Introduction to Management

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters from CSI, or anything else that seems familiar. Purely a labor of love, with no profit made.

Spoilers: Minor ones for "Overload" and "Play With Fire."

Archival: Sure, if you want it, just e-mail me.

Pairings: a little bit of UST between Grissom and Sara

Lesson One: Disciplinary Action

Grissom had never seen a kicked puppy in his life, but he imagined it would look like Greg. The lab tech was fidgeting in his socks, rotating on his heels with restless, twitchy motion. His eyes looked oversized and teary, like a harsh word was going to make him cry. Either that, or the smoke drifting from his lab was making his eyes water. Grissom started to say something, cleared his throat, and fell silent again. He surveyed Greg from top to bottom. No shoes. Charred lab coat. Big brown eyes brimming over with tears.

Remember, Grissom thought, he's only twenty-seven.

That was practically still a kid. Whatever Greg had done in the lab to simultaneously make him lose his shoes and destroy his uniform, he looked like it had done him a good lesson. The scorched socks alone should have imprinted some kind of message into his mind. And even if Greg did play his music too loud, he was - - a good kid. A good kid who got the results in on time, and deserved something right now. Some kind of sympathy. There was, at the very least, a sense of kindness to be considered. Keeping his karma in mind, he was fairly aware that it wouldn't be easy to forgive himself if his self-control slipped when Greg looked one step away from an emotional breakdown.

Grissom took all this into account shortly after he said, "Greg, what the hell did you do?"

Greg's lip fluttered. "I - - um. I - - yeah."

"Start at the beginning," he said, and then specified, "of the incident," because without prompting, Greg was liable to start somewhere around either "God created the heavens and the earth" or "My mom went into labor around three."

"I... messed up?"

"Is that a question?"


"Greg. Getting you to talk isn't usually a problem." One more cautious evaluation of his DNA tech's appearance, and another reminder to his system to be calm. Take it one question at a time. "What happened to your shoes?"

"They caught on fire. I put them out."

"In the sink?"

Greg closed his eyes. "Um. In the coffee pot."

When Grissom's mother was angry with him, he remembered her spelling out his name. Not even the short abbreviation of it, but the whole name - - Gil Grissom, constructed manually, letter by letter, as slowly as she could do it without being ridiculous. Then, as the name built up in her fingers, he started to squirm, and by the time she was done with just his name, he was already regretting whatever transgression had started it.

"Greg Sanders." The words slid out from between his teeth slowly, like thick molasses.

Amazing. Different speaker, established vocals, and over thirty years later, and it still had the same effect. If Greg had gone any paler, he would have been a prime candidate for Dr. Robbins's autopsy table.

"Yes sir?'

"Are you implying that there is a pair of scuffed sneakers floating in the community coffee pot? Your sneakers?"

"They aren't exactly floating. I mean, I had to jam them in. They wouldn't fit right away." Greg glanced down at his hands. "I kind of burnt myself a little."

"And, are you further implying that, upon attempting to fit your shoes in the coffee pot, you neglected to notice that you were standing a mere two feet from the sink?"

"No, I didn't notice. Sir."

Grissom sighed. "Then let me see your hands. If you burnt them, you'll need some kind of salve."

Greg extended his hands across the desk. The tops were pink from flushed heat, and when Grissom flipped them over to study the palms, he saw that they looked badly sunburned - - a crabby, bunchy shade of red. The skin had started to peel back from the fingertips.

"They were tight," Greg said miserably. "I had to unlace them before I could get them off."

Grissom released Greg's hands. "Take the rest of the night off and get to Desert Palms. Get these treated - - they're worse than I expected." He found the absence form and reported Greg's name and reason for leaving on it in swift blue pen strokes. "And next time, tell me that your hands are hurting before you let me start on a lecture."

Greg took the note gingerly. "Next time?"

"With you, Greg, I have learned to be prepared. Now, go get yourself treated, and, if you'll excuse me, I have a pair of shoes to pry out of a coffee pot. And then a coffee pot to sanitize." He patted Greg on one charred shoulder and shepherded the young man out of the office. Greg looked like a condemned prisoner who had suddenly seen sunlight again. He was grinning from ear to ear. With another pat, Grissom turned his tech towards the exit. Greg, holding his hands in front of him, started striding towards the door.


Greg turned back towards him, and Grissom was relieved to see that the kicked puppy look had been replaced by a beatific everything's-going-to-be- okay expression.

"Yeah, Grissom?"

"When you get back - - I still need to know how you managed to set your shoes on fire."

Lesson Two: Overtime

It was Tuesday, and Sara was staying late, which was not unusual in the same way that Sara having brown hair was not unusual. Grissom should have known better than to give her the rape/murder case up on the boards - - especially when the young woman involved had a life so close to her own - - but sometimes, personal motivation was the best fuel. Standing outside the break room, watching Sara pour over files while chain-drinking paper cups of coffee, he wished that he knew how to make her go home. Nick and Warrick had retreated into the rising dawn an hour ago, shortly after Catherine. They'd offered bribes of steak and egg platters and pancakes, but Sara had shook her head. As far as Grissom could tell, the only way Sara even noticed everyone else had clocked out was because she had to reiterate the case details to the dayshift DNA tech.

He knocked on the doorframe and startled a reaction out of her. She almost dropped the coffee cup, her eyes wide, only accentuating the dark underlines from lack of sleep.

She shook herself. "Sorry. I was close to dozing off there. You just startled me." She cleared off the chair next to her and motioned him down. "Fourteen cups of coffee, and I'm wearing down already. Guess I'm past my prime." Her smile was shaky.

"Caffeine crash," he said gently. "You ought to go home and get some sleep."

"Nah." Sara worked as she talked, indexing the plastic sample-bags into the correct order. He counted a sheet swatch, and a mold - - bracelet? Necklace? - - before she packed them away. "I'm dialed in, I can't leave now."

"You're going to run out all your overtime early."

"This isn't about money," she said quietly, her voice intense. "I just what to know the answer." She pulled a photograph from the heap on the table, and set it in front of him, like an icon. A young woman, blonde, smiling, looked up at him. Frozen. "She shouldn't have died, Grissom." She tapped the name. "Caitlin Moss. Twenty-three. These things. . . shouldn't happen."

Caitlin Moss. She had Sara's eyes.

"No," he said, with more power than he had intended. "They shouldn't."

Sara's smile was helpless and, Grissom presumed, involuntary. The photo was lifted from his view and she slid it back into an envelope among the files. "So we know why I'm still here. Catherine left to take her daughter to school. Warrick and Nick needed breakfast. Greg - - so he says - - had a date. What's you're reason for hanging around?"

