Xander looked at the future interns he had been sent to talk to.  "For those of you who haven't been told, I am CSI Harris.  I'm a ballistics tech primarily but I am field rated and I do have a minor in trace as well."

One young woman raised her hand.  "I've heard that you help a lot of disabled techs, sir."

"I do."  He popped out his fake eye and held it up.  They all stared though a few were turning green.  He put it back in.  "Just because you have a disability doesn't mean you can't work in the lab, or even in the field for calls.  It means that you have to adapt some things to help you.  I will not lie and say anyone with any disability can go into the field.  I have had to work with one who was fully wheelchair bound.  She wanted to do field work but it was pointed out to her that she couldn't handle some of the duties.  I did this by taking her out to multiple crime scenes so she could see them in action.  Then we talked about how she'd have to adapt things and even with grabbers she probably wouldn't be able to pick up some of the evidence.  As I told her, I'll tell you.  Even if you can't be in the field, the lab is just as important.  They gather it and we process it."

One guy raised his hand.  "So you're saying being a true lab tech is just as important?"

"It is.  Who do you think processes all the evidence the field guys bring in?"  They stared in confusion.  "Yes, some field techs do process evidence but in most labs you also have a dedicated tech to cover and work while they're in the field.  Because field techs can have up to ten or twelve open cases at a time.  And that's about usual.  They go out in rotation so the next one up gets the next case, even if they've got open ones.  Like detectives will have a few open ones at a time because that's the way crime falls."  They all nodded at that.

"Now, I will say in smaller departments, like county departments, it is important that you can do more than one job.  They're always critically underfunded and unless your speciality is something that would never get you any time in another lab, then hiring a single topic tech isn't cost effective.  If you're going to a larger city's lab, like Miami's or New York's, then single topic techs are fine.  Field techs often have a minor that they do as well for processing.  One of ours is the head of ballistics and the other two are trace and chem techs."

He shifted, looking over the group.  "I will also tell you that being a tech is one of the hardest jobs ever.  I'm not saying this to scare you away from the field, but a lot of kids leave after a few weeks of doing the job because they can't handle the stress of it.  That's one of the reasons for your in-school internships.  To see if you can handle it."  He pulled out some pictures and held one up.  "Who can tell me what happened here?  These are actual crime scene photos from the last few months."

A few people looked kinda green.  The teacher helped him put it up onto the projector system.  "It looks like they were shot," one green person said.

Xander nodded.  "He was but after the poisoning.  The person who was poisoning him decided it wasn't acting fast enough so he shot him.  Not fatally though.  It did let the poison finish its job.  So the gunshot was secondary to the poison."  He looked at them.  "As field techs, you cannot assume anything.  Even if it looks very evident, you can't assume.  You have to make sure.  We have to follow the evidence, even if it doesn't make us happy."  He switched out pictures.  "How about this one?"

"I'm hoping she died of another method," the first young woman said, staring in horror.

Xander checked the back then shook his head.  "Fortunately she died on the second swing.  The first knocked her out.  The second killed her.  The rest were him taking out his rage."  He looked at them.  "Field techs see some of the worst parts of humanity. I will not lie and say that it's easy.  You also can't tell others about it.  Like doctors, we have to maintain confidentiality while a case is open.  You can talk to other techs, you can talk to the other officers on cases.

"In fact, some techs have opened a bulletin board so they can talk to ones in other parts of the country about cases that they need to clear out of their system."  He tapped the picture.  "Field techs see the scene.  They gather the evidence.  Lab techs process the evidence.  We only see part of it.  Sometimes that's easier to stomach if you feel you have a calling to be in the field but can't stand the nastiness that is some scenes."  He changed out pictures.  "Any idea on this one?"

One girl slowly raised her hand.  "Bitten to death by something?"

Xander nodded.  "He was.  He was pretty drunk while going 'gator hunting."  They all grimaced at that.  "Which is one of the next points that every boss wants you think about before you sign on.  Does anyone know what personal neutrality means?"

That one girl raised her hand.  "It means that no matter who it is, you have to be neutral toward them."

Xander nodded.  "That's a good definition.  Did everyone understand it?"  A few shook their heads.  He switched pictures.  "In this case, the dead body here was a registered sex offender.  Not a molester, but a peeper.  He liked to sneak in, fondle women's panties, then lurk in their closets or plant cameras in their closets so he could watch them change clothes."  He looked at the group.  "Even though he was like that, we have to treat him the same way we would if it were a priest or someone's mother.  We don't pick which cases get our attention.  It's difficult to separate yourself and your opinions from things, but it has to be done.  Your opinions cannot cloud your work.  No matter what.  Even if they're racist against you personally.  I've had to work gay bashing cases when all I wanted to do was to make someone beg for mercy.  I couldn't because they were the victims."  He gave them a small shrug.  "My opinions got vented that night on my boyfriend.  He's a cold case tech so he understood very well why I was pacing around the house."

"You're not going to consider yourself married?" one guy asked.

Xander shook his head.  "Tim said if I asked about a commitment ceremony again he'd give me to one of the people who tried to stalk me."  He grinned.  "He's not looking for a ring but we did buy the house together."  He smiled.  "In the lab you will find some of the best but a few of the strangest people.  Because we're all lab geeks in one way or another.  Some of us are a bit stranger than others.  Some of us are nicer than others.  Some of us still have the broomstick inserted.  You don't have to deal with as many people as you do on patrol but you do still have to be able to deal with people.  Only some QD techs get away with not dealing with anyone and they usually quit the lab to go into document restoration."  He changed pictures.  "Any idea here?"

"Where's the body?" one guy in the back asked.

Xander pointed.  "There.  Before you can ask, it's sludge."  They all shuddered.  He grinned.  "Field work is very nasty.  If no one told you, buy lemons.  You rub them on your skin and hair to take the stench away.  Trust me, lemons are cheap in Florida.  We all love that.  We feel really sorry for our brethren in places like England where they're really expensive."  The teacher laughed at that.  "Aren't they?"

She nodded.  "They are.  When I interned at Scotland Yard's lab, we had an herbal alternative that worked well enough.  I nearly begged for some lemons when even that didn't work."

Xander nodded with a grin.  "I brought a pair of our current interns in to answer questions as well.  The second half is going to be theirs.  They're brothers.  One's my intern, one's a field intern.  I've been overworking them so they get the day off to do this with me."  He switched pictures.  "Anyone got any ideas?"

"Was the cutting post-mortem?"


"Were they awake?" one guy asked.

Xander nodded.  "They were."

"Sir, is that from that cannibal case that made the news a few years back?"

"No, but I have one of those."  He switched it out.  "He said they each have their own methods of preparation.  This one liked to microwave."  The class and teacher turned green.  "One of my first field cases as an intern."  He switched it back.  "Any ideas, guys?" he asked with a grin.

"Self-inflicted," the teacher said, staring at it.  "Probably with staging by her or someone else."

"Staging was after the death because they didn't want her to have the stigma of having killed herself.  So were a few of the cuts," he agreed.  The whole group stared at their teacher.  "After so long in the field you can start to guess, but you still have to let the evidence lead you where you're going.  Even if you have such a hunch that you *know* it's right.  You can't make the evidence fit your feelings.   It has to lead you where it goes.  A number of techs struggle with this.  They also tend to end up fired for tampering with evidence, if not in jail themselves."

The teacher nodded.  "I've seen a few who wanted so bad for their pet theories to be right so they made the evidence fit instead of letting it tell them what happened.  A good supervisor will go over each case before they sign off on it to send it up to the prosecutors."

"Now, some prosecutors will jump the gun and take cases while you're still working on them.  We like to call them targets for swift kicks.  I've had one do that to mine and make the wrong assumption based on what I was looking at.  And I blatantly told her so when I came in to get my witness out of being a suspect.  The judge yelled at her and at me for interrupting.  I told him that she had taken it before I got more than a quarter processed and it wasn't fair to this guy to be blamed for it when he witnessed it.  Then I walked off to file a protest with the head DA over that stupid brat.  Which got her put back on probation."  He shrugged.  "Some DA's aren't that bright.  By the way, half of them can't read forensic reports.  They have no idea what you can and can't do until we tell them.  Usually on a stand.  It's pitiful but they're not concerned with it."  He switched to a blank screen and turned off the projector.  "Any questions for me before I turn you over to my current interns?"

"What's one skill that most interns don't come in having?" one young woman asked.

"Report writing skills.  Everyone, even me, started out over-writing our reports.  I had mine cut down a lot by one of my professors.  She pounded on mine for two weeks until it was minimal and able to be read in under two minutes.  It's something that comes with experience.  Write it like you would an oral report.  The sample was this, it had these properties or was composed of this.  It was this size.  It came from this source.  It relates back to this case how and where.  It relates to any other case by name *and* number for easier searching."  They all took notes on that.  "You can ask Dean about his reports.  He had pretty decent ones, just a bit wordy.  Which again is something you cut down on when you have hundreds of samples waiting on you to get them done.  Because you can't rush the machines."  They nodded.  "Any other questions?"

"CSI Harris, do you feel that there's a current of distaste for gay officers?"

"Cops are people too.  Even if the public doesn't often see it that way, we're all people.  Normal people mostly.  We all have our own ideals, prejudices, all that.  We have to put ours aside to do our jobs.  Which is the hardest thing at times.  We've had officers that had to arrest people for protecting themselves from people we'd want to set on fire instead of let go.  But it's the law so we have to expect that the system will not hurt them for protecting themselves."  That got a nod from everyone and the teacher.  "That and the nastiness of some scenes, because some will give you nightmares, are the hardest things about being in the field.  We don't do this for the fun or for the clinical value of looking at bodies that have had things done to it.  We do this because we take bad assholes out of other people's way so they can't do it again."

The teacher nodded.  "That objectivity is one of the hardest things in the field or the lab.  What happened to that one tech in a wheelchair?"

"I looked at her grades and made an alternate suggestion.  She was very smart, very good in chemistry and biology.  I suggested she become an ME.  Then I introduced our shift's ME to her so she could talk to her about how some other doctors did function in wheelchairs and how they could adapt that for a lab.  It would still let her gather bodies in the field.  It would let her find out what happened faster than most people, maybe not who did it but what happened, and it would use her unique skills in the best way.  The last I heard she was in her second year of medical school."  He smiled.  "I think she'll make a killer ME some year."  He looked at the students.  "Remember,  just because we have an injury doesn't mean we can't do something.  I had a guy with a pegleg who stabbed someone over a fish they were arguing over.  Used his leg to stab him."  A few winced at that.  He nodded.  "Fairly drunk too."

"You do see some unusual things that will give you nightmares," the teacher agreed.  "I still have some from my time in the field.  I've been teaching now for five years."

"Wow," one student said.  She looked at Xander.  "What about interpersonal relationships in the lab?"

"It's best if you don't date in your workplace.  If it doesn't work out, there's always problems.  When Tim and I fight, the whole lab gets involved.  Some sit with popcorn but some try to mediate, some try to get me to stop sulking at him, but everyone tries to help somehow.  Then again, I had Tim as a roommate before I started my internship and he started school."  He shrugged and they all smiled.  "Generally it might work.  It might not work.  A lot of us end up dating officers because they understand the stress of the job and we understand theirs.  If you do and it's causing stress in your department, one of you will have to transfer.  Hopefully it'll be the one causing the stress but not always because life's not always fair."  He looked around.  "Any other questions?"  No one said anything.  "Okay.  Sam, Dean?" he called.  They came in and he gathered up his pictures.  "These two are present interns.  They can give you what it's like down to the hours and the stresses.   Ask them anything you want."  He sat down next to the teacher.  "Thank you for asking us."

"I want my students to have a good, realistic look at what they want to do."  She shook his hand.  "Thank you for bringing real pictures."

"You can't experience it until you're on your hands and knees in the sludge."

Sam shuddered.  "I hated that case."  They stared at him.  "I'm Sam, this is Dean.  Dean's a ballistics tech intern.  I'm a field intern who also does trace."  They nodded at that.  "Let's start with some basic questions if you want?"

"Paychecks?" one asked.

"Craptastic," Dean told him.  "We get two grand a month stipend."  They all winced.

"Then you sign on with a lab and go up to about fifty g's a year," Xander told him with a grin.

"Really?" Dean asked.

"Sam'll make less.  Field techs do.  DNA, chem, then ballistics in order of highest paid.  QD, then trace and AV techs.  Then field.  Sam should expect offers to come in about half to two-thirds of what you'll bring, Dean."

"I didn't realize that."  He grinned at his brother.  "I'm older so it's only fair."

Sam snorted.  "Yeah, right."  He look ed at them.  "We won't lie.  Every single tech complained about intern paychecks.  Especially since you'll probably end up moving on it at least once."

"A lot of bigger departments do have signing bonuses to help you move to them," Xander offered.  "But not all."

"Also good to know," Dean agreed.  He looked at the kids.  "You look like you have a hard question."

"I notice you guys are in jeans and t-shirts.  That CSI Harris is wearing a logo t-shirt."

"Tim and our boss made him change from one with a saying," Sam said dryly.  "Before he warped you all in the wrong ways."

"What you wear in the lab is up to the boss.  Field techs have to be presentable but able to get down on their hands and knees at times.  Able to be washed no matter what you get on it is good.  Lab techs have a bit more room usually.  We have to have stuff for court but otherwise presentable."

"We were told to expect dockers being about as far down as you could go but it's lab by lab for policy," Sam said.  "Now and then I do get to wear jeans into the field if it's really nasty or looking like we'll be on our hands and knees.  T-shirts as long as they don't have things on them are generally acceptable for everyone but court times.  You can wear nicer shirts but again, make sure you can wash them.  Dry cleaners are amazing but expensive."  Xander handed over something.  "Our lab's dress code policy."  He put it on the projector.  He knew what they were.  "That's for the felony lab for the Miami-Dade PD."

