Decisions By by April May

Archive: Yes to WWOMB and Shallow End, others please ask.

Disclaimer: The characters belong to Anthony Zuiker and CBS, and no profit is being made with this story.

Chapter One Monday night

"I'm going to the Mini-Mart. Want anything?"

Grissom, who was sitting in his office discussing evidence with Catherine, looked up to see Greg standing in the doorway, grinning at them and looking more than a little antsy to get out of the building. "Just you back here on time," he replied. "Your breaks have been running a little too long lately."

For a moment, Greg looked a little taken aback, but then his smile returned, and he said, "Right. No problem," and then left.

As he walked away, Grissom continued watching him. Maybe it's just wishful thinking, he thought. But in the last couple of weeks, Greg seems to be looking and acting a bit more maturely than usual. Even his hair has been growing back from that awful faux hawk into something almost respectable, although I'm still not too sure about the color.

"You know, you can't fool me," Catherine said, looking at him with an almost self-satisfied look on her face. When he just responded with a quizzical look, she continued, "It's written all over your face. You're loving this whole parenthood thing, aren't you? You know what they say: It changes everything."

Grissom sighed. "Catherine, for the last time, I do not consider myself to be Greg Sanders' parent!"

"Uh-huh. Whatever," Catherine said, sounding obviously unconvinced.

Raising an eyebrow at her, he said, "And where did you pick that dreadful expression up from?"

"Lindsey," she said, then with another pointed smile, added, "You see? It does change everything."

He shrugged. "Whatever." Pointing to the papers in front of him, he said, "Now, going back to our diagram..."

As soon as he opened the door to the outside, Greg took a deep breath, enjoying the relative freshness of the outdoor air compared to the recycled variety he was usually stuck with in the lab. From the time he was a small child, he had always been a night person, dragging himself out of bed in the morning and seeming to perk up as soon as the sun went down (To the dismay of his parents, who annoyingly expected him to keep a regular bedtime), which was one of the reasons he chose to work the graveyard shift, even though it made it almost impossible for him to have any kind of normal social life. Of course, the fact that there were fewer people around to look over his shoulder while he worked than there were during the day didn't hurt, either. He just wished he didn't have to spend so much time cooped up inside, which was why when he had a chance to get out, he took advantage of it.

Maybe I really should sign up for that field training course Grissom's been pushing me to take, he thought. Then, remembering what had happened the last time he had been out in the field, he quickly decided against it.

As he approached the parking lot of the nearby convenience store, his mind preoccupied with the conversation he had had with Sara about the "Six Feet Under" season finale they had seen the night before, he heard a scream coming from a car near the front of the parking lot. At first, he froze. But when he heard what sounded like a small child crying, he rapidly crossed the parking lot until he saw, to the right of him, a man attempting to pull a young woman out of an S.U.V. as she screamed and cried out for help and did her best to stay inside. He heard a child's cry again and the woman pleading, "Please. My baby. I have to get her," while the man - seeming to ignore her - continued to try to force her out.

Without thinking, Greg rushed to the vehicle, grabbing the man by the shoulders and trying to pull him away from the woman. Just when he thought he was succeeding, the man - who seemed to have the kind of strength that came from either a rush of adrenaline or drugs (or maybe even both) - overpowered him and threw him harshly to the ground, where he immediately lost consciousness. After that, the carjacker finally managed to tear the woman away from her hold on the seat and threw her to the pavement as well. Then, after turning to Greg and giving him two vicious kicks - one to the side of his head and one to his chest - and spitting on him in disgust, he got into the S.U.V., slamming the door behind him. Using the key that had been left in it, he quickly drove away.

Soon afterwards, the woman was able to pull herself into a standing position. Looking down at the injured man lying next to her, she let out an involuntary cry of distress and, in a state of panic, stumbled into the store to try to get help.

"Does anyone know what's going on across the street?" Sara asked as she and Warrick returned from processing the scene of a home invasion. "There's two cop cars there, and an ambulance just left."

Hearing that, Grissom and Catherine exchanged looks, both thinking the same thing, but unable to say it out loud.

Seeing Nick walking down the corridor towards them, Grissom called out to him, trying to sound casual. "Hey. You didn't happen to see Greg back there, did you?"

"No. As a matter of fact, I was just going to ask you if you knew where he was. I've been waiting for the results of that tox screen he said he'd have for me when he got back. Why?"

Before Grissom could say anything, his pager went off. After looking at it, he picked up the receiver of his phone, his hands suddenly feeling quite shaky.

"Grissom, here. What is it?" he said into the phone. As he listened, the other C.S.I.s saw his face take on a stricken look for a few seconds, before he quickly pulled himself back together, saying, "All right. We'll be there."

After hanging up, he stood up from his desk, announcing to the others, "There's been a carjacking at the Mini-Mart. A man forced the driver out of her car and took off with her 14-month-old baby still in the back seat. Two people were injured and taken to the hospital: The driver and a witness who tried to stop it." He paused and, after taking another deep breath, said, "The witness was Greg."

Chapter Two

While the others stared at him, looking stricken, Grissom - now back in professional mode - headed for the door to the parking lot, tossing out orders to them as he walked. "Warrick, Sara, Nick. I want you to go to the Mini-Mart. Catherine, I want you to go to the hospital with me and talk to the victims."

As they got to the door, he added, "Oh. And Warrick, you'll be in charge for the rest of the shift. I'm taking some personal time." And with that, he opened the door and walked out.

Now feeling even more confused, Warrick leaned out of the doorway, asking him, "But why?"

"Because he's my son," Grissom said. He then turned around and was gone before Warrick was able to ask him anything else.

After closing the door, Warrick turned to look at Nick and Sara and asked, "Did I hear what I just thought I heard? Did Griss just say that Greg was his son?" Seeing their reaction - or, rather, their noticeable lack of reaction - he said, "What? Am I the only one who didn't know that?"

"Apparently," Nick said with a bit of an irritating smirk.

Seeing Catherine walking briskly towards them with her field kit on the way to join Grissom, Warrick called over to her, "Hey, Catherine. Did you know that Grissom was Greg's father?"

"Um, yeah. Sara told me," Catherine said, obviously distracted. "Look, I've got to get going before he leaves without me. I'll call you later and let you know how Greg's doing." And with that, she was gone, too.

Warrick turned around and, seeing Nick and Sara still standing behind him and staring at him, snapped, "Come on, guys. Are you ready to go or what?"

Sara had the feeling that a long shift was going to seem even longer.

When Catherine got out to the parking lot, she saw Grissom leaning against the passenger's side of one of the Tahoes, waiting for her.

"Don't even think about driving," she warned him.

"Don't worry. I'm not."

They got in, and Catherine began driving them to the hospital. They were both silent until Grissom said, "What I still don't understand is why he did this. What made him think he could stop a carjacker? It just doesn't seem like him."

Catherine didn't really understand why either, but she suggested, "Maybe because there was a child involved. You know how Greg is with kids."

