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Still Waters Run Deep

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No one can see their reflection in running water. It is only in still water that we can see.
Taoist Proverb

The city blurred into silence around him. For once, the fading of sound didn't bother him. It was just a tiny piece of bone temporarily obstructing sound until it stopped. He could navigate to his office, pick up his paperwork and bury himself in it until his head stopped throbbing.

Paul Millander had gotten away, and his only hunch had merely led him to another scene that needed to be processed. One more heavy and unmoving corpse, bringing the total to four dead, and one escaped serial killer. For a moment, after he found Isabelle dead, Gil had suspected that his walk to the bathroom would reveal one last body.

Only an open window. No corpse. No gun, no goddamned mini recorder. No capture.

Gil pushed open the back door to the department, and wondered if he'd have another surveillance message hello waiting for him.

"Hey! Boss!" Well. That was one voice that always got his attention.

Greg didn't actually have to say anything. Usually, his actions were enough, and this was no particularly different day from the rest. Gil was sure that sliding across the department floor in paper surgical slippers to greet the immediate supervisor wasn't Greg's brightest idea.

"Grissom. I have got the coolest thing," he grinned, obviously wired. If Gil didn't know that the department had random drug testing, and that Greg drank enough coffee to float a battalion, he'd be worried.

Gil was still a little worried that Greg was doing something herbal and undetectable. Yerba mate, maybe, but that wasn't illegal. He was a little too aware of his surroundings to be drinking jimson tea. "What do you have for me?"

Probably a song and dance about results.

"Come hither!" The invitation was followed with another wild slide down the hallway, several people stopping to raise eyebrows at him on their way past. "I know you're not exactly active on anything right now, but!" Greg looked terribly excited; but then, Greg usually did, barring a temper tantrum from Grissom. "I've got an answer on a case Warrick and Catherine are working. And I think it points to a pooch. A pointer, in fact. German short-haired."

"... Tell me about it." For the moment, inactive on cases -- except for his stumped one -- there was no reason for Gil not to take a moment to listen to Greg. He had an interest in the lab beyond just processing the DNA. Why not foster love of one's job?

"Well, as I'm sure you're aware, von Willebrand's Disease is a pretty common, usually mild inherited bleeding disorder; a form of hemophilia caused by a lack of von Willebrand factor in the blood. Now, there are three kinds of von Willebrand's Disease, conveniently labeled types I, II and III. Type I is more or less manageable compared to types II and III. While II is the rarest, III is still relatively rare. It's autosomal recessive, and dogs are only affected if they inherit the abnormal gene from both parents. They have zero levels of vWF, and the bleeding abnormalities are pretty severe. So," Greg said in a rush, "it's not the kind of dog you'd ordinarily take out to roughhouse, even though a German short-haired pointer is pretty much meant to be a gun dog. You know, my aunt Birdie used to do these incredible paintings of those dogs. There was this one, with a lady in an orchard, and..."

"So what does this have to do with the case Catherine and Warrick are working on?" For now, Gil cut in on Greg's tirade almost gently. Catherine had gone back to work after the ill-fated day in court, while Gil had been a bad supervisor and chased after a serial killer on his own.

"Right. So. Post-DNA, we know that it's a German short-haired pointer. That's without question. What we also know is that this one's really blessed. Well, okay, cursed is probably more accurate, because it also has Cone Degeneration Disease, which is the canine version of achromatopsia. And while all three of our suspects have German short-haired pointers..."

"Only one has a day-blind, colorblind dog with a bleeding disorder?" That made Gil smile as he tucked his hands into his pockets.

"Exactly. Want to come take a look at the microscope? It's the coolest thing." Greg was obviously excited about it, and pleased to have made the case, if indeed he had.

It was hard for it not to rub off on Gil a little. Millander would go back on the board, the ones that got away. They'd get him. Brooding over it wouldn't help him catch the man. The police would have a notice out for him. It was in Jim's court now, not his.

That thought, locking the case away in his mind, made it easier for Gil to smile and move to walk around the table to peer down the scope. "Let's see this..."

He could feel Greg hovering at his elbow, obviously wanting approval, and the gleam of hope there was something Gil didn't even have to see to know that it was present. Greg seemed like an eternal optimist, and that was just what Gil needed at the moment.

A little optimism.

Sometimes he could just feel burnout chewing at his edges. Or frustration. Yes, this was frustration, pure and simple. He hated cases that he could put together the evidence for, but couldn't lock up a suspect. All of it, their perfect cases, didn't matter without someone to fit it against, someone that they'd actually caught.

Gil peered down, squinting at the patterns of the blood. Not as interesting as glowing blue, but. "You've done a good job, Greg."

That was enough to make the younger man beam and relax back against the counter. "What can I say? I'm making a great habit of totally saving the day, don't you think?"

Gil looked over at him, straightening up as he put his glasses back on. "There are worse habits to develop," he quipped lightly. "Page Catherine and break the good news to her. After today, she might just hug you."

"Yeah, well, I'm just waiting for the day she lets me look down her shirt without smacking me," Greg said with a little smirk that as good as declared he didn't mean it.


Not much.

The enigmatic smile that Gil felt tilt his mouth as good as told Greg that it'd never happen. "Well, you might want to wrap your report with a bow if that's what you're aiming for."

"I think it'd have to be laced with diamonds." Greg was still beaming at him, and obviously happy.

It was a little funny to realize that it was probably because Gil was happy with him. It had been worth it to take a moment out of his busy plan of catching up on paperwork to look at that. When he got home, he was going to have to do more research on that, for himself. There was never such a thing as too much information. "Catherine prefers sapphires." He winked as he moved to the door.

"Yeah, well," Greg called after him as he slipped out into the hall. "I like peridot."

Gil pivoted on his heel when he was outside, just for a moment, and called back to Greg, "I'll remember that!"

It was worth saying that to see the big startled smile, bright as any of the city's neon lights.

Sometimes, it was a little strange, Gil thought as he walked towards his office, having a subordinate like Greg. It wasn't that Greg himself was strange, at least not any more strange than a lot of other people Gil had known and liked. It was more that Greg seemed to nearly worship him at times, and others...

Well. He wasn't sure. Scared, or just unsure. It wasn't anything that Gil could take a cue from, that uncertainty.

What he could understand, after a fashion, was Greg telling him he liked peridot. Random, strange, but funny. It didn't surprise Gil that he was smiling when he closed his office door behind himself.

He was still smiling an hour and a half later when he went home.

The morning sun lit up the entirety of Gil's neighborhood by the time he pulled his Chevy into the driveway and turned it off, pulling the keys out of the ignition and shoving them into his pocket. It had been a long night, and he was tired and frustrated, but there had been a nifty printout on his desk after everyone had left, detailing some of the methods for detecting von Willebrand's Disease in a variety of animals and in humans, not just German short-haired pointers.

Gil guessed that it had to be frustrating to be a human who lacked that clotting factor and finding out that most of the documentation on it was related to dogs. He'd glanced over it before he'd headed home, and had kept himself from reading the rest on the drive back.

If Greg wanted to stay on Gil's good-side, bribing him with fascinating bits of information was certainly a good start. Information was better than chocolate or forty-dollars-a-pound coffee, actually. Gil had to admit that forty-dollars-a-pound coffee didn't exactly hurt, though.

That faint amusement lingered as he grabbed his briefcase and headed towards the door, keys out and in his hand. It wouldn't take long to put together a quick dinner, check his e-mail, and finish off the crossword puzzle in the morning's paper.

Relax with a little music or some TV, and then possibly he could sleep for long enough to actually quiet his mind. The night would bring new challenges with it, new interesting moments for him to pursue, new cases to be solved. A fresh start was just a little relaxation and a slumber away.

He keyed open his door, stepping in and locking it behind him out of habit. Maybe he could have orange juice with dinner. He probably needed to drink the carton that was in the fridge before it went rancid.

Gil sat down his briefcase and pulled his keys out of his pocket, dropping them in a bowl so that he could find them again come morning. Shoes were kicked off, carefully placed in the hall closet so that they, too, were immediately available. Gil liked order; order in his house, and order in his mind.

Order in his mind was a great deal easier to achieve than order in his house. Sometimes, the books and journals took over. He'd tidy them up again on the weekend. He probably needed to close the blinds and see what was worth cooking up from the fridge.

Somewhere, he had an article on the mating habits of Spanish fruit flies. Maybe he could look over that while he scrambled an egg or two...

"Nice of you to come home, Mister Grissom," he heard from his bedroom, and all of the ancillary hairs on his body stood up in reaction. No. How had...

And then it hit him like a brick. Millander was well prepared. A professional man in a suit didn't draw attention, and a judge taking personal items back to someone who'd almost been held in contempt of court wasn't something to think twice about. He'd copied Gil's ID; was it that much of a stretch to think that he'd copied Gil's keys?

Quiet, tense, Gil took a step backwards from the living room. He could get to his gun. He could.

"I really wouldn't suggest it, you know. I'm afraid that I'm fully armed, and it would be a shame to shoot you."

The worst part wasn't so much that the man was there. The worst part was that Gil couldn't see him, couldn't make him out from the darkness that was his own bedroom. Did he have a gun, or was it a bluff?

"Is this where you escort me towards my bathtub?" Gil asked, head tilted a little as he put his hands off to his own side a little in a gesture of surrender.

"I really have no intention of doing that, Mister Grissom. You've been a worthy -- might I say interesting? -- adversary." And then there he was, out of the darkness and coming towards Gil with slow, steady tread, gun pointed carefully in his direction. "Why don't you turn around for me?"

"What are you planning?" In situations like that, cooperation was best. Gil had to remind himself of that, hands still held at his sides as he turned away from Millander. He almost immediately regretted doing it -- turning his back to a man with a gun was an invitation to be killed immediately or escorted to another location and then shot.

"Why don't you tell me what you think I'm planning? After all. You're practically an expert now, aren't you?" The faint heat of breath on the back of Gil's neck made him shudder. "Gil?"

Calm. He could remain calm and stand still, even as his mind flooded with questions he wanted to ask. What now. Why. If it was all hollow, why? "I follow evidence. That's all."

"So." The scent rising to Gil's nostrils was hot, thick and pungent in an unpleasant sort of way. "What does the evidence imply to you now, Grissom?"

Scent was as important a piece of evidence as any other -- that was why Gil didn't wear aftershave or cologne to work. Didn't use shampoo that had a scent that lingered. More than once, a scent had led them to a killer.

This time, scent was a warning, and Gil couldn't place what the warning was. "That I'm in danger."

"Then the evidence wouldn't be wrong."

The butt of the gun fell on the back of his head with an excruciating sunburst of agony that made him fall to his knees, and from there into slate gray, a land of nowhere built of jostling and sudden nausea. It wasn't bearable, and yet he had to bear it. He didn't have much of a choice, did he?

It was a place he couldn't crawl out of soon enough, and he couldn't choose when he surfaced from it. Logically, Gil knew that a blow like that was a short circuit of the brain, and that the shutting down into gray and black was as much a preservation technique as an armadillo curling up in a ball. Down and out for the count in the hopes that no more damage would be incurred.

Gil could sense movement more than he could feel it or see it or hear it, per se. He was being shifted, his entire body, perhaps, and so Gil waited. He waited, and he expected to feel the cold touch of porcelain to skin at any moment, the kiss of steel to chest.

Coming into partial awareness, he felt instead the warm waft of moisturized air in his bedroom. What...?

A groan was the first firm noise that hit his ears, and it was his own voice. The air smelled like it always did in his room -- the clean scent of the water that came from his humidifier, perhaps a touch of ozone.

Why there and not the bathtub? Maybe Millander just had a more elaborate scheme for him. He'd started to show that tendency with the unburned gunpowder spray on the last man he'd killed. Escalation.

Or was it escalation of a different sort?

"You know, Mister Grissom, I've n-never quite had the... opportunities you now afford me." God. That was so delicately put as to make Gil queasy, or was that just the blow to the head? "I know you're at least partially aware now. I think I'll wait to b-begin."

"Courteous." Gil stayed still, knowing that Millander had to have his gun trained on Gil. Opening his eyes and looking for opportunity came before any movement.

"I do try." The faint amusement in the man's voice was audible. "You might as well open your eyes. The room is r-relatively dark. I, I promise it won't hurt your head."

All Millander had to do was pull Gil's blackout blinds. No one could see in or out past them. Good for sleeping, bad for hoping someone might-- No, who was he kidding? No one would notice until he didn't show up at work at ten p.m. So there would be eleven hours, at least, during which...

Gil opened his eyes and his brain stopped turning when he tried to move and realized that he was tied down to his own bed.

"There's a certain delight to be found in power, don't you think, Mister Grissom? Power can be found in all sorts of places. You find it in knowledge. I find it in placing others within a context matching that of my... p-previous circumstances." For a moment, Gil's heart stuttered. "But having power over knowledge -- over you, if you will -- that's an entirely different sort of pleasure, isn't it?"

Looking at the knots that tied his wrists off to either side of the bed was more interesting than looking at Millander as he spoke. The words were enough to make Gil react. "I wouldn't know."

"You will."

You will. He was sure that within eleven hours, Millander would be able to convince him of anything he wanted to, about power and knowledge, and possibly even the circumstances of dying in the bathtub. And even though it was obnoxiously futile to try when he was tied spread-eagled, Gil jerked his left wrist. He knew he wouldn't get free, but a little sharpness of feeling had to focus his mind better.

The touch of cold steel in the center of his chest, his bare chest, completely refuted that though. In fact, Gil decided that he was going to be somewhat surprised if he found that he hadn't wet himself.

"You... were busy while I was unconscious." It took effort, but Gil looked up at Millander, at the face that had been haunting his waking hours. Catch and release, cat and mouse. That was the game they were playing, except that for the moment, Gil was the mouse, the catch, and the cage was made up by the walls of his own bedroom.

"Well. I'm sure that, as a good host, you wouldn't have wanted me to be bored." The faintly amused tone made Gil go tense again. "In fact, the very serious consideration of how to further amuse myself was beginning to come to mind somewhat."

"Why not pile on the charges against you at this point, Paul?"

Fuck. Like he hadn't known how to keep his mouth shut in court, or in the holding cell, it went off on its own again. He had to think, stay calm. Had to focus and try not to raise Millander's ire any more than he already had. Twelve hours. If he could last twelve hours, someone would come to investigate what had happened to him.

"Exactly. There's something elegant to the way you think, Gil, even when you're angry. Even when you're in danger." The gun slid down to tickle at his diaphragm. "Perhaps especially when you're in danger? I find that very p-perverse of you."

Gil drew in a breath, and felt the coldness press harder against him before he exhaled slowly through his nose. He wasn't shaking, wasn't tight with the wound up feeling of looking down over a cliff, knowing that someone behind him was waiting to push him over the edge at their leisure. "You can find it whatever you want."

The faintly secret smile on Millander's face said that he would whether Gil liked it or not. "I expect I can. You know, I'm interested. Why don't we... up the ante?"

"To?" Ante. Did everyone in Vegas feel a need to throw in random gambling terms? It wasn't a bet, and Gil didn't have a choice.

"Why don't I let you have a phone call?" The voice was gentle. The muzzle pointed at Gil's navel wasn't. "They let you have one, you know."

"Just like in the movies." He was trying to take shallow breaths, careful breaths, hoping the contact of gun to skin lessened. If Millander pulled the trigger now, he could maybe live... two hours.

"I'll hold the phone for you, shall I? Until we get a live one. I have your cell, right here. If you tell them where you are, I'm afraid I'll be forced to drastic measures. That's something your contact will have to figure out on their own."

"What... am I allowed to say?" Gil asked carefully. Millander was holding his cell, turning it on and probably heading for the contact list. One phone call, and Gil knew it would have to be Catherine. Catherine would call Jim. Catherine knew what to do in situations like that, tricky moments that involved people and not staid pieces of evidence.

"That I have you. That I'm going to kill you, unless they find you. Me. Us. Make a choice, Gil. Your time is running out, you know. Tick. Tock."

"Catherine Willows. She's... the second number down." Where would she be? On a date, or at home? Did she leave her phone on during dates like Gil did, or...?




The call was sending. Gil could hear it clearly, Millander showing him the screen left-handed.

He could only swallow, eyes ahead and looking at the screen, waiting to hear her voice. Catherine would find him. Catherine would know that the first place to look for him would be his home, even if it was all a ploy so that someone would find his corpse when it was still fresh. Millander was going to kill him, or torture him, or possibly both.

"This Sprint customer is unavailable. You will be forwarded to the voicemail system..."

"Luck doesn't seem to be with you, Gil. Why don't we try again?"

This was a form of torture in and of itself. Being naked and bound with a gun held against his body wasn't enough. No. Torture was having a half-form of salvation offered to him through a cell phone. And getting voice mail.

"Dial Jim Brass." Jim would be at his home. Or out drinking. Both Jim and Catherine couldn't both be out, could they?

"Brass, Jim. Of course. I suppose, if you were to call him, he'd bring half the police station with him? Hm. Well, I didn't place any limits as to whom the call could be placed, so..."




Ring. Ring. It wasn't ringing, didn't ring, but if Gil thought hard enough about it, envisioned the sound in his head...

"We're sorry. This customer is not available. To leave a message..." Gil closed his eyes. That had to be a joke. Millander had to have reprogrammed his phone.

"Perhaps the third time will be the charm? Why don't I try someone completely at random...?" Millander smiled and nudged the gun lower. Oh. God. "You're as likely to have better luck at random than you have so far, Gil."

Just against pubic hair, pressing and dragging in little twitches. Millander was a genetic female, with an endocrine ambiguity. A boy trapped inside of a girl. He'd kept his curiosity from asking how good the surgeon had been -- other than apparently good enough for him to have a wife. But a gun would certainly work well enough, wouldn't it?





There was ringing this time, loud and clear and...

~"There had better be one serious good reason for waking me up."~

"Sanders?" Gil's voice caught for a moment, and he shoved down the fear that Greg was just going to hang up on him. "Don't hang up. It's Grissom."

~"Grissom? Is there... What's wrong?"~ God, he hoped like hell that Greg wasn't as asleep as he sounded.

"Remember the rules," Millander said softly.

~"Who is that?"~

"Paul Millander. He says he's going to kill me unless the-- you, any of you, find me." They, he'd almost said they. They, you, separate from him just then. Sleeping safe in their homes, or enjoying life.

~"Where are you?"~ Greg asked, and Gil was sure there was a fine sense of hysteria somewhere there, or maybe that was just his own. ~"Where has he got you?"~

Millander jabbed the gun a little, and Gil bit back a noise. He was going to have muzzle-stamp bruising against the base of his penis. If he said where he was, would Millander shoot it off? "I... he has a gun. Don't come alone, get Jim, get backup..."

~"I'm coming,"~ Greg blurted. ~"Oh. Jesus. Fuck. I'm, I'm coming, I'll figure it out, I'll..."~

The phone cut off.

God. Not alone. Don't let Greg be that stupid.

Gil stared at the face of his phone for a long moment, taking in the silence before he looked past it to Millander. "How much time do I have?"

"As long as I let you have," Millander said softly, and then the gun shifted again, further down, nudged against his balls. If he stopped breathing, whatever Greg was or wasn't doing would hold no bearing on being saved. If he stopped breathing, there wouldn't be a Gil Grissom that needed to be rescued from the confines of his home.


"Oh," Millander agreed very softly. "Indeed."

"Jesus. Oh, Jesus, Jesus, Jeeeee!" Thud. Thud was a bad sign, thud was a sign that Greg hadn't gotten his foot all the way IN his jeans, and damn, now he'd nearly knocked himself out, and if he knocked himself out, who the hell was going to save Grissom?

No one. Maybe, not even Greg if he did get up and get dressed. Gil had said... to call Jim? Call for backup. But he hadn't said where he was, unless he'd dropped a hint in his words.


There had to be a logical place to start, Greg thought, shimmying his jeans on while he was still on the floor before reaching to grab socks and shoes. The logical place to start was his route home from the office. Would he have stopped somewhere? Maybe. Probably not, though, right? Grissom was a creature of habit. Greg didn't stop on his way home unless he was out of groceries, so....


If Gil hadn't gone out with Catherine or Brass after work, which he apparently hadn't -- unless, you know, Millander had all of them, and then the Department was in deep shit -- then the safest assumption was that he'd gone home.

Even if he wasn't home anymore, that was at least a place to start, and Greg's head was going round and round and round even as he grabbed the t-shirt that he'd worn the day before. He was still trying to scramble it over his head and hold onto his cell phone all at once when it rang again, and he nearly dropped the damn thing.

Please let it be Catherine or Brass calling to ask him about a weird-ass phone call that they'd gotten. Except that no one would ever let him into the loop and this time he was the loop. He knew, when he finally got his head through the neck of his shirt, that it was going to be another call he didn't really want.


That was a horrible sound, Grissom on the other end, except that wasn't all Greg could hear. He could hear other things, funny squishy things, and he was pretty sure he was going to puke.

"Oh, Jesus. Jesus. Grissom? GIL!" No answer, and Greg swiped his keys off the table, running for the door.

Just noise, sounds like the phone had been turned on and set somewhere to record everything. He couldn't hang up, could he? Even if he was supposed to get backup. There wasn't time to wait for backup. Greg wished he had two cell phones, so he could call 911. Because Gil Grissom wasn't the kind of guy who was supposed to howl.

The whole thing made him dizzy, and he hated to think what Grissom was feeling. His hands were shaking by the time he fumbled the key into the door of the Jetta, and he wasn't sure he'd manage to get it in the ignition. "Oh, Jesus. Jesus. I'm coming, oh, fuck, I'm coming. I'm coming..."

He could hear snippets of words, harsh breathing. A voice that was too fucking calm for Greg to hear when he finally gunned his engine to life, key in the ignition, said something about bleeding out. Had Gil been shot, or stabbed? Millander seemed like a shooting sort of guy-girl, from what Greg had seen of the case, but he couldn't be sure.

Then he could hear Grissom moaning 'stop'.

Oh, God, what the hell was that SOUND???

~"I suppose I should have removed the sight. After all, that can't be pleasant, can it, Mister Grissom? Ripping. Tearing. You know, that was the thing about being a woman. Always, always that insertion. That... intrusion. Like bullets, really. Tearing away part of you the way a bullet tears away your life..."~

He couldn't think. He just had to drive, because he couldn't think. The worst part was that he only had a vague idea of where Gil lived -- an area with a bunch of townhouses. He knew how to get there, but how was he going to be sure which one was the right one?

~"Don't k, kill me... stop, stop, stop..."~ Stop, Greg really wanted it to stop, too, because if it didn't, he was going to have to pull over by the side of the road to puke. Greg thought putrefied corpses probably had nothing on this.

"Jesus Christ," he whispered shakily, rummaging around in the seat next to him. He didn't have anything. Not medical supplies, not a field kit, not a gun...


He wasn't going to think about that.

~"Oh, I don't think this will kill you just yet, Mister Grissom. Not just y-yet. Do you think that your friend will have called for help by now? What sort of person is he, this Sanders? Is he as impetuous as you?"~

Red light. He had to hit a red light, didn't he? Call for help, he needed to call for help. Even if he got there and it was Gil's house that they were at, it sounded like Gil would need medical help. He had to hang up and call 911. Had to.

~"He... do-doesn't have field tr... fuck, oh god, stop, stop..."~ A choked noise, and Greg couldn't even imagine what Millander was doing to Grissom.

~"Ahhh. So, a virgin to the true ways of your work, then. A shame that the first time has to be like this. Don't you think?"~

~"H, he'll call backup..."~ Except that he wasn't, he was listening to Gil struggle to talk, almost struggle to breathe. Greg knew, logically, that he had to hang up. Even if he wasn't going to wait for backup, that squelch noise told him that Gil was wounded. He'd need an ambulance if he was still alive when Greg got there.

He'd need help. And while Greg could probably do a handful of really necessary things, any injury involving that sound was way beyond him.

~"Hm. Do you think he'll really call someone? He seems like such a rash type..."~

Greg had never met Millander. Shit. What did that mean? How could he know? Know... ANYTHING? Had he researched them all, maybe? Or was he just guessing because he knew that Greg hadn't hung up yet? Hang up, hang up, he had to hang up, because he was maybe just eight blocks away.

~"I... don't know."~ Grissom was sounding ragged, quiet, like maybe it was hurting less or he just wasn't fighting Millander anymore.

Oh, Jesus. Let there be some sign when Greg got to the house. Let there be something. If he kept the connection active, maybe somebody could trace it if Grissom wasn't there, and....

~"I'd have thought you knew all of your people perfectly well, Gil."~

~"Can't think. I..."~ He let out a strangled noise that made Greg shiver down to the base of his spine. ~"Can't think."~

That couldn't be good, could it? No.

~"I should take the safety off. Would you prefer that?"~

"Oh. Jesus," Greg whimpered. He wanted to turn the phone off. He wanted to. But...

He couldn't. He couldn't, and his foot hit the gas, hard, and he ran two lights in succession. There. THERE. Townhouses! But which one? Maybe he should just look for Gil's Tahoe. Or look for the townhouse that had someone groaning. It wasn't like there'd be a big Neon sign that said 'guy in need of help here.'

~"You were so calm in jail, Mister Grissom. Where has your calm gone now? You almost made me hit the trigger. Can you imagine the wound tract that your coroner would have to study if that happened?"~

Greg was going to puke. He was going to fall completely apart, because no man ought to have to suffer through any of this. Not Grissom, not him, nobody.

~"I wonder how your young friend will feel if he finds you like this, bleeding, the gun still in place...?"~

If he fell apart, Grissom was going to die. He'd said he only had so much time, and Millander wanted him to, what, be a witness in case he didn't get there soon enough to stop it? What would Catherine do?

It was a little comforting to realize that probably the only thing she would've done differently was know Gil's exact address. That was why Greg was driving carefully now when he wanted to speed, looking for Grissom's Tahoe. Was that -- Yes! That was it!

~"Evidence processing for this will be interesting, won't it? Your whole 'team'..."~

~"Unh. God!"~

Hearing Grissom like that, a plea underlying his words, made Greg shudder. He pulled his car to a quiet stop, just barely, and climbed out before he even had the keys out of the ignition. He left the door partially open so that no one would hear it shutting, just in case.

Greg took the cell phone with him, and edged towards the door. He didn't know what he was going to do. He didn't have a gun, he didn't have any resources. The door was probably locked.

Setting his jaw, he looked around for a moment, then decided to go ahead and chance it. He grasped the doorknob, turned...

It opened for him. It swung wide, and his heart jumped into his throat and then down deep into his belly. If it was open, then...? Was Grissom here? Or had he been taken somewhere else?

"Do I hear a little mouse?"

"Oh, God..."

No, Gil was there. He heard the words twice over, the echo of the phone and somewhere in the neat, sort of industrial apartment. Greg finally closed the phone, and started to dial 911. He wasn't a mouse. He wasn't.

He was not a mouse. He was not caught in a trap. He was not.

He also was not tripping over Grissom's field kit, and the sudden wild hope that there might be a gun in there made Greg's hands shake violently. Oh, please let there be a gun in there.

The kit opened up really easily, fell open for him in a spill of swabs and fingerprint powder jars and a gun, in its holster. His hands were shaking too hard, and there was too much going on -- he could hear Millander on the other side of Gil's place, and then he could hear the 911 operator's voice.

Jesus. Jesus. Let them be able to trace his phone, because he needed both hands right now, needed them on the gun, checking the clip, it was full, thank God it was full, please let it be simple to... yeah, release the safety, and step forward. Forward.

"Do you think he'll come in here? Do you think he'll be interested in what he'll see, our little mouse?"

"St..." Greg could hear Gil fall sharply quiet on another choked noise.

"If I didn't know better, I think you were enjoying it. Is this enough adrenaline for you, Mister Grissom? Should I pull the trigger? I wouldn't want to be caught unarmed. So to speak."

Greg squeezed his eyes shut tightly, mouth trembling. What would happen if he went into the room from where the sounds were coming?

What would happen if he didn't?

Grissom would die. And he'd probably hear Grissom die, which seemed like the worst thing ever. Greg's feet carried him forwards, though, past the cluttered desks and the bookshelves, towards the short hallway.

"Say something, Mister Grissom. He's coming."

"G... Greg! Run!"

Running just wasn't in him. Neither was shooting somebody, but between doing what he should, and doing what Grissom wanted him to do, there wasn't much of a choice.

Greg opened the bedroom door with the barrel of the gun.

Wished he hadn't, because all the sounds and all the information in the world couldn't have prepared him for seeing that. There was blood on the tan top-sheet, his boss tied to the foot and headboard, and Paul Millander kneeling at the end of the bed, fingers wrapped around the handle of the gun that he was--

Oh god. He was fucking Grissom with it. And he was smiling widely at Greg.

"Pull the gun away and..." And what? "And put it down." Oh, God, don't let it all have been made worse by Greg coming in the house.

Millander shook his head, the gesture slow and smug. "I'll pull the trigger before I pull it 'away'."

Okay, so... if he didn't shoot Millander, Millander would shoot Grissom. If he did shoot Millander, Millander might shoot Grissom, but might not.

Greg really hoped firing an honest-to-god revolver was at least marginally like firing a paintball gun. There was going to be recoil, right, but as long as he aimed at the creepy guy who wasn't actually a guy, everything would be okay. Just look at him, aim and squeeze, fast, before he made Grissom into a corpse, and.

Afterwards, he never remembered pulling the trigger. He must have, because he did remember the spray of blood that flew out of the man's back as he turned towards Greg, the way that it spattered over Grissom's face.

Maybe he didn't hear it, Greg figured, because he was blocking out the possibility of hearing a second shot from that other gun. But there wasn't, or if there was, he didn't hear it.

He did hear Gil, making some kind of noise. Noises meant being alive, so maybe there hadn't been a second shot at all. Just a fear of it.

"Gr... Greg?"

"It's okay." That was his own voice, shaking just like his hands. "It's okay. It's okay. I called 911. I. I called. I c-called." And he'd killed a guy. And Grissom didn't look so good.

Grissom looked like he had a gunshot wound on his right side, lower than his belly button. He looked pale and shocky, spattered with blood from what Greg had done, and there was still that gun. Greg wanted to take it out, but there were prints on the handle and he didn't have gloves on and why did prints matter when the guy who'd done it was dead?

"I have to get your kit," Greg said faintly. There were sirens coming from somewhere, brakes squealing. "I have to go get your kit because, because, I have to move the..." The GUN. Oh. God.

He'd left the front door open.

Gil exhaled shakily, and tensed his arms. The ropes were thin, and it looked like they'd cut into his wrists, still were cutting into them when he pulled at them with one hand. "Un... tie me?"

"Can I?" Greg honestly didn't know. Could he? He had his pocket knife, and pulling it out was okay, but then he fumbled and dropped it. His hands were shaking so badly that he was almost afraid to try cutting Gil loose.

Can I? Gil looked at him in confusion, like he wasn't sure what answer to give Greg. Then he closed his eyes.


"Oh, thank God." Thank God, because Greg was on the verge of tears, and his hands weren't going to hold the knife still enough to cut through the ropes. He just dropped it, which was good because there was an officer with his gun held out rounding into the room.

"If you'd just put your hands up..."

"I, I didn't, I just. I. Grissom? Please? Help. I." He was totally going to break down and Grissom looked like he was passed out, and what if...

"What the hell is... Sanders?"



Oh, thank God, Brass.

"Sanders, what the -- oh, Jesus." Brass took one step into the room, lowering his gun, and then leaned backwards. "Paramedic! We need a paramedic!"

Greg's knees went out from under him, tumbling him down into the floor. Jesus. A guy had pointed a gun at him, and another guy shot Grissom, and he so wasn't ever doing fieldwork.



"Hey, Sanders? Sanders... Jesus fucking God." Brass gave Millander's body a nudge with his shoe, then stooped to pick up Greg's pocket knife. Apparently his hands were steady enough to do what Greg hadn't been able to. "Don't freak out, kid."

"You say that like I didn't just shoot a guy." A guy. Ha. A serial killer. A serial killer who had been very busy raping Greg's boss with a gun.

Oh, Jesus.


"You got him in one shot. Not bad -- you probably have slide-bite." It was surreal, but Brass sounded shaky, so maybe surreal was how he coped while he slipped the knife between Grissom's wrist and the rope, cutting.

"Is it clear?"

"Yeah -- we've got a DB, and two of our own," Jim called back to the paramedic. Greg probably needed to get out of the doorway. Greg really just needed to pass out.

Greg thinking about Greg in the third person was probably a pretty bad sign.

At least Grissom was out, from the looks of it. God, who wouldn't be? Just hearing all of it, being part of ending it, was sending Greg into the land of totally freaked out. He was starting to wish that he had... he didn't know, personally dropped off the papers on von Willebrand's Disease, invited the guy out for breakfast or beer or, or, or anything, just...

Not left him there on his own. Except how would you expect that kind of shit to happen in your own house? It was fucked up, and if it was Greg's house, he knew he'd need to go apartment shopping ASAP.

"Hey. Sanders."

"Huh?" Maybe he was a little dazed. Who wouldn't be, right? He had a good reason to be. He had a great reason to be.

Greg had totally missed the paramedics coming in.

In already, with a gurney, moving Gil onto it. The gun was still on the bed, so that was a good sign. It'd be a good sign if they didn't pull the white sheet over Gil's head, too.

"C'mon, Sanders. We'll follow in my car."

"Huh?" Okay, now he just sounded stupid. "We don't have to go back to the lab?" To the interrogation rooms, whatever.

"I can get your statement while we're waiting around. Unless you want to go through the whole rigmarole. It's up to you." Brass was offering him a hand up, though.

"I want coffee, and I want Ativan," Greg said clearly, reaching to take the proffered assistance. "Now would be real good."

"Coffee I can do," Brass promised him mutedly, pulling him to his feet then hanging back while the two paramedics moved through the doorway. They were almost jogging, taking Gil with them. "Dayshift's been called in to document it. We'll have Ecklie incoming."

"Then let's move out of here fast," Greg suggested, shaking his head. It was going to be okay. It was so going to be okay. And he wasn't going to think about the dead man on the other side of the bed.

Not ever.

Not... ever.

Jim had been really nice to him, nicer than he'd ever seen the guy be. He'd gotten Greg coffee at Starbucks, and then he'd started to tape record his statement while they drove to Desert Palms. Jim had said there wasn't much point in chasing the ambulance because the doctors wouldn't bother telling them how Gil was until they were done tending to him.

Just saying some of the things he had heard made Greg a total wreck. It wasn't like he was a kid. He wasn't. It was just... Greg dealt in the evidence related to cases like this one. He had never been part of the evidence.

"And then..." Greg shook his head blankly. "And then he turned. And I thought, he's going to shoot one of us. There's got to be another gun. Or he's just gonna kill Grissom, and..."

And he had killed a guy.

"So, you fired?" Jim asked as he took a relaxed left hand turn to piss off the SUV that'd been tailgating him for the last five minutes. "Hey, turn around -- is that Catherine?"

"I fired," Greg agreed. He decided turning around was a bad idea. If he turned around, Jim was going to get three shot Venti White Mocha all over the inside of his vehicle, and nobody was going to consider that a good time.


"Okay. And then what?"

"And then there was spray. Um. Just. There was spray. And sirens. And then you were there."

"Ok." Jim reached forwards to turn the tape off, and Greg saw that it was off. But Jim didn't stop talking. "Any idea why you got called?

"No." No, he didn't have a clue. "I was, I had crawled in bed. You know. Not long. Long enough to reach that place where it feels like everything's about to drop off the edge of the world into dreams. Or something. And the phone rang, and.. it was them. And they hung up, you know, but before I could call 911, it rang again, and..." He'd already said that part, but saying it again seemed like the thing to do.

"Got it." Jim nodded, and he signaled over a lane, ready to turn into the hospital's parking lot. "You did good, Sanders. If you hadn't intervened..." Then they would've been heading to the morgue.


That coffee had to go.

Greg managed to hold it in until Brass stopped the car; he even managed to get out of it and stumble over to a clump of greenery without spewing over himself, Brass, or the car.


He killed a guy.

A guy who had been fucking Gilbert Grissom with a gun.

He'd never be able to get that thought out of his head. Millander had still been moving the gun when he'd been talking to Greg. Saying that he'd pull the trigger. He'd probably look at Grissom every day at work and remember that. The nightshift supervisor, their Bug Guy, tied to his bed, being raped by a serial killer.

"Hey. Maybe something that sweet wasn't a good idea." Jim was touching his shoulder, and offering him Starbucks napkins.

"Yeah. Well." Best answer he could give, really. "Stayed down long enough to get into my bloodstream. I'll be okay for a while. Just..." He wasn't ever going to be able to get any of that out of his head. Was he?

Jim stayed crouched down by him. "Just... that you killed a guy, isn't it? You don't forget."

Okay, yeah, that was a big part of it. "Closest I've ever come to firing a gun was playing paintball. It's the only reason I knew how to, you know. Aim." Greg stood up, one hand ruffling through his hair roughly. "Well. Guess I can say that at least I had that much experience."

"You did what you had to do," Jim told him. Greg could hear one knee cracking, and for a weird moment he understood the camaraderie that Jim and Catherine and Grissom always seemed to have. It was like a massive 'been there, done that' thing.

"You saved Gil's life. And you caught a guy that'd gotten away."

"I shot a guy," Greg said. "Saving Gil, keeping somebody else from getting hurt... I'd do that again. Just... I don't ever want to have to do that again. Ever."

"No one ever wants to do that." He got another tight smile, and then Brass turned a little. "C'mon. It's late for us. You on shift tonight?"

"Yeah. Think if I called in totally freaked out, they'd forgive me?" There wasn't any way Greg was leaving the hospital until he knew everything was okay. No matter how long it took.

"Yeah. You get a little personal leave for shooting someone." He wasn't sure if Brass was joking, and it wasn't the sort of time for him to ask.

"Oh, well. That's kind of them. I'm guessing they also make an appointment with the department shrink for you, huh?" Maybe he was feeling something like himself now that he had sicked up all of that coffee.

From the corner of his eyes, he could see the serious look that Brass was giving him. He pulled the door open, and sort of half-held it for Greg. "Yeah, if you want."

"Good." Greg figured he'd need some kind of therapy. Desperately. "Thanks."

He slid in the door past Brass, shoving his hands in his pockets, head down. He didn't want to think about later, even five minutes later. Eventually, the whole department would be down there. Ecklie would probably be asking him for his t-shirt and cutting it up in chunks to check for GSR and blood spatter, or something. God. And he knew what'd happen. He'd get a pat on the back, and then he'd get cut out. Catherine would probably swoop down like a ninja and he'd never get to see how Gil was doing until he showed up back at work whenever and he'd never ever be able to get that mental image out of his head.

He was just Greg Sanders, that DNA tech who didn't have field training and just shot a serial killer. But at least for now, Brass was herding him towards the desk at the front.

"Hey. I want to ask about an Emergency Admission that came in here not long ago. Gil Grissom."

"I'm sorry, sir, but we can only give out information to his next of..." The flash of a badge didn't seem to intimidate her at all. "...kin. And frankly, you don't look like your name's Catherine. Even in Vegas. Sir."

"Middle name." Jim leaned on the edge of the desk, smiling as he kept showing his badge. "He's my partner. C'mon."

"Prove it."

Greg decided that beating his head up against the wall was the best idea he'd had today. "Look, he's my dad." It wasn't hard to dredge up tears. "They're both my dads, and. And." Hiccoughs. Apparently, crying twenty-seven year olds totally freaked out even Vegas nurses.

Or maybe he did have some blood splatter.

Whatever it was, it worked, between Brass reaching to put an arm around Greg comfortingly, the crying, and Brass saying, "It's okay, Greggo. Even if your Daddy's ex-wife is a complete bitch and can't even show up when she's called..."

Greg had never seen any woman melt so fast. It was like the defrosting of an ice age or something. "He's in room four. I think they're going to have to prep him for surgery. Sir. And I really can't tell you anything more..."

Sobs were apparently pretty fast workers.

"...but since you're a policeman, and he seems to be a part of the police force as well.... well. I could let you back. For just a moment."

Brass gave her a shaky smile, and jostled Greg's shoulder. "That'd be great. We just want to, to make sure he's gunna be okay. What happened..."

Well, it couldn't be easy on a family, which was why she gestured for them to follow her.

Somebody damn sure owed Greg all the forty-dollar-a-pound coffee he could drink for crying in front of an ER nurse. Possibly even their immortal soul. Never mind that it made him feel better, even when he reached up like a kid to wipe across his eyes with his shirt.

The shirt was a loss anyway.

Jim kept him close as they walked, somber when the nurse let them into the room. "Five minutes."

"Sure -- thanks, ma'am. Thanks."

"You owe me your left nut, man," Greg muttered under his breath, but he was just as glad to be allowed back into the wildly busy emergency room, all the same. "Or at least another cup of coffee. And a Kleenex."

"Will do. You should've seen us when we got in to see Cath a couple of years ago. I need an Oscar." Jim muttered that back, quiet so it looked like he was commiserating while they headed for the curtained off 'room 4'.

Even if Gil looked like some crazy tube-creature, it had to be better than how he'd looked back at his home, with Millander freshly killed.

"If I have to cry on the way back out, you'd better have lots of tissues," Greg sighed, and then paused. He took a deep breath. They could brave that curtain. It was a scary curtain, true. Greg hated those stupid serene view things. If a guy had been shot, looking at peaceful tropical forest wasn't exactly on his mind. He wanted something that reflected the seriousness of the situation. Was that too much to ask for?

But then Brass reached past him and pulled back the curtain to let him in. There was Gil lying on a hospital bed, looking chalky-sick tan against the white sheets with the blood smears. He didn't really look like much of a tube creature.

At least Greg wouldn't be having nightmares about a Chthulhu-Gil out to get him for not getting to his place faster.

"Do you think it's okay to...?" Greg looked to Jim for assurance.

"Go on." Jim stepped in, too, like he was making a particular point not to be suspicious. "Just a couple of minutes. They'll probably be coming back to sew him up soon."

"Yeah. Um. Did... What I'm.." He could say it. Deep, shaky breath. Right. "Look, he didn't shoot, you know. In. Like... that. Right?'

Jim edged towards the bed, hovering a little. Grissom had an IV in that hand, which was why Jim's little move to hold it for just a second aborted. "Not following you."

"The gun was.. You know. Up the coolie. What I'm saying is, he was shot through the gut, not up it, right?" Jesus. Why'd it have to be so hard?

"If you ever saw someone who got shot this way," Jim made the helpful gesture of gun-fingers horizontally, "You wouldn't have to ask the question. He'd be dead. Millander shot him through and through. Not sure what got hit, but."

Greg let out a shuddering breath. "Jesus. I was afraid..." Afraid that maybe the guy had pulled the trigger when he had, shooting Grissom then and there. "I've actually never seen anybody shot before. I mean, you know."

"Trust me, when you see it, you have no question of what happened." Brass peered over at Greg. "So, never seen a real life gunshot wound before? I'm kinda surprised."

"I'm from San Gabriel. I went from there to college to grad school to Las Vegas, and most of that time's been spent in a lab. Geeks don't get to see gunshots a whole lot." Greg stepped closer to the bed, head tilted to the side. There was a bruise on Grissom's cheek, and he didn't stop to think before he reached out and rubbed his thumb over it.

Jim quirked an eyebrow at him, and moved back a little to give Greg more space. "They look just as strange when they're healing up. First gunshot wound I saw was my own, and I thought it was a wormhole in my thigh."

"Thanks for the imagery." Hm. Coffee was staying down, or the remains thereof anyway. "Guess we'd better go out and try to find 'mom'. Nurse Ratchett's gonna be back to get us any minute."

"Stay here -- I'll go out. Somebody should be here with him." He didn't even wait for Greg to quibble, didn't give him a chance. The 'peaceful' scenery moved, and then Jim was gone.

Great. Now Greg was stuck with the scary tropical forest screens.

Heaving a sigh, Greg hooked a foot around a rolling stool and brought it closer to the edge of the bed, reaching down slowly to take Grissom's hand. It was the thing to do. He knew that well enough. He'd spent enough time with Poppa Olaf at the VA hospital to get the idea, anyway.

"You're gonna make it through okay, you know. You're seriously tough," he told his boss. The complete lack of answer wasn't very reassuring. Grissom was still on the bed sheets, eyes closed, jaw slack, but his fingers were warm. That was a good sign.

Except. What if he didn't make it through okay? What if something went wrong in surgery, and... That didn't even start to cover what Millander had been doing to Grissom.

"Aw, man." Greg laid his head down on the gurney, sniffing hard. He was so tired, and everything had just been fucking unreal, and a guy could only drift on an adrenaline-cum-endorphin high for so long.

It was going on two am inside of his skull, and he was really tired. He'd killed someone, and his boss had smiled at him and joked with him at work before he'd gone home and ended up ass-raped with a gun by a serial killer. The two things weren't even on the same scales for comparison, but they added up for shitty days.

He was going to be needing tissues. Again. Fuck. Fuckity mcfuck, in fact, and that just totally... He was too tired to be thinking.

"You know, I'd try to tell you that whole joke about the martians and the gator dressed like a wiener dog, but I don't think you'd be up to appreciating that one just now."

The hand he was holding twitched a little, and that was enough to make him look up. The slack expression was gone, replaced by one that seemed only a little more together.

"Try me."

"Oh, Jesus." Prayer, blessing, whatever. Greg wasn't a religious kind of guy, but if Gil wanted to hear that joke, he was so telling it. "Okay. So. There're these Martians, and they come to Earth and they land on the White House lawn..."

"What do you mean, my son is in the room with him?"

"Well, er--"

"Catherine." Jim had his hands shoved in his pockets, and he stopped a few feet short of her. "Nice of you to grace us with your presence. Greg's keeping his dad company. I think they're taking Gil into surgery in a couple of minutes?"

"You." The sheer loathing in that word completely backed up everything Jim had said to the nurse. It was a damned good thing that Catherine knew how to take her cues. "I'm not surprised that you're here."

Jim just kept playing it cold and close to the hilt. "Hey, I was first on scene. So don't give me that shit. Just... let's not discuss this right now."

"Oh, we're going to discuss this, all right, just as soon as I make sure my son is all right." And Gil, of course, but that went without saying between them.

Jim rolled his eyes at the nurse. "Can I take her back...? Just for a second."

"I'll take her, sir." The nurse was eyeballing both of them, obviously with the intention of calling security if necessary.

"Good. I don't want to stand here with you any longer than I have to," Catherine told him, one brow raised.

"Okay. Fine. I'll be out here if.... something happens." He shuffled backwards, shot a challenging look at a couple of other people in the waiting area, then leaned forwards to snag a piece of newspaper.

"I'm... really sorry," she apologized to the nurse as the woman slipped her into the ER. "It was just messy, and since he works for the police... well, I got the call kind of late, even though I'm in criminalistics, so..."

"It's all right. We'd just appreciate it if you don't fight. There's enough stress in a hospital, and I'm sure your son and your... ex would appreciate a truce?" the nurse suggested helpfully.

"Greg was... he saved his dad, so..." Catherine gave a fluttery hand motion she'd seen more than one jittery ex-wife make. "I'll do my best. I'm sure we don't want anything more stressful going on."

The nurse led the way, and pulled back the curtain for her. "They're prepping the surgery now, so you don't have too long."

Catherine paused on the edge of the curtains, nostrils flaring. Gil was pale, lying there on the bed, but really... so was Greg, head nestled against the bed, and one of Gil's hands was pressed atop the crazy spikes of hair almost soothingly. "God."

It was a sharp contrast to the sound of frantic yelling on the other side of the room. Exhaustion wasn't picky, though. "You were told what happened to your ex, I assume?"

"Yeah," she said softly, stepping forward. "Oh, Greggo." Catherine sighed, ruffled his hair faintly. He didn't shift. "Poor kid." Poor Gil, but that wasn't the kind of thing a woman said about her ex-husband. "How much longer until they take him in?"

"Just a couple of minutes. I'll probably turn around to look for the doctor and he'll be coming in. You'll probably want to get your son awake." Did she really look old enough that Greg could be her son?

"Right. Could we... have a moment alone? Please?" She seriously didn't look that old. Maybe it was just that... at that particular moment, Greg looked like such a baby.

The nurse smiled, and closed the curtain. That was the best answer to her request. While she hated having to play those games to see people...

At least she was there. No idea of what came next, but she was there, and she had a few minutes to figure it out. She moved closer to the bed, opposite the side Greg was on, and peeked down at Gil. The faint slit of his eyes peering at her was a little startling. "Wow. Hi. Aren't you supposed to be unconscious?"

"Am I?" Gil sounded shaky, which was at least a little assuring to her. He sounded like he looked, even if he was supposed to be unconscious.

"Yeah, for a guy as beat up as you look. You've even managed to get some company." She nodded to his hand. "Only you, Gilbert Grissom."

He quirked a smile, and didn't move his hand. "I told him to run."

"Yeah, well. Obviously he takes your advice better in the lab." She gave a little laugh. "By now, they think I'm your ex-wife, Jim's your live-in lover, and Greg's our son. Be prepared to be entertained when you get up to a regular room. They're going to be coming to get you pretty shortly."

She could tell that it made him want to laugh, even if he didn't manage it. He stretched his hand a little, and pulled it back, exhaling slowly. "Everything hurts."

"Gonna hurt for a while," Catherine said, reaching out to ruffle his hair. It was stuck to his head and kind of nasty, but that had to feel good. "We'll make sure you get better, though. Promise."

Maybe they were the magical words that he'd been waiting to hear, because his mouth twitched a little even if the furrow between his eyebrows didn't go away. "Thanks. Don't... let Ecklie wreck my home?" Next he'd be telling her to take care of the lab, because that was probably next on his mental checklist of priorities.

"If he does, I swear we'll go in and replace everything. At least the bedroom floor is hardwood and we won't have to replace carpeting or anything." She'd go in and clean, too. Probably get the others to help her rearrange the bedroom furniture or something, though she had the vague suspicion that Gil would throw it all out when he could. She was pretty sure that she would. For starters. She might have even moved, but that depended more on Lindsey, and Gil didn't really have anything to keep him in his condo. And if he decided to do that, she'd help. There wasn't much that they could do for him, was there? Just... be there and try to be helpful.

"Okay. Take care of the lab..." He was looking drifty again, brows coming together tighter.

"I promise not to blow anything up," she assured him blithely. "Now, close your eyes and go to sleep for a while. I'll wake up Greg. We'll be here when you get out of surgery."

"Sure..." His fingers twitched, too, but he didn't move his hands to touch anything. When his eyes finally closed, Catherine was pretty sure he was asleep for at least a little while. Maybe they'd anesthetize him before he woke up again.

"Ma'am?" The nurse was back, pulling the curtain aside.

"Ah. Yes. Just a minute." She moved to the other side of the bed and put a hand on Greg's shoulder. "Baby? Come on, Greggo. I need you to wake up for me, sweetie. They're going to take your daddy into surgery now."

"Mmm?" The sleepy flutter of Greg's lashes was obviously a pure fight against the need to sleep. "Huh?"

"Come on." She urged that again, and then pulled at him with her hand on his shoulder. "Jim's in the waiting room, and when your daddy gets out of surgery you can see him again. He's in good hands."

Greg reached up and rubbed at an eye since he couldn't very well scratch his butt. "Okay. Just... I was worried. Ow." He looked at his hand mournfully. It was bloody, and there was a gouge there. "Oh. Hey."

"Slide bite," Catherine told him sagely, reaching for his hand. "It's okay. Did Jim get you coffee already, baby?"

"I threw it up." That pitiful look had to be worth something, didn't it? "And I told him he owed me another. And breakfast. But since you're here, Mom... We could go down to the cafeteria. Um. Before the nurse gets mad with us for sticking around too long." He stood up and yawned.

"I'll let you sleep there." Catherine shot the nurse a sympathetic look, even as she herded Greg out past the curtains to leave the emergency room.

"And will you kiss my hand and make it feel better?" Greg asked, trying desperately not to peek down Catherine's shirt. So much temptation, all laid out for him. But she was supposed to be his 'mom'. He really wanted to ask her how many times she and Jim had pulled that soap opera thing before. He hadn't exactly pegged Brass was willing to play at being Gil's gay lover just to get in to see him. Or at Catherine pretending to be the ex-wife.

"Butterfly bandages."

"Well, I guess a guy has to make do when his mom is afraid of getting lipstick on his wounds." Fifteen minutes worth of nap had done him a hell of a lot of good. "Okay, and breakfast. I don't think I've got my wallet," he admitted as they walked out of the ER and into the waiting room. "I mean, I grabbed jeans and a shirt and shoes, and then managed to scrounge up my keys, so..."

She patted his shoulder as they stepped out into the hallway. "It's okay. We're just really glad you got there, Greg."

He took a deep breath and nodded. "Yeah." He was pretty glad, too, and still pretty freaked out. Being awake obviously leant greatly to that particular emotion. "Hey, there's Jim."

Brass gave a vague wave as he headed over to them. "Gil's going into surgery now?"

"Yeah. I'm guessing he'll be there for a while," Catherine answered. She scowled at him for the benefit of the nurse at the front office. "We're going to grab some breakfast. I'm sure the cafeteria sucks, so... I think I saw a Denny's down the street. Want to meet us there in ten?"

"Denny's coffee sucks," Greg sighed.

"It's probably Maxwell House," Jim agreed as he headed for the door. "Yeah, sure. I've got to drop Greg's statement off, so gimme fifteen." He reached to grasp Greg's arm, strangely reassuring. "Be good for your mom."

It was hard for Greg to hide a grin when he reached out and wrapped his arms around Jim's neck. "Sure thing, Jim. I always try. It's just easier to be good for you and Daddy."

Catherine rolled her eyes. "Come on, baby boy."

Jim trailed after them to the parking lot, but then Catherine's car was in the other direction. It seemed like the sort of parting that fit into the whole game, Catherine still escorting him.

"That whole thing was Jim's idea."

"Yeah, well, it works pretty well. I'll have to remember that the next time I need to get in to see somebody in the ER, which I hope will be... oh, never." Especially if Greg had to shoot a guy to save the person in the hospital. Seemed like a good idea to him.

Catherine glanced over at him while she dug in her purse for keys. "We've had to do it before with Gil. Nothing this serious, though. It was all Jim's idea, since Grissom will never list all of us as next of kin."

"Grissom is one seriously weird guy like that. You know, you'd kind of think he'd know we'd want to know. To at least be able to go in and see him or something." Desperately. Actually.

She walked around her SUV, but leaned so Greg could still see her while she talked. "Well. You'd think. Maybe he does know, and just likes seeing what stories we come up with to get in. I don't know."

"I'm totally telling him all about this one. And calling him Daddy in the office," Greg agreed with a straight face, tugging at the door handle once he heard the locks click open. If he thought about it like that, in terms of the future and being able to smile again, it made the morning not quite so traumatic.

Who was he kidding?

"I told him," Catherine smiled as she slid into her seat. "He seemed like he wanted to laugh." Things were quiet for a moment before she started up the engine, just closing doors and buckling seatbelts. "So, how're you holding up?"

"Now that I've at least dozed, I don't think I'm going to have a nervous breakdown anymore. Not that I'm making any promises on that," he sighed, reached up to rub at his head. His hair was even messier than usual, and since it was always some form of messy or another, no one said a thing to him about it. Which was nice.

Catherine sighed, nodded. "You did something all of us would've wanted to do now that... I mean, after what he did to Gil. God."

"I don't ever want to think about it. Like. Ever. As in, for the rest of my life," Greg said solemnly. "It's lasered onto my eyeballs right now. God."

She looked sideways at him for a second, before she started to back out of the parking space. "Is this going to cause problems at work?"

"This is going to cause a variety of problems, mostly in the coordination of eyeball-to-mouth situations." Greg had a bad habit of blurting out the first thing that came to mind, and somehow he doubted that 'Wow, you look so good for a guy who got screwed with a gun!' was high on the list of appropriate things to say. "No. I doubt it. Just." He shook his head. "I'm having trouble today. I will probably have trouble tomorrow. By the time Grissom is back, I should be okay."

"When Grissom comes back is going to hinge on a lot of things." It sounded like Catherine was implying that it was going to be a while. Maybe that was just what she was saying. "Personal time and medical leave and... I don't know."

Greg knew that if it had been him, he would have been in therapy for the next twenty years. He might need it anyway. "Well, Mom, at least he's got us."

Catherine smirked a little in the rear view mirror. "Don't call me mom unless there's a nurse looking, okay 'baby'? I... really have no idea what we're going to do. This isn't something that happens to us. There's only been Holly..."

The death of Holly Gribbs had created no small problem amongst the CSI division. Combined with Warrick's gambling problem, her death had brought Sara into the fold, and everything since then had been one solid change. Honestly, Greg could admit to himself that he was deathly jealous of Sara. She had the nerve it took to chase for what she wanted, and that was something to be proud of.

"Yeah," he said quietly. "But we're not going to lose Grissom. I mean. Are we?"

"Well." She exhaled slowly, and leaned back a little in her seat. "I'm not sure how he's going to be. I know, I'm sure that the doctors are going to do their best with him and that he'll be physically okay given a little time."

"It's just all the rest." Strange guy in the house doing something like that... Greg would be completely freaked out, and there was no way he'd be able to go home again. Alone or otherwise.

"Right. Gil..." Catherine sighed, and from the tone of her sigh, she was debating whether she wanted to say more or just leave Greg in the dark. "Is very private. He's... Grissom. He avoids socializing and dating and things on a good day."

In other words, if Greg had thought Gil was antisocial before now, that was probably just a faint preview of the forthcoming avoidance of social interaction. "So... he might not come back. Because of what everybody saw more than because of what happened."

"I think a little of both. It could be that it's just too late in the day to be thinking. None of us are exactly feeling fresh." But she was still driving aggressively and precisely, and Greg was pretty sure that they'd get to the Denny's long before Brass did. "The lab is his life. So maybe he will come back. Maybe what... happened won't effect him at all."

"Don't see how it couldn't." He closed his eyes, figuring that if he didn't see death coming at him from someone who didn't like Catherine's driving, maybe he wouldn't feel it, either. "I mean, to be honest with you, I'm totally freaking out."

Greg still wanted that Ativan. Bracing himself for impact every time she cut in front of someone wasn't helping his nerves. Brass was a way calmer aggressive driver to be stuck with.

"I would be, too. But I can't even guess how Gil's going to handle it. Let's just say that I'm going to be surprised if he handles it the way any of us would." Which made sense. Grissom never seemed to think like the rest of the CSIs on a case, and that was what usually put him head and shoulders above all of them in accuracy.

Please, Greg thought. Just let me live long enough to have French toast or something. The sudden squeal of brakes and the swerve that came with it wasn't exactly reassuring, even when the SUV came to a stop. "You can open your eyes now."

"Thanks," Greg squeaked out. His nerves weren't really up to this. Maybe he could get Brass to take him back to the hospital instead of Catherine. The fact that he was going to go back and wait didn't strike him as strange. He supposed that it should, that he should be thinking about going home and pretending to sleep. There wasn't much point in that, though.

He needed to see it through, somehow, like that would help. Like if he made sure Grissom got out of the hospital, everything would be just dandy. And since he was taking the night off anyway...

"Breakfast is on me," Catherine assured him as she finally, blessedly, parked.

"Well, thank God. I was afraid I'd have to wash dishes or something," he joked, letting his seatbelt loose and opening the door of the SUV. Ahhh. Salvation. Solid ground.

Solid ground that didn't swerve out from under him.

"Nah. We look out for each other," Catherine told him as she locked the doors. "If you want to talk about it... and if you don't, I'm up to that, too."

"I want therapy," Greg announced solemnly. "I want therapy, and I want Ativan, and I seriously want French toast and some eggs."

"Best I can do for you right now is the French toast and eggs," she smiled weakly at him, putting her keys away into her purse again.

"Hey. For the time being?" Greg said with his own tiny smile. "French toast and eggs works."

Making surgical waiting rooms deliberately uncomfortably was a Mark of the Beast, Greg decided, shifting his legs out in front of him. He had heard the explanation once when he'd been waiting to hear about a surgery on Poppa Olaf. The nurse had said that they encouraged families to go home and rest, or at least to a motel if they didn't live nearby. Greg really thought it was just some form of marked sadism. They were waiting rooms after all. People were there to wait for the opportunity to see their loved ones, their family, their friends.

That was what made it evil make all the chairs out of unergonomically molded plastic with wobbly metal legs. There was no way he could sit there for more than twenty minutes at a time, even asleep. The arms got in the way of shifting himself out to make a pretense at lying down, and even if he managed it, every fourth 'seat' was some attempt at constructing a very unaesthetically pleasing arrangement for holding magazines or coffee cups. The coffee that the hospital 'provided' for people awaiting a loved one in surgery was quite possibly the most disgusting insult of all.

All he wanted to do just then was make sure that Grissom was still alive, and get the hell out. Go home, hope against hope that he lost consciousness -- because if he actually slept, it was going to be riddled with nightmares about guns, mousetraps, and his boss moaning -- and then... And then. That was the problem, that Greg didn't know what the 'and then' was.

Brass had assured him that no charges would be pressed against him for what had happened, and that he had three days leave that happened to segue into his weekend. So he had a lot of time off all of a sudden and not a damn thing to do with it.


"Huh?" Oh, that sounded completely brilliant. He hadn't slept in what felt like an eternity, and he expended a huge amount of energy at work, so what little he had left could only go towards a stupid question like that.

Sara was looming beside him for a moment, weight settled mostly on one hip, and then she settled into the chair beside his. "Welcome to Earth."

"If this is Earth, they need to get better chairs," Greg mumbled, shifting to sit up straight. Ow. That snap was his back. "Eurgh. And better coffee."

"You should go home." Sara overemphasized the 'home', dragging the o a little as she leaned to look at him better. "How long have you been here?"

"Um..." Okay. He didn't remember. "Since I had breakfast with Catherine and Brass?" Greg yawned, and his jaw cracked, too. "I wanted to be sure he'd come out okay. You know."

"It's past seven now." At the words 'come out', her eyes shifted, looked past him over at the nurses' desk. "You need to... go home? Eat something, maybe?"

"I can't." And he couldn't. Not until he was sure. "But I've gotta admit, I'm completely starving. Maybe... you wanna walk down to the cafeteria with me? There was a family here earlier saying that it's pretty nasty, but it can't be that bad. Well, okay, yeah, it probably can."

"It's hospital food. It can only be so edible," she smiled a little. Patted his arm with a little too much force to call it gentle. "How... have you heard anything about how he is? No one's told me anything."

"They say he's coming through fine. Gut shot. There were, um, a variety of traumas. Lots of sewing to do. I have no idea."

"And you... were there," she filled in as she started to stand up. "You killed Paul Millander, Greg. You'll probably come up for an award."

Only Sara. That wasn't a very nice thought, but it was the best he could do. Only Sara would think about an award when... "Yeah, well. Best award I can get is him coming out okay. I should have got there sooner." Run more stop signs. Something. Had a gun of his own. Greg couldn't say.

He was just lucky it hadn't gone off in Gil. That Millander hadn't fired. At least now there was still a chance for him to replace that mental image with something better. Grissom standing up, smiling maybe, okay.

"Grissom's tough," Sara assured him. Even if it sounded like a lie. Maybe if she said it enough, they'd all believe it.

"Yeah." Yeah. Well, Grissom might be tough, but Greg wasn't doing so good on that front, and if he wasn't, then it didn't matter how tough Grissom was, he wasn't going to magically be okay. Ever. "Help me up and feed me. I even have my wallet, now. Brass had somebody take my car home and I'd left the door open, so they got my stuff and brought it out. Locked the apartment."

"Brass is great like that when he's not being an asshole. He does things like that." Sara pulled him up by his wrists. "You need food, and then you'll be fine. It was just a... a hostage situation."

"Yeah," Greg said softly, creaking in a few other places. He wasn't going to talk about it. He didn't want to think about it. What he really wanted to do was sleep. After all, no one had probably told Sara because they all knew about her mad crush on Grissom. It'd been there from day one, and who the hell knew what had happened back in California. What would she do when someone finally slipped and told her?

"Mr... Sanders?"

Greg's head nearly turned around backwards. "That's me!" he said sharply, stepping up to the desk. "Can you tell me anything? Anything at all..."

"Whoa..." Sara turned a little in his wake, disoriented by that sharp move. And Greg didn't really care.

"He can take visitors now. Any of... There's three on the list, I see. Twenty minutes, and then I'm afraid visiting hours end at eight."

The loose, shuddering breath that spilled out of Greg felt good. "Okay. Okay. Is he in ICU? What floor? Um. Directions?"

"You'll want to take a left out of this room and head down to elevators 4D. They'll take you up to the third floor, where you'll need to take a right and find elevators 5E to get to the intensive care unit on the seventh floor."

"Can I..." Sara caught up with him at the desk, and put a hand on Greg's shoulder. "Can I see him, too?"

"Your name?"

"She's my girlfriend," Greg blurted. "She's like a daughter to him. Honest. Daddy would be glad to see her." Obviously they taught that look of distrust in nursing school. "Her name isn't on the list."

"I noticed." The nurse quirked an eyebrow at him, and damn, he could feel that was one who just wasn't going to be bought. "Mr. Grissom's still in serious condition. I'm afraid she'll have to wait until he's been moved to a private room."

"Yes, ma'am. Walk out into the hall with me, Sara? Um. They've got my name up in ICU, right?" Greg looked hopeful.

She nodded, and told him, "Yes," like he was some kind of dumb puppy. All the while, Sara was staring at him. Then she moved to pull him away from the desk and down the hall.


"Really really long story. I'm apparently the product of a marriage that ended badly, and now I have Mom and Daddy and Jim." Greg cast her a goofy grin. "It was the best we could do to get ourselves into the ER on short notice."

"Inventive. So, Catherine's your mom?" Sara asked, smirking a little. She liked games like that, the same way Catherine had told him over breakfast that Gil did. Apparently it was all Jim's fault, from back when Catherine had been shot on a scene. Jim had made Gil pretend to be a concerned ex-husband -- with gay lover in tow -- to get in to see her. And everything had been fine until Eddie had finally shown up. After that the Nurses never stopped muttering about her getting around.