"Xander's sayings t-shirts are a perk," Dean told them.  "He uses it to make people confess or to drive some techs who need them to naps."

Sam nodded.  "I was told he sent a lot of us some days."  Xander grinned.  "Next question?"

"How can you stand field cases when it stinks?"

"There's this godsend of a gel you can use to stuff up your nose," Sam told him.  "You'll still get some of it but not as much.  I know some guys have something that they're allergic to to do the same thing.  As long as you don't sneeze I guess that's fine."  Xander nodded.

"Do you guys get separate mentors?" one young woman asked.

"I have to share with the other field interns and Dean has to share with the other ballistic interns, but generally we can pick one we want to mentor us.  I like Ryan Wolfe so I go on a lot of cases with him.  I go out with the others since they've been doing it longer.  That way I can learn from them too."

Dean nodded.  "Our lab has four interns presently," he said.  "With the problems night shift ended up having, Xander and Calleigh have all four of us.  Xander manages to get us some individual time each day by staggering how we come in.  Right now we're split with two interns on each shift.  There's also people in every lab that you can go to when you're having problems.  Case related and not.  Xander's one of ours.  Our ME is another."

"Our head boss said he never wanted to see Xander walk out and take the gun from the guy holding it on his girlfriend, who was an intern, ever again.  He walked out and took it to look over, humming over it like he hadn't seen one while walking it off.  The guy huffed so Xander hit him.  He's very sorry he was so stupid.  He took a nice deal for a year in jail and a DVP."

"I've talked with many interns about DVP's," Xander assured them.  "Especially since that's one way that people can try to get you to decide cases in their direction.  Boyfriends or girlfriends put pressure on you to decide things in favor of their friends.  People who know you want you to do things like fix their parking tickets.  People try to dig up things and use it to blackmail you."

"We've had three of those so far in our internship class," Dean agreed.  "They told Xander or Horatio and they handled it.  The shitbag who was trying to shoot his girlfriend was one of them who came back a second time."

"Pity but I'm sure he'll be much happier with the gay sex in  prison," Xander said with a grin.  "I'm not supposed to but now and then I do taunt someone really stupid that they're going to enjoy the gay sex they'll be getting in prison.  Especially if they hate that a gay man took them down."

"Horatio yelled at him about that last week," Sam added.  A few smiled at that.  "We're not supposed to make fun of them, just arrest them."

"We're still human," Dean said.  "We all have our funny ideas."  He pointed at one.  "No questions?"

"Not yet.  Most of us have done our in-school internships.  I know mine kept me off anything too nasty so they wouldn't scare us off."

"I'm not doing this to scare you off.  I'm doing this to give you a realistic expectation and some idea of what you'll be doing," Xander told him.  "Every one of us flinched at our first really gross scene.  Mine was a bits and pieces case."  Everyone in the room shuddered.  He smiled at Sam.  "Did that stuff help you?"

"A lot.  He has an herbal thing that'll stuff up your nose better.  He handed it to me when he heard we were going to have severely mutilated bodies on my last one.  It worked well on that sludge case too."  Xander nodded.  "They sent him on that one because he had been bouncy in the lab that day and he has the strongest stomach."

"New York commonly has subway and sewer line bodies," Xander offered.  A few shuddered at that.  "We have cases in the Everglades where we have to pull remains out of the water.  And then kill the things we find nibbling on them.  Because it might have evidence."

"That's disgusting, dude," Dean told him.

Xander and Sam nodded.  "Welcome to field work," Sam quipped with a grin.

Xander laughed.  "I told that to a few techs over the years."  He looked at the students, who were green again.  "Ask away, people.  We'll answer anything reasonable."

"Do you find it's hard to find good people to date now that you're techs?" one asked.

Dean shook his head.  "No more than usual.  Some girls think that makes us dangerous.  I was more dangerous before I became an intern.  I also seemed to have more free time then."

Sam nodded.  "Some won't come near officers.  Then again those probably have something to hide.  I get more problems because I'm so tall."

"What about the rumor that interns get drug tested more often?" one girl asked.

Dean snorted.  "We've been interns now for nearly five months.  We've been drug tested three times.  And I had to fight with one of them since I'm on pain killers for my leg."

"I had to help with that one.  I walked down something to smack him on the head with and handed over your doc's name and number so he could check your dosage," Xander admitted.  "There are certain types of drugs you may never have in your system.  Our tests can also pick up if you drink heavily."

"They think we still party like frat brothers," Sam told them.  "That's why they test us so often."

"We had one intern removed because she was partying too often," Dean said.  "She kept coming in with a hangover or calling off for them."  Xander nodded.  "Not the first?"

"Nope.  I will warn you to expect a drug screen about the second paycheck.  Most interns use the first to pay off bills or to prepay some rent, catch up on stuff.  The second one basically goes to having fun.  That's when we get to remove a lot of interns for drunk driving, using some drugs while partying, and other assorted minor sins that you probably got away with in college.  It's a hard and fast wake up."

Dean nodded.  "We went from eighteen interns in the lab to twelve right after that payday and lost another three since then for stupidity."

"You both look older than us.  Did you do something else before going into training?" one guy asked.

"We worked in the family business before Dean got hurt," Sam told him.  "We did a lot of traveling because of it.  Dean couldn't so we started taking classes while he healed.  Xander's former teachers talked us into it."  Xander grinned at that.

One young lady in the back raised her hand.  "How hard is it for women in the lab?"

"In ours, not at all.  I guess that would depend on who was running the lab," Sam offered with a shrug.  "We're all really normal people.  Some people can't stand working with women."

"You don't see too many of those in a lab," Xander offered with a small frown.  "Mostly because the lab has to have open minded people.  You get more of those in the detectives.  Ones who've been there since before women in the law enforcement field was more common."

"Our lab has a female second-in-command," Dean told her.  "A female DNA tech, a few other techs as well, and a female head ME.  If anyone says something anti-woman around them, one of them will get them."  Xander nodded.  "Or he will."  Xander grinned and nodded.  "He got an officer for picking on the head of ballistics for being five-six and blonde.  She yelled at him but he said 'why make you mess up your nails' and walked off humming."

"Which is why he got the sludge case," Sam said with a grin.  "Dean stood up for someone and got to help gather at a dumpster case."

"Women in law enforcement have to prove themselves," the teacher told her.  "I've said that in the past."  That got a nod from that one.  "Most of us are very sure we can handle it and get offended when guys try to handle it for us.  Because it seems like they think we can't."

"I don't want my boss upset.  She'll huff and break a nail, which will put her in a cranky mood so she'll take my exemplar cleaning time," Xander told her.  "That's my calming down, not hers.   Besides, that guy was a stupid idiot who played gay sex in teams, I mean football."

Dean looked at him.  "Horatio said if you called it that in public he'd start sending you on everglades cases."

"He's sorry, girls raised him," Sam told them.  "Generally I find that the other women in the lab want to be equal and force it so even if you're being mannerly and holding a door for them they scowl back.  When she did, I politely told her I was raised to have manners around women.  Which was why *I* got to go on that sludge case."

"We're used to women who can hunt their own dinner and field dress it," Dean told them.  "Some of the ones we work with are more huffy and insistent that they don't want treated specially.  Some pout if you don't though.  As they grow up it seems they grow out of it."

"They get more secure," the teacher assured him.  "Backwoods, boys?"

"Midwest," Sam said with a grin.  "Originally from Kansas."

She nodded.  "So probably practical folks too."  They both nodded.  Xander too.  "You're from where?"

"Three hours outside of LA," he said dryly.  "Small town."

"How do you handle a chronic illness in the lab?" one guy asked.

"Most bosses will let you tell them about what you need to handle things and then maybe push you a bit here and there," Xander told him.  "We don't baby people.  Some bosses will because they're scared of the injury or illness.  Horatio wasn't sure what I could do when I first showed up.  He and I ended up in a yelling match one day where I had to tell him missing an eye didn't mean I was retarded.  He learned and let me set my own boundaries but he pushed me back down some when he thought I was doing too much."

"We heard you jumped into another shift's work," Sam agreed dryly.

Xander grinned. "Yes I did.  And then I got the flu."

"I came in and said 'I can do this, I can stand this long, I need to be able to sit most of the time," Dean said.  "Horatio nodded and asked questions about how my physical therapy was going and how it had went.  I was in a wheelchair for a year and a half after the accident.  He lets me sets my boundaries and if he isn't sure if I can handle something, he'll ask.  I usually try to do it anyway and if I have problems, I let them know, take a break, and tend to come back.  Some people live like their injuries are the reason for their lives to suck.  I'm more stubborn than that."

"So that can depend on the boss or the person involved," the teacher said.

Dean nodded.  "We've had ones that wanted you to feel sorry for them for it.  Even if it was a birth defect.  Most of us consider it a limitation and work around it."

Xander nodded.  "Those are the sort I see very often for a two-week eval to see if they can hack field work again.  I'm one of the top injured or handicapped techs in the US."

"You're also one of the top techs in the US, out of any other category," Sam reminded him.  Xander nodded he knew that.  "So, what do you guys want to know about being in the lab or the field?"

One of the more intense young women looked at him.  "Where did you two study?"

"All three of us graduated from UCLA's four-year program," Dean told her.

"Instead of taking criminology or a science major and then a masters in forensics, we get it all at once," Sam added.  "It was hard work.  Organic chemistry about drove us both nuts.  Even with a tutor."

"Quantum mechanics nearly did me in permanently," Dean said.

"I told Tim he was my reward for passing that class," Xander told them, cracking the teacher up.  He grinned at the students.  "We get all the same classes only we get ours without all the extra classes you guys had to take with the masters track.  We had to take the standard englishes and things but we spent a lot of classes with pre-nursing students and then moved to our speciality classes."

Sam nodded.  "They planned on us taking five years for our degrees instead the usual four so we could get in time for an internship and a few extra classes."

"So you guys had to pass all the same classes but you didn't have to take as many of the 'standard' classes?" one asked.  Both guys nodded.  "So you're just as good only with less time in classes."  They all nodded again.  "Huh.  I should've done that."

"We still had the in-school internship period and then the year long one after school.  Which we're in now," Dean told her.  "We had less of the stupid classes that you have to wonder why you're taking."

"We only had to have two language classes instead of the four everyone else needed," Sam added.  "One english since ours are writing intensive with reports.  Pre-med biology and chemistry, then organic chem, quantum physics, and then chem two and three."

"Field work classes, specialist classes.  Six classes of field work so you learn how to swab, pull up, pick up, and how to do things like fingerprints.  DNA was a good section of one of those unless you wanted to go into that field.  Then you had special, extra science classes.  Chemistry tech wannabes had the same."

Sam nodded at that.  "Since we both wanted to be field techs with minors in trace or ballistics we had a few classes that emphasised them.  Balistics one, two, and three in Dean's case.  I did ballistics one anyway since I do know a good bit about guns already."

"He got trace one and two and then another class on elements, grass, dirts, all that stuff he'd have to deal with so he could identify it," Dean told them.  He looked at Xander.  "Your class got to blow up a building with a rocket I heard."

"Yep.  Land-to-air rocket.  I was the one who got to fire it off.  I was the only one that could hold the sucker up."  He grinned.  "We loaded a concrete building full of numbered bricks and then reconstructed it as a class project to find the damage coefficient.  It was a fun exercise."

"We came up with stories about how he drove everyone nuts," Dean told them, getting a few smiles.  "And to never eat his cooking."

"Tim's a great cook though," he said with a grin.

"He is.  I'm going to get fat soon," Dean told him.

"Do you find it hard to work with the varied personalities in the lab?" one of the guys in the back asked.

Dean shook his head.  "No, not really.  I'm used to talking to people for various reasons and to find out information so I don't have too much of a problem.  I will limp away as fast as I can when some of them try to mother hen me.   Sammy gets used as a diversion for that a lot."

"Which means I have to share my cookies when he pouts but they know not to walk up and fuss over us," Sam added with a grin.  "It's not that hard.  We'd have to deal with people anyway.  There's almost no jobs where you don't deal with the other people.  Like on any job, you get along with some, and you're stiffly nice to the others who have clearly sat on the broomstick too many times.  We have a few techs that I think got some splinters the last time they sat on it."  A few of the kids and the teacher laughed.  "Like any other job, you've got to deal with it."

"Are there any really strange lab techs?" one asked.

"There's a goth lab tech in one of the federal labs in DC," Xander said.  "I've seen her at conventions.  There's a few in ballistics who border on anti-government nuts with compounds.  But they're very good at what they do.  A few of them are very gun control too because they don't want anyone who doesn't need it to protect themselves or hunt for food to have one.  We have ballistics techs who hate guns.  They're in the field to destroy as many as they can."

"A lot of field techs are officers who went for extra training," Sam told them.  "I think the truly strange among them get weeded out in the academy."  The teacher nodded.

"Are scenes really that nasty looking?" one young woman asked.

Sam nodded.  "Pictures don't do justice since you can't smell them.  Or see the insects that've come if it's been more than a few hours since the body was dropped off.  Blood soaks into the ground so it's a bit damp around the body."  The class was turning green again.  "Even Horatio's had moments where he looked a bit disgusted at what was going on.  He's got a good impartial, neutral face mask so he doesn't show too much of what he's thinking."

"Is that necessary?" one of the guys asked.

Sam looked at Xander then at him.  "You shouldn't show the person you're questioning what you're thinking but you don't have to emotionally detach yourself from your cases.  Some do, because it's easier on them, but most of us feel the whole way through.  It makes us want to solve it faster for the victim.  That can lead to browning-out your emotions but now and then you have to be able to feel for them."

"Most people feel on certain cases no matter what," the teacher told him.  "Cases involving kids.  Rape cases.  Things like that you'll find it very hard to detach your emotions from.  But you can't let them rule you either or you make stupid mistakes that lets the people get away with it.  A slip in questioning.  A slip in evidence processing.  However it happens, it can happen."

