Dark Places by Catlover2x [Reviews - 6]

There were dark places in Nick’s soul that only Greg could illuminate. He’d gotten so used to the radiance of Greg’s spirit and humour that he dreaded having to watch that light go out. And standing there, looking at Greg’s bruised face, Nick could feel the darkness overtake him once again.

Greg’s eyes were swollen shut and whether he was asleep or unconscious, Nick couldn’t tell, but he longed for Greg to open his eyes, just to look into their depths, see the spark, get some illumination to banish the darkness.

He walked into the room quietly, not wanting to disturb Greg if he was resting.

“Hey…” With a moan, Greg stirred and sighed, his lashes fluttered and he opened one eye, looking up at Nick. Despite the cut lip, his mouth quirked up for a moment and he sighed again.

“Hey, babe,” Nick said, surprised. “How’d you know it was me?”

“Smelled you.” Greg shifted against the pillows he was propped up on. “Touch…”

With the skill borne of a long term relationship, Nick divined what Greg meant. He swallowed hard as he looked over his partner, searching for some part of him that wasn’t battered or bruised. He didn’t want to add to Greg’s pain.

Deciding that Greg’s left hand was the most unscathed part of him now exposed, Nick gently slid his hand under Greg’s. He swallowed against the tears that had been threatening to spill ever since he’d gotten the call from Sara, a call he’d hoped he would never get.

“You came.”

Gently, he stroked the back of Greg’s hand with his thumb.

“I’ll always come, no matter what happens or where you are,” Nick said roughly, his emotion catching at his throat.

“I know,” Greg swallowed, “But you’re still working.”

“Doesn’t matter.”


Nick drew closer to the bed and Greg moved stiffly until he could rest his cheek against Nick’s hand.

“I wish I could hold you,” Nick whispered.

“Me too, but everything hurts right now.” Greg said with a little chuckle that turned into a groan. Nick knew that was the closest Greg would come to complaining, at least until he felt better. Then no doubt, Greg would whine and complain and keep Nick running, to fetch him coffee or books or the remote for the TV.

Nick grinned. Suddenly he wondered if Greg did that just to keep him too occupied to inquire every quarter of an hour if he was okay.


“Not right now, G,” Nick said firmly. “You’re a bit of a mess, but you’ll heal. No scars, the doctor said.”

Greg flinched. “On the outside.”

“You did what you had to,” Nick said consolingly.

“I hurt– I hurt someone… don’t… even carry a gun… Shouldn’t have…”

Watching the beloved face convulse with distress, Nick felt helpless. He knew that his beliefs about responsibility and retribution were more defined than Greg’s, probably shaped by his own experiences. That kind of experience was one he would have done anything to keep his partner from, even to the point of changing places with him at the fatal moment in the alley. Whatever Greg’s decision might have been in that moment, Nick thought he would have been able to live with it more easily than Greg.

He had become used to being a victim himself. He endured it, as if it was his lot in life. Even though he’d stood by Greg, caring for him and changing his bandages after the explosion, for some reason, he’d never thought of Greg as a victim.

He knew it could happen to him but somehow he’d fooled himself into thinking that it couldn’t happen to Greg. Or he had buried it down deep enough so that he would never have to entertain the possibility. Only now it had happened, and it shattered the feeling of safety he’d had for his partner. If someone could beat the shit out of Greg this way, anything could happen.

But at least Greg was alive; one eye was open, and he had smiled. Sort of.

“The guy in the alley?” Greg wheezed, each breath causing his ribs to strain painfully against his skin.

“He’s gonna make it, he’ll be okay,” Nick reassured him.

“Guy I– I hurt…?” Greg’s face spasmed, and Nick wanted to take him into his arms and rock him.

He wanted to comfort Greg so badly, and make it all okay, but he couldn’t lie to him.

“They’re working on him, babe, but it… doesn’t look good.”

A slow tear trickled down Greg’s face.

Nick didn’t wipe it away. He was frantic but still, watching the slow path it took down the discoloured and swollen flesh, hoping that Greg didn’t feel as bad as he looked.

A nurse entered, carrying a tray with a syringe and cotton balls, which he set down by the bed. He took Greg’s wrist in his hand and stared at his watch, counting his pulse.

“How are you feeling?”


“Okay, I have something that will help you relax.”

The nurse lifted the hospital gown and Nick gasped at the sight of the bruises spattered across Greg’s body like paint tossed carelessly on a canvas. The darkness rose up and bit into his soul, making him angry enough to want to hit something. Or someone. Specifically whoever had caused the suffering he saw in Greg’s eyes.

He continued to hold Greg’s hand gently, although the roiling white hot rage within him made it difficult to do so as he was barely able to calm himself enough to sit still, while the nurse swabbed Greg’s hip and stuck the needle in. Greg didn’t even flinch; the prick of the needle must have been only a drop in the ocean of his pain.

The nurse massaged his hip to disperse the medication and replaced the gown, pulling up the sheet to cover Greg. He nodded to Nick before he left the room, saying in a low voice, “It’s just a muscle relaxer. He should be more comfortable now.”

Nick nodded back but said nothing. He watched as Greg sank back against his pillows with a low sigh, stroking his hand. He couldn’t face losing Greg again. He wanted to protect him, put him somewhere where the world wouldn’t touch him, keep him safe. But he couldn’t do that, no more than Greg would have after he had been pulled out of the ground the year before.

The thing that really hurt was that he saw the same uncertainty in Greg’s eyes now that he was used to seeing in his own.

He took a deep breath to try and calm the nerves making his skin crawl. “Like someone very wise once said to me, moments pass. This one will too.”

A slight movement of the head indicated Greg’s recognition of his own words. “After last year, after you were… in the box, how did you…?”

“Because you loved me.”

The simple words hung in the air between them, honest and unadorned.

“That’s all?”

“That’s pretty much it. My parents, my sisters, my brother, they all helped. Everyone at work, Warrick. But it was always you.”

“What if… what if…”

“Don’t, baby. Don’t think about it right now. Get better. We’ll face whatever comes together.”

Greg’s hand tightened infinitesimally around his, and Nick wished more than anything that he could shoulder this burden for his partner. There was such a look of guilt on Greg’s face it was as if his physical discomfort didn’t even register.

Or even worse, Nick thought, Greg felt he deserved this pain as punishment for a split second decision made under duress. He looked, really looked, as a CSI instead of a boyfriend, at Greg’s hands and forearms. No defensive wounds.

Sara had said that Greg was lucid and focused when she’d arrived at the scene, directing her to test his vest for DNA and examine the Denali for transfer. Nick felt sick, vividly picturing Greg being beaten and kicked, not fighting back, too confused by the horrific results of his own decision to defend himself.

Although what could he have done alone against such a mob?

Greg moved to ease some soreness and gasped.

