The Real Greg Sanders

"Can you see the real me, mother? Can ya?!"—The Who

Rated K+ for a teensy bit of language.

Foreword

Vague summary, I know. Basically it's events from the show (episodes "Play With Fire," "Who Shot Sherlock," and "Fannysmackin") and how Greg's mother reacts to them. I really loved Greg's character even more after "Fannysmackin" when he admits that he's an only child with an overly protective mother. It just made him more…interesting I suppose. What with his youthful, upbeat attitude when he really just doesn't want his mom to worry about him.

Anywho, I wrote these little things in the hopes that it was something kinda different, but not too complicated or involved. Rather than finishing the long, complicated story I mentioned in "Chasing the Lab Rat," I looked at it and said "God, what a mess…" and started something completely different. And better! Yay! So hopefully that'll be posted sometime next year. Hopefully. This stuff is just filler crap cause I had writer's block or whatever.

And of course the title of the story is from a Who song. It's CSI, for crying out loud! I actually saw The Who in concert last month, and oh man did they put on a great show for being a couple of old guys :)

Part I. Play With Fire

"…I…I just thought you should hear it from me."

CSI Catherine Willows took a seat and looked intently at the young man who was lying on his side, barely conscious as he stared up at her. She chewed on her lip for a moment as her confident smile fell. Now that she was here to tell him about what had happened to him, she wondered where she could possibly begin…might as well start with the truth. She took a deep, calming breath.

"It was all my fault, Greg," she finally blurted in a shaky voice. "Warrick and I were working a case and I…I left an identified chemical on the heater in your lab. That's what caused the explosion. It was all my fault and I am so, so sorry that you got hurt…"

She looked genuinely upset, close to tears even, but Greg Sanders just smiled goofily up at her. He blamed it on the pain meds running rampant in his system and the fact that he'd just woken up from a particularly bizarre, fiery nightmare to see her beautiful, but pitying face. He asked her if she was joking.

"What?" Catherine said, looking astounded. "No…no Greg, this isn't a joke. It's my fault the lab blew up. It's my fault you got hurt."

"Oh." He frowned when he realized she really wasn't kidding. "Well, that…sucks." He cleared his dry throat and winced.

"I'm really sorry, Greg…"

"But it was an accident, right?"

"A terrible accident," Catherine confirmed. "Do you hate me?"

He wanted to laugh again, but his throat hurt too much. "Nooo…oh no. Like you said, it was just an accident. The lab's paying for my hospital bills, right?"

Catherine blinked. "Um, yeah…the health insurance should cover it…"

"And I get some time off, right?"

"I don't think they'll be letting you out of here any time soon, to be honest…"

"Okay…and I'm getting 'Get Well Soon' presents too, right?"

She actually smiled at him. That was Greg—always seeing the humorous side of an otherwise bleak situation. "Yeah, Greggo," she said softly with a light pat to his shoulder. "You sure are."

"Sounds good. Honestly I'm just glad my ears stopped ringing." He grinned weakly back at her before groaning again as he shifted and tried to get comfortable on the bed. It was awkward, lying on his side like this, and each slight movement sent tremors of pain down his back. He tried, and failed, to hide his winces.

"Are you okay?" Catherine asked with concern. "I can call the nurse—"

"Naw," Greg said breathlessly with a light cough. "I'm good, just…really tired."

She nodded in understanding but never stopped staring at him with that sympathetic, motherly look of hers. He remembered then what she'd said about the time.

"Hang on…so, it's late, and you're not working?" he asked with another cough.

She shook her head. "I'm going to be here for a while."

Greg cleared his dry throat, but didn't even need to ask her "why" when she answered his unsaid question.

"I've...got some free time on my hands. Apparently almost killing a colleague warrants a week long suspension."

He raised his eyebrows at the word, "suspension," but she shrugged off his concern.

"Hey I deserve longer if you ask me. But I figured I might as well spend my time off with you, apologizing at least."

"Thanks," he whispered, even as his eye lids started to grow very heavy.

She put a gentle hand on his. "Just feel better, okay?"

He nodded ever so slightly and sent her one last reassuring smile before burying his face in the pillow.

He fell back asleep not long after that, glad that Catherine had told him the truth about what happened. Sure it sucked, and sure he was still scared shitless that something as simple as a left on heater could blow him sky high, but at least he hadn't caused the accident. He would have felt really stupid being in this mess if it was his own fault.