The things you never expected to learn about the people that had seniority over you.

The things you never wanted to know.

"She was a child bride. And totally Daddy's beard." Greg grinned at Sara. The sheer giddiness he felt was something like he imagined people on crystal meth might feel or something, wide-awake buzz that went even beyond coffee. He was going to crash so hard when he came down. But as long as he saw Gil for... a few minutes, everything would be fantastic and crashing would be okay.

"I never thought Brass would... wow. Play along, let alone start that." She was grinning a little as they ducked into the elevator. "Are you going to try to sneak me in?"

"Unless they've got another Nurse Ratchett at the door," Greg said. He hoped that they would. He felt ridiculously protective, selfish in wanting to see Gil. "I'm not surprised by Brass, though. Now there's a man who's totally secure in his masculinity."

Sara folded her hands against her sides, nodding to herself. "Apparently. How'd you find all of this out?"

Greg shrugged. "They weren't gonna let us in, so... Brass said, 'it's okay, Greggo, just 'cause your mom's a total bitch and doesn't love you and your daddy anymore...' and the nurse sort of wibbled and let us back. Playing along seemed like the thing to do, so I asked about it when we got some breakfast while Grissom was in surgery."

If he didn't know better, Greg would've said she looked fleetingly jealous. And who was he kidding? He knew she was. Sara always grasped on any tidbit of information about Gil, and he was sure she wished that she'd been there in his place.

Greg was glad she hadn't been.

The elevator doors opened, and she slipped out before him, reaching for his hand as part of the role. "Well, I'm glad they told you."

"Me, too. It would kind of suck to have to sit in the waiting room and just... never learn anything. You know?" Greg sighed deeply and grasped her hand. He remembered wanting to flirt with her and to hold her hand a lot, just yesterday.

So why did he feel off and weird about it today?

Who knew. Everything felt off and weird today. Small wonder. It was going to take a long time to settle his head back where it had been. And there wasn't a nurse guarding the door to the ICU, per se, but there was a desk and the doors were closed. He and Sara were civilized people, so they headed to the desk.

It wasn't too surprising when he was told he could have fifteen minutes, but that Sara would have to stay outside. Greg didn't have the heart to wheedle, didn't want to. He wanted those fifteen minutes for himself, and he was going to take them even though Sara's blunt fingernails dug into the back of his hand as if to prompt him to do otherwise.

"I'll be right back, hon," he said very seriously. "Just. You know."

He got the feeling that she did know, and that she didn't much like it, but hey. It wasn't like he was competition.

The nurse inside of the swinging doors pointed him to the curtained off bed at the end of the room, and happily told him that his timing was good. "He seems a little conscious. Of course, he probably won't remember anything, but it's good to hear a familiar voice."

"Great. I just... want to make sure he's gonna be okay. You know? I mean, he's my..." Greg dropped his head and smiled shyly at the guy. "Makes you panicky when your dad's hurt, you know?"

"Yeah. He's going to be in the hospital for a week or so -- I can look at patients and guess which ones won't face too many complications. Your father's going to heal up just fine." Not 'be okay', because the man seemed mindful of all the injuries in the room. "Go on."

"Thanks." It was easy enough to fake being Grissom's son. All Greg had to do was think about the hours he had spent in hospitals with Poppa Olaf, and it was there, easy and right. It wasn't like he was going to hurt Grissom or anything. Ah, well.

Except you could never really square yourself, steady yourself, to see behind the curtain. Grissom was a mess of tubes, IVs in, something that was draining into a biohazard bucket, and bulges like there were things tucked under the sheets, hidden away as a courtesy to visitors and modesty. The only thing that Greg was sure wasn't tubed was the mask over his mouth. At least they hadn't shoved something down his throat. He'd been talking fine before Greg had passed out before the surgery.

His eyes were open.

"Hey," he greeted, reaching for the reclining chair by the bed and pulling it a little closer before settling down on the edge. He reached out and touched Gil's hand, folding his fingers into it. "They say you're pretty tough. You're gonna be okay and everything."

And he was tough. Hell, he'd sat down to have coffee with Millander. And he'd confronted the strip strangler all by himself, even if Catherine had shot him. That... took balls. And there were probably nine hundred other wild things Gil had done that proved he was tough.

His fingers twitched a little, and he turned his head to look at Greg.

"You look kind of like Cthulhu," Greg told him, giving a faint grin. "So, I'd ask you if you'd sell your soul for a cookie, but I guess you might not get that, huh? Then again, you always surprise me, so maybe you do know what I'm talking about. I'm glad you're gonna make it through. I've been pretty worried about you." He was babbling, but so what?

"Sorry." At least, that was what it sounded like he said behind the mask. His eyes were fixed on Greg, fairly steady. They didn't focus quite right, not sharp, but he was definitely looking at Greg. "Shouldn't... work serials."

"Yeah, well, next time I'll just make you take me with you or something instead of letting you have that whole Clint Eastwood Fistful of Dollars deal. You know?" Never mind that Grissom had been at home this last time. They could think about that later, with therapists present and everything. "I think you watched way too many Westerns when you were a kid. Me? I'm all for piling on until there's enough of you to suffocate the other guy."

"Fistful of Dynamite." He drew in a long breath through the mesh, and exhaled with a pained noise that made Greg want to wince. It was kind of hard to listen to him talk, sounding drifty and careful, but he was talking. Hell. How many people were even half coherent out of surgery? "Sometimes numbers fail. FBI has numbers... look what happens."

"Yeah, well, and then there's the ATF, but as a general rule, any team with you on it is bound to be smarter than an entire battalion of those guys. So, you're gonna get well for me, right?" He squeezed Grissom's fingers gently. "'cause, you know. I really want you to."

Gil closed his eyes. And Greg figured hey, that was it for the visit. Not bad, either, since he hadn't been expecting anything. Gil's fingers shifted, clutched back a little, and then he opened his eyes. "Why...?"

It wasn't like Grissom was ever going to remember any of this. He was doped up to the gills and so Greg might as well confess. "'cause that crush Sara's got on you? It's nothing compared to the one I've got. And you're not gonna remember this tomorrow, but for now.. maybe it'll help you get better."

Gil smiled behind the mask, and closed his eyes again. Maybe in Grissom's mind it was a trade for embarrassing secrets. You saw me getting fucked with a gun, but I know you swing both ways. Or something weird. It wasn't like Greg had some magical ability to tell him why Gil was smiling. Maybe the sedatives were entering a new, fun plateau.

"Yeah. Close your eyes. Rest a while. I'm gonna go home, get some sleep, but I promise I'll come back tomorrow and sit with you as often as they'll let me. Okay?" Okay. He squeezed Gil's fingers one more time and glanced at the clock over the bed. "They're gonna come kick me out for the night really soon, so I'll save them the trouble. You need the rest."

"Fucked up." Gil's eyes opened a little, peering at him more than looking. Was that Grissom saying he was fucked up or Greg was fucked up or that one or the other of them had fucked up?

"Yeah, well. We're probably both a little fucked up, but it'll all work out." He decided to take that road instead of the others. "And I'm still coming back to see you tomorrow, so. Close your eyes again, okay?"

He got a tiny nod, but Gil looked unsure before he did close his eyes. Like he was somehow responsible for everything that'd ever gone wrong anywhere and that what had happened was the direct result of that.

Greg couldn't help leaning over and pressing his forehead to Gil's for just a moment, and that was how the nurse found him. It was okay, though, really. The guy thought Gil was his dad, and it wasn't like it was something too weird.

"I'll be back tomorrow," he promised again, standing up to leave.

There wasn't an answer, and Greg wasn't too surprised. There was just going to be Sara outside, wanting to hear every word he said, waiting for her turn the next day to talk to Gil.

Maybe she'd give him a ride home if she hadn't figured out that he had a huge crush on Grissom yet, anyway. If she had, he figured he'd be lucky when they found his mangled and mutilated body at the bottom of the hospital laundry chute.

The moment he was out the swinging doors -- after being informed that visiting hours started at nine the next morning -- Sara was on him like a hungry dog on a bloody side of beef.

"Greg! How is he?"

"Groggy. He looks kinda like a weird version of Chthulhu, except with plastic tubes instead of tentacles." Greg grimaced. That image was permanently stuck in his head. "Nobody should ever have to see anybody like that."

Her hand came up to her mouth for a moment, and she looked shuddery, ill at the thought. "Oh, god. But he's going to be okay?"

"He'll get better," Greg promised, wrapping an arm around her shoulder. It couldn't be fun, having a crush and not getting to see Grissom when she needed to know as badly as Greg did. "He's tough."

"Yeah, but..." Sara shivered a tiny bit, shoulders tense beneath his fingers as they started to walk to the elevator. "The desk nurse told me what happened, Greg. God."

"She shouldn't have done that." She shouldn't have, because Greg wouldn't have told anybody. Not ever. It didn't matter that it would be around the entire department by now. "Nobody... I... he..." Jesus. He needed to sleep. "Look. just..."

"I just can't believe that happened. How did he get in, how..." Answers, she wanted answers now, and Greg didn't have any of them. "I wondered why they weren't letting any of us work the scene..."

"You didn't wanna see it." He didn't want to see it. Or think about it. Ever. "You didn't, Sara, it's better that you didn't, just. Believe me. It's better."

She was still tense when the elevator doors opened, but she nodded. "Yeah."

Yeah. Because even Sara had her lines, even if they were drawn for just a little while. She'd probably dig and prod at Ecklie and maybe snoop in evidence. Greg didn't want to think about it.

Greg was just glad to be pretty sure he was finally heading home to sleep.

Everything was hazed.

He had some idea where he was, because his visitors kept rotating. The fact that he had visitors and was in pain told him where he was, and that they weren't giving him enough morphine. Or maybe it was a 'better' drug than they used to use. He should have been able to heal in peace, but it never worked that way. Semiconsciousness, processing words like a tired sleeper in REM and spitting back answers and thoughts. They talked to him, and he was sure he'd heard the phrase 'tough' a few times.

Tough. Life was tough. Life was amazingly tough when all he wanted to do was live it, enjoy it. He should've been able to enjoy the blessed blanket of incoherency that the drugs gave him, except it was like a bad dream playing back to him. None of his bodily functions were his own, except breathing. His privacy, his safety, his life, all gone again. Just like then, except not, not as serious, but more serious.

There had been no coincidences for him in Las Vegas, and he was safe there until someone decided it was their territory too. Couldn't leave him alone, had to want to play games and fuck with his head. And now they were investigating. He knew they would, because that was what his people did when they weren't petting his hand. Holding his hand. Catherine kept fidgeting with his hair. Greg clutched. Sara was a nervous flutter. Jim soothed. Nick looked sad. Warrick talked and talked, smooth voice setting him adrift on the nothing of cases. Nick talked about sports and betting and roller coasters. Sara talked cases, too tense and sad and something to relax him. Jim was Jim and Catherine was Catherine and they both knew what he needed. Jim brought books on tape and headphones for him. If, when he wanted to put them on. Catherine stroked, and Greg... He didn't know what Greg was doing, did. Talked, talked about everything but work. Bad jokes and the weather and the guy who'd cut him off at the parking lot and his next door neighbor's poodle.

Gil wondered which one of them was sifting through his secrets when they weren't with him. He wondered when they would put it all together, figure out that he wasn't always just that bug guy, no matter what they thought, and no matter what he personally wished.

At the moment, it was Greg again. He was pretty sure that Greg wasn't sifting through anything unless it was DNA, but Greg had been present a lot, almost all the time. Greg was a more constant presence than the others, only leaving when someone else was there, and always coming right back even then. Gil thought he heard some of the nurses talking about it, but putting it all together was too much effort.

He didn't want to be awake again, really coherent again, until it was all over. Until they'd taken the pieces and put them together and turned to him repulsed with the knowledge or... whatever they would do. He hadn't made too much effort to hide. It hadn't made sense for him to hide, really hide, wipe the slate clean.

Just change his name. Take back his mother's maiden name, shake off the taint of the father that wasn't ever there for him, take on the mantle of a sweet, honest nickname that his mother had always called him anyway. A faint sleight of hand, saying 'leave me alone' without seeming like a scared rabbit. Enough effort to make it an in-joke, almost.

Greg was saying something about Ecklie, and Gil couldn't help but frown at the name.

Ecklie was such an ass. He was the kind of person who would do well with the FBI or a similar organization, because sucking up could be a full-time occupation, and Ecklie was an expert at kissing ass. Gil really hadn't ever been the kind to do that, and by the time he worked his way through that thought, Greg was touching him again, murmuring soothing, half-remembered, half-forgotten phrases that lingered at the edge of Gil's thoughts. He replied sometimes, but he could never quite be sure what he was replying, or what the original question-statement might have been.

His replies probably weren't coherent, even linked a little. But snippets remained. He remembered telling Greg that he was fucked up. And Greg had said they both were, and it had made Gil smile. Greg was strange, quirky, a little too light. A little too lighthearted in ways that scared Gil. People like Greg ended up dead because they never saw it coming, never even saw it was out there.

Innocent. He knew all of these odd quirky lifestyle things and habits, but at the root of it all, he was still innocent. And maybe Gil said that aloud, one way or another.

Maybe that was what all the petting was about, or maybe Greg had the same problem Sara did except he was less scary about it, which certainly had its issues and its reasons to be nerve-wracked, even in a dazed, drugged rest.

He wondered if someone would give him something better if he asked.

Greg had been there. Greg had seen and he'd stayed, and he'd shot... Millander. Greg had risked it all, stupidly, to... Stupidly.

Just like Gil did. Action without thought, instinct driving that action until it all fell apart when it was over and fear and what had just happened collapsed in on you. Smothered. Greg was scared, and Gil knew what that felt like. Knew, and he'd never changed his habits. Couldn't change them. He'd had coffee with Millander, dingy mug full of instant Folgers and conversation that had warmed his heart when he'd known. He'd known, he'd had enough to arrest on, and he'd let him slip away then.

Subconsciously, he always knew.

Gil didn't want to think about that, though. He didn't want to think about that knowledge or how he had gained it, that automatic spark of feeling. He had thought that it was dead, or that it was mistaken. Perhaps. Perhaps.

He just hadn't wanted to believe.

"Hey, you know, if you open your eyes, I'll bet everything will swirl."

He had to open his eyes, of course, and everything spun on its axis, split in half and slid away from him before it stopped. "Nh." Even with the blinds drawn and the soothing Desert Palms paint, it was still brighter in the room than it was behind his eyelids.

"See? Even I practically saw that swirl, Griss," Greg told him very seriously, and Gil wasn't surprised. He wasn't sure when he had last seen so many flowers, but he was pretty sure that he had hoped he never would again. They made him think of funerals.

He wasn't dead this time.

"Flowers...?" He could smell the carnations, the roses, all of it, clinging to the inside of his nose. It would've been all right if it masked the smell of antiseptic, alcohol and bleach, but it layered on top. Gil wanted to put an orange half over his nose and if it suffocated him, so be it.

"A shitload," Greg told him cheerfully. "The last time I saw this many, my cousin Althea was getting married and the florist screwed up the order for roses with one for a funeral and sent all the wrong flowers. Nine billion of them, or it seemed like it at the time." He paused, took a deep breath. "You look a lot better."

No, he probably looked like a man recovering from surgery. "How... long has it been?" And did the gunshot wound make the other scar become a question mark? Or maybe it was positioned wrong. Probably. It would've been an amazing coincidence if it had been.

"Couple of days. They say you're going great," Greg told him honestly. "I think they switched you from morphine to Demerol yesterday." He smiled. "I'd ask if I could borrow some, but then I'd have to sleep on the couch over there, and I think Sara might kick my ass."

"Why?" He shifted a tiny fraction, and felt things pull when he inched himself a little closer to upright. "You're tired." Look tired, but he dropped the word because he could see it in Greg's eyes that he was tired. "Sorry about what happened."

"Not like it's your fault. For God's sake." There was something a little bleak about the way that he said that. "And yeah, I'm tired, but I thought you should have company. And they're paying me to be off for a while." Gil could tell that being alone was the last thing on Greg's mind, even doped up on Demerol.

He didn't want to be alone, and that was... all right. Gil didn't particularly want to be alone, either. Even if Greg was wearing grooves in Gil's hand, keeping it a little too warm. He wasn't used to all of that touching, the wear wear wear of constant company focused just on him. "Good."

"Yeah. I'd kind of rather be here than at work or at home, so. It's nice," Greg agreed, his thumb rubbing faintly across the webbing between Gil's thumb and index finger.

"A hospital...? Nice...?" Gil managed a faint smile as he let Greg toy with his hand. The energy to move wasn't worth exerting to stop a motion that made him tingle with warmth. "I guess... Desert Palms tries better than others."

"You should see the curtains in the ER. They're the creepiest thing I've ever seen," Greg confided, shivering. "Nobody wants to be greeted with a tropical paradise when they're in pain. I kept imagining all of those blue waters and rain forests covered in puke."

Gil gave a quiet laugh that caught up in his stitches and tugged in his torso. It pulled down at his laugh, kept it to a faint chuckle. "Better with the drugs. I... miss the ocean, sometimes. The curtains looked good through drugs."

"Hey, I hadn't thought about that." Greg seriously considered it. "It might. I don't blame you. I miss the ocean, too, a lot. Desert's a different kind of place. Worth it for the job, which as I know you know, is very cool, but..." But. Lake Mead just couldn't hold up to sand and waves.

"Different. But Vegas... is safe. Offensively... safe." Or it had been, and thinking like that made him want to sit on the back porch of his mother's house and look out over the sand to the ocean. The last time he'd been there, she'd bought the plot behind her house and had the shack that had been on it torn down. A clear, beautiful view laid out for the house, but then paradoxically she'd moved to live with friends in Florida.

And then she'd died, and Gil didn't think he'd told anyone about that. It hadn't been the sort of information he would share with anyone, not anymore. Not really. There were so many reasons that he didn't need to share that anymore.

Not with anyone. Not anymore.

"Yeah," Greg said quietly, but Gil could see that he didn't believe it. Not really. Maybe he wouldn't ever believe it again.

"It's alive in neon, and..." He trailed off. Rude. It was a wonderful, fun, amazing, rude city. Gil loved it. He closed his eyes for a moment and could see the neon swirls and streaks inside his eyelid that merged with Greg's face when he opened them again. "And I don't know what to do now."

"We'll figure it out."


Not you.


It had been a long time since he had heard something like that, and the last time, it hadn't worked out. Gil had been avoiding trying ever since then.

Too much of a risk, too dangerous for him. Life was quieter alone, but he was happy. Being alone didn't mean unhappy and being not alone didn't foreshadow eternal happiness. Gil knew that. "You think I won't remember what you say."

"You're doped to the eyeballs, Griss. You'll be lucky if you remember it between now and falling asleep," Greg agreed.

"I remember the poodle." It wasn't much of a case for the argument, because he couldn't remember what the story had been about the poodle. "Remember every court case, ever... thing but paperwork."

"It was the biggest pile of poo I've ever seen come out of a teacup poodle," Greg told him very seriously. "Go on back to sleep, okay? And... I can stay if you want. You know. The nurse said she'd bring some blankets..."

"Should sleep." One, either, both of them. Gil moved his hand beneath Greg's, and didn't care why. It was a little warmth, and it kept him from thinking. A tiny detail to chew on while he pretended there were no larger questions for him to think about.

There were no larger questions. There was only hollow, dizzy sleep. Maybe when he came back again he'd be better. Really better and not just the medical definition of it.


Ah, Ecklie.

There were fresh pits being created in Hell, and they were obviously meant for her.

"Would you come into my office for a minute? I've got something to show you."

Probably something that she didn't want to see, at a guess. The entire night shift was supposed to be uninvolved in Gil's case, but Ecklie didn't know him as well as Catherine, so... "Sure. What's the problem?"

"In the course of our usual research into the Victim's life... we have found some amazing discrepancies." Ecklie didn't look happy or gloating, no -- he looked confused. Catherine hadn't quite been expecting that kind of look if he was dirt-digging about Gil. "It actually sheds some light on what happened. I think. I'm not sure where to start. We have... So many puzzle pieces that don't fit, and I have no context for them.. Just... here." He started by thrusting a short stack of photographs at her. The paper Ritz Camera wrapper was two feet away on the table, near a folder, some half-filled out paperwork, and Gil's briefcase.

"We've also found how Millander gained access to Gil's apartment. Two keys -- roughly molded, and Trace is double-checking the composition. One of them chipped off in the lock a little." He pushed those towards her, too, wrapped up in a tidy evidence bag. "But if you can explain to me what Grissom was doing at Quantico in the late seventies, I'm all ears, Catherine. Or who the hell some of those people are."

"Quantico?" What the...? Gil had never been to Quantico, not that Catherine knew, and she had been his friend, his only friend, his best friend for... Well, it had been a long time. He'd only opened up to Brass besides her, and now there was something strange going on with Greg that she didn't understand because he was always, always in the hospital. Always there, and even drugged, Gil's eyes looked for him as if to make sure everything was all right, and Greg's presence would make that happen.

Gil, so far as she knew, had never been to Quantico, and Catherine started to say it aloud. The statement was running double-time behind her eyes, her certainty shaken as she shifted the pictures.

A slip of paper fell to the desk.

Have you ever seen blood in the moonlight, Will?

"Quantico," Ecklie echoed, shifting a pair of tweezers to move that piece of paper a little to the side. "Grissom hates the FBI. But there he is, see? Right at the entrance with a bunch of other people. And this -- this is the fifth little note or something that has 'Will' written on it. Whoever wrote this, he's had a lot of correspondence with."

"And obviously he's kept it." Kept it, but it wasn't anything Catherine recognized. None of it was, and that concerned her, deeply. "What else have you found? It's possible that none of this actually belongs to Gil, isn't it? This isn't his handwriting..."

"I'm not sure how much time Millander had in Gil's apartment," Ecklie mused. "These were found in a desk drawer, and clearly these photographs are his. I mean, that's him." Undeniably -- younger, leaner, but it was Gil. With the same hairstyle he'd always had, and a trim beard instead of a well-shaved face. Hands in his pockets, leaning against the sign with other men and one woman. They all looked like they were wearing uniforms, or at least dressed uniformly, and there was a blonde woman with long permed hair in a skirt to his left.

Someone else had taken the photograph; it was a little crooked, faintly out of focus like someone didn't know what to do with the camera. Gil wasn't much of a compositional photographer, and the other pictures of people and scenery were about as graphically interesting as any of his crime scene photos. Snapshots. The blonde woman again, and a toddler holding her hand in front of a tree. An old Cadillac that looked like someone had gently broad-sided it, with a grinning cop sitting on the hood. Who were these people?

"But the handwriting clearly isn't his. It's too neat, and it's written in real ink," Ecklie went on.

"I have no idea," Catherine confessed quietly, and that bothered her. Maybe it bothered her a little too much, because Gil was her friend. She had always thought that he told her everything. She had certainly told him everything, but it was rapidly becoming clear that there were a great many things that she didn't know about Gilbert Grissom. "The first step, I think, is to find out what Gil was doing at Quantico."

"Second step, find out whose handwriting this is," Ecklie agreed, tapping the edge of that note. Have you ever seen blood in the moonlight, Will? Catherine wasn't sure what that implied about her friend. "Let me handle talking with the FBI -- I'll get in touch with Culpepper at their field office. I want you... to sift through these documents."

He paused, and then seemed to weigh his words. "As a favor, Catherine. I know that you're busy handling nightshift. Millander is dead and Grissom is going to be in the hospital for at least another week. It's not a rush priority, and if you can't get to them, that's all right. I just think you might provide context that I can't."

It was a little startling to have Ecklie behaving as something other than a complete ass. Catherine knew he could, of course; it was just that he so often seemed to be Gil's complete opposite, Conrad is to Gilbert as moon is to sun. "I think I can shift the better part of the case Nick and I are working on so that I'll have time to look through these. I know it's probably not rush, but..." But. It was Gil.

One of them, and as uncomfortable as she was digging through his life... What if Millander had somehow met him at Quantico? Or something. It didn't seem immediately applicable to the case, but Gil always said to rule nothing out until it could be proved admissible.

"But," Ecklie agreed, tapping that note absently before he leaned away from the evidence table. "I'm going to give you the key, so you can go back there and look at the scene. If Gil hasn't already told you where he keeps his spare or if you don't have one yourself."

"I've got one," Catherine answered absentmindedly. "He likes somebody to come by and water the plants and feed the roaches if he goes to a conference. I'm assuming that everybody's already looked in the obvious places."

"Of course. There's a lot to sift through, though, and everything we find... brings up more questions. We have a birth certificate for Gil that was made in 1983. Now, usually if you lose yours, you send for another copy, right? You don't just..." Ecklie hesitated. "Get one that's dated 1983 but says you were born in 1956. I've never seen that before."

"Me, either, but I guess that's probably the place to start. If you want to get me a copy of that, too, I'll track down whoever did it, if they're still alive, and get a few questions answered." Catherine wanted those answers as badly as Ecklie obviously did.

He smiled at her, nodding. "I'll get to that. If you want to look through these couple of boxes while I call the FBI... It'd be a good start."

A start to what? Maybe getting some answers to what was going on? Paranoia twitched at Catherine in the wake of what had just happened with Millander. Double lives and false names and fake fingerprints. It could be nothing at all. Gil had told her he'd taught for a while, and she knew he had. He'd taught Sara that summer he'd taken a sabbatical from the department. Maybe the photographs were from nothing more than a wild weekend. Maybe the woman in the pictures was FBI -- that would make sense, wouldn't it? Why he resented them so much. After all, Catherine knew he'd been romantically burned a few times, enough to make him wary of Sara.

There were other things that bothered her, though, things that didn't seem quite right. Those notes, for one thing, and she wanted to read the rest of them. A sense of something that ate at her, for another. There was something not-quite-right about all of this, and she was going to get to the bottom.

If she didn't, then she was just going to have to ask Gil about it pointblank, and he was going to give her an answer. No squirming out of it, no leeway granted. No matter how bad a state he was in just then.

The first box didn't hold much more of interest -- Gil's forensics journals, entomological journals. The second one was stuffed with papers, bits of case notes and Gil's scientific notations, and a few closed envelopes.

In Catherine's experience, closed envelopes always held deeply interesting things. Things like money, birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce papers, wills. The sorts of things that were generally considered important in the whole scheme of things.

So why hadn't Ecklie's crew opened them, already?

Maybe it was a matter of time. Day shift was handling that, and night shift's backlog. Maybe they just hadn't shifted through the magazines and papers to find the envelopes that had been stuck between them. Inefficient of them.

Four envelopes in all, all different types and sizes, none of them licked closed. They were all either tucked or taped. The first, a plain blue-lined security envelope, held a few small photographs -- a young blond boy, none of them older than age eight or so. None of them were professionally done, and one had been trimmed with scissors. The back of one, she saw when she turned them over using tweezers, had 'josh, mom's house' written on it in Gil's handwriting. The scene was beach front.

Catherine had never heard of anyone named Josh. Ever. The child didn't look like him, so it was unlikely that the boy belonged to Gil, but... She had a bad feeling about all of this, and it only increased when she shifted her hands and opened the next envelope.

Legal paper, legal quality envelope, and they were papers that Catherine recognized, at least in subject matter. Divorce papers -- except Gil hadn't ever been married. But there... No, that wasn't Gil's name on the papers.

Why did Gil have William Graham's divorce papers? Divorce from a Molly Graham, no claim to custody for Josh Anders, Molly's son.

It was too early in the day for Catherine's head to ache like that, or for her to be so confused. Will Graham. Gil Grissom. There wasn't any connection that she knew of, even if it all seemed like there should be some connection that she just wasn't quite grasping. What was it?

Family, maybe. Maybe there was a Graham branch to Gil's family. Maybe William was some dead relative, and Gil had come into holding his possessions.

But that still didn't explain the picture of Gil outside of Quantico, looking happy and smug and relaxed like he belonged there. The evidence so far pointed to... nothing in specific, and it made Catherine want to start making theories and seeing if the pieces fit. Sometimes, she could make things work that way.

Two envelopes left, and it might be best to open them before she took her key and went over to look for evidence on her own.

These two were both linen letters, unaddressed but sealed with tape over top of a smooshed, broken wax seal.

Something about those letters made Catherine's skin shiver, made her very fingers twitch as if they didn't want to be in contact with so much as the envelopes themselves. She didn't ordinarily have those sorts of premonitions, but there was just something about these that made her shudder, made her lips compress.

With care, she pulled at the tape, trying not to pull off the wax. If Gil had closed them that way, it was obvious that he hadn't wanted to lose any of the pieces.

The tape kept the dry, old pieces together. From the texture and the look of the two letters, they were years apart in age. Catherine used tweezers to pull the sheets free. The older one wasn't packed with words, no -- it was a simple question, the same handwriting as the slip that had fallen out of the photographs. A perfect copperplate handwriting.


Do you dream? I do. I dream of what could have been and of what wasn't. And I dream of a better view than this. Where would we be now if the night had ended differently?

Do you smell madness when you sleep, and tuck it away when you open your eyes? Have you finished the walls inside your head, or are they rotten like moldy cheese? Write back to me, Will, and tell me if you dream of me.


There was a detailed picture in the corner of three arrows, like an embellishment. It seemed to her that they held some meaning, some obscure and pointed reference to whichever night was in question.

Who was H?

Perhaps the second letter would answer that question, she thought, and carefully peeled the dry taped wax off of the second linen envelope. Same penmanship as the first.


I trust that this letter reaches you through the usual channels. Barney was ever a courteous man, never one to break a grant of trust given to him. Quite unlike your Jack. He has a new dog now -- I wonder if that bothers you, or if you care at all.

We stand at a precipice, you and I. You've made no move, and though I rightfully should eat your heart, I believe that would be rude at this stage in our relationship. It is like an old wine, aged and preserved, destined to remain on the shelf until someone dusts it off.

I am content with my new view and freedom, as I am sure you are content in yours. My apologies about Molly and your boy -- the game wasn't supposed to end that way. I wanted you to be the grand hero, and instead you became the grand failure. Life support is such a fickle thing -- sparing the elder and reaping the youth. Of course, two to the chest are quite different than two to the neck.

Did she let you see him, or was that part of your terms of parting? Did you hold his hand, Will, when his small chest sucked in its last assisted breath? I wonder if you could. I know that he lingered. I do read the obituaries, just to make sure you don't show up in them too soon. You've lingered beyond death, haven't you?

I enjoyed reading your last correspondence. It's a bit like psychological cutting for you, I believe. Please, write back, Will. Tell me about your dreams, and I'll draw you some of mine


Again, it didn't end there -- the page behind that was a sheet of paper, and a man's naked body bowed tightly. There was an arm sneaking up between his legs, and the hand was obscured out of sight and shadows. The implication was clear. It didn't get much clearer than that, and Catherine had never thought that anything of a sexual nature would disturb her again.

She just hadn't realized that the intimation of sex and Grissom would ever be a serious consideration, because she had seen the scar that curved across that belly. Once, and once only, and he didn't know that she had seen it. She had, though, and she knew who that drawing was meant to be.

Except Gil wasn't named Will. Unless... he had been?

But that didn't make sense. None of it was making sense for Catherine. There wasn't a scenario...

No, she was looking at it wrong. Evidence, then see where it pointed. Letters written to a man named Will. A Will Graham who'd divorced a woman named Molly. Molly mentioned in that stomach twisting letter, and Josh, and life support? And there were pictures of Josh hidden in an envelope but they stopped around age eight or so.

Except Gil's mother was a Grissom, not a Graham, even if that sketch, by someone who knew what Gil's scar looked like, implied that Will was Gil.

Of course, if Gil's mother was a Grissom, what was his father? Ah, now there was a question that needed answering, one pertinent to everything in her hands, possibly even an answer. Getting ahead of herself wasn't the thing to do just yet, though. She had a birth certificate for Gil.

Maybe it was time to find one for Will.

She carefully folded the letters up, putting evidence back away into its envelopes.

It was time to head to Gil's apartment to scour for another birth certificate. Even if finding it would open up yet more questions, it would answer one. One answer was a start.

The most disconcerting thing in the world was waking up to find a nurse changing your 'bags'. She probably knew he was awake, but Gil laid very still until she was gone, and the voices that had been outside of his room moved into it again.

"So, Greg, when was the last time you went home and took a shower?"

"Um." Obviously if he had to think about it, it was past time. "I went home yesterday morning, bathed, pretended to fix my hair after I washed it, and then came back with a change of clothes and stuff."

"Yesterday Sunday or yesterday Tuesday, Greg? Because it's Wednesday now, and I'm not sure you're aware of that. Don't you have to go in tonight?" Sara. Gil was going to feign sleep a little longer; it was something to do other than pretend that his wound didn't itch.

"I'll drop by my apartment and shower before I go to work. Promise. There will be no Greg stench to offend you," Greg assured her. There was a slight crease in his forehead as he frowned. "Besides. I thought you were supposed to be at some kind of conference. Didn't your plane leave an hour ago?"

"We're shorthanded," Sara pointed out to him, and didn't sound too sad They were only short one hand, short... a day of work, maybe? Gil wasn't sure. Maybe something had happened while he'd laid there in a haze. "Catherine's looking into something about all of this, and she won't tell me what. Anyway, it's a four day conference and all the interesting things start the second day. I've rescheduled my flight for tomorrow."

Catherine was looking. One of them had to be, and Catherine would fit everything together fast. She was good, good enough to do his job in so many ways. Soon it wouldn't be about what Paul Millander did, it would be about him and who he was and what he'd done or hadn't done, said or hadn't said.

Gil couldn't stop thinking about that tight, strung out fear of being tied to his own bed in his own sanctuary. Violation on top of violation, and the 'research' Catherine was doing was just another. It was like a locomotive in the back of his brain, the recent horror pulling out all of the others behind it. Chug chug, click, wheeze, click, beep, click...

He choked like it was him who couldn't breathe, and jerked upright.


Sara's sound of worry wasn't anything like Greg's faintly strangled catch of breath, one that echoed Gil's own sudden difficulty.

"Do you want me to call the nurse?"

"It's just a nightmare," Greg told her, even though Gil was awake. How would he cover for that? "You know. Night terrors. Used to have them when I was a kid." He was up, by the side of the bed, and he pushed Gil back so gently, easily, as if he'd never done anything simpler or more necessary. "He'll close his eyes and go back to sleep in a minute."

Great cue. Perfect opportunity, except he was awake and it was going to take a minute to breathe properly again. No nightmare, just a thought-memory that was too sharp. If he'd had a nightmare, they probably would have called a nurse. He probably would have yelled; or not. He wasn't sure what he did anymore in his sleep, and it didn't matter. Greg's hand lingered against his chest, as if he was making sure he didn't jerk upright again, but it didn't stop Gil from taking in a few hard breaths, eyes half-open.

At least he could breathe, all on his own. At least. It didn't quite matter that Sara shifted nearer, shoulder to shoulder with Greg. "Grissom? Hey..."

"No," Greg told her softly, and it wasn't Gil's imagination that he hovered a little more. "I'm telling you. With these things, you have to let them go back to sleep on their own. Right now, it's... Look, it's like you're awake but the nightmare is still there, and it's running on a full drive-in screen in front of your eyes. The input's all messed up."

"Oh." Gil could see the understanding frown that crossed Sara's mouth, lips parted softly and showing the gap between her teeth. Greg was trying to keep Sara from talking to him. Funny, strange, and it left him wondering what Greg's motives were.

It was like feigning sleep on lazy Sundays when he hadn't wanted to get up to go to Mass. He could lie still and pretend to sleep until he felt like he was falling back into it. A convincing game, but if he let himself do that he'd feel bad when he did wake up. Sara liked all parts of conferences, the boring bits to the exciting moments, all of them. Dry opening speeches to watching forensic scientists drink too much.

She'd skipped her plane because she wanted to talk to him, wanted to see that he was all right, and that was more than anyone he'd known before Vegas had been willing to do.

"'m awake."

The frown that Sara shot Greg wasn't exactly kind. It promised retribution of some sort. "Huh," Greg said softly. "Um."

"Why don't you go home and get a bath? Grissom will be okay without you for a little while. Won't you? Gil?"

She was putting words in his mouth, and if his brain hadn't already been ticking a mile a minute from before the nurse had come in to change things, he might've compliantly nodded, bogged down with whatever they had him on. Greg had told him, but the words slipped through his fingers. Not morphine, something better for him. One more breath, and he shifted to almost sit up.

"You... shouldn't skip parts of the conference."

"I promise I'm not missing anything important. The first day mostly includes fiber analysis and entomology, and anything I miss, I'm sure you can teach me." Sara's gaze lingered on him, her hand going to touch his. Her fingertips were cold, not like the lingering heat of Greg's touch.

Cold hands, hot eyes. Gil closed his eyes for a moment, blinking sleep away before he looked for Greg. He looked unsure, standing back a little. "You're coming back? Think the nurses like you."

"First thing in the morning," Greg promised him, and that request seemed to make him feel a little better. "I'd hate to leave you alone or anything."

"I could come back," Sara began.

"You should sleep before you fly to Chicago." Gil swallowed, trying to wet the dryness of his throat. Saline fluids through an IV were good and well, but it didn't help his throat. "Greg -- could you... wish Catherine luck for me?"

"I'll check in with her," Greg promised, slipping past Sara. Gil could see him folding a blanket, putting the pullout couch back to rights. "And I'll let you know how things are looking when I get back in the morning. I'm pretty sure they'll let me on up."

"You know, you look pretty rough. Maybe Nick or somebody could stay instead..."

Gil's mouth twitched a little. Nick didn't want to be there when Gil was like that, and Gil could understand why. He was uncomfortable; hospitals did that to people, and there was no way of knowing the last time someone had been in one and for what purpose. No way of knowing the memories associated.

"Greg's been good company." Constant company, and Gil could only guess at why.

"Plus, I've got plenty of experience at staying in hospitals overnight. Poppa Olaf has had some pretty bizarre surgery," Greg said brightly, "and I can sleep through anything."

"Still..." Sara frowned. There were heavy undercurrents that that made Gil faintly uncomfortable. Confused.

He couldn't let the argument linger on much longer, so Gil cut in with, "How are you?"

"Oh, fine." She was still watching Greg with jaundiced gaze, but Gil's question seemed to distract her. "We've all just been so worried about you. That's all."

"I'll be fine." As long as he didn't dwell on what had happened, and as long as Catherine didn't dig too deep. Maybe she'd simply find out and leave it be. He hadn't made too much of an effort to hide, but his tiny motions towards secrecy had accomplished so much. People that he used to know who noticed the name change had simply kept quiet. Acted like they'd never met him before.

Greg was edging towards the door, and Gil followed the motion with his eyes.

"Um." Greg paused, and he looked as though he felt ultimately out of place. One hand grasped the bag that he'd grabbed from somewhere, and his mouth was drawn in a disconsolate moue. "I'll... be back later," he promised, not looking at Sara.

Gil nodded, and shifted his fingers in Sara's hand. "Sure." Once Greg slipped out, he could concentrate on whatever it was that Sara wanted to say, was thinking. She had to be there for a reason, just like Greg had been.

If only he had the energy to figure out what Greg wanted. What Sara wanted. What was going on, aside from Greg slipping out in the hall and leaving him alone with her.

"So. You look a lot better." Oh, God. She had that look again, the one that made him want to sneak off, except that he couldn't.

It was a nervous making thing, because he could feel the weight of her expectations settling on him. "Do I? I thought... I looked like I've been shot."

"Well, you, uh, should have seen yourself a few days ago." Sara smiled at him, that gap-toothed look that so many people found attractive. "So. Um."

He still managed to give her a tired, hazy smile. It was the most interaction he'd really had with her since he'd been attacked, shot, assaulted. Everything else had been passive, listening to her tell him about the lab. "Hi."

Maybe he could get her to laugh and stop being awkward.

"Um. Who's Molly?"


Sara knew about Molly, and it was so pointless, and so wrong. How could she? Was it all over the lab? Did everyone know everything? It was like being shot again, and he went tense and still in a matter of moments. Sara knew, how did Sara know? Was she investigating it with Catherine? What else did she know?

He felt sick, and if there was any actual substance in his stomach, he would've thrown up.

"Why are you asking?" He looked at her, eyes half opened.

"Is that why you don't want me?"

As if there had to be a reason. There wasn't one, not precisely, except perhaps for lack of interest. He hadn't been interested in anyone, not for a very long time, and Sara had never been the type of person who would draw and keep his attention in a romantic way.

Not for long.

"If you're asking about Molly... then you know that I had a long road before I came here," Gil told her carefully, concentrating on his words so he was sure they were coherent. "It's safer for me to... want no one."

"That's a cop-out, and you know it."

A cop-out. He clenched his jaw, and closed his eyes for a moment. A cop-out. Was that what it was? He'd tried and he'd tried and failed and failed. And failed. It was easier not to... try, to find happiness by himself. To exist and learn and enjoy life again.

"No, it isn't."

"Yes. Yes, it is, because telling me that you're just not interested in anyone... I can't see that. You're not... You deserve more than going home by yourself to..."


To that, she didn't say. She thought it, though, and Gil wanted to laugh when he realized he wasn't sure what 'that' she might've been thinking. His freshly violated home of the past sixteen years? Newly overturned memories that he'd at least had buried down beneath the surface for most of his waking hours before.

"I have friends. I have... all of you." He wasn't copping out, he was pushing down anger and incredulity and trying to stay calm.

"Yeah, well. Work's really not enough to go home to every night, Grissom, and now you've got Greg practically camping out on the couch in here, and..."

So that's what it was all about?

It was... a shock reaction. Gil knew that instinctually, knew that Greg was merely reacting to shock and guilt. And having been there himself, he'd wished that someone had let him react before. It was... probably healthy.

"And you don't understand the circumstances of what happened, Sara." He'd say it until she proved otherwise. Because if she did know, then how could she say a thing like that with such ease, such flippancy?

"I know enough to know that it's not right for you to keep pushing us away. Pushing me away." Her mouth was trembling, and he wanted to get up and leave the room. It was a damned shame that he couldn't. "Otherwise, this is the kind of thing that will keep on happening, Grissom!"

"Sara, I... Molly left. And I can't blame her. I didn't push, I..." Didn't have to. She just left, when he was still in the hospital. Filed those papers, and what could he do in the face of it? He could see in her eyes that her hopes, her dreams, no longer included him. Just Josh, and with Josh dying...

It wasn't any wonder that she got away from him as fast as she could.

"I would never leave you."

He was going to have to explain, and he had never wanted to do that. He never wanted to have to think about any of it again, and now Sara was making demands on him to which she had no right.

Gil pulled back from her as much as he could, and reached for the call button. He was starting to ache again, nerves mixing with real pain to make a jumbled hallucinatory mixture of the two. "I put her through hell."

"I'd walk through it twice. Please, just..."


How he hated that word. He wondered how many of the people he hadn't saved must have said it.

Please stop, please... Gil closed his eyes, pressing the call button.

He'd said it himself this last time. Never before. Vegas had to be making him soft, or maybe the hard part of him had died too many times over. "You don't have all the facts. Does my... my life have to be turned inside out twice?"

"Jesus, Grissom, I..."

"Can I help you, Mister Grissom?" Ah. That nurse. She liked Greg a lot, Gil thought, but she was giving Sara a look that threatened imminent removal.

Make Sara stop thinking that everything had to do with her. Let him be alone, even if that was the worst thing in the world just then, left alone with his memories and too many thoughts. He hated hospitals, hated being relatively helpless.

"I need something for the pain." Something that might make him sleep, and that would take care of all the pains. Sara still hadn't told him how she'd found out about Molly.

"Of course. I'll take care of that right now. Miss..." Wow. He hadn't seen a look that scary since the nuns in elementary school. "It's after visiting hours. I'm afraid you'll have to leave now."

"But I..."


He felt a twinge for that, for pushing her away. Maybe it was time to push them all away and leave, if...

No, he didn't think he could do that. Couldn't even push Sara away, not for good. They were his friends, his students, people he trusted. "We'll talk when you come back from the conference, Sara. Good luck."

"Yeah." Her voice cracked a little. "We'll talk then."

Maybe. If he was up to it by then. Not that he'd ever be up to it. Whoever had started looking was going to turn his life upside down like an old book bag, shake it out, sort and interpret the pieces, and then...

Then he wasn't sure what came next. What the point of it was. It wouldn't answer what Millander had done. It wouldn't solve anything. It was just...

"Have a safe flight."

It was just going to send his own life straight to hell again.

Maybe it was time to look into doing something else again.


Stack after stack of them, neatly filed in a way that Grissom never would put anything away, from oldest to newest. The feel of the envelopes alone made Catherine's fingers cringe away from touching them, so she had saved them for the last while she filtered through a variety of other objects -- papers, pictures, saved mementos in shoe boxes. No one had gone through the guest room closet since it hadn't been part of the scene, so they had missed a lot of things, including one box that held nothing but drawings obviously belonging to a child, signed and dated on the back in crayon.

All of them had the name Josh printed beside the date, scrawled and then becoming clearer with age.

She wondered why Gil had never told her.

Catherine had trusted him with her every confidence, but here was proof of a whole life tucked easily away out of sight. If Gil hadn't been attacked the way he had, she never would've known. He never would have told her any of it. A son, almost Lindsey's age, or at least a stepson. Someone Gil had felt close enough to for him to keep all of those tiny mementos. There was a painted rock lying at the bottom of the box, wobbly swirls of color overlapping. It looked like something that should've been a desk paperweight. It probably had been once, a long time ago, when Gil Grissom had been Will Graham.

Will Graham, retired FBI Agent. The man who had caught Hannibal Lecter, and the man known as the Tooth Fairy. He had nearly died when he had tracked down Lecter. His stepson had died in the clash with Francis Dolarhyde.

In some ways, she supposed that she could almost understand what was going on, almost understand that Gil had never said anything. On the other hand, there were those letters, and there was Gil. Passionate about work, quirky, insightful, dependable Gil. A strong insistence on following the evidence alone, on not getting emotionally involved. Deep distaste for the FBI.

The other hand was confusing, and she wondered why. It was something she was going to have to dig into more deeply, she knew, but she hadn't managed to screw herself to the sticking point just yet. Not yet. Doing that meant delving even deeper into Gil's life, or his former life, and she knew that things would never be the same between them again after everything.

For the moment, she couldn't shake off that he'd lied to her. Even... if it was just lies of omission.

Catherine knew she could never bury proof of Lindsey away into a box the way that Gil had with Josh, or whatever his ex-wife had let him have. He'd never mentioned her, but he had mentioned 'relationships gone bad' as a passing excuse for why he didn't pursue the odd love interest too hard. Or Sara.

It was too easy to put the pictures away, and settle the lid back down over the box. All of it probably had nothing to do with Millander.


There was the part where Gil was really Will Graham, though, and Catherine had heard of him, all right. Old habits died hard. If he had gotten too close to understanding Lector and Dolarhyde, what must Millander have been like for him? How traumatic? He'd been relentless in trying to get Millander, getting hauled off in contempt of court. It was just like Gil had been with the Strip Strangler -- he'd tried to talk to Sid Goggle, and had looked so stunned, so shocked that Goggle had been about to kill him if she hadn't killed Goggle. Like he didn't expect that outcome, when he should've in light of his history.

Lecter had tried to kill him.

Dolarhyde had tried, and had killed his stepson.

Goggle had also nearly succeeded.

Millander seemed to be the only one less than serious about it, since the gun he had used to rape Gil hadn't been loaded, even if he had already shot him once.

Maybe it was some sort of mental block, a flaw that Gil-Will-Whoever didn't recognize. He could figure things out, follow the track of a serial killer's mind, but he couldn't seem to grasp the fact that he might die.

It made her wonder why William Graham had been a special investigator and not a proper agent. There had to be a reason for that, too. There was a reason for everything, and she had to find answers somewhere between the familiarities of Gil's apartment and the closed boxes that he kept in closets

It was getting harder to justify why she was doing it. Was it the job? Was it personal curiosity? Did the current situation actually warrant delving deeply into a life that Gil had obviously left behind, one that he didn't want to see again?

Maybe there wasn't any excuse for her to look through the pictures Josh had drawn, the paperweight he'd made. So far she hadn't found any evidence of Gil having kept anything from Molly. There was just a closed manila envelope, and that organized box of letters for her to look through in the guest bedroom.

Question was...

Was it really any of her business at all? Literally, figuratively... whatever?


God. The sound of Greg's voice brought her head up so fast that she heard her neck crack, and winced in reaction.

"In here," she called, shuffling Josh's rock and papers back into the box so fast that her hands nearly blurred. Then again, that could be exhaustion talking. She'd been at it a really long time.

Greg's steps shuffled to a stop at the door. He looked exhausted, and he shouldn't after spending a week or so off. "Hey. Just... checking in with you. Figured I'd stop, see if there was something Griss might want." He reached one hand up and rubbed at his eye with the heel of it, making her actually feel old enough to be his mother.

"Did he say he wanted something...?" Catherine stretched her legs out in front of her before she stood up, and realized that the open box of envelopes was off to the side, near the doorway in which Greg stood. As long as she acted calm, he'd never know she was snooping, rather than investigating.

"He didn't mention anything specific. Sara was there, though." Ahh. And that obviously didn't sit well with him, his mouth curving downward. Greg had been so serious over the last week, not that Catherine could blame him. It just seemed strange to see him that way, one more thing wrong in a world full of sudden overwhelming peculiarities. "I thought, you know. You might have some idea. He said to wish you good luck, too."

"I feel like I need it," she smiled, starting to get up. Her knees cracked; it was just too easy for her to get lost in the hard to interpret pictures of a child. "Is he more awake than I last saw him?"

"Kind of. They switched him from morphine to Demerol, so he's comparatively more coherent. Not, of course, that Demerol is likely to make him anything resembling coherent, anyway, since the last time I took it, I kept thinking I was drowning on the Titanic, and there was this really bizarre stairway I just couldn't get past..."

Right. Even serious Greg verged on the bizarre.

It was easy for her to smile at Greg, incline her head a little while she quirked an eyebrow at him. She dusted herself off, and nudged at the box with her foot before she bent to pick it up. "So how's Gil holding up? You look cleaner than I last saw you."

He shrugged. "Sara told me to go home and take a bath. With a kind of or-else in there. I mean, I was going to run home before work and do that anyway but..."

But. Catherine knew how Sara was, especially when it came to Gil.

"Anyway. He was okay when I left. Well, not okay, but not bad, and he hadn't got that scared-run-away! look that he gets when Sara's around yet, so."

"Mmm. One of these days he's going to tell her either 'yes' or 'no'. I'll talk to her about this. It..." Catherine hefted the box up in one smooth lift, and moved to toddle over to the closet with it. She hadn't bent or ruined any of them, but Gil would know she'd been in there. He had to know that she'd find it all. "This isn't the best time for Sara to be pushing him. Given what happened."

"It, uh. Sounded kind of like no. Repeatedly." Greg shrugged guiltily. "I kind of stuck around after she threw me out. Um. I shouldn't have, but."

"But, you found yourself turning into an eavesdropper?" She almost felt proud of him. "Tell me about it. Can you hand me that box lid?"

"Sure." He reached for it and handed it to her before sitting on the edge of the bed with a hefty sigh. He fell back on it and closed his eyes. "She just. She kept pushing. Asking about somebody named Molly, and he said he put her through hell, and that he wasn't interested, but she wouldn't let up. You know how Sara is."

Oh, God. "No. Oh, God, no." She dropped the lid back on the box that made her skin crawl, and sat back down on the floor. "Oh God. How did she find out?"

"Find out what?" That got Greg sitting up, no matter how tired he looked. "You know, it's not my place to ask these questions or to know these things. Fine. Whatever. But what the hell is going on here? I mean, it's bad enough that everything with Millander went down, but now people are talking about the FBI and people we've never heard of, and it's obvious you're going through pretty private stuff that's even on the edge for you, and you know him best. So. Um. Yeah."

"Gil... used to be someone else. An FBI profiler who had a few big serial cases in the late seventies and early eighties. All of this is news to us. Ecklie found pictures of Gil standing in front of Quantico when he searched the bedroom for evidence. One thing led to another, and I think... we've done enough research now to rule all of this out as a red herring." That was vague, but that box of letters didn't need to enter the equation. Even if they were written by a serial killer who'd drawn Gil/Will naked and alluded to worse in the two letters she'd read. "We've been trying to keep it under wraps. God. How did Sara find out?"

"She's kind of nosy. I'm not the only eavesdropper in the lab, you know," Greg pointed out, "and I'm sure that if she asked the right questions to the right person, then she'd get answers."

"Sometimes, answers aren't just answers," Catherine sighed, running a hand back through her hair. Her head was starting to hurt, and she still had a full night of work ahead of her. "If she's been nosing around, she doesn't have the context, and..." The context was disturbing, saddening, and she could almost understand why Gil had never told her any of it. Almost.

"And if you don't have context, anything you say can and will be held against you in the course of hurting somebody," Greg said seriously. "And the way she was pushing? I'd hold it against her."

Would hold it, or did? Catherine looked up at Greg from where she sat on the floor, trying to weigh the expression on his face. "When are you going back to the hospital, Greg? I want you to take Gil some of the stuff from the evidence locker once I file my report."

"Soon as I'm finished here. You know, working double and triple shifts? Really not good for you, Catherine," he pointed out almost gently. "You ought to go home and get some sleep."

"Unanswered questions do that to me." She shifted to get up again, this time to put the second, organized box back away in the closet. There was no logical reason why her skin should feel like it was crawling at just touching that box. "Does what I told you bother you, Greg?"

"No. Should it?" Greg looked at her seriously. "Grissom is Grissom is Grissom. Everybody's got something they don't tell you, locked away somewhere in their heart or," he nodded to the boxes, "in their closet. It's not nearly as big a deal to me as it is to Sara, I think."

"Huh." That was unexpectedly mature of Greg to see things that way. Grissom is Grissom is Grissom. And maybe he wouldn't forgive her for having pried in the first place, but. Whether he was Gil or Will, he was still the person who'd helped her through all sorts of problems and turned a blind eye when she'd needed it. "I think Jim and I made the right decision in sneaking you in to see him, then. Nicky'll probably be excited if he ever finds out who Gil used to be. And Warrick respects him, always has, and Jim won't change. Jim understands leaving your past in your past. This gives me something to chew on, but... it explains a lot of questions I've always had and never asked. I just wish Sara wouldn't push him."

"She's going to Chicago, so. Maybe that'll distract her, at least until he's well enough to fend her off himself. I didn't feel like I had the right to make her leave his room." Greg shifted uncomfortably, getting up off of the guestroom bed. "If it's okay, I'm going to go look and get together some stuff to take to him. I'm sure he'd probably kill for a razor and some underwear and stuff."

"His electric one is in the bathroom," Catherine told him as she plopped the box down and stepped back to close the closet door. "He prefers that one, I think."

Probably because it wasn't an actual sharp edge, Catherine decided. "Do you mind following me back to the department, Greg? I think Gil might want to know what we know without... him feeling like he needs to defend himself."

"Sure. I mean, anything that makes him feel better about it, I think." Greg shrugged. "I'll go get the other stuff and then be right back."

She watched him leave the room, all long-legged shift, a faintly wiggly walk that had always, always made her want to laugh. All she had to do was make sure she'd put everything away. The closed manila envelope still beckoned, though, and Catherine had to weigh whether she wanted to open it or not.

No. No, none of it had anything to do with Millander, except that Gil had a pattern of losing perspective with serial cases. Something for her to remember the next time one popped up -- in the very least, she was going to have to keep closer tabs on him with those cases to try and keep him from getting killed.

"Hey, are you okay?" Obviously, Catherine had spaced out a little. Greg was back with a bag in hand, one that she vaguely recognized from Gil using it as a carryon for some flight to a conference. "You looked kind of lost."

"I was thinking," she said while she closed the drawer that she'd taken the folder out of. "Greg. What do you know about Hannibal 'the Cannibal' Lecter?" Maybe that was a question to ask Sara -- Greg didn't seem like the sort to have that kind of morbid reading interests. He liked to hide lingerie catalogues in the office, not true crime books.

"Aside from skimming some stuff at, not much. It's not really my kind of curiosity. Actually? Cannibalism makes me queasy. Um. He's a psychoanalyst, a cannibal, and the FBI had a really bad tendency to talk to him and try to figure out what was going on in a bunch of other serial cases. I'm betting that wasn't anybody's brightest moment, since he's probably totally capable of screwing your head around backwards even without having his hands on you. I mean, hello. Psychoanalyst." Greg considered the matter. "Didn't he escape or something?"

"Mmhm. Been on the run for ten years now, I think?" She turned to herd Greg back out of the guest room. "Gil consulted him both before and after he was caught."

There was no question that he'd apparently screwed Gil's head on backwards when he was done with him, and the odd thought made Catherine want to smile. She wasn't going to try to get him to work with the FBI ever again, either.

"I wonder if he'd come after Gil. If he knew where he was. Do you think he'd be in any kind of danger from that? I mean, he seems to kill mostly people he considers rude and uncivilized, so if it was me, I'd be worried, but since it's Gil, I don't think there's any reason to be. Except I don't know. Do you?"

Greg's head was a scary place.

"Well, Gil doesn't seem to think it's a risk, because he's been 'hiding' in plain sight. Do you know how many forensics seminars he talks at? He's pretty well known for his papers on insects. There aren't many forensic entomologists in America." And it'd been ten years of running the risk of getting caught if Gil thought it was a threat.

She wasn't going to mention the correspondence to Greg. She could tell from the look on his face that he was already worried enough without adding anything else to it.

"Okay. So. I won't worry about that, then." Except for the part where he obviously would. "In which case, shall we go back to the lab? Or can whatever you wanted him to have wait until tomorrow?" Greg looked pretty worn out.

He was probably going back to the hospital to sleep on the pull out sofa, and to protect Gil from Sara if Sara hadn't already left. "Let's head back to the lab. He might react better if you give him what we found."

"Gee. Thanks. I like being the scapegoat," Greg told her blithely. "It's my favorite job, you know. Right after analyzing scat."

She nudged him a little as they headed through the hallway to leave. Ecklie hadn't overturned Gil's apartment too badly while looking for evidence. He'd found a glass in the kitchen that Millander had drank from, proof that Millander had been there for a while before Gil had come home.

"Trust me on this, Greg. You have no agenda. You're a neutral messenger."

"Yeah, well," he said, shouldering the bag and watching her close and lock the door. "Even neutral messengers get shot."

The nurses at the hospital liked him.

The only thing that could've made that better was if they'd been the naughty nurse kind of nurse instead of the slightly overworked, standing on your feet for ten hours hurts like hell kind of nurse. Even Greg got to whip around his lab in a spinney chair when he was tired.

The nurses liked him because he was polite and pretty quiet and all in all the most devoted 'son' that they'd probably seen there in a long time. He was getting the feeling that some of them weren't sure about that whole 'son' thing, but they hadn't said anything about it so he guessed he was still all right by them.

There was no telling how much longer he'd be all right by Grissom's account, since he was carrying a carefully folded brown paper bag of evidence that hadn't actually been. It was stapled closed at the top like Catherine hadn't trusted him not to peek.

He could be trusted. Admittedly, the staples in the bag had totally prevented him from doing just that, and the temptation would have been just wild if it hadn't been, but still.

"Back again, I see," the older nurse at the desk said softly when he stepped out of the elevator. She was southern, but it was somewhere different than Nick. Alabama, maybe, or middle Georgia, one of those accents that always made him think of Gone With The Wind. "You look tired, honey, and he's fine, honest. Y'all both ought to talk about it, an' you ought to go home to get some real sleep. There's no point in wearing yourself out so."

She was so nice that it made him feel kind of bad. Just not bad enough to go home.

"Well, you know. Hospitals are kind of scary if you have to be in them. Somebody ought to stay with you, right?" Greg smiled, waved the paper bag in her direction. "Besides. I'm okay."

"Uh-huh. Is that overnight bag there for you, or for him?" The duffle. Well, it was sort of dragging along on his shoulder, because it'd lost all significance since he started to realize that he was holding the Grissom equivalent of the Lost City of Atlantis.

"Little bit of both." He smiled charmingly, let her take that however she wanted. "Has he been okay? I mean, I didn't want to leave him but..." He shrugged. "Work."

"The night nurse had to make your girlfriend leave. I don't recommend letting her see him again, unless she can act civilized and not pick arguments. Other than that, he's been fine. It's been a books on tape morning, I think."

"Oh." He was honestly feeling bad about that. "I'll talk to her. If she comes back up, maybe you guys could...?" He bit his lip. "I'm really sorry. I'll just go on down, if that's okay?"

"That's fine." The drawl went with a smile, so he was free to roam down the hallway towards the door that'd let him into Gil's private room. Nobody could ever say that the department didn't give them good medical coverage. They damn sure needed it on more than one occasion.

Greg hoped he never would, and that if he did, everybody would be polite about it. With care, he knocked on Grissom's door before pushing it open gently to let himself inside.

Gil's eyes were closed, so it was hard to tell if he were asleep or awake. There was a book about scarabs up against the railing, and he had a cd-player sitting on his lap, headphones on. Greg could hear something classical in the bleed-through.

He shut the door behind him quietly, settled the duffle with Gil's various underwear and t-shirts and his electric razor in the chair before he kicked off his own shoes and moved to settle down on the couch. It was still neatly put back together, no surprise there, and he'd have to pull it out shortly, but he wanted to give Gil the stapled bag first and see if Gil was a shoot the messenger sort of person. He'd certainly shown Greg every once in a while that he had a temper, like when he'd cleared all that FBI stuff off of Greg's desk by sending it flying off into the hallway. That had been a moment of seriously, seriously wondering if his boss had gone batshit crazy.

He hadn't, it had only been stress. Hell, he'd seen every CSI in the department have one big breakdown or more. The only thing that ever freaked him out a little was Gil, and Gil was quiet for the moment, probably dozing through whatever CD he was listening to. It was really funny how being in the hospital with him hadn't made Greg nervous, not yet.

Maybe he'd spent too much time in hospitals. Poppa Olaf had spent days in and out of them when Greg had been a teenager, and he'd been the one drafted to stay since he'd been young enough not to stiffen up if he had to sleep in a chair overnight. Hospital stays weren't pleasant, but they didn't freak him out.

Grissom hadn't freaked him out yet, either, and that was a good thing. He was usually nervous as hell around Grissom for a variety of reasons. The most obvious was that he had a huge crush. How could anybody help having one? The man was quirky and funny and passionate and a baker's dozen of other things that made Greg's pulse go crazy at the sight of him.

That was another very good reason to have a crush.

At least, at least he wasn't ever going to tell Gil about it. He wasn't going to humiliate himself the way Sara almost-did. Molly. Saying the name had sounded like it tore Gil up, and he'd told her she didn't understand the circumstances, that she didn't know what she was talking about.

The bleed-through of classical music through Gil's headphones stopped, and Gil moved fingers to turn the cd player off when he opened his eyes.

"Hi," Greg greeted quietly, pushing himself forward to sit on the edge of the couch. It put him a little closer to Gil, which was a pretty nice place to be, Greg thought.

Gil turned his head a little while he took his headphones off, and looked faintly surprised. "Hi. Are you renting that sofa, or leasing it?"

"They tried to trick me into leasing it. Swore I'd get better value for my money and all," Greg said, expression earnest. "But, you know, I took a good look at it, kicked the legs, and figured renting was probably cheaper in the long run. I mean, you have to do more upkeep on a lease."

"It's better to buy a nice one when you're ready." Gil closed his eyes, then pushed himself upright a little. "They've told me that I can leave in three days. Possibly."

"Yeah, well. You're getting around pretty good, and hey, if you're lucky, they'll pull the catheter." Greg grinned despite himself. Those things were evil, or so he had heard. He'd never known anyone who didn't bitch about them.

"That's not what I want taken out the most, but I'm sure that'll feel good, too." His eyes strayed to the brown paper bag, then he looked back up at Greg.

"Catherine sent it," he explained quietly. "She said none of it was pertinent to the investigation, and that you shouldn't worry about anything. Um. I heard Sara saying some things this morning and I mentioned it to her. I don't understand, and I'm not asking to, because it's not like it's my business. But Catherine said only she and Ecklie were supposed to know about whatever it was, and that she was going to take care of it."

It was weird to watch a handful of emotions play over Gil's face like rollercoaster cars skipping over a track before they all disappeared. Then he just looked tired, a little worried where there had been momentary fear and anger and sadness.

"Can you hand it to me?"

Silently, Greg let him have the bag, watching as Gil just held it. He made no effort to open it, so the younger man cleared his throat. "Um. I could go grab some breakfast. I heard vague mention of scrambled eggs maybe for you sometime soon..."

Gil looked down at the bag, and got a finger under the underside of the first staple. "It... You don't have to. I'm sure there's... nothing in here." Nothing that he'd have to seriously hide, Gil meant but didn't say.

Greg could only imagine what someone who'd consulted with Hannibal Lecter could have to hide.

"Okay. Anyway, I am going to change into pjs and kind of pull out the bed. I know I'm totally in everybody's way, but..." Greg shrugged. "I guess they'll live."

"Hell isn't other people. Hell is waking up alone in a hospital room," Gil noted while he popped the first staple off entirely.

"Well, you don't have to worry about that, 'cause I'm not going anywhere," Greg promised, standing up to ferret out his pajama bottoms and t-shirt. He didn't usually wear pjs, but being at the hospital meant putting them on or getting caught naked. That wasn't exactly in his plans. Did he really wanna get caught sleeping naked in Grissom's hospital room? What if Nick or Sara or Warrick showed up to say hi? Talk about an awkward moment.

"I've noticed that." Gil popped the second staple, slowly, like he was steeling himself for the arduous task of opening a paper bag.

"What can I say? I'm stubborn." Stubborn and.. ah. There were the Husky slippers. The night nurse liked those. They made her laugh. Greg tucked them under and arm and moved around the bed with determination.

