A Time To Be Born
[ - ] Chapter
or Story - Text Size +
Category: CSI - Slashed
Characters: Greg Sanders
, Nick Stokes
, Original Character
, Established Relationship
, Hurt ComfortWarnings: None
Nick and Greg start a family.
Before you were conceived, I wanted you.
Before you were born, I loved you.
Before you were here an hour, I would give my life for you.
This is the miracle of life. - Joyce Maynard
They'd been together for almost seven years, and there weren't many things Nick didn't know about Greg by now - but the notebook was one of them.
It was two thirds full, the cover faded and tattered, and the writing at the beginning was that of a child - a child who'd been picked on at school and hadn't told his parents, because his mother had been at the root of his problems...and then one evening Greg had realised that even though he might not have said anything, one of his parents understood anyway.
I know how your mom is, Greg, his father had told him when he'd come upstairs to say goodnight. I think deep down she knows you'd be fine if you played on the football team and did all the other things she doesn't want you to do, but she - we waited a long time to have you, and we're not going to be able to have any more kids, he'd said. But you know what? You'll understand when you're a dad, because you'll worry even when you know you're nuts to do it, and he'd handed Greg a thick notebook. If you can't talk about something, write it in here.
That was exactly what Greg had done, and although it hadn't magically made everything better it had helped a lot more than he'd thought it would. There'd be times when he wouldn't write in it for months - almost a year, once - and sometimes there'd be no more than a single sentence...but it was these terse entries that seemed, when he took the book out and read what he'd written, to have the most meaning.
What do I do if they don't find Nick in time?
It had been this entry that had been followed by a gap of almost a year, because what had taken place in those eleven months had been something Greg had never really believed he'd ever have - and when he'd written in the book again, it had been the longest entry he'd made since he was eleven.
Her name's Alison, and she's twenty three; she's already got another kid, and her husband died about four years ago - we don't know anything about the father of this baby, but Alison's "medically okay" according to Judith, which I guess means no diseases or anything. We've been talking to her on the phone for three weeks now, and she wants to meet us - so next Friday we're going to a place called Fort Stockton, which is somewhere in Texas and that's all I know. I asked Nick what sort of place it is, and he told me he's pretty sure everyone has indoor bathrooms there now - plus they have the biggest roadrunner statue in the country, which would sure make me want to live there. Ha ha.
I know Judith said it was going to take longer for us, but it looks like this might finally happen. I want it more than just about anything I've ever wanted in my life, so I don't know why I'm so nervous about it. I guess it's thinking about someone having that much power over us - and Alison does, much more than the home study people or any of the lawyers do, because it's down to her whether we get to have our family or not, isn't it?
God, I wish I wasn't so scared about getting on that plane next week.
Eight days later.
"You know what my dad calls these?" Nick asked, squinting through the driving rain at the sign reading Tom's Trailer Park that hung slightly askew on a nearby fence. "Tornado magnets," and he turned his head towards his passenger. "I bet you if the sun was shining there'd be someone playing a banjo," he went on, folding the map and cramming it into the glove compartment of the rental car - and although he was smiling, his hands were shaking visibly. "G -"
"Turning chicken?" Greg asked, reaching across the space between them to rest his left hand on Nick's right wrist, and what he'd written in his journal resurfaced as he realised that Nick felt exactly the same way. "It'll be fine," he said softly, and he planted a kiss at the corner of his lover's mouth. "Come on." He unfastened his seatbelt, and then waited until Nick had done the same before opening the passenger side door of the car; pulling their jackets up over their heads, the two of them ran the few yards to where a short, dumpy woman was climbing out of a red Toyota.
"Hi, Judith," Greg said. "How are you?"
"Hey, sugar," the woman responded, and she chuckled as she took in the expression on Nick's face. "You can start breathing again, Mr. Stokes," she said. "She isn't going to bite you," and she walked ahead of Nick and Greg towards a trailer several yards away; climbing the handful of rickety wooden steps, she knocked on the screen door, and there was a response of "Coming!" from somewhere inside.