Time passed, how much Greg was unsure. He must have been sleeping pretty deeply though, because his head felt stuffy and drained as he awoke. Something in his blank mind had roused him, and as he regained consciousness a violent shiver ran down his spine. It was that feeling he got when something was going to happen—usually something not very good.

Catherine, who was still sitting at his bedside, put down the scientific journal she'd been reading and looked at him with concern. His whole body had quaked and his fogged over eyes were rapidly blinking awake as he looked around with a bewildered expression on his pale face.

"Greg, are you alright?"

His eyes snapped to attention and met hers. He shook his head slightly and shuddered with a wince. "I mean, yeah…I'm okay. I just…got this really weird feeling…"

Before he could elaborate on said feeling, they heard the sound of hurried steps and frantic voices outside in the hallway.

"Ma'am, Ma'am! Visiting hours aren't until eleven…you can't be up here…"

"Where is he?!" a shrill voice shrieked back. "Where is my baby?!"

The yelling and stamping of feet grew steadily louder before finally stopping in the hallway outside of Greg's hospital room. Catherine looked quizzically towards the entranceway, wondering why someone would think a baby was in the room.

The door suddenly flew open and a petite woman with bobbed brown hair that was flecked with streaks grey stood breathing heavily in the doorway. Her face was pale and she gasped when she saw the lab rat lying on his side in the hospital bed.

"Gregory!"

Greg had his head turned as far as he could in his position, which was just enough for him to see the newcomer burst into the room. He looked completely flabbergasted as his eyes widened and he croaked, "Mom?!"

A small grin tugged at Catherine's mouth as she watched the exchange between upset mother and very surprised son. Of course the CSI had called Greg's family as soon as she was suspended and realized no one else had. After what she'd done to him she figured calling his mother was the least she could do.

"Oh my God! Sweetheart, what happened to you?"

The woman rushed to her son's side and held her hands out, looking like she wanted nothing more than to embrace him but was afraid of hurting him the process. Greg's face flushed with embarrassment. He pushed himself upright a little, hiding his winces very well in the hopes that the horrified look on her face would go away.

"Mom, I'm fine…"

Before his mother could reply, three other figures made their way into the room. The first was a hospital employee, based solely on the fact that she was wearing pink scrubs. The nurse looked thoroughly frustrated, but wisely wasn't making any attempts to pry the woman from her son. The couple that entered after her was obviously related to Greg, based on their physical features alone—the man had broad shoulders and a square jaw, while the woman had the same straight nose and wide, brown eyes, all of which were almost identical to the other two Sanders in the room. But these two were even older than Greg's mother, and the man towered over the woman standing next to him. Concerned looks crossed their faces but they managed to remain composed as they strolled past the irate nurse to the foot of Greg's bed.

The lab rat had to strain his neck even further to see them. "Grandma…Grandpa…what are you guys doing here?"

"Making sure you are still living," the older man said in a deep, slightly accented voice. "Your mother worried for you."

"Even when I told her you were fine," the grandmother said matter-of-factly. "I believe I would be first to know if my Gregers had died."

She winked and a small smile forced its way onto Greg's face but quickly disappeared again as he glared at his mother while she ran a hand through his limply spiked hair.

"My poor baby," she said softly in a shaky voice

"Ma, I'm okay…really…"

His mother looked close to tears. "No you're not. Look at you—in a hospital… I could have lost you, Gregory."

"Mom," Greg uncharacteristically whined through gritted teeth. "I'm telling you I'm fine. Just ask the nurse lady—hey, nurse lady, I'm fine, right?"

"Of course you're not fine," his mother said before the nurse could respond. "You're hurt, Gregory. Your back…"

"What? My back's good." Greg demonstrated to her just how good he really was by making a show of turning to lay on his back rather than on his side. He hid an agonized groan by sighing deeply. The nurse just shook her head at him. "See? I'm fine."

"Oh, Gregory…"

Mother and son went back and forth like this for a bit, while Catherine, as an outsider in the situation, took the opportunity to study the strange family. Greg's mother was a bit…older than Catherine would have expected her to be. The lab rat was still a young man, after all. And Mrs. Sanders looked like she was sixty at least, aged gracefully, but still aged.

