "Would you like one?"

"A sex life?" Gil sounded softly amused while he kept rubbing at Greg's neck. "I'm managing without."

"Managing is one thing but..." Greg peeked by twist his head and opening one eye. "I mean... with me. Now."

"Now? Now now, or general now?" Gil 's expression wasn't horrified, it was curious, a little wondering. That was a good start, right?

"Now now," Greg replied carefully. "I mean, yeah. Yeah before we get too sick to you know... do anything."

And before he lost his nerve.

"That's very... logical," Gil murmured, voice falling quieter. Even though it was just the two of them there. His hands traveled a little more, slowly working out to Greg's shoulders. "I... I don't know. Are you comfortable with that idea? We only seem to... ever get so far."

"I can't guarantee that I won't freak out some, but I want to try. I mean that counts for something, right?" Greg said earnestly. "I never thought I would want sex again. I thought I might just learn to tolerate it. But when you kiss me, touch me....yeah, I'm wanting it more and more."

"That's good. That's good, but I don't want to hurt you or.... Greg, I don't even know my own limits. I can't promise anything." Just the massage, and some kisses, and even that was a pretty damn good start if they both acknowledged that was what they were trying for.

"So, I tell you if I'm getting weird, you'll know it's not rejection, and if you tell me, you'll know that I know the same," Greg offered hopefully.

He wanted it, wanted to feel Gil doing more than holding carefully back from him, wanted to get a hint of what it would be like to have sex with Gil even if they didn't end up doing it. Greg could feel hands go still, and then Gil leaned down and kissed the nape of Greg's neck. "If you react adversely, Greg, I know it's not rejection."

"I'll try not to," Greg murmured and let himself relax completely. "I trust you, I can be close to you when I can't deal with anyone else. That's a pretty amazing thing."

"I don't want to lose that, either. But you seemed all right sleeping in a bathrobe in bed with me, so..."

Yeah. He was never going to live that down.

Hey, he could suck it up if it meant it got him what he wanted. And he did want Gil. That was one thing the Before Greg and the Now Greg agreed on. A single thread of continuity running through everything.

"What do you want me to do?"

"Nothing? I mean, enjoy it and just... we'll play it by ear."

Greg nodded and relaxed, feeling the movement of fingers begin again. Firm and gentle, smoothing over skin and scars, the contrasts making him groan into the pillow. Nothing like before. Nothing like they had done back there where it was rough and he had fought over and over, at first to get free and then later because that was what they wanted and that kept him alive because they didn't get bored.

He owed his life to the sadistic perverted imaginations of his captors. But this, as he kept telling himself was nothing like it.

He almost had to keep telling himself that, to keep grounded in the very solid, very gentle reality. "Sounds like you're enjoying this, Greg. Any particularly sore spots I need to get, or can I just wander at my leisure?"

"Wander wherever you want. It's not often I'm on the receiving end of a massage... it's... mmm..." Greg mumbled again. Wonderful, divine... sending subtle messages to the rest of his body.

Subtle messages of relax and enjoy and there was a twinge along the underside of his dick, right near his balls that felt really good.


He nodded a little. "Mmm, yeah. That feels so good. Really, really... mmm..."

He shifted slightly, almost unconsciously opening his legs a little. It had been a long time since he had felt good sexual tension. It had taken until recently for him to even think about masturbating again, and yet Gil could stir him with a pretty innocent massage.

Well, innocent except for their conversation that hinted it could lead to more. And the way that Gil leaned down to press a kiss between his shoulder blades before he started to massage lower down Greg's narrow back.

"You've got good hands..." he added. "What do you like in sex, Gil? I mean, what do you enjoy?" He could mentally prepare himself.

"I, uh..." Gil's fingers faltered for a moment, and pressed on either side of Greg's back. "I'm not sure what you mean."

"Well in doing sex you must have some preferences, right? Top, bottom, fast or slow..." He twisted a little. "I just thought it might be easier to talk a little."

"About what I like in sex. How about..." Gil shifted his position a little, legs still pressing gently against Greg's side. "You go first. I'm a little too open-minded to start this conversation, Greg."

"Before I would have said pretty much anything, you know?" Greg paused thinking about it. "I like both. Hey, I like girls and guys no matter what Mom says. But I like guys. I top or bottom depending and like both, y'know? Sometimes I like the idea of long and slow and other times...." He chuckled a little. "Do you remember when you got pissed at me and pushed my test tubes around? After you left, I realized I was pretty turned on."

Gil gave a quiet chuckle. "I wasn't... angry at you. I was angry at the case, the Feds. Not you. But that turned you on?"

"Then it did. Not sure it would now but... wow, yeah." Greg grinned a little. "Little did you know that I was watching your every move, huh?"

All those cherished fantasies, daydreams. He had the real thing touching him, and he shivered at the realization.

Yeah, he had that. He had Gil, and Gil talking about sex with him, and sure the circumstances were funny, but it was happening. "I suspected. But as I said... You were my subordinate. And now... I can't care. Don't care."

"You know I'd never make it awkward for you. Never cross the line because you would be so pissed at me. Like I said, we'll deal with it when we get there. I'd still like to train with you. I still want to work with you, but if that's not possible then... then I'll stay in the lab."

"Do you think you'll be able to work again when we go back?" Not quite the topic Greg wanted to talk about, but Gil's hands were starting to wander low.

"I... I think so. I think I can. I need to get used to people again, and..." Greg tried to distract himself. "I feel better about things from being with you. That you didn't hate me, that it wasn't my fault. I was scared people would somehow look at me and see it was you know? Or what happened." Warrick and Nick and how sick he had felt after he had gotten drunk. How bad being out of control had made him feel until he had stumbled away shaking with more than disorientation. Lots of alcohol was likely to be a thing of the past. "How about you?"

"I've been managing well. I'm not sure how well I'll take to finding suspects in hospitals anymore, but... I thought for a while that autopsies would bother me, but I was a coroner for a few years in LA county. I'm not sure what will and won't bother me."

"You know the others will back you. It's not like everyone doesn't have quirks any more? Catherine with the kid cases, Sara with abused women, Warrick and his buddies, Nick with...." He remembered that he wasn't meant to tell that particular one and stopped. "I think you can do it, Griss. I mean you were as calm as anything when you were at the examination. I was there panicking and you were... yeah..."

"Throwing up violently?" There was the sound of a smirk in Gil's voice, and his hands wandered a little lower, just at Greg's waist.

"Yeah, but after." Greg pointed out. The hands were near his waist and he forced himself not to react too much. They weren't grabbing or hurting. "Mmm. I'm just saying, you managed to be there and be calm and that was participating, not observing."

Gentle, rubbing, he needed to concentrate on that. That it was Gil. "I can step back sometimes."

"Yeah. Yeah, you can. And I'll be there. It's easier with both of us, I think. Knowing what it's like." Greg closed his eyes a minute, just feeling what Gil was doing to him.

"I think we'd both benefit from it. We'll need to... figure something out about living arrangements, too." It was funny that Gil's conversation seemed so blandly normal, but maybe that was the plan. Keeping things normal so he didn't freak out.

"Well my place is too small for two, let alone three or more. So I'm guessing I'll have to move one way or another. I don't know how much room is at yours, or whether there needs to be a new place." Greg answered thoughtfully.

"We... could do that," Gil suggested slowly. "Start at my townhouse and get Catherine to suggest areas with good schools. That way we wouldn't have to worry about moving on top of everything else."

"I mean if that's okay with you, you might not want me to move in... that's cool, too. I don't want you to feel forced into it." Greg said realizing what he might have sounded like. He didn't want to put Gil off with his enthusiasm.

"I'm still struggling a little to adjust to the idea that my life has to change again. It isn't a bad thing." Gil's fingers lingered at the waistband of Greg's sweatpants. "It simply is."

"Well, I'm there with you, Gil," Greg replied, aware of that touch but not flinching or reacting. It was like being acutely aware of a tickle that made you want to move but could be ignored. He could ignore it. Sure. And if he was already having to concentrate with that, what made him think he could handle sex? "I think we'll manage."

"Mmhmm." He moved just a little bit, experimentally. Grissom's fingers moved against skin there and he stopped a moment.

It was... It was... okay. "Yeah, I think we will."

"Good." Gil stretched his fingers, and then half-whispered. "Is this all right?"

"It's good," Greg replied, knowing he sounded surprised. It was good. "Keep going, I'm doing better than I thought."

"Okay. Just tell me, if... You know." Gil's fingers slipped a little bit lower, rubbing just above the waistband of Greg's pants.

"I will." He took a deep breath and moved enough to reach a hand down and pull down his pants a little. Enough at least that Gil would get the message that he meant it, and Gil took that little bit of granted leeway, starting to massage that space that Greg had revealed.

"Managing is the easy part. Enjoying it... is harder." he could almost hear Gil smiling a little, or maybe it was a hallucination. The only thing he was sure of was that he liked the feel of Gil's fingers, sliding down and then skipping over his ass to rub the backs of his thighs.

"Well it's working so far," Greg admitted. And it was. "I can't wait to feel more of you. I mean that. You feel good touching me there. Mmm. Yeah."

"Here?" Fingers crept up a little, rubbing at the dent where thigh met ass, through fabric.

He twitched a bit, and half laughed as he replied "Y... Heh, yeah...." His mouth was going dry so he started talking randomly. "I started working out before... everything. I mean there was Nick and Warrick and they're pretty ripped all told, but I never seemed to get as tight as they did. I mean, I put on muscles, but not where it mattered, you know? "

"I thought you'd put them on where it mattered. Where you used it is what matters. Weren't you captain of the chess squad?"

"Yeah. Geek of the week man," Greg chuckled again, suitably distracted from where Gil was creeping his fingers forward. "Dad used to make me play baseball, but I wasn't really into it, you know? I like things I could put in my own head. And having fun."

"Then why did you feel you had to keep you with Nick and Warrick in strength?" Conversation to contrast the touch of fingers slowly inching his pants down.

"Because." Greg nearly shrugged. "Because they look good, they need the strength being out there all the time and... I guess it made me feel like less of a slob. Don't know. It, it helped get us out."

Although that had been more the adrenaline, and Grissom losing weight. He shouldn't have been able to drag him let alone lift and carry, and keep carrying after he had been hit. If he let himself remember, there was a need so profound it seemed solid.

Fingers ran back up his back, to his shoulders to shake him gently. "Greg? I think I lost you for a minute there."

"Wha?" Greg blinked a little. "Sorry I was remembering. Getting away. Not freaking out, I swear." He didn't want Gil to stop, not now they were so close.

"That's all right. I do that." When Gil got quiet, and seemed to surface back to reality with a quiet 'hmn' when Greg talked to him, sometimes. It was hard to guess what Gil was thinking, and probably less hard to guess at what Greg was thinking. "Do you want to turn over?"

Maybe he needed to see that Greg was enjoying it. "Sure," Greg said awkwardly moving and rolling to expose a more than half hard erection. Oddly enough that made him blush a little.

Gil looked so relaxed, though, a little drowsy and comfortable. "That's flattering, you know."

"The blushing or..." Greg glanced down a moment and then smiled at him brightly. "Not freaking you out then?"

"Do I look like I'm freaking out?" That was a decent question to ask, except Gil never looked like he was freaking out even when he was, so it wasn't fair. "This is nice. No pressure and comfortable."

"Griss, you never look like you're freaking out," Greg sprawled looking up at him. "You look... gorgeous. Yeah. And you always smell good, which considering how much time you spend around crime scenes and DB's is pretty amazing. That's why it's distracting when people lean in really close. Everyone smells good. Well except when they've been death sprayed or something." He was aware that he was babbling a little, but he distracted himself by reaching out to stroke gently at Gil's leg that was close to him.

"Everyone smells good?" Gil repeated, making it a question while he cocked an eyebrow. That was before he put his hands on Greg's shoulders, and started to rub them gently at the front.

"I get turned on by smells? " Greg relaxed. "Which is why I love my coffee. The good coffee. And you smell particularly fantastic at the moment. I'd say it was pregnancy pheromones or something but I don't know if you have any." He found that if he touched Gil at the same time, the tension that worked around being helpless faded and he could relax a little more.

"If I do, they're in the disbursement piece they implanted me with," Gil scoffed a little, still gently massaging. "That's interesting. I rely more on sound."

"And I still don't annoy you too much?" Greg said with a smile.

"No, you don't. You make a lot of noise, and it's nice to be reminded that I'm not alone here." He leaned over Greg, moving down a little in his awkward position to kiss at Greg's shoulders as his hands traveled down over Greg's ribs.

Greg seized the opportunity to kiss back at the side of Gil's face, to smooth his own hands over the other man's back. "You'll never be alone with me around," he murmured, taking a more active role in their touching. "Even less with little Gareth or Geoffrey running around."

Easy touches, and Gil didn't shy away from them even if it was almost what they'd been doing all along. "I bet you were a noisy kid?"

"Pretty much. I get this... need to move and react and I need, music or activity or something, though when I'm studying I can apparently turn into a statue." Greg kissed him again, and again savoring it. "I had some dorm mates break into my room once because they thought I was dead when they hadn't heard anything from me for about four hours. I was getting my head around some protein macromolecules. "

"You'll brush up with that much concentration when you approach your final proficiency?" Gil goaded, sitting back a little. He shifted, getting onto his knees so he could move around better.

"I hope. I can sometimes overlook basic stuff which is something I have to work on. I catch the obscure every time..." Greg half pushed up so he could keep touching him.

"You'll some day become master of the obvious," Gil promised, smirking before he leaned in to buss a gentle kiss against Greg's lips. "Can I slide your pants off?"

"Slide away," Greg replied surprised at how relaxed he was. "And that was a very bad play on words."

"What play on words?" It was mock innocence, but Gil knelt back carefully and did start to work Greg's pants down.

"Master of the obvious... I..." The fabric brushed over his erection and he felt an unexpected jolt of desire. It was such a shock it robbed him of words and he stared at his cock as if it had sprouted a second head. It hadn't done that in a long time, just run off on its own accord without consulting with him first.

Gil looked at it, too, and then reached to place a hand just beside it, thumb resting at the edge of Greg's curling hair. "Is this all right?"

"I don't think I'm going to break, Gil," Greg replied after taking a breath. "Scream, howl and come all over your hand maybe, but not... break." The heat of his hand was so close to where he wanted it, he just wanted it a little closer.

"Just being careful. You've come so far, Greg, and I don't want to accidentally push you backwards." But he wasn't treating Greg like he was going to crack, not when he wrapped his fingers pointedly around Greg's dick.

"Ah!" It was a shock and then he had to swallow and reach for support or a grip somewhere, even if it was just from the bed clothes. "Wait... wait..."

He had to ride a dizzying rush of images and feelings.

The last time someone had touched him there, the last roughness and the mocking words that he enjoyed it as they forced a climax on him. It hadn't been a new thing, but every time it had broken his certainty, his sense of self and it was a little dizzying to feel someone there without pain.

"All right. Just let me know when." And while Gil kept his hand still and in place, he leaned over Greg a little to resume stroking at his ribs, his stomach. Gentle motions, soothing and almost entirely non-sexual.

He found himself holding his breath and released it audibly. "I'm good. I'm okay... just some memories. They jumped me, you know. Which pisses me off because you have your hand on my cock and..." Damn that was a hot thought. "You have your hand on my cock and you have no idea how long I've wanted that."

"A very long time? More than a few weeks, I'd guess." Gil leaned down to kiss the edge of Greg's mouth, kissed over to his jaw, kissed slowly and easily, hand still firm in place except for his fingers shifting, resettling his grasp in a teasing way. "I'm not exactly wet dream material right now."

"Oh god, you are... you really are," Greg said turning to find his lips and get a proper kiss. It was like making a circuit, a surge of wanting rushing through him. Hot desperate need like he had experienced when they were on the couch and he had told him there was hope burned through him, and he reached to clutch Gil to him.

Gil moved gently, carefully, kneeling over Greg now. God, that felt good, close to Greg and threatening more without doing it. "Like this?"

"Mmm... Like that. " Greg surfaced for air. "I want you. I really want you. Please... I want you to touch me more. I want to touch you."

"You can." Gil smiled a little, fingers tracing over Greg's chest. "I'm not going to hold your hands still."

"Can I touch your..." Greg glanced at Gil's cock. "I want to. I mean, I could touch your cock and if you leaned forward I could give you a blow job." Pretty ambitious goals for someone who had flashbacks just being touched, but he always set himself impossible goals.

"I don't want to pin you down," Gil pointed out logically, shifting back instead of forwards. He clutched a hand at Greg's shoulder, and pulled at him. "Let's move a little."

He shifted up. "Where should I go?" It was a dilemma, both of them being so careful. "Mmm? Between your legs?"

Gil gave him one last stroke, and shifted to lie on his side beside Greg. "This way. Face to face, but no one's going to fall on the other person." It was smart and logical, and very Gil.

"God, I love you..." Greg settled onto his side and smoothed his hand downwards towards Grissom's cock. "You are so... damn... sexy. Even your brain is sexy. Especially your brain...."

Not that the rest of Gil wasn't sexy, which he was reminded of when Gil groaned a little the moment that skin touched skin. His own fingers twitched around Greg, and his free hand loosely stroked at Greg's side. "My brain?"

"You have the best ideas ever," Greg clarified, gentle and firm with his touch while he worked up the nerve to suck him off. It wouldn't be like before. He would be doing it and it would bring Gil pleasure, he knew that. Practice making perfect after all.

And Gil seemed like a reciprocal kind of guy. They'd both do it, do whatever, and they'd both get off, enjoy it. As long as they kept being careful, and even when he forgot to, Gil remembered. "I think this was your idea, and it's a good one."

"Having sex? Yeah. Under most circumstances it is," Greg murmured as he made a leisurely progression downwards. Working up to the moment.

Kissing at Gil's chest, and then his stomach, and Gil's hand faltered and slipped to his hip, and then higher while Greg wormed his way down. "Just like that..."

The taste of Grissom was still there. The swell of his stomach was another miracle to be kissed and marveled at as he paused to give the area some more attention. His son was here, and suddenly it was important that Gil know that he really did want him. Desire him.

Even if Gil was going to go through it all before without knowing or guessing that Greg wanted and desired him. There wasn't any distinct kicking just then, but he could feel the curve and know what was going on. Plus, petting Gil's stomach always made him a little indulgent seeming and that mood was a good one. A good mood to counterbalance anything that might rear its head, right?


He lingered over Gil's stomach longer than he had on anyone before, his hand still moving on his erection slowly. Then he moved down. His idea, he could do it. His mouth tasted of Grissom, and that helped. Even so he had to pause when he reached the point where he was eye to eye with Grissom's erection. Best to take it slowly. He gave a very soft kiss to the head of the penis, tasting him with care.

There was a moment when he wasn't sure what Gil would do; a shuddery exhale, and Gil's fingers started to knead at Greg's shoulders. "Just like that. Feels so good, Greg..."

Encouragement was all he needed. He still tasted of Grissom, and that was enough to embolden him. He sucked his way down onto his cock little by little. He wanted it to be good so no vein was left untongued, no fragment of skin unlicked or sucked.

It wasn't the best blowjob Greg had ever given. He remembered times with shaking fingers in his hair, making another man's knees buckle, but this, the faint quiver in Gil's fingertips, the way his hips jerked a little, so controlled, was good in its own way.

Usually he was more confident and assertive in the way he sucked cock, but he knew when those expectations were completely out of reach. He did what he could though, trying to draw pleasure into Gil, make him want to come but not hold him.... That was something missing. The contact in, the feeling that Gil was holding back. He drew up a moment. "Gil? Don't worry, I'm okay. Let go some."

Gil stretched his fingers against Greg's shoulder again. "Sorry. I was trying to... I don't know."

"I know. I want to feel you liking it," Greg murmured. "Let me feel that." He bent his head again, hoping Gil understood.

There had to be a medium point between too forceful and no force at all. Greg wrapped his lips around Gil's cock, and he groaned again, quiet and soft. Moved his hips forward a fraction in a gentle jerk. Still not 'letting go' but it was a start.