"You," he said.

A dark, slim eyebrow raised. "I'm your reason?"

"I didn't want you to be here alone, with all of this." He made a sweeping motion to include the assortment of papers on the table, and most of the lab itself, for general emphasis.

She said gently, "Grissom, there are plenty of other people here."

He chuckled. "Sure. Dayshift."

"I know, I know, they're sub-par." She sipped her coffee with a grimace. "And we definitely have the better coffee of the bunch. So you're worried about leaving me alone with an inept DNA tech? Ecklie?"

"I just worry sometimes," he said.

"You wouldn't know it." With a smart hiss, she clapped the files together and stood. "I think I might take a walk. Get some air. Think a little."

"See if you can't walk yourself home," he advised, his hand on her elbow. "I don't know what I'll do if I have to watch you start the coffee machine up one more time. And if you have to enter the DNA lab again, I think you'll end up biting that poor man's head off."

"He's incompetent."

"He's average," Grissom said. "We're just used to better."

"Graveyard shift," Sara said teasingly, "complete with better coffee, better lab techs, better solve rate . . ." She hesitated momentarily. "Better boss."

"Better employees - - but ones I'm not afraid of sending home. Go get some sleep."

She pulled her purse off the chair. "Yeah," she said. "Sure."

Her nod was unconvincing, and Grissom wasn't surprised when she turned up an hour later with an iced cappuccino and the same dark circles.

Lesson Three: Special Occasions

The division between the break room and the hall was glass, so, luckily, Grissom saw what he was getting into before he actually entered. For one thing, he could see the streamers plastered merrily over the wall, for another thing, Catherine was brandishing a dubiously large knife above a chocolate-iced cake. And, though not precisely enough to clue him in, although more than certainly enough to disturb him, he caught a snippet of conversation through the open door:

Sara: "Greg and I would like you to know that we have no idea who painted your locker with liquid latex."

Nick: "Sure you don't. Hey, no one's going to sing, right?"

Catherine: "Oh, I think we should."

Warrick: "I'm getting out of this on principle."

Greg: "Don't look at me. My singing is strictly of the in-the-shower variety."

Catherine: "If there's no singing, there's no cake."

After overcoming the extreme oddity of the conversation opener, Grissom's mind worked out a connection, much to his horror. He slapped a hand against his head. Prank. Singing. Cake. Nick.


Nick's birthday. How could he have forgotten that? Catherine had actually sent a memo about it - - typed it up on his computer, printed it out, and stapled it to the board in the break room. Thirty-one. He swore again, and risked another nervous glance into the room. Catherine, apparently having given up on getting anyone to sing "Happy Birthday," had started dividing the cake. Nick was smiling, but his eyes were fixed on the clock, like he was waiting for something.

Another swipe of his eyes, and he found what he was hoping against - - a stack of presents on the table, glossily wrapped. Four. Catherine, Sara, Greg, Warrick. And a conspicuous empty spot among the paper plates and party favors - - a spot waiting for a fifth present. His present.

Again, shit.

Catherine was going to kill him, and he was going to deserve it. No wonder Nick kept looking at the clock - - he was waiting for Grissom to show up. He was sure he could just tell Nick that he forgot a present, sure that he could make some excuse and Nick wouldn't say a word - - but he still should have remembered. And it would be crass to show up without a present. Sara's birthday, last month, there had been a present. And for Warrick, back in October. He'd made sure he'd had a present for Nick since Nick's first promotion to Level Two.

And now he was the boss, and it was his first slip.

He realized that he'd stayed in front of the glass a little too long when he noticed Catherine exiting. She rounded him up against the wall, eyes icy.

"You forgot, didn't you." Not even a question. "I sent you a reminder, and you forgot."

In the break room, the remaining two CSI and Greg had teamed up to apparently heckle Nick into opening his presents, but Grissom could tell by his outstretched hands and laugh that he wasn't going to, and then his lips spelled out - - Waiting for Catherine to come back. And Grissom.

"He'll be mad."

"He ought to be mad, but he won't be. I think I can cover for him, though. You have to do something, Gil." He must have looked remorseful, because her face softened and she squeezed his shoulder. "Listen, I know things have been stressful since they made you supervisor. I understand that. But you have to make this up to him."

"I will."

"You'd better."

"What did you get him?"

Catherine smiled. "Ornithology book. I figured, since he watched all those Discovery Channel episodes on birds, there must have been some kind of interest. I know Warrick got him some kind of computer game, and Sara said something about a jacket."


"You know Greg. He's been making exaggerated zip-lips gestures all day when we ask him. I'm expecting either socks, a puppy, or a girl who jumps out of a cake."

Grissom smiled, but it felt raw. His obsessive glance at the room again almost got him caught again. He pulled back just before Sara directed a wondering look into the hall.

"They're getting impatient," Catherine said softly. "If you have a rabbit in your hat, I'd pull it out quick."

"I've got an idea," he said.

He had - - barely. But Grissom had always been decent at improvisation, so he smiled at her and walked into the break room. One of the things about being the supervisor that he had noticed was that things changed the second he walked into his room. Greg had speared a bite of cake that he had apparently been trying to get Sara to take it off his fork, but she was refusing, laughing. The second he saw Grissom, the fork dropped back to his plate. Warrick stalled the music he'd been playing. Four sets of eyes flickered from Grissom to his empty hands, two (Warrick and Sara) coming back to stare at him darkly. Greg's glare landed somewhere around his shoulder, as if too timid to crawl up to his face. Nick had swallowed and glanced at the floor.

"Hey," Nick said awkwardly.

"Happy birthday, Nicky." He shook Nick's hand firmly. "You should have taken a vacation."

"We put our presents on the table," Sara said. Her voice was accusative. She pointed at the hole in the gulf of assortments covering the surface. "We saved a space for yours."

"I'm treating you all to breakfast," he said, trying to keep his voice even. "I know a nice place on the Strip. Take the presents with you, Nick. You can open them while we're waiting for our food - - and trust me, it's going to be worth waiting for. Everyone order big - - it's my treat this time. No splitting the bill."

With grins, they started filing out, Nick overloaded on presents, balancing them on his arms, Sara, Warrick, and Catherine flanking him like attendants. "Meet you in the car!" Catherine yelled, and mouthed back at him, "Nice save." She flashed a thumb's-up.

Greg was leaning against the table.

"Greg. Go get in the Tahoe. Did you miss your breakfast invitation?"

His face lit up. "I can come? Seriously?"

"Yes. Hurry, before Catherine decides to tear open your present to Nick."