Nick was almost glad he had the physical discomfort to distract him from his guilt.

His cell phone rang and Nick answered, aware of Greg’s less swollen eye following his movements. “Stokes.”

He listened, stroking Greg’s hand. His heart was broken by the expression on Greg’s face. Rather than wishing that Nick could stay with him, it was envy of the normalcy of the job, of Nick being called back to work, to solve a puzzle. Instead of staying by his partner’s side, Nick would have to leave Greg behind to torture himself with ‘what ifs’ and ‘I should haves’.

Nick flipped the phone shut. “I have to go, G. They need me to help process the alley.”

Greg nodded. “Hug.”

“You sure?” Nick asked doubtfully.

A slight nod.

Carefully Nick slid an arm under Greg and bent to hold him. “It’ll be okay, I promise.”

He looked back and Greg raised his left hand in a salute, trying for insouciance but landing somewhere between pathetic and vulnerable.

Anger burned red inside Nick, that someone would treat the treasure of his life so carelessly and brutally. Those punks had no idea whom they were attacking, but Nick found it hard to believe that anyone could look at Greg and not see how special the man behind the crooked smile really was. In fact, the light that emanated from Greg was so obvious to Nick that he came to believe that the pack had hurt Greg on purpose, that they resented the light and wanted to snuff it out. And that seemed to be the height of evil to Nick. Adrenaline and accidents he could understand, but to wantonly choose darkness over light; that was just evil.

“I love you.”

Greg nodded. “Love you.”

“Hang onto that. I’ll be back,” Nick said, lingering in the doorway.

“It’s okay, Nick, go. Catch the bad guys.”

“I’ll do that,” Nick said grimly.


Nick stood in one of the evidence rooms, rubbing his swollen knuckles absent-mindedly. A couple of them were split, and looking at them only reminded him of Greg and his injuries. He sighed heavily and stared at the map that was spread out before him, markers signifying where each of the attacks had taken place.

It wasn’t his task. He had stumbled across it on his way to the locker room. Warrick had told him to clean himself up before Grissom could see the minor wounds on his hand, but he halted when he saw what lay in the room.

The victim’s names – Greg’s stood out as if it was spotlighted.

How many times had he laid out such maps on previous cases? Too many to count over the years. Too many names, all blended into one indecipherable mass. Any stranger walking into this room would think just as little of the name Greg Sanders as any of those spread around it. They would know nothing of the story of Greg Sanders, or the man that he was. He was just another statistic, another name without a face.

But you had to remember that every name, every stark number in a statistical report on crime, had a person behind it; a person who had a job, a family, friends. Whose worlds were all destroyed when the crime occurred. Of all the CSIs, it seemed to Nick that he had the least trouble remembering, but this attack on Greg served only to engrave that concept in his mind. He would never look at another victim again without seeing Greg’s battered face.

‘The crime’ – it was such a clinical way to describe it to the grieving families. If Nick hadn’t already been a part of the team assigned to the case, he would have been the partner out in the hallway having Brass list the details of the evil done to Greg. Just like the doctor had tried to speak to him outside Greg’s room, but Nick had brushed him off, he was so desperate to get into his room and prove to himself that Greg was still breathing. ‘The crime’ simply didn’t do justice to the swollen eyes, the torn scalp, the missing hair, weeping wounds, extensive bruising, cracked ribs, the groin that had been stamped upon… he could go on and on.

But Greg was alive. The same couldn’t be said for Vasco Ruiz. They had that to be thankful for, despite the fact that with the shape Greg was in, Nick didn’t exactly feel like he could be thankful for that.

“What are you doing?”

He turned to see Catherine at the door, looking concerned.


She moved closer to him. “Go see him.”

“I saw him a few hours ago.”

“Then go and see him again.”

“I can’t leave. Not until we get the bastards.”

Catherine rested her hand upon his arm. “We all want that. But Greg needs you. Just see him for an hour, and then come back,” she paused, hating what she was about to say, but knowing it had to be said. “You’re letting it affect your work, because you’re too close.”

“Warrick told you?” Nick fumed.

“He didn’t have to.” She gestured pointedly at his hand. “Go. Take a breather. Make sure he’s okay. I’ll see you in an hour or so.”

He nodded. “Thanks, Cath.”

Catherine watched him leave, his shoulders knotted visibly even beneath his vest. She briefly rubbed at her eyes (the hell with her makeup), collected herself, and returned to her processing.


He couldn’t tell if Greg was asleep or not, but once again his partner stirred as he walked in and asked groggily, “What are you doing back here so soon?”

Trying to sound more light-hearted than he felt, Nick replied, “Catherine’s orders.”

“Well, my status hasn’t changed much since four hours ago,” Greg went to shrug, but winced.

Nick decided to take that as a joke, even though he wasn’t exactly sure. Greg sounded flat, well, flatter than he had before.

“Needed a personal update,” he reached for Greg’s relatively uninjured left hand.

“I hear you indulged in a little smackdown of your own,” Greg said, trying to stare him down with the slit of the one eye he could pry open.

“Warrick was here?” Nick asked.

“No. He called here to speak to me.”



Unnerved by Greg’s tone, he snapped back. “What?”

Immediately stricken, he shook his head as if that could clear it. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Greg replied softly, “I wish you had gotten in a few more punches before Warrick stopped you.”

Despite the fact that it felt like his blood had turned to ice, Nick felt he must have misheard him. “Say what, G?”

“You heard me,” Greg said, flatly. “He deserved it.”

Nick shook his head. “No. He was a prick, but I shouldn’t have hit him.”

The crux of the matter suddenly dawned on him. It wasn’t really the obnoxious teen that Greg was talking about.

“Hey, hey,” he whispered, drawing closer to Greg, and slipping an arm as unobtrusively as he could around him. “You didn’t deserve this.”

“Actions have consequences,” Greg mumbled, as if he was in a trance. “I ran that kid down. I made that choice. They gave me part of my punishment.”

“Part?” Nick asked, although he was scared to ask.

“There will probably be an assessment by internal affairs,” Greg said robotically. “Then depending on whether he makes it or not, a court case. There’s always a court case.”

“Greg, you’ve got to stop thinking like that.”

“I can’t,” Greg’s breath hitched in his throat. “I can’t.”

Nick felt the panic rise within him, this was not his Greg. This was a broken man. The dark place that he felt within himself was now also reflected in Greg’s eyes. He tried to reassure himself by believing that it would only be temporary – after all, it still hadn’t been a full twenty-four hours since Greg had called in from the alley.

“Greg, please baby, you were so strong for me when I needed you. Let me be strong for you now,” he pleaded. He could feel Greg’s tears dampening his vest, but he couldn’t cry himself. He couldn’t add to Greg’s distress. “It’ll be okay,” he whispered, even though he knew it wasn’t a promise he could really keep. It was all out of their hands now.