He sucked hard, moving experimentally, up and down. He wasn't afraid of this. This was Gil who he had taken stupid risks for. Insanely stupid risks. Gil, who had saved him from a tree because a bear had gotten him up it. Gil, who shadowed him quietly when he started to flip out, got him into bed and made him toast and hot chocolate. Gil who seemed to want to protect him as much as possible, and Gil who'd always taught him here and there when the opportunity arose.

Gil was kneading his shoulder like a cat.

That was better, that was a real reaction. He could concentrate on regaining his form in cocksucking. It was a skill he'd had for years, it wouldn't be hard to find. Hot, steady, no let up. Fuck yeah, he could do this. He could do it because he was in control. He knew he was in control, no questions about it. Gil exhaled in a shaky sigh -- no real words, but he groaned again when Greg tongued the underside of his dick.

He liked that. Most men did, so Greg repeated it with more intent, more confidence. His own erection was perking up as he moved, feeling Grissom's hands on his shoulders, comforting rather than demanding. He liked that and this was good. He could take his time.

He could probably suck Gil until his jaw hurt and until Gil was a puddle of whimpering man on the mattress, except he was kinda fond of the mattress. It was warm, and the only reason right now that he was warm was because Gil was warm and the sheets were flannel and slow to cool.


He made a noise of agreement in his throat, even as he moved down. It was best just to keep going, become absorbed in the task, lose himself. It was easy to lose himself to the motion, up and down, sucking and listening to soft noises until Gil's breaths turned frantic and shuddery. "Greg..."

He could guess what that meant so he didn't stop, just kept moving harder, and taking him deeper waiting for that tightening in him, drawing in, ready for release.

Greg was all ready and all set on what was going on, on pleasing Gil, on the feeling of Gil's body snapping his hips forward, the faint jerks of motion that accompanied a thick groan when Gil came down his throat.

The salt musk taste hit him and it nearly swayed him from what he was doing. He swallowed down, more out of reflex. But once he had done he felt a surge of relief and elation. He had done it. He hadn't freaked, he had successfully done it.

Gil's fingers were shakily petting at his shoulders, the muscle control a little wonky. "I think I forgot how good that feels."

Greg breathed and flopped back and then made a gesture of triumph. "Yes! Yes! I did it."

He'd made Gil laugh, too, a little breathless, still petting Greg's shoulders. "V is for blowjob victory?"

"Best kind." Greg was grinning like a fool and he knew it. He reached and clung onto Grissom. "Wow. I'm... amazed."

"I'm a little amazed, too. I didn't... think that you'd be all right with that," Gil admitted as he pulled at Greg, until they were lying side by side, partially face to face again.

"Neither did I. I feel like I've just given my first blowjob ever. Lost my virginity all over again." He grinned at Gil happily. "I hate the thought of not being able to do something I enjoy so much."

Sex was supposed to be easy and comfortable, after all, and now it felt like it might be again. Gil's fingers slid to his back, massaging gently, absently, before Gil leaned in to kiss him. "This is the oddest therapy I think either of us has ever been involved in."

"I'm with you there," Greg responded and sighed with a measure of contentment even though he hadn't climaxed himself. Sometimes the achievement was the thing. "And hey, we saved on therapist fees, too. Not that they'd believe us. They'd have to give us special Feds counselors, otherwise the moment you said you were pregnant and I said I was having a liver, we'd be in the nearest loony bin before you could say psychotic delusional."

"Two seconds? No, they'd probably be hitting a silent alarm under their desks by then," Gil mused. "Sex doesn't fix anything. You just... We've accomplished a lot together."

Greg looked at Gil's stomach. "Yeah. We did." He looked up. "I know it's not the answer to everything, but it's something that was broken that's mending. Maybe it's you, maybe it's... I don't know, but I couldn't see it before."

"Couldn't see what?" Gil was coaxing, voice soft as he shifted slightly closer to Greg.

"Ever coming out of it. Letting someone that close, or wanting to do it. They did so much, Griss..." He leaned into him. "I couldn't tell anyone all of it. It makes me sick thinking about it." He didn't even want to think about thinking about it. But Gil was his obsession, and while it wasn't the healthiest thing ever, it was something. It was a relationship, even if it was funny. If they did see a therapist, they'd probably get told they were in some kinda sick codependent relationship.

Greg didn't care much. He liked laying there with Gil, being kissed by Gil. "I know."

Greg kissed him again. "I still think you'd be... revolted if you knew everything. I know in my head you wouldn't but when I told my parents the least of it, they couldn't meet my eyes. Which kinda hurts it all over again." He kisses him again. "I love you."

Slow kisses, easy motions as Gil worked himself closer to Greg again, sliding one hand down to his hip with the promise of something else coming. "I know. I wouldn't be revolted. You know that, just from our line of work."

Greg leaned in. "Some..sometimes they made sure I... liked what they did." And that had been somehow more humiliating than the painful experiences and the deliberate abuse. It was, in his own mind, like he had cooperated somehow.

"That's about control, Greg." More gentle stroking at his hip, easy motions while Gil talked against Greg's lips, a soft whisper. "That's about taking your control."

"I didn't have any, did I?" Greg heard himself saying as if it was a new thought. "Neither of us did." He screwed up his eyes a moment to stop them stinging a moment. "I wanted to protect you so much Gil. Me, protect you when everything you had ever done had been to help me. But I couldn't. I couldn't do it. It was only luck in the end, nothing I said or did."

"It mattered. What you did, Greg, mattered. You... came through when the opportunity presented itself, while I was incoherent. You did the best you could." But it wasn't soon enough for either of them. If he'd found an opportunity sooner, if he'd made a phone call sooner, they could have...

"I wasn't good enough. Not for me, you or anyone else there," Greg said acknowledging all of his guilt. "There were times when maybe I could have found a way but I was just unable to move because... not because I was stopped from moving. I just couldn't."

Gil was warm and comforting next to him, and non-threatening. He couldn't seem to make anyone see because no one knew the full story. They didn't know the day he had missed his chance because he was too scared and shaken to walk. That he should have done it then, and maybe Grissom wouldn't be going through this, and some of the others would still be alive.

Maybe. He couldn't be sure.

"Because fear held you still. Greg... I know. I understand that," Gil insisted, voice still soft and low.

"And if I told you I could have stopped what they did to you? All of this?" Greg just had to push it. Pick at the pain of it. "What then Griss? Is it so easy to forgive me being a coward?"

"You're not a coward. You couldn't have stopped it, Greg. You see what-ifs and you think that every one of them was the right one to seize a hold of." Gil sighed, kissed him again. "There's no point in playing that game, Greg."

"I'm just scared you'll find something out about then and... that will be it. The last thing, the too much to deal with thing," Greg replied pressing in close.

"Greg?" Gil managed a quiet laugh, and shifted a little, onto his back, pulling Greg with him. "I'm pregnant with your baby and you're having my liver. I can't see what a 'too much to deal with' would be."

"That's my point Gil, any extra thing could be too much," Greg protested but allowed himself to be repositioned. "So, when we both get pissy, and irritable and downright unbearable to live with, you won't toss me out?"

"No. Do I seem particularly likely to do so?" Well, no. But Gil was mostly mellow except for the odd temper tantrum that he threw.

"Hey, you might." Greg relaxed some. "Sorry. Confidence purge there I think. "

"Is it still escaping, or have you managed to shut the door?" They were face to face, and Greg realized, pretty much undressed and laying against each other. No one was freaking out.

"I think I've stopped leaking. Somehow," Greg replied. "Sex and therapy. Cool."

He smiled again. Gil was unbelievably cool, and every time he thought of it he was amazed.

Gil just... managed somehow, and Greg wasn't sure how he did it. Gil probably wasn't sure, either. He was just there, stroking Greg's hair, fingers of his other hand at the edge of Greg's hip. "Very. Do you have any preferences on how I return the favor?"

Greg shook his head. "You don't have to if you don't want to. But... any way you like," he responded gratefully.

"I want to. I'm not sure if you count an exchange of blowjobs as sex, but..." But the idea of a blow-job from Gil was kind of a nicely stunning one.

"Counts to me," Greg replied more than happily. How could it not? "If you really want to. I mean I know it might be difficult for you, too."

He didn't know what Gil had gone through, after all. For all that Gil encouraged him to talk about his ordeal, Gil never talked much about what had happened to him. He seemed comfortable, though, and pressed a little more firmly against Greg's hip. "I'm sure. And some day, we'll work up to real contact sport sex."

"Well, I guess that's probably dangerous for us right now anyway right?" Greg excused them both. "Pregnant and all."

There was a mild scoff from Gil before he started to gently steer Greg so he'd lie on his back. "Who knows? And it isn't as if we could get a doctor to advise us."

"I wouldn't want to take the risk with you. But I'm pretty sure I'm safe," Greg said as he obeyed. He knew he was, they just fucked him so he couldn't move. To help control him better.

"Safe and comfortable aren't the same things," Gil smiled a little as they settled differently onto the mattress. Gil seemed all right with hovering over him.

"Maybe another night we can try that," Greg replied. "But I think reciprocation is enough of a breakthrough for both of us." More than he had imagined he could cope with, that was definite.

"Yeah. Is this all right?" Gil shifted over Greg, careful not to hover too much. Even if it required him kneeling funny.

"It's great, really," Greg murmured. It wasn't even a lie. "I'm okay Gil, I'm doing good."

"I just want to be sure. If you panicked and kneed me in the stomach or something, I wouldn't hold you responsible but we'd both feel pretty bad," Gil noted wryly. He leaned down again, kissed against Greg's collar bone.

"I promise I won't," Greg murmured. "And don't cramp yourself or get uncomfortable." He smiled up at him.

And Gil smiled back, with enough wattage there to make Greg feel warm in places that didn't involve his crotch. Not directly. Warm in places that didn't involve Gil kissing his way over to a nipple, kissing over top of a ragged scar there like it was nothing at all.

He had been sure that any partners he had would find them repulsive. He had himself. He would look at himself and see someone barely holding together, physically and mentally and Gil just smoothed over those joins. He made sounds of appreciation, responding so Gil would know he wanted it. His fingers brushed gently in Grissom's hair as he moved down his body.

Gil wasn't freaking out. He wasn't freaking out; and it felt so good when Gil pressed slightly openmouthed kisses down to his belly button, crossing over scars like they were nothing to notice, marks of surgeries and experiments.

He knew the other man had his own. That they would both have more and perhaps in the end that made them the most suited to understand where his parents had looked at his scars and flinched. He knew it was because they were shocked, but he still couldn't deal with the fact there had been a hint of revulsion, even if only for a moment.

To have someone treat him as even remotely attractive was just incredible. He felt more than arousal -- he felt amazement.

He gently stroked. "Wonderful, wonderful Gil..."

"Mmm. Haven't done this in too long. You feel..." Gil trailed off in a hum before he leaned down on his elbows, hands on the sides of Greg's hips while Gil kissed his way over to one hipbone. Almost there.

There was a knot of anxiety there, but the truth was, they hadn't ever been that interested in sucking his cock. Torturing it, yeah. There wasn't much in the way of clouded memories there.

"You haven't... lost the knack for it."

Not at all, because Gil shifted back a little, half-kneeling between Greg's legs but bent over him, head ducked down before he molded Greg's cock upright with one hand. There was a pause that Greg wanted to think of as ominous, but then Gil lowered his head and licked the tip. Firmly, tongue sliding right against his pisshole.

He couldn't help it; he made the oddest sound. It was like he had swallowed a yelp and a whimper, blurring him into a gargling sound.

For a terrible moment he thought he had given himself hiccups. "Fuck Gil!"

Gil held very still, paused with his mouth still slightly open and near Greg's dick. "Are you all right?"

"I nearly swallowed my tongue!" Greg replied breathlessly. "Do that again! Please!"

"Make you swallow your tongue?" Gil twitched an eyebrow at him before he lowered his head again, and repeated the very pointed, slow lap over the head of Greg's dick.

"Ohhh.... god!" Greg groaned. "I am so all right with that you don't want to know. I make just expire from shock though." He clutched at the bed sheets a moment, with a bizarre thought that the lick had been like lighting a very short fuse. It went right through him, every slow motion that Gil gave. And he did give a lot of motions, sliding down a little, lowering his head so he could slide his lips right around the top of Greg's erection

Greg was noisy in sex, he knew that. He'd nearly forgotten it though lack of it, or lack of the sort of sex that didn't make him want to scream, cry or not be able to say anything. "Oh my god Gil, yeah... yeah that's good. So good. I'm going to die of how good it is here, I can feel your tongue on the the... ah! There! Oh yeah... that's like a G spot... if I were a woman. Which I'm not because you have your lips around my cock... and oh god... my brain cells are on strike and... you are sucking my intelligence out through my cock!"

It seemed he hadn't lost the ability to babble.

But it was the only thing he could do. Because Gil was sucking his brains right out of his cock, soft slurps and playful darts of tongue, and squirming motions against the underside of his dick that all felt so damn good. So damn good, and he wanted more, all that Gil could give him, and he wanted to come.

"Oh fuck... oh shit Gil, oh... Oh! Look, I'm gonna come and it'll be your fault because your mouth is so goddamn hot and you're making me crazy and I can't breathe with it... it's... turning me inside out... Oh my god I need... I need..."

He needed Gil, he had him. He had more of him than he was entitled to ever get. Right there and then he knew that though he'd spare Gil any suffering, he would live through it again if it meant getting this chance. The knowledge and emotion with it triggered him to climax and he cried out as he came, in surprise and pleasure.

Things got a little hazy after that. He was half-aware of a coughing noise, but then Gil crawled back up the bed and lay down beside him, fishing for the sheets with one hand.

"You killed me.." Greg complained a little weakly, turning to snuggle in with unashamed need. "I am the late Greg Sanders... brains, bodily fluids, every vital organ sucked out of his body. Call Forensics."

"That's a strange suspect we'll be looking for." Gil reached a hand to stroke Greg's hair, and finally got a hold of the heavy blankets. "Do you want your clothes, or?"

"No. You know... if you're okay with it... I'd like to try... you know... nakedity." Greg murmured. He smiled. "Hey, I've had sex today. That's good for us both. I didn't freak and neither did you. Cool."

Gil laughed a little at that and repeated solemnly "Very cool." As he covered them both over with the blankets and Greg settled in gratefully pleased to have been making progress for them both.


It was snowing outside.

It was snowing outside, and Gil was content to sit by a chair he'd pulled up to the window, looking out into a cloudy cresting dawn, the sky turning dark gray from the murky black of night. That was the best that the sun could hope to accomplish, and Gil couldn't blame it.

It looked like their respective parents wouldn't be making it up for Christmas after all, which was something he couldn't be too sorry about. The Thanksgiving visits had nearly ended up with Greg out in the woods again and his own mother looking at him with wide eyes and signing, ~Is she for real?~

Rane had been on top form, which had been a little like watching a farce comedy only it was happening to Greg.

Just a month or so on and he didn't have the strength to deal with that again, and no matter how good he was at pretending, neither did Greg.

Even if Greg was outside trying to saw down a smaller pine tree. He had his cell phone on, but Gil wondered if he was going to end up going out there to find Greg, and if they were going to end up trying to dig up one of the seedlings that were living at the back of the house. They could put it in a pot, and stick a glass bulb upside down on the tip.

Ta-da, homemade Christmas tree.

It was part of the reason he was watching out of the window. He'd said not to bother, but Greg had been determined. He'd bought a lot of food, he had plans to cook strange and mysterious foods for Christmas itself and he said he would have to hand back his Norwegian heritage if they didn't have a tree.

He'd been outside longer than Gil had expected, and it was another sign they weren't really talking about. They were both having problems now, one way or another.

Tiredness. No matter how much Gil tried to ignore it, physical exertion tired him out more than it had before. He had trouble getting out of bed some mornings, and he was sore.

He figured it was just a matter of time before he started to look jaundiced.

There was some rather loud stamping sounds and a blast of cold air as well as the now familiar under his breath Greg monologue to himself. He heard the door shut and then a faint groan and a vague thud. "You... know, Gil? Fuck the tree. If I wanted pine up my nose I would have inhaled an air freshener...."

Gil looked over towards the door. There was the distinct sight of a pine tree, a smallish one, laying half on top of Greg. Greg, bundled up in his coat and two pairs of pants, with two sweaters under the coat, and gloves, and boots. And he still looked a little frozen.

No wonder. The door was still open, so getting Greg to move a little and kicking the tree further in the door was a priority

"The tree didn't want to come into custody quietly," Greg complained. "Where's Brass when I need him? Now there's someone who would be good up here at Christmas. But he's probably working. And... shit, it's snowing hard. How can it be snowing so hard here and it doesn't in Vegas?"

"Location, Greg. We're on the cusp of one very large mountain range. And something about Elko county not being a desert," Gil pointed out wryly. He gave the crooked bottom of the tree a shove with one foot, glad that he'd been dressed most of the day. "Move so I can close the door. It's cold in here."

Greg clambered to his feet and pulled on the tree to clear the doorway. "Sorry. I just ran out of steam... I've bit the bucket ready. I did that before I went out, put bricks in it. I'll just..." Apparently grimace in pain, Gil observed even as Greg straightened up and carried on. "Put this in before I do anything else."

"Just wait," Gil told him, a little sharper than he needed to, a little firmer than he needed to, while he closed the door. "Sit down and rest."

"I should do this so I can do the lights, and then the cookies," Greg said but he was sitting down in response to that order even while he protested. He grimaced again and exhaled slowly, an increasingly frequent behavior as time went on.

"Lay back. That sofa's padded for a reason." Gil shadowed him, not sitting yet, just watching Greg and making sure he laid back. "Any reason to go back outside again?"

"Well, Christmas Eve on I'll be putting a bowl of porridge out there for the Christmas nisse," Greg said without a hint of sarcasm. "Otherwise Poppa Olaf would be disappointed in me. We usually do it together when I go back down to Mom and Dad's even now. So. But that won't be until much later so we're safe for now." He lay back, closing his eyes a little. "I'm unfit. That's the problem."

"You're a human incubator. Your body is busy elsewhere. Do you want something to eat while we contemplate what kinds of pulley system could right the tree?"

Greg looked up him and shook his head. "I'm good, Griss. It's okay, my stomach is kinda kicking my ass today so I'm imposing sanctions on it. Until the civil unrest stops."

"I've been told that saltines are good for putting down rebellions," Gil suggested, frowning at Greg a little. "If I'm not allowed to put off eating, you're not either."

"Aw, man, Griss..." Greg looked at him. "Okay, okay... saltines. I'll try a couple. I am hungry but I eat something and then I have a lot of protests. Not that you need to know that but I'm just trying to explain. I'm saving my pain up for after Christmas dinner." He grinned at Gil hopefully.

"Christmas dinner?" Gil backtracked to the kitchen, and pried the tin lid off of the container that they kept the saltines in. "Greg, you really don't have to go out of your way for this..."

"It's Christmas, Gil," Greg said. He cleared his throat and added. "It's a Christmas I never thought I'd see, or you, so I want to do it right. I want it to be ours."

Ours. Our Christmas, and wasn't that a funny concept. That there was an 'ours' at all, never mind everything else that had happened to them. "All right. Even if we live off of leftovers for a week. Will this be a particularly Norwegian Christmas, or... ?"

"Well, some of it. I swear I won't make you have the salt cod, or the smoked mutton ribs. Actually, they were banned pretty early on in our Christmas traditions." Greg sat back. "But Poppa Olaf... well, with Mom and Dad so busy, we used to do Christmas together. We'd get the tree, and fix it up. Bake the seven types of cookies -- you'll like them. I'm doing those, and the Christmas bread, julekake, which is great, and then we'd go out late on Christmas Eve and put a bowl of cinnamon porridge out for the nisse. He said we had to as well as the normal Santa Claus stuff because the Nisse were all about good luck for the family and the house. I reckon we could use that, right?"

"Sure. I don't see any harm in it -- but what is a nisse?" Gil came back towards Greg with an open package of the crackers, ready to offer to Greg.

"A... gnome. Or Santa, depending. The Farmers think of them like gnome helpers that hang around the farm." He took one of the crackers and munched on it. "Did you ever do Christmas stuff with your mom? I mean... it seems stupid, but I do it when I'm back there and not on shift to make Poppa Olaf happy. We know we're too old but he says until he has another kid to do it with I have to keep going."