"Tenacious," Gil corrected as he reached into the bag and carefully emptied the contents into his lap. Four envelopes that were all kind of heavy-looking, a three times folded piece of paper, and a photo thing from Ritz

Greg carefully didn't look. Instead, he slipped into the bathroom and took his time changing so that Gil would have time to look at everything, if that was what he wanted. He had a toothbrush and toothpaste already in there, so it didn't take him long after that to wash his face and brush his teeth so that he could crawl into the sofa bed after pulling it out.

Just... take his time. The toothbrush and toothpaste for Gil looked used, so he'd been up and around, Greg just didn't know how much. Still, he looked so much better, more healthy, than he had covered in blood with a gun...

He wasn't going to think about that.

He wasn't ever going to think about that, not ever again, and thinking about it now was enough to make him want to wash his brain out with soap. "Get your act together," he whispered fiercely into the mirror, rinsing out his toothbrush and putting it back on the sink before leaving the bathroom.

He'd just seen it. Heard it and heard it and panicked. Gil had been living it, and he seemed a-okay, which was pretty fucked up. Maybe Greg could drag Gil to therapy.

Gil seemed happy to leaf through the pictures, and didn't try to hide anything from Greg. The thrice-folded paper had been put back in the bag, along with one of the four letters, so Gil was either done looking through those two things or didn't want Greg to see. "I took these when I was a little younger than you."

"It's okay if I see them?" Greg asked, stepping closer and settling into the chair that was nearest the bed. The room was kind of crowded -- one chair by the bed, one by the door, and the sofa that pulled out, on top of the single bed -- but that was all right.

"Of course." He offered them over a little tentatively, like he didn't want to drop them or even really let go. Maybe they were the only pictures Gil had from around then. The topmost one was a little crooked and not only could Greg almost smell the Quantico, but he could see the sign and the uniform suits and Gil standing between a slightly older, tall skinny guy and a pretty blonde lady who wasn't all decked out for pissing off local police like the rest of them.

"Huh. I think you're lucky nobody's got a thumb in this one," he commented simply. It kind of explained why the FBI pissed Gil off so much, maybe. It wasn't Greg's right to ask questions, though, so he simply flipped through, giving Gil time to offer commentary if he wanted.

"Fred was crossing the line from tipsy to drunk when I gave him my camera. I took most of the others myself." The one right behind that was almost the same scene, but blurry -- next was a man sitting on the hood of an old Caddie, and it looked like it'd recently been on the wrong end of a bigger car.

"That's Fred. We'd just caught Garrett Hobbs that Thursday. We were kicking around the last of the evidence and relaxing."

"Sounds like it was pretty good times. I'm guessing I might have been, like, six at the time," Greg teased him, shuffling another picture back, and seeing the woman again. Blonde, kind of pretty, smiling. Gil had a different smile then, too, he could tell.

Softer, younger, really warm and relaxed. That was the smile of a guy who had everything in the world. The next picture was of the blonde lady and a little toddler holding onto her hand.

"Seventy-eight? I think you were three?" Gil gave a quiet noise. "That's Molly. If you hadn't guessed."

"Yeah. I was three. You look like such a baby," Greg replied, not answering exactly. He had figured. "Not that you aren't kind of baby-faced now." He grinned. "But you were even more baby-faced then." He wanted to ask. He did. He wanted to know if the baby was Gil's, and what had happened to him. Where he was. What was going on.

He didn't ask.

"I thought the beard made me look more manly. And it made it easier to go long days without a break." He moved the photo, shuffled it gently behind the other, because Gil didn't seem about to tell him if the baby -- a boy, because all little kids were really sort of hard to guess their gender, but he was wearing a little blue overalls thing -- was his or where he was or anything. It was just something that Gil wasn't any more.

He could almost understand why Catherine had looked so headachy.

Behind that photo was a tiny slip of paper with copperplate quality handwriting on it. Have you ever seen blood in the moonlight, Will? And just beneath the old scrap that had ink bleeding into the paper, was a photograph of a man in a good suit, lifting a glass of scotch (or maybe whiskey, or maybe apple juice in the wrong kind of glass) up to his mouth. Molly was in the background, across from him at the mess-hall type table. His eyes were red, but it wasn't from the flash that Gil didn't use.

"That's seriously creepy." And it was. It was, and there was something about it that put Greg on edge in a funny, worried sort of way. "His eyes... The color's all off." Except Molly looked right, and the background looked right, so...?

"They're naturally that way." Gil sounded quiet, like he was separated from his words, observing and not reacting. "Hannibal was there because I'd consulted with him to form the profile that we used to catch Hobbs."

"Hannibal Lecter." Because it was undeniable. It was so obvious, and there was that note. Have you ever seen blood in the moonlight, Will? Will. Not Gil. "You know, Grissom. I'll tell you what I said to Catherine earlier. No matter what or who you were, you are what you've become. You're you. And that's more important to me than anything that used to be."

"You can't change the past, and regretting it doesn't help." Gil swallowed, looking down at the picture that Greg was holding, and then reached forwards a little to move it, tuck it along behind the rest. "You heard me tell Sara that she didn't understand the context, didn't you?"

"I was eavesdropping," Greg admitted. His fingers twitched, reaching out to touch Gil before he could stop it. "She had that look on her face, and I was kind of worried. About you."

The picture behind the one that made Greg's skin crawl was a group shot of the whole room; the little boy was on the table, Molly's hands at his waist. The skinny guy from the first picture was ruffling his hair and looking down at Molly. Lecter was sitting back, head cropped out of the shot.

It wasn't just Gil that didn't see that one coming, because there he was. Soon to be mass murderer, sitting in a room full of Feds.


Why? Why what? Why did he eavesdrop? "Uh. Why did I listen?" Greg blinked. "Because Sara can be scary. I wouldn't want her cornering me if I was doing okay, never mind while I was in the hospital."

Gil had the oddest look on his face as he settled back a little. "Sara isn't scary. She's... infatuated. I've never known what to do."

Greg shook his head. "No. Trust me. Sara is scary. There's a case of having a crush and carrying it to the point of harassment. You take it really well. It's the kind of thing most people would have reported by now, you know."

He'd been eavesdropping, after all. He knew just how scary she was, and that she'd implied that the way he was living was wrong and that he shouldn't shut her out, and... all sorts of things. Things that a guy who'd just been through what Gil had just been through didn't need to hear.

"She's a brilliant forensic scientist."

"She was being a bitch. They're not what you'd call mutually exclusive."

"That, too. I'm going to have to talk to her when she gets back from Chicago. I've let it sit for too long." Gil leaned back in a little when Greg moved his hands to leaf through more photos. Another picture of the skinny guy by himself this time. He held himself like he was really important. He probably thought he was, and Greg had met a lot of guys like that in his life.

"Yeah," Greg agreed quietly. Gil would never have that talk with him, because Greg was never, ever going to confess to his crush again. Once was plenty, and the power of anesthesia worked with him then to keep him safe. Thank God.

"That's Jack Crawford. He dragged me back into the field after I tried to quit."

"I'm guessing that you weren't doing then what you're doing now," Greg said dryly. "And I'm guessing it must have been kind of dangerous."

"Field work for the FBI? Only if you worked for Jack." Gil's mouth tipped down sadly. "I was a coroner in LA County after I left the first time. That... wasn't a lie." He'd always said he used to do that.

"No wonder you like to keep so busy." And do such stupid things, like facing down serial rapists and killers as if it was something to do every day, easy. "Sounds like you've pretty much kept busy since then. Before then." Whatever.

"Both. I needed... to change careers after Lecter. Molly insisted. We..." He drew in a slow breath, watching Greg move to another picture while he gathered his thoughts. "I'd still be there now if Jack hadn't brought a case to me. The Tooth Fairy."

"Tooth Fairy...?" The name didn't seem to ring any bells, but the question would lead Gil along. Greg wondered if he had ever talked about any of this. It was obvious that he needed to talk about it, because he was, and Gil never talked about anything. Greg hardly had to ask another question out of him -- all he had to do was look at pictures and not freak out the way that Sara had. Another picture that had Gil in it, this one straight on perfect like the camera was on a tripod. He had the baby boy on his shoulders, Molly smiling at the camera with her skirt a blur from some breeze, Jack on the other side of her, an academic kind of guy to the side of Jack, half out of the picture and leaning in, and Lecter standing beside Gil/Will, a hand on his shoulder.

Picture and drinking day at Quantico.

"Francis Dolarhyde. He... killed two families. Put mirror chips in their eyes, killed the husband, the kids, propped them up as witnesses to the wife's slow death and rape. All Jack knew was that he was efficient, brutal, and worked on a lunar cycle. The police in Atlanta named him the Tooth Fairy because he was a biter with an odd bite pattern."

"Hm." Greg nodded, looking at the picture. It was nice to see Gil in that picture, the smile like something they hardly ever saw lately. He had seen it a handful of times before Gil became supervisor, usually when something really bizarre came into play. "So I'm guessing that forensics wasn't your biggest interest at the time. But I'm also betting that interested you in them a lot more, right?"

"I was... a special investigator. It's FBI terms for a jack of all trades. I profiled, investigated... Forensics was still a great part of it at the time, but you can only do so much when there are no insects, and smooth glove-prints to track. He... Took off his latex glove at the second scene, and left a print on her eye. Leeds." He closed his eyes tight for a moment, and Greg didn't know what Gil was seeing before he went on.

Greg didn't say anything, didn't move. Just sat and made faint, encouraging sounds every time Gil seemed to stall. He could be there, and he could listen. It wasn't like he had to have whatever it was that Sara wanted so badly. It wasn't like he was going to get it, even if he thought he had to have it. So, since he wasn't going to get anything, he could sit there, and he could give. He'd been doing it for a week, and Greg was determined to continue doing it.

"I consulted with Lecter again. He was in prison by then... and I knew the answers to what I was asking. I needed to feel what it was like to be insane again." He paused again, peered at Greg and the pictures for a moment. There were still a few that Greg hadn't looked at, but Gil looked really happy with the boy sitting on his shoulders and Molly standing beside him. It was hard to move on from there, to take his eyes away from that happiness. Greg liked seeing it, and it made him wish that he got to see it more often.

"You could feel what it was like? To be him?" Greg asked, prompting Gil forward quietly.

"Yes." And whether he could still do it or not went unanswered. "I visited him to get in touch with that feeling again. He... was in contact with the Tooth Fairy, as luck had it. Or didn't. He rigged the phone they gave him, got my new home address from a friend... and directed Dolarhyde there. At the end... Molly killed Dolarhyde. He'd shot Josh twice, and me twice... I'd shot once, missed, and dropped my gun. That's how Molly..."

Gil's voice trailed off, and for a short period, Greg didn't think he was going to continue. Didn't think he had anything else to say, but then Gil took a deep breath, one that verged on shuddering, and Greg held his in response.

"Molly mailed the divorce papers to me while I was still in the hospital. Josh was on life support, and he died not long after. Everything had gone to hell again -- Jack did me one last favor by helping me set up here in Vegas. Our very rude, very safe city."

"I'm guessing it's not feeling so safe right now, huh?" Damn. All of that sucked, in a way that couldn't even begin to be explained. "I wish it had stayed safe for you."

He watched Gil swallow, expression drawn. "I wish it had, too. I... don't usually have to think about this. Any of this. It's been good living here. I almost forgot why I came here in the first place." Gil picked up one of the linen-enveloped letters. "Too crass a city for Lecter to come to. Too cultureless. There wouldn't even be the off chance of running into him that any other place in the world might have."

"Some of us are made for Vegas." Greg included himself in that softly spoken sentence. "Not you, though. Not really. You're made for the ocean." Silly, stupid thought, and it probably revealed a hell of a lot more than either of them would ever be comfortable with knowing.

Gil just looked at him, absently opening the taped closed envelope. "I've thought of leaving here. Running again, but I still have so much here for me." He flipped the back of the envelope open, and added, "If everyone reacts as well as you have."

"If they don't, I promise to totally kick ass and take names for you," Greg swore. "I don't think anybody's going to do anything hateful to you, Griss. And Catherine's going to have a talk with Sara."

"She is?" Gil seemed to perk up at that; he hadn't seemed like he'd wanted to have a talk with her in the first place, let alone a disciplinary one. Catherine was good at catty and angry and firm. "That's... I'm glad to hear that." He was peeking down at the letter -- two sheets of paper, folded in on itself so that Gil had to take it out of the envelope to see what it was.

"Are you upset? That they found all of this, I mean." Greg leaned forward, his elbows on his knees.

"I..." Gil rubbed at his eyes for a moment, scanning over the letter. He was trying not to let Greg see, sort of, but he could see the reverse image of sketch of a naked man with a hand disappearing up his ass. Weird shit. "They're memories I buried a long time ago. I can't be upset, I just..."

"You just wish they weren't trying to claw their way up like something out of a bad zombie movie?" Greg suggested, taking in a deep breath. "I can get that. I would, too."

"I came here to start over. It isn't that I completely stopped thinking about everything, but. Only sometimes. It was like looking back at a dream. When I meet my friends from then, they never mention any of it. I'm a new person that they don't ask about Lecter's escape, or Molly, or where Josh is buried."

Gil was putting the letter away, fingers shaking, not having even really read it. Maybe he'd just needed a glance to figure out what it was, because he hadn't even put it away properly before he picked up the second envelope that was just like it to stick into the bag.

"You know, you don't have to look through all of that right now. I can put it in the duffle bag, lock it up. We can get some sleep. You look like you might be getting kind of tired..." Greg suggested.

Even if he wasn't tired, Greg was giving him an out. Gil put the last envelope away when he nodded, waiting for Greg to fold the Ritz wrapper back over the photos. "I've been up all night. The night nurses were worried at first."

"Then you explained that you're just a night-owl kind of guy, right?" Greg smiled and started putting things back as he'd gotten them, taking the paper bag from Gil and stuffing it into the duffle bag before carefully tying the whole thing closed. He walked around the bed and put it in the corner between the wall and the pullout couch. "There. Safe and sound."

"Until it starts to rattle." Gil tried to give him a smile as he picked up the book on scarabs and cd player to set them aside. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," Greg said simply, going to work at pulling the bed loose. It was pretty easy, since it was one of the ones where the end slid down and the 'cushions' from the back laid on top of the section that pulled out to make it one long twin. "You know, I'd do more. If you needed."

"Would you?" It had been a vague suggestion on his part, not even clear, but Gil was watching him as he turned to his side and pulled at the sheets of the hospital bed in some lame attempt to be comfortable.

"Yeah." It was silly and a little embarrassing, but it was true. He'd do whatever it took, and he wouldn't hassle Gil about it.

Maybe it wasn't a crush. After all, Sara definitely had a crush, and she felt like that gave her the right to make demands. Greg didn't want to do anything that wasn't going to help Gil in the long run.

Maybe it was something more than that.

"Huh." Gil didn't know what to think of that, pretty obviously, but he didn't seem angry or weirded out, or anything else. He shifted the pillow to try to get comfortable, then closed his eyes. Greg probably hallucinated the mumbled 'thanks'.

Greg wasn't even sure what 'more' there was that he could do. All he knew for sure was that he would do it, whether it was asked of him or an implied need. He'd give what he had.

Closing his eyes and tugging the blanket up to his shoulders, Greg thought that maybe that was all the difference in the world between crush and love.

Greg probably needed to sleep in a real bed, very soon. Even the most comfortable of sofa beds wasn't the same as a real bed.

Hospital beds were no better. Small, hard on his back, and that jumbled up with the restrictions of the saline IV and everything else. They'd sewn Gil back up in a quick bit of surgery -- during which Greg had sat and waited for him in his hospital room -- and that made it easier to walk around on his own. At least he was getting out the next day, and he could go home.

Gil wasn't sure what he'd do then. He had 'personal' time that the Sheriff had given him. There had to be a polite way to say he didn't need more than a few days to get himself ready for supervising nightshifts. Two, three days of real rest, not hospital rest, and he'd be back and ready.

He was completely capable of pulling himself back together by then. It wasn't like he'd fallen apart completely. Greg would agree with him.

Then again, Greg was obviously smitten.

Gil wasn't sure when he had realized it, or even if that half-remembered fuzzy conversation lingering in the back of his mind had actually happened. Still, he was almost certain that it had, and.... well. The evidence never lied.

The evidence was, in fact, snoring into a flat pillow with the kind of gusto usually reserved for Black Flag. Gil was sure that it sounded a little better than actual Black Flag, which he'd occasionally heard Greg blasting from the DNA lab. It was the sort of sound that could make a Madagascar hissing roach flip over on its back and die.

Snoring wasn't half that bad. Gil was used to it by now, background noise that assured him that he wasn't alone in the room as he leafed through his book. If Greg wanted to be smitten with him, that was... all right. He was quieter about it than Sara was, gentler, and even though Gil didn't know what to do, exactly, he was more comfortable with it.

Maybe it was Greg's easy, flippant style. Chasing after him in the hallway to tell him what kind of stone he liked. Little bits of facts and too much fun unveiling the results of his tests.

Gil could live with that. He could face Greg every day without the unbearable fear that Sara represented, Sara who frowned like Molly and made him want to hide in his office. Greg handled his temper tantrums with wide-eyed fretfulness instead of scowls and tears, and he didn't leave Gil alone in hospital rooms full of fearful silence.

It was easier not to fall into circular thought when he had a presence and a book. He wasn't going to think about Molly when she'd seen him in the hospital that last time, the look on her face years before that which had begged him to quit the department when he'd had trouble and had cracked a little and hadn't been able to stop thinking like Lecter.

He didn't do that anymore. It was easier to blunder through life and not try to see at all what other people were thinking. Evidence. The evidence was that he had supportive friends. He hadn't seen Catherine for a while, but Jim had come by, alluded to running away being an okay thing, and left him some batteries for his CD player.

"Well, well. Doctor Grissom, I presume?"

Gil hadn't heard the door open, and when he lifted his eyes, he thought that he should be afraid.

Should be.

He wasn't, though, and he couldn't say exactly why. Couldn't say, but he knew in the back of his mind. After all, he wrote. They wrote, and... Gil didn't think about why. It was just so fucked up that there weren't words for why he still played the game, and why his heart didn't freeze in fear.

"Why are you here?"

"Because I was worried, naturally. I've quite missed seeing you, discussing things with you." He was wearing a white lab coat, and he moved closer to the bed, putting out one hand to gently touch a raised rail. "I see that I needn't have. You seem to have gained companionship since last we spoke."

"One of my coworkers. They've been taking shifts." They care, he didn't say. But they did, even if Greg was the only one sleeping in the room with him. Gil moved, sat up straight as he took in a man he hadn't seen without bars separating them in twenty years. Older, but like some unreal painting, lines never seemed to crease Hannibal's face. He was aging gracefully. "There wasn't any need to worry."

"Perhaps. Perhaps not. But you know, I do worry about you, Will. You're so susceptible, to so many things. Suggestive, if you will, and the news has been filled with no small number of stories concerning the death of a certain serial killer in your immediate area. Suffice to say, I have temporarily overcome my dislike of your choice of location to be certain that you are well. And here I find you again, bedridden and inured." Those deep, sangria-colored eyes followed Gil relentlessly. "One would almost think that you enjoy my seeing you this way."

"One would think," Gil agreed mutedly, folding his hands loosely on top of his book. He couldn't look away; he could almost feel those eyes reaching into him. "Or perhaps it just has something to do with the nature of our interactions. I haven't been in a hospital since the last time you... involved yourself in my life."

"Well. You can't say that my involvement in your life does not bring with it a certain amount of intrigue. True, Will? I've quite missed this, talking with you. Perhaps it is the one thing that I have missed about this uncouth country at all." Hannibal shifted forward and sat slowly in the chair beside the bed. Greg's snores covered what little sound the man made.

He wouldn't leave any proof that he'd come and gone, not even an echo of noise. "I'm a little shocked that you came... here. To Vegas. You knew the shooting wasn't fatal." Was it to start a new leg of a very old game, or something else entirely?

Gil was trying very hard not to remember what had been. Two serious relationships that had overlapped, almost intertwined and fallen apart in unexpected ways. Prison, and then abandonment. He wouldn't, wouldn't think. He just wished he was still on the good painkillers.

"I know many things, Will. Many things. Knowledge does little to stifle the fretfulness of the heart. I have a great affection for you, you know. Perhaps not so much as I have for Clarice," and that was a very long and frightening story, "but a great deal, nonetheless."

A strong hand reached for Gil's wrist, and Gil remembered what it felt like to have the bones grind and scrape each other, to feel bones click and twist -- even if that wasn't what was happening in that moment. Affection. He'd wanted to eat Will's heart, he'd gutted him, killed him repeatedly. Was that affection?

Apparently it was. For him. "Is she still alive? She seemed to be when you last wrote..."

"Oh, alive and quite well. She, like you, seems inclined to find other fields in which to engage her many talents. Quite a shame, really, although I do find it understandable."

Greg's faint snores lightened, stilled, and Gil's heart nearly stopped. "Other fields are more rewarding than working for Jack. There's too many people like Chilton in the field, aren't there?" Gil tipped his head a little, straining not to peer past Hannibal to see that Greg was still asleep. "A scientist... or a self-employed psychologist has certain autonomy. I'm sure Clarice has found a field like that." Hannibal wouldn't tell him, just in case.

Not that Gil looked for him. He wasn't going to ask how it was to live in whatever European style city Hannibal had come to inhabit.

"I suppose that's so. Just so," Hannibal agreed, reaching out as if to touch Gil's face. It made him flinch despite himself, eyes shifting to Greg on the couch. "Ah, interesting. One of yours, then?" He went on as if the answer didn't matter, and it probably didn't. He already knew. "They're most interesting, these people of yours. Most particularly this one, and... what is her name? Ah. Yes. Catherine." Catherine? Not Sara?

God, if he'd done something to Catherine... That was his first thought, and it was oddly followed by, But he only kills men, which was strangely comforting. Not for Greg, though. Sara was too rude for Hannibal to put on a pedestal of any type. She was safe, in another city. "They've risen above odds and low expectations of them to accomplish unthinkable feats of crime-solving. They're fascinating people."

The last word faltered, because fingers did touch his cheek, lingering down to where his beard would be if Greg hadn't been thoughtful enough to being his razor.


Hannibal's fingers withdrew just as gently as they had caressed, obeying his wish wordlessly. "Of course, Will." Back to being that terrifying, smiling being. Had he ever been anything else? Will didn't think so, just that he'd been blinded from it. "A fascinating subject, your most recent encounter. I regret not having had time to discuss matters with him before his death."

"He was a sociopath. Striving for closure, and justice." Striving to... die. That was why he'd done what he had, called people that he knew would find Gil because Gil needed help. Suicide by cop, except he needed to be shot clean in the chest. Couldn't do it himself, and acting it out on people over and over again hadn't given him the closure he needed.

The thoughts clicked into place suddenly. It wasn't anything to do with him. It hadn't been personal, except that it was.

It had to be.

"I suppose it's all falling together for you, now. Strangely, after a small bit of very interesting research, I reached the same conclusion. In truth, that is why I am here to see you today."

"Griss?" Greg asked blearily, pushing himself up on one hand. "Oh. Um." The way that he rubbed at one eye made something inside Gil contort.

"Go back to sleep, Greg. Everything's okay." He surprised himself by how really calm he sounded, by the gentleness of command he could still drag up. It was like telling Amy Hendler to put down her gun.

He almost had to make himself return his attention to Hannibal, focusing. "I don't see how that conclusion led to... this."

"I can see why you might not. Well. Do try to get some rest, dear boy. You seem to be doing just fine," Hannibal promised, most likely for Greg's benefit more than Gil's own.

Will's own.

"And you, young man, please do continue to take excellent care of our dear Gilbert Grissom."

"I promise," Greg agreed sleepily, his eyes weighing down heavily as his head slid back to his pillow. "Promise."

"Such sweetness has youth," Hannibal murmured, and the way that he looked at Greg made Gil furious. That fury gained a smile from Hannibal, small perfect teeth showing as he turned to Gil for a moment. "I'm sure he's tender. You were, Will."

"I still don't understand how you could do that to me after..." Everything. Friendship, wooing him, elegant dinners, all of them at the opera, and almost painful sex. But that he couldn't quite make it all click, not consciously.

It was almost a blessing to know that he couldn't think exactly like a serial killer.

The Gallic shrug Hannibal gave set Gil's teeth on edge. "The follies of youth, I'm afraid, are many, as are the regrets. You should take that advice on board." What that meant, precisely, Gil could only guess.

Guess that it was a warning about Greg and youth and regrets. In Gil's case, those happened to be nightmares and scars both mental and physical. Gil swallowed. "I'll try. My department knows -- the chances of being recognized might be a little heightened."

Gentle warning, and Gil didn't know why he bothered anymore.

"No worries, dear remembrance. As I know -- as you know -- even if they tried to catch me, the results would be..." Hannibal smiled. "Not to their liking."

"I know." Gil tilted his head a little, feeling strained, like he was pulling out of joint. God, that feeling. That warping, falling feeling filled with memories and madness. The scent. "Thank you for coming. Or at least, thank you for not sending flowers." The room still had a faint hint of smell from all of them, but he'd had the nurses take them to people who were alone and needed the cheering up more than he did.

"I knew that you preferred companionship to floral offerings. Sad, perhaps," he said, "but true. There is a certain refined elegance to flowers that companionship might lack."

Greg was softly snoring again, oblivious. He wouldn't know that his heavy sleep had probably saved his life.

"I take the good with the bad." Intriguing conversation and passionate kisses with being face down in fine bedding, choking when three fingers turned to four and then a thumb.

He really had put Molly through hell. "Have a safe flight."

"Of course. Au revoir, Will. We will undoubtedly meet again."

And again.

And again, and it was always going to turn out the same impossible way.

"Goodbye, Hannibal." He wouldn't turn around -- he'd just leave and then Gil would lie there and think and try not to worry for Greg's safety. It was years too late to worry about his own.

The click of the door was almost a relief. Hopefully, he'd leave Vegas without killing. Gil wanted to stay there. He didn't want everything really turned inside out.

"Tell me," Greg whispered, snores stopping altogether, "that was not. NOT. Not, not, not. Who it sounded like that was."

Feigned sleep. It startled Gil, but he wanted to smile a little, too. Greg had been smart to lie there and pretend to snore. He'd been too engrossed in conversation, in words and thoughts, to notice that it wasn't real snoring.

"Who did it sound like?"

The faint wetness in Greg's dark eyes didn't surprise him. What surprised him was the intense worry directed at himself. "It sounded a lot like this guy they call Hannibal the Cannibal. Just from the conversation you were having. Not that I've ever seen him before, except in your pictures. Jesus, Grissom!"

It would've been hard to deny it -- with Hannibal calling him Will and him calling Lecter Hannibal. "What would you have had me do? Hit the call button? Start a bloodbath? No."

No. Neither of those things, but watching Greg's hands shake made Gil wish he could have thought of something. The red dots in Greg's cheeks made him seem pale and frantic even though he was outwardly calm. "My God. My God. You should call someone, Gil. Call Catherine, Call... Oh, my God."

Gil took a deep breath, shaking his head as he leaned against the railing to try to take Greg's hand. "Listen to me. We came to a truce. If I break it..."

He recognized that drawing together of brows. It was frustration, it was a way to fight off tears, it was wretched worry. "But what if he comes back and I'm not here?"

Greg's hands were shaking, and Gil wished that he honestly had been asleep instead of faking it. Ignorance was bliss, and he couldn't ever remember being so scared of Hannibal as Greg seemed. But Greg had only seen the monster. Read, maybe. Gil didn't know.

"He won't kill me. We have a truce. The FBI knows -- they forward any letters he tries to send to me. It's okay, Greg. He's gone."

"Oh, Jesus." The way that Greg pulled his hand close, held it so tight... Gil knew what Hannibal had been trying to say. Knew what it all meant. There were so many problems, though, so many reasons to avoid thinking about it or doing anything about it. Greg, unlike Sara, would let him do that for as long as Gil wanted. Forever, if that was the case, and Gil knew it.

He wasn't sure if that was wise. Either holding him at arm's length or pulling him close. The follies and regrets of youth.

"I'm sorry. I didn't think he'd ever set foot in this city. He won't hurt me, or you, or Catherine." Except for that fishhook scar and the knowledge that his heart had stopped the moment Jack had moved him off of the lush carpet that his life had soaked into.

The way that Greg looked up at him said that a decision had been made, even if he'd made it unconsciously. There was something bright there, and grateful, and God. When had he last seen that? In his own eyes? "Okay."


Trust, because Gil said it was so.

Gil had to close his eyes, gave Greg's hand a squeeze. He could still feel ghost fingers on his wrist, against his cheek. "I'm sorry."

"For what? You can't tell me you're sorry because of something someone else does, Gil." Greg's fingers twined in his for a moment before he began to remove them almost shyly.

"I'm sorry that I miss the forest for the trees," Gil amended, clutching tight to stop Greg. He needed to think and relax, and calm down, but Greg needed reassurance.

"You must just kind of attract them, huh?" Greg looked stricken by that, probably wondering what that made him, or Sara.

He didn't want to say what he was thinking -- that like called to like, and Greg and Sara and even Molly had been a case of opposites attracting. If any of those handy phrases were real. "One, and a few coincidences."

Greg's thumb stroked the back of Grissom's hand slowly. "I may never sleep again," he announced. "I mean, I'd be afraid I'd wake up and find something worse than Dr. Lecter in here, and frankly, we'd have to be in hell for that, I think."

"Greg... there are worse out there. People like Sid Goggle. They're worse. They make all of their victims suffer." While he still vividly remembered his fate. Peering at boxed insects, and then that cookbook. How it had hit him like a wave and then the knife. Fingers twisting his wrist until he had to drop his gun, and a smooth voice in his ear telling him that he was in shock, and shouldn't feel any pain.

"Getting eaten isn't suffering?" The way Greg asked it seemed dazed, and Gil wasn't surprised. How could he be? He was getting more sleep than Greg, and he was accustomed to Hannibal's random notes, even if a visit hadn't exactly been on the horizon. Ever.

That was why he was living in Vegas, but Lecter had known who he was all along. Knew to keep some small tab on Gil Grissom. He'd thought he'd been so smart, moving, changing. Hiding in plain sight. His whole life was built on some tenuous, unspoken truce that could fall apart at any moment. "When he killed me... it didn't hurt much."

"Oh my GOD." The broken sound of that whisper ached deep in Gil's stomach, faintly reminiscent of that curved scar created so long ago. "Oh. My God."

Gil didn't remember Molly crying when it happened. Any of it. Watching Greg hide his face against their clasped hands despite the fact that Gil would feel it when the tears fell didn't lessen that ache any.

He stayed silent for a moment, feeling that dampness against his hand, feeling the ache of having someone so seriously scared and worried for him. "Greg?"

"Sorry." Sorry? "Okay. Okay. Sorry." Greg sniffed valiantly and sat up, trying to stifle further tears and trembling. "I'm stupid. Sorry."

"No, tell me what's wrong." Gil's fingers twitched slightly.

"Nothing." It was a lie, and worse than a lie. "Okay, something, but Christ." He could see Greg pulling himself together, and it was so different than watching Sara had been. Gil should feel bad for comparing them, perhaps, but he didn't. He couldn't.

He saw, he compared. Looking at the evidence, Gil couldn't help but put his free hand on the side of Greg's face. "I'm listening."

"You're not in any condition to be listening." Greg's breath gusted out, hot against Gil's wrist. "I'm scared shitless, all right? God. He could have done anything to you. Anything. And you don't even get that, or, or maybe you do and you don't care. You don't care, but..."

"But I've taken a stroll through his brain. I had to be checked into a psychiatric ward because I couldn't stop thinking like him." Which was more than anyone he worked with needed to know, but Greg -- like Jim, and maybe like Catherine, he wasn't so sure -- would keep it quiet if it wasn't a 'fun' fact. "Please. Don't be scared for me. Or for you. As long as neither of us notifies anyone that he came by to see that I was alive, everything is fine."

"As much as it scares the fuck out of me not to say anything..." Greg scrubbed at the side of his face Gil wasn't touching and sniffed again. "God. Just."

Gil dredged up a smile. It didn't matter that everything in his brain was spinning away at a billion miles an hour, or that he was tired and suddenly both heartsick and hopeful. "When I told you in ICU that I was fucked up, I think I meant it."

"You remember that?" Gil couldn't tell if Greg was mortified or appalled, but the way that he looked implied that he feared Gil might kick him the way someone might a squalling puppy. "Oh. Jesus. I'm so sorry. You don't need somebody else going Sara on you, I..."

"You haven't," Gil cut in. His hand lingered, stroked for a moment before he realized what touch he was mirroring and drew back. Greg hadn't seen, he'd been lying there with his eyes closed. "Do you think you can go back to sleep?"

Greg shook his head and then leaned forward, burying his face against Gil's bed. "I don't know."

"Okay." Gil concentrated on the feel of Greg's fingers. "Want to hear some stories about the lighter side of crime scene investigation?"


Bedtime stories. Gil could handle that.

Everything was ever so slightly off. Books had been moved, displays that he was still working on had been shifted, his bedroom furniture had been rearranged to the point where he almost didn't recognize the room. The mattress was new, and the sheets were from his linen closet, but that made sense.

He'd bled all over the same bed that he'd taken a quick nap in when he got home. Probably really soaked the mattress; blood on cloth turned oddly rancid if it was in any amount, the iron tang breaking down to a stomach-turning antiseptic stinging smell. Gil knew that, but couldn't quite remember the why while he stood in his little kitchen area and contemplated making food.

The easy solution was for him to look it up while he settled down with his laptop and whatever he decided would be 'breakfast'. Somewhere in there he would contemplate putting his apartment to rights. The locks were all new, too, and he'd already thanked Jim for that when Jim came by to give him the keys. Jim had given Greg the oddest look, then smiled like a Cheshire cat before leaving.

Hopefully Greg was actually sleeping at his home and not tossing fretfully with nightmares that weren't his. It wasn't likely, and Gil knew it. The only time he'd slept peacefully had been with his head on Gil's hospital bed, Gil's hand petting slowly through wild strands of hair. 'One more day' had turned into two when the doctor hadn't made rounds by the usual release time, and Greg had spent another day sleeping on the pullout couch in Gil's room. It wasn't actually much like sleep, because he flinched wildly every time the door opened, even if he hadn't sat up or opened his eyes. Gil knew, though.

He kept expecting Hannibal to come back, and he wouldn't take Gil's word that he knew he was safe. They were safe. That Hannibal wouldn't come back. It was hard to explain how he knew that, a gut feeling like he knew the sun would rise in the morning and set at night and that he'd have to wear sunglasses outside to dampen the effects of sunlight.

It was hard to explain, too, how Gil's dreams were vast empty wastelands half of the time, and half of the time they made him jerk upright, sweating with a heart rate that pumped like he'd run a marathon. It made sleep hard, but he'd always functioned well on little sleep. With everything that had been turned over, the changes to his apartment, Gil knew he'd be having more of those waking up nights. The healing gunshot wound seemed to echo its pain right over to the looping fishhook of a scar that Hannibal left him, exacerbating dreams. His nap had been restless, filled with flashes of bodies and Hannibal and knives.

The knock on his front door startled him so badly that he nearly dropped his laptop.

Gil hadn't been expecting anyone; he had made Greg promise to get a full eight hours of sleep, and extorted a solemn oath that Greg would go to work and not come drift uselessly in front of Gil's town house, fretting and worrying about a completely unlikely return on Hannibal's part. Gil knew down to his toes that Hannibal was gone, returned to Paris or Rome or Vienna; somewhere with a city full of aristocrats and elegant manners, and enough raw-edged crude men to provide him with the sort of meal he so often craved.

He settled the laptop down as the knock struck again, and moved to peer through the peephole at the front door. Catherine shifted impatiently just outside of it, and she was lifting her fist again by the time he swung the door open.

"Hi. Can I come in?"

"I guess you can, since you seem ready to knock the door down." He was glad that he'd actually gotten dressed. Sitting around in pajamas in his bed made him feel lazy and sick, whereas being dressed and sitting on the sofa was a state of relaxing. It was all about mindset and location. Gil stepped aside, and reminded himself that he'd have to get his new keys copied and to give one to her. He couldn't live entirely alone and without other people to check up on him. That was how people became human soup or just entirely desiccated.

He wasn't going to think that it might lead to one being eaten and no one ever noticing, too.

"Greg called. He made me swear that I'd come to check on you before I went to work, since you made him promise not to check on you," Catherine told him, stepping inside. She hung her coat over a chair and followed him back into the living room.

"He's done nothing but check on me since it happened. I thought he needed to sleep and stop worrying for a few hours," Gil shrugged, turning around while he veered a little. "Do you want some coffee?"

"Since I finally just started getting sleep myself, that would be a godsend. I don't know about everybody else, but I've seriously missed mainlining Greg's coffee. All he's done lately is work and worry about how you're doing. Last night, he practically jittered," Catherine said. She followed him part of the way, then paused to shift a pile of books off of a stool so that she could sit and watch him putter in the kitchen from across the counter.

"Some of what you, uh, unearthed has made him a little uneasy." Two birds, one stone -- after all, there wouldn't be a better opportunity to broach the topic than just then. Gil knew she was going to bring it up. If she was going to do that to him, he might as well cut her off at the pass.

"Well, I can't say I blame him. It makes me a little uneasy, Gil. I mean, you just..." She shrugged. "You've never mentioned any of it before. It's not like friendship requires you to tell me any of this stuff, but..."

But. But, it sort of did. Gil added sugar to her cup, and extra milk to his own before he added coffee. "I was never sure how to broach the topic. Would you have preferred that I paused over dinner one night and said, 'Did I ever mention that I'm a burnt out ex-FBI investigator'?"

"Not particularly, no, just..." Catherine gave a heavy sigh. "We're just a little extra-worried about you now. Even Ecklie is twitching, which is sort of fun, I have to admit..." She grinned at him. "If any one good thing comes out of this, maybe he'll back off and stop being such a complete ass."

He leaned across the island counter, and held the coffee cup out to her. "Maybe you're right. But. There's no reason to be worried about me. I'm... fine."

"You're fine." Uh-oh, THAT look. "Of course you are." And of course she didn't believe a word of it.

He turned away to get a package of pasta out from under the cabinet. "You don't believe me."

"Of course I don't believe you," Catherine scoffed. "If you thought saying you were okay would get you back into work early, you'd try running a fifty mile marathon to prove it if you had to."

Gil peeked up over the edge of the counter for a moment, holding a sealed plastic package of angel hair. It was a little strange that he was feeling like cooking and not ordering Chinese or pizza. "Would that actually get me back to work sooner? The Marathon, I mean. I'm not sure I could finish it, but I could try."

"Gil. Even if you swam the English channel, you wouldn't be allowed to come back to work until you've got a doctor's note. And even then, I don't think they'll let you come in more than half-time," she said, watching him. "So. Tell me the truth. How are you doing?"

"Sore. Tired. A little angry that you and Ecklie kindly dug up a chapter of my life I prefer not to think about." He stood up, started to open the packet, and then leaned sideways to get a pan down. His side pulled a little. "I'm not sure what to do except go back to work, hopefully soon."

"Look. I'm really sorry about that. You know we have to follow all of the leads, though, and... Well, some of the things just led us in that direction, Gil. What really worried me were those letters." She watched him as he worked quietly, dragging out butter and milk. "Not all of them are old."

"No. They aren't." How was he supposed to answer that? Honestly? Just nod and add words that she might take for truth without giving anything away? Gil filled the pan with water from the tap, not looking at Catherine. "The FBI forwards Will's mail to me."

"So they know that he writes you. Okay." He watched her take a deep breath. "Gil, I don't mind telling you that this totally freaks me out."

"He was a friend, once, Catherine. If you killed Eddie, strung Lindsey from the ceiling, and garroted Ecklie, if you wrote to me from prison, I'd still write back." It was simple to put the pot on to boil, add a little salt and the butter, waiting for it to warm up enough to add the pasta.

"But I'd at least be in prison. This guy's out running loose, which scares me for you."

Everyone was worried about him, and Gil wasn't sure that he liked it. He didn't want them to worry, didn't want any of them to know about his former life, didn't want them knowing much about his current life.

Gil tilted his head a little, and leaned a hand on the counter. "Why? I fall nowhere in the pattern of his killings. I'm neither a threat to his continued survival, or rude."

"What about that scar? You know the one. What about that?"

"I... was an immediate threat to his survival at the time," Gil explained vaguely. "He knew that I'd realized he was the killer, and he knew that I'd called Jack about the profile incongruity."

"So he just randomly, what? Stabbed you? Knifed you?" Took a piece of Gil with him, she didn't say, although that was certainly a much more accurate portrayal of what had happened.

Killed the part of Will that had been relaxed with being an investigator, the part of him that had cherished and adored the job. The part that had loved Lecter. "Caught me against the bookcase and started to gut me. His intent was to make it relatively painless and fast."

The water was bubbling, so he leaned over to turn the temperature down so he could add the angel hair.

"So why didn't he finish it?" she asked him. What was it that made the painful questions so easy to answer, and the simple ones so difficult?

"I stabbed him with some arrows I could reach when he was... lowering me to the floor. I reached my spare gun, and shot him twice. He didn't get the chance to finish it." Gil broke the pasta in half, dropped it in, and put a lid on. There was a glass jar of Alfredo sauce that he could dump into a small pan and thin with the milk. Simple, but civilized.

Hannibal wasn't any threat to him. He never really had been, aside from sheer necessity.

"You realize that I'm going to worry like hell about you, all the same. You've really got to get an alarm system installed here, Gil." Catherine took a slow, deep sip of her coffee. "At the very least, maybe then one of us will sleep at night. I don't know about Jim or Greg, but it'll make me feel better."

The fact that Greg had become a de facto member of their group would have been deeply interesting two weeks ago. Now, it was just a fact, something Gil accepted without problem because... he could be fond of Greg. No, was fond of him, and he could see himself not pushing Greg away. "Catherine. If I told you... that he visited me in the hospital, would you still put trust in an alarm system? It wouldn't have stopped me with Millander, either."

"You know what drives me crazy about you, Gil? The shit you keep to yourself when you shouldn't and then reveal when you know it will absolutely drive me insane." Catherine stood up, running a hand through her hair.

Gil turned away, and added milk to the second pan. "I'm sorry. I'll try to keep you more updated from now on."

"There's a time to tell me things, and a time to refrain." Catherine rubbed the bridge of her nose. "Afterwards? Isn't what I'd call the right time to reveal these things, Gil. I mean, it's no wonder. Greg knows, doesn't he? That's why he's completely falling apart, and why he's sleeping at my house, isn't it?"

Gil turned around, feeling his chest freeze up as he turned towards her. "He's sleeping at your house?"

"He showed up around two this afternoon." She looked at him seriously. "He was with you, wasn't he? When Lecter came to visit. And neither of you called anyone."

"Contrary to what all of you probably believe about me, Catherine, I really enjoy being alive. We have a truce." Everything on the stove was probably going to bubble over, but Gil didn't care. "How did Greg end up staying at your place?"

"You made him swear not to come over here, didn't you? He was practically jittering in place wanting to check on you. I had to swear that I'd do it for him, give him two Tylenol PM, and withhold caffeine." Catherine shrugged and pointed to one of his pots. "So."

He turned around just as it started to bubble over, and managed to reach past the pots to turn the heat off on the pasta. "I'm sorry, Cath."

"I was coming to check on you anyway, so it wasn't like it was some terrible chore," she said. "But..." There was obviously something on her mind.

She knew.

"Anyway. Get the alarm system. Even if it won't do any good, maybe it'll help the rest of us sleep without having to move in with you."

She knew, and he wondered what she was thinking about it while she looked back at him. "Okay. I'll get one. I never wanted any of you to worry." There had to be something he could say to console her, and it was almost funny that he had to. Shouldn't it have been the other way around?

"I know." She smiled, shifted forward, and having Catherine hug him was weirdly familiar and awkward all at once. "But, you know, you seriously have to think about what I've been saying to you forever. For months. For years, Gil. I understand, I suppose. Why you just kind of... close yourself off from everybody. But you can't keep doing that."

He half-hugged her back, feeling tired, because everyone he got close to hurt him. It was a little pathetic, but he had two really good examples as evidence, and more bad dates than he could count. "But I'm not closing myself off, Catherine."

"The last time you went on a date was to a Wizard-of-Oz-meets-Pink-Floyd concert, Gil. Trust me." Catherine gently pulled away from him to lean against the counter. "Make your supper."

Yeah, but he'd had sex since then. Sort of. It was something, and wasn't that a sick thought to have? "Look. Some people are happier alone, Catherine."

"One of these days, you're going to trust me about all of that, and do what I tell you to do." She rolled her eyes. "Speaking of doing what I tell you to do..."

He cleared his throat a little while he reached for a colander. "Yes?"

"You really need to have a talk with Sara. She's been, ah, digging into evidence that she's not involved with, and I suspect you already know that. I'm not suggesting that you made a bad choice except maybe you did."

He almost wished he had the nerve to play the pity card. Couldn't a guy who'd been held hostage in his own home, shot, and raped with a gun get a break? "Could you clarify? And are you staying for dinner?"

"If you're inviting me, I'm staying. I don't have to be at work for another couple of hours. And I can definitely clarify. She snuck into the evidence room and went through some of your things. I know that Greg heard her confronting you about them, and that's way out of line, Gil."

It was different when Catherine did it, apparently. At least she was gentler than Sara was, in her own blunt way. She said things outright, even when they were sharp, and he could appreciate that. It certainly made things easier on him. He took down two plates from the cabinet, and reached for the pot to dump its contents into the colander. "She asked me who Molly was. And then gave me a now tired line about needing to open myself up and not push people away. I told her to go to Chicago and enjoy the conference."

"Well, the difference in me telling you that and Sara telling you that... There are a lot of differences, actually. One, I don't want into your pants." Which was true, and not necessarily remarkable. "Two, I had the right to delve into that evidence, even if I didn't want to. Three, I didn't want to, and Sara snuck around to look into it. I can keep going if you want."

"And I was supposed to calmly chastise her then and there, Catherine? While on painkillers, while in pain, just after... I'm only human." And Catherine was right on all three points. It wasn't the sort of thing she'd want to pry into even if she had, even if curiosity had probably driven her further than she'd wanted to go, even if she knew.

"No. Not right then. If I had known, I'd have stopped her from coming, but I'm not her supervisor. I don't have the right to say anything to her. Gil, if you don't say something, though, I'm going to file sexual harassment for you, because that's what this is."

"If she comes to visit me here, I'll deal with it badly but I'll deal with it. If she doesn't bother me until work... then I have, what, a week or two to figure out how to handle this best?" he smiled at her as he shook the pasta dry. Some people rinsed, but then there wasn't any point to cooking it in salted water and butter.

"I just think it's time that you do something," Catherine told him with a little smile. "She's just going to get worse as time goes by if you don't. And I know you've probably been really clear, but apparently the draw of Gilbert Grissom is impossible to resist."

"Yeah. Sure." He laughed, then went about making two plates of angel-hair alfredo.. "I... don't know why she hasn't understood. I think I haven't been clear enough. I... don't want to lose her as a member of our team."

Catherine shook her head and moved to pull forks from the drawer next to the sink. "Gil. You look like a small rodent caught in oncoming headlights when she corners you about anything that isn't work-related. I'm not sure how much clearer you can get without running every time you see her." She paused. "What do you want to drink?"

"Water." Painkillers and alcohol weren't ever a smart mixture, so Gil would stick to coffee, milk and water for a while longer. "Help yourself, though. Do you have any suggestions on how to handle her, since you seem to know more than I do?"

"I could have a talk with her, if you want to give me the chance to do that." Catherine was Gil's shield against a great many things, from politics to paperwork. He could only imagine what she might say to Sara, and it was interesting to contemplate as she delved into the cabinet next to the refrigerator to pull out glasses and fill both of them with ice water. "It might be easier on you."

It wouldn't be any kind of real chickening out if he let Catherine handle it. Except that it probably was; a man who could fearlessly confront murderers had no excuse to shut down every time a relatively petite brunette confronted him. "It could be. But she'd still come to me for verification."

"It'd take the edge off," Catherine offered, moving towards the table. There were books stacked there, too, an unfinished project with half-pinned bugs. It was a good thing that she wasn't the kind of person to get queasy over something like that. She was used to that, to him being the bug guy. Insects were the ultimate controlled experiment, the ultimately predictable creature. If someone applied condition X, this would happen -- Z, and this would happen. That was why he loved them. They fit into the lines.


"Well, it's either we get this under control or it eats up the entire night shift. I suspect it's going to end up making people pretty uncomfortable," she offered as he sat a plate down in front of her. "And I know it's making you uncomfortable."

"I like to make my own mistakes, without pressure. I don't like people who... force themselves on me." Literally or mentally, which almost made him laugh. Catherine wouldn't have known what he was laughing at, though, so he didn't. He just pulled his chair out and sat down across from her.

"God. I've had enough of serious conversation," she sighed, and really, it was no wonder. Hannibal, Millander, Sara. Funny that they all came together that way, and faintly chilling, as well. Not like Molly. Not like any of the people he'd ever tried to date in Vegas. He preferred the warmer people, gentler people who could still tell him where to shove it.

The only problem, really, with liking that kind of person was that they did tell him to go fuck off. Nicely, but it still happened.

"You know, I have, too. So, any interesting bugs crop up at work since I've been gone?"

"Oh, God. Don't get me started," Catherine said, but he had.

Pasta alfredo and conversation about insects.

Gil knew he'd had worse homecomings.

Sara had to know it was coming. She had been avoiding Catherine, practically slinking around the lab in an attempt to keep from running into her. Unfortunately for Sara, Catherine was sickeningly persistent. It made her very good at her job.

"Sara. Have you got a few minutes?"

"Uh... I guess so." She halfway raised a folder in her hand like she was going to use it as an excuse, but since Catherine was the acting supervisor, she couldn't say 'I was just going to show this to Grissom' as a way to get away.

"Why don't we go into Grissom's office?" It was the best way to keep everything private, and Catherine was sure that they would both want that. "It's a little quieter in there."

"Uhm. Okay." She lowered the folder, and started to stride over to either walk with her or brush past her. It was hard to tell, but Catherine could already guess that she was in for a fight. "What's this about, exactly?"

"In the office," Catherine told her, turning to make sure that Sara walked beside her. "It's about a lot of things."

She could feel the cold-front that Sara was putting out already. It was going to be a fantastically bad conversation, but Sara needed to let go of Gil, enjoy him as just a mentor, and move the hell on before she ended up in jail or fired or who knew what. Not that Gil would ever report her.

Gil chatted with a wanted serial killer and didn't turn him in. Gil had problems, and he couldn't really be trusted to get the ball rolling. Somebody would just have to do it for him.

By the time they got into Gil's office and shut the door, there was a solid iceberg between Catherine and Sara, diamond hard and colder than hell. Catherine had plenty to say, so she settled herself in Gil's chair and folded her hands over the paperwork that he still hadn't gotten around to filling out. "Sara, I know that you seem to have certain feelings about Grissom. They've been obvious for a very long time, and we really need to talk about that."

"Look, I... was really worried about him in the hospital, and stressed, and I know I said some things that I shouldn't have." She leaned against the edge of the desk, watching Catherine's face and trying not to fidget with one of Gil's paperweights.

"Well, that's at least partially what this is about. Not only did you emotionally attack him when he was in the hospital, but you somehow managed to get hold of very private information as well, and you used it against him. You follow him around like a puppy, you run him into corners, and..." Catherine gave a heavy sigh. "Look. What I'm trying to say is that your behavior verges awfully close to sexual harassment. Consider this your opportunity to clean up that little problem."

"I..." She trailed off, looking genuinely shocked. And maybe she was. Maybe she didn't know what her behavior looked like from the outside. "I'm not sexually harassing Grissom. I didn't use anything against him. I just asked him who Molly was."

"You already knew who Molly was, Sara. You can't fool me. To find out her name, you would have needed to dig through the evidence from the case, and I know you. You wouldn't have let it go at a name." Catherine frowned. "Look. You and I both know that Gil is socially inept. Gil knows it. And he doesn't have the ability to tell you that you're making him uncomfortable, and that he's really not interested in you romantically."

"But he hasn't always been socially inept. Everyone who knows him has just let him shut himself away and never asked why. Now we know why -- we can help him, Catherine. He's a friend. I want to try to help." And she'd just completely skirted the romantically involved issue as if it wasn't a point worth acknowledging.

"Let me repeat myself. He is not romantically interested in you, Sara. You're a colleague, and he values you for that, but that doesn't give you the right to pry into his life, especially at this juncture," Catherine stated. She had that right, Jim had that right, but not Sara. Not when there were other motives to be had that weren't just friendship.

"Catherine, I wasn't prying. I was worried. I mean, he's got a whole other life and a past, and sexually graphic letters from a serial killer. Doesn't that bother you?"

Apparently Sara had been doing research when she was supposed to have been fully partaking of the conference.

"That's none of my business, and it isn't any of yours, either. What he chooses to share should be more important than anything else, and digging into his life when you don't have that right is more than just morally reprehensible, Sara. It's the kind of thing that will call the actions of this lab into question should it ever get out that you've done it."

Sara swallowed, and looked down for a long moment, studying Gil's quietly contained chaos of a desk. "I want to hear it from him."

"I thought you might." With a certain amount of care, Catherine sat a small tape recorder on the desk and pushed the button. The sound of Grissom's voice spilled out of the tiny speaker.

~"If she comes to visit me here, I'll deal with it badly but I'll deal with it. If she doesn't bother me until work... then I have, what, a week or two to figure out how to handle this best?"~

~"I just think it's time that you do something. She's just going to get worse as time goes by if you don't. And I know you've probably been really clear, but apparently the draw of Gilbert Grissom is impossible to resist."~

~"Yeah. Sure. I... don't know why she hasn't understood. I think I haven't been clear enough. I... don't want to lose her as a member of our team."~

~"Gil. You look like a small rodent caught in oncoming headlights when she corners you about anything that isn't work-related. I'm not sure how much clearer you can get without running every time you see her." ~

There was an audible pause in the tape.

~"What do you want to drink?"~

~"Water. Help yourself, though. Do you have any suggestions on how to handle her, since you seem to know more than I do?"~

~"I could have a talk with her, if you want to give me the chance to do that. It might be easier on you."~

~"It could be. But she'd still come to me for verification."~

~"It'd take the edge off."~


~"Well, it's either we get this under control or it eats up the entire night shift. I suspect it's going to end up making people pretty uncomfortable. And I know it's making you uncomfortable."~

~"I like to make my own mistakes, without pressure. I don't like people who... force themselves on me."~

A firm finger pushed the button to stop it. "Would you consider that verification enough?"

Sara sucked in a shaky breath, a hand coming up to her mouth. It had been cold of Catherine to do that, but it would save Gil grief when he didn't need it. "I'm not... I, I haven't forced myself on him, Catherine. I just..." She understood now, finally, Catherine could see it in Sara's wet-looking eyes.

"I know." And she could certainly sympathize, because rejection always, always hurt. Gil wasn't capable of dealing with Sara right now, gently or otherwise, and part of being his best friend was dealing with that in the best way she knew how. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry."

Her face trembled, screwed up, and she turned away with a sparse nod. Catherine knew she was going to rush out the door, barrel down the hallway and hide in the locker room. Or just go home.

It wasn't a very nice thought, but it occurred to her that if Sara handed in her resignation, by the time Gil came back she'd be gone altogether, and he wouldn't have to face her at all.

With a groan, Catherine buried her face in her arms on Gil's desk. The things she did to save her friend from himself, and everybody else. After all, it wasn't like he was going to abandon his hermit-like ways and lack of personal-stuff for Sara. Maybe for someone else, but not for Sara. Which was kind of funny and inadvisable in the workplace, but there wasn't anything in effect to stop Gil from dating a lab tech. If things went that way.

All the papers on Gil's desk actually made a pretty good pillow, and the chair was kind of squishy. Maybe that was why he kept the desk a mess -- for quick naps and contemplating life between cases. If Sara resigned, she'd advise her against it the same way Gil would, but she wouldn't pull out all the stops. There was no reason to, and Catherine knew it even if Gil didn't. Sara had come to Vegas thinking that there was more reason than a need for her knowledge and ability to ferret out secrets. There hadn't been, and Gil hadn't directly told the other woman so. In his own way, he was a terrible enabler, and Sara didn't need any help or encouragement in making things difficult for herself.

This was all going to be for the best.

Now if she could just convince herself that she had done the right thing.

Hannibal Lecter had been in Gil Grissom's hospital room. Hannibal Lecter, who liked to eat men, had been in Gil Grissom's hospital room.

Frankly, Greg was never going to sleep solidly again. He hadn't told anybody that, but he was pretty sure the dark circles under his eyes announced it hardcore to the world at large. Even though Catherine had passed off Tylenol PM as the plain stuff, it hadn't guaranteed any sleep, and his hands were shaking just a little every time he tried to fill a pipette or a tube. He'd almost been late because there hadn't been any alarm, and Catherine hadn't called him. If Lindsey hadn't come in to shake him, he wouldn't have shown up at all. That was what Catherine had intended, after all, because she had been absolutely blistering when she had told him that she hadn't wanted him coming to work in the state he'd been in, but it was work or worry, and she understood that, so.

The lab still belonged to him.

It was his space, and he could Zen out inside of it and just be. Every so often he fell into the amazing cadence of his work and lost track of thought, fear and exhaustion. And then every once in a while, some thought would jangle up in his brain. Bits of the conversation he'd been trying not to listen to. He could hear that smooth, strange voice saying, 'I bet he's tender. You were, Will,' and he wondered just what part of Gil the guy had tried to eat. Or had.

Or if it was something else altogether that was meant by it.

That, Greg supposed, was the part that made him space out the worst. What if he had meant what it sounded like he meant? Or what if both of those possibilities were actually realities? It was mind-boggling and terrifying, and Greg knew that nobody could blame Gil for never having anything to do with another human being again after that... except that he had. Gil had told him a lot, probably more than he'd ever told anyone in one sitting or one decade. He'd been really strangely relaxed explaining the pictures to Greg, telling him who was whom and how they fit into the picture.

Greg wasn't sure what was weirder -- imagining Gil sleeping with a serial killer, or imagining Gil with a wife and a son. It all made his head swim, if he was honest about it, like it was just a little unreal. Not possible, or just highly unlikely, since nothing was impossible, and...

"Greggo? You doing okay?"

Greg's head jerked up as he looked at Nick. How long had he been standing there? Greg wasn't sure; he hadn't even noticed. "Oh. Yeah. Sorry. Hi."

"You kinda zoned out on me," Nick laughed. "Damn, you look tired. You sure you're all right?"

"Yeah. Just... things have been really busy, you know?" They all knew, at least a little, and if anybody came in handling him like glass, Greg was going to have to punch the shit out of them. "What have you got for me?"

"I've got... a swab from a cup of coffee with lipstick and hopefully some saliva on it," Nick said as he offered it over. "Trying to prove the presence of a killer."

"You've got it," Greg said, faintly astonished when his hand shook at exactly the wrong moment and they fumbled between them for the bindle. "Damn." Damn. If Nick mentioned that to Catherine, she'd make him go home, and if he had to go home, he wasn't going to get any sleep anyway. Bad.

"Uh..." He got a look from Nick. "You didn't just do that, did you? How much coffee have you had, man?"

Not enough, Greg wanted to say, mouth compressing. "I'm okay. Just had a hard time sleeping is all. Forget about it, okay? It'll be fine, and you'll have your results. Perfectly."

"Perfectly?" God, he was getting a dubious look when Nick stepped back, hands hovering near his belt-line like he wanted to put his hands on his hips. "Dude. If Catherine sees you like this..."

"Which is why you're going to be kind to your friend and not say anything to her, right?" It was damn close to begging, but Greg had no shame when it came to being allowed to stay at work so that he didn't have to go home and pretend to sleep through nightmares.

"Uh... I dunno. Just... take a break or something when you're done processing that?" Nick moved in like he wanted to pat Greg's shoulder, but of course the last thing he wanted to do was upset him.

"No problem," Greg promised, and let loose a breath of relief when Nick wandered off again. Sure, there were still all of those glass walls, and Nick would probably eyeball him through them with that LOOK they'd all been giving him. Grissom should be really glad that he didn't have to be at work, or they'd be looking at him like that, too. They'd be standing outside of his office and eyeballing him until Gil either came out and shouted at all of them or he pulled the blinds and buried himself in paperwork until some cool murder came in to them that was covered in creepy crawlies that he needed to look at.

That reminded Greg of the kind of neat fact that William Graham wrote the first standard monograph on dating time of death by insect activity. Gil had gone on to far surpass his other self in his own field.

He hadn't even gotten the bindle open when that thought made him drop the test tube. "Fuck." Softly spoken word, fervently felt frustration. Okay, maybe Nick was right. Maybe he should go home, even if he wouldn't be able to sleep. He wasn't going to be doing anybody any good here.

He was just going to drop stuff and God, if he fucked up a case...

If he fucked up a case, he didn't know what he'd do. He'd die, or quit, or something, but he was Greg Sanders and he was fantastic at what he did. At least, he was fantastic until Sara popped her head into the lab. "Hey, Greg...?"

Another one. He wasn't up to this. "Huh?" he asked, pulling his hands into his lab coat pockets. "I mean, yes? What can I do for you, Sara?"

"I wanted to see if you have the results on the Hinley case." Was he imagining that her nose was red?

"Yeah." At least he'd managed to do something right in the last eight hours. Maybe he could hold on for another couple, find something to do that didn't involve his hands, or find something that was good for his nerves. God, maybe he could go beg somebody for Valium. Or something. "Right over..." It was somewhere at his lab station, and after a few seconds of scrambling, he found it. "Here you go."

"No song and dance?" She gave him a smile that didn't seem real -- like she was trying too hard. But she still looked down at the results. It wasn't anything fancy. "No 'guess what the match is'?"

"Been having a hard time sleeping," Greg admitted, watching her quietly. "Just. I guess I don't have the energy for guessing today. Try me tomorrow."

"Sure." She rattled the paper a little, looking at it. "I guess you've got a lot of sleep to catch up on now that you're not living in the hospital."

Greg took a deep breath and sighed. "Yeah. But somebody should have stayed, and after seeing him..." At the crime scene, Greg didn't say. "Anyway. I felt like it should be me. You know. It's not like I haven't spent a lot of time in them anyway. Poppa Olaf..."

"Yeah, except he's not... your grandfather. He's... Grissom. He's quiet. That was probably humiliating for him. You wait -- Catherine will rip you to pieces next." She didn't wait for a reply, either, just headed off with her results in hand.

Well, that was one way to end a conversation. Greg wasn't quite sure what he was supposed to say to that, or what he should do about it. It was kind of obvious that she meant for him to know by magic, but he wasn't making any kinds of connections at the moment, to her, or Nick, or work, or anything but those remembered words.

'I bet he's tender. You were, Will.'

Maybe if he struggled through work long enough, long enough to finish the shift and get home, he could skip the going home part and see if Grissom would let him borrow his couch. Or talk. Or something.

God knew he hadn't gotten any sleep since the last time he'd laid his head down on Grissom's bed and dozed. Not really. He'd slept at Catherine's, but drug-induced sleep just made him groggy and cranky later on. It wasn't real rest. Real rest was what he needed. Real sleep and to feel safe again, and...

If he could just stop thinking about sleep for a few minutes he might actually be able to process Nick's DNA sometime in the next year.

The knock on the door probably wouldn't have surprised him if he hadn't been dead to the world asleep on the sofa. Gil didn't even really remember falling asleep, nor did he recall putting the crumb-riddled plate and half-filled cup of cold coffee on the floor beside it. It was a miracle his laptop hadn't overbalanced and fallen off of the book it was resting on over his stomach to crack on the floor.

It didn't. Some bit of instinct made him catch it and slide it onto his sofa before he rolled to his feet. The back of his neck was cricked, because somewhere in his doze the pillow had slipped from behind his shoulders.

Those made a hell of a crack when he stood up, pausing to grab his gun in his left hand before he unlocked the door. Jim would've laughed himself senseless at the sight.

Greg nearly wet his pants.

"Jesus CHRIST!" he squeaked, stumbling backwards and nearly tripping over a planter. "If I knew you were gonna open the door like that, I'd have taken my chances going back to Catherine's!"

"Sorry..." He lowered it and stepped back while he opened the door. "I thought you'd be going home at the end of shift."

Greg panted faintly, catching his breath as he stepped inside. "Well, I can't sleep there. I just. I can't, so I figured if I was going to be awake, anyway, I'd come and. You know. Check on you."

If he was going to be checked up on and actually mean it when he told Greg that he was fine, it would've been better if he hadn't opened the door with a visible gun in his hand. And who did he think he was, anyway? If Hannibal had been there, which he wouldn't have been, he would've wasted no time in crushing Gil's hand and making him drop the gun. Millander was dead. No one else would show up. It was just nerves. But he still lied when he closed the door behind Greg. "I'm fine. You sent Catherine in after me earlier."

"Yeah, well, I didn't so much send her as mumble something in my half-drugged way about being worried about you, which I am," Greg said, giving a wide yawn. "And, uh. I know that it's really impolite to invite yourself to someone's house, but I... I just needed to check on you for myself." There was something about the way that Greg looked at him, hopeful and exhausted all at once, that made Gil want to give in to him, whatever he wanted.

It looked like Greg wanted him to tuck him into bed, read him a bedtime story, and then turn out the lights. "What does checking me out entail?"

The light flush that crossed down from Greg's ears made Gil want to laugh. "Um. Breakfast?" The word was accompanied by a gesture with a small paper sack from a local coffee place. "I figured I could just make the coffee. I even got decaf, because I promised Catherine I wouldn't drink anything with caffeine in it when I got off of work."

"You need sleep, and unless you have some form of ADHD, drinking caffeine wouldn't get you the results you want." He wasn't going to tell Greg that decaf had never touched his coffee pot, and that it would probably take multiple washes to remove the evil of caffeine freeness. It could prove infectious, after all. Or maybe he was just bored of not working. One day down, thirteen more to go. "Make yourself at home."

