Xander checked into the convention hotel, smiling at the lady checking in for the convention events.  "Has Miami's team gotten here yet?"

"Earlier today, Mr. Harris."  She smiled.  "I know CSI Speedle is somewhere in room one.  He's got dark hair...."

"I looked him up online," he offered with a grin.  "Thank you."  She nodded.  He headed that way, spotting him by the bar.  He smiled at someone he knew.  "You're Bobby Dawson."  The man looked startled so he grinned and shook his hand.  "Harris, out of UCLA's program. You were my second choice but I got NCIS instead."

"I heard you did good.  I've got your classmate Sheila."  Xander snickered. "I see you remember robo-bimbo?"

"Oh, yeah.  We told her many times that showing that much cleavage didn't help her any and didn't get her underestimated at all.  I tried, I'm sorry."

"It's all right.  I had Catherine, our wise, older, senior tech on the team, go through her closet with her the first time she wore that red shirt."

"I remember when she bought that.  We all decided that telling her it was see-through in certain lights was a waste of time."  He nodded, smiling at him.  "Will I see you in the ballistics panel?"

"You sure will.  Talk then?"

"Please!  Abby's not getting a lot of ballistics so I've mostly been doing stuff for my minor in trace and I'm bored," he said more quietly.  "I miss my guns."

Bobby smiled.  "Don't worry, there's a lot of ballistics related stuff here this weekend, Xander.  Hey, I know you," he said, smiling at the guy who was coming up to them.

"That is CSI Speedle out of Miami.  I talked with his boss a few weeks back.  Hi, Xander Harris.  I came in hunting you when I ran into one of our Gods."  He shook his hand.

"You're the guy Horatio said we'd be talking to this weekend."  Xander beamed and nodded.  "Relax, kid."

"This is relaxed," he said, looking confused.  "Should I be more uptight?"

"Nah, be yourself.  If you're bouncy like your current mentor, he'll understand that."  He looked him over.  "Good first impression, Xander.  You'll do fine.  Bobby, can I steal him or do you need more adoration?"

"I'll get more later."  He winked at Xander. "It'll be okay."  Xander nodded, following Speed out.  He shook his head.  "Poor boy, but why did he go to NCIS if they didn't do many ballistics?"  He went to find his teammates, going to tell them who he had met.  Sheila stomped off in a huff.  "Huh."

Speed smiled at the kid.  "The first time H saw me I was in a band t-shirt and jeans.  Calm down and it'll be fine," he said quietly.

"The first time he saw me I was in a tux.  It was at that stupid gala thing the kidnaper said I had to go to."


"Long story," he moaned.  "Anyway, I've been interning at NCIS, in DC, and it's been good.  I love Abby like a sister.  If I could clone her I'd bring one with me, but I'm not being used to my full potential.  She's the only tech they had for a long time and they don't get enough work usually to keep her fully busy.  So she's kinda upset with me because I've had to steal stuff to run so I could do *anything* in my area.  That's why she and your boss have been talking."

"That's what he said."  He got them onto the elevator.  "Checked in?"

"Sent my bags up with the bellhop but I came right in since I'm still nicely pressed.  The others went to their rooms I guess. I haven't seen Gibbs, Tony, or Abby.  Or the stupid FBI agent who's following me around."

"They want you to work in their lab?"

"No, we had a semi well known terrorist break into the lab and I kicked his ass," he said honestly, shrugging a bit.  "I don't like people like that."

Speed looked at him.  "Please tell me you're joking?"

"Wish I was," he said dryly, giving him a look.  "Really wish I was.  It was a pretty close fight too."  They got off on a floor and Speed moaned all the way down to the suite their team had taken.  He knocked before walking in, startling another guy.  "Hi, I saw your picture online," he said happily, shaking his hand.  "Xander Harris, intern out of NCIS in DC."

"You're the guy H has been talking about."  He grinned.  "Welcome to our slice of Miami.  You're a what sort of tech?"

"Ballistics with a minor in trace and enough field classes to qualify as a backup," he said modestly.

"Second out of UCLA's last graduating class as well," Horatio said, coming out of his room. "There was a detective taking it to switch over.  Xander."  He shook his hand and got a hug.  "Come on, we'll talk."  He smiled at the boy.  "Calm down."

"I am calm!  I'm normally bouncy.  Abby and I get bouncy in the lab together."

Speed snickered.  "Somehow that doesn't surprise me.  Calleigh?"  She came out of her room and Xander squealed, rushing over to hug her, babbling at her.  "He's a ballistics tech."

"I heard."  She pushed him back.  "Hi, Xander."  He beamed and nodded.  "Go with Horatio.  We'll talk later."  He nodded, letting Horatio walk him off.

"He drooled on Bobby too," Speed told her.  "Apparently NCIS isn't getting a lot of ballistics work."

"Why did he go there?"

"I don't know," Speed admitted.

"Combat history that wasn't military," Xander called.

"Well, that almost answers that question," Speed said dryly.  He shook his head.  "We're doing the meet and greet.  Shouldn't we go find our friends?"  They nodded, heading down to go mingle and mix, letting Horatio have the boy for now.  They'd get to talk to him later.  Maybe he'd explain the cryptic stuff too.  He ran into Abby.  "No pouncing this time," he ordered from behind her.  She spun and squealed, giving him a hug.  "Thanks, Abby.  I saw your boy and led him up to Horatio already."

"Thank you.  He needs a bigger lab with more things to do.  He's a hands-on guy and I can't finish teaching him everything because we don't have everything, and not many gun cases really.  It's gotten so bad I'm letting him do all the work and then I'm getting bored and it's not good for either of us.  Besides, Xander's very easy to abuse and make him do all the work, he's just like that.  He'll take samples from you to run if he doesn't have one and he cleans if there's nothing going on.  He even cleaned and arranged my exemplar cabinet on me.  I'm going nuts.  There's not enough work up there for both of us," she babbled, taking a breath finally.

Speed kissed her on the forehead.  "Come tell the rest of us about our new tech, Abby.  That way we know what to expect when he comes down."  She nodded, walking over there with them, making Tony follow when they ran into him.  "Guys, you know Abby, right?"

"Everyone knows Abby," Eric teased, shaking her hand.  "How's DC?"

"Filled with stupid politicians and terrorists who like Xander.  He even dates worse than Tony does," she complained.  Tony moaned. "He does!"

"He does," he agreed, shaking his head.  "Never, ever let the boy date without a chaperone.  It'll be safer.  Trust me."  He took a sip of his water.  "You, Miss Duquesne, are in for a treat.  The boy loves his guns.  He and his dad bonded over his small collection recently.  And his artillery I guess."  He took another sip even though Abby swatted at him.  "I'm being good."

"Xander just found out he has real parents," Abby offered.  "They're in Homeland."  That got smiles from the trio of techs.  "Anyway, what can we tell you about Xander?"

"He's like a male Abby, only he works until he falls down, he's more stubborn, he knows his stuff, and he'll ask if he doesn't have a clue," Tony told them.  "Unfortunately he's also a bit tough and rough when necessary."

"He said someone broke into your lab."

"Yeah, he was pretending to be a witness, got in on a visitor's pass," Abby sighed.  "Xander did kick his butt.  Didn't even trash the lab doing it, only knocked off some papers," she said, sounding very proud.  "If I could, I'd keep Xander, but we don't have enough work for me, let alone him.  Plus I do a lot more with the hacking and computer stuff than he does."

"So he's a physical, hands-on sort?" Eric asked.  She nodded.  Tony nodded.  "He's good in his areas?"

"He's very good in his areas," Bobby said as he joined them.  "Sheila, my intern, was behind him in the class standings.  Keeps getting upset.  Told me I expected her to be like him when I left her alone for six hours in the lab before she thought she was ready.  She says a lot of stuff about him that doesn't upset me in the least.  He's dedicated.  He pushes himself.  He's a smart ass.  He's a lot like our boy Greg from the way she described him, but she said he had this dangerous guy thing going."

"He grew up in Sunnydale.  They had a really high death rate so he was on the protection detail there," Abby told him.

Calleigh stiffened.  "I know that town."

Tony looked at her.  "We found out about that town.  They sent him to Gibbs to make sure he could calm down from that stuff.  He said he retired the day he graduated.  He's definitely a do what needs to be done sort, guys.  He's a great tech.  He's also a very quick tech and a very good report writer.  I love his reports.  They're simple to understand and include information I need to write mine.  It's enough to refresh yourself before a trial.  The boy's good.  He could be great.  He just needs a more varied environment."

"He told me he hasn't gotten to work with paper that's been wetted down too often or things like that," Abby offered.  "They showed it in class but he learns and understands better in a hands-on way.  Other than that, he's fantastic.  I already leave Xander alone in my lab for days on end.  If he wasn't here this weekend, he'd have full control of my lab.  He'd have to leave anything DNA related for me when I got back but otherwise I'd expect to come home to a clean table."

"Can he do field stuff?" Eric asked.

They both shrugged.  "We can't get him into the field.  Gibbs said so," Tony said at their confused looks.  "Gibbs said only team members, agents, can go into the field.  I know he took the classes."

"He told me he did his ride along hours for that stuff with San Diego going 'you missed a hair' for five weeks and then a week stuck in the labs because they had a high profile case they didn't want him involved in," Abby said.  "Which means he would have probably went with Griffold.  There he is.  Griffy!" she called, waving.  He waved back and came over.  "Hi.  I got Xander."

"You got Harris?" he asked, looking confused.  "Why?"

"His ballistics instructor sent him to Gibbs."

"I guess that's reasonable but man!  That's... how bored is your boy?"

"Very," she admitted.  "Which is why we're trying to get these nice folks down in Miami to finish his internship and maybe offer him a job afterward."

Griffold looked at the guys, rubbing over his very sparse blond hair.  "Boy'll do you proud but watch out.  He's a do what's necessary sort.  He stepped between me and a guy with a gun to protect me.  Took him down for me too.  He's not got a lot of fear left in him.  He's damn good though.  Even if he did claim I kept dropping hairs."  He grinned at them.  "Where's the boss?  I'll gladly give him a rec."

"Upstairs interviewing him," Speed admitted.  "He did good in the field?"

"The only problem he had was with that vision thing of his.  Made most of his pictures kinda fuzzy."

"Vision thing?" Calleigh asked.

"He lost an eye about five years ago.  You can't tell," Griffold told her.  "He compensates very well.  Even in a fight.  Maybe especially in a fight.  We had a gang thing happen on a scene while we were processing and he helped.  His weak side's compensated for.  He did say he wanted to mostly be a lab tech but he wouldn't mind being a backup field boy."  They all smiled at that.  "He's a puzzle sort too.  It's all a puzzle to be put together.  You guys get any serial cases, Abby?"

"Not really.  Why?"

"He's got skills in that area."

"Yeah, his ex turned into one," Tony said dryly.  "Kept killing his friends over and over.  There are four things you should know about Xander on the bad side.  He's bouncy like Abby is.  Never, ever let him have too much chocolate or he's really bouncy, even worse than Abby is.  Never, ever let him date because he turns the women he dates evil.  Not the ones he works with but the ones he dates," Tony said, nodding at Calleigh.  "And the boy was raised by girls.  He called football gay sex in teams."  Speed choked at that.  "Exactly.  "He's a nice guy but we're still working on that thing.   He was definitely raised by girly girls.  Knows how to be a very good shopping buddy but doesn't personally care about his own clothes.  He helped do a face mask for McGee when he got exposed to some mustard gas.  It helped calm his skin down and soothe it.  The boy can probably braid hair better than a hairdresser, but the guy's all guy."

"Gay?" Eric asked.

"Bi," Abby admitted.  "With a strong leaning toward evil women.  Mostly ones who want to pay him for breathing.  We had a senator who was dancing with him and ended up kidnaping him.  She gave him a tux, some stuff to go with it, and demanded he come to some gala event, which was nice because he met your boss there."  Griffold snickered.  "I take it you saw him date?"

"Had to rescue him from two," he agreed.  "We don't know what sparks it but the boy turns some women homicidal and some women into money sending sluts around him.  I went out with him one weekend while he was with us, just to see what he did.  He was dancing.  Some woman walked up to him, kissed him, slid something in his pocket, then walked out.  He protested.  I walked over to see.  It was a hundred dollar bill with her phone number on it.  He does protest but it does happen."

"One gave him a very good deal on a used beamer," Tony told him.  That got a smirk.  "One gave him Ralph Lauren clothes the last time.  Drug him off shopping in handcuffs at gunpoint.   He helped her pick out what would look good on her and protested the whole time so someone called the local PD.  They ended up rescuing him but she demanded that the clothes go to him.  Even hers.  They wouldn't do it so when she got out on bail she walked them into the office and handed them to security, pretending it was something he had left in her car."  Calleigh whimpered.  "He doesn't do it to those he works with.  Just don't date the boy."

"I'll keep that in mind."  She smiled as Horatio and Xander came back in.  "You do look nice in that outfit, Xander."

"Thank you."  He beamed.  "Hi, Griffy."

"Hi, Xander."  He let himself be hugged.  "I've given them a good recommendation of how  you did in your field classes with me."  He got a grin for it.  "Now, let go."  Xander let him go.  "Thanks, kid.  Caine, you'll like the boy.  He's steady, he's smart, and he'll pull his own weight.  Plus more if you let him.  We found it *real* easy to let him slip into overtime."

"Us too," Abby agreed.  "We've had three different overnight shifts and he lasted longer than I did.  He's grumpy the next morning but still longer than I did."