As much as she disliked what she considered Greg's at times unprofessional approach to work, she had to admit he had always gone out of his way to be kind to Lindsey when she was at the lab: Buying her peanut butter cups and soft drinks from the vending machines; finding markers and paper for her to draw pictures with; letting her look in the microscopes; and sometimes even letting her try on a mask or a lab coat. That had impressed Lindsey so much she had said that she wanted to work in a lab when she grew up, which Catherine found encouraging. (She had also said, "I want to marry Greg when I grow up," which Catherine didn't find quite so encouraging. But she was hoping that was something she'd grow out of eventually.)

"Maybe," he said. "But I still think there's a bit more to it than that."

Catherine glanced over at him, seeing the worried look on his face as he stared out through the windshield. You feel like a parent now, don't you? she thought sadly. Reaching out to put her hand on his arm, she said, "I'm sure he'll be all right."

Managing to smile a little at her in response, he said, "I know," but he didn't look all that convinced.

"Yeah. I heard the screams," the rather heavy-set, balding middle-aged man talking to Warrick said. "But I just figured it was some kind of domestic dispute going on, so I decided not to get involved. You know?"

"Right," Warrick said wearily. This was the last of several witnesses that he had interviewed, and all of them had had a pretty similar story. He knew it was especially frustrating for him this time because he knew one of the victims, and he was trying to not let this frustration show. But it wasn't easy.

"Kind of ironic that that guy manages to steal a car right across the street from a police station. Don't you think?"

"Yeah. Real ironic."

"Can I go now?" the man asked impatiently. "I mean, I've been here forever, first talking to the cops and now you. And this frozen stuff isn't going to last forever."

You look like you could use some ice cream, Warrick thought sarcastically, but just said as politely as he could, "You're free to go now, sir. Thank you."

Nick walked out of the back office, where he had been talking to the store manager, and joined Warrick. "I just talked to all the employees," he said as they walked out the front door. "None of them said they saw anything."

"Typical." Warrick snorted. "How's it going?" he asked Sara, who had finished photographing the scene and was now searching the parking lot with her flashlight for any kind of evidence that she might have missed before.

Turning her head to look over at him, she complained, "I hate carjackings. How can we do anything when the main piece of evidence isn't even here?"

"Just work with what you can find, Sara," Warrick said.

He sounds like he's channeling Grissom, Sara thought. Except when Grissom said something like that, it somehow sounded better. "Well, what I've found so far is a pacifier, some blood over there..." she said, pointing to a small puddle of blood. (And while she didn't say, "Probably Greg's," they all were thinking it.)

"A knife with some blood on it..." She held up a plastic bag, which held a small silver pocket knife. "And what looks like some muddy boot prints." She moved her flashlight over to where the barely visible outline of the bottom of someone's boot could be found.

"Greg's?" Warrick asked.

Nick went over to get a closer look. "I don't think so," he said. "Greg doesn't wear those type of boots. And anyway, that print looks a bit too large. He only wears a size 10."

"So is it true what they say about a guy's foot size indicating the size of his..." Seeing Nick glaring at her, she said, "Hey. Come on. This isn't easy for any of us. I'm just trying to lighten things up." She twirled the light in her hands as if to illustrate.

"Well, don't," Nick snapped.

Do those two only act like a couple of moody teenagers when I'm in charge? Warrick wondered. Or are they always like this and I just don't notice?

As Nick turned his head away from Sara, a small red light above him caught his attention, and he said, "Hey, guys. I think we just lucked out. Looks like there's a video camera there."

"Let's hope it's a real one," Sara said.

"Well, let's get it down and find out," Warrick said. "Looks like you've got video duty tonight, Nick."

Nick sighed, not looking forward to a night spent staring at grainy black and white images. "Why can't you do it?" he asked Warrick. "You're the expert on this stuff."

"Yes, but I'm supervising tonight. Remember?" Seeing the distressed look on Nick's face and remembering how difficult it must be for him to be investigating the attack of one of his closest friends, he relented, saying, "Okay. I'll help you out with it."

The female victim, whose name was Amy, was very young - only 20 - and very scared. Her injuries turned out to be not that serious: A sprained wrist, some bruises and cuts, including what looked to be a defense wound on her right palm. But she appeared to be quite shaken up by what had happened to her. As Catherine examined her and her clothes with tape lifters and swabs - looking for hairs, fibers, skin cells, anything that might help identify her attacker - she watched curiously, reminding Catherine a little bit of Lindsey as she did that, while at the same time babbling nervously, obviously feeling more than a little responsible for what had happened.

"Look, I know it looks bad that I took my baby out that late at night," she said, twisting a strand of her long, light brown hair around her fingers. "But she was sick and I needed to pick up some Tylenol, and my husband was at work, and...we've just moved to town and we don't know anyone yet. And anyway, being in the car seems to calm her down."

"I remember what that's like," Catherine said. "My daughter - she's eight now - used to be really colicky, and the only way I could get her to fall asleep sometimes was to take her on a drive. Well, I did try putting her on the dryer in her car seat because someone suggested it, but the problem was she wasn't secured enough, and she almost fell off." She had exaggerated that a bit to see if she could get Amy to smile and relax a bit, and she was relieved when she saw that had been successful.

Then Amy's face tensed up again, and she asked, "Do you think that the police will be able to find her in time? Because I heard somewhere that if a missing person isn't found in a day or two, they'll probably be dead." With that, she began to cry, looking younger than ever.

Sometimes I wish people didn't know so much, Catherine thought. Trying to respond as carefully as possible, she said, "In a lot of cases, yes. But there's always exceptions. And there's a good chance it won't even take that long. There's a lot of people out there looking for your daughter, and hopefully, she'll be found soon."

Amy nodded, pulling out an already damp tissue to dry her eyes. Reaching into the packet that she kept in her field kit, Catherine handed her a tissue, and Amy said, "Thanks," with a nod as she wiped her eyes.

Catherine knew she should check up on Greg now, but she was hesitant to leave Amy alone. "How are you getting home?" she asked. "Is someone going to meet you here?"

Amy nodded, and said, "The police called my husband, and he's on his way from work. He should be here soon."

"That's good," Catherine said.

She had finished gathering her bagged samples together and was about to leave to examine Greg, when Amy stopped her, asking haltingly, "That man. The one who tried to help me, I mean. How is he?"

"I don't know. I was just about to check."

"Well, when you see him, tell him I'm sorry he got hurt because of what happened to me. And...and tell him I said thank you."

"I will," Catherine said.

After they had finished gathering the evidence, Sara began to carry it across the street to the lab. But Nick continued standing where he was, with his back to them, staring at the splotch of blood in front of him. As Warrick got closer to him to try to urge him to get moving, he saw what appeared to be tears running down his face.

Shit, he thought. Trying to suppress his impatience, Warrick just said as softly as he could, "Hey, Nick."

Nick turned around, revealing that he was indeed shedding silent tears. "He asked me to go with him, but I said I was too busy. Maybe I could have stopped him."

Warrick understood too well what he was feeling now. Guilt. It hadn't been that long ago that he had been standing next to Nick's crumpled body after Nigel Crane had thrown him out of his window, cursing himself out for allowing that to happen. And then, of course, before that there had been Holly Gribbs.

"You can't think that way. There's no way you could have known what was going to happen. And you might have not been able to stop him, even if you had been there. You know how unpredictable Greg can be sometimes."