Greg took off like he was afraid of being left behind (which, apparently, he had been), and Grissom looked at the cake that everyone had forgotten, and took it up in his hands with a sigh, as an afterthought, grabbing a few spare items, and walked out to the Tahoe. They had, considerately, spared the driver's seat for him. Nick was in the passenger's side, with Catherine and Warrick in the middle, and Sara and Greg in the back, like children. He handed Nick the cake.

"You left this."

Nick grinned. "Well, I didn't think your restaurant would like us bringing in our own food."

"We don't have to wait for the restaurant. We can, appropriately enough, have our cake and eat it, too." He produced the bag of paper plates and forks he had brought. Nick's smile widened as he passed the cake to Catherine so she could serve with a mother's precise cuts. Grissom concentrated on the road, waving off the offered piece for later - - but turned his head at the red light.

"I'm sorry, Nicky," he said in an undertone, so the other passengers wouldn't hear.

Nick had a dark smear of chocolate icing across his mouth, and he wiped at it with his hand before answering. "For what?"

"You know. Forgetting."

Nick looked serene - - not an expression Grissom was used to. It was like a ceramic angel you would put on a Christmas tree - - only not fake. This was real. Nick was okay. Nick was enjoying himself.

"You made up for it," he said honestly. "I'm not mad. This is great. I'm going out for breakfast with my friends. This is cool."

"You're not mad." He wasn't surprised, but somehow, he thought he heard incredulity in his voice, anyway.

"Man, the only thing that could make me mad right now is if Greg did that thing with his present where he packed a box in a box in a box, and I open up the last one and get a penny. My sister Jenny did that to me for Christmas once."

"Did you shake it?"

"It doesn't rattle."

"I'll bring you something tomorrow," Grissom heard himself promise. "You'll like it."

Nick smiled at him. "You have no idea what to buy me, do you?"

"Not the slightest. Sorry."

"I'm cool with that. Anyway, I just wanted to tell you not to bother." He took another bite of chocolate cake and worked his mouth around it, eyes halfway closed. He pointed his fork at the remaining part of the slice. "This is great. But - - to what I was saying - - don't worry about it."

"I have to do something."

"You're paying for a six-person breakfast. That's enough. Hey, I'll even order something really expensive, if you want." Nick laughed. He patted the Tahoe's window. Bright sunlight slid against his palm. "Listen, I know you're a cynic, but - - Griss - - it's good to be alive today, isn't it?"

Grissom surveyed Nick's serene look, and then looked at the quartet bickering behind them, snatching cake pieces off other plates, grinding enough crumbs into the interior. That would never come out, he thought resignedly. But Sara had a cute chocolate dab on her upper lip that she had yet to notice, Warrick was moving presents around and shaking them experimentally, and Catherine was heckling Greg by holding the last piece of cake just out of his reach.

"It's good to be alive," he agreed, just as another red light made him slam on the brakes, eliciting a short laugh. "Even in Vegas traffic."

"Grissom, I don't want to be the one to blow the whistle, but Greg's cake just smashed into the back of one of your seats." Nick was stifling a laugh, turning to look at Greg's bright red face. "And he's trying to clean it up with his paper plate."

"I'm in a good mood. I don't think he'll lose his job over cake."

"What about if he gave me a penny?"

"I'll consider it." He pulled into the parking lot. "Happy birthday," he repeated, squeezing Nick's shoulder. "Let's get inside and get some breakfast."

Lesson Four: Valuable Contact

"Have lunch with me," she said. "You're stressed."

Grissom looked up at Catherine's expression, and could almost feel his face settling into his own harried look - - he had assigned them a tough case. Drive-by shootings were always difficult, and this one seemed almost impossible. The victim had apparently been an almost unknown. He'd been identified by his mailman, for God's sake. The lack of evidence - - the lack of motive - - it was driving him crazy.

"Lunch," he said flatly, hoping he had managed to successfully express his disdain for either a) breaking his stride, or b) eating. Technically, option a was far more truthful, but right then, Grissom didn't feel like particularly doing anything, except maybe venting tension. He wondered if midlife crises usually required punching bags.

"Lunch. You've worked around the clock. We're in overtime. SARA even went home."

"I'm that bad?"

"You're terrible. Come on. We'll get Mexican."

"I don't like Mexican."

"You liked Mexican last week."

"Well, now I'm sick of it." He knew he sounded petulant. "I mean - - I've had a lot of it lately. I'm just not in the mood right now."

Catherine wasn't going to be dissuaded. "Chinese, then."

"I'll have a grasshopper," he said, purposefully trying to disgust her.

"Gil, if it's in your fridge, don't eat it. We're going to go - - yes, leave the lab, I know that must shock you, but yes, we are capable of doing it - - and get you real food. Like sweet-and-sour chicken. Or at the very least, fake real food. Like burritos." She brushed her hand over his. "I'll get you a fortune cookie."

"There's the motivation I was looking for." Still, he rose with a slight creaking. He rubbed the small of his back, thinking, humorlessly, that he was getting old. Catherine caught his expression and shook her head.

"Huh-uh. If you're old, then I'm old. And you wouldn't want to imply that when I'm ready to buy you lunch."

He pushed the file across the table and looked at her. There was no sign that she was going to give in anytime soon, and he was wasting time by arguing.

"Chinese?" she asked, jingling the car keys.

He snatched them from her hand. "I'm driving."

She pulled them back just as deftly. "No way. If I'm buying, I'm going to drive. Besides, I know where to get the best Chinese, and you don't."

"You're assuming things now."

"I have evidence," she said pertly. "I've seen what you eat for lunch. Once you've done the buffet at the Dragon, you never look back. You certainly don't keep eating bugs when you want a sugar rush, anyway."

She led him to the car with the promise of Chinese food tugging him along like a leash. Against his will, he was imagining the tastes. Sweet-and- sour pork. Steamed rice. Cashew chicken. Piping hot sugar-coated rolls. His stomach growled irrepressibly, and Catherine flicked a smile at him over her shoulder. He slid into the passenger seat with a sigh. If he had to be baited into taking a break, he at least was hoping to get it done fast - - which of course had nothing to do with his gnawing desire for food.

"You're hungry," she said in a sing-song voice.

"I'm starving."

"I'll drive fast."

"I'll be thankful." He buckled up as Catherine pulled out of the parking lot, her smile firmly intact. "I want you to know that I appreciate this."


"Food," he agreed. "Friendship."

"Ooh, someone's gushy when he's hungry." She patted his hand, like a soothing mother. "Don't worry, Gil. You might have called me old and insulted my knowledge of your food likes and dislikes, but I'm still going to buy you lunch. No need to apologize."

"That wasn't an apology," he said stiffly. "It was an olive branch."

"We're going for Chinese, not Greek."