"He's coming down.  You can quit pimping him," Horatio offered.  "Xander, Calleigh..."

"I know.  I looked.  She's like a Goddess whispered at by the instructors."  She blushed at that.  "You are.  My instructor said the first time I met you I was to bow to you and Bobby both because you were both gods of the field."

"Aww," she said, pinching him on the arm.  "We'll get along just fine in the lab, Xander."  He beamed and nodded. "Did Horatio give you the lab rules?  I know Abby drinks soda constantly in the lab."

"Can I have one out of the way, like on the desk?"

"That's fine," Horatio agreed.  "As long as there's no chance of contamination or it getting anywhere near anything.  Keep it in a sterile area."

"I can do that," he promised.  He heard a scream and looked out.  "Um, 'scuse me."  He went to check and pounced the demon back through the emergency exit it had come through, going to kill the stupid thing.  "You just had to do this in front of my friends, didn't you?  And worse, in front of the people who want to hire me to play with the pretty weapons!"  He gave it one last kick then said something, turning it into goo, letting it run down the drain.  He looked at himself then snuck up to his room, going to change quickly and head back down.  "Sorry," he said when he rejoined them.

Abby looked at him.  "Retired, Xander?"

"It came here and it's a dangerous thing," he defended.  "It would've eaten people."

"Fine.  Be a good boy."

"I'm trying.  It's being in Cleveland.  It's setting my teeth on edge."

"They won't be here, Xander.  Trust me," Tony promised.  "Your former friends are not going to come anywhere near here.  Even if one is that smart she'd never fit in and we'd know."  Xander nodded, relaxing again.  He smiled at the others, who looked a bit shocked.  "That's why he got sent to Gibbs.  To make sure the retirement stuck and he was handling the transition all right."  Xander slumped.  "Which he has.  He's done excellently with that.  The only person still scared of him is one terrorist, who he annoyed by kicking his ass, and Fornell."

Horatio cracked a smile.  "We have other techs who had military service.  I'm sure we can help him if he has to break out in the former skills."

"I consider it like reincarnation.  It's my old life," Xander assured him.  "It doesn't usually happen, Horatio.  I promise it doesn't."

"Calm down," he ordered quietly.  Xander nodded, accepting that. "You're still good, Xander.  Now, get to know your coworkers.  You're ours for at least the rest of your internship.  That's seven months?"  Xander nodded. "Then we'll see if you want to stay."  Xander nodded, letting Speed draw him off.   "Truth, Tony?"

"Truth, Horatio.  It's a former life for him.  He's had one attack him that I know of.  They consider him scary.  He's got a good rep among them.  We were out clubbing when he got attacked, the bouncer was one and he didn't attack him.  Xander told him he was retired too."

"Good.  I like that boy more and more."  He smiled at the return of the bouncy boy.  "That's going to drive Speed nuts in the lab."

"I thought so too but you really do learn to appreciate the boy after having him around for a few weeks," Griffold told him.  "When he left I moped, guys.  Fully moped.  Xander's good at taking up any slack he sees.  Even if you're just having a lazy day he'll do it for you and then expect to do it the next time.  Whoever those girls who warped him were, they did bad things to his self-esteem.  He feels like he's got to prove himself repeatedly, every day.  It's very easy to abuse Xander into doing too much."

"He's pulled fifty hour weeks with us," Tony admitted.  "He's only supposed to have thirty and he's pulled fifty.  Even Gibbs likes the boy.  Just don't let him date.  One of my exes, very sweet and nice to me, a real baking cookies and brownies sort, ended up trying to keep him in her closet.  She didn't pat him down so he called off work that morning due to playing with her chiffon dresses.  Gibbs was not amused when he had to make her give him up.  She's still pouting about not having a Xander of her own."

"Don't tell them that.  I'll never get to go have fun," Xander complained.  "Tony!"

Tony grinned at him. "This way they know to go out with you, that way it's harder to snatch you, Xander."

Xander shook his head.  "Just because you let Evilista take me...."

Abby patted him on the back. "It's all right, Xander.  Some day you'll settle down. They'll be the ones to protect you then."  She rubbed his back.  She looked around. "Did you see your dad lurking in the lobby?"

"Yup.  Behind a newspaper. I'm ignoring it this time.  He's being overprotective because it's Cleveland."

"Want to put that behind you once and for all, kid?" Speed suggested.

Xander looked at him. "I'm not that young.  Really."  That got a snort.  "I'm nearly twenty-eight, Speedle."

"Speed, kid."


"That's okay, you'll learn."  He patted him on the back.  "You can't move on until you put it behind you.  Then maybe the women problem you have would calm down."

"With his luck, they'll come to Miami to try to hurt him," Tony told him.  Xander gave him a look.  "I researched, sue me I'm like that, Xander."

"Did she show up?"

"Rosenburg did," he admitted.  "I let Kate have her."  He grinned sweetly.  "She and Abby took her to lunch for that very important talk."

Xander moaned.  "Poor Kate.  Did she warp you, Abby?"

"No, sweetie, but she left crying."

"Good.  I like that."  He nodded, taking a sip of his drink.  "Eww.  Someone put liquor in this."  He went to the bar to change it out.  "Someone put liquor in my soda."  Another was handed over.  "Thanks."  He paid for it and went back to the group.  "Sorry.  Don't hardly drink.  Maybe a beer a month."

"I don't usually drink either," Abby said.  "I will the night you leave.  I'll miss you so you had better write, Mister."  Xander gave her a hug.  "Awww.  It'll be okay.  They'll nurture you like I would or else I'll send Gibbs after them.  I'll even take Kate's midol and let her help."  She patted him on the back, smiling at Horatio.  "When did you want him?"

"We can use him now actually," he admitted. "Our last one had a car accident due to stupidity."

Xander looked at him.  "It'll take me a few days to do the paperwork and drive down."

"That's fine, Xander.  Say a week from this coming Monday?"

"Sure."  That got a smile and a hug. "Thank you."

"You're welcome.  Let go."  Xander let him go, giving him a sheepish look.  "You'll learn better, Xander.  You'll have fun in Miami as well."  That got a grin.  "Take Calleigh to talk to her about her lab.  That way she can tell you how she wants things done."  They nodded and walked off together.  He smoothed out the single wrinkle he had.  "These ladies are where?"

Tony pulled out a piece of paper and wrote it down.  "There."  He grinned. "We were going over there later to make fun of them for not appreciating the boy.  If Gibbs hasn't destroyed them by now.  He went when we got in."

"Good."  He put it into his pocket. "Speed, Eric?"

"I'll give the kid a try, H," Speed promised. "He sounds like he knows most of his stuff in Trace."

Eric nodded.  "I can definitely use a new intern to abuse and make carry stuff.  Maybe he'll help me move."

"Hire someone, Eric," Horatio sighed, shaking his head.  "Don't abuse our tech."

"Yes, H," the guys said, giving him hurt looks.

Tony snorted.  "Guys, trust me.  Xander off duty and Xander on duty are two different Xanders.  The same as Xander in danger and Xander on or off duty are different Xanders.   Give it two weeks.  Even Gibbs wasn't sure how Abby did without a Xander before."  They snickered at that, going to help tell the boy how the lab was run.  Tony looked at Horatio.  "I'll make sure his last stipend gets to you guys for him."

"That would be appreciated."  He shook his hand.  "I'll want evaluations, Abby."

"I can do a final one.  I haven't been doing weekly ones.  It's like he's a fully trained tech, Horatio.  He's as professional as I am.  Oh, watch out for some of his t-shirts.  After the 'I see stupid people who annoy me and therefore are targets' the director made him quit wearing them."  Tony nodded at that.  Then he walked off shaking his head.  "I think he's seen most of Xander's closet.  He helped him with the social stuff before the gala."  She sipped her soda.  "Are you sure you can handle him?"

"I'm very sure, Abby.  We've had one intern quit, one get severely hurt because she was drunk driving, and one who got fired for tampering with evidence when it didn't come out like she wanted it to.  We've got the open spots.  As for later spots I'm not sure yet.  We'll have to see in seven months."  She beamed and nodded.  "What didn't you have a chance to make sure he could do."  She pulled out the sheets she had downloaded off UCLA's site, handing them over.  "Hmm.  A lot of similar cases?"

"We deal in military crimes.  We get a few homicides now and then, a rare abuse case, and some B&E's, Horatio.  We're not that diverse.  I will note that Xander has *no* idea how to run DNA.  At all.  Ever.  He can run most chem tests but not DNA.  He's barely proficient in that and fingerprints.  The baseline you'd expect for a tech subbing."

"That's good.  I don't expect any specialist tech to be superhuman."  She smiled at that and gave him a hug, bouncing off.  He grinned, going back over the notes.  It was a good thing.  He heard a familiar voice and smiled back at him.  "Mac Taylor."

"Horatio Caine."  He shook his hand.  "How's your team?"

"Good.  We just found a new intern being sadly underused at NCIS."

"So I take it Abby's here with her wonder apprentice?" he teased.

"You've heard?"

"She's got an email pal relationship with one of ours," he admitted.  "She told him Xander's a great guy, even though he does take work from her hand so he has something to do.  She claims he's like a lion in a very small cage."  Horatio smiled and nodded.  "You're poaching?"

"Mutual decision," Xander said as he walked back over.  "Boss, I forgot to ask about dress code."

"Comfortable, you can wear jeans as long as we don't have an inspection planned.  No t- shirts that would make anyone scream.  Sneakers are fine as long as they're not too dirty or nasty."

Xander beamed. "Thanks, boss."  He gave him another hug and bounced off.

Horatio smiled at Mac, who was snickering.  "That's Abby's Xander.  Even Gibbs likes the kid.  He's off threatening his former friends for him."

"Interesting.  So he'll be here?"

"He and DiNozzo both escorted Abby and Xander up."  He handed over the forms Abby had given him.  "She hasn't had a wide range of cases."

"I can see that.  Pity.  We could use the kid."

"We've had three techs have to lose their job, Mac.  We need him more."

"What's his field?"

"He was second out of UCLA's last graduating class," he said with a fond smile for his team.  They were already integrating Xander.  It was good to see.

"I heard they had a hotshot young ballistics guy with demo experience," Mac admitted.

"He does?"  Mac smirked and nodded.  "Xander?"  He looked over.  He motioned him closer.  "You know explosives?"

"She didn't tell you I used to work construction and I have demolitions and explosives experience from that?" he asked hesitantly.  "Gibbs sent me in for further training.  I'm good up to the spaghetti wire bombs, boss.  Really.  They even put my ratings in the federal database when he tested me and upped my skills."

"I'm proud.  She hadn't told me," Horatio admitted, smiling at him.  "It's always good, Xander.  The more skills you have the better job you'll find."  Xander nodded at that.  "Have you met Mac Taylor yet?"

"I think he came out to recruit one of my fellow interns," he said, shaking his hand.  "Hi, Xander Harris."

"I wish I had a ballistics spot open, Xander.  I would've taken you too.  I heard good things about you in the program."  The boy gave him a shy grin.  "Go play."  Xander ran off again.  "He's an eager little puppy."

"Yes he is and he'll definitely be good for my lab," Horatio said happily.

"No, if you take him out, you take handcuffs and go armed," Abby told Eric loudly.  "Or else he'll be stolen and no one will have a Xander but some selfish girl!"

Mac patted Horatio on the back.  "Let me know how he turns out.  I might have a spot open."

"If he's that good I doubt I'll let him go, Mac," he said mildly.   He gave him a look. "Have you seen Gil?"

"Not yet.  He might not make it this time."

"He's speaking, I'd hope so."

"Really?"  He looked at the schedule of discussions.  "Hey, he is.  Maybe we'll have lunch."  He smiled and looked around.  "There's Danny and Sheldon."

"No Stella?"

"She's being cranky, I made her stay at home."

"Pity.  She does have fun at these."  They shared a smile and went to talk to their usual teams.


Xander parked his car in the visitor's lot in Miami, getting out and patting the hood.  "I'll get that ding fixed this week, baby."  He walked inside, shaking his head at Horatio's concerned look.  "Someone took out my battery."

"I got that message."  He smiled at him.  "Ready to work?"  Xander jogged back out, coming back with his lab coat, glasses, and locker bag.  "Bag for your locker?"  He nodded.  "Good."  He walked him that way, letting him have his locker.  He watched what he loaded.  "You keep sterile scrubs?"

"We had someone using uranium to make bullets.  We had a lot of decontam lectures that week.  We were doing a walk-through in the lab and I stupidly volunteered."  He shrugged.  "So now I keep them.  They're sealed."  He finished putting things up and put his lock on the door, handing Horatio the spare key.  "Just in case."

"That works."  He walked him off, watching as the boy put his labcoat on over his 'the voices tell me pretty things' t-shirt.  He could only mentally shake his head at the shirt.  It wasn't any worse than anything Speed had worn.  He walked him into the ballistics lab.  "This is your primary lab unless Speed or someone needs help in Trace.  Understood?"  Xander nodded eagerly.  "Good.  Calleigh's out on a call.  Let's let you familiarize yourself and then you can do anything she's got lying around."

"Yes, boss."

