This Child-Like Beast

By Kat Reitz and tzigane

Fable by Janos Pilinsky
Once upon a time / there was a lonely wolf / lonelier than the angels.
He happened to come to a village. / He fell in love with the first house he saw.
Already he loved its walls / the caresses of its bricklayers.
But the windows stopped him. / In the room sat people.
Apart from God nobody ever / found them so beautiful
as this child-like beast. / So at night he went into the house.
He stopped in the middle of the room
and never moved from there any more.
He stood all through the night, with wide eyes
and on into the morning when he was beaten to death.
Translated by Ted Hughes.
Taken from Heaney & Hughes eds. The Rattle Bag.

Doc Robbins had a head in a bucket down in autopsy.

There had been a lot of cool cases since he'd become Greg Sanders, CSI, instead of Greg Sanders, DNA tech, but this was the first time there had been a head. In a bucket.

He'd come in on his day off to see what was going on, and it was going to pay off. He was gonna beg, plead, and downright demand if he had to. Greg wanted to know about the head, because the thing had been shipped from some place called Jackpot.

Just the head.

Curiosity might have killed the cat, but the satisfaction he'd get from finding an answer to what was going on would be enough to bring anything back from the dead.

Well. Except maybe the guy the head belonged to.

Nothing much could be done for him.

"Hey, Doc." Greg was buzzing with excitement, and maybe a little too much coffee. Just a wee bit. Tiny, miniscule, microscopic, magnified forty times bit. He liked his work, though, and he liked everything he'd learned under Nick's tutelage, and everything he was learning on his own. The pay was crap compared to DNA, but half of that pay was for handling the tedium, Greg guessed. He'd had to downsize his living conditions, but he'd been happier for the switch, which was what mattered.

"Sanders. What brings you down here so early?"

He grinned, rocking back and forth on his heels for a second. Definitely too much coffee. "I heard you had a head. In a bucket." He stressed the last word, a little too excited. "That they mailed to you from Jackpot. I mean, how cool is that? A head in a bucket in the mail."

"... I haven't even opened it yet." Al stared at Greg for a moment, and then looked down at the sealed bucket. "David tipped you off, didn't he?"

He felt a little sheepish admitting it but... "We've got a standing arrangement. I make sure he has good coffee, he calls me if you get something perishable in the mail." It was something he'd learned reading a book, weirdly enough -- that sometimes people from smaller areas Fed Exed in items that needed more serious work to bigger labs, and he'd thought it would be kind of cool. From the looks of the bucket, he wasn't wrong.

"Well, if you want to stand back while I open it..." Al wasn't kicking him out. Al was probably happy not to have a CSI who looked like they were going to puke at the idea, but Greg had always had a little bit of a gruesome streak. He was okay with the bodies. "Jackpot has a sheriff and possibly two deputies. Their vet called to tell me they were sending this over."

"Their vet?" That was a new one. Pretty amusing, too, because why in the hell would a vet be the one sending over a head? "He the county coroner or...?" It was a definite possibility. There were other places with interesting county coroners. He'd spent a holiday with one of his roommates once, and the county coroner there had been an EMT. It had been a little weird to have the neighbor come over to confirm the death of a relative over their turkey dinner.

"County Coroner," Al confirmed. He slowly popped the lid off of the barrel. Greg was pretty sure he'd mixed floor tile grout in a bucket just like that.

"Interesting. Must be a really small place. I was in this little town in Alabama once, and the coroner was an EMT. They didn't even have a hospital in the county." The doc reached in with both gloved hands and pulled out the head, and Greg leaned back a little, just in case he sloshed dead head juice everywhere.

It looked and smelled like Formaldehyde, which was going to be hard to test around. "This might be a comparable town. We've done other tests for them, but never... Oh, look, we even have the leaf litter."

That could be useful, all things considered. Hodges was pretty damn good at his job, and he'd be able to get something from it. "So, since they don't have a coroner, I'm betting they'll need a CSI to head up there and look around."

Al could probably see the wheels in Greg's mind, turning, while Al turned the head slowly. "The head's clearly been exposed to animal activity, but..."

"But?" But, there was a slash on the cheek that looked like it was something else altogether.

He turned the head, so Greg could look at the slash better. Oh, yeah, no animal could do that, not unless it learned how to carry a pocketknife in its teeth. "If you want to work this, talk with the folks upstairs."

Greg grinned at him. "Yeah. I'll do that. Thanks, Doc. I'll come back down and check in with you after I beg and plead and get down on my knees for it." Or maybe not so much. There was a time when he would have gotten on his knees for Nicky, but he'd never gotten any sign that it would be welcomed.

Hell. He'd get on his knees for Catherine, too.

Catherine might be more interested. Greg wasn't sure if he just wasn't Nick's type, or if Nick thought of him more like a little brother, which could actually make things sorta creepy. Really creepy, and he waved his hand at Al, heading for the door. "See you around, Doc."

"I'm sure I will. I'll have photographic documentation and tests running soon." But that wouldn't tell them who, really, and unless they were lucky, how was pretty unlikely, too. Unless there was a gang shootout, he was pretty sure he could weasel his way onto the case.

He headed upstairs, climbing the steps two at a time. Their shift wasn't due to start for another half hour or so, but if he knew Nick, he'd already be in the office. Greg figured he could start the begging and pleading early, and maybe he'd actually manage to convince him that Greg was the perfect CSI to send to a backwater called Jackpot.

The trip had been gorgeous. Beyond that, even, because Greg had grown up on the Pacific coast, an easy distance to beaches and surfing. There were mountains in California, but nothing that looked like this. It was dropping down into fall, and the leaves had made the drive worth it just for the sights.

Begging Nicky hadn't been too difficult. They'd been slow for once, and he'd almost been willing to do it on his own time. It was nice that he didn't have to do that because he liked getting paid, even if it wasn't DNA lab rates.

Nice drive, the promise of backwater -- backwoods? Yeah, backwoods -- CSI work. All on his own to document and find and do, with Nick threatening him to report back often. After all, someone had to go, and it might as well be the guy who volunteered.

It was freakishly early when he finally rolled into Jackpot. Well. Freakishly early for anybody who didn't work night shift, and it looked like pretty much everybody in town had all parked in one place, so he parked the SUV and got out. The smell of bacon and eggs wafted down the street, making his stomach growl in response, so he followed his nose.

The little restaurant looked pretty busy -- people gathered at all of the tables. It seemed to be mostly men, a few women here and there, and a waitress behind the counter.

Cool. Greg liked that in a retro chic kind of way, even though that was apparently the area's actual lifestyle. It was neat, small town diners and stuff, and Greg liked to spend his money at places like that more than chains. He just needed to get a feel for the place. Well, and find the sheriff.

He stepped up to the counter and took a good look around before he settled on a barstool and gave the waitress a grin. "Hey. I'm looking for the sheriff's office around here. Figured it looked like this was the place to be, so you were bound to know."

She grinned back at him, or maybe she smirked. "Well, his office is up the road on the right, but he's just over at that table there in the corner. You want something to eat?"

"Um... yeah, sure, whatever the house special is. Oh, and maybe to go?" He figured he'd end up heading straight to the sheriff's office to see what evidence they'd gathered so far.

"You can eat it out of a box if you end up staying." She waved at him, and turned to get him whatever the special was. Cool. So, the sheriff -- who was an actual lawman, not a figurehead like in Vegas -- ate breakfast in a diner.

Sometimes, Greg really wondered if growing up in a small town would have been anything like this. Mostly he'd always figured it was the kind of thing that only showed up on television. This? This was kind of awesome. "Hi, uh... Sheriff Brooks? Greg Sanders. I'm with the crime lab in Vegas."

"I bet it's one of those damn wolves," someone muttered when Greg passed.

"They decided to send someone up this way after all, huh? You guys run out of crime?" He leaned back. "This is my brother Leland. I'm Sheriff Alan Brooks."

"Nice to meet you." He nodded at the sheriff, and at his brother. "Actually, I asked for the job. It's not every day we get a head in a bucket coming in with the Fed Ex guy."

"I figured it was a transient. We're out here in the mountains..." The sheriff shrugged his shoulders, and sat back in his chair. "C'mon, siddown, kid. Food's on the way soon."

"Probably some guy fell off a cliff. And then the Coyotes got him." Leland leaned on one elbow and sipped his coffee.

Greg pulled over a third chair and sat down. "Probably. I take it you haven't found the body yet?"

"Nope. No idea of where to find it. A dog found it up in the woods and ran back home with it, and how many other animals played hockey with it before it got here?"

Great. He could just imagine how much fun this part was going to be. "So you haven't sent anybody out looking for it?"

"Eh, did a quick cursory, found pieces of a deer carcass. Y'see, we've got wolves up around here, and the bastards just can't be bothered to drag their kills back home like normal hunters." Alan leaned back when the waitress wandered in closer, carrying three plates.

"There you go. You want coffee, honey?"

Greg tossed her a smile. "I always want coffee. Thanks." Thanks, and okay. He'd asked for a to go plate, but what the hell. It looked good -- scrambled eggs with peppers, onions, and cheese, hash browns, and toast with little jelly packets. He licked his lips. "I've heard a couple of people mention wolves."

It was pertinent, because there weren't many wolves in Nevada. Mountain lions, black bears, hell. Bighorn sheep, even, but wolves were few and far between.

Even werewolves.

"We've got at least one up in the hills, probably more. Lot of people live up in the mountains, like to be left alone, and maybe for every one or two of those, there's one wolf." Alan shrugged his shoulders. "I can give you a list if you want, but it might take some thinking. There's only one wasn't born and bred here that comes to mind, and he usually comes down for groceries and to collect his mail on Tuesdays."

Reaching, Greg picked up the napkin rolled silverware the waitress had left by the plate. "I don't see why I'd need that list. I'm a lot more interested in the dog that dragged up the head." Depending on the breed. If it was a Huskey, there wasn't much point. If it was a dachshund, on the other hand, it'd be pretty damned pertinent.

"German Shepherd mutt. Dog's kind of a free roamer, always goes home at the end of the day." Alan started to dig into his food, half-watching Greg. Leland seemed quieted by Greg's presence. Didn't like outsiders -- okay, that was probably most of the town. "I'll take you out that way if you want."

"I'd appreciate it." He didn't figure asking for help would get him much, so he didn't bother. "Nobody in town is missing, but there's a head and no body. And you have no idea where to start looking." He was going to call Hodges after breakfast. Maybe he'd get lucky and he'd have something like an answer.

The sheriff inhaled a hiss of breath through his teeth, and nodded. "That's pretty much the facts of it, yep. And I mailed the head out to you all." He looked up, nodded as a guy walked past. "Have a good one, Marty."

Whoever Marty was, he didn't have anything to say.

"The thing of it is...." Greg poked his fork into his eggs. "Preliminary autopsy showed that there was a single straight cut on the victim's jaw. It wasn't made by teeth; it was made by a knife. So there's not just a body out there, there's also a killer. I'd like to help you find both of them."

"All by yourself?" The Sheriff was giving him that look that said he was all of ten years old, and couldn't possibly be a CSI all on his own, let alone a case on his own. Leland looked like he was smirking.

"All by myself." He might look ten to this guy, but he'd scrabbled his way from CSI 1 to CSI 3. He had skipped his senior year of high school for college, and he'd finished his masters at twenty-four, on top of working in a lab in New York full-time. He'd gone straight to Vegas from there, one of the busiest labs in the country, and he'd kicked ass at it.

He was damn sure capable of doing whatever needed to be done to solve this murder.

"Great. You finish that up, and you can follow me over to meet the dog that found the head." And like that, Allen seemed at least... well, determined to work with him. He took a swig of his coffee. "And we'll see what you can find."

"Yeah. We'll see."

Greg knew he'd have to be at his best to get anywhere here in Jackpot. It made him wonder if begging and pleading for this case was a mistake, but it was still interesting, and then some. "So! Is there any place around here to stay for the night?"

"We'll look around for you." That was shorthand for 'Hell no', but Greg figured he could sleep in his car if he had to. It'd suck, but it was a possibility.

"Thanks. I appreciate that." There had to be someplace to pick up a sleeping bag in town. Maybe even a couple of pillows. That decision made, he tucked into his eggs. He'd need the energy before it was all said and done.

It was going to be one of those kinds of cases.

Sometimes days seemed like an eternity, and sometimes they seemed so fast, running past him on wheels and speed, and sometimes he lost them all together. He'd had a lot of things go funny in his life, but there was always that one thing that overrode it all, reigned it all.

Still. A guy needed to get milk and eggs and fruit if he wanted not to die of scurvy, so every Tuesday, he put his wallet in his back pocket, grabbed his keys, and drove his old F250 into town for groceries, to mail out anything that needed to go, and to get his weekly dose of human companionship.

It didn't take much for him to have all of that he wanted. Tuesday afternoon was usually enough.

He'd never been a really companionable guy to start with. Mostly he talked to a few people in town. Did a little work for the sheriff sometimes, ate a little food someone else cooked up at the diner, got recipes from the waitress, and convinced himself that he was still hanging on. Some days, Will wondered why he bothered. Why he didn't just go rogue, or shoot himself and get it over with. Mostly, he tried not to think of any of those things, and the time spent with other people helped to keep him from thinking about those things quite as much.


He stopped by the post office first, mailing two boxes. One was for his publisher, and one was headed back to Quantico. He tossed his hand in sometimes when Crawford got pushy enough. The money was good, and while the cabin was paid for, and his various pension pieces paid for day to day living costs, it was nice to have the little creature comforts and equipment he needed for his research. Will liked a simple life other than that.

The postmistress took care of business in short order, even filling out the delivery confirmation and insurance slips for him. She did it for everybody, which was irritating some days, but mostly just kind of nice. By the time he finished there, he headed for the grocery store.

Thing of it was, he was getting more looks than normal today. It made him curious as to what exactly that was all about. That would require actually talking to someone, and he was never sure how to do that in town. He kept to himself, they kept to themselves, mostly, and he wasn't sure whether he was being stared at or not. Today, he was pretty sure it was the former and not the latter, and that made him nervous as hell. He could take on almost anybody in a fair fight -- especially after what had happened -- but somehow, it was always the old monster movies that he thought of on the days he felt particularly paranoid. Somehow, he always expected to see a mob coming, torches flaming, silver bullets in their six shooters. Ironically, the silver bullets would do nothing at all. He wasn't even sure why silver bullets were supposed to work, because out of morbid curiosity he'd stabbed himself with a pure silver knife a time or two and all he got was blood loss. There was no allergic style reaction.

He was safe with silverware, not that it stopped people from threatening him with it.

The diner was probably the place to go, and he could get himself fed up before he went grocery shopping, so he wasn't shopping hungry. Decision made, he rambled down the sidewalk on the way to the diner, garnering looks and glances all the way. Paranoia wasn't paranoia if someone really was out to get him, and he was starting to wonder. He was tempted to start waving at the nosy bastards as maniacally as possible. It'd at least be new, and they'd all have something to stare about.

The bell on the door jingled as he went in, and he thought maybe conversation dimmed, too. Doris was there, though, smiling and picking up her pad. "Hey, there, Graham. Figured we'd be seeing you before the day was up."

"I like being predictable." He sat down at the bar, a nice comfortable space where he could sort of survey things and feel separated at the same time. It drew less attention than if he'd grabbed a table and sat by himself there. "Are you guys doing chicken fried steak and biscuits today?" There was a lot of comfort food in the world, and rather than demanding his childhood comfort food from people who wouldn't be able to make it worth a damn, it was better to eat their comfort food.

Didn't mean he wasn't lonely for grits now and then.

"Every Tuesday." She scribbled down his usual order and pushed it up in the window. "Order up, Johnny. You gonna want pie with that, Graham?" Not that she was paying a whole lot of attention just yet. She was too busy getting him a glass of water, because damned if he was going to drink tea anywhere but home.

"Yeah. What have you got?" He leaned his elbows on the counter top, looking around, peering over his shoulder. "So, I seem to be the in town sideshow this week, more than usual."

Doris peeked into the cold storage where the pie was stored. "Look like we've got strawberry rhubarb, blueberry and.... peanut butter silk." She stood up. "I wouldn't worry about anybody getting a little twitchy. Sylvia's Tripper dragged up somebody's gourd a few days ago. Everybody's a little on edge. They've sent up a guy from the Vegas crime lab to take a look around."

"Ah. Am I a prime suspect yet? And, uh, Peanut butter silk, please." He liked the rich, cheap tastes that would make Hannibal's skin crawl. There was something honest about food that was crap for him.

"Honey." She sat the pie down in front of him. "You and half a dozen others. I wouldn't worry about it, though. Everybody who's new into town in the last ten years is pretty much under suspicion."

Somebody called her name, and Doris waved a hand at him, heading over to check on her other customers. It was a little before three, so things would undoubtedly get busier.

It was a case of foul play, then, or no one would've looked sideways at the not purely local enough locals. Will just peered around again, and then decided to bide his time until food arrived, sip his water and write out his grocery list in his head.

The door started to jingle steadily while he waited, and Johnny yelled at Doris a couple of times. She picked up plates, took them where they belonged, and finally dropped off his chicken fried steak, biscuits, potato salad scooped off to the side, and green beans. One of the comforting things about being predictable was that he never had to worry anybody would try to feed him Brussels sprouts or anything. Not like the Jackpot diner ever served Brussels sprouts, but it was good to know he'd never have to worry about eating them anyway. Nothing fancy. Just good, decent meat, a nice fry up, biscuits that were just buttery, salty, and fluffy enough to satisfy him. It was a nice distraction from the quiet background murmurs. Mostly it was town gossip, from some party the Hardisons had thrown over the weekend to the head that Tripper had dragged out of some hole somewhere.

Maybe even literally.

The door jingled again, and the diner got quiet. Had to be a sign. Must be the guy from Vegas.

Half the place turned to look, and Will did, too, trying to catch sight of the incoming guy. He should've come down to town sooner, done it that morning. Just never been so damn predictable.

The light made it hard to see him all that well right at first, backlighting him so that Will blinked before the guy moved forward, slipping through tables and coming to the counter. He took the stool next to Will's and tossed him a grin. "Hi."

That hadn't been his plan, but Will was going to roll with it. "Hi. You're new."

The guy grinned at him. "Around here? Yeah. You noticed." He held out his hand. "Greg Sanders. I'm with the Crime Scene unit in Vegas."

"Yeah, Doris just mentioned you were in town. I'm Will." He glanced at the guy's hand for a second, and then shook it firmly.

"Graham?" Will felt his stomach sink. "Yeah. I've heard you were in town. The hermit in the woods. To tell you the truth, I got kind of excited hoping that you'd be, you know. You. I read your standard monograph on determining time of death by insect activity when I was in grad school." He looked a little sheepish. "I've still got a copy of it. If I'd known I'd be running into you, I'd have brought it up to get you to sign it."

It'd been a while since anyone had brought that up, and Will felt off kilter, startled, still holding onto the guy's hand. Sanders. Greg Sanders. "Wow, uh. I should have known a CSI might know me, but I still never expect it."

"Yeah, well. Considering some of the interesting things I've heard around here, I think I might need to ask your professional opinion before it's all said and done." The grin he got was bright, a funnily sharp triangle like something out of a cartoon.

"I help the sheriff out from time to time. Since this is the first I'm hearing about it, today, and he knows where to find me, I suspect that my professional opinion is going to conflict with some of the things you've heard around here today." He twisted a little, started to pull apart a biscuit.

Sanders nodded slowly. "Yeah. I've heard a lot of pretty interesting suppositions around here. Not much by way of hard evidence, but... We did find a body to go with the head, and there were plenty of bugs around. I've got 'em in my SUV."

"Body have a wallet?" Will asked, sitting up a little. "I'd like to look at the insect activity once I finish dinner. The food's pretty good here."

"I've noticed." The kid tipped him a grin. "The biscuits are kinda fantastic. More Atlanta than weird Vegas diner, which is always a plus. I had this friend whose folks used to go to Florida for vacation, some little beach with a funny name. And they'd eat nowhere except Waffle House for the entire trip. It was a little freaky, hearing how much they loved it."

"Waffle House? That's sort of... the antithesis of what you're supposed to do on a vacation." He still hadn't answered the question about the body having a wallet or not, which made Will feel a little more inclined to respect the kid's professionalism. He was smooth about deflecting questions into an ongoing investigation.

Sanders shook his head, and Doris made her way behind the counter. "Well, hello there again. You interested in anything in particular today, CSI guy?"

"What he's having looks pretty good." He eyed Will's plate. "I mean, I don't think it'll kill me. Today, anyway."

"It's my once a week treat. Eaten sparingly, you should hang on." Sanders looked like he could use it, a little extra padding on him. He probably left bruises behind when he....

"Once a week. Rumor has it you only come to town on Tuesdays. Seems like a pretty lonely way to live. By yourself, one trip to town a week." He shrugged. "People talk. Like. A lot. And I'm curious. It's not so much digging for information as being nosy, I guess."

He wasn't asked about why he did it very often. "I spend a lot of time in research, and if I didn't have a set day to come into town, I might skip off on getting my mail entirely for weeks at a shot."

Snorting, Sanders took the glass of water Doris brought him. "I'd like to forget that I have to check my mail. I'm pretty sure if I did, Nick'd find out about it and harass me to do the responsible thing and go get it. He's kind of my boss, and also my friend. Before he started being kind of my boss, I mean. Which is weird, I admit, but still how it is." He cleared his throat. "Sorry. I get a little...."

It was hard not to smile, using the side of his fork to cut into his dinner. "It's all right. You get nervous, and talking over top of it is actually a smart reaction."

The kid laughed, and it was nice to hear. It made Will warm up a little, and that was dangerous. He didn't need to find anything attractive about anybody, much less CSI Greg Sanders. "Pretty much. I mean, you're kind of iconic in our field."

"Iconic?" He struck his fork through green beans, trying to eat carefully. "That wasn't my personal goal at any point. I just had a number of high profile cases." And a blood transfusion of a non-medical nature.

"And then you disappeared." There was something a little sharp about that, a curiosity that wasn't quite what it appeared to be. "I'm guessing some of the things I've been hearing have something to do with that."

Doris put down a plate in front of him. She was giving him a sharp look, the kind that would make most grown men feel like sheepish little boys. "Honey. Why don't you eat? You look like you could use a few pounds put on."

"I was tired of being a personal target for every large scale serial killer the FBI handled. Sometimes, a person has to disappear to stay safe." But smart, damn the kid was smart. Sanders, not kid. Just Sanders. He could almost see Greg honing his responses in his head, misplaced case of hero worship or not.

"I can see where that would be true. Especially when you're responsible for bringing in some of the most famous serial killers of all time." Sanders started cutting up his steak, and Will finished off his biscuit. "I can't imagine how tough that would be."

"I still do consulting," Will shrugged. He was quickly finishing off his steak, but his manners had sort of always been, well. Normal, he supposed. "So, we've had an actual murder in town for crime scene investigators to be here."

Sanders nodded, forking a bite and glancing over. "Yep. It was pretty interesting. Got the head in a bucket back at the office. If you've got time, I'll show you the bugs. There weren't any unusual ones, but still. It's pretty interesting."

Pretty interesting. He completely thought Will was a suspect then. Will smirked, and smushed around the potato salad before eating a little. "He can't have been up there long, or I would've noticed." One of the things about being what he was involved a phenomenal sense of smell. If the guy had been dead over a week or two, Will could have sniffed him out ten miles away.

That seemed to perk his attention. "Yeah? Why is that, exactly?"

"I think you know why." He lifted an eyebrow at Sanders.

"But you haven't told me why. Rumor's only conjecture until it's backed up by evidence or some kind of statement from a primary source, Graham." There was that grin again, and he ate another piece of steak before forking into his own potato salad.

"By the time a carcass is a week old, I can smell it from my cabin. I've got a nine to ten mile range, and I know that because I'm a forensic scientist armed with a GPS."

Sanders swallowed and reached for his water glass. "So the rumors are true. Not the ones here. The ones you see online in some of the more.... speculative stuff if you're reading about him." Him, stressed, but no names.

It was obvious. Will sipped at his water, and tried to focus on not mimicking the person he was interacting with. It had used to drive Jack mad, and sometimes, still did. "Oh yes. That rumor is true. There might be others that are true, too. I've got internet, but I tend not to indulge my more morbid interests like that."

"Yeah. It's a morbid interest. I'm generally not morbid, but sometimes I surf the web when I can't sleep, and I have my more stupid moments." Sanders licked the grease off of his lips. "I don't want to rope you into anything but... it sounds like you have some pretty useful skills."

"One could call them that." He swapped plates for pie, licking his fork clean first.

"I'm gonna be looking for a car. The guy had to have gotten up here somehow, and for some reason, nobody seems to remember a strange vehicle lying around."

"Whoever killed him might have dropped it off a cliff. Driven it off. Or hidden it in a copse of trees." The next question was going to be about whether he could find it, and maybe he could. The sheriff had used him to find lost hikers before, but there was a reason why he hadn't been brought on board.

He was a suspect, probably because of what he was. Small towns were nice for a lot of reasons, and bad for a lot of the same ones. "There's only one road in and out of town, and I'm pretty sure he was heading back to WLVU when he left. I wouldn't mind another set of eyes." Sanders grinned, then licked his fork clean. "I get the feeling I'm kind of persona non grata around here. Might as well keep going."

"That's one way to do it," Will murmured, taking his time to eat his pie, slower than his food had gone. "It's a small town, and small towns have their issues."

Sanders -- Greg -- laughed. "That's what you see on TV, anyway. I grew up on the west coast. San Gabriel, LA County. I've lived in New York and Vegas, but I've never spent a lot of time any place smaller. Maybe I should."

"After years in the DC beltway, and New Orleans, this is uh," Will laughed, "something else. I still get blamed for every missing house pet in the area, though."

"If they're anything like the ancient stinky dachshund Auntie Vilja used to keep who tried to eat everybody who came to visit? Nobody could blame you for it." He polished off his potato salad with a flourish and started eyeing Doris near the pie shelves. "Is that any good?"

"Yeah. The dessert here has been consistently good, and the side dishes. Steak sometimes turns out a little funny, but I'm not going to hold it against the only place in town."

"Probably a good idea. Hey, Doris?" Huh. He knew her name. "Have any of that pie left?"

She came over from the register. "Still have peanut butter silk and strawberry rhubarb. Which one you want?"

"Strawberry rhubarb. It sounds like fun." Sanders turned and looked at Will straight on. "So. You up to coming with me this afternoon?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I'll give it a shot." Will broke the crust apart, moving slowly.

He was getting to like that smile way too much. "Awesome. I'll show you the bugs. After pie."

"I could handle bugs and pie together," Will grinned back, dawdling a little. "But, for you, we can put it off a little."

"I appreciate that. I'm not sure the bugs would put me off pie, but blood does sometimes. I'm not expecting any blood, but that doesn't mean there won't be any there."

Doris put the plate down in front of him, and dropped both of their tickets down. "Well, the conversation does seem to be lacking in this direction. Blood? Try not to put everybody else off their lunch, honey."

"Isn't that what you usually say to me?" Will reached for Greg's ticket before he grabbed his own. Food there was cheap enough for how edible it was, and he'd leave a good tip.

"Yeah, but I have a new guy to hassle now." She waved a hand and headed off to answer somebody else.

Sanders pulled out his wallet and tossed down a ten before digging into the pie. "I appreciate it, too. So. Need to do anything before we head out to look for the car?"

Will reached into his own pocket, and fished out the rest, to leave Greg's as a tip. "Nope. I'll get my groceries later. Store's open till nine."

"Real late night. I'm gonna step outside, make a couple of phone calls. See if there's anything new at the lab. See you in a few?"

"All right." Call the home office; probably see if there were any more results, if the people more plugged in than Greg was just then could find something on the case. Will was familiar with the territory, enough to know what that conversation would be like. The guy was a college student, but not a local. That was interesting.

He watched Sanders walk out, and most of the rest of the diner was eyeballing him that hard or harder. Will dropped his money with Greg's and headed for the bathroom to piss and wash his hands before they headed out.

It was good to get out of there even as the food settled comfortably. He didn't like to be stared at, and it left him feeling amped up and nervous, like he wanted to run in circles. Maybe going with Greg Sanders would be a waste of time, but it would get that out of his system. Plus, it was interesting. Not because there was a dead body missing its head involved, but because Sanders seemed like he was trusting him with something despite what he'd heard.

Maybe that wasn't true. Maybe it was. Either way, it was a break in the continuity of his life, and Will was up for that.

"Yes, Nick. I know it's a bad idea to take candy from strangers, all right?" Seriously. Huge mancrush for years or no huge mancrush for years, when Nick treated him like he was his baby brother, it kind of solved that problem.

~"I know you know. I just don't want you getting yourself hurt. How do you know he's not a suspect? He's the kind of thing that might draw a university student way up to the hills,"~ Nick pointed out.

"Don't you ever have a feeling about anything, Nicky? Besides. There's something about this place. Everybody's suspicious, and kind of paranoid. Or maybe that's just me. I'll be fine. I'm not gonna end up dead in a ditch someplace." He paused, and he couldn't help smirking. "Next time I ask to go out to the boonies, I'll let you lojack me."

~"It makes me nervous. Has the sheriff found the victim's car yet?"~ That was a good question.

"He's not looking. Graham's going to help me go looking. It was recruit, or wander the countryside by myself, and you haven't had a chance get me chipped yet. At least now you'll know I had company when I went out."

~"Great. CSI last seen with either a world renowned forensics analyst, or someone imitating one,"~ Nick drawled. ~"I'll put it in the APB. You gonna call me back tonight? And maybe sleep sometime in there?"~

"Maybe. Considering I'm sleeping at the vet's office when I catch a nap...." He rolled his head, neck cracking loudly. "I'll definitely call you when I find the car."

~"Right. I'll call you when the body shows up and Doc gets to it,"~ he promised. ~"Good luck. If the rumors are right..."~

"The rumors are right. He admits it. But that doesn't make him guilty, Nicky."

~"I wasn't saying he was guilty,"~ Nick blurted. ~"Just. Be careful, like you would be in the zoo."~

He couldn't help snorting. "I'll make sure I stay out of reach of his teeth, Stokes. Thanks for the advice. Call you tonight. And thanks for letting me know what kind of car I'm looking for."

~"My pleasure. I'll see you soon."~ Nick hung up, and Greg was left just by himself. Seriously. Sometimes they treated him like he was twelve, and still dancing around with showgirl headgear on his head. One of these days, he might even call them on it. It just wasn't going to be today.

He opened up the SUV and pulled out the specimen jars he wanted to show Graham, who came striding out of the diner, hands tucked into his pockets. He moved languidly, still pretty bow legged, though there was a slight lightening of his eyes when he saw the specimen jars. "Are you going to feed them?"

"Well. I haven't yet. Only got them yesterday, so I figured I'd go by the grocery store, see if hamburger meat was good enough." Graham piqued Greg's curiosity, in more ways than one.

"Beef jerky is generally good. I've used cheap steaks, too, or tough cuts -- hamburger is usually treated with all sorts of interesting chemical solutions that can kill them." Graham reached for one of the jars. "Mmm, he's been out there four, five days, then?"

"Give or take. That's what we're figuring, from the looks of the head when it got to us. They used formaldehyde, so we couldn't run DNA tests. I found a receipt in the pocket when he found the body. Pretty sure it was a student at WLVU. The lab's following up on the lead." Greg let him have the one with the beetle. "Wanna take a trip to the grocery store with me, then?"

"I was headed that way eventually." He pointed to a little place not too far down the main road. "That's it there."

They wouldn't even really need the truck, but if they took it, then they could just keep going from there. "Come on. We'll head out to search for the car once we've fed these guys."

Things felt easy, normal, even if he had to try not to be too much of a fanboy, because Will Graham was the ultimate lab guy turned awesome field guy, and while he hadn't been processing DNA, he'd been a tech like Hodges once upon a forever. It was effortless to fall into step beside him, even if the guy felt a little wound up. Obviously he was going to walk down, so what the hell. It wasn't a big deal.

It would just kind of slow him down a little. Hopefully, that had nothing to do with the two of them heading out to find the car.

"So. How long have you been here in Jackpot?"

"Seven years or so. The cabin was one of my uncles', and I've done a lot of work on it." Will was at least moving fast, and he pulled open the door that seemed to be mislabeled push.

Greg followed him inside, and that got him some interesting looks from the clerk. Huh. Apparently hanging out with a werewolf was the kind of thing that tarred a man with a certain kind of brush in this town. "That's interesting. Family's interesting, really, and how it scatters out. Most of my people are from Minnesota and the like, but my folks were tired of being snowed in every year, so we're those weirdoes who live in the land of sun and bikinis."

"Uncle Willard was tired of getting flooded, hurricaned, you name it, and went to higher ground. He was a fiction writer, and he found the area inspiring, apparently. Sort of like Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County." And how much more out of the way could a werewolf get, and lower his likelihood of being shot?

Greg thought about that for about a second. "Huh. Only thing I remember about Faulkner is 'A Rose for Miss Emily'. You know. Corpse in the bedroom and all. Your uncle do all right with the writing thing?" They lingered along the meat display, Will eyeballing the different cuts.

"Yeah, he did. Then he died of AIDS." God knew what Will was thinking, while he reached for a cut of steak that looked cheap, but also one solid piece of meat.

"Well that sucks." Sucked a lot, Greg figured, but maybe he'd been happy. There was a lot to say for happiness. "Left you the cabin, though."

"My mother and I were the only ones who were still talking to him at the end." Will's mouth twitched a little. "One outcast to another. I think this will be good for the little bugs."

Awesome. "Then let's get a move on. It'll be nice having help, but I've only got three days before I have to head back to Vegas."

"Three days to solve a case. That sounds familiar." Will started towards the checkout, moving fast for a guy that bowlegged. Greg grabbed a pack of Nutter Butter cookies on his way past and headed after him quickly.

The cashier looked at him with obvious curiosity, and he laid the cookies down right next to the meat, tugging out his wallet before Will could. "Hi. We're feeding bugs," he explained, as if that would make any kind of difference.

"I learned to never ask about what Mr. Graham buys. These are kind of lean groceries this week." The cashier was still looking curious.

"I'll swing by tomorrow for real food."

"Which'll be more than steak and peanut butter cookies," Greg offered. "I'll be by sometime later for something microwaveable." Anything that he could nuke in the middle of the night while he worked on whatever evidence they found.

She ran them through quickly. Will let him pay, and lifted eyebrows at him as they headed for the door. "So, do you have a particular plan for finding the car?"

Greg shot him a look. "I was thinking about getting in the SUV and driving along the road out of town to see what I can see." He took the plastic bag she handed him and headed for the door. "I'm not sure what else we can do. Look for disturbed places, see if there's a scene where the car is."

"Well, the car's going to be more limited in where it can go than a person would be." Will headed towards the car with him. "Or we can drive up to the road, you can drop me off, and I can see what I'd find."

That caught his attention. "How's that?"

"You're looking for a college student's car. There's going to be food in it, or wrappers. I'll be able to find it," Graham told him, waiting for Greg to unlock the door. He hit the remote, and the car unlocked, the lights flashing twice to let him know.

"That has got to be so cool." Maybe not something he'd wanted. Not something he'd expected. But cool.

"It has its benefits," Graham declared as he slid into the passenger seat. "I am my own personal scent hound."

There was something that just sounded so wrong about that, but it was also kind of damn awesome. "Well hopefully we'll manage to find something. I hate to leave without getting some kind of answer, you know? I mean, the guy's just in college. He's got parents somewhere, and they deserve answers."

The thought of his own folks made him determined to find some. His mom was wildly overprotective, but they loved him. That was how things worked with parents. Greg didn't feel like he could just hand things over without some kind of answers.

He wanted to be able to provide answers -- who, a why from the killer, no matter how twisted. He was pretty sure burying someone standing up, alive, was twisted. "They do deserve answers." Will buckled his seat belt. "Let's go see if we can find some."

Fumbling with the keys, Greg slotted it into the ignition and started the SUV. "Let's do that."

They were at least going to do their best to get some answers.

Nick leaned back, glancing at the mess in the room. They'd made sense from the receipt Greggo had found in their dead guy's pocket -- mostly freshman texts, except for one. Chiaroscuro Theory and Technique was upper level, sophomore most likely. It had made it easy to find Ross Jensen, and his room from there.

He just kept forgetting that these kids had roommates. This guy looked about as helpful as nothing to Nick. "Eric Brooks? We're here about your roommate."

The guy blinked at the two of them, looking like he'd spent too much time wasted, and it was only Wednesday. "Um. He's not here."