"Well, that's true," Nick said, managing to chuckle a bit at that, even while he was swiping his tears away with his hands.

"Come on. Let's go look at some videos."

Nick nodded, trying to pull himself together. Then, after a last swipe at his face, he picked up the video camera and his field kit and followed Warrick across the street.

After she had finished with Amy, Catherine made her way down the hall to the cubicle where she had been told Greg was. Standing by the curtain separating the cubicle from the hallway, she looked in and found him lying on a bed with his eyes closed, dressed in a faded-looking hospital gown, the right side of his face puffed up with an ugly looking purplish bruise that made the rest of his face look even paler by comparison.

Grissom was sitting in a chair at the side of the bed, watching him, the look on his face almost unreadable to anyone who didn't know him as well as Catherine, who could see clearly the concern in his intense blue eyes. She went over to him, gently putting a hand on his shoulder. Turning to her, he managed to give her a little smile, then motioned her to go out to the hallway with him.

"How's he doing?" she asked.

"All right, considering, I suppose. He's got a concussion, a couple of bruised ribs and a lot of cuts and bruises. They don't think the concussion is that serious, but they still want to keep him overnight for observation, so they'll be admitting him as soon as they can find a room. Which, considering the way most hospitals operate, probably means he'll be admitted just before he's ready to be discharged."

"Is he conscious?"

"Off and on. He's still pretty out of it most of the time. But with how much pain he must be in right now, it's probably just as well."

Moving in with her kit, Catherine approached the bed and said softly, "Hey, Greg?" He didn't respond, but she decided to keep talking in case he might be able to hear her. "It's just me, Catherine. I'm going to have to touch you so I can examine you and try to find out who did this to you. So don't be scared, okay?"

She looked him over, trying to touch him as little as possible. But even with the slightest touch, Greg flinched noticeably. "It's going to be okay," she said soothingly as she swabbed under his fingernails. "It'll be over soon." When she had finished, she went back to the hallway to talk to Grissom, who had been watching her work.

"Did you get anything?" he asked.

She sighed, looking discouraged. "I don't think so," she said. "But I did manage to collect some hairs and skin cells from the other victim, so maybe that'll be enough. And hopefully, I'll be able to find something on his clothes. Speaking of which, I'm heading for the desk to pick his clothes up, and then I'll be ready to go back to the lab. Do you want me to drop you off at home on the way there?"

He shook his head. "No. I want to stay here with him. I read somewhere that with the nursing shortages in hospitals these days, the best thing to do is to have a family member stay with the patient at all times, just to make sure they're not being neglected. Doesn't make you want to have surgery any time soon, does it?"

"No. I suppose not," Catherine agreed. For a moment, she wondered why Grissom had mentioned surgery, but then quickly put that aside. "Let us know how he's doing, okay? I'll see you later."

Grissom returned to his chair and went back to watching Greg, who now was lying with his arms folded defensively across his chest. After a while, just as he was about to drift into sleep, he heard Greg's voice saying hesitantly, "Grissom?"

He opened his eyes to see Greg staring at him, looking a bit more alert than he had before, although somewhat confused.

"I'm in the hospital, right?" Greg asked. "Why? I mean...what happened to me?"

Wishing he could tell him, but knowing he shouldn't, Grissom just said, "What do you remember?"

After a long moment where Greg seemed to be trying very hard to recall anything, looking around the room as if he thought it would help him, he said, "The last thing I remember was being home, getting ready for work. And now, I'm here." Then, looking almost panicked, he said, "Why can't I remember?"

Trying to calm him, Grissom said, "It doesn't matter now. Just rest."

Eventually, Greg's eyes closed again and he slipped back into unconsciousness.

Chapter Three Tuesday morning

About 10 o'clock that morning, while Greg was lying in a room on the second floor of the hospital, being examined by one of the residents (who bore a little too much resemblance to the young doctor on "Scrubs," as far as Grissom was concerned), Grissom was pacing up and down the hallway, rolling his neck and shoulders around in an attempt to work out the kinks that had developed during the night spent sitting at Greg's bedside. He hated to admit it, but he had apparently gotten to the age where sleeping in a chair wasn't such a good idea.

Of course, he knew that his discomfort was nothing compared to what Greg was going through. That night had been a very difficult one for him. Between the necessary neuro checks and blood pressure checks, as well as the normal noises of the hospital, he had been unable to get very much sleep. And even during those times when he was able to, it had been a restless sleep, his suffering still clearly evident on his face. At one point, he had become nauseated and Grissom had had to hold a bedpan for him while he vomited, knowing his retching was making the pain from his ribs even worse, but being unable to do anything for him except rub his back in what he hoped was a soothing manner.

Grissom felt as if he had gotten a crash course in parenting during the night, or at least on all the worst parts of it, anyway: Anxiety, frustration, helplessness...

This led him to think of all the time he had spent dealing with the family members of crime victims, starting back from when he worked at the coroner's office until the present. To be honest, that was always one of the least favorite parts of his job (Aside from the paperwork, of course). It wasn't that he was so hard-hearted that he couldn't emphasize with them (Although it might seem to some people that he was). It was that his job was to collect evidence in as thorough a manner as possible, however long it might take. And those people and their understandable, but messy, emotions, their insistence on knowing everything now, and their need to find some kind of definite answer, some bad guy to blame - the kind of "closure" they had been told they deserved, even when it was clearly evident that they were never going to get it - did nothing but get in his way.

But now that he was one of them - now that it was his son who was lying injured in a hospital bed and someone else was running the investigation - things suddenly started looking differently to him. Suddenly, he was the one who was waiting impatiently for something to be done, for someone to be caught and arrested. And it took everything he had to not call the office every five minutes and ask: What was going on? Had they identified a suspect yet? What was taking so long? But he knew that the best thing for him to do now was stay out of it, stay with Greg, and just wait. And pace.

While he was caught up in his thoughts, he hadn't noticed the soft "ding" of the elevator door as it slid open, so it startled him when he nearly bumped into a woman who was on her way to the nurses' station. By the time he noticed the woman - who was about average height and weight, with chin length dark brown hair, dressed casually but neatly in a dark blue pantsuit - she was standing with her back to him while she waited to talk to someone. As she did, Grissom watched her, thinking she looked familiar. But he wasn't sure why. A reporter? She did have that type of look, and with the kidnapping of a child involved, it wouldn't be surprising that this case would get media attention. But he also knew that the last thing Greg needed right now was to be bothered by a reporter's questions, so he walked up to the nurses' station intending to warn her off.

"Excuse me..." he started to say, when she turned her head toward him and he realized who she was. "Karen."

She looked as if she had barely aged at all, except for the slightly deeper lines around her eyes and a few streaks of silver hair. But her clothes, makeup, and the more subdued way she carried herself gave her the appearance of a mature woman and not the hippyish girl that he remembered.

She looked him over in what appeared to be momentary confusion, before a look of recognition appeared on her face. "Gil," she said with a tentative smile. "It's nice to see you again."