"Good boy, Xander.  My office is there," he said, pointing it out.  "If you need anything, come to me.  Let the other techs get used to you."  He nodded.  "Good boy."  He patted him on the shoulder and left, going to watch him from afar.  It only took him two minutes to look over everything and log into the computer Calleigh wasn't logged into.  Fortunately he had managed to get all his forms done in that intervening week.   Xander looked at what had been gathered then checked her computer for reports.  He checked the seals on the back, smiling when he passed some over.  She had resealed them.  Good instincts.  Xander looked at one that was apparently open.  He'd have to talk to her about that.  He checked the comparison microscope again, finding that bullet.  He put the envelope in front of it.  Then he picked up the next one to get to work on.  He was clearly comfortable.  He also snuck in earbuds, making him smile.  Soon he was dancing around in the lab and it was all right.  He was fast, he did do the warning calls when he was in the firing pen, he could barely hear him.  He worked in a steady, methodical way, writing reports once each one was done.  He'd have to check on those for style.  Eric paused beside him, watching what he was.  "His battery was removed."

"That sucks.  He good?"

"So far he looks good.  He's done two samples and a test fire.  Reports on all of them."

"Hell, he's better than I am then."  He shrugged.  "When is he getting into the field to see how he handles it?"

"Pick something simple, Eric."

"Sure. Calleigh's on her way back.  She said to warn you she's got an ancient long musket with her."

"I'm sure they'll both coo over it."  Xander looked up and smiled and waved, then got back to work.  "He's definitely comfortable in there."

"It's a good thing," Eric agreed, going to lean in there.  "Xander?"  He shook his head to dislodge an ear bud, earning a smile.  "Good idea.  Calleigh's coming in with a long musket.  She'll need space."

"That's fine.  I'm nearly done with the samples she left out.  I'll make room."  He went to do that, shifting things but keeping the piles he had already made.  It left her a full exam table and he went back to it.  "Would you like to proof a report, make sure it makes sense and has what you guys need?"

"Sure."  He came in to read one of his, looking it over.  "This isn't bad," he decided.  "Very informative."  He patted him on the back.  "It'll do."  He walked out smiling.  "He writes good reports, H."

"Good.  I look forward to seeing the first of them tonight."  He watched as Calleigh came in.  "Did it fire?"

"It did.  We're pretty sure into our suspect."  She walked in and looked at him.  "Why were you late?"

"Someone took my battery from my car," he pouted.  He looked at her.  "I called in."

"No one told me.   I get that a lot.  You'll call me directly, Xander."   He nodded, pointing at the open spot.  "Thank you."  She looked at the piles.  "Sorted by what criteria?"

"Whether or not you had signed off on the seals already."

"Good idea."  She came over to look at what he was doing.  "You left that one open?"

"I figured you had a reason since it was like that when I came in and there was someone in here to make sure it wasn't tampered with.  That's why I put the envelope there, so I wouldn't get it mixed up."  He looked at her, then grinned and kissed her on the cheek.  "I've done the first few.  Even the reports.  And yes, Abby let me do that."

"Be less friendly."

"I'd never date you, Calleigh.  I like to flirt but I'd never date you.  You're scary enough without being turned evil."

"Not all women turn evil, Xander."

"I made the last one a serial killer.  The one before that went from a former demon to a money grubbing nympho that was never satisfied and let everyone know in graphic, loud detail.  The one before that was already slightly evil.  She was a mean cheerleader.  Head bitch of the school."  He shrugged.  "Then again I used to have a crush on Buffy too and it broke about the same time her personality started to shift.  Then she went mean."

"That is a lot of empirical evidence," she admitted.  "Patting is fine, hugging and kissing me on the cheek unless I'm bruised is not.  I'm a tough woman, as tough as any guy in here."

He looked at her. "Of course you are.  You're blonde.  All blondes are because they have to put up with guys like Angel."  He shrugged and went back to work.  He knew she was rolling her eyes.  "Do I get to test fire the musket?  I've never packed one."

"We'll see if it can fire.  I've got to look up the procedure myself."  She looked at what he had done, doing a recheck of his samples.  "Good job," she said.  "I like the reports. They're concise without being too wordy."

"Prof Destra kept getting on me for babbling in my reports.  We worked two weeks on getting them down into that style."

"That works for me," she decided.  "Has anyone else seen one?"


"Run one by Speed.  That second one is on a case of his.  Spell check it and then go hand it in."  Xander nodded, finishing up what he was doing and doing that report before doing that task.  He resealed the bag and signed it properly, putting it in his pile.  Then he walked off with the report and sample in hand.  She'd wait a week to be impressed, make sure it wasn't just first day skills.  She did settle in to look up how you packed a musket so it'd fire.  She had no idea.

Xander tapped on the glass wall beside the door into Trace.  "I'm done with a sample on your case and Calleigh said to run the report by you too, Speed."

"Sure.  Anything good?"

"Two matches in the system to the same gun.   No known registered owner but a bit of research showed that it had been with a package of guns that were going around to gun shows out of Georgia.  It was listed as a show model for ordering purposes.  The dealer reported it stolen four months ago along with four other guns, all revolvers for some reason, and they're included as a footnote in case you run into them."

Speed nodded, looking over the report.  "This is a good job, Xander.  It's all in there.  Including name and number so I can look it up either way.  Good job."  He put it down.  "You doing okay?"

"Now that I have a new battery for my car.  I have to run down and put change in the meter at lunch and after work I'll have to figure out where I get a parking pass from."

"Downtown.  Let H call.  They might send him one so you don't have to go all the way down there.  If you get a ticket, tell H and he'll have it fixed."  Xander nodded.  "Okay, get familiar with this lab.  Calleigh can have you back in a minute."

Xander walked around, looking at everything.  "Did they plan to put them in this order or was it personal preference?"

"That's how the movers put them in and we're not strong enough to move them around.  We've gotten used to it."  Xander nodded, going on again.  "We've also got a tester lab with a lot of new equipment.  We're one of the top technogeek labs in the country."

"I heard.  Abby cooed that a few times."  He grinned.  "I'm not a computer guy.  She hacked, I can run what I need to on them.  I'd like to learn more some day but it's not my thing.  That was Willow."  That got a nod.  "But if we get to play with the toys," he offered with a grin.

Speed snorted.  "I'm sure you can sometime soon.  I'll have you in here with me tomorrow to check your proficiencies."

"Okay."  He went back to ballistics.  She gave him a look.  "Speed had me look around in there."

"I figured he did.  I was checking for sodas.  Relax, Xander."  He nodded, going to look over the musket.  She heard him open a swab and looked back at him.  "What are you doing?"

"Removing the green goop and what looks like blood from inside the trigger guard."  He finished scooping it up and sealed the swab, writing on the box where it had come from.  "What's the case number?"  She showed him the evidence tag and he copied off it.  He looked closer, going over the other evidence.  He even sniffed the end.  "Smells like gunpowder but damp gunpowder."  He flipped it over, going over that side then the hammer area.  He found another spot of something.  "It's too sticky to be gunpowder," he explained, swabbing it up.  He capped it and wrote on the box what it was too.  Then he looked at her.  "Do we need to clean it before we do a test fire?"

"I'm not sure.  I've got a call in to an expert to come look it over."  He nodded.  "Take those to Speed.  Come back when he's got reports for me."  He nodded, going to do that.  She smiled at his back.  He was trying very hard to be impressive.  She definitely was getting there.

"Speed, we found stuff on the musket Calleigh brought back in.  Where's the pile?"

"Go ahead and run it, Xander.  I'll make sure you know what you're doing."

"Okay.  One's a split blood sample I think.  Should I bring it to DNA first or here?  I know there's different protocols in each lab."

"Let me see."  Xander let him see the swab.  "Bring that to DNA first then bring the rest back here."  Xander nodded, taking them both with him.  He smiled at his back.  He was trying very hard.

Xander leaned into DNA.  "Hi, I'm a Xander intern.  I just found what I think is blood mixed in with my goop on the musket Calleigh brought back."

"I can check and see," she said happily.  "Which intern are you?"

"Ballistics with a minor in trace," he said, handing over that one.  "I tried to keep it on different sides, just in case.  It was too mixed in to take different swabs and not enough area."

"That's a good idea."  She looked at it.  "Well done, Xander."  She took a small piece off and started it.  "I've got it.  I'll bring it to Calleigh?"

"Okay.  I'm in Trace for the moment."  He took it and resealed it, letting her initial that she had processed it and make note of the case on her sheet.  Then he went back to Trace to do his own tests.

Speed looked at his sliver of swab.  "Economical."

"Thank you.  Big enough?"

"Should be."  He watched Xander do everything he should, arms crossed over his chest, one hip against the table while he watched him.  The kid was clearly nervous at being watched but that was normal.  He ran it in the proper machine, taking the paper out to frown at it.  "What is it?"

"Organic hair gel."  He handed it over and got to work on the second one.  "This may be gunpowder but it's sticky and was under the hammer."

"Don't they have fuses?"

"This one had a hammer and trigger.  Post fuse tube days."  He readied that sample and ran it, smiling when it came out as a seaweed.  "Very interesting."  He settled in to log into the computer and do his reports.  Speed came over to read over his shoulder, nodding at the lack of change of style.  "Good?"

"Very good."  He patted him on the back.  "Check on DNA then bring it to Calleigh."

"Yes, Speed."  He finished up, cleaning up his mess, took off his gloves and disposed of them properly, then went to bug DNA for his results.  "Hi.  Get anything?"

"It's almost finished with the machine," she said happily.  "What was the green stuff?"

"Organic hair gel."

"Eww."  He nodded.  Her printer spit a report and she looked at it.  "Hmm."  She ran it through the system, coming up with a human attached to it.  "Make sure this is her owner of it," she ordered, printing out that report as well. She handed them both over.  "There you go, Xander.  If we're free for lunch at the same time, wanna eat together?"

"Sure, but fair warning, I flirt without the follow through because I turn women evil."  He grinned and walked off to her laughter.  "Calleigh, got reports," he called, coming in and gloving up again properly.  She came out of the firing pen.  "The green goop was hair gel.  There was blood.  That's who it belonged to and the black stuff was seaweed."  He handed them over, letting her look.

"The DNA is the registered owner, that doesn't really surprise me.  The hair gel is a bit odd.  The seaweed is very strange, especially there."

"Well, it does smell damp," Xander offered.  "Maybe it was on a boat?"

"Maybe," she admitted.  She looked him over.  "No gun?"

"Horatio said I can't carry it in the lab because I'm an intern."

"That's reasonable.  Where is it?"

"In my locker and he's got the extra key."  He looked at her.  "Along with a few clean t- shirts, including one without the logo or saying, and a few clean pairs of pants.  Plus a set of sterile scrubs.  We had a guy who was making uranium bullets out in LA while we were doing a visit to the labs in LA and I was bored on the tour so I volunteered to help before they knew that fact."  She winced.  "It was okay.  Decontam showers are okay I guess.  I started putting one of those in my bag after that, just in case it became necessary.  That and my first aid kit."

"Usually we get that sort of stuff from Alexx.  Have you met Alexx yet?"

"Not yet.  Is he nice?"

"She's our ME, Xander.  She's like a mother to the unit."

Horatio walked in.  "She's on her way up.  Eric told her he was here."  He looked at the musket.  "That is very dirty."

"Yeah but it smells damp," Xander told him.

Calleigh nodded.  "It does so I've got a call in to someone to see if we need to clean it and how to pack it again for a test fire."

"That's fine."  He smiled and looked at Xander's computer then at him.  He handed over his reports from Trace with a grin.  "That'll work as well."  He looked it over.  "This is good but not technical."

"Prof Destra said to put it into plain english wherever possible because it'd eventually end up in the hands of a lawyer somewhere and they couldn't always read them accurately.  So unless it's a necessary technical term she said not to.  Is that okay?"

"That's fine, Xander.  We don't mind.  It makes it easier to read.  Some of the detectives like to read them too and can't always learn all the terms."  He smiled at him.  "Good work so far.  Remember, Alexx may hug.  Let her."  Xander nodded.  "Calleigh?  Anything else?"

"He found blood and organic hair gel in the trigger guard.  Blood is the owner's.  Under the hammer he found seaweed.  He thinks it may've been by the water, hence the dampness of the powder."

"That's a reasonable assumption.  Where was the body killed?"

"We think the marina but we can't prove definitively.  The body was moved and cleaned, and the only spots that it could've been were cleaned by the staff there.  They didn't say anything about blood but they wouldn't.  It's a country club marina."

"It happens."

"Was the seaweed specific to an area?" Xander asked.  "Could we narrow it down with that?"

"It's fairly common," Calleigh told him.  "We might be able to narrow it down some but probably to about half the city."  He nodded.  "That's a good question though.  I hadn't thought of that."

"See if Eric would know," Horatio offered.  Alexx walked in.  "Alexx Woods, this is Xander Harris, our new ballistics and trace intern."

"Hi," he said, grinning and shaking her hand.

"Hi, sugar."  She looked him over.  "You're a bit older than the fratboy who used to be in here."

"I worked for a few years before school.  I used to work construction."

"That's good.  It gives you more experience to draw on."  She stroked his cheek.  "Why were you late this morning?"

"Some unkind person jacked my battery from my car."

She chuckled.  "It can happen in some areas of the city.  Where are you staying, dear?"

"At the next step up from the Bates motel but it's got free cable and HBO."  She smiled. "It's a spring break place."

"I've got a couch in the morgue if the boys and girls partying annoy you this spring," she assured him.  "Now, how is he doing today, Horatio?"

"Very good so far.  Speed said he's at the standard he would set.  Calleigh's said the same thing."  She nodded.  "He does good reports.  I think he'll do fine without the usual intern problems."

"No, I don't plan on coming in with a hangover or running into a telephone pole."  He looked at him.  "Bobby said Sheila did that.  She was a bit toasty after a payday.  The same as I'm not going to call off on paydays or the day after paydays.   I ran my site for over a year, Horatio.  I'm not a little kid."