"Then why do we do it?"

"Who else is going to take the evil shits out of the game so they can't hurt people?" Dean asked.

"True," one agreed.  "If we don't, no one else will."  She looked at her fellow students then back at them.  "Scenes weren't that nasty in our internships."

"That's because they didn't want to scare you off," Sam said, grinning at her.  "You probably got enough to know whether or not you could handle doing it so you could graduate.  Then your year-long one is going to break you if you can't stand the field."

"It's painful, but a good third of interns leave their spots every year because they can't hack it," Xander told them.  "Another fifth of them are removed for things like drinking too much, drugs, and other sins that aren't allowed."  They all nodded at that.  "Now, if you guys are doing your post-grad internships, you should have an idea where you're going to by now."

"Some of us have to interview at the upcoming interns convention," one told him with a small grimace.  "Most of us have to actually."

Xander nodded.  "So did I.  Remember, this is a job interview and whoever you interview with will probably remember you.  Even afterward when you're applying for you first real job after your internship.  So make good impressions.  Be yourself, but make good impressions."  They all nodded.  "I know I'm on to interview for MDPD's felony lab this year for field and ballistics, plus a trace intern."  That got a few smiles.  "There's also a lot of handy seminars that can answer any other questions you have.  Also, there's a chat room that got set up by some of my program's students.  You guys might check into that to see if you can form a solidarity pack.  Because, yeah, you'll complain that we're all mean bastards when we're overseeing you."

Dean nodded.  "I did one day and Xander made me go help in DNA."

"It wasn't your fault I was annoyed, it was his.  So you got to annoy him back," Xander said dryly.  He grinned at them.  "Remember to be yourself, guys.  We'll be with you for a year.  Thirty hours a week for a year.  We need to know if there's going to be personality clashes."

One intern raised her hand.  "Only thirty hours?"

"Supposedly," Sam said dryly.  "Field interns usually get a few more a week but we keep track of them so we often finish up about two weeks early.  Dean's been doing overtime."

Dean looked at Xander.  "I had to dispute I was your clone the other day since I'm pulling extra hours, I jumped in to help in chem the other day, and I was wearing bad t-shirts."

Xander grinned.  "Just think, you guys will be done with your internships at least a month early.  That'll give you time to pick where you want to go and get there.  Instead of having to move over a week and then stress."

Dean rolled his eyes.  "This one kept doing overtime."

"I had a minor too," Xander told them with a grin.  "Actually two minors.  It came down to a few more classes so I took them over a summer."

"Plus we heard he jumped in on another shift when they ended up short."  Xander nodded, still grinning.  "And then he got the flu so bad he had to be hospitalized."

"Which was how they found out about Tim," Xander told them.  He looked at them.  "None of you are expected to do that.  Interns don't get paid overtime.  Then again, neither do I."  He stood up.   "For those who have minors or plan on having minors, expect to need half as many hours as you need for your full internship for it to count.  We're used to those things and most of the time techs don't mind interns.  You guys are a bit more work since we have to fill out evaluations and mentor you, but most of us don't mind.  We all realize some year someone's going to have to take over for us when we quit and move to somewhere nice and quiet without too many bad guys."

"Tim said he's not moving to Canada," Sam told him.

"I'm sure he doesn't want to but we'll see.  Maybe Bermuda or something."  He saw the grinning people.  "Yeah, they're like little brothers.  Even though Dean's older than I am by a few years."  He clapped his hands.  "Any other questions we can answer to scare you off or make sure you want to come to the lab?"

"How many spots does your lab have open for next year?" one guy asked him.

"We have planned two in ballistics, one in trace, three field, one DNA that Maxine specifically went after, two in chem, one QD, and one in AV or fingerprints."  They all nodded at that.  "That's only the felony lab though.  Non-felony has their own quota."  He looked around.  "Any other questions?"

"How competitive are internships?" that more intense young woman asked.

"Very," Sam said.  "There's about a third more techs than there are positions open.  Some of those get lucky and fill in the spots that come open later on when people leave."

"Some decide that they'd rather hit a secondary degree to make themselves seem more attractive," Xander said.  That got a nod.  "Basically, if you're highly rated in the student ranks, you've about got a spot somewhere as long as you can make something of a good impression somewhere.  If you go to a really lower level lab and you're in the top ten of your field, then people will wonder why, and that can impact later spots, but basically you have a spot.  If you're in the lower tenth of your class, it's going to be a later spot opening or something unless you make a *really* good impression or there's something like special skills or prior military service that'll help raise you in the eyes of the interviewing staff.  Then again, most schools limit the number in their programs so they can't flood the field with a bunch of people who won't ever be able to find an internship.  With forensics becoming more important even smaller towns are putting on a few CSI instead of making their state police deal with scenes."

"So you're saying that there's going to be more need and if we keep up the present staffing and enrollment levels then it'll even out and start to be less competitive as time goes on?" that woman asked.

"Yes," Xander agreed.  "Last year at the interns convention we had a whole group of people interviewing who had never had interns before.  Some of the supervisors sat down to talk to the nervous looking ones.  Including sharing tips on what certain things meant because some of you guys bring in stuff that they weren't sure why.  Things like report samples.  Because getting them someone who's very good at what they do means that they don't have to forward as much stuff to labs like ours."

"Do you have very high expectations of your ballistics techs?" that woman asked.

Xander and Dean both nodded.  "His are tougher than Calleigh's," Dean assured her. "Xander came in basically able and ready to run his own lab."  They stared.  "He had temped in during his last semester and things.  He was fully able to handle a lab by himself.  He expects a lot from us.  Our first day in the lab he expected us to go into the exemplar and write down what each gun was by name, model, caliber, and if it was clean.  At the end of our internships he expects us to know more of them on sight."  Xander nodded.  "The ones who're tops in their fields seem to be more tense about their qualifications."

"Calleigh usually hires our interns," Xander said with a smile.  "Then we split them among the various shifts.  Mine do get ridden harder because I'm more uptight.  As the whole lab knows, I'm the protocol bitch about my lab."  They smiled at that.  Dean nodded quickly behind his back.  "I've even shoved agents who were there to evaluate us out of my lab for breaking protocol."  Sam and Dean both nodded at that.  He looked at them.  "You guys weren't even there then."

"We heard," Sam assured him with a grin.

Xander rolled his eyes, looking at the kids again.  "Most of us will make you live up to our standards.  Some of us will want you to live up to an ideal.  I know the NYPD, Manhattan Felony lab's ideals are very high.  Their head's a Marine.  We all live up to his standards even if you don't work with him."

"You worked there?"

"Miami didn't have an open post-grad spot after my internship.  I was up there for a little over two years.  I took a good paycut to come back to Miami but Tim has family here and the lab has my mothering sort in it too.  We're still friends.  Every now and then Mac calls down to see if he can steal us back."

The teacher laughed.  "You worked with Mac Taylor?"

"Yup.  Sure did," he said happily with a beaming smile.  "We got along pretty well.  Now and then I made him take a nap due to my t-shirt of the day but that was on purpose most of the time."

"I heard about that," she said, bursting out laughing.  She waved off the students.  "Taylor is a hardass when you're in his lab but Harris did do a lot of good work up there.  Drove people nuts because he doesn't play politics when it tries to go on around him."

"I don't do it in Miami either," Xander agreed.  "When politics starts around me I try very hard to find out why and stop it immediately.  I don't, my boss doesn't, the lab head doesn't.  We're not there to be politicians."

"Never, ever get involved in that," Sam told them.  "It will come back to bite you on the ass."

"Never talk to the press," Dean told them.  "Unless ordered to.  That gets you in trouble, gets you a rep, and then officers don't want to work with you."  Xander nodded at that.  "Also, if you're having problems, admit to it, people.  We had one last month Sammy had to call our boss about because he was starting to sound suicidal and no one realized it because he was hiding it."

"I found one that had a serious drug problem that hadn't been caught too," Sam told him.  "You get a mentor for a reason.  If you can't talk to them, then talk to someone else in the lab who might be nice.  If all else fails, call one of your teachers or friends.  Even if they aren't in the field."

Xander nodded a bit at that.  "We've had to talk people off the roof in the past.  A case and the pressure with it got to them.  Not one of my interns but a field intern.  They never said anything, everyone thought they were handling it fine until they day they stomped out of the lab and up to the roof."  He looked around.  "If all else fails, and no one else can talk to you, call our lab's ME.  Tell her you're an intern in another lab but you need help.  She'll probably listen."  The kids nodded at that.  He looked at the teacher.

"I hope you all have a very long, fruitful career in the labs catching bad guys.  I hope your careers are easy and stressful case free as much as possible.  Remember, some day you'll be teaching the next generation of greatness."  The kids looked awed.  "The same as I was once a student and then an intern, now I'm teaching."  He smiled.  "You'll do fine when it's time."  He winked at the teacher.  "Need us for more or are there more questions?"  No one said anything.  "Then have a good rest of the day.  I'll be seeing some of you at the convention."  He gathered up his things and walked out behind the boys.  "That went well."

"It did," Sam agreed.  "Though that's a scary thought, Xander.  Us teaching the next version of you?"

"He's in LA being Connor's backup and weapons support.  He came in with Dawn."

"We met him," Dean said with a grin.  "He's a little smartass too.  By the way, her daughter is adorkable sometimes."

Xander grinned.  "She is.  I've seen pictures but she hasn't brought the baby down to visit.  Only called."  He clapped them on the back.  "In ten years, you guys will start to terrorize interns and make them see how bad the field can be, so they want to be lab techs instead."  Sam laughed at that.  "And advise them to plant lemon trees."

"Definitely," Dean agreed.  They piled into their cars and headed back to the lab to tell the others how it had went.  "Do you think he's hoping I get a spot on the night shift?"

"He might be," Sam said with a smile.  "They'll be hiring for it in a few months."  He was driving since Dean had leg cramps all last night.

Dean nodded, looking at his bad leg.  "I'm getting better."

"We'll talk about that when you're back to running without help," Sam reminded him.  "Then we'll decide about going back on the road or not, Dean."

Dean looked at him.  "Are you satisfied with the living in one place?"

"It's nice.  I won't lie and say that there's been no days I'd like to have left and gone somewhere else due to the stress but it's nice to have friends I can talk to again.  Someone I can go over and hang out with."

Dean looked back at the road.  "I guess that can be nice."

"It's great when Alexx cooks for us too."

"It is," Dean agreed with a smile.  "She's a good cook.  If she wasn't married I think she'd be making Dad blush a lot more often."  Sam laughed and nodded.  "We should talk about that."

"We will when you're ready to," Sam promised.  "Until then it's making plans ahead of time."

"True."  He settled in.  "If not, anywhere you want to go?"

"There's been a few spots open near Bobby in their state police labs."  Dean shuddered.  He hated the cops out there.  "There's the New York lab.  With Xander's ties we might be able to get an in with them."

"New York's an exciting, expensive city," Dean said.

"There's also the subway so we wouldn't have to drive or worry about parking," Sam reminded him.  "Chicago's doing a second round of rebuilding soon from what they're putting out.  They had a massive hiring effort because of a mandatory retirement thing that went off badly."

Dean shuddered.  "You're serious?"

"Yeah.  They lost about a third of their force to it.  They've done one round of hiring for necessary things now they're replacing the people that couldn't hack it after that round.  They've got three labs within the city police department.  They're posting for openings in the spring in both our fields.  Decent enough pay and benefits."

"That's closer to home."

"Kansas City is looking for field techs but not ballistics techs.  Their state lab is looking for a ballistics tech and a few others, but I'd have to go to the academy to be a field tech."  He glanced at him.  "Lawrence is looking for a field tech," he offered quietly.

"Dad would shit bricks."

"Probably," Sam agreed.  "But he might like that."  He grinned.  "St. Louis is too."

"I'm too well known there."

"I talked to Horatio about that before we hired on.  He talked to them and they found out that the DNA didn't match."  Dean said a lengthy prayer at that.  "So yeah, off that hook. They stole your identity."  He turned the corner.  "I think Xander's heading for food."

"He didn't eat breakfast.  He was nervous," Dean told him.  They went back to the lab to log in and get back to work.  Calleigh looked at him.  "It went good."

"Good."  She smiled.  "I'm going to be totally nosy.   You two are looking at later spots?  You'll probably have your pick."

"We're talking about that," he admitted.  "We're not sure beyond being in the same lab so I can protect him.  Sammy gets into some of the weirdest shit sometimes."

She gave him a look.  "I heard about the identity theft, Dean."

"Stupid skinwalker," he muttered.  "Literally stole my identity."  She shuddered.  "Thankfully that got cleared up."

"Good!"  She looked around.  "Xander went where?"

"Looked like Mickey D's.  He didn't eat breakfast."  He got back to work once he had his coat and gloves on.

She sighed and called, getting a very curt 'not now, boss, hostages' response.  "Talk about weird crap.  Horatio," she called, walking out of the lab.  "I called Xander to see where he was and he said 'not now, hostages'."

He moaned, going to call dispatch to see what was going on.  If he needed backup, they'd have to go help him.  Apparently they had it covered so they only had to wait.  With Tim when he heard thanks to Dean.  Tim would be spanking Xander later for that.

Xander walked in with the two guys in cuffs.  "Leave it to me to walk in to get lunch and have two guys stomp in to hold up the place," Xander said dryly.  "And them to catch sight of my ID badge."  He handed them to the patrol guys.  "Please, have the moron tower fucking idiots."

One patrol officer laughed.  "You'd think they all knew about you by now, Harris."

"I thought so," he said dryly, cracking the other one up too.  He looked at them.  "I still didn't get lunch," he said dryly.  He kissed Tim as he walked around him.  "I wasn't in any danger but he was trying to hold a few of the underpaid people hostage, guys.  They're very sorry.  I'm going to raid the machines."