Even though she had seen him in pictures and T.V. appearances over the years since they broke up, she had still kept an image in her head of him as a wiry young man with an unruly crop of dark curls and an occasional mischievous smile that broke through a usually serious demeanor. That was the Gil Grissom she remembered. Not this sadder, almost defeated-appearing, slightly overweight, graying middle-aged man who was standing in front of her.

"I wish I could say the same to you." He was almost as startled as she appeared to be when he heard himself saying that, especially when he heard how harsh his voice sounded.

Her brown eyes got that same widened with shock look that Greg got when someone criticized him at work, but then she quickly recovered. "So, I guess you know."

"I found out a few days ago. Greg told me."

She looked puzzled. "How did he find out? I never told him."

With a kind of ironic smile, he said, "Let's just say our son has a lot of...initiative."

Snorting sarcastically, she said, "Tell me about it." Then, in a sudden burst of anger, she said, "What the Hell was he doing out there anyway? Is that what you teach your people to do?"

"I can assure you I don't," he snapped defensively.

When did he start sounding so pompous? Karen wondered. Then she said, more gently, almost as if she was talking to herself, "Not that it should surprise me that much that he'd do something like that. Greg has always hated the idea of a child getting hurt, ever since...back when he was in grade school and the other kids used to pick on him because he used to be small for his age and...well, because he used to speak with a bit of a stammer. He eventually outgrew that."

There was something about the way she was acting, the way she wasn't quite making eye contact with him as she spoke, that made Grissom wonder if she was trying to hide something from him. While he was still pondering that, she asked him, "So, how is he?"

"Not bad, considering. He looks pretty beat up, but it could have been a lot worse. His doctor is with him right now, but I'm sure he'd let you go in if you wanted to."

"No. I think I'll just wait here."

There was then an uncomfortable silence between them as they looked down the hall at Greg's room, waiting for his doctor to come out. Not long after that (although it seemed a lot longer to them), the young doctor came down the hall and approached them. "Excuse me," he said. "Are you Greg Sanders' parents?"

When they indicated that they were, he said, "I'd like to talk to you about something in private, if you don't mind." He led them to a small office that had just enough room for a desk with two chairs in front of it and motioned for them to sit down. Karen took one of the chairs, and, after a moment of hesitation, Grissom sat down next to her.

"Has there been any change in Greg's condition?" Grissom asked.

"No. He's fine. And, in fact, if he keeps improving the way he has been, we should be able to discharge him in a couple of hours. He should stay in bed as much as possible, though, for the next couple of days and take it easy for a few days after that. And he'll need someone to stay with him for a while. Is there someone who'll be able to do that?" He looked at them questioningly.

"I will," Karen said.

"What I wanted to talk to you about is..." He looked down at his chart, as if he was searching for some way to continue from it. "Well, this is a bit awkward, but...when we did the x-rays and C.T. scans on Greg to evaluate his injuries, we noticed that there seemed to be some older injuries that we weren't able to determine the age of, that looked a bit suspicious. So we were there a possibility that he might be involved in an abusive relationship?"

Grissom looked over at Karen and noticed that she looked a little uneasy. Finally, she said, softly, "It was ex-husband. About 18 years ago. I left him as soon as I found out what was happening, and he hasn't touched him since."

The doctor seemed satisfied with that answer and, after looking back down at his chart to scribble something down, briefly went over the instructions for Greg's care once he was released, then excused himself to go to his next patient.

They followed him out of the office, and Karen, looking eager to get away, said, "Well, I think it's about time I see Greg now..." and was about to go down the hall to his room, but Grissom stepped in front of her to stop her from getting away.

"Not yet," he said. "Not until you explain exactly what you were talking about in there."

Seeing he wasn't going to relent, she sighed and said, "All right. Let's sit down, and I'll tell you about it." She led him to the visitor's area and sat down on one of the stiffly padded seats, Grissom taking the one across from her.

After looking off in the distance, blinking as if she was trying to hold back tears, she began, "It happened in the last year of our marriage, when things had started getting bad between us. I had gone back to school and got a nursing degree, and I was working the 3-11 shift at a hospital. Doug and I worked different shifts so we wouldn't have to hire a baby-sitter. For a while, it seemed like a good arrangement. But then suddenly, I'd keep coming home and finding out that Greg had been injured in some way. Cuts, bruises, a black eye, a broken finger, a sprained wrist...Doug always had some plausible excuse for it: He had fallen off his skateboard. His bike had hit a patch of gravel. He had gotten into a fight with some of his friends. He said that Greg was just going through a clumsy period and that he had been the same way when he was that age. And I wanted to believe that. But then there was the night when I got a call at work that my son had been taken to the hospital with what looked like a concussion and a broken jaw."

"Wait a minute," Grissom said, almost feeling dizzy with shock. "Are you saying your ex-husband broke his jaw?"

"I could never prove it," she said somewhat defensively. "Greg still can't remember what happened very clearly, and Doug claimed that it was an accident. That Greg had been mouthing off to him when they were standing at the top of the stairs and that he wasn't paying attention to what he was doing and fell."

"So you're saying that the man you picked over me...The man you chose to raise my son instead of me...That man broke his fucking jaw?" By this time, his voice had gotten so loud that the women at the desk were looking over at him, waiting to see if they should intervene.

"Gil, please," Karen said, her tears now flowing down her face.

"I've got to get out of here."

Not even waiting for the elevator, he headed for the stairs and, letting the door slam shut behind him, took them all the way down to the street. Once he was outside, he stood out on the sidewalk, trying to control his racing pulse. He was angry. Angry in a way he usually never allowed himself to be. In a way he hated to admit, even to himself. But he couldn't help it. There was nothing that made him angrier than the thought of a child being abused. But this time, it was personal because it was his child. And the worst part of the whole thing was knowing that it didn't have to happen. That it wouldn't have happened, if only Karen had chosen to let him raise his own child instead of that...that...Monster was the only word he could think of, but even that wasn't bad enough.

He knew he should go back up there to at least say good-bye to Greg before he left, but he was afraid that seeing Karen again would only make him angrier, to the point where he'd have no control left. So instead, he stood out on the sidewalk until a cab came along and drove him home.

"You know, if you're trying to imitate me, there's better ways of doing that," Nick said jokingly when he walked into Greg's hospital room. Just walking into a hospital again so soon after he had been there himself had been difficult, and seeing his friend lying in bed, looking battered and helpless, had brought back a wave of unpleasant memories. But for Greg's sake, he was trying to keep things light.

Greg let out a brief snort of laughter, then grimaced. "Don't make me laugh," he complained.

"Sorry. I should know better." Nick looked over at the woman sitting in a chair by the bedside. That's his mom? he thought. Greg had never talked very much about his family, and since Nick's own mother had been nearly 40 when he was born, he automatically pictured the mother of someone near his age as being wrinkled and gray-haired, not looking as if she could be one of his older sisters.

Turning to his mother, Greg said, "Mom, this is..."

"Don't tell me," she said. "Nicky, right? I recognized your accent." She got up, extended her hand to him, and he shook it.

"Yeah. I guess it is easy to spot," Nick acknowledged with a smile. "It's nice to meet you, Mrs...umm...Ms..."

"Karen will be fine," she said, smiling back at him.

"Mom, will you please stop flirting with my friends?" Greg pleaded. Looking over at Nick, he said, "Watch out for her. She has a thing for younger men."