"We'll expect it," he assured him, smiling at her.  "You remember Abby?"

"Charming little strange girl with pigtails."  Xander burst out in giggles at that.  "She was."

"She's a bit goth but I've seen worse.  LA is the capitol of strange.  We had a group of nudists who worshiped a camel out there that I got to go on a call to because they ignored the other tech students on rotation.  Sheila got so frustrated."

"How did you get their attention?"

"I threatened to light the camel on fire or call someone to confiscate it.  They paid attention and we got what we needed from them.  Turns out the camel sat on him and he smothered in it's hind end."  Alexx stared for a minute then burst out in laughs, giving him a hug before walking off.

"You shouldn't taunt those with delusions, Xander.  They get upset."

"I didn't do much taunting, Horatio.  Just told the one that I'd have to if we didn't get the help we needed finding the body and taking questions.  The teacher said next time to leave off the threat to torch the poor animal and call the ASPCA directly.  They had to move, camels weren't allowed in that neighborhood."

Horatio walked off shaking his head but smiling.

"You are definitely unique, Xander," Calleigh said.  "Can you get a sample of the gunpowder in there?"  He nodded, going to find the filament camera and a long spoon.  She looked confused but he took pictures of it then covered the spoon with a glove's finger, using that to bring it out.  "Nice job."

"I didn't want to hit anything and we needed the picture proof if we had to clean it before we could fire.  Plus so your expert could see."  He snipped the finger of the glove off into the evidence bag once he had tipped the powder into it.  "There we go.  Should I mas spec it?"

"No.  It's gunpowder.  We shouldn't need a relative sample, I hope."  He nodded, labeling it and putting it aside.  "Let's look at the exemplar cabinet."  He nodded, following her, cooing and petting a few of the babies in there.  She had to smile at that.  Especially when he offered to clean it for her.  He was definitely meant to be a ballistics tech.  No one else but gun nutjobs cooed over their weapons.  She left him after making sure he knew what he was doing with the first one, going back to check over his other results.  She found one that was a partial match but his report gave a relative percentage and included pictures from the microscope.  She was quickly moving into impressed.  If he stayed like this she'd be threatening someone to keep him.  Valera ducked in.  "Hi.  Come to meet Xander?"

"I did that when he brought over the blood.  I was wondering if he was free for lunch yet.  He said he'd eat with me if he was."

"He got here a bit late today."

"I heard someone took his car battery."  She nodded at that.  "He okay?"

"I'm fine.  Can I take a soda break, Calleigh?"

"That you can do.  You can have lunch later."

"Sure."  He put together the last gun and put it up, putting a ribbon in his spot.  "That way I know where to come back to," he said at her curious look.  He cleaned off his hands, took off his gloves and jacket, then walked out with her. He could take fifteen minutes to have a soda and chat with his new coworkers.  He found another one in there.  "Hi, I'm a Xander intern."  He shook his hand.

"I'm Cooper, I'm in AV.  Call me DC, most people do."

"That's cool."  He looked at the selection, grimacing, but picked out his favorite caffeine from the selections.  "Diet?"

"Miami is very weight conscious," Valera told him.

"Oh, tell the truth.  Speed decided his butt was getting big and talked Horatio into changing it out," Cooper told her.  She gave him a look.  "He did."

"He's a skinny guy," Xander complained, sitting down.  "I'm bigger than he is."  He popped the top.  "Before you ask, I'm bi with a strong leaning toward women.  I'm of the sort that you either like me or don't."

"I don't care as long as you don't hit on me," Cooper assured him.

"Didn't cross my mind," he said dryly, giving him a wicked grin.  "But I will accept good het club recommendations for when I want to go turn women evil."

"Evil?" he teased back.

"My last one turned serial killer.  The one before that turned into a money grubbing nympho.  Before that was a mean, snarky cheerleader."

"With that evidence I'm not shocked.   Which serial killer?"

"Tanya Pertusin.  Former stripper.  She decided she hated my former friends and how they warped me enough to kill their likenesses repeatedly."  He finished his soda.  "Gotta go back, I'm only on soda break."  He jogged back to his lab, sliding inside behind the older guy looking at the musket.  "Hi."

"Hi. You must be her intern."  He shook his hand.

"Yup, I'm Xander.  How much recoil would one of those have?"

"A good bit at this size but it wouldn't have that much distance without a very powerful black powder.  Did you analyze the powder to see how strong it was?"

"It was damp," she told him.  "We have a sample and we can do that.  Xander?"  He grabbed it and went to Trace to run it.  "Could that thing have worked?"

"It's possible.  I'm not sure what sort of projectile he could have used except shot."  She let him see the lump of lead they had found.  "That's possible. It's the right size," he admitted. He looked at the musket then at the lump again.  "It's very possible."  Xander came back.  "What strength was it?"  He let him see it.  "Hmm, fairly weak."

"Having it be wet down might've changed the charge," he offered. "I know damp bullets often won't fire or if they do they don't do as well or go as far."

"That is true," he agreed, smiling at him.  "You are in the right field."

"I like artillery too," he quipped.   The professor laughed and nodded.  "What sort of range?  Average."

"Ten feet maybe."  He looked inside again.  "Do we have a light?"

"We do and Xander took a filament camera to it when he got the sample."  She ran it so he could see it.

"You'll definitely have to clean it and I can do a test fire for you, Calleigh."  She smiled at that.  "Do we have a suitable bullet?"

"I can pry one if you need me to," Xander assured him.  That got a nod so he looked in the microscope. "Twenty-five or thirty eight?  That looks halfway in between."

"Twenty-five," Calleigh ordered.  "We don't want it to jam."  He nodded, finding a spare one in the cabinet, coming out to clamp it and pry it apart.  "You're good.  Do you hand pack your own?"

"Now and then.  Never enough when I need them sometimes," he admitted as he worked.  He handed over the bullet, making sure he cleaned up the spilled gunpowder and casing.  He followed them back into the firing pen to see what he was doing.  Just in case they had to test fire another one sometime.  Xander even took notes.  He was a student.  "Is that a standard size or are there different calibers?"

"There's some difference in barrel size," he admitted.  "Most commonly they used loose packed shot for hunting."  Xander nodded, making a note of that as well.  "You're very diligent."

"Some year I'll have to run my own ballistics department."

"Good point."  He finished cleaning it and reloaded, then lifted it up and sighted it.  "The sight's off by about two degrees to the right, Calleigh.  Usually you don't tip your head that way."

"You would for stability, or using your cheek as an extra brace.  It'd kick back, not up, right?"  They both nodded.  He took it to hold, showing them how he'd do that.  "They're left handed.  This is awkward for me."  He let her have it.  She tried it and nodded, handing it back to the professor.  He fired it and Xander went to gather the bullet, bringing it back.  "Still not a great range," he admitted, letting her see how it had been squashed.  "Would that match and would other bullets come out of other muskets in the same relative shape?"

"Each mass would come out differently, even from the same gun, Xander.  No much rifling to guide it.  It would depend on the mass of black powder and how heavily you tamped it down.  How strong it was.  All that would change it."

"So it's not a constant but we could make sure it was similar."  He nodded.  He looked at Calleigh.  Then back at the professor.  "How many muskets do you think there are in the regional area?  Reconstructionists and the like?"

"Maybe sixty if I'm being generous.  There's not many Civil War or Revolutionary War buffs down here.  There's a nice group up in the panhandle," he offered.  "I haven't heard of one down here.  Do we doubt that's the gun?"

"Not if she doesn't but there's a defense attorney somewhere with brains to ask that."

"Good point."  He smiled at him.  "Very crafty too."

"Of course I am. I had to live on my wits for a very long time." He gave him a look then he grinned his most goofy grin.  "How many of that sixty are in your collection?  I think she said you work with an auction house or a museum?"

"I do.  A museum collection of pre-Civil War relics."  He looked at him.  "Surely you don't suspect me."

"No, just wondering.  Gathering facts to refute."

He nodded.  "Again, a wise move.  I have ten of them in my control or where I could get to them.  You are right that I did reconstruct Revolutionary War scenarios in my youth, up in Massachusetts.   I know more about the culture up there.  I moved down here because the heat was good for my joints.  You should also know that the dampness you found could have been caused by improper storage.  Humidity is still moisture."

"I hadn't thought about that.  I'm from near the desert out by LA."  He grinned.  "Thank you, Professor."

"You're welcome, Xander."  He walked out, nodding at Calleigh.  "He's a very smart young man."

"He is.  Thank you."  She smiled at him until he left.  "Xander?" she said sweetly, looking at him.

"Is that our gun?"

"Not with that range or strength.  They weren't that close.  What tipped you off?"  He motioned her closer, pointing at the gunpowder cone on the floor.  "It is wider but we haven't found the kill site yet."

"No, but with that much residue and the distance it went, it'd have been all over him.  The report on your desk didn't mention it on his clothes."

"Good point.  What are you thinking?"

"A quick study on muskets to find a deeper distance one.  Since there's a group in the panhandle we could ask them. Give them general facts but nothing too definitive in case they know the killer."

"We can," she agreed.  "Write that email when you find them but let me see it first."  He nodded, going to do that.  "Do you think he was lying?"

"No, but I think he has an idea who could have done that.  He gave the distance a thoughtful look and glanced at the pictures we had before he left and earlier he was scanning facts."

"So you think he knows a suspect."  He nodded.  "Would this group know?"

"The only ones I know cling together like geeks in high school.  It's not like their normal friends will coo when they get a new musket."

"Good point."  She rebagged the rifle and put it aside, coming over to watch him search.  "You're spelling it wrong."  He corrected that and redid the search.  "Is that them?"

"No, they're in Orlando.  Want me to try them?"

"Go ahead."  He clicked on that link, getting onto their webpage.  "They even have links to sites that give historical information."  He found one that looked promising, it gave gun and knife statistics and characteristics.  "Hmm, someone's a ballistics person."

Xander clicked on his 'email me' link and worked out how to word the email, letting her approve it.  She nodded and put both their names on it, sending it to him.  They got back an answer an hour later with exactly where they needed to look for guns and a few owners he knew of.  He did note one was a rabid collector and if he didn't know, it wasn't a reconstructionist.  They smiled and she took the information with her to question that person.  Xander went to clean the firing pen for a while.  The rest of the lab was done and he could sanitize it after he was done.

Speed came in.  "Is that a musket?"

"Yup.  Not the right one but yup."  He grinned back at him.  "Let me finish cleaning in here then clean up so I can't transfer."

"You'll be keeping a separate jacket in trace, Xander.  That way you don't have to worry about transfer."

"Sure, I've got four in my locker," he promised.  He grinned and went back to cleaning.  "Those things aren't that efficient."

"Yeah, but better than a bow and arrow."

"Not really.  It only went ten feet.  I've gotten more range with a crossbow, which they had at that time.  I heard dueling pistols did too."

"Maybe it was that design then.  When you're done, hit lunch.  Clean up and you'll come help me until she gets something else."

"Yes, Speed."  He finished cleaning under his watchful gaze, then went to clean his hands and carefully put his jacket on the rack facing the wall.  That way it wouldn't contaminate hers.  He washed his hands again and went to find lunch from a machine.  Speed shook his head, going back to his lab to figure out what he wanted to test the boy on.  So far he had done okay.  By the time he came back he had some more challenging samples and Xander clearly had some weak spots but he took instruction well.  Only one thing wouldn't go for him and Speed realized it was a depth perception problem so he helped him figure out how to compensate using a ruler this time.  By the time Calleigh got back, he had a fair idea of where to start the boy the next day.  She leaned in after checking her lab.  "I needed to set his levels in here."

"That's more than fine, Speed.  I've got one bullet laying in there."

"Was it magic? I didn't see anyone going in," Xander said.

"Alexx dropped it by a minute ago," Speed said.  "While we were fiddling with the exact distance pouring problem."  That got a nod and Xander finished what he was doing.  "Ah!  Slower."  He shook it slower.  "Better."  He looked at Calleigh.  "He'll keep separate coats in each place, just in case of transfer."  She nodded, leaving them alone.  "Much better, Xander."  He watched the boy run it, nodding in appreciation.  "Very good."  He patted him on the back.  "Go back to your mistress."  Xander grinned and took off his coat and gloves, heading back over there.  He came back a minute later and got into his jacket and new gloves.  "She didn't need you?"

"She said you're backed up."  Horatio walked in.  "Hi, boss."

"Xander, who is Tanya?"

"My serial killer ex.  Why?"

"She's escaped."

"Charming.  She was in a mental home.  Apparently the padded walls didn't sing right.  I'll be careful.  If she's here she'll go after blondes and redheads.  Just like those two in Cleveland."

"I did meet them."  Xander gaped at him.  "I pointed out that leaving you alone was probably the better idea since Willow had come to bother someone about you recently.  I'm sure they got the point since Abby pointed out threatening her was the best way to end up in jail."  Xander grinned at that, a shy, sheepish one.  "So it'll be fine.  If she does approach you...."

"I'll call you first."

"Good.  That's what I wanted to hear.  I don't want you to take her on, Xander."

"Horatio, she's not that bright.  She chatted, smiling and happy, with the detectives my teacher finally got through to out there like they were best friends about the mean ones who made her kill others.  It was like they were baking cookies before a sleepover.  She was a stripper, I didn't date her for her brains."

Horatio smothered a laugh at that.  "Still, call someone first, Xander.  We will come help you."

"Yes, Horatio."

"Is there anyone else I should worry about?"