"I need sleep, but it's totally impossible to get any. I just... I keep thinking about you. Worrying. It's stupid, I know, but I can't stop myself," Greg admitted miserably, offering him the sack. Gil could almost smell the contents -- fresh scones, and... hm, bagels.

Fresh food, and he really... couldn't say no. He'd had a little bread before he'd dozed off with his laptop, and dinner with Catherine at eight pm. The clock said it was nine, and there were murky strands of light peering through his blinds. "I'm sorry -- you shouldn't make yourself sick because you're worried." Gil took the bag, and headed to grab two paper plates. That time-warping was what he got for pulling the blinds.

Yawning, Greg followed him towards the kitchen, rubbing his hands through his hair. It stuck up in wilder tufts than normal. "It was all I could do to make it through shift. Nick caught me having some trouble with a pipette, and I swear I felt his eyes on me for the next couple of hours."

"He's worried about you." A younger man who was more suitable for Greg, if Nick swung that way at all. If he didn't, then they were just caring eyes. Friendly eyes.

Eyes. God, they were going to stare at him when he got back to work, weren't there? Everyone knew what had happened with Millander, and he hadn't even thought about it. There were so many red herrings that'd been thrown at him that didn't matter. Four people -- five if he counted Ecklie as a human being -- knew about his past, but the whole department knew that he'd been taken hostage in his own house and assaulted with an object. Maybe they all knew it was a gun, because Millander was a post-op transsexual who didn't have the capacity to fuck.

He felt sick, suddenly.

"Hey... you don't look so good." Coming from Greg, that seemed pretty rich. "Come on. You should lie down for a while, maybe." Hand on his elbow, and it seemed like a good idea. There was no way he could face the thought of everyone watching him, and knowing, could he?

Maybe it was time for another change.

New name. New city. Start over again, somewhere and in something less derivative of the person he'd been to start with except... who was he running from? Himself? Maybe it was just confrontation that he was fleeing. People were hard for him to predict when they had been so easy once upon a time. But then he'd died and he'd died and Josh had died and Molly had left and now... Why run now? "I was just lying down. I'm fine."

"Are you sure?" What kind of question was that? It made Gil faintly irritable, but he didn't snap. He wasn't going to snap at Greg, no matter how the temptation ate at him. "I mean, I could leave..."

"I was just thinking. About going back to the lab, that's all." And eyes and everyone knowing. Running away again made sense, except that there was nothing to run to. He'd told himself the myth before that there would be a new life in Las Vegas. He could rebuild his career and fall in love and have everything again. Everything... except he didn't function the way he'd once done.

Except that Molly had known him before everything had gone to hell and had nursed him through the worst of his eccentricities. Tolerated the rest. She stuck by her husband in sickness or in health, until he sort of killed her son because his priorities were fucked up. That was love, that was in the vows. No one started new with someone that fucked up. There wasn't anywhere to run, any reason to run again, so Gil didn't pull away from Greg much as he let himself be sat back down on the sofa again.

"I'm sure you want to go back pretty quick. I think it'd be better if you waited the two weeks, though. By then, everybody will have looked their fill at me, and maybe they'll be tired of watching," Greg suggested. "Or you could come in a few times. See what's going on. Nick's got this really cool murder-suicide case where he can't figure out which one is the murder and which one is the suicide, and there's some really weird genetics going on there. They must be related, like, six different ways. It's the weirdest thing I've ever seen, because they were also going at it like bunnies."

He sat back, and stretched his legs out in front of him a little. The minute Greg turned his back to him, Gil was going to really stretch. "Okay. The plates are under the sink, Greg, and if you need to sleep, I suggest you microwave a glass of milk. Then... I want to know how they were related six ways. Because that's interesting."

"I promise to tell you all about it the minute I'm coherent," Greg murmured, standing up to fetch breakfast for both of them. Gil could hear him searching for the plates, ferreting out the food so that they would each have a plate. "I guess I can do without coffee or anything. Even decaf would probably wire me. You know. Conditioned response to the smell and taste of coffee."

"Warm milk. Trust me on this, Greg. A minute thirty in the microwave." Molly had taught him that; his mother had always used hot chocolate on him, and oddly enough warm sugariness had always worked with him.

Since Greg was busy, Gil leaned forwards, tidying the coffee table and setting his laptop on it so there was room on the sofa.

"Yes, Mom," Greg replied, and Gil could almost feel the roll of his eyes across the space between them. Still, the lab tech was obedient if nothing else, and he searched out a cup. Gil could hear the milk pouring into it and the quick start of the microwave. "Hey, have you got any vanilla flavoring? Or hazelnut, maybe?"

"Left cabinet over the vent. I know there's anise and vanilla." Gil closed his eyes for a moment, and sat back. His back straightened itself out with a couple of wince-worthy pops when Gil laid the back of his head against the wall behind him.

The microwave went off while Greg was looking where Gil told him. "Ahh, and sugar." Sugar couldn't be a really good sign, could it? Still. He could hear Greg tinkering, and the faint clink of a spoon against the cup. "Hmmm. Oh. Yeah." Just right, apparently, because there were slow, shuffling footsteps, and a plate held in front of him. "For you." It was carefully balanced, just the same as the plate Greg held on his other arm, one finger clasping it while he held onto his milk. Gil's scone and his cream-cheese slathered bagel looked pretty good, actually.

"Thank you," Gil said, reaching to take the plate carefully, sitting at the far left side of the sofa so Greg could sit where he wanted on it. 'Thank you' wasn't a phrase he could probably say enough to get across everything Greg had done for him. Gil could still try. "You're staying here today. If you think it will help you sleep. I... don't mind having company."

He wouldn't have to explain why to Greg -- between the attack, serial killers, and answering his door with a gun in hand, he'd proved that his nerves were on edge.

"The last time I managed to sleep was with my head on your bed. I mean, really sleep." Greg's ears were red again, but his eyes were glazed, and there was no way Gil would let him drive home in that condition.

That was one sure fire way for Greg to get himself into Gil's life, wasn't it? Sara would be banging her head against the wall if she found out it was as easy as coming to his doorstep in a state like that. It worried him, and it was all his fault that Greg couldn't sleep. "Greg? It's all right. That you're disturbed, that you're having trouble sleeping."

"You aren't," Greg said tentatively. "I mean, you don't seem to be." Greg settled down on the cushion next to Gil's and lifted the warm milk to his lips, drinking deeply. "Hmm. Oh. Hey. That's good."

Gil picked up his bagel, and tore a piece out of it with care. "That's why I suggested you do it. And I do have trouble sleeping. It's just hard to notice in a hospital situation. Usually it's easier to sleep after a double or a triple shift."

"Well, now I know why you work so much," Greg said, gaze shifting sideways to him. "I feel like I've worked doubles and triples for the past week. Not," he hurried to assure Gil, "because of the hospital thing. Just. The sleeping thing since thing."

Since Hannibal.

'I bet he's tender....'

God, Gil was going to be hearing that for the rest of his life.

The malicious implication of the words, that Hannibal might enjoy breaking Greg to pieces inside the way he had Will. Teaching him things and showing him things, and then pulling the carpet out from under him. Never mind that Greg would start without a carpet of lies to loll on top of the way that Will had. To bleed out on.

"Molly used to tell me that I woke up yelling if I didn't manage to exhaust myself before bed. I don't know if I do that anymore or not."

" you miss it?" Greg asked, tentative. "Having someone to wake up to, I mean? Never having had such a thing myself, I couldn't really say, I mean, there's all the difference in the world between waking up to somebody once every couple of weeks and being, you know, sleeping next to them all the time, and..." He gave a sigh. "Babbling. Sorry." His scone and bagel were abandoned in favor of the milk, and it was doing its job quite well.

"I like hearing your babble." Gil took a moment to be quiet while he chewed. "I miss it. She was in my life before everything went to hell. After... You don't start with someone with my problems. You politely tell them no, it's not going to work." Except it wasn't that he was just lonely.

If he was, he would've said yes to Sara a long time ago.

It was a combination of things, and it all began with a desperate need for understanding. If he tried that sort of thing again, a, a relationship again, there would have to be no lines. No secrets. No lies, and that was something Gil didn't know if he could do. Explaining about Hannibal and Molly and Josh wasn't something he had tried to do in the last twenty-five years.

Greg gave him a little smile. "Well, you know. I suppose there's a way to get around that, if somebody's interested in you." His tongue darted out, lapping away a thin film of milk. "Just don't ask."

"But it still comes out. Asked or not, it happens." Tongue, Greg had to have done that on purpose, and Gil shifted a little, wondering if he could cross his legs subtly or something. Concentrate on the bagel, not the young man drinking sugared, flavored milk.

"Then maybe when it comes out naturally, it's time to think about what that means?" Greg put his plate down on the coffee table and pulled his legs up underneath himself, crossing them Indian-style. One knee nudged gently at Gil's thigh. "I mean... God. I'm so tired I don't know what I mean."

"At least you say it with conviction," Gil smiled. He chewed a little more, then followed suit by putting his plate on the coffee table. "You can sleep in my bedroom, if you want to. Catherine moved all the furniture around -- I hardly recognize it."

"That's probably a good thing," Greg told him, his eyes closing. He looked so tired. "I mean, all things considered. Um... this is going to sound stupid." Greg paused, opened his eyes. The sheer glassy quality of them said more than words could express. "I know it's going to sound stupid. But... if you could maybe talk to me for a little while? It won't take long, and I'll be dead to the world. Honest."

Did Greg expect him to say no? Gil nodded, hesitating to move just yet. There was only one question he needed answered. "Here," Gil asked with a gesture to the sofa, "Or there?" That went with a vague gesture to the hallway and the bedroom beyond.

"Whatever makes you comfortable," Greg shrugged, giving him the smallest one-sided tilt of his mouth. Gil could almost interpret that to be a smile. "I don't want to be a burden on you, and... here is fine. I mean, because if you get tired, I know you won't just crawl in bed beside me or anything, and it's your bed. Shouldn't have to give it up or anything."

Gil leaned forwards to grab his laptop. "Come on. I've been sleeping for a while. We'll go in there. You need to sleep."

That gained him a beaming sort of smile that almost turned into one of Greg's huge, delighted grins. "I'm so sorry about all of this. I am. Just..." Just he couldn't sleep, and Gil could understand that.


He had to close his eyes for a moment before he stood up. "Greg, don't apologize. I already told you that I don't mind having company right now. I'm..." He'd already offered a lot, he was offering for Greg to sleep in his bed, but it wouldn't kill him to actually say it aloud. "I'm glad you're here."

"I'm really glad you're letting me stay." And then Greg did grin at him, and something funny squeezed near Gil's diaphragm, and let loose in a weird knot, a bizarre untying of tension that he hadn't even known he had. "I've got an extra t-shirt and boxers, so."

"The bathroom is the door to the left." Gil tucked the laptop under his arm, and moved around the coffee table. It was hardCHAPTERgrin a little himself; he'd just head to the bedroom early and make it easier on them both by settling into the bedroom while Greg changed. He could sit up against the headboard and fiddle with his laptop, maybe type up some of his research notes and make them into proper articles.

"Thanks," Greg told him, and he gathered up a small bag that Gil hadn't noticed him carrying when Greg came in. The fact that the younger man had been that confident -- or at least that hopeful -- in Gil asking him to stay was curious. Why was Greg so sure of Gil? Gil wasn't sure of Gil. Gil was hardly sure of what day of the week it was, and maybe that was why Greg was so sure he'd say yes. He needed help... company was close enough to that for Gil's sake.

"Mmhm." He pushed open the door for Greg when he walked past it, and then headed past--

Huh. Right, his spare bedroom.

There was no way he was going to have anyone stay in there. The closet had boxes of stuff he had never wanted anyone to see, and there were handfuls of Josh's pictures scattered around. He wasn't going to put Greg in there, even if Greg had known that he had a spare bedroom.

He didn't want to put Greg in there, anyway. Even if there hadn't been anything in that closet, and that was a disturbing enough thought. Josh would have been older than he was. Not by much, maybe, but enough that it made Gil heave a dark sigh.

It was better to close the door and stop sighing. Josh hadn't been his, not by biology. If he'd gotten a girl pregnant at nineteen, his mother would've killed him after signing to him just how she'd planned to do it -- but marrying a young widow had been perfectly acceptable.

The click of the latch was almost foreboding, and Gil wished that he could actually lock it somehow, make it impossible to get into that room, even for himself, perhaps. There were some things better left alone, and this was one of them.


Greg stood in the bathroom doorway wearing thin, faded boxers and a Dark Side of the Moon t-shirt. He was scratching sleepily at one hip in a way that resulted in a rub across his lower belly, and suddenly Gil couldn't think about the fact that he was younger than Josh.

Just couldn't finish that thought, couldn't finish any thought.

"Hi," Gil said, turning to Greg. It was hard not to stare, hard to keep his eyes focused on Greg's face for a moment. "That was quick." Or he'd drifted off.

"Just had to slip everything off," Greg offered, yawning. He brought up a hand to belatedly stifle his gaping mouth and then rubbed it over his face. "Sorry. I'm just so... It's probably a wonder we didn't both fall asleep standing."

"Right. There's no reason I should be this tired, though. I haven't done anything but sleep." He let Greg move past him to the bedroom, an awkward navigation; he probably needed to get undressed and sleep, too.

"There's this part where surgery sucks, you know? Poppa Olaf came home after he had this implant thing done? And he slept for something like six weeks. Well, okay, but he was up two hours and sleeping two hours, like that for most of it." When they were in the room, Gil could feel Greg pause and take a deep breath. Everything was different, though, and that probably made it okay for him. Funny how that difference was what bothered Gil. He wanted to move everything back where it belonged, but he couldn't do that just yet. Not until he was healed up, unless he wanted to be back in the hospital.

"Was that the... penis implant you mentioned?" Gil asked while he set his laptop on the bed, claiming his 'side'.

"You know about that?" Greg seemed deeply surprised. "I mean, I mentioned it to Nick once in the break room 'cause... I don't remember why." He crawled into the bed from the bottom, collapsing onto a pillow with a sigh. The covers weren't even turned down. "Mhm. Vvvrt. The garage door opener used to set it off."

That made Gil smile while he pulled open a drawer to grab boxers and a t-shirt for himself. "I must have wandered off before you got to that part."

Greg was going to be asleep before Gil finished checking his entry and exit wound in the bathroom.

"My cousin Wilhelm used to do it on purpose," Greg said, face squishing into the pillow. "My cousin Wilhelm also has his own sheep for knitting purposes, however, so I'd hate to think what he was getting out of it exaaaaa." The word was stopped in the center with a giant yawn. "Actly."

"You'll have to tell me about your family. Later -- I'll be back in a few." After all, if he came back when Greg was asleep, there wouldn't be any awkwardness about lying down beside him. He could always sleep in the spare room himself, but... but. Gil didn't want to, didn't want to sleep with memories that had been dragged out of dormancy.

It was going to be better this way.

"Kay," Greg answered blearily. "You c'n come back and tell me some. 'f you want."

Innocent bleariness. Sleep was the most vulnerable state to be in, the easiest state for someone to kill you in. Falling asleep meant a sense of safety and trust. They were facts, not beliefs. The lambs tended not to lie down knowingly with the lions. It was a little comforting that Greg must've thought of him as another lamb. Safe, even if Gil wasn't sure that he was.

After Catherine left, he'd washed and gotten dressed, and then he'd promptly fallen asleep again, dozing between moments of over activity. Feed his bugs, take a nap, check the journals he'd missed, doze again... At least he hadn't pulled any stitches and everything looked clean and uninfected. He took his time, too, watching the clock on the bathroom wall, in putting the pads back down and taping them loosely in place. Ten, fifteen minutes. Enough for Greg to be asleep, and by the time Gil made it back to the bedroom, he recognized the sound of those soft snores. After all, he'd heard them day after day for quite a while.

The faint jostle of the bed didn't wake Greg, nor did Gil's tugging on the sheets. He managed to get them out from under Greg's dead weight and draped over him before lying down beside him. His laptop was still near the pillow, and he tugged it close so that he could read for a while.

"Mmmuh?" The soft snores were interrupted with that questioning sound, but not much more.

"Nothing." Better answer than 'shh', because he didn't want Greg to go entirely quiet. He wanted those soft snores and little noises to prove that he wasn't all alone. Company, which he hadn't had in a while, and reading. The mattress felt different, a little off, but he couldn't get his old mattress back.

Sometimes he just had to cope with change.

"M'kay." That blurry answer was accompanied by a shift in position, a nuzzle against Gil's arm as Greg curled in his direction that was startling, and strangely erotic, and almost too much.

Just breathe. Slow breaths, until he could process the touch for what it was, other than unexpected. Maybe he wouldn't get any reading done at all. Maybe he could just slip the laptop off under the bed, close his eyes, and blank his mind.

Now if he could just blank his cock, he'd be in business.

The urge to curse was difficult to resist, but he managed it, just like he managed to carefully set his laptop down by the side of the bed and slide further down under the covers.

Maybe he should have asked Greg if he tended to be wiggle when he slept. It was a little late now, though, with the feel of those soft, snoring breaths pressed against his t-shirt.

If Greg ended up on top of him or wrapped around him, he'd just have to cope. Lying on his back was the easiest way to sleep, even if just then it left Gil with one arm stuck against his own side. Maybe he could squirm it free. A little.

One shift, two shift, three shifts later, and it was somehow lodged beneath Greg's head. The snores hadn't once shifted or stopped, and Gil didn't think it would make his arm fall asleep for a while, so giving in and going still seemed to be the answer. He could stare at the ceiling and think about the life cycles of the members of the family Calliphoridae, Screwworm fly in particular, until either his erection went away, or he fell asleep.

If only Greg would move his knee.


Gil was never going to manage to sleep like this.

Mmmm. Warm. Warm and just right, and Greg was pretty sure if his arms and legs got any more tangled, then he'd be magically turned into a knot. Or something like that, anyway.

He cautiously shifted, finding his head pillowed on a shoulder. Hm. Where was he again? He definitely hadn't been out drinking, because the place smelled nice, clean. And it didn't smell like his place, so... Little bits of thought trickled back into his head. No, not Catherine's, either, which weirdly smelled like oranges because she used that orange-glo stuff to clean everything in her house.

And it wasn't like he'd find a solid shoulder to sleep on at her place, no way no how.

So, that left two main options. One, he'd driven to Nick's house and passed out over breakfast and Diablo II or something, and Nick had been kind enough to let him sleep in his bed, even though he knew Greg was a compulsive snuggler and usually made him sleep on the sofa bed. The second option was obvious; he had gone to Gil's house and passed out on him. He had a vague memory of picking up breakfast and buying a small package of (ugh) hazelnut decaf in the hopes that he wouldn't start jittering the second he went to sleep. Everything after that was kind of blurry, and he was afraid that if he opened his eyes, he'd be disappointed or totally freaked out because Grissom was letting him snuggle. Nick had kind of gotten used to it after the Very Serious Talk About Why Nick Prefers Hookers To Greg.

But God. It was fucked up to fall asleep on your boss, even if he was too polite for his own good. He hadn't told Sara to shove it years ago, and Greg would've done it, damn, back in college? Back when he was teaching her. Whatever.

Whenever she first started being whatever she was now, all clingy and weird and shit, like he had any ground to stand on. After all, opening his eyes brought him right into looking at Gil's chin in the murky dark room. It made him wonder how late it was, and whether he was going to make it to work on time. At the same time, there was no way he was going to get up just yet. In fact, if he could fake being asleep a little longer, he'd just get to enjoy all of this.

Greg had to admit that he felt a little guilty, and he wiggled one of his legs to try and move it, but that didn't gain him much except the feel of tender flesh against his thigh in a way that suddenly made it a really bad idea to get any closer to Gil's hip. Ur. Apparently he was already close enough. If Gil woke up in the next couple of minutes from his squirming, it was going to be a hell of an awkward waking up. Not too weird. Boxers shifted when you slept, clothes moved, particularly when you were Greg Sanders the Human Octopus.

Gil apparently slept like the dead. No screaming, no yelling, just a little twitch every so often. He could hear Gil's heart beating like a racehorse when he put his head back down, and so he pressed his hand to Gil's chest and rubbed, a vague, soothing sort of motion that Greg remembered his Isoäiti using when he had been little and scared of cousin Wilhelm's visits. That seemed to help, at least a little, because Gil's pulse slowed against his ear, and Greg could feel him pulling in deeper breaths. God only knew what kind of shit Gil dreamed. Greg couldn't imagine, though if they were anything like his own recent travesties of sleep-release were anything to go by, Gil's had to be ten times worse.

Carefully, he lifted his head and peered around. It was almost seven -- in the evening, he assumed, because he couldn't imagine either of them sleeping a full twenty-four hours, although anything was possible. That meant that he had a good hour to lie back down, maybe see if Gil would wake up later.

An hour to get himself presentable. An hour to get to work by ten. Ten hours of everyone staring at him because he'd killed a guy. Just one guy, protecting their boss, a friend of all of theirs. Only Catherine didn't stare, and Sara seemed to... he didn't know what she'd meant to do by talking to him.

The fabric of Gil's t-shirt was soft under his hand, and he could make out that it was the worn, cracked lettering and pattern of an old Zeppelin t-shirt.


That was sweet in the conventional meaning of the word as well as it being very cool that Gil even had such a thing. Greg wondered sleepily if he had picked it up at a concert. The notion of Gil at a Zeppelin concert made him want to laugh, up until the very sobering consideration that Gil Grissom now might not be anything like Gil Grissom then. Or whatever.

Maybe... Will had been an awesome guy, the kind of guy who went to concerts and had a wife and a kid. Now he was a guy who worked a lot and didn't really get out, and had a couple of close friends but... Didn't really have fun in the conventional way.

Someone, something had really fucked Gil up. He hadn't started that way like they'd all always guessed he had. And he'd met the person who'd fucked Gil up. Well, heard. Just like he could hear Gil's steady heartbeat serving as counterpoint to a guttural noise that was leaving his throat.

He wanted to do something about it. What, he didn't know. Maybe just make Gil go out again, see things, do things, but Greg didn't think it would be the best idea ever. Sara had pushed him, and that hadn't gotten her anywhere from what he could tell. Greg would rather sit back, show him the occasional cool lab result, and never push past that comfort zone.

Especially if it meant never getting pushed away.

Pushing an immovable object didn't really work. If anything, all that force got snapped back at the one doing the pushing. Maybe there was some way to get Gil to do things without forcing him or pushing. Some way to take Gil's issues into account. Greg didn't know what they were, really. Maybe he could make that his next plan of action.

Observing a Grissom in its native habitats.

That thought drew a sleepy chuckle from him despite himself, and he felt a faint stirring beneath him.


A guy didn't observe a Grissom in its Native Habitats if he woke up the Grissom.

"Nnn." His eyebrows drew together, and he finally moved, twisting away from Greg like he was a really heavy blanket that was pissing him off.

"Eeep!" Riiight. Greg knew he should have brought better boxer shorts. The ones he had on were old and frayed, and just the right twist of hip brought the dreaded sound of ripping.

He was in Grissom's bed.

With a hard-on.

And a bare ass.

Oh, shit.

It was time to get out of there -- and maybe get the shreds of his shorts out, too -- and just... flee. Gil had his back to him now, which meant they were sort of disentangled and he could slip out the door. There was still that part where Gil was facing the door and Greg's ass was going to be hanging out all the way there. Shit. Well, a guy had to take his chances, he guessed, and at least if he pulled on some pants when he made it out of the bedroom, he'd be okay. Gil wouldn't freak out over it or anything.

Not that he thought Gil would freak out. After all, it wasn't like they had ever had the Why Gil Likes Smart Girls Better Than Greg Sanders speech, even though it would probably come up eventually.

Hello. Married guy. Well, ex-married, but he'd tried it. Done it. That didn't exactly scream 'fag' to Greg.

He was just pulling away from Gil when his brain followed up with the idea that sexually charged, innuendo threaded conversation with a serial killer screamed 'really fucked up fag'.

Bi? If only he was that lucky. Frankly, Greg was pretty sure that his luck didn't run nearly that good, and that it was better if he just took his naked ass and his hard-on and made a run for it.

Next time, he'd bring sturdier shorts. Not that there was going to be a next time, he thought with regret, carefully pulling himself loose from Gil and searching between them for his shorts. There wouldn't be, because he had invaded enough. He was lucky Gil hadn't kicked him out on his ass.

The only thing guys had ever done to Gil, after all, was hurt him. Even if Millander hadn't been a guy, he'd fucked Gil up like one, with his real cold metal gun instead of... The euphemistic gun. Which he probably didn't actually have because he was a she, but it was making Greg's head hurt.

And Gil caught his wrist and squeezed. But didn't seem to be awake.

Okay. So obviously he wasn't going anywhere just yet, but he was naked, and, and... Well, at least he had his shorts. Maybe he could kind of wrap them around his dick so that it didn't poke Gil at a bad moment. Or maybe he could kind of tuck it back, even if that hurt. Balls and sticks just weren't meant to be bent that way. So, he had his shorts in hand, he was naked, and his sleeping boss was holding his wrist so hard that it was actually starting to hurt. He hadn't thought Gil had that kind of strength in his hands.

"Shit," he whispered, going extraordinarily still. If Gil kept squeezing, it was going to be hard to work later. Greg didn't want to wake him up, but if that grasp got much tighter, he wasn't going to have any kind of choice.

Was that normal in sleep? He was going to have to look that up or ask around, because -- oh, shit that hurt. Shit, shit, he had to get Gil awake and then explain everything and then never dig around behind Gil in a bed again, because he apparently had eyes in the back of his head.

"Ow, ow, ow..." He tugged at his wrist as he reached out to shake the other man. "Gil? Gil, Jesus, come on, please? Please wake up? Let go?" Let go before he started to cry like some kind of total pussy, because he could nearly hear the bones grinding together. Fuuuck.

He could feel them, and there was going to be a huge red spot because Gil was twisting it somehow, despite reaching backwards. "Fuck."

It stopped just like that, fingers dropping off while Gil turned onto his back looking scared and startled. His face was wet, sideways across his right temple and over the bridge of his nose, just a streak. "G-greg....?"

"I'm s-s.." Sorry, sorry, oh, Jesus, that hurt, and when Gil finally let go, he gasped in agonized relief. "Oh, shit, I'm sorry." Sorry for losing his boxers, sorry for trying to squirm loose, and, wow. Death to erection. That was at least one good thing, right? Because Gil was gaping at him as he started to sit up. Breathing hard, and gaping, staring like he was perfectly horrified. At Greg, of course, because he had just caught Greg behind him like that, naked. Why not freak out with horror? Oh, God, he was such a fuck-up...

"I hurt you...? I..." Hurt people weren't supposed to move like that, move that fast, but Gil had the sheets off and was on his feet in a flash. His t-shirt was still twisted at the bottom, around his hips, over blue boxers with fireflies on them. The Led Zeppelin logo was a little distorted with hard breaths. "I didn't, I thought -- oh. I'm sorry, I..."

"No, no, I mean..." Wait. They were BOTH apologizing? "They came loose, they're kind of old, and then I tried to find them 'cause I didn't want you to be," worried, nervous, totally freaked out, "upset if you found them later, and I think I scared you, 'cause..."

"Was having a nightmare, I'm sorry, I..." Gil swallowed, took a step back even as their words overlapped. He was holding onto the door-frame, looking at Greg. A nightmare really didn't explain how Gil had caught his wrist. "I'm sorry."

"It's okay," Greg told him. He wasn't even going to think about the purple bruises that would probably show up later, or how it stung right at the moment. No, he was just going to pull his t-shirt down to his thighs and hide that wrist with the swath of faded, thin boxer material so that Gil couldn't see it. "Jesus, I'm sorry. I woke you up. I'm sorry."

Gil let out a shaky breath, and he ran a hand back through his hair. "Don't apologize, I..." I'm sorry, Greg could see the words forming in Gil's mind before he turned and headed down the hallway to the bathroom. He didn't run. Just turned and walked off mid-sentence.

That left Greg alone in his bedroom, and confused. It wasn't like he could follow him into the bathroom, exactly, and all of his clothes were there. Still. Maybe he could go make coffee or... or something. Eat the breakfast he had brought, dried out or not.

Yeah, he was gonna do all of that bare-ass naked.

Knowing his luck, he'd sit down on Gil's sofa and get stuck to the leather. Or worse, sit down on some bug-setting pin or something. Or ants. It didn't matter how perfectly illogical it was, that was what was going to happen to him next. One minute he'd been observing the Wild Grissom, and the next he'd been getting his hand ripped off at the wrist. It was his right hand, too.

He needed that hand. He, he used pipettes with that hand! He started the car with that hand!

He JERKED OFF with that hand!

"I'm such a complete and total dork," Greg moaned, and decided to flop back on Gil's bed, instead. Maybe if he was lucky, he could suffocate himself with a pillow.

Then again, that would freak Grissom out worse. It was pretty rude to commit suicide in someone else's house to start with. Gil didn't need to be any more freaked out, because... Because it sounded like he was in the bathroom throwing up.


Greg jumped out of the bed and scrambled for Gil's dresser. A pair of shorts came to hand, and he pulled them on while he hurried towards the door, nearly knocking himself out on the way. Still, he wasn't naked by the time he got into the bathroom. The door hadn't been locked or anything, and Gil looked so miserable.

Kneeling there in front of the toilet, breathing hard, head hung down. "Okay. I'm okay." Gil turned his head towards the door, looking pale and clammy-sick when he waved Greg off. "Just... close the door."

Like hell.

Greg shifted, rummaged through a cabinet or two to find a washcloth, and went about wetting it. Cold water wasn't a cure-all, but it helped. "I think by now you've gotta know I'm not going anywhere," he said quietly, moving around Gil to sit on the side of the tub. He reached out with the cloth and gently wiped Gil's face.

The inside of the toilet looked like Gil hadn't thrown up much more than bile, but it was still kind of gross. It definitely wasn't food-induced puking. Nervousness, maybe, but Greg wasn't a doctor. He was just a good guesser.

Gil closed his eyes, and exhaled slowly, let Greg pull a cold facecloth over his reddened face. "Why?"

"So many whys." Greg didn't want to answer that question. That answer was the same thing that made him flinch and run when Sara was around, and Greg wasn't that stupid.

Gil let him get away with that non-answer, too. Nodded, and reached to close the toilet lid, which he then leaned on top of. Probably because it was cool against his skin. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." Greg would do it again, as often as it needed doing. "Bet you're feeling pretty rough. You think you're up to going back to bed? I can try and scrounge up some crackers, see if that'll ease things up any."

He shook his head, and didn't make a move to get up. "What... time is it?"

"Sevenish. If you're not better in the next half hour or so, I'm going to call Catherine." The worst they could do was fire him, and Greg could get another job. Probably. He didn't want to look for one, but... Well.

Another head shake, and Gil started to get up. "Too late to call Chicago." He sat on the lid for a second, putting his hand up to his forehead again. "I'll be okay."

"You're so not going to be okay," Greg told him. That was one hell of a confusing answer. "Catherine isn't in Chicago."

"A... doctor I knew. He's in Chicago. A university office, so they're never there past four thirty." He exhaled again, and didn't deny that he really wouldn't be okay by the time Greg had set his time-limit.

"Okay." Simple as that, really, easy. "Do you want me to see if I can get his home number?" Greg was going to be calling Catherine, anyway, telling them that he wasn't coming in. The way his wrist throbbed was reason enough. He was going to need something more than a couple of Tylenol to get that to stop. It was going to turn purple, but if Gil was planning to call a doctor actually looking for help, maybe it was worth his wrist being sprained or twisted or whatever.

"I'm sorry I hurt you, Greg."

"I'm sorry I scared you shitless. And I'm sorry I snagged a pair of your underwear, but I figured running around without mine would totally freak you out," Greg offered, reaching out to touch the side of Gil's face again. He was careful to use his left hand, and to keep his right out of Gil's range of vision. "I'm pretty tough. I'll be okay."

Gil's eyes dropped to the underwear, and he managed a tiny smirk. "Ladybugs look good on you." He didn't see the wrist, because then he turned away a little to use the countertop to steady himself when he stood up. "If I get my phonebook out of the closet, will you navigate his secretary?"

"I'll take care of it," Greg promised him seriously. "Do you need anything? I need to call Catherine first, and then I'll make some coffee." Real coffee, because they'd both slept. Greg was pretty sure it was the most sleep he'd gotten in a week. It had been great, warm and comfortable until he'd lost his underwear. He wasn't ever going to get in bed with Gil without underwear. If he thought about it, he was really glad that Gil hadn't grabbed his penis.

"No. I'm just... going to sit down." Since he was walking out into the hallway, it was a safe bet that he meant in the living room.

"Okay," Greg sighed, and he paused to flush the toilet. He needed to brush his teeth, but that could wait. Right now, a whole lot of things could wait, so he did a quick rinse of the cloth Gil had left behind, and hung it over a towel rack to dry before heading after him.

No one could fire him if he was taking care of the boss, right? It wasn't like they could take shifts. Gil had no family that he knew about, and he probably wouldn't do so well by himself. Sara was a huge, massive no. Catherine would probably drop by at the end of shift, but Gil would be okay with that. He smiled at her and teased with her. Jim, too. But Greg was really the only person who... wasn't important enough or something to really feel bad about taking time off for that.

Gil hadn't headed into the living room. He'd popped open the door to the spare room, and was standing in the same closet Catherine had been digging through days and days before.

Greg made a conscious decision not to notice where he was and kept moving. That way, neither one of them had to discuss the fact that there was a spare bedroom, somewhere Greg could have stayed without Gil being there. What did that mean, exactly? He wondered. Maybe he didn't want to reveal the things he had stored there, or maybe... Well, no, that was stupid, and one hell of a lot to hope for. It was more than Greg deserved, scaring the shit out of Gil like that.

Instead, he went to the kitchen and began puttering around. There was decaf, but that stuff was satanic. God alone knew what he'd been thinking when he bought it. Something about Catherine, Greg thought, so he tucked it away in the cabinet with Gil's other coffee, just in case, and set about making a full pot. Their breakfast from the morning wasn't immediately visible, so maybe Gil had put it away or he had a cat or a teacup type dog that sniffed for crumbs while he was asleep, and hid under the couch the rest of the time.


More like Madagascar hissing roaches. They probably came in and toted off whole loaves of bread and ten pound sacks of potatoes. Maybe that was what he kept in the spare room. Other than boxes of things that Catherine hadn't wanted Greg to see. Huge Madagascar hissing roaches that stood up in the closet like something out of Kafka.

At least those were freaky thoughts that made Greg want to laugh. The food was actually in the microwave, which had kept it from going entirely stale while they'd slept, even Gil's half-eaten bagel, with weird dry cream cheese. His own looked pretty rough, too, but they'd live. It wasn't like dry cream cheese was going to kill anybody, he figured, so he pulled out the plates and started fixing two coffee cups, one for himself and one for Gil.

The fact that he knew how Gil took his coffee was kind of silly, and at the same time it sort of pleased Greg. It was like some kind of secret knowledge, one that he had and nobody else did, and that thought made him stupidly happy.

The percolating coffee pot was just starting to hit its groove when he heard Gil set down a flat blue address book right beside him. He hadn't heard Gil show up behind him, but there he was. He was staring at Greg's wrist, but didn't say anything yet. "It's Dr. Alan Bloom's office. I... apparently can't be trusted to pretend this is just going to go away."

"I'll take care of it," Greg promised, offering him the plate full of breakfast items with his left hand. It was too late to hide the right and its blooming purple bruises now. "Which name should I give?" So prosaic a question for so complicated a matter. Greg handed him his coffee cup next. "I'll call Catherine when I'm done there."

Gil looked quietly guilty, and still a little shaky when he took the coffee cup and the plate. He stepped away, still watching Greg to see if maybe he'd hurt him somewhere else, too. "William Graham. That way he'll know it's important."

"Okay." And it was as simple as that, really, as agreeing to do things the way that Gil wanted them done. "Go, eat. You'll feel better." He pulled the coffee pot out, sliding his own cup underneath to catch coffee while he poured Gil's. "Promise."

"I'll make this up to you," Gil told him, oddly solemn and soft-sounding as he watched Greg pour. When Greg was done, he lifted it to his mouth and blew on it lightly before taking a sip. Just a little hot, because he gave a quiet hiss. "You're going to run out of time off."

"Yeah, well. I wasn't planning on doing anything with it anyway, right?" If he was lucky, he could call in sick for this evening, anyway. It wasn't like his wrist was going to be much good to him.

Greg shifted his cup from beneath the spout and slid the pot back in. The cup was mostly full, so it was drinkable, and he could sip at it while he flipped through the address book to the right entry.

It was definitely an address book of people he didn't know. There was a phone number in Geneva with the word 'emergency' scrawled beside it. Some numbers in Wisconsin, some numbers that were crossed out, a number with 'Jack' beside it, 'Prince', and finally, about four pages in, 'Bloom'.

Okay, so, call, get the guy's home phone number, then call Catherine, then hand the phone off to Gil.


The only problem with that was the college he had to call; getting past the answering service was hell, convincing the secretary to look at her emergency contact list was worse.

Convincing her that he was Will Graham's administrative assistant took a lot of doing, too, since he was a lab tech, and not actually any such thing. After ten minutes of quizzing on appropriate filing procedure, and a couple of tortured moments in which he was forced to discuss the merits of Excel versus Access, he finally got the number.

Greg was pretty sure grad school in New York hadn't been such a pain in the ass. Nothing could be that much of a pain in the ass, not even facing the prospect of explaining to Catherine that Gil had freaked out and really wasn't okay, so he needed the night off. He sort of wondered, as he eyed the new number he'd written down on a piece of scrap paper, then started to dial Catherine's cell, what she'd say, exactly, because Grissom had been right. He maybe had another week worth of leave time left, and usually it wasn't okay to be taking it on a day's notice.


"Um. Hi. Catherine." What did he say? Jesus. "Look. I'm at Grissom's. I don't think I'm going to be able to make it in tonight." Greg was going to be lucky if he didn't end up at the ER. His wrist was starting to hurt pretty badly, and there was visible swelling. Dammit.

~"Wait. Why can't you come in tonight? We're backed up already, Greg, and I have to go out to the forensic body farm tonight. Someone dumped a dead body in dead body central."~

Gil wasn't in the living room like he was supposed to be, eating his bagel and drinking his coffee in plain sight, no. No, staying still was too easy for him, apparently, because he was opening the freezer door and offering Greg a bag of frozen peas.

'For your wrist' he mouthed, pressing it against Greg's arm for him.

"Thanks," Greg sighed. "Look. I can't hold onto anything tonight. I fell, and Gil grabbed me, and I think I've sprained my wrist. We're probably going to the ER later." He hated to say that, Jesus, he hated it. Still. Better that than anything else. "If you want to let me come in a few hours late, maybe by then we'll be done..." In which case, he was dragging Gil with him, because leaving him alone just wasn't an option. It was right out.

~"Could you? We're really short handed, Greg. Even just a couple of hours would help. Look, I've got to go -- good luck with your wrist, okay? And tell Gil to rest."~

"I promise," he said solemnly, and he meant it. "I might see if he wants to come with me. Three hands are better than one?" Greg suggested. "Anyway. I'll see you later." And hope nobody fired him.

~"Uh... okay. Bye."~ That last part threw her, but what could she say? No, don't bring Grissom in to work, it'll start the apocalypse?

Gil waited until Greg had hung up, kept holding the peas in place. "I'll take you to the ER after I call Dr. Bloom. You probably need it x-rayed." The expression on Gil's face was a lot like the big Golden retriever that he'd had before college, that time he'd caught him head first in the garbage bin. Such guilt.

"You know, it's okay. Honest to God," Greg swore, reaching out with his left hand and the phone, touching Gil's jaw line with his fingertips. "I've got to go in. We're behind. But, you know, we've got plenty of time. I figured you might want to go with me? It'd give you something to do. I mean, I know they said not to go back to work yet, but..." Greg felt like he was offering crack to a shivering addict. He probably was. Gil was adrift without work, and maybe it wasn't the 'tough love' thing to do by letting him go back to work, even just to see that it was still there, but... Well, he wasn't so good with tough love.

Gil's fingers closed gently, loosely over his, and he took the phone. "But I'm not clocking in and I won't be working any cases. I'm just there because... I'm your ride." Gil supplied that, an unnecessary bit of lie that would fit well. As long as no one realized that the bruises on his wrist perfectly fit the shape of Gil's hand. Maybe he could see if Gil had an ace bandage. "I really am sorry."

"You don't have to be," Greg told him, fumbling to hand over the badly written number. "I'm sorry, too, and you know, two negatives cancel out and make a positive." God, he wanted to kiss Gil. The temptation was maddening, and it wasn't one he could give in to, not if he wanted things to remain stable between them. Still...

Still. He caught himself leaning forwards when Gil took the number, too, but the gesture was a loss. Gil pulled back, looking down at the phone while he dialed the area code and then the number. Shit, yeah. Maybe kissing Gil would have to wait until the guy hadn't just almost ripped his hand off for reaching behind him when he slept.

"Not sure what the positive would be in this case..."

"We're both upright and maybe we can run DNA between us?" Greg suggested brightly. It was the best he could do, that and take the peas in his own grasp when Gil went to dial the phone.

That got the oddest smile and a nod from Gil. "Okay. I think we can. You should eat your breakfast, and..." There was nowhere for Gil to go to make a phone call in private, so maybe that was why he held the phone up to his ear and moved to sit down on the sofa again. Or maybe, since he'd let Greg go through hell to get the number, he just wasn't going to hide it.

Carefully balancing his plate and the bag of peas on his right arm and holding his coffee cup in the left, Greg took himself to sit at the table. It afforded a little privacy to Gil, after all. Even a little privacy was better than none, except that he could still hear Gil's words. Could still see him sitting down on the sofa, holding his coffee cup in one hand and the phone in the other.

"Hello, Alan? It's Will Graham..."

Will Graham. That didn't even sound right, not like Gil Grissom did, and it made Greg's brow furrow as he thought about it. Will Graham, Gil Grissom. They were the same person, somebody might say, but Greg didn't think that would be accurate in the least. Maybe they had been a long time ago, but Gil was distinct in his mind, and Will was the person crazy enough to let serial killers sit next to him in a hospital room and discuss how tender he had been.

It was very possible that Will, too, was the person who ripped hands off in his sleep, while Greg was really sure that Gil was the guy who looked apologetic and threw up because he'd hurt someone. Definitely two different people-types, and no one was going to tell Greg otherwise.

"I know. It's... been a long time. Yes. I know. Hmmh. You did?" Gil sighed, and closed his eyes while he took a sip of his coffee. "Yes. I need... help."

Greg couldn't hear the other end of the conversation, but that was okay. He had a cranberry orange scone, and that was enough to make him satisfied for the time being. Gil getting help couldn't be a bad thing. Will was part of the subconscious, Greg thought. Something like that, anyway. Even if Will was the one who needed the help, it couldn't hurt Gil. It had probably been years since he slept with someone else, so it was no wonder, really.

"You're not supposed to say 'I was expecting this'. Uhn. I, uh... Can't get him out of my head." Gil opened his eyes, peering over at Greg for a moment, watching him eat. "No, he wasn't a secretary, but it's good to see that you're finally taking some kind of precautions."

Greg laughed softly at that statement. Precautions. Gil didn't have any, not a burglar alarm system or anything else. Of course, he did have three sets of locks on the door, but so what? The same key went to all of them, he'd bet.

"I see. At the conference? So that's why..." Gil sighed, nodding as he held the phone. "Alan. I need help, not to be caught up on the last sixteen years of gossip. I can't start over again."

Greg was getting pretty good about guessing what was going on at the other end of the phone, he thought. He could almost guess that there was a question about starting over again, and why, and he waited for Gil's answer.

"Because. You know why. It... worked last time, and the time before that. I know. I know, Alan. No, I wasn't invited to the wedding. No. Greg? No, he's not a research assistant. Mm. Runs DNA for the lab." He was sounding more like Gil the longer he talked. There was something about the tone that Gil had started out with that had made Greg wonder when he was going to call Dr. Bloom a prick.

Greg would have laughed if he had, and really hoped that the guy was kind enough not to hang up on Gil when he did. After all, Gil needed help, and if this was the guy to do it, then it wouldn't be a good thing if he wouldn't talk to Gil at all.

"I'd rather not. Yes. Uh..." Gil sat back, shifting almost nervously. "I'm falling into the old problems. It's not just thoughts. I hurt a friend who was staying with me..."

Greg wanted to roll his eyes and make a protest, but he didn't figure interrupting Gil was a good idea. Instead, he took a deep swallow of coffee to help in keeping his mouth shut.

"I grabbed his wrist, just like -- yes. " Gil went quiet, and Greg wished that he could eavesdrop on the other side of the conversation. "That's why it's a problem. I need to just..." Gil gave a quiet laugh. "I'm sure the Sheriff would love to get that phone call."

Greg wouldn't like to hear the sheriff getting that phone call, that was for sure. He gave up on breakfast and the table and slipped the damp plastic bag of peas back over his wrist, holding it closely.

"You're -- Alan, don't dial that number, don't..." Gil trailed off, then stood up and grabbed pen to scrawl on the back of the sheet of paper Greg grabbed for him.

What number?? Geeze, the guy wasn't actually going to call the sheriff, was he? That might get both of them fired, and Greg didn't think that would exactly be pretty.

"First you tell me to seize control, and then you give me no choice at all. That's a really nice touch. Yes. I think you've been out of touch with the real world too long and that academia has softened your brain." Gil didn't sound angry, though. He was talking quietly, and... smiling. Looking almost smug.

"I know. You can tell Jack I think the same of him. At least I started teaching. It wasn't the culmination of my career goals. Mmm. Yes, I'll stop talking now." Gil leaned on the table beside Greg, and quickly wrote on the paper.

'He's calling the sheriff, as my doctor, advising that I be allowed to go back to work as part of a therapy regimen, to begin ASAP.'


TOTALLY excellent, so Greg wouldn't have to feel bad about leaving Gil home alone and he wouldn't have to worry about getting fired, either. What an incredible relief, and the quick sketch of a face he drew with a sloppy left hand said it all, he thought.

A smiley, and Gil grinned in agreement as he pulled a chair out to sit down. Gil picked up the pen and added a quick stick-person body to the crooked head. He took time to add a thumbs up to one hand. And he kept doodling, adding too-big boxer shorts and spiky hair while he stayed silent, listening apparently to Dr. Bloom talking with the Sheriff.

Today, Greg thought, was going to end up being a really good day. They had slept, and Gil was smiling, and they'd be going in to work soon. Maybe Gil even had a shirt and some pants he could borrow, or something, anyway. Then, they could swing by Doc Robbins, maybe, get his wrist wrapped up, and still be to work on time. That would work. Everybody would be happy.

The words 'confined to the lab for a week' had never sounded so good to Gil's ears.

He'd missed working. He didn't know how much he needed to be busy until he actually wasn't, until there wasn't anything to do but 'relax'. Now he could look over Catherine's paperwork, catch up, and then start to look over the evidence that was being brought in.

Gil had forgotten how good it felt to be himself again. He wasn't Will, not anymore, and trying to straddle the fence of existence had been straining. He needed to stop trying, stop trying to explain. Just... be himself, who he was now. Even if everyone in the office knew who he had been, he wasn't going to try to live up or live down to their expectations for his behavior. He was just going to be himself. Feed his orange-kneed Tarantula, and simply... be. Be happy. Take control of his life.

It felt good to stand in the middle of his office, eyeing his desk, his familiar clutter. It was like coming home more than actually coming home had been.

"So. The prodigal Grissom has returned home." Ah. Catherine. He should have known. Next would be Jim, and he'd already talked to Al. "I can't believe they're actually letting you back so soon. Who did you have to bribe?"

He turned around, smiling at he set his briefcase down. "No one. Although my doctor placed a call to the sheriff -- I'm not sure what he said, but the sheriff called me just as I was heading out the door to take Greg to get his wrist looked at. No money passed hands, but I did bring you a DNA tech."

Greg was in the locker-room, putting a lab coat on. It had been easier for Gil to drive, since his wrists were fine, and it was a good test of his reaction time.

"Wow. On time and everything? I didn't think he was even going to show up. How bad's the wrist? I've never seen him so clumsy he fell over and somebody had to catch him." The question delved faintly into Greg's little lie.

Gil shrugged out of his jacket, and reached to carefully hang it up. "His wrist is... bad, actually. But they said the swelling should go down in a day or so if he ices it every couple of hours. It wasn't that he tripped, so much as..." Gil made a vague reaching motion. "That I caught him when he didn't need to be caught."

"Right." Catherine obviously didn't believe that, but she dropped into the chair across from him and let it go at that. "So how are you feeling? I mean, you'd think a guy who's been gut shot would stay out of work at least a full two weeks, never mind coming back the very day he gets released from the hospital."

"But it hasn't been the very day. It's been a couple of days, and that was all the time I needed to shake off the smell of antiseptic and want to trade it for latex and real chemicals." He started to look at the once-mess that had been on his desk, now neatly stacked and in folders. Damn it, it was going to take forever to straighten out. "I'm fine, Catherine. I even got a full night's sleep."

"How did you manage that?" she asked, both brows rising. "I've seen you napping here on the couch. I know you don't really sleep, Gil. You just kind of fake it so that the rest of us will feel better about our limitations."

"Am I about to get a speech about what 'mere mortals' can and can't do?" Gil quirked an eyebrow at her, smiling as he leaned back in his chair. "I think I still have anesthetic in my system. That's all." And Greg. Greg had kept him from moving much in his sleep, soothing him down with heavy warmth. Every so often he'd seep through the dreams a little, and Gil would half-remember where he was and drift back to comfort. It had been a long time since he had slept like that; maybe too long, and he wanted to sleep like that again. Was it sexual harassment if he asked his DNA lab tech to play teddy bear?

"No. I've just been worried about you. I'm grateful Greg went to stay with you, and I'm really grateful you didn't let him leave the house. I tried to get him to take a taxi on his way home last night, but..." She shrugged. "So. What are your plans, o lab bound one?"

"First, I'm going to hand out your assignments. And then I'm going to keep myself busy while all of you are out in the field." That was what always made him happiest anyway, researching and experimenting. They were the best parts of the job, and also the... safest. "You already know about the out of place body in the body farm. Take Sara or Warrick with you."

"Sara, I think," she chose judiciously, and Gil got the sense that there was something there, something he likely needed to know and didn't want to know. Best to let it ride for a few days before he asked. If it was urgent or dangerous, he'd find out before he actually asked.

"Good. She's always wanted to see the body farm. And everyone else..." Oh, it was right there on top of his desk. Of course -- the last place he'd look for the assignment sheet.

"And everyone else is wrapping things up. All right. We'll see what the night brings us."

"And you will stay here in the lab," Catherine said. "Swear it to me." It was obvious that she didn't trust him to stay there without an honest to goodness promise. Ordinarily, she'd be right about that.

Gil knew that his eyebrow was twitching again, faint disbelief, but he nodded. It was going to take work to regain her trust, and that... was fine. As long as he could do it as Gil, it was fine. "I swear that I'm not leaving the building, Cath."

"Then I promise not to worry that you will." She stood up and moved around his desk, and she hugged him. Never mind that she didn't ordinarily do that to him; things had changed in the last few days, the world shifting around them until everything was faintly cracked.

It had happened before, and Gil didn't doubt that it would happen again before he shuffled off his mortal coil. Sudden, unwanted, often violent change was part of living. It was why they all had jobs.

Gil hugged her back, grasp firmer than it should have been. "I'm still me, Catherine. Don't worry."

"I'm starting to worry a lot less," she assured him, patting his shoulder as she drew away from him. "Maybe you can help out in the DNA lab. With that wrist injury, Greg's not going to be as good as he usually is."

That was distinctly suspicious of her. He might have even lodged a formal protest to the suggestion if he wasn't so amiable to it already. Still, Gil was careful to give Catherine a confused, questioning look before he told her, "Okay. Now, get going -- and watch out for cross contamination!"

"You're the boss," she called over her shoulder, hurrying out the door and leaving him to his own devices.

She knew what he was going to do, even if he was going to be doing it autonomously. He was going to make sure he knew what she'd done to his desk; then he'd get up, feed his insects, and head out to make sure that Greg was all right. Somewhere in there he'd probably pick up part of a case and make himself useful.

So. He might as well get moving. It wasn't like the tarantula was going to feed herself.

Thank God for Doc Robbins and ice-cold gel-packs. The one that was miraculously wrapped between layers of ACE bandages felt so good that Greg considered just sitting down and enjoying the feel of it, but Nick had been watching him for the last fifteen minutes. That made him a little nervous, all things considered.

Nick wasn't just looking at Greg, he was eyeing him, frowning a little. Gil had been in earlier, but then he'd been called off to look at some weird maggot they'd found in a corpse's intestine. Until then, Gil had been very helpful in grabbing stuff for Greg, and just... talking. That was kind of neat, just to talk about random things in a fun, calm way. Some of the things that Gil had to say about whole genome shotgun sequences were really just funny. It was definitely geek humor, Greg thought, but they both enjoyed it, so it wasn't like there was any problem with it.

He formed a slightly shaky ball with his right hand and squeezed, careful not to spill drops of acid everywhere. Boy, wouldn't that be a mess? He was hurting enough without having to strip down to Gil's underwear in the lab, he figured. He was still wearing Gil's underwear, and he'd worn some of Gil's clothes -- which were baggy on him, of course -- in to the locker room. At least there, he'd been able to put on his spare clothes, folding Gil's up and putting them in his locker so he wouldn't forget them.

He really needed to swing by his place and pick up some other things. Maybe. If they were doing it again, minus the arm-twisting part. Gil hadn't mentioned anything about it, other than that he was glad Greg was there and that he was sorry about what had happened. Then again, they were at work, so talking about sleeping arrangements was just weird.

They weren't even talking about anything weird, and Nicky was watching him funny, that look that Nick had once declared to be 'the dirty eyeball'. It was obviously something southern, because Greg didn't get it, but he wondered what he had done to earn it. Maybe he should just ask, but eventually Nick would get tired of watching him and would come ask questions.

Greg had a result for Nick about an earlier case, anyway, a severed finger, a woman found down a well, and a concerned paramour who happened to be married. The whole thing was fishy.

"Hey, Greggo..."

"Hey, Nick!" He smiled at Nick, never mind the look on Nick's face that implied Seriously Heavy Thoughts. He got the feeling that whatever was coming had to be right up there with the 'Why Nick Prefers Hookers To Greg' speech. "You here for your results?" Hopefully he wouldn't be starting the conversation with The Importance of Breasts. No, he probably wouldn't be, because no one with titties was involved unless you brought in Catherine or Sara. Catherine had really nice, perky ones for someone who was a mom, but...

"Yeah..." He trailed off, then gestured to Greg's wrist. "What happened, man?"

"Exhausted," Greg said simply. "Stopped by to check on Gris, stumbled over the front doorstep with breakfast in hand, and he caught me. Doc Robbins took a look at it. Compression and ice, even though the compression's probably not the best idea ever."

Nick looked around, peering over his own shoulder for a second. "Lemme see."

It would be fair to say that confused the hell out of Greg. "See your evidence?" he asked, not entirely certain what it was that he wanted to see. "Sure. It's over here, with the..."

"No, man. No, I want to see your wrist. Let me see it." Nick moved to stand beside Greg, putting himself between Greg and the door.

"Why?" It seemed like a legitimate question. "It's just bruised and a little strained. Not even a full sprain or anything," Greg frowned. Still, he reached for the bandage, tugging the closure free and beginning to unwrap it.

"I just... look, I'll explain after you let me see, all right? Things've been weird lately. When you see Ecklie and Catherine putting their heads together, it's scary. And Sara... Man."

"Yeah. Sara scares me," Greg agreed. The gel pack tumbled to his work top with a faintly squishy sound. It was probably time to change it out anyway if it was getting warmer. "Put that in the freezer over there, would you?" he asked, continuing to unwrap his wrist.

"Sure. There's no weird blood experiments in here, are there? Grissom left one in the community fridge, and it went completely rank while y'all were gone." Nick swept it up off of the countertop, and popped open the little freezer part.

"Yeah, well, there's nothing much new about that. There's another one in there, just shift that one to the side." Greg winced as he got the last of the bandage unwrap. "God."

"Hurts? So what did happ-- Oh, fuck." Greg could hear the fridge closing quietly, and Nick set the frozen gel pack down on the counter while he stared at Greg's wrist. "Purple."

"I'll live," Greg told him, shrugging faintly. "It's no big deal. I've had worse. I'm pretty sure you have, too. It's not broken or anything."

"Yeah, but... How'd you get it? I don't believe you fell and Griss caught your wrist. You don't weigh enough to get bruising like that from getting caught. What'd you do, fall out a window and get hauled up?" It didn't help that Nick reached to touch the edge of one bruise. They were definitely finger-shaped.

"It's a long story. Look, I'm okay. It's not like he meant it, it just..." Yeah, this sounded way too much like an after school special on abused kids or something. "Look. It's... I was worn out, and I went by to check on him, and I fell asleep, and..."

And. And he'd had a Grissom in its native habitat, asleep and wearing a Zeppelin t-shirt and firefly boxers. "And?" And Nick wasn't jumping to conclusions like Greg had kind of hoped he would. He was standing there, still barely touching one bruise.

"And, Gil stayed with me, and he's hurt, and he had a nightmare when I lost my boxers because you know I sleep like some sort of squid, and I freaked him out, and..." Greg sighed and turned his wrist over so that Nick could see the worst of it.

Where it was almost black inside of his wrist, where Gil's fingers had dug in on top of his tendons and made the bones creak. Purple bruises had met blood-blisters, and Nick let out a soft hiss, lifting his fingers up. "Jesus. Griss really did this?"

"Kinda freaky, huh?" Greg's mouth twitched faintly. That faint touch hurt like hell, which was pretty funny considering how tightly the doc had wrapped him. "It'll be okay. I mean, if it wasn't gonna be all right, I wouldn't be here, you know?"

"Yeah. Doc Robbins is sure nothing's broken?" Nick's eyebrows were drawn together as he kept considering the bruise like it were a piece of evidence. "You know, we're all worried about Grissom. But maybe you shouldn't..."

"Nothing's broken. And he's gonna be okay," Greg assured him. "I can take care of myself. It's not that bad, I mean, it's not like he's gonna do it again, or... anything."

"Yeah, 'cause you're not gonna go all squid-Greg on the guy who just got out to the hospital because some fucked up serial killer raped him with a gun. Right?" It wasn't scolding, but worry on Nick's face as he held the bandage back to Greg. "Here. I'll help."

"Thanks," Greg said seriously, letting Nick make the first wraps. "No more octopus-Greg," he promised. "I can't help it, though. It's kind of my nature, you know, squirming all over the bed. That's why you got the pullout couch for when I pass out playing video games at your place, right?" The placement of the new ice gel made him hiss.

"Yeah." Nick grinned at him a little as he started the wrapping. At least he knew what he was doing, wrapping it nice and firm. "Speaking of that, you wanna come over?"

"I don't know, I mean, I haven't got any clean clothes, and I'm really kind of tired..." Oh, that sucked. That was the worst excuse Greg had ever heard, and he figured he should probably be shot for giving it.

Nick's eyebrows were way up, but he pressed on, "Oh, so just going home, then?"

"Unless I get a better offer than video games. You didn't even offer me breakfast or a reach-around," Greg snickered, watching as Nick attached the clasp to the bandage.

Nick's fingers, predictably, faltered, and he almost dropped the little metal clasp. "You do that on purpose. Now I've got stuff in my head that I never wanted."

"Hey. You were the one asking the questions, buddy." He let Nick finish with the clasp before he removed his hand. "Besides. A guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do. Half the fun is knowing that you're traumatized by it."

"I figured." He jostled Greg's shoulder gently. "Just.... be careful, okay? There's some rumors and stuff going around, and it makes me worry."

Greg wanted to ask. Oh, Jesus, he wanted to ask, but he managed to refrain. Just barely. "I promise not to make you worry," he said, nodding. "Solemnly swear. On anything you want, if it'll make you feel better. You know..." Greg trailed off and tilted his head to the side. Being serious was almost painful. It was just bad for him, and it sucked. "Whatever it is they're saying..."

"I know, I know. It ain't true, right? Except that he managed to do that to your wrist. I don't know what to think anymore. Griss could debunk it all, or..." Or he could be standing in the doorway with a folder in his hand, looking faintly unhappy.

"Nick. Anything you'd like to say to my face?"

Oh, holy shit.

The best thing to do at the moment, Greg thought, was to climb his ass underneath the nearest table and hide there. He'd never seen Nick get that look, like he was so completely mortified he might hide under the table Greg was eyeballing.


"Go on." Gil just leaned there, waiting with a flat expression. "What rumors?"

Nick shifted uncomfortably. "Look, man. It's nothing personal, just there's a lot of rumors flying around. about you being married and that you used to be FBI and that's why you hate 'em. Something about attracting serial killers and... Look, I don't know if any of it's true or not, and I didn't want to ask, but I just thought Greg should be careful. That's all I'm saying."

"Oh, Jesus." Greg sighed.

"I see." Gil tapped the edge of his chin with the folder, watching Nick intently. Then he pressed on in a soft, steady tone that probably was more scary than the little burst of anger. "Do you know where these rumors started?"

Nick took a deep breath and let it out. "I'm not a hundred percent certain, and... well, there are some other rumors besides that, but..."

"Other rumors?" That definitely perked up Greg's ears. "What other rumors?"


"Go on, Nicky." Greg wasn't sure what was going on behind Gil's eyes, except that it involved a lot of thought.

Nick gave a deep sigh. "That you're involved somehow. I mean. You know. You. And that's why Sara's handing in her resignation."

Greg's jaw dropped. "Whaaat the fuck?"

"Sara's... resigning?" It took the punch out of Gil's expression, and he turned away from the lab to head down the hall. It wasn't like either of them had to ask to know for whom he was looking or why he hadn't stuck around for Nick to confirm that half-question.

He just left Nick standing there with Greg, looking guilty.

"Shit," Greg said, head dropping slightly so that he was facing the floor. "Right. Well. Um." Um. That summed things up admirably well, he thought. "Does that offer of video games come with breakfast and a couple shots of tequila?"

"Maybe? So... I mean, what's going on? I don't know. I want to know, but... case to get to, too. I should probably get cracking." Nick shifted, reached for that piece of paper.

God. Why was it always that people knew more about his love life than he knew about his love-life? He saw how it could be seen that way, even if it so wasn't that way. Yet. But it still wasn't, and he hadn't gotten too much indication that Gil went that way. Considering how fast he had turned around and hurried after Sara, Greg could guess that his night wasn't exactly looking up.

"Yeah," Greg said softly. "It's okay, man. Don't worry about it. I'm feeling kind of rough, anyway, so I might head out of here early." Or something. Or anything, actually.

Except for that part where he'd have to get a taxi if he wanted to duck out, because Gil had driven him in. This up and down, up and down shit was really starting to tire him out. First things went to hell, then they got way better, then bam, right down to hell again.

He had no idea why Gil loved roller coasters. They just kind of made him queasy.

Sara was back from the body farm when he finally ran into her, and she didn't look happy. Of course, Sara hadn't looked happy in a really long time, if Gil thought about. Somehow, he was sure that it was his fault. In some flailing, circumspect way, it was his fault. Everything lately had seemed like it was his fault.

Eventually, he'd catch a break. He'd justify enough to enough people and it would all go away and he could go back to living. That was all Gil wanted. Well, that and a hint of how to start the conversation.

"Sara, can I talk to you for a minute?"

"Hm?" The way that she looked up at him seemed almost blank, and when she registered that it was him, she turned faintly pale. "Oh. Uh. Grissom. I didn't realize you were back." In other words, Catherine hadn't mentioned it, just like she hadn't mentioned that Sara was planning to resign.

Gil was glad that they were all keeping such clear lines of communication. "I wasn't sure I'd be back this soon. Would you like to come to my office...? How was Chicago?" He stopped making only efforts to block her way, and moved to fall into step with her, even if his walk was slower than it had been before he'd been shot. Healing wounds needed to be remembered.

"Chicago was... cold. Windy. Learned a lot," she said, nodding at him. "I'd love to come to the office with you, but I've got some stuff that needs to be dropped off in DNA and trace and we've got a pretty big puzzle on our hands tonight, so... maybe later?"

It was an out. He could take it, let her run, but... "Sara, I've been told that you're resigning...?" Make it a question, in case Nick's tap into the departmental grapevine was bad.

"Ah, yeah. Actually. I mean, Vegas..." Sara gave a shaky laugh. "You know, it's really just not what I thought it would be. It's just... it's time for a change."

It was time for a change because he didn't want her, but he'd been so careful when she'd asked him about Molly. It made him hesitate, almost reaching to touch her. "Sara... why?"

"Why do you think?" He could see the heat rising in her cheeks, the faint frustration beneath her lashes. "Why do you think, Grissom? I mean, I came to Vegas because I thought... I don't know what I thought, but it obviously wasn't true, and things... It's time for me to leave. Go somewhere else."

Anywhere else.

He knew that feeling, and when it struck, he knew how hopeless it was to talk someone out of it. Never mind that it wasn't a conversation to have in the hallway; there wasn't any way to pause it and drag her along to his office. "I'm... so sorry, Sara. I can't... handle being involved like that. You can do better."

"Yeah. Well. And obviously, you can do Greg," she replied, and the sheer bitter gall in that sentence shocked him more than the statement itself.

"I... what?" He was staring, feeling the genuine shock that was seeping into him at her words. Gil wasn't doing Greg, they were... he didn't know what was going on, and he preferred it that way.

Apparently that particular rumor had sunk its teeth in.

"You could have just said that you were gay. Or, or that you just weren't interested in me, or..." She was going to cry, and Gil didn't know what he would do then. Be a completely useless wreck, probably.

"I... can't be pigeonholed like that, Sara. I've hurt people, you can do so much better than a middle-aged, burnt out--" She was crying, quiet and tense and she'd deny it even though he reached a hand to lift her chin.

"I don't want to talk about it!" she demanded fiercely. "Why can't you ever just let anything go? Isn't there anything for you beyond the evidence?"

