This is in response to an improv challenge at the Unbound forums; the first and last lines were given, and the word limit is 1,000.
This is a sequel to "The World Tomorrow", also an Unbound challenge fic, but reading that one first is not really a necessity. It would help, though. The medical device mentioned herein is made up, but it seems more than likely that something similar will be developed within the next thirty years or so.
Spoilers: none; this is a futurefic.
Her socks were mismatched again.
Grissom looked at the litter of clothes on the bed, which included one green sock and one purple, and shook his head fondly. His granddaughter had many delightful qualities, but tidiness wasn't one of them. Knowing that if he left the clothes where they were, Robin would simply scatter them on the floor when she went to bed that evening, he gathered them up and put them back in her little suitcase. Tomorrow morning they would be back on the bed as the six-year-old hunted for what she wanted to wear.
Putting the bag on the guest room's dresser, Grissom went in search of his girl. She was sitting slumped on the couch with the stereo remote, the purple-sheathed foot waving idly in the air, and he recognized the signs. Sitting down next to her, he laid his cane carefully on the coffee table and stretched his arm along the back of the couch. Without hesitation, Robin simply toppled over into him, burying her curly head in his side, and he dropped his arm around her and took the remote with the other hand, muting the sound. "You scared, honey?"
The head nodded, and he reached over and tugged her into his lap; Robin wrapped her arms around him as far as they would go, and he hugged her back, putting one big hand over the hair that reminded him so much of her grandmother's. "Hospitals are for sick people," she said, the words muffled against his shirt.
He sighed a little, acknowledging that. "Sometimes they are. Not always. Sometimes hospitals are to help people with stuff."
Her chin dug into his chest, but he didn't flinch. "But Jackie's grandma went to the hospital and died! And so did that kid from school."
Grissom stroked the curls--so soft, so fine--and searched for words. The search had gotten a little easier over time. "Not everybody who goes to the hospital dies. I didn't."
As he knew she would, Robin turned her head to press her ear to his chest, listening for the tiny hum of the device implanted next to his heart. The doctor said that the heartbeat regulator wasn't audible, but both his wife and his grandchild claimed they could hear it, and he was more inclined to believe them than his cardiologist.
Some of the tension in Robin's fine-boned frame eased as she listened. "It's still working," she reported.
"That's good to know," Grissom answered gravely. "Robin, look at me for a minute."
She lifted her head, the big green eyes she got from her father wide and grave. Grissom hated to even acknowledge the possibility, but he hated lying even more, especially to children, and his bright young granddaughter was old enough to understand.
"It's true that your mom might become sick. Having a baby is a difficult thing--it takes a lot of work--and once in a while something can go wrong." He smoothed a curl out of her eyes, holding her gaze. "But your mom's a healthy lady, and the baby is healthy too. They went to the hospital so that if something did go wrong, the doctors would be right there to fix it." And please, please don't let anything go wrong, he prayed silently. Medicine had come a long way since boiling water and giving birth at home, but nothing was perfect. "Grandma and your dad are there with your mom; they'll take care of her and help her. And soon you'll be able to meet your baby brother."
Robin pouted a little. "I wanted to go too."
"I know, sweetie." So did I. "But kids aren't allowed in the birthing rooms."
She nodded. "Too many germs. Mommy told me."
"Yeah. You're strong, but some of the babies aren't yet." Grissom thought for a moment, trying to figure out how to distract her for a while. "What do you do at home when you feel unhappy?"
"Hold Mr. Bun." Her face pinched; she'd sent the beloved, tattered toy along for little Brian, so he wouldn't be scared after he was born. "And we go outside and blow dandelion clocks."
Grissom pursed his lips in exaggerated concentration. "Well, I don't think we have any dandelions here, but...I know."
The phone rang, and he tensed. Robin sprang off his lap and rushed to answer it, leaving him to grab his cane and push himself to his feet. But before he could reach the kitchen where she stood, her voice was bright in the room. "Hi, Aunt Lins!"
Grissom limped into the kitchen where Robin cradled the phone in both hands. "No, I can't come play; Brian's getting born and I have to stay here." A pause. "Yeah, I'll get him." She turned around and handed Grissom the phone.
He put it to his ear, holding up one finger to get Robin to wait. "Hi, Lindsey."
"Hey, Uncle Gil. Any word yet?" He smiled at the laughing voice, and reached into a cupboard for the small bottle he'd bought for just such an occasion.
"Nothing yet, but you'll be the first to know." He handed the bottle to Robin, who grinned and ran out of the room.
"Sure, right after all the relatives. Just keep us posted, okay?" Grissom could hear the shouts of her twin boys in the background.
"Of course." A discreet beep interrupted him. "I've got another call coming in--"
"Go, go!" And she hung up.
He switched lines. "Hello?"
Sara's voice reached his ear, huskier than usual. "Gil--"
She didn't have to continue, he could hear the joy, but he let her go on, feeling the grin spread over his face.
The conversation was brief, but it left him dizzy with relief and happiness. He stared down at the phone in his hand, thinking of all the people he had to call, then set it aside. One person deserved the news first.
He found her on the backporch blowing soapbubbles.