"There's a former student who's in the same place.  Her name's Valeria Marks.  She was a Science major at UCLA.  She got kicked out for ethical violations.  She was using some of her fellow students to experiment on.  I turned her down and ended up running away from her and having her arrested when she tried to force me to participate.  They were in the same mental health facility so there's every chance at least of them getting together."

"I'll keep that in mind.  Are you done with him, Speed?"

"Let's look at the result.  I wasn't sure about this one anyway."  The printer started to print and he grabbed it when it fell into the tray.  "Hmmm.  That's odd."

Xander looked.  "We needed to take the first solution and cut it in half, diluting each side with either a base or an alkali."  He moved to do that with the remaining sample, letting him have them to run.  They came out clearer this time and he smiled.  "How's that?"

"That's good.  Abby teach you that?"  He nodded.  "Why?"

"It broke down the original solution.  Some things will automatically combine and change when added to water or another liquid.  Like salt will automatically dissolve."

"Good point.  Using each side let you break it down and see which side it was, plus the base chemicals could come back out.  Now, what was it originally?"

"Organic chem was not my forte," he warned.  "I had a tutor through it.  A very nice Crypt actually.  I could call him."

"No, that's okay.  We have reference books."  Horatio smiled.  "Go with him then bring one back."  Xander nodded, walking off with Horatio once he had his jacket and gloves down.  Speed shook his head.  "Yelina's going to smother that boy."

Horatio walked Xander into the detective's section, letting him look around.  "This is homicide."

"Good to know."  He smiled at one guy giving him a curious look.  "New intern."  That got a nod and he went back to his typing.  Horatio smiled.  "I've introduced myself all day as the Xander intern."

"You definitely are."  He came to a section and smiled.  "Xander, this is Yelina Salas and Detective Frank Tripp.  Guys, this is Xander, our new ballistics and trace intern."  Xander smiled and waved.  "Frank, that all-points you got was about his ex."

"You dated a serial killer?"

"She was a normal stripper until I dated her," he admitted.  "No one believes me yet that I turn girls evil when I date them."

"Maybe you should try men," Yelina teased.

"I can find one out of every ten thousand worthy to date but nothing long term.  I'll have dogs.  It's safer."  They both smiled at that and so did Horatio.  "I told you that."

"You did.  I can see why now.  Do you know the case number out there so we can get a good picture of her, Xander?"

"Sure, or you could ask her," he said, pointing at someone.  "Hey, Sascha, do you still have that picture of everyone at the picnic?"  She nodded, bringing it over.  "Are you interning?"

"In the non-felony lab," she said with a smirk.  "I heard you switched programs."

"NCIS didn't have a lot of work and I was pissing off Abby by taking samples to have something to do.  They have a single lab tech in their office and she does everything."

"Oooh."  She shuddered.  "Poor woman."

"Abby was the one with the pigtails at the convention," he said with a grin.

"Never mind.  A goth lab tech makes perfect sense in the military cop's lab."  She found the picture in her wallet.  "What's up?"

"Tanya's out and Valeria was in the same place.  They think one's headed this way."

"Charming.  I'll be on the watch for Valeria."  She pointed at them.  "That's Tanya, his ex.  That's Valeria.  That's Sheila, the one that Bobby just kicked out of his lab in Las Vegas.  She's jealous and used to blame everyone for her bad grades.  So if Bobby said he saw Xander then she'll probably blame him for her drunk driving binge."

"She hit a telephone pole after a payday night out," Xander told her, giving her a look.  "Did you know Horatio didn't believe we got to use the land-to-air rocket in class?"

"We did, Lieutenant.  They had a little concrete building.  We numbered each brick as we layered them in there.  Then Xander got to fire it off.   None of the rest of us could handle the recoil.  He's got construction worker muscles.  Then we got to rebuild it to see the damage it had done."

"It's an interesting class project."  He looked at the picture again.  "Who's the redhead in the back? I know her."

Xander looked then frowned.  "You don't wanna hear that rant," he said simply.  "She's dead.  If she's here, we're all in trouble.  The world'll go to hell, I'll have to talk to the brats in Cleveland again, and then Miami will turn into the same sort of hole Sunndyale is."  Horatio gave him a shoulder squeeze.  "It will."

"It won't, Xander."

"I hope not."

"It won't, I can promise you it won't."  He gave the boy a look.  "She's dead?"  He nodded.  "Then maybe it was a relative."

"She was adopted," Sascha offered.  "It could be but I doubt it.  She was pretty distinctive.  Then again, the people in the lab couldn't find traces of the body.  Maybe she decided to skip out on her student loans and change professions that way.  She kept saying she should have been an accountant."

"Maybe," Xander admitted, looking at her.  He raised an eyebrow and she shook her head. "You don't think?"

"No.  No one would eat her," she snorted.  "Not a good candidate.  She'd whine people to death for ages.  If you see her again, let us know, sir.  Her car supposedly exploded with her in it but they couldn't find a trace of her in it."  Horatio nodded.  "Which proves my pet theory, she dated Xander and went evil.  She's probably working with a terrorist cell or a major crook or something."

"Could be," Xander admitted.  "She didn't have the best grades but she did have things that could lead her into that life or cause for blackmail."  That got a nod from his classmate.  "Am I going to have to fight you for later positions if they don't have an opening here?"

"Probably not.  I'm hoping to go North after my internship year.  I want snow again."

"Apply in New York, they've got a great number of labs," Horatio offered.  "Do we know anything on this girl?"

"I can write it up for you, Lieutenant.  She was a creepy little bitch in classes."  She smiled at Xander.  "Photocopy that."  Frank took it to scan it in, letting her identify everyone in it. Then she put it back in her wallet and went back to work.

"Sorry, sometimes I still slip," Xander said quietly.

"It's understandable, Xander."  He smiled at Yelina.  "I thought I'd introduce him."

"Eric said he was having first day impressive syndrome," Frank teased.

"I'm always like this unless I eat a lot of chocolate, then I bounce more," Xander said with a smirk for him.  "Come down when you need us.  I'll be there."  He went to pounce Speed.  "Can you show me where the textbooks are?  That's bugging me."

"Sure.  The library's this way, Xander."

"Hole?" Frank asked Horatio.  Horatio typed something into his computer, earning a whistle at the destruction.  "Wow.  What happened?"

"Officially an earthquake, Frank."  He shrugged.  "The real story?  We're ignoring it."  He nodded at that.   "You remember a little blonde girl who came down about four years ago with her father?  Ended up in here because of an assault which ended up in the unsolved files because it was witnessed but no victim was found?"  He grimaced but nodded.  "He worked with her on the town's protection detail.  He's retired.  I need help watching him in the field to make sure he doesn't slip back into the same mindset," he said quietly.

"Sure, I can do that."  Yelina came over to look and gasped.  "That's a pretty hole."

"It is," she agreed.  "I saw that on the news.  Wasn't everyone on busses?"  Horatio nodded.  "At least they mostly got out all right."  She went back to her desk to call Alexx and talk to her about the boy.  He was a bit odd, but he was still a boy.

The men shared a look and Horatio went back to monitoring the lab.  He heard Xander crowing when he got off the elevator, smiling at the happy sound.  "I guess he found it."

Speed smirked at him.  "Not only did we find it, it's pretty rare and it's medical, H.  We got him and he's an annoying prick."

"Good.  Keep me informed when you bring him in.  Xander can watch you interrogate if he's free."  He walked off, going to ballistics.  "Calleigh, want him back?"

"No, I'm good."  She smiled at him.  "I found out who did it but he's out of town.  I've alerted the state boys along with the train and airport.  He's due to take a train back in two days.  We can be there to meet him."

"Good.  Can we execute a warrant on his residence?"

"The judge was iffy since no one's there.  We'll see if I can talk him into it."  She walked off much happier.


Xander's first day in the field came a month after he had started in the lab.  He was with Speed and Eric.  It wasn't a hard case.  He was doing good but Speed didn't let him take pictures after the first one came out wrong.  "Sorry."

"I figure it's about your eye, Xander.  Which side?"

"Left," he said quietly.

"That's fine.  We'll pay more attention to that side."  He pointed at something. "Is that native?"

"I don't know and I'm wondering how I'd pick it up without damaging the bag or envelope.  It's very sharp.  It had to change gloves thanks to it."

"Hmm.  Tweezers?  Plastic bottle?"

"Don't have any.  Do you?"

"Eric, do you have a specimen jar?"  One was pulled out of his kit and tossed over.  "Thanks."  He handed it to Xander, who picked it up with a pair of tweezers and put it into the jar.  He screwed the top on and made a note, putting it inside his kit.  They kept going.  Xander got to go to the autopsy too.  Speed drug him down there. "What's up?" he asked, kissing Alexx on the cheek.

"He died of toxin reaction."

"Like eating puffer fish?" Xander asked.  She smiled and nodded.  "We have people like that in LA.  Angel brought Cordy and I somewhere like that.  Was it puffer fish?"

"No, a different one."  Xander held up the sample and she looked at it.  "What is that?"

"We have no clue.  It's not in the book that we can find yet," Speed admitted.

"Is it poisonous?"

"Anything can be poisonous if you're reacting funny or allergic to it," Xander reminded her.  "I'm going to take a sample up to the college later, Speed.  See if their botanist can figure it out."

"That's a good idea.  We'll go together."  Xander nodded.  He looked at her.  "Anything else we should know?"

"He was pretty healthy," she admitted, letting them see in the chest cavity. "Heart and lungs were in perfect health."  Xander pointed at something.  "That's a reaction from the whatever.  I found a few more inside his stomach, Xander."  He nodded, taking a picture of that, then checking to make sure it came out okay.  Speed took the camera and checked it then took a few of his own.  "Take crappy pictures?" she teased.

"Blurry and I've tried everything," he pouted.

"We can't be great at everything.  Like people who play football very well don't often play with baby animals at a petting zoo."

"I'd hope that the aggressive people who play gay sex in teams don't go corrupt the innocent animals.  They're mean and nasty to each other."  He gave her an odd look.  "Eww, that's a bad mental image.  Now they're playing gay sex in teams with the baby animals."  He walked off holding his head.

"Yes, the girls who warped him told him that's what football was thanks to the patting, pouncing, and positions.  He said that in front of Frank the other day and made him choke on his spit so badly we almost called you."  He walked off shaking his head.

Alexx looked at her body.  "At least you're not warped by that.  You got to miss that speech, sugar."  She finished sewing him up then covered him and put him into a drawer. Then she went to do something to take that mental picture out of her head as well.  Because that had been a bit graphic for her tastes.

Speed found Xander talking to Horatio.  "We've got to fix your sport thing, kid.  Before you give us all mental images we don't want to visit."  Horatio looked at him.  "Football."

"It's all right, Xander.  We'll figure it out."  He patted him on the back.  "I'm not sure if we have a favored botanist we use when we're stuck on plant identification.  I know there's two departments in the city.  Pick whichever one you decide on, boys."  He walked off, going to check on Alexx.  "Are you all right?"  She looked at him and shook her head, sipping her cup of tea.  "What did he say?"

"I pointed out not everyone's good at everything, like football players aren't usually the sort to pet baby animals at the petting zoo.  I'm sure you've heard what he calls football?"  He grimaced and nodded once.  "His mind went to the place where they were using animals to play football."  She took another sip.  "Who did that to him?"

"Remember a few years back, that witnessed assault that had no proof?"

"Unfortunately.  Why?"

"He worked with the blonde girl who did it.  She's one of the ones who warped him."

"No wonder his ex wanted to kill them!"

"We're working on his sports issue, Alexx."  He walked off again, going to find someone who could better explain sports to Xander.  Before he had to tie him down and make him watch it while he explained it to him.  He loved the boy but his mind was a bit bent.  He saw Calleigh in her lab with John Hagen and nodded at them, going up to his office to take something for his new headache.  Then he came back down. "John?"  He smiled at him.  "Can I ask you a favor?"

"It depends, do I have to rescue your intern from more evil women?  Frank and I rescued him twice so far."  Horatio looked stunned.  "He caught one walking the boy out at gunpoint while we were out for burgers.  Then we caught someone trying to break into his place a few days later.  He couldn't get you so he called Frank.  We got her after he had tied her up on the floor."

"I hadn't heard about those.  I'll talk to him about them soon.  It's about Xander, but not that problem."

"His sports problem?" Calleigh teased.

"Yes.  That problem.  He just gave Alexx a very bad mental image with what he calls football."

"Well, it is kinda like gay sex in teams.  Very aggressive gay sex in teams," Calleigh offered.  Hagen looked at her oddly.  "The girls who helped raise him warped him that way, John.  He can do a wonderful pedicure or a face mask, he's a great shopping buddy for Yelina, even found Speed a shirt he likes.  He's just not very skilled in guy things beyond his hunting instincts and guns, and a little bit about classic cars."

"What does he call baseball?"

"Boring," she admitted.  "I asked.  He said it's a good reason to take a nap, like golf.  Somehow he got turned onto curling."  Hagen whimpered.  "I think Abby did it.  Her cousin Mortty is in Chicago and they've got a Mountie or two up there helping around her station.   He likes curling.  He understand gymnastics, ice skating, and horse jumping."

"I'll see if the boy wants to watch some basketball with me."

"He calls that reruns with hooker cheerleaders," she warned.

John just nodded and walked off, going to find the kid.  "Hey, Xander.  I'm going to a street ball tournament this weekend.  Wanna come?"

"Street ball?"  He looked confused.

"Basketball played by people who want to play, not those who get paid to play."

"Oh.  Basketball's like a great big rerun."