Greg’s breathing began to settle. And of course it was then that Nick’s pager went off. Cursing inwardly, Nick checked it.

“You’ve gotta go,” Greg closed his one eye and drew away from his semi-embrace. It wasn’t a reprimand, just a sad acceptance.

“They’ve picked up a possible suspect,” Nick told him. “I need to go and process.”

Greg nodded.

“It’s a good thing, Greg,” Nick reassured him. “Getting the bad guys, remember?”

“To his family, I’m the bad guy,” Greg gestured to the room next to his. Looking through the glass, Nick could see the family sitting around the empty bed, all of whom were awaiting the teenager’s return from surgery. Nick still couldn’t believe they had placed attacker and victim mere meters from each other, with only a glass wall between.

“Well, his family should remember that he was on the town beating the crap out of people for kicks,” Nick responded bitterly.

“Not that simple,” Greg reminded him. “Like I am to you… he is to them.”

“Sometimes it is that simple,” Nick shook his head.

“You gotta go,” Greg closed his eye again, sleep starting to claim him.

Nick didn’t want to leave. He was terrified. Terrified that this was the beginning of the end of the Greg Sanders they all knew and loved. That he was changed forever from this moment on.

That the spark within him, that illumination, was dying out, even though Greg had been saved. Just as his attackers had rained their fists and their feet upon his body in that alley, they had succeeded in snuffing out that vitality, that… Gregness.

He unsteadily got to his feet, leaned in and found one spot of unblemished skin on Greg’s hairline and kissed him gently.

“We’ll get through this Greg,” he whispered. “And you have to promise me that you’ll come out whole.”

There was no answer. Biting down on his lip, Nick left the room with one last look at the figure in the bed. He pulled out his cell and called Brass for directions to the scene.


Nick was aware that he was driving like a madman, and it was only the thought of he himself ending up in hospital as a result of an accident and thus being even more useless to Greg that made him ease his foot off the gas and stop his dangerous game of chicken with the traffic lights.

The case had accelerated quickly – all with a simple bit of luck, as if the gods were finally stepping in and meting out their own justice. A text coming through on a cellphone as Nick was examining it led them straight to the hub of the gang that had come to call themselves ‘fannysmackers’.

Fannysmackers, for chrissakes. Such an innocuous word that gave no weight to the depravity of their game, a game which had killed a man and hospitalized four others.

That had brutalized Greg.

And wonder of all wonders; the leader, Pig, was the very same asshole in manpris that Nick had punched earlier. Here he was, regretting his actions, thinking that he had let his stress overwhelm him to take it out on a cocky but innocent bystander.

It was a bitter irony that he had hit the right guy, after all. Like Greg said, he should have got a few more punches in.

No, that’s NOT right, he chastised himself. But it didn’t stop the little voice within him repeating it.

He parked the car, retraced the steps that he had made so many times before both as visitor and victim, to the elevator, and out from it into the main waiting room. Following the blue arrows to intensive care, and through the electronic glass doors to Greg’s room.

Nick was startled to see Greg standing motionless in the middle of the room, staring into the darkened glass that separated his from the next.

“Babe, what’re you doing up?” He hurried to his partner’s side.

Greg didn’t turn at the sound of Nick’s voice, he just stood staring lifelessly at his reflection in the glass. Nick saw himself, looking anxious, hovering over Greg’s shoulder. The younger man’s pallor almost matched the white of the bandage around his head.

Nick closed his eyes, remembering the last time he’d seen Greg in a hospital gown, how nearly he had lost him before he’d even found him. When he opened his eyes and looked again at the dark fathomless gaze that never met his, the fear that Greg was truly lost this time hit him even harder.

No, he resolved firmly. Whatever it takes, I’ll do, I’ll do anything to bring him back. I’m not going to lose him over this.

Gently he took Greg by the hand and led the unresisting man to the bed, helping him get into it and settled before he covered his legs with the sheet.

“What happened?”

“The guy they were beating stopped by to say thanks. The kid died. Grissom came.”

Nick felt a little bewildered by the flat recital of the day’s events. Of everything Greg said, he’d shown the most emotion when he said that Grissom had visited him.


“She cried. His mom cried,” Greg said in a monotone. “He died. I saw it.”

“Fuck,” Nick muttered, wondering why he hadn’t thought to demand that the hospital move Greg to a different room, away from the constant reminder that the kid next door would serve. Chalking it up to his distraction over Greg’s condition and the constant demands that he return to work, he decided to reproach himself later and deal with Greg now.

“I’m sorry.”

“You didn’t do it.”

“You didn’t mean to do it, honey. You didn’t go there to kill him.”

“But I did.”

Deciding not to embark on what promised to be a fruitless circle of you did, you didn’t, Nick skipped to Grissom’s visit.

“Was Grissom… Did he… Was he angry?”

Greg shook his head slightly. “When is he ever angry?”

“I can think of occasions, but what upset you so much about his visit?”

“He asked if anyone called Wendy.”

“God, I totally forgot. I’ll call her right now.”


Nick stroked Greg’s left arm. “What’s wrong, G?”

“I’ll have to tell her… tell her…”

Soothingly, Nick tried to comfort Greg, saying, “You don’t have to tell her anything. I’ll call her.”

There was a silence in the darkening room. Nick held his breath without quite knowing he was doing it, waiting for Greg’s answer. If he agreed, then Nick would know that the light had been quenched. He could barely stand it until Greg spoke again.

“No. I’ll do it.”

‘Yes!’ Nick thought while he fumbled for his cell phone. That flicker of spirit was the first hopeful sign he’d seen from Greg. He punched speed dial for Greg’s parents and handed his partner the phone.

He could only hear Greg’s end of the conversation, but his responses made the whole thing clear to Nick.

“Hi, Wendy.” Greg croaked. “Yes, actually, something is wrong. I’m in the hospital.”

Over four hundred miles away Wendy Sanders sat down abruptly, but managed to keep her voice calm. After all, if Greg was speaking it couldn’t be that bad, could it? Visions of car accidents, lab explosions and leukemia flashed through her mind, followed by a red flashing AIDS. She could see the letters spelled out in LEDs, spelling torture and death for her only child.

“Tell me about it,” she said, keeping her voice pitched at a low level.

“I… I got beat up. I’m okay, though,” Greg added hastily.

“We’ll fly out tonight, honey. Is Nick there with you?”

“Yeah, he’s right here.”

“Thank God,” she breathed. “How did it happen? Is he hurt? How badly hurt are you?” The dreaded words gay bashing immediately danced around her head, which was becoming increasing feverish with each passing second.

“I haven’t been completely honest with you,” Greg admitted.

There was something dead in his voice that alarmed Wendy more than the news that he’d been hurt.