"He's going to have a ball very soon if everything works out," Gil mused. "I'm sure my mother doesn't think so, but at least our parents all live close enough to each other that where to go when we have time off isn't going to be the cause of any strange arguments. I have a lot of cousins and some of the arguments I watched were... spectacular."

"My Mom likes the idea of being a Grandmother one moment and then hates it the next," Greg said eating the saltine. "Mmm. Anyway, I'll spare you the indignity of trooping around the tree singing carols. Originally, in Norway, Christmas was meant to be a day of fasting or something. So they sort of make a token gesture and after about four in the afternoon everyone then eats anything going. Cake is a big thing. Lots of different types but I'm going to make a small turkey. I mean, I thought our parents were coming up but..." He looked out the window at the snow. "It's going to be deep."

"And who in their right mind would trade Christmas in southern California for being stuck in the snow in a tiny cabin. Thanksgiving..." Gil sat down beside Greg, and reached over to unzip Greg's coat. "Was enough of that for all of us, I think. This place is good for two people, maybe three."

"Yeah, don't remind me. If my Mom made a comment once," Greg said and leaned to kiss Gil. "You okay? You didn't sleep well."

"My subconscious was coming up with nightmares for me," Gil shrugged. It was comfortable to kiss Greg back. All of that physicality was something that Gil hadn't ever expected Greg to be comfortable with, let alone want and be comfortable with it himself. "I'm all right."

"Yeah? Want to tell me about it?" Greg offered, reaching behind Gil so he could apparently achieve the aim of stroking his hair gently. The tree lay, half filling the living room, snow melting as they sat there.

It could keep melting, Gil decided. "Just the usual. White walls, and..." He shrugged a little. The imagery was mildly disturbing, like working the kind of scene that made police throw up, and Gil didn't want to bring it into their strange paradise.

Greg kissed him again. "I know. I just wondered if it was G junior making a fuss. He'd getting pretty big in there now." His other hand smoothed over Gil's stomach with a move that bespoke long familiarity. "You think we might have to go in earlier than they thought?"

"We might. He sleeps when I'm moving around, and wakes up to dance when I'm trying to sleep. But I've gotten used to it. I think you nudge me more in my sleep than he does," Gil pointed out with a smirk.

"You can always nudge me right back," Greg said and settled back. "How about we spend most of Christmas eating, sitting in front of the fire, especially since I got all those logs -- and watching bad sentimental TV and playing with presents, huh?"

Gil offered him another saltine, keeping track of them. Two down, maybe two to go and he'd stop so blatantly handing them to Greg. "That sounds like the best kind of Christmas of all. And very in keeping with my family's long-standing traditions."

Greg took it, and ate it with all evidence of enjoyment. "Good. I wouldn't want to take over," he said ironically. He stopped mid bite and swallowed. He leaned forward, pressing one hand to his side. "Ow, fucking ow..."

"What hurts?" Gil leaned in towards Greg, frowning. He knew what hurt; he'd seen Greg wince and complain before.

"Stomach... it's... it's okay, it's just the cramps and shit. They said it might... start this," Greg folded over and screwed his eyes shut. "This is the 'some discomfort' they promised me. It'll pass..."

"Can you take anything for it?" Gil asked, reaching to press his fingers down over top of Greg's. There had to be something, because the pain pill question had been asinine. "Do you think a heat pad would work?"

"Yeah... yeah, It might," Greg was still clenched up with the pain of it. "Mom... mom said chamomile tea, I hate the stuff but... she does know what she's talking about when it comes to this stuff."

Well, Gil knew that she'd left some with them. He rubbed fingers over Greg's hand, and then got up. "I'll get that started and grab the heat pad."

And dodge the Christmas tree.

"Thanks, Griss," Greg said still unable to unfold. "Intestinal cramps. Great. Fucking great." He looked like he was trying to stand and stretch but failed. "Shit. I must have... set it off or something."

"Dragging the tree in had nothing to do with it. How far off did you go for that tree?" Gil asked over his shoulder as he started to pour water in the kettle.

"Sort of over that ridge." He smiled as best he could. "I needed one that would fit. It seemed like the idea.... at the time."

Over the ridge. Of course it would seem like a good idea when someone was walking towards it with an unburdened body, but coming back over the ridge... "We'll get it up eventually," Gil promised while he put the kettle on the stove, and got out the box of tea bags. Heating pad, right.

"I'm nearly desperate enough to try some of the herbal painkillers," Greg admitted. "Dammit, I'd kill for some ordinary pharmaceuticals about now."

"I'd kill to be able to lift up the tree right now, but for the moment, tea and a heating pad are going to have to satisfy you." Gil told him that while he walked over to the bedroom, grabbing the heating pad from the drawer beside the bed.

"And you? I get you, too, right?" Greg asked having settled to half lie out on the couch as the attempt to stand had failed miserably.

"Of course." There was room for them both on the sofa, and Greg had recently developed the habit of lying out and resting his head on Gil's lap. "Can you take that outer sweater off?"

"Yeah." It turned into a bit of a painfully slow struggle, but Greg managed it. "Sorry about this, Griss, I just thought I could do it, you know? Before... it would have been fine."

Gil strode back into the living room, untangling the cord with one hand while he walked. "I know, but now is not before."

"No, I think I'm getting that message loud and clear," Greg replied. "I just.. I'm just scared I've done something to it."

If he had done something to it, Gil knew that it was probably both their death warrants.

It wasn't something to worry about, though. There wasn't any sense in worrying like that. Gil calmly knelt down to plug the blanket in, and lifted Greg's hands to put the blanket over top of Greg's clothes. "The tree can stay down until tomorrow."

"I'll take it easy." Greg lifted his hand so he could press the blanket closer. "Pretty rich of me after all the grief I give you huh?" He did look apologetic.

"Yes. You're not invincible. Here, let me help get this damn sweater off. The heat can't even get to you through all of this." He was a few minutes away from putting Greg to bed, but maybe they could both bask in a snow-wet tree soaking into the floor. Gil reached to peel up Greg's outermost sweater.

"Oops, hey... ow..." Greg struggled a moment. "There. Come and sit down, Gil? Please?"

Gil dropped it to the floor, and shook his head. "Just hold on a minute. I'll get your tea and then no one will have to move for a while." Conservation of energy, but Gil was turning back to the kitchen before Greg could stop him.

By the time he came back Greg was looking tired but slightly less cramped up. "Thanks, Gil," he said gratefully. "It's starting to work with the heat and everything."

"A little internal heat might help," Gil suggested as he offered the tea. He'd put soy milk and sugar in it to break up the admittedly bad taste, and hopefully Greg would drink it all.

"Always reminded me of cloudy urine, but if it does the job," Greg said as he took the tea and sipped at it. "Gah. Still tastes like shampoo."

"This is where I have to ask if you've ever drank shampoo." It was easy to pull at Greg, shifting him so he could lean back against Gil a little.

He seemed to enjoy that. "Once. It was a sort of accident. In that it was a college prank. I took a mouthful because it was this thin stuff and it looked like alcohol and spat it all over the table," Greg grinned and gulped down some more of it. "Mm, you are comfortable."

"I'm padded in strange places." He slid an arm over Greg's shoulders, inviting him closer to a more natural source of warmth than the heating blanket.

"Stupid stomach. Stupid doctors. 'Some discomfort' my ass," Greg murmured. "I get the impression they didn't have a clue what was going to happen with us both."

"Given that it's never happened before, Greg, you're right. Be sure to emphasize to them that it's 'serious discomfort', not some." All it took was a little shift, and Gil could place his other hand over top of the heating pad, on top of Greg's fingers.

"Yeah, like you weren't feeling bad the other night," Greg closed his eyes a moment. "I'll be damned, it's easing a bit."

Between the tea that he had in his hands, the heating pad, and Gil's arms around him, it was easing. Gil relaxed a little when he heard that, and closed his eyes for a moment. "See? We'll manage. And since there are no deadlines, we can do things at our own pace, Greg. No one's life is in the balance because we take our time putting up the tree."

"I know. I just wanted things to be... good, you know?" Greg replied. "And I didn't want you overstraining yourself, because you've been getting dizzy more often recently."

Obnoxious bouts of it, but Gil could handle it. It was a small house, and there were enough things to lean on that he hadn't slipped and lost his balance, enough floor space that when he had to sit down or fall down, he could and did. "Neither of us has to overstrain himself."

"It's gonna get harder though," Greg murmured looking up at him. "There's still nearly a couple of months to go."

But it was a couple of months that they had to live, to do things that Gil hadn't thought he'd be able to much enjoy doing. They had a lot of hope, even if the path towards it was paved with aches and dizziness and nausea. "Then we might want to start shoveling snow a couple of days in advance of any planned grocery trips."

"I'll get some salt or grit or something," Greg said. "Build in some days for recovery. You have to rest though. You know what they said about what could happen as the baby gets bigger."

Doom and gloom prediction about the pseudo-uterus rupturing, tearing the liver, or the intestine. Nothing very pleasant if things went wrong.

But they'd stopped short of ordering him to strict bed rest, which just told Gil that they honestly had no idea what could go wrong. "Greg," Gil murmured, stroking his fingers over the backs of Greg's knuckles. "What does it look like I'm doing right now?"

"It looks like you're humoring your rather stupid housemate here, all the while thinking, 'Aha, I knew he was an idiot! He'll never pass his final proficiency!'" The difference with this pronouncement was that he actually smiled now when he said that sort of thing.

It was a step in the right direction as far as Gil was concerned. "I'm resting. You don't need to tell me to rest when I'm already on the sofa or in bed, Greg. Tell me to rest when I try to help you move that tree."

"I love you. Therefore I will move the tree myself," Greg replied. "Soon. At some point when you aren't so comfortable."

Comfortable to lie on, not comfortable for Gil in the physical sense. He liked Greg leaning back on him, liked the casual contact Greg seemed to thrive on. It made him feel less freakish, and probably did the same for Greg. It was a different sort of solitude for him, not what he'd planned, but it was working. He'd been 'stuck' with Greg for weeks now, and he hadn't gone crazy and tried to kill anyone. "Mmm. That might take a while. How's your stomach feeling?"

"Less painful, thanks," Greg replied. "You'll tell me if you hurt, won't you? So I can help?"

It was hard to get really mad at Greg. He could fill the place with his personality. He could sit in silence with him, not speaking a word for hours, barely moving, just stroking his hair. That surprised him. He could spend all his energy trying to make something good for them both because he hoped it would make him happy. He'd never experienced that before. His other relationships had been sort of one sided.

A lot of him doing things and a lot of him pursuing and a lot of him fucking it up -- and Gil occasionally hoped that he showed Greg enough of anything in return that this one didn't flounder, either. Because if everything did work out... if they screwed it up, they'd still have to put up with each other for eighteen years at the minimum. He wasn't going to pull the stunt that his own father had pulled. Wasn't going to walk out of anyone's life, no matter how much easier it might be.

"I will, Greg. Don't worry. You notice everything anyway."

"All that extra training you keep giving me," Greg murmured, moving slightly. "I think I... might be able to stand now. In fact the whole thing was a devious ploy to sneak some extra time with you."

He was teasing again, making light of everything. Gil noticed he did that more and more often. It was a coping mechanism, and Gil never directly confronted Greg on it. He just steered it a little. "I like that kind of devious. Sit back and finish your tea."

"Sitting. Finishing," Greg grinned. "I sent presents to the guys at work through the wonders of the internet. I hope they've got them in time. Who was doing Christmas this year?"

"Warrick, quite a few of our lab techs, Nicky..." Not Catherine, not Brass, not Sara. He still worried about Sara, but her short missives had gotten shorter recently.

"I thought Brass was going to work. Otherwise he could have come up," Greg replied. "I hope Nick is okay. We've been talking again -- e-mail mainly -- and Ecklie is being a pain in the ass to him. Picked up on the counseling sessions he had after the stalker guy and... well. He's picking them up on lots of things. Sara's not talking to me though, which doesn't surprise me, but Warrick says she got suspended for a few days. Blew up at Ecklie."

"I wish I was there to diffuse the situation. She didn't say anything about it to me." Didn't write anything about it. "I could get up and get the laptop, and we could see if anything else has happened..." E-mail was their link to the outside world, to their friends, easier than a phone call most times.

"We could do that. I miss them," Greg said. "I'll let you read my mail if I can read yours?" He grinned at him. "We could send Christmas greetings to them all."

"We might as well." Since come February they'd be having to explain things, why there was a 'we' instead of Grissom, who at most noted the holiday by trying to treat whatever else of his team was working with a dinner. "And I need to write my mother."

"Well, yeah, that goes without saying," Greg replied. "You want me to get the laptop? I appear mobile now." He proved his words by getting up, even if it was slowly. "What are we going to tell them all?"

"To enjoy the holiday? To..." Gil shifted, unwrapped his arms from around Greg's body, and relaxed back while he watched Greg get up to retrieve the charged laptop. "I don't know."

"Do you want to tell them we're... together? In any way? Or... just leave it?" Greg asked as he fetched the equipment, stepped over the tree and sat next to Gil, before handing the lap top over. "Or is it a case you're not certain about things?"

"I..." He balanced it on his lap, and angled himself just so, angled himself so Greg could see the screen. "Haven't ever felt the need to be vocal about my relationships."

Greg ducked his head a little. "Then could you tell me? Because I'm not sure you actually want things to go further. I know we've said stuff but we were under a lot of stress then and I... don't know. I'm not sure if it's something you want or just something you've agreed to sometimes. Sorry. My insecurity talking here."

He was quiet for too long. Gil knew that, but he was watching the lines of Greg's face, watching insecurity almost dancing over his face. "I want this. It's not... just an incidental to everything that happened. It's something on its own."

"Are you sure?" Greg said after a pause. "I mean, I've thought about it and I know I've put you in an awkward position of it being difficult to say no when I've wanted this, or that or declared unrequited love. I get that now. I'm steady enough now that I don't want you to feel, I don't know... blackmailed into any sort of relationship. I want it. I want you. I have since I met you, but that doesn't mean you want me. Our son doesn't mean you have to have me, the liver doesn't, either." Greg swallowed a moment. "I want not just to heal with you, Griss, fix things with you and recover... I want to be in love with you. I want to laugh at your bad puns, argue over breakfast, watch you smile to yourself when you think no one is looking... all of that. And those are things I can't take from you, they have to be given."

Could he do that? Years of Greg, living with Greg, the good and the bad. Laughs and probably fights, but... "They have to be given," Gil admitted. "I... haven't thought about it in the way you do. I think by planning, and I... keep trying to figure out where you might want to move. My townhouse is a little small for two people. You're a change, but not... a bad change to my life. I enjoy being with you, and I wish we were both healthy. I'd drag you out through the snow and show you that there's more things to do outside than surf."

Greg grinned. "I'd like to make you laugh more. I'd like to go on a rollercoaster with you." He leaned over and kissed him. "You're planning on a house, huh? That's a pretty good sign right there."

Greg's lips lingered a little on the edge of Gil's mouth, and Gil decided that he liked that feeling, too, as much as he liked Greg leaning into him comfortably. "I'm not much of a romantic. I find myself thinking in practical terms."

"So practically speaking, what do you think about in connection with me?" Greg murmured, kissing him again. He seemed insatiable when it came to displaying physical affection, even if it didn't often go beyond touching and kissing most of the time. It was a strangely addictive behavior.

Gil closed his eyes for a moment, only half-carefully balancing his laptop on his lap. "I think about the future."

"That's a good thing right?" Greg asked him, kissing at his neck. "For both of us?"

"I'd think so. That we have a future is a good sign." He opened his eyes, turned his head a little. "So if you want to say something in the mail, that's all right."

Greg smiled. "I'd like to. Speaking of mail? Got any good ones or do you want to look at mine first?"

He hadn't even gotten to opening the program yet. "You could look at your mail first. Everyone's gotten too comfortable getting prompt mail answers from me." They weren't going to get one then, not when there was a Christmas tree to-be thawing on the living room floor.

Greg grinned and instead of taking the lap top, elected to leave it balancing on Gil, and lean in to type as he logged in. "Okay, lets see... we have... wow, mails from everyone. Including Sara... how... she's never written to me before. That's scary. Which one should I open first?"

He worried a little as to why Sara would write Greg. Probably not to say anything nice. Well, maybe she would. They'd started to develop a rapport of sorts before everything had gone wrong, so Gil couldn't be sure. "Hers. There's no reason to let suspense build."

Greg grimaced and clicked on the mail so they could both read it.

Hi Greg,
I guess I haven't been very good at writing to you, or talking to you since everything. I guess in a way I found it too easy to go along with what you were saying or hinting about yourself. And you'd be right in thinking that I was hoping to get closer to Grissom over it, and even felt a little like you were where I should be. But then it leaked out about the medical insurance review and that you and Gil might have cancer from the experiments and I can truthfully say I've never felt so body punched in my life. Is this why you and Gil have drawn away? Did Gil go away to die for fuck's sake? I have to ask you, Greg, because I know he wouldn't reply. Tell me. I thought I was losing him to you, not losing him altogether.
Everyone knows now, there's no reason to hide it. Please, Greg.


Medical insurance leaks? Some idiot with a big mouth and no sense of wanting to keep a secure job apparently had taken a ride on the departmental gossip train. Gil frowned while Sara's words sank in, and he struggled to find something to say.

After all, she was right. He wouldn't have given her an answer. Even if 'everyone knew', or thought they knew.

"Maybe we should have gone with anyone else's mail first."

"No prizes for what caused the mail deluge," Greg sad wryly. "How the hell did that get out? The cover story. I mean... shit."

Gil exhaled, and closed his eyes briefly before he focused on the computer once more. "Our Christmas message could start out 'not dead from cancer'."

"Catherine knows, and Jim," Greg said with a heavy exhalation. "Although it will neatly explain the surgery and all. Nick and Warrick will be going nuts! And all the guys in the lab... shit... I mean it was a real enough risk, the Feds told me that often enough but I never expected to have to tell anyone and worry them like that."

"They were already worried, Greg. When you came here, they were worried about you and after you came here most of their mails to me consisted of questions to ask how you were." But how to deal with it now? Tell them yes or no, or that they were, but they were getting better, or? Gil didn't want any more visitors coming up than their parents and Catherine.

"Funny how they ask me about you, and you about me," Greg replied. He sat back. "So, do we do a rumors of our impending deaths have been greatly exaggerated, but admit to the fact we will have to have surgery to remove stomach growths? I mean, that's close enough to the truth that we wouldn't have to be careful about revealing surgery scars and the like."

"Or we could skirt a little closer to the truth. Even... after the transplant, Greg, I'm going to have to be careful of some things." Even if it was a perfect genetic match. It was still sewn in, and Gil didn't much want to tax it.

"What, that I'm donating something? How would that work? A kidney or something? I... maybe you can donate some liver tissue, I'm not sure." Greg replied thoughtfully. "Or that I'm separate and we're both waiting for transplants or something?"

"I..." Gil's brows furrowed, and he looked at Sara's mail, still on the screen. "No, that's a bad idea. We could always say I had liver cancer of some kind?"

"Liver cancer and you are... having tissue from me or something? And I have a stomach growth?" Greg suggested a little unsure. "I mean, most of them know that liver cancer is... pretty fatal, Griss."

"I know." Gil glanced over at Greg, and then to their melting tree. Greg had really found a very full-looking one, even if it was going to be lopsided by the time they got it up. "We need to get this story straight before we reply."

"Let me think.. What do I know about liver cancer?" Greg thought about it. "I think... You can get primaries and they treat that by surgery. They can take out a lot of the liver and it regenerates. From what I understand from our last appointment the problem with your liver is that it's proliferating all the way through it so the whole thing comes out. But normally, they take it out, and then hope it regenerates. That would work. I think."

"Then we'll go with that," Gil decided firmly. After all, the more he thought about it, the more he'd waffle over it.

"Okay, I'll write back," Greg replied. "I can do this." He hastily started typing.