Speed made Xander look at him and nodded.  "Yes, you're going.  Before the guy in patrol beats you the next time you diss his sports."  Xander shrugged and nodded.  "He's off this weekend, John.  Just let him know."

"Sure.  It's Saturday afternoon.  Then maybe a beer?"

"I don't drink," Xander told him, shaking his head.  "I had alchie parents.  I have maybe a beer a month to unwind and sleep without nightmares."

John came in, closing the door.  "Why do you have PTSD nightmares?"

Xander stared at him for a moment before answering.  "I was doing protection in my former town, John.  I started on the squad when I was sixteen.  I kept going until the day I graduated with only a short break for the week when I lost my eye."  John gave him a horrified look.  "I earned mine.  It is where I learned about weapons and explosives first."

"That's interesting.  Where did you live?"

"Sunnydale, out by LA."  John looked at him.  "That town that fell in due to the earthquake."

"Uh-huh.  So you went to San Francisco afterward?"

"LA.  We had some former helpers who had teamed up in that town.  I went to help them.  They sent me to college.  I annoyed the hell out of Angel.  King hair gel was not amused by me."

John smiled.  "I know about Angel, kid."  Xander looked at him.  "My grandfather was a Watcher.  You're that Xander?"  He nodded.  "You retired, right?"

"Unless the world's bending over to grab its ankles or it attacks me."

"Good.  I like that.  You can have a soda while I have beer."  He grinned and walked out, leaving them alone.  It explained a whole lot to him that he hadn't been able to clue himself in about the kid before.  No wonder he was warped!  Rosenburg had even done it to Giles.  That poor kid hadn't had a chance.  He did have a quiet word with Horatio about what he knew.  Including the duality of what the group saw and what happened.  The Watchers had been watching the boy too.  He left it at that but he would try to help the poor kid.  He definitely needed a male role model.

Horatio gave the trace lab a thoughtful look.  The boy got more and more interesting the more he heard.  Too bad he was back to being bouncy and goofy again.  He almost wondered if one was a cover for the real personality underneath but you couldn't tell with him.  It was almost even or situational with the kid.


Xander frowned, watching John pace outside Ballistics from Trace a few weeks later, shaking the hand nudging him off.  "Not now, Speed."  Speed snorted.  "I mean it.  That is not good."  He took off his gloves, heading that way, just creeping.  He saw him go in and frowned, lurking in the doorway.  He saw him pull his gun and pounced then.  "Hi, John."  He grinned at him.

"Let go, kid."

"Hell no!"  He took his gun, then looked at the note.  He looked at him.  "So, what?  You think your rep's worse than mine for being strange?"  He slugged him, knocking him out.  He stood up, handing over the gun.  Calleigh was still giving him a shocked look.  He opened up the letter and showed it to her, making her clutch it.  "Welcome."

"Oh, God," she whispered.  "HORATIO!"  He came jogging in.  "Look!  Xander stopped him."

He looked at the letter, then at Xander.  "That is very good work, Xander.  Handcuffs?"  Calleigh handed over hers.  "Okay, someone call someone, Xander.  He needs help."

Xander walked out, looking at them.  "Hagen had a seizure.  We need an ambulance."  They nodded, someone running off.   He guarded the door, letting in the paramedics.   Horatio could explain it to them.  He nodded at Frank when he came jogging off the elevator.  "Guys, make room," he demanded when he heard the gurney go up.  They walked out, Horatio having a quiet word with Frank.  Frank pulled Calleigh and they headed after them, Horatio riding in the ambulance.  This was going to take an intervention of the highest order.  Xander said a silent prayer for his odd feeling about John this morning.  Then he went inside to bag the note in a 'confidential' bag so no one saw it.  Eric came in frowning.  Xander shook his head.  "I can't, Eric."

"Horatio told me."  He looked at the note then nodded. "Okay.  That's a good idea.  Put it inside a paper one too."  Xander nodded, finding one to put it into.  "His gun?"  Xander pointed at where she had dropped it.  That got bagged as well and put in the safe so he could have it back sometime.  "Do you have any idea, Xander?"

"I saw him pacing outside the door and it looked odd.  I crept over to check on him," he said quietly.   He sealed the paper envelope with tape and handed it over.  "Wherever the boss would want it."

"Thank you for making up the pretty lie."

"No one deserves that."  That got a nod and Eric walked the suicide note off while Xander got to work cleaning up what Calleigh had been doing.  He was still there later that night when Frank came in, giving him a pat on the back.  "Is he getting help?"

"Yeah, he is.  Thanks, kid."

Xander looked at him.  "It happens, Frank.  It's not that easy.  I know damn well there were times I wanted to switch sides because it was easier."  That got a nod.   "If he needs me I'm here for him.  Can I see him?"

"Soon.  He's on restricted visitors right now.  Where's his note?"

"I sealed it in a double bag and Eric went to put it somewhere."

"Good idea.  Horatio's on his way back.  Good job."  He clapped him on the back and left.  Xander went back to cleaning the exemplar cabinet.  He ran into Horatio.  "Boy wonder's in the lab cleaning guns."

"It's something to do when you're in heavy thought," he admitted.  "Everything else?"

"Delko had it.  The kid double bagged it."

"Good.  Thank you, Frank."

"Not an issue. He's not that bad a guy."  He walked off, going back to his desk.

Horatio went to ballistics.  "It's well past time for you to be home, Xander."

"I know."  He didn't look up.  "It needed to be done anyway.  I can handle it tomorrow if she's going to be gone."  He looked over.  "I'm even good for a few days of subbing, Horatio.  She's got to be torn up."

"She is.  She might come in anyway."

"That's fine.  If you need to lighten her load, let me help."

"Agreed."  He came over.  "How did you know?"

"I saw him pacing in the hall.  That's not like him."

"It's not.  So he looked worried?"

"No, he didn't look worried.  More resigned.  He pinged my bad shit radar this morning when I saw him getting coffee from our breakroom.  So I watched him when he came into the lab.  Then he started to pace and I knew it was something bad.  I thought maybe bad news.  That's why I crept over to eavesdrop and make sure.  I saw him go for his gun and I pounced."

"It was the right thing to do.  Next time, tell me?"

"You were out."

"Good point.  Let me know anyway.  Me or Frank, Xander."  He nodded at that.  "Thank you.  It was well done.  Now, finish up that one and go home."

"I won't sleep."

"You can."

"No, I can't.  There's too many times when I was tempted to go over and change sides because it'd be easier and nicer," he said quietly, looking at him.  "I knew what would happen so I didn't but I've been tempted.  I'll have nightmares about what I would've done," he finished quietly.

"I understand that.  Go home, have a drink, and go to bed."  Xander sighed, finishing up that gun and putting it back together properly.  He put it back and moved his ribbon to show where he had stopped.  They locked up the lab together and he left, driving back to his scummy motel.  Horatio followed him but it was for his own protection this time.  He paused while Xander went inside, then headed for his own drink at home.


Xander looked up when Rick Stetler walked into ballistics.  "Don't touch anything.  You're not wearing gloves."

"You know who I am?"

"Yup, you're the guy who pants after Horatio's tighty whities and won't ask him out," he quipped dryly.  "That's why you plague him so much."  He looked at him again.  "What do you want, Stetler?"

"You know you're an intern, right?"

"Of course I do.  And?"

"You lied when you said he had a seizure."

"He didn't deserve that to be spread around.  The station is like a conveyor of gossip.  It wouldn't help him any and it'd only hurt him more.  Especially if he came back.  I'm not doing that to anyone, not even my worst enemy.  So yes, I lied about what happened to the masses but not those who were dealing with it.  I play guard dog very well, thank you."

"Fine.  Why do you have a sealed federal file?"

"Which one?  I heard my ratings file was sealed for a bit while it was being updated."


"Because I worked at NCIS before we figured out the lab didn't need an intern as skilled as I am."  He shrugged.  "I got to take some extra classes here and there.  Gibbs sent me to expand my explosives knowledge and I got to sit in on a few classes at the academy and at the CIA for him."

"I see.  In?"

"None of your business.  Only my boss needs to know that, Stetler.  He does.  Gibbs gave him the full list of what I had done by case and what classes he had sent me to.  That's all that needed to be done.  My general credentials, skills, and grades got me the internship here.  Horatio found out about those afterward and decided I was worth it anyway."

"What did you do wrong?" he sneered.  "Mishandled evidence?"  Xander glared.  "You said anyway."

"I was raised by some trifling girls, Stetler.  I have lower than average self esteem.  Anyone who watched me would know that.  Obviously you didn't do well in interrogations since you don't study people.  Otherwise you'd know to back off by now."  Stetler snickered.  "Anything else?  I'm on my own today."

"I'm going to order a review of your internship status, kid."

"That's your puny dicked thrill then.  I've done everything excellently while I was here. Including my case in the field."  Stetler snorted but walked out.  Xander glared at his back, wishing for a second that he could set him on fire.  He calmed himself and got back to work, making sure he wasn't making a mistake.  When he saw Horatio he jogged out to corner him, making sure not to touch him with his gloves.  "Stetler just said he's ordering a review of my internship status," he said quietly.  "He came to see why I lied about what happened to the general crowd."

"Didn't play well with him?" he asked.   Xander shook his head.  "What happened?"

"He asked why I've got sealed files.  I noted my ratings and that file was sealed to be updated for a while.  I didn't mention the other one."

"Good.  What else happened?"

"I had a moment of low self esteem and he caught me at it," he said bitterly.  "We ended up trading insults.  You do know that half his aggression toward you is sexual?"  Horatio nodded, giving him a look. "Sorry, making sure.  I pushed that back in his face too."

"That's fine, Xander.  Go back to the lab.  I'll handle it."  Xander went back, regloving so he could get back to work.  He went to make sure everything was in order before he went to talk to the man in question.  "I don't mind that Xander told the crowd that.  It was a protective move.  It protected not only John but also Calleigh," he told him.

"He still lied."

"Not like he was under oath."

"How do you know he won't at other times?"

"Because I can read the boy, Rick.  I know exactly when he's being evasive."

"What's that sealed file?  Not his ratings one."

"Something that happened where he grew up."

"It's not an abuse complaint."

Horatio closed the door.  "There was a special ops program that moved into his town.  It was meant to find good ways to effect mind control on soldiers.  They used some of the town's populace to test it.  It included torture.  Xander and a few of his friends ran them off.  That sealed file is either from there or from the inquest that shunted those people to jail quietly.   It's also going to stay sealed.  His natal parents are in Homeland Security."  Stetler growled.  "He only found them when he moved to DC for his first internship."

"He's not a normal kid, Horatio."

"He's twenty-eight this month, Rick.  He's not a child.  His town had a very high death rate, which he helped protect again.  He had alcoholic parents.  He's a very well trained tech who had been working construction before an accident robbed him of a skill."

"What accident?  That's not in his file."

Horatio looked at him.  "He's fit to be in the field, even with it.  I'd never send him out alone. He's backup for the field."  His phone beeped, making him look at the text message.  "Speaking of, Speed's bringing him with him."  He looked at him again.  "Is there anything else, Rick?"


"Then you'll drop this stupidity against him for being skilled?"

"He's still not the normal tech. The hiring committee will never take him."

"You'd be surprised.  He's a very good tech.  He was competent when he got here.  He was more than competent to run the lab when he got here.  The last place said the same thing."

"Why did he transfer in the center?  That's not protocol or standard."

"Because the NCIS lab didn't have enough work for two techs.  They usually only have one who does all fields.  Their caseload is limited by being Marine and Navy crimes.  He was spending a good portion of his week taking extra classes so they wouldn't have to pay him for hours he had nothing to do in."

"Did you read his former employment section?"  Horatio smirked and nodded.  "He answered one 'yes' under job title."

"He didn't have one single job title and he did a lot of work, including maintenance and gophering, plus disarming a bomb they got sent, helping out in the lab there when necessary, and taunting some of the higher ups when they needed to loosen up."  Stetler dropped it, staring at him.  "The one he answered 'multi' under was a strip club.  He stripped, he bartended a few times, he washed dishes, and he waited tables a few times.  It doesn't say to list them separately if they're not major changes of job duties.  If you don't have one...."

"Fine.  That boy's still not normal.  I don't see military service listed."

"That was from the protection detail, Rick," he said impatiently.  "We already went over that.  I knew that before then."

"He said you found out about the extra classes afterward?"

"After I had decided to offer him a spot, at the same convention.  I also got to talk to the CSI he did field hours under during his training for that portion.  I talked to his former in- school internship director at the military academy he did those at.  I talked quite a lot with the people at NCIS.  They're still very proprietary over Xander.  They still consider him theirs.  Unfortunately he needs more DNA ability to go back to them.  The single person doing the whole lab's work means they need super techs.  Xander is one of those but DNA is a weak spot of his."   That got a snort.  "It is."  His phone beeped and he looked at it again, frowning.  "I've got to cut this short.  Something happened in the field.  They're taking Speed to the ER."  He walked off, hurrying out to his hummer.  He called Xander on the way.  "Where are you?"  He nodded.  "No, that's the right thing to do.  You hold the scene and wait on Eric.  What happened?"  He grimaced.  "Do you know who?  That's fine.  One of them will come spell you, Xander.  Wait there."  He hung up and called Eric.   "Either you or Calleigh go take Xander's spot.  The scene was a setup to get Speed.  He was shot in the shoulder.  Xander said it didn't look like it'd turn fatal.  He's already in an ambulance, I'm headed to the ER, Eric. You or Calleigh.  Now.  He said he got one.  Officers and an ambulance are there for him."  He hung up and sped up, turning on his lights.  This was not going to be a good day.