"Sure," Tim agreed, following to talk to him in there.  He knew Xander was grumpy without food and caffeine in his system.

Calleigh looked at Horatio.  "Dean said Sam gets into the same sort of trouble."

"We saw that last week when the officer got to arrest some girl that thought he was a starlet on a crime scene."  He walked off to get a better report of what happened from Xander.  Before he gave in and gave him back to Mac.

Calleigh sighed, going back to ballistics.  Dean had it well in hand so she had nothing to do.  "I'm going to chem or trace if you need me, Dean."

"One was marked specially for you to handle," he said with a point at her desk.

She looked at it, frowning at the envelope.  "Where was this?"

"In basket."

"Huh."  She checked it over again, pressing on it.  It was too big to be an evidence envelope and too little to hold most mail.  She looked at the address and winced.  "Horatio!" she called.  He came strolling in.  She handed it over carefully.  "Dean found it in our in bucket."

He looked it over.  "I'll have it scanned for you, Calleigh."  She pointed at the sender's name and he grimaced.  "I'll definitely have it scanned."  He went to do that, muttering at Hagen to make sure he hadn't sent it.

Dean looked at her.  "Big problems?"

"It said it was sent by John Hagen, Xander's white lighter.  Why would he send mail?"

"I didn't look at that.  Sorry."

She patted him on the arm.  "It's not your fault, Dean.  Now and then we all turn paranoid because of our former cases."  She winced when she heard stomping going past the doorway.  "There went Eric."

He looked.  "There went Xander and he looks pissed.  That envelope something bad?" he called.

"Yup.  Keep her with you.  It was inter-office mail, Dean."

"Sure," he agreed, closing the door.  He smirked at her.  "The boss ordered.

"Technically I'm the boss, Dean."

"Then let us have a macho day protecting you, boss."  He stared her down until she huffed.  "Thank you."  She stomped out.  "Sammy, trail her.  She got suspicious inter-office mail."

Sam came out of trace, following her.  She glared but he grinned.  "The only authority I follow is his.  Besides, if someone wants to hurt you, we're used to dealing with those sort of things."

"Uh-huh.  I'll be fine.  I'm heading down to see Alexx."

"I need results anyway," he promised, following her down there.

"If I go to the bathroom are you going to follow me in there?"

"Lurk outside the door," he assured her with a good boy grin.  "You women do strange, scary things in the bathroom.  My former fiancee said so."

She sighed, but went down to see Alexx.  She gave Sam an odd look.  "Xander made them both paranoid.  Dean sicced him on me."

"I'm sure he had his reasons, dear."

"Suspicious inter-office mail," Sam told her.  "That's all Dean said."

"That's a good reason," she decided.

John Hagen faded in.  "Yes, it was a threat and a small bit of explosives.  Just enough to have hurt you."  He stared at her.  "The boys are all going to be overprotective until they put you in  Horatio's care for the night, Calleigh."

"Who sent it?"

"I didn't see it.  I know that Wolfram and Hart is trying something again.  Xander just got subpoenaed and he's not real happy."

Sam looked at him.  "Fallout or revenge?"

"Revenge.  Though I think there's something seriously wrong.  He's nearly cackling in evil glee and he's starting to hum and bounce.  Tim's already vowing to lock up all the plastique they have."

"I didn't need to know that," Alexx assured him.

"Yeah you did.  They tried to take over your husband's law firm last year," he shot back.  She glared.  "Truth, Alexx."  He faded out.  "Watch her very carefully, Sam.  She's slippery now and then."

"I don't need it," she snarled.

"Tough, suck it up.  It's us or Xander, Calleigh," Sam said.  He grinned at her.  "It could be him."

She shuddered.  "No thanks.  He's worse."  Alexx handed over folders to both of them.  "Aww, thank you.  Just what I need."  She looked at him.  "I suppose that means you're my rookie today."

"That's cool.  Let me give this to Ryan."  He walked out with her, handing it over on the way out the door.


Xander looked at the judge he had put in the order to make them stop with.  "Your Honor, I do have a lawyer but he's presently detained in another hearing."

"That happens.  This is a hearing for an emergency order to make them stop doing something, CSI Harris?"

"Yes, Your Honor.  I want them to stop trashing my rep in the press.  Especially since they're saying I mishandled evidence that I've never even touched.  The press does know this now and that these few lawyers are the last that weren't arrested when their whole law firm got raided by us and the FBI."

The other lawyers tried to protest but a good glare told them to pipe down until it was their turn.  "I saw that on the news," he admitted.  "You have proof that they're being malicious?"

"Yes, Your Honor."  He handed over a stack of files.  "That is the report on the case that they cited in the press.  It did not have any samples I would have dealt with.  That is also the report on where I was at the time since I was out of the country on vacation when it came up.  I had to look the first up due to the second.  The third is proof of who was on that case, which I think is the real problem here.  You see, they got busted because they had a plan to discredit me in the lab and I found all their dirty laundry because of it."

The judge looked at him.  "A bit vindictive, are we?" he asked dryly.

"Yes, Your Honor.  Very.  Especially since their chosen agent kept trying to hit on my boyfriend.  I was livid and then the FBI got to finally quit ignoring them and step in.  It resulted in hundreds of arrests, including of some dirty agents, and their worldwide system of literally evil lawyers who did things like human sacrificing and killing judges or jury members being brought down.  At that time they thought I was Officer Ryan Wolfe.  Apparently they still think I'm Officer Ryan Wolfe."

He looked it over.  "I do see credit card statements saying that you were in Barbados at the same time as the case.  As well as a statement from the manager of the hotel?" he asked, holding it up.

"Yes, sir."

"I also see reports from the case that do list Officer Wolfe being involved in some trace samples.  I see Lieutenant Caine was listed as the main CSI in charge.  I see Detective Delko was his secondary on this case."

"Yes, sir.  Which is what amused the press when I told them that I wasn't involved in that case and showed them that evidence."

The judge looked at the other side.  "Do you have any evidence he was involved in this case?"

"Your Honor, he's the trace tech of record," the lawyer said.  "There is no Xander Harris."

Xander coughed.  "You'd think, since I was working with Angel when he took over the LA office, that you'd have read my file," he said dryly.  They glared at him.  He pulled out his wallet, handing the bailiff something.  "That is a copy of my birth certificate.  California does give mini ones.  That's also a copy of my degree from UCLA.  That's also my ID, my work ID, and my last ID from LA."

"You used to work with them?" the judge asked.

"Not quite.  You see, I worked with someone who was handling some of LA's protection from people like them.  They bribed my boss with taking over their LA office if he'd handle some of the bad situations that they got themselves and the city into," he finished dryly.  "So we took it over for a while and ran it ethically.  Including shutting down their biowarfare lab."

"Why would lawyers have one of those?"

"Government contracts and they like to use it, Your Honor.  They were charged with the deaths of over a thousand people in the last ten years.  Some by poisoning, some by other means."

"I see."  He looked over that evidence.  "Do we have anything from Officer Wolfe?"

Xander pointed.  "Him?"

"Officer Wolfe, do you have anything that proves who you are?"

"I had to stop at home but I found my birth certificate, my last two ID's, my current ID, my work ID, my academy graduation certificate, and pictures of me during that, Your Honor," he said, handing it to Xander, who handed it off to the bailiff.  "I have no idea how they're getting us mixed up.  We look nothing alike.  Xander is only a part-time field tech and our main ballistics tech with a minor in trace."

He looked it over, then let the lawyers see it on his overhead system.  "That looks like they're two different people.  Since they're both standing here, I'm sure that they're not twins.  How can you say that they're the same person?"

"Sir, there's no evidence of Mr. Harris ever being born," the lawyer insisted.  "That's clearly a made-up birth certificate."

"I'm from Sunnydale and ours were kept in a separate book," Xander said.  "We can call the state records office and have them do a quick search if you want."

"I can do that," the judge said, nodding at the bailiff to do that.  He looked at them.  "What about his graduation from UCLA, gentlemen?"

"Sir, it's clearly false.  None of his teachers remember him."

Xander coughed.  "I have two interns right now that were directly sent to me by one of my former teachers, Your Honor.  She called me personally to ask me to take them in because they're a lot like me.  Similar pasts and things.  My boss talked with her about me multiple times, including when I was an intern."

"Why?" the judge asked.  "That doesn't sound standard."

"He jumped in a lot," Ryan told him.  "Overtime, the other shift, little things like temping during his school years that he didn't originally count but we ended up counting for him."

"I see."  He looked at the bailiff as he came back.  "Is he registered as a live birth out there?"

"Yes, Your Honor.  They do have him registered as a live birth, no death certificate listed for him.  They also have copies of his old ID if we need them.  I told them it was being used as a possible false ID.  They said they could get them for us so we could compare pictures."

He shook his head.  "I don't think it's necessary.  His ID from out there was when he was twenty-one and it's the same person, though he had two eyes then."  He looked at Xander.   "Injury?"

"Removed due to an attack.  I trained after I lost it."

"That's reasonable.  Something like that might make you change fields."  He looked at the lawyers.  "Do you have any proof that they're the same person?  Anything that would suggest Officer Wolfe wasn't real or that they're in fact twins?"

"Sir, there's no evidence," one lawyer said firmly.

Xander coughed and pointed at the bottom of the bench.  "I think he proved that there was."  The lawyer looked and moaned.  He knew that those symbols prevented the court officers from being magiced.  He grinned at the judge.  "So can you please make them stop before I sue them for defamation of character and trying to hurt my career, Your Honor?  My  coworkers think I might have a bit too much evil fun if I get to sue them."

"I can stop them.  If you sue them is up to you, CSI Harris."  He looked at him.  "How did you recognize them?"

"I'm from Sunnydale.  The other of my former friends are in Cleveland."

"Ah."  The lawyers gave him a horrified look.  "Didn't know that about him?" he asked dryly.

"You'd think that they would've read my file," Xander said dryly.  "They killed the first guy who got us mixed up and tried me, which got them taken down.  It's clearly in my file that I'm a vindictive ass when I have to be.  Put in those words."

The judge laughed.  "I can see why, Mr. Harris."  He signed the desist order.  "Stop it.  He can sue you.  Case closed."  He handed back the evidence and went to laugh his butt off in his office.  He hoped the boy did sue them.

Xander handed Ryan back his things and smiled at the fuming lawyers.  "I wasn't in the country then.  There's no way it was me and we did review those samples thanks to your allegations.  They were found to be correct.  Pity for your client."  He walked out, Ryan in front of him because if they attacked he could handle it better.  He nodded at the process server waiting.  "The judge said that they're fair game," he told him.

"Mr. Wilmington Marsh?"  The lawyer glared.  "You've been served, sir.  Please sign the clipboard."  He held it out.  The man stomped off.  "That's fine, I'll present it some other time, sir.  Including a press conference."  The assistant signed for it and took it.  He smirked at their backs.   Everyone in the city knew messing with the lab was suicide.  Look at what happened to that one city official who had screwed with Caine over a prostitute.  He walked around the current press conference outside, where Xander was laying out evidence that cleared him and Ryan Wolfe both of any wrong doing.  The press were going to love that.


Dean looked at Xander when he stomped into the lab, clapping some.  "They're so stupid."

"They still have me mixed up with Ryan.  They claimed I didn't exist."  He looked at his boss.  "Served with a lawsuit, the press knows that it wasn't us and that Quality Control cleared Ryan's samples, and the judge laughed his ass off because they tried to magic him."

"Remember to spoil Tim with whatever you get, Xander.  He's growling in DNA."

Xander went that way, smiling at his mate and Max.  "They're still confusing me with Ryan.  Told the judge I didn't exist.  Try to prove it by magicing him."

Tim looked at him.  "Excuse me?"


He groaned, shaking his head.  "Stupid idiots."

"Very.  Ryan proved he was real.  I proved I was real.  The judge is laughing.  The press knows, I gave them the statement Horatio prepared."

Tim sighed, looking at him.  "Try not to destroy anything else this week?"

"Then they should leave me alone.  It says in my folder that I'm vindictive if you try to screw with what's mine.  They tried to take my most precious thing."  He grinned as he walked away.

"Awww," Maxine cooed, smiling at Tim.  "That's so sweet!"

"I'm his reward for passing quantum mechanics," he said dryly.

She laughed, batting him on the arm.  "You're more than that to him."

"I know," he said.  "But he'll get mushy later."

She nodded.  "Probably.  Expect to be spoiled."

"I'm going to turn into a brat soon.  He spoils very well."

"That's my boy," she said proudly.

Tim laughed.  "You're insane."

"It was his t-shirts."  Tim walked off cackling to get a drink.  Maxine smiled and went back to work.  Tim was so much happier with Xander than he was before he died.


Dean took his first real steps without his cane and winced.  The therapist gave him a look.  "Let me get used to not leaning on something."

"Take your time, Dean.  You've worked hard to get to this point."

"What's the odds of me being able to run after deer in the woods again?"

"You got this far."  He shrugged.  "It might happen but I can't guarantee it.  You've kept up good muscle tone.  You've worked your butt off.  You're still in pain so I'm guessing there's always going to be problems at least on that level."

Dean nodded, making himself not brace on the bars he was walking between.  He took another careful step.  He heard clapping and looked around, spotting Sam and John waiting.  "Go away," he moaned.

"This is a big moment.  It deserves celebrating," Sam told him.  He came over, watching him.  "So, running?" he asked the therapist.

"Probably fifty-fifty if I'm being pessimistic.  The pain probably won't go away.  So maybe minor running but not marathon or more than short sprints."

"Field work?" Sam asked.

"The crouching might hurt more.  Being on his knees still kills him.  I'm not sure if that's something that'll go away with more work or not."  He watched Dean.  "He's come a long way though."