"Yeah, well," Jim offered. "We're still looking for him, and this is a pretty good place to start. Mind if we come inside?

Eric stepped back to let them inside. "Uh. I guess?"

The joy of working a scene with Jim was that statement there was enough for Jim to take as a yes or a no, and mostly he took it as a yes. Nick moved into the room and started looking around, checking to see if there was anything that might be evidentiary. "Great. When was the last time you saw Ross?"

"Uh, I actually haven't even seen him since last Friday. I had Weezer tickets, and we were supposed to go, but he, uh, he blew me off." The guy was looking around, checking to see if there was anything out that he wouldn't want cops seeing.

That made it hilariously easy to spot his pot stash when the guy looked over at it himself. "Well, that happens sometimes," Nick said agreeably. When a guy was dead, it was damn hard to show up to concerts. "It's been almost a week, though. You didn't report him missing?"

Eric shrugged self-consciously. "Well. Yeah. He's an art student. You know. He goes off a lot, sometimes for days. I've been studying my ass off for this American History midterm but... uh. You're welcome to look around."

Jim made a speculative noise as he saw the pot stash, too, and Nick turned, kept looking, left the scaring the shit out of the guy to Brass. He'd been one scary boss back in the day, and he was a scary homicide detective now.

"That... that's not mine. I mean. I don't know what that is." Yeah. Jim still had it, all right. The guy was probably pissing his pants a little.

"Look, I'm here about a homicide. Your roommate's." That had to sting. Nick started to peer at the shoe pile, spotting the ones that were crudded up with leaf litter.

The guy at least had the guts to look startled about it. "Ross is dead? I mean... but I just saw him a few days ago!"

"And he's still dead. So, do you know what Ross might've been doing up in Elko county?"

The guy shrugged. "I guess. He liked the scenery up there. Yanno. Artist."

"Did he have any friends up that way? Buddy he crashed out with?" Nick asked, picking up the boots with a gloved hand before he reached for an evidence bag. "Are these Ross's?"

"I guess. I mean, I don't know if he stayed with anybody or what. He usually had a sleeping bag, I guess."

"Right. Which computers in here are Ross's? We're going to need to take them as part of our investigation," Nick said, still looking for other items, other things that needed to go with them.

"Uh. Yeah. Okay. That one. Take whatever you need." So long as they got out of the room, it was all good, and suspicious as hell, Nick decided.

Jim was watching him move towards the laptop, photographing it quickly, and he must've caught on something on Nick's face. "So, you've never been up to Jackpot yourself, Eric?"

The way he licked his lips said it all. "I'm, uh. I'm from there. I mean. My dad's still there. I don't go up much. Busy here, you know."

"Yeah? Your dad got a name?" That was a hell of a not at all coincidence, Nick decided, letting Brass do the grilling. He was going to have to call Greg and update him.

"Leland. Leland Brooks." And the sheriff was named Brooks, too. Nick was from a pretty big city, but he still knew how things worked in small towns. Didn't matter if they were in the deep South or in Nevada, they were still small towns.

"All right. Don't leave town, okay? Nick, you let me know when you've got what you need for the lab." Brass didn't have enough to haul the kid in for questioning, and maybe it was the wrong tree, but it was too convenient, and he was gonna bet that Eric had at least introduced Ross to the area.

"Mind if I take the shoes?" Nick drawled, already opening a bag. The kid wasn't about to say no to them, not about anything. He was too nervous about the pot.

Eric licked his lips. "Sure. They're his. He's not gonna complain now."

"Good. We'll finish up here, and leave you to it." To what, Nick didn't know. But they'd work the room, pull out, and call Greg.

He'd appreciate whatever they found out. Maybe it would even set him on the right track.

Sanders was staring while Will stripped off his shirt, and took off his shoes. The pants would fall off, but shirts were oddly problematic, and wolves just didn't wear shirts well. He was generally hoping Greg would think to pick up his pants, because he wasn't going to ask the stupid obvious question.

"So." Sanders was watching him, curiosity blatantly stamped on his face. "I've gotta ask. Does this hurt?"

"Yes. It hurts like I have no words for, but the endorphins are... amazing. And the body heals. I'm stronger than I ever was, ironically." Will stretched first, and unbuckled his belt, popped the top buttons.

He could tell when Greg's lips parted, a kind of anticipation that shivered across the air between them. "It sounds like it sucks. And also like it's the coolest thing ever."

"At the same time." Will stretched his shoulders again, and then reached for an infuriating thought or two. It was easy, ridiculously, which was different than how it had been at first. Now he'd had time to practice, to hone it, to pull up the thought that no one had realized how Hannibal was so fast and strong and yet as old as he was, and that there was a kid who'd been dead in the hills and he hadn't caught on to it, and someone in town or someone who knew the town had done it. Just enough thought to piss him off so that when the shift started it didn't stop. It flowed, bones shifting, skin shrinking, stretching, bones stretching, fur all over.

"Jesus." It was a breath of sound, a curse, a blessing, amazement and terror all wrapped up in one. "That's something you don't see every day."

He didn't run, even though Will could smell it on him -- the incontestable urge to run that was at the core of any human's makeup when a wolf of Will's size came into sight. Never mind turned and looked at him, tongue lolling out to taste the air. That was nice. He inhaled, sniffling, and wandered over towards Greg to nudge his leg and say hello before he ran off sniffing hard. Sometimes it just felt good to socialize, in more ways than one.

He heard Sanders yell behind him, but he kept on the trail. He could smell something that didn't belong -- disturbed dust and wood, oil, somewhere. Someplace along the way, and he stopped to look back for Greg, who was running behind him flat-out, but not even close to keeping up.

Four feet always beat two.

He waited a beat, and then took off again, racing, racing himself, racing his best time, racing, racing towards the smell. When he got closer, he could smell soured coffee, and he could smell a little oil leak, and there was the Cooperman Barn up ahead, so he stopped and sat on his haunches, watching for Greg.

After a few minutes, he came running up, slowing down and putting both hands on his knees, panting. "Seriously. I've been... working in a lab for years. If... If Nick saw this? He'd make me go running.... three, four times a week. With him. And he'd kick my ass at it."

Will wandered in closer, circling Greg's legs and whining. Sweat smelled too damn good, and he wanted to go foraging for small snacks, squirrels, things. Anything that was good, and Greg reached down, scruffed the back of his neck gently. "Got your clothes." He waved them with his other arm in a vague sort of way. "In case you wanna help out and, you know. Not run around naked."

Damn, damn that was tempting. And so was staying in his state, because it was comfortable, it was easy, it was free of restrictions. He circled around Greg again, though, and nudged his thigh before he laid down a few feet away.

"Have it your way." Greg tossed him a grin, and then folded Will's clothes and set them on a nearby rock. "Just in case you change your mind."

Well, that didn't work the way he'd wanted, but it was hard to get it across in dog gestures that he needed them laid down. Generally he could crawl back into his pants and then he'd at least come back partially clothed. Or, neatly folded on a rock. Well, he'd wait until Greg was around the corner and join him. There was just no running around in circles outside as long as the locals were looking for a killer. Maybe especially as long as the locals were looking for a killer and suspecting anybody who hadn't been in town since birth. Particularly when everybody in town also knew he was a werewolf.

Greg was heading towards the barn, peering into the barn. He yelled, a sort of joy, and moved around the corner. "Hey! You found it! At least I'm pretty sure this is it. I mean, it could be somebody else's...."

The likelihood of two cars ditched in the same crummy area? Unlikely. Will wandered over to the rocks, nudging the clothes around so his pants were easily reachable. Sanders kept yelling. "Seriously. I have no idea how they managed to get the car in here. It's like the whole place was shut up from the inside. Not that I can't see in, or get in, but it's kind of weird, right? Hey. Are you coming?"

Damn, damn. He focused, lying down for a moment to enjoy that calm happy feeling before he decompressed, unfurled, fur pulling into itself as he started to shift back to human. It hurt, not half as fun as being a wolf, with all of the focus and none of the too familiar human distractions like forethought.

"I think I see a way to get in." He heard wood banging and then a yelp, and he almost ran over there without his pants on. Then he heard Sanders laugh, and heard another bang of wood. "Yeah!"

"Hold on, I'm coming!" He stepped back into his shoes, shrugging his shirt on quick as he could. "So, that's the car?"

"Yeah. I think so. It's got out of state tags, Utah. I didn't really register that there was anybody living in Utah that wasn't Mormon. You know, never mind an art student. Hey." Greg stuck his head out of the barn. "Nice to see you again."

Will ran a hand through his hair, still feeling disoriented, like his muscles were all stretched out. Running like that left him feeling like he'd done a full body workout. "Hi. Sometimes it takes me a minute to get my head together. So, we've got Utah and we've got suspicious placement, because I know the family that owns this land doesn't use it."

"I'd say that nobody's stupid enough to use their own land to hide evidence but the truth of the matter is a little different than I'd like for it to be." He was looking at Will speculatively. If he didn't know any better, Will would consider that to be attraction. "Whose land is...?"

The distant whoop whoop whoop of a car alarm startled Will, and he took off towards it, moving fast. He shifted halfway around the edge of the barn, tripped out of his clothes, and barreled fast down the hill he'd used as a shortcut in the first place. Downhill was faster than uphill, and car alarm meant someone was breaking into Greg's vehicle because there weren't any other cars rolling around out there unless someone had smashed their car into Greg's parked SUV. Mr. Grayson, the town drunk, seldom got his ass out of bed and unsober that early in the day.

It wasn't that far, but the roads were twisty in these parts. By the time he got there, he could smell a hot engine, the oil, the transmission fluid. He could even smell the tires, but they were gone, out of sight by then. His ears picked up the sound of the vehicle, and it was moving faster than he'd be able to catch, despite having four feet on solid ground.


He circled the car, dancing around shattered glass from a broken window, and sniffed at the air around him. Damn, he couldn't see what was gone, and he didn't want to leave paw prints on the side if he stood up to check.

Will paced back up towards the hill to meet Greg and escort him back to his car. Hopefully he'd have Will's clothes with him. Otherwise, he'd have to run up and fetch those, too, and the thought of that was at least a little amusing considering the circumstances.

Sanders was maybe a third of the way back from the barn when he ran into him, clothes in one hand, bustling steadily towards the road. "Uh. That is you, right?" He eyeballed Will nervously. "Because I'm pretty sure I'd be kibble if it wasn't, so. Yeah. What happened?"

He wasn't going to shift back just to explain when a quick walk would take care of it. He was hungry, and pie hadn't been enough for three changes like that, bam, bam, bam. Will nudged Greg's leg, and started to trot back towards the truck, where the car alarm was still whooping.

"Right, okay, I get it. This is your way of telling me you aren't willing to get naked for my prurient enjoyment. Not a problem." He hurried a little faster, and Will slowed down so that they were keeping pace. "I can see I need to take up running to be able to keep up with you."

He huruffed, and pranced ahead for just a pace or two before he waited for Greg again. They would be back to the car in a decent speed, and the damage was obvious. Someone had driven up, and smashed out the SUV's window, and done who knew what else to it. The curiosity had been difficult to resist, but he'd managed it somehow.

They finally made their way to the road, and Sanders cursed pretty fluently for someone who hadn't spent far too much time with Jack Crawford. "Seriously? Seriously?" He stormed over to the vehicle and cursed again, a veritable blue streak. "They walked off with my kit!"

Field kit. Will could help with that, and he was tired, bone sore, or he would've said so. He circled around Greg's legs, whining.

Greg reached up, rubbed his face with both hands. "Fantastic." He sighed. "Okay. I'm going to stand here and be pissed at the fact that I left my kit in my car like a moron. That should give you time to change and get dressed." He dropped them in a pile on the hood of the truck.

Will circled towards them and shifted. It was ragged, took longer than the last time, left him feeling shaky and thin while he started to pull his pants on first. There was no question as far as Will was concerned about where the myth of Wendigo had come from. "Well, you don't expect a smash and grab up here."

"Hell. There isn't anybody around here to smash and grab." Greg cursed again. "And half the town probably heard me talking to the sheriff about looking for the damn car. Hell, even if they didn't, it'd be all over town within half an hour."

Will pulled his shirt on, and started to fish in his maligned pants pockets for his phone. "I'll call state troopers to come up and secure the scene. I have at least a kit's worth of equipment at my cabin. You can report the crime, if you think it'll help."

"Not likely." His voice was clipped, short. "I figure it's probably the sheriff. There's something he's hiding, and it's been obvious. I just haven't had any proof to back it up."

"He didn't ask for my help," Will told Greg, "And usually, for most anything up in the hills, he does. I thought I was possibly officially a suspect, and that's why I hadn't heard anything about it until I came into town."

Greg shook his head. "No. It's not you. But I'd bet it's somebody he knows. Somebody he owes something or...."

"Sheriff Brooks owes no one anything." Will took one last look around, straightening himself out while he started to call the local state troopers' office.

"If this was a movie, somebody'd point out that he's got blood -- relatives." Sanders had the keys. He turned off the alarm and unlocked the SUV, despite the fact that it was already wide open for all intents and purposes.

"Actually," Will drawled, "he's got a brother. Our territories cross. C'mon, let's go. We can get a kit together for you, and try this again."

"Territories?" That caught his attention, even when he was walking around to the other side of the truck, opening the driver's side door. "His brother's a werewolf?"

"Yes. I keep away from him, both ways. It's, uh --- oh, yes, good morning Lt. Mackum. It's Will Graham." He pulled the door open, and slowly slid into the passenger side. "Vegas CSI has got a crime scene under investigation, and his car's been broken into. We have reason to believe someone locally is trying to tamper with evidence. Great. Could you send a car up to the old Cooperman's barn?" He talked with Mackum for a minute, giving him the information in short order, and then hanging up. Greg was watching him speculatively, still standing in the open door.

"Funny. Half the town seemed to mutter about wolves when the head issue came up. It's a small town. Do they all know about the two of you?" Funny that Greg didn't ask why they kept away from one another, but maybe not. He was pretty bright, so he had to have figured it out.

"In that dirty town secret way, yeah," Will drawled. "This town is full of them. Fire chief's an arsonist. Sheriff's brother is a werewolf. Doris owns the diner, and her ex-husband still knocks her around when he gets drunk and lonely. You don't need to live in the deep South to live in a southern style novel."

That got a laugh, and Greg slid into the truck, slotting the keys into the ignition and cranking it. "So basically I should be reading Faulkner to bone up on what's going on around here, then. Are there any shortcuts? I mean, maybe I could watch Steel Magnolias or something instead."

"That'd help. I think your car just experienced the car smashing scene from Fried Green Tomatoes to add to the ambiance." Will settled in. "There should be a road up on the left to take."

"Seriously? There's only one road in and out of town on the map."

Will smirked. "That's on the map. This is a dirt road. It'll circle out to my place."

"Yeah?" He had Greg's attention. "And we're heading to your place... why again?"

"I have everything that you could've had in your kit, and if I don't eat something after swapping back and forth like that, my stomach is going to implode. You can pillage my supplies while I eat and then we'll drive back to the barn." He'd even have a plastic bag and duct tape, so they could seal off Greg's back window, ghetto style.

"Food that isn't enough to send me into cardiac arrest?" Greg was teasing him, but he was also interested. He looked damn tired, too. "That sounds like a pretty good plan. Let's go get your stuff." He put the SUV in gear.

Once Greg made the turn and started to navigate up the mostly drivable road, Will asked, "When was the last time you slept?"

"Uh...." That was never a good sign. "Day or so ago. Why?"

"Because you look as tired as hell. Do you want to crash on my couch for a couple of hours?"

Sanders seemed interested. Hell. He'd napped on a hell of a lot of couches in his time. He knew how it felt. "Maybe. After we take your kit back to the car?"

"All right. I know a workaholic when I meet one." The road was straight and easy, curving off, the odd branching side road trailing off towards other properties. Abandoned houses, old stills. It really was a hell of a lot like living in Louisiana minus the alligators, and maybe guys named Boudreaux.

"Once upon a time, I knew how to enjoy time to myself." He turned on the blinker when he saw the mailbox up the way, and turned left down Will's driveway. "I'll be glad to get a nap after we have the evidence. It's a good thing I sent most of the rest of it back yesterday night."

"Chain of custody's been broken on whatever was still in your kit, so..." Will waited for him to park, and only then unbuckled his seat belt.

"So I'm going to be really pissed for a hell of a long time when this case is done."

"Yeah. Your people will have more information for you tonight, right? And you can see how far it gets you then." Will fished his keys out, stepping up onto his porch. Greg was dragging along behind him, and he wondered if Sanders hadn't been sleepless for longer than a day.

It wasn't like there was any place to stay in Jackpot. Hanging out at Doc Sterling's place couldn't qualify for sleep.

Greg tossed him a smile. "They should have something. Hodges is a pain in the ass, but he's pretty good. Doc Robbins will have more."

"Good. It's a shame that you're working on a twenty-four hour delay with this case." He stepped in, and held the door for Greg. The rawhide bone just inside the door was a little embarrassing, but other than that, it wasn't too bad in there.

"Thanks." Close on Will's heels, he stepped inside, looked around. "Nice place."

"It's home. I've done a lot of work on it." Will stretched a little as he headed towards the kitchen. "Please pillage whatever you need for the kit."

"Which direction do you keep it hiding?" Greg was looking around, curious and bright-eyed considering how tired he had to be. "Wow. I like the skylight. Must be amazing up here at night."

"It is. Makes star watching in winter shockingly comfortable. Uh, door on the left is the 'lab'." He opened his fridge door, and pulled out jelly for a sandwich.

Curiosity was obviously one of the finer points of Greg's life, because he automatically turned in that direction and went to open the door. "Wow. This is pretty impressive for something you'd have at home. It's probably pretty impressive for any kind of local law enforcement."

"It lets me do my research on my own time. If I want to run in circles outside for a while to clear my head, I can. If I was collaborating at someone else's place not so much." The doggie door he had in the kitchen said it all for him.

Greg came back out, tossed him a knowing look and a slow smile. "I take it you don't actually have a dog."

"No. I think it would get pretty awkward, having a dog, being a wolf..." He tilted a hand from side to side, reaching for the peanut butter.

"Just kidding." Sanders slid into one of his kitchen chairs, watching him make his sandwich. "Most of what I know about werewolves is just conjecture. Myth, I mean. I know that it's a genetic condition, transferred mostly within families, sometimes by blood transfusion. The idea that saliva would pass it is a little farfetched. It's a close-knit community, though. There's not a lot of information passing."

"Inherited is mostly how it goes. Blood transfusion is the other way. A lot of blood has to be passed along for it to be effective." A lot of blood. He still remembered that, the horror, realizing what was going on after no false guesses at all, and knowing what he was going to have to face. He'd considered killing himself afterward for a while. That was mostly the melodrama of the moment, and when Will realized that the world as a whole didn't give a damn, he got over himself.

"Are things different now? I mean, of course they're different now, that's a stupid question. What I actually meant was... You mentioned that you don't cross paths with the sheriff's brother. Leland, right?"

"Never." He slapped the sandwich together, chewing slowly. "I crossed paths with him when I was first in the area, and we had an altercation."

"Huh." Greg seemed a little sheepish, and for a second, he didn't think Sanders was going to speak up again. "For some reason, I was expecting, uh. Something more esoteric, I guess."

"Esoteric? Guy took a chunk out of my neck." He'd been trying to chew his way through a squirrel, and then he'd had Leland up trying to mate him. Some things he wasn't willing to do in wolf form.

It was hard to use lube with paws.

The way Greg's eyes widened amused him to no end. "Wow. And to think, I was assuming it was weird alpha issues."

"Well, it partially was," Will admitted. "So. Have you found most of what you need to work a scene?"

"Most things. Think I can find some window tinting film and a battery in town?"

"Batteries I have, window tinting we're going to have to ask around for." Will just continued to scarf down his sandwich, wandering towards his utility closet.

"Pretty sure I saw alligator clips in your lab. I'll pack a bag whenever you say you're ready. Well, and when you show me where one is. Feeling any better?" he was watching Will, looking ruffled and tired.

"Yeah." Now that he'd stopped showing off, he felt better, and it took him a moment to realize that he'd really been showing off for Sanders. He pulled a battery out -- not car battery, but something he used for simulating burn marks on pigs when the occasion arose.

Greg stood slowly, his spine popping. "You're prepared for pretty much anything, I'd guess."

"I suppose I am, actually. Will this do?"

"So long as we can find some window tinting film, I think it'll do just fine. Just out of curiosity.... exactly why do you keep a sixteen volt battery in your closet?" There was a certain wickedness in the way his eyebrows quirked, a sense of curiosity and amusement, and just a whiff of interest.

The pheromones were rolling off of him, and Will just inhaled while he handed it over. "Habit? You never know when you'll need one."

He looked up at Will, mischievous and flirting, and god. It had been so long. "For all sorts of reasons."

It was hard not to just smile wildly at him for a moment. "Ready for the crime scene?"

"Ready for anything," Greg agreed, and Will palmed his keys.

Maybe later, things would come up to something a little more interesting, one way or another.

He'd damn near fallen asleep on the drive back from getting evidence from the car.

Well. Not quite that bad, but he was seriously in need of a nap, and that was getting worse as time went by. He still needed to meet with the sheriff's brother and ask him some questions. He wanted to do that, and he didn't. He wanted to sleep, but the sooner he questioned the sooner it'd be over.

It was a suck suck choice set, but he needed to move forward. He'd already talked to the sheriff, and he was following the car on the way out to his brother's cabin, garbage bag rattling in the window, Will Graham sitting in the passenger side seat.

Funnily enough, he was enjoying working with Graham. He felt a little better having him there, despite the fact that he wasn't officially involved in the case. Will didn't touch things, just observed. Observed and stood out of the way, and completely respected crime scene procedures, which was more than Greg could say for the sheriff. Greg didn't trust the sheriff, not the way things had been going. Not after he'd had his window knocked out.

They took a left and started up the mountain towards Leland's house before Greg spoke. "Are you sure that it's gonna be okay? Considering you and Leland Brooks don't really get along?"

"I'm here to make sure no one breaks something other than your window, since Sheriff Brooks is going to be here." Will smiled a little.

It made him laugh. "I appreciate that thought. I'd rather keep my teeth in my head, and I've kinda got the feeling that it might be a close thing if I spend too much time with the Brookses."

"Well, I can be here as a witness. Hands off entirely." He was pretty sure Alan Brooks didn't mind Will, under circumstances where his brother was under question. But there were too many coincidences according to Nicky -- steamy love notes, the roommate who was Leland's son, and the blood test Al had run. All of that pretty much narrowed their suspects down to two. The thing of it was that it was going to suck one way or another, and Greg didn't want to have to ask those questions. Brooks didn't want him asking them, either.

The sheriff parked his car, and Greg pulled up behind him, turning off the ignition and taking a deep breath. "Okay. Let's go inside." Maybe he wouldn't get bitten in the ensuing emotional blowout.

Will popped the door. "After this, I'm getting into your driver's seat and taking you back to my couch for a nap."

"CSI Sanders. Do you mind if I go talk to my brother for a moment? He's a short fuse..."

Greg licked his lips and nodded. "So long as we can wait on the couch." Close enough to hear whatever went on, anyway. Especially if it devolved into yelling.

"You ever been in a cabin with a wolf, Sanders?" Brooks tilted his head. "It's a hell of a thing to try. But, it's your funeral."

"That's why I'm here," Will drawled.

If the sheriff had been a wolf, he wouldn't have been surprised to see the hair stand up on the back of his neck. As it was, Greg nodded easily and followed after him. "We'll wait outside and hope for the best."

Will would lean in and probably listen the thing to death, which Greg was willing to use. The Sheriff looked at Greg, and then he nodded, knocking on the door. "Leland. It's Alan -- we've got to talk."

It took a minute for his brother to come to the door. When he did, Greg could smell the liquor coming off of him, something strong enough that it could probably strip paint. "Hey, Bubba." He eyed Greg and Will pretty damn hard. "What're they doin' here?"

"I need to talk to you for a second beforehand. It's about that head that Tripper got a hold of. Can I just get a second with you, Leland?" Alan looked over his shoulder at Greg.

He nodded, stepped back to let Alan in, and shut the door. Greg looked at Will and shrugged. "I'm gonna just... walk a little that way. I think it'll make him less likely to explode, and I figure you can hear what they're saying..." If Greg shut up.

Will nodded, and gave Greg a thumbs up as he settled in a little against the wall, casually leaning. It was signal enough, and so Greg stepped off of the porch, walking away from the cabin, just to give the guy some sign that he wasn't listening. Mostly, he was curious to see if he'd find recognizable tire tracks from the car they'd found, so he kept his eyes on the driveway.

He kept walking. Leland had a pretty beat to hell truck, the sheriff.... The sheriff's tire tracks looked damn suspiciously familiar to Greg, but not what was up by the car.

Single track. That meant a motorcycle of some sort. Must be pretty recent. It had been crossed over a few times, but it hadn't rained in more than a week. There wasn't much by way of an impression, but it was something. "Huh."

Will was listening, and then he was moving, towards Greg, hissing. "Get down! Get down!"

Get down? Hell. He damn sure got down, hitting the ground, hands clasped over his head to try and protect it. The snarling growls that started increased to howls, and holy shit. Holy, holy shit, he should have been expecting this to happen. He was pretty sure that hands over his head wasn't going to help except get his hands bitten off, but it was still worth trying. Greg was a guy who tried things, if nothing else, and Will moved to cover him, inching forward around the vehicle top see the door.

"GODDAMMIT, LELAND!" Goddammit, no kidding, and he curled up near Will, trying not to get in his way. He didn't have any clue what was going on, but he was sure he didn't want to be in the middle of it.

He heard the door burst open, and the snarling reached a fever pitch before he realized Will was snarling back. Greg wanted to look, and he didn't.

"Get back in the house! Back! No need for none of that!"

"What the hell is going on?" Greg looked up at Will, and holy cow. He was nearly rippling with tension, hair standing on end all over. Greg would take an oath that his eyes had changed color, from pale blue to something more like amber, red deep in the pupil. He wasn't sure if that scared him, or made him feel safe, especially when Leland Brooks burst from his front porch in a hefty leap in their direction. "Shit!"

Will shifted, moving fast, caught Leland by his tail, and it was quick, quick quick, so fast that Greg nearly missed the freakish looking shift. And by the time his brain processed through, he heard Leland howling in pain, trying to circle around to grab at Will with no luck while Will let go. Alan was shaking, and loading his sidearm. "Sanders, get back!"

He scrabbled to the left, managing to get away from the SUV at least. The adrenaline in his system made it seem like it took forever, and he was still to close. "Don't shoot! Don't...!" Because he might hit Will, and they were scrapping their way towards him, fur flying.

But anything for his brother. Whether he shot someone or not, Greg could tell Alan was going to do it. He hesitated, and Alan held the gun tightly, bringing it down again. "They're going to rip each other's throats out!"

He wasn't crazy enough to get between them, but there had to be something better than shooting them. He shoved himself further away, getting to his feet, and his palm landed hard on sharp gravel. Before he had even thought about it, Greg had a handful and was throwing them one by one to try and drive them apart.

It pinged the wolf he thought was Leland, and he looked up, barking at Greg before Will -- he hoped -- head butted him and got on top of him, holding onto the scruff of his neck with his teeth.

"Leland, don't make me shoot you!" Brooks was up close now, shoving Greg behind him. "I've known for a long time! This doesn't have to change anything!"

Greg watched the wolf on top wiggle, moving away a little, still holding onto the neck scruff of the other one. Shaggy and silver with faint shades of black underneath, that was Will. Leland was more russet.

Then Will stepped back, and Leland stayed crouching down.

It was strange, seeing him go from one form to another, and unsettling to hear the first choked sob.

"Ah, dammit, Leland." Brooks stepped up to his brother and knelt down, laying a hand on his neck.

Will didn't shift back. He sat down, tail wagging, looking all the world to Greg like a police dog who was waiting for a treat for a job well done.

"I didn't, I, not a damn thing, I wouldn't. I..." Alan was getting him to his feet, and herding him back towards the house.

Greg decided it was best to leave them alone, at least long enough to let Leland have a few minutes to get himself together and get dressed. He stepped forward, then knelt down to reach out and rub Will's head. "You okay? That was kind of terrifying."

Will licked his hand, a quick slobbery swipe that showed there was no lingering blood on his teeth. He just seemed happy like that, as a wolf, or maybe it was because he'd ripped his clothes a little in the quick move to get Leland.

"Hey. I've got some extra clothes in the back of the SUV. A shirt, anyway. I'll go beg one for you whenever, uh...." Yeah. Whenever it seemed like it was okay to go in there. "That was... okay, I was gonna say kind of scary, but it was more like completely terrifying."

Will just ruffed at him, or something. It was a damn shame that werewolves didn't have telepathy, but Will did slowly lower himself to lie down by Greg.

At least it was quiet in the cabin.

"Okay, so. I'm gonna brave going in. You want me to see if your pants are salvageable enough for you to change back or...?"

Will stood up, and wuffled at him again. It sort of sounded horse-ish to Greg's ears, or one of those random noises the great big dogs made. Apparently Will was going in with him, and Will didn't seem inclined to eat a cabin full of people.

They might as well go ahead and go in, he figured, so he pulled himself up and headed towards the house, picking up Will's pants and eyeballing them. His shirt was a full loss, and his shoes were just weirdly ripped and distorted. His jeans seemed kind of all right. The legs were ripped, and the waistband was pretty torn up, but he'd be able to hold them up if he needed to. "You can give it a shot if you want. I'll ask Brooks for some clothes for you." He knew the sizes now, anyway.

He wasn't expecting Will to head butt the back of his knee, hard, and nudge him along past Will's clothes.

"I'm going, I'm going! Just... it's easier to talk to you when, you know. There are opposable thumbs and stuff. It's frustrating being the only one speaking English." Very true, that part. He dropped Will's jeans and climbed the porch steps.

He'd get the jeans later, for the wallet and the keys, but for the moment knocking on the door got him the sheriff and an evil eyeball. "All right. I think he's calmer."

"Yeah, I'm hoping that's the case." And then some. He didn't want to get his throat ripped out. "He okay for me to ask a few questions?"

"Yeah. Come in. And you... Leave the cat alone." It was almost comical to see him telling Will that, but maybe the sheriff was the only guy in town comfortable with werewolves.

Will's tongue lolled out, all amusement, and Greg shook his head. "I'm pretty sure he's not gonna chase the cat." Well. Mostly sure. He moved into the room and stopped near a chair, watching Leland Brooks carefully. "So. Mr. Brooks. I'm, uh. I'm aware that Ross Jensen was having a romantic relation with someone from Jackpot, and I'm pretty sure that someone was you."

Leland drew a wavering inhalation, rubbing at his face. He was too shaken up to even give Will dirty looks. "Yes."

"How long had you been having a relationship with him?" He figured Nick probably already knew by now, but there was knowing and there was having a statement.

"A few months." Leland inhaled again, that same shuddering almost going to cry noise that made Greg grimace inside a little. There wasn't much worse in life than seeing another man cry, murder, rape and dead bodies aside. Usually, one of the latter caused the former, and that was pretty rough, too. "When he came up here, it was the first time I met Ross in person."

He nodded. "I want you to tell me about the time you spent together. Did you have any arguments, or different expectations? When did Ross leave?

"No, it went... real well." Alan cleared his throat, and Leland gave him an anguished, angry look, "Look, he was born a werewolf, and it just... Went real well. He left Sunday, said he was going to stop and get coffee on his way out of town since my pot's not working right."

"I saw them walking through the woods together, Saturday night," the sheriff finally said.

Will wuffled from where he was sitting by Greg's feet. It might've been agreement.

"I'm guessing that's why you've been stonewalling me." And stealing his kit, breaking the chain of evidence. People did that kind of thing for their siblings, Greg had figured out. It didn't seem to matter that it was illegal. Still. It wasn't like he had to tell Nicky everything that had happened. He hadn't had a chance to call him and tell him his kit was missing yet, although how the hell he'd explain the broken window without doing that, he couldn't say. "Because you saw them and...."

"Assumed Leland got set off by something and did it."

"I'd never, never..."

"Didn't say you did. Just thought it was a possibility," Alan shrugged tightly.

Greg nodded his head slowly. "So after Ross left, I'm guessing you didn't leave the house." There wasn't any reason for Leland to kill him, either, but that didn't mean he couldn't have gone off running through the woods and done it anyway. People did strange things where love was involved. Hell. People did strange things pretty much no matter what.

"No. I stayed in and cleaned and went to sleep." And maybe that was true and maybe it wasn't.

"Okay." Well, not really. That sucked. It was bad for Leland Brooks, because he was the main suspect. "I'm gonna need to take your fingerprints, and I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't run off." Maybe he'd mention to the sheriff that he should stay with him for a while. He didn't think that he'd take the suggestion that his brother be arrested all that well.

"Okay." Now that the guy was calmer, he was... calm, compliant. Not making a run for it. Maybe it was because Will was there, or Alan was there, and Greg would figure it out.

Greg would call the lab, too. Maybe Nick would have some information in the morning that he hadn't had the last time they talked. Still, if Leland wasn't guilty, at least he could be nice about things. "I'm, uh. Sorry for your loss."

"I am, too."

He was tired, and his jeans fit like crap, and he'd driven up for Greg, and that annoying running mental line of now now now was hard to shake. He'd spent more time going back and forth than he had in a while, and Will was tired. So was Greg. His hands shook while he got the key in the lock.

"I'm going to make some coffee. Do you want any?"

"God, yes." That kind of fervent request meant Greg probably felt the need for a pick-me-up, too, although Will figured it wasn't quite on the same level as his own. He was going to need more than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and he still hadn't managed to get into town for groceries.

In the morning. He'd be there when the store opened, and he might wipe the place out as bad as he felt, but making coffee was automatic for Will. "You're welcome to sleep on my sofa. You have to be tired. I'm tired."

"Falling over tired. Not too tired to raid your kitchen and try to cook. I figure your blood sugar has got to be crap by now." It was a nice offer, Will just wasn't sure he had anything much left for cooking.

"It might be like an Iron Chef challenge in there. I'll have to get groceries tomorrow, but you're welcome to try." French toast fixings, maybe. There was milk and a couple of eggs, at least, bread.

Even tired, he got one of those grins, and it was enough to perk him up a little. "Hey. You'd be amazed at what I can come up with, given a little bit of time and a couple spices. I'm actually pretty good in a kitchen." He walked over to the refrigerator and opened it up. "Huh. I'm guessing you really meant it." He reached in and started pulling out things -- the milk, the eggs, the loaf of bread. A scrounge in the drawers got him a slightly wilted tomato, a block of moldy cheese, and the meager remains of a stick of butter. "Yeah. I can manage something. More or less."

"Yeah. Most of the good food goes fast, and the stuff that's sort of leaning towards rotten sort of... goes all the way." Will turned the coffee pot on, and went for cups.

"Yeah, well. I'll manage something. Where's the cutlery? Got a cutting board?" His frying pan was still sitting on the stove, clean and ready to go. Greg leaned down and pulled open the stove's storage drawer, pulling out a cookie sheet.

"Left hand counter," Will told him. "Everything's in there, on shelves, in drawers. I need to..." Grab a piece of bread, plain, and just snack for a moment. "This case has been damn interesting."

Greg found a bowl and put it down, cracking the eggs into it. He threw away the shell on his way past the trash can, and reached for the drawer closest to the stove on the left hand side. "Mmm. I know. I kind of bribed the assistant coroner to call me if anything really different came into the lab. When the shipment came in with the head, it was actually supposed to be my day off, so I had cooked a rack of lamb and had a couple of glasses of merlot. Getting up when Dave called was kind of hard."

Will laughed, stopping the coffee pour by pulling the pot out and sliding a cup underneath the stream. "So, you really do cook. Rack of lamb?"

"That'll melt in your mouth. My mom should have had daughters to teach this kind of stuff to, but she just had me." Greg was whisking the eggs with a fork. "Well. They should have had four or five more kids, but there wasn't. There was just me." He left the eggs and started looking through Will's cabinets.

He had no idea what he was looking for, and it was just easier to swap the other mug in. "My mother had no interests at all in cooking."

"Yeah? What'd she teach you?" Greg looked up, honestly curious, tomato in one hand, knife in the other.

"Curiosity and art," Will shrugged. "Mostly, curiosity. The art was great for crime scene sketching. Cream and sugar?"

"God yes. Two sugars, plenty of cream. Where do you hide your salt and pepper?" He sliced into the tomato and then leaned down, sniffed it. "Yeah. This is still usable."

"Uh, right hand cupboard." Will waved a hand towards the counter. "Unground pepper and sea salt."

