AN: Thank you to whoever read this story. I know we all love some Winnie/Spike action but this series is more about the love between their little family unit and how they make peace with some dark memories.

Maybe someday I'll write the happy couple a wedding piece!


'The sun will rise, the sun will rise,
Bringing life to the earth
as it springs from the ground.
The sun will rise, the sun will rise—
Won't you dry all your tears, lay your burden down?'

"The Sun Will Rise" ~ The Brilliance

Five thirty in the morning was an atrocious time for this type of call. A bad time for any call.

Marina rolled over, right back to sleep, but Greg stumbled into a sweater and pants before the voice on the other end finished talking. The world tilted—forgot the cane. Greg used the wall to pat around in the dark, with his free hand.

"You're sure?"

"Greg. I'm telling you. He didn't show up for work this morning and he was subdued last night. So yes, I'm worried."

"Okay, okay." Greg wished Ed was here in person so he could grab him by the shoulders, stop the pacing that was obvious by his breathing pattern. "Just…take a minute. Did he say anything about what's going on at home? Winnie doesn't know?"

"She's as freaked out as I am. His phone's off and his car is still sitting in his apartment lot. Empty. He left me a voicemail that he had an unexpected appointment. Didn't say where."

Something cold met Greg's fingers. Gotcha! He used the cane to push himself to standing and out the door.

"Is it an important date, Ed? Did we miss something?"

A pause. "I don't think so. Lew's anniversary is coming up but it's not for another month. He doesn't even mention his father's."

So not like the bar incident.

Greg hovered in his driveway, mind toying with all the pieces. Something occurred to him. "Ed, you took Kyle Hurley's statement when you booked him, right?"

"Yeah, the judge ruled probation with rehab, why?"

"What company did Kyle interview for, that rejected him on the basis of his drug addiction?"

"Uh…hold on." There was a silence, broken by the fluttering of paper. Greg marveled at the quiet street, pavement wet with dew, and the slice of sunshine starting over his roof. "It's a contracting company with CSIS. Burris Security."

Bingo.

"Ed, that's downtown."

"I'm on it."

"No, no." Greg hopped into his car. "Give me a head start. Besides, you're on call."

"You sure?"

"Very sure. I don't think this is about job offers at all. I doubt he even met with them this morning."

"I just called them, Greg, when I put you on hold. You're right—he never showed for the secondary interview. How did you know that?"

"Gut instinct left over from years of reading people?"

"Uh-huh. Nice try."

Heat crawled up Greg's neck.

"Fathers know best?" Ed wheedled.

"Is that the pot calling the kettle black, Eddie? Sod off and lift some weights or something. And thanks for letting me know."

Ed's cackling was the last thing Greg heard before he hung up. He appreciated the dawn hour, which left the roads much less congested than they would be in two hours.

After a few drive by surveys, Greg followed his hunch and parked along Queens Quay. Like all city dwellers, he was drawn to the rare sight of green things, leading him to trace the waterfront towards HTO Park.

Greg passed the line of maple trees twice before he thought to breech the boundary line between them. Most children didn't play beyond this natural fence.

It left the view that opened up before him private, isolated except for the friendly cries of sailors far down the docks. Crisp air off Lake Ontario whistled through his sweater.

There, a stone's throw from the lapping waves, sat Spike.

He had his back to Greg, but the sound of approaching footsteps, in that distinct limping rhythm, made the tech sit upright. He wore a charcoal suit and robin's egg shirt, no tie, Converse hidden by his trouser legs.

He looked more well rested, now that he didn't have his hackles up, waiting to be pushed around every time he went home. The first two nights after it all came out, statements taken, Greg had made him stay in the guest bedroom. An indulgent move, but effective when Spike slept for over fourteen consecutive hours.

Greg plopped down next to him on the big, flat boulder he'd found. It was surprisingly comfortable.

The sunrise looked spectacular here, certainly better than Greg's driveway. Pink sprays flecked along a sapphire blue that coyly peeked out from golden fan lines in the clouds.

And finally, in the fermata to an epic symphony, Greg stilled too. The chugging pace of life felt right.

Dried tear lines shone all the way down Spike's face, but now his breathing was even. Eyes calm.

Together, they watched little white boats drift off into the blue.

Greg wondered where he'd be if he had never met Spike. Had hired some other technicians—for it often took two or three people to do what Spike accomplished in minutes.

