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It's Clark's birthday. Sophie's been bugging him for weeks about it being non-negotiable. "I don't care if Greg is in the hospital, you have to be home for Clark's party." Finally he took a personal day, just so there'd be no chance of being unavoidably detained.

The phone call comes around lunchtime.

"Oh God," Sophie says when he tells her. "I jinxed him, didn't I? Go on. Clark will understand. But you have to be home for dinner, all right? He's still a kid, he doesn't understand that much. You can go back to the hospital again right after."

When Ed walks in, Jules looks reassured as fuck. But Greg manages a doped-up frown. "You took a personal day."

Ed sits down hard in the chair by the bed and gives him a hard stare. "This is personal. How ya feeling?"

Greg giggles. "Like I've been shot."

"Gee, I wonder why."

Greg dozes for most of the afternoon, but he wakes up when Wordy comes by, a little before it's time for Ed to head out. "Wordy?"

"Hey, Greg. I brought you some real food. And Talladega Nights."

Greg smiles tiredly. Then he turns his head. "Eddie? You still here? It's Clark's birthday, go home. Both of you, you should be with your families. Jules, tell them--"

Jules's mouth twists. Greg never bugs her about ignoring her personal life, Ed's noticed. If a few shitty dates even count as one.

"I gotta go home for dinner," he says. "But I'll be back in a couple of hours, okay?"

Greg lets his head fall back against the pillow. "We all just wanna go home," he mumbles.

He just doesn't get that this is home, too. Not the hospital, sure, but him. Greg. Ever since his wife left him, it's like--it's like he thinks it's his job, the single lonely guy, to keep everyone else's family safe. He'll stay at the office till midnight doing paperwork, but if Ed clocks ten minutes of overtime he nags. Ed's making the world safe for others to eat pie, sure, but he eats pie on a fairly regular basis himself. Sophie bakes a mean pecan, and just last week he and Spike stopped for strawberry-rhubarb at Nancy's Diner when they were out patrolling.


On Monday, Ed stops in at the gay bookstore on his way to work. He's never been in there before and he feels pretty uncomfortable, like everyone's looking at him. The back of his neck prickles as he stands at the counter. But he better get used to it--it won't be his last visit if Clark turns out the way Ed thinks he might.

He's early. By the time the rest of the team shows up, the bumpersticker reading "Love Makes A Family" is already attached to the wall under the locker-room sign. A little off-center, but at least it's not crooked. Ed finally got to use that key-chain level Jules bought him last year.

Greg isn't going to be back for a couple of days, so Ed's in charge. He lets everyone stand around and point and joke for a couple of minutes. Then he gives them his worst glare. They don't look all that intimidated, but they shut up.

"Any of you fuckos mess with this sticker, and I will kick your ass from here to next Sunday, you got me?"

There's a mumbled chorus of raised eyebrows and yeses.

"Right. Let's keep the peace."