Title: Ms. America

Author: Michmak

Summary: Greg and Grissom bond on a silent night in the lab. Friendship piece only.

Disclaimer: The only characters I own are the ones I create for the purpose of this story. All the rest? Not mine.


Greg was oddly silent. No music was blaring from his lab. No lab glove adorned his head. The various flasks and test tubes that were vital for a well-run lab were all in their place, none in danger of being used for an impromptu air drumming session. Something was wrong.

Normally, Grissom wouldn't notice. Normally, he would walk right by, thanking whatever gods necessary for the blessed silence emanating from Greg's domain. But not today. Not today.

Today, Grissom had needed everything to be normal at the lab. He needed to know that the world was still revolving; that the more things changed, the more they stayed the same. He had been late getting to work - another test, another doctor's appointment, more bad news. When he arrived, Catherine had already split the team, and they had already gone to tonight's crime scenes to gather the evidence. A pointed note had been left on his desk - "Paperwork! - Cath". Grissom supposed he could do paperwork, but he didn't want to. It was such a silent job - just the scratching of a pen, writing down words he'd rather be hearing.

He had stood in front of his office door for several minutes, purposely activating his Big Mouth Billy Bass, but there was only so much 'Take me to the river." and 'Don't worry, be happy.' a man could take. The halls were so silent. Grissom wanted to know if it was because no one was around, or because he couldn't hear anything.

And here he was. Greg's lab. Funny how he always thought of it as Greg's lab. Never 'the lab', never anyone else's lab; Greg's lab. Grissom leaned in the doorway for a few moments, studying the young man. Greg's back was to him, and the usual energy that seemed to crackle from his lithe frame was sadly absent. His shoulder's slumped forward in defeat, and Grissom noticed the slight tremors running through him. Greg was crying.

Grissom stepped into the lab, his shoes making a slight squeak against floor. "Hey Greg."

Greg sat up straighter, trying to surreptitiously wipe his eyes, before tossing casually over his shoulder, "Grissom."

Neither man said anything for an awkward beat. Greg tried to look like he was busy doing something, reaching for a flask only to drop it to the counter top. The sharp shattering sound, followed by Greg's muttered curse made Grissom smile. Greg's ears turned red. "Sorry."

"Don't apologize."

Greg looked at Grissom nervously as he quickly cleaned up the broken glass. "Are you waiting for a report or something, Grissom? I think I got everything finished. All the reports should be on your desk."

"No. No. Everything all right, Greg?" Grissom crouched down on his haunches, picking up a couple of the larger pieces of glass that had fallen to the floor.

Greg didn't look at Grissom when he responded. "Sure. Great. Why wouldn't they be?"

"Well, for one thing - no loud music. And you just seem - sad." Grissom didn't bring up the fact Greg had been crying when he walked in, tactful for once.

Greg sighed, muttering, "I must be really bad, if you noticed." He felt immediately remorseful when he saw a quick flash of hurt slide across Grissom's face, before his eyes shuttered. Grissom started retreating backwards, hand reaching out behind him searching for the doorway.

"Listen, Grissom. I'm sorry - I shouldn't have said that. I'm having a bad day."

Grissom paused his retreat. Something about the dejection on the young man's face, along with the honest regret he saw there, stayed his feet. "Join the club. Listen, Greg - I know I'm not the easiest person to talk to, but if you want to talk-"

"I had to put my dog down before I came to work today."

Greg's voice was soft as he interrupted Grissom. "I've had him since I was 12. Little mutt," his voice broke as he looked at his feet. "I should have done it weeks ago, but I just - I couldn't."

Grissom stepped forward again, sliding unto a spare stool, studying Greg with concern. "Since you were 12? So he would have been - what - 15 years old? That's a good age for a dog - what breed was he."

Greg sighed wetly, blinking back tears. "He was a purebred mutt. Ugliest dog you ever saw - someone had abandoned him, and my dad found him. Brought him home; gave him to me."

"What was his name?"

"Ms. America," Greg laughed suddenly at the surprise on Grissom's face. "I know, terrible name for a male dog, but I wanted him to feel beautiful."

"Why did you put him down?"

Greg shrugged. "Typical reasons. He was very arthritic - it was painful to watch him move around. He was losing weight, he was going blind. He was deaf. I couldn't stand to see him suffer anymore." Silence for a moment.

"The worst part was taking him in. The vet shaved some fur from his leg, and I just held him and pet him. He licked my hand when the vet gave him the shot." Greg was crying again, in earnest. "I feel like I murdered my best friend."

Grissom watched the young man with sympathy, feeling strangely uncomfortable at this display of emotion. Grissom had never had a pet - not even as a young boy - and, seeing how Greg was reacting to his loss, he was glad.

"You did the best thing, Greg," his response sounded lame, even to his own ears, but Greg didn't seem to notice. Instead, he viciously wiped his eyes with the sleeves of his lab coat and tried to smile at Grissom.