Sam nodded.  "He has."  He walked over to the end of the bars.  "We'll schedule you with your orthopedist to get an official declaration of what more you need to do?"

Dean looked up then nodded.  "That'll be good.  Field work?"

"You did take the classes.  You could probably if you wanted to.  Like Xander does.  Two, three cases a month, sick days."

"Maybe," he said.  He walked the other direction, smiling at his father.  "I made it this far."

"This is a momentous day, Dean," he said, clapping him on the back.  Dean had to grab the bars.  "Sorry."

"Not a problem.  I'm kinda tired."

"You have to build up slowly," John reminded him.  "Unlike when you first learned to walk and you took off running after your mother.  A few minutes today will turn into an hour or so in a few weeks.  Then eventually you'll be fully off it. "

Dean nodded.  "Probably within three months he'll only need one around for bad days," the physical therapist told him.  "By then he should have built up to being able to know if he can run again."

"Which will be within months of us ending our internship, so we'll have time to make plans," Sam said, looking at Dean, who grinned and nodded.  "What do you want to order tonight for dinner?  I'll pay."

"We don't get paid until next week, Sammy."

"Remember, I went clubbing with Xander recently."  John moaned, shaking his head. Dean gave him an odd look.  "Yeah, that same thing that happens to him happened to me because I was with him.  So, what's for dinner?  Steaks and beer?"

"That sounds really good.  Going out?"  He finished his walk and leaned on the bars, resting against the pain.  Sam helped him to a seat and squatted next to him, working on the cramps.  "You do that nearly as good as the women at that massage parlor I found," he teased with a grin.

"For different reasons, Dean.  I'm not that kinky."  He got him uncramped and stood up.  "Sports bar or other place?"

"Let's not run into the other interns.  They're all pouting about their mid-term evaluations," John offered.

"Don't remind me," Dean moaned.  "I have to look mine over to sign them."  He looked up.  "It almost feels like federal orders in some way."

"It's not that bad," Sam told him.  "I looked at mine.  I got very good marks.  The two things I was a bit low on when I came in I pulled up to above satisfactory.   They ranked me second highest in the field interns.  One of the ones in non-felony is apparently the genius, does nothing but field work, can't have a life outside of it sort so I don't mind that."

Dean looked at him.  "Horatio admitted that the guy gave me an extra sheet to measure myself against Calleigh and Xander."

"That's because Xander's in the top twenty in the US.  Calleigh's up there too."

"I didn't think about that.  So that's probably a good thing?"

"Probably."  He smiled.  "We'll look at it later."

"Sure."  He stood up with a groan, rubbing his knee.  "Let me shower before we hit the restaurant?"

"Sure, go for it," Sam promised.  Dean grinned, heading for the center's shower area.  Sam looked at the PT.  "Fifty-fifty?"

"For fully outrunning things charging at you?  Probably.  I think he might be able to force himself to do sprints right now but not chasing a suspect a few blocks."

"Can he work up to that?"

He shrugged.  "I don't know.  The orthopedist might have an idea.  His original one wasn't sure he'd get off the cane.  The one down here knew he could but wasn't sure he'd get full function back."

Sam nodded.  "Dean's a stubborn bastard when he needs to be."

"It's helped him get this far.  He might make it back.  He'll probably always be in pain though."

"Thank you."  He shook his hand, going to make sure Dean was all right.  He heard him groan and left him in peace.  He was clearly letting some tension go.   He came out splotchy looking.  "It's a natural reaction," he said quietly.  "It's all good.  Only I saw, Dean."

Dean nodded.  "Thanks, Sammy."  He got his clothes out of his locker and sat down to put them on.  "You mind?"

"Yeah.  The bigot from the last fieldwork case just walked in."  Dean groaned, getting dressed faster.  He also took a pain pill.  Sam put them into his pocket so it wouldn't be left here overnight this time.  They gathered everything and headed out together.  John joined them beside the cars.  "At least you can't say that it's not usually bright and sunny in Miami," Dean joked when he saw John squinting.

"I was wondering if that's smoke," he said with a point.

Dean looked then nodded.  "They said there was a small glades fire, Dad."  He took the keys.  "I can do it."

"Sure."  He got into the passenger's side.  John got into the back.  "The steak place by the college or the one down by the suburbs?"

"I like the one by the college.  It usually has pretty waitresses."  He backed the car out of her spot and headed off.  "He really came in?"

"Yeah, apparently he's out on bail.  I moved before I saw more than his ugly hair."

"Think we'll have problems?"

"Probably not," Sam admitted.  "If he comes near us to threaten us or anything that's an instant revoking of his bail."

"Good point."  He stopped at a stoplight, watching an ambulance go past.  Then a CSI hummer.  "That wasn't us, right?"

"No, that was non-felony's Marquez.  She's one of the main field people."  Dean nodded and went on.  Apparently they had it.  Dean would get to flirt with some pretty waitresses.  They'd get some really good food that they didn't have to cook.  Plus if Dean bragged, and he probably wouldn't, Maxine and Alexx would make them cookies or something.  "Are we announcing this?"

"Don't know," Dean admitted.

"Alexx might make us brownies.  Max too."

"Could," Dean admitted.  He did like brownies.  He called Tim.  "I can walk a few feet without help."  He smiled.  "Thank you.  Sammy's treating me to dinner and beers.  Oh, that sucks.  Thanks for the head's up, Tim."  He hung up.  "Rumors state that we're being piss tested again tomorrow.  Two of the field guys failed theirs by the federal evaluator."

"Shit," Sam sighed.  "It'll catch a beer, but we're not chronic drinkers.  We can claim it.  We're not going to have enough to get a hangover and Dad can drive us home."

"Good point."  He nodded.  "We can claim it."  He pulled into the place's parking lot.  "Not too full tonight."  They got out and the pretty hostess smiled at them.  "Three of us please?"

"Sure, boys.  College students?"

"CSI Interns," Sam said with a grin.  "We're having a happy, good day."

"I'll make sure you're near the tv and away from the family with eight kids then."  She walked them to a corner booth, letting them settle themselves in with Dean on one end.  "There you.  Your waitress will be right with you."

Dean smiled.  "Thank you."  She blushed and walked off.  "I love places like this."

Sam nodded.  "They're good when you're a student too."  He looked at the waitress.  She was older but still mostly pretty by Dean's standards.  Dean still got to flirt and she soaked it up.  She looked a lot less tired when they left too so apparently it had done her some good.


Dean walked into the morgue with Maxine, then put his cane aside and shakily took a few steps.  Maxine squealed and pounced him.  "That's such good news, Dean!" she squealed.

"Careful, still working up to fully doing it," he said, making sure she couldn't knock him over.

"Oh, sugar," Alexx said, coming over to give him a hug too.  "That's a major accomplishment from where you started."  She pinched him on the cheek.  "Good work."

"We're so having lunch today and I'll see if I can make you some cookies tonight," Max said, going to tell the others.

"She spoils you boys rotten but this deserves it."  Dean grinned, grabbing his cane.  "How much longer before you're without it?"

"They said three months.  Then we'll see if I can get back to running."

"Good work, Dean."  He smiled and walked up to ballistics.  She went to add some notes for herself about shopping later.

Dean walked into the lab and found the IAB asshole that bothered all of them waiting on them.  "My turn to piss?" he asked blandly.

"No.  You have an excuse for what we found in yours."

"I can admit to having two beers last night too, right?" he asked dryly.  "Dad drove us home."

"Fine."  He wrote that down on his form.  "What's the name of your painkiller?"

"Sammy had my bottle.  That way you can get dosage too.  Sammy?"  It got tossed to him, letting him catch it.  He handed it over.  "Took my last dose last night after PT."

Stetler wrote that down then handed the bottle back.   "Just two beers?"

"Yup.  We were celebrating."

"Good.  Get in line, Winchester."  He got the next intern.

Dean took his turn at the urinal to pee, handing off the cup to the guy in there. The guy nodded at that so he washed his hands before leaving, going back to ballistics.  "What crawled up his thong today?"

"Someone picked on him about my apology present.  I got hit first."  He grinned.

Dean snorted.  "Wonderful."

"Eval turn in is by tomorrow," he reminded him.

Dean sat down at the desk, finding his envelope in it. He opened it after staring then looked at his scores.  Very high.  He looked at them against Calleigh and Xander's present ones.  Still fairly high.  Lower than either of them but really good.  He blinked, looking at the enclosed note.  "Huh."

Calleigh came over to look at the note he was staring at.  "That's interesting."

"Yes it is," Dean agreed."  He looked up at her.  "Any idea?"

Xander looked over then smirked.  "That asshole?  Yeah.  He got his mind blown.  He used to be in Cleveland.  He moved there after LA."  Dean snorted, shaking his head.  "Ignore that part."  He looked at the scores, finding his own evaluation behind his diploma.  He handed it over.  "My midterm."

Dean compared them.  "I nearly tied you and got one higher in one thing."

"He was really sick that day from eating his own cooking," Calleigh told him.  "Xander, why haven't you opened your US rating letter?"

"Because it's thicker this year so they had to add extra pages.  That means I fell and I don't want to be depressed right now."

She shook her head.  "They printed everyone off the top thirty if you got one."

"I still don't want to know that I fell."

She sighed, sitting down to open it for him.  He tried to take it.  "Stop it."  She opened it and blinked.  "You didn't fall."  She held it up for him to see.  Xander wobbled.  "TIM!" she shouted.  He came strolling in.  "He's about to pass out.  He went up in the ratings."

"Who died or retired?" he demanded, looking at her.

"Plentha retired.  Two others retired in the mid-teens rating.  They were ancient though.  They probably got to play with muskets when they were brand new.  Plentha retired after that lab assault got her shot in the lung.  I think one other retired too."

"That doesn't explain why I went from twenty to nine!" he said frantically.

"It means that you're one of the best," Tim reminded him gently.  He walked Xander into the exemplar.  He'd calm down faster in there.  Xander was huffy and nearly panicking but he got him calmed down and sitting in a corner to talk to him about why this panicked him.

Calleigh looked at their intern.  "Those girls of his never told him he did good," she said quietly.  "He thinks something bad's going to happen every time he gets official notice.  Last time, the girls came down to bother him and us."

"I can see how that works," Dean admitted.  "It brings him to other beings' attention."

"Basically."  She walked off, spotting Horatio.  "Tim's calming Xander down."

Horatio looked at her.  "Bad news from Cleveland or LA?"

"He went up in the ratings.  He's at nine."

"That's a good jump.  How many retired?"

"Four if I  heard right."

"Interesting.  Well, last time he was counted down for being mouthy with the evaluator."  He smiled at her.  "He'll be fine.  In the exemplar?"  She nodded.  "Good."

"We need to have a conference too," Dean called.  "Plus I need a day off for a doc's appointment."

"That's fine, Dean."  He walked in there.  "New development or new pain?"

"I can walk about two feet without my cane but I'm exhausted when I do," he said with a grin.

"Congratulations.  Will you be able to get off it fully?"

"He thinks within three months.  He's not sure about running yet, but he thinks I can ditch it except for the really bad days."

"Good work.  When is your appointment?"

"Sammy's making it today."

"I'll get it from him then."  He patted him on the shoulder.  "Xander, remember, they can't come down here and try to ruin things this time.  The only possible problems are demonic in nature."  He walked off to find Sam.  "Appointment?"

"I need to make that at lunch time."

"Let me know when you do."

"Of course.  What's wrong with Xander?"

"He's worried something will happen since he went up in the ratings."

"I can see how that happens when you're around girls like his."  Horatio nodded so he walked off.  He got to work for three whole hours before Stetler came in looking too smug to be alive.  "I claimed the two beers."

"You didn't claim anything with poppy in it."

Sam looked at him.  "I don't like poppyseed muffins, Lieutenant Stetler.  Why would I?"

"Some showed up," he said smugly.

"Like it would from Dean's medicine if I handed it to him and I was sweaty?"

"No.  That barely showed up and it's reasonable in your case.  I pointed that out to them.  So where did you find the opium?"

Sam frowned.  "I don't.  Um..."

"Where did you eat last night?" Ryan asked.

"The steak place by the college."

"They use poppy seeds in their steak marinade."  He looked at him.  "You got Eric and I for that once.  Horatio too."

"I do remember doing that, yes.  Can you prove that it's from that?"

Sam shrugged.  "I can call and see if what we had last night would've been marinated.   Let me do that since you probably want me out of the lab."

"Yes I do."  He walked him off.  He gathered the other two techs that popped positive, settling them all in the break room to gloat over them while they tried to make up more lies.

Horatio walked in with a statement.  "This is a copy of their bill.  This is a copy of what was marinated and what was not.  Sam's came with a barbeque sauce that had some in it."  He handed that over.  "Did Dean not pop up?"

"Dean took half of his home.  He was exhausted by then," Sam admitted.  "Would that account for it or would you like to pull hair or blood for an official test?" he asked.

"Hair."  Horatio plucked one for him and went to have it run.  The other two volunteered theirs too to clear it up.  Stetler walked out to watch them be broken down.  He nearly growled when Winchester's came out clean except for some light traces of his brother's medicine.  Near the end he popped for another drug so he went back to him.  "You were borrowing from your brother about a year ago?"

"No, I screwed my back about then.  The doctor put me on percocets because he was thinking I might need surgery if it didn't straighten itself out.  Dean's therapist helped me get over that weakness.  I have my medical records at home if you need to see them to clear me."

He stared at him.  "I can't tell when you or your brother are lying," he said dryly.

"The life we lived had to now and then," he said quietly. "I'll gladly produce records, Lieutenant Stetler."

"Do so.  You're relieved of duty until then."  John appeared with the folder.  "Of course you called him," he sneered.

"He didn't call.  I heard.  I do watch them," he said, glaring at the human.