"You know exactly what I mean."

"I do. And thanks." There was a tiny pause. "I'm a black pepper chicken woman, myself."

"Too much spice."

"You will eat your words."

"I will eat," Grissom said, as his stomach growled again. "That's what I'm sure of right now." He leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes, let the hunger die away as he counted backwards into hazy sunlight against his face. He felt warm, and somehow comforted.

Lesson Five: Support Systems

Grissom was sitting on the roof when he heard a creeping pattern of footsteps behind him. He resolutely decided not to turn around. It hadn't been a good day for him - - a spousal battery case had turned sour when the wife had suddenly decided to drop all of her accusations and clam up, refusing to confirm their theory or even to press charges. All of the work - - all the samples he'd gathered, all the thought and energy - - all the emotion - - it had gone to waste. Dry as dust. He had the beginnings of a migraine.

"Hey," said a soft voice. "I, um, brought you this."

"Greg, you ought to be downstairs," he said, without turning around. His head rested squarely in his palm. "Sara's running that 419 from last night and I know she has some samples she's going to need tested."

"I'm on break," Greg said defensively. He came into view, still in his lab coat, looking smaller out of the sealed lab. The air whistled around him. He was holding a coffee cup in his hand, and, as much as his headache was hurting him, Grissom had to admit that it smelled heavenly. Greg practically shoved it into him. "Here."

He sipped, and let the flavor roll over his tongue. "This is your Blue Hawaiian."


"I thought I wasn't allowed to touch this."

"You aren't. I made it. I'm feeling generous today." Greg settled down beside him on the railing with a whisper of cotton fabric. "Besides," he added, "you looked tense. And kind of pissed, to tell you the truth. Blue Hawaiian does miracles for calming you down."

"Coffee isn't supposed to calm you down, Greg. It has caffeine. It's not a sedative."

"This does both. It's like a miracle. It calms you down and jazzes you up at the same time." Greg stole the cup from him neatly and took a quick gulp before handing it back. He gave a deep, satisfied sigh. "Things that taste this good should be illegal."

Grissom thought about rebutting him again, but instead just drank. Greg was - - impossibly - - right. His emotions were settling down at the same time as his energy was perking up.

"I'm sorry about earlier," he said, once he'd finished the coffee. It settled inside him, warm and comforting.

Greg shrugged him off. "Don't worry about it."

"I snapped at you."

"It's not a big deal, Grissom. Besides which, I still owe you from that one time. With the shoes, and the fire? Ecklie would have black-marked me."

Grissom rotated the cup in his hands. "It was an accident."

"It was a mistake."

Grissom heard his own voice, a few hours earlier, echoing back at him, in response to that. In retrospect, he sounded bitter, angrier than he had intended. He winced as it replayed:

("Greg, I need those results now. Not tomorrow, right now. I don't want to hear music, I don't want to hear talking - - right now I don't want to hear anything but machines humming and you working. I tolerate a lot from you, but not right now. Results are all that matter.")

And, from that - - he somehow got coffee.

"We all make mistakes," he said gently. He rested his hand on Greg's shoulder for a second. "And I AM sorry."

"It's all right. You were stressed." Greg gave an audible groan as he stretched. He slid his eyes over his wrist to his watch. "Grissom," he said incredulously, "how long have I been on-duty?"

"You clocked in at nine last night, I think."

"It's noon."

"That's a fifteen-hour shift, Greg." He looked at the lab tech out of the corner of his eyes, evaluating. Black circles were becoming a fixture of the graveyard shift, but he hadn't noticed them on Greg until then. He didn't like that. It made him feel petty. "Aren't you loaded up from Ecklie now, too?"

"I always have tests, Grissom."

"I don't like you sounding that old." He frowned when he heard that come out of his mouth. It was true, but outside of his head, it sounded parental. Well, to hell with it. It was late (early), and he was tired, and if he was going to sound parental, then he was going to sound parental.

"I am old. Practically ancient. I have a crick in my neck." Greg rubbed at it. "Does the lab give away free massage appointments, by chance?"


"Catherine?" Greg's eyes widened. "I've had that dream before."

Grissom smiled, but it felt weary on him. He wondered when all of his expressions became that tired. "She'll get that knot out, if you ask. She is a mother, after all."

Greg's face crinkled. "Spoil my fantasies, why don't you, Grissom?" he said lightly, and was to his feet and away before Grissom could remember to thank him.

Lesson Six: Advantages

So far, Grissom had found only a few advantages to being a supervisor, as opposed to just another member of the team. Warrick, in particular, had a tendency to remind him of the advantages - - not consciously, but without noticing, the good points would slide by him. At least one of them, he had determined, had to do with choosing his own assignments:

"Nick and Sara. There's a 419." He handed Nick the address.

"The Hotel Star?" he asked, tapping the name on the slip of paper. "Haven't heard of it."

"I have," Sara said. "Kind of glitzy, serves clams to newlyweds."

"They get a lot of business?"

"Well," she said, smiling, "this is Vegas." She pulled the slip from his hand, and Nick shook his head as she demanded access to the driver's seat, the two leaving, playfully arguing. Grissom directed a sigh in the general direction of their exit - - had he ever acted like that? - - and handed Catherine her assignment.

"312 Lapland Avenue. A neighbor reported shots fired. There's an injured boy and no one admitting to anything. Check for household guns - - he could have been playing with one of them, so we might just be looking at an accident here."

Catherine nodded. "Am I taking Warrick?"

"Not this time," he said, and waited until she had left before directing a mild smirk at Warrick.

"Oh no," Warrick said. "Something's definitely wrong with that grin."

"Forgery case," Grissom said smugly. "Local museum called it in."

"Man, that's cold. I could do a forgery in my sleep." Warrick shook his head in dismay. "You couldn't just send me along with Catherine, let Ecklie's crew handle some lousy forgery case?"

"Maybe next time you won't take the last of the coffee," Grissom said. "I, on the other hand, have a double-homicide out on the Strip."

"You're kidding me."

"Afraid not, Warrick. A financial guru and his wife, stabbed to death in a hotel bathroom."

"You're holding me off a double-homicide because I had a cup of coffee?"

"It was the last cup. And it was GREG'S coffee. I stood in line for ten minutes to get that, and suddenly the sheriff wanted to have a talk about my policies, and you sneaked up and drank the last bit."

Warrick threw up his hands. "Have him make more coffee! You're the boss!"

"Warrick, I can control what equipment Greg uses in his lab. I cannot, however, control when he chooses to make a pot of coffee. I CAN control what case you're taking tonight. Have fun with your forgery. I hope it's very exciting." That smirk played around his mouth again.