"I think I love you," Greg joked, turning around in the space. He reached over to the cabinet, stepping close to Will. "That's kind of awesome. Jesus, I'm tired, this may be complete crap to eat, but hopefully it'll be edible at least."

"It'll be edible," Will said agreeably, offering him coffee as he'd asked for it. It was easy to swap mug for a plate, scrounging for a fork over top of the counter.

He got a hum, Greg sipping at the coffee as if he'd been handed a slice of heaven. "Hmm. Yeah, it'll be that, at least." He set down the mug and started plying his knife again, slicing the tomato into small chunks. "I know you're starving. Want me to go ahead and make some toast?"

"I can wait." His brain was still simmering through the events of the afternoon, cataloguing and placing the fact that he was pretty darn proud of his own self-control. There hadn't been excessive blood drawn. He was tired and sore, but that could be so much worse.

Greg started slicing the mold off of the cheese, tossing the bad bits into a pile on a plate. Once they were gone, he cleaned the knife and made another slice, handing it to Will. "You look like you're gonna fall down. At least eat this."

"I could be a one man source of the Legend of the Wendigo." But he took the bread, chewing on it while he leaned on the countertop. "I usually change once a day. If that."

"What's it like? Changing, I mean. Being a werewolf." It wasn't prurient curiosity, or anything hostile. Will had been asked that question more than once since what had happened, and the way Greg asked was one of the few ways that didn't make him feel grim about answering. "You seem to enjoy it. Well, the being a wolf part."

"It's very relaxing. I still think like myself, mostly. I get a little stream of consciousness." Will licked his fingers, even though it was just wheat bread. "It's hard to be stressed."

The bread bag rattled, Greg pulling out several slices and laying them on the cookie sheet. "That sounds better than Xanax, and probably easier in the long run, yeah?" He started slicing cheese steadily and putting them on the bread.

"I've done Xanax," Will shrugged. "I live in my head, so it's very relaxing just to shift when I get to be too much for myself."

"Hand me oil for the frying pan?" Greg added milk to the eggs, then reached for the salt and pepper. "It might not amount to much, but it'll feed us and then we can pass out for the night."

"That's a fantastic plan," Will drawled, peering as he scrounged around and pulled out some over. "Tackle this in the morning. Or after a nap."

"Or after a solid eight hours sacked out." He was lightly flipping the eggs, milk, salt and pepper together, and then he tossed in the chopped up tomato. "Thanks for your couch. I've been awake longer than I want to think about."

"I wish I had a spare bed to offer. If you want to try mine, I've got no problems sleeping on the sofa myself." He had no idea what Greg was making -- scrambled eggs? -- but it looked decent, smelled better.

"Nah. I'm good. Anything's better than bedding down at the vet's office. He keeps some of 'em overnight, and there's this German Sheppard who's been looking at me like I'm his new girlfriend. Well." Greg paused, turning towards the stove and turning it on as he settled the frying pan on the front eye. "If he hadn't just had his very important manparts -- would that be dogparts? -- removed."

Will grimaced, still watching what Greg was doing, step by step. "That's my worst fear. It is a pretty friendly German Sheppard though."

"No kidding. Must be a small town thing, with the not putting the thing in the cage. Wooden spoon?"

"Uh..." Will leaned over the bar, and pulled a drawer open so Greg could see it. "Wooden spoon."

"Sorry. I'm probably pretty annoying, messing around in your space." The eggs were heating up, starting to cook. Greg reached for the spoon and ran it through quickly, scrambling them. He reached up and flicked the oven on to broil, then stepped back and moved the rack up.

"You're making food for me when I don't have the brain cells to do it myself," Will pointed out. "Kind of hard to be annoyed."

The cookie sheet rattled as it landed a little roughly in the oven. "Tell me that in the morning when you're washing dishes." Greg went to work on the eggs again, then pulled out a couple of plates from a cabinet.

"You have to remember I clean up my own experiments. It's so much worse than crusted food on a dish." He wandered around to the side of the bar Greg was on, fishing out utensils.

"Yeah, well. Scrubbing the remains of scrambled eggs the day after is worse than cleaning up my lab. Okay, not necessarily worse than having to clean up myself this one time Nick sent me dumpster diving behind a buffet. Still."

"I would like to hear that story," Will said after a moment. After all, Greg knew a lot about him, and he knew very little about Greg, relatively.

"Maybe after we eat." Greg tossed him a grin. "I've eaten over worse, but sometimes? It's better just to eat. I could always tell you about going from DNA to working in the field instead. There's less gore."

"I'd like to hear that one, too." Will took a sip of his coffee, leaning his elbows on the bar in an effort to stay upright while they talked, and waited for the food to cook up.

"It's a pretty boring story." Greg scrambled the eggs a little more and then slid the pan off the eye, separating them out in halves. The tomatoes and milk had helped to stretch the sad two eggs from his refrigerator. "I used to be a DNA tech. So much more money. Sometimes I miss that but I'm not about the money. I enjoy doing field work, investigating, you know?" He leaned down and checked the toast, then slid it out as well.

"I know. Field work is pretty... thrilling, driving," Will admitted, shifting plates for Greg.

"Also? You get to see the people you're helping." Greg carefully arranged the toast on the plates. "That's kind of fantastic, right?" He paused, looked up at Will. "There's a little more to the story, to be honest. There was an accident. After that, the lab walls kind of closed in on me."

"Ah. Getting to see the people was important," Will agreed, trying not to think too hard. "Not many labs encourage their staff changing jobs."

Greg handed him a fork and leaned against the counter, reaching for his own plate. "I wasn't exactly encouraged, but I wanted to. The shift supervisor gave me a chance, and I worked my ass off to do it. And now, here I am. CSI 3, totally haven't told my folks I've changed jobs." He gave Will a sheepish look. "My mom would go ballistic."

"You still haven't told your parents?" Will laughed, starting on the scrambled eggs. They were actually nice, tasty. If they had more eggs to eat, he would've taken seconds.

"No. You know I said that my mom taught me to cook? Because they didn't have any other kids. I mean, they wanted them, but apparently the whole birth thing didn't go over so well with me. The doctor said it was better not to have any more kids, so... there was just me. And they were kind of overprotective." Greg took one of the pieces of toast off of his plate and put it on Will's. "If I got a nosebleed, it meant a trip to the ER. I never played any kind of organized sports. Had to sneak out to go surfing, or pretty much anything that didn't mean I was head to toe covered in cotton blankets to keep me from scraping myself when I fell down."

"What..." Will nodded his thanks for the toast. "And yet you're here, you're competent, you seem pretty adventurous..."

He liked the way Greg grinned at him. "Hey. I'm like any guy. Adventurous spirit's probably mapped into the Y chromosome."

"Probably. Co-morbid with stupidity." Will scraped the eggs into a pile, close to finishing it off. "I can't count the number of times I nearly killed myself doing something adventurous, or on a case. I bet you have a time or two."

A shrug of the shoulders wasn't much of an answer. "I try not to do anything too stupid or adventurous. Doesn't mean I don't nearly get killed occasionally anyway just trying to do the right thing." He started munching on his toast. The sleepy look on his face meant that there was a forthcoming food coma.

"It's important to do the right thing." Will covered a yawn with the back of his hand. "Let's call it a night. I'm just. Babbling."

"Yeah." Yeah, and they'd eaten something. They'd both sleep, especially as tired as Greg looked. "I should grab my toothbrush."

"I have toothpaste somewhere around here," Will promised, wandering towards the bathroom door to halfway check that it was acceptable for other people's usage. It wasn't too bad -- a little bit of toothpaste residue on the counter, and he could probably put in a new bar of soap.

He could hear Greg leaving the house, stepping out for his things. Will dragged out a couple of towels and a washcloth and laid them on the counter. Wanting a bath was inevitable, whether it was before or after they got some sleep. He had the stuff ready in the event that Greg wanted a shower. That he wanted anything. It was hard to stay awake, and Will rocked from foot to foot while he waited for him to get back in.

The door shut about the time that Will started to doze off standing up. Greg looked even more tired coming back in than he had when Will left the kitchen.

"Thanks for the sofa. I appreciate it." He dropped his overnight bag down on the sofa and started rummaging through it.

"If you need anything..." He pointed towards the bedroom while he started to pull off his t-shirt. So tired. It had been a hell of a day. Changing and changing and car accidents and cases. He was going to sleep like the dead.

"I'll rummage around to find it so that you can get some rest. And try to be quiet." Greg glanced around. "Sheets and blankets?"

"Oh! Yes, right..." Will rounded towards his own bedroom to get that from the closet, moving more slowly than he'd hoped to. By the time he came back, he was even slower.

"Thanks." Greg took them, and automatically turned to the couch. Will generally had a pillow there. It wasn't like he had many visitors, and he liked to nap in the living room sometimes. "I appreciate it."

"Not a problem. G'night, Greg." He left the light in the living room to Greg to take care of, but turned out the lights as he went.

"Goodnight," Greg called, and Will kicked off his shoes, and tumbled into bed.

His eyes were closed before his head hit the pillow.

He hated that it was going to be his last day in Jackpot.

Once he'd managed to wake up, Greg had been starving. He'd found Will in the kitchen, coffee running, peering into the freezer with what was almost a glare. It had been easy to offer him breakfast, especially since he looked like he might start stabbing frozen meat into shape to eat raw.

Going into town with him for breakfast at the Cafe was a no brainer, and Doris was pretty quick to recommend a 'usual'.

Greg was sort of ticked that he was leaving Jackpot and heading back to Vegas, even through the case was done. He'd just started to get used to the place, and he was definitely getting used to Will Graham, in more ways than one.

He'd lingered over his eggs, which had been pretty pointless, considering. It wasn't like spending too much time eating breakfast would spread to another day no matter how much he might want it to, so he'd finished them off and Will had walked him out to the SUV. Marty Cooperman had put in a new window, and he'd been nice enough to let Greg take the bill back to the office instead of paying out of his own pocket. He'd told Nick that somebody had broken it trying to get him to shake a leg out of town.

It wasn't a lie. Just kind of an obfuscation of the truth.

"So." He licked his lips and shifted from foot to foot. "Guess you'll be getting groceries now. Thanks for the place to stay, and all of your help."

"Not a problem. It was nice to have company. I don't usually see people very often," Will told him. He was shifting on his feet, like he was a little nervous, too, and that was silly, wasn't it? The both of them being nervous about each other.

"This is... Anyway, I figure you might not hit me for asking, so I will anyway." Greg shot him a look. "If you'd like to come to Vegas sometime, I've got a spare bedroom, and, uh. I'd be glad to take you out for dinner and a movie sometime. If you wanted."

Will's mouth quirked a little. "Okay. I'd uh, I'd like to do that. I've actually got an e-mail address that I use, if you want to, uh... exchange and coordinate?"

That kind of relief was only associated with being victorious in his dating plans. Well, okay. Maybe also with not getting his face punched in, as the two were occasionally related. Greg wasn't stupid, just sporadically brave when he wanted something. "I'd love that."

Will's quirky smile grew, slow and wide. "Let me, uh..." Start patting himself down, looking for a pen and paper. Anything.

"Hang on. I've got... just...." He opened the door and started scrabbling for his notepad and pen, grabbing one of his cards from his kit. "Here. I'll write my cell number on the back."

"It's been a while since I've, uh, exchanged information with anyone." And maybe a little socialization wouldn't kill Will. He was a nice, interesting guy, and Greg wanted to get to know him better, preferably in ways that were kind of pervy.

Yeah. It was good to be able to admit that kind of thing to himself even if he wasn't about to say it out loud. Yet. "Then I hope you don't regret sharing it with me." He scrawled his cell number on the back of the card, and added his home e-mail as an afterthought.

Will was scrawling his information on Greg's little pad of paper, and handed it back to him like a trade. "I don't think I'll regret it."

"I hope not." Greg licked his lips again and then grinned. "So I guess I'll be hearing from you. Maybe this weekend?"

"Yeah. We'll, uh..." Will waved the card for a moment before he pocketed it. "If you're free, I'm free. Which didn't sound so pathetic in my head."

"Don't worry. I don't think you're pathetic. And you know, if you wanted to call before next weekend, I wouldn't mind that, either." He lingered for just a second longer. "I, um. I guess I should be going."

"Probably," Will smirked, leaning in a little, touching the side of Greg's arm. "Drive safely. And get some more rest when you get there."

Too early for kissing, even if he kind of wanted to. Hell, even if he'd been hinting, so Greg grinned at him, stepped a little closer and dropped his lashes just enough so that he could peek at Will through them. Didn't mean he couldn't tease, anyway. "See you soon."

There was a faint red hint that crossed over Will's nose just from that look. Well, at least he'd given the right sly look, then. "Absolutely."

Oh, yeah.

Will --

Made it back to Vegas in one piece. Promise to get plenty of rest between now and next weekend. I'm already looking forward to it.

Hope you are, too.

Figured you were the kind of man who'd appreciate good food. There's this great place I know, lots of old Vegas history. I think you'll appreciate it, if you can put up with me telling you all I know.

Plus, there's a couple of good movies coming out next weekend. Are you a things-blow-up kind of man or more of a comedy kind of guy?

Talk to you later. G.


Movies, huh? I guess I'm living up to the hermit lifestyle because I can no longer give an immediate answer to which kind I like better. I'd have to say action movies -- and I know their only redeeming value is the special effects budget.

Old Vegas history sounds great, stories included. Particularly with stories included. Locations without stories lack ambiance, and might as well be part of a strip mall.

I just realized that you've had time to master your field in DNA and move on to another field, and that's both scary and impressive -- because not too many years ago, we were still completely reliant on blood typing.


Hey again.

It's been a heck of a few days in the land of the gamblers, thugs and hoodlums. Got a case with a bunch of kids who thought beating somebody to death with a hammer sounded like a good time. Some days, I wonder why I wanted to be out here doing this kind of thing, but mostly? Mostly I think it's worth it. Especially when we catch the guys that committed the crime, and the evidence puts them away.

Rumor has it they're gonna reopen Le Chateau Rouge. Then again, that rumor's been going around for the last five decades. Still, wouldn't that be kind of awesome? To go to the first non-segregated casino/bar in Vegas? I can only imagine what it would look like. Still. Bad part of town, but we could drive by sometime if you were interested, just to take a look.

That kind of thing is interesting to me -- old historic places, whether they've been refurbished or not. Well, and anything that means I'd learn something new about how a thing works. You should tell me what doesn't interest you, so I won't arrange anything boring during visits.

Thanks for being impressed. I think it's more impressive that you used to catch bad guys without all of the tools we've got now, and that you made it stick. Which, you know, makes it sound like the good-old-days except they aren't nearly old enough to be that.

So... I'm off starting Thursday night. If you wanted to go ahead and come up then. We'll take potluck at the theater -- whatever's got the biggest explosion on the poster, you think?



Potluck at the Theater on Thursday sounds great. I'm pretty easy to entertain, and I do have a soft spot for history.

The good old days of forensics had a lot of bad old days aspects to it, and while I know it'll never be perfect, I really doubt your supervisor would tell you that the best way to bring the perp in is dead. (If he/she would, I'm sorry. We could set him/her up on a blind date with my old supervisor. They could discuss favorite takedown bullets.) And the science is always improving.

Rumors have a reason for existing -- after all, start to ask enough, and whoever holds the lease on the property might get the right idea that people would be interested in seeing it happen.

-- Will

Will --

I had a really great time this weekend. Wow, but you know how to kiss! I still feel a little stunned, like a fish out of water.

That movie was awful, but I figure I wasn't paying all that much attention to it, so it wasn't a major loss. Plus, how much could I have missed in any movie with a reference to Reloaded?

I'm glad you agreed to see me again.



That's what the back rows of theaters were designed for. It was an amazingly bad movie, but the company was what I was really interested in.

The question is: When do you have a free weekend again?

The only thing I have on my calendar for the next two months is one academic conference.

-- Will

Will --

Well, I'd like to spend some more time in the back row with you, considering that's their purpose. Of course, I kind of think spending time with you pretty much anywhere is high on my list now.

The lab schedule works in crazy, crazy ways. I'm three on, two off, two on, three off. Kind of. Which means.... whenever you'd like to come back.

Of course, I could always come see you.

;) G


I don't mind the drive, but if you want to spend a quiet couple of days relaxing in the woods, it's nice up here until the snow starts. And even that's a particular kind of nice, if you're prepared for it.

And have chains for your tires.

You should come up here when you're not going to be on call, so you can relax and enjoy it. It's no inconvenience for me to drive down.

-- Will

I've never driven much in snow. The idea of being snowed in with you actually sounds kind of awesome, even knowing all of the associated risks (you know, freezing to death, avalanche, other things that we totally aren't going to talk about, as in, ever).

I should be off in a couple of weeks without anybody needing me to be backup.

We could always play at being snowed in. ;)



Playing at being snowed in is great fun. The snow up here is thick and drifts fast, but settles with a hard pack after a couple of days. It's not very avalanche prone -- more icy than anything. Also, I buy rock salt in 50 pound bags, so worse comes to worst, we could melt your car free.

I make great hot chocolate, but could always use outside verification.

-- Will

Hey. The weekend was great -- too short, because the drive sucks, but still. The drive is worth it, if I get to see you at the other end. Plus, I have to admit, Doris's grilled ham-and-cheese is kind of fantastic. ;)

Can't wait to see you again. Especially if it means things keep getting more and more... frisky. Considering. G

Greg, Frisky, huh? Well, when I come down again I promise it'll be a little less chasing balls around the lawn, and a little more, uh. Well, that joke finishes itself.

-- Will


Fuck, he was burning up, skin hot everywhere fingers traced over him, everywhere Will's hands touched him. He couldn't stop the faint shivering in response to it, either, the way he pushed up into every single brush of skin against his own.

If he'd known it would be this good, he'd have seduced him that first weekend in Jackpot.

He hadn't, and that had given things time to build, a nice natural progression that led to this. The two of them in his apartment, and Will kissing the back of his neck, two fingers curling slowly in and out of Greg's ass. He was balancing himself on his knees, not leaning on Greg, because his other hand was roaming, sliding, teasing over muscles.

"Fuck." He breathed it, head dropping forward, entire body pushing back to meet those fingers, hoping for another one, hoping Will would just please god fuck him before he lost it. They'd been at it forever, because the man was a foreplay god. The things he'd done with nothing but his mouth, kissing Greg until all he could remember was a haze after getting home from their first date, should have said it all. Hell, it did, only then it got better.


He was sweaty and warm, and Will was warm, maybe a little warmer than Greg was naturally. When the fingers slowly slid out, though, that felt like success, tips just lingering enough that he couldn't buck back against it before Will put lube slick fingers on Greg's hips to pull them up. "Is that a request?"

"God, yes." Fervent, and he was ready, so ready. He pushed his knees further apart, brought himself up and planted them more firmly so that he'd have better purchase. "I swear, if you don't fuck me now, I'm gonna come before we get to that point."

"We can try tantric another night." Will was up behind him, thighs touching Greg's thighs in places as he knelt between his legs, only one hand gripping his hip while Greg felt the pressure of Will's dick against his ass.

Holy shit.

It was big -- big to see, bigger to feel, and Greg felt his mouth open as he gasped in breath, opening up to the size of him as Will pushed in, slow and steady and oh. Oh God. Oh, God, and maybe he was panting that aloud breathlessly, praying because it was just so goddamned good. "Pleeeaaase. Please, please, fuck, oh. Oh God. Oh fucking God, yes."

"Uhmn, you're tight. You're so...." So something, because Will was holding onto his hips with both hands like he might fall off, still slowly pushing in. Greg almost felt startled when he finally felt Will's hips pressed against his ass. "Oh."

Oh, God, and Greg let out another babble of words, shuddering, ass clamping down around Will's cock for a few seconds. He panted throughout, and then let out a long, slow moan. "Drugs can't be this good."

"Mmmhn, sex is better than drugs. Generally." Will leaned over him, kissing at his back, and starting to work his dick in and out. Just fractionally, small motions, and Greg whined in the back of his throat. Whined, and reached a hand down to grip at the base of his cock, because it was too good. Just.... yeah.

"You're big. God. It's been so long, and this is..." There weren't words enough. Hell, he didn't need words, not when he had Will in him, hard, making him want to jerk his cock, not try and hold it back.

The foreplay had been slow and luxurious, and now Greg wasn't sure he could hold on like that much longer, not when Will finally started to thrust, real in and out, not just rocking. His free hand clenched hard in the sheets, and he moaned, shoving back to meet the next thrust. Will met him, pushed in so hard he bottomed out, and Greg practically choked on it. He was going to be feeling this at work, sitting on one side of his ass, and it was going to be worth it. It would be worth every single second, and he knew it. Knew it, and was probably babbling it, but he didn't stop moving. Didn't stop pushing back, moving to greet every shove of Will's hips.

Will groaned, and Greg half heard him mutter, "Gorgeous," trying to pick up the pace. He was moving faster, still holding loosely onto Greg's hips until Greg wasn't sure if he was being pulled back onto Will or Will was just holding him still to drill into him.

Holding back turned into stripping his cock, jacking himself off and trying to keep himself balanced so that it didn't end. Didn't stop, because it was too much, too hot, too good to let it just stop like that. To let it stop at all, even though he was close. So close, and he couldn't stop babbling it, couldn't stop begging. "Please. Please, it's too, I can't, I'm gonna, I, it's...!" He wanted to come and he didn't, didn't want it to end that fast, but it was going to. Will clutched harder at his hips, like he was going to ride Greg right into orgasm in answer to his pleas.

There was no holding on, not anymore, because it was creeping up his spine, down in his balls, everywhere at once, and he yelled, because he couldn't hold it back. Couldn't keep from coming, and coming, so hard that it nearly hurt. Will fucked him through it, and all he could do was clench and shudder in response. Just feel it, getting fucked through and past an orgasm, his dick softening and his ass shuddering around Will's dick when Will finally slowed. No yelling, just his hands went looser and slide up Greg's sides, petting, stroking. "Mmhn, damn that felt good."

"'d you come?" His voice was a little slurred from the sheer amazing force of it, but seriously. Will had to expect it would be, right? And he wanted to be sure, because it hadn't felt like it, entirely.

"Yeah." Will's own voice sounded lazy and muzzy, and he leaned in to press his cheek against Greg's shoulder. "Mmm."

Mmmm was about right. "Couldn't tell. Was too..." Too a lot of things. Damn, he was going to feel this, and it was too good. Maybe they'd even manage it again before Will left, and he went in to work. Who needed to sit down, anyway?

Will shifted, pulling back, and Greg felt his weight shift on the mattress. "Trash can...?"

"Bathroom." He hissed a little when he shifted. "I knew it was kind of big to swallow...." Greg shot him a smirk. "I'll be feeling this tomorrow. God, that was good."

"Good. We should do this... a lot." Before Greg could really reply to that, Will wandered off towards the bathroom to throw the condom away.

"Often. In the afternoon, tomorrow." Will had started adjusting his hours so that it was easier to come down when Greg was off. Mostly he stayed at the cabin, and grocery shopping was the only thing that required any kind of daylight hours. Well, that and stopping by the post office. Vegas was open all hours, so it wasn't a problem when he was at Greg's.

"Yes." And Will would do... Will stuff when Greg was at work. Will was low-key, low maintenance. He padded back towards the bed, bringing a washcloth to Greg. It was a little cool, but he took it, and mostly mopped up the mess. There would still be a wet spot. At least it would be damper from cleanup than semen.

He gave the cloth back to Will, who tossed it at the laundry hamper and then started pulling at the sheets to cover them both up while they settled in. "You're still warm."

"Not as warm as you. You tend to run hot." It was the reason Greg had the air turned down to about sixty-five when Will was visiting. Sleeping with his own personal space heater was only awesome if the room was cool enough to make it bearable.

"Just a couple of degrees higher than most people." But it was something Greg could feel. "Thank you."

Thanks? "I think that should be the other way around. Me thanking you, I mean." Greg mugged his pillow, shoving it into a more pleasing configuration so he could curl towards Will.

Will slid an arm over Greg's side, and he was smiling as he shifted onto his own to look at Greg. "I liked this, a lot. It's been a while since I've... connected with anyone. And you're great."

"You, too." Yeah, and maybe more than that. "It's kind of been a while for me, too. Y'know. I mean, there's a time when you're all equal opportunity about sex and a time when that's not exactly enough."

"This... this fills the enough." Will sounded sated, and looked happy when he shifted in closer to Greg to kiss him. It wasn't the same all-consuming kisses he'd given the first weekend they'd spent together -- it was something more, softer, better, and yeah. Okay.

He really hoped this was going to work out. "Yeah. Yeah, it does."

Greg deserved to have it work. He deserved to have someone who wanted to see him on weekends, who wanted just to spend time with him -- no strings, no cases needed -- but somebody he could talk about work to, when he felt like it. It was a great balance.

Reaching out, he curved an arm around Will and settled in close, the chill of the air conditioning flowing past and making it a good idea. "Night."

He wasn't sure if he imagined the feeling of Will kissing his forehead or not, but it felt good. It all felt damn good.

He didn't drive up to Jackpot often.

It was something of a side trip; a search for what was very much like the Holy Grail. He couldn't seem to help himself, and that was the most disturbing part. It was a compulsion, something he had to do, somewhere he had to be.

It was a long drive, and it was one of those small towns where his sense of anonymity was challenged. He tried not to be seen, or to blend in when he was. It was worth the hassle, though. Worth every second of it.

Most of the time, he simply parked in the woods and shouldered his camping gear, careful to make sure that his binoculars were there before he marched out towards the small cabin owned by Will Graham.

He couldn't get too close -- not near enough to arouse suspicion, but close enough that he could see Will Graham. There was no point in going all the way out there without being able to see him. He was the ultimate investigator, the one responsible for following the evidence to Hannibal Lecter and putting him in prison, the one who had chased down Francis Dolarhyde, the one responsible for finding Hobbs. He was the best investigator currently alive, and there was a great deal of admiration to be had for a man like that.

Will Graham could solve any case, though he took none right now. The last case on which he'd helped had been a head in the woods in Jackpot, and before that, a break-in at the cafe. Still, it was enough to make a man wonder if he might not be open to returning to the field in which he had done so much good. A man like that would be an asset to any criminal investigation force in the country.

The lab in Las Vegas could certainly use someone with real talent.

The question was, how to get him into Vegas. He was clearly still an active mind, still publishing, still consulting, he supposed, on cases when he was asked to do so. He'd had contact with the young man from the Vegas lab, the one who had come to investigate the head -- a closed case now, of course, thanks to invaluable assistance.

After all.

That young man had been easily fooled, the one time they'd met. He was of some account, perhaps, but nothing that could possible equal Will Graham.

Perhaps it was time to make the case again, harder, more obvious? Again and again until those idiots realized the system was broken. And this time, the young man from the Vegas Lab had someone he might contact for help.

Carefully, he settled into his usual camping spot, beginning to prepare the area. It took a while, and the anticipation was rising every second. Perhaps it should be disturbing to him, the vague sexual nature of that emotion, but he'd long since learned to reconcile the parts of him that didn't make sense. That didn't bother him, and he understood the importance of expectancy, the way that allowing something to build could make it all the better.

When he turned his binoculars towards the cabin again, there was another car parked up beside Graham's truck, and that was unexpected. People didn't come to visit. Will didn't want them visiting, he was sure of that, and so he scowled as he watched. It was the young man from the crime lab, obviously just arriving. He stood up, stretched, and shut the door behind him before walking around the rear of the car and opening the passenger side door to pull out a bag.


He watched him shoulder the bag, and then he saw the door open, and Graham stepping out. He looked happy, waving idly to the young man before he walked towards him. There was no question that the embrace that followed was a little... much.

It made his teeth clench, and he felt a headache rising at the base of his neck. No. This wasn't right. It wasn't the way things were supposed to go.

He hadn't really thought of anything personal. There wasn't anything there, and there couldn't be, but this. That boy, he wasn't of a worthy caliber to be kissing Will Graham. He wasn't a good enough investigator.

He had only followed as far as the warehouse. He had never come any closer.

It wasn't right. It was dating beneath his ability, beneath what he deserved, werewolf or not. He had to hold tight to the binoculars, because his hands were shaking.

That wasn't supposed to happen.

He supposed he'd known that there would be someone, eventually. There had been others in the past, and humans -- even those who had been transformed into werewolves -- had a basic need for companionship. It wasn't surprising, just wrong somehow. He wasn't sure why. Perhaps he'd expected better of Graham, even though he needed companionship himself. The man seemed so wholly devoted to science, and this... this was a distraction.

Paul watched them until they went back into the house, and then refocused his binoculars to see through the window that faced towards him.

If what had passed in the yard had been a bit much, what he saw through the window was blatant, crass. The young man's hands were roaming, possessive, and it made his jaw clench, his hands shake on the binoculars.

This wasn't right.

Something would have to be done if it went on for very long.

"That was a hell of a case."

Sometimes, Nick just liked to put the obvious out there. They'd gotten the guy to confess, and the DA would take care of everything, but Greg might still have to testify at sentencing. It was dicey.

He wondered about people a lot of the time. Most of all when somebody cut another human being up into little pieces and then tried to cover it up. It was a sure sign that whoever had done it probably knew they were doing something wrong, because they were trying to cover it up, but at the same time it took a special kind of crazy to do something like that.

"No kidding. I'd do a lot to be able to go to sleep tonight and not see some of the things we've seen lately."

"That, Greg, is what bars and taxi cabs are for," Nick smirked. And maybe smug was something he was failing to reach, but he was allowed to try, because there were times he wondered just what they did. They never seemed to stop anything from happening. Just from continuing.

Today he totally understood the guys who burned out and went looking for another job. Greg had that kinda look around the corners of his mouth. Going out for a drink would probably do both of them some good.

"Yeah, well. My ass is dragging." Greg gave him a wry smile. "I, uh. Haven't been getting as much sleep as usual lately."

"Uh-huh. You want me to drive to the nearest dive, and you can tell me on the way over?" Nick offered. He sort of-kind of knew what was going on, and if he could drag it out of Greg, then that was better than letting his own mind conjure up shit. Greg probably wouldn't tell him anything that would leave him wanting to scrub out his brains, whereas he might come up with something that would if he was left on his own.

"Yeah. I could use a beer, and I'm pretty sure I'm out at the apartment." He stretched, and reached up to rub the back of his head.

"All right. Let's blow this popsicle stand." Nick jangled his keys in his hand, and watched Greg smirk and shut his locker door.

"Seriously. You're still, like, six years old, right? Not that I've got room to talk. I'm pretty sure I'm not more than five."

"That's being generous." Sara was back, and oh. Yeah. Whiff of decomp. Pretty serious whiff at that. "You're not more than four, Greg."

He slid his jacket on and watched them. Greg used to light up a little when Sara came into the room. He'd always kind of wondered if they didn't have something going on, but these days whatever had been there had gone flat. Not really his business, but as Field Officer it was his business to at least make sure everything was running smoothly. It seemed to be. No tension, just a lack of the old spark. That wasn't anyone's fault. Dating on the job was sort of dicey. "The best part of being a grown up six year old is that you get to party."

"All night." Greg said it like it was something to be excited about. Nick might even believe it if he hadn't cracked open in a wide, lingering yawn.

Sara snorted. "You'll be lucky to make it through breakfast, Greggo."

"Huh. I'll get you beer for your breakfast, and maybe we can round it out with waffles or something." It wasn't like getting booze with breakfast was hard in Vegas. "You have a good night, Sara."

"See you guys in a couple of days." Yeah. Greg was off for the next three, and Nick was off for the next couple. He was pulling call, so he hadn't actually planned anything beyond hanging out and maybe mowing the postage stamp he called a lawn.

"Yeah, maybe the smell will have worn off by then."

Greg laughed, and Nick held the door for him before they fell into step out in the hallway. "I'm not sure who ended up pulling the worse case."

"Hey. I'll settle for human chunks in the freezer any time over human soup. Well..." He seemed to contemplate that. "Maybe not so much, all things considered."

"I think it's kind of a tossup. Still, freezer. Right on top of the Breyer's. That's pretty..." Nick shook his head. "Messed up. You did good on the case, though."

They walked out through the lobby, Greg waving a hand at one of their regulars on their way past. Evelyn drifted towards them as if they might be interested in whatever the night's alien harassment story might be, but they moved out fast enough that it probably wasn't worth it to her.

The morning was still cool when they stepped outside, and quieter than it was inside. "Yeah. I'm glad it's over. The whole cannibalism angle kinda creeps me out even worse than average lately."

"Yeah. How's that going?" He was pretty, mostly, sure that Greg was knocking boots with Graham, which was too much like the case that Greg had cinched closed up there -- young guy, older hermit, cabin in the woods, werewolves. It wasn't that Nick had anything against werewolves, except, yeah, he did, once he started thinking about it, remembering. They were guys, just like everybody else, but they also had temper problems. Saying that was just the tip of the iceberg. It was kinda like saying being friends with Dracula made a guy a little anemic. People who stayed around werewolves inevitably ended up injured, some worse than others. It was statistics.

"Pretty good, I think." Greg shot him a grin, heading for the passenger side of Nick's car. "He comes down most weekends. It's nice."

"I don't think I can remember the last time you really dated someone." And if it sounded a little ominous to Nick, well. He had all of those statistics, and then what he knew about the guy's personal history all caught up in his head. It was a bad mix.

"Yeah, well, I've been a little busy lately. Aside from working like crazy in the field, I still try and keep up in DNA. Just in case I ever need a second job option." The seat belt clicked in and he leaned his head back against the chair. "Seriously, though. Dating again is kind of great."

Nick turned the engine over, and took it out of park once he was buckled in. "Yeah. I just... Wouldn't have seen it coming, I guess."

"What, me dating again?" That was a look. He wasn't sure exactly what it meant, but it was definitely a look. "C'mon. I couldn't go carrying around a mancrush on you for the rest of my life, Nicky." And yeah, that was teasing, but it kind of wasn't, too.

It wasn't really his thing, but Greg had never been too heavy with it. The offer was sort of there, and so was Greg's friendship, and the two didn't get too tangled up together. "Not you dating again. Just... who it is."

He had to have thought about it -- registered who it was, all of the things that might go wrong. Greg was smart, even if he occasionally did stupid things. "Is this because he's Will Graham or because he's older than me or...?"


"I dunno. Maybe all three. Maybe none of them. I just worry about you." Greg did the easy safe things -- seat belts, stopping at all the lights, same as Nick, but he just was... too trusting, maybe.

Too much of an easy target, where Nick had learned not to trust anybody before he'd been old enough for junior high. It was hard not to worry about him, kind of like having a baby brother. "I'm not a complete idiot, Nick. One, he's a good guy. Two... older? Sometimes it really is better. And C, he's actually pretty good with that other thing. Plus? Never any cold feet when you've got fur to push your toes under."

Nick didn't mean to snort, but he did. "You've seen him shift? Really?" There was no questioning that he had all of his fingers and toes.

"I've seen him shift on the fly. Leland Brooks got infected when he was a teenager -- some kinda traffic accident, back before they had reliable screening methods. He got kinda upset when he realized his brother knew about his sexual preferences. Will shifted to try and keep him from tearing off to parts unknown, howling to himself as he launched over a cliff."

"Uh-huh. Does he just... I mean, no tearing around like a wolf?" He couldn't really get his head around it, except that Greg was pretty open-minded.

He seemed to think about it. "More like a big dog, to be honest. I mean, there's one of those pet doors, and a couple of rawhide chews floating around at his place. I think I even saw a tennis ball last time."

"I guess that's embracing your inner wolf, huh?" That was pretty logical, and if Graham had been a dog guy beforehand, maybe that was just how he handled it if there was any actual handling to be done. "I guess it's too close to that case you did up there for my comfort. And I know, doesn't matter. I'm glad you're happy. I'm still going to keep track of where you are, just in case."

"Yeah, yeah. I'm sure I'll appreciate that if Will decides I make good gumbo, but I'm pretty sure you don't have to worry about that, one way or another."

He wasn't sure if it was worse that Greg had just made a cannibalism joke, a New Orleans joke, or both in the same shot. "Hey, I'm your friend. I'm allowed to worry." And maybe if he met the guy, he'd feel a little calmer about the whole thing. Because a werewolf that had rawhide chews? That had to be a first.

Greg shot him a look. "You're allowed to worry, sure. Just... you don't need to worry about Will. You can worry about pretty much anybody else, but Will is... he's okay. He'd die first before hurting somebody, I think."

"Okay. I'll believe you." Greg was probably head over heels in love, and that clouded a person. Nick would just have to do investigating for himself until he felt better. "And you're happy."