Stetler took them to go back to around that date, finding it mentioned and that he had tested positive but had claimed it before.  "They didn't remove you from the program for this?"

"I still could be a trace tech without the field work," Sam pointed out.  "I was on them for about three weeks.  You probably caught the end of that dosage.  I knew I needed a haircut."

John nodded.  "Tonight, son."

Stetler stared at him.  "What would happen if I looked around, Winchester?  Would I find a juvie file or anything?"

"No, sir.  Any files we had were cleared up.  Including that problem in St. Louis where someone stole Dean's identity and got killed while trying to torture and kill people."

"Cleared up how?" he sneered.

Sam shrugged.  "I have no idea, sir.  It was checked before we went to UCLA."  Stetler growled.  "It's not our fault."

He handed back the folder.  "I'm watching you."

"I'm sure you are, sir.  We're both very handsome young men and a lot of people watch us."  Stetler huffed and stomped out.  "Does that mean I can go back to work?" he called after him.

"Until I find something else."

"Sure."  He looked at his father.  "Thank you for the timely save."  He went to find Horatio.  "I need a haircut."

Horatio smiled and nodded.  "Might help."

"He's going to go snooping into our pasts."

"We have seen other hunters like you two were.  It was all cleared up?"  Sam nodded.  "Good.  Now, go back to work, Sam.  I'll help you handle him."

"The other two?"

"I'm not sure yet.  They're not done running."  He nodded, going back there.  Horatio got paged to chemistry a while later and sighed.  He had such high hopes for one of them.  He found Stetler hovering behind him.  "It's very infrequent.  Can we talk about NA?"

"For an intern?" he sneered.

"One who got very high marks.  The evaluator wanted her in federal service."

Stetler snorted.  "Not likely now."  He went to gloat over them.  "Cocaine," he said as he walked in.

She looked up at him.  "No I don't."

"Yes you do."  He handed her the test.

She looked at it, then got something out of her purse, handing it to him.  "Please test that, sir?  My grandmother makes it for me whenever I get too anemic and sick.  Because I don't do drugs.  I never have."

Horatio took it to have it run.  He liked her, he wanted her to succeed and be the next generation of tech.  He came back twenty later with a report, nodding at her.  "It is."

"Where would she get that?" Stetler demanded.

"Sir, my neighbor has a coca plant," she said dryly.  "He's a drug researcher.  She gets him to make it.  It's something he experimented with."

"So you're taking an experimental drug for your medical problems?" he demanded.

"I was taking something herbal as far as I knew.  Which technically that would be.  It's from the leaves or something.  I asked once but she only babbled something about leaves from the neighbor and he knew it'd help when I got too bad.  I can get a statement from her about how often I use it and who makes it if the DEA needs it."

"We'll talk about that.  For now, go home."  She nodded, doing that.  He looked at the other one.  "Do you have some implausible excuse?"

"No, sir," he admitted.  "I kicked weed when I was in my teens but now and then I slip.  I always make sure I'm not on call the next day.  I called off that last time."  Horatio nodded he knew that.  "I'm sorry.  I've been struggling with this problem for years.  I used to slip a lot more often, especially when stressed.  That's the first slip I had in over three months."

"Are you getting professional help?" Horatio asked.

"Yes, sir.  I've been in NA.  I did official rehab through the state, my mother helped me sign up when I told her I had a problem.  It's damn hard."

"He'd know," Stetler assured him.  "His brother was hooked on meth."

"Not relevant at this point," Horatio told him.  "When was the last time you went to a meeting?"

"Two days ago.  I craved.  I left early to hit a meeting because I wasn't sure I could fight it off.  I tried really hard but I let myself have a taste to end it.  Literally a single taste on the end of my pinky.  I tried, sirs."

Stetler stared at him.  "He was off the next day?"  Horatio nodded.  "We'll be talking.  This will go before a panel.  They'll have to make that decision."  He walked off.

"Come in with information from rehab and from your sponsor.  Bring them if they've been helping you," Horatio ordered quietly.  "Any information you can."  He nodded, still looking destroyed.  "It's very possible they'll put you on probation, Henry.  I've seen it done before even for interns."  He looked up.  "You're honest and you've been doing what you could to fight it.  You took good precautions when you couldn't stop yourself.  All addicts slip sometime."  He patted him on the shoulder.  "I'll let you know when it is.  Go home, try not to cave in today.  It's hard and it's not good right now but you can do it."  He nodded, going to head home with the IAB guards coming off the elevator.  Horatio sighed, going to make notes.

Xander leaned into the lab.  "Mine was clean, right?"

"It noted some recent alcohol?"

"Tim made sherry-flavored beef thingies the other night."

"That's probably what it was then."  He smiled.  "It'll be all right.  Sam's in the clear."  He nodded, heading back down there.  Horatio took a moment to relax.  He hated losing good interns this way.


Dean looked at his present doctor.  "So?  Any judgement on running, jumping, and playing?"

"There's no chance for pro sports."


He stared at him.  "You'll probably always limp, Dean.  Not that bad, worse when you're tired.  I see nothing that says you can't get off the cane fully but it's likely you'll always have pain issues and you'll be limping at least slightly.  You may be able to get back to the point of being able to hide the limp."

"So no running?" he asked.

"Only if you're going very slow.  It's not a question of muscle mass in your case.  It's a question of the stresses on your joints."  He looked at him.  "I noticed all the scars."  Dean nodded.  "I know you got referred to me because of my cousin and you do the same thing."

"I did.  The whole family did," he admitted.

He considered it.  "You'll never be able to run full out through the woods again probably.  It's a small chance that I'm wrong and you may be able to get back there, but the next day you're going to feel it.  Probably for the next week."

"So realistically, if I do, I'll be slower than I was before."

"But then again, that's a function of age.  You're thirty-one this year.  You're in incredible shape for thirty.  Your body reads like it's five years younger if you discount that side of your body."  Dean nodded, nearly biting his lip.  "But, and this is my professional, knowing what you did, opinion.  You probably won't be fast enough to handle things and if you break it again, which is a possibility with a former break, that's not going to heal right.  You'll probably end up at least on crutches."

"So I'd have to watch out for being banged into again," Dean said, starting to sulk.

"It's not as bad as it sounds but how many times did you hit walls and things the year before the accident?"  He rolled his stool closer.  "You have to take that into account, Dean.  Think about it realistically.  Will you be able to hunt like you did?  Can you stand to be in the car for eight or ten hours a day now?  Can you take the abuse that you put your body through for the last twenty years?"

Dean nodded.  "So I need to think."

"It's possible that you'll out-stubborn me and get back to being able to run fully.  You'll still probably feel it the next little while."

"To be honest, I felt it some before the accident."

"That's a function of age and how much abuse your body took," he pointed out gently.  "Can it take that again?  It's your body and only you can make that decision."

Dean nodded.  "I understand.  Thank you."

"Not a problem.  How's the pain issue going?"

"I'm still taking one after PT most days.  This month's prescription has lasted nearly one and a half but I'm about to need a refill in three more pills."

"I can write that for you today."  He did that.  Then he looked at him again.  "Take some time and talk to your body, see if it's willing to go through that.  I'm sure it hurts when you get slammed into walls.  I saw my cousin with some very impressive bruises."

Dean nodded.  "Thank you."

"You're welcome."  He handed over the prescription.  "There you go."  Dean gave him a weak smile.  "At least you've found something that'll help you still hunt," he offered.  "I don't see a reason why you can't hunt the way you have been for the last few months.  You can try to take on harder cases that way to see."

"I might do that."  He shook his hand and left, paying his copay on the way out.  Sam was waiting for him.  "You took off work?"

"It's nearly three, Dean.  I left ten minutes early."  He looked at him.  "Bad news?"

"Home."  Sam nodded, taking him that way.  He settled into the car.  "We need to see if I can handle bigger things with the way we're hunting right now," he said once they were on the road.

"That's a reasonable way to test it," Sam agreed.  "Once you're more steady I'll look around for a haunting.  There's plenty locally."

Dean nodded, looking at him.  "He says I'll probably limp, Sammy.  Maybe not a lot but some."

Sam nodded.  "I kind of expected that.  It's taken three years and a bit to get back to fully walking.  It'll be nearly four by the time you're off it full time.  I figured there'd be some lasting damage."  He glanced at him before pulling out of the parking lot.  "So?"

"He said some of it was age and past abuse."

"Could be.  Even Xander aches some days."

"I'm not Xander."

"No, you're not.  You're Dean.   Just pointing out that it happens to all of us."  He glanced over.  "It's nothing bad, Dean."  He pulled over and looked at his brother.  "I'm not comparing you to him.  Different circumstances totally, dude."  Dean relaxed and nodded.  "But Dad had arthritis in one knee and his hands when he died.  I'm starting to have some in an ankle when it rains.   There's a reason there's not that many older hunters.  They're slower and they end up dying."

Dean nodded, thumping his head on the headrest.  "I know."

"So we'll figure out if you can handle it when you're more steady.  We'll go salt and burn a ghost.  Miami has plenty that can go."

Dean looked at him.  "Then what?"

"Then we'll make a decision based on how good or bad that went, Dean.  If you don't want to stay in a lab, we'll go back into the field.  That was always the plan.  It's all up to you and what you decide."

"You're happy in the lab," he pointed out.

"I feel that I'm making a bigger difference.  Before, yeah, we saved a few people every few months.  Now I'm doing it daily with the same skills and for the same reason.  They're monsters and demons who hurt regular people.  People that shouldn't have to deal with people like that because they're not trained to.  Our training is kick ass for hunting them down too.  I spot lies better than Eric does."

"Maybe I should get into the field then."

"Have Xander evaluate you for that.  He does it for other techs.  Like that one last month that was injured.  Have him see if you can do it.  With the classes you're qualified to do that."

Dean considered it.  "I might.  After we salt and burn that ghost."

"Sure.  Let me know when you're ready."

Dean nodded.  "Say next month?  I'm up to ten minutes without it."

"Good.  We can plan for that.  I'll start looking for a medium level of difficulty.  Nothing too cake-walk but nothing that'll try to bring down a building on top of us."  He grinned.  "Plus we're covered because of that degree."

"True."  He yawned.  "Home?"

"Yeah, we can do that."  He patted Dean on the bad knee.  "It's good to have you nearly back, Dean.  I missed hearing you stomp around when you were heading to the bathroom in the middle of the night."

Dean smirked.  "Now the ladies will give me more than pity fucks."

"Could be."  He pulled back out into traffic, heading for their rental.


Xander looked at the bill from the mortgage company.  "I thought we paid that all off."

Tim looked over.  "So did I."  He called them.  "Account number...."  He read it off.  "Darren Speedle."  He listened to her read over the account.  "We paid that off already.  Please do check the payment history.  We've been overpaying most months to take down the principle."  He listened to her go over the payments and how it changed things.  "Hold on, that's a math error."  She pulled up her calculator to figure that up and said something.  "Okay, that's good, go on please."  She went back over it.

"We just made a payment to cover that last two grand last payday but we got a bill for our usual payment this time."  She read it over then said it was probably a computer glitch.  "Can you make sure?  I don't want that to go on as a non-payment."  She made a note and made sure the payment was there.  It wasn't going to take that last reduction so she called over her supervisor, who looked over the payment history.  It clearly showed they had paid it off last month.  He looked at Xander and shrugged.  "So why did we get a bill this time?  That's what I'm making sure about."  The supervisor tried to fix that.  It wouldn't take it off.

"What if we pay it?" Xander asked.  "Would it get sent back to us?"

"No, it's listing that it's two days past due."  He listened.  "That's what he suggested but we're out of payments.  I don't understand why we got a bill this month.  We received an official letter saying we paid it off."  Xander dug that out of their important papers drawer. "I'm looking at it," he said once it was handed over.  "It says it was paid in full."  The supervisor looked that letter up and found it but it still wouldn't close out the account.  "Is there any way we can figure out why?  I can do that.  Thank you."  He hung up and called Horatio.  "I need to hit the mortgage company tomorrow, H.  Their system won't close out our mortgage even though we paid it off."  He smiled.  "Thank you."  He hung up.  "Car."

Xander went to look, letting the boys into the house.  "You look bummed," he told Dean.  "Bad appointment?"

"Fairly decent but we need to think now.  Test it maybe."

"Okay.  We can handle that.  Want me to find you a demon that's a problem?"

"We did a lot of work with spirits so I'll find one," Sam said with a grin.  "No, he wanted to talk about evaluating him for field work once he's a bit more steady on his feet."

"He can be evaluated right now," Xander told him.  "That's not a problem.  He can up it once he's more steady.  That's kinda how it's done."

Dean looked at him.  "Seriously?"

"Yeah."  He went to find his usual evaluation sheet, handing it over once the boys were sitting.  "This is what the federal evaluators want for their people who've been injured.  I can mark what you can and can't do right now.  That'll at least get you into the field now and then.   You passed those classes fairly highly if I remember right."

"A's in all but one.  He got a B there," Sam told him.

"That's more than good enough.  I can take you out on my next case and go over the full range of motion.  We can do some of it in the gym so we can test if you can get into the hands and knees and crouching position."  Dean nodded at that.  "Then take a field case.  That way you'd have a full baseline.  At the very least I'd say you'd qualify for being in the field now and then.  Nothing too dangerous or strenuous but as you get stronger you can have a reevaluation.  Yearly if it's going to be an ongoing problem.  I do that myself with Horatio and Calleigh because of my eye."

"How long could I have qualified for this?" Dean asked.

"Pretty much as soon as I saw you could handle the basic field tasks.  You never asked."  He grinned slightly.  "I didn't think you wanted to go there until you were ready.  That's something that I can understand.  If you're not ready, you're not ready.  I figured you'd ask when you were."

Dean nodded.  "I think I am."