“I’m listening,” she murmured and then kicked herself. Old habits as a therapist die hard but this was her son. She didn’t mean to sound so… clinical. However, apparently it reassured Greg and he spoke more easily.

“I’ve been out in the field for a while now. I’m not in the lab any more. I’m a CSI, level one.”

“And that’s how you got hurt?”

“Yes.” Greg clipped the word harshly and waited, breathing hard. He could feel sweat start to trickle from his armpits and his stomach was churning, waiting for her response.

“Why wouldn’t you tell us that?” Wendy asked in honest bewilderment.

“Because… because you worry so much. I didn’t want you to try to talk me out of it. You would have said it was…”

“Was what?”

“Dangerous.” He felt Nick’s fingers brushing over his free hand.

Wendy surprised herself and him by laughing. “Oh, Greg, honey, you shouldn’t have been afraid to tell me. You’re not a child any more, you’re a man. You have to make your own decisions. This is your life now, not mine.”

There was a silence as if Greg couldn’t take in what she was saying, and was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

“I know I was overprotective when you were younger. Maybe that wasn’t such a wise decision, but I’ve learned a lot, both from Papa and Nick’s mother. Whatever you decide is right for your life, I stand behind your decision.”

“Mom, I mowed down a kid and he died. Can you stand behind that?”

Wendy and Nick both closed their eyes at the power of the anguish in Greg’s voice, the self reproach.

“Tell me what happened, honey. I know you didn’t mean to hurt him.”

“How can you know that?” Greg’s voice rose as he practically shrieked into the phone.

“I know you. You are a wonderful, gentle man. You would never hurt anyone if you didn’t absolutely have to. Hasn’t Nick told you this?”

“Yeah, he has.” Greg took a deep breath and then the words came spilling out as he told his mother everything. Nick had already pieced together most of it, from Greg’s statement, from the evidence they’d found in the alley and from the statements of the suspects they’d arrested, but it was totally different and shattering to hear the terror in Greg’s voice as he relived it.

Nick continued stroking his hand gently and Greg tightened his grip on his partner. Nick was relieved, he felt needed, like he actually had something more to offer than just a few caresses and meaningless platitudes.

Wendy allowed Greg to speak until he ran out of words. Tears ran down her face but she was silent. Part of her exulted that he’d called her Mom; after their difficult time during his teen rebellion, she’d feared she might never hear that from him again, while the other part of her ached for her son. He’d always been a sensitive boy, so empathetic to pain in others. The idea of the hospital allowing him to witness the family’s reaction when the boy he’d injured had died made her want to call the head of the hospital and ream him a new one, but her main focus was on Greg right now. Time enough for that later.

She could hear the desperation in his voice and wished that she had some magic wand she could wave, that would help him come to terms with this; or better yet, that she could turn back time, alter the events so he would not have to live with this.

When he wound down, she spoke again. “I’m very proud of you. You helped save someone’s life. If you hadn’t acted, he might have died.”

Forlornly, Greg whimpered, “But someone else died.”

“No one said that making decisions would be easy. Being an adult involves making some hard choices. Remember that you didn’t choose to kill that boy. He made his own choices. And from what you say, he had time to move away from the vehicle. You’d warned them all. You did what you could.”

“That’s it?” Greg sighed.

“This has been a very harrowing day for you. You’ve been traumatized again but in time you will come to terms with it. Time will lessen the pain,” she said almost hopelessly, wishing she had better words for him, some cure she could direct him to follow so that he would recover. “It takes time to heal. And the alternative isn’t really very appealing, is it?”

“You’re so practical,” Greg replied in an exhausted voice.

“There’s no future in staying stuck in this pain. You can only do what you can do. You did it in the heat of the moment. You were scared for yourself, and you were scared for the other victim. I can understand how you would make the decision you did. Now you need to deal with it, process the feelings and move on.”

“Therapy,” Greg acknowledged.

“It’s my only bag of tricks, honey. It’s what I know works. It helped you after the explosion and after Nick was kidnapped.”

“I guess.”

Greg let his arm drop when Nick took the phone and held it for him, seeing that he was tiring.

“Do you want me to come out there, honey? We can be on a plane tonight,” Wendy offered, unwilling to just assume that she would be welcome. The revelation that Greg had neglected to share his new job told her that they still had some issues to work through.

“No. Nick will take care of me.”

“Are you afraid that I won’t be able to handle seeing you hurt?”

Greg sighed deeply. The emotion of the call had tired him and he was pretty much on empty now. All he could do was speak the truth. “No, I can’t handle it right now.”

“I understand, honey. I want you to know your father and I are here for you whenever you, for whatever you want. If you need to talk, about this, or not about this, call any time. If you want us to come, we’ll be there as soon as we can get there,” Wendy said, trying to sound as comforting as she could.

“Give me a week, mom,” Greg said.

He pushed the phone to Nick.

“Hi, Mrs Sanders,” Nick said.

“Wendy, at least, if you can’t call me mom,” Wendy said. “How is he?”

“Pretty rough shape right now, Wendy. He’s bruised. But the doctors say there won’t be any scars and he’ll be okay. No permanent damage.”

“No permanent physical damage,” Wendy amended his statement.

“I’ll take care of him,” Nick assured his mother-in-law. It still felt funny to refer to her as such. Greg always referred to Jillian as his, but he did it in an endearing, half-jokey way that reinforced the seriousness beneath it. Greg’s careful civility with his mother, and Wendy’s own demeanour, meant that Nick didn’t feel comfortable with that term of endearment.

“I know you will, honey. I trust you. Call me if you need me. And call your mother. She needs to hear what happened and that Greg is okay. How are you doing?”

“I’m…okay,” Nick managed, watching Greg’s one good eye shut.

“This isn’t going to be easy for you either, dear. Call me if you need any help at all, financially or anything. Or call Jillian. You know she’d be right there,” Wendy continued.

“I know. I will,” he said, reacting to the warmth in her voice.

“Call me as soon as Greg can see us.”

Wendy held strong until she hung up. The tears she’d held in for Greg’s sake spilled over then and she found herself wailing. Greg’s father walked into her study and came to her, folding her into his arms.

“What’s wrong?”

Wendy clung to her husband as she told him everything. “I’m a fine therapist. I’ve screwed up so badly he didn’t want to tell us that he’s now a CSI, getting into the field.”

“Greg’s out in the field?” Edward asked. “When did that happen?”

Wendy looked at his bewildered face, and could only shrug and give a short but heartfelt laugh.

“At least he told us about Nick,” Edward pointed out, trying to make her feel better even though he was fuzzy on all the details of what was going on. “That’s a lot more important.”

“True,” Wendy smiled as she wiped her eyes. “At least I didn’t fuck up totally.”

“Or permanently.”

“I have to call Papa,” Wendy said.

“Uh, Wendy?”