"You have to be the most vindictive supervisor ever."

"I am a man who loves his coffee," Grissom said contentedly. "Now. You have two forged pieces of glazed pottery to examine."

"Evil," Warrick said, sighing.

Lesson Seven: Leave Time

"I need to get off early tonight," Catherine told him when he handed out assignments. "Lindsay's dance class is doing a recital, and if I want to be there. Be the supportive mom. I'm even thinking about bringing her some roses. So I need off at eight, okay?"

Grissom had nodded and marked it down. They were pulling a double on a homicide case, and everyone was starting to show the strain. Nick and Warrick had been trading off napping in the break room for the past few days in place of actual sleep, and Sara seemed to run on caffeine alone. Greg, complete with his own dark circles underlining his eyes like bruises, dutifully made coffee and junk food runs, coming back at one in the morning with bags of Skittles and bottles of Gatorade. Grissom, never particularly a sugar-addict, had nonetheless fought his way past Nick to grab some, and was bitterly regretting it. His sugar crash had finally come.

"Don't forget," Catherine said.

"I won't," he retorted, and went back to staring at the samples. His eyes felt sawdust-dry, and it was almost a minute before he even realized what he was looking at.

Strangely enough, it also seemed like just a minute before Catherine had pushed open the glass doors.

"I'm late, dammit," she said, grabbing her things off a chair. "You could have beeped me." She tried to check her watch and pull on her jacket at the same time, twisting and squirming to make it. "Eight twenty-six." Her eyes were icicles. "Now I REALLY won't have time to pick up any flowers. I'll barely make it."

Grissom meant to reassure her that she would, though he wasn't at all sure - - traffic was, as always, terrible - - but he opened his mouth and what came out instead was, "I'll get the flowers for you."

She gave him an incredulous look. "You?"

Having dug his grave, Grissom proceeded to climb inside. He gave a floundering answer. "I'll look up a florist and go pick up, what, a dozen? Red? I'll meet you at - -"

"Rio Hall," Catherine said, looking at him as if it were an elaborate April Fool's Joke. "On Boardwalk."

"I know where it is. Go ahead - - I'll be there about half an hour after you. Let me just make sure everyone knows we'll be gone." He smiled at her, thankful for a break, no matter how oddly it had come about, and started to leave when she called his name. He turned to see her fumbling in her purse. He held up his hand. "My treat. Lindsay's playing the princess, right?"


"Well, a princess should have flowers."

She sighed. "Gil, red roses aren't cheap."

"But," he said, "I didn't page you. I owe you." He rubbed his temples and added honestly, "Catherine, I've been awake for the past two days, and I'm sugar-crashing because I forgot that you shouldn't take candy from strangers. Or Greg. I'm feeling generous, not good-spirited. Lindsay is getting red roses and you - - you are getting in the car."

"But - -"

"No." He gave her a gentle shove towards the door. "Go. It's eight- thirty."

Catherine shook her head in horror and almost ran for the exit, calling back, "I owe you!" She disappeared through the closing panes of glass, and into the dark. Grissom closed the break room behind him and ran almost immediately into Sara.

"Coffee," she demanded.

He pointed. "Half a pot."

"Thank God."

He followed her inside again and she laid hands on the warm pot like it was an idol, shakily pouring a cup.



"Catherine just left - - Lindsay has a ballet recital. I'm going to go do an errand, and I'll be back later, okay? Maybe around eleven." He studied her eyes, wide and groggy over the rim of the coffee cup. "Did you hear anything I just said?"


"Okay. Good, I think. So if anyone asks, where am I?"

Sara said something long and incomprehensible into her cup, her lips smearing dark red over the rim. Grissom considered asking her to repeat herself, and realized it was probably self-defeating. He just nodded, and gave her one last concerned look as he headed, like Catherine, for the exit.

"Sara? Get some sleep, if you can."

"Mm-hmm," she replied.

The florist he visited was mildly astonished to find out that Grissom was too tired to argue over the price of tying up a dozen red roses. For his part, Grissom was equally astonished that any florist with a neon "open twenty-four hours" sign over his store actually carried red roses as opposed to plants of a more - - nefarious nature. He paid without complaint and bundled the roses against him as he strolled back to the car. The drive to Rio Hall was agonizing. He caught himself on the verge of sleep once, and, filled with a strange steak of fear, pulled into a Costco parking lot, and hunted around in his seats until he found the mixed CD Greg had burned for him last Thanksgiving. In a second, Rage Against the Machine was filling up his car, and there was no chance of him going to sleep. Possibly ever.

Grissom, frustrated and delayed, pulled into Rio at the same time everyone else was pulling out.

He saw Catherine, her arm protectively encircling a sunny looking Lindsay in a rose-colored tutu, strolling to her car - - which, unfortunately, was at the complete opposite end of the parking lot. Grissom unbuckled his seatbelt and locked the doors before realizing that he had left the flowers inside. With a muffled curse, he unlocked, grabbed them roughly, and slammed the doors, not even bothering to try locking them again, security be damned. He ran after mother and daughter, shouting, well aware of his romantic-comedy appearance.

Lindsay heard him first and she spun around, her tutu ruffling. "Uncle Grissom!" she exclaimed, and in a second, was hugging him, crushing the roses. Catherine, looking wearily amused, smiled at him.

Grissom dropped to one knee and held the bouquet out. "For milady the princess," he said mildly.

He was rewarded with a kiss on the cheek from Princess Charming, who gathered them into his arms and tucked one into her hair, giving a tiny gasp as a thorn snagged her hair.

"Be careful, sweetie," Catherine said. "They bite."

Lindsay giggled. "Can I go ahead in the car, Mommy?"

Catherine's hand played with the spangles on her daughter's tiara. "Thank Gil first, honey."

"Thank you, Uncle Grissom," Lindsay said politely, before she started giggling and dropped a curtsy, looking antique and otherworldly for an instant. He smiled at her as she climbed into Catherine's car, her ballet shoes pushing off the rough asphalt.

"Thank you," Catherine said seriously once her daughter was inside. "She loved that." She put her hand on his elbow. "Why don't you come with us? I'm taking her out for ice cream before I drive her to my sister's. We're going to celebrate. Brownies and M & M crunch at the Yo-Yo Stand."

"Catherine, the last thing I need right now is another sugar crash."

"Come on, Prince Charming," she said teasingly, and was interrupted by Lindsay, who had rolled down her window to shout:

"Please come with us, Uncle Grissom!"

Grissom yawned, and caught himself. "As long as you drive," he said, and walked around to the passenger's side. "I almost fell asleep getting here - - I had to listen to Greg's music to stay awake."

"Black Flag?"