His hand fell back to his side, admitting defeat before his posture would let the rest of him do the same. "No."

"Right." The way that her voice cracked filled him with desperate guilt. "So why don't you make your way back to the lab or your office or... wherever. I have... I have things I have to do."

"All right. Just... please don't leave the lab. They need you here."

It wasn't working the way that he'd hoped it would. He was supposed to come back and everyone would let him keep being himself. No questions asked. This... This hadn't been in the cards. None of this, dealing with people and hurting them.

He'd forgotten he could do that, until he'd twisted Greg's arm, smashed Sara's heart. She brushed past him, and he let her. There wasn't anything else to do.

There wasn't anywhere else to go.


Maybe this had been a really bad idea.

"Uh-oh." The sound of Catherine's voice made Nick glance up at the door. "I've seen that look before. All right, Nicky. Spill. What'd you do?"

"The ceiling isn't falling down, is it? Not yet?" He glanced over at her, and leaned back from where he was studying the vic's clothes, dusting them intently for fibers. Fibers were Nick's secret passion, the reason why he cut huge swathes of carpeting whenever Grissom asked Nick to take a carpet sample.

It made Catherine smile, hoping that Nick might find it contagious.

"I think... I don't know what to think, Catherine. Greggo's... wrist thing? Not from an accident. It looks awful. And then Grissom was standing in the doorway when I told him I was worried 'cause of those rumors, and there was Grissom. And..."

"Ohhh..." Fuck, she didn't say, but she might as well have spat it out then and there. "Right. This place is some kind of rumor mill.... but nobody's bothered to tell any of them to me, so." The look she directed at Nick was one that got results. It was the look of a mother demanding answers, and Nick was a man with very good sense. "Spill."

"Uh..." He carefully closed a fiber lifting swatch and reached for another. "Do I start with the one that has Greg and Grissom sleeping together, or the one that says Grissom's married and doing one of those weird secret lives things, or the one going around that Grissom got kicked out of the FBI 'cause he was crazy or he screwed up and that's why he hates them? I know they're just rumors, Catherine. I know they get around fast, an' I'm still getting talked about 'cause of Kristy."

"Okay. So. Next question is, how much do you think Gil knows by now?" Probably a lot, if not all of it. He was nearly silent when he wanted to be, and sneaking up to eavesdrop on conversations was something that she thought he'd do if it got him information. "How much does Greg know?"

"Uh, pretty much everything. I was asking Greg about his wrist, got the real story, and I told him to, you know, be careful and not go all Octopus-Greg on a guy that had as much right to be on edge as Griss. Grissom was standing in the doorway for I don't know how long," Press, lift, press lift, press lift, and close. "I put the debris from his clothes in that container there, it's all organic. But I looked just in case. And, uh, I told them both what the rumors were. Toned down."

"How'd they take it?" Her interest was less prurient and more worried. "And... Octopus-Greg?? What is that?"

Nick managed a smile. "Well, you know that most time two guys fall asleep in the same general location, they just don't move? Greg isn't like that. I bought a pull out sofa so if he falls asleep at my place after video games, I don't have squid-Greg on top of me. I also had to have a talk with him about why I preferred to sleep with girls and not Gregs. So."

So that answered the question Catherine had always had about whether or not Greg was flirting with everyone.

He was definitely flirting.

"Riiight." Catherine sighed. "So, what are we going to do about all of this mess?" She wasn't even sure where to start. "You still haven't told me how they reacted to it, anyway."

"I mentioned that Sara was quitting, and Griss repeated what I'd just said and rushed off. Greg kinda looked... unhappy, but he got back to work." Nick shrugged his shoulders. "Neither really, uh, denied that last part. Which kind of weirds me out, but... Hey. Not my business."

"You told him about Sara? Oh, Jesus, Nick," Catherine groaned, and she turned to go. Finding Grissom was first priority, then, and taking care that he didn't actually talk Sara into withdrawing her resignation was second. The entire lab would blow to pieces if the two of them kept at it.

Didn't Grissom realize that Sara had only come to Vegas because he'd asked, and had probably only hung around because she'd thought she could get to him? Now, combined with that other rumors, they'd all be lucky if she didn't just kill him if he tried to talk her out of it.

The best place to look for Gil was one of the labs, or his office. She could page him, but he probably didn't have it on him. Besides. She'd lay money on his office, just because he'd be hiding from Greg, too. The urge to curse was immense, and not very satisfying. She supposed that she should have had a talk with Nick, at least, pointed him in the right direction. Sara wasn't going to work out, but things with Gil and Greg...

Well, they had been weird, true, but it hadn't been anything like with Sara. Gil didn't pull the deer in the headlights trick with him, and Greg had been there pretty much the whole time Gil had been in the hospital. She hadn't really questioned it much because Greg had seen something traumatic. It made sense.

Now she was wondering if there had been something going on beforehand. But... Ah, there was Gil, right in behind his desk, glasses on, leafing through a report.

"Hi, there," she greeted, shutting the door behind her. That made him look up, and she could see faint lines of stress, the compression of his mouth. "So. Um. I guess you've heard that Sara's leaving us."

"I'm not going to let her," Gil said stubbornly once she'd closed the door behind her. "It doesn't make sense."

Catherine sighed and sank into the chair across from him. "It makes perfect sense, Gil. The only reason she came to Vegas was because she thought you were going to make a move on her, and she wants that from you. I know it. You know it. Ecklie knows it. Hell, let's be honest. Everybody in the building knows about it, just like we all know that she scares you to death. The best thing for you to do is to let this go."

"I can't." The papers made a faint noise when Gil set them down, but at least he stayed in his chair when he leaned back. "I don't know if I'll be staying here. I don't know what's going to happen."

"'re thinking about leaving?" Catherine could feel the blood draining from her face, the faint dizziness of shock that shivered through her skin. "But...!"

He couldn't leave. He'd been there forever, sixteen years. He looked tense and tired when he gave his faint nod. "I can't let these rumors go on -- but neither can I really defend myself against them without admitting, yes, those are good questions to ask. Or that there's more truth to the rumors than I'm comfortable with."

"Which ones?" Catherine asked carefully, shifting forwards.

"William Graham was a Special Investigator because he couldn't pass the mental examination. Talented enough for the position, but just not quite... stable enough to be an agent." He looked uncomfortable with the words he was saying, but apparently speaking in third person was a-okay. "It doesn't matter that everyone has been fine with me for sixteen years. A little information that they never needed to know, and..."

"Look, they don't know that. That's not even real. Somebody did a little digging, and they don't have any good, solid information to deal in, Gil. It's not worth leaving over," Catherine assured him.

"I know." But it was bothering him, she could tell when he took off his glasses and rubbed at his eyes. "But all of those rumors have truth to them. I don't know what to do."

"Ignore them," Catherine suggested gently. "Ignore them, and do what you need to do, Gil. It's your life. It is. Even the thing with Sara... that's up to you, too. I don't think it's a good idea to keep her from leaving. It will be better for both of you, in the long run. You should do whatever you need to do to make yourself complete, though. To try and be okay."

From the look on his face, someone else had told him that already. "That's why I'm here and not rattling around inside my apartment. I know how my friend was thinking when he called the sheriff for me. Going back to work will either fix me or break me."

Gil put his glasses back on, regarding Catherine carefully. "I guess I'll figure it out as I go. So. Have you figured out how a man ended up shot, but without an exit wound, a trace of the bullet, and bovine maggots in the wound tract?"

Gil was Gil, no matter what was going on.

The sooner everybody realized that, the better.

Calling a taxi to get home wasn't a lot of fun, but it wasn't like Greg could drive, and it wasn't like he had seen Gil since he had stormed off after Sara. It was a good thing he had gotten some sleep, or he might have done something stupid in a fit of angst, like yelling and screaming as if he were a toddler. Nick's invitation to go home with him had turned to dust. Greg had hoped he could at least get a ride back to his apartment, but even that was looking like a loss.

So, he was looking at calling for a taxi if he could ever get caught up on his work, because apparently it was 'give Greg a lot of shit to sample' day. Not like every day wasn't give Greg a lot of work day, but it was really grating on him. Things had been cool, and then Gil had gone to see about that maggot, and Nick and... Hell.

Everything had gone to hell because of Sara. Maybe he wouldn't ever get the 'I like women a lot, please don't get naked in my bed' speech from Gil, but it was definitely likely. He'd run off like a shot because Sara was quitting.

Would he do that if Greg put in his resignation?


"Yes?" The answer was short at best, but he couldn't help himself. Jealousy was a really nasty, terrible emotion, one in which he should never indulge. Jealousy made Greg a nasty, cranky boy. It made him feel bad, and it made other people feel bad, so he tried not to do it.

The problem was that he couldn't help it. Not this time. That made it hard to look up at Sara. "Hi. Do you have a second?"

"Well, I'm kind of busy..." Even with his wrist a total wreck, he had a huge workload. "But I can take a minute."

"Great." She was smiling with too many teeth, and rested the edge of her hip against the table. "Why didn't you tell me that you're sleeping with Grissom?"

"Because I'm not?" It sounded like a question even though he knew she wanted an answer. "And even if I was, which I'm still not, it wouldn't be any of your business."

"Most of the department seems to agree that it's a fact," Sara noted, surprisingly calm. "And while there's a lot going around that isn't probably true..."

"You think that is," Greg said, carefully putting away a vial of fluid. "Why? Because he's not interested in fucking you?"

Right. Squid-Greg was much better than Jealous-Bitch-Greg. Sara looked a little shocked that he'd even said that, opened her mouth and then closed it again. "I... actually can't believe you'd say that, Greg."

"Greg -- do you think you'll be able to get out of here by eight? Oh, hello, Sara." Gil just drifted by with a bullet mold, looking obliviously lost in something. It was better than Gil lurking and eavesdropping, if only it wasn't going to result in Sara ripping his head off and drinking from the spurting fount of arteries, anyway.

"Um," Greg said, face flushing deeply. "Yeah. I think I can have most of this stuff wrapped up by then."

"Great. I'll try to be done by then. I think I've figured out what happened with that bullet. Sara, Warrick was looking for you." Gil smiled at her like there hadn't been an argument, or like she hadn't cornered him somewhere, which was what Greg suspected had happened.

"I'll find him," she promised, just waiting for Gil to walk away from them. Greg knew that she was going to have him slowly, painfully murdered when Gil left, and he was at least faintly desperate to keep him there. At the same time, getting him out of the lab NOW, fifteen minutes ago, yesterday seemed like the best idea ever.

"Um. I'll see you at eight in the locker room..."

"Great." He got a smile, really close to the smiles he'd had in the pictures, and then Gil was gone with the bullet mold in hand, and a wrapped package of ground beef in the other hand. He'd have to ask later, if Sara didn't wait in the locker room to shoot them both.

Once he was out of sight, she cleared her throat. "My point's been made, I think."

"I can't drive, Sara," Greg pointed out to her. "Nick offered to let me stay at his place, even."

"Uh-huh. What happened to your wrist, exactly?" She was eyeing him like she wanted to catch him in a lie.

"I fell. Any other questions you'd like to ask?" That was some serious snark going on there. Greg 1, Sara 0. Could she recover from a slow start?

"No. I'm not going to get a straight answer no matter what I ask. Just... Don't rub it in. Okay?"

"There's nothing to rub in," Greg told her almost gently. "Honest. I'm in the same boat you are, really, only I'm never going to try and do anything about it." That was the closest he'd ever come to confession.

"Oh." She frowned at that half-confession, and he wanted to frown back. "Oh. I wouldn't bother. It's... not worth it." Sara's didn't sound convinced by her own words, but turned away in search of Warrick.

Greg figured defusing a bomb couldn't have the same feeling of relief he got when he realized she wasn't going to decapitate him.

Thank God.

Life was full of ups and downs. A lot of them within the same twenty-four hours were the sorts of thing that made life hectic. It made him seriously contemplate running away again, except that there was nowhere for him to run.

Talking to Catherine had helped clear things up a little. The ball was in his court, it was his play to decide to make or... not to make. For a while, he was going to try letting things be normal. That was what Gil wanted. He wanted to experiment and learn and solve cases.

He'd fired a ground beef bullet, and it had worked. That solved one tiny sliver of how in the case, but it was such a triumphant feeling. Not that he was going to be allowed to pull a double-shift, but it would probably take a day or two more to really wrap up, no matter how Catherine was bothered by the pictures of that girl.

He was going to go home, or out, or something, with Greg. He would make sure that Greg's wrist was all right. He would not think about the fact that Sara was probably going to quit anyway.

"Hey, Griss? You, uh, you got a minute?" Nick's head was poked around the edge of the door, a sheepish expression on his face. He looked ashamed of himself, and he probably was, one way and another.

It was Gil's decision to make. Or not.

"Just a minute, Nicky," Gil told him. He was packing up his briefcase at five to eight for... probably the first time in his life. Ten hours was apparently the limit of his stamina for the moment, so he wasn't going to push past it.

"No problem," Nick promised him, waiting patiently. "Just wanted to talk to you for a sec, let you know the guy in the finger case turned out to be guilty as hell. Couple other things."

"Guilt is for the jury to decide, Nick. We simply give them the facts that they base their decision on." Gil gestured for Nick to sit down, but didn't go so himself. He had some files he wanted to read over, and it was best to take them home with him so he could do it if he made the time. "The other things...?"

"Just wanted to apologize for earlier." Nick shifted a little uncomfortably, leaning a hip against the chair instead of sitting in it. "I was worried, and I didn't handle it nearly as well as I could have. That's a pretty nasty bruise."

Ah. Gil paused, looking down at the top of the desk. "I have night terrors, Nick. I don't want to tell the whole lab that, and I don't think that I have to. After all, it isn't my place to ask you what you dream about." Gil dreamed about blood and mutilated bodies, and the sharp thought about Millander crawling behind him, fucking him with that gun again, a loaded gun, made Gil's sinuses sting. He wasn't sure if he'd reached back to stop it somehow, or to pull the trigger and end it.

All he'd done was hurt Greg, and that was between him and Greg.

"Kinda figured it would be something like that," Nick confessed, nodding. "I mean, I haven't ever known you to hurt anybody, on purpose or otherwise. And things have been pretty tough lately." He moved again, uncrossing his arms. "I've always been the baby in my family. It's different when you're the baby. Everybody looks out for you, and you don't hafta look out for anybody." It was a roundabout way of saying a lot of things, Gil supposed, implying that Nick looked on Greg more as a sibling than anything else, and that he was going to be watching out for him.

The oblique sound of that, declaration and mild warning all at once, held a certain amusement for him. Things have been pretty tough lately... So I'm watching out for Greg. Because Gil clearly wasn't capable of it.

If a guy couldn't protect himself -- and Gil couldn't, couldn't protect anyone around him -- it made a sad sort of sense. He couldn't lie to himself and say he could protect any of them, except maybe in the heat of the moment, talking someone out of shooting one of his people. "I'm glad for you, Nick. Congratulations?"

Nick laughed. At least Gil could manage to get that. "I'm just saying." He gave Gil a smile, a real one. "I'm just looking out for him, you know. He's my friend. I mean, he's yours, too, friends with everybody. Hell, even Sara. Just... you know. Just worrying. I know you'll be okay with him, even if he pulls a squid, but a guy's allowed to worry, right?"

"Of course. If that's what you want to do, keep worrying." Gil closed the clasp on his briefcase, and glanced up at Nick while he moved to grab his jacket. "Is there anything else?"

"That more or less sums it up. I mean, I'm sorry I came across like that, Grissom. I know you wouldn't hurt anybody on purpose, and I know you're having a hard time. Those rumors don't mean anything to most of us."

The night shift, he hoped Nick meant. Warrick had seemed unfazed when Gil had seen him in the AV lab, so aside from Sara's attempted resignation... Everything was all right. It was okay if he scared the day shift a little, Gil guessed. He shrugged his jacket on. "That's good to hear, Nicky. I'm still the same person you've always known." The same person who'd mentored Nick until he'd finally started to pull free to learn things on his own. The only real difference was that his secrets had been turned out to public purview, while Nick's and everyone else's were still locked away carefully.

"Yeah. You're still my favorite bug guy." Nick's wide grin was filled with amusement. "And, you know, my favorite lab tech is probably starting to twitch thinking you're not coming to get him after all, so we'd better get outta here before he comes looking for us."

"Doctor Robbins is taking another look at his wrist. He came by anyway to watch me fire off a ground beef bullet." It was easy for Gil to grin then, holding the door open so Nick would leave his office before him. "So Greg won't have had time to get twitchy yet."

"Cool," Nick said, striding ahead of him. "See you tomorrow night, bossman?" And everything tilted, went into the right slots again. Gil hadn't even really known that the world had shifted into irregular cogs until then, like some clock that was winding itself too tight and getting ready to explode.

Funny that he wouldn't notice until it suddenly set itself right.

That click was strange, but he'd felt it before, when everything fell into place and the world settled just as it should. It made locking his office an absent task, and the same with heading down the hallway to the locker room in search of Greg. There really weren't words that could properly explain what was going on in his head, or what was going on between him and Greg, but words could be wholly inadequate at times. All Gil needed to know was that his world had settled back into place, for a while at least. He was himself again -- the lab's bugman, the guy who proved a point with ground beef and liquid nitrogen.

Gil opened the door to the locker room and stepped in. Greg was there, half-undressed and changing back into Gil's clothes. The Led Zeppelin t-shirt he had slept in had been the one Greg wanted, so he'd let him have it along with an old pair of jeans that were just a little snug on Gil's own hips. They hung off of Greg in a different kind of way, one that drew attention to flat belly and hipbones, the younger man tall and thin in a different way than Gil had ever been.

Gil hadn't ever been thin, not like that. He'd been stocky at the best of times, and Greg... was really eye-catching when that spiky-haired head popped out of the head of Gil's t-shirt. Then he squirmed it down to cover that flat stomach. Gil kept smiling.

"And I'm just in time."

The look that crossed Greg's face combined with the faint chase of color into his ears and across his cheeks was certainly encouragement enough. Funny how Sara chasing him made him want to run, but the sight of Greg's bare stomach made him want to smile and, just possibly, touch.

"Hi," Greg greeted, waving his wrapped arm. "Doc's all done with me."

"I noticed." Gil moved into the room a little, leaned against his own locker. He wasn't going to touch, of course. Not unless he got permission or figured out just what was going on. Not until life slowed down. "How's it feel?"

"Better." That wasn't a lie, Gil was pretty sure. After all, Greg managed to close his locker right-handed, and he'd obviously managed buttoning and unbuttoning everything from his jeans to his lab coat. "Doc figures it'll be ugly for a couple of weeks, but should be in fine condition for normal use in about three days."

"Good. I'll make sure you rest it," Gil promised him, "And, it won't happen again. Would you, uh... like to go somewhere for breakfast?"

"If you're promising me bacon and cheese eggs? I'd love to." That grin was so Greg, the perfect embodiment of the way he so often felt about things. Gil would hate to see it disappear. Ever. "Whither thou goest."

Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge. It made Gil's mouth twitch a little. Greg couldn't possibly have meant to quote from the book of Ruth to him. "I was thinking of 'goest'ing to the Baker's Crust. They do make interesting eggs, though, so..."

"I'm all yours," Greg promised, reaching for his jacket and pulling it on carefully over his right arm.

Maybe he did mean it. Interesting. Gil reached past Greg to grab his bag for him. It wasn't too heavy for Gil, and he wasn't going to pull any muscles with Greg's duffle of clothes he'd already worn and needed to wash. "Mm. Anything interesting come up in DNA?"

"Hm. I'd ask you to define interesting, but that usually involves bugs, so. Not really. There was a guy who finished jerking off by wiping it on his sister's nightgown. And," Greg continued, letting Gil have the bag as they strolled out of the locker room, "Nick's twitchy about something stinking in the fridge."

"Then he should clean it out," Gil decided. Catherine had a habit of leaving yogurt in the fridge and letting it expire -- that was probably it. Or... "Oh, I left some expired blood in there. That could be it."

"Yeah." Greg grimaced. "Occasionally, I'm really grateful for having a cast-iron stomach, usually when you've got rank blood in the fridge. We've seriously got to get you your own, man. I thought Nick was going to spew."

Life was back to normal then, except for the part where he was heading out into the parking lot with Greg. "The only blood the red cross will give us is rank blood," he shrugged. "And the lab fridge is full."

"Which is totally why you need your own," Greg told him, nodding as they passed Warrick. The other man tipped his head to them on his way to his truck, obviously not bothered by any of the rumors. "I mean, half the lab is seriously considering going vegetarian," he teased.

"Really? I tried that for a while," Gil offered as he pulled his keys out of his pocket. It hadn't lasted long, because Josh had liked to light things on fire with the grill in the summer, and grilled vegetables just... didn't work. "It's only old blood. You'd think they were used to that smell by now."

"Apparently it freaks them out in combination with the fact that they store their food in there. Working with old blood is one thing. Eating stuff that tastes like old blood is something else altogether." The sound of the locks releasing clicked loudly, and Greg pulled open the passenger door with his left hand before sliding inside.

Gil took a moment to put Greg's bag and his briefcase in the back, then slid into the driver's side. "I'll move it somewhere else tonight if it hasn't been thrown out before then," he half-promised. "I'm surprised no one said anything to me about it today."

"First night back has a few perks, right?" There was that smile again, and Gil felt happy. Almost normal.

"A lot of people alternately breathing down my neck and then apologizing for it." Gil smiled a little as he started the SUV. "I'm sure you had your fair share of that."

"At one point? I was kind of scared Sara might castrate me. Then I realized she'd probably settle for decapitation, and I wouldn't have to miss my penis," Greg told him seriously.

It made Gil laugh, looking sideways at Greg for a moment before he put his arm behind the seat to back out. "I doubt she'd castrate or decapitate you, Greg. Of course, either way you wouldn't have use of your penis."

"For the record, I really like having a penis," Greg noted seriously. "I mean, you can do so many things with it, after all, and most of them make a guy feel really good. Think about it. Just going to pee in the morning is this incredibly intense relief, and... uh..." He was flushing again. "Doc gave me something for the wrist, and I'm way off in lala land, aren't I? Sorry. You probably didn't need to know that I like having a penis."

"At least I know you're not going to be having an sex change operations. What did he give you?" Gil wasn't sure whether to thank Al for it or not. A slightly strung out Greg was going to be a fun breakfast companion, which was oddly what Gil needed the most just then. Fun.

"Soma??" Greg asked him as if he would know. "I only took about half of what he gave me. I think if I took the whole thing, I'd be drunker than half a bottle of tequila."

"If you'd taken a full dose, I might've had to pour you into the passenger seat." Gil glanced sideways for a moment just to check on Greg. His cheeks looked a little flushed, but that was probably a normal side effect of the stuff; he'd have to pump Greg full of water and juice when they ate and not coffee.

Definitely no alcohol.

"Well, I probably would be even more entertaining if I had taken the whole dose, because then I could have told you that I've been crazy about you forever and ever, ever since I came to work, but I'm not half as stupid as Sara. Running after you just scares you shitless. I'd rather just be friends and never have you run away. That makes sense, right?"

The words had faded out before Greg had even started talking, and Gil frowned as ringing overwhelmed them. They were at a red light, so he could afford to turn his head and look at Greg, squinting at his mouth as subtly as Gil dared. Warping ringing sound was disorienting, and the red light wouldn't last much longer.

"I said, I'd probably be even more entertaining if I had taken the whole dose." That wasn't all he had said. Gil could tell, from the startled rounding of his eyes and the faint pallor that chased across his nose, gathering at the corners of his mouth.

He could barely make that answer out, so Gil turned his eyes back to the road, and started forwards. It was green and he was probably being honked at, but the muffled sounds were hard to sort out, particularly through the cocoon of his SUV.

"Oh." No sense in inviting further comment until he could actually interact.

Maybe he should get his ears looked at. A doctor's appointment couldn't hurt, but he was afraid of what they might tell him, afraid of the diagnosis that he already knew better than they could, all the same. He'd lived his entire life with it, with the threat of it, with his mother's sign language and the silence of a house that was only occasional broken by the deep, pounding sounds of Beethoven, and the TV-set when he'd turned it on, or his radio. He had felt an odd urge of his own for noise, noise on which he now thrived. Noise he couldn't really do without.

It was one thing after another. Greg would just have to forgive him for the silence, until broken bits of noise finally coalesced into sound. His own bones were strangling his hearing from him.
"You're not upset with me, are you?" Ah. That was perfectly clear, drawing a startled glance to the side. Greg's eyes were drooping, his expression deeply sorrowful. "I didn't mean to say. I just did. Um."

If only he knew what Greg had said. Maybe he could worm it out of Greg again later, get him to keep talking about it now that Gil could hear his words again. "Why would I be?"

"Because you run away from people who love you," Greg said sadly. "And I don't want to make you run away from me."

Gil knew he'd missed something important, but he could play along well. He hoped. "I'm... not going to run away from you, Greg. I'd try to explain exactly what's happened before, but you probably won't remember what I say."

"Prob'ly not," Greg agreed, closing his eyes. "'m gonna rest my eyes for just a minute," he promised Gil, but Gil knew better than that, just like he knew that breakfast was going to have to come later.

He'd just drive home. They could go by Greg's apartment later so Greg could get clothes that were his own. Whenever Greg woke up, Gil would make him his scrambled eggs.

Molly had insinuated herself into his life with the same sort of determination, and he remembered the odd, swelling feeling in his chest when he realized that he didn't mind working his life around her. Didn't mind working his life around Greg, either.

Maybe they could talk about that a little over scrambled eggs, too, Gil thought, and turned the Tahoe towards his townhouse.

Chapter Text

Beware of silent dogs and still waters.
Portuguese Proverb

Squid-Greg was having the time of his life.

Limbs were sprawled everywhere, interspersed with other arms and legs, and his head was somewhere around the bend of an elbow, or so he thought. Sheets were tangled over a knee, but that knee was wrapped very firmly over somebody's hips, and Greg didn't really remember ever going to bed at all.

He'd closed his eyes in Gil's car, and now he was somehow in bed. That led to one pretty obvious conclusion that went along with the fact that he felt like he was still wearing the same t-shirt in which he'd fallen asleep. That conclusion was that he wasn't going all squid-Greg on Nick.

There were fingers resting against his back, a thumb twitching idly against the bump of one vertebra, over the fabric of t-shirt. He was definitely lying on a bicep, too, and there was pillow above and below it. There was a distinctly warm and fuzzy feeling about that, he decided, shifting to nuzzle his face into the arm beneath him. Gil had taken him home, stripped him out of his clothes, and put him to bed.

All after Greg made that stupid drugged confession.

He would have gotten uptight about it, he supposed, if he had woke up alone in the guest room. As things were, he hadn't, and that was reason enough to turn and press a kiss to the upper arm beneath his head and then snuggle closer. The hand on his back pressed a little more firmly, shifted faintly. It seemed like Gil was awake, which was kind of good. At least he wouldn't be scaring the crap out of Gil and waking him up mid-nightmare, not this time. So, stupid confession that had gotten a stare and a 'what' earlier in the morning had apparently processed through Gil's head in its own sweet time and lead to that.

Greg decided that he was having the best week EVER.

The alarm was visible across the room -- five in the afternoon, so there was plenty of time to do whatever needed doing and plenty of time to do nothing at all. Nothing at all, Greg thought, should be snuggling himself closer to Gil and listening to the faint sloshes and gurgles and thumps of his body just beneath Greg's ear.

It was oddly nice to be sure Gil was alive. Gil wasn't begging to be untied or for someone to stop, he wasn't bleeding on the dark navy blue sheets that they were tucked between. His heartbeat was steady, he was breathing evenly, and everything was pretty much okay in a weird way. Gil shifted his arm, curling it loosely around Greg since he'd shifted from arm-pillow to chest pillow.

So, they were both awake and no one had said anything yet.

Greg didn't feel much like breaking that silence. It was easier, better, to put his open palm against Gil's chest and feel the thud of his heart the way that he could hear it. He half-wondered what t-shirt Gil was wearing, because he could feel some kind of texture under his palm.

Opening an eye proved it was a Pink Floyd t-shirt, and that Gil's eyes were open, head tilted a little to look at Greg. His thumb slid over the edge of Greg's vertebra again.

"That feels pretty good," Greg murmured, tracing his fingers across the rainbow prism from Dark Side of the Moon. "You could do that for the rest of eternity, if you really wanted." His hand was unwrapped, he noticed, and it looked pretty nasty -- shades of blue and black and purple, unhealthy yellows and greens. Still, that was better than yesterday, and it didn't hurt quite as badly.

Doc Robbins had been right, Greg guessed, about that three days thing.

The prism rose a little under his fingers, and then fell slowly before Gil replied. "You're very comfortable to do this with. But eventually... you need to eat and we'll both need to get up for work."

"We could not eat. We could stay right here until we turn into bed sludge. Or until you tell me that if I don't wash my hair, it'll crawl off my head all on its own," Greg suggested. "I like spending the night with you."

Gil's mouth twitched into a faint smile, and he closed his eyes for the moment. "That reminds me that we need to go by your apartment. You can't wear my clothes to work every day." Greg could feel Gil's hand settling at the nape of his neck, touching the edge of mussed spiky hair. "I don't think this will crawl off your head, though. I keep waiting, but it hasn't yet."

"Mmmmm." Greg sighed and snuggled closer. "I like wearing your t-shirts. You have the coolest vintage. Zeppelin, Floyd. I'm just waiting to see Iron Maiden," he teased, shifting his head back against Gil's hand.

"I have Grateful Dead." Gil opened his eyes, brows furrowing despite that he was smiling. "You know, it wasn't vintage when I went to the concerts. Just wait until your music gets turned into elevator music."

"Black Flag? Never," Greg assured him, nuzzling faintly. It wasn't as if he could get any closer without getting naked. "Although I did hear a really crazy NIN remix the other day."

He certainly wasn't going to be the one to offer clothing-removal. That was something to ease into, particularly after Gil's freak-out and his wrist. For the moment, as close as he was would have to be enough. "Somewhere, someone is planning to remake it off key and mellow so that it can be piped into hospital waiting rooms," Gil teased quietly.

"Mhm," Greg agreed blissfully, taking a deep breath against Gil's shirt. "You smell good." Smelled good and seemed very pleasant. Waking up this way was much better.

"That's either the antiseptic or the detergent I use." Gil's hand was creeping into Greg's hair, middle finger sliding into the dip between muscles and up to where his neck met his skull and started to flare out again. "I have no idea what we're doing."

"It's okay not to know stuff." Greg smiled a little. "Sometimes, you just have to figure things out as you go along. You know?"

"I think that's the phrase of the week." Gil kept up that motion, back and forth like it was kind of an idle massage. Maybe Greg could go back to sleep again, if his stomach wasn't twisting protest at the idea of more sleep without any foodstuffs. "Just... bear with me while I work everything out. I'll try not to do anything drastic."

Like running away.

"I'll bear with you forever. As long as it takes." Greg paused and squirmed just a little. "So long as you feed me." The long, low rumble of his belly announced the fact that he was starving.

Gil's fingers slipped away a little, stroking down over Greg's neck. "I can do that. The only question is whether you prefer to dine in or out? I took the liberty of putting your clothes in the washing machine..."

"If we go out, I have to put on clothes. I'd really kind of rather stay in yours." Even the ladybug boxer shorts. Greg wondered if he still had those on and grinned, unable to stop himself. "If it's okay with you."

"Okay." Gil shifted his hands off of Greg, bracing himself on the mattress to sit up slowly despite the fact that Greg was still spread all over him. "I'll make something. We have plenty of time."

"If we have plenty of time, you don't have to get up yet..." It was a suggestion, sure, and probably not the slickest Greg had ever made, but he couldn't help himself. It was just natural to want to say things like that to Gil. "I mean I'm not that hungry yet."

The rumble of his stomach declared him a liar.

Gil smirked a little, even as he steadied himself with a hand on Greg's side. "The evidence says otherwise, Greg. Up. You missed breakfast, and did you take a lunch break?" Well, yes, but not much of one -- Nick had been bitching about the blood in the fridge and his ice-cream had gotten frosty and too hard to really dig into with his wrist messed up.

"Um. I managed some ice cream," Greg confessed. Come to think of it, that was probably why the carisoprodol had completely screwed with his system and made him confess to Grissom, which hadn't been a bad idea, as it turned out. "Do I get kisses over waffles if I'll drag myself out of bed?"

It was forward. It was impossible. If he had been Sara, his ass would have already been on the doorstep, Greg was certain.

Gil merely eyed him, expression odd, a little shocked. But the hand on his back didn't try to crush him or shove him away, so that had to be a good sign. Sorta. "I..."

"Too early to ask for kisses?" Greg worried, shifting so that his head rested back on the pillow, lacking Grissom to prop him up off of them. "Or are you afraid my breath is bad? It might be," he considered, "but I promise to brush them before we eat breakfast. Or, um, actually, I don't have a toothbrush here. Huh."

He could see Gil take one deep breath, and then exhale it slower, calmer when he hadn't really noticed Gil was less than calm. So, there was only a tiny, teeny freak-out at the suggestion of kisses. "There's Listerine in the bathroom. But."

But. But, Gil closed his mouth, and then leaned back into Greg, to press closed lips lightly against his. Sweet. Sweetness, and Greg enjoyed it without doing anything to hurry it into passion. There wasn't any need for that, not yet, and it was better to part his lips slightly and suck on Gil's lower lip, feeling the faint tremor that worked through the other man with his fingertips before Gil drew away from him.

"Wow. Pre-Listerine and everything."

Gil smiled with his eyes when he leaned back, elbow propping himself up on his own pillow. He looked scared and happy and nervous all at once, and the emotions jumbled up on his baby-faced expression. "Yeah. But I think you're going to need something more substantial than waffles if you want to get through your shift tonight."

Greg's eyes widened. He wasn't going to make a crack about protein. He wasn't going to do it. He really wasn't. No way. "Uh. Well, we could go out and have eggs with our waffles. And some bacon or, um, sausage. I mean, having breakfast here with you would be about a bazillion times better because then I can play footsie and kiss you all I want while wearing your shorts and t-shirt. I'd have to put my own clothes on to kiss you and play footsie with you in public."

There. And he hadn't even said anything about sucking Gil's dick. Whew. He'd certainly said enough, because Gil shifted back faintly, and then did sit up, holding at his side a little. "Footsie?"

"Hey. A guy's got to have something at least a little innocent to keep him going when he's in public, right?" Greg frowned as he watched the way that Gil moved. "You're stiff. Why don't you let me take a look at that?"

Greg'd probably be stiff, too, if he'd had a... Greg-sized squid on top of him for hours and hours. Gil seemed like he was going to keep right on moving, but he didn't get out of bed yet. And hey, who could just up and jump out of a nice warm bed when they didn't even have to be at work for another shy of five hours?

"It's fine."

"Uh-huh. Right," Greg said, and he didn't mean a word of it. "You're still gonna let me look at it, or else I'm gonna call Doc Robbins and he can come take a look at it. And if some strange guy calls him when he's supposed to be sleeping, God only knows what his wife might think."

"She'd think it was work?" Gil suggested with a faint quirk of his eyebrows. "I'll let you look. Just..." Something, except Gil didn't say it, and then he was moving to pull his t-shirt off.

With a certain amount of care, Greg reached out and carefully pulled loose the tape, getting a good look at the injury. "This side looks good. Not red or anything, not in a looking-infectious sort of way." He didn't comment on the faint curve of scar that made the bullet wound look like a funny red period at the end of a very bizarre one-character Arabic sentence. "Turn around and I'll check the other side, then we can go clean it and change the gauze, okay?"

Swinging his legs out of the bed was an easier way to turn around, which was what Gil did. At least he was trying to be careful with himself.

"I know how to take care of bullet wounds." Except that any others that Gil had were faint, too faint for Greg to see in the daylight that seeped through the blinds, while that curve was bold and violently pale against Gil's skin.

"Hm, yeah, but this one's behind you. And since I'm here to do it for you, why should you have to do it for yourself? Besides," Greg said, "it's not like I haven't dealt in surgical injuries before. Hey, laparoscopy is the coolest thing, you know? They took my appendix out that way a year or so ago. There's only this tiny hole about the size of the one you've got up front to deal with then. Okay. All done. Let's go to the bathroom?"

"I remember that." Gil stood pretty smoothly, and picked up his t-shirt to hold it in his hand. He wasn't in bad shape for his age except for the entry and exit wound, and those were healing up really well, particularly the one on his back. Probably because it hadn't had a colostomy bag or whatever worked in through it like the wound to the front.

There was nothing like thinking medicalese to kill all chances of an accidental erection between the bedroom and the bathroom.

"Yeah, well, it's not the kind of thing you'd forget, me turning green and puking all over Ecklie's best pair of pants. I mean, he still runs in the other direction every time he sees me," Greg pointed out, squirming his way to the edge of the bed and standing up. "And I hadn't been at the lab long enough to even have sick leave."

"When was the last time you had... an actual vacation?" Gil stepped out into the hallway where it was darker, and palmed a dimming switch on his way past, bringing light to the hall.

Greg seriously considered the matter, following along behind Gil. "Uhhh..." Huh. "Does the past week or so count?"

"Do you mean sleeping in a pullout couch in my hospital, or just a general period of time since you killed Millander? Either one, I have to say shouldn't count as vacation." Gil had the gauze, betadine, and tape in the medicine cabinet, neat and pointedly easy to find.

"Yeah, well. It's how I wanted to spend my time, so that's what counts, right?" Greg gave him a little smile, and accepted all of the bandages. He opened the sterilized gauze package, quickly cutting little strips of the tape and sticking them to the inside of it before taking one pad and soaking it in betadine. "When did they say you can get it wet, again?"

"Three more days, because of... the front. I'm looking forward to a very long, hot shower." Just getting his head wet and sponging off had to be a pain, but Gil had managed pretty well so far. He didn't smell funky, and Greg probably would've by then without real showers. He could only imagine what his hair would look like.

"Well, you know, we can get some plastic and I can get some really wide waterproof medical tape if you want one," Greg offered. "They let me do that with the appendix thing."

"That's a great idea." Gil leaned a hand on the counter, looking like he wanted to be doing what Greg was doing. Like he wanted to lend a hand. "The drugs I'm on must have clouded my brain."

The look Greg shot up at him said it all. "I think I win for drug-induced idiocy of the day, okay? I mean, if I'd eaten anything more than ice cream, or maybe taken less of that stuff, I wouldn't ever have said anything to you about... you know. The way I feel. I mean, Sara scares the shit out of you. I don't want it to be like that with me."

"Greg, do I look scared of you?" Gil was looking back at him, meeting his eyes. Kinda, a tiny bit, but that could've been nervousness. Or a need to eat. Low blood sugar could kind of look like fear.

"You look like you seriously need breakfast," Greg told him, taping the last gauze pad into place. "And I know I seriously need breakfast. I also need to pee, and I'm dying to scratch in the places you usually don't let people see you scratching for at least six months after you start dating, so..."

Never mind that he'd seen a lot of Gil in weird positions that he wouldn't want to see anyone he was dating. Ever.

Gil started to pull his t-shirt back on. "I'll get food going, and we'll switch off when you're done in here," he decided as he moved back into the hallway.

Greg poked his head out of the bathroom door. "I don't get a kiss before you go?" he called.

"Not before you brush your teeth," Gil called back to him, which prompted a rapid search for Listerine and Gil's toothbrush. After all, if he objected to that, he wouldn't be kissing Greg.

Fifteen minutes later, Greg was done. He didn't have anything to fix his hair with, but it could fuzz just fine on its own, he figured, until he got into work and the extra jar of manipulator he kept in his locker so that he didn't go dandelion while he was there. Gil's shampoo was kind of mild, but Greg had found soap with a smell that Gil apparently didn't think interfered with a crime scene.

He was really going to have to inflict some of his own stuff on Gil. Make him use BedHead or something. The way things looked, the way Gil was acting, he was pretty sure he'd get the chance. After all, when he rolled out into the hallway, faintly damp and completely fuzz-headed, he could smell scrambled eggs and something meat, like bacon or sausage or maybe both. Maybe he could make some toast or something while Gil cleaned up, or maybe he could at least steal another kiss while Gil was cooking. That would be nice, since Gil's kisses were damn high on his list of things to get. Being kissed by Gil made him giddy. There was no other way to describe it or think about it, really. It made him giddy, because Gil didn't kiss just anybody. If he did, Sara would have put herself at the head of that line years ago, and Greg knew it. Now wasn't the best time in the world, sure, but now was a hell of a lot better than never.

"That smells incredible," he told Gil, stepping up behind him and sliding his arms around the older man's waist. Greg's chin rested on Gil's right shoulder, peeking at the frying pans.

Greg could feel the faint bulge where the padding over Gil's wound pressed against his t-shirt and against the inside of his arm. Gil didn't seem uncomfortable with it. Hey, maybe he even liked having Greg stand there, watching him add a little pepper to the scrambled eggs. Scrambled sausage was in the pan beside it.

"It's not really much. This is... simple food." Gil gestured with the slotted black plastic spatula thing, and moved the eggs around again.

"I've been known to set grill-cheesed sandwiches on fire," Greg teased, shifting his hand against Gil's belly. There was something distinctly wonderful about the way he felt just then, loose and happy. He shouldn't feel that way, probably. Almost certainly. After all of the recent weirdness and disasters, surely he shouldn't. "I'll make one sometime."

"Most people do that with liquor and a torch." He could see the edge of Gil's smile from the corner of his eye; the best part was feeling Gil slouch a little, relaxing back. "That's very gourmet for a grilled cheese sandwich. I hope you do it with too much butter and the flame too high?"

"Mmm, plus, sometimes I get a little distracted. You know, the phone rings, can't resist the urge to dance around the kitchen in my underwear. Before I know it, there's flaming grilled-cheese sandwich going on." He pressed a faint kiss against the back of Gil's neck. "And then I have to get a new pan."

Curly gray-brown strands tickled against his nose. He could feel Gil's sigh more than he heard it. "A whole new pan? I'm impressed that you haven't blown up the lab."

"Hey. I'm totally safe with chemical reactions, just not food," Greg laughed, rubbing his nose into that hair. "I promise I won't ever try to make anything with flambé in the title on purpose."

"I'll hold you to that." He stirred up the sausage briefly, then pulled away a little so he could lean forwards and turn off the elements. "I'm a big fan of food that I can identify."

"Hm." It was the best Greg could do, because he was enjoying being pressed to Gil more than he probably should. "If you want, I can tape plastic over your bandages when we're done with breakfast so that you can get a shower. And I can probably make toast really quick without burning it, too."

He didn't get an answer right away, because Gil was turning around, looking for plates. "You're... really all right with this, aren't you?"

"Breakfast?" Greg asked. "Taking care of you? Wanting you to kiss me?" Gil could see the way that he grinned, wide and wild. "All of the above? Completely."

Greg's stomach rumbled again, and for a minute Gil looked at him with funny half-stunned eyes. It still wasn't anything like the scared shocked look he could get with Sara, and he didn't leave Greg hanging for too long. There wasn't much space between them, or Greg and the counter behind him, so it didn't surprise Greg when he ended up backed into the counter with Gil kissing him. Slow, sucking on Greg's bottom lip for a moment. He tasted like scrambled eggs, a thought that barely edged in on Greg when he opened his mouth a little, hands sliding up to lock themselves in salt-and-pepper curls.

Carefully, Greg tilted his head, a slight change in angle enough to draw a whimper from deep in his own throat. Gil was so good, tongue darting out carefully to press against Greg's lips, and it made him want to abandon breakfast no matter how hungry he was.


Gil exhaled, hands on Greg's hips, thumbs pressed against the rippled elastic edge of the boxers Greg borrowed. "I haven't wanted to do this in so long..."

"Then I'm glad you want to do it with me," Greg murmured, the faint sound of it vibrating against Gil's lips. Greg pushed forward into Gil's hands, better pressing against him. "Because God, I want to do this with you."

Another non-answer, but Gil kissed him and that was a great response. Actions spoke louder than words -- kisses that were slow and wanting spoke paragraphs. Pages. When Gil pulled back, he met Greg's eyes, and intoned, "Don't let me run away."

"I promise," Greg agreed solemnly, watching Gil closely. "I won't let you run away from me." Everyone else, maybe, but not Greg. Never Greg.

Maybe Gil didn't know that Greg's definition of 'running away' was that it wasn't happening as long as he followed. Maybe Gil meant the whole situation, or Vegas. But Greg would do what he could. And then his stomach growled again.

"Okay. You... need to eat." Gil took a step back, letting out a slow breath. It was kind of funny to see patterned bug boxers tented with half an erection.

"And I take it you're gonna tell me that a teaspoonful of semen doesn't count as great protein, huh?" Greg smirked. He loved the look that made its way across Gil's face. It made him want to laugh, and kiss him, and drop down on his knees all at once.

Later, maybe. When Gil wasn't quite so jumpy. "It's not. The plates are... there." He pointed vaguely, then pulled open a drawer to get silverware out.

'There' took Greg a minute to find, but he still managed to scrounge them up and bring them to Gil for eggs and sausage. His stomach grumbled again, sounding like tiny intermittent thunder. "I'm starving. I'm glad you can cook."

"I've had a few good teachers." Gil piled Greg's plate up with the scrambled eggs, and then the sausage. God, it smelled good, and having a fork offered to him didn't help the whole 'staying restrained enough to make it to the table before eating' thing. "Orange juice is in the fridge, if you want any..."

"Coffee," Greg said, "but later. And I'll make it. I know you like my coffee." He grinned. Even if he didn't have any Blue Hawaiian, he was pretty sure he could make something that Gil would love. Now if he could just restrain himself until Gil sat down.

Tackling a guy who was carrying a plate of food was kind of mean. Gil had to be as hungry as Greg was -- he'd sampled breakfast, after all -- but he hadn't been the one stalling the whole 'getting food' thing the way Greg had.

Greg couldn't quite get himself to feel sheepish about it. "Ah. You want a head start on the ten-hour coffee driven thing that our next shift is going to end up being."

"Hey. It's just not right to send me into the lab with so much blood in my caffeine system," Greg informed him, digging into his eggs like the starving person that he was. "Mmmmm, Go', yesh."

Gil sat down and peered at Greg for a moment. Then he shook his head, and started to eat. He was quiet, sure, but he was also smirking just a little because Greg had almost dropped a little yellow blob out of his mouth while he'd said that. Whatever it took to keep Gil smiling like that, Greg just couldn't bring himself to care.

He'd do it.

"Aconitum Fischeri..." Greg explained to Nick. "American Aconite. In this particular case, found in your victim's blood, but not quite enough to trigger this sort of reaction by itself. Specifically, this came from a homeopathic remedy known as Boiron Sedalia. It's supposedly a medication for stress, uses Aconitum Napellus 6C, Belladonna 6C, Calendula Officinalis 6C, Chelidonium Majus 6C, Jequirity 6C, Viburnum Opulus 6C, just to name a few. A lot of people use similar stuff for home cold treatment, sleep aids, that kind of thing. Personally, it sounds a little too much like a poisoning nightmare to me..."

"So was the concentration of the... Boiron Sedalia enough to kill the vic?" Nick was eyeing him, but it was a better kind of eyeballing than he'd gotten a week ago. He just had a little ace bandage on his wrist because it still hurt to bend it too much -- but it wasn't the bruised fingerprinted mess he'd had before.

No, Nick was giving him the 'how the fuck do you know this shit' eyeball.

"Mmmmm, no. Actually. Not unless he OD'd on the stuff, which, according to his blood, he didn't. There's not a lot in here, Nicky," Greg shrugged. "I mean, the panels are all coming back negative for anything highly poisonous, there's just nothing probative about it. Whatever made him DFO, it's not obvious in the blood stream."

"Damn." Nick sighed, glancing down at the paper that was clutched in his fingers. "Right. At least it's a start. I'll just get back to the scene and see if I find any of that... stuff. Is Griss still kicking around doing lab work tonight?"

"Last I saw, he was heading over to ballistics with this really excited look, like Bobby had just found the Holy Grail," Greg shrugged. "Try him there."

"Will do." Nick lingered a little, and Greg knew he was going to get a personal question. "You're still all right, right? Things are cool?"

Having a friend like Nick was pretty good, personal questions and all. "I'm incredible," he said with a smirk. "As you should know."

Greg got incredible sleep and incredible kisses, and incredible conversations, and... Things just worked. Gil was doing okay, plugging along, happy. There were a lot of things that they hadn't talked about, and Gil probably wasn't ever going to open up the door to the spare room. Greg could take things one step at a time.

"And I'm incredulous," Nick countered, and jostled Greg's shoulder. "Thanks for this -- see you."

"No problem. Go forth and seek your answers wisely." Greg laughed and waved him away. There were other fun DNA problems to be solved, after all, and being happy over kisses and whispers in the dark wasn't the way to come up with a solution. He could think about it later, while on coffee break. He apparently needed one once he put the next set of samples -- extraction from ground bone -- into the machine, because damn.

Sara had just walked past him with a huge gift basket thing, and that was always the kind of thing to make a guy nervous.

Especially when she thought that Greg had turned Grissom gay.

Right. Avoiding Sara and the gift basket equaled One Really Great Idea. It might have something dangerous in it, like asps and adders. Then again, she was taking it over to Gil's office, of which he had a pretty clear view. Not that Gil was in his office yet, because whatever kind of bullet Bobby had found was probably fascinating. Gil still hadn't left the ballistics area.

That was the best part of the DNA lab. He could see everything, but there was usually enough shit in the way to keep people from peeking at him much. Still. The basket made him curious. Maybe Sara thought that the way to Gil's heart was via gift basket? Greg knew better; he knew that the way to Gil's heart came with the gift of a nifty bug, and listening to the explanation about it. The Daddy Long Legs he had brought Gil along with the newspaper earlier in the evening had set off a truly interesting conversation about arachnids vs. spiders and had resulted in complete fascination.

Who knew the things had a penis? Well, Grissom, obviously.

That was just the thing, though. Gil was really a low maintenance kind of guy. A Daddy Long Legs and the crossword puzzle had made his evening. Little tiny things, just weird day to day shit made Gil smile. Extravagance freaked him out and maybe that was what had always weirded him out about Sara. Too much force and show and extravagance behind her, like a huge ass gift basket. If she'd wanted to get Gil something, leaving a Boston Creme doughnut on his desk wrapped up in a brown paper napkin would've been the best sort of thoughtful gift.

Mmm. Boston Creme.

Greg decided that he was going to drive them to that all-night doughnut shop ten blocks from his house. It didn't look like much, but the doughnuts were all fresh, never too sweet, and they served everything from milk to Turkish coffee if that was what somebody wanted.

Perfect breakfast. He was probably salivating already, which wasn't so good to be going around DNA samples. One last situating of tiny bottles, and he turned everything on. Ta-da.

There went Gil walking past his room, completely unaware of the doom that awaited him. If not asps and adders, than at least not arachnids, which was a damn shame, really. Gil liked those so much that Greg was tempted to go get him a new tarantula, just so that he could have one more. One more of pretty much anything never hurt, even if the things were kind of creepy. Daddy Long Legs were way far from creepy, but even defanged and not poisonous, Greg was still wary of petting the tarantulas. Watching Gil feed the hissing roaches was a little creepy, too, because they ate dog food, and Greg had kept imagining them on leashes.

The ant-farm in nutrient gel was awesome, though. If he could like some bugs, he could at least pretend to like them all, and pretend that he was watching the machine draw DNA out when he was really watching Gil open his office door and walk unsuspecting into a Sara Trap.

Gil was probably going to need that doughnut.

Bullets. Two interesting types of bullets in less than as many weeks. First it had been the ground beef bullet, the most fascinatingly complicated murder weapon Gil had ever come across. It had been unthinkable -- until he'd thought it. And now bullets that shot blue.

Gil loved his job. Even if he was still on lab duty only, he loved his job. There were so many fascinating things to find and solve, so many ways that people thought and over-thought because they wanted to get away with their crimes. People kept getting smarter, and they just had to keep up with the rest of society to stay on top.

And they would. It was like a breath of fresh air to get that one piece that would cinch the suspect behind bars, safely away from the rest of society.


That greeting caught him off-guard, made Gil's head shoot up. Sara wasn't supposed to be in his office. Actually, no one was supposed to be in his office.

"Um. I was just dropping this off. It came to the front desk for you. Figured, you know... you might appreciate it."

"Okay..." Gil edged towards the basket that she'd set on his desk. "Was there a note? Did the secretary say how it was delivered...?" If it hadn't been cellophane wrapped, he would have wondered if there was a bomb or something in there. It seemed to look like packaged foodstuffs, at least from as far back as he was standing.

"It was delivered by courier about fifteen minutes ago. I was heading this way, so..." Sara shrugged, sliding her hands into her back pockets. "I just wanted to say... congratulations."

"...Congratulations?" Gil tipped his head a little as he walked towards her and the desk, trying not to look as confused as he sounded. It wasn't Greg's style. Greg was a hamburger in a bag kind of guy. Greg ate in bed. Greg wasn't a gift-basket person, and Gil couldn't think of any reason why someone would send him one.

"Well, I suppose I just assumed that you leaving the office with Greg every day..." Her voice trailed into silence. "Well. You know."

He knew all right, and he should have thought about her noticing and how she might take it. She hadn't said anything, though, not since announcing her intention of leaving.

Gil still hadn't seen a letter of resignation.

He glanced over to her, trying to think of a way to say it best. Was there any delicate answer to the words? "Ah. I'm... not sure what's going on. But this... isn't from him. And there's no note..." Everything was sealed away in plastic, so Gil stooped a little to peer at it.

There was a letter opener lying nestled against fake decorative straw, and Gil felt his heart freeze.

All it would take would be a swab and a little phenolphthalein. It would test positive. DNA would be able to make a match. Greg would be able to make a match. It wouldn't be any trouble. Old blood was still a viable source of DNA if carefully preserved, and Gil didn't doubt that this particular object had been most meticulously safeguarded.

"Are you okay?"

God knew where he'd gotten it. But God had nothing to do with the man -- Starling, of course. Of course. A sweet willing little bird that filled a hole in a sick psyche. No letter this time -- just the opener, the same opener that had opened him up and spilled him out. The handle had the faint dent he remembered from watching Hannibal idly chew on it from time to time while looking over a challenging patient record.

Gil couldn't think to process what it might mean. Not as long as he was looking at it. "Sara... if someone sent you a reminder of your past, how would you take it?" he asked, shaky but proud of himself for even managing it.

"I guess it would depend on what kind," she said seriously. "Probably pretty freaked out, all things considered. There are some pretty unpleasant things in my past." At least she didn't make the assumption that there hadn't been any in Gil's life. "Is everything okay? Should I take this and have it printed, or...?"

Prints on the object, proving he was alive and his whereabouts, were worth millions. Not to an FBI agent, not to an ex-FBI agent. Did he say anything or not? Sara didn't know. Catherine knew, Jim knew, Greg knew, but...

"No. No, I know who it came from... and there's no crime being committed this time." His voice was soft and calm. If he concentrated on sounding tranquil, he'd feel it.

"Are you sure?" Sara's concern was obvious; it was also clearly not enough to make her go get Greg for him. "Is there anything that I can do for you, or...?"

Crouched there in front of his desk, eye level with the knife that had killed him, Gil shook his head. Was it over, or had it just begun again? Was it a peace offering or a red flag? He couldn't think; he could only look at it, safe from it with that thin barrier of plastic between him and it.

Sara couldn't do anything for him unless she could go back in time. Stop Dolarhyde. Stop Lecter. Stop Will, stop him before he met Molly, before he met Jack, before he thought he could not be what he was. Before he'd had to admit to the sweet relief of some kind of brain damage, oxygen deprivation, something, having robbed him of most of what had haunted him. Ruined him, ruined Josh, ruined Molly.

It had saved lives, but the lives he'd saved weren't the ones that haunted him. That was, that knife, his son-but-not, and the woman he loved-who'd-left, and Jack, smiling Jack who knew Will hadn't passed the mental exam and who knew just how to tweak him to get him to fall into his hands.

"That's why it went to hell for Molly. Will. That... started everything."

"A letter opener?" God alone knew what Sara thought about that, whether she thought he had lost his mind or that he was going to open up to her and she was secretly thrilled. Either way, she was wrong. It was a simple statement of fact. That letter opener had been the beginning and the end of everything, birth and death of Gil Grissom and Will Graham. Will, who loved Molly and Josh and Hannibal and the sea. Gil, who let Greg eat in bed, and turn into some kind of loose-limbed clutching cephalopod when their eyes were closed.

Gil, who didn't really dare to love anything that didn't fit into some holistic picture: the lab, the people in the lab, the city. Vast things that couldn't hurt him, not really.

"It's... from a case." Gil swallowed, and started to stand up. He'd have to sit down at his desk and study the basket, really study it. There was probably a message encoded in it, or maybe not. "I need to call the FBI."

"The FBI?"

Sara clearly thought that he had lost his mind, and maybe she was right. Calling them in because of this when he had the best crime lab in the country at his fingertips seemed silly until he considered the way that everyone was involved. It would be easier for the FBI.

Sara clearly thought that he had lost his mind, and maybe she was right. Calling them in because of this when he had the best crime lab in the country at his fingertips seemed silly until he considered the way that everyone was involved. It would be easier for the FBI. It was their case; he had no jurisdiction. It wasn't even a case. There was no case. He was playing things the way he needed to, not breaking the truce. He was going to give them back evidence that he knew was stolen from their evidence locker. That was all. Maybe it was some obscure message from Clarice to Jack.

Gil just wished they'd leave him alone and leave Will's memory alone. "It's from their evidence locker. They'll want it back. This... isn't ours to deal with." He sat down tiredly in his chair, and turned the basket around so he could look at it under good light.

There was something under the straw.

He'd like to think that missing it was strictly something that happened because he was traumatized by the sight of something that had carved such a deep slice into him; not just his flesh, but his entire being, carved away a part of Will that he had never gotten back, not really.

What could be beneath that straw?

Gil pulled open his drawer, reaching for gloves. "If you could call the FBI field office for me, Sara. Use that phone," he suggested gently, gesturing with one hand before he pulled latex over that one, too. It was easy to get his utility knife out, starting to cut gently at the plastic seal, opening a window so he could unsettle things and get beneath the straw.

"Right." That seemed to startle Sara out of her curious pause, and she reached for his phone, dialing an outside line right away. They all knew the number by heart, even if no one particularly liked it. Gil could hear the hello even as he gently sifted through the paper straw.

"Tell him I need to speak with Jack Crawford. And yes, we know he's a very busy man." Gil moved so tentatively through the straw, trying not to upset the letter opener. No, he was going to have to take things out. There was probably some significance to it all, like the bottle of Chianti that he pulled out and set hastily on top of a clean sheet of paper. It was something he really should've been doing in an examination room, but fuck. He wasn't thinking straight and it was too late to move his little investigation. Chianti. The survey man.

Yes, it was some kind of message. The question was what sort, exactly? There was something about Hannibal that brought his mind to the brink, made it cease to function properly. It made his nerves stand on end and made his fingers shake and.

"Griss?" Greg's voice in the door, Sara's on the phone. Not the time for worrying about anything but the basket, though. He could smell... something. Something made his stomach start to twist, even before he removed the incongruous bottle of shaving lotion. Biscotti, olive oil, Brazil nuts... It seemed half travelogue and half-game. Gil set it all aside, and moved the straw aside to show what was tenting the middle of the basket.

A shrink-wrapped piglet. A quick glance showed that the smell was coming from the puncture that a pin had made into its chest cavity, through the preserving seal. It had been eviscerated as closely matching to Gil's scar as seemed possible. The pin was roughly in heart-position, and the note, wet with leaked preservatives, read 'Do with it what you will. It's yours. -- H.'

What the...

"Gil." Greg's voice was quiet, serious, soothing. "I want you to set everything down on your desk. Set it down, and back away from it. Please."

Sara was still talking on the phone, getting demanding. That would piss Jack off later.


Gil still didn't have words, but he did pull his hands back, sit back in his chair. He was breathing hard, and he could feel his pulse in his ears. It was probably around 95, give or take a few, but he didn't have to test to know that. His brain was too busy when the realization of what was going on finally hit him. Molly had always had a fondness for the finer things, and Josh had picked that shaving lotion, and. The sharpened letter opener. And, the pig. Gutted, cut, pinned through the heart. 'Do with it what you will. It's yours.' The gutting? His death? Will Graham's death, or Will Graham's...

Heart. His heart.

Hannibal was giving it back to him, as if it had never belonged to anyone else. Will Graham's heart, belonging to Gil Grissom, not eaten or kept locked away by Hannibal Lecter. That had to be it. There wasn't any other explanation, was there?

"You're white as a sheet, and your pulse..." Oh. Greg's fingers were on his wrist. "Can you make it to the couch over there?"

What he answered wasn't quite the 'I'm fine' that he'd meant. "Hannibal sent it back to me." The letter opener, his heart, maybe the sanctity of his memories. Gil wasn't sure what was what, except that his chair had wheels and Greg pulled him back from the desk a little.

"Uh, you're sending over Agent Culpepper? Okay..."

"Come on. I'll wheel you over there. You need to lie down, and when whoever Culpepper is gets here, we'll talk about it a little more," Greg promised soothingly. "Or you can talk about it now, if you want."

He exhaled, and started to shakily stand up. Gil hadn't thought that he needed to lie down, but apparently he did. Everything felt unreal, and he just couldn't stop thinking that maybe, finally, it was all over. And if it was over...

Gil didn't know. It'd hung over him for so long, how could it be over after all of those years? "It's... over, Greg. He..." Such relief, to finally think that it might be finished.

"He sent you something. And it means that he's not coming back?" Greg seemed a little giddy, too, as if some great weight had lifted off of his shoulders. That made sense, because he'd been scared silent by that hospital visit, a different kind of fear than the one that Gil had battled most days.

"It's... what he sent that tells me that. The nuances." Greg had guided him over to the sofa, and it was easy to sit down on it. He wasn't going to sleep. He just needed to close his eyes for a minute, and calm down.

He didn't hear Sara hang up the phone, but he did hear her ask, "Grissom? Just what's going on?" She leaned over the basket and recoiled a little. "Oh, God."

'Oh, God' was the best summary he'd ever heard. Chianti, letter opener, shaving lotion, fetal pig, souvenirs... none of it quite added up or made sense to anyone but him and Hannibal, at a guess. Culpepper was a complete idiot. He'd never understand what that basket had to say. Damn Jack.

"It's a really long story," Greg told Sara faintly, or maybe Gil's hearing was just going out again. A growing tinny sort of ring verified that suspicion and blocked out anything further that Greg had to say.

He could see lips moving, but his concentration was too far off to read lips. Either Greg was explaining it to her, or -- she was saying something to him now, and he could only stare and strain to hear her warped words.

"...Culpepper's... holdover... Jack..."


Gil should have known that Jack would come. He'd be unable to stop himself from it. One last meddle, even if he was older and more sophisticated than he'd been when he'd dragged Will through his hoops for the Greater Good.

There was probably something fucked in his head that he was still irrevocably ticked off at Jack, but not at Hannibal. It didn't matter. Hannibal was so insane that he was sane. He didn't choose that one life held up against another was worth more. His games weren't Jack's crude but effective ones.

Sound warped back into his world, and he made himself focus on Sara, who was silent and waiting for an answer. "When will he be here?"

"Culpepper said he was getting on a flight in DC within the hour."

"I think somebody ought to check out your place, Gil," Greg told him seriously. "I mean, just in case. This is really creepy and maybe it doesn't mean what you think it means, or..."

"I know what it means." If he sounded a little sharp, it was forgivable, but even Greg didn't listen when he said he knew. His pulse was jerking, fast and slow, then fast, then slowing. Calm. He leaned towards Greg a little when he ran a hand over his eyes. "I know him, I know how he thinks. I understand him completely. I can even guess where he is now, but I don't care. He's not in Vegas, and Agent Starling is with him and he's going to leave me alone."

Hannibal was going to leave him alone.

That was all he had ever wanted.

"Okay. Okay," Greg said simply, still following Gil's pulse with his fingers. "I believe you. It's just that... you know, I'm scared for you."

Scared for Gil, not Will, and not himself. Huh. Gil just nodded, closed his eyes, and exhaled slowly. Sara was still watching. Sara looked scared, too, he could see it behind her eyes before he'd closed his own.

"Gil... Who's the package from, that you're... calling in an FBI bigwig because of it? Why's he even coming?"

"Because he owes me to take this off my hands. It's... from a fugitive and one of their agents." He hoped they didn't catch them, catch her. He'd been there, ensnared, and he knew how it worked. He had a box of letters that said he knew how it worked. Years of correspondence kept up out of fear, maybe, habit, definitely. Wondering, yes. But never compliance like that.

Greg's hand on his wrist felt good, grounding. Maybe... Maybe Greg could keep his feet solidly on the ground. There wasn't any Josh to rip the ground from underneath them, and maybe...

So many maybes.

"It's okay," Greg soothed. It made it easy for Gil to keep his eyes closed. "It's all right. I'm going to get one of your pills for you, and I want you to take it, and I just want you to keep lying still here, okay?"

Jack wouldn't be there for hours, even if he left on the first flight. He could take a pain pill -- which he didn't really need, he'd been doing fine without them -- rest on city time, and then deal with it.

"Hey, what's with the powwow in here?" Catherine, poking her head into his office. Oh, God, why not just get the whole team in there and get it over with?

"Gift basket," Sara said, and Gil could feel Greg's fingers flinch.

"The fewer people who touch it, the better," Greg added. "If you could close the door... I think Gil probably needs some peace and quiet."

Catherine eyed it, and then glanced over at Gil. "Sara, why don't we go outside and you can catch me up to speed? Greg, is everything going to be okay if I leave you in here...?"

She sounded worried, but Gil was trying to stay relaxed. It was horrible to feel torn between stress and joy all at once. He didn't know what to do with that newfound freedom.

Maybe he had never known what to do with it.

The door latched shut quietly behind them, and Greg reached out to stroke Gil's face. "You're kind of pale," he noted.

