Jeb clutched the sides of the basin and glanced up at the mirror in front of him. The face looking back at him was passable. Presentable. A casual glance could easily mistake his expression for one of contentment. Those who allowed their eyes to linger might discern that he was distracted, distant. But nothing would be thought amiss.

He sighed, and closed his eyes, focussing his attention of the cool porcelain grasped in his hands. There are only so many lies you can tell yourself before it all becomes too much. He'd seen the dark smudges under his eyes. He'd noted the new wrinkles that had decided to make an appearance. His hair had taken on an extra grey tinge of late. He looked gaunt, tired. It was very unlikely that anyone would think he was contented, or merely distracted, if they so much as glanced at him.

Why do I do this to myself? He shivered. It was so easy, so mind-numbingly easy, to just throw himself into his work and let everything else go to hell. When he worked, the world took on a sort of unreal quality. Each variable meticulously manipulated to create a series of results. They may not always be the ones you were looking for, but they were always something new, something that could lead onto another discovery, and another, until the world seemed to unfold at your fingertips. It was consuming, engrossing, but not emotional. The outcomes in themselves were meaningless, so long as an outcome was achieved. It was much harder to vest emotion in a project when all you were hoping for was a vague something. Heck, even a lack of result constituted a result.

Of course some cases called for a more personal involvement, Jeb remembered. His mind instantly summoned images of Max and the recently eraserfied Ari. My daughter, my son. What I have done to you? He'd left his daughter, abandoned her in the woods, so he could return here. At that moment, thoughts of maintaining his place to aid her in the future were far from his temporarily illogical mind. All he could conjure up was an image of her trusting eyes and the knowledge that he'd left her out there by herself.

He was even less forgiving when it came to his son. He knew deep in his heart there was no way he could have could have brought Ari with him, by why did entrust the safety of his son to these people. He should have known that something like this would happen. He should haveā€¦

He abruptly broke off that chain of thought and let out a hollow laugh. Look at the great Dr. J. Batchelder now. A world-renowned geneticist? God, he can hardly manage his own DNA. Did you hear what happened to his children?

Why did he do this to himself? Well, why not. What point was there in him looking after himself? He sighed loudly and then started as the bathroom door creaked open.

'Ever learn to knock?' Jeb asked tiredly, forcing his eyes to open.

'Knock, knock,' Roland responded dryly. 'I was wondering where you got to.'

'Here.' Jeb said flatly, making an effort not to look at the man behind him.

'I can see that. I just wanted to see that you were okay.'

Something in Roland's voice made Jeb just relax. He turned around, noted the inevitable tightening of lips, and made an attempt at a small half smile. He read the accusation in Roland's eyes that challenged him as to why he would keep him away when he was so clearly not okay.

'I will be though,' Jeb said after a pause. And it was true. Because he knew there was a point to looking after himself. And said point was standing in front of him. Someone who truly knew him, and still insisted he had redeeming qualities. Someone who cared about, enough to barge into the bathroom just to make sure he was okay. Someone who loved him, and someone he loved back.

Roland smiled, as if he could read the thoughts floating through Jeb's head.

'I know you will be. I plan to make sure of it.' Then Roland kissed him.

Jeb felt as light as air. Roland always tended to have this affect on him. He wrapped his arms around the other man, bringing them closer together. As Jeb felt the slight bump of Roland's belly press up against his, he remembered not the fates of his other children, but the simple phrase he'd heard dozens of times throughout his life. Third time's the charm. And perhaps it would be. Jeb was certainly willing hope. And at the moment, with Roland filling his mouth, and sharing his heart with their child, he couldn't image any other outcome.