It was covered in peeling yellow paint, and cheap toys littered the patchy grass in front of it; Nick looked at the bicycle that had one of its handlebars lying on the ground, contrasted it with everything he'd been given as a child - not just the material things, but the solid, loving upbringing, and as he felt a lump rise in his throat the screen door opened with a rusty whine...
...and it didn't matter how many photos and letters and phone calls there'd been over the preceding weeks, neither he nor Greg had really been ready for this moment.
There was a long silence, during which the rain poured steadily around them and the young red-haired woman with the mountainous belly stood in the trailer doorway eyeing them up and down - and finally, Nick swallowed the cotton that seemed to have filled his mouth.
"You look taller than your pictures," she said, her Southern accent even more pronounced than Nick's, and he supposed that he might have sounded like this if he hadn't moved to Vegas. "You guys wanna come in?"
Despite the threadbare carpet and shabby furniture, the inside of the trailer was spotless; Nick and Greg sat side by side on a couch that was draped with a Stars and Stripes throw, trying to make out the soft murmurs of conversation several yards away as coffee was prepared.
"Nick," Greg said out of the side of his mouth. "You're doing it again."
"You're cracking your knuckles," came the whispered response. "Stop it," and before Nick could deny that he was doing what he always did when he was nervous, one of his hands was seized between both of Greg's. "Don't worry, okay?"
"You all right, Nick?"
"He's fine," Greg said, looking up at Alison, who was standing in front of them with a mug in each hand. "See, he does this thing with his knuckles when he's stressed out, and..."
"Cracks them? My uncle does that too," was the redhead's answer as she held a mug out to Greg. "Aunt June says he'll get arthritis, but he never listens to her," and she turned towards Nick. "You wanted cream in yours, right?"
"Yes," Nick managed to say. "Thank you," and after he'd accepted the coffee he watched Alison lower herself into one of the armchairs that didn't match the couch; there was another silence, during which Judith settled into the other armchair, and then Nick looked up over the rim of his mug to see Alison watching him with a hesitant smile twitching at the corners of her mouth.
"Got no clue what to say either, do you?"
"No," Nick admitted, kicking himself for having said this aloud. "Feels like the first time I had to give evidence in court, I was scared sh - well, I was scared I'd say the wrong thing then too," he corrected himself, his face burning.
"See, I told him to eat breakfast before we came over here," Greg said before Nick could shut him up. "I said if he didn't he was going to be like this, but..."
"There's an IHOP a mile down the road," Judith said. "It's almost noon," and she smiled. "Would lunch do, Nick?"
"- and this one's from last Fourth of July at Nick's parents' place," Greg said, flipping over a page in the album that lay on the table vying for space with plates of food, and the other three people seated round the table craned their necks to look.
"How many nieces and nephews did you say you had?" Alison asked as she studied the photo of Nick with a baby in the crook of his right arm and a half-eaten burger in his other hand. "It looks like a dozen, from all these pictures."
"It's seven," was Nick's answer. "It only feels like a dozen at Christmas when mom and dad try and fit us all in at the ranch," and he was unable to suppress a smile as he pointed at the photo. "My sister says that's her last baby, but she's always wanted a girl, so I think she'll keep going until she gets one - sorry," he said. "Probably too much information, right?"
"My mom always used to say I should have been a boy," Alison told them. "She bought all these dresses, and I just wanted to live in jeans and ride my bike all the time," and the corners of her mouth lifted in that hesitant smile again. "Have y'all bought much baby stuff yet?"
"We've painted the bedroom," Nick said, biting back a grin as a memory suddenly filled his mind - Greg standing halfway up a stepladder, brush in hand, green paint in his hair and the look in his eyes that always made Nick want to kiss him. "We've bought a crib, but we haven't put it up yet," and he drained the contents of his mug before continuing. "And one of my sisters sent us a box of stuff her kids have grown out of," he said, wishing he was back at the trailer where he hadn't said a word - because now he was talking, he just knew the words weren't coming out right.