She turned back at the sound of his voice. “Yes?”

“Do you mind filling me in on what’s happening?”


When Nick flipped the phone shut, he wondered if he should call his mother right away.



“You asleep?”


“Okay, I’m gonna get the hospital to set up a bed for me in here. I’m going to spend the night with you, so wake me up if you need anything. I’ll see that you get it.”

“’Kay,” Greg murmured drowsily.

Nick stood looking at Greg’s bruised face. He automatically found himself wishing again that he’d hit that asshole harder or a hell of a lot more.

He left the room, going to the nurse’s station to arrange for the extra bed. The nurses were sympathetic and he didn’t even have to point out that he was Greg’s medical contact for them to call maintenance to obtain the cot. It helped, both of them being in law enforcement, as it acted like an all-access card for the nurses. He remembered how handy it had come in for Greg past visiting hours when Nick was last in the hospital.

He walked to the end of the hallway, where there was no chance of Greg overhearing him, staring out the window into the darkness, lit by the impersonal neon exuberance of Las Vegas. He pulled out his phone to call his mother.

Jillian was calmer than he had expected. Greg was now like another son to her, as much a part of the family as his siblings’ spouses, and Nick could practically feel the matriarchal power echoing down the line towards him. Jillian let him speak, as he stumbled over his words, detailing what had happened to Greg in the alley, and how he hadn’t even gotten to see him until he was in the hospital, that Sara had been the one to comfort him in the alley.

It was the first time Jillian broke in. “Maybe it was better that way, honey.”

He couldn’t believe she was suggesting that, and she must have heard it in his silence, because she continued. “At that moment of time, he needed to be strong, detached. You said he gave Sara the details of what happened, that he managed to remain composed enough to even give her forensic samples. He might not have been able to do that if you were hovering over him, upset.”

He bristled at that, as if she was suggesting that he would be hysterical, and wringing his hands helplessly by his fallen lover.

And of course, being a mother to two Texan men, and married to one, Jillian could immediately sense the affront to his manhood. “I know you would have been strong for him, but if he had known you were there worrying, that may have broken him.”

He didn’t want to tell her that he was scared Greg was broken, but he didn’t want to hear the hopeful reassurances that it hadn’t been that long since he was injured, that it would take time, to not give up hope… he was already trying to delude himself, he couldn’t have anybody else adding to it.

“How are you holding up, baby?” she asked, and his mother’s tenderness made him slump onto the small waiting room sofa.

“Not good, mom,” he admitted, knowing this was the one time and place that he could be truly honest. “I’m upset, I’m angry… I hit a suspect.”

He could hear her slight gasp. She was immediately thinking of future court cases, of Nick getting into trouble, his career being adversely affected because of it. And right at that moment, Nick didn’t give a shit. His life was lying in a room, a few metres away. That was all he could care about right now.

“It’s okay,” he said mirthlessly, “it turned out he was the ringleader.”

“I hope you hit him hard,” was her instant response, then a pause. “Please forget I said that.”

He smiled, truly, for the first time that day. But it faded as it all overcame him again.

“What the fuck was he doing?” he cried in anguish. “They told him to wait! But he had to go in there any way…he just rushed in and look what happened to him… fucking idiot!”

His anguish only increased as he realized what he had said, and he began to sob. Jillian, who had been about to reprimand him, found herself starting to tear up in response again.

“Nick,” she said, gently.

Her heartbroken son could only sob in controlled bursts again, unable to get his words out.

“Nick, it’s okay to be angry with him.”

He was perplexed, and that more than anything, caused him to sit up and choke his way out of a total lapse into hysteria. “It is?”

“He could have stayed safe. He had a choice. But this is Greg. You love him for many reasons. And it wouldn’t have been like Greg to just sit back and let someone get killed in those few minutes it would have taken for back-up to arrive. He did the only thing he could.”

“I guess,” Nick said hesitantly, although he knew it was true.

“And you would have done the same. So you can’t really be mad at him for what you would have done yourself.”

Once again, true. But it didn’t do anything to quell his temper, and he was slightly scared by the fact that part of it was directed at Greg himself. It was purely irrational, but he couldn’t help feeling it.

Jillian knew enough to know that she wasn’t going to help Nick with all his issues in one night. If she was Wendy, she would immediately discuss therapy. But she wasn’t Wendy, a fact for which Nick was probably thankful. “Are you going to stay at the hospital with him tonight?”

“Of course!”

“Honey, try and get some sleep. I know it will be difficult for you, but you will only get more and more wound up if you stop resting, and if you don’t eat properly. You’re going to need to be at your best for Greg coming home, and also for the trial… whenever it takes place.”

“I know, Mom. I’ll try.”

There was a hesitance in her voice. “Do you… want your father and me to fly in?”

Nick smiled, although she couldn’t see it. “Greg just told Wendy she couldn’t, so it wouldn’t be fair if you and Cisco did.”

“No, it wouldn’t,” Jillian agreed. “I’m sure Wendy wouldn’t take that so well. Do you think he’ll change his mind?”

“Maybe when he’s a bit stronger. You know Greg. He just wants to lie in the corner and lick his wounds himself.”

“Don’t you let him. It would be the worst thing for him to close himself off.”

They said their goodbyes, neither of them feeling much comforted. Nick wasn’t sure how long it would take for him to feel at ease, and realized with dread that it could be months, especially with the court case in their future. And he then realized that this was how it would have been with Greg as well, when Nick had been brought out of the ground Walter Gordon had put him in. Just a never-ending cycle of pain and misery.

He needed to get back to the room, where the mere fact of Greg breathing would help him calm down. Just as he was about to stand, his cell sounded off. He cursed under his breath, but calmed down when Wendy and Edward’s number appeared on the display.

“Hey, Wendy.”

“Hello, Nick.” Her tone was cool and clipped as ever, but he would have been remiss if he hadn’t recognized the slight tremulous echo beneath it. “Are you with Greg now?”

“No, I’m just down the hall from his room. I had to call my mom.”

“Oh, was she okay?”

He was heartened by her concern for Jillian. He guessed that their friendship was more genuine than he believed. Wendy wasn’t the easiest person in the world to get along with, although that was never a problem for Jillian. It just represented another challenge for her to tackle. “She was upset, and she wanted to come out here, but I told her no.”

Of course, it didn’t stop Wendy feeling slightly happy that Jillian’s services had been dismissed as well. “Oh. I just wanted to hear from you, Nick, that he’s okay.”

Nick closed his eyes, wondering whether this was the right moment to be truthful. “He’s been pretty badly battered, Wendy. But he’ll heal. It’s how he’s acting at the moment that worries me.”

He could feel her nod over the line. “Stress trauma.”

For some strange reason, he found himself opening up to her. “I’m really worried about him. I’ve never seen him like this before.”