"Then we'll do the position testing tomorrow and I'll take a field case later this week."  He handed over the sheet.  "So you can go over it with Sam and John.  Put yourself against Sam for that part.  As long as you can do the majority of the work, there's not a problem."

"So I have to score how many out of a hundred?"

"It's a thirty point scale.  Full qualification is twenty-five.  Provisional is fifteen.  If you score over twenty you only have to do it yearly."

"I might be able to do that."

"Provisional will get you in the field, but it'll be lesser cases.  Nothing where you have to climb into a dumpster or crawl around a field looking for bullet evidence."

"So I have to get at least fifteen," Dean said.  Xander nodded.  "I think I can."

"Then we'll work on it tomorrow."  He smiled.  "I'll need to take my frustration out anyway since the mortgage company is screwing around.  We paid it off and they forgot to close our account."

"Ow," Sam muttered.

"We like the house, but buy from someone else," Xander said quietly.  "If you guys stay."

"Is someone thinking about Dean and that night shift job?" Sam asked.

"Horatio and Calleigh have to give recommendations to Mary by the end of next month. Then she'll interview but it'll be about four months before it gets filled.  By then you guys will be nearly out of hours so he might be eligible."  He grinned.  "I said I'd like it if it was a former intern or someone I could work with.  Be damned if I want to have to redo someone's work every day."

"It's important to have someone good there," Dean agreed.  "Thanks, Xander."

"Welcome.  If you do decide to go in for it, I'll gladly recommend you.  Calleigh said the same, Dean.  She knows you can do it if that's what you want.  But you gotta let us know if that's what you want."

He nodded.  "I can do that."  He smiled.  "Thanks."

"Not a problem.  I know being compared to me all the time sucks.  I'm not exactly normal and you're more a normal guy.  You can't do face masques or anything."

Dean nodded.  "True."  He got up with a small groan.  "Long day."

"We can hold it off if you want."

"Nah, I'll be fine with some dinner and sleep."  He left with his brother, heading home to go over the list that he had to qualify on.  If he had known this he might've tried earlier.  He didn't like Sammy being in the field without someone he trusted as backup.


Tim walked in the next day, smiling and happy.  "They closed out the account.  They took off that last payment that we didn't need to make, and they apologized for the computer glitch.  We are fully paid off."


"You don't look happy.  Xander in the field?"

"In the gym.  Two bigots tried to say something to him and Dean.  Dean punched one.  Xander got the other and his two friends who tried to help.  The Chief has suspended the bigots and warned Xander, since the tape showed he tried to deflect it and tried to get them to give up before kicking them around."

"Good.  Dean okay?"

"Fine.  The bigots are letting Stetler be a bit evil today."  He rolled his eyes.  Horatio smiled.  "Otherwise, it's been a day of scenes."  He walked off, spotting Ryan coming in looking bruised and rumpled.  "Problems?"

"The wife tried to beat me to beat her husband for dying before her immigration deadline came up.  I tried to stop her from beating Alexx and the body.  Alexx had her taken by EMTs because she was hysterical."  He looked tired.  "I'm wiped, Horatio."

"Cause of death?"

"Hit and run it looks like.  So it's a case."  He walked around him.  "Let me clean up and I'll work on it."

"That's fine, Mr. Wolfe."  He watched him go, shaking his head.  It had been a long day all the way around.


Dean finished up the joint case and handed it to Calleigh to proofread.  She nodded and walked it off.  He looked at Xander.  "How badly did I tank it?"

"Actually, being impartial, you scored a nineteen."  He smiled.  "So you're provisionally good.  As you get more steady without the cane, you'll get higher."

"So in six months I can redo it?"  Xander nodded.  "That might be nice."

"Cool."  He nudged him.  "Be careful tonight.  John's fussy for some reason.  I don't know why."

"You too then."  He walked off, going to tell Sam the good news.  Calleigh and Xander had both worked on it so Xander couldn't be biased because he liked him.  She handed him the sheet she signed off on with Horatio's signature already in place.  "Thanks."

"Welcome.  You deserve it."  She patted him on the cheek.  "When you're fully off that cane for a month, redo it."  She walked off again.

Xander came out of trace, heading back to ballistics.  He paused, feeling something wrong.  The elevator started to open and time seemed to slow down.  He ran to Dean, giving him a shove into chemistry and trying for ballistics.  All his guns were in there.  He only had a pocket knife on him.  He felt the fire of a wound on his arm and one hit his outer thigh but he made it into ballistics and shut the door.  He grabbed the weapon out of his desk while someone kicked at the door, getting a clip in before it opened.  He fired on the person coming in, getting them center mass.  Body armor.  Wonderful!  He took a head shot and they went down.  The one behind them too.  Xander was wobbling.  He was in pain and losing blood from his arm but be damned if he was going to die today.  He heard other shots and took one last one down before he passed out.

Calleigh saw Xander push Dean and looked then dove for cover and her gun.  "Invasion!" she bellowed.  "Shut the lab!"  Those who had guns came out to help.  They were heading for ballistics.  They wanted Xander.  She moved up to help him.  Horatio was on their other side.  Five guys came down to three that made it in.  She got the one that was in there when Xander went down.  He was already dead but hadn't fully fallen yet.  She groaned, looking around.  "How in the hell did that happen?" she shouted.

"Someone check the officer on the desk!" Horatio ordered.  "Get him an ambulance.  Two wounds!"  He moved in to help hold them closed.

Dean came in and grabbed the first aid kit.  "Move," he ordered firmly.  Horatio moved.  He looked and got the one on his thigh bandaged.  He was packing the one on his arm when the paramedics got there.  "The bullet's still inside."

"Can we, sir?"  He got out of their way.  "Good packing and bandaging job."  They got him loaded and taken off.  Tim ran to get in with them.  "Sir?"

"I'm his boyfriend.  Suck it up," he said.

"Yes, sir."

"CSI Speedle."

The paramedic shot him a look.  "Brother to the one we lost years ago?"  He nodded.  "Thank you."  He checked, calling in his vitals and that they were bandaged and packed when they got there.  That would help keep him until they could get him to surgery.

Calleigh helped Dean up.  "Thank you."

"Not an issue.  Kind of used to it really."  He looked at the bodies.  "What were they after?  Xander shoved me into chemistry and I nearly tipped a table over."

"No clue," she admitted.  "We'll find out who they were and that'll tell us hopefully."

Ryan walked in.  "Officer on the desk was unconscious.  Gassed.  They tried to make sure no one would stop them but not fatally."  He squatted down, taking off a hood.

Dean looked.  "He's not human.  He's a fucking demon.  Sammy!" he bellowed.  He came in.  "You're better at identification.  Help Alexx."  He nodded, helping her gather the bodies to go over what they were and if there were any similarities.  "Let me call the overlord, see if he heard anything about this.  Yo, Dad?" he called.  He appeared.  "Hagen?"

"Watching over them.  Xander's not in real danger of dying so he's just worried.  He knew something was going on but not what."

"Tell the overlord?  The five guys were demons."

"Going.  You all right?"

"I nearly fell when he shoved me but yeah.  He was trying to protect me."  John nodded and faded out.  He looked at the blood then at them.  "Melissa can scrub, right?"

Calleigh cracked and laughed, starting to cry.  "Yeah, she can mop."  Horatio led her off to get her calmed down.

Dean went to help Sam.  Hit teams of demons weren't standard.  Not with different species.


Xander woke up and stared at the ceiling.  "Damn."

"You lost a few pints of blood," Tim told him.  "They had to remove the bullet from your arm.  Your thigh was just a graze.  Dean's handling the case with Sam since it was demons," Tim said quietly in his ear.

Xander turned his head to look at him.  "Why would demons want me that badly?"

"I don't know.  They're trying to find out."  He stroked over his hair.  "You can go home tomorrow."

Xander nodded.  "Just stitches?  No therapy or anything?"

"No.  It hit muscle.  You'll be sore but fine."

Xander nodded, yawning some.  "I hate sedatives."

"I know.  Sleep it off, Xander.  I'm here guarding you."  Xander nodded, drifting off again.  He leaned back, staring out the doorway at the goings on.  Horatio had stopped by but everyone else was trying to figure out why the lab had been invaded this time.


Dean walked into the lab later that night, handing Horatio a tape and a picture.  "That's why he was attacked.  They still can't tell him from Ryan."

"The stupid lawyers?  Again?" Calleigh demanded, coming out of the office to look over his shoulder.  "Did we arrest them?"  Dean pointed at the picture.  She looked and grimaced.  "Never mind.  Are they gone?"

"Yup."  He saw Stetler coming and coughed "asshole alert".  She smiled at that.  Horatio gave him an amused look.  "It was the damn stupid lawyers again."

"Are they under arrest?" he demanded.  Dean held up the picture, letting him snatch it from him.  "What is *that*?"

"The damn stupid lawyer," Dean told him.  "Who still thinks Xander is Ryan Wolfe."

"He doesn't gamble," he said dryly, handing it back.  "Unable to be arrested?"

"Dealt with anyway," Dean finished.

"Your brother?"

"Swearing since he wanted to be a lawyer at one point in time.  He nearly interned in their LA office way back when.  Then we find out they have people signing soul contracts and things."  He looked at Horatio.  "Which case is Ryan on that they want to handle so badly?"

"I've been trying to figure that out for weeks," Horatio said.  "The one the FBI agents gave Xander took a plea.  They're not listed as being part of any other case."

Dean went into the office to log into the system so he could look up that lawyer's name.  He found his boss's name and printed that fact sheet off.  Then another one.  No other mentions, even when he pulled up their webpage's index of lawyers and cross checked them all.  He pointed.  "Those are the only two in the system."

"One's a robbery.  With a suspiciously sick criminal who has a lot of repeat offenses.  And one's an embezzlement case."  He let Calleigh see them.  She went to pull them up.  The robbery had a gun so they'd have that one.  The other, they probably would've handled.  Technically it was a federal offense and that would've come through their lab if the agents hadn't wanted to do it in their own building.  She came back with a box.  "Ryan's involved?"

"The robbery.  He was the main scene tech."  She let him see what they had.  "The other we arrested and handed over.  It was caught as a side action to another offense.  That went through non-felony."

"Not to be nosy but a few of them seem to have a lot of accidents recently?" Dean asked.

"Probably," she agreed.  She called down there.  "It's Duquesne.  We have linked the invasion earlier back to the law firm CSI Harris took down with the agents.  They keep mixing him up with Ryan Wolfe.  Yes, the same ones that tried to sue him," she agreed.  "We think that there might be a connection to your string of accidents?"  She nodded.  She read off the case number.  "That's the only one that has any of their lawyers listed."  She smiled.  "Please do.  I'm sure Xander will feel very happy if you do."  She hung up.  "They've had three field techs end up in the ER.  One who apparently ate Xander's cooking when he hasn't cooked recently.  They know better because they were a food thief."

Stetler shuddered.  "They probably learned after the first bite."

Dean nodded.  "We got warned about every semester."  He looked at Horatio.  "So, boss?"

Horatio looked at him.  "Guard yourself and Sam tonight, Dean.  Tomorrow, ballistics and the interns are yours."

"Melissa needs her proof day," Calleigh said.  "I'll be in the field because Eric's off."

"I can handle it," Dean reminded her.

"I know but we need to make sure Melissa can handle it.  So can you play second and guide her if she gets stuck?  It's subtle but might need to happen if she panics."

"I can do that.  If she screws up majorly, I can step in?"

"If she screws up that badly, you have my permission to send her on a break and then call once you've cleaned it up.  Do we think she will?" Horatio asked.

"She's kind of a bit panicky recently.  I'm not sure why."

"I've seen that," Calleigh agreed.  "We're really not sure why, Horatio."

"Then we'll see tomorrow since Xander won't be back for at least a few days."

"Try weeks," Stetler snorted.

"Xander's like I am.  As soon as you can, you go back on the job," Dean told him.

"He's been in the day after being shot before," Calleigh reminded him.  "Alexx and Maxine both tried to get him to go home.  He came in the day after he was stabbed by Buffy too."

"He tried to come in the day after the explosion too," Horatio said dryly.  "He drives Tim and Miss Valera insane doing it."

"You don't get time off when you're one of the few in the field," Dean said quietly.  "We've went out with casts, with concussions, broken ribs, all that good stuff.  We tried really hard to be gentle on them but if the case called for it...."

"I understand why," Horatio agreed.  "Down here it isn't that critical.  We have others who can fill in.  He's never gotten out of that mindset."

John Hagen appeared.  "Neither do most combat veterans and Xander's leaning more toward their way of doing things than not, Horatio.  You know that."  He looked at Dean.  "Sam's threatening to make Xander dinner and starve you."

"Sammy knows I can cook better than he can.  It's those four extra years of practice."

He smiled.  "You know, you could be happy if you made that one choice."

"Maybe.  We're still testing the boundaries."

"That's logical.  But probably painful in the future.  Because you push yourself too hard.  Just like the kid does."  He looked at him.  "He wanted out already."

"They won't let him this time, not with Tim standing there," Calleigh said with a small smile.

"The nurse tried to make him go away but she lost.  Claimed he was only a boyfriend so he couldn't stay.  Tim nearly threw her through a window," Hagen assured her with a mean grin.  "He said he'd let Max take some of the fussing duties for him.  Xander won't want to stay unless he's guarded.  So, there's probably about fifty of them left on this plane.  How many more do you think it'll take before they realize that Xander and Ryan are different people?"

"You'd think they would've learned after the hearing," Dean said dryly.  "I know we pointed that out in the middle of their board room when we went to talk to them.  By the way, their backup location is here," he said, writing down an address.  He handed it over.  "In case the agents want to go there too."

"I'll let them know," Horatio promised with a smirk of his own.  "Thank you, Dean."

"Welcome.  I'll try to baby Melissa tomorrow."