Second hand baby things, Stokes. Real nice, he told himself silently. Now she'll think we're tightwads.
Forget feeling like his first time giving evidence in court - this was much worse than that.
"We're getting new clothes too," Greg broke in, still holding Nick's hand - reading Nick's mind the way he always seemed to when it really counted, and the image loosened the tightness in Nick's throat. "Just so you don't think -"
"Nothing wrong with second hand," Alison said. "When Cassie was little we borrowed whatever anyone would lend us, even though John was working - they grow so fast when they're little, ain't much point in buying new all the time even if you can afford to." She was silent for a while, chasing the last piece of chicken fried steak round her plate with her fork, and then she cleared her throat. "He was a great dad, you know," she said softly. "Cassie doesn't really remember him, she wasn't even two when he passed, but I tell her about him all the time," and although she was smiling there was a gentle sadness in her eyes as she looked at the two men sitting opposite her.
"I met him when I was fifteen, and everyone said I was too young to really know what I wanted," Alison said. "I did know, though, 'cause you only ever get one person you feel that way about, right?" and in the silence that followed Nick thought back to the night when he'd met Greg and something had jolted the length of his spine. "I found out I was pregnant two weeks after I turned sixteen, and my folks cut me off - but John said he'd look after me, and I knew we'd be all right," Alison continued. "We might not have ever had that much money, but we had our little girl, and I couldn't believe I was so happy..."
"You don't have to talk about this," Nick said quietly. "Not if it hurts you."
"I don't even know what the guy's last name was," Alison replied, as though Nick hadn't even spoken, and an undercurrent of strength crept into the words. "Cassie was sleeping over with a friend from school, and I decided - well, I got tired of sitting on my own at night thinking that if John would've just worn his helmet when he tested that bike he wouldn't have died," and out of the corner of his eye Nick saw Judith shake her head as the waitress approached their table. "I went to a bar, and this guy bought me a drink," Alison went on. "Said his name was Mike, I don't even know if that was true, but I know he wasn't from round here. He had a room at the motel on the other side of town, so we went back there, and I was sorry as soon as it happened - I thought it would stop me feeling alone but I just felt dirty." She fell silent again, pushing her plate away, and it seemed to take an age before she spoke again.
"I knew I was pregnant even before I could take a test," Alison went on. "It was the same with Cassie, it's just a feeling you get," and she looked up at Nick and Greg again. "I knew right off I wasn't going to keep it." Another long silence followed, and then Alison reached for her napkin and blew her nose loudly. "I know I made a mistake, and I don't want the baby to have to pay for it," she said. "Sounds stupid, doesn't it?"
"No," Greg said, speaking around the lump in his throat. "You look at your daughter and she makes you think of John, right?" and he saw Alison nod tearfully. "I think you're right, you only ever do get one person like that - and if you know this isn't right for you, then it isn't," he went on, reaching across the table. "You know what, though?" he said, squeezing her hand. "You didn't have to go on with the pregnancy in the first place, so I think that makes you pretty brave."
"I don't feel real brave right now," was the answer, accompanied by a wan smile. "I thought it was going to be so easy to do this once I'd made my mind up, but it isn't," and Alison took the Kleenex that Nick fished from his pocket. "I met all these people through the pastor at the church I go to, and none of them were the right ones," she said as she dabbed at red-rimmed eyes. "I didn't care if they had a big house, I just wanted to look at them and feel like the baby would be happy, you know? Then my doctor said she thought I ought to speak to someone legal, 'cause she said I had rights and she didn't want anyone to take advantage of me - so I found Judith from an ad in the paper, and she came all the way from Fort Worth to see me," Alison said. "Told me I could keep in touch with the parents, said I could even visit some of them if I wanted," she went on. "I don't think I want to visit, I just - well, maybe some photos? A letter? Just so I'd know she was okay?"