Raising her eyebrows at Greg, Karen said, "Do I have to remind you that if I didn't have a thing for younger men, you wouldn't be here?"

Without thinking, Nick said, "You mean Grissom is younger than you?"

With that, Greg nearly bent over double with suppressed laughter. "What will you give me to not repeat that to him when he comes back?" he said.

Looking uncomfortable, Nick said, "Well...actually...Griss called me and asked me if I could take you and your mom home," he said. "He said something came up suddenly and he couldn't do it himself."

Seeing the disappointed look on Greg's face, he tried to make a joke out of it, saying, "He probably just wanted to go home and get some sleep, but was too embarrassed to say so. You know how those old people need their rest."

With just a faint smile, Greg said, "So, does that mean they're letting me out of here soon?"

Nick nodded. "That's what the nurse at the desk said." Holding up the plastic grocery bag he had brought with him, he said, "I brought the clothes you had in your locker. Do you need help getting them on?"

"No. I think I can manage." Greg sat up in bed, slowly swinging his legs over the side. As he did that, he wavered a bit and sat still for a moment, looking down at the floor until his lightheadedness went away.

"Are you all right?" Karen asked anxiously.

"Just a little dizzy," he admitted. Taking the clothes out of the bag, he asked, "Um..Mom...could you leave the room for a few minutes?"

She protested jokingly. "It's nothing I haven't seen before. Just larger." But when he just kept looking at her, she said, "Oh, all right. I'll be out there," and went out into the hall.

As Greg took his robe off, Nick was just as glad that she had left, so she couldn't see the large, even more alarming, bruise on his chest as well as the smaller bruises on his back, legs and ankles, proof of the struggle he had been involved in.

"Go ahead. Say it. I know you want to," Greg said with a bit of a smirk as he pulled a t-shirt over his head.

"Say what?" Nick asked.

"You know. 'Dude, your mom's hot.' It isn't like I haven't heard that before." His tone of voice was light, but Nick noticed that he still seemed to have a slightly troubled look in his eyes.

With a bit of a flush, Nick admitted, "Okay. She is...kinda..." And then he went on to say, "Look, Greg, I'm sure Grissom is going to come see you as soon as he gets some rest. He did seem really tired when I talked to him."

"I know," Greg said, wincing a little as he bent over to put his socks and shoes on. "It's just...whenever I mention him to my mom, she keeps changing the subject. And I have the feeling that something happened between them that she doesn't want to talk about." He sighed. "I know this is going to sound stupid," he said. "But I was hoping that once Griss and my mom met again, they'd want to--"

Right then, he was interrupted by his mother coming back in, along with a nurse with a wheelchair and his discharge papers for him to sign. After he had signed them and the nurse had instructed him about what he should do for the next few days, Karen smiled at him and asked, "Are you ready to go now?"

Easing himself into the chair and pinning on a smile in return, he said, "Yeah. Let's get out of here."

Chapter Four Tuesday Night

"I always hoped I'd see you in my bedroom," Greg told Sara, who was standing in the doorway, trying not to show her dismay at his appearance. "But not like this."

She rolled her eyes, trying to look annoyed, although she was really feeling relieved that he seemed to be doing better. Whenever she thought about Greg's bedroom (Not that she did it that often), she tended to imagine it being a cross between a college dorm and a Playboy-style bachelor pad, with black light posters and a mirrored ceiling above a giant water bed. So it was a bit of a relief to find that it looked somewhat normal. That is, if a bedroom with garishly multicolored tie-dye bedclothes and matching curtains, a lava lamp on the bedside table, and what looked to be an actual ant farm on the top of the chest of drawers could be considered normal. (And she also caught a glimpse of what looked to be one of those metal detectors that people use on the beach peeking out of his closet. She didn't even want to think about what he did with that.)

Walking over to the side of his bed, she said, "I was in the drugstore, and I remembered you didn't get to make your weekly purchases, so I got you this." She took out a National Enquirer, a Star, a US magazine and handed them to him one by one, topping it off with a package of Peanut Butter M&Ms.

As the nonbruised part of his face started to flush, he asked, "How did you know?"

"I am a trained investigator, remember?" she said with a smile. "And what exactly did have you been telling your mother about me?"

Looking a bit defensive, Greg said, "What do you mean? I just told her that you were an excellent C.S.I., a good friend, and the..." He took a deep breath then continued, "...potentialmotherofmybabies."

"Well, that would explain the way she's been looking at me." In a gentler, more serious tone, she asked him, "How are you feeling?"

He shrugged. "Better, I guess. Kind of spaced out from my pain pills, but at least I don't hurt as much anymore. So, how is the case going?"

Sighing, she said, "Greg, you know I can't really tell you that much about the investigation."

"I know," he said impatiently. "I mean, has the baby been found yet? Is she all right? She's not..."

"We haven't found her," Sara said, but quickly added, "As far as I know, she's still alive. People keep reporting having seen the car and a man with a child. The police just haven't been able to get to them yet."

"I keep wondering if it's my fault," he admitted. "If I hadn't tried to be a hero and stop him. If I had just used my cell phone. If I had had my cell phone..." he added, remembering that it had been one of those days when he had left it behind in the kitchen, still attached to the recharger. He looked away from her, biting his lower lip in an attempt to stop the tears that had suddenly brimmed up in his eyes. But that attempt failed, and soon they were sliding down his face.

Reaching out and putting her hand on his, she said gently, "Hey. You can't blame yourself. He probably would have gotten away, no matter what you did. And from what Amy - the mom - told us, you probably saved her from being injured any worse than she was."

"I suppose," he said, not looking convinced. After wiping his face and taking a couple of deep breaths in an attempt to control himself, he asked, "Who did they get to fill in for me at the lab?"

"Don't worry about it."

Naturally, as soon as she said that, his suspicions were aroused. "Please tell me they didn't get Vincent," he begged.

"They didn't," Sara said, and Greg looked relieved until she said, "They got that new guy to come in from the day shift. You know, Evan."

Seeing the face he was making at that, she said, "Hey. Come on. He's not that bad. A little inexperienced and kind of eccentric. But he seems to know what he's doing. You know, kind of like you were a couple of years ago."

"That's what I'm afraid of," he said.

To change the subject, she asked, "So, who sent you this?" pointing to the large arrangement of leafy plants in a clay planter, surrounded by silvery balloons with smileys and "Get Well" messages on them, that just about dominated the top of the dresser.

"You guys did," Greg said, looking a little confused.

Oh, yes. She should have known. Seeing the card sticking out near the top, Sara went over to give it a closer inspection, and, looking inside, read, "From the night shift." You've still got a way with words, haven't you, Gris, she thought sarcastically, and muttered to herself, "He must be one of their best customers."

"Huh?" Greg asked, overhearing her.

Embarrassed that she had been heard, she quickly responded, "Nothing."

Just then, Karen came to the doorway. "You've got more company," she said, and Sara saw a hopeful look appear in Greg's face, which quickly went away when his mother continued, "It's Warrick Brown and a woman from the F.B.I. They said they wanted to talk to you about your attack."

Getting up, Sara said, "I'd better go, or else it'll get a little too crowded in here."