“Oh, honey,” she whispered. Normally that word sounded strained, forced, coming from her. A word she wasn’t particularly comfortable with. But not tonight. It soothed him, as if it had come from Jillian. “I know he doesn’t want the attention, but I have an idea…”

Nick listened, and for the first time that night, gave a true smile.


The night passed uneventfully. Nurses came in to check on Greg, but he never woke, worn out with the emotional rollercoaster he’d been on as well as his physical injuries.

Nick woke up, every time they walked in. He hovered around them, asking questions in a hushed tone. He wondered if this was what it had been like for Greg when he was in the hospital after his kidnapping. He still had trouble saying the words, ‘and burial.’ It sounded so final somehow, as if he had died. And the fear of looking up through the glass to see earth piled above him, imagining how deep he was, all that dirt falling on him, weighing him…

He shook his head and smiled grimly. Between them, they were supplied with more than enough material for nightmares to disturb them for many years to come. One reason he’d elected to remain with Greg that night was simply that he had trouble sleeping without his partner beside him. It was almost more for his comfort than Greg’s.

In the morning, Greg had been whisked away in a wheelchair by a nurse who informed Nick that if the test results were okay, he would be able to take his partner home. Nick was reconciled to Greg’s disappearance by the presence of the man who seemed as if he would be able to lend Greg a strong arm if needed.

Nick was at the nurse’s desk, dealing with the discharge paperwork, when a familiar voice smote his ear.

“Nick, søten.**”

“Papa Olaf!” Nick turned and was enveloped in a strong hug before he even had a chance to look at Greg’s grandfather. “How did you get here?”

“I know how to catch a taxi,” Papa Olaf released Nick from the hug but continued to pat him on the back, peering at him anxiously. “You are tired.”

“I just meant I would have come to pick you up, if you had called.”

“It’s nothing,” Papa Olaf waved it away. “I would not have dragged you away from our boy.”

Nick rubbed his hands over the stubble that Greg hated, remembering how he’d promised to withhold sex until Nick let it grow again. Now he wished he hadn’t shaved it off but sometimes when it tangled he just got so impatient he reached for the Flow-bee. And Greg hadn’t been home to stop him so… However, Greg had thrown out the Flow-bee, saying if Nick couldn’t be trusted home alone with it one of them would have to go. Nick was grateful he’d been chosen over the clipping device.

“He’s so down. The kid he hit died,” Nick said in a hushed voice, although the teen’s family was no longer around to hear.

“Wendy told me,” Papa Olaf sighed heavily. “This will go hard for him, I fear. He was always a sensitive boy. How is he physically?”

“You’re just in time to go home with us,” Nick smiled. “They’re doing a final checkup but I’ve just signed all the discharge papers. Where’s your suitcase?”

Papa Olaf indicated his backpack.

“That’s it? You’re not planning on staying long,” Nick said reproachfully.

“Wendy was not sure how Greg would welcome my coming,” Papa Olaf said. “I packed a suitcase and if Greg allows me to stay, she will ship it. Besides, you have a washer.”

“Greg will want you to stay, I know it,” Nick said confidently, leading the older man to the room.

Greg had already been brought back and was fumbling feebly with his clothing. When he saw his grandfather, tears spilled once again and he took one hesitant step toward him.

Papa Olaf let Nick take his backpack, and stepped closer to Greg with open arms, allowing his grandson to move into them at his own speed. He circled him with his arms and Greg rested his head on Papa Olaf’s shoulder.

Nick watched jealously. He couldn’t help it. It seemed to him as if he didn’t possess the key to helping Greg. Usually the younger man did not cry easily but here he was sobbing softly against Papa Olaf’s neck, after breaking down with his mother only the night before; forgetting easily in his own grief that Greg had done the same with him.

“I killed a boy, Papa,” Greg sobbed.

“Stop that right this instant,” Papa Olaf said sternly.

Nick froze. He’d never heard such a commanding voice from the man who was synonymous in his mind with practical jokes and weirdly immature humour.

“You did not plan to murder the boy. He was a criminal, caught in the act. He would have been happy to kill you from all accounts. His friends nearly did.”

Greg was staring at his grandfather with his mouth open.

“Is this what you have been treating Nick to? No wonder he looks so exhausted and used up.”

Both sets of eyes fell upon him, and Nick almost wanted to put up his hands in surrender, feeling that this was a battle he should remain Switzerland in.

“Well, I will not tiptoe so gently around you. You made a decision. You must face the consequences, whatever they are. Some will blame you, others will see you as a hero. But you will not feel sorry for yourself. You are not dead. And the people who love you are all around you to support you. You owe it to us to get a grip on yourself.”

It was then that Nick took a hasty step forward. This couldn’t be Papa Olaf, the gentle loving man who had guided Greg through the difficult years of his teens when his parents seemed unreachable.

But Papa Olaf was right it seemed.

Greg straightened up and shut his mouth. He still looked a little stunned but he seemed to rally because his partially opened eye seemed to meet Nick’s fully for the first time since Nick’s initial visit. “Nick. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to… put you through that. You know, don’t you, that you being here… I couldn’t have… without you…” He stuttered into incoherency.

Nick took the final steps that enabled him to wrap Greg in his arms. “I know, shhh, babe, I know.”

“I love you,” Greg said and Nick exulted when he felt the feeble hug as Greg’s arms came up around him. “I don’t know why…”

“It’s okay, babe, let’s go home.”


After the flurry of getting Greg home and settled into bed, Nick had to go back to work. There were plenty of loose ends to wrap up; experience had showed with a difficult case like this with multiple perpetrators, it behooved the CSIs to get all the physical evidence that they’d gathered processed.

He had a desire to go and watch the interminable interrogations, but Brass would only have chased him off, seeing that he’d already hit the ringleader in the stomach. Not that he blamed Nick. Of course, Nick thought grimly, if he was given half the chance he’d be more than happy to do it again, bruised knuckles notwithstanding.

He was so incredibly relieved that Papa Olaf had come. He hadn’t felt as guilty or nervous as he would have if he’d had to leave Greg alone in the house. He was still a bit too shaky on his feet for Nick to feel comfortable with that.

After a day of relatively short hours that felt like a triple, Nick unlocked his front door and opened it to a heartwarming scene. Greg was asleep on the couch, a throw covering his legs, his head cushioned on a pillow on Papa Olaf’s lap. The older man was listening to the Norwegian channel on the TV. He had the remote and two bottles of water on the table in front of him.

The warm, comforting smell of chicken soup filled the air.

“Chicken soup?”

“He can’t chew and he must eat something.”

Nick put down his keys and bag, coming toward the two men on the couch. “He asleep?”

“Yes. He could not be content to stay in bed, so I allowed him to come to the living room, where he promptly fell asleep.” Papa Olaf smiled down at his grandson.