"Been a long time since I was this happy. I mean, it's nice. Having somebody to call after a bad day, going out and just being comfortable instead of going out looking for somebody." Greg glanced over at him. "I'm comfortable with you guys, but spending all night and all day with somebody from the office would get to sucking eventually, probably."

"Yeah. I guess it would," Nick mused, pulling into a parking lot. "But he's still in the field."

"And damn good at it. But seriously, are we going out to go out or are you just wanting to kind of make sure I'm dating guys that pass the test? Dad?" Maybe he deserved that, a little.

"Nope. There's beer and breakfast here," Nick promised, putting it into park. "I just wanted to feel things out."

Greg popped the seat belt and reached for the door handle. "And worry about me. Which... that's cool. Just you shouldn't have to."

"It's not an obligation," Nick promised him as he got out of his side, waiting until they were both standing up. "It's just been a rough couple of years for you."

Rough year was maybe an understatement. He'd been in an explosion, changed professions, gone to a funeral in California. Nick knew how much Greg's Isöaiti had meant to him, so it had to have been rough. "Yeah, well. Maybe it's time for something good instead."

"Well, you've definitely hit the requisite three hard things, so." Unless changing professions was good, and Nick wasn't one for superstition, but sometimes? Life just called for it. "First beer's on me."

"Sounds like a plan."

Yeah, it did. They'd have breakfast, a few beers, and head home, good friends. And if he looked into Will Graham, just to be sure, well. What Greg didn't know wouldn't hurt either of them.

Considering the distance, the drive was getting easier, more routine. The roads were already familiar to Will, but this was different, this was knowing the nuances of traffic once he got onto the busier part of the drive. It was worth it to see Greg again.

They'd been seeing each other for a while now, months even. It was the longest he'd spent with any other being since Molly had left him, worried about his ability to control himself, about Josh, about Will himself, probably. He wasn't entirely sure.

The funny thing was that his control was superb. He could shift sharply, controlled; he had hardly any startle response. It just hurt that those had been reasonable to her at the time. Greg had no doubt in him, though. Not one, and he'd even gone so far as to mention that he'd prefer a furry companion if they got stuck in the cabin during a blizzard. Something about cold feet.

Will rounded a corner and slowed down, frowning as he saw a car stopped by the side of the road. It was a hell of a place to break down, just on the other side of the curve, and the guy needed to get his vehicle pushed up at least another fifty feet so someone else didn't plough up through him.

He stepped on the brakes and slowed down further, coming to a stop near the practically non-existent shoulder. The guy looked up at him, hope on his sallow features. "H-h-he-hello."

"Hey, there. You need help pushing it past the turn?" The engine was off, so there was no hope in guessing what it was or wasn't doing.

"I, I. I'd like that, yeah. It's... I was driving and it k-k-quit. P-probably just a sp-park p-plug or something. I, I knew they needed ch-changing, but I th-thought... one m-more trip, you know?"

"Yeah." He was pretty fond of his truck, and he tried not to do that with it. Still, he'd done it before, in the past. "All right. I'll park up the road and come down here to help you push it."

"Th-thanks." The man didn't seem like any kind of threat -- just somebody who'd gotten a little down on his luck. "I ap-p-ppreciate it."

"Not a problem. I'll be back in a few." He gave a little wave, and drove up the road to the wider shoulder. He was still cautious -- parked, locked his truck, and pocketed his keys before he walked back down the slope to help out the guy.

The car was older, which probably meant it was heavier, too. It seemed obvious why he'd need help. Pushing the weight of it uphill wasn't going to be easy, and he was probably worried it might get away from him if he was pushing it on his own. It wouldn't take long, Will knew, while he made a quick walk down towards where the poor guy had broken down.

He was waiting for him, looking nervously up the hill for traffic. Well, that or he thought Will might be some kind of bad guy, and either of those things were perfectly reasonable to be worrying about with no other people in sight. He relaxed a little when he saw Will, and that was good. "Th-thanks again. I, I just need to get it d-down the w-way. Then it'll b-be okay... if I c-can figure out how to l-lift the hood. The darn c-catch always surp-prises me when I get to l-looking for it."

"If you can just lean in and pop the brake off, we can get it moving, I think," Will promised.

"Y-yeah. Sure." Sure, and the guy did just that -- leaned in, popped the emergency brake, and the car started to roll in the wrong direction almost immediately.

It was a slow creep, but it made Will momentarily grateful for the extra strength he gained from his changed DNA, fingers gripping just under the rear bumper. There was mud or something down there, but he hated to let go of his grip once he'd gotten it in place. "Okay, let's ease her up and I think you should be okay."

Mostly okay, anyway. It was a good thing they were on a relatively level part of the road, enough that the car wasn't getting away from them. That was good, because he didn't think grabbing on with his fingertips was going to keep the car from getting away.

Thank god they weren't headed downhill, though; if that was the case, the whole thing would've ended with the guy's car in his. He stopped pushing after a while, and once they were up on his truck, told the guy, "Now is the time to throw a brake on."

"Y-yeah." Yeah, and the full weight of it was a little much when he let go, but it only took a few seconds to get the brake on. "I, I really do... th-thanks, mister...?"

"Graham. It's not a problem." He figured if there was anything else the guy needed in terms of help, he'd ask before Will got away.

"I, I'm P-P-Pete. Th-thanks again. I... could y-you maybe help me p-pull the hood latch? I, sometimes I have a little t-trouble finding it. I know, I, I'm a g-grown man, but I, I've never been much of a, a mechanic."

"If you're not much of a mechanic, what're you going to do once I get the hood latch for you?" Will asked, moving towards the front of the car to do just that. "Pop it from the inside."

The solid k-chunk of the hood releasing sounded, and then he walked up closer to Will. "W-work on it a little. I, I figure it's probably a l-loose battery c-cable or, or spark p-plug."

Will slipped his fingers in, feeling for it before he pressed up and pushed the hood open. There was something that had give under his fingertips, and it made him curious, but Pete leaned in next to him, peering at the engine with a look that said he was more clueless than not. The battery had some pretty serious corrosion going on, though, and Will would bet a couple of beers that was the cause.

"You have pliers to unhook the battery?" Will asked, peering hard at it.

"M-maybe. Th-there's a l-little gray k-kit. In the... j-just a minute." He stepped away, and went to dig in the back seat. Will wished he had a good wire brush to get at some of the corrosion, but he'd have to make do with what they had. He could probably work it out so Pete could make it to the next town. It wasn't all that far, even if this was a back road.

"You have a cell phone on you, just in case?" Will asked. "We've got a guy back in Jackpot who's handy with a wrench if this doesn't work..."

"Y-yeah. I, I, I even have signal, wh-which is p-pretty imp-pressive, w-way out here." Pete pulled out a small phone and waved it a little, putting the tiny gray case full of cheap, small tools down where Will could reach it.

"Good." Will took the standard case, and just figured if he could get the corrosion off, the guy'd make it far enough. "You're going to need a new battery when you get home."

"L-looks like it. I, I ought to t-take better c-care of it b-but... business hasn't b-been s-so good lately." He sensed the self-conscious shrug more than he saw it as he went to work on the battery. "S-So."

Will disconnected the battery, and then started to clean off the connections as best as he could. "I know how that goes."

'I, I think a l-lot of people do. But, well. I, I ought to take better c-care anyway. B-basic maintenance."

"New battery for this shouldn't set you back more than eighty, looking at it." Will looked in the gray thing for a little wire brush, and when he found it, went back to tackling the connections. It looked like it'd been growing up onto the alligator clips, too. Basic maintenance would sure as hell have helped, but some people weren't capable of it. He wasn't in any position to make any judgments, he figured, and kept working at it for a while in silence until he thought it was good enough to start, maybe. He reattached the clips and looked up. "Try it now."

"O-okay." Pete left him, moving around to climb behind the wheel. He turned over the ignition, and it caught after a couple of seconds.

"Great!" Will tidied the tools out of the way, and closed the hood. "Go on, I'd just keep driving if I were you."

"S-s-sounds like a plan." He closed the door and rolled down the window, waiting as Will put all of the tools away and closed the hood. He brought them around to the driver's side and handed them over. "I, I, I really ap-ppreciate ev-everything. I c-can't rep-pay you n-now but i-if you wanted, I, I, could mail you a ch-check l-later or...?"

"Don't bother," Will shrugged. "Being stranded on the road is an uncomfortable thing. Drive safely, all right?"

The guy promised as much, and took off slowly, creeping his way towards Jackpot. Will got back in his truck, picking up his cell phone from the passenger side seat and calling Greg.


"Hey, it's me. I'm going to be late arriving into town. Just finished getting some guy's broken down car going."

He could practically feel amusement filtering down the line. ~"Seriously. You're a good guy, Graham. Not everybody would stop and help a stranger by the side of the road, especially these days.~

"Well, I'm going to be late for the movie, now," Will pointed out. "So, backup plans...?"

~"I could cook."~ Greg's cooking was as good as he'd implied it was. ~"I mean, I was planning to anyway, but I'll cook sooner instead of later. We can watch some TV or pick out a dvd or something. It's not the end of the world.~

"That sounds like the best backup plan I've ever heard. I'll be on my way again soon, so I'll see you then." He turned his engine over, shifting up straighter in his seat.

~"Be careful. Traffic's a bitch coming into Vegas starting about the time you'll hit it."~ It was nice to hear that, nice that Greg thought about it, worried a little. ~"Got any preferences for dinner?"~

"Whatever you have on hand sounds great," Will smiled, starting forwards while he juggled the phone a little.

~"So, burgers and fries it is."~ He was teasing. It would be morning rush hour when he got in, and Greg would just be getting off work. ~"I'll stop by that French bakery you like on my way home."~

"If I didn't need room to run in circles, I think I'd move to Vegas just for that bakery. Well, and you. You and the bakery."

~"Damn, that's a nice thought. Too bad I can't afford a bigger back yard."~ There was amusement there, and a little taste of regret. ~"Hey, Nick's calling me. I'll see you in the morning. Let me know if you stop for long?"~

"Will do, though I expect it's smooth driving now. See you soon." He hung up so Greg could get to the other call, but it was an idea. There were suburbs, and places near the wilderness, though he did like the cold in Jackpot. It was something to think about; especially if things kept going the way they were now. Ten hour dives were a bitch, and the cabin would always be there, even if he moved away for a while. He just needed to find a place with room to run, and that wasn't that hard if he sat down and gave it any thought.

Maybe they'd talk about it sometime this week. He wouldn't flinch from the subject if it came up, and he figured Greg would mention it soon. If not this time, then the next.

Thinking about settling down again was a little scary, but Will had never been the one to leave, or to make a decision that something wasn't worth it. This was worth it, and he thought they'd both be ready for it, when the time came. They'd been seeing each other for six months, making stupidly long drives and subsisting on phone conversations that would shame the average teenager for length.

It would be worth it. All he had to do was buck up and prepare for it, and enjoy it while it lasted.

He hoped that would be a good long while.

Greg hated being on call the week after Will went back to Jackpot. They usually managed to stuff in several days of time together every four or five weeks -- eating out, movies, curling up on the couch to do nothing more exciting than watching bad sci-fi. The day after he left always kind of sucked, though, because he was on his own, and Nick was always giving him that faintly worried look, like he still wasn't sure Greg knew anything about what was good for him.

Nick meant well. He did, he meant well, but it was kind of annoying because no one had really lorded over Nick his need to be the white knight in shining armor to rescue ladies of the night. Greg really thought that was a worse choice than dating a werewolf. Will had only ‘accidentally’ changed once while visiting Greg -- a car had backfired in the parking lot, and Will had been shifted and backed up protectively against Greg before Greg really even finished processing what was going on.

He didn't worry about Will, or what he was. He worried more about people who worried about him, and people who still thought silver bullets were the only solution to a barely visible minority.

Greg pulled his kit from his trunk and closed it with a hard kthunk, heading into the shitty motel where they'd gotten a suicide callout. It made him wonder what it was about these places that seemed to invite suicide, exactly. They were crappy, sure, but if he was going out the hard way, Greg kind of thought he'd prefer a more idyllic scene. Then again, he knew that bugs and liquefaction were inevitable, outside or in, and so maybe that made a difference.

It wasn't like a dead body was going to improve the place. He waved to Vartann, who was coming out to meet him, face pulled grim. "It's the same guy. I haven't touched anything."

The same guy, and damn. Damn, just what he wanted his first night back on shift. He already knew what they'd found -- sleeping bag in the tub, window open for ventilation to alert anyone walking by that there was a dead man in there. The hand-recorder with the suicide note would be in the same place. "Thanks."

There went his night, and the dead guy's night, too. He needed to focus while he processed, look for the fingerprints that wouldn't be there except the ones the guy wanted them to find. It was frustrating.

"Yeah. No problem. Stokes is coming in on this one, said something about calling in Brown if you needed anything before he got here."

Of course Nicky was. He'd been pissed since Paul Millander had handed Greg coffee and then shook a leg, leaving them with an empty warehouse and a bad taste in his mouth. It was kind of funny that Nick was more pissed and paranoid about it than Greg was. He hadn't gotten anything threatening off of the guy, though, and he still didn't feel like he was in any kind of danger. The guy wanted them to find something, he just wasn't sure what. He wished he knew, because then they'd know why the crimes were happening, because the how mattered jack shit. They'd figured out the how early on, and that hadn't led them anywhere.

Catherine always said the guy who used to supervise nights had said that the why didn't matter. It was their job to figure out the how. Whatever was going on, the how wasn't going to be enough. It didn't have anything to do with this, or not enough that it meant anything.

The scene, when he entered it carefully, was just like it had been all of the other times. On a hunch, he decided to get the UV out first, before the ME got there, see if the guy had cleaning supplied the place to hell and back. The handheld in his kit would do until Nick got to the scene. Greg knew he'd bring the bigger one, because they had protocol in place for this scene, and how insane was it that they needed protocol just for this? Sure, they had protocols for everything else, but they had special ones for this. It sort of pissed him off that they'd had time to develop protocols for this, but the guy was tricky, and if he slipped up, they'd get him. All it took was once, and Greg wanted it like he'd wanted very few things in his life.

The men were always the same in one way -- their birthday was on August 17. The years on the first two were 1959 and 1958, and Greg would bet money that this one would be '57 or '60. If he was going in order, it would be '57.

Maybe there was some kind of message in that. Telling them something, although he wouldn't know until they picked up the wallet. He didn't want to disturb anything until he'd used the UV, so he pulled on gloves and clicked the button. The bulb blinked into life, shining ultraviolet blue.

The guy had used so much fucking bleach, it was a miracle he hadn't suffocated right there in the room. Everything gleamed with the glow of cleaning product, bright bright bright in small circles as the guy had carefully scrubbed it down. They'd even had time to analyze down to the type of cleaning wipe the dude preferred.

That hadn't helped any, but they'd had the time. They'd had all the time in the world, and Greg gritted his teeth together, leaning over. He was just about to put his hand on the wall to support himself when he stopped, and looked at it speculatively.

It couldn't be that easy, could it?

But maybe it could. He looked at the wall, and decided, fuck it. Print everything. He could just dust that wall for prints. What was the worst that could happen? He might get red creeper all over the bathroom, and the crime scene cleanup guys would bitch a lot.

Well, it wasn't his problem, not for now. He had other things to worry about, so he pulled out his print powder and duster and went to work.

He'd done that wall, and found a smudged something that he was going to lift, but he could hear Nick coming into the motel room. Nick could recheck the UV.

"Hey. I'm in here." And working on a smudged print, which was either a mistake -- finally -- or a plant.

Probably the latter, but God, what he'd give for that kind of luck.

He wanted the real thing -- that slip, that feeling of a guy finally doing something stupid like pressing a hand against a wall as he wandered into a remarkably tight space.

"Vartann warned me," Nick told him, stopping in the threshold. "Damn. What haven't you started on, other than painting the walls hot pink?"

"Well, it occurred to me when I leaned over and wanted to put my hand on the wall to support myself while I ran the UV that maybe he'd screw up. Leave us a little memento. Well, or a plant." Greg stopped and looked at him. "Probably a plant, since the rest is just as immaculate as the other scenes, and we only got one print at any of those."

"Hey, get them to run everything we find. For all the planted prints, we might get a real one." Nick was flicking on the UV again, and Greg turned back to getting a tape lift out of his kit. It was going to be a damn long scene.

Six hours later, they were still working. Warrick had come in, and they'd gone over every single inch of the bathroom, and then started on the hotel room. Greg was starving, his blood sugar was dropping, and pretty soon, he figured one of them was going to kill him and stuff his body in the tub, too. Seriously, though, they ought to know to feed him sometime after hour four, right?

When Nick looked over at him and declared, "Sanders, go get a damn candy bar," he nearly bolted for the door. By the time the last word made it out of Nick's mouth, he was halfway down the sidewalk, wondering where in the hell the candy machine was and digging in his pocket for his phone.

He hit the button to pull up the last few calls, and hit it again to call Will. It rang twice, three times, and he thought it might go to voicemail.

~"Graham speaking."~ Half the time, Will didn't look at his caller ID before he picked up, and this time was no different than any other.

"Tell me where I can find a candy machine in a crappy motel before I stab somebody in the eye and end up in one of the interrogation rooms." As if Will would have that kind of answer. "Remind me why I don't carry some with me again?"

~"Because the last time you put a Snickers in your pocket, it squeezed out like toothpaste,"~ Will offered. ~"Usually near the sound of the ice machines. Far corners of the hotel, around corners."~

"I'm at a fleabag motel. I..." Oh. There it was, in a weird breezeway kind of thing. "It's been a long night."

~"It sounds like it. Take a deep breath, and get a soda with the candy. It'll help."~ Will had said he had a personal history of not stopping when he needed to.

"Yeah. If it's working. How's your night going?" Greg started digging in his pocket for change. He always kept some on him, because nights like this sucked, but they were inevitable.

~"Mellow. I was just staring at the ceiling, trying to clear my head before I finished off this chapter."~ He hadn't been worried that he was keeping Will up, which was good. He knew Will had kind of gone nocturnal so that their schedules were close enough for them to spend time together. The sheer amount of time they'd spent on the phone together had gotten ridiculous months ago.

"Still reading that mystery novel you were working on? Gemcity, right?"

~"I'm thinking about writing my own at this point, but I'm pretty sure it would end up too dry and procedural. A little too much technique and not enough people jumping through windows. The plot's full of holes in this one, but the main character is compelling enough that I can't seem to give up and use it to level off the coffee table."~

"I'm afraid to know what happened to the coffee table that it needs leveling, or, alternately, what might deserve that fate. Maybe I should pick up a copy, if it's got such high praise." Greg slotted in his quarters and went for the Reeses. Between the chocolate and the peanut butter, that should do the job.

He could get a Coke, but root beer would be more satisfying. ~"I'll hand it off to you when I'm done,"~ Will offered. ~"It's actually great. I'm pretty sure I worked with a guy like that."~

Greg pulled at the wrapping and managed to get the first peanut butter cup in hand, working off the paper. "You'll have to tell me all about it when I come up next." It wasn't soon enough, either. It never seemed soon enough.

~"Mmmhmm. I'll save the ending from you, though. Which I'll know better when I get there. Has the world stopped spinning yet?"~

"Oh my God." He was moaning into the phone. It would be pervy if it wasn't for the fact that he was having a dirty, dirty moment with his second peanut butter cup. "Yeah. 'm doing much better now. After a root beer, I'll be good to go again. Thanks for, you know..." Talking him down, making him feel less cranky. Being Will.

~"Nothing to thank me for. If your coworkers weren't all strung out, too, one of them would've thought to poke you towards the vending machine sooner."~

"Yeah. I know." He leaned back against the wall and took a deep breath. Yeah. He felt better. "So. You gonna be up much longer? There's a chance, even if it's slim, that I might get off of work sometime this century."

~"Yeah. I might doze off, but I'll be around. There might be some running around in circles and terrorizing the squirrels in the afternoon."~ Greg guessed it was easier to nap when Will was in wolf form.

Still. It made him smile. Especially the part about terrorizing the squirrels. "I'll call you when I get free. If I get free."

~"Good luck on the case. Take breaks when you need to."~ He'd do that. He'd do that, even though he had to hang up.

"I will. Bye." Bye, because he'd feel like a dumbass saying anything more gushy over the phone. There was jerking off together over a distance and then there was stamping dork on his forehead.

~"Good night, Greg."~ And then Will hung up. There, that was painless, no mushy 'I love you's.

It took a second to shove his phone in his pocket, and then he cracked open the root beer and took a swig. Pushing away from the wall, he decided to head back towards the crime scene. It wouldn't take long to finish it off, and then he'd be ready to go back to work.

He needed the luck on the case, though. After all, Mandy might take his head off when she got a look at all the prints he had. He wasn't enough of a masochist to get anywhere near her until after she'd had a chance to forgive him for printing the entire place. Besides, he'd only sent one back with instructions to run it immediately -- the one he'd found where he'd wanted to place his own hand.

Hopefully, that was going to be their case. Hopefully it would be useful and they could start on a direction instead of throwing darts at a wall. Anything was better than the way they'd been going, and he waved at Vartann as he got closer to the room. He was casting Greg one of those looks that made him nervous. He could never tell if the guy was just sour by nature or if Greg's presence set him off. No real way to be sure which it was, and Vartann wasn't really talking. "So, uh..."

"You guys wrapping up sometime?"

"Should be in the next little while, I figure. Unless we print the rest of the room, and I kind of think Mandy will hunt me down, kill me in my sleep, and then figure out some way to hide the body and leave no trace of it." Maybe even use parts of him as relics when she started her own religion.

He was pretty tired, when he thought about it. "Right. Right. You guys let me know when you're done." Hell, Vartann probably wanted a candy bar and a soda, too.

Greg walked back into the room, licking his lips clean of sugar, and stopped as Nick turned around. "Hey. So."

"Yeah. Can we talk outside?" Nick half-asked. There was something about it that put him on edge, especially in conjunction with Vartann going kind of sour.

He took another swig of his root beer and then nodded slowly. "Okay."

"Great." Nick nodded to Vartann while they passed, and now, now Greg was curious. "Look, you're going to have to recuse yourself from the case."

"What the hell?" It was out before he thought about it. "What do you mean recuse myself? Jesus, Nick!"

"Mandy just ran the print we sent, and it came back." Nick kept walking him away from the scene. "It's Graham."

Will? "What do you mean, it's Will?' There was no way. There just... there wasn't. He didn't believe it. "It...."

"It's Graham. I don't know if the print was placed like everything else, but it's Graham's. We're sending the sheriff to get him to come in."

No. No way. "There's no way. I mean, none. This guy, he hasn't been dead a whole day, Nick." He couldn't have been. And Will hadn't been in Vegas for two weeks. "I was on the phone with Will this morning. Twenty-four hours ago, you can talk to Archie, get him to, to check the call, cell phone towers, or...."

"And we will. We will, but he still has to be brought in," Nick said, "So, just go back to the lab, Jim'll put you on something."

Jesus. Jim, and seriously, he was going home. It was damn near eight anyway, and it wasn't like he'd be concentrating on anything else any time soon. "Can I have my kit?" Since it was still in the damned room.

"Yeah. I'm sorry." Nick at least looked guilty, and it wasn't like other people hadn't been forced to recuse themselves, but fuck. He was a good investigator, and it just made no sense.


There had been planted fingerprints before, and dammit. He'd been on the phone with Will yesterday at nine in the morning, and he'd been in Jackpot then, he'd heard Doris yell out a hello, and then something about Marty eating his breakfast. It was a stupidly long drive for anybody who wasn't going to spend an entire day in bed, and they'd talked once or twice about meeting halfway and staying in a motel or something to save themselves the trip.

No way had Will made it to Vegas then headed straight back to Jackpot after killing somebody.

He took his kit from Nick when he handed it over, and he didn't say anything. There wasn't any point, not when Nick looked so guilty, and Greg was halfway convinced that Nick would be less inclined to believe the fingerprint if Will wasn't a werewolf.

Then again, hell. It was possible. Remotely possible, but what other explanation could there be for his fingerprint? Why would the killer choose to plant Will's print, and where would he get it?

He wanted all of the answers, and he knew he wouldn't be allowed to work them. The sheriff was probably already up at Will's cabin, or considering it. He might put it off until the morning, and if Greg called Will again, then... then what?

Then the hell with it. They'd fire him, probably, but that would give him an excuse to look for a job closer to Jackpot, and okay. That would suck balls, because he loved his job, but he loved Will, too.

Greg headed for the SUV he'd come in, jaw locked as he tried to figure out what to do. He'd never had to do that before. He'd never had a conflict, and there was no guidebook for how to handle it when your boyfriend was a suspect. Shit. For a second, he just sat behind the wheel, rubbing his sinuses. Well, he'd do the only thing he could do -- go back to work, grind his teeth, and try to get through the rest of the day. He knew Will wouldn't run. Will wasn't that person. He wasn't a killer.

Greg reached for his phone and thumbed the call button twice.

~"Hi."~ Will sounded curious, and he knew he'd be curious to get a callback that soon. ~"Finished up?"~

He licked his lips and then turned over the ignition. "Not the crime scene, but yeah. I am."

~"What happened?"~ Will's voice tilted a little lower.

"There was a print. Probably planted. Definitely planted, but I can't figure out how it got there." Or what to do about it. "They asked me to recuse myself."

~"Why? This guy's planted your prints now?"~ It was nice that Will sounded surprised, genuinely surprised.

Greg put the truck in reverse and turned the wheel. "No. Not my prints." He didn't want to say more, but Jesus. "Is there anybody who can prove you were in Jackpot for all of the last couple days?"

~"I, uh... Jesus. Yeah. Someone got my prints,"~ Will murmured, almost a groan.

"Yeah." Greg propped his elbow on the door next to the window and started working his way into traffic. "I figure Sheriff Brooks will be driving up to your place any time now."

~"This early? No, but soon."~ Will exhaled slowly. ~"Dammit. I'm everyone's favorite suspect, too. I was in town most of yesterday, on and off."~

Thank God. There was no way the guy had been dead longer than the night -- whoever had checked in had only done it yesterday evening, early. There was no way Will could be pinned for it if he had an alibi. "Thank God."

~"I blame you for making me more sociable. Blame's the wrong word. I guess, uh. I'll be in soon."~

"I'm just sorry it's going to be like this. Maybe you can convince 'em to let you sit up front. There's a lot of really disgusting things going on in the back of most patrol cars." Puke, piss, shit, blood. It was pretty remarkable, what people felt free to do back there.

~"Yeah, the sheriff knows me. It'll be all right."~ He was sure, absolutely sure that Will wasn't going to run. ~"I'm going to get a nap in while I still can."~

For a minute, he hesitated. Then he said, "They might fire me for calling you. If they do..."

~"I have a bed you can share. Place is paid off, too."~ Will was quiet for a beat, and then he added, ~"And, what call? I'm certainly not on the phone right now."~

That, at last, made him laugh a little. Archie would catch him out if it became an issue. "Yeah. I love you, too. I'm gonna go, so I can drive."

~"Be safe. And don't worry about me. This will sort itself out."~ The words of a man who had faith in his innocence, and not in the PD's ability to railroad.

God, he hoped that was true. "I can't help worrying. I'll see you tonight." He'd be in the lab, one way or the other, and it would take about that long for Will and Brooks to get in.

~"Yeah. Goodnight, Greg."~ Will hung up, and he was probably working out what he'd do, but Greg was still sure he'd see him that night.

Grimly, he made his way out into traffic and headed for the lab. They'd work this out, somehow or other. Damn Nick, and damn Paul Millander for figuring out just how to poke Greg, and wow. Okay, that solved the worrying about Will being brought in and made him glad Brooks was going over to Will's.

Millander had disappeared cold up until now, and it had never occurred to him that he ought to be worrying about something other than the fact that the guy might do it again. He hadn't thought to be worried about himself, or Will, or any of the people he knew.

Because after Will, who else was next?

Partially to piss off Sheriff Brooks, he'd done the long ride down to Vegas as a wolf.

Mostly because Brooks didn't know the way, missed an exit right off the bat, and didn't seem to know where his accelerator was. It was the only way he could stop himself from taking the steering wheel from the guy.

It had gotten him some pretty funny looks when they got to the station and Brooks let him out, grumbling as he walked behind him with Will's overnight bag. Obviously his brother had him pretty much trained. It worked well, he decided, mostly because it had to be confounding to the locals. But they wanted him; they were going to get him.

"I'm handing over your, uh, guy you wanted in for questioning."

The guy at the desk looked at Brooks, then looked at Will, then looked back at Brooks. "You've gotta be kidding me." It made Will want to smirk, but he didn't want to show his teeth.


"Nope. It was a long car ride, and I'm not gonna begrudge a werewolf the right to change." Brooks set his clothes down on the counter, and Will circled a little anxiously around Brooks's legs. "All right, dammit."

"That's a werewolf." Obviously Casella didn't believe it, so Will did show his teeth, then, and nudged his bag demandingly. It was worth it for the recoil effect, and Brooks picked up his bag. Will wondered if he was going to have to try and worm into his pants so that he didn't embarrass himself or if Brooks was going to find someplace for him to change.

"Yes, it's a werewolf, and I'm gonna walk him over to the bathroom now so he can get dressed if you'll tell me what direction it's in."

"It's uh. Over there." The front desk person sounded miserable, and Will just nudged until Brooks started walking. "I'll call Detective Brass."

"Don't worry, I'll stay with him. He's not going anywhere."

He was here of his own volition. They'd even taken time to get several sworn statements from around town -- the postmistress saying he'd picked up his mail around eleven, Doris because he'd had lunch at the cafe, Mervin down at the hardware store. He'd had to go in and pick up some plumbing pieces in the late afternoon.

Sometimes, a guy just wanted to try to rig up his own solar powered water heating. It was in the realm of trying to tidy up the place for sale, though if Greg's paranoia went right, he'd be staying there.

He was dressed in short order, and the sheriff looked relieved.

"Thanks for the ride."

"Yeah, well, I was gonna have to come down here one way or the other. Might as well bring you as send somebody else. Know it wasn't you doing whatever it was they're looking for you about."

"Thank you." He tilted his head a little, not clutching too tightly to his bag. "So, I have witness statements, and where would you all like me?"

"Don't ask me. Ask Ca-whatever his name is up at the desk. I'll take the statements, talk to whoever's waiting on you." Brooks nodded. "Hope the statements'll do you some good."

"Thanks. I'm sure this will all work out." One way or another. He wasn't sure what he'd do if he were pushed. It'd been a while since he'd been pushed.

He didn't want to see how it went, actually.

"Yeah, well. Let's get on with it." Brooks pulled open the door and they stepped out into the lobby again. Funnily enough, the number of cops had increased. It would be amusing if it weren't insulting as hell, too.

Will lifted an eyebrow at the room now. "Sheriff, thank you. So."

"So." The guy with the raised eyebrows and the lack of hair had to be Brass. "You must be Will Graham. Nice to meet you. Shame Sanders didn't bring you in to meet the family before all this."

"Funny thing about being a werewolf -- I make a great suspect for everything. So I like my low profile life back in Jackpot." Will gave Brass a tight smile.

"Yeah, yeah. I can see that. Come this way. Might as well get started." Never mind that he didn't want to. What he wanted was to be back at his cabin, working on his water heater.

"Yeah." He tilted his mouth a little. "Just tell me what you want."

Blocky shoulders rose in a shrug. "Let's just talk. Gotta ask some questions, see where you've been lately. Pretty sure you'll be able to tell me that, right?"

"Yeah." He figured that playing nice with him either meant they believed he was innocent, or that it was a technique. Well, he wasn't going to finesse the police until he started to feel worked over.

"That's what I thought." He made a sign to the cops around him, and they spread out, as if they'd manage to do anything if Will decided eating them was the right course of action. Half of them had their tazers out, so maybe they would. It would be funny except for the part where it wasn't. "C'mon. It's just this way."

This was one of the big reasons he'd told Jack to shove it up his ass. Being a werewolf made everybody stupidly suspicious. He couldn't walk into a field office anymore without people giving him dirty looks. It was easier just to Fed Ex out his opinions and profiles, fax them over, anything but show up in person unless he had to.

Following the detective was easy, though. Even with the guys hovering at the edges, looking like he might turn wolf and hamstring the man any second, he wasn't worried. After all, he wasn't going to bite him, so there wasn't going to be a problem.

The interrogation room was gray and boring and pretty much like any other interrogation room Will had ever been in, federal, local, or somewhere in between. "So. Will Graham. You're pretty much a star in the world of forensics. Especially with the bugs."

"That's what I do now," Will confirmed, looking around. One way mirror behind him, glass in front of him. A lot of observation was going on.

Brass settled down in the chair across the way. "Yeah. Sanders mentioned that, said you helped him out on the trip to Jackpot. We appreciate that, we really do."

"So much that you've brought me in under police escort," Will drawled, slouching back in the chair a little.

"Yeah, well, you know, it's the kind of thing people get a little excited about. I mean, we've had this serial killer for a while. He's been staging crime scenes. Making them look like suicides, but they're all identical, and...." Brass gave him a heavy look. "Perfect. Pristine. Nothing out of place but two fingerprints so far."

"One of them, I assume, is mine, which is why I'm here," Will countered. The heavy look wasn't going to get Brass far.

He nodded. "That's exactly why you're here. So. Let me ask you. How do you think we got your thumb print off a crime scene in a no-tell motel deep in the wrong parts of Vegas?"

"It had to have been planted. The last time I was in Vegas was a week ago, and I didn't stay in a hotel."

"So I hear. You've been spending a lot of time in town lately, and it's a pretty long drive."

"It is. That's why I only come down when Greg's not going to be on call." He might as well put it out there, because he had a feeling that Brass knew. Knew, maybe didn't approve, but hell, he'd hauled Will in. That was a long drive for nothing.

There was a certain amusement about the man, though, underscoring things. "How do you think your print got planted? I mean, where'd the guy get it from, and why'd he choose you?"

"I'm high profile. There are few sociopaths who can resist taking a potshot at me like I'm a sheriff in the old west. As for where... I don't think about wiping my prints when I go places. I run the same patterns over and over. If someone wanted to predict what I was doing, they could."

"Well, then you've gotta remember something. Unless you think the small town of Jackpot's got some kind of local sociopath. Nobody's missing any important parts, so I figure we haven't got to worry about the kind that prefers to have their victims for supper."

He cocked an eyebrow, because that joke had been funny... not ever, actually. "Uh-huh. What am I supposed to be remembering?"

Brass leaned forwards, putting his elbows on the table firmly. "C'mon. If somebody planted your fingerprints, and it's some random sociopath the way you suggest, then it probably isn't anybody you know. So you'd remember meeting some stranger. Hell, you were a special agent, working with the FBI. I'd think you'd recognize those kinds of crazies by now."

"Well, I run into a lot of strangers down here in Vegas. And Greg and I go out -- theaters, restaurants. Jackpot is the same people..." Always the same people, but it wasn't the same on the way in and out. "I ran into a guy a few weeks back, when I came down here. His car was broken down," Will offered. "I pushed it, and then popped his hood for him."

"What'd this guy look like?" There was something more intense about the way Brass said it, about the way he leaned forward. So, they did have some kind of suspect.

"Scrawny. He looked under average, soft spoken, looked like he had bad acne at some point in his life. There was corrosion on his battery, and I told him Marty in Jackpot could get his car working better."

"Black hair? Stuttered?" Oh, yeah. They had a suspect, all right. "Did he give you a name?"

"Pete. Yeah, he stuttered. He had a hang dog look," Will told him, watching Brass's expression.

"And he didn't give you any other name? No last name, didn't maybe call himself Paul...?"

"No. He told me he was Pete. His car was broken down just around the bend, and it had to be pushed. I was lucky I didn't crash into it."

A knock sounded on the door, and then a uniform stepped in, papers in hand. He moved over to Brass, murmured something in his ear, and then handed over the paperwork -- probably Will's alibis. "Yeah. Yeah, thanks."

Will folded his arms over his chest, waiting for Brass to say something, acknowledge his alibi or him again. The guy took a deep breath and let it out, spreading the papers over the table as the officer left again. "Well. Our ME says the body we've got on our hands met his end sometime yesterday morning around eleven. Looks like we've got about six people who saw you in Jackpot around that time."

"Because I was in Jackpot at that time," Will agreed. "It's my grocery and socialize day."

"You have a day set aside for socializing?" That seemed to amuse Brass to no end. "What do you call the trips into Vegas?"

"Yeah, I have a day set aside for socializing in town," Will drawled. "The trips into Vegas are just to see Greg."