"It's never too crowded for you, Sara," Greg said.

"You do know I'm going to get you back for all those remarks when you get better, don't you?" she said, but with a smile. Getting up, she said, "I'll see you later, Greg. Take it easy." And as she left the room, she added, "Good-bye, Karen. It was nice meeting you."

"Nice meeting you too, Sara," she said in a way that made Sara think she was still being eyed up as a potential daughter-in-law.

When Sara got to the living room, she saw Warrick there with a young woman with dark blonde chin-length hair, who looked overdressed in a buttoned-up white blouse, conservative-looking navy blue jacket and matching skirt. She looks like she's from the F.B.I., she thought.

Warrick, who was barely concealing the fact that he was less than thrilled with the latest addition to their team, introduced her to the woman, whose name turned out to be Elsie Gibbs.

Do people really name their daughters Elsie these days? Sara wondered, as she said politely, "Nice to meet you."

"So, how's Greg doing now?" Warrick asked her.

"Better, I guess," she said with a shrug. "But he still seems pretty upset about what happened, so try to take it easy on him. Okay?"

With a sigh, Warrick said, "Sara, I'm just doing my job."

In what she hoped was a placating manner, Sara said, "I know. Sorry. I'll see you back at the lab." She then headed for the door.

"See you."

Warrick and Agent Gibbs then went down the hall to Greg's room, passing Karen, who told them, "If there's anything you need, let me know, all right?"

"Right," Warrick said, trying to figure out what it was about her that seemed so familiar to him.

They went into the bedroom, and Warrick, seeing Greg for the first time since his attack, immediately understood Sara's concern. He introduced him to Agent Gibbs, noting both Greg's badly disguised amusement at seeing Warrick forced to work with the F.B.I. and the way she was looking over at him as if she very much wanted to ask him, "Does this person really work with you?" but was restraining herself.

"Do we have to do this now?" Greg asked. "I still can't remember that much, and I've got kind of a headache."

Warrick could tell that he really did look miserable, and he hated to have to bother him. But he knew that they needed to get his version of the event as soon as possible. "Sorry, but yeah. We do. We've talked to the other vic, and she's given us her description of the carjacker. But we still don't have a lot to go on, so it would really help us if you could tell us anything you remember about what happened."

"Yeah. Okay," Greg agreed, and Warrick took his small spiral notebook and prepared to take notes.

After closing his eyes for a moment, Greg began, "I remember I was walking to the Mini-Mart...and I heard a woman begging for help, and I heard a baby, so I went over. And there was this guy. He was trying to push the woman out of the car. And he had this knife."

"What size was it? Do you remember?"

"A little one," Greg said, sounding a bit scornful. "A pocket knife. I knocked it out of his hands."

Warrick, remembering reading in Catherine's notes that Amy had claimed that she had knocked the knife out of the man's hands, thought, A little selective memory going on here, Greggo? But he wrote it down anyway, with a question mark next to it.

"And I tried to pull him out of the car...and I almost did. But then, he grabbed me and I fell. I fell..." Greg's voice cracked and he turned his head away, his eyes widening with what seemed like fear, as if he had just remembered something that disturbed him.

"Are you all right?" Warrick asked anxiously, seeing him turn pale.

Greg shook his head, as if he was trying to get rid of the distressing image, and said, "Yeah. I'm okay. I'm just a little...muddled right now, you know?" He looked back over at them, trying to give them a reassuring smile.

"Can you remember anything at all about what this man looked like?" Agent Gibbs put in.

Seeing Greg struggle to come up with something, Warrick prompted him, "Was he white? Black? Young? Old?"

"White, I think. Yeah. I'm not sure how old he was. I didn't get a good look at him. He was wearing something with a hood. A sweatshirt?"

That was what Amy had mentioned, too, Warrick noted.

"And he was kind of big."

"Bigger than you?"

"Well, yeah. He'd pretty much have to be if he beat me up like this."

Warrick lowered his head and bit his bottom lip, noticing from the corner of his eye that Agent Gibbs also seemed to be trying to conceal her amusement. "Anything else?" he quickly asked.

"No. That's it. Sorry I can't remember more. That probably didn't help you that much."

"No. That's fine," Warrick said. Closing his notebook, he said, "Thanks, Greg. Take care of yourself, okay?"

"Umm...Warrick? I think I remember something else." When Warrick stopped and turned to listen to him, he said hesitantly, "I remember thinking that he was acting a little strange. Kind of wired, you know? Like he was on some kind of drug?"

Great. He's got a kid and he's high, Warrick thought sarcastically. But he just nodded and added that to his notes.

Looking up at Warrick, Greg said, solemnly, "I really hope we get this guy's too late."

Nodding, Warrick said, "So do I, Greg."

Chapter Five Tuesday night

Later that evening, as Warrick was on his way to the assignment meeting (which he presumed he would be running, since he hadn't heard anything from Grissom), he stopped by Grissom's office to see if the slips had been left there and was startled to see him at his desk, working on a stack of papers in front of him, looking as if it was just the start of another shift for him.

When Grissom looked up at him questioningly, he said, feeling a bit uncomfortable, "Oh. Hey, Gris. I didn't think you'd be back yet."

Looking a bit confused, Grissom said, "I said I'd only be out for one night, didn't I?"

"Well, yeah. I just thought you'd want to be with Greg." From the way Grissom was acting now, he would almost wonder if he had misheard what he had said the night before if the others hadn't confirmed it.

"His mother's staying with him," he said, as if that explained everything.

"Yeah. I know. I just met her when I went over to his place to get a statement."

"How'd that go?" Grissom asked, for the first time seeming to show some interest. "Did he remember any more about what happened?"

"A little more, yeah. I don't know if it's enough to help us, though. Hey, Gris. You know Mobley's gotten the F.B.I. involved, right?"

"Does that surprise you? Warrick, there's a kidnapping involving a young child, it's a high profile case, and the kidnapper has probably crossed state lines. There's no way that the F.B.I. wouldn't be involved."

"But when we had the Strip Strangler case..."

"That was different. We could have handled it without them. This time, we can't." As Warrick was still standing there, wondering if he'd ever be able to figure his supervisor out, Grissom asked, with what sounded like a touch of impatience, "Anything else?"

"Well, as a matter of fact, I was wondering..." Warrick started, then blurted out, "Why was I the only one who didn't know about Sanders being your biological son?"

With a sigh, Grissom pushed his chair back and looked up at him, appearing to be uncomfortable with the whole subject. "Look, Warrick, I swear I wasn't trying to keep you out of the loop. And to be accurate, I actually didn't tell anybody. Greg told Sara, who apparently told Catherine, and I don't know who the Hell told Nicky. And you were on vacation when this first came up."

If you could call my taking a week off to put my grandmother in a senior citizens apartment complex and clean out her house to get it ready to be sold a vacation, Warrick thought. I did tell you about that, but I'm not surprised you don't seem to remember.

"Besides that...well, I felt that it would be best if as few people knew about it as possible. Just to try to minimize the chances of the information getting into the wrong hands."

As he was saying that, they could see the dreaded sight of Conrad Ecklie approaching Grissom's office, looking as if he had just added a certain domesticated bird to his diet.

