Summer has meant a lot of things in Greg's life. When he was a kid it meant running around the streets of San Francisco and going on trips with his parents. When he was in college it meant three months spent with his grandparents because he'd finally grown too 'weird' for his parents to handle. In graduate school it meant internships and building up his resume. After he moved to Vegas it just meant that he spent way too much money on air conditioning and didn't leave the house by choice until after the sun was down.

He still wasn't sure how Nick managed to talk him into cashing in an entire week of vacation time. There might have been fantastic sex involved, or at least really good head. He was notorious to agreeing to things during sex and then later regretting it, a trick Nick used to his advantage on more than one occasion. He didn't even want to know how Nick got Grissom to give them both the week off, but he suspected there was bribery involved there as well, thankfully not of the sexual kind, or possibly begging.

Regardless, Greg had found himself on an airplane to Texas that morning with Nick reminding him for the twentieth time that morning that Nick's parents were expecting them and that they were looking forward to finally meeting Greg. He knew Nick's parents knew about their relationship, but that didn't make him feel any less like he was about to walk onto the set of Deliverance.

The entire trip was too surreal.

Greg always thought he'd never change for anyone, but he found himself fidgeting on the drive from the airport, trying to stifle the urge to smooth down his hair and half-wishing he owned a suit. But he left his hair the way it is because he knew Nick liked his hair as is and any attempt to change it would just make Nick tease him the rest of the trip. Not that Nick hadn't been teasing him already. Greg had downed three cups of coffee before they'd even left the house this morning and he was bouncier than a seven year-old on a pogo stick.

His nerves only got worse when Nick pulled up in front of a huge ranch house. There were already a good dozen cars parked in haphazard fashion in front of the house. The lawn reminded him of a less posh version of some of the mansions back in Vegas, but those places had nothing on the Stokes' in terms of real estate. There was a barn behind the house, and more land stretching on past that. He recognized corn and horses but other than that the whole farm-ranch setup was beyond him.

He trailed behind Nick like a flitting shadow, and he was half tempted to duck behind Nick as the door opened.

"Welcome home!" Greg was included in the greeting and he found himself pulled into a hug by a widely smiling Mrs. Stokes just as soon as she was done squeezing the life out of her son. Mr. Stokes was smiling too, and he clapped Greg on the shoulder before reaching out to take some of their luggage.

Stepping across the threshold was like stepping into a war zone. There were people everywhere, laughing, smiling, joking, and he could see where Nick got his personality from. It was like he was surrounded by a herd of happy puppies. Everywhere he went someone was hugging him or kissing his cheek or shaking his hand. He lost track of the names after meeting the second sister and her kids in the living room.

Somewhere along the way their luggage had disappeared. He assumed Nick would know where to find it since Greg was going to need a map just to find the bathroom tonight.

Among the varied groups of siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, and more than one set of grandparents, not one of them seemed at all put off by the fact that Nick had brought home a boyfriend instead of a girlfriend. Then he met Nick's sister Joanne and her 'life partner' Sheila, and someone mentioned that Nick's cousin Bobby would be showing up later with his boyfriend, and it made a bit more sense.

Almost an hour later Greg found himself on the surprisingly vacant back porch, sitting on a white wooden swing with a can of Dr. Pepper in one hand and Nick's hand in the other. Out in the yard yet more relatives were gathered, mostly the young ones but there were a few men Nick's age or older, engaged in a somewhat vicious and complicated looking game of dodgeball that involved at least seven balls.

"Having fun yet?"

The look Greg gave his boyfriend was somewhere between a glare and a grin. "You Stokes' really need to invest in name tags to spare us poor outsiders."

"Aww," Nick pouted at him playfully, "but that would ruin half the fun."

Greg let his head fall on Nick's shoulder, moving closer whenever Nick released his hand to wind his arm around Greg's shoulder. "I'm never going to remember them all." It was far too hot to be snuggled like this, but after the massive crowd he'd just been shoved through Greg needed the contact.

He could feel Nick's chuckle reverberating against his cheek. "You'll get it. We're here for a week so you'll have plenty of time."

A thought crossed Greg's mind and he groaned into Nick's shirt. "Don't tell me they're all here for the entire week."

"It's a family tradition."

That just made Greg groan louder. "If it's this bad now I don't even want to think about Thanksgiving or Christmas."

"Don't worry. We're going to your parents for Christmas so at least you don't have to deal with this lot and trying to sort out who gets what present."

The thought alone made Greg shudder.

"But," Nick continued, a wide, content smile plastered across his face, "just wait till they hand out the sparklers tonight. Sometimes I think the kids put on a better show than the actual fireworks."

Greg could just imagine this group running around with burning sticks. He was definitely staying on the porch and well away from anything flaming.

"Thanks for coming with me." The sincerity in Nick's voice made him look up and he blushed slightly at how intently Nick was looking at him. It really meant something to Nick to have Greg here with all his family.

"I'm glad to be here." And despite all the chaos and too many names and nervousness, he was actually really glad he'd let Nick talking him into coming.

Nick hugged him tightly as he leaned down to kiss Greg's forehead. "Happy Fourth of July."