"Huh. And... so this is where I ask you about your intentions, right? I mean, I'm pretty sure it's me or Nick, and it's better I ask than Nicky. He's jonesing behind the mirror."

Will lifted a hand to his mouth to cover a laugh. "My intentions are pretty good. I can't make an honest man of Greg, but uh..."

"But you're not gonna slaughter him and leave him in a bathtub, so I guess we can leave it at that." Brass smirked at him. "I'd say don't leave town, but...."

"It's a little hard to leave town without a car." He lifted his eyebrows at Brass. "Which is good, because I've been thinking about relocating, but not particularly this way."

"Must be serious, then." Yeah. It must be, and Will leaned back in his chair. "Well. He's down in the lab, probably planning how to make us all suffer. You might as well understand we have to check out every angle on this. It wasn't likely, but...."

"But my prints are at the scene. I know how that must look, even if it's physically impossible." He glanced over towards the window. "And it's your job to work that."

"Yeah. C'mon, let's head down and see if Sanders has started off with killing Hodges. I don't know that we'd even press charges much, if it meant nobody ever had to play the Dukes of Hazzard board game again."

"How is that a board game?" Will pushed the chair out, still careful not to make any sudden movements. "I never understood how it was a TV show."

"You know, I think I said the same thing when he first brought it in." Brass headed for the door, and it opened just ahead of them. The guy who let them out almost had to be Nick.

Will gave a slight wave to Nick. "So, if I sneeze, is someone going to taze me?"

The guy's mouth twitched. "Nah. We're going down to the lab. It's more likely that somebody's gonna stop and interrogate you about your latest paper."

"That doesn't sound like such a bad fate." Will slipped his hands into his pockets. "I expected to be given more hassle than I have. I appreciate it."

"I'm Nick Stokes. We already knew that there had been prints planted previously... so it wasn't unexpected. Just had to check." That face was pretty earnest, but it was also slightly off. Yeah. Checking was necessary, but there was something else there. Just a twitch of suspicion.

"Yeah. I don't bite," Will smiled, and maybe he showed a little too much teeth just to make the muscled guy squirm.

He cleared his throat, tipped his head forward. "That's good to know."

"Will!" There he was, and Greg was hurrying towards him, looking worried. "Hi. Um." Um, and Will grinned.

"I've been told not to leave town. Which is good, because I think the sheriff is probably hitting the casinos." Will made a vague gesture over his shoulder that he hoped encompassed the better part of the City of Sin. Or a Gas and Go.

Greg gave Nick a sharp glance, gaze narrowing. "Well, you know there's always room at my place." He heard Brass snort, and then walk away from them all, hovering there in the hallway.

Nick stayed, though. "Conveniently, yeah. So, am I released to just... stay here, or should I loiter in the lobby...?"

"Nah. I'm not actually on tonight." Watching the way his mouth twisted, a little bitter, was wrong. Will never wanted to see that look on Greg's face. "I'm sorry. About all of this. I had coffee with him -- Paul Millander -- back when it seemed like he was innocent. I don't know... maybe it's better if you don't go back to Jackpot."

"I know that cases go bad." Will reached out, and leaned in to hug Greg. And there was stress and fear and strain, emotional reactions that he could feel in others better than himself.

"Well this one sucks," Greg mumbled in his ear. "Go home now?"


Will's ears pricked a little, and he turned his head even as Greg pulled back. "Yeah?"

Yeah. They'd go home. Home to Greg's, and recharge Greg. He had been working the case, it had fallen apart on him, and they could fix it. For him. He loosened up, and turned a little to look at Nick.

"You know we had to check," he said finally. "That's just how it is."

Greg looked at him for a long minute and then shook his head. "Yeah. I know." And that was that, easy and simple, except it wasn't. Will was fully aware that he still hadn't seen any women in the precinct, or in the halls, and it made his mouth twitch just a little.

And because he was, sometimes, an asshole, he had to say it. "You know, either this place doesn't hire women, or they're all mysteriously absent?"

Yeah. The faint flush working its way into Nick's ears said as much as the sudden way Greg paled. "Let's go home," Greg murmured shortly. "I'm going to pretend that this didn't... who the... No. No. I don't want to know. Jesus, Nick!"

Will gave a low whistle, and shook his head. "I can't even figure out what bizarre combination of assumptions led to that. It's a wonder the FBI doesn't put me in shackles when I go to the field offices, huh?" He was going to keep smiling, with teeth, and take the upper hand. "C'mon, Greg."

They headed out of the office, then, Greg still white with anger, and yeah. He knew why werewolves stuck to small towns, or way back in the hills where they could avoid people altogether. Hell, if ninety percent of the known world didn't already know about him, he'd hide, too.

Greg's car was parked out back, and neither of them said a word until they were both in the car. Then, he heard the slow sigh, and looked over. "Yeah. I'm sorry. About all of this. I thought... I guess I thought it was just Nick. Worrying too much, you know? I didn't think it would be something like this. I just... and the thing is, Millander. I had coffee with him. And I didn't think it would end up something weird like this."

"Do you want to tell me what happened with Millander?" Will was going to offer, but not probe. When things went to shit, he never wanted to talk about it. He didn't see why Greg would be any different.

The engine turned over, and Greg put the car into reverse. "He's a serial killer. Stages suicide scenes in exactly the same way, every time. The victims all have birthdays on the same day, different year. There was a planted print -- one that led back to Paul Millander, except it turned out to be from a rubber hand, one he'd supposedly made from a mold. It led back to him, and we thought it was just something to throw us off. I went back to talk to him. We had coffee, and.... he let me go. Let me leave. I didn't have a clue it was him until a couple of days later."

"And the hair on the back of your neck stands up every time you realize how close you were," Will murmured.

Greg nodded his head jerkily. "Yeah. Yeah, it does. I just... I never thought it would be anything more than that. Than playing with me. I didn't think I was in danger, or that anybody I knew would be. I just... I never thought."

"You don't expect it until it happens. I never expected Hannibal." Will exhaled gently. "So you're in danger now."

He caught Greg's glance, and the way he went back to watching traffic afterwards. "And you."

"I'm always in danger," Will shrugged. "Werewolf. Ex-serial killer hunter. I should get a bullseye tattooed to my forehead."

Greg laughed a little, and that was something. That was better than nothing. "I like your forehead the way it is, if it's all the same to you. I really can't believe this."

"It's shit. They'll catch the guy. And if they can't, I will." He let his eyes roam a little, though not the streets -- Greg knew where he was going. But he focused on Greg.

He watched the way that Greg licked his lips, dropped his head a little for just a second. "I'd rather you didn't, if it's all the same. This is my fault. I just... I don't want you to be in danger. And you are, and this is all my fault."

"I'm a big boy, Greg. Being in danger really doesn't bother me. I'm more worried about you." He was good at being in danger, at being afraid. He wasn't so great when people he loved were the ones in that position, but he wasn't ready to tell that to Greg. Maybe he wouldn't have to.

"The worst part is, you, we, ought to be able to expect the assholes that we just left behind to be willing to protect instead of harass. I wondered, when that dickhead Hiers got pulled in instead of Mandy, and it's Catherine's night off, but then I thought...." He shook his head, and the car sped up. "Goddammit."

"The hiding all the women was a classy touch," Will smiled. "I have no idea what wives tale sparked that one."

"I thought Nick was just worried. About me. Being stupid, I mean, but just... worried. I could let that go without getting... but this is just..." Greg stopped talking. "Let's just stop. And get something to eat, or... maybe... I have no idea." None, and he was erratic because of it.

"Okay. How about you pull over, we swap seats, and I'll take us through a drive through," Will offered.

"Or we could call out for pizza. Maybe I'll be able to sleep with you here, and you know, not in handcuffs."

"We'll... yeah. I'll call pizza when we get to yours. But let me drive." Before he pulled into the wrong lane of traffic.

Greg slowed down and pulled into the parking lot of a small diner, putting the car into park. He sat there for a few seconds, and took a deep breath. "I'm sorry. I'm just... I'm tired." And pissed. And worried.

And scared. Will would've been worried if Greg wasn't scared. He rubbed fingers over the back of Greg's neck, moving gently. "I know."

He knew, and he knew how much it sucked, how on edge that could make a man. "I just... I never thought. And he knows you, Will. He knows you."

"He's probably staked out my cabin." Will unbuckled his seat belt. Greg was still sitting there, and he looked tired, and old, and gray at the edges. One day, he would be, and Will would still be just the same as he was.

Greg glanced at him. "Don't go back home. Stay. Here. With me."

"I will." Will leaned in, and kissed the side of his neck, lightly. It was hard to remember sometimes that he wasn't as old as he should be, and age... Age. It was a tweak of a thought. "What's the date of the men's he's killing?"

"August 17. One was 1959, another 1958. Yesterday's was 1957." Greg glanced at him. "It's your birthday, too. Which... scares me worse."

"1956, actually." Will worked his jaw for a moment. "Want to swap seats?"

The worry when Greg looked at him was obvious. "Yeah. And I think I'm going to handcuff myself to you so you can't get away. And nobody can take you away."

"It might make running away easier if we're not cuffed." He pulled back, and popped his door open to get out. Greg did the same, and they crossed paths as they walked around the car.

It only took a minute to get back in the car, seat belts on again. "Okay, well. Just. I don't want you to go far. If it's okay."

"I'm very good right now for not going off of the radar when I'm being watched," Will promised, tilting the rear view mirror a little. "Your coworkers will find him."

The little laugh Greg gave him was bitter. "Yeah. If you'd said that two days ago, I would have believed it." He looked out the window. "Right now.... not so much."

"You will again." Will took the car out of park, and started forward, easing his way out of the parking lot. They'd rest when he got home. Call out for pizza, and if he had to, he'd feed Greg NyQuil or Benadryl until he slept.

Tomorrow would look better.

Will had been at his place for weeks.

The fact that they still didn't have Millander in hand made sleeping hard some nights. He was worried, and who wouldn't be? Some crazy ass serial killer knew where his (for lack of a better word) boyfriend lived. Had managed to fool around and get his fingerprints, and that just made things even worse, except.


It was nice, having Will around all the time. There was a growing cache of random things in his guest room that would probably terrify anyone who wandered in there.

Will kept working, kept writing, kept himself busy and happy while Greg was at work. He cooked, he cleaned when he had the urge, and occasionally he watched the History Channel for twenty-four hours at a shot in wolf form.

The first couple of weeks, he'd been jumping at shadows, and pretty much pissed off the entire time. Nick was still ducking his head meekly whenever Greg came past, and he should be. Catherine had read them the riot act when somebody made the mistake of letting her know what had gone on while she'd been off at a ballet recital.

It was kind of a hell of a lot to miss.

And Will had been avoiding the team. Not that Greg blamed him, but it would've been interesting to have him at least interact a little with them. It was his team, or it had been before Nick had gone all weird on him over having a werewolf for a boyfriend.

The fact that it was the werewolf part and not the boyfriend part that seemed to bother people made him want to laugh. Not enough, though, so he went to work, he did his job, and then he went home. He sort of missed socializing with the guys, and Will nudged him to spend time with them, still. He just couldn't stop being pissed off about it, and he wasn't going to have fun with them until he stopped being angry.

It was a nasty circle.

Still. He had Will, and that was something. That was a lot of something, and he'd called a realtor last week so that they could start looking for a place with a yard. It had to be driving Will nuts, not having anywhere to stretch out. He was used to running wide acres of forest and hills, and now he could run circles around Greg's living room. From the wear patterns, he had a sneaking suspicion that was what he was doing sometimes.

House hunting in Vegas was bizarre. Actually, house hunting was pretty much bizarre anywhere. People wanted too much money for crappy places, claimed that rooms had twelve foot ceilings when they'd be lucky if they were ten and a half, and what some people considered yards, he'd call a postage stamp's worth of grass.

He sure as hell wasn't going to give any credence to some of the places that claimed they had a master bath.

One master bath was ten square feet of room, a tiny sink, a toilet, and a shower, and Greg was really a bath guy. He liked big baths. He liked to lie down in them, and soak. Will had introduced him to bath soak that was mint, wasabi, and rosemary that was manly and great and bubbly to hysteria. No way was he buying any place with a master bath that wasn't a master bath. Ever. Still, there were another couple of places they were going to look at in the morning, and they sounded pretty promising. Of course, so had the house with the twelve-actually-not foot ceilings.

"Hey. You home?"

"Um, hold on. I'm putting this away," Will called. Something smelled good, but Will was in Greg's guest room, so the cooking had to have been earlier. That or he was doing something strange to a ham. It was entirely possible it could be either one.

Greg dropped his bag and walked towards Will's 'lab', leaning a shoulder against the frame when he got there. "You look like you've been busy."

He had a pig's foot that he was encasing in tar. That was really... really interesting, but at least he was wearing gloves and using a putty knife to spread it on tight. "New bit of research the feds wanted me to do for a court case."

"Wanna tell me about it over breakfast?" He tilted his head towards the kitchen. "Lucky Charms, even. Or we can run through someplace on the way to the viewing this morning. Or... I can cancel and we can dirty the sheets."

"There are cinnamon buns keeping warm in the oven." Will set it down in what looked like a Plexiglas box, and then left the putty knife in the container. He popped off the gloves. "Let me get a picture, and then -- breakfast."

"That sounds like a plan." Greg knew they'd be cinnamon buns out of a cardboard tube, because he'd heard the story of the Cinnamon Yeast Buns That Ate Will's Kitchen (and then died a flat, tasteless, weird death because he'd used the wrong kind of flour, or something). They would still be good. "I'll go ahead and make coffee." Or some more coffee, knowing Will.

"Fresh pot," Will agreed, halfway standing up like he was rushing himself to get through the documentation. All restless energy, happy to be doing his work regardless of where he was. It made Greg feel good, knowing that he could be that way there, with him.

The kitchen was mostly straight with the exception of the cardboard tube and a plastic pot with the remains of cinnamon roll goo. By the time he'd ground up coffee beans and started a new pot of coffee, Will came out of his makeshift lab. "So. Breakfast here, then the new houses, then I'm off for a couple of days."

"That sounds great." Will stretched, wind milling his arms over his head for a moment. The vertebra between his shoulders gave an awful crack. "Uhm, and my project has to sit and cure for a week."

They seriously had to get a yard for Will to run around in, pronto. "I dread to think what brought on the need for it." He leaned in and kissed Will good morning. "Mmmm. Hi."

"Hi. Decent day at work?" He pressed his mouth against the side of Greg's mouth against the kiss, almost nuzzling.

"Mmmhm." Mostly decent. Catherine was still pissed off and making Nick and Brass suffer. He could live with that. "Nobody's severely injured, anyway. From the looks of things, you've had a good night."

"Neck deep in research," Will murmured. "I don't miss the days of running a hot case."

"Nothing hot's going on. Just...." Just the case that he couldn't chase after. He'd gotten a trash run, a couple of burglaries, and a rape case. He hadn't been able to convince the woman to press charges, and that had been a particularly bad night. The week had gotten better, if trash runs and knocked over liquor stores could be called better.

It just pissed him off. Will pulled away, and moved to the oven, hopefully to feed Greg. The sooner the other case was over, the sooner life might be a little less strained. "Yeah. That's frustrating, too."

Putting both of his hands on the counter, he hopped up to sit beside the sink. "Like you being too stiff. I really hope we'll find something soon. You're probably dying to run."

"A little. If it wasn't insane, I'd suggest getting a collar and a leash, and go walkies." Will grabbed two plates, smirking a little. "More frosting?"

"God, yes." More frosting was always good. "You'd look good in a collar and a leash." Reaching out, he swiped a finger across the cinnamon bun on one plate and then sucked it clean. "Heard from the realtor?"

"Mmm. She's insistent that we should be in a condo." Will slathered a little more frosting on a big one, and offered the plate to Greg. "I've been insistent that it needs a yard. I'm tempted just to tell her I'm a werewolf, but I suspect she'd stop taking our calls."

It was possible. It was more than possible, and it made Greg grind his teeth. There was nothing he could do about it -- nothing that could change the way people thought about things. Hell, there were still laws on the books outlawing werewolves from having children in some northern states. It wasn't as if he'd get anywhere trying. "Yeah, well. If she keeps on, we'll look for another realtor."

"Mmm. Catherine mentioned her mother knows agents. Catherine is... reminds me of agents I worked with." Catherine liked Will, and if she had anything about werewolves, she didn't say it. Will offered a fork. He took it, and attacked the cinnamon roll with a vengeance.

"If today doesn't work out, let's give her a call. She's a great lady." And then some. Every now and then, he liked to take her out to dinner, ask her questions about old Vegas. She had some of the best stories. He'd been taking notes, putting them all together. Maybe he'd write a book someday. "God, this is good."

Soft and sugary, nicely done for out of the tube. Will was giving him a pleased, almost dopey smile, chewing. "Good, then we have a plan. And we can spend time in bed and get you rested."

Leaning over, Greg stole another kiss. "'s a good plan." A very good plan, in his opinion. He finished the bun on his plate and then forked another one. "So. Wanna go a little early? We can eyeball the yard and see if we need to talk to Catherine's mom sometime today."

"Yeah. You want a nap first?" Will wasn't nap averse. He curled up on the sofa, the floor, fell asleep in chairs, all fairly shameless about it. There was something enjoyable about that, about the way he seemed to feel easy about pretty much anything physical. Emotional? That was a different question, and Greg didn't poke Will about it. He took what he could get, because while nothing was overt, Will said things with actions.

Greg could live with that.

"Nah. If I crawl in bed, I'll be out for the count today."

"After we harass the agent," Will promised. "You look tired is all."

"Yeah, well. I'll look less tired when we find someplace you can stretch out." And maybe when he got less pissed off at Nick and all of the assholes who had come at Will with tazers and mace, like he was a threat to somebody.

He had no idea how to shake it, that anger, or if Will had that kind of pissed the fuck off feeling and just didn't show it. "It's not killing me. Really."

Greg let his mouth quirk up, curving into a smile. "Yeah, well. I know. Maybe I'll take a few days off. Try to get less cranky about things." Maybe they'd find a place, start packing his stuff, drive up to Jackpot to pack up Will's.

He was pretty sure that Will's life could fit in boxes in the living room for a couple of weeks. The funny thing was that other guys he'd dated had been weird about the moving in stage. Hell, Greg had been weird about it. "If there's anything I can do..." Other than make Greg gooey food to eat.

"You're doing it. C'mon." He squirmed down off of the counter, laid down his plate. "Let's go out and see the realtor. One more try."

Will dug through frosting, waving his fork a little, before he reached to turn off the oven. "I'll drive."

That sounded like a plan. Maybe they'd even go ahead and drive up to Jackpot if he got a few days off, take care of it in short order and get back. It would be safer that way, and unexpected enough that Paul Millander probably wouldn't be around to cause problems. Probably. "Okay."

Leaning in, Will kissed the side of his mouth again, just a little rough. "Get a to go cup of coffee."

God. Maybe they should call the realtor, and stay home. Fuck themselves into a rut, and that sounded so good. A yard for Will to stretch out in sounded better, though. They could always do that when they got back. He wasn't on call, and he had the next two days off. He leaned in, kissed Will again, let that edge carry a little further. "When we get back," he murmured.

"Yes, sir." He could taste cinnamon bun on Will's mouth, and that was something he could turn over in his head while Will pulled back to get the car keys from the hook.

"Kinky." It only took a minute to dig out a travel mug and fill it with coffee and creamer. "Maybe we can get that way when we get back."

"That sounds like a plan. Unless you're angry at the agent by then. I suspect that might carry it over." Will stretched a little, popping his spine gently. "You lock up, I'll get the car started."

Easy as that, one, two, three. Sex with Will was fantastic, and it lasted forever. He was easygoing, despite the fact that he was obviously the alpha male between them. He was pretty sure he'd never had anything like this. Not in the least.

One thing was sure, Greg thought. He wasn't going to give that up. Not if he had anything to say about it, so he locked the door and walked out to the car.

Maybe this place would be the right one.

It was quiet tonight. Sometimes, he needed the quiet to calm his life, to settle himself in the rightness of what he was doing. His days were generally the opposite of quiet -- busy, full of liars and thieves, rapists, the kind of people who made men like Will Graham a beautiful necessity of life. It was nice to be home, to enjoy a home cooked meal, just to relax and lavish into it. Family and everything that was right about it.

"Craig, honey. Don't bother your father. He's had a hard day."

Dinner was on in the kitchen, and Paul -- Douglas Mason -- sat forward when his son came into his study, an old Polaroid camera clutched in his hands. "I need to make you an I.D. tag. For safety, Dad."

"And this is why I have hard days -- so I can come home." He smiled waving Craig over. "Do you want help with the IDs?"

Craig gave him a solemn nod, and picked up the camera. It was a little unsteady, and it took him a moment to find the button. When he did, the flash went off, and he fumbled it down, reaching for the picture as it spat out. "I have the stuff in my bag, Dad. You can help."

From the door, Isabelle gave a little huff of breath. "I'll bring it in. Dinner will be ready in half an hour."

"Thank you." She was happy, and it was important to him that she stayed happy. For a while, he'd thought that he was going to be satisfied with his life, without justice. Satisfied with his wife, with his son. He had never told her about himself, about his life before he became who he was. They had been happy, early on. He'd been happy because it was a life he'd wanted. The life he'd preferred.

It had been all right until they'd finally decided to adopt. He'd told her a lie about a childhood accident, and he hadn't been entirely as interested in having children, but it had seemed the thing to do. It made Isabelle happy, it was good for his job, and it was in keeping with what he knew to be normal.

Craig had changed everything.

He sat on the floor, emptying the safety tag items from his bag one by one. "Here, Dad."

He'd been much more attached to Craig than he'd expected. He wanted to fix the world for him, and at the moment it seemed all he could do was sit down on the floor with his son.

"You take the picture, like this. And you put it in the card, like this. And then... you tape it shut. And you fill in all your stuff. Like... your name. I'll spell it for you!"

"Have you had one made for you yet?" God knew why Craig had fixated on that, but he'd mostly learned not to question. Kids were funny about the things that fascinated them, and Craig seemed a little more inclined towards obsession than felt entirely comfortable. Still. Surely that was only natural in children, to some extent?

"Uh-huh. We made ours today, at school. Miss Christy helped. We're supposed to make one for our parents tonight, for homework." He looked up and that smile made his heart squeeze. "I can spell your name, Dad. Okay?"

"Okay. Have you made one for your mother?" He just watched Craig looking for his pen.

"Uh-huh. When I got home." He sat up, pen clutched awkwardly. He twitched his fingers, changing the grip on his pen. "So, like this. D. O. U. G. L. A. S. Right?"

"Yes. That's exactly right." He leaned in, suppressing the urge to pet his son's hair.

"M. A. S. O. N. Like me, right?" Crag grinned up at Doug -- Paul -- and he did reach down then, tousling his hair. "Now I need your birthday."

"August 17, 1956," he supplied. "Which... makes me older than mud, I think."

That got him a crazy kid laugh, one full of enjoyment. "Older than rocks!" Ancient in comparison, but not so old that he couldn't raise his son. Not so old he didn't want the world to be right for him, when he came of age.

"Maybe. Maybe I'm the same age as rocks," he suggested, smirking a little as he looked down at Craig's pile of work.

It didn't mean he couldn't try and at least set the world Craig was going to live in on a path that he would be able to believe in. If that meant getting rid of poor investigators and hoping for a better replacement... well.

He would do whatever he had to in order to make sure what had happened to him could never happen to his son.

They'd stopped by a grocery store before they headed up to Jackpot, picked up enough junk food to fuel a small country, or at least two guys making a ten hour drive. Caffeine, chocolate, crunchy Cheetos, puffed Cheetos, and some kind of snack mix with peanut butter chips.

Greg loved those things.

Will was fond of the Cheetos, and Greg was fond of watching him suck his fingers after every couple of handfuls. It worked out pretty well, all things considered.

The first four hours of the trip weren't so bad; it was the last six that blew, but after a little over four, they stopped, ate real food, pissed, and changed drivers. Five would be better, but four was plenty of time to want to stop and stretch their legs, never mind the rest.

Will stretched and yawned, and groused about Pepsi versus Coke, and kept stretching his legs. They needed to get back on the road, and it was Greg's turn to drive. Not that he wanted to, but a turn was a turn.

"We ought to get ice cream," he offered, because ice cream was always kind of good. Hard to eat on the road, maybe, but good.

Will's mouth curled into a smirk, and he gave a stretching shrug of his shoulders. "While we're still in society, huh?"

"Hey. I'm all for chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla, but if we can have something that's not one of those things, I don't see why not." Pistachio, maybe. With almonds. It was a shame that they hadn't brought one of those insulated grocery bag with them. Maybe the next time they actually went up to the cabin. After they'd caught Millander, when it was safe.

"So, ice cream to go up to Jackpot, or ice cream for now?" Will tossed his keys in his hands, juggling them a little.

"Ice cream for now. We can always stop on our way out of Salt Lake for an insulated bag and something good, but we're only gonna be there for a couple of days." Just to pack up the things Will wanted and get the cabin ready for any weather that was coming on. There was a blizzard due middle of the week, and they'd need to get everything done and get back to Vegas before it came rolling in.

Will wasn't too interested in staying, which Greg was happy about. "For now... Hmn. Ice cream sounds good." He rocked back on his heels, surveying their rest stop.

Snagging the keys, Greg headed for the truck. "Saw a place, couple of streets over. We'll stop there, then head on." He'd stop for coffee someplace in Salt Lake, and that should get him the extra verve to make it the rest of the way to Jackpot.

"Right. Get something decadent," Will decided. "Triple fudge mint chip or something."

"Or caramel fudge brownie. Or peanut butter fudge brownie." It was a banner day for peanut butter in Greg's world. "You think you'd be more comfortable curled up on the seat for the rest of the drive?"

"Probably, but it makes for crappy keeping you awake conversation." Will moved towards the passenger side, ceding driving gracefully. He knew people who would've fought tooth and nail for control of the car

"Yeah, well. I'll manage to stay awake. I figure your back's probably killing you, as little chance as you've had to run around." The last house had been a winner, though -- nice yard, not so scary expensive that they wouldn't be able to afford it, close enough to the desert for more long-range runs.

It had been perfect, and now they just needed to pack up Will's clothes, close up the cabin, and move. That wouldn't be so bad, Greg figured, climbing in behind the wheel. "After ice cream. Thanks." Will wanted to, though, he could tell, and he looked like he was squirming with anxiety while he buckled up.

"Yeah. After ice cream. Y'know, my auntie Vilja used to have this dog. Evil, smelly, totally hated children. He used to get a bowl of vanilla ice cream as a treat every Saturday. It was the most bizarre thing I can remember, and considering my family? That's saying something." He slid the keys into the ignition and started the truck.

"Why did he get the ice cream? Maybe it was his treat for not killing them in their sleep all week." That was possible. Like he was an idol made to receive sacrifices.

"Probably. If he didn't get his ice cream, he was one scary, scary little dog. After he died, she got a cat." He turned the truck out of the parking lot and headed down the block. He was sure he'd seen an ice cream shop somewhere down that way. "He was kind of evil, too. I think she had a knack for choosing crazy pets."

"I had an aunt who kept squirrels." Will leaned a knee on the dashboard, peering over at Greg. "She trained them."

Squirrels. Squirrels? "So... did that make her squirrelly?"

"Actually it made her a state fair level act." Oh, the idea of Will with carnies in his family was priceless. The idea of Will with family was sort of priceless, too. He never called home, never got notes from relatives, nothing. It was kind of sad, and it made that story interesting in so many ways.

Greg wondered if he'd hear others, as time passed. "I... really hate that there's probably not any video of that on youtube or something."

"We could look." Will looked seriously thoughtful as he said that. "Haven't seen her since the funeral."

He'd always heard about New Orleans funerals. It made him curious, made him want to know if that was where Will had been. He didn't think he'd get pissed if he asked. "Whose funeral?" Greg flipped on the blinker and took a right into a tiny ice cream place, one of the kinds that had a marble slab.

Nice. Maybe he could get something horrible and bizarrely sweet to eat after all. "My mother's."

Greg had figured that his folks were dead, maybe even a lot of Will's family. They hadn't talked about it. "I guess that's been a while." He parked the truck, and glanced at Will.

"Four years." Will popped the seat belt off, waiting for Greg to turn the engine off before he popped the door open. "It's interesting being the black sheep in a family of them."

"See... I can't imagine you as a black sheep. In my family, that's my cousin Andy. He lives in this place that makes Jackpot look like a big town. With his personal wool-producing sheep." Greg got out and then looked at Will over the hood of the truck. "He claims it's for his knitting. We figure it's more like his wife. Don't ask, don't tell, don't even think about what goes on at Andy's house."

The real laugh he got from Will was worth the cheap shot at his family, and given that it was true, well. "Well, I've been up and down in the family. FBI job, up. Marriage? Up. Lecter, down. Divorce, down. Werewolf? Very far down."

That was stupid, and made Greg's jaw clench tightly for just a minute. "People are kind of stupid. C'mon. I'll buy you ice cream."

"I got over the family thing way before the funeral." Will leaned in, and kissed him, fingers lingering at the side of Greg's jaw. He let his eyes flutter closed, and opened his mouth to let him inside. Will didn't pursue it too far -- it was public, after all -- but it was a nice preview of what the evening might look like if they weren't completely exhausted.

When their lips parted, Greg sighed despite himself. "Hmmm."

"Ice cream to steel you for the long ride," he smiled, hand still lingering. "Caramel, maybe?"

"Yeah." It was a murmur, the best he could manage. "Or peanut butter. They're both pretty good."

Messy, more like foreplay, and Greg could spend the next few hours occupied with that dirty thought while Will wolfed around in the passenger seat.

Six hours later, he was tired, wanting caffeine, and driving into Jackpot. Will's head was on his thigh, paws pressed almost under it. HIs breathing was even, soft and steady, asleep the way the town was. They had groceries in the toolbox in the truck bed, so that was something, at least.

He was just going to stumble into Will's cabin and pass out, and the groceries could stay in the car overnight. The last few hills and crests were maddeningly long, and his eyes were drooping a little.

So much for his hopes of sex when they managed to get home. Well. Home, Will's place, it was all the same difference kind of, in the end. Them together in a quiet place with a bed and warmth and comfort. He threw the truck into park almost violently when he got up to the cabin, and Will whined and lifted his head.

"We're here. Finally. I have to piss like you wouldn't believe." He'd thought about stopping by the side of the road, even if it woke Will.

Will nudged his leg, and seemed to be waiting for Greg just to move. Yeah, he could switch back to people-form and nakedness inside the house.

He slid out of the truck, and Will jumped out behind him. Greg only paused long enough to grab the cold groceries and the bag with their toothbrushes out of the toolbox before heading towards the cabin. It felt colder than it should, but maybe he was just tired. He was pretty sure he was just tired. He fumbled for the keys, and unlocked the two locks to let himself in, bags making it a little difficult to get the key in and twisted.

The door opened, and he flicked on the lights. "I'll go put away the groceries and be right in."

Will circled around the living room, sniffing at things, and Greg set the bags in the middle of the room before he headed back towards the truck. He figured putting it off wouldn't be a good idea -- he wouldn't want to go out in the cold to get them out in the morning. By the time he got back, Will would be human again, and hopefully putting groceries away. Naked, which would be a lot more interesting if he wasn't so tired.

There was a smell of burning dust pervading the place when he finally got the last bag in, and he headed towards the kitchen with it, yawning. Will was there, shamelessly naked and eyeing the refrigerator. "Did you forget an experiment or something?"

"No, just the heat. It's been off." Will leaned over and seemed to be taking his time with stocking the shelves with the few things Greg had grabbed. "Locked up?"

"Knob and dead bolt. Bed?" It was always possible that he wasn't tired. He'd gone wolf and dozed a lot the last of the trip, but there was something about a traveling vehicle that denied any good rest.

"Bed. I'll go shake the sheets out, make sure nothing moved in." Yeah, the whole thing had kind of been a hasty abandonment of the cabin, all things considered.

"If you find anything in there, just don't tell me about it," Greg called after him, going to search for his toothbrush. If the heat didn't kick in a little harder, he was seriously going to tell Will to change back and keep his feet warm. There was a ninety-nine percent chance that Will would laugh and do it just because Greg asked.

"I had mice get in my bed once. While I was in it. It's one of the charms of the country."

He had to think about that for a minute, even though he'd already scrounged up pajama bottoms, toothbrush, and toothpaste. "I don't want to know. Ever."

"And that is why I get my rabies shot," Will called over his shoulder while he headed for the bedroom.

"Thanks. I really appreciate knowing that!" God. Mice.

He brushed his teeth -- the water ran rusty right at first, and still tasted metallic even after it cleared up -- then changed into the pajama bottoms. He chucked his clothes into Will's half-full laundry basket, then reconsidered and folded them to put on the back of the toilet instead.

Mice. Mice mice mice. He was just going to keep thinking of them until his skin stopped crawling, and that was going to take warm sheets to do.

Will passed him on the way to the bathroom, and swore there were no mice... in the bed, at least. Greg figured he'd take that, and crawled between the cold sheets, toes cringing a little, just in case.

Things slowly started to feel a little warmer, and then Will was crawling back into bed with him, wearing boxer shorts and a t-shirt. The last time it had been that cold, it had taken a while for them to squirm out of clothes to get skin on skin, but he was too tired. This time, he just burrowed in closer, snuffled faintly, and then let out a sigh. They'd get warmer, and he was so tired now that it wasn't gonna take long to drift off, and then....

And then he could smell something being cooked -- eggish, maybe? Warm and tasty scents in the air. He was alone in bed, sure, but alone just for food was pretty good. It was almost tempting to turn over and burrow in until Will came to shake him, but his stomach growled in response to the smell, and Greg figured it would be worth it to roll out.

The floor of the cabin was cold to his feet, so he hurried to the bathroom, grateful for the mat in front of the toilet when he stood there to piss. The relief washed through him, and he hummed to himself before he shook it and moved to the washing-up-teeth-brushing portion of the morning. It didn't take long -- he skipped shaving and headed for the kitchen, starving.

Will had grunge clothes on, clothes for boxing crap up, and he was midway through flipping an omelet in half and over. "Morning. Getting food was a good call, because snow came in hard last night."

"Damn." He strolled over, looking out the window. It didn't look bad yet, and the really bad weather wasn't due for another couple of days. "I thought the weather was supposed to hold for another few days."

"Meteorology seems to be mostly luck and voodoo," Will murmured, sliding the omelet around just a little more. "So."

"So. All of that supposition about getting snowed in....?" They'd have to go out whether they wanted to or not. The road didn't look like it would be impassible yet, and they'd need some things. More firewood, more groceries, just in case.

"Yeah. We can probably make it into town and back, but you might want to call and ask for a couple of days extra leave. Omelet first. Not too cooked."

That sounded perfect. He went to the cabinet that held plates and pulled out a couple, then scrabbled for flatware. "I'll call when we're done eating."

Will started the next one -- good cheese, tomatoes, spinach -- once he'd plated Greg's. "I've got tire chains, if we have to go out in it past the trip to town and back."

Great. Greg was from California, where tire chains were not exactly in common use, but he'd learned how to use them when he'd lived in New York for a while. "Tire chains. I haven't missed those since I came to Vegas."

"I could go the rest of my life without ever having to use them again, but. It's kind of funny if you drive slow," Will grinned, shimmying the pan around.

"Did I ever tell you I had a roommate from Alabama once?" He dug into his omelet, eyeing the loaf of bread and the toaster. "Went home with him for Thanksgiving once. His uncle Hoyt had a heart attack and died over the dressing, and the local coroner came over from next door to verify things. He was also an EMT, two counties away." Which wasn't the point, but still. "Anyway. Before Uncle Hoyt died, we went to visit this friend of his near Waycross, in Georgia, you know? Went deer hunting, which was a bizarre experience, but point being, it rained while we were out there, and those guys stayed the whole damn time, even though it was freezing." And the friend was wearing his 'hunting clothes'. The stench alone could have scared off almost anything. "Point being, we had to drive back out through this bright red clay. I think I prefer snow."

"I'm fine for driving in it, it's just everyone else I worry about." Will was flipping his omelet, peering over his shoulder at Greg. Yeah, time for toast, too. He reached for the loaf of bread and pulled out four slices, slipping the first two into Will's toaster and pressing the lever.

"You'd think it was raining LSD when it snows sometimes."

"I think it's raining LSD when it snows all the time. So does the sheriff." Will shifted his weight onto his other hip. "I'm not going to miss that much."

"You'll at least miss the snow when it hits a hundred and ten in July." His toast popped up, so he shuffled it onto his plate and then slipped in Will's pieces.