Would he feel this warm glow of love in his heart? Would he have learned how to be a good father for Dean? Would this team be the tightly glued family it was now?

Greg luxuriated in the sun on his face, Spike's arm seeping warmth through his sleeve, and didn't want to imagine such a dark place.

"I can't do it."

Greg turned to Spike. "Can't do what?"

"I tried and I tried but I just can't."

A particularly bold wave hit the rocks, with the increase of wind. The spray whispered over their faces in invisible droplets.

"You can't take this employment offer?"

Spike shook his head. "I can't choose. I can't leave but I…"

Greg enveloped Spike's hands in one of his own and found them ice cold. He wondered how long Spike had been sitting here. "Who's making you choose between being a cop or this job?"

"No one." Spike shook his head like a dog with water in his ears. "I started looking for another career. We sacrifice for the people we love, right? That's the correct choice. It has to be."

Greg rubbed at the chilled digits to increase circulation. "Did Winnie ask you to leave the force?"

"We're getting…more serious. It came up one night, that she's worried about having kids."

"Why is that?"

"What if one of us dies on a call, or both? The stress, the inconsistency. She said she couldn't imagine raising children in that environment, with the way our lives are now."

Some days Greg felt more like a doctor than a profiler. In the sense that he was a surgeon, looking at the throbbing, oozing wounds people tried to keep hidden or power through. Until they inevitably bled all over the streets.

"I don't think Winnie wants you to give up who you are, Spike, which is a cop who helps people." Greg kept his cadence low. "Don't fret over something that hasn't even happened yet. You'll find a way through that problem when it comes up. Together. That's how it should be."

Spike exhaled, ragged. A tear snuck out before he could stop it. "I'm scared."

Rather than be rocked by the blurted admission, Greg wanted to collapse in a puddle of relief. Abject relief. "Thank God."

Spike startled. He looked at Greg for the first time. "Boss—"

"No, Spike." Greg reached over with his other hand and captured Spike's in a protective ball of skin and bone. So ineffective, not like bullet proof vests or Kevlar. Yet so alive, healing. "You are not weak for being scared. I'm just relieved you trust me with it. That you're learning to tell us."

A shallow line swam in Spike's eyes. "By all rights, this is the happiest I've ever been in my life. I feel more loved than I can wrap my head around. And…" He gasped a wet sound. "And I don't know if I can do it."

"Not by yourself you can't." Greg shook their hands. "None of us can. That's the point, Spike. We're all precariously balanced, holding each other up."

Like children in third world countries, who often panicked at the sight of a table full of food, Spike looked fearful at the prospect of all the love there for him to enjoy. No price tag to be a part of it. Dazed by possibility and hope.

"Everything is changing," Spike whispered.

"Yeah, it is."

"You're not there on calls. Wordy's really sick, probably retiring soon."

"Sam's leading a team," Greg finished for him. "And you have a new relationship in your life."

Spike's lips quivered. "I don't know if I'm ready."

There it was. The stockpiled fear that sparked this whole thing.

Greg responded to the grief in his boy involuntarily, sniffing. He shifted one hand to cup Spike's cheek. "You want to know a secret?"

"What?"

"I'm not ready either."

Spike reached up and touched the hand. "Greg."

"If you felt ready, son, that's when I'd be worried."

"Really?"

Greg lost his breath for a moment. Those big eyes locked on him, complete weight of trust willing to lean wherever Greg sent him, that face too young and too old all at once.

"Really, Spike. The future is scary—for all of us, not just you."

"Nothing is going to be the way it was."

Greg's heart broke. He thumbed underneath Spike's wet eye and loved him too much to lie. "No, it won't."

"What if I mess it up?"

Laughter swelled inside Greg. He breathed it back, not fast enough. Spike frowned a question.

"Spike, I mean this with my whole heart: you're not going to mess it up, not in the way you think." Greg smiled. "Take it from a guy who royally screwed up."

"But what if I do?"

"Then, Mr. Scarlatti, I will be there to talk some sense into you. Like I'm doing right now."

Spike looked away, out to shore. Greg let him, leaning back, but still in Spike's space. Reading the expressive face when it bunched and then smoothed.

"I didn't want to let you down, to see you or Ed angry," said Spike. His voice wavered. "If you found out I wanted to leave the force, after all you've done for me, I figured you'd…you wouldn't let me into your lives. I thought I had to choose between Winnie or you."

A throbbing started behind Greg's eyes. This boy. This precious boy.