Hey Sara,
Wow, sounds like someone in Personnel sprung a leak huh? Okay, look, you wanted to know what the deal is? It's true up to a point. We do both have complications from what happened at the Experiment Factory. Gil has a liver primary, and I have some sort of intestinal growth. They've been doing a lot of tests and we'll both be having surgery sometime in the next month or so. Gil's lymph looks clear so they reckon if they can just get it out then he'll be in the clear. It's not like normal cancers, I guess. Anyway, he wants everyone to know that he's not dying or anything. I mean, we're ill, I guess but with any luck we'll be recovering soon.
I'm sorry Sara, I guess in some ways this news is worse. Gil and I have gotten close. Really close. We're not exactly sure where everything is going, just that it's going. I'm sorry Sara, but I hope you can be happy about the news that Gil is going to be okay.

Have a good Christmas,

Greg hovered over the send for a moment, and Gil just nodded faintly before Greg gave in and clicked. "And that's that."

"We'll have to write a few of those I reckon," Greg exhaled. "Damn, Griss, why do things get so complicated?" He leaned into him. "I want things to be simple."

"People are very seldom simple. Occasionally boring," Gil admitted. "But not simple. Do you want to tackle any more now, or should we make a joint effort to get the tree at least to a ninety degree angle?"

"Let's do the tree. When we exhaust ourselves we can do mail again. I'm up to giving it a shot." Greg petted at him absently.

So Gil slipped the laptop off of his knees and onto the table, and then stood up. "All right. We might as well carry on being ambitious today. Let's aim for leaning it up into a corner."

"Leaning it is then. I have a bucket and it'll be easy to get it straight later." Greg followed him straightening carefully.

"Feeling okay. Huh. Well, lets do this slow and easy. " He bent over carefully to take hold of the tree, and Gil followed, moving to mirror him. Together they could get it up without either one straining themselves too much. "On the count of three. One, Two..."

"Three!" Greg lifted and Gil moved the tree. "Easy now, easy... stand it upright. Ow, fucking needles... watch out for the.. yeah..."

Between the two of them they managed to get the tree up and over. "You okay, Gil? Not straining anything?"

"No." No, but he did have a branch digging into his shoulder, and he wasn't quite willing to let go because it didn't seem to be leaning quite right into the corner.

"Good... well look, here's the bucket, let me just lift a little and I can get it in. Yeah?" Greg sounded optimistic.

"I'm not sure a bucket can hold a tree stable, Greg, but..." They could keep it slightly watered, so Gil kept holding onto it, ready to lift along with Greg.

"One, two, three... lift..." Greg said and they managed to get it in the bucket. "It's more the stones and bricks I have to put in the bucket and around the bucket that will do it," Greg said. "You hold it upright and I'll put them in and we'll be done." He didn't even wait, he just dropped to his knees to pile in the bricks he had industriously pile next to the logs he had been building up for a few days.

Everything, even small bursts of activity like that, took a lot of energy. Gil kept the tree stable and mostly straight, looking at the branches as he listened to Greg rustling around. Maybe, if they were lucky, they might even get the energy up to decorate it before Christmas came and went.

"Is it straight?" Greg called up from his vantage point on the floor. "Just there?" He sounded like he was panting a little which wouldn't surprise Gil.

"It's... straight enough, Greg. We can settle it tomorrow." But right now, Greg looked like he was going to fall over on the floor, and Gil wasn't going to be able to drag him to bed that way.

"Great!" Greg poked out again looking tired but happy. "We have a tree. Soon it will be shedding needles. That is the spirit of Christmas at work."

"A decoration that requires the accessory of a broom and a dust pan." When Greg stood up, Gil reached for his shoulder, steadying him while he looked shaky and tired. "Think you're up to going to bed?"

Greg looked reluctant. "I was going to do a few things but..." He nodded. "I'm sorry, Gil, I was hoping to get all this worked out in plenty of time."

"We still have plenty of time. I'll take the laptop with us so if we wake up and don't want to get up, we can at least finish your mail." He made it an easy suggestion, something Greg couldn't turn down; after all, they were making provisions to actually get things done, right?

"Yeah. I don't like to think of what Nick and Warrick must be thinking. " Greg got up slowly. "Or even Hodges. If Sara was that wound up, mainly about you though, I... well, I don't know what the others are thinking."

"They're probably wound up in their own ways." And thank god Catherine already knew what was really going on, or else they would have already been on the receiving end of one frustrated angry phone call. Gil shifted his hand, and carefully stepped back from their bucket supported tree.

"I hope they're giving Ecklie a hard time." Greg lit up a moment. "You know the one good thing? Ecklie has to approve your sick pay, too, now!"

Trust in Greg to find the odd bright side to the story. Gil smirked a little, and then tugged at Greg, setting him into motion to start walking down the hallway to their bedroom.

"I'm coming, I'm coming." Greg followed him. "Hey Gil, can I go to sleep with my hands over your stomach again? That was... cool."

It was a good thing that the cabin was small, because it made the walk from the living room to the bedroom comfortably short. "Why was it cool?"

"It just was. I could feel him, and you, and it was just really good." Greg was shucking off the remainder of his clothes without any lingering inhibitions in front of Gil, though he'd seen him still be body shy when other people were around. It had been another great triumph when he hadn't freaked out at being hugged at Thanksgiving.

Things took time, and with distance both from other people, the events that started it all, and from being in a situation where his anxiety was always high, Greg had gotten better. Somehow, just enough, in their insulated little world. "I don't have a problem with you doing that, if you're comfortable."

"I'm always comfortable with you. Which is kinda weird considering how nervous you used to make me," Greg grinned at him again even as he prepared to slip into bed. "I wanted so much for you to notice me. Maybe look at me a little, or be impressed or proud of me. I knew I was trying too hard, but I couldn't stop. And if only I'd know what it would take, huh?"

"Some situation that nullified the supervisor, CSI in training relationship." Not what had happened. Anything that did that would've had the same effect, with much less horrifying long term ramifications.

"Yeah. That would have been easier," Greg replied. He looked at Gil for a long moment. "I'm still glad that... we managed to make this something good, Gil."

Something, and Greg meant the circumstances instead of them. "We've risen above it, Greg. That's... something else," Gil decided as he sat on the edge of the bed, and thought about how best to keep warm for the night. Nap. Whatever it became.

"Yeah. We make our own miracles, right?" Greg replied as he settled down, waiting for Gil to join him. "And I'm glad you plan on us being around and together after everything."

"I hope for it. I don't... have a good track record." He twisted a little, and finally pulled his shirt off. The sheets were warm enough for it. "I've probably been too tired to accidentally test your nerves."

"Griss, I think the fact that I love being with you despite the fact I can barely cope with anyone else might give you a hint that I'm ready for that challenge," Greg murmured, looking at him again.

No flinching when he pulled his sweater and t-shirt off. Gil dropped it on the floor -- he could fold it later -- and knelt for a moment to crawl beneath the sheets with Greg. "You wonder if I mean what I say, Greg, and I wonder when things will go wrong."

"Maybe if I believe what you say you'll stop wondering when it will go wrong?" Greg said moving in to wrap warm arms around him. "Maybe we could do that."

Pretend one more thing would somehow work out flawlessly. Gil shifted, head against the pillow, arms loose around Greg. They moved a lot in their sleep, and seldom woke up like that, but it was a nice way to rest. Doze. "We could try that."

They were warm and comfortable, outside there was snow falling, and a defrosting tree in their too small living room. But somehow when Greg murmured back, "I think we can do it," before holding him close, for the first time he felt himself wanting to believe it was true.

Reaching February had taken on the epic sort of attainment levels usually associated with the peak of human endurance. Greg was starting to think that if he'd been the sort of man who wanted to climb Everest, then he would have done that and found it a lot easier. If he hadn't been having cramps, he'd been sick, or had a fever, or had some other weird symptom that acute vitamin deficiencies could cause before they worked out which one the second liver was trying to leech out of his system on that particular moment. All the time, he was trying to take care of Gil, to make sure he was okay because his system was just as under siege if not more so, and there had been a few times he had only just stopped him from passing out, or forced him to go to bed and take more of the various extracts and medications they were allowed.

February 10th and they were only a few days away from when they were meant to be going in which was an achievement in itself.

Greg was very slowly trying to make dinner. There had been more and more precooked ones recently but they just didn't have the vitamins he so desperately needed. So he was cooking, and trying to ignore the steadily building pain that indicated his stomach was going into a large spasm.

This was something he had learned to ride out and he had been 'riding' it out now for most of the day. And no matter the teas, the supplements, everything, it was getting worse and worse. He wasn't sure if he was flushed with a fever spike, or from the boiling pans in front of him. He'd kill for something fried but both of them found that a disaster now their liver functions were impaired.

Instead he picked up a pan, while using his other hand to press in his side, in an instinctive, but ineffectual attempt to damp down the pain.

The pressure helped a little, and he put the pan down and then...

It was like someone had run him through side to side with a red hot blade. Stoicalness had no place there, and he just went down, as if the stroke had been real enough.

For a second, he had to think about where Gil was. He wasn't in bed -- he'd decided to stay in the living room. So Gil was close, close enough to help if he could muster a voice.


He opened his mouth fully intending to call out in a polite but calm 'I could use a little help here Griss,' way, when he was interrupted by another surge of pain. It literally blotted out everything, including the awareness that he was apparently going from groans of pain to actual whimpers.

"Greg? Greg, answer me." He could feel through the haze that fingers were shaking at his shoulder, rolling him onto his back. "Greg?"

The fingers felt cold, and that was weird because Greg knew that Gil had been running a temperature. That's why he had been sitting down. He'd had to force him to sit down, he remembered.

"Gil... I... fuck..." He clutched at his stomach desperately, across the bump that was the liver, ripe for transplant. "It'll... It'll pass... always... does."

But it had never been this bad. He felt like he was going to vomit blood or something.

"You've never fallen over before." Gil stood up, and walked away for a moment, but Greg figured it was only to turn off the gas. Then he was back, putting something soft under Greg's head. "Tell me what's happening."

"Stomach hurts... a lot." Greg managed. "It's been hurting since..."

He had to think. When had it started hurting? His eyes widened. Three days? And it hadn't been getting better but gradually worse. Crap. "Three... days ago. I thought it would just... get better. But... I... god..." He screwed up his face again as a spasm hit him.

Fingers lingered against his cheek, and then Gil stood up again. "I'll get your coat. We need to go. Just... stay still."

"But... you've, you've got a fever Gil, you can't drive and..." He folded up again and gritted his teeth. "If... if this is what G junior is like when he goes on one of his dance-club sprees in your stomach I don't... envy you."

"He gets that from you?" Gil's voice fell quieter, fading away from Greg. Winter clothes, right, because if they were driving they needed to be warm, just to get from the front door to the SUV.

He half laughed at that, trying not to be worried. "Y..Yeah." It wasn't getting better and he could feel himself sweating. "I... always thought it would be me driving us..."

"It doesn't matter who drives whom. We're almost -- we would've been going down in a couple of days anyway, Greg. I'll grab the bags." Get the SUV loaded up, and then get the Greg loaded in. Yeah, since he was kinda comfy on the floor. He could hear the front door open.

He thought he ought to at least make the effort to move. Really move... He'd done it before so surely he could just get himself up at least. Otherwise Gil would be trying to lift him and that could be dangerous. It wasn't far. He kept telling himself that as he dragged himself up with all the grace and finesse of a gutshot deer. He chanted silent swear words under his breath and wondered how the hell he was going to survive the trip. And what the hell was going on in his body.

He managed to get vaguely upright and clung to the table with complete desperation and lack of balance. Thank god the bags were packed already.

That had been Gil's idea, just like it was Gil's idea to keep food and water in the SUV, and not to drive Greg's car into town as long as there was snow on the roads. Whenever the area did thaw out again, it'd probably never start again. The door opened again, and then he could hear Gil coming towards him, could feel his heavy winter coat come down around his shoulders. "Hey. I'm glad you have your boots on already."

"Yeah, me too." He blinked a little, seeing Grissom in double vision. "I'm... I'm sorry, Griss. I think we better get to the car before I... flake out." Pass out, collapse, whatever. If only he had some damn drugs

Gil turned him a little, zipped up his coat for him, and snapped closed the flap over the zipper. "Okay. Pull the hood up. It's damn cold out there."

He managed that, just. He felt clumsy and uncoordinated and it was a huge struggle just to step forward. He kept trying to remind himself that he had been through worse. Much worse. He'd been tortured, experimented on, sexually abused, so he could damn well walk to the SUV if it killed him. Gil was not going to carry him.

Gil still slid an arm behind his back, walked him forward steadily, steered him through the kitchen door. "That's it. Just stay close, and I'll get you outside and we'll get going. Just stay here with me."

"I'm here," Greg answered a little vaguely, concentrating on one foot in front of the other. Slowly, slowly he got there, having to grab at everything for support and feeling the cold winter air outside on his over heated face like knives of ice. He had no choice but to trust to Gil that he would get them there.

There was a moment of pause, and it was hard for him not to fold himself over Gil when the other man stopped to lock the door. God knew why -- it was hard to get up there, let alone break in, but Gil still stopped to lock their door behind them.

Greg found he could still manage a smile even if it came out like a grimace. Only Gil would be so organized and together. They were going to the hospital, and right now if it would stop the pain, the fear was fading to the back of his mind. Something wasn't right in his stomach, and he was terrified that after all this time something was going wrong.

And if it was, they wouldn't be going back to the cabin, and his parents and Gil's mother, and Catherine and Jim would have to break the lock to get in.

Gil pulled open the door of the SUV, and Greg could feel a wash of warmth from the running vehicle's interior as Greg tried to heft himself into the seat. "C'mon."

He practically collapsed in there, fumbling weakly to be useful even as he shivered with clammy cold sweat, even though he was burning up. He pressed his stomach again and was alarmed to find it tight and distended. "Oh... god..." That wasn't a good sign at all. "How... how long do you think it'll take to get there?"

"An hour, maybe." Then the door closed, and the inside of the car was quiet except for the running engine until Gil opened the door and got in on his side. "I'll call ahead. We'll head to the nearest hospital and have a transport meet us. We'll be all right, okay, Greg?"

Greg nodded, but truth was he could hardly hear him. His stomach seemed to be protesting the slightest movement and he had to concentrate to answer. "S'okay. I think something's... a little wrong, Griss. Hope we'll get there in time..."

"We'll get there in time." Gil's voice was firm, and he didn't leave Greg any room to argue. If he could've concentrated on him more than he was, that is. Gil revved the engine a little, and then they were driving.

The journey was a little vague for Greg. He wasn't sure if he could claim to be really conscious when his attention kept being wrenched back over and over again to his stomach. He remembered talking, most likely complete crap and trying to curl up on the seat around the growing firmness of his belly. He had no idea where he was when he hazily announced that he thought he was bleeding internally. It probably wasn't the wisest thing he had ever done.

Not when he could half-feel Gil's hand tightening on his fingers. There was a jumble of people, and a doctor all but demanded to know why they had to be transported when it was saner to treat Greg there if he was bleeding internally.

He had to remind himself he knew why. That it was important. Not long ago he had been cooking dinner. If he held on long enough to get to Dr. Carlin and his assorted crew the way he understood it, both he and Gil would be in surgery rather hastily.

He kept trying to hold onto Gil's hand even as they rushed them up to the cold and dark of the helipad on the roof, with him now firmly strapped to a stretcher. For the first time fear kicked in and he kept blindly trying to get out of the stretcher.

"Greg! Greg, you need to relax. We're just going for a ride." Gil's voice was still with him, even if he did lose track of his hand now that he was strapped down for his own safety.

"He might have to be sedate--"

"No, he doesn't. He'll be fine. Greg? Nod if you can understand me."

Gil was there. Things weren't all bad. He nodded slowly and tried opening his eyes. He could see Gil next to him and he want so desperately to hold on to him. "Gil.."

That sounded weak even to himself. "Sorry. Should have... told you."

Should have told him there was a possibility it would all go horribly wrong at the end. He'd chosen to believe they would have surgery before they got far enough that the new liver started detaching and bleeding from the points it had connected to the artificial pouch in his abdomen.

Except that had to be what was happening, and Gil was standing there -- standing, running a fever, looking stressed around his eyes, holding onto Greg's hand like there was nothing wrong with him, like he could stand there and be there for Greg forever. "You'll be all right. You have to be, so you will be."

"Mr. Grissom, you need to sit down, we're taking off," called the paramedic who was securing the stretcher. "They're going to have the surgery teams waiting at Reno. I've been told to put you through a prep as well."

Greg could hear the confusion in the paramedic's voice. In and out. In to the hospital, out comes the liver, into Gil with the liver, out with their son...

Everything would work out. It would all work out, and the liver would work in Gil and their son would have all of his fingers and toes and a name that might get him teased in school, and Greg didn't want anything more than just to make it through to that point. He just wanted to get that far, even just far enough to know that Gil was going to live and that their son was okay.

"Griss..." They were taking off. Reno wasn't far by flight and he could hang on. He'd hung on long enough before, he could do it again. He was just scared. Scared he would screw this up, that at the end of it, he was going to fail.

He didn't want to fail. It wasn't just his life, it was Gil's and it was Gareth's life. Or Geoffrey. They hadn't even really decided what name to give him, and they both needed to be alive to have that argument.

"All right." Gil wasn't going to give the paramedic any extra information, just go along with it. Yeah. All he had to do was hang in there, and everything would be all right.

It was a familiar mantra, one he had used over and over when they had been experimented on. Just hang in there.... The pain was in the same area. He remembered the delight with which Rosharo had monitored the growth of the pseudo-uterus. He remembered the moment when it had 'ripened' and they had cut into him. Rosharo didn't like to contaminate things with anesthetics. Grissom would know all about that, too.

He drifted a little, the roar of the helicopter in his ears and his attempt at opening his eyes more and more difficult. They were like snapshots. Snapshots of Gil being there, of him leaning close, of him having his blood pressure taken and the paramedic's consternation at his physical condition. He kept getting snatches of that discussion.

"... running a fever, Mr. Grissom. A significant one. And you're showing signs of liver damage. Are you on any medications?"

"No." And he hadn't quite taken his coat up, because if the paramedic figured out that Gil was pregnant instead of kind of overweight with weird weight distribution... Well, it wasn't something Greg could worry about. Not worth it.

"If you're jaundiced at this level I can see why they want you in surgery, too," the paramedic said and Greg would have laughed. He'd teased Grissom about going yellow. About him tasting different as well. It meant that when Nick and Warrick had come up they had been in no doubt that the hastily fabricated version of the truth was the real thing.

God, it hurt, but he was scared to ask for anything. Slow bleed... if he waited long enough he would start coughing up blood. He didn't want to do that. They should have come to the city sooner.

He should have admitted it sooner, should have told Gil so they wouldn't have needed a helicopter and all of that noise to get to Reno. He wasn't sure what the paramedic was up to, but those snapshots of sight and sound seemed to be all there was.

Hopefully they'd anesthetize him this time.

He must have closed his eyes for some time because he felt a jolt and groaned, tasting something metallic in his mouth. He opened his eyes and they were not in the helicopter any more, they were rushing through corridors. Where was Gil?

"Griss?" He coughed a little, tasting blood again and a fire in his stomach as he did so. He felt like he was shouting but it was barely a whisper.

No one answered. Gil wasn't there, and all of the walls were white and moving too damned fast past him. And even though he knew where he was, and what was going on, there were twinges in the back of his mind.

It was like telling someone who had been badly burnt not to be freaked out by fire. He coughed again and it hurt and this time he felt the blood trickle from the corner of his mouth.

"Hurry, they're waiting. Tell them they better have blood on standby. Massive internal bleeding and.."

"We've got it..." He recognized that voice. Dr. Carlin, which probably meant the others were around.

"Get him in and put him under. Someone get the anesthetist to Mr. Grissom. We need his operation underway before we finish up with Mr. Sanders. Mr. Sanders? Mr. Sanders?" Dr. Carlin's face loomed almost too close. "We're ready for you, we're going to do this. Don't worry, it will work, understand?"

He managed the barest of nods before finally he was overwhelmed and faded out completely.

The waiting was the worst part.

Gil hadn't ever been an anxious man, but now he could feel it crawling up the back of his throat, carrying with it the images of his nightmares.