"We've got to see if she can handle running her own lab," Calleigh reminded him.  "The same as we can drop you off for a few days already and only check now and then.  We've got to be able to do the same thing with her."

He nodded.  "I'll try."  He walked off, heading down to pick up to Sam.  "Yo, Sammy, let's go."

"Coming.  How many more do we think will try this?"

"Who knows.  Wonder if someone's taking bets or if there's a bounty on him?"

"Could be.  He did help in a few major events," Sam said.  He shrugged a bit and got into the car, Dean driving this time.  "We should stop in tomorrow."

"We can do that on the way in.  I've got to let Melissa try her hand at leading the lab tomorrow."

"Every intern has to have that sort of test," Sam told him.  "I already get some individual field cases if they don't sound too complex."

"I've been left in the lab for whole shifts for the last few months," Dean said.  "Now it's her turn and I'll play second to her."

"Don't tell her it's her test, just watch and take notes for them," Sam advised.

"I can probably do that."  He drove them off the lot and into traffic.  Which he hated.  "Why can't rush hour only last an hour?" he demanded at the first minor traffic jam.

"There's a basketball game tonight."

"Oooh, yay.  Another reason to have a beer tonight."

"You know, if we stay in the lab, some day you'll have your own interns.  It'll be like having kids only you don't have to change diapers, only hold their hands now and then as they learn new things."

Dean glanced up.  "Please don't let me have kids for him to warp some year into mega geeks?"

"Sorry, some year I want grandkids, boys," John said as he appeared in the back seat.  "From one of you."

"I probably shouldn't.  They might get the visions and stuff," Sam said with a grimace.

"No.  They won't," Dean said.  "Bobby killed that demon while we were both still nearly comatose, remember?"

"Good point.  Still, I haven't found anyone nice to date unless I start to tease Maxine."

"That'd make you like Xander's step-father," John teased.

"He's not a bad stepson.  Kinda fussy now and then," Sam taunted.  "Hey, instant grandson, Dad."

John glared at him.  "I meant the normal way, son.  Or if you have a witch like Rosenburg do it, maybe one from you.  I've been told she can do that."

"Tim warned us about that," Dean said, moving up through traffic.  "There's no way this is normal even for a game night."

Sam opened the window and sighed.  "I hear sirens."

Dean groaned, working the car carefully over a lane so they could get onto a side street and head around whatever was going on.  They passed by the wreck and winced.  There was a hummer.  "Ours?"

"Eric.  I can see him swearing at someone."  He called.  "It's Sam and Dean.  You okay?  Just drove by your wreck."  He winced.  "Horatio and Calleigh were both in the office, why?"  He nodded.  "Oh, have some fun with that."  He hung up.  "That was the mayor's son who was drunk driving when he crashed into the hummer and three other cars."

"How fast was he going?" John asked.

"Ran the red light and sped up."  Sam looked back.  "Horatio babies those hummers.  Someone's going to be wishing for a butt cheek implant tomorrow."

"If his daddy's smart, he'll still be in jail," Dean told him.  "Of course, they're rich so not all that much common sense."  He pulled onto the street they needed to get home.  "By the way, Stetler saw the picture and the tape."

"That's fine.  He can have nightmares too," Sam said with a small shrug.  "Not like I don't have nightmares about demonic lawyers."

John shuddered.  "If you guys knew what they've done on this side, you'd be horrified."

"No thanks, already have enough from them," Dean quipped.  "Mom good?"

"She's fine.  She's very proud.  She's nagging someone to try to take my place for an hour.  They're threatening to have her reborn soon."

Sam laughed.  "I can see the hell you'll cause then, Dad."

"Definitely.  We'd have to be somewhere nearby.  Not twins, but nearby."

Sam grinned.  "I'm sure you will be."  They parked and got out, heading up to the small rental.  Where they got to call their fellow officers about the guy sitting on their couch eating pizza he had apparently ordered.  Dean did a nice tackle though.  Knocked him right out.  The officers that responded saw Sam's held up ID and smirked.  They got the guy and walked him off, yelling at him about screwing with Caine and Harris' lab.  After earlier, they weren't going to be happy.

Dean and Sam sat down on the couch with a sigh, putting their feet up.  It had been a long day.  "Using a sword and a cane is kind of sucky," Dean said finally.

"You'll be off it sometime soon," Sam reminded him.

"Which way do you want this to turn out, Sammy?" he asked quietly.

"Honestly?  I'd be happy to be in the lab.  We get more real hunting time and less danger.  Plus less problems of funding."

Dean nodded.  "I can see that."  He looked at his leg.  "I don't know."

"We have time, Dean.  You've got to be able to fully walk."

"What if it takes longer than three months?"

"Then apply for the lab opening.  You can always turn it down if we decide to go back on the road.  If you do get it, we already know the area and all that good stuff.  Plus we'll be there to help Xander and Tim as they slow down."

Dean nodded.  "Maybe.  I'm not sure that wouldn't be cheating."

"Make sure they realize that you're still undecided but if you decide to stay in the lab you want to stay here.  We have all the support we could want.  A really good paycheck.  We know the area pretty well.  You have a doc you like and a physical therapist that helps you.  Plenty of pretty girls.  Spring break."

Dean nodded.  "All good points."

"Many demons that are usually peaceful.  At least three hundred hauntings within the county."  Dean looked at him.  "Honestly.  Some have been banished but came back.  There's a lot in the outer reaches of the county.  Holding, downstairs from the lab, has two.  They're ignoring them very hard because they're scared of what Xander would do to them."

"Our way is probably gentler than banishing them," he decided.

"If you wanted to stay somewhere warm, there's two openings in Orlando.  You can go live near that friend and work cases at Disney and Universal."

Dean looked at him.  "I think they'd hate it if we figured out that Walt was still wandering around and I know they'd hate it when I punched a character trying to hug me, Sammy."

Sam grinned.  "There's other parts of the county too.  Like here, they even have some smaller, scary backwoods sort of areas in the farther reaches of the county."

Dean groaned, shaking his head.  "That's mean."

"Well, yeah," he agreed with a grin.  "Up to you.  New York might have openings but we might be in different labs until one of us could transfer."

Dean shook his head.  "I don't want New York.  It's full of strange crap.  Xander saw plenty, including something high-up that came to eat a born sacrifice at the station by starting with cops as appetizers."

"I heard that story."  He settled in better.  "Dad, got an opinion?"

"I'm staying out of this one.  It's your decision, boys.  The higher ups don't care one way or another as long as you don't go dark."

Sam looked over.  "I'm not like that."

"I know that."


"I do."

"No fighting or I'm beating both your asses with my cane," Dean ordered.  They all turned to look toward the bedroom when something in there scraped.  Dean sighed, getting up to handle it.  "CSI, don't move," he ordered.  The person climbing in gave him a horrified look.  "What?  They let you go already?  How fucking stupid."  He punched and knocked the guy out.  Then he called dispatch and Horatio on a conference call.  "This is Intern Winchester, out of ballistics.  We just caught the same guy we had removed from our apartment a few minutes ago sneaking back in through our window.  He's half out of it right now and unconscious so if you don't want him to fall three stories I'd come get his stupid ass again.  Thank you.  Dover Residence Motel, yes.  Thank you."  He hung up and watched him until someone knocked on the door.  Then Horatio walked in.  "A patrol guy removed him."

"Dispatch told me who it was.  I'm having Frank chew him a new one."  He hauled the guy in with John's help, cuffing him.  "Thank you, Dean.  He won't be coming back tonight."

"Next time I'll knock him out and let him fall.  A few years in rehab in prison should cure that problem of his."

"Yes it would."  He walked the guy out since he was starting to come around and groan.  "Thank you for annoying our ballistics tech and one of our field techs.  Feel very lucky they didn't feel like dealing with you in person."  He shoved him at the patrol car that came to back him up.  "Climbing in a window this time.  Somehow he got free of the other patrol officer."

The one driving nodded.  "We got told that by Dispatch, Lieutenant.  Are they all right?"

"It's been a long day with that lab assault, boys."

"Then let us handle it, sir.  I was helping at the wreck too."  Horatio growled.  "I'm sure the mayor is not looking forward to seeing you on his doorstep."

"Probably not but he'll be seeing me soon.  Thank you, boys."  They took him off, reading him his rights.  Horatio got into his hummer and went to visit their beloved mayor.  His wife answered the door.  "Thankfully, your son and everyone involved only had minor injuries."

"My son?" she demanded.  He held up a picture.  "That stupid.... brat," she said, trying to keep from swearing.  "Please come in..."

"Lieutenant Caine.  Felonly crime lab.  That's our hummer and one of my CSI."

"Oh, dear."  She walked him back to her husband's study.  "There's a problem."

"There's always a problem."  He nearly spit out his current drink when he saw who was behind her.  "Tell me it's not a serial killer or something that'll look bad enough to keep tourists away?" he begged.  Horatio held up that same picture.  He snatched it to look at.  Then looked at him.  "Injuries?"

"Minor.  The hummer needs a whole side and all the gear in the back rebuilt.  Three other cars were also slammed into when he ran the red light.   His field BAC was .21."

"Keep him in jail.  He's going to rehab tomorrow.  I'll make sure our insurance pays to repair that, Caine.  I'm very sorry he's such an idiot.  He wasn't like this before."

"I don't know why but this is his second one in six months."

His wife winced.  "His girlfriend broke up with him then," she muttered.  "We'll handle him, Lieutenant.  Believe me, he will not be skating on this.  He will be taking responsibility, and I will be making sure he gets help.  Even if I have to take an untraditional route and have him given to someone who can beat him night and day for it.  Tell them we're very sorry and we had no idea or we would've killed him earlier."

"I can do that.  Do be aware there were two news crews there."  The mayor grimaced but nodded.  "I thought it better coming from me than the process servers or a reporter banging on your door."

"Thank you, Lieutenant Caine.  We will be beating him severely."  Horatio nodded and left the picture there.  He picked up his phone once the man was gone, calling his assistant.  "Find out where my son is being arraigned.  Tell the judge he will make bail so he can go clean up so he can pay society back.  No, he's not going to be skating on it.  Next time, if there is one, tell me before I hear it from Caine please."  He hung up and went to pour himself a real drink.  "Want one?"

"I think I want to call my mother.  She'd love to have him visit once he's sober."

He shuddered.  "That's nearly evil, dear.  She'll kill him."

"Exactly.  Then that nice lieutenant can get her for it.  That way she quits trying to get me to give you a daughter to warp."  She went to call her mother and sob to her about her son.  That way her mother would want to help her straighten him out.

"She's nearly as good at politics as I am," he said, raising his glass in salute.  He looked at the picture then flipped it over.  Then he sat down to prepare a statement for the press before they started to jump.


Xander blinked at the nurse who woke him up the next morning, glancing at Tim then at her.  "It's not time to get up yet."

"Yes it is.  It's time for morning medicines," she said with a happy, cheerful smile.

Xander glared at her.  "I'm a ballistics tech.  No it's not."

"We have pain medicine for you."

"I don't need any and it's not time to get up.  Really.  It's only five."  She huffed but pulled out the needle to put into his IV.  "No more pain killers."

"The doctor said....."

"I don't care," he snarled.

"It'll make you feel better."

Xander made himself sit up, looking at her.  "I'm.  From.  Sunnydale," he said slowly and clearly.  "I.  Hunted.  With.  Slayers."  She backed up, giving him a horrified look.  "No more drugs."  He smiled.  "I'm perfectly content and my lover will make me feel better very soon.  Okay?  I get to go home today."

"I'm peaceful," she said quickly.

"Good!  I still don't need drugs.  Even if Wolfram and Hart are still getting me confused with Ryan Wolfe."

"Is that...."  She waved a hand.  He nodded.  She sighed.  "They're usually so much smarter than this.  I'll make a note in your chart that you refused pain medicine but you're a bit growly.  Breakfast is soon."

"It's only five."

"We feed you at six-thirty, then do a bed bath."

"I'll do it at home.  Thanks.  Really.  No one touches my butt but him."

"That's fine.  You can be as grumpy as you want.  I hear gunshot wounds hurt."  She bounced off.

Xander looked at Tim, who was smirking at him.  He knew what he was thinking.  "You're that bouncy when you don't have caffeine, yes."  Xander moaned and laid back down. "Eat your morning gruel then we can leave probably."  Xander nodded.  "Then we can go home, take a nice sponge bath, and then a nap."

"And then check in with the lab since we left Calleigh in the field with Dean and Melissa on today."

"After your nap you can call to check."

Xander looked over at him.  "I can go visiting.  See if there's damage we need to fix."

"No you can't.  Horatio said to stay home."  He turned on the tv, letting him see the top news story of the evening.  "He had to notify him.  He's not happy."

"Is Eric all right?"

"Fine.  I called, he's got a headache but no concussion.  The hummer needs major body work though."  The nurse came back with a tray and handed it to Xander before leaving.

Xander looked under the lid then handed it over.  "I can't eat that."

Tim looked then went to talk to her.  "Um, he's human."  The nurse gave him an odd look then shook her head.  "Yeah, he is."

"His bloodwork said he's not."

"He was exposed to mermaid parts back in high school.  He's still human."  He handed over the raw tentacles.  "Really.  Burgers, fries, chocolate, not tentacles.  He barely eats fish sticks because he doesn't want to bother with that stuff."  He walked off again.

She called up his test results, frowning at it. "I think the lab had a booboo."  She called her supervisor.  "His lover said he's fully human.  That he was exposed to mermaid essence.  That doesn't make sense with this."

She looked then sighed.  "Someone's been in the files," she muttered, moving to reload his file and correct it.  "Fully human, just tainted."  She walked off.  "Get him eggs and stuff."  She took that plate off.  She could use a snack anyway.

The nurse called down there to correct that, getting him a new plate.  Which he'd probably share with his boyfriend since they were cute that way.


to part 4

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