"Michelangelo—we will always, always be your family. You're not going to lose us just because we don't work together. If nothing else, I hope this week has shown that."

Spike's breathing hitched.

"Our love for you is not based on this job." Greg squeezed their hands, all balled and twined around each other. "It's not based on performance or some reward system or any other aptitude, understand? We love you, Mike, because you're you."

They were close enough that it shook both their bodies when Spike forced down a sob. His lips thinned, like he could physically hold it back.

Greg wrapped him up in his arms, still bent to meet his eyes head on. Overwhelmed, he rocked them a few times. "You're my son. That's a forever deal, Spike. You're stuck with me, no matter what happens next."

"Promise?"

"What, you want me to pinky swear like middle school girls?"

It started with a flicker at the tips of Spike's mouth. His cheeks tightened and his wet lashes twitched higher, dimples creasing in a luminous grin. He opened and closed his mouth a few times.

Then his eyes went still too.

"I love you, Greg."

The simple choice of words would have brought Greg to his knees had he not already been sitting. A few tears got lost in dimples of his own.

It was the first time Spike had ever said it.

And Greg was glad he waited, because now he had a better understanding of what that meant.

Now Spike said it the way his father should have said it to him from the very beginning. Now it shone without dirt to smudge the light. Life hadn't stamped out his fire.

Greg knew they'd all make sure it never would.

This time he grasped Spike's face in both hands. Riding the tug in his chest, Greg pressed a kiss to his boy's forehead.

"I love you too," Greg breathed against the chilled skin. "More than you'll ever know."

Spike closed his eyes, breathed in the summer air, and looked at peace. They pulled apart, watching boats float out into the bright curtain of sunlight. Greg refused to let go of Spike's hands.

Ed found them sometime later, tracking a long text from Greg's phone.

His first declaration, pulling up next Spike, was, "Winnie says you're an idiot."

"Eddie!" Greg laughed around a huff.

But Spike just nodded. "She's pretty smart."

"And so are you." Ed nudged his shoulder. "Push over."

Spike slid down the rock so he was sandwiched between the two older men.

"She says, and I quote, 'tell him that I didn't mean he had to change who he was to make this work.' She doesn't want you to leave the force, Spike." Ed patted Spike's knee. "Huh? What were you thinking?"

Greg leaned around to look at Ed. "You're late to the pep talk."

"I get it," said Spike, looking a bit amused by the whole thing. "I was just trying to do right by those I love."

Ed's tough expression cracked into something tender. "Let me see it."

Spike stared out at the water a moment longer and then removed an acceptance letter from his breast pocket, unsigned. A base contract.

Ed read over the details then bobbed his head once. "Right."

And he tore the paper.

"Give me half," said Greg.

Together, they minced it into tiny slivers, probably more than they had to. Certainly with more gusto than could pass for impartial.

Ed opened his palm.

In an oddly poetic sight, flakes of white floated off on the wind. Greg smiled and did the same. The trio watched them whip out into the middle of the lake, eddies of an untouched future. Greg could breathe again.

Spike got that look on his face. "Do mine eyes deceive me, or did two respected cops just litter?"

Ed pushed at Spike's arm, for all the good it did to stop his cheeky grin. "Shut up, we're having an inspirational moment!"

Greg joined along with a rumble in his chest. "You okay, Spike?"

Spike gazed at Greg with more adoration in his eyes than Greg could stand, pure and untainted. "Yeah, I think I am. Day at a time, right?"

"You got it." Ed thumped the tech's chest. "Let's go patrol. I brought your gear along in the truck."

Spike blinked at him. "You did?"

"Of course." Ed ruffled his hair, a distinctly warm gesture instead of playful. All smoothing fingers and endless affection. Only Spike could elicit such a response from the tacit sniper. "I can't do this without a partner. Without you."

Spike looked back at Greg. His eyes were serious for a moment, before he winked. "Dinner is at the Braddocks' tonight. You'll be there?"

Greg nodded.

He watched the two men walk away, thought he might combust from the pressure of love in his chest. Once further away, Ed wrapped an arm around Spike. Their heads bumped close while they talked.

Softly, heard only by the wind, Greg said, "Always, Spike. Always."

FIN


AN: The spot Spike goes to actually exists - I have been there on a sunny evening and sat on a big, comfortable boulder beyond the playground, watching boats over the waves. If you ever get the chance, please lose yourself along Toronto's waterfront.