"Rage Against the Machine."

"Well," she said lightly, "now you'll have a lovely accompaniment of the Little Mermaid soundtrack to keep you awake." They got inside and Grissom received a second impromptu hug from the ball of energy in the backseat. "Everyone buckled up?" Catherine swiped them for confirmation. "All right, great." She pulled smoothly from the parking lot. "Oh, and Gil?"


"Before there's the sugar crash, there IS the sugar high, you know."

Lindsay started cheerfully singing along with Ariel as they joined the queue of cars waiting to escape Rio Hall's parking lot. Her voice was young and soprano, sweet, but nowhere near on-key. Grissom checked the glowing green clock numbers and found that if they were out by eleven, he could get back to work and see if the other three had made any progress.

"Good," he said. "I'll need it."

Lesson Eight: Promotions

Warrick stopped by Grissom's office near the end of shift, heralded by the ever-watchful Big Mouthed Billy Bass's encore of "Take Me to the River." He looked quietly concerned, and when he asked Grissom if they could talk after work, Grissom agreed readily enough. Warrick knew of a more quiet bar called the Branch where they could get a couple of drinks, even at nine in the morning, distanced from the usual drinking time. Warrick drove and settled them into a niche in the bar. His long fingers played with his beer for a second.

"The word around dayshift is that you're thinking about pulling out at the end of this year," Warrick said.

"They're saying that?"

"Yeah. Danny Monroe said that you were already making things straight with the mayor for when you drop out, you know - - successors. He said Catherine." Warrick took a swallow of beer and ran one finger down the wet bottle until it squeaked. "You know that I don't care about that."


"No. But you shouldn't leave, Grissom. Supervisor for two years, and you're already bailing out? You've got what it takes, and - -"

"Warrick," Grissom said, "are you giving me a pep talk?"

"Hell no."

Grissom drank his beer swiftly and signaled for another. "Because if you were, I'd have to ask you if you ever noticed exactly how many rumors float through dayshift?"

"You aren't leaving?" Warrick's face was a study in relief. His hand had clamped around the neck of the bottle, and he loosened it as he talked. "Seriously?"

Grissom ignored him, feeling it necessary to prove his point. He took another drink and continued, "If you listened to days - - particularly to Monroe - - you would have a number of mistaken impressions, Warrick. Far more serious than me leaving CSI. I recently heard that my method of promoting cooperation was holding team orgies in my townhouse."

Warrick chuckled. "That's news to me."

"I was surprised myself. Greg told me that one - -"

"He was probably hoping to get invited," Warrick said dryly.

"The thought crossed my mind. But as I was saying - - I have an agreement with myself to never believe anything coming out of dayshift without official verification and forensic evidence."

"Then you aren't leaving."

Grissom smiled. "No. I'm not leaving."


"And Warrick, you know - - that it isn't going to be Catherine." They had talked about that before, briefly, when Grissom had returned from the entomology convention earlier that year. He was Catherine's friend. She was an excellent investigator. She was not, however, his choice for his successor, and she never had been. "You know that you'll be who I recommend, when I do leave."

"You mentioned it. Actually, that's a little strong. You IMPLIED it."

"Well, now I'm telling you."

"And I still don't know why." Warrick called the bartender over and got a stronger drink, expression clearly indicating that he thought he was going to need it. "You never said."

"You never asked."

"Well," Warrick said, in imitation, "now I'm asking you."

"You're a leader. You understand people. You have talent."

"Declaratives, man. Everyone fits that bill. You don't have any real reasons for me?"

Grissom slid the bowl of peanuts between the two of them and used munching to delay the response, thinking. As far as he knew, his choice of Warrick as his successor had been something gradual, and he couldn't remember where he had started thinking about it and where he had sealed the subject off in his mind, neatly marked solved. He had never bothered to justify his choice to himself because he had never actually, consciously, sat down and debated about it. Warrick's demand made him examine whatever he'd considered.

"I picked you," Grissom said, "because you could do the job better than the others." Feeling he had satisfied whatever obligation he had to answer the question, he cracked open another peanut, humming to himself.

"That's your reasoning?"

"That's it," Grissom said. "Let me buy you another beer."

Lesson Nine: Extra Effort

Grissom saw the woman long before he saw Nick - - she was a brunette in a trim white dress. She was nice-looking in a severe way, but what caught his eye long before her features were her hands. They were signing, pushing symbols into the air. Grissom looked at them for a few seconds, unused to that old form of communication, before his mind clicked that she was actually forming words, not just erratic gestures. A clipped visitor's pass was pinned to her sweater. Someone from the college for the deaf they'd investigated last year? Coming around the corner from his office, he concentrated on her hands.

"I couldn't reach your phone. Our meeting has to be rescheduled."

Grissom listened for a reply but didn't hear one, and just as he completely came into view of the scene, he saw why. The young woman was talking to Nick - - and Nick was signing back to her. Signing, albeit a little awkwardly, with hesitations, that it was fine. Were there any problems?

"My sister is having a baby," the woman answered, her motions slow and precise.

Nick watched her hands intently, his expression apt. "Congratulations," he said aloud, and signed, "My sister - - a year back. My little niece," he paused, and manually spelled, "Ashley."

The woman smiled warmly at him, dropping her hands to her sides. "Enough teaching for right now, Nick. You're doing fine - - just keep practicing. I have a flight to New York leaving soon."

"At least let me give you a cup of coffee before you leave," Nick said. "I mean, you came all the way here just to tell me my lesson's been rescheduled? Come on."

"I'm sorry. I really can't. I've got to rush for that flight already."

Nick smiled. "Fine, fine. Just call me when we can meet, okay?" He signed, "I hope your sister will be fine."

"She will be," the woman signed back.

Once she had vanished through the doors at the opposite end of the hall, Grissom rounded from the corner, armed with nothing but dissatisfied confusion. "Nick? Can I talk to you?" His hands fluttered at his sides, anxious for something to do. He calmed them into his pockets. No need to send Nick into a panic by starting to sign in the middle of the hallway. Obviously, Nick hadn't wanted him to know about whatever sign language skills he had gained.

Nick, looking nervous, nodded, and let Grissom lead him into the office.

"Have a seat," Grissom said, settling down into his own chair once he was sure Nick wasn't going to give into his own panicked expression and bolt. "I - - heard you talking with that young woman in the hall. Care to explain?" He had very, very carefully said "heard," so Nick would think that he had only caught one edge of the conversation.

Nick's anxious expression eased into a smile. "She's not a girlfriend. Don't worry - - I don't bring my personal life into my work."

"No, but apparently you brought your work into your personal life." He lifted his hands off the desk and, copying the woman's precise, concentrated style, said, "Sign language lessons?"