Seeing Greg like that suddenly made everything so immediate and real. This was it, the operation and he'd hoped they'd have time to talk it through, to help each other through and instead he was here half panicking about Greg apparently dying and then when his thoughts shied away from that, he was deep in his own nightmares. White coats, too sterile walls, the astringent smell of antiseptics.

"Mr. Grissom? We need to get you ready as soon as possible." One of his Doctors. Phillips. "We'll need to do the surgery in parallel."

And what did they expect him to do? Protest? Say 'No, I've changed my mind, I want to die'? "All right." He was sitting, waiting, trying not to let he nerves get the better of him.

"Please put on the gown," one of the nurses murmured to him. "We'll be ready shortly."

Gown. Right, the gown. Gil slipped off of the table, and waited for her to close the door behind her. A little peace and quiet would be good, a moment by himself.

He'd always hated hospitals, always tried to avoid them if he could.

He tried to hurry putting on the gown but even that was exhausting. He felt overlarge, bulky, feverish and with the same damn headache he'd had for weeks. Part of him wanted it over. He put it on, and it seemed that they had been hovering, waiting for him.

"Mr. Grissom? This way please. The surgical team is ready."

She had a wheelchair, and unlike the last time Gil had a choice in the matter, this time he chose to sit down. He was tired, and too stressed to walk. There wasn't going to be any stiff upper lip moment like the one he'd had about his hearing. "Good. Thanks."

He was put in the chair and wheeled in. It was like the damn room all over again. Stark white, bright lights, a surgical trolley and instruments laid out. Men in surgical masks with gloves waiting.

Waiting for him, and the nurse helped him onto the table. He wondered if he should have been on the table to begin with, if he should have been already sedated before he got that far. Gil closed his eyes, trying to focus on the reality that they were there to help him.

"Okay Gil, you know what we have to do right? It's going to be a quick dual action surgery." He assumed the doctor speaking was the surgeon but it was difficult to tell. "The team with Mr. Sanders... Greg, are waiting on our mark. We will put you under, do the cesarean at the same time they extract the liver from the donor host. They will continue on with Greg, and we will use the window of opportunity to hopefully hook up the new organ. Now, are there any questions before we put you under? I was hoping to explain all this too you a little more thoroughly but..."

But Greg couldn't wait that long.

"If something happens, my medical forms list people to contact." That wasn't a question, it was an order. He hadn't had the foresight to outright carry his will, but it was in the cabin, and between Catherine and his mother, everything would be sorted out. "But I have no questions."

"Understood. Now lie back, Gil, and when you wake up, it'll all be over."

One way or another he supposed. They were already fussing around him with IV's, and injections. The anesthetist was there with the mask immediately.

"Just breathe deeply, Mr. Grissom... that's it..."

In and out. In and out. He could hear the man telling him to count down from ten backwards, and Gil started to count, knowing that it was a trick to get him to breathe in and exhale again. "Ten... Nine... Eight..."

He kept his eyes closed, because he didn't need to see the ceiling of the place, knew it was white and packed with bright lights, and there were people leaning over him, waiting for him to slip out of control.

"Seven... Six..."

There had been times on the trip to the hospital that Greg had been pretty sure that he wasn't on the list to survive this excursion into medical trauma land. Now, as he came around, he was in the unenviable position of wishing that he hadn't, even through the haze of drugs. Painkillers, thank God! Finally! He would never take a Tylenol or any of its relatives for granted ever again.

Within moment though, other priorities forced their way into his mind and his eyes opened with the surge of panic. "Gil?"

It was a pretty pitiful croak and his mouth still tasted tinny and disgusting. "Gil?"

Where was he?

He lolled his head around for a moment, and peered to the left, blinking back the thick haze of lovely, fucking amazing painkillers at last, before he looked right and instead of the hospital room door, there was Gil.

Gil didn't look so hot.

But he was there, right? And that meant he was alive and... oh, God what if he had fucked up the liver somehow? What if one of those monitors was seeing how long he had to live or something?

The irrational obsession with the older man's welfare blazed as suddenly as it ever had in the Experiment Factory. Rational thought didn't come into it. He had to move, he had to get to him.

So regardless of sedation, painkillers and drugs, he moved. He didn't even notice when he tore off his own sensors for the same amount of monitors, and he actually got a foot to the floor before a crash team came hurtling in through the door ready to defibrillate him and stopped in amazement at the sight of him doggedly trying to stand with every intention of launching himself across the intervening space.

There was a brief moment that felt like a Mexican standoff in a bad spaghetti western, where Greg eyed the nurses and the one doctor, and they eyed him back.

"Mr. Sanders? C'mon, Mr. Sanders. You need to be resting after what you've been through."

"Gil..." he managed stubbornly. His mouth was dry and he could barely speak but he was going to get to him. Somehow. If his legs would remember how to move and he could focus and a hundred and one impossible things. "Need... how is Gil?"

There is was a masterpiece of coherence. His finest effort yet.

Dr. Phillips stepped forwards, and it took Greg a moment to realize that was who it was standing there, eyeing him. "He's still recovering, Mr. Sanders. Why don't you sit down and let the nurse reconnect you? You've pulled your IV, and you need it."

He sat, if only because he needed strength to move. "Take me to him?" he asked. It was meant to be a demand but he was tired already. "Tell me. Baby?"

It was funny to see the doctor look between him and the bed, and the few feet that were keeping him from Gil, lying on the bed with IVs and tubes. "He's in the Neonatal ward -- healthy heartbeat, functioning lungs. He's not as small as we were expecting. When you or Mr. Grissom are mobile, you can visit him."

Greg felt the smile take over his face even as the IV was hooked back up. They'd done it. Gil had done it! The first male pregnancy and delivery, his and Gil's son. He couldn't stop smiling and he behaved a little more and was more polite. "Please, I need... to see Gil. Did it work?"

"It seems to be taking. We're keeping him under as much as possible so there's time for it to heal," Dr. Phillips said. "You can see him from where you are, Mr. Sanders. I'm afraid that if what you want to do is join him at his bedside, you need to recover a bit more, first."

He lay back, wondering if there was any sedative in the IV drip. "Okay. Did... did you take out the pouch?" he asked relieved Grissom was doing okay, and that he could see him at least.

"It seemed more of a danger to do so than leaving it in place. There's no signs of your body attacking it, and if something were to happen to you at a later date, it could work in your favor for tissue replacements." Dr. Phillips was smiling at him, just a little. "So just lay back and rest. You'll be mobile before Mr. Grissom. Tomorrow we'll have someone wheel you up to the Neonatal ward."

"When will Gil wake up?" Greg asked trying to get his head around the thought of seeing his son. Their son. It was a wonderful and terrifying thought all at the same time.

He was a father. He... was a dad; he was going to be responsible for a lot more than just making sure that he was all right.

"A few more hours. He's been a little conscious, but I wouldn't call it 'awake'. By the way, did you two decide on a name for him? The nurses on that floor like to have something to call them."

"We narrowed it to Gareth or Geoffrey. I called him G junior while he was still a bump." Greg said hazily. A few hours. He could speak to him then. Tell him they had made it.

"Well, I've seen him. He likes to move his legs a lot, so I'd say he's more than a bump." A scientific miracle, one that Dr. Phillips was probably more enamored of than the usual patients he had. "Everything seems to be working out, Mr. Sanders. We'll have you come back in three months for tests, and again in six. Just to monitor that you're both healthy, but..."

"But we made it." Greg smiled and closed his eyes. " A little early but..."

They were alive and going to recover and with any luck when they went back to Vegas Catherine had someone lined up to help them and...

All he needed now was for Gil to wake up.

"Thanks Dr. Phillips. For everything."

He looked faintly surprised, but smiled at Greg. "You're welcome. Now rest, and if you need anything, hit this buzzer here before you try to get it yourself."

He nodded obediently and settled back. All he had to do now was try and stay awake until Grissom woke up.

Not a chance in hell.

Everything ached.

Not in the tired way he'd gotten used to everything aching, but in a new way. It was a sharper, throbbing ache, threaded with hazy awareness that he'd been drifting on the cusp of consciousness for a period of unknown time before things cleared enough for him to crack open his eyes.

The room around him was lit low, almost nighttime dark, but it still took a moment for his eyes to adjust and focus.

It was an unfamiliar room, filled with the sound of a lot of beeping monitors and flickering readouts and the unmistakable hospital smell of antiseptics and strange chemicals.

After a moment's thought he was surprised he had woken up at all. All the promises Greg had made, all the hope had been something he had wanted to believe in, but he found it very difficult to do things on faith alone. Believing things were going to work out had been one of them.

But there he was, at least. Gil inhaled, staring up at the ceiling while he tried to figure out how best to move without tugging at his IVs and monitors. He didn't know where Greg was, or if... if his son was even alive. How that had worked, but he was there. Maybe the liver wasn't going to take. Maybe it was going to end up that he'd been living in one of Greg's fanciful pipe dreams after all.

If it was all going to fall apart, there were worse ways for it to have happened, Gil decided foggily. As much as simple things had hurt and as hard as the past couple of months had been, he was going to hold tight to every strange sense memory that cluttered his head.

Gil moved a hand, twitched it, and rested it on top of his stomach -- a familiar gesture now, except there wasn't a curve there, there wasn't anything beneath stretched out skin that his body was trying to protect, and the whole area echoed an ache at the contact.

It was a strange feeling, one of almost shock that there was something missing. His baby. That had been hard to come to terms with and there had been secret moments when he wasn't exactly sure that he ever had. Right now there was a sense of complete emptiness that felt unnatural to him now. Was his son... his and Greg's son even alive?

Was Greg even alive?

Gil sucked in a shaky breath of air, and turned his head to look around the darkened room.

He could see over to his left, the shape of another bed and the familiar mess of hair that haloed Greg's head. It was then he realized that one of the repetitive noises he'd assumed was the wheezing of some equipment were in fact light Greg-snores of the type he had managed to get used to filtering out from being right in his ear. He also knew that Greg generally only did that when he was just dozing under the surface of consciousness.

So Greg was alive.

It was like permission to breathe, permission to relax at last, now that he knew Greg was alive and okay. It was a start, half an answer to the hundreds of questions that were crowding quietly into his head.

There had been moments when he hadn't been sure about that. The first time Greg had coughed and there had been the trickle of dark blood at the corner of his mouth he had felt himself freeze inside with a fear as strong and palpable as any he had experienced in his ordeal.

He watched him closely and with that unerring knack of his to know when he was being observed, Greg stirred and blinked his eyes open.

It was incredible, he was moving his head to look at him even before his eyes really opened.

"Greg?" His voice sounded a little raw, a little tired, but Greg clearly heard him.

"Hey, Griss," Greg blinked and gave him a little wave from a hand showing the gauze where an IV had been. He smiled sleepily. "I tried to stay awake so I would be ready when you woke up but..."

"Just woke up." Gil swallowed, and contemplated sitting up. "How's... how're you? Did they tell you anything?"

"Enough," Greg smiled. "They think the transplant is taking and they wheeled me up to see our son, Gil. He's... beautiful. The most beautiful baby you've ever seen. I swear that, even if I am biased."

That made Gil smile just a little, and he closed his eyes. Then it was over. It was over, and they were both all right, so even if it had just really started, with all of the day to day things and new things to worry about, it was still over in a way. That doctor was out there, and maybe he and Greg would never be able to stop looking over their shoulders. But they were alive.

"Tell me what he looks like."

"He looks like he's got my hair. He's got a thick mop of dark brown hair," Greg grinned at him. "And I think he'll have your eyes, I can see you in his face though I think he'll be tall, too. He's got the Sanders lanky look to him."

A lanky baby. Not quite full size, that was probably what made him look lanky. Gil wanted to see him himself, see him just to make it all real and solid, but he could wait a little longer. "You think that I was born with gray hair, Greg? Once upon a time, it was brown."

"So maybe it's your hair. Sticks up like mine though," Greg replied sounding smug. "They'll take us both up tomorrow. They wanted you to stabilize."

He couldn't quite manage to sit up, not just then. It ached across his stomach too much to contemplate it, abused muscles protesting even when he shifted to reposition himself better. "Good. I still want to see him as soon as I can. How're you?" Other than alive, even if that still felt like a miracle after everything he'd been through, after seeing Greg rolling on the floor, coughing up blood.

"Well, they say I had to have a fair few pints of blood. And they couldn't remove the abdominal pouch for whatever reason. But hey, if we have problems with organs in the future, that'll be handy right?" Greg said "And eventually my blood chemistry will get back together."

"You're not bleeding anymore?" He leaned a little, still craning his head while he watched Greg. "Good. Good..."

"That was just it detaching," Greg replied. "Anyway, I woke up earlier and they wouldn't let me clamber into your bed, which I think was very unfair of them."

"Huh. That was unfair of them." He barely managed to laugh a little as he shifted his hand to the railing that rested along the side of the bed. "Good to see you again."

"Yeah. I'd say never doubted it for a moment, but I never could lie to you." Greg replied yawning. "I love you, Gil. I hoped we could make it. Like I hoped we could get out of that place. I'm getting pretty good at this."

"Surviving?" Gil closed his eyes a little, breathing in and then exhaling again. "I want to do it for many years to come. And we can keep the cabin. Go up there on vacations. Christmas with real snow and all of us healthy, maybe."

"This time I'll get you to help with the tree, and the cooking. Even if you ate most of the cookies." Greg chuckled. "We might have to expand a bit up there. Oh, and they're keeping visitors out for another day or so, but apparently there are various family members, and CSI's wanting to come visit."

Not there yet, because the drive from Vegas to Reno was fairly substantial, and the drive from California to Reno even more so. A day or two of quiet and rest and recovery, and seeing his son at last sounded good to Gil, sounded good to get that in before they were descended upon. "Okay. We can keep each other entertained until then. I want to bask in the... evidence that we're still here."

"Somehow I don't think I'm going to be allowed in your bed no matter how good I am," Greg said dryly. "But I'm going to get over there soon. The doctors said that we're going to be in here for a couple of weeks and even though G junior was bigger than they expected, they want him in at least that long. They're popping the champagne out there. Rehearsing Nobel speeches, that sort of thing."

He was sure that they were, even if Greg hadn't caught sight of anything overt of them. "Remind them of the anonymity agreement," Gil drawled. they could do whatever the hell they wanted with their precious data -- Gil and Greg could find new data, new scientific endeavors in their own fields, and he wanted them to have as normal a life as any of them could have.

They had patched together some sort of plan about turning up with a baby. Catherine was going to leak it to the lab so it wouldn't be a shock. She'd also taken a hold of their lives and if he thought about it, as they were speaking, Nick and Warrick would be moving Greg's things into his house in Vegas, and she would most likely be clearing up at the cabin.

"I did, though they said some of our colleagues might work it out. There's no way a successful male pregnancy is going to stay under wraps for long," Greg commented. "Anyway, you're meant to be resting. So am I. They won't let us see him right now and you and I have to decide on a name. But you need to see him first before you can be sure."

"What name did he seem more like to you?" It was a whimsical question, yes, but the kind of thing that he knew Greg would think.

"Ah, that would be telling," Greg grinned. "I don't want to bias you in any way. Ruin the experiment."

"Write down your data before I add to it. We could make it a semi-double blind that way, if your response is documented before I have one." Gil shifted, sank down a little more. "Can't believe this."

"I know. I know Gil." Greg's voice was soft as well. "We're... we're both fathers. Or you can be the mother if you want but... anyway. I never thought... I mean, you know."

It was really a good day to be secure in his manhood, Gil decided, even as he smiled, indulging Greg's quiet babble. "That we'd make it here, let alone to these circumstances at all. I know."

Greg was silent a moment. "I love you, Gil," he said finally. "Even though you took that spare liver I had kicking around." He was trying to make it light but was obviously failing because his voice kept roughing up with emotion.

It wasn't something to throw around lightly, but Greg wasn't doing that. Greg was saying it and had said it and had said it again, and it made Gil wonder when it'd finally sink into his own head that whatever Greg's reasons, he did. He loved Gil, had shown it. And maybe it wasn't perfect or healthy, but it was, and he was going to enjoy it, consider it a branch of his second chance at life.

Life post-Experiment Factory.

"I'll make it up to you about that liver, Greg. I think I need to show you that I love you, too."

Greg's smile could have powered the entire hospital and possibly most of Vegas too. "Well, you had my baby, so I'm guessing that about makes us even right?" He very carefully sat up and began to move. "If I time this right I'll have about thirty seconds to kiss you before they get here... I think it's worth it."

Thirty seconds? Gil figured that he'd get his answer, watching Greg carefully swing his feet over the edge of the bed. "I think it would be, too."

Greg slid off the bed, found his feet a little unsteadily and inched out, waiting to pull the IV until the last possible moment. Then he moved as fast as he could and was there, over Gil looking down at him and bending closer. "I'll never leave without you, I'll always stay, I promise. And I'll never stop loving you or our family."

It was barely a whisper but it was the prelude to a kiss forged with all the hope that finding they had actually survived could muster.

Greg sliding an arm behind his neck, the press of mouth against mouth was worth it. Even when the hospital room door opened with a crash cart.

"Mr. Sanders!" Dr. Phillips strode over. "What do you think you're doing?"

Greg pulled back a little and grinned at Grissom. "The kiss of life?" he said and there was a spark of real humor in his expression, free and easy like Gil remembered it.

Even if Greg didn't seem to be steady on his legs. Gil sat back a little, and managed a smile as he glanced from Greg, the crash cart, and then over to Dr. Phillips. "I think it worked."

"I rock," Greg said with great satisfaction even as he was gently manhandled by to his bed.

"Need I remind you, Mr. Sanders of how many stitches you and Gil have between you? Hmm? And he's meant to be resting. " Dr. Phillips moved over to examine Gil. "How are you feeling?"

"I feel like I'm resting," he quipped lightly. It didn't feel so bad, except for the ache when he sat back from the slight rise in position he'd had. "It aches. That's it."

"Nausea? dizziness?" He was checking his vitals. "Well you seem to be doing well." The doctor gave them a smile. "But don't you start getting up to the same tricks as Mr. Sanders."

The best he could promise was not to do it, was not to get too active. And Gil found he couldn't even really do that once he started to open his mouth. "If I behave, is there a chance I can get up to the neonatal ward and see my son?"

"Well.. I think that we can manage that. Tomorrow maybe?" Dr. Phillips offered.

"Could we manage it now?" Greg asked hopefully

Dr. Phillips didn't say no immediately.

Gil rubbed at one eye, and tried to sit up again. "I'd rest easier if I could see him."

"A short visit, since you appear to be coherent enough to indulge in..." He coughed slightly. "You'll both be taken there in wheelchairs and you won't be taken out. And see if you can decide on a name, otherwise he'll be 'G junior' forever."

Greg grinned at that.

"That... would be hard to explain if it made it onto his birth certificate," Gil murmured, ready to sit up if he had to prove that he was capable. "Greg, remember what I said."

"Yeah, anyone got a piece of paper?" Greg asked. "I need to scribble something down."

"Just hold still, Mr. Sanders, into the chair," the nurses ushered him to sit down.

A second wheelchair was brought in. "Now, Mr. Grissom, easy does it."

"Don't worry, I'm not about to sprint for it." The mere act of getting himself up sitting and swinging his legs over the side of the bed was the result of a woozy miracle. And willpower.

"Yes, that seems to be Mr. Sanders' forte," Dr. Phillips said as they eased him into the chair. "Feeling okay? No sudden pain?"

"Just an ache." A dull tight ache and a strange feeling that made him glad that the nurse had helped him into a robe first so he wouldn't sit bare-assed on the chair seat.

"Good. Okay you can take them up, but no more than five minutes," Dr. Phillips cautioned. "You can go back for longer tomorrow."

"Yes, Dr. Phillips," the nurse replied and Gil felt the smooth motion of his chair starting to move.

"It's not far, Griss. Down the corridor a ways," Greg said twisting his head to see him. "They've got him on his own at the moment."

"Oh his own?" Not in with the other children that were in the same kind of care, and Gil hoped that it didn't mean he got less attention.

"We're not taking any chances with him, Mr. Grissom," the nurse replied. "The doctors were concerned considering the nature of his gestation that his immune system might not have had the same sort of advantages a regular pregnancy gives to the child. Looks like there are no problems."