"I see what you mean," Warrick said. "I think it's time for me to get ready for our meeting."

As he got up, Grissom stopped him for a moment, saying, "Warrick. Just remember you're in charge of that case. No matter how many F.B.I. agents get assigned to it."

Acknowledging that with a half-smile, he said, "Thanks, Gris," as he left, passing Ecklie and greeting him with just a brief, "Hey, Conrad," over his shoulder.

Ecklie then walked into Grissom's office without waiting to be asked and said, with obviously fake joviality, "So, I hear congratulations are in order. About your new fatherhood, I mean. I have to admit I'm a little hurt, Gil. I know we're not the best of friends, but the least you could have done is give me a cigar."

Not bothering to hide his lack of amusement, Grissom snapped, "I really don't have the time for this, Conrad. So could you just tell me why you're here?"

"All right. I'll get to the point. I've been thinking about this...situation ever since I heard about it, and I think the best way to handle it is to have Sanders transferred to the dayshift as soon as possible before word gets around even further."

I should have known that was coming, Grissom thought. Ever since Greg had spent his orientation period on the dayshift, Ecklie had made no secret of the fact that he would have liked to have kept him there, his admiration for his skills outweighing his distaste for his unconventional appearance and behavior.

"You know he's not going to agree to that," he pointed out.

"He may not have a chance," Ecklie responded. "I'm sure you're aware of the regulations regarding supervising relatives."

"Yes, but until a couple of weeks ago, I didn't even know we were related. And it hasn't affected the way I supervise his work."

"That may be true, but still, suspicions are bound to be raised. Especially if word gets out to the wrong people."

Grissom knew exactly what he meant by 'the wrong people.' "Is this some kind of threat, Conrad?" he asked.

"No. Of course not. I'm just saying that something like this could prompt a review of Sanders's records, and considering his known 'eccentricities,' a case could be made that you were showing favoritism, and things could get very nasty. For both of you." As he noticed with undisguised satisfaction the way Grissom was glowering at him, he added, "Just think about it, Gil," and left.

For a while, Grissom just sat at his desk, morosely considering how he was going to handle the situation. Then, seeing Catherine approaching his office, inspiration quickly came to him, and he jumped up to intercept her.

"Catherine!" he called over to her. When she looked at him, he asked her, "Can I talk to you for a moment?"

She knew him well enough to know that when he said, "Catherine" like that, what he really meant was: "There's something I want you to do," "You're not going to like it," and, finally, "You're going to do it anyway."

"What is it?" she asked warily.

"You know how you keep telling me that I take too much responsibility on myself and I should learn to delegate? Well, I've been thinking about that would you like to be the new lab technician supervisor?"

"And would this be a promotion?" Catherine asked him pointedly.

Looking flustered, Grissom admitted, "Well, no. Not exactly. More like an...expansion of your responsibilities. Which I'm sure you're more than capable of handling."

Ignoring this attempt at flattery, Catherine asked, "So, what exactly would this involve?"

"Not that much more work, really. You'd mainly be responsible for signing off on time sheets and evaluations for the techs in all the labs, including A-V, Ballistics, Trace, D.N.A..."

"Including Greg." It finally dawned on her why he was asking her this now. "Ecklie just found out about Greg, and now he's been giving you some shit, right?"

With just a slight upwards twist of his lips to acknowledge that, he said, "I suppose you could put it that way. What Ecklie said, or more accurately, what he implied, was that if I didn't arrange for Greg to be transferred to the dayshift and certain people found about our relationship, his records could be looked at more closely and..."

Now I understand, Catherine thought. "So you're asking me to take on more work, more responsibility for the same pay, and it's not really a promotion in the first place?"

"Exactly," Grissom replied as if he couldn't understand why that would be a problem for her.

"And when would you expect me to start? Today?"

"No, no," Grissom assured her. "Monday will be soon enough."

Catherine sighed. She knew she was probably going to give in on this anyway, so she might as well relent now. "All right. Fine. I'll do it."

Looking relieved, Grissom said, "Great. I knew I could count on you," and, getting up from his desk, proceeded out to the break room.

Watching him, Catherine said to herself, "I'm sure you did."

Just as Warrick got to the doorway of the break room, he heard the sound of someone's rapid footsteps, and turned around to see Nick approaching, looking harried and breathless.

"I didn't miss the assignment meeting, did I?" Nick asked anxiously. "I...kind of overslept. After I dropped Greg off at his place, I stayed and talked with his mom for a while, and by the time I got home, it was around two o'clock, and I forgot to set the alarm clock, so..." What he didn't want to tell Warrick was how difficult it had been for him to fall asleep, that what little sleep he had gotten had been anything but restful and filled with nightmares. The last, and most vivid one, had been about working at a crime scene with Greg in a large two-story house that had reminded him of his childhood home in Dallas when Nigel Crane suddenly showed up, taking them both hostage. Nick remembered that he had thrown his body protectively over Greg just as Crane had pulled a gun on both of them, and at that point, he had woken up with a shaky, unsettled feeling that still hadn't completely gone away. He knew that it really wasn't that surprising that he'd have a dream like that - after all, it had only been about a couple of months since Crane had confronted him in his own home. Still, it had been bad enough that he had broken down at the scene the night before - he didn't want to give Warrick another reason to take him off the case.

"Don't worry about it," Warrick said. "Grissom's running late. Ecklie cornered him in his office. I don't know about what, though - I got out as soon as I could."

Nick chuckled a little at that and then, his expression turning more serious, said, "You saw Greg this afternoon, right? How's he doing? Any better?"

"Seems to be," Warrick replied with a shrug. "It's hard to say, though. Head injuries can be tricky."

"Yeah, tell me about it," Nick responded, remembering the two concussions he had suffered from during the time he was playing college baseball.

After a brief acknowledging nod, Warrick asked, trying to sound casual, "Hey, Nick, you met Sanders' mother, right?"

With a smirk, Nick replied, "Forget it, man. Greg's very protective about who goes near his mom."

"That's not what I meant. Didn't Karen remind you a lot of..." Seeing Sara coming up behind them, he quickly added, "Greg."

"Greg's mother is a lot like Greg?" Sara said sarcastically. "Well, *duh*." She walked past them and into the room, not seeing the looks that Nick and Warrick were exchanging behind her back.

The TV in the break room was still on, as it had been for most of the day, and the station it was tuned to was having one of its frequent "updates" of the kidnapping case. At that moment, they were showing a clip - the same one that had been played during every newscast - of the young parents, Amy and Kent, sitting in their living room next to a picture of a cheerful-looking one-year-old girl with wisps of curly blonde hair and a broad smile that showed off her baby teeth, both of them tearful as they pleaded for the life of their child. Displayed on the bottom of the screen were two phone numbers for people to call if they had any information - one for the LVPD and one that the FBI had set up as a hot line.

The CSIs had just settled down at the table when Grissom strode in briskly, with an all-business look on his face and the assignment sheets held tightly in his hand. Before starting the meeting, he walked directly over to the TV set, hitting the off switch with a sharp snap, which startled the other CSIs and immediately turned their attention to him. He then sat down at the end of the table and said, "We've got a busy shift tonight, so let's get right to it. Warrick, before I start, could you give us an update on the kidnapping investigation?"