He cracked open his eyes to peer up at Greg from his crooked angle. The lighting in his office seemed strange from where he was lying, but he was glad that he couldn't see his desk very well. "I never expected this."

"This?" Greg asked, reaching up to stroke lightly at the gray and black curls on Gil's head. "This basket? This you and me?"

"Both." Gil moved the hand that Greg had been testing his pulse with, and clutched loosely at Greg's. Carefully loose. "It's strange."

"Why strange? Well, okay, the basket I get," Greg admitted, winding his fingers in with Gil's. "But you and me strange, too?"

How to explain it in a way that couldn't possibly offend Greg, while not overtaxing his already halt-ground brain? "The circumstances. If... Millander hadn't done what he did. None of this would have happened. Ever. I don't... choose to change."

"External forces change you," Greg agreed, nodding solemnly. "I can understand that. A lot of people have serious problems with change."

"You don't." Simple observation, while he concentrated to keep his eyes open. Maybe he was just tired, drained. He should sleep, because meeting Jack would be a hazard, draining all over again. Gil knew he should've been able to push through it. He'd pushed through worse. He'd never stopped before, but now there was nothing to not-stop for.

It was really over.

"Yeah, well. I'm a complete freak," Greg pointed out, digging in a pocket. "Here. I forgot to give you this. Can you dry swallow?" he asked, holding it out. "It's gonna be rough from here on out. Once Culpepper's done talking, we should go back to your place. You'll need some rest before... whatever."

"Culpepper?" Gil shifted to sit up, then reached to take the pill from Greg's fingers. "I drifted off when Sara was talking." A lie, but... hell. There was enough going on, and he wasn't sure about his hearing. Maybe it would stop. Maybe the problem would go away. Dealing with that on top of the basket, on top of Hannibal, on top of his old life, on top of change, on top of what Millander had done to him... Was just too much.

"Yeah. Culpepper's coming." Greg made a nervous little grimace, mouth shifting. "I know how much you like that guy. Sorry."

"So he'll be here before Crawford?" It'd take him a couple of hours. There wouldn't be time between Culpepper and Crawford to really rest, so he closed his hand over the pill and pushed it back to Greg. He'd pull himself together. He wasn't going to be a wreck in front of any FBI agent.

He was still better than most of them. "I'll be fine."

Gil could see that Greg wanted to protest; he wanted to, but he didn't, simply nodding his head. "Okay. If you say so. You're the boss." Well, he was, but Greg was obviously teasing. "Are you sure that you aren't hurting too much?"

"I'm sure." Gil wanted, needed to be completely coherent. For the moment, he sat back, looking at Greg instead of looking at the basket and his desk. He needed to feign that he was working and Greg probably needed to work, but he was going to be selfish for a second, keep Greg with him for a little while longer. "Thanks, Greg. For intervening."

"Well, I saw her come in with a basket. I figured you'd probably be grateful to be rescued," Greg admitted, giving him the shadow of one of those wild grins. "Sara's pretty scary when she gets started."

It made Gil want to smile back, just a little. "I still don't know how much she knows. If she stopped at eavesdropping, or..." Or if she'd sated her curiosity by simply looking things up. Internet insomnia, while he'd been sleeping reasonably well for the first time in a long while.

That was irony. All it had taken to open his life up to possibilities was to be viciously attacked by a serial killer. Again. "And I don't think I care."

"Mmm." Greg didn't say anything in particular about it, only continued that faint stroking of Gil's hairline. "Well. There's worse things, I guess," he decided. "Than Sara knowing, I mean. She could know and be plotting the next total catastrophe." Greg smiled again.

"She couldn't top what reality throws out." Wouldn't. Later he'd have to tell Greg that she'd told him congratulations. For now, Greg's fairly inappropriate for the workplace stroking was pleasantly distracting, soothing some of the tension from his temples. "After Jack gets here... would you mind if we go to your apartment?"

"You mean you can deal with total chaos?" Greg laughed. His fingers didn't stop that soothing stroke. "Okay. You'll like my bed. It's bigger than yours. When I'm in it alone, I sort of make my way from one end to the other and the sheets all end up on the floor or tossed to the end." They didn't do that when Gil was in bed with him. It was probably some Herculean effort on Gil's part to keep the sheets on while they slept, or maybe it didn't happen because Greg was too busy wrapping himself onto Gil in his sleep. Maybe Gil just anchored them in place by virtue of his lack of in-sleep motion.

"I'll have to stop you from doing that," Gil decided. He leaned into those fingers a little, and exhaled. Everything was all twisted up inside and he didn't know where to start sorting it out. Couldn't, didn't have time before Culpepper arrived. "Maybe it's my turn to tangle you up."

"I can't wait to start," Greg agreed quietly, and Gil could tell that he wanted to lean down and press his mouth against Gil's own. The remarkable restraint Greg showed was unlike him, in general, and most interesting to see. Greg had his public and private faces just as much as anyone did -- he just hadn't expected Greg to be... restrained at work, even if they did leave work and arrive together now.

Some day, Greg was going to be more than just a lab tech, because for all of his games and fun, he could be oddly professional. "Greg...? Is there any chance you need help in the lab, until...?" He couldn't keep up with any case just then, not until that basket was out of his hands, but he could still make himself useful.

Just as long as it wasn't in his office.

"I have one seriously nasty toenail and a lady who swears she had some bad shellfish. Want the lady?" Greg was teasing him. He knew Gil wanted the toenail. "Ahh. I see. You just want me for my nasty toenail," he declared, shifting to stand up. He offered Gil a hand. "Come on."

It was easier to stand after he took Greg's hand, and Gil surprised himself that he was steady once he was standing. It was funny to see that he'd been right when he'd told Greg that he was fine. "Is the shellfish the woman who threw up on Jim's shoes?"

"Yeah," Greg replied. "You're gonna love this."

"Could you hand me the ethanol?" Greg requested, looking over at Gil. "Uh... uh-oh." Uh-oh was a bad sound, and Gil could guess what it meant.


Red power tie, ID badge in place, suit jacket. Every hair on his head was in place, because Agent Culpepper was the type to never miss a camera opportunity. Oh, right -- Special Agent Culpepper. High-ranking do-it-all, dragged in only when there was a case in their jurisdiction that the Sheriff wanted to make a tourist-protection fuss over.

"Here." He handed Greg the ethanol, and then stepped out into the hallway to intercept Culpepper.

"Ah. Gil Grissom. Nice to see you again," Culpepper lied in a breath, thrusting out his hand towards Gil to be shaken. "I understand you have a problem that you need our help with."

Gil shook the man's hand absently, then inclined his head towards his office. "You actually didn't need to come out here. My business is with head of Behavioral Science, Jack Crawford, and there isn't an actual problem that needs your solving."

"Well, you know how it is." Culpepper's smile made Gil want to knock out his front teeth. "It's only natural that the field office check into these things first. Behavioral Science only gets called in for very unique cases these days."

"You want another star on your badge, Culpepper," Gil noted as he paused to unlock his office door. "Your diligence doesn't impress me."

"I'm sure nothing I could do would impress you, Grissom." That was true, too, and Culpepper's dislike was at least as thick and overwhelmingly sharp as Gil's own. "But I'm here to do my job, so why don't you just show me what this is all about?"

"I was sent a gift-basket," Gil started, waiting for Culpepper to reach the edge of a wry comment before he pressed on. "It contains evidence from an old FBI case, and a message."

"A message for Jack Crawford?" Culpepper asked, moving into Grissom's office behind him. "Then why would it be sent to you?"

"The message was for me. Close the door behind you." Gil left his latex gloves on as he moved towards his desk. "From Hannibal Lecter, and with it was a piece of evidence from his 'Chesapeake ripper' days. I assume it had been lifted from the evidence Vault by Agent Starling."

The name alone made Culpepper jump, barely more than a startle. It gave Gil a sense of satisfaction, however, deep and just a little childish. "Hannibal the Cannibal?"

"That's one thing to call him," Gil corrected as he moved towards his desk. Everything was as he'd left it, the contents of the basket on his desk, the blade still in the straw, the fetal pig visible if Culpepper could bring himself to stand over the basket. "Everything has been touched minimally."

"Why was it touched at all?" Culpepper asked sharply. "If you knew who it was from..."

"We didn't." Ah. Sara, from the doorway. "You'll find my prints on the outside cellophane. Grissom didn't touch anything without gloves."

"I opened it because I saw... this." Gil gestured to the letter opener that was visible at the front of the basket. Both he and Culpepper were standing behind Gil's desk, so it was easy for him to look up at her and say, "Close the door."

He should have specified 'Leave'. Sara stepped inside and shut the door behind her, moving up towards the desk. She had too great a liking for the FBI to Gil's way of thinking, and it was disturbing for him that she was there.

"So you knew what it was when you opened the basket. Why didn't you wait for the FBI?" Culpepper demanded.

How to explain? There wasn't any reasonable way, and if Culpepper had just let Jack come, burnt out, stubborn Jack, he wouldn't have to explain. Did he go into the details, the nuances, or did he simply give out facts? Sara probably already knew most of them. "Lecter was my case when I worked for Jack Crawford. The Bureau knows he keeps contact with me."

"You were with the Bureau." The flat disbelief in Culpepper's voice was irritating. It made Gil want to hit him. "And you dealt with Hannibal the Cannibal."

The look of sudden understanding that swept across Sara's face made Gil grimace. She could be FBI. She put the pieces together well, though he wasn't sure what pieces she had and if she'd put them together in the right way. At least she made a cognitive effort, and that was more than Culpepper seemed to be doing.

"I was Special Investigator William Graham."

That obviously registered with Culpepper, the surprised widening of his eyes showing even though Gil was sure he didn't want it to. "You were Will Graham. The one who worked with Lecter, Dolarhyde..."

"I also taught about insect activity and forensic science at Quantico," Gil cut in smoothly. He couldn't look at Sara just yet. "That's why Jack Crawford didn't hesitate to get on a plane to fly across country. The contents of this basket have more significance than I care to explain to you. You can push jurisdiction, of course..." If he dared. Gil wasn't sure if he'd dare or not.

"Ah..." Obviously that information was enough to send Culpepper on a backpedaling frenzy. The man drew a deep breath. "Considering the fact that Jack Crawford is already on a plane headed this way, I think that so long as you allow us to take the evidence to keep in our lab, then everything should be fine. Just as a precaution."

"Take it. It isn't as if Hannibal would... ever set foot in Vegas. There's no threat to the population." Gil opened the far desk drawer and reached for bags so he could start bagging up the gifts. He could give a somewhat gruesome narrative to the evidence, talk through the basket, if he wanted, if he cared to.

He didn't.

It was none of Culpepper's business, and none of Sara's. They both seemed to expect it, even though Sara also seemed to understand more than Culpepper did. Greg hadn't asked for explanations, and Gil hadn't really given one. He didn't have to as opposed to not wanting to, and there was a difference there.

He'd... talked to Greg about it, said who people were in photos, little snips of memories. It seemed enough, though Greg would probably never believe that Gil knew he'd been safe in that hospital room.

Gil bagged the contents in silence, hesitating a little when he put away the shaving lotion into a bag. Sara didn't try to help, and Culpepper was quiet while Gil put the Chianti into a bag. "You won't find prints on anything unless he left them there on purpose. Of course, you know that. I'm sure that the letter opener will carry at least one of Agent Starling's prints. She's still alive, and possibly wanted to get that message to Jack."

"How do you know these things?" That question was tantamount to 'Who ARE you?' but it wasn't a question Gil was planning to answer.

"I think we mentioned the last time you were here," Sara informed Culpepper dryly. "Grissom knows everything."

Knew everything, in an amazing holistic way, drawing facts down from the thin air with spider web complicated thoughts. Or at least, he had. "I knew Hannibal well. Understand the past of a killer, and you can predict the future in entirety. I'm going to bag the letter opener, but leave the fetal pig in the basket. It's starting to leak."

Some days, Greg thought he could move in to Al's Doughnut Shop. It was the sweet doughy smell of the place combined with the aromatic tang of coffee that made him love it so much. There wasn't a lot of time for sticking around for the smell, though. Best he figured, that Crawford guy would be striding through McCarran International any time now, not even bothering to stop for a bag or anything. Some poor pitiful guy from the Las Vegas FBI office would probably have to drag his ass through the place and pick up the guy's bags while he hurried along to make sure Gil hadn't touched anything funny.

Well. That guy could just kiss Greg's ass. It was 8:30 in the morning, they had both clocked out for the day, and Greg had a dozen steaming, fresh doughnuts in his hot little hands, six Boston Creme, three raspberry jelly, and three creme filled.

Even if they made themselves sick off of them, it would be an improvement, he figured, hurrying back out to Gil's SUV. He hadn't wanted to leave him alone, but he didn't figure making a guy who'd been shot and completely abused climb in and out of a vehicle when he was already back at work way too early.

Gil was still in the driver's seat when he popped open the passenger side door. He'd almost expected Gil to be 'resting his eyes', but he was sitting fairly upright, coasting through radio stations. Apparently it wasn't an NPR morning for Gil, and not that Greg could blame him.

Talk radio, even NPR, sort of made Greg twitch. Okay. Especially NPR. There was just something about 'All Things Considered' that made Greg want to call it 'All There Is To Know About Everything Because We Say So'. The classical music sections were okay, and he had to admit that he'd listened to a couple of the shows about pets and how to find cat pee with ultraviolet lights, but for the most part, it just made Greg want to change the channel.

"I have enough doughnuts to put us both in a stupor, and I have real coffee at the house," he announced proudly, sliding in and slipping on his seatbelt.

Gil gave the key enough of a twist to turn the engine over, and shifted so he could see what they weren't hitting when he backed out. "That sounds like the best plan... that I've possibly ever heard, Greg. Could you find a radio station that's mindless? The one I used to listen to switched formats again."

"Mindless?" Oh. Control over the radio. Gil totally loved him! Even if he didn't, except obviously he must because who let somebody else control the radio stations for any other reason? "Sure. I can handle that."

The temptation to make Gil listen to a top forty station was getting really hard to resist, or maybe a classic rock station. Jazz? Even staying in Gil's apartment hadn't answered the question of what kind of music Gil liked best. He kind of had everything in there but Eminem and hair-bands. "Thanks."

Damn shame about the hair-bands, Greg thought, but he flipped it until he found a station with familiar guitar riffs and stopped. There was no way anybody could mistake Pink Floyd for anything else. "This okay?" He knew it was, but still. "Want a doughnut while they're still warm?"

"I could quote the statistics about road fatalities and eating while driving..." Gil glanced over a lane before he switched. "But sure. You're going to have to tell me where to turn."

"Hey. I'd risk my life for one of these doughnuts," Greg teased, reaching out to search the glove box for napkins. He'd left some in the day before, so it was quick and easy to grab one and ease out a doughnut for Gil. "Here. I'll lick off anything you drop so that you don't have to go off the road." He grinned. "And if you take a left up there at the light, that's a fair start."

"If I drop something on my pants and you lick it off, I just may go off the road anyway." Whoa. Was Gil smirking while he moved to get into the far left-hand lane?

"Well. Here's to going off, anyway," Greg said, poking a finger in one of his own creme doughnuts and licking it off. After all, if Gil could say something like that, Greg could damn sure be silly with his doughnut.

It made Gil smile. It was kind of weird how just being himself seemed to work magic, or something like magic. Gil was contemplating a napkin-wrapped doughnut and the turning light, waiting to start eating it until they'd made it through the green. There was no way to know what he was thinking, but maybe it was about going off. Getting off?

Getting Off With Gil and Greg. Now that was a NPR show Greg would stop to listen to, even though he figured they'd draw the line at that even back home. No matter how good the hot gay buttsex could be, it still wasn't something a guy could talk about on the radio.

That was a damn shame. Between the two of them, Greg guessed they could cover a wide range of topics in a gay sex talk-show. Not that he knew for sure -- with Gil, it was a guess that Mr. Open-minded had been open-minded. They hadn't talked much about that, or about what was going on between them.

"So how was the rest of shift?" Gil took a bite now that they were on a straight road. Greg didn't see what the problem was with driving one handed. After all, people did that with stick-shifts all the time. Well. And other sticks, too. It was amazing how many masturbation related car crashes rolled through the Vegas crime lab in a year.

"Boooring. Except for the part where Sara kept coming by and smirking at me. I seriously considered throwing the remains of that nasty toenail at her, but then Nick came in and flirted with me, so I let it go." Greg wondered if Gil was the jealous type. After all, Greg flirted with the entire lab all the time.

Gil went quiet as he chewed. His eyes darted over to Greg, and then he simply picked up like nothing had happened and shrugged. "She, ah, said 'congratulations' when she brought in the gift basket."

"You know she thinks we've having sex. And you've seemed happier lately..." Greg poked his finger into his doughnut again.

"I've... been happier." Even if they weren't having sex, and hey -- that was pretty attributable to the fact that Gil was still healing and he hadn't actually done shit to deal with Millander raping him with a gun. "You make it very easy to be happy, Greg."

"It's the doughnuts," Greg explained solemnly. "Well, okay, and the octopus moves. Everybody falls for that one. After all, it's pretty hard to resist a guy who's wrapped all around you, right?"

"Yes and no. But I think it's more... you." Gil gestured faintly with the doughnut while he talked, but nothing dropped. Damn it, that would've been too perfect, if he'd gotten a chance to lean sideways and try that. He would have at least gotten a squeak out of Gil.

"Making you happy is pretty easy," Greg replied, shrugging as he picked up his own doughnut and bit into it. Poking at it was fun, eating it was more so. "I mean, I bring you a Daddy Long Legs and you think it's the greatest thing ever. I think it's the greatest thing ever. So why not make you happy?"

It was kind of reciprocal, anyway. Seeing Gil smile like that made him happy, and so did winding himself around Gil in sleep, and... lots of random little things. Playing with doughnuts while Gil drove him back to his apartment, which he hadn't been in for any significant amount of time in over two weeks.

Man, his plants were probably so dead.

"That was the most distinctly patterned Holocnemus pluchei I've ever seen," Gil grinned. He snuck a glance over at Greg, but mostly his attention was on the road. "That old guy lived a long life -- we'll probably see him around outside again."

"Maybe we could take him in," Greg offered, faintly giddy. The feeling that there was a we, that we would see him again, that we could take him in, made Greg beam. There was nothing better than being Greg Sanders in that moment, he thought. There just couldn't be. "Give him a name, feed him choice flies..."

"He's probably happier roaming free. Some insects -- like tarantulas, or my cockroaches -- 'domesticate' well. Others I wouldn't think of trying to keep." Gil took another bite of the Boston Creme Greg had given him and damn it, he was too tidy an eater even when he was driving. A blob of creme was threatening to spill out of the doughnut and onto Gil's fingers, though.

"What's the next turn?"

"Huh?" Yeah. That thick yellow creme was definitely a distraction. "Oh. Next right, and then it's the third left into the apartment complex. I'm 2E."

Gil switched lanes, and moved to make the turn. "Greg. Could you turn around and tell me if that Saab's still behind us?"

Instead of turning, Greg flipped down the passenger side sun visor and pushed the mirror cover up so that he could peek behind them. "The gray one?" he asked, catching sight of it. It made the turn after they did, far enough that it might not have drawn the attention of anyone other than Gil Grissom. "They're back there."

"We're being followed. I thought it was a coincidence that the car followed us from the department to the doughnut shop, but the driver never got out of his car." Gil glanced in the rearview mirror as he passed the first left, then the second. "Culpepper has someone following us."

"Why?" Greg asked blankly. "He can't be stupid enough to think that we're going to run away or that Lecter..." Just the name made him shudder. " going to magically meet us somewhere. I mean..."

"Culpepper can be stupid enough to think that," Gil disagree, driving down towards Greg's building and looking for the visitor parking. "He probably thinks Lecter is still in the city, and that we're heading to some 'secure' apartment to meet with him. The man's a fool."

"Well, obviously he's a total idiot. He thinks he's better than you," Greg said, shaking his head. "I mean, what kind of dork could possibly believe that?"

Gil parked and took his time turning the Tahoe off. "I do make mistakes, Greg. I'm made some big ones in my career." Maybe. Maybe, but he was still smarter than Culpepper.

"There are mistakes and there are idiocies," Greg pointed out to him, rolling his eyes. "That guy's long gone, Gil. You said he doesn't like places like Vegas, and that he wouldn't stay, right?"

Right. Because Gil had said so. Gil, who was unbuckling his seat-belt and finishing the doughnut. There was creme on his fingers, and he licked it off before Greg could suggest anything fun and lewd. "I moved to Vegas because I knew it was the last place on earth he'd choose to live. The city is too tacky for his tastes, and that's fine. Culpepper won't believe that simple fact, of course."

"That's because Culpepper is an idiot," Greg declared cheerfully, "and you're a thief. Stealing all of the stuff that leaked onto your fingers like that when you know I wanted to lick you clean..."

"You..." Gil's head snapped around to look at Greg. That was the perfect shocked facial expression, but Gil went with it faster than Greg had thought he would. "Oh. Why don't we go inside and pick up where I know that one of Culpepper's men can't see?"

"Right. Exhibitionism is obviously not high on your list." Greg wanted to laugh, and so he did, sliding out of the SUV with the doughnuts in his hand. He ferreted about in his pocket, searching for his keys.

Greg was really left wondering how bad his place looked. He'd popped in and out of his apartment to get clothes and things, but that had pretty much been it. The last time he'd been away from his apartment so much had been the last time he'd spent Christmas with his grandparents.

It was an interesting kind of thought, and when he turned around to find Gil... Gil was waving at the man who was half a block away in the Saab.

"Taunting the man who's supposed to be following you isn't nice," Greg snickered, jingling his keys. "C'mon. We'll go upstairs, have some coffee and another doughnut. Or we could have a nap." Well. Perhaps not a nap, exactly, more like lying down together, which could lead to a lot of interesting places.

"I had someone do that to me once and it scared me senseless," Gil grinned as he followed after Greg at last. "I think following possible suspects is shitty rookie duty worldwide."

That was faintly evil of Gil, and Greg couldn't help but remember those pictures of Gil/Will when he was younger. It was really easy to imagine Gil going wide-eyed in shock to have some sadistic bastard wave at him because he hadn't figured out how to trail at a distance, and of course Gil was the kind of guy to turn around and perpetuate it. Kind of sadistic, except Gil was in oddly good cheer for being suspected of heading to meet a serial killer.

Whatever worked.

"Remind me never to be a rookie for you," Greg laughed, heading for the stairs up to his place. "I get the feeling you'd probably give me things to do that would make my hair stand on end. Well," he considered, glancing over his shoulder and grinning. "More than normal, anyway. So. You didn't answer my question. Even if it was more like a suggestion, really. Nap or more doughnuts?"

"Both?" Gil was on his heels as they went up the stairs, taking in the unfamiliar surroundings. "Your apartment isn't going to attack me in any way, shape, or form, is it? Nick makes jokes, but I don't think it could be more cluttered than mine."

"Well...." The faintly sheepish sound of Greg's voice said more than words. "I haven't been home in a couple of weeks, at least not for more than getting clean clothes and dropping the dirty ones in the laundry basket. I think my plants are probably dead, and I'd bet anything that, uh, there's probably a stack of video games a mile high."

Video games, his PowerBook, a variety of journals and science fiction novels scattered on every available surface. He thought he had put away the Superman action figures.


He was going to be really embarrassed if he hadn't put them away. There was no way to explain why he'd had Superboy humping a coffee mug if he'd left that in place. "I'll help clean up, if you want," Gil suggested as he followed behind Greg. "Or you could teach me how to play video games. Whatever you care to do."

Mmm. Carte blanche for whatever he wanted? That was pretty easy. Gil, naked and rubbing and maybe doughnut creme spread all over him so that Greg could suck it off. After all, if a guy was gonna dream, he might as well dream big.

"First, let's see if I've managed to kill all my plants. Cleaning can more or less wait until we've had a nap and some more sugar. I might even have some salvageable food. I'm pretty sure there's a block of cheese in the freezer, and some ancient eggs in the fridge, so we can manage omelets or something if you'd like some protein to go with your sugar. I'm pretty sure I won't set those on fire."

"You constantly amaze me with your prowess in the lab with very expensive equipment, and your unique inability to get near a stove without it deciding to burn whatever you try to make." Gil stopped behind Greg when Greg reached his door, and lingered close.

A nap was going to be a 'nap', all right.

"What can I say? I'm a man of many talents." Greg grinned at him, sliding the key into the lock with a firm hand and twisting. He took the time to press himself back, though, his body pressing against Gil's.

Gil didn't flinch.

In fact, Gil pressed forward against him, and Greg decided that he had obviously died at some point and gone to heaven. There wasn't any better explanation.

So close. He could feel Gil breath against the back of his neck, and then lips pressed against his hair and hands clutched at his shoulders loosely. "So I've noticed."

God, Greg hadn't had such a good morning in... Well, maybe never. There was no way any other day could measure up to this one, not ever again. He managed to fumble the door open beneath his fingers, nearly dropping the box of doughnuts and his keys, but saving them at the last minute. "I don't remember the last time I changed the sheets," he said, kicking off his shoes. "And I know I didn't make up the bed. So if it matters to you, speak now or... well, you know the rest."

Gil closed the front door behind him, then paused. Apparently he wanted to waffle for a moment before he toed his shoes off, taking Greg's gesture as a cue. Little did Gil know that his socks were probably going to end up dirtier than his shoes would've made the floor. "Doesn't matter to me. Honestly? People who change their sheets every couple of days make me think they like the feeling of living in a hotel."

"And we all know about living in a hotel," Greg said with a little shudder. "Having processed more hotel sheets than any one guy ever ought to know about. Great sources of DNA, really, but I'd rather not have mine feel like hotel sheets, you know? It's kind of freaky after you spend the day with a bunch of sheets from some hotel. I'd rather know that my sheets are dirty and all of the little sailors belong to me."

He turned and laid the doughnut box on the nearest counter before leaning against it with his elbow, pressing his hip to the side of it. "So. Up for that 'nap'?"

"I'm rusty, but..." Gil trailed off as he closed the space between them. He was doing that weird tentative thing with his hands, a little off to the side, that he probably had no idea screamed 'ga~ay'. Then Greg was getting kissed and hey, what that hand gesture screamed was 100% right. It didn't matter how married Gil had been or what he might have done in the meantime. The man was incredibly good with his mouth, and better with his hands. The way that they shifted onto Greg's hips, tugging him against Gil so that they were pressed cock to cock, couldn't have been more perfect. If Greg had been hard to start with, he was harder after that.

"The bedroom's this way."

Rusty wasn't a problem for Greg -- if Gil was that good rusty, then things would be mind-blowingly fantastic when things were polished off.

"Lead the way." Gil didn't let go of Greg's hips, so he wasn't going to let Greg get far, and that was good because Greg wasn't letting himself go far. He was going to stay right there, attached, and it was damn fine that he could walk backwards. That gave him the opportunity to wrap his fingers in Gil's hair, trembling in those curls, to pull him along as he went.

"God, you're fucking hot," he whispered against Gil's mouth, groaning when that got him a thrust of hips that should have been illegal in about six states. It probably was, actually, and it knocked him off-balance enough that his back pressed into the door frame of the bedroom before he even knew they were there. It wasn't quite the bed, but he could handle being pushed up against his door frame as long as Gil kept with the hip-pressure and the gentle sucking on his bottom lip. Gil's mouth was hot, and he gave the tiniest nip of teeth.

It had been way too long since Greg had come in his pants. He had kind of hoped not to ever do it again, had totally abandoned that kind of thing with the loss of his virginity at a grand old twenty-two, but God almighty damn, Gil was enough to induce that with ease.

Greg shifted, moved so that his thighs slid apart, one of Gil's between his, and one of his own between Gil's, and the pressure just got so much better. "Oh, holy fuck."

"I don't know if such a thing exists..." Gil pulled back, but it was just to get better leverage, because his leg shifted and pressed, rubbing and pushing while he tilted his head to suck at Greg's neck. "But we can try."

"Ungh." It was the best response Greg could give. That shift combined with the suction and nip at the cords of his throat stole his breath and made his knees weak. If they didn't manage to get past the door, he was going to fall down and take Gil with him, and that could be extraordinarily bad. "Oh, my God, yes. I don't know. I don't know what made you... what made this... but... oh, fuck, I'm so grateful for it." So grateful, grasping that hair again, tugging, trying to get Gil into the bedroom with him. Whatever had made this happen, whatever made Greg the person who made Gil happy...

He'd do anything to keep it going.

They'd probably never figure it out, and that was fine. Some things just didn't need answers. Greg especially didn't need answers when Gil was finally moving with Greg to the bed, groaning. It was a miracle that they didn't trip each other up getting there, legs pressed close. He lost the pressure against his dick, but damn.

At least they ended up sideways on top of his unmade bed.

"Oh, my God, get it off," Greg whimpered. He was pulling at Gil's shirt, nearly frantic. He had waited so long for this, so long, and he hadn't thought he'd ever get it. He never thought it would be real, and now it was, and he wanted skin. Greg wanted his pants off, he wanted to be naked, and his fingers were fumbling, incompetent. "Got to..."

They'd slept with t-shirts and boxers and that just wasn't the same as nakedness. And now, after a couple of weeks that had felt like a goddamned eternity, he was going to get nakedness. "Oh... shhh. Just..." Gil laughed quietly, shifting to put space between them when that was the last thing Greg wanted. It was just so he could get Greg's t-shirt off, and that was a great idea. "Let's just take a minute to get these off."

"Taking a minute is a lot harder than it sounds." Was that his voice shaking like that? Yeah, that was him, and his hands were trembling, too, but they were still making a damn fine job of getting them both naked. "Want this. So much." Wanted it, had wanted it. Maybe not since the first day on the job, Greg could admit that, but nothing had turned him on so much as Gil being pissed off over that lab backup a while back. A pissed off Gil Grissom was a very hot thing.

"I know..."

Not quite as hot as having Gil stretched out on his bed with Greg, not as hot as Gil getting his pants off when Greg was getting Gil's shirt off. He still had sterile bandages on the wound, but they were smaller and he was pretty sure it would be all right if they got some out-of-the-office exercise for once.

Still. There were things they should probably talk about first. Simple things.

"If you feel anything pulling, let me know right then," Greg told him, wanted to make him promise. "But don't worry. I'm pretty sure that even if you think you're pulling something funny, we can make arrangements."


The thought of climbing on top of Gil Grissom and fucking his brains out made every nerve in Greg's body tense up and scream 'YES'.

"You're creative." Gil's palms slid over Greg's ass, and he made an appreciative noise before he pushed Greg's pants down far enough that Greg could just kick them off. "I promise. I don't want to have to stop touching you because I've pulled stitches."

After all, wouldn't that be hell to explain at the ER? 'Well, doctor, I pulled them doing, er...' And then Catherine would find out somehow and beat Greg to death for it. And that would hurt. A lot. Greg wasn't a stupid boy. He knew better than to piss off a woman who could pole dance in four inch spiked heels.

"I can be very creative," he assured Gil, whimpering as the older man's fingers lingered on their way back up his thighs. It only took a minute to get rid of his pants, and then there was just one layer between them. "Incredibly creative. Oh, fuck, I want..."

"I can't guarantee anything, Greg..." Gil leaned in to kiss at the edge of Greg's jaw, not too gentle or tentative about it. He was trying to keep Greg hot while he half-explained himself, but hell. What did he expect Greg to do, return him if he got hinky about something?

"You don't have to make any guarantees." Jesus. He didn't even know where that came from. He should have been too hot to think, let alone be gentle about the possibility that Gil was going to fuck him and then run away. "You don't have to do anything except be here, and be you. I can accept that."

Maybe that was the difference between him and Sara. Sara would never be willing to take whatever she could get. She'd want it all. Greg might want it, but he wouldn't demand it.

Some weird part of Greg had already figured it out, too. Getting Gil was kind of like getting a squirrel to trust him. If he just kind of sat there and let it figure him out and decide whether it wanted his nuts, he had a much better chance of catching it than he did if he ran at it full tilt.

Nuts. Oh, God, Gil's hand was on his dick and moving in. Obviously he was offering just what Gil-the-Squirrel was after, and words were right out. Greg had never been at a loss like that before, and finding that he couldn't do anything more than whine and throw his head to the side, tense up his body in an attempt to keep control... It was strange. Wild. Different.

It shouldn't have surprised him, really. After all, Gil Grissom did things like that to him, even without doing anything at all.

Accident, like the whole thing was. If Millander had dialed, say, Warrick, nothing would've happened, except that Gil maybe might've bolted out of Vegas. There wouldn't have been a Greg-factor in the equation, so him being there was an accident that he was kind of happy for. Really happy for, as long as Gil stayed right where he was, over him and beside him, leaning so he could kiss Greg, swallow his whines while Gil's hand squeezed and started to stroke him from base to tip.

"Don't..." It was a half-swallowed word. "Don't. 'm gonna... I'll come if you..." If Gil kept that up, he would, come all over the place, and that wouldn't be fair, or equal or anything that Greg wanted. Greg wanted so much more, wanted Gil with him, wanted hot smeared with doughnut creme monkey sex. "Oh, fuck, Jesus, fuck me, oh my God!"

Gil's fingers squeezed at the base of his cock, too tight to excite him. It was kind of funny to think of his penis as a hand brake, but it really worked. Gil leaned back a little, and murmured, "Sorry. We should slow down."

Particularly since Gil still had pants on.

"Sorry." Sorry, so sorry. Greg didn't want it to stop, and he did, and he wanted more. That was the problem with sex, really. A guy's brain totally shut down and turned to mush so that he couldn't actually function rationally. On the other hand, who wanted to function rationally in the middle of totally hot sex?

"I can tell that keeping control of myself with you is gonna be damn hard."

"You're not the only person having that problem." Gil pulled back and started to unbuckle his belt. He only had his shirt off, and Greg could see the edge of his dressing. The pressure over that wound had to hurt like hell from time to time. He could see one end of the looping old scar before Gil started to quickly shimmy out of boxers and slacks. "We've been doing all right in the office..."

"Which is fairly impressive," Greg added. Incredibly impressive, considering the fact that Greg wanted to tackle him to the ground and blow him into oblivion every time Gil looked at somebody over the edges of his glasses.

Even more so when it was Greg on the receiving end of that look.

"I think it is." One last movement, and he... had Naked Gil. Naked except for the gauze, and he couldn't exactly count that. Gil didn't let Greg really look, though, because he was leaning over Greg again to kiss him. Maybe they could get to hot monkey doughnut sex later, and do insane friction sex just then. Greg could totally deal with insane friction sex. Insane friction sex sounded really good, especially with Gil leaning over him, cock pressed to cock. Greg couldn't hold the groan back from his throat, the sound effortlessly spilling from him in a raw cascade. "Let me..." Let him, let him touch, let him be everywhere, leave scent and taste and trembling-fingered caress.

"Yes. Please. Just..." Just didn't seem to be a qualifier, because Gil was kissing him again, shifting so that they really could press cock against cock, rubbing with a sharp twist of his hips. It went right up his spine, shivering to the base of his brain and shutting off some probably pretty important switches up there.

"Oh my God, oh my God, oh my fucking God." He sounded like a broken record, but it felt so good, better than anything Greg could ever remember. Greg couldn't help squirming, wrapping a leg tight around Gil's so that they could press together more tightly. "So. So." So good.

That helped, because it got enough friction and enough roughness that he could really feel it. He was wrapped all around Gil, and maybe if he could get a hand between them he could finish them off. Not that they needed it. Gil said things, incoherent clips of words, maybe pleas, sexy sounds that just made Greg want to squirm himself right down into the mattress while Gil sucked at his neck.

Made him want so many things.

A few more bitten off sounds, some curses that Greg couldn't stop, and he was there. He was there, and he couldn't help yelling, arching up and up and up, an eternal rising, it felt like. Everything was perfect, and even if they never did this again, never did anything close to this again, Greg could make it be enough for the rest of his life if he had to.

He was pretty sure that he'd feel things close to that again. He was drifting and sweaty, and there was semen on his stomach. And for once in a long while, all the little soldiers weren't his. Gil shifted to the side, still touching him, still kissing him. Breathing hard but slowly, and he wasn't trying to disentangle Greg. "Perfect."


Perfect, and Greg couldn't help closing his eyes. It had been a long night, and the thing with the pig had kind of freaked him out, even if he hadn't said as much. Now, he was relaxed, and Gil was with him, and it was soft and easy to kiss him, all lips and slow tongue and...


Perfect like closing his eyes.

"You shoulda called me the first time he came to see you! What the hell were you thinking, Will?"

The temptation to jump in was overwhelming. Greg knew more of the story now than he had six hours before, and that made a huge difference in what he had to say about things. For one thing, he knew that Jack Crawford was a manipulative son of a bitch. For another, he was obviously more of a problem than any kind of solution to Greg's way of thinking. After all, anybody who could drive Will Graham to become someone else, drive his replacement into actually running away with a serial killing cannibal... well, it wasn't like Greg was about to beg to work with the guy.

Actually, he figured anybody with sense would take one look at him and run in the other direction.

"What was I thinking? Oh, I don't know. I was thinking that I really like being alive, and didn't want a god-damned hospital massacre!" Gil was pissed off. Dressed, but pissed off. There was nothing like a knock on the door during the start of 'Sex: Round Two' to add to a guy's overall aggression. That had been why they'd been followed, Gil had muttered as he'd pulled on his clothes.

So Jack Crawford could find him with the minimum of work.

Greg actually figured that he was in the best seat in the entire place -- namely, squished into a gliding rocker in the corner with his knees pulled up to his chest, out of the way and pretty much unnoticed since the yelling started. He really hoped that none of his neighbors called to complain.

"Hospital massacre? Okay. Okay, fine. Fine. That, I get. But you know what I'm not getting here, Will? I'm not getting why the hell you didn't call me after he was gone!" Crawford roared. "That's what I'm not getting here!"

"Because we have a truce." Gil was leaning against the edge of Greg's kitchen island, hands moving between relaxed and tight like fists. "Damn you, Jack. It wasn't like I did it personally. I was on painkillers, I was shot right through. Hey, here's an idea. Why don't you ask your last bait-agent to tell you why she hasn't turned him in?"

"Because you and I both know I can't fucking FIND HER!" Jack yelled. "I can at least find you, do my best to offer you some kind of protection, if you'd just fucking TAKE it. But no," he snapped, "Will Graham doesn't need protection, and now that he's busy being somebody else, he doesn't need the FBI. When they cornered that guy... Strip Strangler, weren't they calling him, Will? Did it feel good to do it again?"

Do what, exactly? Greg wondered. He wasn't so clear on that part, but he'd been more or less taking what Gil had to say about things and only attempting vague extrapolations. Anything more had sort of made his head hurt, and he knew Gil hadn't told him too much. No sharp details.

"Yes. It felt great -- solving any case, Jack, is an amazing feeling. But that case had nothing to do with any of this, or what happened, or what I used to do. Or are you just pissed because you read Culpepper's reports and you realized he's a complete idiot that went for the red herring copycat?"

"Well, there is that."

At least the guy was honest. Greg would give him that much.

"See, the problem with the Vegas field office is that you're here, Will. And you do their job better than they can, ninety-nine percent of the time. You know it, I know it, hell. If they knew you were Will Graham, they'd know it, and Culpepper is pissing in his pants now that he's got a clue. But you know what? Most of them don't know that. So, you handle everything to the best of your abilities, and they butt in when the sheriff makes noises. That's how things work here these days. And now, we're having to butt in because you didn't call me when Lecter came to see you and now he's sent you a fucking basket that's got prints from my missing agent!"

"I didn't even have to call you, goddamn it," Gil bit back. He stepped away from the counter, and for a moment Greg was pretty sure that he was going to throw a punch. But he didn't, just paced past Jack. "But I did, as a favor to you! What the hell do you want me to do, hop in a fucking time machine and call you the second that Lecter left the room? If I had a time machine, I'd have a lot more important to-do list than that, Jack."

That seemed to soften Crawford. "Yeah. Okay. Yeah," he said quietly, sighing. "Look. I don't mean this to get personal, Will. It's just... if he's out there, and if he's coming to Vegas, even for a short period, then that means eventually he's coming for you. And I owe you a hell of a lot more than leaving you here to go well with Chianti."

Greg could feel himself twitch faintly. He wasn't going to think about it. Nope. No way. There were some things that no man should ever have to consider.

"You don't get it, do you? He's not going to kill me any more than he's going to kill Starling." Gil's voice started to fall quieter, which Greg could only be grateful for. His neighbors already thought he was kind of weird. Two men yelling in the middle of the day was weird, too.

"Yeah. I don't get it," Jack admitted. "I mean, the man's already carved a slice out of you. What was it he used to call you? Oh. Yeah. Tender."

Gil winced; Greg knew he saw Gil's arm twitch then. If he'd been in his own place, he probably would have thrown something at Jack. "We fucked, but you know that. You screen my mail, Jack. Why are you bringing it up? I've been in his head, I couldn't get out of his head!"

"You've got more mail since then. Before the package. Just came through the office today." Crawford looked old, tired, and it gave Greg the weirdest sense of foreboding, a sudden sense of fear. "I'm gonna assume this is Greg Sanders, since Lecter seems to think he'd be tender, too."

"So... So he'd suggested at the hospital." Gil didn't jerk that time; just fell strangely calm. "Did you bring it with you, or is it wasting away in latent prints?"

"Brought a copy. It's got a new and interesting postmark for once. Henderson, but that doesn't mean anything. I mean, for all I know, the man's been watching back episodes of Monk and saw the thing with the glue and the ketchup bottles. Somehow managed to tape the thing to the inside of the box so that it would fall eventually and just look like it was coming from there." Jack sighed, rubbed his face.

"You say that like you think I watch TV, Jack. C'mon." He stepped towards Jack, held a hand out. "Give it to me. Sometimes I think he sends the things he does because he knows it gives you the goddamned shakes."

"And you feel like you can blame me for this?" Jack said, rolling his eyes. "You've really got to get out more, Will. Geeze." He dug into his jacket, pulling out the letter. "I bet even this kid has seen that show."

"That show comes on after my bedtime," Greg snipped.

Gil stifled a sound that he was pretty sure was laughter while taking a copy of a letter that had been written by Hannibal Lecter. "We're nightshift, Jack. You know what those hours do to you." He moved back towards the counter, and started to unfold what he'd all but snatched from Jack's fingers.

"Sometimes?" Greg said, "Gil lets me sit up long enough to actually see the seven o'clock news. But then I have to go to bed."

"Shut your trap, kid. You're not too old for me to beat," Crawford grumbled. "Read the damn letter, Will."

"Molly hated him, too. Go figure." Gil was already a step ahead of Crawford, eyes drifting over the page. What did Jack expect from him, to read it aloud? Gil probably wouldn't even if Jack asked. Except he was reading it aloud, really quietly to himself, and it was disturbing.

"... dream of... tender, but the... wishes and salutations..."

It gave Greg the creeps. It was almost like watching Gil become somebody else, somebody he hadn't been in a really long time, and the whole thing made Greg uneasy. He abandoned his chair and headed for the kitchen, snagging a doughnut on his way past the counter. Might as well make coffee, he figured. It would probably steady his nerves, not to mention keeping him awake considering it was technically the middle of the night for them. Sort of. In a weird kind of way.

There was no way that either of them would be fit for the next shift. He could hear Gil's voice, quiet and droning to himself as he went over the letter -- it sounded like there were a couple of pages.

He had the coffee already starting to drip by the time Gil finished. "Is this supposed to scare me, Jack? Is that what you think this is about? Because I'll be honest and tell you that the transsexual who raped me with a gun a couple of weeks ago was much more frightening."

Forty dollar a pound coffee flew up in the air and rained down over Greg, Gil, the letter, and Jack Crawford. "Holy fuck," Greg sighed. "I wish you'd warn me or something when you're gonna say stuff like that, 'cause... let me be honest. Millander was scary as shit. I'm not lying when I say that. But Hannibal Lecter going all, 'Oh so juicy and tender', like one of us is a Butterball turkey really freaks me right out. And now I've wasted very good very expensive coffee while freaking out."

Gil leaned back on the counter, and looked back over at Greg. He folded the letter in half and started to use it to sweep coffee beans into his hand. "He knew you were awake, Greg. He does things for shock value, because it amuses him to fuck with people's heads."

"Consider me officially fucked," Greg grumbled, trying to gather his coffee beans together again. The ones that had fallen on the floor, he was giving up on altogether. The previous renters had been pet owners. Maybe he could save the ones on the countertops, though.

Jack cleared his throat. "Yeah, well, if the guy's still in Nevada, you might well be."

"He's not in Nevada," Gil sighed. He dropped the beans into an empty coffee mug, the geek mug, and then -- oh, God, he was going to try to get the ones from the carpet, too. "He went back to Europe, or an island, but not Nevada. You might as well be trying to tell me that you think he's decided TEXAS is a lovely place to settle down. He's not in Vegas, and he's not a threat to me, or Greg, or your precious Starling."

"Will, it's been a long time since you've done this, and I don't know how you can think that you can just know what..."

"First off," Greg interrupted, getting the cup before Gil could add the floor beans to it, "he's not Will anymore. Okay? He's Gil. And there's one really big difference there, even if you can't see it. Second, I repeat. He's Gil. And if Gil says something is so, then it's so. And that's all there is to it."

He could see Gil raise his eyebrows at Jack, probably challenging him to disagree. "You know why I think I can do it, Jack? After Dolarhyde, I never lost the scent again. I'd lost everything else, but I made sure I didn't lose that again. So I wrote back to him, and we haven't been out of contact for more than a month at a time since Josh died."

"It's not good for you, Will. I told you then and I'm telling you now. One day, it's going to totally bite you in the ass. Literally," Jack sighed, rubbing his hand over his face. "Jesus, you're a stubborn bastard."

Gil gave a roll of his shoulders, that Greg knew damn well translated directly over to 'eh' in Gil-speak. "What do you want me to do, Jack? Let's drop the should have and 'I told you' game. What do you want me to do for you, right now?"

"Help me find Starling. Help me put an end to this."


It wasn't Greg's place to answer that, maybe, but the word had come out of his mouth before he could stop it.

"No," he said again. "He's out of jurisdiction here, and I get the feeling that you totally fucked things up enough before that. Him going back with you to do this... whatever, find this person, it'd be like some kind of death sentence."

"Will Graham is dead, Jack. He's died a couple of times now, thinking about it, and his remains are pretty damaged. I'm Gil Grissom, and I don't have a problem telling the FBI to go fuck itself. I'm not going to help you retrieve Starling. I'm not going to make myself a target again by posing a threat to Lecter, and I'm not going to see my friends and employees killed as part of some sick object lesson in not opposing him. I got that the first time, learned it well." Gil looked agitated, eyes narrowed as he looked at Jack. It was actually a pretty immoral thing for Gil Grissom to say. It didn't sound like him to Greg, so maybe Will Graham wasn't as dead as Gil had said he was, but Crawford didn't know that.

Crawford was visibly wilting, too, looking old and cracked like abused carnival glass. "Yeah," he said softly, taking a deep breath and sighing. "Yeah. I guess you're right."

"I'm sorry, Jack." Gil was picking up the coffee beans from the floor, out of sight while he talked to Jack. He sounded softer, more Gil than Will now. They were going to have to talk about it, because it really was creepy to notice. "I'll do anything for you, Jack. Just... don't ask me to lose everything again. I can't handle doing that."

"I was afraid that you couldn't." Jack leaned back, rubbed a hand over his face. "I had to ask, though. You know I had to ask. I'm the one who sent her to him, same way I sent you. I can't think of any other way to make up for that. I can't come up with anybody else to save her."

"Are you going to look for her anyway? She'll face charges, Jack. The only thing you'll be saving her from... would be freedom." Greg took that moment as a chance to turn his coffee grinder on -- neither of them could try to talk through the noise of a burr grinder whirring to life.

Peace and quiet didn't last long; apparently, Jack Crawford didn't mind yelling over the grinding of coffee beans. "I don't understand why you think she doesn't need to be saved!" he yelled over the sound. "I mean, the man's a fucking psychopath!"


Gil whipped a coffee bean at Jack's head, pinging him right on the nose. "Haven't you listened to a THING I've said?! He's in love with her! He treats her well because she treats him well and she fascinates him! She..." He stood up so fast that his head hit the underside of the counter; Greg could hear the muffled cuss over the sound of the grinder, too.

Greg gave a sigh and wilted over the grinding of his beans. God. These guys were troublesome together. Obviously, sending Crawford packing was high on his list.

"Okay, fine!" Jack yelled into sudden silence. Greg shrugged at the glare he got, and went about fixing a pot of coffee. "Fine. Fine. But I don't understand, so you've gotta explain this one to me, Will. Gil. Whatever."

"Gil," Greg announced firmly.

"The letter -- you gave me a copy, Jack. You gave me a copy, but the ink's wrong. It's felt-tipped and it bled into the paper. He doesn't use felt-tipped -- there should be nib impressions on the back because he writes with real ink when he can, Monte Blanc when he can't." Gil was gesturing as he stood up unsteadily, rubbing at the back of his head.

"So he didn't write the letter?" That seemed to excite Jack, give him some kind of hope that he might be able to correct whatever he had fucked up. Greg wouldn't bet on that, though.

With care, he pulled out coffee cups. They were big, and black, and clean, which was more than he could say for the cup he'd used last. That had been the morning Gil had been shot... among other things. "I'm out of milk, but I've got cream." Might as well go for an attempt to make the day seem normal.

"That's okay. I'll pitch in with groceries," Gil offered. It was strange to see him torn between two ways of acting, dealing with both Greg and Jack. "It... Jack, he wrote the letter, it's his handwriting. But he used a felt-tipped pen. Because he wanted... wanted..." Gil trailed off, eyebrows drawing together. "Because there's a message in the letter. In impressions. There's a letter in the letter."

A letter in a letter?

"And what's it say, W...Gil?" The conscious change of name was interesting to Greg because it meant the guy was finally getting it, that Will wasn't who Gil was now. Hadn't been for a long time, actually, because Greg didn't like Will much. Will was creepy and just kind of naturally accepted that it was okay to have a cannibalistic serial killer in his hospital room.

Gil, though... Gil knew better, in his own weird, warped kind of way.

"I don't KNOW, Jack," Gil snapped, suddenly waving the copied letter in his face. "Because you brought me a god-damned Xerox and not the original!"

Greg turned just in time to see reluctance cross Jack's face. "Yeah, well. It's not still in the print lab or anything." The man reached his hand into his jacket again, and pulled out another letter. "I have the original. I just... I didn't want you to have to get too close again. Not like before. Even though I asked, I knew that you wouldn't -- couldn't -- say yes."

"If you didn't want me to get too close, you should've just left me alone." Gil reached for it again, dropping the impostor copy. "There was probably something written on a sheet above it. And he used a felt-tipped pen to preserve that."

There was a faint sinking in Greg's belly, one that he recognized too deeply as something going really fucking wrong. He wanted to yell, wanted to take the thing and tear it in half. It made him wish for a gas stove, so that he could set it on fire before Gil ever got to look at it.

"If you need a pencil, you'd better ask your boy over there."

"Greg," Gil corrected sharply. He did turn away from Jack, though. "Greg. He has a name. And I have graphite in my kit. This won't take long." It would've been faster to take it to documents, but Gil had always liked to do things the old fashioned ways. Charcoal scent pads and pipettes mixed with high tech computer equipment.

Greg shook his head and poured the coffee, setting the first cup on the counter next to Jack before digging around for sugar. The milk and real cream were bad, but that was okay, because he had some fake stuff next to the sugar. He didn't like it, so he could give it a skip, but offering it to Crawford gave him a faint, sharp pleasure. He really should've given Crawford rotten cream that'd spent two weeks in his fridge, if not for giving Gil that letter, then for calling him boy all the time.

"Greg? I'm going down to my Tahoe to get my kit. Don't... kill Jack until I get back."

"Come on. If I do it while you're gone, I know how to cover it up, Gil. Then you can't testify."

"Yeah, well, you br... GREG, I might be harder to kill than you think."

"But no less deserving," Greg snapped.

Gil got his shoes on, and opened the door. He'd left the letter sitting on the arm of Greg's sofa, contaminating it with little fibers and old crumbs. "Don't forget to use bleach."

He closed the door quietly, and left Greg with the evil man. "So."

"So," Greg said. "I'm out of bleach. Lucky you." Plus, killing somebody would probably send Gil hightailing his way to the nearest hermit hole someplace, and Greg really wasn't planning to do that since he finally, finally had Gil's attention.

"So, how long have you two been..." Jack waved his hand a little, and -- oh, he didn't, but he did! He did! He made the doughnut and the hot-dog gesture!

"What are you, TWELVE?" Greg asked, faintly boggled. "Geeze!" Who did that anymore, anyway? And there was absolutely no way Greg was going to admit to not having gotten that far yet.

Jack rolled his shoulders calmly. "Hey. You're sleeping together. You think no one figured THAT out yet? You think you're going to fix him or something, right?"

"I think it's none of your fucking business what I do or don't think," Greg replied, hand shaking as he lifted his coffee cup. It sloshed faintly, but didn't spill over the edges. "And even if I did think that, I can tell you this. Gil wouldn't put up with that kind of shit."

"That's right. Will wouldn't either, and god knows why Molly stayed with him as long as she did. It's like a guy driving down the road on four blown out tires, sure that his rims will keep it all going... I don't want to have to put him back out on the road unless I have to." Which didn't make sense, because it seemed like they knew how things played out and that he was dragging Gil into it even against Gil's wishes already.

"Then don't," Greg said softly, the iron hard underneath it. "Don't even try it, because you know what's going to happen if you do. You know. You knew when you dragged your ass out here, and you still did it, you manipulative son of a bitch!"

"I'm scared for him, kid, and I'm scared for you. We all know he thinks he's goddamned invincible, but you tell me -- was he invincible when Lecter gutted him? Was he invincible when Dolarhyde shot him? Was he invincible when he went toe to toe or whatever he did with this local sick fuck and ended up hurt? He's skewed, he needs a handler!" Jack took a sip of the coffee, and Greg really started to wish that he'd put something sour in the cup.

"Maybe once I would've believed that he knew what Lecter was up to. That he thought he was safe. But he's not the same eideteker that joined the bureau. He's like a... a lie detector that's calibrated wrong."

"It's still a question of you dragging him back into shit that's not any of his business anymore. He changed everything about himself, didn't he? Who he was, where he lived. And I'm not so sure that he did it to get away from some psychopathic cannibal, either." Greg put his coffee cup down firmly, scowling. "I'm damn sure he did it to put several hundred miles between him and you. You did it to him, and it sounds like you've done the same thing to this girl, whoever she is. So. The question has dick to do with me needing to handle him, and a fuckload full of you needing TO STOP!"

"You're buying it, aren't you? This split personalities thing has always been there. Will-on-the-case and Will-at-home. You just don't have the right perspective. You--"

Greg heard the door click closed behind Gil, and hadn't heard him opening it. He'd probably been yelling at Jack then. "Go on, Jack. Keep talking. Why don't you tell him about all of my problems, hm?"

"Okay. You want me to tell him about the psychiatric hospitals? All of 'em? You want me to tell him about you going to Lecter to, to scent him like some kinda goddamned animal?" Jack turned on him, and in that moment, Greg knew what he had to do.

"Sure. Tell him. I don't care, Jack. I'm tired of running from, from myself. Tell him. Hey, don't forget when I decided to take in half the stray dogs in the neighborhood because I thought someone was going to eat them. Molly loved that one." Gil was quiet, tensely pissed off as he started to open his kit after sitting it on Greg's sofa.

"They couldn't do any more damage to the apartment floor than the wiener dogs that lived here before," Greg declared cheerfully. In his hand, he held a glass of clabbered milk from the sink that had more or less gone unnoticed. The smell hadn't been pleasant, sure, but that wasn't the kind of thing that had been in anyone's mind.

At least... it wasn't until Greg tilted it over onto Jack Crawford's head. "Go fuck yourself," he said cheerfully. "You know fuck all about what goes on here and now."

"Greg!" Gil dropped his jar of print powder, still closed, on the sofa, and was between Jack and Greg before Jack could even start to throw a punch -- it was pretty clear he wanted to. "Greg, easy..."

Gil's hands were on Greg's arms, taking the gooey empty glass from him, backing him away from Jack and the mess at the edge of the kitchen.

"Easy my FUCKING ass!" They weren't words that Greg used often, but as clear as Jack's desire to hit Greg was, Greg's was equally obvious. It was also obvious who would win. "Easy. Nothing here is easy anymore! Look, you asshole! You talk big, like you just want help," Greg mocked, "but what you want is to be sure that the whole world doesn't know some nut job who likes to eat people has made a complete fool out of you by running off with your two favorite people. Did you fuck her? Because you weren't brave enough to try it with him?"

"You crazy little shit!" Jack seethed. Jerkily, he reached for a kitchen towel, wiping spoiled milk off of his face. It rubbed it into his hair, too. Greg didn't envy whoever had to ride away from there with the guy. "What the fuck do you know about any of it! It's not like you've been there for any of it. You want me to give you Molly's number, huh? She hates my guts, but she'll tell you like it is!"

Gil set the glass on the counter, but didn't turn around and didn't let go of almost-hugging Greg. One hand held onto his upper arm, one hand at the edge of his hip, keeping him with his back almost to the fridge so that he couldn't lunge at Jack. He was young and fit and strong and he could probably kick that guy's ass. Jack looked like he'd spent way too many years smoking, and he kind of smelled like he still did. "You can tell him, Jack. I told you that I don't care. Just leave Molly alone. She's remarried, she has children that aren't dead because of me..."

"It's not because of you."

Hearing that from Jack was a shock to the system. Greg could tell from the way that Gil's hands shook on him, his entire frame trembling.

"The kid's right, in at least one way. I'm trying to pull you because I need you. You're the last weapon I've got, Will."

He could feel Gil exhale, leaning in to duck his forehead against Greg's shoulder. It was strange to feel Gil shake, strange as it was to see him with a tear-wet face coming out of some nightmare that Greg probably couldn't come up with after a Stephen King Movie-a-thon.

"Goddamn you, Jack. Goddamn you."

"You don't have to go," Greg whispered to him. "You don't have to do anything he asks. You don't have to do anything that you don't want to." One hand slid up, touched the nape of Gil's neck. "But if you think you have to go...." And Greg knew. He knew what Gil was like. "...then you better be ready to see me get fired because I'm going with you."

The hand on his arm slipped around to rest on his back, and Gil hugged him loosely, exhaling again before he breathed in the smell of Greg's hair, bringing his head up. "We'll... cross that bridge if it happens. Could you just shut up for five minutes, Jack? Let me look at the letter."

"Jesus Christ," Jack muttered, rubbing his hand over his face. The smell of it made Greg smirk. "Fine. Just look at the fuckin' letter. And kid, you better move away from the sink, because I'm damn sure rinsing this off."

"Fine, but don't expect me to get you a towel."

"Molly really did hate him," Gil sighed. He pulled back, and looked at Greg, still not moving very far. It was kind of sad to see that the edge of happiness had completely sank back out of Gil's eyes while he took in Greg's face and seemed to come to some kind of decision.

"That's because he's a total asshole," Greg sighed, reaching for the doughnut box. He pulled out one of the cremes and stuck a finger in it to lick it off. "I wish I'd dumped the coffee over his head, but that would have been a waste."

The sound of water spritzing from the kitchen sink was Jack's only answer.

"It would have." Gil's solemn-sounding answer went with a twitch of his mouth. "You guys going to call a truce long enough for me to see what the imprint is, or...?"

"So long as he's still soaking his head, sure." Greg grinned at him and poked his finger in his doughnut again. "You want one?" he offered. "I made your coffee like you like it."

"Thank you. And a doughnut sounds great. C'mon -- we can go over to the sofa and I'll show you the old-fashioned way of getting imprint writing to come up." Teaching him something, even if Greg could half-guess it already himself, was probably relaxing to Gil. He'd always liked showing people things, teaching.

Teaching, Greg decided, would be a way safer line of work for Gil. It wouldn't involved things like getting shot or raped with guns or cut with letter openers, and that was a damn fine thing in Greg's opinion. Anything that would get him five minutes more with Gil was pretty high on Greg's list.

"That sounds great."

"That sounds great," Jack mocked, scowling at both of them. Greg could see him make that gesture again from the corner of his eyes.

He flipped Jack off, and Gil didn't seem to mind it while he took a couple of sips of coffee. "Jack. I'm helping you. What's your problem now?" Gil picked up the letter with his free hand, and set it on top of one of the books that Greg had on the coffee table.

"Your boyfriend's a pissant."

"Yeah, well, at least he's got one, so why don't you go back to soaking your head?" Greg frowned. "You still stink, and you're messing up my kitchen. Make yourself useful."

"Greg's actually a very intelligent, friendly, fun person." Gil sat back on the sofa for a moment, contemplating the letter from a few feet back while he ate a little bit of raspberry donut. From what Greg could see, the handwriting was like a frilly pc font. He wasn't sure if he wanted to get up close to the letter and actually read the words.


If he was going to find out what was beneath it, there wasn't a lot of choice, so he settled down near Gil on the floor, waiting. There was a book in his lap, and Greg could clearly see what he was doing as Gil reached for his fingerprint powder again.

"Yeah. That's what you said about Molly, too, and she kneed me in the balls."

"That's the intelligent part," Gil smirked. He balanced the fingerprint powder on the arm of the sofa, and set the doughnut and napkin carefully on the table along with his coffee. He pulled out a piece of thin plastic film that Greg was pretty sure was plain old cling wrap. Gil had everything in his kit, including his gun.

Greg sort of wanted to strap that into Gil's hand, but he wasn't sure he could get away with it. Duct tape had many uses, but if the gun was there semi-permanently, it would make fooling around pretty hard. Greg kind of liked fooling around, so that completely voided that option.

"Yeah. I seem to think that you said that before." Jack was grumbling, but at least he was wiping up the mess Greg had made in the kitchen.

"So. Show me what else you've got there?" Greg asked Gil, watching him with open curiosity.

"Film, just like we use in documents. But you can create a seal between the film and the paper just by pressing gently -- enough to create static. Like this." Gil made sure Greg could see as he wiped the film down over the first sheet, careful to have just that one sheet on top of the book. The second sheet was beside him on the sofa.

Greg was trying hard not to look at it, because from the corner of his eye, it looked like Lecter had drawn something.

"And it goes down into the grooves and everything?" Greg asked, shifting a little closer. "So that it will cover the impressions of the writings?" Maybe if he was lucky, Gil would avoid the picture. Greg didn't think it was anything he really ought to be seeing, but he also got the feeling that Gil would show him, mostly by way of a warning of some sort, to show him what he was.

"Exactly. We have machines that do this now, and it stands up better in court that way, but..." But Gil doubted Lecter would ever get into court, and it wasn't as if they needed to present evidence on new charges if they could catch him. Greg could tell Gil was doubting it.

And then he started, slowly, to shake his print powder down over it.

It was a slow sort of process, and the way that it sifted against the paper and the cling wrap was fascinating. At that particular time of morning, Greg supposed most anything would be fascinating. It was definitely past his bedtime, and past Gil's, too. Midmorning wasn't the time to spring surprises and break into a guy's house. Crawford was just lucky that he hadn't called the cops and pressed charges, and...


The handwriting wasn't the same as the fancy writing on the page beneath it. Slowly, print-lettering rose out in the dark dust, clearing when Gil swirled the page before dumping the excess back into the jar. Dust still clung into the crevices, still readable, and after Gil did that whole process again, it was legible.

Gil read it aloud. "Mr. Graham. Hannibal tells me that you will realize this is here and will read it. I can only hope that he's right. Please pass the following on to Jack -- I am healthy and happy. We're living in an undisclosed location, and I have had plastic surgery. Looking for either of us would be a waste of resources. I'm not sure what to tell you to assure you that I'm all right. He asked me if I would ever ask him, if he loved me, to stop killing. There was no answer I could give but to tell him that if he loved me, he'd stop killing so we might have a chance to live in peace. Hannibal is a man of his word, and I know that he's taken comfortably to our lifestyle here. There have been no killings. I've been teaching him that it's easier to trip the rude than kill them. I'm safe here. Please don't look for me."

Gil sucked in a breath, and finished, "Clarice Starling."

"You're shitting me." Jack was there, practically on top of them, steel-gray hair still dripping. "Jesus, Will." Greg didn't bother correcting him, telling him it was Gil. Not when Gil was already moving on to the next sheet of paper, and there was no way to avoid that picture. It was obviously Gil, young and naked and wrapped in sheets in a way that made Greg swallow hard.

Languid, scar-free. The sheets weren't even placed artfully, because Hannibal had bothered to cover the tops of Gil/Will's thighs but not his penis, and one arm was buried beneath the sheets, fingers tangled in it.

Ploughing forward seemed like the only thing Gil could do, so he laid a sheet of saran over it and rubbed faintly to press it into place until it clung. "Does it look like I'm shitting you, Jack? Read it to yourself."

"No," Jack said finally. "I know you aren't shitting me. It's right there in front of me, how could I not know? Just... Jesus." He ran his hand over his face, and Greg almost felt sorry for him. Almost. "Jesus."

Greg could easily echo that, his eyes too obviously attracted to that picture of Gil, young and obviously post-orgasmic. He had to wonder how often Lecter had seen him that way.

He had to hope that he'd get to see Gil that way often, himself.

"I told you that she'd left to be with him." Gil gave Jack an 'I told you so' look that Greg almost missed. Naked Gil was starting to be obscured in black powder. "Don't knock my doughnut on the floor."

"Stop worrying about your doughnut," Jack grumbled. It was almost affectionate, but Greg couldn't say he resented it.

"The second letter's from him, isn't it?" Greg said quietly, watching those bold strokes of felt-tip pen become covered with equally striking lines of writing outlined by fingerprint powder. "That's why he chose to do the drawing over it."

"That's right," Gil sighed. He sounded tired -- not sleepy tired, because Gil could work mindlessly through hours of boring work. Tired, drained. Maybe depressed, Greg wasn't too sure. "And his handwriting over his handwriting would have been a distraction to the eye."