Although Nick's breath froze in his throat when he tried to speak, something must have shown on his face anyway - because he saw Alison and Judith exchange glances, and a smile twitched at the corners of Alison's mouth.
"I had the scan last week - I just wanted to wait until you guys were here to tell you," Alison said. "What do you think about a little girl?"
Days Inn, 6.20 p.m.
Greg sat on the edge of the bed, leaning back slightly as Nick knelt behind him and rubbed his shoulders. His eyes were closed, his ears tuned to the sounds around him - the whirr of the air conditioning unit, the plane roaring overhead, the people in the next room squabbling - sounds which seemed very distant as they fought for space with the images crowding his mind.
They'd ended up back at the trailer again after lunch, because they'd lingered over their food for so long that Alison had looked at her watch and realised that her daughter would be getting home from school. Do y'all want to come and meet her? she'd asked, the slightly anxious expression on her face telling them she wasn't sure they'd say yes, but they had accepted eagerly. Five minutes after the four of them had arrived back at the trailer, Cassie had bounded off her school bus, a broad grin on her face and a grease-spotted paper bag clutched in one hand; this had turned out to contain cookies she had made earlier that day, burnt to a crisp, but Nick and Greg had accepted one anyway. This had endeared them to Cassie instantly, and it had been another two hours before they'd managed to leave - and as Greg had looked at Nick and Cassie, their heads almost touching as the little girl chattered about something that had happened at school, it had really sunk in.
We're going to have a kid.
"Yeah, we are," Nick said behind him, and Greg smiled as he realised that he must have spoken aloud. The hands on his shoulders slid down his arms, drawing him back against Nick's chest, and he went willingly; he twisted his head back, eyes still closed, and when lips brushed his he let out a contented murmur.
"You know I love you, right?"
"Always," Greg replied softly, and he was drawn down to lie on the bed. He lay on his side with Nick spooned behind him, and he felt a hand move slowly up and down his side; neither one of them spoke for a long time, and Greg was just allowing himself to think that Nick had fallen asleep when his lover's voice broke the silence.
"Are we going to go and look for a place to have supper?"
"After that lunch you packed away? Alison's eating for two, and you even had her beat."
"Wiseass," Nick said, delivering a gentle swat to Greg's upper thigh. "Come on, I need to try and get reception on my cell so I can call my folks and tell them the news."
"All right, but I need to show you something first," Greg said, pushing himself upright, and he leaned over the side of the bed to rummage in the bag he'd crammed his belongings into ten minutes before they'd left for the airport. When he sat back against the heap of pillows, he had a padded envelope in his hands, and Nick watched as it was opened to reveal a dog-eared hardcover book.
" Mormor og de åtte ungene i skogen?" Nick managed to say, virtually certain he was pronouncing the words wrongly. "Little help, G?"
"It means Grandma and the eight kids in the forest," Greg said as he passed the book to Nick. "It was my favourite book when I was a kid, because I just loved the dog," and he pointed at one corner of the cover, where a black dachshund was visible. "See? That's Ovnsrøret," he went on, his eyes lighting up as he recalled something that evidently held a special place in his heart. "I don't know how many boxes mom must have gone through in the attic, but she found it for me because I wanted the baby to have it - I know you'll think it's silly, but I used to sit on mom's lap while she read to me, and..."
"I don't think it's silly," Nick answered, looking down at the book and then up at Greg. "But she'll only understand it if you read it to her," and he was smiling as he placed the book back in Greg's hands. The kiss that followed was long and deep, lasting until they had to pull apart to breathe; Nick caught hold of a handful of Greg's shirt, and Greg felt himself stiffening as he saw the look in Nick's eyes saying that dinner was the furthest thing from his mind. "Now, put that book away before we wrinkle the pages."
To be continued.