Most of the characters and situations in this story belong to Alliance Atlantis, CBS, Anthony Zuicker and other entities, and I do not have permission to borrow them. All others belong to me, and if you want to play with them, you have to ask me first. No infringement is intended in any way, and this story is not for profit. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any.

This is in response to the weekly Improv challenge on the Unbound message board. The first and last lines were given, and the word limit is 1,000.

Spoilers: none; this is a futurefic.

This is the fourth story in my "World" series, and will really make much more sense if you read the other ones first.


It was the hardest thing he'd ever had to do. Michael gazed at the photo on the low coffee table and remembered walking into the townhouse for the first time, terrified that he would be bounced right back out again. And laughed at himself, because his fears seemed so groundless now.

His father-in-law's limping step sounded behind him, and Michael looked up from the laughing group of teens as the older man lowered himself into a recliner with a grunt, and held out a brown bottle. "Here."

"Thanks." Michael twisted off the cap and took a sip of the dark beer, sighing appreciatively. Grissom repeated the ritual with another bottle, and for a couple of minutes the two men were comfortably silent.

Ask me then, and I would never have thought this was possible, Michael admitted, settling further into the couch. To be at ease around the legends that were his in-laws, to think nothing of staying over at their house--it was beyond his imagination then. True, both criminologists had regarded Michael with some suspicion when Emily had first brought him home, but with astonishing speed their attitude had morphed into benevolent welcome.

It still puzzled him, a little.

He laughed again, and one of Grissom's brows went up. "What is it?"

Michael shook his head, and took another swallow of beer. "The first time I came here…why didn't you throw me out?"

He never seemed to be able to surprise either Grissom or Sara. The older man cocked his head and regarded Michael calmly. "Why would we?"

Michael raised his own brows. "Well, let me see. I was a debt-ridden, hag-ridden, nervous wreck of a grad student with no family to speak of, trailing after Emily like a lovesick puppy. I'm not even sure I combed my hair that morning. I thought any good parent would take one look at me and slam the door in my face."

Grissom chuckled. "And face the wrath of Emily?" He held the bottle up to the light for a moment. "To paraphrase one of her favorite authors, when one's only daughter points and says firmly, I want this one, Dad, the most prudent thing to do is agree." He shrugged and took another drink. "Besides, as Sara noted, Emily has more common sense than the two of us combined. If she thought you were worth it, then you were."

A wail cut across the end of his sentence, and the two men exchanged wry glances. Michael pushed to his feet. "Must be dinnertime."

His son was sitting up in his crib in the guest room, crying with his usual concentration, but as soon as Brian spotted Michael, he stopped and used the crib's bars to pull himself up. He never wasted whimpers as soon as he knew he had attention. Michael grinned and leaned over to pick him up, kissing his scanty curls in passing, and Brian gave his happy chuckle and clutched Michael's shirt.

Changing his son's diaper took only a few practiced moments; when he returned to the living room, babe in arms, Grissom was waiting in his chair as though he had never moved. Only the bottle in one hand showed that he'd risen.

There was no arguing with a grandfather, not that Michael planned on it. He lowered his son into the waiting arms and took his seat again, watching as Grissom cradled Brian expertly and began feeding him.

They would make an endearing picture, Michael thought, the old gray man and the kicking baby, with eyes the same deep color; Brian's hands clutched the bottle and his face was blissful, and Grissom's own expression was half-hidden contentment. In fact, Michael knew, such a picture already existed; though Emily had painted her father and daughter, the expressions were similar. Maybe I can talk her into doing one with Brian and Sara.

Michael didn't think he'd have to try very hard.

He glanced at his watch. It was almost time for dinner; the ladies would be back soon from their girls' day out. "Want me to start the pizzas?"

Grissom nodded, not looking up, and Michael rose again to dig the homemade pies out of the freezer and turned on the oven. Grissom made a superlative pizza, and among the generously topped circles--green pepper and mushroom for Sara and Michael, pepperoni to the edges for Grissom and Emily--was a smaller one with cheese and extra tomatoes for Robin. She loved having a pizza all her own.

Michael fetched two more beers and returned to the living room. Brian, who had probably been playing quietly for at least an hour before wanting his supper, had finished his bottle. Grissom had turned him gently over into his preferred sleeping position, bottom up along someone's arm and cheek resting against the sleeve; he wasn't bothering to hide his pleasure now. Michael paused for a moment to appreciate the scene.

"Want me to put him back to bed?" he asked at last, but Grissom shook his head.

"We're fine."

Michael opened the beers, and the two of them sat for a while, arguing baseball in low tones. Their caution wasn't really necessary; Brian, like his big sister, could sleep through almost anything, which he proved when the front door opened and Robin danced in with a shopping bag in each hand.
The house filled with cheerful voices as Robin showed off her new shoes loudly and the women came over to distribute kisses to their spouses. Brian never stirred on Grissom's arm, happily slumbering on and drooling a little.

The photo caught Michael's eye again, and he picked it up, enjoying the sight of his wife before he'd ever met her, arm in arm in arm with friends in a years-gone summer day. Behind them rose parched-looking rocks.

"Desert camping?" Michael asked. Emily leaned over the back of the couch for a closer look, and laughed.
"Teenage wasteland," she grinned.