It was shivery-frightening, in a way, that Gil knew that. That he knew that Lecter knew that. Still, it was also impressive in that Gil Grissom kind of way, and it made Greg's hand tighten faintly on his knee, reassurance.

Gil's eyes flicked to Greg for a moment, soaking up that reassurance before he spilled powder back into the jar and added a little more, just a little more. There was a lot of white space under the new words that were forming.

"Will, I wanted to thank you for all of this. Our sparring over time and distance was the highlight to many a dull day. The world is a more interesting place to have you in it, and for that reason alone, I wish you well with your life and the old age that I hope you reach. I myself will not shear your thread from fate's loom. Pursue your own tender joy, which I had once found in you but now find more fully in Clarice. If at all possible, Will, dream no..." Gil trailed off, staring down at the letters.

Then he repeated quietly to himself, "Dream no more of me. Sincerely, H."

"Fuck," Jack whispered softly, looking over Gil's shoulder. "God fucking damn it."

"It's over," Greg said, because he could see it in Gil's face. It was obvious more from that expression than from any words that Jack spoke, or anything that psychopath wrote. "That's it."

He half-wished that Gil would say something. But he read over it again and again, like he was checking that it was really over, that it really said what it said.

"I... was right." Like he'd shocked himself with it. Hadn't he already said it earlier in the night, after he'd unpacked that 'gift-basket'?

"None of us ever doubted you," Greg said quietly. "Not me. Not anybody who had any idea. We didn't doubt you, Gil." Nobody on nightshift at the crime lab would ever doubt him. Crawford, Culpepper and the other FBI goons were idiots.

"Lost," Jack declared blankly. "She's lost."

And so was Gil; lost to manipulation, lost to further games.

"She's where she wants to be." Gil dropped the letter on top of the first one, and then set the book on top of both so fingerprint powder wouldn't get anywhere on the sofa. "She knows who she is. That's... not lost."

"And what about you, Will?" Jack was so intense that Greg was sure that he'd be burning if it was possible. "Aren't you lost?"

"He's found," Greg replied, a simple enough statement. "He's more of where he wants to be and who he wants to be than he ever has been before, I think."

Gil's hand shifted, slowly, and then clutched loosely on top of Greg's fingers where they'd been squeezing his knee. "I'm where I want to be, and I know who I am."

Knives coming out in reverse had to be less painful.

It was like getting surgery done to remove a two decade old bullet that the body had adjusted to and worked around, and formed scar tissue over to keep it from poisoning the body. Sometimes things were snipped or broken during the surgery, sometimes the anesthesiologist had a little too much to drink the night before and fucked it up and the body just never woke up. It became a body in the sense to which Gil was most accustomed, cold and still on a metal table, naked with a warping Y sewn onto the front of the chest, and never mind the surgical scar that never had time to heal. At least the bullet was out pre-mortem for a little while.

Gil was afraid that that was going to be him. It was over; it was really over. Hannibal had really finally moved on, and left Gil alone -- a blessing. A wonderful thing that he'd never thought would happen, a freedom granted -- for sure, there was no question of what was going on now, none of the vagueness of the basket, the Chianti, the fetal pig, the aftershave.

It didn't fix anything, though; the bullet was out, the wound tract remained, the organs it had taken with it over the years were still gone. Josh wouldn't rise from the grave, and he'd never breathe, and Molly's new life wouldn't warp backwards until it was with him again, and Greg... God, Greg.

He was still probably going to put Greg through hell, had already done it, and there wasn't any way to stop, to make himself into a person who wouldn't do that.

"Do you really know who you are?" Jack's voice broke into his thoughts, stole away the sudden certainty that at least he knew that much. "I don't think you do, Will. I think you're just fooling yourself again, like Hannibal's gonna fool you now. This is the kind of thing he does to put you at ease, and then it comes back and bites you in the ass -- literally, if he's got a real taste for rump roast! Jesus, Will."

"Gil," Greg caught his attention. "I'm going to kick his ass out of my apartment now. If that's okay with you."

"You little brat!"

"You're just angry about Clarice," Gil offered slowly. "Don't take it out on me. The writing is on the wall -- or imprinted on the page, whatever you prefer."

Clarice, who Gil had always suspected was too close to Jack, dancing around him like Sara, touch and go, except Jack would never say 'no' or recoil the way Gil would. Will would. Even then, Will preferred a certain type of relationship -- quiet, easy, little pressure. Things just... happened. It happened. No dancing unless there was actual music. Even his best failed attempts at people had happened and then had simply un-happened. An almost-evening with Catherine that didn't happen because even a budding friendship like that was too precious to waste on something that they both knew wouldn't work.

But Clarice, Jack's Sara... It made Gil's skull ache to make that connection.

"This isn't the end, Will. It can't be. I can't let it be. You've never been able to understand that, have you?" Jack asked, the question fast and hard. "You've always just let it go, let everything go like nothing was important. Maybe nothing ever has been important to you. It's the reason that I let you go. The reason that Lecter let you go, too, the reason we needed Clarice!"

Funny that it was the exact opposite. He let things go because sometimes, often, that was all he could do. All Will could do, all Gil could do. "Molly and Josh were important to me, Jack. And I listened to you and I believed you when you told me that they wouldn't be hurt, and I helped you on the case. You didn't let me go after that -- I left." Gil glanced up at Jack, and he wished that his eyes could convey what he meant. "What do you want from me, Jack? Just say it. What can I do?"

"Find her." Find her, and Gil couldn't remember having ever seen Jack quite that broken.

Quite that hurt.

"He's not going to find her for you. He doesn't know what she looks like. If she's had surgery, then it's a good guess that he's had it since he came to that hospital room because when he came there, he was saying goodbye."

Even Greg had more insight into Hannibal than Jack.

"Give me a couple of days, Jack. I'll... think about what I could do." He needed time and sleep and distance to formulate a firmer, more logical No, and to pick the location of their eventual full out fight. "Just... give me a couple of days."

"You're the only one who can do it, Will." The only one, and Jack was obviously desperate.

"You. Out. Now," Greg demanded, scowling. "You don't belong here, and I don't want you here."

"I'll go... because Will needs more time."

"And Greg and I should be getting up to go to work in a couple of hours." Gil started to stand, and it was then that he realized... he was still holding Greg's hand, or vice versa. Someone had started it, and he hadn't noticed until then.

Gil wiggled his fingers a little, then clutched tight. He didn't... not care about things, about people. He cared about them, and that was why he had to walk away sometimes.

"Yeah. I guess I oughta let you get some rest." Jack was rubbing his face, obvious exhaustion written all over it. Gil wondered how long he had been that tired, and if there was any way to tell Jack that the best thing to do was let it all go.

Probably not.

"Door's that way," Greg pointed.

"I'm sure if you need to find me that you can. Tell that kid who followed us here to learn better technique." Gil watched Jack move towards the door, didn't move to follow or say goodbye in any way.

It wasn't goodbye. It was just a delay, and even then, it wasn't going to be much of one. Gil could feel it in his bones, the way he could always feel Hannibal before.

The way he couldn't feel Hannibal now.

"Yeah. I'll let him know. Next time? You and the kid lock the door," Jack said, and then he left, and shut the door behind him.

He pulled away from Greg for a moment, let go of his hand, to do just that. Jack wouldn't be letting himself in again, not into Greg's apartment.

"That... took longer than I thought it would," he admitted when he turned back to Greg.

"Come on." It was a simple enough statement, Greg's hand held out to him again. "We might as well sleep a little before we have to go in." He didn't ask Gil about Jack, or what he was going to tell him. Gil got the feeling that he already knew.

He just wished that he had some feeling about what Greg thought of the answer he was going to give. It was a lost cause, and he was going to let go, but he couldn't quite gauge what Greg was thinking, and. And.

And, God, he was tired. It was easy to take Greg's hand. "I'm sorry. I didn't expect this to happen when I called him..."

"It's okay. It had to happen sometime, right?" Greg's grin was suddenly bright, and Gil got the feeling that it was going to be okay. "Might as well be now as later. Besides." Greg's head tilted to the side. "I get the feeling that now's a good time for this. For you. Maybe the only right time."

That was a little interesting, so he kept watching Greg while he was led back towards Greg's comfortably messy bedroom. "Why do you think that?"

Greg shrugged. Gil would have thought that it was a non-answer, but he spoke up. "You're a force to be reckoned with. You're stronger than you were then, maybe, or it might be Vegas that makes you tough. I think you're probably pretty different than you were before. I also think that's gonna turn around and bite that jerk in the butt."

"He'll give up in a couple of days. When the sting wears off." Gil's 'couple of days to think'; at best, he'd work on getting a more coherent argument together. "I'm not going to help him, but... you knew that already, didn't you?"

"I kind of figured." Greg smiling at him was okay. Was good. It made him happy, even if it was just a little through the strange warping pain of something ending. So many emotions all at once wore him out. "You know, you really ought not to go in tonight. You can stay here. I'll even pull out clean sheets."

He had to contemplate that, while he found himself mulling over stripping Greg naked before they got into bed. He had the leave time to play with, while Greg didn't. And as reluctant as he was not to go in to work, he wasn't going to be functioning if he did try to go in. "What time do you need to get up? If you're going in, you need as much sleep as possible."

Greg grinned at him again. "Young," he reminded Gil teasingly. "Can get by on caffeine and sheer will power, you know? Besides, we kind of got a nap, halfway in between. And we were in the middle of something earlier, I seem to recall."

"You recall right." Gil started to pull up Greg's shirt then, leaning in to kiss him. Greg was still there, and all of the talk and things that Jack had flung out hadn't inspired him to make Gil leave. "After shift, we can pick up again."

"Promise?" It was lightly spoken, not like any of the times Molly had made him swear that there wouldn't be any more. No more killers. No more Jack. No more Hannibal. "'cause that's definitely a good reason to drag my ass through the night."

It was easy to walk Greg backwards to his bed, dropping the t-shirt on the floor while he started to kiss him again. Greg's mouth almost never stopped talking at work, and Gil had the passing thought that all that exercise was what made Greg's lips so firm, supple against his own.


"Then I accept," Greg murmured, and kissed Gil one more time. "C'mon. Crawl in with me. We'll make the bed fresh for you whenever I have to get up."

It was easy to do it. It was easy to get his hastily thrown on clothes off again, easy to slide into bed with Greg wearing nothing but his boxers. Greg, Gil decided, was the sum total of karma giving him a gentle kind of break. He was easy and comfortable, and fun, and Gil hoped he could give back.

'Love seeketh not itself to please, nor for itself hath any care, but for another gives its ease, and builds a Heaven in Hell's despair.'


Maybe for once, something would turn out all right.

Greg whistled all the way in to work. He felt damn good, and the fact that Gil had crawled back into his bed once they had changed the sheets made him feel even better. There was just something about Gil Grissom that made him want to smile, and fuck what everybody else thought.

"You look like you're doin' pretty good, buddy," Nick teased him as he tossed on his lab coat.

"I've had three cups of coffee and two doughnuts," Greg shot back. "I'm almost flying."

Nick's low returning whistle was kind of funny. "Damn. Already? How long have you been up already, man?"

"I got about two hours sleep. Maybe as much as four." Greg shrugged. "Long day. My place is a complete wreck on top of all of it."

"Ohhh. So what were you doing, cleaning or renovating?" Nick didn't pry much, but he still had that worried look just at the edge of his mellow eyes. "You're way too happy for Griss to have kicked you out, so..."

"This guy from the FBI came by. I got to kick him out," Greg said, shrugging. "It's all good. Griss is kind of tired, though. That jackass wouldn't just get out and let us get some rest."

"Yeah, well, that jackass is standing right behind you, brat."

Aww. Shit.

Nick had his gun in hand and out of his locker in no time flat. "Whoa there. Hold on. Who are you, and if you belong here, why don't you have a visitor's pass? What the hell are you doing in the locker room?"

"Jack Crawford. FBI." Greg couldn't help the groan that broke his lips. "I've got a pass, I just left it in Gra... Grissom's office. We're looking through to be sure there's not anything else from that basket someplace."

"There isn't," Greg informed him, rolling his eyes so that Nick could see it. "But go ahead. Turn it upside down. Just watch out for the tarantulas. You mess with those, it'll piss him off."

The gun dropped a little, but Nick looked unimpressed as he eyed Jack. That was why Greg loved Nick despite Nick loving women way too much for his own good. "That still doesn't tell me why you're back here."

"Looking for the brat, here. Where's Will?" Jack lifted a cigarette to his lips.

"You know, there's a no smoking policy in the lab, for a variety of damn good reasons," Greg told him. "And Gil isn't here. He said give him a couple of days, and he meant it, so why don't you fuck off back to whatever shithole you crawled out of?"

Nick leaned forwards and snatched the cigarette from Jack's mouth. "No smoking within twenty feet of the building. We have crucial evidence and explosive chemicals in here. C'mon, get out. Greg, I think Cath wanted you to get started processing swing's backlog."

"Yeah. See you later," Greg agreed, smirking as he passed by both of them. He gave a tilt of his hand to Jack and headed out into the hall. "Yo! Catherine!" No way he was brave enough to try for Cathy, especially if she was stalking around like she was just now.

"Where is he? He left ASH on the table! I'm going to kill him!" She stopped just long enough to grab Greg's shoulder, and then she was heading towards the door that Jack was coming out of with Nick behind him.

"YOU! We're cooperating with you, Agent Crawford, but if you think you can abuse me and my staff, I will have you removed from the premises!"

"Get your panties out of your ass," Jack said, and Greg figured that running was probably pretty high on his list of priorities. If that guy had any fucking sense, he'd be running, too. Obviously he didn't know about not pissing off a woman who could dance on a guy's ass in four inch heels.

"Hey!" Nick stepped between them, and there was no way that he was going to tangle with Nick. Nick looked like he could just smash the guy, even if he had completely the wrong personality for it. "Watch your mouth and act like you're as high ranking in the FBI as you are. Some people around here still respect you all -- but keep it up, and the field office ain't ever going to get as much as a hello from this city's criminalists."

Greg might have felt sorry for the guy if he wasn't being such an ass. It was clear that he was having a hard time -- whoever the woman was who had run off with Lecter was obviously important to him. There was just something about him that made it impossible to feel any sympathy, whether it was the attempts to manipulate Gil or the asinine attitude.

Crawford reached into his pocket and pulled out another cigarette, watching the three of them closely. He put it in his mouth, clamped down on it, and sighed. "Yeah. Okay. Look. I'm doing my best here, all right?"

"Then do it, and let my CSIs do their work," Catherine snapped. "Greg? The lab, please. Nick, Warrick needs you in the AV lab, and then the two of you have a DB at a nightclub -- he has the sheet."

"Yes, ma'am," Greg replied, and he was tempted to run. Any man with common sense would, so he turned on his heel and headed back towards the lab. Best to get to work and wait to see what else Catherine wanted.

"I'll come by and see you later, brat."

Greg really hated him.

He could hear Catherine saying something to Jack, something sharp. The jerk really needed to stop calling him 'Brat'. Just because he happened to be a couple of decades younger than Crawford didn't mean he was twelve, and the way he said it was insulting as all hell. He wondered how hard it would be to slip a little phenolphthalein into the guy's coffee cup. At least it would add some entertainment to the night, right? If the opportunity presented itself, he was going to do that. Until then, he could hide comfortably in his lab and daydream about going home, and read his old surfing magazines while things processed. Hopefully, Nick would come back with something for him to process and they could play Name that Chemical Compound, even if flirting with Nick wasn't half as much fun as crawling into bed with Gil.

Entirely pleased with himself, Greg strolled on towards his lab. It was going to be a really good night.

Blue Hawaiian Coffee: $40 a pound.
Cheap crappy lab coffee pot: $20 at WalMart.
Slipping a chemical laxative into a total asshole FBI agent's cup: Definitely priceless.

"You've been avoiding me." Jack had his hands stuck in his pockets when he pointed out the obvious, standing just inside the threshold of the break room. It was like having a storm cloud over his head.

"Yeah, well, all things considered, that can't come as a surprise to you." Greg rolled his eyes. "I mean, you're a pretty big asshole, and I've got to have a steady hand. Not," he continued, "that you could do enough to make them shake. You're no Gil Grissom. Plus, I'm the best damn DNA tech you're ever going to see."

"Then why're you out here in Vegas and not in a bigger city? Or the Federal lab, huh?" Jack shifted, leaning against the edge of the couch. He still wasn't smoking, but he had that cigarette in his mouth like he needed it that badly.

Greg looked at him as though Jack were stupid. Maybe he was. "First, have you taken a good look at Vegas? Considered the transient population of tourism? The amount of money that flows through here? If you haven't, you should. As for the lab where you are..." He smirked. "The fact that guys like you are there is damn good reason enough, I think."

Greg lifted the cup with the phenolphthalein in it and wasn't surprised to have it lifted from his hand.

Best. Plan. Ever.

There wasn't instant gratification, though. Jack held it, then started to gesture with that hand. "Look, kid. I know what's going on in your head. I've known kids like you. You're looking at Gil and probably thinking 'sugar daddy'. That's a bad assumption to make. You need to work the phrase 'emotional cripple' into your vocabulary, along with 'unpredictable' and 'too smart for his own good'." He gave Greg a faint sideways glance, and added, "Except you might already be familiar with it."

"I'm already familiar with a lot of things." Greg shrugged nonchalantly and reached for another cup. "Like the fact that if anybody around here is the 'sugar daddy', it's me. You've got no clue what they pay guys like me, obviously. As for stuff like 'emotional cripple', 'unpredictable' and... what was that last one? Oh, yeah. 'Too smart for his own good'." The grin that slid over his face felt vicious. He wondered if it looked that way, too. "I think you're underestimating me, and overestimating the problem at hand."

"I think I'm estimating you just right, and you're underestimating the problem at hand. All of this is going to eat away at Will, and then when you least expect it, he's going to fall to pieces. Could be a couple of weeks. Could be... tonight. Could be a couple of months, but he'll regret that he said he didn't want to help me. His internal moral code will kick in."

"I think the only person here who's gonna fall apart is you." There were a lot of reasons for that; the foremost was the very simple fact that Gil had let go of all of it. Greg had seen that. Gil had let go of it, and Jack had pulled this obsessive act of getting somebody else to do his dirty work one time too many. He wasn't going to be able to back away or to keep himself together.

He didn't have anyone or anything to fall back on, and Gil did.

It wasn't either of their faults that Jack's 'fall back on' person had left him for a serial killer. And Gil didn't just have Greg, he had Catherine and Jim, and Al, and Warrick and Nick and a whole lab of people. People who would step up for him.

Jack shot him a dubious look. "Look. Maybe you can explain to me what you think you're doing with Will."

"I don't really think you'd get it. You're not the kind of guy who can just be visible support. You always want something back out of whatever you give, don't you? From Gil. From her." Starling, whatever. "In the end, that's why they leave you."

His smile didn't falter, but it looked close to it, and he started to lift the coffee mug to his lips. Almost... And then he stopped, blowing over the edge lightly. "I just want to warn you. Will and Lecter were real close. Have you seen him falling into mimicking patterns yet?"

"All I've seen is Gil. And that's all anybody is going to see, because what you're talking about isn't going to happen. You don't seem to have any grasp of how time changes things. How twenty years without you around manipulating a guy changes things." Greg raised his cup to his mouth and took a sip, not bothering to blow on it. "You really ought to think about that sometime."

"So he hasn't started to make snap motions? I guess he hasn't broken your wrist. Yet." Jack gave him a sideways glance like he knew, and Greg suddenly wondered if he did. "Kid. Greg. I know when he's having problems, and he's having problems. He called Alan."

"I called Alan for him. And that's not your problem anymore." The wrist... Gil hadn't broken it, and Greg couldn't blame him for being startled when everything went all to shit.

He wasn't going to doubt Gil just because some manipulative asshole from the FBI said that he should. He'd admired Gil since the moment he'd started working in the lab, and he'd never seen any 'weird' behavior. Even everything that was happening now was explainable, with reasons. "It damn well is my problem," Jack said, finally taking a sip of his coffee. "My offer from earlier stands. I'll give you Molly's phone number if you want."

"I've already got it, thanks." He didn't, but Gil had made the offer. Greg didn't need to talk to her to know what was important. The person Gil had been when he had been Will and married to Molly... that person was long since gone. Mostly. At least, Greg was pretty sure. Gil was different, Gil was... Gil. Greg was sure of that at least.

Even if he was starting to smile like he had in those pictures before his life had started to fall apart, back when Lecter was a friend and Josh had been a baby and Molly hadn't had to cope with anything. Maybe that person was closer to Gil than the Will that Jack was talking about.

"But you won't call. You won't believe it until it happens and then you'll leave him. And he'll go back to the only people he knows will be there no matter what." Jack was looking damn smug, and took a deep sip of his coffee.

Greg didn't bother to stop the smile that crossed his face for two reasons. The obvious reason was that Jack was going to have the runs pretty bad in a very short period of time.

The other was Jim Brass, standing in the break room doorway.

"Yeah, well. I hate to tell you this, but Gil's got a hell of a lot more than you to be there for him, and he has had for a really long time. So you can go fuck yourself."

Jack turned his head, and offered his hand to Jim. "You must be... Captain Brass? I've been told about you." Probably in threat, linked to getting his ass thrown out. "I'm Jack Crawford, head of the FBI's Behavioral Studies unit."

"Yeah, yeah, I've heard of you. The guy who's been jerking around the whole CSI lab," Jim replied, leaning one shoulder against the door and giving Jack a faint smile. "Sanders. I think Sidle's looking for you. Something about shellfish."

Riiight. Damn, Greg wished he had something he could set up to record whatever went on when he left.

"Sidle, Sidle... have I met him yet?" Jack moved to get past Brass, plainly set on dogging Greg all the way back to his lab.

"Hm, I can't imagine Sidle wanting to meet you, exactly. You think Sanders here is scary about Grissom, you'd hate to have to deal with that. C'mon. Let's sit down and have a cup of coffee."

Greg was really glad that he hadn't laced any of the other cups with phenolphthalein, because Brass was an upstanding friend to Gil, and he didn't want to accidentally give him the shits, too. He did wish that he could linger outside the door and eavesdrop somehow, because Jack was sitting down, looking for all the world like he was willing to start trying to work on chipping away at Jim Brass. Greg sincerely hoped that the caffeine would make the stuff work faster, and that Crawford wouldn't eat anything in the meantime.

"You look pretty happy."



"Yeah, well, I just did something my high school chem teacher would have totally kicked my ass for doing, and it felt really good." Greg rubbed his hands together. "So! Got something on your mind?"

"I want the results on that vomit," she started, "And, I want to know what's going on with the FBI guy." She put a hand on his counter, and from the unhappy angle of her mouth, he was really glad that he had her results ready to hand off to her already.

"Said vomit results." Greg handed over the paper. "First I tested for the presence of shellfish -- crustacean free. And then I figured if she's hiding that what else is she hiding?"

Sara nodded. "Little lie, big lie."

"There was blood in the sample," Greg agreed. "It's not uncommon in early pregnancy due to mucosal tears in the esophagus because the woman yaks so much. So, I tested the blood for the presence of human choriogonadotropins. She is definitely with child. As for the FBI guy..." He sighed. "Personally, I think he's just sticking around to keep being an asshole."

"Why isn't Grissom here tonight?" Sara gave him a glance before her eyes dropped to the sheet he'd just handed her. "This guy is... really high up to be around here bothering us."

"Yeah, well, he was more or less bothering Grissom all day, and the guy hasn't been up and around long enough to go on one of those up for three days and nights spells that he takes on occasion." Greg shrugged. "So. He's not in for the time being. He's okay. Promise. That guy, though..." Should he say anything? "I don't think you should have anything to do with him, Sara. Just... avoid him if you can. It's just a feeling. I'd avoid him if he wasn't trying to follow me around so much."

"I'll take your word on it." She gave him a gap-toothed smile when she looked up from her paper, which was a lot less scary than she'd been towards him when everything had first started.

Maybe the Graham revelation had changed the way things fit in her head. Whatever it had done to her, Greg was glad of it, because she left with a faint wave and moved to head off Catherine in the hallway.

Man, maybe he'd handed them another case-breaker. That would totally make the rest of the night worth it in all ways.

The way the guy sipped at his coffee, Jim would have thought it was hot or something. "Does that kid always make such funny tasting coffee??"

It made Jim's brain grind to a halt for a moment before he sat back, and crossed his legs at the ankle. "Yeah. He drinks Hawaiian Blue -- forty bucks a pound, hand-picked, blah blah. It's better than him spending his pay on drugs."

"At that price, it might as well be," Jack sighed, taking another swallow. "Whatever. Doesn't taste like it's worth it. You should seriously look out for that kid. He's getting himself in way deeper than he needs to be, you know."

"Yeah?" It was a lot like working an interrogation room suspect, FBI big shot or not. If they were both playing each other over, at least Jim could amuse himself until he was paged away. "I've known Gil for eight, nine years now. I think he knows what he's getting into."

"Gil? Will might know what he's getting into, or maybe it's just one of those things that happens with him. Sometimes, I think he stumbles around blind until somebody takes pity on him." Jack's fingers twitched towards the unlit cigarette in the corner of his mouth. "The kid's going to be in serious trouble when he starts exhibiting the kinda behavior Lecter does. And it's going to happen. Happens every time they meet again."

"Huh. Now... what exactly happens? Just... you know, so I can keep an eye out." Jim took a deep drink of his coffee -- no, it tasted good, rich and warm like he expected when Sanders made a pot of coffee. So Sanders had put something in Jack's coffee.

The kid had a lot more spine than Brass had been willing to give him credit for, and he would've smiled if he wasn't trying to seem dour and serious.

"He already tried breaking the brat's wrist. It's only gonna get worse from here on out." Jack sipped again, and it was all Jim could do not to laugh. Whatever it was, it was going to be great to see. "First comes something like that. Then weird smiles and random literary quotes and that way of looking at somebody like they're the most tender bit of pork loin anybody ever saw. Then fury out of nowhere, talking to himself, yelling. And it just keeps going, until you don't even recognize him anymore."

Even if he was supposed to be working Crawford, Jim could only take so much without laughing or making some dubious facial expression. He leaned back, shaking his head. "Gil's always quoting things -- from dead writers to comics. That's not a sign of impending doom, and neither is a guy smiling."

"When you see him breaking windshields with that kid's back, don't come yelling at me that you weren't warned."

Jim snorted. "Oh, c'mon. Grissom's the peacekeeper around here. You might be FBI, but you're out of touch, and you're riling up the department. We're like... his family. You ever thought you might catch more flies with honey than by bad-mouthing a guy most of them worship?"

"You ever thought you were dealing with a guy who fucked Hannibal Lecter?"



Even if Jim hadn't already known that, there was no way any of that was called for. Even close.

"You ever thought you were dealing with a guy who had to be hospitalized for thinking too much like Hannibal the Cannibal??"

"Because you had him, what, chasing down the guy? Yeah. I've done my reading. You were the one that had 'Will' working with 'Dr. Lecter', weren't you? You hired the guy, and put Gil with him. It's not like Gil knew what the guy was doing. But bringing that up as your ace-card? It's a scummy low-blow."

"It's a fact of life. And every time since then, it's been the same thing. He always goes back to Lecter, and the same cycles switch into gear. It's the way things are. I figured you'd like the chance to warn the rest of your crew. From here on out, it's gonna get ugly." Jack drained his coffee cup, making a face once he reached the bottom. "This tastes like shit. If this stuff is worth forty bucks a pound, obviously they're slipping him something pretty bad instead of whatever they're really supposed to be selling. Stupid kid. It's gonna be the same thing with Will."

And in a way, it was, Jim figured. Gil was different now than he probably had been when he had been chasing after Lecter. Every man changed, with time. Crawford was the only one who couldn't see the change, who still held on to the old poison. Just like he was the only one with something in his coffee cup.

Shit like that wasn't coincidental.

"Look, if this is some screwed up attempt to get Grissom to go back to the FBI, it's not going to happen. He's our bug guy, and he loves his job. You give him an experiment and bam, it's like letting a kid loose in a candy store. Blood spatter, body decay, liquid nitrogen -- we had a case just last week with a guy who committed murder with a ground beef bullet. Gil had a blast figuring that one out. So yeah, he's weird. But he's our kind of weird out here. He's Vegas weird."

"You'll see." That was all the FBI guy would say, like saying it would make it come true. Like it was magic.

The faint urp and gurgle that sounded made it hard for Jim to keep from smiling.

"The only thing I'll see is that you need to do what you came here to do and then get the hell out of Dodge." It was a lot more hopeful than it was an order, because Jim was pretty sure he could only take so much more of the guy. "And you leave Sanders alone. He's a good kid, and if Gil does go flying off the deep end like you're suggesting, I think he'd go after him with a hang-glider. Good kid."

"So was his ex-wife," Jack said, rising slowly. There was the funniest look on his face.

Jim was definitely going to have to ask the kid what he had given him.

"Marriages go bad when kids die," Jim shrugged, not bothering to stand up yet. "Hell, if you hadn't stepped in, none of it would've happened, would it?"

Jack shook his head. "You just remember what I said." If he hurried towards the door much faster, he was going to trip. Jim figured he had a pretty good idea what was going on now.

Crawford probably hadn't put it together yet, that Jim's definition of 'good kid' apparently included someone capable of putting a laxative into a relative stranger's coffee cup.

Yeah, Sanders was a good kid and there was a special place in hell for guys like Crawford. He'd have to check in with Gil sometime and make sure that he hadn't gotten to him.

And if he had...

He'd just have to change Gil's mind for him. After all.

Jim was pretty sure he'd have help.

"I'm home," Greg said as he opened his apartment door, the sound of it warped amidst a yawn. Maybe he'd talked too big about being able to handle everything given enough caffeine. Especially since he'd gotten queasy sometime around the eighth double-brewed cup.

He felt like a walking poster boy for the National Coffee Poisoning Association. There probably should've been a sign under him that said 'it can happen to you'.

Coming home was better than he'd hoped for, even if he did just want to throw up, because there was Gil stretched out on his sofa, with Greg's stereo on. Things looked a little tidier than they had when Greg had left, like Gil had dusted and not moved things around so much as stacked them fairly neatly.

He could ignore the fact that his stereo was turned to NPR.

"How was it?"

"It was," Greg told him, kicking off his shoes next to the door and moving into the living room. He dropped down next to the sofa and laid his head down near Gil's hand. "I really wanted to contin..." The word was broken by a yawn. "Continue. But I think I have coffee poisoning. Must sleep now."

"You know what's good for coffee poisoning?" Gil's hand found its way into his hair, and the white noise of fingers starting to rub at his scalp was almost enough to drown out the droning NPR-voice. "Bread, a commodity you now have of a mold-free variety. I went grocery shopping."

Now, what kind of grocery store was open at 3 a.m. that wasn't a convenience store? One Gil probably could have walked to, or taken a short cab trip?

Oh. Hey. Yeah, there was a Super WalMart up the road about three blocks, and maybe a Kroger or something three blocks past that.

"Feed me, Seymour!"

Gil's fingers skirted over his ear, and then he smoothly sat up. "As long as you don't bite my hand or start demanding blood. Jim called my cell to give me a heads up that Jack was around the office today -- until a stomach flu hit him?"

The sheer innocence that glowed off of Greg's face announced his guilt. "I can't imagine what could have caused a thing like that. Maybe he had some bad Chinese. We probably should have warned him about that place close to the office, you think?" Greg reluctantly sat up with him, and stretched.

"Probably. I'll make a note to warn him off of the place." Gil was smiling when he looked down at Greg -- and then he was standing up and walking over to Greg's kitchen. "Toast, and then you can sleep. It'll counteract the coffee. I hope you don't mind that I cleaned up in here, but... It was hard to sleep."

"I don't mind." Greg yawned again, and pulled himself up off of the floor. Gil was already slipping bread into the toaster when Greg stepped around the kitchen counter. He wrapped his arms around the older man's waist for a moment, and then murmured, "I'm here now. It'll be easier to sleep with both of us, I think. Don't you?"

"Yes." He could feel Gil sigh, and lean back into him just a little. That felt nice, relaxing. Gil wouldn't mind that sleepy-Greg turned into an octopus all over him, and Greg wouldn't mind if Gil got funny and tense in his sleep.

"The first day that we're not dead on our feet, I'm taking you out."

That sounded wonderful, even if Greg had a very good idea of what that meant to Gil. "Yeah? To the place with the best rollercoaster or the best cotton candy?" he asked, teasing. One of Gil's hands touched his for a moment, and that made him relax even further.

Shifted gently over tendons and bones, that touch soothed away the tiny bits of worry that Jack had planted in his mind and he hadn't even noticed until they were gone. "I can think of a couple that have both. If you'd like that."

He definitely needed a new toaster. It smelt like it was starting to burn his bread, and it hadn't even popped it up.

"So long as we get to go on the Tilt-A-Whirl, too," Greg decided, burying his face in Gil's shoulder. Even if his toast was burned a little, it wouldn't matter much. What mattered was the here, the now. Gil. That made everything okay somehow, and Greg wasn't going to question that.

It had been a while since he'd felt that kind of connection to someone he was dating, or whatever it was they were doing. "The Tilt-A-Whirl is inferior compared to the Zipper." Gil reached out to manually pop up the toast, and then grabbed one of Greg's paper plates, moving like he was trying not to unsettle Greg while he did all of that.

"Yeah, but I like the Tilt-A-Whirl. It lets me get squished up against you. In public, even. Maybe I can even manage a..." Another yawn. "Really creative groping session," Greg murmured groggily.

"On the Tilt-A-Whirl. Huh. You're going to have to prove that to me." Just when he was getting comfortable, thinking that he liked the fabric of Gil's shirt better than he liked the weave of his pillowcase, Gil turned around and gentled him back.

"Eat this before you fall over."

"Kay." Okay, because it was a good idea. He didn't want to throw up coffee. That was a seriously nasty experience, and he hoped he didn't ever have to do that again. Eurgh. He took the toast and started with the edges. Poppa Olaf had always said that the edges were better than the inside, and that they made a kid grow strong and tall. Greg had believed it, more or less, and it was an old habit that was hard to break. He didn't figure out until he was in college that it had just been a ploy to get him not to leave his crusts all the time. He also hadn't figured out until high school that there really wasn't a birthday fairy that would take gifts away from him if he peeked at any early. Poppa Olaf had been a genius when it came to coping with Greg, and that little bit of memory made him smile while he started to eat.

Gil watched, leaning against the opposite counter, so close that Greg could smell his own shampoo on Gil. It was a good smell, not just because Greg liked it, and it kind of smelled spicy, but because the smell changed on Gil. It was different than it was on Greg, and it made him wish that he wasn't so tired or queasy. Still, he managed to finish the first piece and take a bite out of the second before he knew that he wouldn't be able to stand up much longer.

Greg put his toast down on the plate and yawned again. "C'mon. Before you have to carry me. That wouldn't be good."

"I'd probably pop one of the last stitches," Gil agreed, smirking a little as he moved in towards Greg. Then he slid an arm around Greg's waist. Yeah, that'd be nice. Guided to bed, undressed, and then tucked in. At least they'd be picking up where they'd left off eleven something hours before. It was something.

Maybe he'd even manage to steal a kiss before his eyes drooped shut and he couldn't even wrap himself around Gil before he dozed off.

"Mhm," Greg agreed, letting Gil push him towards the bedroom. If he paused to think about it, everything felt surreal, not quite together yet. He supposed it must always feel that way when everything clicked into place out of the blue. "Don' wan' tha'."

"No, neither do I." Gil sounded like himself again, easy-going and relaxed, that sharp shaky Will-edge gone for the moment, until Jack dug it out of Gil again or something else happened.

Then he was sitting on his bed, while Gil untied his sneakers.

Wow. Time jump. Greg wondered if total exhaustion was a sneaky form of time travel offered to weak humans by the gods.

...probably not.

By the time he had come to that conclusion, Gil had his t-shirt off and was tugging at the button of his pants. Any other time, that would excite him terribly. At that particular moment, it just made him want to crawl deeper into the sheets.

It was funny to think that Gil was pretty efficient in stripping a guy off, until he remembered that Gil had been a coroner once. Somewhere in his winding, multifaceted career, undressing dead weight had been just part of the job. Teasing fingers over Greg's stomach before pushing him back wasn't part of it, taking his pants down and his boxers almost with it.

"I wondered where those had gone."

"Hm?" Oh. Oh. Yeah. The boxers with the ladybugs. "Made me think of..." What? Of what? Of... "You." Greg's eyes were closed, and his mind was already sleeping. Otherwise, he would have said more.

He would have told Gil that everything made Greg think of him.

Gil kissed Greg, quick and hard, and mumbled something that Greg didn't quite hear

There wasn't any Gil for a while, and Greg was drifting by the time he became aware of the mattress shifting behind him. The stereo was off, and Gil's chest was bare against Greg's back when he moved in under the sheets, pulling them up.

"'ove you," Greg murmured, snuggling back against that warmth. It made everything just right. It made everything perfect.

When heavy breathing woke Greg up, he kind of liked it to be the 'hey, you sexy thing' kind of heavy breathing. That and suddenly being way too warm dragged him up through groggy layers of sleep and into the faked darkness that was nighttime in the middle of the day.

He'd still gone OctoGreg in his sleep, even though he'd started out with Gil secure behind him. Now he was on top of Gil, sprawled a little behind him, arms around the other man. Someone had turned on a vibrator or something under his hand, because his palm over the center of Gil's chest could pick up a pounding too-fast beat.


He wasn't stupid enough to wriggle around much, and he sure wasn't going to touch Gil anywhere below the waist. It would suck to prove that FBI asshole right in any way, shape or form. Instead, Greg wriggled loose very slowly and laid down on his back, watching Gil for a moment.

His face was contorted, pained somehow, and it made Greg want to reach out and touch his face. "Gil," he said, trying to catch Gil's attention. "Gil?"

Gil's head jerked a little, and then Gil was curling up, exhaling hard. Okay, apparently attention-getting wasn't working. Then Gil mumbled something about Canada, which made no sense to Greg. Listening to sleep-talk was pretty much an invitation for incoherency, even if Gil was going on about cold and sweaters and sweaters not stopping sharp things, just second chance body armor, unless he goes for the headshot, please don't shoot, please don't shoot.

By the time Gil's mumbling reached 'don't have body armor there', his eyes were open and definitely not focusing.

"It's all right," Greg soothed shakily. What the hell? They were so talking about this at some point so that at least he'd know what he needed to do. "It's all right, Gil. It's all right. C'mere." He needed to come here, and just not freak out much. Greg reached for him, slow and gentle, hands lingering, and pulled him close. "Shhhh. Shhhh. Close your eyes," he murmured once Gil was closer, head pressed against Greg's shoulder. "Close your eyes. 's okay. 's all right. Shhhh."

It was a lot like coaxing a cat out from under the sofa. He knew that if he made one wrong move, did whatever had set Gil off before, he'd end up with bruises, maybe worse. That snap-motion the last time Gil had done that had freaked him right out, and if it hadn't hurt so much, maybe he would have had the sense to be properly scared.

Settling Gil close, hands above the waist, seemed to help. He didn't close his eyes, and his heart was still hammering away, but he wasn't flailing. "Can't run, can't run..."

"You don't have to run," Greg whispered. "You're safe here. Safe here with me. I'll take care of it. I'll take care of you. Close your eyes. It's gonna be okay, Gil, I promise. I swear. Shhhh."

Maybe, maybe it was working. Maybe. Gil gave a hitched noise when his eyes finally half-closed, moisture beaded up on his eyelashes. Hammering pulse, unsteady breathing, but at least he wasn't looking at god knew what. "Don't go, don't... leave me here, can't just l-leave..."

Greg was almost glad that Gil twisted and buried his face against Greg's shoulder then, choking on a noise instead of more talking.

"I won't leave you," Greg promised him. He reached up his hand and stroked Gil's hair. "I won't leave you. Nobody is going to leave you. We aren't like that. We love you. I love you. I'm not going to leave you."

Greg wasn't going to leave him, even if it was breaking into his sleep cycle, and even if Gil was way too warm to be sharing a bed with just then. Gil shuddered when Greg's hand stroked through his somewhat wild hair, but then he exhaled and didn't move to attack Greg or anything.


Obviously this tactic worked, and as long as it was working, Greg was going to keep it up. "Love you," Greg promised. "Love you. I'll always stay. I'm not like anybody else. Here in Vegas, we're not like them. We're different. We all love you, and we'll all stay. Always."

He just kept it up, and Gil shuddered and exhaled and shuddered and exhaled again. And somewhere in there his heart started to slow down. So, how did Greg ask a guy what was going on if he went right back to sleep?

After a little consideration, Greg figured now probably wasn't the right time to ask that question. He'd let Gil go back to sleep, let his heart rate calm down. Then, he'd get up and do a Google search or something to try and figure out exactly what the problem was. There had to be an answer in there somewhere, right? What could he google? Nightmares, talking, possible violence? Mm, yelling, too, because Gil had mentioned that even if it hadn't happened that Greg had seen.

Not that he could do it, yet. He'd have to wait for the opportune moment when he could squirm out from under Gil. Maybe he could swap himself out for his pillow. For the time being, though, he would wait and be patient. Besides. Leaving Gil just after that would seriously hurt Greg's heart, so he couldn't do it anyway.

"It'll be okay," he promised again, murmuring quietly. "It's gonna be all right, because none of us would ever leave you. Not ever."

A little shifting, and Gil got into something like a relaxed, comfortable position. Greg's shoulder was still wet, and all the comforting words in the world hadn't eased the tension off of Gil's face. At least it was a workable kind of position -- Greg's usual position, actually.

Octopus Gil. One arm over Greg's chest, the other pinned bent beneath himself, a leg looped over Greg's.

It made Greg smile; how could it not? He knew that Gil's arm was going to be numb and tingly when he finally did awaken, and the thing to do was probably to wake him up or shift him a little so that he'd be more comfortable. He couldn't bring himself to do it, though. It was easier -- no. It was better to wrap his own arm around Gil's shoulders and close his eyes.

After all, Google would still be waiting whenever Gil woke up.

Frozen peas worked better than ice-bags. They were tiny and really molded to the shape of his face. Neither of them had been willing to test the 'steak' technique, because Gil had attested that it was messy and you only ended up smelling like raw beef.

Gil had also been apologizing nonstop. The shift before, after Gil had taken the night off, had actually been fun again -- if you called fun looking into the shootings of four Buddhist monks. Gil had gone out into the field and Jack hadn't been there the whole time. He'd been back at his hotel, sick.

This shift, now... Greg wasn't so sure how it was going to go. If luck was with him, then Jack Crawford would still be stuck in his hotel room shitting every five minutes, or too worn out to come in and bother the Vegas Crime Lab, anyway. Greg had a really bad feeling that whatever luck he had, it had probably run out the night before.

Seeing the look on Nick's face just proved that he was right. Saying that it was a long story wasn't going to work. Not even close. And if he said he had walked into a door with his face... well.

Maybe if he worked someplace where people were stupider he could get away with it. But at the police department, with CSIs? Oh, hell no. No, and how was he going to explain it?

His next door neighbor taking him aside the previous morning to voice concern about the yelling had been bad enough, because apparently the guy had heard yelling the day before and he'd knocked and for a moment he'd thought Gil was some kind of home invader person.

It was nice to have concerned neighbors, even if they were nosy. Nosy like Nick, who was re-lacing his boots. "The hell happened to you?"

Greg gave a heavy sigh. He was going to have to explain, and he didn't want to. "REM Behavioral Disorder?" he suggested. "Possibly Night Terror Syndrome. Did you know that even though people say it mostly occurs in kids three to five, it can occur as young as six months and as old as a hundred? I'm not sure which it is yet. We're gonna work on that."

Flippant and honest might work in conjunction for him to keep Nick mellow about it. Might work, because for now Nick was still staring at him -- no, his left eye . "So... Grissom hit you... in your sleep?"

"In his sleep. Actually. If you want to be totally accurate about it. Can we just tell everybody else I got into a bar fight?" Greg asked hopefully.

"Do you think that anyone would buy it?" Nick shot back; he tied his left boot in a fast knot, and then pulled the other leg up to tie those laces. "Did he drive you in today?"

"Yeah. He can hardly look at me. He's pretty embarrassed. Actually, read: totally mortified. If he apologizes anymore, he's gonna turn into an apology." Greg grimaced. "I've talked him into seeing a sleep specialist."

"Did you really, or are you just saying that because you think we'll all worry less? You're lucky Catherine's already headed back to the scene with Grissom. I don't even want to know what she'd say about that." Nick looked cute when he was pissed off, movements jerky and fast. "Look... take a break from him today, Greg. Why don't we go out, get a beer or something?"

"I'll talk to him about it." It was the best Greg could promise to Nick. After all, he had promises to Gil that he didn't want to break, starting with the promise that he wouldn't ever leave Gil alone. "It won't be a problem, so long as you take me home."

Most people wouldn't think that Greg was the kind of guy to take a promise seriously. Most people would be wrong.

It was kind of nice not to have someone underestimating him for once. Gil took what he said at face value -- unless what he said was 'you don't have to keep apologizing'. Maybe if he really over-exaggeratedly milked it and demanded to be fed ice cream while watching the Terminator movies, Gil might stop apologizing.

"Your place, or his place?" Nick asked, like he didn't ever want to deliver Greg to the boss who'd smacked Greg around, even in his sleep.

"Mine will be okay. So long as you promise to let me stop and pick up a couple of movies." After all. He had the night off tomorrow, and he was pretty sure that Gil could be totally swamped with ice cream-Terminator requests and ready to give in by the time he had to come in to work, anyway.

"What'd I tell you, brat?"

Oh, God. God, not him again.

Luck definitely wasn't with him, because Jack wasn't still in his hotel room shitting out whatever was left of his brain. Greg figured he'd run out of brains.

The door to Nicky's locker slammed, and he was in Jack's face right away. "Don't you have anything better to do than hang out in our locker-room?"

"I came to see the kid. So. Turn around. How's your eye?"

"My eye's just fine. Actually." A little bruised, sure, but it wasn't swollen shut thanks to the peas. "Nick's gonna show me the finer points of bar fighting later."

"So you might have a snowball's chance in hell of putting up a fight against Will?" Jack smirked, crossing his arms loosely over his chest. "I told you."

"I talked to Molly this afternoon. Actually," Greg said. "Apparently, this is the kind of shit that only happens when you come into the picture. So, I'm getting a clear sense that my sense of self-preservation is going to make you get lost pretty damned soon on my part."

That had been a fun conversation, explaining who he was and why he was calling and asking if it was okay to talk to her and if she didn't want to talk, he was really sorry. Greg had half-expected some demon woman, but she just seemed sad and nostalgic when she talked about 'Will' and his problems. She said that he'd been a wreck after Lecter and it had taken time and being a full coast away to undo all of that. Lecter triggered him into those problems, and so did Jack, apparently, or at least that was what she thought since the two tended to crop up in Will's life at the exact same time.

The call had taken a while, actually, because it was like she hadn't talked to anyone about any of it ever, and why not spill to a complete stranger that just happened to be shacking up with her ex-husband?

"Good luck, kid. I'm going to ask him today and I know he's going to help me. That's just how Will is. And it's a good thing for you that he will."

Greg just gave him a faint smile. "You know, one day, there's not going to be anybody willing to let you use them anymore. I wonder what you're going to do when that day comes? And who knows? It might be today. Hey, Nicky... why don't we go get some coffee?" He cast an innocent look in Jack's direction. Molly had laughed when Greg had told her about the chemical laxative he'd dropped in Jack's cup. "Want some?"

Jack's eyes sharpened as he looked at Greg. "No, I picked some up on my way in. I think there's something funny in your water."

Nick gave a rolling, easy shrug while he moved to edge Jack out of the doorway. "You get used to it when you live here long enough."

"Kind of like Mexico," Greg suggested happily. "You know, that's an idea. I hear you can get really cheap plastic surgery there. Why don't you, yanno. Hop a plane? I'm sure you'll catch up with them if you do."

"Har har. I'll catch them," Jack said as he stepped out into the hallway, letting them pass. "With the help of your supervisor."

"What's he talking about?" Nick asked as they moved away from the FBI agent.

Greg shrugged. "He thinks Gil's going to help him chase down Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling. He's wrong. That's what all of this has been about, really. Lecter and Starling wanted to send a message that they expected to be left alone. Crawford doesn't want to do that. And they all seem to think Gil's some kind of message board."

"I'm not wrong!" He probably should've waited until they were out of Jack's earshot, because for a moment it had seemed like he was going to leave them alone. Alas, no such luck because there were footfalls following them down the hallway now, even if he was scared of Greg's coffee.

"Will set himself up for all of this. I'm not the one who gets love-letters from a serial killer."

"Right. You're just the one who passes them on. What's the term for somebody like that, Nicky? Isn't it something like 'enabler'? Or, I don't know... how about 'total manipulative control freak'?" Greg asked. "Because not passing them on wouldn't help you keep him under your thumb. She told me about that, too."

"Is it my fault that he wrote back?! Did Molly tell you about that part?"

Nick was beside him when they headed into the break room. He stopped and blocked the doorway behind Greg while Warrick leaned out of the fridge with an apple in hand. He took one look at Greg and then to Crawford, and probably blamed him for the black eye. "Hey, Nicky -- is there a problem?"

"Sort of. Mr. Crawford? We don't want to hear any of this stuff. We're here to work and you're messing up our patterns. So go on home or wherever you've got to be."

Greg shrugged, almost as if saying that none of it was his fault. "You're welcome to go see him. I already know what he's gonna say, and if you're honest with yourself, you already know it, too. I'm almost sorry for you. Almost."

"Says the kid with the black eye." Jack put his hands up, like that would convey to Nick and Warrick that he didn't want to start anything. "Look, I'll talk to you in private later, Brat. You all have a nice evening."

There was no way to stop the heavy sigh that spilled from Greg's lips as the man walked away. "You know," he said seriously, "I think that the phenolphthalein obviously wasn't enough to get my point across."

"YOU'RE responsible for giving Crawford the squirts?" Warrick asked, then he laughed. "Damn, man."

Nick grinned as he folded his arms over his chest. "That's warped, Greggo. You're gonna tell me all about that over drinks."

"Cross my heart." Greg even held up his hand with three fingers. He hadn't been a Boy Scout, but he ate one, once. So to speak. In the completely innocent way that didn't make his stomach turn. Well, not innocent so much as sane.

"Great. I'm holding you to that." Nick caught the apple that Warrick tossed underhand to him, and started to move to roll into the break room for coffee.

"Hey, man -- if you want to get off work this lifetime, we've got a scene to get to," Warrick cut in. "But damn, Sanders. Congratulations on giving that guy the runs."

"Thanks," Greg called, setting up the coffee pot. It would be a good day, he decided.

It really kind of had to get better, after all.

"You look like a man who just kicked a puppy and managed to kill it," Catherine said, glancing up from the carpet. They'd gotten two prints so far, and Gil was just about to get to business with the pillows upon which four monks had been found murdered.

He'd already had the ground-breaking revelation of finding a gun in the perimeter. And though the first suspect was clearly the only surviving monk on the scene, it wasn't ringing true for Gil.

"Interesting observation for you to make." It was. And it was partially right, but he was trying hard not to let the few hours previous effect his shift.

"Yeah, well. It's been a while since I saw that look on your face, so it's obvious whatever the problem is, it's a pretty big one. Why don't you make it easy on both of us and just tell me about it? Do I have to go kill Greg?" she asked, concentrating on lifting the second print.

His head jerked slightly, but he would have sat bolt upright like a gopher if he hadn't been ready to photograph a bullet casing that was tucked under the edge of a pillow.

"No? Why would you have to kill Greg?"

"Because if you've got that look on your face, either you've done something that you feel you have to be ashamed of, or he's done something he should be ashamed of. Either way..." She shrugged. "You're my friend, Gil. You know I love you like an older brother. Somebody's got to keep an eye on you."

He took two quick, precise photos, then bent in to inspect the pillow with his flashlight. "I gave him a black eye," he said, like he was commenting that the weather was a little on the hot side.

Gil hadn't really expected to see Catherine fumble, nearly dropping the film with which she was working. "What?"

"I... gave him a black eye." Saying it again made him feel worse, while he simultaneously wished that there was something he could slip into a bindle just then. Anything so he didn't look like he was avoiding looking at her on purpose.

"Gil. Look at me." Well, it was too late to keep her from noticing that. "You. Gave Greg. A black eye. Would it be too much to ask the reason why?"

Yes, it would, if just because Gil wanted to keep some of his pride intact. Of course, if he thought he had much left to himself, then he was deluding himself worse. "It was an accident." It was a nightmare, or something, a crushing feeling that he needed to fight back against Millander, struggling to get free, to get air, to move, and... he'd moved all right. "I was asleep."

"Like when you grabbed his wrist." There was some connection being made there, and really, Gil shouldn't be surprised. Catherine was a mother, and sometimes he thought that gave women a sort of sixth sense that men just didn't have. "You were asleep both times."

"Yes." Gil scanned his flashlight over the carpet between the pillow he'd been working at, and the next. "I don't sleep easily."

"Well. I'm not surprised." She was back at work again, paying closer attention to detail now. "You know, after Eddie left... Lindsey had some problems. It was something that this counselor called night terrors. She'd wake up screaming and throwing her arms and legs around like some kind of fit, and then she'd go right back to sleep and never remember that it had happened."

"I usually remember... some of it." Elaborating was senseless and would only distract him from his careful inspection. Another case, another marking card, another photograph to take. "I've done it for years." And they ebbed and flowed, and sometimes he just had regular cold sweat inducing nightmares and sometimes he didn't dream at all.

It didn't really matter as long as he'd lived alone. And before then had been Molly. He'd broken her wrist once, and he'd taken sleeping pills or slept on the sofa for weeks afterwards. Josh had been too young to see through the lied excuse that covered it up, but her co-workers had tried to talk her into pressing charges of domestic abuse.

"Have you ever mentioned to your doctor that you've had this problem? Maybe your family history...?" Catherine suggested. "I mean, they've proven that night terrors, bed wetting and sleepwalking are all connected, and that families tend to have members who suffer from all three problems. It... Gil, it might help if you looked into it. At the very least, nobody'll get you locked up if you've got a legitimate medical problem going on."

Like he possibly could use one more genetic problem lurking over his shoulder. "Greg... has already talked me into seeing someone about it," Gil told her slowly. The third shell casing was easy to find, and so was the fourth, nearly side by side. "Once things calm down, they'll go away again."

"Yeah, well, them going away versus you doing something about it..." Catherine looked at him. Gil could feel the heavy weight of her eyes on him. "I hope you've already made the call. Geeze. That's rough. On both of you."

She had no idea, so Gil just tilted his head a little in a nod, and took his photographs of the last two shells. "We're working on it. He's... more patient than I used to give him credit for."

"Yeah, well. You and me both." Catherine gave a hard little laugh. "But there's a big difference between him and Sara, I can tell you that much. P words like patience are just the start of it."

Patient, perky, penis... "I can only think of three p-word differences, two if I don't count the obvious anatomical difference. I guess tonight won't be a good night for crosswords." It was easy to smile then, knowing that a little gentle shock like that would make her laugh.

She did, and that made everything better. "Yeah, well, that one counts, I'm pretty sure. I'm guessing it's a pretty big difference, too."

Catherine was not smirking at him like that.

Who was he kidding? Of course she was.

He straightened up, and moved towards the statues, looking for any marks that might be printable. There was blood spray on the white candles, which he'd have to swab as part of procedure despite that he knew the monk it had come from. Their murderer had been a very bloody man. "He's... a lot like Molly, actually. They got along well."

He hadn't expected that. Then again, he'd expected her to hang up right away.

"Yeah, well. Molly's not much brighter than that brat," Jack said from somewhere behind them. "You about to wrap up here so we can talk?"

Gil could see Catherine turning to fiery steel right before his eyes. It was really quite remarkable. "No. We're not about to wrap up here, and this isn't a case the FBI is involved in, so why don't you take the nearest long walk off a short pier and go f..."

"We haven't cleared the scene," Gil snapped from where he stood. It was a little malicious to shine his maglight in Jack's eyes, but it made him feel better. "Get the hell out of here, Jack!"

"Yeah, yeah. Look. We're running out of time here, Will. The longer you put me off, the harder this is gonna be on all of us in the long run."

Catherine snorted. "Read my lips. Fuck. Off."

"Stand outside, Jack, and I'll give you your answer when I've finished processing the crime scene," Gil repeated, turning his back to Jack. There was a wad of gum that looked fresh and wet, and he was tempted to deliver that to Greg personally for processing.

Come to think of it... he would. It was a firm decision. Gil was going to tell Jack to fuck off, and then he was going to take the evidence to Greg himself.

"Jesus CHRIST, Will!" Jack was spitting mad, and that wasn't much of a joke. "What the hell are you DOING?? I need you!"

"I'm doing my job, Jack. Like I've done it for the past sixteen years." He took a moment to carefully pull it off, then dropped the piece of gum carefully into the plastic jar that would keep it best. "Catherine? I'll be back in a moment -- I haven't swabbed the blood yet, but I'll get to it in a few minutes."

"Sure thing," she agreed, reaching for a swab of her own. She'd probably have it done by the time he got back.

Jack was really starting to piss him off, though. "Finally."

He took his time skirting the delicate area that Catherine had been film-lifting, and then gestured for Jack to follow him towards the doors of the temple where Gil's shoes were. "I'm not going to help you, Jack, because there's nothing I can do to help you."

"You're kidding me." It was obvious that Jack just couldn't believe it would be possible for him to say no. "You're... you're not serious. What the HELL, Will? You need to say yes. You need to for me, for you, for that kid you're beating the shit out of in your sleep!"

Except he didn't need to say yes, unless... Unless. There was only one thing that would make him change his mind, and he wasn't sure he could bring himself to even test the waters on that without Jack picking up on it and running with it.

"Why? He's going to leave me, leave us -- from Greg right on down to all of the friends I've made in this city -- alone."

"I can't believe you." Seeing Jack wilt like that... it hurt. It was obvious that Jack hadn't wanted to believe what his answer would be, and just as apparent that he had secretly known. That he hadn't really believed Gil would do it again. "I can't believe... you won't..."

Walk away again when it was so apparent, in Jack's eyes, that he needed Gil... Will. Gil reached a hand out to touch Jack's shoulder. "I'm sorry."

"Fuck you," Jack whispered. "Fuck you, and fuck your sorries." He shifted out from beneath Gil's touch, from the possibility of that touch, and turned away. "And fuck all of this, too."

It stung, and God knew why. He'd hardly been anything but a tool for Jack for so long, a friendship that fell apart under pressure and then crumbled with Will's dreams of family life. But it still hurt. "Go home, Jack. Go back to DC."

"There's nothing left in DC," Jack said, and he turned to walk away.

"Jack... What are you going to do now?" He stopped long enough to listen to Gil, to the question that Gil had to ask.

The way Jack paused made him wonder. Made him want to know. "It's not any business of yours anymore. That's it, isn't it? You're free of him. And if you're free of him... you might as well be free of me."

"But what are you going to do, Jack?" The edge of his brain supplied a thousand answers, but Jack wasn't the suicide type. No, he'd find some other way to deal with it.

"It's not any business of yours anymore," Jack said again, and he kept walking away.

He opened the temple doors, stepped out, and kept walking. The doors started to swing closed behind him, and Gil simply watched Jack tromp down the stairs and out of sight before they shut out all sight of him.

Gil wished that he could do something for Jack, force him to see sense, but... As Emerson had said, 'Nothing can bring you peace but yourself'.

Today, Greg had decided, was obviously a day for something unlike his usual musical choices. After all, a guy could become too predictable, and then where would he be? Everybody would expect him to be the one with Marilyn Manson and Black Flag blasting all the time, and today he just felt... well, perkier than that. Not Hanson-perky, which was possibly the scariest shit ever, but at least remix perky, or maybe Crystal Method perky. He was okay with that, mindless shit that got him through a variety of tasks still remaining from swing shift before he started on the stuff for night shift.

Crystal Method was a great idea, and dropping the 'Vegas' cd from his cd folder into his cd player was a good tongue in cheek feeling. Yeah, he wasn't leaving anytime soon because he knew there was nothing Jack could say that would make Gil go after Lecter.

Gil would stay if just on the basis of guilt over having smacked Greg in the eye.

Whistling along with the tune was damned near impossible, but he figured he was making a pretty good job of it. Tube. Pipette. Squeeeeze. Squeeeeze. Nucleotide extension. Oligonucleotide primer. Nod, nod, dance. Black eye? Totally nothing to worry about when compared to the joy of Gil staying in Vegas, cool DNA to test, and really fun music.

He was boogying down and getting work done fast. Maybe the busier he looked, the less likely people were to stop by. It was possible, Greg figured, that the black eye was scaring them off. A messed up wrist and a black eye in quick succession were kind of suspicious, but. That was going to be taken care of, and if it got Greg some alone time away from people for the night? A-okay.

People like Jack, who he'd gone most of the night without seeing already. So why was he walking through the halls again?

"Fuuuuck." Greg couldn't help frowning. The sight of the man was enough to ruin one hellaciously good mood, because he was bound to be heading in Greg's direction, only... he didn't. He walked right past the lab and kept going, towards Covallo's office. What the...??

He wanted to eavesdrop, but of course there was no way he could get away with it. God, he hadn't done it, had he? He hadn't talked Gil into leaving, Jack couldn't have talked Gil into leaving. But why else would he be going to speak to the supervisor who supervised all things and usually wasn't around anyway?

"Hey. That's one really pitiful look you've got goin' on there."

"Yeah, well. That jerk is back. I'm starting to think quitting would be easier than coming in to see that guy every other day, you know?" Greg grumbled, squeezing his pipette again. Jack Crawford even took the fun out of DNA sequencing. Bastard.

"He said he's leaving," Nick offered as he loomed over Greg's shoulder a little. He really wanted to snap at Nick to back up, but. "Sara's cleaning out her locker as we speak, Greg."

"...huh?" Greg knew he was gaping like a fish, but he couldn't stop himself anyway. "What do you mean?"

"He's taking Sara with him." Nick repeated it, but wow, it wasn't sinking in to his brain yet.

How the... There was no way she'd say yes so fast unless he'd talked to her about it and he'd been waiting around for her answer, too.

"I told her," Greg said. He felt stupid. "I told her she should avoid him. That he was just gonna cause trouble." Trouble like this, Greg hadn't really figured on, but still. Still.

God. He should call Gil, just to see what happened or to find out if Gil knew or... But it was during work hours, and Gil had been trying hard not to let personal stuff invade too much on work hours. Someone should talk sense into Sara, though, and it wouldn't be Greg.

"I told her he was bad news and just... a scummy guy, but... Greg, you and me, we chose to move here to Vegas 'cause the job looked great or we wanted to leave something behind or just. You know. Set out. Sara came to Vegas because Grissom asked her."

"Yeah," Greg replied. He had to think about it, seriously think about it, and he wished that she would, too. Sara came to Vegas for a pretty stupid reason. She was leaving it for one that was even more idiotic, but telling her that would be useless at this point.

After all, Gil had asked her to come to Vegas, and she had, and she'd stayed -- and now that he clearly wasn't going to sleep with her, she was high-tailing it out of there. That was kind of messed up if he thought about it. He'd moved to Vegas because it was Vegas, and he wanted to try living away from his family, and the pay had been amazing. And, Vegas. The novelty of living there probably wasn't ever going to wear off. It was like living in the most whacked out part of New York all the time.

"We're going to be short-handed for a while," Nick noted, tipping his head to look down at Greg's pipettes. "Grissom knows already, right? He's not leaving, too, is he?"

"He doesn't know," Greg said, shaking his head. "But he's not going anywhere. That's why that asshole is taking Sara with him. Gil's tired of being used. It took him a long time to get that way. And there's another girl..." Woman. "Another woman. She got tired of it, too. So. Maybe he needs people like Gil used to be. Like Sara is." And that made Greg deeply sad.

"What happened to the other agent that was... after Gil?" Nick was probably going to ask him questions after beer and probe a little, but he seemed to be doing pretty well with the whole 'My Boss Is Gay With My Best Friend And Used To Be A Scary FBI Guy' thing.

When his printer started to fire one off, Nick wandered back a little. It was nice to get space again, space to think and work in.

"I'll tell you about it later," Greg promised, and he would. He wasn't so sure about getting that beer with Nick now, because Gil was going to need somebody pretty badly. Greg had never been the kind of guy to give up and abandon things just because they got hard. After all, if he was, he would've been out of there like a shot after having been in the same room with Hannibal Lecter. God, he'd never been that scared in his life, and that included facing down and killing Millander. That was hard. Things with Gil weren't exactly a cakewalk, but there were a lot of upsides and random things that made it worthwhile. After all, shit couldn't keep happening for forever.

What could keep happening forever were things that made him happy. Gil rescued a stick bug from Greg's amazingly tiny porch, and had used wet toilet paper to wrap a splint on its body. So now there was a bug out on his porch with a little tiny cast, which was the funniest thing to think of.

"Okay. These my results, Greggo?" Nick picked up the paper that the printer had spit out.

"All yours," Greg agreed, nodding. "Hey, Nick?"


"Would it be really wrong of me to ask you for that beer after you get off work tomorrow instead of today?" Greg tipped his head to the side. "It's okay if you say no. I'll find a way." Really, that was what all of this was about, in the end. Finding a way.

Making a way.

Making things right, maybe even. Like that stick bug and its cast.

"No, it's cool." Nick glanced through the wide glass window to peer over at the closed office door that Crawford had disappeared into. "It looks like I'm going to be pulling a double anyway. But I'm upping the ante to a couple games of pool, too." Nick circled around him, and gently patted his shoulder. "Take care of yourself."

Greg grinned at him. God, it was good to have friends. "Promise," he said.

And he'd keep that.

He'd make sure of it.

"You're going by the DNA lab," Catherine announced, handing over their various bindles. "I'm going to take the shoe prints and see if Warrick can give me a hand with them. That'll be a start, anyway."