After a glance at his notebook, Warrick reported, "We still haven't made a definite ID on our suspect. We put out what little description we have - a fairly tall, white male wearing a dark blue hooded sweatshirt - as well as a description and the license plate number of the SUV, and there's been a few sightings reported. There was blood on the knife we found, so I sent it to, along with the epithelials we got from the female vic. Archie and Nick have been looking at the footage from the convenience store. I've been working on the shoe print we found in the parking lot, and I was able to match it to a steel-toed boot that's sold at a store here that specializes in work shoes."

He kicked Greg with that? Nick thought, remembering the bruise he had seen on his chest and wincing slightly in sympathy. Man, that's got to have hurt.

"It's one of their more popular models, so that doesn't really narrow that down that much, but I'm still working on it. And - we're not sure if this is related or not - the police found an abandoned vehicle that was parked on the side of the road just a few feet from the convenience store, and when they tried to notify the owner, a Mr. Alan North, they were unable to locate him."

"So that's the guy we should be looking for, right?" Nick broke in.

"We don't know that yet," Warrick reminded him, his voice sounding annoyingly calm. "All we know is that there are two missing people from the same area at around the same time - we don't know if there's any connection between them."

"But we may soon," Grissom put in. When they looked over at him, he continued, "We've got a missing person's report from his wife - Mrs. Bonnie North. Nick, Catherine, you're on that." He handed Catherine one of the slips he was holding.

After a moment's hesitation, Nick said, "Griss, you're pulling me off the kidnapping? Is this because Warrick told you - "

"Warrick didn't tell me anything," Grissom broke in, sounding impatient. "I just need you on this other case more." Turning away from him, he continued, "Sara, you and I have a reported shooting in Henderson to go to." Then, standing up, he said, "Okay, that's it. Come on, Sara." With that, he headed for the door, not looking behind him to see if Sara was following.

Not long after that, Grissom and Sara were on their way to the crime scene together, Grissom driving, squinting slightly behind his glasses as he concentrated on the traffic in front of him. Ever since they had gotten into the Tahoe, there had been a silence between them, and not, Sara thought, a very comfortable one. In fact, he had seemed to be intent on avoiding any conversation with her at all that evening, from the time she had caught up with him while he was on his way to his office to ask how he was doing, and he had replied with a terse, "Fine," followed by, "Sara, could you excuse me? I need to check my e-mail." He had then walked away, leaving Sara to wonder when he had become so eager to read his e-mail.

Actually, when she thought about it, he had been acting distant from her a lot longer than just this particular night. In fact, he had been like this for the past couple of weeks, ever since the night she had come to him angry at his cold reaction to finding out he was Greg's father and he ended up telling her about the relationship he had had with his mother and the abrupt, heartbreaking way it had ended. At that time, she had been touched that he had trusted her enough to be that open with her and hoped that was the beginning of a new closeness between them.

She should have known better, she thought. This is just part of his usual pattern - whenever she thought they were becoming closer, he'd start to pull away, but every time she decided to give up on him, he'd look at her a certain way, make a flattering or flirtatious sounding comment, and even, just a few months ago, send her a plant, and she'd be back, hoping that somehow things were going to be different this time around.

That might be our pattern, she thought, but I'll be damned if I'm going to let him get away with that again. So, in a deliberately casual manner, just to see what his response would be, she said, "I saw Greg tonight."

He turned his head to her and said, with what sounded like genuine interest, "Oh? How's he doing?"

With a smile, she said, "Well enough to flirt with me."

That brought a smirk in response.

Deciding to take it a step forward, she said, "His mom seems nice."

His only reply to that was a kind of "Hmm" noise, his face looking a lot grimmer. So that's the problem, Sara thought. I should have known.

"So are you going over there later?"

"I don't know," he responded, his voice taking on a more impatient tone.

"Because I think he'd really like to see you..."

With a sigh, Grissom said, "Sara, I really don't want to talk about this now, all right?"

Giving up, she just responded, "Fine," and they were silent for the rest of the way there.

When they arrived at the address they had been sent to, they stepped out of the Tahoe onto a street in what looked like a fairly quiet middle-class neighborhood, or rather, what usually would have been quiet if the neighbors hadn't been standing outside gawking at all the police activity going on, as well as the TV trucks lined on the opposite side of the street. As they got closer to the house, Jim Brass broke away from the uniformed police officer he was talking to and walked over to them.

"Welcome back, Dad," Brass said to Grissom, with only the smallest trace of amusement evident in his deadpan face.

Grissom sighed. "So I guess the news has reached the detectives."

"Well, you know. When you've got no life of your own to talk about..." Brass said with a shrug and added, "Look at it this way - at least your kid turned out better than mine did."

"That's probably because I had nothing to do with it." While Brass was still reacting to that, he asked, "Could you tell me about the case, please?"

Brass turned to Sara and raised his eyebrows questioningly. She just shrugged in response.

As they walked to the house, Brass told them, "We got a call about an hour ago from some neighbors claiming they heard a loud argument and some shots. When we got here, we found the owner, a Mr. Anthony Williams, and his son, Anthony, Jr., lying in the living room, both the apparent victims of gunshot wounds." When they got to the front door, he stepped aside to let Grissom and Sara go in, and continued, "According to our records, there's been a lot of domestic complaints here by the neighbors who claimed to have overheard the father being both verbally and physically abusive to the son, although no charges have ever been placed against him."

As they looked down at the body of the young man lying on the floor next to him, his wound visible on his chest, Sara heard Grissom mutter to himself, "So much for work as a refuge."

After collecting the evidence, which seemed to strongly back up the idea that it had been a murder-suicide, Grissom and Sara got into the Tahoe and drove back to the lab. The whole way, Sara didn't say anything, which Grissom didn't seem to notice, as he apparently still wasn't in the mood for conversation. When they got there, Sara dropped off the evidence and then went to Grissom's office, where she found him at his desk, logging onto his computer.

"So are you going to see Greg tomorrow?" she asked him.

Still staring at the screen, Grissom replied, "No, I don't think so."

Deciding it was now time to try a more direct approach, she said, "Why not? Whatever's going on between you and Karen can't be that bad, can it?"

Sighing, he said, "Sara, I know you mean well, but you don't know the entire situation."

She stood in front of him with her arms crossed, giving him a challenging look. "So tell me."

Returning her stare, Grissom said quietly, "I can't."

She started to walk out of the office, then turning back, blurted out, "You can't solve all your problems by sending a plant!"

For a moment, Grissom had what appeared to be a puzzled expression on his face. Then, as if eager to change the subject, he said, "Oh, right. That reminds me. Catherine said she'd collect the money for the arrangement we sent Greg. You owe her five dollars."

Grabbing the small change purse she kept in her pocket, she took out a crumpled ten dollar bill and threw it at him. "Tell her to keep the change," she snapped at him and stormed out down the hall.

Grissom followed her with his eyes for a moment, then picked up the bill from the desk. After staring at it for a moment, he smoothed it out with his fingers, slid his middle desk drawer open, and put it in.

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