Eric stopped his hummer with a screech, getting out and slamming the door.  "What happened, Xander?"

"We got here, were working the outside of the scene.  Speed noticed a car creeping our way.  He told me to watch it, it was coming up on my blind side.  I looked, they rolled down a window.  A gun barrel popped out.  I pulled as they shot him, but Speed was already diving down.  I got the driver and the car both.  The guy in the back took off on foot with the officers holding the scene following.  I called EMS and dispatch to get us more help."  Eric nodded. "I know I'm not supposed to carry."

"I'm not going to fight with you about that.  Your gun?"  Xander pointed at it, it was already bagged.  "Fine.  What's your original scene?"  Xander pointed at it.   "That's parts."

"That's what Speed said.  They called us on that.  We had Alexx on her way.  She got here about the same time Speed's ambulance pulled out so she went with him.  I held the scene so nothing could be tampered with."

Eric frowned.  "Why would it?"

"They were really bad shots, Eric.  I was slightly behind and to the left of Speed.  He got hit in his left shoulder," he said quietly, staring at him.  "I have no clue why.  I haven't went over there except to offer basic medical assistance until the second set of paramedics got here."

"Good.  That's the right thing to do.  I want you to work those body parts and only those body parts.  Understood?"  Xander nodded, going to do that.  "Take as good of pictures as you can, kid."  He went to talk to the officers.  "Any ID on them?"  One of them handed over a wallet.  He looked then at the person.  "Why do you want the boy?"

"He turned his back on what was his," he sneered, his voice heavily accented.  "He could have had much."

Xander looked over and said something in demon, then Hebrew. The man spit at that.  "You need to call Gibbs about Haswari.  That's the terrorist who broke into the lab and I kicked the ass of.  He was going after Gibbs by taking out his support."  He got back to work.  "He was formerly Mossad.  And no, baby, he never offered me anything.  All he did was annoy the fuck out of me."  The second man shouted something at him and Xander glared, straightening up.  "Excuse me?  Repeat that please?"  He sneered and repeated it.  Xander grabbed his phone, dialing.  "Gibbs, me.  Listen, now.  It's important.  The dipshit from the lab is back. He's going after Kate.  He's going to kill her.  Because two of them are down here after setting a scene trap.  They claim I gave up everything that could've been mine."  He looked at him.  "So, you know my parents then?"  They went pale.  "Blanched totally.  Yeah, well, he's still trying to cut your support and make you ache, Gibbs.  To him, this is fun and shits and giggles.  Be *damn* careful and if you have to, call Dad.  I'm sure he'd love to hear from you.  I know he said the same thing the last time I remembered to call him."

He smirked.  "Exactly.  Thank you.  Let me know if you need me.  I do mean that."  He hung up.  "You've already lost.  You pissed Gibbs off."  He called his big brother. "Jamie, it's me.  A head's up because I doubt Gibbs is going to ask Dad or anyone for help.  Ari's back.  He wants to kill Kate to make Gibbs hurt.  He sent bastards after me at a staged crime scene.  Yeah, I'm fine.  I was slightly behind the CSI over my training. He's got a wound in his shoulder.  Please.  Also, tell dad they said I gave up my chance for everything.  Exact wordage?  I turned my back on what was mine, I could have had much.   Yeah, I think this needs to be spread around.  Because he wants Gibbs and he wants to kill Kate.  Please.  Subtly would work.  Not for Dad or me, but it'd work.  Please.  Because I know he'll try but I have this very bad feeling.  The last time I got it, I went missing an eye.  Thanks, big brother."  He sighed.  "I will.  Not tonight because things are going to be insane but I'll call mom soon.  Thanks, Jamie."  He hung up and got back to work.  "You're fucked now, you can tell Ari I said to pick a position he'll enjoy it in," he spat back in Hebrew.

"Why did you call your brother?" Eric asked, looking confused.

Xander looked at him.  "While I was in DC," he said, getting back to work, "I found out I was adopted.  Both my parents are covert in Homeland."

"Oh, crap," Eric muttered.  "Do I know them?"

"Ask Horatio.  He knows."

"Okay.  As long as he knows."

Xander grinned at him.  "I got to learn more explosives from the DoD too, Eric."  He gave him a manic grin and got back to work.  "Can someone call to get an update on Speed?"

"Yeah, I can do that."  The other ambulance pulled up.  "These two, and they're to stay in cuffs.  They've got ties to a terrorist cell out of DC.  The only person who gets near them is Horatio Caine until he says otherwise."  They nodded, getting them and the officers into the back.  "Guys, good luck.  Let's hope you don't get besieged by Feds."

"They won't.  It'll take a few hours," Xander reminded him.  They shared a look and he pointed.  "That's their car, Eric."

"Thanks, you turn it off?"

"It quit working when I killed the driver."  Eric gave him an odd look.  "Want me to check it for explosives?"  That got a nod so Xander handed over his camera.  "Take those for me."  He walked over there, looking under it first.  He looked inside, carefully reaching in for the hood latch.  He slowly pulled it out then walked around to check for more wires before popping it open.  "Huh.  Eric, I need wire cutters," he called.  "I'm in the good but not fast range."  He looked it over.  "I also need a consult!"  Eric came over with his cellphone.  "Hi.  Harris.  Yeah, that one.  Don't do that!  Just calm down and tell me which wire.  Yes, I am, but this is more spaghetti than I'm used to.  Do it later!  I've got a six strand with a timer, no visible explosive or battery.  Do I dismantle or cut what?"  He took a picture with the phone and sent it to them.

"There, got it?"  He listened, then nodded, taking the screwdriver to lean in, but he had to move.  "Sorry, sharp pointy thing in my stomach."  He got the part they said undone and he looked.  "Semtex.  Yes, I'm sure.  It says so."  He nodded, doing what he was supposed to.  "I can do that.  We do have a bare ground wire.  That could be.  Let me trace it."  He traced along it.  "Right to the car's battery.  That's probably what started it.  Back to the battery here."  He carefully removed it then handed Eric the display.  "Another mass of semtex.  Thanks.  Battery after that?"  He nodded, handing off the phone. "Listen for more crap."  He finished dismantling it.  Then he handed it over.   "Clear on the engine."  He looked it over then went to pop the trunk and see if it was backed up in there.  Nothing so he finished by getting back underneath to find something further up in the carriage.  "We're clear," he noted.  He came out and found Rick Stetler standing there.  "A bit more like spaghetti than I'm used to.  I'm good to five wires most of the time."  He went back to his parts.

Eric finished bagging them and got to work on the car.  "Xander, do you need the camera?"

"Not yet.  I've got the smaller digital Horatio said to try in my kit.  He thinks it'll make me quit taking blurry ones."

"Sure."  He kept that camera, going over the car inch by inch.  He wanted to see someone shocked to death for this.  He would see someone dead for this, either by the state or his own hand.  He looked at Stetler.  "He is rated to do medium level explosives."  He got back to work.


"The Department of Defense said so," Xander quipped from his part.  The IAB officer walked over.  "They did.  Gibbs sent me for additional training when he found out I already had some thanks to construction work.  Don't step closer.  This may've been posed but I think these are still real parts."  He stopped there.  "Thank you for following the path."  He got back to work, bagging a cigarette butt.  "Lipstick.  Interesting.  Maybe not part of it but you never know.  I don't know too many ladies who hack up bodies."  He kept going, eventually ending up finished but waiting on the ME.  "Eric, can you get us another ME?"

"Already noted we need one for a dead body here and your parts," he called.  He called someone.  "H.  Me.  How is he?"   He smiled.  "No lasting damage they think.  They pulled it out and he's on his way to recovery."  Xander let out a 'whoo-hoo' call.  "He's happy too.  He did, H.  It was bagged when I got here.  He also said it wasn't against Speed, it was against him.  Something about the terrorist who broke into the NCIS lab and Gibbs?  He did pause to call up there after trading insults with the two guys he injured.  Yeah, in Hebrew.  He said the terrorist was former Mossad.  Thanks. Yeah, I'm here.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "Xander, you're not allowed in ballistics or any lab while we're doing any of this."

"I know.  I figured I'd be stomped on by him," he said with a head nod to Stetler.  He stood up and pulled out his permit, handing it over.  "I am actually licensed to carry concealed.  It was in my kit.  I always put it on when I come into the field, just in case something happens.  My former life made me a bit paranoid."  That got a nod and he took notes from it.  "C'mon.  Eric, leading him off."

"Sit on the hummer's gate, Xander."  Xander nodded, letting him have his kit and evidence bags.  "You good?"

Xander looked at him.  "Not the first I've had to hurt, Eric."  He walked off, opening the back of the hummer to sit on the gate.  "Okay, do you need a precise rundown? I can't give it minute-by-minute.  I can give it action-by-action though."

"You're too calm."

"Stetler, I've had to protect people for a very long time.  My original town had a twenty- something percent death rate yearly.  It was a small town, about the same size as Little Havana, if that big."  He got a horrified look.  "I was on the protection patrol.  Yeah, I've had to hurt things before.  I'm not going to lie to you and tell you I won't have nightmares later, I will.  That's the first human I've shot and killed."  That got a single nod. "I'm more a weapons and knife guy.  Forgive me, I like stabbing better when I'm in protection mode, it's less fatal."

"That's fine."  He made a note.  "I want to know more about that."

Xander sighed and pulled a card out of his wallet.  "I was told if someone asked to have them call that number.  That's my father's office.  They were over the inquest, which is that sealed file."

"Horatio said you helped stop that program."

"I was one of a few of us.  He has all the information you could need on that, Stetler.  As for today, Speed and I got called.  Calleigh's still out on leave."  He nodded, going back to making notes.  The card was between his fingers.  "We got here, I clipped on my gun as I got out of the hummer.  Speed saw me, he nodded that he approved.  He's seen me do it every other time too.  I've got another one in my locker at work.  Horatio saw me place it in there.  I like weapons, that's why I'm a ballistics tech," he reminded him at his odd look.  That got a single nod.  "We came over, signed into the site with the officer who had put up the perimeter.  As advertised we had parts.  A right arm, a left leg, and a neck and upper shoulder, again right I think - if I remember right.  Not connected to the arm and I'll let the ME say if they're from the same body.  I didn't match the cut angles."  That got a nod.  "Speed saw the car creeping toward us.  With the way I was standing, it was on my blind side."

"Blind side?"

"I'm missing my left eye, Stetler.  It was popped by a guy's dirty fingernail about two weeks before Sunnydale fell into the ground.  I still managed to help get the people out of town for the most part.  I was there when it fell in."  That got a nod and a look.  "That was about a year before I started college.  I was still working on that same protection patrol, only now in LA with some former members there.  I learned to compensate for it.  Most people can't tell and Horatio made sure I'm competent in the field, even with it.  Speed knew, I think the only one who didn't was Eric.  Eric, did you know about my eye?"  He nodded.  "Okay, corrected."  He shrugged.  "He noted it, I turned to get a good look.  When I turned, that put me behind Speed's left shoulder.  I saw the window come down.  I saw a gun barrel.  Speed dove, I pulled.  That's how I was trained.  I got the driver first and then went for the gunman.  He was reloading or clearing the chamber, there was a pause; it wasn't automatic or on automatic."

"Hunting rifle, he had to clear the chamber," he admitted. "You got him?"

"I got him when he leaned out to try to get me the second time.  The other guy on the ground, the guy who nagged me, was in the passenger's seat.  He got out and the officers ran after him.  They had fired on the car.  One hit a tire with me.  You'll find two bullets in that one."  That got another nod.  "I dropped my gun and moved to help Speed.  I visually checked the only officer still with us, he was in shock.  I called for help.  I kept pressure on the wound.  Alexx got here to pick up the parts about when the ambulance pulled up.  Dispatch sent us more officers.  As soon as Speed was in the ambulance I texted Horatio to let him know."

"He was in my office talking about you."  Xander nodded at that.  "He went with him."

"As he should.  He told me to stay here, hold the scene, which is what I told him I was doing.  Alexx followed the ambulance.  Speed's like her son, that's emotional and I understand that.  He didn't need me and someone had to hold the scene.  The officers were busy.  I found out later that the one guy was a rookie, hadn't seen blood yet.  That's why he froze.  I got him calmed down and puking, his guys took care of him.  He was on his academy ride-along and his partner was here.  They went back to the station since there were enough officers here.  Please don't hurt him for being a newbie.  Even I froze the first time."

"I'll try not to kill his career.  He will need counseling.  It's mandatory," he said at the opening mouth.

"I can bullshit with the best of them, Stetler.  I don't need the counseling.  Right now, I want a soda and a long walk."  He hopped off the back when the ME came.  "Hey.  Eric's got the full body and the parts are covered in their original spot."  That got a nod and he went to gather them.  He looked at Stetler again.  "I did what I had to do to protect them.  I'm a protector.  I'm also an end-game fighter.  Nothing gets past me if I'm in hunt and protect mode, Stetler.  Now, if you don't need more, we need to arrange to get the evidence back."

"You're letting Delko transport."

"That's fine, there's still two hummers."

"Good point."   He closed his notebook.  "What happens if there's another time?"

"I started on the protection patrol just before I was sixteen."  Stetler moaned.  "I retired the day I graduated.   I'm twenty-eight in another four days," he said quietly.  "What do you think?"

"I'll think about having you cleared to carry, Harris.  You will do your psych eval in the next two days.  No matter what."