"Maybe. I might just get you to shave me down in the summer." Will slipped his omelet onto a plate, and set it on the little kitchenette table.

The idea of that was at once funny and kind of kinky. "That... sounds interesting. Entertaining, even. Possibly even pervy." Except he probably meant his wolf-type self, which was much less than kinky. Not even the slightest bit, actually.

More like washing a dog, though he was pretty sure Will would like it. "Whipped cream makes it pervier, but you need more water."

The toast popped up, and Greg snagged it, laughing. "Shaving cream, whipped cream. Sad point being you can't lick off the former." He slipped the toast onto Will's plate and then slid into one of the chairs.

Will leaned his elbows on the table, grinning as he started to dig into his omelet. "I wouldn't recommend it."

"I appreciate the advice." The food was damn good, and he took a couple of bites before he spoke up again. "I can't believe the weather's moved up. I mean, I checked it just before we left the apartment."

"Yeah. It's out to get us. Or give me an excuse to procrastinate. I think when you get dressed, I'll bring some wood in." And put off the naked time, but if they started to get naked and comfortable, they'd never get into town.

"You go get wood, I'll shave and grab some clothes. We should probably go on into town once you get back in. Try and get back before we need to put on the chains."

"Oh yeah. I'd rather be ready than stranded without what we need." For the moment he seemed comfortable just to eat breakfast. Greg felt Will stretch one of his legs out, though, pressing it against Greg's. It was warm, and it made him smile, and press his knee a little closer.

The omelet was tasty, and he ate most of it there, pressed close to Will. The kitchen was warm, as much from the cooking as from the heat blowing through the vents, and it was altogether good, in so many ways. They ate in companionable silence, and Greg got up when he was finished, put the dish in the sink, and ran water in it. "You almost done?"

"Yeah." Will stood up, and reached around Greg to slip the plate into the sink, before he pressed his mouth against the back of Greg's neck. "You spoil me. Just for that, I'm going to show you neat tricks with the fire and the chemicals I have, before they get packed."

God, that felt good. Made his knees a little weak, even, and he wished there was more time. "This from the man who made me breakfast. Go on, get us some wood."

"Yes, sir." His mouth lingered a little, and then Will was on the move and pulling some beat to hell flannel coat out of the coat closet. Greg hoped there were plenty of blankets, because he figured they would need lots of them eventually.

He washed the plates and the frying pan quickly, leaving them to dry in Will's dish drainer, and then headed for the bedroom. He checked his bag, grabbed his razor, and hurried to get shaved, washed, and dressed.

Greg sometimes thought Will skipped the shave part every other day or so to save himself time. Will was coming back with a second armload of wood that he was stacking up when Greg got out of the bathroom. "The added solar power is going to do me shit all good once the sun goes away."

"Yeah, but that's why you've got a fireplace in the living room and that really nice wood stove in the bedroom." He grinned and went to help stack the wood box. "So, what do we need that we didn't grab last night?" They'd been in a hurry, and grocery shopping several hours into a trip was more about grabbing junk than actual shopping.

"Probably just some things we can cook without much effort if and when the power goes. Pot pies in aluminum tins, stuff like that." Thank God they'd be cooking with gas.

"Sounds like a plan. Oh, and some DiGel or something." Because those things occasionally gave him heartburn. "Let me pull on my shoes and we'll head out."

"Coat," Will demanded. "The wind's picking up. I'm pretty sure everyone will be hunkering down already."

"I can't believe it's moved up already. I mean, we talked about it, but..." He sat down, started pulling on his tennis shoes. "I'll call Nick while we drive down."

"Snow's spiteful like that. Think of it this way -- it'll move out fast, too." Will was making a squinting face, digging in a pocket for his truck key out of all the other keys on the caribiner.

"Leaving us behind with piles of snow. It sounds like a fantastic opportunity for tons of sex, but I have this feeling we'll be too cold to be naked much, maybe." Half-clothed sex could be kind of awesome, too, though.

He was pretty sure he could talk Will into it, given, oh, no time at all. Will edged towards the door, still playing with his keys. "Oh, we can make do."

Yeah. They could, at that, and Greg grinned, following him out into the biting wind.

The trip into town was rough, slow going, and the small grocery store was on the verge of closing when they got there. Luckily enough, Anna, the usual clerk, saw them as she was about to lock the door and let them in to get what they needed. In return, Will let her know just why he wasn't in jail, because that was how small towns worked.

Coming back was worse, and proved that they probably should have put on the chains before they left after all.

Will spent most of the drive back to the cabin hunched so far forward against the steering wheel that his nose was almost against the windshield. "I'm tempted to park it and just walk the rest of the way."

"Except that gives me images of the Donner party, and bears, and also maybe that one show with all of the ghosts and monsters and stuff." Greg shivered, as much from the fact that the car's heater was having a hard time keeping up with the dropping temperature as with the idea of crazy flesh-eating critters.

"I can bound through the snow," Will offered, still driving on. It was slow, and they just had the last bit of the climb to make it through.

"It's only another mile." That wasn't so bad, right? They'd make it, unless they slid off that one steep slide of the last turn up to the cabin.

"A slow mile." Will's road wasn't a total downhill affair, though, and Greg was sure he'd driven it at least once before in weather that shit. Something had to inspire a man to buy tire chains, after all.

"Slow is probably better than fast in this case." Fast would mean sliding off the road, and they could almost certainly both live without that.

The rest of the drive was rough, but they finally managed to get to the cabin. The driveway and the porch were slick with ice, and they slip-slid their way inside, leaving a faint trail of ice and water behind once they made their way inside.

He was tense and cold, and the cold had followed them in, clutching to them while Will started to pull Greg's jacket off of him. "I'm starting up the fire."

"I'll p-put on some soup." Will ran hotter than he did, so Greg decided coming back to curl up beside him was a plan.

He was going to suck the heat off of Will, until the fire started to spread through the place. "Or you can wrap yourself in fleece. That moved so fast."

Seriously, it had. Nick hadn't believed him until he'd taken a look at the Weather Channel, and even then, Greg wasn't sure he'd gotten across that he didn't know when he'd be in. The signal had been shit. "No kidding."

Will crouched down in front of the fireplace, carefully stacking logs, and Greg watched him gather together kindling to stuff under it. "Once it gets warmer in here, it'll stay warm."

Thank God for small favors. "You want tomato or chicken noodle? Or I could make chili." Seemed like a pretty good plan, all things considered.

Will laughed, grinning over his shoulder at Greg. "You're that intent on feeding me, chili it is."

He dropped a kiss on the top of Will's head, and shivered his way into the kitchen. The heat wasn't able to keep up in the house, either, and the storm was coming in hard and fast. Maybe being in the kitchen would warm things up.

Once the groceries were put away, Greg scrounged up a knife and the small cutting board from over the microwave to dice the onions and put the hamburger on to brown. He could catch the smell of fire, the kindling catching. Will was still leaning towards selling the cabin over keeping it, and he couldn't blame him, not really. Will only seemed to need one refuge at a time. Still, the cabin was a nice retreat for him. It was a family place. Maybe he'd manage to talk him into keeping it. After all, it wasn't like there was a mortgage or anything, and it was obvious he loved the place.

Cutting board held carefully, he moved over to the simmering hamburger meat on the stove and scraped it in, then stirred it around. There were footsteps, and he turned a little to the side, mouth tilting upwards. "Hi."

"The auxiliary heat is on," Will murmured, sliding his arms around Greg. "At least a three foot area around the fire is going to be warm."

"If I add enough chili powder, so will we." And pepper, and a little salt. It was starting to smell pretty good.

"I think packing is going to fall apart as a plan," Will murmured, nose pressed against the back of Greg's neck. It felt good, in more ways than one.

"I vote for just packing up your clothes, emptying out the pantry. I think you should keep the cabin." It was maybe a little blunt, even out of the blue, but what the hell.

"Why?" Will stayed where he was, still close, still comfortable.

Greg shrugged. "Eh. It's your place. It's your family's place. And it's always nice, having someplace to come get snowed in. It'll even be safe, once we find Millander."

"That's true. It's nice in the summer, too. Vacation home without the rent?" Will kissed the side of his neck. "I do love you."

He hadn't expected that. Not from this, not from a trip to the middle of nowhere on a case, and Christ, it felt good. "Yeah. I love you, too." Maybe it wasn't the manliest thing in the world, saying that to one another like that. There were worse things in the world. Greg had never been all that worried about proving his manhood. It was hard to worry about something like that when his mom took him to the ER for nosebleeds.

When he thought about it, it was the first time Will had said it. Maybe good chili inspired him to it. "So, what can I do to be useful?"

"Open up the cans? The hamburger's browning out pretty well." It would be ready in another five or ten minutes. Might as well be prepared.

"Right." Will pulled away finally, and pulled a drawer open to get the can opener. Will cooked on his own, and he was just generally a responsible adult, so there wasn't anything like that to fight over. It was kind of funny, that Greg would settle down with someone who mostly had his shit together, werewolf or not.

A second set of hands made short work for getting things on and steady going. Once he'd dumped in the contents of the cans and stirred them around, he added a little extra pepper and chili powder and set a lid on the pot. "I'll go start the wood stove in the bedroom, you think?" Or maybe Will had already done it.

"I'll take care of it." Mostly because there were probably things in the wood, and there was a fifty-fifty chance that Will wanted to identify whatever went running when he started the fire.

"I'll wash up the dishes." There weren't that many, just a handful from breakfast, and a couple of things he'd used so far that they wouldn't need again. The wind whistled as it whipped into the sheltered corners of the small back porch, loud enough to sound like a moan. The sound of running water muffled it so that it wasn't so bad, though, and Greg figured if they washed up now, there would be less to worry about if (when) they lost power and the ability to wash them.

It really was when more than if, too. Will was thumping around in the bedroom, and Greg was focused on boring tidying up when he heard the door behind him rattle. He turned, thinking it was the wind, or maybe a dog that had gotten loose, and was looking for somewhere to come in out of the storm. Instead, the door burst in, and it was him. Millander.

"Will!" He yelled it, backing up, slamming into the cabinet with a loud bang of sound. The chili pot rattled hard, and fire spread through him, the breath shocked out of his chest. He was falling, crumpling, maybe, and everything seemed to be moving shocky slow, but he watched Will rush past him, not even turning, just slashing out at Millander with god knew what and Millander had a gun.

A gun.

In Will's kitchen.

There was unbelievable pain, radiating up slowly, and then faster, and Greg blinked, and the world made no sense. It was blood, and fur, and teeth, and the screaming of a man, and he whimpered, because the pain was turning into a special, intense, god-fucking-awful agony that distracted him from everything else, made it impossible to think, or move, or do anything that made any sense except to make that low, hurt sound again, and then again.

He could smell blood in the air, and he wasn't sure if it was his or Millander's. He heard the door shut hard, and the cold stopped zipping in, but all of his limbs were cold. He was cold.

"Hey, stay with me. Hi. C'mon. You've got a bullet in you."

That. That explained a lot, because he hurt. Oh God. He hurt, and he wanted to clutch at himself, but he knew if he touched anywhere near his belly, near that agonizing pain, he was going to scream. He was barely biting it back now. "W-w-w...."

"Just breathe for me, Greg. I've called 911." Oh thank god. Thank god, which didn't explain why Will was crouching down over him, pulling his shirt off and apart.

Nothing made any sense, and the world was black at the edges. It closed in now and again, when the pain decided it wasn't bad enough, and maybe he screamed, then. He hoped he didn't, but Jesus. Jesus, it was bad, he knew it was bad, and if he was going to die here, he hoped it was soon.

"Just breathe. You're going to go numb, soon. Don't go with it. Fight it." Which was easy to say for Will when Will was, oh, fuck, digging around in him? He definitely screamed then, because that was exquisitely fucking agonizing, in ways he didn't know something could be, and he was shaking all over, or it felt like he was. Like the world was shaking with him, and he babbled, begging, maybe, or swearing, or something. Nothing that made any sense, probably. Numb? Fuck that. Nothing was even close to numb yet.

He heard Will mumbling under his breath, and then he felt less pressure, Will pulling back, dropping something to the floor with a wet noise that made Greg figure it might've been his spleen, except he was dizzy and everything was spiraling.

"mgah." Jesus. Jesus. What was he doing?

"Just breathe." Will was sitting back on his knees, and everything was going gray and red at the edges. "I called 911. They told me it was going to be two to three hours before they could get someone up, and that they'd try to get here sooner." There was something in his hands.

Hours? "G...g...gonna... d-d...." Gonna die. He was going to die in Will's kitchen, on the floor, and somehow that hurt as much as Will digging around in his belly, doing bad, bad things. That was stupid.

"You're not going to die." Will was moving, always moving, restless. He was always restless except when he was asleep, and it figured he'd be that way now, something in his hands, and then doing with it, sticking it to the inside of his leg? The fuck. It would've been easier if everything would've stayed in focus. If things didn't keep going black at the edges, blinking their way out of existence when he was scared, so scared that he wouldn't be able to pull the world into focus again.

When it came back to him, Will was bending over him, and there were tubes and needles and things in his hands, on Greg's chest, and blood. Blood everywhere, blood on him, blood on Will, blood in Will's hands.

"I'm sorry." And Will was staring hard, fingers at the side of Greg's face.

Sorry. Greg was sorry, too, and he wanted to say so, but the best he could do was try to breathe. He was a little numb, after all, like Will had said. Weird numb, and weird in pain, and the steady blink-flash-blink of time was slow and fast, and not fast enough. Nowhere near, and his veins felt like they were starting to burn, to sizzle-pop-shudder-FRY, and he wanted to scream again.

He needed to scream, but he still couldn't, and Will was doing something to himself again, fingers blood slippery, a syringe stuck into the inside of his thigh. He wished he knew what that meant. He wished he could fucking pass out altogether, or stop feeling like he'd been shot in the gut, or just go ahead and die already. Anything that meant he wouldn't feel the way his blood was starting to boil inside of him, even as it was gushing out into whatever Will had pressed against his belly.

Will was leaning over him again, wobbly, methodical, and Greg slipped away on the fire in his veins, losing track of what was going on, whether Will was leaning back or forward or back again. It was worse even than the pain in his gut for a long time. He was pretty sure he was babbling for part of it, begging or yelling or something. His throat was raw, and he shook with fire for what seemed like forever.

He didn't expect for the world to clear finally to dull, numb pain, and the sticky feeling of lying in his own blood. Will was sitting beside him, covered in blood, and he looked... shattered. Maybe worse.

"'s numb," he managed to say, even though it wasn't, exactly. Just distant and weird. Everything was distant and weird. "You s-said. It'd."

"Numb. It goes away." Will stretched a hand out, laid it on Greg's hip. "I'm so sorry."

For what? Keeping him alive? "'s... I heard. You said... 911." And other stuff, and there was blood smell everywhere. His mouth watered sickeningly.

"And they're still an hour away. You'll do better with help." Do better? Will looked so wounded, horrified, just looking at Greg.

"B-better?" Better. He wasn't following. "Millan...der?" He licked his lips, trying to figure out why he was so damnably thirsty, hungry, whatever it was that was making him shiver and shudder.

"Ripped up." Will swallowed, fingers still resting on his hips. "I'm, uh. Going to get you chili."

He laughed, and that should have hurt more. He was pretty sure. "Do... do people...." Shot people. "Just... eat?" He couldn't imagine they did. The numb feeling was getting a little more encompassing. That couldn't be good, either.

"You do. I do." Will stood up on shaky legs, still naked, and Greg watched him from the floor, still shuddering.

He managed a laugh, hoarse and a little hysterical. "How long?" How long had he been there. How long until help came.

How long until he died on the floor, because not feeling had to be worse than feeling. It had to be.

"You'll want to eat before they get here. They never understand about how the hunger feels." There was the clicking of a spoon in a bowl, and then Will was down beside him.

It smelled so good. Better than good, it smelled like he wanted to inhale it, and before he thought, Greg was trying to lean up, was taking the bowl and scarfing it down, bite after bite after tipping the bowl up and into his mouth directly, and oh god. Oh god oh god oh god.

Oh, god.

Will had a hand on his back to steady him, and it would've been easier if Millander's ruined body wasn't at his feet still, just two feet away, with a towel thrown over his head. Towel, covering the face could mean remorse, not that Greg thought Will had any for that. He just didn't want to see the face.

He looked up at Will, and shuddered again, because Millander. The meat. Oh Jesus. "Will. Will...."

"I'm sorry." He still had a hand on Greg's back. "I didn't want you to die."

Him, either. "He... The smell." It made him salivate, and that made him nauseated, all at once. "I. Will. The smell."

"Meat," Will murmured. "Everything is sharper. Smells, hearing, everything. You learn to control it. You learn to handle it."

Learning was awesome. Learning would be fantastic, but he didn't have time to learn. There was blood everywhere, and meat on the floor, and he looked down where there should have been a hole in his belly. There was still a hole, but instead of bleeding everywhere, it looked gooey and half-healed, the way it might look after two or three weeks, not after.... "How long was I there?"

"Hour and a half. I should put pants on. You'll want more chili." Will pulled away slowly, took the empty bowl with him.

Greg was salivating again, and he watched Will with the bowl. "'s what you were doing. Thought... I didn't know. Didn't understand." He still just had weird flashes that went back and forth.

"Transfusion." Will crouched down again, handing Greg the bowl before he pulled his boxers on. Greg wanted to watch him. Wanted to tell him it was okay, but he took the bowl, and he didn't bother with the spoon at all this time. Just drank it down, barely pausing to chew at all. It was almost horrifying, but he'd seen when Will looked thin. He just hadn't ever really caught on how fast it could go. "Hey."

Somehow, he managed to take the bowl away from his mouth, look up, lick his lips. "Yeah?"

"Milk." In a glass, to drink, and that was a good idea. Will had to know what worked best. "Are you feeling less numb?"

Less numb. A little less inclined to drop onto his hands and knees and start munching on Millander's corpse, but still completely disturbed by the fact that it even seemed like something doable. "Some." Some, and he glanced down at his belly again, disturbed. "Are you... okay?"

"I never wanted to do this to you." Will watched the look, and his eyes traveled down to Greg's injury. Greg didn't look again. It made him more than a little sick.

"I didn't want to die." He was glad. Glad Will had done it, if that meant he wasn't going to end up like Millander, lying on the floor as a mouthwatering kind of smell. Holy God.

"Yeah. Smells a little like stale burgers, doesn't it? Tempting, but... no." Will was still peering at him. He'd managed to pour a glass of milk, and Greg reached for it tentatively.

"Yeah. No." Not even. The smell might be tempting, but the thought was something else altogether. "I'm. There's. The storm. I'm guessing." It made no sense when it came out, not exactly. "Can I... I want to..." They were both covered in blood.

"Police are coming, too. Can't wash up." Will inhaled, and looked like he'd startled himself before he shook his head, like he was shaking it off. He looked brittle and shaken as he watched Greg swallow down the entire glass of milk.

Licking his lips, Greg looked up at him. "Can I get up?" His clothes were in shreds, he was sticky with blood, and he stank. He smelled like maybe the shot had hit somewhere near his bowels, too, and for a second, he felt the chili, the milk, try and come up again.

It didn't. It didn't, but Greg almost wanted it to. "That's the bullet you smell, not you. Maybe my hands."

One way or the other, it left him nauseated, sick. Wanting a bath.


"I want a shower." So much, but it wasn't an option. Emergency services would be coming -- EMS, maybe, cops definitely, and he could only hope it was Sheriff Brooks. That would be better than strangers.

"Yeah. I know. You need to go to the hospital, first. Get scanned, make sure everything is where it belongs." The hollowed out, brittle look was making Greg hurt, and there was nothing he could do to make it go away. He didn't even know where to start.

"That happen often?" It was a good question. He'd never been the best student of anatomy, and things changed when the virus -- gene -- for lycanthropy was introduced.

"No. One out of thousands and thousands, but it's hell being that one." With Will's luck, it had been him, and Greg wanted to ask, but his thoughts were weird and slow. He was sluggish, and the numbness was receding further.

He didn't look down at his belly again. Instead, he lay back, ignoring the sticky, unpleasant coolness of blood, and sighed. "Sit with me. Stay with me?"

"Yeah." Will shifted, moved to shift into Greg's blood puddle with him, to put Greg's head in his lap. That was better -- weird, but better, and he reached up, fumbled for Will's hand.

They were covered in blood, both of them. Fingers, palms, parts of Greg he didn't want to think about. He was sore, exhausted, hungry, nauseated all at once. The blood smelled strange, almost appetizing, and Millander continued to rot beside the door.

"I'm sorry." Sorry Will was all fucked up. Sorry... he didn't know why, exactly.

"You're alive. That's the important part." Will was still with him, and they'd work it out later. After the police arrived. For the time being, he closed his eyes, laid a hand high, up over his stomach, and clung to Will's hand. Silence stretched out between them for a long time, and he felt better with each passing moment.

Finally, he opened his eyes, unable to rest any longer. "Thank you. Thanks. I... Thanks."

"We'll see if you're still happy about it sixty years from now." Will petted at his hand.

Sixty years. In sixty years, he'd be eighty-eight. Poppa Olaf was eighty-nine and still going strong. Greg hadn't expected he'd be any different, only now... now, things would be different.

"Mm." Will closed his eyes. "You become accustomed to that, too."

He swallowed, and closed his eyes again. "Tell me about it." Because there were things he knew, but they were common knowledge. Those things weren't necessarily accurate.

"We don't age. We don't change. You're probably never going to have another scar." Because honestly, Will was how old? And he didn't look it, and Greg hadn't really thought hard about it until then.

Later. He'd think about it later, worry about it later, and he gave a laugh that didn't sound quite right. It shook him, hurt, but it was a low ache, not a desperate agony. "And this one?"

"It'll be your last." Which explained the marks on the inside of Will's arms, where the tubes had probably gone in.

Somehow, he managed to give a huff of laughter. "'s. Could've been worse." God, he was tired. Tired, and his veins still held a little bit of sizzle-pop, but it was ramping down now. Now there was just him, Will, blood, and the smell of Millander-meat by the door. "Can we... put him outside?"

"Police," Will reminded. "It's better for us if we don't move him."

Better in a lot of ways, Greg figured, and he kept his fingers curled in Will's, quiet, comfortable. "Brooks?"

"He'll be here soon." Will stretched his fingers, clutched tight to Greg's hand again. It was comforting, and it made it a little easier to close his eyes, give in to the exhaustion dragging at his every nerve ending.

The knock startled him, maybe out of a sound sleep. "Stay here."

Mostly naked, both of them, and that was disturbing. Will was in boxer shorts, and Greg's clothes were mostly in strips. His t-shirt had been used to help staunch the blood and was lying in the pool next to him. His jeans were shoved halfway past his hips, and his tennis shoes were a total loss.

"Well. That's a hell of a mess, Graham."

"I had to turn Greg. Is any kind of ambulance coming?" Will was standing crookedly, his back to Greg for a moment even as he let Brooks in and shut the door behind him. There was blood on the seat of his boxers, the backs of his legs.

"Jesus, Graham." And then some, from the sound of it. "That's gonna be a legal fuckery the likes of which I am really damn glad I won't be seeing. How you doing, kid?"

Greg waved one bloody hand in his general direction. "I've felt worse. Couple hours ago."

Brooks nodded. "Yeah. I can tell. Sent Leland out after Dale Sterling. Barry's gonna meet him down at the turnoff. He's hoping that snowplow his brother-in-law uses will get up here. The weather's some better, but not enough for anybody else to come out."

Will exhaled, and shifted restlessly. "Yeah, I figured as much. I never wanted to hear that from 911. This guy's from a case in Vegas."

"Serial killer. Killed guys born on the seventeenth of August." Greg waved a hand vaguely in his direction. "Millander. Except that's not his real name or we'd have found him by now."

"I didn't completely disfigure his face," Will promised, and god, that maybe explained the meat smell. His stomach roiled, and then let out an embarrassing growl.


"Yeah. We'll give 'em a call whenever..." The lights went out suddenly. "Shit."

"I've been waiting for that, actually." It wasn't like they were plunged into darkness, though Will had let the fire idle down to a faint glow. "Here, flashlights are this way."

"How'd you get up here?" Greg asked, trying hard to continue ignoring the itch of dried blood and... other things.

The sheriff turned and looked at him, glanced around the kitchen. "Snowmobile. Leland led me through the snow. It's let up a little. Gonna get worse, though."

"Not what I wanted to hear," Will called over his shoulder as he opened a drawer. "I'm trying to do this right, and every time I do..." Greg didn't bother to think about what that might or might not mean. They could worry about that later, he figured, when he was better, maybe.

"You got a digital camera back there someplace? Figure we ought to get some pictures. Maybe settle the body out on the porch. It'll keep better in those temperatures. I'll get pictures of the scene." Brooks was eyeing him, even in the near dark, or what should have been nearly dark. It wasn't, not nearly as much as it should have been. "All things considered, it's probably better to get our, uh. Patient here cleaned up a little. In a bed until the doc gets here."

"All right." With the sheriff telling him that, Will finally seemed willing to violate basic crime scene things that even Greg cringed over. "You want to stir the fire higher, I'll get a camera."

"But... there's gotta be samples and...." Greg flailed a little over it, and Brooks narrowed his gaze, watching him.

He spoke once Will was out of the room. "Look. This is gonna be sticky, one way or the other. Graham's a known werewolf. He's changed you after an attack, and that's what my report's gonna say, because if it doesn't, then things don't look too pretty, one way or another. It's obvious what happened here. You need to lie back until I get the pictures. Maybe eat something, because I know more'n I'd like to about what's going on with you just now. The doc'll be here soon and him and me and Barry'll get some samples, and then we're gonna do something about this mess, or at least get you and Graham clean, 'cause we're liable to be here a while."

Will came back with the camera, wrapped in a facecloth to keep the blood off of it. "You can take it for chain of custody. I don't have a pressing need for it." He just didn't care what happened to it, and Greg guessed why, since he was staring at him, still.

"Can I get up?" he asked Brooks, and sighed when he shook his head no. He wanted to, god, he did. Wanted to get up out of his own pool of disgusting smelling blood and probably fecal matter, although he wasn't looking. He didn't want to.

"Stay where you are until I can get some pictures. Graham? Why don't you get the kid something else to eat?" The kid. Ha.

"Glad we went into town for groceries." Will opened the fridge, and was probably going through it with bloody hands, which made Greg shudder a little. It also made him swallow, because there was food in there, and he could smell it.

The camera flashed, and Greg glanced over at Brooks. "So." The sheriff took another picture. "Tell me what happened. Step by step."

It was going to be a long snow in.

They were just basic scans, but Will wanted to be sure Greg was safe, healing right, that the change had gone all right. It helped his own case to document Greg's injury, even if it was healing and murky, and the sheriff had the bullet. He bet that Alan was calling Catherine just then, which meant it was Will's job to call and add the rest of the story, as it were.

Fucking fantastic, that was gonna be. He could already imagine the ice-cold greeting he'd be getting whenever he showed back up in Vegas, and in all honesty, it scared the shit out of him. And then some.

People killed werewolves over turnings that they perceived to be offensive, and this was the town's police department. Nick was probably the best and the worst person to call, because Catherine's line was busy. He hadn't been that damn nervous since... hell. He couldn't remember. The phone was ringing in his ear, and he could feel his jaw tightening with each one.


"Nick, it's Graham. Do you have a minute?" Will twisted, turning towards the wall, trying to be composed. Trying, and he was afraid he might be failing.

~"Uh... yeah. What's up?"~ He sounded suspicious, and he should be, all things considered. ~"Why are you calling me on Greg's phone, Graham?"~

"Greg's in the hospital, and I figured you wouldn't answer if I called on mine. We found Millander."

He could hear the hitch of breath, even over the phone. ~"What do you mean, you found Millander? Where is Greg?"~

"He's going through a few scans and they had him on an IV. Millander shot him. I killed Millander. Sheriff'll be asking for some help about the body. Catherine's line's busy, so I'll guess that's him." Will was trying not to pace, but he could tell the reaction was going to be bad, and really, he didn't give a shit for himself.

~"Shot!? He was... What the hell, Graham! How is he? If Millander shot him..."~ Yeah. Stokes was gearing up for a hell of a freak out, and Will should seriously head him off at the pass.

"I called 911, and they gave me an arrival time that was useless." A nurse passed by, and gave him a look, and Will lifted his eyebrows at her. "I had to turn him."

Dead silence.

That kind of quiet was horrifying, and it made the hair on the back of Will's neck rise. ~"You..."~ Fury. Accusation. Maybe he heard those. Mostly he heard stunned shock. ~"How fucking close did you let him get!? What the fuck did you do to...!"~

"It's a fucking blizzard, Stokes. It took the sheriff two hours to get to us on snowmobile just because he kept getting lost," Will snapped.

~"Well fucking great for you, but Jesus Christ! You've infected him with a goddamn virus that's going to make him...."~

"It was that or he was going to die before help got there. The bullet nicked his bowel, and an artery."

There was that silence again, before he heard a pent up puff of breath, one that shook. He couldn't tell what made it shake over the line, and then there was a faint sound, and Stokes spoke again. ~"Where is he now?"~

"They're running scans on him to make sure he's healing correctly." Will leaned into the wall, facing it more than anything.

~"But he's gonna survive. You tell me he's going to be okay, you son of a bitch."~

"He's going to be okay. He's fine. He was eating before we cleared Millander's body onto the back porch." He wasn't going to pick that fight, not over the phone.

~"Now tell me where you are."~ And hell if he didn't wonder whether Stokes might be crazy enough to come up and try to kill him. Worse, he wasn't sure how hard he'd fight it.

Enough that he wouldn't leave Greg to figure his shit out for himself. "Northeastern Nevada Regional."

The thing about cell phones that sucked was the inability to slam the phone into a cradle. Still, Call Ended probably had a certain panache of its own to people who had never dialed a rotary phone. Will sighed, and pocketed Greg's phone. At least it had been lying on the counter when Millander had forced his way into the kitchen.

He hadn't thought to grab his own, hadn't thought to move to pack for what was probably going to be an overnight stay in the hospital. At least. Will pocketed it, and then twisted, looking for something he could do. Brooks and his crew had remained behind, waiting for the rest of the NHP to show up to continue the investigation they'd started. Everything would be going back to the Vegas lab, and that made him a little nervous, just like traveling in a helicopter with the single highway patrolmen eyeing him suspiciously all the way to the hospital.

Will was the last person to suspect he'd ever be afraid of police, but now he was. Now. Will eyed the plastic chairs, considering what corner he wanted to spend the next few hours passed out in. He didn't figure they'd be done with Greg's scans for a while, and they hadn't assigned him a room yet, so he might as well try to get comfortable. Try being the operative word; Will figured the plastic chairs were probably there to discourage anyone from sticking around for very long.

Well, he was going to piss off the nurses like nothing else, because he was damned tired, and he wanted to rest. A couple of minutes rearranging furniture got him a way to prop up his feet in the hopes that at least that would be something resembling comfortable. The nurse at the desk gave him disapproving eyes that made him grimace a little. Like they didn't already hate him. He was screwed, and everyone was looking at him like he'd done it on purpose, like it had all been a plot. Like they knew anything about him, what he was, what he'd lived with. What he'd lived through, and he was going to sit there and keep his mouth shut until Greg got back, or until someone told him where Greg was, that he was out and in a room and probably on a glucose drip, if Will remembered what he'd needed afterwards.

Maybe he'd have slept if he hadn't felt so paranoid, like all the eyes in the room gravitated towards him, lingering and full of accusation. He was tired -- worn out, starving, and probably still anemic. Probably, because that never lasted very long, which would explain why he was so damn hungry.

"Mr. Graham."

Will moved, swung his feet down and started to stand up just to be conscious.

"We've moved Mr. Sanders to a room on the second floor. Two thirty-six. Would you like me to show you the way?"

"Please, thank you." He slipped his hands into his pockets, breathing slowly, in and out to keep himself steady while he moved to shadow the lady. Sometimes, he didn't think food was necessary -- it was just something that kept him from being a ravening beast.

She seemed pretty nice. She'd probably been tricked into dealing with him somehow. "I know it's late, but if you're hungry, we can swing by the snack machines on our way up."

"Yeah." Will could dig in his pockets for enough change not to try to eat anything. He'd had the good sense to shove his wallet and change into his jeans when he'd gotten dressed, and he figured he could get some chocolate or something for Greg, too. He'd already eaten chili -- a little chocolate wasn't going to hurt him.

Skittles were pretty good, too.

He trailed after her, until she pointed him into a cubbyhole of a niche where he rattled his change out of his pocket. A few minutes later, he had six packs of crackers, a couple of chocolate bars, two packs of Skittles, and a couple of honeybuns. Juggling it was a bitch, but the nurse was nice enough to help him, and the trip upstairs didn't take all that long.

It probably looked crazy, but Will knew Greg would appreciate it. The nurse pushed the door open for him, and murmured a goodbye. He stepped in, looking for Greg. He was settled into a bed, looking pissy, hungry, and generally uncomfortable. Will knew why -- the same reason he'd stopped downstairs at the vending machines.

"Hey. They wouldn't call anything up from the cafeteria, and I couldn't reach the phone or the phone book for the IV. I'm starving."

"I wouldn't call it food, but it'll do," Will offered, setting the pile on the bedside table. "How are you feeling?"

"Okay." It was a lie, and he knew it, but he didn't question it. He just looked at Greg, and the truth tumbled out in response. "Okay, no, I'm hungry, I'm... I'm jittery, I'm kind of angry, because people keep acting weird around me. Some of them have been standoffish, and some of them have been apologizing to me, and this one guy kept making hex symbols. What the hell."

"Welcome to werewolf-hood. Mostly, I bare my teeth at the people who're inclined to try to hex me." Will pulled up the chair beside Greg's bed, and started to open one of the packs of honeybuns.

Greg eyed him through every rattle, right until Will handed it over. He had a mouthful before he spoke again. "'s... 'll r'member that." He swallowed. "Next time. Because it's not gonna stop with the whole hexing thing." The rest of the honeybun was more or less inhaled.

Will broke his in half and handed it over to Greg without thinking before tackling the remains. "No, it's not. Your team knows what happened."

That stopped him mid-chew. "Oh. Geeze. Nicky." Yeah. Nicky, who had issues. Not just issues, but issues on issues from what Will could tell.

"He's probably contemplating driving up here." Even if it was a long ass drive. Will wasn't going to badmouth him, though. The guy had problems with werewolves, and there wasn't anything he personally could do to change that. Maybe Greg being one wouldn't destroy what was left of the friendship they had. Then again, maybe it would, and the thought of that hurt him. He already knew how that felt.

"Well, if he does, let's try and make sure we're both heavily armed." Greg sounded grim, even over the rustle of the Skittles he was starting to eat now.

"I don't think it's going to be that bad. For you." Will chewed a little, opening his Skittles, too.

"If it's that bad for you, it's that bad for me." Greg tossed him a smile, slowing down on the sugar laden bits. "So. Um."

Will picked out three grape Skittles, and put them in his mouth to chew. "I'm still sorry."

He could feel dark eyes on him, steady, thoughtful. "I'm not. I'd rather be a werewolf than be dead. You... you don't deserve to be guilty. Not because I'm dead, and definitely not because I'm living."

"I still would have preferred for you to have a choice. Eventually. Maybe in fifteen, twenty years, with plenty of time to think it over." Will leaned forward, touching Greg's hand, but not where the IV line was going in. "I'm going to do everything I can to help you."

"Is it that bad?" He sounded vulnerable, worried, and yeah. Will remembered that, remembered being terrified, remembered the way Hannibal had tried to convince him that what he wanted to be was anything other than exactly what Will really wanted.

It was just luck that Jack had gone looking for him with force behind himself because he knew that trouble found Will like nothing else found him. Still did. "Changing hurts. Learning control hurts. Learning to be a wolf doesn't exactly come naturally. I was afraid of what I could do before Hannibal turned me."

"I've never been afraid of myself before." The Skittles package rattled between Greg's fingers, and he was watching them. "I've never been afraid of you, either. I'm not sure I should be."

"I've never hurt a loved one." That was the only thing he could really promise. He'd been good, he'd been controlled, he'd been working cases from afar, because he could feel that tug when he worked cases, that knowledge that, straight off, he could do what they did.

Greg was watching him, still fiddling with the candy. "I never thought you'd hurt me. And Millander... well. That was different. That was..."

"Necessary. I had to." But he hadn't thought, hadn't tried to restrain. He'd just ended Millander. "It wasn't the best choice I could've made."

"I appreciate it, though." He looked up at Will, mouth tilting into something like a smile. "Because I kind of think he would have killed you, if you hadn't. And I would never want that."