Gil relaxed a little, and turned his head to look at Greg's face for a moment. Compared to how he'd expected his waking up to go, this had been an exciting slice of time. "Good." Even if his son had been tightly tied into his liver, so he had to be receiving Gil's blood.

They rounded the corner, pushing in through the doors that indicated they were in the neonatal part of the Intensive Care section. Greg was already beaming, his face lit up again and Gil could never doubt whether the younger man was ready to be a father. It was the strangest thing. There would have been a time when he would have wondered, but now it was hard to look at him and not see someone who had just been given one of their wildest dreams.

"Here we are, Mr. Grissom. You can see your son through the window there," the nurse pointed, rather oddly automatically speaking in a hushed tone.

Babies could hear, though, and they probably reacted to startlement as much as anyone would except with crying instead of angry words.

Gil sat up a little more, peering through the window. All he could see was the side of his son, and some kind of brace that was on his arm, holding an IV in place. There was bedding in the plastic box with him, but that didn't stop him from kicking his feet a little idly.

Now he felt lazy and sleepy, where he hadn't when he was in Gil's body.

"Look at him, good long legs," Greg said trying to get closer to the window. "Come on, kiddo... look this way. Your dads are paying a visit. If you play nice, you might even get a name out of the deal..."

There was a little more kicking at the sound of Greg's voice and their son turned his head and raised a tiny fist as he suddenly open his eyes and looked directly at Gil.

Suddenly all the facts he knew about babies not being able to focus or recognize objects for weeks after birth seemed a complete lie. His son knew him. He couldn't explain it, he just... knew.

Or hoped.

Gil leaned forward a little, fingers itching to reach out for him. "When will we be allowed to hold him?"

"Soon. When he's put a little more weight on. His lungs are better developed than we thought," Dr. Phillips murmured having caught up with them.

His son seemed to be reaching out towards him, tiny fingers waving hopefully at him stopped by the incubator. He looked a little perturbed and frowned a little and Greg started laughing.

"Now that is exactly what you look like when you're puzzling over a case."

"He probably wonders why the air's solid," Gil decided. He could tell that he wanted attention, and he decided that he and Greg would provide him all of that. They'd be there for a couple more weeks themselves, and they could hopefully take him home with them back to Vegas. "I would."

"Maybe we should just name him Geek and be done with it," Greg suggested grinning at him and then back at their son.

Gil barely caught that grin, eyes focused on what he could see of his son's face and his exploration of the new world around him. "I think Gareth is a good name."

Greg smiled at him and presented him with the scrap of paper he had scribbled his preferred name on. "And the verdict is..."

Gil unfolded the piece of paper to see the rather shaky scrawl of 'Gareth' sloping off to one side.

"I think we have a result."

"And I think you've had your five minutes," Dr. Phillips said glancing at his watch.

Gil frowned a little at that -- because what was the rush? -- but didn't quite answer him, and kept looking at his son. Everything would work out fine, once they could go home.

Even as they were wheeled away, he knew nothing would stop them going home together and being their own peculiar form of a family. Two fathers, a nanny, numerous honorary aunts and uncles from CSI, a set of delighted grandparents and more support than they could probably cope with. And they'd work out what was going to happen with Greg and the conflict of being his supervisor. They'd find a way, just as they had for everything else.

Failing to find a way at that point wasn't even a choice.

The walls were lined with shelves. Each shelf was piled thick with books, each book carefully notated and occasionally well dog-eared. Between the books were things serving as bookends, little trinkets and reminders of cases and experiences in his life.

Most of them needed explaining, and Gil had always been reluctant to give the story behind everything in his office unless there was a specific reason, a specific use to the story, a lesson he could impart.

Gil sat back, taking his reading glasses off. Things had changed in the lab while he'd been gone, and he'd only just readjusted to the standards of having Conrad Ecklie running their lab. And he'd had to retest, but time off for what had happened and his subsequent recovery hadn't deadened his senses towards criminology. The near perfect score hadn't surprised him, and it was good to affirm his certification, even if he hadn't needed to.

It was good to be back to plowing through the paperwork after almost a year away from the lab. It hadn't seemed like that long, but by the time he'd done that, by the time that he'd felt comfortable enough to come to work, by the time that they were sure that his new liver was staying in place, it had been a few days shy of eleven months.

Gil still couldn't quite wrap his mind around that. Or that they'd left his office mostly intact, except that Catherine had only reluctantly taken her photographs with her when he'd come back to work. And she'd insisted that he put one of his own up.

That was something in his office that he didn't have to explain, the sudden appearance of a picture of a baby crawling across the carpet towards a stuffed tarantula.

The cover story seemed to be working, with the entire lab rallying around as if Gareth belonged to them as much as he did to Greg and himself. They'd been more amazed than shocked, but not actually surprised when Grissom said he would be raising him.

The stuffed tarantula had been a gift from them all and was now one of Gareth's favorite toys. Catherine had said that it was an infallible means of determining parentage -- only Gil's son would pounce on a huge hairy spider toy with a sense of excitement.

It was good to be back at work though. Even with Ecklie in control.

Somewhere, Ecklie had mellowed out a little, and he was as good a politician as he was a bad criminalist. Not that Gil had high opinions of politicians, but it was slightly higher than what he thought of lazy criminalists who jumped to conclusions without looking at the evidence.

Gil looked over his printout again, and then signed his name to the bottom. There. That had been a good case, not quite open and shut, but there was always a sense of satisfaction when the suspect that had taken forever to hunt down actually just confessed to the crime.

There was a tap at the door and Nick hovered politely. After a few slightly raw experiences with Greg, they had all adopted the informal policy of giving them both plenty of warning before they got close.

"Hey, Griss, got a report for you... and Greg wanted to know if you're pulling a double tonight?"

Gil shot a glance over to his wall clock, and then shook his head a little. "No -- is DNA backed up again?" He always waffled over what to do -- wait for Greg in case there was another one of those raw moments when he wasn't there, or go to the Montessori 'academy' where Gareth was in night care to pick him up as soon as possible.

Eventually, Gil hoped he'd stop waffling so badly over which protective urge he was going to follow through with.

Nick chuckled. "No, he just wanted to know if he should be going to pick up our most junior member of the team. I reckon he's talking about Gareth but he's riding high today. He scored one off of Hodges who is now sporting the height of style in turban-wear." The other CSI looked amused. Warrick had told Gil that there had been hardly any of that sort of atmosphere without the two of them there.

It was hard to believe, given the strong personalities of the people in the lab. Greg provided a certain amusement, a certain excitement, but Gil wasn't sure what he provided, personality wise, to the lab.

All he was sure of was that it was good to be back. "I'm sure I'll hear all about it. Leave your report on the desk, Nicky, and I'll try to get to it first thing tonight." That was a new development, too, Gil trying to keep on top of the paperwork.

He wasn't sure how much longer that would last.

"Sure." Nick put the paper down. "Uh, if you and Greg ever want any time to yourself? I've got plenty of experience in looking after babies. I just thought I'd get in my offer before everyone else did." He gave a half smile as he stepped back towards the door, watching him as if he expected him to disappear from the chair in front of him.

"Thanks, Nick."

That was taking time to get used to, the way everyone expected him just to disappear at a crime scene again. Gil looked down, effectively releasing Nick to wander off, and made sure that he'd dotted his Is and crossed his Ts with his report, before he stood up and started to shuffle unfinished things into his briefcase.

It had been years since work had been cut to the proper ending time because he wanted to go home. Because he had a family to go home to.

It made a difference. He had appreciated Catherine's position before, but now he really understood it.

"You need a hand with anything?" Catherine said as she walked in, depositing her own pile of finished work. "Davidson case closed. Nice bit of trace work on the fibers and Greg magicked DNA out of that bone fragment. Thought that was going to be a nonstarter. Getting ready to go?"

"Just packing up," Gil confirmed as he carefully closed his briefcase. "Greg and I are going to have to toss a coin to see who picks him up and who goes home to get a semblance of dinner going."

There were all sorts of things now that he hadn't had to think of before -- regular grocery store trips because while when he or Greg had run out of groceries, they could eat take-out, it was hard to wrap a take-out box around a baby's hind end. Or to substitute soy sauce for soy formula.

Catherine smiled. "Greg would do anything you asked so pick the one you want. So how is Gareth?" She had an inexhaustible interest in the baby's progress and liked to keep an eye on them.

It was more than a little amusing for Gil, even as he picked up his briefcase and folded his jacket over his arm. "He's trying to crawl. With his back legs getting into it, not just dragging himself around on his stomach. He's doing good, even if Greg's worried about rug-burn."

That was a little astonishing, too. Gareth was behind the curve a little -- then again, he'd been dragged into the world sooner than he was supposed to be, so he was technically slightly ahead of the curve -- but strong and except for some colicky episodes, healthy.

"You wait, they move at a hell of a rate once they get some traction going. There were times I thought Lindsay was going to be an Olympic sprinter," Catherine smiled again. "He's not interrupting your rest too much?"

"No." Gil managed an almost smug smile at that, even as he did a cursory check of his desk. Greg's mother had told him repeatedly how quiet a baby Greg had been, and his own mother had always considered him curious and calm, so it only made sense that the two of them together lucked out and had the most likely genetic combination of a quiet, curious baby. "He likes to sleep, and he likes to chew on things if he's not sleeping."

"You know I hate you sometimes? At the very least I thought I was going to be able to mock you for the new parent 'give me sleep or give me death' look." She smiled. "Sara been round to see him yet?"

She didn't have to say 'or you?'. They both knew what she meant.

Handing out assignments didn't quite count. He'd watched her in the hallway for a couple of weeks now, passing talk at best, case comments, conferring with the supervisor, but it was like that last time when she'd pointedly avoided him -- she was like a ghost. "No, she hasn't. But I assume she's been busy..."

"Hmm." Catherine had that Look on her face that meant there were words going to be spoken in the near future. Gil was marginally relieved that it wasn't going to be him on the receiving end. "She's... adjusting, I guess. That business with Ecklie and the suspension... Still, I would have thought she would have seen you by now. Or handed in transfer papers."

Catherine could always cut to the heart of the matter.

The most Gil could give for an answer to that was a noncommittal shrug as he walked with her out of his office. Maybe he could make a point to catch hold of her in the locker room, or... something. "We'll see. Catherine? Have a good day."

"You, too, Gil," Catherine nodded and headed off the opposite way down a corridor. Grissom could see Warrick down there, who raised his hand to him in a lazy wave even as the two of them met up. Interesting.

But not as interesting as the sound of Greg obviously trying to pack up and run.

"I said the full shift, David," he said as he was paused at Hodges' lab. "There's a good five minutes left until you finish."

"Which would mean you're leaving five minutes early..." Hodges replied immediately.

"And I got here early because I was dropping off Gareth," Greg grinned and turned around hearing the footstep. "Hey, Gil, you ready?"

Greg's face just lit up, and Gil couldn't help but smile a little, a muted response compared to what most people would've done, but a response nonetheless. "I'm ready. Do you want to pick him up, or should I?"

"Well I guess I dropped him off, you get to do the pick up," Greg said still smiling.

"Sanders, you're contaminating my lab with saccharine," Hodges snarked from behind him and Greg rolled his eyes.

"A bad trace analyst blames environmental contaminants." He grinned at Gil. "I'll do the groceries."

"Buy some more of that coffee. Everyone seems to like it." Hodges called out after him, determined to get the last word.

Gil slipped his free hand in his pocket. "All right. I'm going to swing past the locker room and grab the change of clothes out of your locker and mine." That way they might do laundry some time. Greg had the next night off work, which meant that he had Gareth to contend with and possibly could get in their 'fouled from work' laundry in with the rest of it.

Greg grinned and stepped towards him. "You want me to pick up anything for dinner? You'll be too busy playing with Gareth to start anything."

"Pizza?" They'd practiced how to make a pot roast tough and leathery the other night, and Gil wasn't too keen on having two fiasco meals in a row. He took a step down the hallway, waiting for Greg to fall almost into pace. It was hard not to give in to the little shows of affection that Greg liked, but he tried not to as long as they were in the building

Greg understood that, or said he did so things were okay. He still limped a bit and the doctors said he probably would carry on limping now for the rest of his life unless he had invasive surgery. It didn't seem to slow Greg down much so Gil doubted he ever would do anything about it.

"Pizza it is. What else do we need, aside from the coffee? I'll get some doughnuts because Brass said he might drop in and I love to tempt the guy. In fact I'll get extra pizza, I can have cold tomorrow if you don't eat it all. You want one without cheese? Your stomach wasn't that happy with it last time."

Pizza without cheese was a sacrilege, but Gil managed a shrug. "That's fine. And you know what things to pick up for Gareth." Greg didn't forget, didn't need reminding to get diapers and formula mix.

It made Gil wonder at what he knew would come in the summer when people forgot their kids in cars, and now more than he'd ever wondered before, he'd try to work out how someone could forget that.

But it wasn't summer, not the dead heat of July, not yet.

"Sure, and I swear not to come back with another toy. No matter how cute, educational or downright cool it is," he promised. "See you back at home okay?"

"Yeah." Back home. Gil pulled away from Greg, veering for the locker-room when he really wanted to head for the parking lot just to go home. With his son, and to meet Greg there when Greg had groceries and pizza for them.

There was only one person in the locker room, and it was just his luck that it was Sara. Sara who only glanced up when he came in and carried on changing her shoes, barely acknowledging his presence. He knew it wasn't just him; Greg had mentioned she did it to him too, but on the other hand she had never been overly friendly to him in the first place.

The silence was uncomfortable and Sara tugged at her shoes with more force than was strictly necessary.

Gil wandered over to his own locker, and started to fiddle with the combination. What to say? Where did he start? It wasn't as if their e-mail communications had been easy or unstilted, because they'd each been very careful towards each other. In person, no one could take half and hour to weigh one's words.

Awkward. Not like he and Greg had been awkward. He'd never felt a distance between them even when they had been working through issues.

"Getting home on time?"

The question was almost startling in its appearance.

"That's the plan." He popped open his locker after a moment more of thought, and stood with the door open, watching her for a moment. "How've you been?" Other than avoiding him?

"Good." She looked up at him. "I've been good. Cases have been rolling in. A bit easier now with... you and Greg back."

With a few more people working in the lab, of course it would be. "Mm. I've missed working, and it's good to be back. I've missed talking with you, too."

She shrugged slightly. "You seem to have a pretty full schedule. Work, your son, Greg..." She shrugged again.

And how did one answer a shrug? "It's a comfortable schedule, Sara. I've been learning how to make time for people and things other than research."

"Really?" Sara looked at him, her tone obviously bland. "I don't know, Grissom, I'm not sure there's a place here in Vegas for me any more."

Because of him. Because he couldn't, couldn't something. Couldn't be the person that she wanted him to be. He couldn't do it before, and now he had so many other things, so many things that felt right and worked in his life. "Sara..." And just like before, he didn't know what to do. "What can I do to help you, Sara?"

"Turn back the clock? Actually like me... Not give me shit about wanting to fraternize with your staff?!" And there was the source of her anger. The perceived double standard that overwhelmed all of the other considerations.

"Sara, I... meant it when I said that. I still mean it, and I." He gestured a little with one hand, feeling the loss settle over him. "The situation that Greg and I were in precluded it. I thought I was going to die and that there was nothing to lose."

"Then how do you know being with him is real?" Sara asked in a clinical tone. "If you were reaching out in desperation?"

"I..." Didn't know it. He just understood that he'd always enjoyed Greg's company, and how to explain that to Sara? "I always entertained the notion. But because I had decided not to fraternize, it wasn't something that I ever actively bothered with." While Sara had always pulled at him against his better wishes.

"And then you did decide and it was with him, not me," Sara replied. "I could have been there for you, Griss, if you'd given me the chance. I thought you knew I would be there for you if you needed me. I guess... and I know it's pretty selfish, I feel like my chance has been stolen from me."

"It -- Sara. Greg and I went through a lot, a lot that I don't want to explain, to have to explain. It's more complicated than it seems, and it wasn't a matter of choosing, but trying to help him as much as he'd helped me."

Sara looked at him. "Gil... just tell me, have I been completely wrong? When I thought there was even a flicker of interest? I don't read people that well."

"I was interested, Sara. You're a beautiful woman, you're intelligent, you're -- You can do better than me." Even if she couldn't read people well.

"Better than you?" Sara looked at him and shook his head. "There's never been anyone better than you, Gil." She reached to pick up her bag.

"Better for you, Sara. Someone your age, who isn't... hasn't..." They were a matched set in so many frustrating ways, including their near crippling inability to articulate relationships without awkwardness. Gil opened Greg's locker, and grabbed his book-bag of dirty clothes. "I'm sorry, Sara."

"I know. If I thought you weren't, I'd probably react badly." It was said with a dry hint of self-mockery. "It's hard at the moment. I see you and Greg and I'm..." She hesitated. "I'm jealous. I'm not proud of some of the things I've thought about him, or you but I have problem letting things go. Maybe it would be best to physically let go."

Move away. Gil's mouth compressed a little. He didn't want her to leave. He wanted to teach her everything he could, except she was avoiding him, so he couldn't do it anyway. "I see. If... there's anything I can do..."

"There was, Gil, but you wouldn't do it," Sara said managing a smile. "Everyone thought they'd lost you. Even though you're back, I still have."

That was a funny thing to say, when she'd never... had him. He'd always been himself, a singular unit that occasionally got close to other people, but only for short bursts of time. "Then I wish there were something that I could do now, Sara. You're a good friend, and I don't want to lose you."

Sara looked at him. "And I know you mean it... Sometimes I wish you didn't just so I could move on. You know, I could never have said any of this if I didn't already know it was over. It's just that I'm addicted to hope. Do you really think we can be friends?"

"Of course we can, Sara." He shifted his hands on the straps, and finally shouldered Greg's bag along with his own duffle. "I've missed talking with you -- before and since we came back. Why don't we do dinner some time?" As friends, but he was trying. He did things like that with Catherine all the time, no questions raised.

"You sure Greg won't mind?" Sara looked up at him and he could still see that hope there. It was almost painful.

"I 'm sure. Greg still goes out to do things with Nick." Little things, little steps. Going to a park was a far cry from going to a pool bar, but Greg was getting better. Gil taking a night to get to know Sara again, as friends, wouldn't be the end of the world. It might soothe Greg a little to know that things were reaching some point of resolution; after all, Greg and Sara had gotten along very well for a while, right up until they'd been kidnapped.

Sara nodded. "Okay then. Tell me when and where?" She seemed less tense then, and it was surprising to realize that despite her wanting him, she obviously had been really concerned about screwing things up for him as well.

He closed Greg's locker, and looked thoughtfully at her for a moment, and then over to the calendar on the wall. "Tuesday?" Sara had the night off, and Greg had the night off, and if they did actual dinner dinner, Gil could get to work with no problems at all.

"Tuesday it is," Sara agreed and smiled at him. "I'm not the maternal type, but bring baby pictures. I think it's compulsory to sit through at least one session."

The edges of Gil's mouth twitched a little. "Half a session. Greg's the photo hoarder. Have a good day, Sara." He gave her a vague wave, and headed for the locker room door, feeling a little lighter.

It had been something that nagged at him once the great problems had been dealt with. Dealing with Sara had been different this time. It was almost a shock to realize why -- it was because he was certain about something. Now, he was certain that Sara wasn't the one whereas before he had always wondered whether it could, should, might be the real thing and he was too afraid to risk it.

Now there was no risk. Well, he'd made his risk, taken his gamble.

And the reward of the strangely inspired gamble was grocery shopping, or heading there, while Gil finally headed for the parking lot to a pick up his son. Their son, and the reality that Greg was helping Gil raise 'his' son had apparently gone over well in the lab. As well as it could have, after the scare they'd both given their friends and colleagues.

Greg had been right, he had underestimated his importance in the eyes of his colleagues and friends, something he always replied worked for Greg, too. It took time for him to find out all of the details of exactly what had happened when they had been kidnapped. How Warrick risked disciplinary action to get resources to try and find them. How Nick kept doing spectacularly stupid reconnaissance in his 'spare time' on whatever lead they could chase up. Catherine holding them all together, pushing hard to keep the case active and alive. They had most everyone in the lab donating time and effort to find them both and it had taken a toll on all of them, something he hadn't considered when his own problems had been so overwhelming.