“Is he doing better?”

“Yes, much. It still pains him but in time, he shall come to accept his actions, however he justifies them to himself. I fear that disapproval from the outside world will always bring out this doubt, however.” Papa Olaf shook his head sadly.

“When you saw him before, how did you… Why did you yell at him?” Nick asked curiously.

“Tough love, isn’t that what you call it?” Papa Olaf asked, his head cocked to one side. It was a gesture so reminiscent of Greg that it made Nick smile.

“Yeah, but how did you know he would… accept it?”

“Because our Greg is a very smart boy. What is done cannot be undone. He will have to learn to deal with this. It does not make him an evil man.”

“Nothing could,” Nick scoffed. He pushed the coffee table back and sat on the floor in front of them, softly stroking Greg’s relatively unscathed left hand.

“So now I know what you both really think of me,” Greg said, without opening his good eye.

“Ah, my clever little possum, you are playing at being asleep. Do you not know that eavesdroppers hear only bad things about themselves?” Papa Olaf enquired sternly, with a twinkle in his eye.

“This wasn’t so bad, except that I was being an asshole and worrying Nick,” Greg replied.

“Ah, then you are wishing me to tell Nick about the time you came home without your underpants and–”

“No!” Greg squealed, opening his good eye in alarm. “Don’t you dare!”

“Very well then, behave. Be kind to your boyfriend who is so kind and caring to you,” Papa Olaf instructed.

Greg looked at Nick with a slight smile. “Hi,” he said, almost shyly.

The smile made Nick’s heart get even lighter. He found that he was almost willing to let the ringleader live. “What made you so much happier?”

“Papa Olaf told me a joke,” Greg confided.


Papa Olaf, being a wiseass, repeated the joke in Norwegian, much to Nick’s bewilderment. He caught a word here and there, but that was all.

“Hva får du om du kloner en sjørøver? – En pirat-kopi.”*

Greg helpfully repeated it in English. “What do you get if you clone a swashbuckler? – A pirate-copy.”

He and Papa Olaf laughed, while Nick shook his head over it.

“Okay, I can top that. What sits at the bottom of the ocean and shivers?”

“A squid?” Greg guessed.

“No, an octopus,” Papa Olaf answered, entering into the spirit of the thing, although his answer, along with Greg’s made no sense.

“A nervous wreck,” Nick announced triumphantly.

After a moment, both Greg and Papa Olaf laughed together.

“Eric?” Greg asked.

“Connor, when he was five he went through a phase of making up riddles, before he stopped talking,” Nick said with a grin.

“It sucks,” Greg announced happily.

“Yep,” Nick said cheerfully. “He was five, what do you expect?”

Papa Olaf lifted the pillow and Greg with it. “Here, Nick, come and take my place. I must check on my soup.”

Nick took his position, relishing the weight of Greg on his lap, the more cheerful look on his face, the fact that the swelling had gone down a good bit. “You don’t look so chipmunky today. Even though you’re very cute when you’re chipmunky.”

This made Greg simultaneously smile and wince. “Papa Olaf put ice on it.”

“You doing okay though, babe?”

“Better. I have to pee.”

“Okay.” Nick helped Greg sit up and dropped the pillow, helpfully disentangling his partner’s long legs from the blanket. He held out his arms and Greg held onto them, pulling himself to his feet.

“Need help down the hall?” Nick asked as Greg swayed. He knew better than to just assume that his partner would welcome assistance. He’d learned over the years that Greg’s independence was one of his sore points.

“Yeah,” Greg admitted, which Nick was thankful for.

Together they walked slowly down the hall, Greg shuffling more than striding. Nick turned on the light and stood there. Greg glared at him.


“You can manage?”

“You know I can’t pee if someone is watching me.”

“I’ll be right outside when you’re ready for a ride back,” Nick assured him.

He pulled the door closed and waited. After a suitable interval the door opened and he supported Greg back to the living room, noting the little sigh when he sank down on the couch, leaning his head against the back of it.

“You’re not completely okay, are you?”

“No,” Greg said. “But I will be.”

Nick found the flicker of light in Greg’s eye too much and irrepressibly said, “Better than you were before, right?”

“No, but I’ll find a way to deal with this. Papa Olaf reminded me of all the other things I’ve overcome. He says it won’t be easy but…”

“How are you gonna do this?”

“So practical, my Nicky. Margaret called.”

“Your therapist?”

“She saw it on the news. She said the same thing. She’s coming over tomorrow.”

“House call?” Nick teased. “Don’t you rate!”

Greg smiled lopsidedly. “Yeah, I guess. She says just till I can get around, but she doesn’t want me to brood. You know she’s had experience with police officers who’ve… who’ve…”

Nick waited, knowing Greg had to find some way of talking about this himself. Now that the spark was glowing once again, Nick had regained all his lost confidence; he knew that Greg would be back.

“You can say it, babe. You’re tougher than you think you are,” he murmured encouragingly.

Greg nodded and managed, “…who’ve… killed someone… in the line of duty.”

“Above and beyond the call of duty in my opinion, G.” Nick kissed the spot near his chin that was the least bruised. “Not many CSIs would have gone down that alley alone to save that guy.”

“Maybe I shouldn’t have,” Greg cried, his anguish hitting him again full force.

Nick wrapped his arms around him. Despite the bruises, Greg didn’t feel as fragile as he had in the hospital. He could feel the tension and solidity in his partner’s muscles as he held him gently.

“Maybe you shouldn’t have, but you did and that’s what we need to deal with now. You’re looking at that kid in the next bed, seeing how hurt he was. You’re looking at his family, who are in pain and lashing out at you.

“That moment in that alley, you were both whole. You both had choices. You didn’t go there planning to hurt anyone. He did.

“Brass questioned some of the kids we hauled in and they told us what they were planning. When they scattered, they were planning to knock in all the windows of the Denali with rocks and haul you out and stomp on you. They didn’t care if they killed you.” Nick paused.

They don’t care that you killed him. They couldn’t care less.”

“That’s horrible,” Greg croaked.

Nick wondered if he’d said too much, too soon.

“Why? Why were they doing this?”

“For fun. It was just a game to them, because they were bored,” Nick waited, knowing how this would affect Greg.

FUN!” Greg exploded. “People died so they could have fun?”

Papa Olaf popped his head out of the kitchen, watching.

“It’s fucking fun to watch someone die?” Greg demanded harshly. “I watched someone die. It wasn’t fun for me.”

“Because you’re a good man, Greg,” Nick said simply.

Papa Olaf came and sat on the other side of Greg. “All through history, there have been the sad twisted people who have no soul, who are easily led. These children knew no better and their parents should be ashamed, not of their children, but of themselves. That they paid so little attention to their children that they come to value life so little. Come, søten, this is too much for you right now.