"Then we both would have been dead." And if it had just been him, Will would have preferred that, almost. Except... Greg. "I didn't want that, either."

There were a lot of things Will hadn't wanted in his life. To be an eideteker. Lycanthropy. Divorce. Dying. Greg dying was damn high on that list. "Are you always this tired?" He was fidgeting, but his eyes were dark, circles growing under them.

"No. You need to rest. But when you're tired, it's lights out. Everything is so much more intense." Will rubbed a thumb over Greg's hand. "I'll stay with you until someone runs me out."

That was kind of sweet, the smile he got. "Don't let anybody run you out. I... I needed you. Before now. I can't... I need you more now. I think. And you don't need to be guilty. I'm kind of glad to be alive."

"I'm pretty glad you're alive, too." Will couldn't help but respond to Greg's smile. "Just close your eyes."

The last of the Skittles rattled into Greg's hand, and he munched them down before handing the wrapper to Will and fiddling with the controls for the bed to make it recline.

Will folded the wrapper, and almost pocketed it before he spotted the trash can. "I'll leave this here, because you'll need it."

"'ll need a lot of things," Greg murmured, and yeah. His eyes were closing again, the way they had off and on since all of this had started. He'd sleep like that off and on for days, Will knew. "Just... wake me up. If you need...."

"I will." And in half a heartbeat, Greg was asleep.

And Will could wait.

He'd slept off and on for hours. Every time he opened his eyes, Will was lightly snoring in the reclining chair in the corner, or coming up with food out of nowhere. Once, there had been two large pizzas, and he'd eaten one of them all by himself.

It felt pretty impressive, and also like he had a hollow leg. He hardly felt full at all. Grocery shopping was going to be hell now that both of them were eating like that, he decided pretty groggily.

Will never seemed this tired. He hoped that, at least, would be over soon; that it was the exhaustion of genes changing in his body and that it wasn't something that was going to be happening to him for eternity. Will could go and go and go, and Greg had seen him do it, so that was proof that it wasn't for forever. He did wonder how much it would hurt to change, though. Will wasn't a wuss about pain, and he said it hurt. He still did it in a heartbeat, without stopping, hesitating. Boom boom boom, back and forth, even if sometimes he ran around in wolf form a little longer than Greg thought was absolutely necessary.

He already knew how much pain the original changeover seemed to bring, although maybe that was all mixed up with the pain of being shot. It wasn't something he was going to forget anytime soon, especially with the tingling, burning remnants chasing their way through him every now and then.

The numbness bothered him worse, though. It was like something out of a horror movie, creeping up from his extremities and threatening to grab onto his brain. He didn't know whether he should be asking about it, or just assuming it was something that went along with what he was becoming. Who? Who. Not what.

A click came from the door, catching his attention and stopping the steady, soft buzz of Will's snores. He didn't open his eyes, or sit up, but he was awake. Greg knew that the same way he knew that the person opening the door was Nick Stokes, even before he saw him.

Will was awake, but he wasn't moving. If he wanted to play the pretend to be asleep game, okay. Nick stepped in, and seemed a little surprised. Surprised that Greg was awake, or that Will was there, or what? That he didn't look like the damn shaggy dog?

"Hey, Greggo."

"Hey, Nicky." It was easy to say it, easy to pretend that things were all right. He didn't really have any other options. Maybe if the pretense went okay, it really would be. "Long time no see."

"Couple of days, a blizzard, Graham here turning you into a werewolf, yeah, it feels like a long time." Nick looked tense. He must have hopped into his car right off from when Will called him to be there. Or he'd done some serious snow-hampered speeding.

Hell, knowing Nick, he'd had someone fly him up so that he could take a look around Will's cabin, be sure his story had evidence to back it up. "The werewolf part didn't hurt anywhere near as much as the gut shot part. You left out the serial killer trying to kill me thing."

"Everything was fuzzy on the details," Nick shrugged, cutting his eyes over to Will. "They're going to take Millander's body down to Vegas for the autopsy and examination. Elko County police want to coordinate with us on Graham turning you. There's paperwork to file so charges aren't pressed. Unless you'd like to."

Yeah, and he could tell that Nick would like that. He wondered what had ever happened to make Nick, good, easygoing Nick, be so damned hard about Will. "Not so much, with the whole... charge pressing thing. Getting shot like that was..." Bad. God, it had been bad, and whenever Will had cut into him to get out the bullet, that had been... he didn't want to think about it. "Not something I ever want to do again."

Nick was at least giving him worried looks, so it wasn't him that Nick had a problem with. Okay, maybe it hadn't sunk in for Nick that Greg was a werewolf now, too. "Yeah, Graham told me what it hit. None of us ever figured Millander was still following you. Or him."

"Or that he'd make a ten hour drive just to try and put Will in a bathtub." His birthday was on the nose, and Greg had been worried about it since he'd figured out that part.

"Why would he try to put Graham in a bathtub?" Nick's eyebrows came together, just a little, just enough to make Greg's mouth quirk.

He'd probably seen it -- it just hadn't registered, because he was too busy making an ass of himself. "His birthday. It's August 17. 1956. Next in line for Millander's little lineup."

Just then, just for about twenty, thirty seconds, Nick would've made a great addition to a fishbowl, the way his mouth worked like that. "And we missed that."

"Yeah. You missed it." Not Greg, although he'd kind of figured Millander had something else in mind. Otherwise, why had he set up Will instead of killing him? Obviously because he didn't quite have the year sequence right yet. Maybe planting Will's prints had been a hint at who came next. "But I guess we've lived through it, and he didn't. So. Um."

"Yeah. When the snow stops, we're going to help the county out with processing." Of course they were, and Nick was right there to help. "Jesus."

Jesus, and for a second, he felt a flare of anger that tightened his muscles, made him twitch and hunch over on himself with a sharp gasp. There was a hand on his wrist, though, Will's hand, and a sound that was more command than it was spoken words. It was enough.

Nick recoiled, and was staring at both of them, while Will inhaled. "It takes a while to get a hold of the impulses. Stokes, hello."

Fuck, that had hurt, but the numbness chased along his nerves, and blocked that out. Huh. So, it was something useful. He was going to need to pick up some kind of texts, something more specific that would teach him... well, anything. "Sorry."

"No, nah, man. Nothing to apologize for." Nick inhaled, too, and stayed standing an extra foot away from him. That hurt a little, but it also felt vitally necessary. If Nick admitting he'd missed out on Will's birthday pissed him off enough to make his whole body contract that way, it was probably for the best. "Do you need something to eat? You look like no one's been feeding you.

His mouth twitched sheepishly. "Uh... so far today, I've eaten six candy bars, two bags of Skittles, three honeybuns, breakfast, lunch, and a large pizza." And he'd been eyeballing Will's, too. "I look that bad, huh?"

Nick's yeah and Will's yes overlapped, and Will's mouth turned up, fingers gentling on Greg's wrist.

"I can do a burger run," Nick offered. He probably thought it had something to do with hunger, and not anger. And maybe it did. Maybe it was easier to be pissed off when he was hungry. Well. Starving.

"I'm probably capable of eating you out of house and home right now." Yeah, but Will was rubbing over the bony part at the outside of his wrist, and that was calming. It made him feel better, or at least less likely to come apart into flying fur and teeth.

"That's okay," Nick half-soothed, giving Will a look that Greg couldn't quite read "I'll, uh. Be back.”

Be back with food, and Greg's stomach growled loudly at the mere thought. "Thanks." Thanks to Nick for the food, and to Will for... well, pretty much everything.

Will watched Nick leave, twisting in his chair, and waiting until the door closed behind him. "That didn't go as badly as it could've."

"Yeah. He could have marched in with silver bullets." Except it wasn't so much a joke anymore. It never really had been, but it was even less funny now. "At least we don't have to worry about garlic?"

"I love garlic. It'd be a horrible shame if we had to worry." Will rubbed gently at his wrist. "You can do your first change when we get home."

First change. That was terrifying, and it sounded painful. Sounded, but that funny numbness that chased across his nerves made him hopeful that it wouldn't be nearly as awful as it sounded. Plus, Will didn't seem to mind it -- just changed, without a whimper or a moan, and then curled up warmly to nap. Okay, so the crunching was horrific, but obviously it was livable. "Is it okay to be kind of scared?"

"Yeah. I was horrified. Now, I have a couple of chew toys and a nice bed for myself when I feel like hanging around in that form. But I was scared for the first few years." Will kept stroking his wrist, still gently.

Years? That seemed like an eternity somehow, and he looked up, gnawing at his lip. "That long?"

"My circumstances were different than yours." He was half sure Will was taking his pulse by then. "I was afraid of myself before I was ever a werewolf."

"I don't understand why. There's nothing for you to be afraid of. You've never scared me." Then again, Greg had something of a mancrush on Will before he'd ever met him, just from all of his accomplishments.

Meeting him, dating him, being with him had been so much better than just accomplishments. "There was a while there where I wasn't sure I was making the right choices. I didn't have a very firm grip on myself. Good and evil were blurred, mere value judgments imposed by the world."

He twisted his hand a little, caught Will's fingers, held them. "I think you've got a pretty good handle on it now."

"I do. I'm content with my life now." It sounded so odd that Will was content with everything that had happened to him. "I like being alive."

"Well. It's gotta be better than being dead." And that wasn't exactly a joke, either. "I'm, uh. I'm kind of scared to death. But not so much of me, just.... just scared." Not scared of Will. Grateful, maybe, because there was something about him, about them, that made things feel as if they'd be okay.

"Can you articulate why? It might help to talk it through." It probably would, and while Will was suggesting that, he was digging another package of crackers out of his coat pocket.

"Scared of people. Scared this hurts. Scared things won't.... that we can't... that maybe something will go wrong." He let go of Will's hand so that he could open the crackling cellophane, and that earned him the first cracker. "Scared they'll fire me and pretend it's for some other reason. Scared that maybe buying the house will backfire. Scared things won't work out with us anymore if things are this different. I don't know. Scared of most everything. I guess." Scared he'd end up hunting rabbits and not even wanting to be human anymore.

Maybe that had scared Will, too. "Things will be all right. Because they have to be, because you deserve them to be. We'll find a way. Hell, the FBI'll take you if Vegas CSI fires you."

Which, frankly, was also a little scary. "I just kind of wonder. I mean, it's not like I've done anything for them to fire me, it's just...."

"Nick freaks you out. But the rest of the team gets along relatively well with me. And they already like you." That was true. Catherine was very relaxed about it, and Brass was, too. It was just Nicky, and that bothered him.

Greg wished that he would just say whatever it was, get it out. Tell him what the problem was so that he'd know, so that they could make things okay between them. That didn't seem to be on the table, but burgers were, and he could live with that. "Nick worries me."

"I've been trying to leave him alone, but if you want, I can corner him and get it out of him later." And Will could've tried it already, but Nick was Greg's friend. So he offered it up as an option instead.

He didn't want it to work out that way. It was better if Nick said something of his own free will. "He'll either tell me or he won't. I think it's better not to force it." Somehow, the crackers had gone the way of the dodo in short order. Will was fidgeting out another pack, and Greg felt kind of guilty. He'd probably empty out the vending machine before they let him go home at this rate.

"Trying not to analyze him is putting me up a wall," Will murmured, setting six cheese and peanut butter crackers down on Greg's lap, balanced in a stack.

The smile that snuck up couldn't be helped. "Well. You can if you want. Just don't tell me about it yet." Yet, because he hoped maybe Nicky would tell him, if he waited.

He wanted to hear it, personally, because it was important. That meant it needed to be more than Will dragging it out of him by verbal force. He'd seen Will talk someone out to pieces just once, and it was terrifying to behold. "All right."

All right, easy and companionable as that. It was one of the things he loved about Will -- that every day stuff was like that, and there was no drama attached to anything until there had to be.

They sat and ate crackers, and then Skittles, for a while. There was a basketball game on TV, LSU and Duke, and for a while, it looked like the whole thing was going to devolve into a wrestling match. Will shifted, leaned onto the bed more, got closer to Greg, and then the door opened.

Nick came in, bearing burgers. Two bags of them, it looked like. "They're pretty plain, but uh, I figured you'd go through them. Half of them have bacon. You look a little, uh. Better."

"Oh, man, I love you." It was fervent, and at least momentarily true because oh. God. Food, which was awesome, and seriously, it was well-documented that he'd need to be fed in what apparently should be compared to metric tonnage. It was common knowledge, even. "I'm starving."

Will watched while Nick opened the bags, and started to stack it out on the bedside tray. "Hey, Graham, you want one?"

"I won't say no." Will leaned forward and snagged one.

For a while, there was nothing but chewing. Greg was starving, and it took half the bag before he was really anywhere near satisfied. He had the feeling that he looked kind of like something out of a Popeye cartoon, Olive Oil after she'd eaten a cherry or something. Still, he felt sated and sleepy, and it didn't hurt any to watch Nick watching him right back. "So. Um. I'm glad you came."

"Yeah, well. You're my friend, and uh... I was worried for you. It was just supposed to be a mini vacation for you." And now it wasn't. It was damn far from relaxing.

"I vote for me not getting shot again. As in, ever, if that's okay with you." He didn't discuss the terrible bout of gas he'd had somewhere between bullet in the belly and safely ensconced in a hospital room. It had been weird and embarrassing and very horribly painful. The blood had seriously freaked him out in ways he was never thinking about again.

So much damn blood.

"No, no, I think that's fine for all of us." Nick grimaced, pulling over the other little chair in the room. "So, uh."


"So I guess you're going back to the cabin. To investigate the scene, now the blizzard's blown over." It had come in faster than expected and left the same way, or at least edged its way over and left Jackpot behind.

"Yeah. I just wanted to see how you were first. Catherine's on her way up, too. What, uh. What can I do...?" Other than file the case away?

It wasn't time yet to push the whole werewolf thing, or to ask anything that would make Nick uncomfortable. Not yet. "Just... do your best not to track my blood all over the house." It was meant teasingly, even if it maybe didn't come out that way. "Not that it hasn't already been."

"Yeah. My cell is on if you need anything." Not that Nick probably thought Greg would call it with Will sitting there. Hell, he probably thought that would be the reason Greg wouldn't call, but he'd be wrong about that. Mostly wrong, anyway.

"You've already done me a fantastic lot of good. Thanks for the food." And there was still half of a big bag left that he'd probably eat in an hour or so.

It was nice to feel full, almost sated. Will seemed content with just one, and that boded well. He wasn't always going to be a completely ravenous pit. Not always. "You guys let me know if I need to do another run later, then."

He let his mouth quirk upwards in a smile. "I'll see you when they let me out of here. We'll pack up the stuff at the cabin once it's not a crime scene, make our way back to Vegas."

"Get a hotel room in the interim," Will mused. Not before, not until Greg got released, which was a blessing. Even if they didn't like Will sleeping in the weird recliner, they still hadn't tossed him out, yet. They probably figured it was better to have one wolf there to control another one, and the idea of that made him fidget a little.

"Yeah, I'll, uh." Nick cleared his throat. "I'll do that. I'd better get going."

"Thank you for coming." Will looked like he was considering sleeping in the recliner again, and maybe Greg could nap, too. He was full, and muzzy, and once Nick left, sleep might be an option to speed him towards release from the hospital. Yeah, and there went Nick, having one of those weird, stiff moments of his. Then it passed, and he reached for the door, gave a little wave that said goodbye, and he was gone. "That could have been worse." Will leaned back in the chair, and seemed to relax a little, too.

"Worse, and maybe better." Still, he'd take what he could get for now. It made him think some, though. "When I got... you know. Weird earlier. Why was it so easy to.... I don't know. Follow your suggestion?" Not fly apart into the animal waiting just under his skin.

"Pack structure, I suppose." And Will sounded like he really was supposing, which meant more research for both of them when they had access to it. "And you trust me."

"Of course I trust you." In more ways than he could articulate, because he was Will, and that was enough. That was everything somehow.

"You're not going to go wild and hurt anyone. You're still you. This virus doesn't change who you are, personally." Will was so calm about it, now, after years of time to cope with it.

Greg thought about that for a long few minutes, reaching to turn off the basketball game finally and turning on his side to face Will. "You were never something, somebody, to be afraid of. Even if you thought you were."

"I thought I was," Will murmured. "I might've been, once upon a time. I don't know."

He did, though. Knew it down to his bones, and Greg reached out, caught his hand, and held it for a long moment. "I do. So don't ever worry about it, okay?"

Will's smile was funny, crooked, and he leaned forward to kiss Greg's mouth. He smelled sharply like burgers, and bacon, and a little like something wild. He breathed in when their lips parted, and tried to let go.

"Maybe they'll let me out sometime soon. I mean, there's nothing wrong with me anymore. You wanna work on that?"

"Work on getting you out of here? Absolutely. There has to be a hotel around here that's empty..."

He wanted to go home. He'd wanted to change, more than once, and he was weirdly on edge. He couldn't seem to keep his head together, and if Will left him for very long, Greg wasn't entirely sure he wouldn't find himself in a hell of an uncomfortable place. "Or home. Home would be good."

"Home....? Back in Vegas?" Will's mouth twitched again.

Anywhere. "Or the cabin. If they'll let us back in sometime soon. Just somewhere you and me. Just you and me." Because he really was going to need time and space to wrap his head around things.

"I can drive," Will suggested. "And we can go back to Vegas. Away from the snow."

That wasn't what he wanted. Not really. He wanted to shiver into his new skin with Will, without worrying that there were other people around. Just in case. He'd say something about it when the time came, maybe. Or maybe it would be okay to go back to Vegas. "Okay." That easy, and he let out a slow sigh, full and sated, and maybe not as tired as he had been. Still tired, though.

Will petted at his hand, and seemed to be waiting for him to sleep. "We'll work it out."

"I know." And he did, because things with Will were like that. They'd work out, and be okay, so he closed his eyes and drifted off for a little while.

Will was tired.

He was just tired and restless and drained, and it only hit him a little belatedly that he'd drained himself from an artery to get enough of his blood into Greg to be useful. Driving back to Vegas wasn't really an option, and the cabin hadn't been released for them to go back and try to clean it yet. Neither of them was really up to that, either.

He'd called and gotten a room at the Horseshu, since they were pretty pet friendly. Pet friendly was always good for him, and it was hard to find. Plus, the urge to mark his territory was a little urgent sometimes.

He was fairly sure that fact would bother Greg for a while, at least until he got relaxed and used to what they were now, what he was now. Greg looked tired and wired, too. Near death, or death, had that effect. Will remembered his turning, remembered every piece of it, and he was trying hard not to lapse into memory while he got the swipe keys to get into the room.

It wasn't that late. The hospital hadn't really known what to do for Greg, anyway, so they'd been more willing to let him go than had been expected. They'd given him some platelets, and then pretty much been done with him once they knew his insides were in the right place.

That was all Will was worried about. Everything was in the right place, no infections, done. Everything else would heal. "The sheriff said he'd call a cleaning agency, and they'll bill me for the cabin."

"I'm sorry." As if it was Greg's fault. "I mean, I know that's stupid. Just...." Just he was twitching in place and Will knew he probably wasn't actually managing to make any sense. Not when he'd wanted to change since yesterday. Not wanting -- no, more like needing. He remembered that, the overwhelming strangeness, the way the change wanted to come on, maybe just to get it over with.

Greg needed to get it over with. "For bleeding out on the kitchen floor? Yes, you should absolutely be sorry for not being bullet proof." The fact that he just kind of dropped his head was another pretty bad sign, so Will gently cut off the explanation as to where their room was and started herding Greg in that direction.

They could just go, and find it and get inside. Will pressed a hand against Greg's back. "Do you want anything to drink?" They could make a mess of the bed, scuffle all over the place. It wasn't as good as home, or outside, but Will didn't care much for hotels.

"Just... maybe later." Maybe afterwards, and Will had stopped and picked up some things, a bowl, a couple of gallons of water. Chlorinated water tasted god-awful worse with his changed tongue, and he wasn't going to make either of them suffer it. "After?"

"Right." Once they were at the door, he swiped the key, and held it open for Greg. "This will be fine. And the more you do this, the more control you have over it."

Greg was practically jittering, looking at him with a kind of desperation that Will remembered. It made him feel pressured, and worried. "I'm. I don't. I can't...."

Will locked the door behind himself. "Yes, you can, Greg. Just take your clothes off, and take a few deep breaths. I'll go with you."

"I don't know what to do." Except he did. He really did, and the way he twitched, jerked at his shirt before he'd even stepped away from the door, said it all. "I don't. I can't. I'm...."

Will started to undress, slowly, toeing off his shoes. "Deep breath, and exhale. You've been holding back, and you're afraid of what will happen if you let go." Scared to death of it, from the looks of him, half twisted up already, and trying not to look like he was so far on edge he couldn't think or be rational in the least. Early on was that way sometimes. He'd read enough to know that, even if things with Hannibal had been very different.

The shirt fumbled loose from Greg's fingers and onto the floor, and then his pants got caught in his shoes. He managed to kick them loose in a tangle, falling over onto the bed, and that was when it rippled through him, unstoppable.

Will watched for a moment, admired the nature of the change itself, and then decided just to shift over himself. It was fast, seamless -- painful and sharp, yes, bones moving, morphing, skin slipping, hair from god knew where, all of it moving fast and briefly, he was sure, hideous, and then he was standing in wolf form, watching Greg shake himself off, panting in response to the change itself. He looked at Will, and the thing was that it was all Greg -- dark brown eyes, perfectly the same as when he was human. Will padded forward, sniffing at him, watching his front legs shiver while he adjusted to vastly new senses, new ways of processing. He nudged Greg's muzzle, and it startled him when Greg dropped down, peering up at him, a whine caught in his teeth as he rolled a little onto his side.

That hadn't been something he had expected. Not in the least, because it wasn't something Will had ever been inclined to do. He'd met Hannibal with teeth bared, and damn near died twice from the fight.

The side drop wasn't necessary and Will hoped there wouldn't be any snapping teeth involved, because he licked under Greg's chin, and pawed at his side. He had interesting fur patterns, a little mottled. Smelled good, too, interesting and new.

He whined again, soft and quiet, and then licked out at Will, lapping his nose and then making a strange, twisted yowl of sound and then blinking with surprise at the noise that came out of his mouth.

Will gave him a low, happy bark of a noise, and then worked in some thoughtful whines. There was a lot of emotion one could get across, even with the restrictions. It didn't seem to be worrying him -- not the pain, not the change, not the sounds. Greg was shuddering, stretching himself out, and the way that he rolled back and forth on the carpet implied that he was enjoying the experience. It was a wriggle that was almost joyful for a second, and Will knew it would be even better if they'd been in the woods so he could roll in the grass. Will flopped out behind him, and stretched, and imagined fresh grass, even dead grass and crispy leaves to loll in.

For a while, they stayed just that way -- wolves, Greg settling into his new body, into the new sensations that were associated with it. Time was indeterminate in their shape, strange and stretchy, bouncing back into shortness sometimes. Will preferred to nap his way through days. It was more comfortable, stretched out and loose in his fur.

He couldn't relax like that as a human, couldn't get himself just to breathe the way he could when he was a wolf. They rolled around for a while, and then he watched Greg sniff at the doors, finally whining and pawing to get out.

Something wasn't quite right.

It had been a long time since Will had first changed, since he'd felt what it was like to be a wolf. He'd spent a lot of time training himself, making himself comfortable in both of his forms.

He still wasn't there yet, but whatever Greg was after caught his attention. He padded towards him, wuffling curiously. That got him another whine, and then slightly more frantic scrabbling at the door.

Maybe he had to piss. Or maybe he wanted out to hunt, and god help anyone with another animal at the hotel. Perhaps he should have thought this through a little more carefully, but letting him get out was a no. Will moved to work his way between Greg and the door, making curious noises at him, trying to catch Greg's eyes.

When he did, it was worrisome. That wasn't entirely Greg, and god. He'd forgotten so much, probably on purpose. He'd forgotten how things were early on, and that maybe some people never adjusted. Leland obviously hadn't, and that was frightening, too. When it came down to it, Will had a strong sense of self. Not of morals, not of what his preferred morals were, but of himself, that he was William Graham, that he was an investigator, that he was inherently good at whatever he was doing, from investigation to boat repair. He was good at his life.

Will lifted a paw up, batting gently at Greg's nose. That got him a startled twitch, and a blink that seemed to bring him back to himself, at least a little, and then a funny yowled sound that made Greg blink again, confused.

He yowled back, unhappy noise to match unhappy noise before he head butted Greg away from the door. That got him a growl, rippling, loud, and teeth. Definitely teeth, and he snapped, giving a sound that he didn't think he'd ever made before, and Greg was down then, dropped, offering him his belly.

That was good, and he lay down beside Greg -- no belly showing, but a little tired and wary after the toothy growl -- and nudged it with his head. Greg needed to work on control, and it wasn't a one off thing, it was a multi-off thing. They'd get it right, eventually, but it made him wonder if they were better off going back to Vegas after all. Maybe a leave of absence would be better, and staying in Jackpot until he learned the kind of control he was going to need to be what he was.

Dark eyes shot a longing look at the door, but then Greg huffed and squirmed until he was near to Will. His belly was still showing, pressed near to Will's side, and he dropped his head on a paw sorrowfully.

Jackpot was a little bit of a wonderland when it came to peace and quiet to roam, deer to hunt, snow to pop in and out of. Or maybe that was Will being a romantic.

He nudged Greg, and laid his own head down and huffed a sigh. Good enough for now.

The wolf thing was a lot harder than it looked.

Pain wasn't an issue -- he'd been worried that it was, from the looks of things, from the way Will moved carefully sometimes before and after the change, and it had made him anxious. That had been before he knew, before the numb chased through his veins, before he had known what it felt like to change.

Mostly, he thought the careful motion was from the numbness, the stiffness, the feeling of not being in the right skin. But being in wolf skin was... strange. Will made it seem easy, seem right. He curled up and napped, or went out for a run, and he never seemed to lose himself. Greg didn't seem able to do that, couldn't keep his own thoughts in his head. Strange smells drove him mad with the urge to chase after them, and he dreamed sometimes of rabbits. He'd never dreamed about rabbits before, or the exquisite pleasures of rolling in dead things. The fact that it even came up, subconscious or otherwise, made him twitch.

Greg was glad that Will had gotten the cabin cleaned, because all plans to move were at a screeching halt now.

Catherine had come to the hotel, and that hadn't been easy. Will had changed back, coaxed Greg into changing, too, and somehow the change was part of him even more than it had been before. He'd needed nearly half an hour to adjust to the change, to be able to think properly so that he could talk to her about taking a leave of absence and fill out the papers. Will had hovered in the corner, worried, and she'd made that face, the one that she made whenever Lindsey had gone off with her dad and a new girlfriend. Will wasn't Eddie, or one of Eddie's girlfriends, but Greg could understand the parallel -- that he was off with a possible bad influence, except it was really the other way around. He was all instinct and no thinking, and he knew it was wearing Will down. Knew that he wasn't accustomed to having a pack, or having to do any of the things he had to do to deal with Greg. It made him feel guilty as all hell, and depressed, and that probably didn't help anything.

Will seemed to be taking it in stride, though. He still got up and made breakfast, and they were okay in town, it seemed like. Then they'd change over and try to help Greg get hold of his inner wolf, or at least try and get his inner wolf to stop rolling in dead things and stalking rabbits.

He'd probably spent more time in a fog than was good for him, but Will was good to him. God, Will was so good, and Greg was trying. He just couldn't quite seem to come to any kind of equilibrium, and that was disappointing. If he could just figure out some way to make his brain work the way it used to he'd be all right only he hadn't managed it yet. Will had long since learned, so he was sort of a freestanding piece of disappointment because he wondered why he couldn't control it like Will did, though why Will sometimes took a while to change back did make more sense.

Being a wolf was different, more about freedom, less about meeting anyone's expectations. The fact remained that he could roll in dead things all he wanted then, bathe in streams, chase rabbits to his heart's content when he was wearing fur. It was hard to go back to human constraints after that. Maybe that was the problem. What did he want to do as a human afterwards? Lay on the sofa, read, wonder what Will was doing to the hot water tank. It was a little ridiculous, feeling that way, but he couldn't stop it. Not without dragging himself up off the couch, and that seemed like a lot of effort.

If he didn't make the effort, he'd be permanently glued to the couch, so Greg groaned, dropped his book to the floor, and got up to go find out. Just to interact as a person, instead of a wolf. Why bother being a human? So he could work. And there was sex.

Sex with Will had always been completely fucking fantastic; it lasted forever, until he was so tired all he could do was flop back on the bed and try to catch his breath. These days, it was more like marathon sex sessions, the kind that never wore either of them out. It was great. So, there was a plus point for human shape. One. Sex and cooked food. And working, with his coworkers probably hating him, and all over something that shouldn't mean what it did to them. Not when Will had saved his life with a not-so-simple exchange of blood.

Rubbing a hand over his jaw, he finally tucked himself into the doorway. The water heater was in a closet between the guest room and the bathroom, and Will had spread himself and his tools out over the floor. "Hey."

"Hey." Will twisted a little, half kneeling up. "I'm just trying to make a few adjustments to it. How're you feeling?"

"Scruffy." He hadn't been shaving lately, because it felt weird, being furless. Having a beard, even if it was kind of sparse, made him feel a little better. "Trying to make myself get up, try and get my head on straight." Greg leaned down, smiling. "Need some help?"

"No. I'll just leave this here and take a break. I'm coming up with work for myself at this point. If it weren't cold out, I'd go poke the engine."

Yeah, and the cold made the urge to shiver his way into fur that much greater, because it was warm that way, or warmer, anyhow. "You don't have to stop for me. I'm just..." Just. Trying to get his act together.

"This is an I'm bored project." Will stretched as he got to his feet, hands up over his head for a moment. "I had an e-mail from the office, about whether you'd eventually be interested in going FBI. There'd be training back in DC, but.... It's out there." Will didn't want him to, though, and Greg knew that.

The FBI hadn't been fun for Will. They hadn't thought he was stable enough to make full agent, so they'd put him on special projects only, the kind that twisted him up even worse. They'd pitted him against Hannibal Lecter, and nothing good had come of that. Nothing at all. "Yeah. I'd like it if I managed to go back to the crime lab in Vegas better. Just...."

"Sometimes knowing you have a shitty option makes it easier than no options when you go back," Will suggested, leaning in, petting a hand on Greg's hip. "At least it is for me."

Greg let his mouth twitch up into a smile. "I'm okay with shitty options. I figure... maybe even that shitty option has to be better than what things might look like back at the lab."

"I think the only person who has an issue with it is Nick. He's either going to get over it, or..." Will shrugged. "And I'm sorry. I know he's your friend."

Best friend in Vegas, actually. Had been for a long time, and he'd never known about this. Never known the way Nick felt, never realized that there was something wrong. He still didn't know what to do about it, either. "Yeah. It'll work out." Or it wouldn't, and he had to figure out what to do if that was the case.

Will leaned in, just nuzzled him. "Hungry?"

Yeah. Yeah, he was hungry, and also hungry, in so many ways. "Uh-huh." His breath shook a little, and he dropped his head, lips parting.

"Food and sex can sometimes mix," Will murmured, "but maybe not cooking and sex."

Yeah, maybe not that, and he laughed. "I'll, um. I'll go cook something. Let you finish up here and maybe...."

"Maybe...?" Will didn't like to guess at his sentences even though Greg had a feeling he already knew what he was going to say ninety percent of the time.

"Maybe we can mix sex and food later."

Will tapped his hip, and turned back to the hot water heater. "I'll be done in ten to help you out."

"No rush." It wasn't, because all he planned to do was wrap potatoes in foil with some olive oil and sea salt and put them on to bake, then wander out onto the back porch to start the grill. There would be plenty of time for Will to finish up, so he headed for the kitchen to wash his hands and get to work.

He liked the grill that Will had, even if it was cold as hell outside. He was learning lots of simple, good things to do with food, and a lot of that was Will teaching him how to cook nicely and cheaply. Will had enough cookbooks on the bookshelf. He'd always cooked a lot. Hell, he could do all kinds of awesome things in a kitchen, but simple, good food in massive amounts not so much. He'd always cooked enough so that he'd have leftovers, but he'd never cooked like he did these days. It was nice, relaxed, and hell of a lot better than the frozen meals he had stuffed in the freezer for when he didn't have time to make magic.

Now, he had a lot of time to make magic, starting with setting the oven to heat. Maybe after potatoes, they'd change. He'd change, Will would change, and he'd try to get it straight again. Or maybe they'd have sex, and maybe it would be enough to seat himself into his human body better again. Maybe if he just stayed himself enough, he'd become re-accustomed. He'd manage to force himself to settle into his skin instead of his fur, if he just tried a little harder.

He wasn't sure if it actually worked that way, and how he could get that seamless back and forth like Will did. He could ask, he guessed. Maybe. They'd gone online, ordered a massive amount of books, textbooks, medical stuff, mostly. Some of it had helped, some of it had read like propaganda, and he hadn't run across anything that made him feel like he'd learned something useful.

The aluminum foil rattled as he laid out a couple of sheets, put the salt and olive oil by them. The potatoes were in a bin next to the refrigerator, and he delved in for the two biggest ones.

Mostly, he felt like there was too much to learn and no way to get it out of Will's head and into his own. And he didn't ask, because he knew he circumstances of Will's changing and that it was pretty fucked up.

Greg washed the potatoes and then laid them in the sink while he scrounged up a knife. It would help if he felt like asking wouldn't traumatize Will, but he was pretty sure that there had been enough trauma in Will's life that he wasn't planning to add to it. He'd manage with the books. It wasn't like he was stupid, like he couldn't think his way through a problem, and so what if stabbing the potatoes was a little more forceful than strictly necessary. He wasn't riled up or out of control or anything just... not quite himself yet.

Stretched thin and out of sorts. Not wolf and not person and not an amalgam, either. But he could read and laze and cook, and not wish he was on cases back in Vegas. That was something, he figured, coating the potatoes in the oil and then sprinkling them heavily with salt before he wrapped them up. He washed his hands again, and scrounged up a pan to put them in before he slipped it in the oven.

He left that to cook, and grabbed his coat to slip outside to start up the grill. They'd probably have to get another tank of propane next week, but that was all right. Technically, he was out on sick leave, so he was at least getting paid a little something for now, until all of his accrued leave ran out. Rumor had it somebody had volunteered to give him some of their time. While it was nice, he worried that it was Nick trying to avoid him a little longer. On the one hand, he needed the time, and on the other hand, he didn't really want Nick's pity or continued avoidance. Greg was only half-trying to work things out through e-mail, because it was sort of an awkward medium for an argument, and he didn't feel like calling and yelling over his cell phone. It made for a sucky argument, and there was no satisfying way to slam a cell.

Once the grill was heating, he went back into the kitchen and pulled out the steaks they'd picked up on sale, then fumbled through for one of the bigger onions. It didn't take long to dice it, leaving the bottom intact. He buttered it, letting the butter slip between the diced cubes, and then added a little salt and wrapped it up in aluminum foil, setting it to the side. A few minutes alone with the steaks and some meat tenderizer made things mostly ready, and Will was still working on the water heater.

It startled him a little when Will opened the door to join him outside. "Damn, it's cold out here. I think I caught any leaks that were looking to happen, and it should run better now."

Greg was married to the idea of hour-long hot showers, and lately they'd been more lukewarm. "Seriously, I think I love you just for that." Lots of other reasons, too. He felt a little more like himself, now, since he was up and puttering around, actually being useful. Maybe that was the key.

Will stayed useful -- when he was human, he was always doing something. If he wasn't researching, he was hard at work fixing things that maybe didn't need to be fixed. Any lounge time was spent with Greg as company. "Hot water is the way to a man's heart," Will agreed. "Do you need help out here with the grill?"

"No." It came out slow, thoughtful. "I think I've figured something out." Greg reached out and adjusted the propane a little, then carefully put the steaks on to grill. "You're busy. All the time, even when you're with me."

"It keeps me from losing time," Will offered. He wasn't hovering, just leaning against the closed door, watching Greg, hands in his pockets.

Losing time. He hadn't exactly felt that, not quite. He'd been having problems with distraction, with feeling like he wasn't in his skin, but.... "How, exactly? I mean. You say losing time, I'm just wondering if it means what I think it means."

"Drifting, loss of focus. Disassociation from myself, like I wasn't me, and just. Losing time." Will's mouth twisted a little. "But I've always lost time, gotten lost in thought or... something."

So maybe it hadn't felt as weird for Will as it did for Greg. Maybe. "That explains a lot. I was... I've been having trouble, but I've never done that. Never gotten lost in my head before." He'd always been busy, had lots to do, and now that he'd changed, the time off apparently wasn't good for him.