Sara had been suspended for suspected 'impairment of judgment' caused by a fight with Ecklie that might have had too much to do with alcohol. Brass had confirmed that it had been but he'd covered. Gil was glad that he'd covered. That they'd banded together, that they'd somehow gotten closer even as the situation had become strained. And then once they'd been found... Greg had come back and had fallen apart and he'd packed up one night to disappear the next, just telling Catherine and Nick what he was doing.

It was something for his mind to chew over while he drove, and it wasn't the first time that Gil had done that. He still found it hard to get his mind around the fact that somehow he was a part of people's lives. It was a concept that was coming to him more so with Gareth's complete dependency on himself and Greg. He's always said that when he left he would just leave and he half thought people would carry on as if there was no difference. Now, he knew better and it was a little unsettling.

Not that he'd be leaving the lab anytime soon, or that he'd leave Gareth and Greg. Not by choice, hopefully not by force, even though he now understood and had experienced leaving people's lives against his will.

It was something for him to think on until he pulled into the parking lot. The sun was up, so there was a pretty good chance that Gareth would doze on the way back home, secured tight into his car seat and with toys in his hands.

It amazed him how familiar the routine had become. How he spent a short time talking with the caregivers there and hearing and enjoying knowing about any minor things that had happened during the time Gareth was there. That he had slept well, played a little with a certain toy, seemed alert rather than sleepy and made excited noises of recognition when he heard his father's voice.

Every moment was somehow richer and more interesting, and he had thought he had filled his experience with interesting things before. The difference was that Gareth engaged his emotions in the way he normally engaged his mind. He smiled driving all the way home with him, talking randomly to his son as Gareth bounced a little, waved his rattle ring enthusiastically and then chewed on it sleepily as they made their way through Vegas.

He still had a way of getting lost on the way back 'home', even after a few months. Catherine had helped him and Greg house-hunt, but they still hadn't managed to settle in, and Gil had boxes in the spare room that needed to be unpacked.

Eventually. There were other, more pressing concerns, like getting Gareth into the house and out of the heat, and settling in to play and relax with him.

He still took work home, but it waited now and it was incredible how different it made him feel. There was a time when coming back to something fresh helped and he was discovering that rather than having less time, and less done he was getting about the same done and feeling better for it, even if they still had to take things slower than they were used to.

There was a lot more space in the house. It still struck him as he stepped in the front door with Gareth in his car seat. There was an eclectic fusion of his things and Greg's and that was good, too, that there was space for both of them to be and overlap. It was a godsend to have space and a wide hallway to walk into before they even got to the living room after they'd both lived in the cabin for so many months.

"I see your daddy Greg's car, Gareth, but I don't see him. I wonder where he's hiding, huh?"

Gareth gurgled on of his infectious giggles and kicked his feet as if demonstrating that if he wasn't in the car seat he'd be out there scouring the house for him.

"Daddy Greg is in the kitchen packing away the last of the groceries," Greg called out. "You were chatting to Jenni when you picked up Gareth, weren't you? Only way I could do the shopping and order pizza and get home before you two." He popped his head around the door. "There's my handsome boy... oh and Gareth, of course." He grinned at Gil and stepped into the living room to come meet them.

Gil set Gareth's seat on the chair, and unbuckled him after a moment. Then he lifted Gareth free, and over his head for a moment. "I think I finally settled things with Sara, actually. And I stopped to talk with Jenni. Gareth was very good and tried to play with mobiles all night."

"He's pretty talented that way. And on the plus side, he might sleep most of the day," Greg said as he came over and without any hint of reservation slipped his arms around him to kiss him. "So... uh... settling things with Sara? Sara who barely says hi?"

"Sara who barely says hi," Gil confirmed. It took a moment for Gil to get the juggle between holding the baby and hugging Greg in return right, but he managed it, and somewhere in the mix Gareth got a hand knotted into the fabric of Greg's t-shirt, cooing to himself. "I've offered her a peace-dinner on Tuesday."

"Well then... Gareth and I will be home alone, and y'know, one of us might need a babysitter," Greg grinned as he kissed Gareth on the forehead and deftly substituted a finger for his shirt. "Ooo, you've got a grip there, kiddo, what are we feeding you? Too many vitamins and minerals I think."

Gil watched Gareth try to wave Greg's finger, his head bobbling before he leaned his head against Gil's. "Yeah, he's far too healthy. I'm going to put him down in the playpen in the living room. What's for dinner?"

"Pizza for us, and some of that exotic baby food our growing boy here seemed to like so much. Milk and some pureed pasta thing that smells pretty good. It nearly ended up as a pizza topping," Greg replied. "So, while I'm just heating our dinner up, unless he's hungry right now, I want to know what Sara said. I mean..." He still got a little uncomfortable about her.

"It wasn't a pleasant discussion," Gil started as he turned away, juggling Gareth to get him to giggle as he headed back to the living room. "But it was easier than most conversations I've ever had with her about this."

Gareth alternated between giggling and trying to eat Gil's shirt. As Greg had often commented, he seemed to try for a high fiber diet all the time.

"So I don't have to deal with if looks would kill, you'd have the guys investigating a crime scene in the lab?" Greg asked following him with Gareth's rattle-ring. "Where's Nandy.. sorry Nhandu the tarantula, Gareth, huh? Where... there she is... yeah. I can't believe you're making me call the toy by the proper Latin name."

"Nhandu Carapoensis," Gil grinned as he leaned into the playpen, offering Gareth the red tarantula right away. They usually put him on a blanket on the floor, but if they were heading in and out of the room, a playpen was safer. "There we go. Yeah, you like that, don't you?"

The large furry spider was pounced on and Gareth burbled with delight. Greg grinned down at him. "That always makes me laugh. The guys never believe the pictures I show of him doing that. They think I fake it. Oops, I can smell the pizza. Hold on, I'll just get it."

"Sure." Gil settled down into a crouch beside the playpen, and snuck a hand out to wriggle the spider, while he watched Gareth deathlatch onto it, trying to keep it so he could slobber on the fuzzy head more. Everything seemed so easy and comfortable at home.

"You didn't tell me it was family heredity to eat spiders," Greg called back from the kitchen. "Ants and crickets, yeah but not spiders. I'll have to put Nandy in the wash, too, I think. Keep her fluffy."

"Maybe we should get another one for him," Gil suggested, standing up after stroking the soft hair on the back of his son's head before he turned back to the kitchen to get plates. "Here, I'll fix his bottle."

"Did he have anything last night? He had a lot before I dropped him off," Greg asked as he came in to the kitchen and he was busy putting out the plates and pizza. "You want anything with this?"

"He ate a little after he woke up from sleeping." During that point in the night where Greg had been in the lab processing DNA and Gil had been cross-referencing an experiment properly into his report on a murder case. He reached for the can of formula powder, and one of the bottle inserts. "Just pizza is fine."

"Cool." Greg seemed relaxed in the kitchen area as Gil mixed up the formula. "Catherine said that it isn't necessarily a bad thing if they spend a long time crawling. It means there are more cross patterning links set up in the brain. So less chance of dyslexia and better verbal and cognitive skills."

"He's premature, so technically he's right on track. He's a little ahead of where he would be if he'd been born after a full term, so..." Gil shrugged his shoulders a little as he microwaved it briefly, trying not to crane his head to look over to the playpen. Gareth had a full head of hair, and he'd been born with blue eyes that were turning darker, brown like his other father's, and he was so happy.

Gil winced in stores for other parents who had children who screamed and cried all the time. Some kids, Catherine assured him, were the self-raising kind.

It looked like Gareth was going to have some of both Greg's and his own natural independence. It had taken him a little while to get used to the mechanics of feeding his son and Catherine had been amused at his first few attempts, but now he was a pro and moved with the assurance of someone who had been doing this several times a days for months now.

Greg had reclaimed his skills from helping his friend Julie and looked perfectly at ease. In fact, in a lot of ways, fatherhood wasn't the terrifying prospect he had thought it was going to be.

"Pizza's ready," Greg said. "I'll take it through. I get to feed him next time, okay?"

"Yeah." They didn't vie quite so heatedly for who got to change the diaper next, but Greg always liked to sit on the sofa, cradling Gareth in his arms, bottle poised at the ready. It was an excuse for closeness as much as it was a necessary duty. Gil waited for the microwave's beep, then screwed the nipple back on, dabbing a little on his wrist before he decided it wasn't too hot.

When Gil headed back to the living room, Greg already had Gareth out of the playpen, propped up beside him on the sofa, fingers wrapped around the TV's remote control.

Greg was talking at their son in a lilting gentle Norwegian conversation. His hair was always grabbed and tugged, and he never even changed the pitch of his endearments. When pushed, Greg admitted that he didn't feel quite so much of an idiot doing baby talk in a language where he could be reciting chemical formulae and nobody would know the difference.

Generally though, Gil knew that Greg was telling Gareth that he loved him, that he was the most precious thing to them both and other effusive sentiments that he would feel a little self-conscious about saying in public.

Gil didn't much mind, because Greg was right. And they'd both gone through hell to end up where they were, Gil sitting down beside Gareth for a moment so Greg could keep lavishing attention on him for a little longer. "And he means it, too."

Gareth turned at the sound of his voice and reached towards him.

"How easily I'm replaced. Is it you or the fact you have the food bottle, hmm?" Greg asked rhetorically. "Okay, kiddo, that's enough mush from your other dad today, I get it, you're hungry and the milk is getting cold. Here we go then... and while your daddy is feeding you, I'll be stealing most of the pizza."

"Status quo," Gil agreed pleasantly, leaving the bottle on his lap for a moment so he could heft Gareth up into his arms. "There we go, Gareth. You're a good boy, aren't you? Yeah, and you like your daddy Greg's food, huh? Wait until you can eat pizza."

"It'd be a healthy vegetable pizza or your fairy godmother Catherine will kick both your daddies' butts," Greg said as he took a bite. "He'll probably go to sleep after. You want to do something or you up for an early night, morning..?"

Gil shifted to lean back, cradling his son despite the fact that he squirmed madly once he saw his soy formula again, cooing and opening his mouth before the nipple got near it. Some mornings they went out, but it felt like it was going to be a hell of a hot day out. "We could make it an early night, and do something..."

Greg grinned. "Yeah I was wondering about that," he said giving him a certain look that meant he had been thinking about it. "I was thinking we could try... you know."

"I don't know -- do I? The thing with the celery?" There was no thing with the celery, but if he was going to throw out a bad joke, he was going to go for the gusto.

Greg laughed. "Yeah, the celery... No, I was thinking we could actually um... really do it? Like proper sex? I think I can... you know, don't make me spell it out in front of Gareth."

Gil smiled a little, and glanced down to watch Gareth's fingers paw at the bottle while he started to drink. "I don't think he can spell sex, Greg."

"Hey, he could be a genius prodigy with both yours and my genetics involved. I mean, you're a genius and I'm no slouch. For all we know, he's making notes." Greg replied sounding a little nervous as he ate his bit of pizza.

"I don't remember anything that happened before I turned five or so, Greg. I really don't think we're going to traumatize him. Now, talking about it when he's sixteen is another issue." And Gil liked to guess forward that far in life. He wanted his son to grow up and do whatever he wanted. He wanted him to grow up, to live, and right now, sitting there feeding him while his pizza turned cold, it all seemed possible.

Gareth was dozing off while he ate.

"Okay then. " Greg sighed. "I was hoping we could try more than what we've been doing. Not you, but me. "

"You want to... ?" Now Gil was the one insinuating, and it made him want to laugh a little. "Once he's in his crib and I eat a little. There's no harm in trying?"

"I mean, I can't guarantee I'll be able to but I think I'm getting past my days of trying to hide in the bathroom," Greg said. "Eat some pizza, Gil, I feel like a pig here."

"Baby," Gil gestured, with half a motion of one elbow. "He's a little attention sucker. Aren't you, Gareth?"

Gareth was already starting to look sleepy and he hadn't even finished eating. He barely paused to burp.

"Hungry by the looks of it," Greg commented. "Maybe we should tell them to try and feed him a bit more overnight."

"He's still growing by leaps and bounds." Gil shifted a finger briefly to swipe a finger through Gareth's hair, before he went back to steadying the bottle for him. "I'll mention it when I drop him off next time. He'll sleep pretty well after this."

"Here... take a bite," Greg offered up a slice of pizza, being careful to steer clear of Gareth. "I was thinking about whether I should ever work on being a CSI again, too. I'm sort of getting comfortable in the lab again, but I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to go back out. Besides, there's the whole thing with you and the work thing."

"We'll find a way around it, Greg. Do you want to work in the field again?" He took a couple of bites of pizza, leaning towards Greg. Gareth made a pretty funny noise at being momentarily compressed, but settled down towards sleepily drinking again.

"I sorta want to. I mean, I have a memory of what it was like even when I was training, but then I have this other memory of... what happened, being out there. And I don't want to make things awkward, either."

"I'll talk to Ecklie about it. Get him to agree that if you pass your proficiencies your personnel work could go through him directly." He hadn't honestly given it much thought, but. "We could work towards it. Nick could take you into the field on some cases. We can work you back into it."

"You think we could do it?" Greg sounded surprised. "I... I'd miss being taught with you. I loved our lessons at the cabin. They really stopped my head falling to pieces."

It was the least that Gil could do at the time, and now it was still so very little for Greg to ask for. "You were good at it. And you classes still count. It's just the field hours that you need, and the proficiencies again."

"I still think you know more than you can teach anyone," Greg replied offering the pizza again. "Nicky teaches me stuff, too, though. You ever hear him talk about birds? Not chicks, but actual birds?"

"Pifflings," Gil nodded. He leaned in again to take another bite, and Gareth didn't squawk at him. In fact, when he pulled the bottle away, his son gave a sleepy mouth smack. It was a shame that he needed to be burped when he was so clearly sleepy. "Nicky has a teaching tendency in him, Greg. So between him and Catherine and I, we can get you back up to field speed again." When everything had gone wrong, Greg had been shy of his final proficiency. Well, his second try, but now he needed to start from scratch. They could take a little more time with him, teach him things that hadn't sunk in the first time.

"I think I'd like that. No hurry though. And Nick needs a bit of time, too. It really shook him up, you not being there." Greg looked at him. "You should see him when you say he's done a good job. Lights up like a Christmas tree."

Not like their idea of a tree, crooked and shedding like mad on the floor, but a nice one, a plastic and metal one that had lights pre-installed. "I need to work on that more," Gil murmured, setting the bottle down before he shifted Gareth to burp him. "Yeah, you can feed him next time. Oof, he's already got a hand on my hair."

"Oo good one Gareth, a belch to be proud of...." Greg complimented their son. "What about you Gil? You weren't tempted by the FBI's offer?"

"No. Should I have been?" Gil rubbed his fingers over Gareth's back, his other hand supporting his bottom and funny dangling legs. He really did look like Greg had when Greg was a baby. "They've tried to approach me before. And while I find the offer flattering, I hate the bureaucracy of it. And Gareth wouldn't want his dad to come home pissed off every day, would you, baby? No."

"And neither would Greg, because you do this scary thing when you're angry and frown and, well...." Greg teased at him slightly. "I still think they were trying to keep tabs on us. They'll be publishing... when is it? God, end of this week?"

"Yeah. If they need to find us for anything, we won't be hard to find." House, baby, jobs that were still the same. Gil shifted, cradling Gareth one armed for a moment. He hadn't spit up, and that was good, Gil decided. Just a little drool. "Here, do you want to hold him for a minute?"

"Sure, I've had my pizza. C'mere kiddo... there we go." Greg leaned back so he was slouching at a comfortable angle for Gareth, who yawned. "Yeah, I know... I'm a comfortable pillow. Who knew, eh? Don't make me sing a lullaby, your Daddy Gil will make fun of me for weeks."

"When have I made fun of you for that?" Gil leaned forward to take his piece of pizza, and then he sat back to chew it, a little quicker than he would've otherwise. "I think that it's very sweet."

"Telling everyone else how sweet it is counts as making fun," Greg replied gently stroking down the back of his son who had decided to sprawl on his front, half on Greg's shoulder and was now sucking his thumb industriously as his eyelids drooped. "Damn, we were lucky, having such a good baby. Did you hear Catherine say if getting a baby this good is the result of genetic manipulation, once the word got out, every mother on earth would be behind the initiative?"

"Somehow..." Gil chewed on a bite of the crust, and paused for a moment. "Somehow I think it has everything to do with our genetics and not genetics itself. He's so good." Happy and playful. He only really howled when he was hungry or needed his diaper changed, and Gil and Greg at least tried to keep on top of the possibility of hunger with a very regular schedule.

"Poppa Olaf said that I used to wake up at night and it was almost like it was too much like hard work to make a fuss. He'd peek in and I'd be lying there playing with something, burbling quietly to myself. He said he thinks that's why I talk so much, I practiced on myself."

"And it has nothing to do with your own genetics, huh?" Nothing at all to do with Greg's mother, which made Gil roll his eyes a little and grin as he sat back, watching Greg play human mattress to their son. It still amazed him how in awe he was of Gareth, a little creature that just went through the basic human needs -- playing, eating, sleeping, pooping -- but now he understood all of Catherine's talk of him understanding things better when, if, he was a parent.

Gil secretly suspected that babies emitted a pheromone that ate their parent's brains.

Greg smiled at him. "I never really thought I would ever find out. Short of persuading someone to be a surrogate mother. And... uh, I guess I wasn't thinking that it would be you."

"Me, either." That still shocked them now and again. Gil reached for his second piece, still watching them both. "This is good, being here, having... you and Gareth and being back in Vegas again. It still amazes me."

"There are moments when I think... I'm still there and I've dreamt all of this," Greg admitted in a soft voice. "Because... doesn't it seem that way to you?"

"Sometimes," Gil admitted as he sat back, and let his eyes drift up to Greg's face. "But then Ecklie bitches at me, so I know it must be true. If this were a dream, my subconscious would've had him quit while we were away." And maybe no one healthy and sane would've even played with the idea.

"I wish I could deal as well as you do, Griss," Greg said holding his gaze for a long moment. "No kidding, I'm just amazed at how well you do it." On his shoulder, Gareth stretched and then settled to sleep a little more, full and comfortable.

"Cope?" Gil shrugged his shoulders gently, leaning in to sit shoulder to shoulder with Greg, closer and comfortable. "I want to live. I like this life we have, and all of the good little moments make every stumbling block worth moving past. When you have a day off, Greg, and I don't? I look forward to coming home and seeing you all day. I look forward to having Gareth to pick up at daycare. If I didn't have these things, I'm... not sure how I'd be coping. I'd probably still be up in a cabin in Jackpot."

"But you came back and you're out there. I can't do that. I need you and Gareth so much I sometimes wonder if there's something wrong with me," Greg said quietly, obviously not wanting to disturb their son. "I fell to pieces when we came back and you didn't. You've dealt with something that would freak the hell out of any man and..." Greg shook his head. "Nothing stops you."

"There's nothing wrong with you, Greg. After everything, you should know how much you've accomplished." Gil slid his hand behind Greg's back, jostling Gareth a little. "It's all right to need. We're not going to disappear on you. I won't leave again."

Greg kissed him. "Let's put little Grissom-Sanders here to bed and then uh...'discuss' this further in our bed," he suggested.

"Go tuck him in. I'll put the pizza up," Gil offered. He kissed Greg back, and then started to stand.

Greg nodded and got up slowly to take Gareth to his room carefully, which was practically the only room in the house that was completely unpacked and up together.

Even as Gil dealt with the left over food he could hear the very soft sounds of Greg rather inexpertly singing some sort of lullaby to Gareth in a very quiet voice. It made him smile.

A lot of things made him smile. Greg really loved their son, head over heels in a way Gil couldn't quite articulate. They each got a little lost in it sometimes, being fathers, in the reality that they had a son of their own, and a little person who depended wholly on them. And Greg liked to sing -- liked to sing along to bad rock and good rock and apparently half-remembered lullabies.