“That’s too simple an answer,” Greg protested weakly. “No matter how you were raised, there’s a certain point where you can overcome it and make your own choices.”

Nick couldn’t help but realize this was the second time he’d had this conversation, and that there was no true answer. You could battle from each side of the argument and still not arrive at the one defining rationale for why these kids acted that way.

Greg’s eyes looked hollow again, and the dread returned to his stomach.

“You need to rest and recover,” Nick said gently. “Tomorrow things will look brighter.”

He wished he could believe it. The next couple of months would be a rollercoaster for them all as Greg continued to ride out all his all conflicting emotions. But at least he knew that although the spark may dim and flare at a different rate each day, it was not in danger of going out completely. And that night, in his sleep, Greg reached out for him despite his pain and burrowed into him, breaking the emotional distance that had temporarily settled in, and Nick found that he was able to close his eyes and drift off comfortably as well. That had to mean something.


This was the most difficult text message she’d ever had to write. She started off with Dear Greg, and sat staring at it for fifteen minutes. It was so formal; she erased it and started over, typing slowly while struggling to find the words. They all seemed empty to her. She didn’t know how to express the depths of her emotion. Erasing and revising, eventually she produced a short note.

Hi Honey,
If you need anything, whenever you’re ready to see me or Dad, just let us know. We’ll be there as soon as we can get a flight. If there were anything you could do to disappoint me, you haven’t done it yet. I’m very proud of you.
Love, Mom.

She was sitting staring at the screen when her husband came in to tell her he was leaving. He read it over her shoulder and smiled reminiscently.

“You haven’t called him that since he was five and demanded to be called either Gregory or ScienceMan, Defender of the Chemical Truth.”


“Sweet boy.” He pointed at her greeting.

Wendy didn’t remember erasing the Hi honey and typing Sweet boy. “The power of the subconscious at work, or maybe the unconscious.”

“Don’t go all Freudian on me, I kind of like you without the beard.” Edward bent to hug and kiss his wife. “I’ll be back as quick as I can.”

Wendy nodded and waited for the sound of the door. She was alone now, although Edward would be back soon from his errand.

She sat staring at the phone and came to a decision. She picked it up and dialed a number she’d come to know very well.


“Jillian, it’s Wendy.”

“Hello, dear. I just got off the phone with Nick. Thank you for reminding him to call me.”

The sound of the warm, honeyed tones and Texas accent made Wendy relax. “Kids.”

“Even after they’re grown up,” Jillian agreed.

“He didn’t tell me he was in the field.” Wendy’s pain was clear in the way it shook her voice.

Immediately Jillian wanted to comfort her friend. Ever since Nick and Greg had come out to their mothers, a bond had been forged between the two extremely different women. Jillian had called Wendy for her expertise when Nick had revealed his molestation. Wendy had listened empathetically to any number of teary midnight calls and recommended a colleague in Austin whom Jillian still visited.

In turn, Jillian had shared her innate motherly wisdom and warmth, which had helped Wendy connect with Greg a bit better.

“I’m sorry,” Jillian said simply.

“Did you know?”

“Yes, they told me he was a CSI, but I didn’t know they hadn’t told you. If I had, I would have advised Greg to let you know.”

Wendy admired how honest and direct Jillian was; she didn’t try to make it better, but she never made things worse.

“Why wouldn’t he tell me?” She wailed suddenly and reached for the tissues.

Jillian sighed. “That’s one of the mysteries of having children. They have to detach from us and sometimes they feel a need to protect themselves from us. We don’t realize how much power we have over them; the tone of our voice, the lift of an eyebrow and they think we’re going to yell at them. And you and Greg had a bit of a rocky time.”

“I thought it was getting better,” Wendy said. She sucked in a deep sobbing breath and heard a chuckle of recognition from Jillian. A “been there” chuckle.

“It is getting better, all the time. And usually Greg is pretty brave about these things, but I’m sure he didn’t want to hurt you.”

“He asked me not to come.”

Jillian promptly replied, “And Nick asked me not to come.”

“Yet they let Papa come, and he’s even been there a week now.”

Tricky, Jillian thought. “Sometimes a certain person is the right one to deal with a situation. This time it was Olaf. And as much as we may be a little bit hurt by it, aren’t we glad that he’s there to help them?”

Wendy sighed. “Yes. He wouldn’t take no for an answer from either of them.”

Jillian relaxed. “He’s the perfect person. He was there to step in so Nick could go to work without worrying. And he knows just how to handle Greg in a way that his mother couldn’t, or I couldn’t, or even that Nick couldn’t.”

“I wish I hadn’t…”

“Shh, don’t say that. You’re the one who told me that when you know better, you do better. And you can only do your best at any given point of time.”

Wendy sighed and murmured, “He’s more attached to my father than to his father. Or me.”

“They’re very alike,” Jillian said diplomatically. She smiled remembering certain manic dinners with the Sanders’ when Papa Olaf and Greg vied with each other in chemical magic tricks and silly jokes. She’d never seen Nick laugh so hard as when he was around the two of them, and sometimes that gave her a little pain, but could she begrudge happiness in her son?

“What should I do?”

“Call them, let them know you’re there. Don’t push. Greg may just need a little time to come to terms with everything that’s happened. Nick said there would be an inquiry; there always is whenever a CSI is injured in the course of their work. Greg will need you then.”

“This is so hard.”

“Someday they’ll have kids of their own and they’ll understand. Once you have children, your life and your heart is in hock to your kids,” Jillian said comfortingly.

Wendy was startled; she’d never thought of Nick and Greg having kids. When she’d realized that Greg was gay, she’d given up hope of grandchildren uncomplainingly, considering that he was her only child. “And then I’ll say ‘I told you so’ to him.”

Jillian laughed. “No you won’t. Trust me, you’ll be too busy spoiling the grandkids.”

“I’d love to have grandkids,” Wendy said wistfully.

“I’ll lend you some of mine until you do,” Jillian said cheerfully. “Maybe this is the year we should do the grand family meld for Christmas. Could you three manage to come here?”

“Making plans for the children without telling them?” Wendy teased.

Jillian drew an exaggerated sigh. “You’re right. I’ll plan it but let them think it was their idea. That always works out, especially with the boys.”

“Thanks, Jillian. As always, you are the wind beneath my wings.”

“As long as I’m not the wind under your tail,” Jillian joked.

“No, that’s my Papa,” Wendy laughed.

She hung up, feeling inexpressibly better. Greg would recover. He’d “married” into a great family. She pressed send and watched her message to Greg disappear. Then she resolutely closed her Blackberry. She would wait until he felt well enough, and then she’d see her sweet boy again.

The end, till the sequel.

**Søten = sweet boy

*Joke courtesy of dagdrommer, who is so gracious with her help and translations to keep Greg’s Norwegian heritage alive.

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