"I know. It just - it hurts. I hurt. You ever have a pet, Grissom?"

Grissom shook his head, "Never."

"Not even a fish?"

"Not even a fish."

"Wow. That's sorta sad."

Grissom shrugged, "Not really. I didn't feel like I was missing out. Besides, I was always more interested in dissecting animals than playing with them."

Greg grimaced, "Figures," but his tone was teasing. "Anyway, why did you really come down to the lab?" He watched Grissom intently as the older man shifted uncomfortably. For a few seconds, he didn't think he would get a response.

"It was too quiet in my office." The admission, simple and straight forward, was startling in what it actually revealed to Greg.

He grinned. "Too quiet. In other words, you were lonely."

Grissom shrugged. "I suppose. I was looking for noise, actually. Distractions."

"And, normally you can find noise and distraction in my lab. Am I that annoying?" Greg's tone was light.

"No. Not at all - sometimes, a little exuberant. I suppose I just wanted to make sure I wasn't the only person here tonight."

Greg suddenly frowned. "You seem a little - down - tonight, Grissom. Not that I would know, having never been privy to you when you're up or anything, but still. What's bothering you?"

Grissom shrugged again, and looked at his hands. They were large and capable, strong enough to do work that needed to be done; poetic enough to speak without words. He flexed his fingers experimentally, signing to himself, "I'm going deaf." The words were easier to say when he didn't have to hear them.

In front of him, Greg jumped. "ASL. I know ASL, Grissom."

Grissom looked at Greg, eyes shocked. "You know sign language?" At Greg's sympathetic nod, Grissom blinked. "How do you know sign language?"

"My cousin Andy is deaf. The whole family learned it. So, are you really losing your hearing?"

Grissom nodded. "My mom was deaf. It's hereditary. They might be able to correct it with an operation, they might not. I've been going in for tests."

"That's why you came in late tonight," Greg pursed his lips, tapping them softly with his forefinger. "Have you told anyone?"


"Are you going to?"

"Not yet."

Greg sighed, "Okay. I'll keep my mouth shut." He looked at Grissom and smiled, signing, "but my hands are harder to control."

Grissom smiled back, fingers flashing, "Not if I break them."

Greg laughed. "Threatening an employee - isn't that against the law?" Grissom admired the way the young mans fingers flowed over the words.

"Sue me. You're good at this."

"I knew how to sign practically before I could talk. Andy is older than I am - he lived next door to us. I should be good. So, did the doctor tell you when?"

"No. It could be progressive, or it could just go. Sometimes it fades in and out, like a weak radio signal."

"That explains why you were looking for noise. I can put on Black Flag, if you want."

Grissom laughed, "Spare me."

* * * * *

Grissom was feeling better by the time everyone else returned from their evidence gathering. He supposed he should be feeling uncomfortable, but oddly enough he trusted Greg not to tell his secret. The younger lab tech was a good man, and Grissom felt a new respect for him. For all his youthfulness, there was a depth of emotion and empathy there Grissom would never have expected from a man who wore latex gloves on his head.

His mother had always told him confession was good for the soul, and oddly enough, Grissom did feel lighter and less weary. He had shared a burden with Greg, and hadn't been judged. It felt good.

He was still contemplating his earlier discussion with Greg when an idea suddenly hit him. Whistling to himself, he told Catherine he would be back in an hour or so and left the building.

* * * * *

Everyone, including Greg, was in the lounge when Grissom returned. Greg still wore a cloak of sadness, but he smiled at Grissom and covertly signed hello when no one was looking. Grissom smiled at him.

"Hey Griss. What's that tucked in your jacket?" Nick's voice was curious, and his eyes were drawn to the large bulge under Grissom's coat, resting on his arm. He smiled when Grissom, ever so gently, slid a squirming puppy out from underneath it.

The puppy was ugly - pure-bred mutt. Its' coat was the color of mud, wiry and rough. He had one blue eye and one green eye, and looked like he had been slapped together using spare parts. Its' little tail wagged gleefully. Grissom smiled when Greg leaned forward and reached out to pet him.

"He's the ugliest dog I ever saw." Everyone else at the table agreed, except Catherine, who protested that all babies were cute.

"I never pegged you as a dog person, Grissom," Sara said.

"I'm not. I got him for Greg."

Greg smiled widely, "You got me a dog?"

Grissom nodded. "I know he won't replace Ms. America, but he's the ugliest puppy they had at the humane society. I hope you don't mind."

Greg was looking at the small bundle of squirming fur in awe, reaching out tentatively and smiling when Grissom placed the dog in his arms. He lifted the puppy to his face, eyes emotional when a small pink tongue lapped at his chin.

"Thanks Grissom."

"No Greg," Grissom replied. "Thank you."

"Who the hell is Ms. America?" Nick asked.


Author's Note: I got to thinking the other day, what if the first person who learned about Grissom's hearing loss was Greg. What could be the circumstances that could lead to this, so I decided to explore this idea. Hope you enjoy it.