And not "Mrs." Catherine concluded. Her keen observation skills noticed that the woman wore no wedding ring. Divorced most likely, though Catherine hoped her relationship with Greg's father wasn't quite as rocky as hers had been with Eddie. But then again for all the CSI knew Greg's father could have passed away, or been nonexistent altogether. She suddenly regretted not knowing more about the young man that she worked alongside every day.

She turned her attention to the older couple—Greg's grandparents. Catherine guessed that they were somewhere in their eighties. It was hard to tell with their wrinkled, wizened faces. He was very tall and thin in contrast to her petite and more rounded form. But they both gave an air of two very loving, very caring grandparents as they stood hunched slightly over Greg's bed. They weren't nearly as vocal or personable as the lab rat's mother was, but they didn't need to be. Their presence alone was comfort enough.

Then Catherine looked once more at the lab rat himself. The day before in the hospital he'd been playing it cool, like getting blown through a glass wall wasn't really that big of a deal. But now with his mother doting on him, his cool façade faded into an uncomfortable flush while he whined. Catherine had lost count of how many times he'd insisted he was fine as his mother went over his injuries, gasping with horror and sympathy every time she saw even the slightest hint of a bruise or a bandage on him.

It was adorable, really—the always confident, independent Greg Sanders was embarrassed of his overly affectionate mother.

"…No, ma, that's Catherine Willows," Greg was saying. "She's one of the Crime Scene Investigators I work with."

"Ah. Nice to meet you Ms. Willows."

The CSI was pulled from her internal musings when Greg's mother suddenly addressed her. She smiled warmly and held her hand out. "Oh, it's just Catherine."

The other woman nodded stiffly while she shook Catherine's hand. "Did you find out what happened to my son? I heard something about an accident..."

The CSI nodded hesitantly. Her conversation with the lab rat's mother had been brief the night before, as Ms. Sanders was initially more concerned to hear what hospital Greg was in rather than why he was there in the first place. Now that Catherine had to tell the woman what happened to her son, she found herself feeling the same nervousness she'd felt before telling Greg.

"Yes," she started slowly. "I was—"

"It was my fault," Greg blurted loudly. "I was being stupid…I did something stupid with the heater thing or whatever and blew myself up."

Catherine raised an eyebrow in Greg's direction and he frantically shook his head.

"You blew yourself up?!" His mother looked horrified.

"Yup," he said boldly. "Blew myself right through a giant glass wall. I did it, it was my fault, and I swear I won't do it again."

His grandfather chuckled at that. "I should hope not."

"This isn't funny, Papa," Greg's mother snapped. "And this isn't a joke, Gregory. You're seriously hurt—you could have been killed."

"Yeah, but here I am…fine and talking to you. You guys didn't even have to come."

"And I'm sure you never would have even called me if it was up to you, would you have?"

Greg shrugged half heartedly. "I don't see any sense in worrying you over nothing."

"Nothing?! You call this nothing?!"

"Ma'am, please." All eyes turned to the nurse who was finally speaking up again. "Visiting hours aren't for another three and half hours, and you can't be in here yelling while other patients are sleeping. If you want to stay you'll have to wait downstairs until your son's doctor comes to speak with you."

"B-but—"

"Ms. Willows has permission to be here, you don't."

Greg's mother looked back and forth, from her son to the nurse, debating over whether she should listen to the more authoritative figure and leave, or stay with her boy and argue until someone managed to drag her out by force. Luckily for her, her father solved the problem for her.

"We will come back," the old man said wisely.

"It has been a long night, and we need some rest," his wife added pointedly.

"Oh, yeah," Greg piped up. "See, Nana needs her beauty sleep. You guys should probably go…"

His mother frowned at him. "You really don't want me here, do you?" she asked dejectedly.

"Nooo," Greg said quickly. "I didn't mean that. It's just…you kinda…surprised me is all."

His mother stared sadly down at him, glancing occasionally to the still silent Catherine and back.

"I'm going to call security if you don't go," the nurse warned when no one moved for a long moment.

"Alright, alright," Ms. Sanders snapped back. "We'll come back later. Nana, Papa, we're going to go find some place to stay."

"You can stay at my apartment," Greg offered quickly.

"Is it clean?" His mother raised a skeptical eyebrow at him.