"Coincidentally enough, I was already planning on heading by the lab." It had taken a while for them to process the scene itself, and then longer to look around the place. There had been a Britney Spears album in the office, along with a porno magazine, but something about it felt... non-probative.

Gil needed to stop feeling and just go back to thinking.

"And Gil?" Catherine said, smiling at him. "I'm pretty sure he's still going to be crazy about you. Black eye and all."

Comments like that were almost enough to make him drop the paper evidence bag he was holding. What was he supposed to say to that? Yeah, he was pretty sure about that, too, even if it meant that Greg was probably insane. Yeah, he wasn't sure what he was going to do to make it up to Greg, but he was going to do something

Anyone who could talk to Molly for an hour and a half and then hug him that tight wasn't going to go away. Even if it had been the most nervous 'I'll just research this on the internet' hour and change of his life -- hearing half a conversation and waiting for the moment where Greg's facial expression made that gentle shift from 'I'm okay with you' to 'I'm evicting you from my sofa starting now'. Not that it had happened. No, Greg had done a lot of laughing and Gil hadn't asked him what he knew now.

It had just seemed to be enough.

"Mm. I'm still going to have to make it up to him."

The way Catherine grinned at him was just a little scary. At least, it would be if he wasn't fairly accustomed to it after so long. "Well, it just so happens that I have a really good idea of the best way to go about it," she said, and that twinkle in her eye was definitely the beginning of something that was going to get him out of trouble. Or maybe it was just going to get him into it.

Gil locked the doors to his Tahoe, and looked at her across the hood. "Go on..." Before parking lot conversation, a time-honored tradition, became fodder for the lab hallways, where very little talk was held sacred.

"You remember how I told you once that Eddie always used to buy me lingerie for our anniversary?"

"When Portia Richmond was murdered."

"Right," Catherine nodded. "Well... it's okay to have time-honored traditions when asking for forgiveness, too, you know. And early on?" She leaned across the hood a little. "Sex works best."

She was trying to scandalize him, and that made him smirk faintly as he was walking away. "And here I spent years going to baseball games with Molly. If someone had just told me that sex works best..."

Gil was suddenly very glad that he was carrying the evidence, because he had a feeling that Catherine would've pinged the back of his head with something for that. Instead, she laughed, and wrapped her arm around his shoulders as they headed inside. "Yeah, well, I'm telling you now. So. Go home. Fuck your brains out. Fuck his brains out. It'll do you good. Just... don't pull anything."

He started to answer her, then started to laugh, because the first thing that came to his mouth was 'I think I'm out of sick-leave, so I'll have to be careful'. "I'll keep that in mind." It was good to have friends, it was good that Catherine had just taken all of the knowledge she'd learned and had coped when Gil had been expecting to be rebuked, loathed.

Now Jack was gone, which meant life could return to bugs and battles with paperwork while trying to work out who had murdered four monks in prayer. That sounded good to Gil, just like Catherine's suggestion warmed him somewhere. The vague thought of lying on his back with Greg over him brought a faint flush of heat to some very interesting places, and that would probably be embarrassing if he kept it up. Instead, he tucked that thought into the back of his mind, and followed Catherine into the lab.

No thinking about sex until he left the lab, because he had swabs for Greg to deal with, and things to send over to trace, and evidence to sift through. Later... he could entertain those thoughts. Entertain the reality, because he was... fairly sure that Greg would like to. Sure from both innuendo and passing suggestions that neither of them had gotten much opportunity to act on.

"Grissom! Can I... talk to you for a minute?" Sara was coming up the back hallway, carrying her change of clothes duffle and her kit.

"Sure. Wait for me in my office, and I'll be there in a moment."

"I kind of mean now," she said, shifting from foot to foot nervously. "I don't have a lot of time."

There was something in her tone that made him pause, and hold the evidence bag out to Catherine if she wanted to keep walking. "... All right. What's going on?"

"I just wanted to say goodbye. Before I leave."

Before she...

But Gil was sure. He was sure that she had taken back her resignation. Hadn't she?

He wasn't sure if Catherine were standing there still or not, because he still had the evidence bag, and... And he knew he was staring. "Where are you going? Sara, I thought we'd talked about this..."

"Well. You talked, and I... had to make a decision." She gave a shrug. "I can't be here anymore, Grissom. You know why." Greg. She didn't have to say it, or to say that she had wanted to be the one that Gil thought he might love. He knew. "I've had another offer, and it came at the right time, so."

Within two weeks, within that magic window, that she could up and --

He stared at her when it sank in with the force of a test dummy being dropped onto his head from the top of a hotel. "Crawford. Sara, you can't go with him, he's not..." Not looking out for your best interests, for anything but himself and getting Clarice back.

He was going to do the same thing to Sara that he had to both of them, and in the end, she'd just be used up and broken somewhere, even more than she already was.

"I'm a grown-up," she told him seriously, chin notching upwards. "And I can make my own decisions. I have an opportunity to take, and I need to take it. I just... I wanted to say goodbye."

He knew that determination, remembered it painfully well. "If you ever need help, Sara... You know how to find me." Or she would, once Jack taught her some ropes. She'd know that she could look up William Graham and find Gil Grissom's current residence because he was always, always a possible suspect in helping Lecter stay on the lam, he was always a resource.

And she'd know, when Jack broke her and let her drift off, what he meant by 'if you ever need help'.

"I hope I won't ever," Sara murmured, "but... I appreciate the offer. And I'll remember it."

Catherine was close, but she had kept quiet the entire time, up until that moment. "Why don't you come to the break room for just a minute? I'm sure everybody else might like to say goodbye."

"I... I can't," Sara excused. "I've got a flight to catch."

She couldn't face them, bailing that quickly. It was the best way to make a drastic decision, though -- fast, quick, never look back. Get on a plane and move to the other coast. Gil stepped forwards, and gave Sara a one-armed hug. "Good luck, Sara. You're more than brilliant enough to work there."

"Thanks." The sound was muffled against his shoulder, and he could feel her shaking, feel her wanting to come closer to him. Overwhelming sorrow spilled out between them for a moment, and then he pulled away, and he realized that most of it had been her own. "Maybe I'll come back sometime."

"Please, do. Maybe you could take over the field office here some day." His mouth twitched -- no, she was pigeonholed. She'd be an investigator and she'd ride the ups and downs of the work and when the track finally ran out for her, she'd never see it coming. There was nothing he could do about it but let her go, just as there was nothing he could do but say no to Jack, finally.

"Bye." Lingering, yes, but she had to go or she'd miss her flight. Sara had said as much. She waved a hand at him, and turned to walk away, leaving Gil alone with Catherine for a moment.

"You gonna be okay?"

He was scared for Sara's sake. Desperately, inexplicably scared, because he knew what had happened and what would happen -- the only thing that would set Sara free would be if Jack died of lung cancer or high blood pressure. Will had tried to get Jack to quit smoking when he'd done it, and it hadn't worked. If he was resistant to change, then Jack was the immovable object that change had to stare in the face.


"C'mon." Catherine laid a hand on his arm. "Let's go by the DNA lab first. I'll walk with you."

She wasn't going to get much out of him. He'd had hopes for Sara, for Sara's sake. He had hoped that she'd stay in Vegas, learn more, maybe take over a shift with time. Go to another big city, just because she wanted to move.

Gil had made that move before, to get away from something, and he didn't like to think that this time he was her reason for running right into a deal with the devil.

Sara was gone.

Sara was gone, and Gil seemed pretty much okay with it.

In fact, Gil seemed a whole lot more worried about Greg's black eye than he did about Sara leaving, which was pretty much okay with Greg. The only thing that would be more okay would be breakfast, lube, and...

"Got my results yet?"

...getting off of work. Which sounded damn good, right at the moment.

Catherine wasn't wearing her lab coat, so she was definitely jonesing to get the heck out of there. And how could he blame her, when the thing he wanted to do the most was to bolt? Except for the fact that he had no car to bolt off in. When he had things wrapped up, he was going to hide in the locker-room until Gil came to get him. No way was he getting pulled into a shift and a half, even if overtime was fantastic.

So, Catherine's results. Four monks, one fresh piece of gum that didn't match any of them.

He did, however, have something else for her.

"Well, there's nothing on the gum. That is to say, I don't have results yet except that it didn't belong to any of the monks. However, I do have something here that might very well interest you." He tugged a paper out of the printer and handed it over. "Results from the colored material found at the crime scene. It's from a paintball gun."

"Paintball." She looked at him, and he could see her face when she made the connection between paintball shooting and killing, because, hey, Greg had done it. "Paintball. I guess it's better than a shooting range. Now we have something to go on -- thanks, Greg."

"No problem." He waved and watched her walk away. Fifteen minutes. Just fifteen more minutes and then he could go home, and Gil could go with him, and he could stop thinking about all of the ways to come up with lubricant using the chemicals in his lab. It would have to be water-based, of course. Even if he ever did make it, Gil would probably never let it get within ten feet of his groin, either side.

If he thought about it optimistically, it was fifteen minutes in which he could think of how to get Gil into bed in the most euphemistic of terms. That included all of the best ideas about how to get him there, up to and including a particularly dirty little thought involving Japanese rope bondage and anime, which really had no place in any Grissom fantasy in which Greg wanted to indulge, if he got right down to it.

On the other hand, any fantasy could be infinitely improved via the addition of Gil, or so Greg thought, and he had a lot of fantasies, which he might get to later or not, but. But, there were simple things like deciding how best to get Gil to say 'yes' and also whose apartment to go to for breakfast and whether they'd actually get to eat eggs and drink coffee before Greg just couldn't stand it anymore and had to jump Gil's ass, which was just what he planned on doing. He was going to pin Gil down, and get him moaning over something great. His brain kept skipping back to Gil tied to his own bed, with a gun up his ass, and then his brain kept reminding him that that memory wasn't so very old. A little shy of a month.

A lot could happen in a month, had happened, but. He still wanted to be careful. Which kind of ruled out going back to Gil's place.

It was a good thing they had changed sheets at his place, Greg decided, mouth turning up in a smile. It was an even better thing that he knew he thrashed in his sleep and had therefore bought a really big bed, even if it took up most of his tiny apartment bedroom.

"Yanno, smiles like that completely give away what you're thinking."

Oh, caught out. Except he did have lube. He just needed to covertly buy condoms, because he was pretty sure his had expired. It was lame when a guy hadn't gotten laid in so long that his penis gloves went bad.

"Man, you should start to clean up in here. Beat the clock for once. I passed Griss in the parking lot..."

Nick had seen Greg-the-Whirlwind at least as often as he had seen Greg-the-Octopus, but even Nick was probably surprised at the way Greg put everything back into place, carefully (carefully!) putting the very few backlogged items that were still in his tray from swing shift away. He noted that all of his results for their shift were in place and easy to be found and breezed past Nick so fast that Nick was probably going to be calling him Hurricane-Greg soon. "Bye!"

Hurricane Greg was going to blow right through to the locker room where he was comfortably sure that there would be no evil shadow from Gil's past lurking in the doorway, calling him a brat. There would be no Sara smiling at him or looking sad or pissed off or stressing Gil out with uncomfortable overtures. There would only be the lab, and Gil trying to find a new CSI hire and apologizing for Greg's black-eye, which really hardly hurt at all. Gil's promise to see a sleep specialist in addition to that psychiatrist he had called did a lot to make it hurt less, actually. Even more than the frozen peas, and by the time Greg managed to shed his lab coat and do a quick clothes-change, he was nearly running full force.

"Where's the fire?" Warrick called as Greg nearly ran into him on his way out the door.

"No fire! Gotta go!" he yelled, waving. He was going to find Gil before Gil could even get far. Too far. He was running to the door when he thought to turn around because Gil was in mid-turn heading the other way like he'd been heading to fetch Greg. "Hi!"

Seeing Gil was nearly enough to make him stop in his tracks. More than nearly enough, because he did slow down so that he didn't blow right into the older man. Gil looked incredible. He looked like Gil, not like that tortured person who was somewhere between Gil and Will.

Gil was comfortable in his own skin. Zen-like comfort with his habits, his weirdness, himself. He wasn't the fittest guy ever, but he was less shy and probably had a better self-image of himself than a hottie like Nick. The Will thing had thrown him for a loop, stretched him out of the person he was, and... It just hadn't been right. Greg was really happy that with Jack gone, it'd be all Gil all the time, and no one telling him he had to be anything else.

"You're already ready?"

"I'm so ready," Greg told him, beaming. He could feel his face stretching out into a huge smile. "What do you think about stopping by the store for some breakfast and supplies on the way back to my place?"

"I think it's a great idea." Gil slid an arm over his shoulder, smoothly turning him around so they were both heading towards the door now. "How was the rest of shift?"

"Long. Pretty cool. I really loved the paint ball transfer." He really loved the way Gil was so effortless, too, like wrapping an arm around Greg's shoulders was just the perfect way to be, the perfect way for them to be. "I got through all of the night shift work and managed to get through most of the stuff swing had still sticking around."

"You know where the back-log starts, don't you? Dayshift. Their day DNA guy isn't half as good as you." Gil moved just ahead a little, so he could hold the door open for them both. He must have left his briefcase and his kit in the Tahoe, and that was okay. He'd been on the run most all of shift.

"Best DNA tech you'll ever see," Greg promised, a faint echo of something he'd said to Jack Crawford days before. "That's okay. It means I don't have time to goof off as much as I might want, and that's good. I mean, you've already caught me dancing around in a showgirl headdress and I'm sure you'll catch me doing worse stuff before it's over. At least you haven't found me making lube in the lab."

It made Gil pause for a moment, mouth twitching. "See, you tell me that, and I know that you've at least contemplated trying it. If I were a good supervisor, I should be unhappy to know that."

"You're a great supervisor," Greg disagreed, "because contemplating pretty much anything is cool with you, since no knowledge is ever wasted." The click of the Tahoe locks sounded loudly.

Gil only went on in agreement, and loosened his faint grasp on Greg. He was going to have plenty of time later to get really close. "I wonder if you could make it with what you have in the lab. What would you start with?"

"Deionized water," Greg decided as they parted ways. "Then I'd move on to.... oh, sorbitol. Glycerin, tocopheryl acetate. After all, most good lubes have at least some of that stuff in them, right?" He opened the door on the passenger side and climbed in.

Gil opened the driver's side door, and dipped his head a little when he slid into the driver's seat. He closed the door behind him in the same motion, like ht was trying to smoothly be in a hurry. "Some, but you'd also have to work out how much of each ingredient. And you'd need a preservative..."

"And it would really be a whole lot easier to grab lube and condoms when we buy breakfast stuff." Nope. Greg was not blushing. Okay. Maybe he was blushing a little, because he hadn't intended to announce his plans quite like that.

There was one lingering moment where Greg wondered, in the brief silence, just how Gil would react. He seemed great with hand jobs and petting and things, but... But, sometimes guys were hinky and weird and who knew?

Gil was probably weird the whole other way, because he'd fucked Hannibal Lecter. Been fucked. Greg never wanted to figure out that dynamic, because Jack had seemed happy to rub Gil's face in it in front of Greg or anyone willing to listen. Friends like that, a guy didn't need enemies.

"Do you have a preferred brand?"

"I've always been kind of fond of whatever brand you could grab at the local corner store, mostly," Greg admitted slyly. "I usually don't need them often enough to keep them in the house, so it's a matter of grabbing a three pack when you need 'em. We can take a peek and see what there is at the store. Half the fun of condoms is picking them out together in public."

"So is the other half of the fun actually putting them to use, or the look on the clerk's face where they get embarrassed on your behalf?" Gil twisted like Greg was used to by now, looking behind him before he backed the Tahoe out of his parking space.

"The look on the clerk's face," Greg decided, giving a sly glance at Gil. "After all. Once you get them home, that's a whole different kind of fun."

"We're going towards your apartment, right?" That was Gil's 'just making sure' voice as he turned around again and returned Greg's sly look with a smirk.

Oh, yes. He was going to get laid!

"Yeah, well, I did wash the sheets and everything." A demure answer, sure, because he could afford to give it. The flirting was another part of the fun. "So, what do you want for breakfast?"

"That depends if I'm making it or you are. I could always supervise you making something, but... I don't think we'd actually get to the eating part." No, the two of them close-range in the kitchen tended to involve accidental brushing turning to touching turning to hey, the stove's on fire but do that again.

"In other words, it would be highly expeditious to go ahead and buy microwaveable breakfast burritos?" Yeah, they could do that. "And therefore our main purpose is no longer food. Wow." Wow. He was seriously going to have to go over all of the properties of Polysorbate 20 to try and get his erection to fade before they went inside.

It was very possible that Greg was going to have to walk into the store popping a woody.

"Just tell me where you want me to stop." Gil looked thoughtful as he cruised through a light that turned yellow when it was way too late to break. "Something else we should get -- hemorrhoid cream to take down the swelling around your eye."

"Well, that's gonna get some serious looks," Greg snickered, leaning his elbow against the door to prop his head on his hand. "I can't wait to see what that gets us. We could probably give it a skip, you know. It's not swollen that bad, and it's even turning yellow at the edges already."

"Trust me when I say it'll draw it down even more. Jim swears by it, and I have to agree." Jim was the kind of guy who'd probably had enough black eyes to test every trick in the book. It made Greg wonder just how Gil had tested it. There was a story that didn't seem ominous, Greg could tell just by the easy tone of Gil's voice.

"You agree," he said, giving Gil a look of disbelief. "And you agree because... why, again?" This had to be a pretty fun kind of thing to hear. "Don't tell me you've had a black eye and I missed it."

That smirk was on Gil's lips while he coasted to a stop at a red light. "For my fortieth birthday, Jim and Catherine and some other friends of ours took me out on a bender. I can't exactly remember all of the details, but I woke up in Al's living room with his terrier sitting on my chest and a black eye. Catherine was passed out upside down in the lazy boy, and Jim spent a week shaking his shoulder out like he'd dislocated it. None of us are really sure what happened, and Al's never said. He's probably planning on withholding information until I turn fifty."

"And even then," Greg considered, grinning at Gil. "He probably won't tell you until the morning after that one so that he can be sure you'll go on another." He seriously considered the matter. "Upside down? Wow. That must have been one hell of a party."

"If only any of us could remember it?" Gil chuckled quietly. "But, that's how I know the effectiveness of hemorrhoid cream for black eyes. A year before that, I used Jim as a test dummy, trying to timeline a black eye to determine how many days before time of death this person had been in a fight, and if that contributed to his death."

Greg almost felt sorry for Brass. Almost. Instead, he laughed, unable to stop himself. "Yeah, and you've been buying him hemorrhoid stuff ever since to make up for the fact that he had to go without it for your research, right?"

"Nope. He actually hasn't held a grudge against me about any of the things I've had to use him for to prove a point." Gil slowed down a little, and gestured to the grocery store that was coming up. "There?"

"Yeah. That one will do," Greg agreed. There was a tingly feeling in the pit of his belly -- nerves, excitement, something -- that had been set off by what was happening. What was going to happen. What he wanted, more than anything, and had for... maybe forever, even if he hadn't really recognized it as such for a long time. "They make great breakfast burritos," he teased.

"That's good to know, since that's our main reasons for stopping." Gil was going along with it with a laugh, too, easy and comfortable. Greg needed to get a cell phone that took pictures, because it'd be worth it just for moments like that. Gil laughing, the moment that the clerk looked at everything they were going to get and then looked at them and made some mental leap.

He wondered if he had ever really been in love before now, and he was pretty sure that the answer was no. Greg had thought he was a time or two, but... Nothing had ever felt quite like this, like sitting beside Gil while he parked that big-ass SUV that took up twice as much space as Greg's Jetta. Nothing felt quite like seeing Gil laugh. He was pretty sure that when things settled down, they'd probably have some spectacularly stupid fights. Eventually, Gil would need to face The Spare Room in his townhouse, and all sorts of other things, things that Greg didn't think about because he was getting out of the SUV.

Gil was just grinning slyly as he waited for Greg to catch up. "Shall we split up?"

Greg raised an eyebrow. "You just want me to get the hemorrhoid cream," he declared, giving a false huff. "Fine, fine. But you have to meet me by the penis gloves."

That threw Gil for a moment, and he lifted an eyebrow at Greg from behind his sunglasses. "Penis gloves? Don't tell me you double-wrap."

"Would I do a thing like that?" Innocence glowed from Greg's face. Gil knew he double-gloved in the office, after all. He wasn't stupid enough to double-glove his dick, though. "I'll meet you at the penis gloves. Unless," Greg shot a sly glance towards him, "you want to go there first."

Gil let him walk through the automatic door first, shaking his head. "I'll meet you there." So, Gil was heading to get food-stuffs, and Greg... Greg was left with Operation Hemorrhoid Cream.

It was going to be a great morning. He loved doing stuff like that. In college, one of his girl friends hadn't wanted to buy her own condoms, so he had done it for her, strolling in and discussing the virtues of each one so that everyone near him could hear. This was going to be a lot like that. The best part was that Gil was going to meet him there and he was unashamedly mischievous enough that he'd happily join Greg in doing that. He'd always wondered what Gil did and was like in his free time, and now he knew.

It was going to kill him never to mention it to anyone but Nick.

Ah, well. Sometimes a guy had to make sacrifices, and he might as well start with this one. "Hey," he said to the pharmacist on duty as he strolled into her section. "I'm looking for the Preparation H. Where does that hide?"

Unfazed, she glanced at him for a moment, and then gestured to the nearest aisle. "They're under the sprain creams." Well, he had that at home already.

Sometime, he was going to talk Gil into the best late-night grocery store trick ever, getting a small pile of grapes, one large banana, a jar of Vaseline and a package of condoms.

"Thanks." He waved at her and moved in the direction indicated, grinning as he realized that it was right next to the condoms and lubes, too. Made sense, he supposed, since he could see Miconazole sitting right next to it. They might as well put up a big arrow.


Then, nobody would ever have to ask that question. Not, Greg supposed, that most people would. Most people, he figured, would slink around until they figured it out on their own, and take forever.

Most people would stalk the aisles in embarrassment for hours, moving too fast to really see what they were looking for. You couldn't do a drive-by hemorrhoid cream buying, or anything else like that. People, Greg decided as he picked up Preparation H, were weird.

Maybe he should get the extra strength. He wondered if that would make the swelling go down even faster. It was something to think about, anyway, so he lingered there. After all, it wasn't like he had any place to go or anything to do except wait for Gil and breakfast, right?

He was starting to compare the chemical compounds between the two by the time that Gil rounded the corner with a plastic box in hand. "Ready made and not in a plastic wrapper."

"Awesome. We can eat on the way home." Greg's stomach rumbled faintly. It was definitely time for breakfast. "I'm debating between regular and extra strength. Do you think it makes a difference?"

"There isn't a difference, You leave it on for ten, fifteen minutes, then rinse it off." Gil gave a shrug, eyes drifting towards the condoms that they were really there for. If either one of them had some, they would have already been back at Greg's place, breakfast be damned.

"Hey, cool. Look at these!" Greg picked up the first pack that he saw that seemed kind of neat looking. "Microthin with AQUALUBE," he grinned, offering the box to Gil. "That sounds interesting. Next time, we should do research first. You think?"

"We can do research here," Gil suggested as he reached for a pack of those, and then another pack from two display pegs over. "Do you have any preferences?"

"The thinner ones?" Greg shrugged and watched him. "Lube is good, but we probably ought to get some extra." He had some in his bathroom, but he wasn't one hundred percent certain that he had enough. "The wetter, the better. Isn't that what they say?"

"I wonder who this 'they' is, but yes. I don't think there's such a thing as using too much." Gil was looking at the backs of the two boxes that he was holding, sunglasses pushed down so he could see better. He was really trying to decide which one seemed best, and it was cute to see that kind of concentration over condoms.

Greg was the luckiest guy ever. "Look at this one," he said, picking up a third box. "It's got a variety in it. Looks like one of every kind they make. Want to see if we can try them all?" he teased. He knew better. Gil wasn't that old, but even when Greg was eighteen, more than three times in a night was about one time too many.

Gil looked sideways at him for a long, long moment, enough to make him want to laugh again. "... Today? I know you have tonight off, but I have to be able to walk into the lab..."

There was no way to stop the smirk spreading over Greg's face. "Well, there's always tomorrow morning. A guy can be hopeful, right?"

It didn't look like Gil was going to argue, because he carefully put the other two back, and reached to take the sampler from Greg. "We'll eventually use them all. Right?"

"And decide which ones we like best and get more." Definitely time to be hopeful. "Now we just have to choose some lube and maybe go pick up a banana or two. That really ought to get a reaction."

Breakfast burritos were perfectly safe and innocuous, but the condoms, lube, hemorrhoid cream and bananas would be a trifecta, no, a quadfecta of implicative evil. Was quadfecta even a word?

"Greg, I'm willing to follow your lead on a lot of things. But, you're going to have to explain the banana to me."

That brought outright laughter. "Well, we could go for cucumbers instead. It's all in what you imply," he promised. "And it's kind of fun, right?" It was the kind of fun that would probably drive a CSI researching Greg's movements and purchases absolutely nuts. WHY did he buy the banana? To get a reaction. It would be hard for anybody to guess that, though.

"Now I understand." Gil took the hemorrhoid cream from Greg, balancing it on top of the box of their foodstuffs along with the condoms. "Just one banana, though. Otherwise they'll think we're making fruit salad."

"One banana," Greg promised as they strolled towards the end of the aisle. "Maybe a cucumber, too? They're good if you grate them up into plain yogurt. There's this stuff called raita. I'll make some later," he promised. "You'll like it."

"Does it involve the stove?" Gil teased gently. "You'll have to show it to me."

"No stove. All raw vegetables and stuff." That was a promise, and it would be easy enough to make while Gil would be at work. It would give Greg something to do besides linger in bed and wait for him to come home, anyway. It would give them a chance to switch off who made whatever meal it was they ate, too. Gil was a moderately good cook, and Greg was never going to think about where he'd learned to cook or from whom he had or hadn't gotten pointers.

"Okay. Then, we'll get a cucumber and a banana. Anything else that we'd need...?" Fruits and vegetables were up front, diametrically opposed to the section for pharmaceuticals and shampoos, so they were practically there already.

"Nothing that can't wait until later," Greg promised him. He paused and glanced around until he saw the biggest cucumber he could find. "Ah!"

Man. He wouldn't want that stuck up his ass, covered in a condom and lubed up or not. It was pretty obscene for a cucumber, maybe twice the size of the yellow-green banana that Gil picked up.

"Ready to go?" he asked, raising both eyebrows. Greg didn't know about Gil, but he was still having trouble with keeping his erection from popping up in a really obvious way, so the cashier was probably going to totally freak out when she saw them.

"After you." Gil inclined his head slightly, somehow balancing the armful that he was carrying. Greg was half-waiting for him to drop something -- maybe after years of juggling things in the lab he had developed a sixth sense for not dropping things or a gravity defying power. Yeah. That was a pretty funny thought; Gil the superhero who defied gravity with his super-powered lab techniques.

Greg seriously had to stop downloading anime.

"Do you need me to take anything?" Greg asked politely, eyeing the open checkout lines. There was one there with hardly anybody in it, which was pretty okay for nearly nine in the morning on any given day.

"The banana?"

"Ahhh. Yeah. I know how you love bananas." He murmured that as they stepped up to the conveyor and gave the cashier a bright smile. She couldn't be more than twenty-three, he figured, and as Greg unloaded Gil's arms, her eyes got wider and wider. "And you know how I like cucumbers. Here. Let me have the hemorrhoid cream."

Gil let him take that, then set down the box that held breakfast and left the condoms and lube on top of it. "You got the usual brands -- good."

The cashier stared at them like she'd completely forgotten her script, and Gil was deadpanning while he reached into his back pocket for his wallet. "Uh, did you find everything okay?"

"Well, you didn't have any Elbow Grease Hot, but I figured the KY Warming would be okay. Don't you think?" Greg asked brightly. "I mean, it's got all the necessary properties, anyway, right?"

"Uh..." Sometimes, a clerk went right along with it and laughed, but it was probably too early in the morning for that one. "I guess so...?" She put the cucumber on the scale and punched in the code for it, eyes shifting between them.

"I love cucumbers. How about you?" If Greg grinned any wider, his whole face was going to be taken over by mouth and teeth. "Bananas have a certain appeal, though, don't they? I mean, you know, what's that song? Ah. 'So Round, So Firm, So Fully Packed', isn't it?"

"I prefer bananas. There's a reason why the Preparation H is yours," Gil finally smiled as he watched the girl weigh the banana quickly. She barely scanned in the condoms, hands flying by then.

"Well, what can I say? I like cucumbers," Greg reiterated.

"That'll be seventeen sixty-four," the cashier squeaked out, her entire face crimson.

A twenty was presented to her as Gil grinned at Greg. "I know that and so does everyone at work. If Nicky finds another one in the freezer, I don't know what he'll do..."

"Probably yell," Greg said with a straight face, "like he does when he finds your little..." He coughed. "Er, experiments?"

"Here's your change!" Their change and then some, it looked like.

"But you gave us back three dollars instead of two..."

Gil held the extra dollar back to her. "You don't want your drawer to come up short."

The girl looked like she was going to die right in front of them. "Th...thanks," she managed to say, obviously not wanting to touch their bag despite the fact that the items in it were fairly innocuous in their own way. "Have a... whatever."

"Nice day," Greg filled in for her, grabbing the handles of the plastic bag. "See you later!"

"You have a good day." Gil added that. And...

One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, out through the sliding double doors and into the sunlight. Gil started to laugh so hard that he would've popped a stitch if it had been a week earlier.

"I told you it was the most fun you could have in a grocery store!" Greg loved to listen to him laugh like that. Gil didn't laugh enough, hardly ever, and hearing it... Well, it made Greg feel brighter, too. Happier.

"I haven't done... something like that in -- ever. I've never done that. Oh, God..." He exhaled, still laughing as he started back to the SUV with Greg. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," Greg said, reaching out to grasp his wrist lightly. "Hey. Gil?"


"Just this." He leaned forward, caught him, kissed him. Greg could get used to that. No, Greg was going to get used to that, being able to back Gil up against the side of the Tahoe, being able to kiss him until his heart hammered in his ears and Gil's reserved posture broke to just this side of doing something in public that they shouldn't.

"Ready to go home?" he whispered, grazing his lips just against Gil's before sliding them down to taste the hair-roughened cleft in his chin. Time to shave, definitely, Greg thought.

Gil exhaled, and brushed lips over one of Greg's eyebrows before he answered, predictably, "Yes."

He didn't even have to ask 'home, where?'

It didn't astonish Gil that Greg had a sense of romance.

Not just a sense of it, exactly, but the ability to execute that sense as well, and apparently he was capable of plotting against Gil when Gil wasn't looking. It probably helped that Gil had moped on the couch after punching Greg while they were sleeping, and that Greg had gotten dressed in the bedroom after Gil had.

Since Gil had been sleeping over, the apartment was a lot cleaner, and Greg's plants didn't look like they were going to keel over just yet. Still, seeing the bedroom when they finally finished munching on breakfast, and got to the teeth-brushing part of the morning, was something of a surprise. The bed was made, the blinds were drawn, and the curtains were pulled half-way down over them, blocking out a chunk of the morning light. It left just enough spilling through that Gil would be able to see everything, if he wanted, and he definitely did.

It was definitely more than would occur to Gil to do.

The romance of it was, of course, in the forethought and the depth of intention. It was... perfect. Quietly perfect, simply perfect. Greg had his stereo on, a disc that Gil knew belonged to him. It played just low enough for white noise, the kind of background that he could ignore. He hadn't even bothered to identify the piece, because it didn't matter half as much as Greg wandering out of the bathroom to meet Gil in the bedroom.


Hi was a pretty simple way to start, but pretty perfect, too. Greg was rubbing at the back of his head, the spot where those goofy lines had been shaved in like something out of a nineties boy band.

"So," he continued, shifting towards the bed. It was a motion of pure hip and thigh, the kind of thing that screamed sex. "I'm all yours."

It had been a while since someone had been 'all his', all interested in him, entirely there. It wasn't going to be hard for Gil to be entirely there for Greg. No thoughts, he'd just go with it and feel, and... And not laugh that there was a funny spike of nerves because they had actually planned instead of just letting things happen.

Gil stood up just enough to get hands on Greg's hips, pulling him close and down onto the bed with him. "Finally. No interruptions..."

"No interruptions," Greg whispered, and slid closer. He was thinner than Gil usually preferred, hip bone jutting against Gil's thigh, but that wasn't a deterrent in any way. Not combined with the way that his mouth shifted when it touched Gil's, opened, and the way that his legs moved to wrap around one of Gil's thighs. That bony hip slid right into the groove of Gil's hips, somehow, a strangely pleasant sensation, nearly naked, nearly skin on skin. Gil had gotten mostly undressed while he'd listened to Greg run water and brush his teeth, and Greg was still wearing a stolen pair of Gil's boxers. Gil wasn't sure if it was the theme or the fit of them or that they were Gil's, but Greg kept stealing them, and the way they hung... Gil wasn't about to complain. People who got uppity about things like that were strange. How could anybody think it was all right to mash privates on a regular basis, but not deal with things like the other person's underwear?

The only dealing Gil wanted to do with the stolen boxer situation was to get them off of Greg. It wasn't too hard, just a slip of his hands under the waistband to push them off. The sides of Greg's hips felt so good under his hands, the suggestion of the swell of his ass. There wasn't much of one; but it was just enough to make his fingers twitch, cup so that he pulled Greg into him. It gained him a sound, the barest catch of breath, and Gil felt it against his cheek.

"Oh, God, I've wanted this..."

Wanted it, and was apparently going to go for it, his hands stroking up Gil's upper arms and over his chest, palms pressed tightly to nipples for a moment before shifting, moving, so that Gil could feel Greg stroking with his thumbs.

"Yeah... oh, yeah..."

Breathe in, breathe out. Slow, calm... It felt good, and he was going to let it flow, let it be slow and comfortable and really feel Greg. The boxers fell to the floor and then there was only Greg on top of him, naked warm Greg, and the backs of his thighs under Gil's roaming hands. Gil smiled despite the fact that Greg couldn't see it, turning his head enough to catch the edge of Greg's lips.

"However you want it..."

"Slow," Greg murmured, mouth sliding over the soft edge of Gil's jaw. "Exhaustive. I always thought that you'd be so thorough. Intense. I still believe it," he continued, and the feel of his lips moving was erotic, just a little bawdy. "I get the feeling you know every position and every kink and how to make absolutely anything feel good. I want to be that for you."

"I've kept an open mind to experiencing things," Gil told him vaguely. Wasn't going to think, wasn't... Concentrating on the soft hair on the back of Greg's thigh was nice, a seeping thought as he shifted slowly, pressing his hips upwards against Greg's lazily.

"I want to ride you." Blatant statement, bald as an egg, and it was exactly what Gil had in mind. "I want to pull up the blinds and push down on your cock in the sun." It was obvious he was asking for permission. Gil didn't want to let him go, didn't want him to get up, though. Not yet.

Some day he'd explain to Greg why the feeling of being entangled was so very comfortable a feeling, why he was comfortable with it. Greg would probably cock his mouth and his face and wonder why Gil felt a need to justify that, but...

But what a hot suggestion. Gil's hands slid up to Greg's waist, and he contemplated the best way to flip Greg over. "You belong in sunlight like that."

Greg grinned at him. Gil could feel it against his throat. "That's what I want," he murmured, sliding so that his cock pressed against Gil's through his own boxers. "To be open. In the sun. With you."

That would be different than every other relationship Gil had ever had; not like the moments in the dark with Hannibal, or in the moonlight with Molly. Greg was too much like the sun, himself. Ever present, warm -- there would be no pushing him away, because Gil couldn't shove back the sun, could he? Blood was black in the moonlight, and brilliantly alive red under the sun.

"I might need help, but we can try. I..." Gil laughed, squirmed down against Greg's mattress faintly to try to get his boxers off without moving his hands off of Greg.

"We'll accomplish," Greg laughed, shifting against him. His hands were moving, helping Gil to undress. "We're night shift, so we live in the dark a lot of times. But that doesn't mean we can't live during the day when we're together."

Sunrises and sunsets -- when they weren't on call, weren't pulling a double shift or worse. A little more motion and Gil's boxers were down on the floor. Nothing between them, just skin to skin, Greg's hips pressed tightly against his, their cocks in perfect line with each other. God, that felt good, Greg's faint squirms pressing them closer. "That sounds like... a plan I can appreciate."

So did shifting Greg so that he was under him without much warning.

It made Greg laugh, and that was something different, too. Sex and laughter and sunshine. "You know, you keep moving like that, you're going to pull something." It didn't stop him from shifting beneath Gil, pulling his legs up to wrap them tightly around Gil's thighs. "I promise to take good care of you if you do."

"Then I don't have to worry if I pull something, do I?" Greg laid out like that, half-sprawled and half-clinging to him, was going to give Gil a little bit of a challenge. He'd eventually have to cling less if Gil was going to kiss his way down Greg's body.

Starting with Greg's mouth.

There was something about that mouth. So much expression all in one place, the curve of it beneath his own, the way that Greg laughed and it opened wide, as if he didn't fear something would come flying in -- bug or fist or anything else. There was a fearlessness, too, in the way that he kissed Gil in return, fierce and wanton and wanting, like there was nothing better in the world to desire.

Gil was fairly, no, perfectly sure that there was something better in the world for Greg, but love was selfish, too, as selfish as any of the other things people did to find themselves on the business end of a DNA swab. Greg's mouth was soft, full and eager, moving so fast that for a moment teeth clicked teeth before tongues met comfortably, and the sounds he made...

Oh. The sounds.

Murmurs and whines and encouraging little noises that screamed to Gil, 'go on. go on, go on!', as if he had any other option, as if he could stop. He couldn't, but the noises Greg made didn't seem to realize that, Greg didn't seem to realize that, and when they parted, Gil knew.

"Please. Please. Please."

He could be happy with that forever. With the feel of Greg's jaw under his lips, the sight of pleading gaze (even with the black eye), the fast vocal noises and pleading. Greg's hands were on his arms, roaming while Gil sucked at the spot where jawbone met earlobe, Greg's sideburns tickling the edge of his mouth.

"There is good. Oh, yeah, there is great, I... uuunh," Greg groaned, rocking up beneath him. Gil could feel his cock, the way that it was leaking just a little from the tip already. Just this seemed to excite him so much, and then Gil felt his hands shift, move down between them, caressing over his abdomen. Greg's thumb delved at his navel for a moment, shifting effortlessly past the taped gauze, and then paused at the edge of his pubic bone. "God, you're so hot."

Laughing just then would've been worse than rude. Molly would've smacked him in the stomach if he'd laughed after a compliment like that. Greg probably would after a while, when there wasn't gauze anymore. Smothering amusement by tilting his head down a little, Gil bit gently at the cord of muscle that ran just behind the spot he'd been sucking.

"I'm going to learn all of the spots that feel best for you, if it takes years."

The way that Greg's breath hitched, his body arching up, said that Gil had definitely hit one of those. "Oh, fuck me." It was a gravelly, ground out sound that made Gil proud of himself. "Oh, my God, fuck yes."

"Is this one?" Gil teased softly. Repeating the motion was easy, and so was leaning on one elbow so he could slide one hand into Greg's wild hair.

The combination gained him a feral keen of sound, one that shivered down his own spine and into his balls. It made him arch against Greg, unable to stop himself, and Greg obviously didn't object to that.

Greg's hand was still conveniently between their bodies, fingers brushing the edge of Gil's hip, teasing in. "Love hearing you." It was a sigh against Greg's neck, before Gil slid down further, kissing, biting lightly over to Greg's Adam's apple.

Slow was exactly what Greg was going to get.

"I'm going to die," Greg sighed, finally loosening the stranglehold he had on Gil. "It's all gonna be too much and I'm totally going to die right here. There are worse ways," he decided, and then laughed when Gil's fingers hit a ticklish spot.

Left side, sixth rib down -- Gil was going to remember that. He shifted down, and slipped his tongue into the hollow where collarbones met neck muscles, Greg's chin brushing the side of his head. "I don't remember 'enjoyment' being part of the unexplained category for causes of death."

"Yeah, well." Greg squirmed, pressing one of his thighs between Gil's. His knee brushed high against the inside, but the tender pressure applied made Gil's hardon throb. "Obviously it's because they weren't having sex with you at the time. It's only logical."

Concentrating on making Greg shiver was hard when Greg did that, ratcheted up the urge to do more right away like that. "I'll have to be careful with you, then." Greg's hair, soft beneath his fingers, was stroked through one last time while Gil kissed the underside of Greg's chin. "And very, very slow..."

"The slower you go, the more likely I am to yell," Greg warned him, taking in a deep breath. It felt good against him, and then Greg's hands were on his back, stroking down and over, fingers caressing Gil's spine. "That's okay, though. I kind of like yelling."

"Your next door neighbor who works from his apartment doesn't like it too much." Not that Gil cared about that, because he was kissing over Greg's collarbone, breathing in warm skin. It was heady to do that to Greg, to lose himself in just exploring and feeling.

Gil could feel the way that Greg trembled beneath him, skin almost shivering. "Do I look like I care? He can go fuck himseeee...." The faint nip just between collar and shoulder bones was enough to make Greg lose all words. "Oh my GOD. If this feels that good, Doc Robbins is gonna see me on a slab later today!"

"Shhh. No, he won't." Gil followed that motion by sucking there for a moment, listening to the low sounds that crept out of Greg's throat. It was easy to kiss along the line of Greg's left pectoral muscle, working his way down to one nipple.

"Will so." Vague, teasing petulance sounded good on Greg, and it made Gil want to push him into the mattress further. It didn't help that there were slim fingers working their way into his hair, clutching desperately in a way that made Gil know that the slowness, the steady progress, was having a very pleasing effect.

He dropped his hips a little, risked the hard nudge of Greg's leg against his balls and his cock so he could press down against Greg's erection. Just to check, just to remind Greg that he hadn't forgotten that they were both hard and that there was more going on than his lips teasing over the edge of Greg's flat nipple.

"Oh, Jesus," Greg groaned, rocking up hard. It didn't hurt Gil, not quite, but it was amusing. There was a difference between them, nearly twenty years defining the point that made Greg impatient so early on. "I... you..."

"You...?" Gil lifted his head, voice teasing as he looked up to catch sight of Greg's face.

Even hard, even wanton, Greg's mouth had that faint tilt, as if it had been made to smile. "I... am so going to get revenge for this later," he murmured, squirming.

Revenge sounded very good when Greg said it, the way Greg said it. Like it was a game and it wasn't soaked and steeped in years of real understanding of the word. Revenge light, turnabout being fair play.

Gil shifted downwards, pressing Greg against the mattress. "Good."

Greg stretched out beneath him despite the pressure, sprawling in a way Gil was able to recognize immediately these days. "It's gonna be so good your eyes will be crossed for days," he promised, and then laughed.

"Days? That sounds more dangerous to my job than not being able to walk into the office," Gil teased. Greg's stomach was soft, muscled but... soft in that way he associated with real people who didn't spend their waking moments of free time working out. He was glad that he'd shaved after brushing his teeth, and that Greg seemed a little ticklish when his tongue delved into Greg's belly button. Hearing Greg laugh felt good, just like seeing the bands of sunlight sneaking in past blinds and curtains did.

"Days," Greg promised, shuddering. Gil could feel it, just like he could feel the shift of legs and hips, the way that Greg sprawled himself out for Gil's appreciation. "You're totally gonna be mumbling with it. Nick is gonna blush every time he sees you, and he's never gonna let me stay over after we play too much PlayStation again."

"You won't have to stay over. I'll pick you up, or pay for whatever taxi you want to fall out of." He bit gently at loose skin, and moved the hand that he wasn't leaning on to gently grasp Greg's erection. It wasn't as slow as he would've liked, but Greg was squirming and eager.

"Th-that sounds remarkably like a promise," Greg gasped, arching up into Gil's hand. It obviously felt good, and he turned his head to the side as if that would alleviate some of the pleasure, make it bearable. "Always. Always come home to you."

That sounded like a promise, too.

He wasn't going to put stock into promises. It was hard to hang his heart on one when he'd broken so many, but he could put stock into action and that was what Gil would do. Later. Later, when he wasn't sliding down just a little more, knees at the edge of Greg's mattress as he tipped his head down to kiss the tip of Greg's cut cock.

"Please. Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, please, Gil, oh my God..." Greg's hips rolled, his fingers bunching and releasing the bedspread and sheets beneath them. "Oh, my God, that feels... I can't... I want..."

He wanted to be fucked, wanted to ride Gil, and they'd do that. Gil wanted to lose himself for a few minutes more, though, listen to Greg's sounds of pleasure and his whines and feel his hips jerk while Gil re-familiarized himself with how to suck cock.

The taste was faintly bitter, slightly salty, and Gil could feel Greg hitching, his entire body tense with the need to push up, get deeper, and not doing it. "Oh, Jesus. Oh, my God. Oh, Jesus, if I had known..." That thought didn't get finished. If he'd known... what? Gil closed his eyes, sliding down to take Greg down in all the way before he gave a slow suck. That action drew a raw sound from Greg. Gil could feel that belly tense beneath his touch, as if he was trying desperately to hold himself back from bursting at the seams. "Oh my God. Oh, Jesus, fuck, Jesus, I want... I wish..."

If he gave him one full thought, Gil might just stop sucking. He might have to, because there was suddenly enough pre-come on his tongue that Gil had to grasp the base of Greg's dick. And stop.

"Nnnnnooooo." Greg whining was damn near as sexy as Greg laughing, and Gil didn't want to do without that. Not for a long time to come. "Oh, my God, if I had known you could suck dick like that, I'd have quit the lab forever ago just to move in with you and beg for it all the time."

Gil started to laugh, and kissed the side of Greg's dick, still squeezing. "But the lab needs you."

"Not as much as I need my cock sucked," Greg panted, giving a breathless laugh. "Oh, fuck, that's good."

One more touch was probably enough. The muscles in Greg's legs were shaking, tense, and Gil pressed one last kiss to Greg's cock before he started to move up.

"Tease." The vibration of that whimper felt good against Gil's skin as he moved his way up to press his mouth against Greg's. "Evil, evil... unh. Oh. Yeah. I like that. Let's do that just like... ungh."

Greg hadn't made an effort to hide the condoms or the lube, and if his bed hadn't been so big -- the DNA techs made more money than he'd been making until he'd taken over Jim's job -- it would've been easier to snag them from the bedside table. As it was, he had to break the kiss and move a foot over and then lean, and Gil almost knocked the lube onto the floor.

"Hey! If you drop that, I'll have to lean over the bed to pick it up," Greg teased him, "and getting fucked with my head over the... on second thought, why don't you do that and we'll see how I like it?"

"Later." Gil leaned back and placed the condom box squarely on Greg's chest.

Forethought only went as far as having it out already, not things like removing the plastic shrink-wrap.

"Damn." Greg began fumbling at the plastic, and that was fairly amusing for a minute or two. "Rgh. Why did I take my pants off in the bathroom? At least then I'd have a key..." A sharp edge of some sort to dig into it with, get it open. "Ah! There we go!" A quick jerk, and condoms spilled out of the box, ten different kinds, all the same brand. "Pick a condom, any condom."

Good timing, since Gil had just gotten the shrink-wrap off of the lube. "Is this condom roulette?" Gil asked, reaching for one at random. "'Her Sensation?'"

"Right. I think it's a fair bet that we can set that one to the side. Ooo, unless it's nubbed. Is it nubbed? And if it's not nubbed, we can just take it out and play with it later..."

"Ribbed?" He wasn't even going to ask Greg what 'play with it' meant, because he was sure he'd get a hands on demonstration. Gil tossed that one towards the table, and idly swiped through the others on Greg's chest. Bothering to pick one gave Greg a little time to wind down.

"Ribbed sounds interesting. There's none of that 'delayed climax' stuff in with 'em, is there? Because I don't want delaying." Greg leered up at Gil and then laughed. "Oh. Hey. Look at this one. Intense Sensations." Greg held that one up. "And this one. Extra Sensitive."

"High Sensation, and Natural Feeling." Gil looked at the two he'd grabbed, and leaned down to kiss Greg again because he could. They were in the right position for it. "Pick one, and we can move to part two."

"Eenie meenie minie... This one!" Greg declared, choosing at random and plucking it out of Gil's hand. "Want me to put it on?"


It was easy, then, to sweep all of the rest of the condoms off of Greg's chest before he flipped Greg over again, rolling onto his back and taking him with him.

"You're pretty acrobatic for a guy who's been confined to the lab up until a few days ago," Greg laughed, setting his knees on either side of Gil's waist. He leaned down to kiss him, and slipped a hand behind his neck. "I hope you're still as spry in twenty years." They hadn't said anything about commitments, but that was an interesting thought. They'd see what happened, if Gil managed to do something to fuck it up like he managed to do usually. He'd try.

He let his hands roam again, half-holding the lube while he smoothed fingers down Greg's back, over his ass cheeks. "So do I."

"You want to slide your fingers in there?" It was okay with Greg in a very obvious way. "You want to fuck me with your hand?" Dirty words from a sweetly dirty boy, Greg squirming further down to straddle Gil's thighs. "God. I'm in love with your dick... Wow."

Gil drew in a slow breath, trying not to react too hard to Greg's suggestion. He was already hard as a rock. "I'm going to fuck you with my fingers, so that you can show me just how in love with it you are." It was easy to get the lube open one handed, while he let the fingers of his other hand slide between Greg's cheeks.

Greg was gorgeous, kneeling there. He had a way of moving, limbs a little wild, akimbo. Like his hair. It all fit the odd stroke of a mole here and there, swathes of freckles blending with tan on the tops of his shoulders and the tops of his thighs. Scars here and there that Gil would ask for the stories behind later.

"Get me lubed, and I'll ride you like there's no tomorrow," Greg promised, ripping open the condom carefully with his hands. He pulled it out and pinched the tip, settling it over the head and slowly working it down. "Do you want one on me, too?"

"No?" Maybe Greg wanted one, and that was why he was asking. He'd seemed all right with coming on Gil before, when it had been fast and a little desperate and a lot of friction. Maybe he was just being polite.

Gil didn't let it stop him from circling one finger around the edge of Greg's hole.

"Good." Good, and just saying it was enough to make Greg gasp in combination with that touch. "Oh, fuck, I wanna come on you. All over you. If I thought you'd let me..." Gil could read the rest of that thought. He'd do more than ride, he'd go bareback, and that was one hell of a hot thought, too.

"Sometime." Gil pressed his hands to Greg's ass, and squeezed a little lube out just above his hand, smearing fingers through it before teasing one into Greg. The contrast of cold and then hot skin against his fingers was good, almost better than the way that Greg's hand clutched tight around his dick, fumbling with the condom for a moment. "Fuck, you're hot."

He could hear the unsteady huff of Greg's breath, the way it hitched when Gil slid inside. "I'm burning up," he answered, eyes closing. Gil could see the way his mouth set in the sunlight, could feel the determined push of Greg's body as he opened to that touch. "Oh. Oh... fuck."

Gorgeous. Smiles and groans in the sunlight. It made Gil drop the lube so he could steady Greg's hip while he started to try to get a second finger into him. If he could do that, work them around, get Greg used to it... If it had been long enough for condoms to expire, then it'd been a while for Greg, and Gil wanted it to be good.

He wanted it to be unforgettable.

Greg drooped forward, bracing himself with elbows on either side of Gil's arms. "Fuck," he whispered, whined, working himself back against Gil's hand. "Oh, fuck. Feels so much better when they're not my fingers..."

He could feel the breath from the words against his chest, and Gil could press his face against the top of Greg's head if he leaned up. "People aren't designed to have sex with themselves. That's why it feels better when I do this..." A little further in, a quarter turn of his hand, and there. That spot, that faint difference in texture that he rubbed over, finger fucking Greg faintly. "Than when you do this."

Gil longed to see Greg's face. Instead, he could smell the faint scent of sweat and shampoo from the top of his head, could hear the unsteady pants of breath spilling from those lips with every touch, damp against his skin. "Fuck. Oh. Fuck. Oh. Oh. Oh."

Greg was shifting, moving up, moving over him, straddling high, and obviously wanton. Now he had his wish, Greg's face hot and colored burning red. "Please."

He rubbed his thumb against the jut of Greg's hip, and started to pull his fingers back. "You're sure?" Gil was sure. Gil was sure that he wanted to watch the way Greg moved, wanted to be where his fingers had just been.

"I don't think I've ever been so certain." Greg waited, visibly waited, and Gil reluctantly pulled his fingers away. He could feel Greg closing behind that last tender touch, and then the younger man shifted again, reaching between them and holding Gil's cock. "I hope you love this as much as I'm going to."

Gil settled his other hand on Greg's hip, stroking and loose-gripped so he didn't interfere with what Greg was doing. "I know I will." Love Greg, even, but Gil didn't say it. Wouldn't say it because it had always been the death-knell to things, oddly. Anything.

It was better to do, act, ease his hands over the outside of Greg's thighs while he shifted, lowering himself.

The visible motion of Greg's chest as he breathed in deeply made Gil smile just a little, and then Greg moved, positioning them as best he could before settling down just a little. Just a little, and Gil could feel it when he hit the right spot. "Ahhhh...." There. Ah, there, and Greg opened up for Gil's cock with a sound that Gil would never get tired of hearing, a sigh and a choked  gasp that fit the sudden feeling of tightness that was smothering the head of Gil's dick.

"That's perfect, just like that." He shifted his fingers, rubbing and knowing that it wouldn't help Greg adjust any faster but that it might distract him a little. Particularly if he let one hand wander to massage Greg's hard cock.

Greg's hands moved, pressed to Gil's chest and shook there. "Mmmm. Sorry. Been a while," he apologized, taking a deep breath and then letting it out before sliding down slowly, so slowly. "Uuuunnnn." Spasms trembled around Gil, protesting slightly as Greg opened to take him in.

"It's okay." He gave Greg's dick a slow stroke, taking in the look on Greg's face while he ran his other hand slowly down Greg's spine, rubbing faintly. "Take your time."

"I'm impatient."

A month ago, Gil would have agreed with that statement. He would have said that Greg was chafing at the bit and ready to make the first headlong jump into almost anything. Over the past few weeks, though, things had changed. The way he looked at Greg had changed. Now he had Greg sitting on his lap, breathing deeply, and his cock was lodged so deep that Gil was pretty sure he could feel Greg's pulse.

He'd had Greg saving his life, rushing in where angels didn't dare to tread. He was still good at listening to him in the lab, but horrible outside of it, and Gil was glad that his perspective had been changed. Glad to have shaky hands pressed against his chest, to see the faint sheen of sweat glistening on Greg's skin. He wasn't going to make a move just yet, not until he felt he could control himself, too. "You're Greg."

"Yeah." Panted agreement was accompanied by a darting tongue. Greg moistened his upper lip before drawing in another deep breath. "Wow." Wow summed it up pretty well, Gil thought, right up until he felt Greg push himself up, hands leaving Gil's chest when Greg's knees moved up, entire body shifting with it.

Pulling out, and then finding himself back in again when Greg settled. He'd started to say something, started to try to tease Greg gently, but the sound caught in his throat. Talking during sex itself was hard because Gil's concentration was already scattered. Greg just made it worse, stretching up into bands of sun and riding him, slow and deep, taking him all the way in with every movement.

"Fuuuck," Greg managed to get out. Gil could see the way his eyes rolled back in his head in response to the angle he shifted into, could see the way his mouth drew into a grimace. Pleasure was like that, sometimes. "Oh, fuck. Fuck. Yes."

Time to move counterpoint, hunching his hips up against Greg every time he came down, hit his ass against Gil's hips and the tops of his thighs. "Feels so good, Greg, so good. Don't stop..." Never mind that he'd have to eventually, and that Gil's fingers stroking Greg's dick wasn't helping it. The tightness, the friction, up down, up down, melded with the sight of Greg, the hands that Greg couldn't find a place for.

"Not stopping." The way Greg whimpered that response made Gil struggle a little more for control, even when one of those hands reached and found Gil's only free one. "Not stopping. Oh God. Oh... oh, fuck." Fuck, fuck, and the pace was picking up, slowly, no, faster, because Greg obviously loved it when Gil fisted his dick.

"Yes..." Greg had been on edge since Gil had sucked him, and Gil had been on edge since he'd sat down on the bed and pulled Greg with him. He could have controlled himself, could have squeezed the base of Greg's cock and prolonged it. He didn't. He gave a sharp thrust that knocked out their pattern and made Greg yell. His head dropped back, a reflexive action, and Gil felt it when it happened, tight clamping, ropy strings of fluid exploding over his fist, and Greg was still moving on him, still rocking, still moving for Gil as best he could. Just a little further, a little more thrusting, still stroking over Greg's softening erection. Fingers on his clutched, twitched, and then it hit him. Everything went tight and tense, a few last jerky motions putting the condom to good use. He couldn't think, but he didn't have to.

All he could concentrate on was Greg, Greg in slats of sunlight before a tug of Gil's hands brought him tumbling on top of him.

Tumbling down in the sun.



And his mouth tasted kind of like something had crawled in there and died.

On the other hand, there were covers pooled around his waist, and arms and legs where they belonged, wrapped all around him with the evening sun still casting a faint golden glow outside of the window. It wasn't anything like the brilliant eastern sunlight of the morning, but it was gentler, kinder to the eyes, and yet still present.

Just like the squid-Greg that was doing his best to squirm somewhere underneath him.

There was no telling how Greg's subconscious thought it was possible, but he was trying -- there was definitely a leg under his, and Greg's arms were like cling wrap. The condom was half-stuck to him still, Gil realized when he shifted one leg out straight and cracked his knee. There was a condom, in wrapper, stuck to the back of Greg's shoulder.

Five minutes before the alarm clock was supposed to go off. Five minutes to enjoy the aftermath of falling asleep after sex.

Five minutes to have a little more, if he really thought he could do it that fast.

No. No, while he definitely wanted to have sex with Greg in the afternoon light, it was the kind of thing that was meant for taking as much time as needed, and Gil was certain that five minutes would never be enough.

"Fi' more minsh," Greg said from where his head was buried against the bed.

That was just what Greg had. It made it easy for Gil to slit his eyes closed when he brought his arms around Greg. He was so warm, and so alive and so... everything. If Greg never wanted to stay at Gil's apartment again, he could happily abide by it. Home wasn't where they sent electrical bills so much as it was the place that felt comfortable. His home had been violated, and he hadn't been able to shake that feeling yet. Hadn't admitted to it, but hadn't shaken the feeling yet.

Maybe... maybe in a month or two, he'd think about selling it. Moving on.

Moving in.

Moving Greg in with him.

So many things to think about, and so few minutes left. Still. Those were things they could consider later, things he could discuss with Greg. For now, it was better to reach over and quietly turn off the alarm, even if it required a little squirming. There wasn't any point in waking up Greg, after all. His eye looked a lot better, and Gil would put some of the hemorrhoid cream on it before he went to work.

It was strange that he hadn't had any nightmares, terrors, whatever they were, with Greg passed out on top of him and off to the side a little. Or maybe not so strange. It was all over, and they'd been exhausted. Jack was gone and he'd taken Sara with him, and with them both had gone a tight stress that had been balled up in his chest.

Now he just felt sad and worried for Sara's sake. There hadn't been anything he could do, though, and she had to learn that mistake on her own. Would learn. There wasn't any point in dwelling on it when the choice had already been made.

She was a lot like him that way -- once a decision was made, it was full speed ahead. Full Greg ahead, apparently.

There were much worse things.

"Mmmmph?" Greg asked. It wasn't a coherent question, and it made Gil want to laugh. He should get up and shower. Find a damp cloth and try to get some of the sweat and dried on come off both of them, or at least off of Greg so he wouldn't wake up sticky when he really woke.

Gil turned his head a little, pressed a kiss against Greg's temple. His mouth still tasted like something had died in it, and Greg's skin tasted faintly salty against his lips. No bad dreams. "It's nothing. Go back to sleep."

So he could plan Escape from OctoGreg.

"Kmmph." In OctoGreg's Sleep Language, that was agreement, and the tiny snores and snuffles that commenced made Gil want to laugh.

He'd laughed more in the last month than he had in the last year despite the fact that there had been a lot less in his life that deserved laughter -- from Millander right up to ending with Jack the night before. There were a lot of things that could make a grown man cry and want to wallow in misery. Instead he'd laughed because of Greg, and help, and the ups and downs, and sometimes the sheer absurdity of it, and wondering how many shoes were going to drop on his head before whatever sort of God that was laughing at him just opened a Payless shoe store a foot above him.

That made him laugh, too, or at least chuckle quietly to himself as he managed to work his way out of Greg's grasp. There was a giant pillow stuffed somewhere near the head of the bed, and he managed to slide it into Greg's arms in place of himself. Greg wouldn't buy it for long, but he might manage to finish a shower before Greg really started to wake up. There were waffles in Greg's fridge and a semi-functional toaster oven. He could sneak around Greg's apartment quietly while he got ready to head off to work for the day, let Greg sleep in the way Greg had let him sleep in.

He wasted a moment to pull the sheet up over Greg's shoulders, fingers lingering at the nape of Greg's neck.

"Mmphsh," Greg told him. "Urnge." It was obviously supposed to make some sort of sense, but mostly it just made Gil want to crawl back into bed and kiss him even though Greg's mouth probably tasted just as bad as his own.

Later. There were a lot of things he had set aside for 'later', which wasn't how Gil liked to function. There were too many things that he wanted to do for him to do them all at once, and there was work. He couldn't remember the last time he'd even toyed with the idea of playing hooky.

"Mmphsh to you, too," he whispered, and then headed for Greg's bathroom.

It didn't take long to shower, and that felt incredibly good. God, it had been so long since he woke up in bed, sweaty and sticky and just a little sore. He had nearly forgotten what it was like. Gil figured that Greg wouldn't let him forget it again anytime soon.

He wrapped a towel around his hips and grabbed his washcloth, running it through warm water one more time before squeezing it out and heading into the bedroom.

"You sound good in the shower," Greg greeted in a sleepy, gravel-filled voice. "Hmmm."

"You sound good in bed." Gil put one knee on the mattress, and leaned forwards to shift Greg so he could clean him a little.

"I hope I sound better when you're fucking me into it," Greg groaned, letting Gil move him. "Oh, man. There are things aching that I had forgotten I had. When can we do it again?"

"Sometime tomorrow?" Gil started at the hollow of Greg's neck, stroking slowly downwards. He couldn't take too much time, because then he'd never leave, and he really had to. He had to get dressed and grab breakfast and get to the lab because he'd fallen behind with all of those... personal distractions. "Whenever we can."

"Tomorrow sounds good." He could feel Greg stretch beneath his hand, could see his breath draw in a deep sigh. "Now sounds better. If you just have the urge, and a free half hour. Then we could do it tomorrow, too, and that would be three times."

"Except that it won't take just a half hour," Gil murmured. It was easy to follow the line of Greg's chest, easy to pull the sheets away so he could wipe his stomach and the faint flakes of semen dried to his skin. "And I wouldn't want to get out of bed."

"I could pretend to be really sick," Greg offered hopefully, giving a sigh of appreciation. "Hmmm. Or I guess I could stay home and wallow in the bed and wait for you to come back."

"You could do that." He couldn't keep himself from leaning in more, putting his other hand against the side of Greg's face. "What do you usually do on your days off?"

Greg gave him a slow smile. "Sleep late. Play video games. Go grocery shopping. Masturbate." He leaned up and pressed his mouth to Gil's, keeping it closed. He probably didn't want to traumatize Gil with morning breath.

"That sounds like a good day. I'll try not to work a double so I can come back and... help." Whatever Greg wanted to do -- sleep, play video games, and there was very little question that he'd help Greg masturbate. Then Gil kissed him back, lips parted slightly while he teased the washcloth over Greg's soft dick, feeling the perk of interest going on there.

"Hmmm. Sounds perfect." Greg pulled back slightly and pecked his mouth again. "Want me to get up and scrounge something for you to eat?"

"It's all right," Gil said, drawing back with the washcloth. "I didn't actually mean to wake you." He'd meant to let Greg sleep, even though he was pretty sure that Greg could get back to sleep with no trouble at all, and wouldn't wake up screaming the way Gil had when he'd stayed there while Greg had worked.

"S'okay. I mean, I can go back to sleep without any worries. Besides..." Greg shifted onto his side, curling around Gil's knee so that his belly was pressed to Gil's skin. "If it means more time with you, then I'm good."

How could he argue with that? He'd never get over the almost shock of skin to skin, so easy, so comfortable after so long without it. Greg would have a very powerful weapon when he put it together that all he had to do to make Gil malleable was touch him with that sort of lazy lack of intent.


"Okay. I'll go brush my teeth while you get dressed," Greg promised. "We ate breakfast when we came in, kind of, so... What do you want me to scrounge up for you? I think I've got pancake stuff."

"Sure." A little rubbery, a little burnt, but it would be fun to watch Greg make them. Days on end of breakfast-type foods -- he'd stop and pick up a couple of steaks from the grocery store and make them a real dinner-meal when he got off shift.

He ran fingers up into Greg's hair, teased behind his ear, then shifted back and offered him a hand up. Greg was only going to sneak off to brush his teeth so he could put their leeway time to good use with his mouth.

"Great," Greg declared, squirming towards the edge of the bed. "I'll be right there." He was off like a shot, typical of Greg, up and gone, a ball of motion that always, always, made Gil want to pause and just watch.

He watched until Greg had half-closed the door behind himself, and then turned to settle into comfortable mundanity. Get dressed, live for the day, go to work and love his job. It seemed so oddly simple, a worn sort of life that most people didn't find happiness in.

Gil did. He found a lot of wonder in the little things, the way that the mattress squeaked when he sat down to put socks on, the sound of water running through the pipes that crossed through the wall behind the headboard.

Except where had he been over a month ago? Performing routines of living by himself, in his apartment, alone. Gil smirked a little when his mind pulled up a quote for him -- 'Day by day, nothing seems to change. But pretty soon, everything's different.'

Only living with Greg would inspire him to Calvin and Hobbs. With any luck, there'd be a lot more of that to come.