Nick winced. "And here I was hoping that something would escape you."

"Why?" Grissom signed.

Nick, apparently realizing that he wasn't going to get out by just speaking, started to sign, slower than he had in the hallway, as if making a mistake in front of Grissom would either result in death or unemployment. "Why do I take them? Or why didn't I want you to know?"

"Both. One at a time."

Nick held up one finger. "The deaf student who was killed last year. You could - - speak - - with them." Judging by the frustrated look, Nick was trying for a word he didn't know the sign for yet. "They trusted you because you understood. I didn't. I'm trying to."

"You can't understand everyone, Nick," he said aloud, gently, and added in sign, "Why didn't you want me to know about this?"

"I don't know." Nick's lips were tight, face tense. His mouth was bloodless, lined in white from the pressure. "I was . . . embarrassed." He manually spelled the last word, taking his time. "I was hoping to skip over the part where I learned it and just surprise you with the fact that I knew it."

"You thought I'd be angry? Upset?"



"Maybe. I don't know," he signed again. "You make people want to be better. I wanted to show you that I could learn something, by myself. Something that you appreciated." He settled his hands down on the desk and cleared his throat. "Can I talk now? In case you didn't notice, I'm not very good at this yet."

Grissom smiled and nodded, switching to speech. "How long have you been taking these classes?"

"A little less than a year. I hunted around after that case for a teacher."

"So you've had about ten months of practice?"

"About that, yeah." The suffused color in Nick's face was starting to settle down. His eyes looked into the corner for a second as he calculated. "Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's it. Why?"

"Your vocabulary is impressive. Good form. Nice reading skills. A lot of people learn how to make the symbols but then can't recognize them when they see them elsewhere. You understood what I was saying, though. That takes talent."

Nick said cautiously, "I practiced in front of a mirror."

"Good." Standing, he crossed the room and held open the door. "You hungry?"


"I'll buy us lunch. Catherine took me to a Chinese restaurant called the Dragon once. You'll love it."

"Yeah?" Nick stepped out of the office. "Fortune cookies?"

"Good ones. Without actual cryptic messages instead of the ones telling you to have a nice day."

"I hate those things."

"They're a disgrace," Grissom agreed. They left into warm sunlight, and he mentally reminded himself to radio Catherine and tell him where they had disappeared to. "Keep up the good work, Nicky my boy. But you don't have to prove anything to me."

Nick's face looked momentarily puckish. "Why not? It got me a free lunch."

"I may live to regret that."

"You can't back out of a deal, Griss."

"We'll see," Grissom signed.

"You're going to do that through the whole meal, aren't you?" At Grissom's nod, Nick leaned back in his seat with a sigh. "Damn. I know there had to be a drawback."

Lesson Ten: Team Society

He liked working with Sara best of all.

Catherine had the charm of being mature, and she understood him. One of his oldest friends, and one of the few people he had let into his life without reservation. He never felt nervous around Catherine. Warrick, his chosen successor, rarely lost his cool and looked eternally comfortable in his own skin and his own situations, and Nick, for all his naiveté, worked hard and had a knack for seeing into people. He would have been glad to work with any of them, on any occasion. He was comfortable around them - - they were a kind of surrogate family, rough and well-worn, easy to slip into.

He was not comfortable around Sara, not consistently. When he was around Sara, he was too aware of her presence. He felt awkward, like a kid rehearsing in a play, liable to forget his lines or miss his cues. But he still looked forward to the times they worked together. Sometimes he thought Nick was right after all, about people flocking to bright lights the same as birds. Except Grissom had been untouched by Vegas - - Sara was the only bright light in his presence.

There were policies, and there were rules, and there were emotions, and Grissom knew it took a delicate balancing act to work between them. It took patience, skill, and courage.

Gil Grissom had never thought of himself as a brave man. There was too much in the world that he feared. But underneath everything, he thought that Lady Heather had been wrong when she told him that what he most feared was being known. What he feared most was Sara, and the look in her eyes, and the way he thought his own might look around her.

Sara was his only bright light; and he was crashing into the glass window that separated her from the rest of the world. He could take it down, unlatch it, but he was - - afraid. He was afraid of that flame.

But he still liked working with Sara. The brightest lights were always beautiful, even when seen through a window.

Lesson Eleven: Work History

(spoilers for "Overload")

Grissom leaned back in his chair, hands folded over his chest. It should have just been a test run, something to warm up the new program. He had never expected any link at all to show up - - and when it had first appeared, he had chuckled, expecting something minor and embarrassing, like a traffic dispute. Something that he could startle Nick with some time in the near future.

He had not expected the single match to be from Dallas, Texas, in 1980. Nick would have still been a kid. Nine, he realized, counting backwards in his head. Nick would have been nine. What was it, then? Graffiti? Some kind of minor probationary black mark?

The software was new and it had been lent to the lab for a trial period. Supposedly, it had a database of all registered court proceedings and police notices in the west for the last three decades. Grissom had been skeptical at best - - the information seemed far too large to contain, and much of it must have slipped through the system. He had been assured that everything that could be found was there, and all he had to do was search for a name to see where and when that person had been involved with any criminal activities, either perpetrator or victim.

NICHOLAS STOKES, he'd typed. It should have just been a joke.


Any other location, and he would have dismissed it without even checking the link first. Stokes was hardly an uncommon name. But a Nick Stokes, in Dallas? He clicked on the link and received a terse and thoroughly unmerciful summary:


Test: Sexual Assault/Rape Subject: Nicholas Daniel Stokes Requested by: Paul and Natalie Stokes Administered by: Kyle Anderson Results: Positive Additional Notes: As Stokes is a minor, this report is required, though the parents say they will not be pressing charges. Tests for semen, negative. Test for vaginal secretions, positive. Mother tests clean for recent sexual activity, so no cause to file parental abuse.


Grissom read it twice, and then a third time, his eyes scanning over the short words, disbelieving them, not comprehending them, though he had always comprehended Latin and science terms quickly. These, though, simple and horrible, took time before sinking in his mind - - they settled instead on the surface.

Nick. Rape kit. Positive.

And then, angrily, his mind fixed on the number: nine. It chanted in his head


and didn't disappear, even when he closed his eyes against the glowing screen and clicked the program off, suddenly no longer curious about what it had to offer.

There was a tiny knock on his doorframe, and a sudden electronic outburst of "Take Me to the River." Grissom's head jerked and he saw Nick standing there, inquisitive. The layers of him seemed to peel back away, and Grissom wondered what Nick had looked like, at nine. How his hair had been cut. Whether he had been scared when his parents took him to the hospital - -

His stomach clenched, churned. Nick was there for a reason, but Grissom was damned if he could remember what it was now. His mind scaled backwards - - paging Nick, killing time by playing with the software, and then, shutdown.