"Um…I think so…kind of…"

"That's alright," she said with a forced smile. "We'll stay in a hotel. It'll be…lovely, I'm sure." The nurse cleared her throat loudly. "Say goodbye to Nana and Papa, Gregory." She stepped back so her parents could bid their injured grandson farewell.

The lab rat's grandmother rested a gentle hand on her grandson's unscathed cheek. "You be careful, Gregers." She leaned down so her forehead was touching his when she whispered, "and be sure to keep in touch." She pointed to his temple and he grinned at her, as if the two were sharing some sort of deep seated secret. Catherine for one was baffled.

As Greg's grandfather stepped forward he fished a small, wrapped box out of his pocket. "Here, my little gutt," he said affectionately. "For a few days late birthday." He set the package down on the bed in front of Greg.

"Aw, geez, you didn't have to do that. I already got the card—"

The old man held up his hand and Greg fell silent. "But it is not every year Gregers turns twenty eight. Go on, open it."

Catherine craned her neck to see the lab rat toss the wrapping aside and flip open a velvet lined box. She got a glimpse of a shiny coin, a penny or something, inside. It didn't look like much to her but Greg gasped, his eyes widening in awe as a smile grew on his face.

"Holy crap…I mean, wow, thanks, Papa Olaf."

The older man simply smiled and nodded in response while turned to walk out of the room with his wife. Greg's mother returned to his side with that sympathetic look still on her face as she stared down at her son. She put a gentle hand on his unscathed cheek.

"As soon as I get Nana and Papa settled I'm coming right back here to sit with you, alright?"

"Alright," he said, apparently too tired to argue.

She leaned down to kiss his forehead. "I'll be right back, I promise."

"I know you will."

"See you soon."

"Yup."

"I love you, Greg."

He cleared his throat, eyes darting to Catherine for a second before he muttered, "I love you too, mom."

The woman hesitated and ran a hand through her hair, looking like she wanted nothing more than to stay by his side. The nurse cleared her throat again and Greg's mother finally turned to follow her parents out of the room. The nurse escorted them out and closed the door behind her. Greg sighed with audible relief after they left. His eyes locked with Catherine's for a second before he looked away with a blush rising in his cheeks.

"So," he said with a light cough. "That was my family. Freaking out over nothing, as usual…"

"I was going to tell her the truth, Greg," Catherine blurted, hating that Greg had felt like he had to lie to them about the accident. "You didn't need to take the fall for me."

His eyes darted to the door, as though to make sure his mother was really out of earshot. "Yeah, well, if she knew the truth she would've freaked out on you and then gone after the whole lab with like a law suit or something. At least this way the only person she can blame this on is me, and even if she tells me to quit I won't."

"But, Greg—"

"Ah—no 'buts' about it. This is good. This'll work." He paused, looking thoughtful for a second. "Oh, crap, just one more thing—if my mom comes back and talks to you again, don't mention I've been doing field work."

She blinked at him. "You've been doing field work?"

"Yes, I've been doing field work," he retorted. "The bus thing and I helped get that coin dealer murderer guy…"

"Hmm, I don't remember those cases."

Greg rolled his eyes at her. "Yeah, well, Grissom's letting me do more stuff outside the lab and I'm really considering taking the CSI field tests."

"Really?" Catherine said, surprise evident in her voice. "Since when?"

"Since I got blown out of my safe, cozy little laboratory." She looked guiltily at the floor and Greg quickly tried to take back what he said. "That's not…I mean, I've been thinking about it for a while now anyway and…this was a good thing, really." He smiled reassuringly at her.

She didn't smile back. "Okay, but why are we hiding this from your mother?"

"'Cause she will flip out if she thinks I'm putting myself in any more danger than I'm already in. I've already gotta talk my way out of this debacle."

"I'm sure she'll understand. She seems like she really cares about you, Greg."

"I know," the lab rat moaned. "That's the problem…"

"I just can't believe how quickly she got here. I only called her last night. Your family lives in California, right?"

"Yeah, southern Cali," Greg muttered before doing a double take. "Wait—you called her?!"

Catherine nodded.

"Ask me again if I hate you," Greg said grimly.

The CSI knew better than to take him seriously, so she laughed, and after a moment even Greg couldn't help but smile.