Gil drank half a glass of water, made sure he'd put everything up, and wandered down the hallway, listening to Greg.

Greg emerged eventually looking back over his shoulder at Gareth and nearly bumping into Gil in his distraction. "Hey... sorry. If he can sleep through that, then he's not waking up for a while," he said with a smile.

It was easy to smile back, easy to slide his hands around Greg's waist. "Good. Shall we, uh..."

"Yeah. Seize the day and all that," Greg replied. "I'm a little nervous but I want to do it."

"However far it goes, right? Do you want to, or, uh, should I, or..." Gil back stepped, pulling Greg with him, slowly back towards their bedroom. "Coin toss?"

"No, I want to try it. See if I can deal... I mean, you know I used to love it. That's what I would daydream about with you and I'm not sure I can top you if I'm still thinking that topping is a bad thing. Did that make any sense at all?" Greg asked hopefully.

"That made sense. Enough." Another few steps, and he had Greg walking with him, crossing through the doorway to their bedroom. There were boxes still packed, and maybe when they woke up they could work on finishing the unpacking. "One day we'll be comfortable with it again. And even if we aren't, that's all right."

"It frustrates me, because there are so many things I would have liked to do and share with you," Greg replied. "I was a pretty adventurous guy, you know? Tried a little of pretty much everything and enjoyed most of it and I wanted... I want to explore that with you. Together."

"We'll get there." Gil stepped backwards, sat down, hands still on Greg's crotch before his fingers slipped to pull Greg's shirt off of him. "For now... We have everything we need right here."

Greg looked down a moment at his hands and then back up at him. "You like undressing me don't you?" he commented not resisting at all even as he smiled.

"I do," he agreed mildly. "You're beautiful, and this is an excuse to touch you." He illustrated touching, skimmed fingers over Greg's ribs before he leaned up a little to get the shirt off entirely.

"Scars and all," Greg said even as the most recent one, the one across his abdomen marked the removal point of the donor liver that had nearly killed him to grow. Gil was pleased that Greg was less self-conscious about it all now as the younger man responded by teasing at his clothes in response.

"Scars and all. Beauty is more than skin deep, but the skin's nice, too." He dropped Greg's shirt on the floor, contemplating how best to do it. "Have any ideas for how you'd prefer to try it?"

"I think I need to see that it's you," Greg murmured as he teased off Gil's shirt and ran a familiar hand over a no longer swollen stomach. "If that's okay?"

"That's okay. I'm just trying to think of what would be the least uncomfortable for you. I want it to feel good." He leaned back a little, looking up Greg's chest before he reached out to unbuckle Greg's belt.

"I'm still flexible, don't worry," Greg answered as he leaned in to kiss him as they went through the now familiar logistics of getting undressed. They were comfortable now with certain levels of intimacy and had been working towards improving things for some time.

Improvement felt good. Undressing each other and kissing and touching. Simple physical interactions felt good, but it was the more overtly sexual things that had thrown each of them for a loop from time to time. Nothing had tripped either of them up in a while.

"How flexible?"

"Flexible enough to get my legs over your shoulders," Greg replied boldly. "How does that sound?" He kissed him again, tasting his skin with relish.

It sounded great. It sounded like it sent a twinge right to the base of his balls, and Gil unzipped Greg's pants as an answer. "That sounds amazing."

Greg smiled at him. "I thought you might like it... able to push in hard and kiss at the same time. Yeah, you'll like that won't you? Being able to see how I look when you do that to me and I'll see how you are when you're in me..."

Greg liked to talk through what they might do, talk himself into it somehow or just settle the ideas in his mind.

Gil had learned that he seldom had to do more than listen and nod, because Greg worked through things himself quite well. He slid his hands around, and clutched lightly at Greg's ass with either hand. "I want to make you moan."

"You like the sounds... you close your eyes and listen. It's like you feel the sounds more," Greg said as they sidestepped towards the bed. "Think how it will feel with you in me... the sound of my moans vibrating into your body... yeah..."

Greg was right; it would have been criminal for his sexual imagination to have remained permanently stunted.

Gil barely stifled a groan, and he wasn't even out of his pants yet. Dammit, those had to come off, but that meant taking his hands off of Greg, that meant breaking the temporary promise of more than just lips and hands on skin. "Keep talking and we won't even make it that far..."

"That just means you will be ready for action sooner," Greg pointed out tugging at Gil's pants. "Besides I want you ready. I want you wanting me I want you imagining how good it will feel. How hot and tight when you push in and feel me grip around you, tighter than any hand..." His hand smoothed over his groin through the material as he pulled down his pants.

Gil was glad that he toed off his shoes when he came in the door, or else he would've already tripped his way out of them. "Fuck. That feels so good, and I know that you're going to feel just amazing..." It was easy to 'push' Greg down, too, now that he was naked, nudging him to lie on his back on the bed.

He tumbled back there, his hair messy, and grinned up at Gil. "To be modestly immodest, I think you're right, it will be. You'll feel it every time you push in, every movement... like a vise. Yeah. You want it don't you? You want to do me now... if you were at work you'd want to push me up against the wall and fuck me..."

Greg's dark eyes were practically smoldering with desire as he continued talking and talking, bolstering both their confidence and his own resolve.

"In a locked room. Because no one is going to see you like this but me, Greg. No one else is going to touch you like this, or see you like this, or hurt you ever again." But the thought of pushing Greg up against a wall sounded so good. So good that once Gil was naked, too, he barely remembered to get the lube and condoms out of the night stand, and then leaned over Greg to kiss him. Almost right away, he snuck a hand down between Greg's legs, and started to stroke him off.

"Mmm... Yeah... oh god yeah..." Greg closed his eyes a moment. "Please Gil... don't make me wait. Slow.. slow will make me nervous... I..." he moaned again. "I trust you, I want it to be only you. Please..."

"I know. I just want you to... to be ready." But Greg wanted to dive right in, where Gil was comfortable with long periods of ramping up to it. Hardness wasn't an issue; he was already hard, and Greg's dick felt like smooth iron in his hand. Gil kissed against his mouth again. "At least let me take my time stretching you?"

"Oh yeah... but at the point where my eyes roll back you better be thinking about making a move," he whispered at him, kissing back with passion. Greg had obviously been mentally preparing for some time.

That was good. Gil was already mentally prepared, at least for that arrangement. He was comfortable with Greg, and months of sleeping with him, sharing a bed with him had eased any intimacy issues Gil hadn't yet stumbled across yet. "I'll remember that," Gil murmured as he leaned over, still stroking Greg's dick, reaching for the lube where he'd put it on the mattress.

He was hampered a little by Greg's determined efforts to kiss him in the mean time and taste his skin. He loved to stay close and touch his skin. "Want you in me... any way... I've dreamed about it -- dreamed about pushing on to you. I love the way you touch me."

"You feel good. I don't need much incentive to do it." Gil popped open the top of the lube, and squeezed a little onto his fingers before he broke the kisses and leaned back a little. "I'm going to try to warm it."

Greg lazily reached out and stroked Gil's thigh and then in towards his cock while he was waiting for the lube to be warmed. It was almost as if he didn't want the pace to fail in case he lost momentum or his nerve.

Fast, and go go go, and while it wasn't the way that Gil had envisioned it happening for them, it was good. And later times, when they were each more confident, then could take their time. Gil just tried not to get lost in the feeling of Greg's wandering fingers while he slid his own fingers down between Greg's cheeks.

The younger man did startle at that, stiffen up a little, but he kissed him and let the tension go even as he tasted him. "Mmm, yeah. Yeah."

"Just relax and push back when I push in," Gil coaxed gently, one finger sliding into Greg carefully.

"Uh..." Greg screwed up his eyes a moment and there was the briefest flicker of fear over his face before he opened his eyes and looked directly at him. "I can do this, I want this..." He pushed back slowly groaning as he did so.

"And there isn't anyone here but you and me, Greg. It's just the two of us, and I'm not going to hurt you," Gil coaxed as he slid that finger in and then pulled it back again.

"Nnh." Greg made a slightly incoherent noise. "I know, Gil, I know that." He shifted to try and reclaim that pressure. "Again."

"Soon enough," Gil promised, pushing the finger in again, twisting it, and starting to work it in and out until Greg's ass felt a little less like a vise grip around his knuckles. Then the slow withdrawal back came with two fingers pushing in instead of just the one.

"Damn, you can tell I... I haven't done this for a while," Greg panted out. "That feels... huge and I know you're bigger."

Than two fingers? Gil hoped he was, because even though size didn't matter... It really did. Gil was quietly pleased to be a little over the 'average', a comfortable size. "You're doing fine, Greg. Just let me know when this feels more comfortable for you..."

"Just keep talking. I need to know it's you," Greg asked even as he squeezed around the penetrating fingers then relaxed. "Fuck, yeah."

He didn't look scared at all; in fact he was getting a slow flush up over his body that Gil recognized as arousal.

Finally. Gil leaned down again, kissing Greg's chest instead of his mouth, propped up on one elbow so he could keep making that motion freely. Greg could go without the stroking off for a few minutes

"Do you have any idea how gorgeous you look right now?"

"," Greg nearly chuckled as he gasped at a particular motion Gil was making. "That's... good. Oh, god yeah, it doesn't hurt..."

There was a strange kind of wonder in his voice as if he had expected it to hurt a lot despite everything. It was sad to think that was all he remembered.

All he could remember. Months of abuse like that were bound to drown out better memories. "It doesn't hurt," Gil echoed. "And you're very gorgeous. Spread out like this..."

"You just wait. When I get my confidence back..." Greg made a low noise in his throat and began to rock against him. "You... ah... yeah... you.... there! There, just there!"

Right there, a tiny difference in texture, a protrusion that he could drag his two fingers over if he made an effort to, rubbing against it. "There?"

It made Greg arch and yell, so he gathered that was a yes. The noises were initially incoherent but then Greg shivered a little. "Fuck, I thought they'd ripped that to shreds... don't stop..."

"I'm not... sure how they could've, but it seems to be working pretty well right now." Gil pressed a kiss against Greg's chest again, rubbing more firmly because that was what Greg wanted. Maybe that would be what would get him to relax to the idea.

"I... shit! Griss!" Greg didn't seem to be able to stop himself from pushing hard against him and he hitched his legs up automatically to get a better angle. He certainly didn't seem to be panicking which was always a good thing when it came to sex.

"Easy, Greg. Easy... Is it too much?" he slowed, just a little. Just a little. If Greg happened to get off from that, or from grinding up against Gil, that was all right. Better than all right.

"You... are always too much," Greg said regaining his breath and relaxing again. He obviously was enjoying it. "But I'm tough, I can take all the amazing amounts of... pleasure you can dish out."

He seemed to find making eye contact helped a lot and that was a little strange but Gil could work with that.

Stay face to face, not let his eyes drift too much to the sides. Gil pulled his finger back, and added a little more lubricant between his fingers and Greg's ass, before he carefully wormed a third finger in beside the first two. "Is this all right?"

Somehow, with the tightness loosening up, and more endorphins flowing, Greg nodded and made a, "Mmm..." of agreement. He rocked a little against him, the pushy pace he had started flowing into something more languid and less desperate but no less intense.

Just a little while of that, a little while of three fingers being slowly worked in and out, and then Gil stopped and started to pull them out. "Greg? Are you ready?"

"Yeah..." He sounded almost a little dazed, and there was more than a hint of surprise to his expression as if this whole experience was not going as badly as he had expected it to be. "Yeah, I want you, Gil. In me... now."

"Okay." Okay, because all he had to do was open the condom and roll it over his dick while he knelt between Greg's legs. It wasn't for safety's sake, as much as it was for comfort's sake -- Greg's comfort, his. It made the mess easier to clean up, so if they wanted to go to sleep after, they could.

"Let me just...." There the difference in age showed most of all with the ease with which Greg lifted his legs to hook over his lover's shoulders. "There. Easy access Greg for you." He smiled up at him and reached to pull him closer, to encourage him.

Gil almost forgot to smooth extra lube over the outside of the condom. Almost, but he didn't. Barely, and then he was moving close to Greg, leaning into him with fingers trailing over Greg's knees and one hand between them to guide his dick.

The moment he pressed against Greg's ass, the younger man was pressing back, making it hard to go slow. "How does this feel?" Greg wanted him talking, and even if Greg was just groaning, he knew Greg was there. He didn't need the reassurance, and he needed to find a way to keep talking. It was hard when he was pushing his cock into something, into Greg, for the first time.

"Good... gr... great... wow... so much hotter than fingers..." Greg groaned then as he pushed in harder.

"Uhn..." Gil closed his eyes for a moment, pushing in until he was all the way in.

"That's... big. Huge, fucking... huge..." Greg managed. "With the emphasis on the 'fucking'." He breathed out and wriggled just a little. "So... let's have some of that emphasis, yeah?"

"Ah, you want me to move," Gil teased a little, before he started the long draw backwards. It was going to be a little faster than he preferred, but Greg wanted it, he could tell from the way his legs squirmed.

Greg had been right about the way he moaned when he moved. It did go right through him, it seemed to find its way into his body and curl in the pit of his stomach into an ache of desire.

"Please..." Greg whispered. "Please, Gil..."

"Mmm. We're doing it right now, aren't we? You like it like this? Faster, Greg, or slower?" He moved his hands to hold Greg's ankles, to do a little more of the work for him.

"Anything... anything..." He did seem genuinely blissed out by his smallest movements, the sensations obviously overriding any lingering fears he might have.

That was tantamount to permission to find his own pace.

Gil slid a hand down Greg's leg, and started to stroke him off while he found a steady, comfortable pace. The mattress was soft under his knees, so kneeling wasn't a problem and Greg was so tight, so responsive, and Gil hadn't done anything like that in forever. Nothing that good, nothing that comfortable.

It was strange, but in being so concerned for Greg, his own concerns had faded and had allowed him to go ahead as if he had no issues. And now he was here and Greg was so... so much of everything he couldn't help but revel in it. Revel in the movements, the heat of it, the taste, the sounds that vibrated through him, the clutch of Greg's hands and the slide of his muscle against his body.

He wanted the stamina to do this forever.

He didn't have it. He hadn't had stamina like that in forever, but Greg was flexible, flexible enough that leaning down to kiss Greg for a few minutes didn't make him do anything more than groan, bend in half with Gil still fucking him while they kissed.

He groaned against his lips, even as he kissed back and braced him with his legs. That was good, that was the feel of it; tender and passionate at the same time and a sense of complete trust in him that frankly had him in awe. There were so many emotions involved in this, making it richer and deeper than his other sexual experiences, for all the fact he had been caring and attentive. This was different. There were emotions that suddenly were easy to get to as if they had already been ready waiting for a chance to come out. Maybe it was what they had been through, maybe it was Gareth and the complete change in his life or maybe it was Greg... whatever the reason, he found that the simple act was something much more profound.

And hotter.

He'd have to tell that to Greg later, and Greg would probably laugh like hell, but there was something about the permanence of it, knowing that Greg was his, that Greg was there and with him and in their home, that really made it hotter, made Gil thrust a little harder, made Gil a little more desperate to try to get Greg to come.

It wasn't difficult; Greg was very responsive. He arched and twisted into his thrusts, gasping and moaning with pleasure and need. Gil could feel his cock, hot and slick with precome against him as he leaned in to snatch kisses. By the time he hit a fast rhythm, Greg was there with him, begging for a climax

"Yeah, yeah... oh god! Gil... I... fuck... gonna..."

"Yeah." Yeah, and maybe there was a mumbled please, and a groan, but Gil was slamming his hips against Greg, the smack smack smack of skin on skin anything but soft and gentle while he clutched at Greg's ankle with one hand, thumb sliding over the slick head of Greg's dick. Almost there, almost...

Greg yelled after very little of that stimulation and there was the spurt of hot liquid over his hand as he clenched impossibly tight around Gil's final few strokes. There was no escaping the sensation. It was a grip that surpassed his expectations and shocked him to his own climax. A thrust, stuttered, and Gil's body went tense, hips snapping forward a few last times in his stuttered final thrusts, filling the condom before he finally relaxed again, letting Greg's leg slip off of his shoulder. "Greg..."

The younger man was breathing like he had set an Olympic record, but he grabbed for him. "Wow... just... wow, Griss..."

"Mmm. Hold on, let me just pull out." He slipped one hand between their bodies, holding the base of the condom while he leaned backwards, temporarily evading Greg's reach.

"Come back here," Greg said too worn out to even try. He grinned. "I knew we could do it. We did, didn't we? I managed not to freak out, and I had a mind blowing orgasm -- always a plus, and... we did it!"

"We did it." Gil tied the condom off, and took a loose throw towards the trash can they had in the corner. It stuck to the side inside, but Gil didn't care. There was Greg stretched out on the bed, waiting, and they both seemed worn out. Gil started to lie down. "How're your legs?"

"Well, the muscles need some more toning before we hit any marathon sessions of that again, but pretty cool," Greg replied smiling blissfully. He stretched his legs out. "Uh, I didn't wake Gareth with my yelling did I?"

Gil tilted his head a little -- the baby monitor was one way, and there wasn't anything coming out of it but white noise. "No. He's still sleeping."

"Cool. I kinda forgot myself for a while there," Greg replied and then rolled to get his arms around him. "C'mere... you don't get to run away from me after that."

It was easy. Easy to have Greg on top of him like that, easy to have Greg holding onto him before he managed to get his arms around Greg in turn. "Why do you think I'd run away? I like it here. And I'm pretty fond of you."

"Let's not get carried away with the romance here Gil. 'Pretty fond'? I'll pick out the wedding rings immediately," Greg replied and he could feel the slight rumble of laughter from the younger man. "I'll have you know that I am passingly diverted by your acquaintance. Which is just as well, otherwise we wouldn't have done the horizontal mambo just now."

"True, true." Gil pressed a kiss just under Greg's jaw, and smiled against his skin. "I'm also fairly enamored of the little guy in the other room. Since we're not mincing words here."

"As a package deal, I would probably sign on the dotted line," Greg replied and then put on a mock dramatic tone and expression. "Who am I kidding? You're my sun, my moon, my starlit sky... Is that from a movie? No, wait... he's my son, you could be the moon, certainly with an ass like that, and the starlit sky means we're at work so we'll give that a miss."

He was grinning. He was grinning and it was the best thing that Gil had ever seen. "We really should give it a miss. I have tomorrow night off, and then we have part of a weekend together, so let's not think about that right now. Tired?"

"Yeah, long shift all told. And some of them still walk in and stand just behind my shoulder," Greg replied curling into him. "That stresses me out a little. I mean they move if I point it out, but I hate having to point it out."

"They'll stop eventually," Gil insisted softly, stroking the back of Greg's neck gently. "You'll see." Or, eventually, it would stop bothering him.

Greg nodded just a little and calmed down some more. "Mmm. You believe I love you right?" he asked suddenly. "You believe that this is real? Our family?"

"Our family," Gil agreed quietly, finger sneaking up to the edge of Greg's hairline. "I believe in you and Gareth, and that both of you exist and that I'm here, Greg. So by default, you're here, too."

"And you believe I love you? You evaded that. I'm not asking you to say anything about me, just..." Greg muffled his voice against him. "Don't worry, forget about it."

Greg was still a keen investigator, even as he wallowed in his own nerves. "I love you. And I know you love me, Greg," Gil offered gently, patiently.

Greg smiled a little. "Sorry, I was coming across as clingy again right? Sometime I need to hear it. Poppa Olaf always said I need other people's approval too much."

"I don't mind it. You can cling all you want, as long as I can get out of bed in the morning." It was a soft tease, and Gil kept stroking Greg's hair. "Think you're going to be able to sleep?"

"Yeah. With you here. I don't have such bad dreams with you here. " Greg nuzzled at him and closed his eyes. "Never going to leave you, Griss, or Gareth. I'd do anything for you."

Except stay awake, Gil could see that. It was easy to underestimate the younger man. Even now he was one of the only ones who knew the most of what happened and he wasn't convinced it was all of it.

In time, Gil trusted that it would all surface. They'd handle each piece as it did, and he'd watch for signs from Greg that things were going on.

He had the time. He was going to relish that time and the future with his family.