"I have." Will shifted in a little closer to Greg. "I spent a few weeks... semi-catatonic before the change, actually, after a case. So I've had this set of coping tools for years now, and maybe it's helped ease the whole thing."

Maybe it had. It made a hell of a lot of sense, thinking about it, and he leaned into Will, appreciating the arm that slung around him. Will didn't press anything, not unless it was for a damn solid reason. Greg wondered if he'd feel better if he did more often. There was a peace in Will declaring something to be How Things Were Going to Be that he liked a little too much. "I guess I should be paying more attention, huh?"

"Lots of self-assigned busy work. And not always the best plans, either." At least Will was warm, comfortably warm, less heat box-feeling than he'd been before Greg had changed. "Once I tried to save baby turtles, and got to learn about salmonella."

"Salmonella?" It took everything he could do not to laugh at that. "Jesus." Using the fork, he flipped the first steak, and then the second one. He poked gently at the onion, moving it so that it was a little closer in, away from the edge.

"Like baby chickens, turtles also carry salmonella." He was trying not to laugh, he really was, but Will was smirking, pushing him towards it.

He laughed, finally. "Yeah. That... that can't have been fun. Did the turtles live, at least?"

"Oh yeah. Saved almost all of them." Will leaned in, kissed the back of his head. "What do you want to drink?"

"Beer." They had plenty of it, and he'd drunk too much of it lately. Still. Beer would be good, and now that he had an idea of it, of what he might need to do to get his head back around things, he could always start tomorrow. Today? There would be beer.

One last day of just nothing, no connection to reality except Will and him in the cabin. "I could just set two, three out here in the snow if you want them colder than the fridge."

"'s fine." Fine, and the steaks were close enough to done. He'd always been a medium kind of guy, but closer to bloody was better these days. "The fridge is plenty cold."

"Sometimes you want that stuck to your hand feeling." Will loved weird little things like that, grounding moments. Yeah, it was past time for him to get his head screwed on tighter.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow he'd pick up a new hobby, find some way to ground his head firmly in the now and not in the weird lost time kind of thing that Will had described. "Pretty much, yeah, but for now we're good. Bring me back the onion when you bring the beer?"

"Yes, sir." Will gave him a smirk, and headed back inside, and yeah, staying outside to tend the grill sucked for the cold, but he took it better now than he had before. It felt... maybe like he'd unlocked a box holding a magical answer somehow. Okay, he was still jittery in his own skin, and he hadn't changed, hadn't passed from man to wolf and still retained his sense of self or anything, but it was a start.

A good one, he figured, and he was still standing there, pleased with himself, when Will came back out with his beer. "Oh, hey. Thanks."

"You look happy." Will passed the beer over smoothly, setting the onion down on the grill for him. "You should see this place in summer, again. It's gorgeous."

Full of green grass and fields of hay to romp through, chasing rabbits, mice, whatever crossed his path. Greg felt the itch, the burning urge, but he pushed it back with the thought of a new hobby. Maybe miniature airplanes. That could be awesome. "Then we'll have to spend plenty of time up here when we get the chance." He took a swig of beer and poked the steaks gently with his grilling fork.

"So, when do you want to try Vegas again?" Once he got his head on, but working without a timeline had worked not so well so far. He could apply for disability, but that felt... strange. Not right, because it wasn't a disability, didn't in any way prevent him from being his own awesome self. At least it didn't Will, and he'd manage to pull himself together. Eventually.

"We'll see. Maybe in a few weeks. I want to see if my theory kind of pans out or not." He leaned over, gave Will a quick kiss. Perfunctory, even, but... yeah.

Enough to hint at what was to come, enough to make Will lean into him, hooking an arm around his waist. "Okay. I think tomorrow is going to be a research day."

"Cool." Research had kind of bored him off and on, but maybe tomorrow would be different. He could surf some websites, find hobby kinds of things to keep him busy. Try and keep his mind on whatever Will wanted them to learn. "Steaks are almost done. You think?" He gently rolled over the onion.

"They've stopped mooing," Will confirmed. "We could always go to the city tomorrow and poke around." It was something different, and that sounded good to Greg, too.

"Yeah. Or we could do research and websurf for cool new hobbies." FedEx and UPS were definitely his friends. "I'll go get us a couple of plates." One more quick kiss, and he walked back into the kitchen, giving a full-body shudder when the heat hit him. There was momentary disorientation, not quite the same as when he walked into the cold and the urge for fur crept over him in a wild rush, but similar. Weird, and fuck all, he hoped that he'd hit the right idea finally.

It felt like the right idea, and Will would help. Maybe tomorrow would be better.

He truly hoped so.

There was no way they were going to be selling the cabin.

Not with the urge to roam quite so widely as they could there, even on weekends, even on long weekends. The backyard to the new place was glorious for Vegas, and the house itself was nice, but... But. A fence was a fence was a fence, even if Greg had made horrified faces at the first time he killed a squirrel in the back yard on their second day there.

Will hadn't been crazy about leaving Greg alone, but he'd been getting better pretty steadily. He was still shaky at the edges, nervous as hell now that they were back in town, but they'd figured out the key. Greg kept busy, mostly making insanely small model airplanes and teaching himself to work on their equally ridiculous tiny motors.

It was honestly fascinating, and Will enjoyed watching Greg and trying to pick up on it himself. He at least understood the varnishes and the coating for the body, but the sheer tiny size of it was the part that took so long and probably called for so much focus.

Greg would be all right long enough for him to stop by Nick's house on his night off.

He'd heard stories about Stokes's place -- mostly that he was paranoid as hell, with good reason. Some nut had stalked him, lived in his ceiling. Will knew what that kind of paranoia felt like.

Still didn't mean the guy could keep on being a complete asshole with Greg, though.

He knocked, which was normal, knocked and waited for Stokes either to answer or keep hiding behind his peephole waiting for Will to leave, because the bastard's truck was in the driveway still.

For a while, he wondered if Stokes would bother to answer the door, but then he heard the locks twisting, and it opened. "Uh. Graham. Something wrong?"

"I'd like to talk to you." He moved in a fraction closer, and added, "About Greg."

He could smell the nerves coming off of him, just enough that he knew he was already getting under Nick's skin. "Yeah? What exactly about Greg?" Obviously he was going to need to bully his way into the house.

"His returning to Vegas CSI hinging on your inability not to act like an asshole. Do I get to come inside, or are we going to discuss werewolves on your front porch?" He'd do it if he had to, but he wasn't inclined to give any credit to Nick for the talk if that was how it had to be done.

Reluctantly, he stepped back, opening the door for Will to come further inside. "Fine. You're welcome to come inside."

"Thank you." He stepped in, and past Nick, but didn't venture on, just waiting for Nick to shut the door. "I know you don't like or trust me."

It was obvious, and Will wasn't stupid. Not even close. "Yeah, well. You turned my friend. And okay, you were saving his life, but I find it damn hard not to question whether or not that's a good thing."

"You'd rather he was dead? Good old corpse Greg Sanders, yeah, I remember him when he was alive. Is that easier on you, somehow?" Will was trying not to look at the walls, at the books, at the furniture, trying not to run down a profile on Nick while he stood there because he'd already done one on the guy once already, maybe twice.

It never did change.

"I'd rather he wasn't fucked up, twitching every time he's still. I'd rather he didn't have to worry about whether or not he might end up eating one of the kids next door because they look tasty." The flat way he said it, the look in his eye, that was ridiculously familiar.

"He's not going to eat any of the kids next door. The days of little red riding hood actually happening are long past. And he's not worried about it. It's different than what you people get told." But there was more to it and he knew it, it was lurking here under the surface, not just ingrained fear but more.

"The fuck." Stokes's voice was flat, no inflection. "The fuck you say."

"Because third hand hearsay is always better than the experiences of the person living it," Will agreed. "You don't have any idea of what Greg's going through while he tries to get hold of his humanity again."

It wasn't surprising when he snapped. "I don't know he's got any humanity to get hold of, either, asshole! I mean, so what. So you're some kind of idiot savant who can go off and hide in the woods and not eat kids for supper. Doesn't make everybody that guy."

"I hate to say it, but Hannibal never did, either. And neither did Leland Brooks, or the kid from WLVU who was killed, or the hundreds of other werewolves that live in this part of the country." He answered calmly, slowly, making sure every word counted

"Bullshit!" Stokes pushed past him, sharp at the edges. "Bullshit. It's, you..." Fury, yeah, but edges of the past were poking through it, reefs made of sorrow and old pain.

"You ever think sociopaths who turn wolf are then wolves who are sociopaths?" Will suggested over top of it, still calm and quiet. "Do you know what Greg would be doing right now if I wasn't helping him? Living as a wolf, full time. He'd never turn back, never turn human again, never stay that way. He'd find a pack and Greg Sanders would go away entirely."

That seemed to hit Nick, right between the shoulder blades. He hunched forward, looking at Will in a way that he could read too easily. It said that thought hurt, that he didn't like it. It said that it didn't change whatever was in the past.

It said that he didn't know what to do or say, and if he didn't confess to the past, there was no way he'd be able to accept the present.

"Either you help me help Greg stay human, or not. You don't want me to be the only thing grounding him to humanity." All he needed was to finally get it right, find the words, twist the knife, get Nick to confess whatever was weighing on him and why. That or just agree to help Greg. Will didn't really give a damn so long as that was the end result.

"Because you're a crazy bastard?" Maybe so. At least he wasn't a crazy bastard who ate people for fun.

So long as Hannibal wasn't the chef, anyway.

"It's been said a few times. The more help he has..." The better, because it would still be Will and Greg when Nick's bones were dust in a grave. Nick was wasting his own time, not Greg's. That was the sad part of things in the end. If he wanted to be an asshole for the next twenty years he could be. He just wouldn't have an eternity to spend with his friend when he got over being pissed off or fucked up or whatever he was.

That shoulder slump was back, though, and he looked like maybe he was getting it. "I'll think about it."

"You don't have an eternity to think about it." He wanted at least an answer, one way or the other, before he left. "Greg'd like to maybe get back to work one day without worrying how much it's going to mess you up."

"I'm not keeping him out of the lab." Stokes protested a little much in Will's opinion. "Okay, I know I'm being an asshole. It's Greg. You're right about that, but...." But.

"I know something's happened to you or your family, but holding it against all werewolves is..." Stupid, Will wanted to say, though he knew it wasn't going to win him any damn friends. It needed saying anyway.

"Stupid?" At least he was right enough to finish the sentence. Kind of figured, though. The guy did investigate crime scenes for a living. "Yeah. It's stupid the first time. After that, not so much. Just... I'll work on it. And tell Greg to come back to work." He didn't look all that happy about it, though."

He couldn't make the guy be happy about it. "Okay. Call him, though." It'd seem suspicious, but Will didn't care if Greg twigged to what he'd done. The point of his visit was more or less accomplished, and he'd done the best he could with it.

"Yeah." If he did, it would be a surprise all around. "Yeah. I'll call him." And maybe actually talk to him. Next time he got a chance, he'd drop Alan's name and phone number and see if Greg would be willing to give it to the guy. He had issues on top of his issues. "Was that it?"

"I'm not one for social calls." Will turned, heading back towards the door, expecting Stokes to let him out. It was all for Greg, and helping Greg stabilize himself. If Greg couldn't, didn't, Will was willing to stay a wolf if that was what he ended up doing. He'd rather keep Greg as Greg, though. He was something different, something special in his life for the first time in years, and he wanted that. He didn't want to let go if he didn't have to.

Stokes stepped up and opened the door, and Will headed back to his truck.

Hopefully Stokes would wait until he made it home to call.

Will said that getting back to work was important. Greg was still trying to wrap his head around a lot of it, but mostly the fact that Will said they were going to live... outlive everyone. All of them. The whole place, and Greg knew that, but he wasn't really processing. He figured Will had mentioned it again as some kind of esoteric pep talk.

Sometimes, the things they discussed got a little deep. It wasn't that he hadn't thought about it. He had, only it had never seemed real, exactly. He'd known that he would get older, and that Will wouldn't, except now neither of them would.

Maybe it would feel real to him in five years, or ten. Maybe it'd feel even weirder then. Who knew? Still, he'd have to worry about that sometime when he wasn't going back to work, and that would be sometime other than now. Maybe in the long term, if his day went to shit, it didn't really matter.

It felt good to be back; almost victorious, and Catherine was loitering by her office door when he rolled in.

"Hey, Cath." Okay, he felt nervous as hell, just plain tetchy, but he was back, working. He hoped that would be enough to keep him busy, to keep his mind on keeping himself human.

"It's good to see you, Greg. How're you feeling?" Like he was going to be okay with the four weeks of lab-bound work he was probably facing. It'd give him a little more time to learn to concentrate, to follow the train without getting distracted by small, furry creatures.

He leaned a hip against the wall, grinning. Maybe he wasn't completely confident, but he was getting there. "Better. Took a while. I had to find the key to it, I guess."

"We knew you would." That was softer, more motherly, and then Catherine was leaning in to hug him. Everything, all of his senses, were tighter, more intense. He could smell everything, hear things he'd never wanted to hear, taste... well, not all of the senses were really bad to have enhanced.

Plus, she smelled incredibly good. "Shame I never saw you dance." It was maybe weird to say but it was probably better than sniffing at her more obviously, and when she swatted him and laughed he knew it was all right. "Yeah. It just took a while and some help. Plus I've gotta say, this whole being alive thing? It's completely fantastic. There were a few minutes where I didn't think I would be anymore. Well. A lot of minutes, but Will..."

Catherine was maybe the only person who didn't grimace when he said Will's name. "Will's a better man than most of us give him credit for, and we're glad he saved you. I'm glad you're still with us. So, do you want your first assignment to really welcome you back?"

"God, yes." Yes, because if he was thinking about a case, following a train, he was better. Safer.

More human.

"Have we got a case for you, then. Murder, murder, suicide in a mall. The evidence is still streaming in from swing, and it's landing on us." She patted his shoulder, pulling back long enough to start driving him forward to the lab where they probably had it set up.

"Suicide in a mall? I should have watched the news before I left the house." It would have given him a clue as to what was coming, anyway. "DNA backing up, or...?" He hoped not. He'd be bored out of his skull if he had to toss a hand in, and that led to distraction, which was inevitably bad. He'd be twitching and fucking up left and right.

"No, DNA is fine." He shouldn't have even volunteered. It felt like he might as well become like Will, wearing his damage on his forehead as an open warning. Then no one would try to stick him in DNA.

"Thank God." He'd never been so grateful for small favors. "So tell me about the suicide." They passed Hodges, who was eyeing him suspiciously, but Dave did that anyway.

It was Nick that made him so nervous he could jitter out of his skin just thinking about it.

Nick was probably already out in the field, come in early to duck Greg, something. He didn't know, but he figured they'd circle around each other for a while. "Hanging. In a mall. After hanging two other people. In an occupied mall."

"How does that even happen?" Well. Then again, there were storage areas, stock rooms, bathrooms. "How occupied are we talking?"

"Seven." And now it was ten, and that was usually busy for a Friday, okay. "We can start with the photos. The bodies just got in, and everything else is still coming in, and have I said I missed having you in, Greg?"

They paused in front of the evidence room and he grinned at her. "Yeah. I missed you, too, Catherine. Things were hairy for a while there, but... I'm kinda better now." Mostly. And he never wanted to eat anybody, or even bite them. Well. Squirrels aside.

"If you need more time, if you... We all just want to help." Well, he didn't think he was going to catch himself chewing on raw steaks in the break room, but he might manage an addiction to slim jims.

"I know. Well, I think I know, but considering that stunt they pulled when Sheriff Brooks brought in Will, I'll kind of have to reserve judgment for the time being. Plus...." He looked around. Sara was coming, and Warrick was steadily going through evidence, trying to look like he wasn't listening. "I don't know how Nick's going to take it. Me being back, I mean."

"Nicky... Nicky is just going to have to get hold of himself." That was firm, and maybe a little surprising, and it made Greg wish he'd overheard some of the office conversations that must've led to that stance.

It still made him feel like hell. "I hope it's sooner rather than later. I mean." He shook his head. "Will says we're gonna be around for a long time. I'd rather have you guys more than less."

Something slid over her face, there and gone, and Greg realized that she probably hadn't known or thought of that. Not really, actually, thought of it. "Well, it's hopefully going to be sooner."

"Hey, Greg." Sara called out from a few feet and closing, and okay. Time to let Catherine escape to do whatever graceful footwork the sheriff needed after what sounded like a bizarre shopping slaughter.

"Hey, Sara." He was a little surprised to get a hello hug from her, but not so much he didn't notice she smelled pretty good, too. Less like decomp than the last time. "Nice."

"It's good that you're okay." Okay was a word for it, yeah, but he was willing to go with it. "And that you're back. I thought you were going to stay up in the mountains with Graham forever."

"Yeah, well. I thought about it, but we already bought a house down here." He grinned, stepped back from her. "Plus... Will says it's easier if I'm busy. I've noticed that when he says things like that, he probably means 'em."

Warrick called out to them. "Hey, you guys coming in here sometime tonight?"

"No, I think we'll just set up a water cooler out here..." Sarah winked at him, and it was bizarre enough to make him laugh. Things were going to work out. They'd be okay, even if Nicky decided to be an ass about things. Greg still really hoped that he wouldn't be. Wished, even, but the old saying was true. Wish in one hand....

"So, man, c'mon in. Lemme show you what we've got going," Warrick rumbled. "There's been so much hugging the estrogen is rising in here."

"I don't think it's contagious." Sarah leaned into the room for a moment, but then she was gone, leaving Warrick and Greg and that was just, it felt normal and relaxed and he wondered how badly it would go with Nick for him to have earned that from the rest of them.

He was going to spend the rest of the night worrying about it if he didn't get it over with, so he probably ought to just ask. "Is he, uh...?" He didn't even know the right word for it. "I wish I understood."

Warrick looked at him for a moment, and exhaled. "Yeah. I wish I did, too. You're getting to sound a little cryptic, like Graham, you know. That's a sure sign it's time for you to be back out at work and around us."

There was no way to keep from grinning at that. "Well, he kind of spent a couple of months dragging my head into the right place and teaching me to keep it there. It's probably something to be expected, considering. I'm kind of hard headed sometimes." Well. Not as much as he could be, but still.

"Yeah, and that's what we like." He reached out, scruffed Greg's hair up worse than he'd done on purpose. "C'mon. I need your keen screwed on head with the evidence in these bags."

Awesome. Better than awesome, even, and he let Warrick drag him in to the work. Getting back to it felt good, felt fantastic, but he was on. He was good, because he had something to concentrate on, had a thread to follow. So long as he had that, things were okay, and Warrick wasn't watching him like he'd turn around and snap his teeth into him any second. That part was good. He didn't even think he'd do that if he lost the thread. More like he'd stare at a wall for a while. But the case was grim and needed solving, and that was all the direction he needed.

Five hours later, he had a headache and a deep, salivating need for steak and eggs. Or possibly steak and just about anything, truth be told. Even if Warrick was still working, it was time to stop. "Food." It came out of nowhere, that statement, but what the hell. "Seriously. I'm gonna head out for a little while, get something to eat. You want something?"

"Uh, anything you bring back is good." Snack machine raid would probably pass muster, but Greg really desperately needed protein in a stupid way.

"Be back in half an hour or so." Standing up, stretching, made his neck pop. A slow twist and his back did, too, before he turned and headed for the door. He at least had his wallet in his pocket, and that was all he really needed. Money for food. Maybe he needed to hit up a hot dog vender, and ask for extra dogs on his dog.

The lab was quiet on his way out -- well, as quiet as it ever got, which meant everybody had their noses to the proverbial grindstone working on the case. Catherine was probably pretty damn hardcore about it, considering. How the hell did somebody do a murder-suicide in a mall in Vegas during prime hours, anyway? Well. They had the obvious answer, but not how anybody could miss it long enough for somebody actually to do the deed.

He was still scratching his head after people hung from the clothing racks, because that was slow, that was strangulation, not hanging, and he saw someone else moving on the other side of the parking lot.


Greg realized that he was holding his breath, half scared to say so much as hello, halfway wanting to do it. Still. If he didn't do it now, it'd be even harder tomorrow, and worse the day after that, and the day after and on and on until he just dreaded going to work, and did he want to do that? Better to get it over with, walking up to Nick while he was rummaging in the side door of the SUV. At least if Nicky gave him a black eye, he had the whole super-fast healing thing going on. Hopefully it wouldn't make his blood bubble in his veins like it had when Will had saved his life.

Licking his lips, he stopped close enough for Nick to hear him, but not close enough he'd come up swinging. "Hey, Nick."

He still startled. "Jesus, Greg, are you trying to give me a heart attack?"

Not so much, that. "I just saw you. Figured I'd say hi." If he sounded tentative, it was only because he was. "Haven't seen you since the hospital."

"Yeah, I..." Was taking the time to come up with a lie, which Greg figured he should be grateful for. That Nick cared enough to try to lie. "I don't know. I was pissed off and scared."

He nodded, hunching his shoulders a little. He'd never needed to make an effort to be non-threatening before. "If it helps any, I'm, uh. I'm really glad to be alive. Dying like that was... it wasn't what I'd call a good time. The world kept disappearing and reappearing in flashes." Agonizing, horrible, beyond imagining. "If you don't wanna be friends anymore, I'll try and understand." Except he wouldn't.

Not really.

"No, I just... Needed some time. To get my head together, to try to understand. I mean, you're still Greg, right?" He was looking at him, head tilted, kit held awkwardly.

He'd get over it. Eventually. Greg hoped. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm still me. For a while there, I was having kind of a hard time. It was... I had to get used to some things. But yeah."

"Not craving human meat?" No, and even when he'd been smelling Millander, he hadn't actually wanted it and that'd been his worst. Thinking about it now nearly made him gag.

Didn't mean he didn't want steak and eggs anyway. "Not so you'd notice, no. I'm kinda starving right now, but I'm not inclined to eating my neighbors and coworkers."

Nick laughed, and Greg was half sure he could smell fear, even if Nick shifted his shoulders and seemed to relax. "I'm not used to werewolves who... aren't."

Leaning against the car, he tipped his head to the side. "Nicky. I, uh. I'm not sure what to say here. If you wanna talk about it, you're welcome to come get food with me. I promise you won't need a woodsman to come save you."

"Given your woodsman was a wolf..." Nick shrugged. "Give me a minute, and I can log these with evidence."

Maybe it was a little early for it, but the tension that had been rising in him for days, weeks even, let up a little. "Thanks. I appreciate the company."

"No problem. I'll be out in a minute." Long enough to log it, which Greg knew was more like five minutes, but he could wait. Be patient at least that long, starving or not.

"I'll let you drive if you want. That way you can get away when you want." It was meant as teasing, but it was kind of true, too.

Except if Greg was in the car, getting away kind of meant he could ditch Greg without warning. "Maybe." And then Nick was striding back to the building, and Greg could pace the parking lot and feel dumb while he stretched his legs.

After a minute, he pulled out his cell and dialed the new house. Will probably had two legs instead of four; if he didn't then he'd leave a message. Let him know he was going out with Nick, and that maybe things would be all right. The hope of it was stupidly uplifting, all things considered. The phone rang twice through to the answering machine, and he shrugged to himself. "Hey. Just calling to let you know I'm going to get steak and eggs with Nicky. I'm starving, and I figure it's better to stop and eat than get fuzzy about stuff. I'll call you if he drives off and leaves me behind." Maybe that time Will would pick up. If Greg was honest, he was probably on the roof, checking the shingles in the dark like the crazy person the neighbors already thought they were.

It was good to be back in Vegas.

Ten minutes later, his stomach was growling, his headache was sneaking up on him, and he was starting to wonder whether or not Nick was coming after all.

After twelve minutes, it was a wonder that he didn't see a slab of steak walking back towards him when Nick finally left the building. "Okay, sorry about that. Catherine grabbed me."

"Oh, thank God. I'm withering away here. I was starting to think maybe I should run across the street for something before my stomach made its way through my backbone." He still managed a grin, all the same. "C'mon, man. Feed me. I'll totally accept kibble if you keep me starving for much longer."

"I'll drive. Just, hop in. We can get something quick." And all Greg could think about were weird kabobs, but he was pretty sure that quick for Nick was diner.

That was good for him, so he slipped into the passenger seat and pulled on his seat belt. "Quick's good for me. I'm kinda starving. Got used to Will cooking anytime I looked like I was getting twitchy, you know? I mean, my metabolism was fast before, but now it's serious." He'd dropped twenty pounds the first week, most of it the day Will had changed him.

"In and Out Burger?" Okay, that was quick, and now they were making ridiculous full pound of meat burgers. Will had brought some home, and Greg had eaten until he'd lain back on the sofa and moaned.

"Perfect." Three of those things and they'd get back to work. Maybe he'd even understand how the hell that had happened in a crowd. "So, you on this thing with the mall? Because how the hell does that even happen, you know? How does nobody notice what amounts to slow strangulation of two people via clothes rack?"

"Well, I just dropped off the tapes with Archie, so maybe by the time we get back, we'll have a better idea because I find it damn weird. They were both retail workers, though."

Greg turned a little, looked at him. "See, I'm thinking it's gotta be personal. I mean, okay. You've been in the occasional shop and wanted to strangle the guy behind the counter for being a jackass, but who'd actually do it?" It was nice; holding this kind of conversation with Nick again. Easy, like it was natural, like it was the way things used to be between them.

No wolf questions, no deeply probing thought that he might eat Nick while he drove, pulling out of the parking lot. "I'm thinking someone who used to work with them."

"So we should be checking the employment history for them and the suicide, I guess. Not that somebody probably hasn't thought about it while we were digging through the stuff in the evidence room but...." His brains had kind of stopped working an hour or so ago. Not in that fretful weird going-wolf way, just in a tired-brain way from not working for so long.

He needed more time to get himself up to being able to work marathon, crushing sprees of evidence gathering. "Yeah. I think that's probably where we're going next. That and making sure no one else was involved."

That was the worrisome thing, really. How else was somebody going to manage all of that with a crowd of people watching? "Somebody else almost had to be. I mean, if you think about it. Just... Yeah. It's been a while since I worked, and my brain kind of shut down with it. Too much thinking after so long out of work, I guess."

"You'll get back into the flow of it." Maybe that 'suicide' wasn't really a suicide. Maybe it was the lookout finishing off his partner.

"Yeah. Eventually. For a while there, I wondered if I'd ever be able to come back. To work. I mean, you were angry, and I couldn't... it was just hard. Getting used to the change and everything. You know. I... if you wanna talk about whatever it is that makes you think human might taste good to me, we can, you know."

Nick was quiet while they coasted in towards a red light. "My brother... The, it was Jimmy, he was so much older than me, but he..."

Oh. Oooh. "Yeah?" Whatever it was, it obviously wasn't good.

Nick licked his bottom lip, staring hard at the red light. "There wasn't much left of him."

"Jesus, Nicky." Jesus, because that was awful, worse than horrible, and okay. That could scar a kid, especially if he was really young. "Just. I've gotta tell you, I would never. Not ever, not Will, either. I mean, he gags if he can't identify what he's eating, and considering his history... but I would never. Not... not even twenty pounds light and starving."

"Yeah, well, we all knew the guy. Nobody thought he was the type. It just... I don't know if he was just like every other serial killer, or..."

"Or just like me." Greg tried not to take it personally. "Nicky. I think... I get it. I mean. Maybe not entirely, but... At the very least, you don't have to worry about me or Will." Or probably even crazy-ass Leland, but what did he know?

"Yeah. There's a notable lack of murders around Will, even if we all look at him funny sometimes."

Finally. That was something, entirely. "He's kind of amazing. He finds serial killers, and I think... so, the thing is, my brains are slowing down right now, right?" Oh, thank god. The burger place. "But... it's like your mind works different. And his already did, so now he's twice as good at the weird esoteric thing he does where he hunts down these people, I think. Because of what we are."

"What's it like?" Not in the creepy way, but in more of a quiet, curious Nick way while he pulled into the In and Out burger. Drive-through, yes. Yes that was going to be faster and better.

"It's different." Bad answer, but he dug out his wallet. "Get me three of the 4x4s, would you?" Yeah, but Nick already knew he could eat like nobody's business these days. "For a while, it was kind of like I was falling apart. Like my brain couldn't decide what it wanted to be, and every time I walked out of the cabin, I'd practically shiver into fur. I just. I couldn't figure out how to be me and not a wolf." Werewolf, and Nicky pulled up to the voice box.

"Uh, three 4x4s, and one double. And an extra large fry." Nick pulled his wallet out, fishing the cash up once the girl on the other end of the speaker rattled off the price. "Are you comfortable going between the two?"

Ha. "The first couple of months? Nah. Not so much. It was... it's easier. Not being human. Being wolf. Did a lot of research. People born with the blood, they don't... It's natural, I guess. That's what the books say, anyway. That they know how to do these things, that it's just... it doesn't come on until puberty, and, uh..." The car in front of them pulled up to the window, and Nick followed. "And it's slow. I mean, there's time to make sense of it, to make it all happen. To make it happen right, I guess, to accept that you reach a point in time where you just kind of. Stop. With people who've been turned, it's harder. Different. A lot of the ones who get bitten, they...."

"Get lost in it?" Nick suggested. "So, Will helped you through it. Do you... shift now?"

"Yeah." He shot Nick a grin. The relief of having Nick seem weirdly okay with it was insane. He was shaking a little. "Yeah, but it's not... Will's different. I mean, there was a doggy door at the cabin, and chew toys. It's... did you ever watch that show with the wolf? You know, the deaf one, with the mountie?"

"Uh, I caught a few eps." It was said in that wary not quite willing to admit way that told him Nick was totally a guy who'd watched it. And he'd watched it for the wolf.

"Yeah, well. It's like being the deaf wolf, except it's like when you were a kid watching a tv show and you wanted to be the deaf wolf, if that makes any sense. Except then you get to go to work and solve crimes like being the mountie, except with less time in the closet with detectives."

"And more time in the closet with the other wolf." The edge of Nick's mouth twitched a little, while he rolled up to the window. "Okay. So, if we keep you in the good food... Hey, thanks." He did the change of money dance, took the bag from the girl. Greg's mouth was watering already, and he was happy to take the bag and dig out the first burger.

By the time Greg had a good mouth full, Nick was pulling out into the street. It took him a minute to chew and swallow, licking his lips afterwards. "Mmmn. God that's good."

"You're just gonna stay bird thin forever, aren't you? That's disgusting, man. Doesn't even look like food when it's stacked that high." Yeah, but Nick sounded jealous.

"Yeah, well, like I ever had a chance to be all hot manly beefcake like you." He'd always just gotten skinny when he tried to bulk up. "But yeah. Forever." Or at least a really long time, anyway.

He was pretty fond of Will's stuck in time body type, too, so that was okay. They were a good match. "That.. would weird me out, personally. Scars and changes are sort of... ways to mark time."

That was kind of true. "I haven't gotten used to the idea of that yet." Not even close. "But the last scar I ever got was one helluva scar. I think maybe I'll be able to make do with that for a while."

"Yeah." They'd be back to the station soon, and Greg had a lot more eating to do when they got there. "I'm really sorry that I... acted the way I have."

He chewed a little more, swallowed. "'s understandable. Just... what made you change your mind?" He had an idea about that, but he took another bite. "God, 's is good."

Nick reached into the bag to fish out a couple of fries. "Will came over and talked to me."

That didn't surprise Greg in the least. "I know you're freaked out about it. He's a good guy, though, Nicky. And I'm pretty sure you don't have to worry that either of us will try eating anybody." Not anytime soon, anyway. Not unless they lost their minds.

"Chew toys. Yeah. I just... couldn't get past it at first. And then he pointed out that I was wasting my time, not yours, so..."

So Will was the best boyfriend, ever. "I'm really amazingly glad."

"It's good to have you back. Even if I don't think I can ever eat that burger myself." He gestured vaguely with a fry, before sticking it in his mouth.

"Don't worry." Greg grinned at him. "I'll eat them all myself." And he took another bite.

The world changed and didn't change, and Will sometimes got caught up on thinking about that. How day turned into night back to day, and people kept living and fucking up and committing crimes and things never changed even though the world pressed on.

There were always beat to hell pickup trucks for him to drive, though, even if the one he'd bought second hand over the weekend to replace his last beater still got seventy-five miles per gallon without being diesel. The urge to stare and gesture at his truck and shout seventy-five miles per gallon was stupid and Greg laughed for at least three hours.

Maybe four.

They'd talked about moving back to Jackpot a couple of times, and they'd spent a couple of years up there when Greg's mother passed away, and another couple when Brass died. The age thing had freaked Greg out a little when that happened, and the realization that Catherine was somebody's eighty-year-old mother still made him twitch.

Sara's death by cancer after she moved away to teach in L.A. had been strange and distant. They still talked to Catherine, Warrick and Nick. Catherine and Warrick had stayed in Vegas, where Nick had gone back to Texas with his wife about twenty years ago. They owned a ranch, and he and Will had visited a few times.

But things were... good there in Vegas, and it was why they'd come back. Jackpot was for when they didn't want to feel the passage of time. The woods were beautiful, and un-encroached, and even though the stores had shifted and people had moved on, the town still seemed small and ageless.

They saw Leland every now and then, and the pup he'd taken on as a partner. It was nice to have a constant in the world, even if it was only two unchanging faces in a changing world.

Well. He said one thing, but there was still another. The occasional letter came from Hannibal. The postmarks were always different -- Sydney, Moscow, Helsinki, Buenos Aires. The letters were strangely like the Christmas cards Greg's mother used to send them, and that was a special kind of creepy that made him twitch.

He'd preferred Greg's mother to Hannibal, of course, but it was the same droll bland tone. He knew Starling was with Hannibal, definitely turned. They'd had kids -- and Will wanted to call them puppies, where Greg had pointed out that technically they were cubs, but either way, holy shit. Holy shit. Hannibal with a family and trucks that drove for too long on too little gasoline were things Will had never expected in his life.

Then again, maybe he needed to get used to things changing. Nothing was ever going to stay the same in the world. Accustoming themselves to it was just tough.

"Hey, Graham. What's up?" Derrick nodded his head at Will in greeting. "Shift's almost up. Pretty sure I saw Sanders talking with Lindsey in her office." His voice dropped. "I think her mom took a spill this afternoon."

Will squinted at him for a minute, because sometimes he looked at Derrick and saw Warrick instead, Warrick before he'd gotten old enough to worry about falling. "Just finishing this write-up. No doubles tonight."

"Yeah. Figured. Hey, I'll catch up with you guys later. Gotta go see if Guillermo's still pissing and moaning about the stuff I brought him a few hours ago. I'll let him know you're in here, if you want. Figure they might both lighten up if I go poke 'em apart. Less time to worry together like old women."

"I appreciate it." It wasn't going to stop them, but. Will could stay in one of the common rooms instead of his third or fourth office in the department, and enjoy people watching while he wrote. Offices were for storing things -- mostly textbooks, and his random collection of bugs. Greg had gotten funny about keeping live ones the year they had the giant spider infestation, so they stayed at the crime lab these days.

By the time he'd gotten to the end of his report, he'd expected Greg. There just wasn't any sign of him, so he got up and went looking for him. He wasn't all that surprised to find him sitting in the locker room, hands dangling between his knees. "Hey."

He looked up, gave Will a kind of sort of smile, and then looked down. "Lindsey was just telling me Catherine broke her hip. She's gonna need surgery, probably."

"What hospital?" This was how it was going to be. Before he could blink, they'd be hearing the same story about Derrick. No matter how many times they moved, what cities they lived in.... It was going to be the same.

"Desert Palms." The place had been getting pretty old, but recent renovations had come up to par. "It makes me tired. Thinking about it."

Yeah. It would be the same for a long, long time, but there were also constants. There was him, and Greg, and Jackpot.

It was so much easier to live in the moment, in the daily shocks and delights, than to look at the larger picture. "Do you want to see her before the surgery?" Will thought it was best, knowing surgery, knowing how things went and how old she was.

Dark eyes looked up at him, sad and grateful. "Yeah. I mean, I know we need to go grocery shopping and stuff, too, but." But.

"Grocery shopping will still be there when we're done." They were dayshift now, this time, but Will could get milk at a 7-11 if they were that hard up for groceries. That was another constant to the world, because Will knew he was still going to get ripped off if he bought groceries there. "C'mon."

Hand held out, and he knew Greg would take it. They were both standing, both going to face something that sucked one more time, but tomorrow would be better. They'd get through it. The future might not always be bright, but it was theirs, together, and that was something.