"Grissom? You okay?"

Such a good question.

"I'm fine, Nick," he said. "I was musing." He seized on a fabrication of idea, one with the blurry semblance of hope stamped on it. "You know, the annual softball game is coming up. Grave versus day."

Nick mimed a swing. "Yeah, I've been practicing."

"Well, I'm trying to gather a list of expected attendants. Are your parents going to come in?"

Nick laughed. "For a softball game? No, man - - they're coming up for Easter, and then I migrate south for Christmas. Usual schedule."

"Right." Grissom had met Nick's parents once and liked them, but with the sudden weight of extra knowledge pressing down on his shoulders, he was no longer sure. (The parents say they will not be pressing charges.) "I'm sorry, it's slipped my mind. Your parents, what are their names again?"

"Paul and Natalie." Nick's brow furrowed. "Are you SURE you're all right?"


"Yes," he signed. The familiar motion seemed to calm Nick down - - they hadn't had a whole conversation in sign language since the first day Grissom had found out about Nick's lessons, but occasionally they would make a few motions. It was beginning to have a soothing effect on him, a reminder that things were okay. "I just - -" In a flash of thankful memory, he recalled why he had paged Nick in the first place. "I wanted to tell you that the suspect in your robbery confessed."

"The clerk?"

"The clerk," Grissom confirmed with a false, congratulatory smile. "Good work, Nicky."

Nick grinned. "Guy was guilty as sin. Evidence would have proved it anyway. Now I've just got to do the follow-up work."

Grissom smiled again, but he wasn't sure what to say. There was only one thing he really wanted to talk about with Nick, and he understood that it was the one subject that couldn't be broached. Whatever secrets Nick kept about himself, he kept well enough. Sign language lessons had been one thing. Finding out about those had been a pleasure. But he wouldn't - - couldn't - - broach the topic of 1980 and nine-year-old boys with Nick now. Not when Nick looked pleased at a job well-done. No . . . not ever.

"It shouldn't be a problem," Grissom said. "Take care of it tomorrow."

"But - -"

"The shift's almost up, and you're almost as maxed-out on overtime as Sara. Save it for a case where you really need it, not follow-up work on a solved robbery."

Nick sighed, and flipped a sign at him. "Fine, fine."

"That's right," he signed back.

Nick started to leave but paused in the doorway. "That software they sent you - - the legal database? You tried it out yet? Warrick said it sounds great."

"It didn't work," Grissom lied, his mouth a hard, white line.

"I'm sorry. Would've been helpful."

More help than he needed.

Lesson Twelve: Tearing Down the Barrier

(spoilers for "Play With Fire")

When he signed into the hospital room, Greg was still sleeping, curled up on his side. Grissom wasn't sure if he could properly say that Greg's hair was mussed or not, because it looked how it usually did. He thanked the nurse and settled into the single chair at the bedside, expecting her to depart, but instead she stood at the foot of the bed, arms crossed, directing a fond look at her sleeping patient.

"When he wakes up, I'd watch out," she said. "He's a hellion."

Grissom smiled. "He's troubling you?"

"Won't take his medicine, won't accept the fact that he can't get up yet, won't stay still . . . Are you family? Maybe you could calm him down a little."

"Friend," Grissom said. "But I'll try."

"He's a good kid?"

Grissom mentally reminded himself to tell Greg that he was perceived by the hospital to be a spastic, energy-wracked child, before saying, "One of the best. But I'm sorry if he's causing problems. I don't think he likes hospitals very much."

"So I've heard, and often." Her smile was sweet and friendly. "He ought to wake up soon. We gave him some sedatives last night, but they'll wear off by now. Excuse me." She brushed out into the hallway, leaving Grissom alone with Greg.

He took the time to survey his lab tech's appearance. There was no doubt that the burns were mending underneath the gauze, but it was hard to tell. Still, the numerous times he'd called the hospital to check on Greg's condition had reassured him of one thing - - Greg was going to get better. He would be fine.

None of that had been in his head when he followed the stretcher out of the lab.

"Greggo," he said quietly, "what am I going to do with you?"

A mumbled reply, slightly muffled, reached his ears. "Not talk to me when I look unconscious?" Greg turned his head around so that his mouth wasn't buried in the pillow, and offered a weak smile. "Grissom, you've got to get me out of here. I'm climbing the walls."

"From what I've heard, you'd like to."

"Oh, no. You've been talking to Tricia."

"If she's your nurse, than yes. Greg, I'm obligated to tell you that if you don't sit still, take your medicine, and get better, I'm liable to cancel the order for the ice cream cake I have for when you come back."

Greg licked his lips. "You're buying me ice cream cake?"

"Not if you don't stop annoying the doctors."

"Why not? They seem to find it endearing." Greg stretched, rubbing the back of his neck. He considered something, nibbling at his lower lip. "What flavor ice cream cake?"

"Chocolate cake, vanilla ice cream."

"Make it chocolate cake, mint-chocolate chip ice cream, and we have a deal."


They shook on it, Grissom being careful not to pressure Greg's hand. It seemed - - shaky.

"You know what really, REALLY sucks?" Greg said darkly. "My family's all in San Francisco, and I don't want to have them come in just to take care of me or anything, but they said if I lived with someone, they'd let me go home."

"Really," Grissom said.

"Yeah." Greg yawned, his eyes scrunching up. He mumbled something incomprehensible, then, "Thanks for coming by, Grissom. Really. . . nice. . . "

Then Greg was out like a light, his eyes fluttering shut and there was the slight sound that some would have referred to as snoring. Grissom, feeling charitable, decided to call it "heavy breathing," and smoothed the rumpled sheets before going out into the hall. Tricia was waiting by the door.

"I thought you'd be out soon," she said. "He really needs his rest."

"I know. Listen, if I could just make a few phone calls - - I'm sure I could find several people who'd be willing to stay with him for a few days. I think if he could get home, he'd feel better."

"I know he'd like that," Tricia said. "He keeps going on about how he wants to get home. Wants to get to work. Where DOES he work?"

"He's a DNA technician. Works on crimes."

"Really? A kid like him?" She grinned. "Go figure. Is he any good?"

"He's the best one I ever worked with," Grissom said sincerely, and went to make his calls.

(So, the question is, should there be any more "lessons?" I really liked writing them, and Grissom's interaction with his team is a lot of fun. This was kind of a humor/angst blend, and did that work? I guess what I'm REALLY asking is, how did you like them, and did you want any more?)