"If I can.  They might not be there."  Stetler walked off looking very upset.  "Sorry.  Truth but sorry.  I don't make other's schedules."  He looked at Eric.  "Can it all fit in your hummer or should I take some from my scene back with me?"

"Just your kit, Xander."  Xander nodded, grabbing it and getting in, looking at the engine.  "Keys?"

"Apparently in Speed's pocket."  He sighed and looked around, then did something to the engine with his index finger.  It started and he put it in gear, heading back to the office.

Eric shook his head.  "I don't want to know," he muttered, putting everything in the back of his hummer.  Stetler came over.  "I got called last."

"That's fine.  Who's back at the office?"

"I called Calleigh to go back there until one of the senior people got there.  Then she could go to the hospital."  That got a nod.  "Is he in trouble?"

"For saving officers' lives?  He has a permit to carry concealed, Delko.  It'll go in his favor if there is an inquest."  He walked off.  He went to the hospital, checking in.  "The people who were there on the ground?" he asked in greeting.

"I've talked to them.  They suddenly can't speak English."  Horatio grimaced.  "I've called his father.  He's sending someone down."

"He gave me his card."

"You can wait."  He took it back.  "Thank you."  He put it into his jacket pocket. "Speed will be fine."

"Good.  The kid said he was aiming for him."

"It's possible.  I've been told what's went on so far.  I'll get my own report when I get back."

"I want it taped to make sure what I got was the same story.  Harris is to do his mandatory counseling within two days, then we'll see if we need to do more.  He was very matter of fact about it."

"He is," Horatio agreed.  "That comes with eleven years of combat history, Rick," he said quietly.  "He'll be fine and we'll help him through it."  Calleigh came rushing in.  "The boys back?"  She nodded.  "How was Xander?"

"He was fine.  Calm.  He went down to autopsy so I could run the ballistics.  I'm checking in before I go do that."

"Go," Horatio said.  "He's sedated for the moment.  He won't be waking up before tonight."  She nodded and got a hug from Alexx before leaving.  He looked at her.  "One of the others gathered?"

"I'm sure they did."

"Good.  Are you going back?"  She gave him a harsh look. "Alexx, I'll stay."

"You go, I'll stay.  Speedy's my boy, he's your friend.  I outrank you."  Stetler smothered a smile.  "You, shut up and leave the other kid alone.  Xander doesn't need this."  He stepped away from her.  "Horatio, go.  They need you back at the office.  You can drive Calleigh over later."  He nodded, going back to the office to help out.  She went back to patting Speed's hand.  "It's all right, baby.  I'm still here."  She glared at Stetler.  "You, out."

"I'll still have to question him."

"You can wait until he's off pain killers too."  He nodded, leaving them alone.  "Huh.  He does have some humanity.  That's a shocking thing."  She went back to babying the poor boy.


Horatio walked in and found Xander sitting on the floor, head in his hands, elbows on his knees, outside ballistics.  "It'll take her an hour, Xander."

"I know.  I'm waiting.  Nothing else I can do and I'm not going to eat right now."

"Do you want to talk?"  Xander looked up, looking confused.  "This is the first time you've had to shoot someone, correct?"

"Yeah, I guess," he admitted, letting Horatio help him stand up.  "Thanks, boss."

"Welcome.  Let's go to my office.  I want to know what happened."

"Apparently it's another trick of Ari's.  One of them said they'd take me and Kate both out, like taking out the porch supports on one side of a porch, watching everything on it tip and fall off.  We're just the first steps."

"I heard you called?"  He nodded.  "And?  Who else?"

"My big brother Jamie.  Gibbs is stubborn and he won't want to call for help so I called him and told him to warn Dad.  I also said I'd call home more often.  I've been tired recently," he admitted, sitting down across from him.  "I don't know, Horatio.  Speed spotted the car.  I turned and it put me behind his left shoulder.  I saw the gun, yelled, he dove, I fired."

"You didn't move for cover?"

"When I have a great shot and they're taking the time to clear the chamber?"  Horatio nodded at that.  "I almost started to move away from Speed, but something told me to stay, then I looked down and saw he was injured.  That's why I let the officers go off after the running guy while I took care of Speed."

"That's totally reasonable, Xander, and the appropriate thing to do," he assured him.  Someone knocked.  "Enter."  The Chief of Detectives walked in.  "Xander, this is my boss.  Chief, this is our ballistics intern, Xander Harris."

"Thank you, son."

"Least I could do, sir.  I wish I hadn't killed the one guy.  That way we might be able to get more information from them."  He got an odd look.  "When I was interning at NCIS a terrorist broke into the lab.  His plan was to hurt people around the senior team's leader, Gibbs, to make him ache and cave faster in his grief.  I was in the lab when he broke in.  He probably wanted Abby but I was there while she was showering.  I kicked his ass," he said honestly, "but he escaped federal custody.  From what they said earlier and the evidence I had in front of me at that time, they were coming after me again to do the same thing.  I also found out that they were going after one of Gibbs' team and warned them."

"Good job, Xander."  He looked at Horatio.  "Stetler?"

"He's already talked to Xander.  He'll have to wait to talk to Speed.  They've got him sedated."

"That's good news though, right?"  Horatio nodded.  "Good.  Let me know what you need, Horatio."  He patted Xander on the shoulder again.  "You'll go far, Xander."  He walked out, going to check on the evidence since they were doing that.

"He's right, you did the exact right thing, Xander."  Xander nodded, relaxing some.  "Now, are you going to be sick?"

"It's a lot different than stabbing something with a sword or staking it," he said quietly.  "I'll be sick later.  I've got that response down."  Horatio smiled at that.  "Training good."

"It is what you fall back on," Horatio agreed.  "If you want to talk to me, I'm here."  Xander nodded that he knew that.  "Do you have a formal report written out?"  He nodded, handing over a thumbnail drive.  He put it in and played it, smiling at the precise information he had given Stetler, including his father's card.  He handed that back before it got lost.  He nodded and printed it, letting him sign it.  The thumbnail drive was put into his pocket.  "Good.  Now, go get a soda, feel guilty in the break room.  If you hover, it'll take longer."  He nodded, going to do that.   Horatio took the report and found Stetler.  "He worked on it while he was waiting."

"He's been on the ball about reports from what I've heard," he admitted.  He looked it over and nodded.  "He's good."

"He should be by now, Rick."  He looked at him.  "Am I going to have to beat you?"

"No.  He saved lives.  There was an officer who froze at his first shooting.  I've already talked to him and the kid did then."

"I'm sure it's not the first time," he admitted.  Stetler shook his head.  "Do you need anything else from him?"

"No.  Follow protocols.  Get me the file on what happened up there."

Horatio smiled. "I'll get it from his father.  I'm sure he's nearly here by now."  He walked off, going to check on everything.  "Eric?"

"Nearly done with the car's stuff, H.  There wasn't that much.  DNA and fingerprints have samples running.  Calleigh?"

"Going there next.  Let me know."  That got a nod and he walked to Ballistics. "Calleigh?"

"I've done the test fire on his weapon and put it in the system.  I've noted the circumstances as well as him being an intern.  I'm waiting on the bullets from people."  That got a nod.  "Did he say what he shot at?"  He handed over the thumbnail drive, letting her print her own copy.  It had what Xander had done.  "Okay.  I'll make sure he didn't have a hit outside those.  He fired six shots that I can tell."  He nodded, leaving it there.  She got back to work on the diagram she'd be working from.  Then the key.  She decided she'd use green for Xander's shots.  Eric brought her some and she got to work on them.  It was going to be a long afternoon.  When she was done she found Xander sitting slumped over in the breakroom watching the news.  "You could have went home."

"I'm supposed to be here now.  I'll visit Speed tonight after I know if I counted wrong."

"No, you did good, Xander."  She gave him a hug around the shoulders.  "Your bullets went where you said they did.  You'll be in the clear."  He nodded, looking at her.  "Now, shoo.  Go visit Speed.  He should thank you and offer to cook you dinner when he gets out."  Xander blushed at that.  "Really?"   He shook his head quickly.  "Just the thought of cooking?"  He nodded.  She giggled.  "You eat.  Go see Speed.  I'll tell Horatio I sent you home.  Come in tomorrow bright and chipper and ready to see a shrink."  He nodded, finishing his soda as he headed out.  She smiled at his back, going to find Horatio.  "I sent Xander home."

"That's fine.  I know he was waiting to make sure he had recounted correctly."  She nodded, smiling at him.  "Exactly?"

"Yuppers.  The boy is good, Horatio.  Exactly where he said they went."  She handed over her diagram.  "Officer one and two are now known since no one told me.  I looked them up through the ballistics matches."  He nodded, handing it back.  "Is Stetler on the warpath?"

"Not yet.  I don't know why considering Xander insulted him earlier.  I'm waiting to see the fallout.  Chief Johnson came to see what had happened."

"He called, he wanted to know when I knew."

"You can present it to all of us at the same time."  She smiled and nodded, going to do that.  He called Lee himself.  "It's Horatio Caine.  Actually, he's fine.  Did the message not get passed back?"  He smiled.  "He's still fine.  He was just cleared through ballistics.  Every shot went where it should.  Pending IAB, yes.  I figured he would," he admitted. "He said he was going to."  He nodded.  "He's probably on his way to see Speed.  Calleigh just sent him home.  What about the other situation?"  He smiled at the 'we locked Gibbs' team in a house and have multiple guards outside it' answer.  "That might work.  Did you remember the others, like Abby and Ducky?"  He smirked.  "Even better.  He'll have to do the mandatory counseling and he knows he can come to me, Lee.  Of course I am.  Thank you.  Good luck.  He did say they were tied to the same incident and Eric said they were speaking Hebrew if it helps."  He heard that repeated and someone cackled.  "I'll leave you to that."  He hung up and went back to his own report on the incident.  He called Eric.  "It's me.  Is there anything that contradicts what Xander said?"  He nodded, making a note of one anomaly.  "He's clear with ballistics.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "A british configured car in Miami?"


Xander looked down at Speed, watching him blink at him.  "They're not letting you wake up?"

"Know I'll complain," he mumbled. "Hate hospitals."

"I'm with you there.  I hated it when I was in for my eye."  He sat on the foot of the bed, smiling at him.   "Horatio and Stetler got to agree on something.  I did a good job according to both of them."


"Not quite.  He's going to use this to dig into my past with my father."  Speed snorted.  "Want to know what happened?"  Speed nodded.  "Remember when I told you about the bastard who broke into the lab in DC?"

"Language!" a nurse snapped.

"I killed someone earlier, I'm allowed to swear about it," he snapped back, glaring at her.  She went pale.  "I'm the one who saved him, lady.  Butt out!"  She stomped off.  He looked at him again.  "They were related to that incident."

Speed patted him on the leg.  "I'm not mad they got me instead of you.  Needed the vacation anyway.  Want brownies?"

"No, I'm okay on sweets.  As long as you'll be okay I'm a happy guy.  Now if you had gotten dead I might've even talked to Willow about stuff."  Speed shook his head.  He nodded, smirking at him.  "Yes I would."

"If I got brought back that way I'd have kicked your ass first then had to fix it.  Miami can't be a hole like that."  He patted him again then pulled on his hand until he leaned down.  "I agree with the mantwat and H.  You did good.  Now, go bug them so I can go home?"

"Hey, nurse, when can I drag him home and order stuff for him to eat?"

"Four days, sir."

Xander looked at him.  "I'll get pushy in two," he promised quietly, winking at him.  Speed laughed, holding his shoulder.  "Can I bring you anything on my way in tomorrow?"

"Ear plugs.  Machines are noisy."

"Yes they are."  He gave him a kiss on the forehead.  "Get better and I'll drive you home."  He stood up.  "I'll let you sleep."  He pulled out his iPod and handed it over, earning a smile.  "Might not have songs you like.  I'll get yours tomorrow."

"I'll deal.  Thanks, Xander."

"Welcome.  Least I could do.  I got you shot."  Speed shook his head.  "They were aiming at me."

"Doesn't matter.  Not your fault.  Stupid terrorists."

"If you're sure."  He kissed him on the forehead again and smoothed down his hair, leaving him alone.  He glared at the nurse.  "He's a cop.  Of course we're going to be trooping in and out of here, lady.  We're also going to be having some who cry and some who swear. That's what normal people do when someone in our in-group is hurt.  If I had to take psychology and pass it, you should have too."  He walked off, running into his father.  "Hi, dad.  Mom let you out without the leash?"

"She had to.  She's no longer fit for field work thanks to her knees."  He gave him a hug. "You okay?"

"I'm fine.  It's still settling in.  I just snapped at a nurse that I could so swear because I had killed someone today."  He shrugged.  "It'll sink in tonight, like it did the first time I had to do it."  Lee nodded, giving him a better hug.  "I'm sorry I don't call that much."

"You're a busy guy, Xander.  We don't expect more than once a week, which is what you've managed to do.  You almost fell asleep last week when your grandmother woke you up demanding you adopt someone."  Xander moaned, shaking his head.  He grinned at him.  "Can we use you to break them?"

"Can I call them nasty things in Hebrew?"

"Sure."  He walked him into the secure room, nodding at the guards.  "My son.  The one they were aiming at."

"Greetings, anuses of pigs," Xander greeted in Hebrew, making the translator snicker and nearly fall out of her chair.  "They are.   Unclean and from unclean beasts."  He looked at  them.  "You might as well brag, boys," he said in English.  "Ari's already on a death list.  They're within twenty minutes of where he is.  If I have to go back up there to do the deed myself, he will be dead by tomorrow.  So please, brag about your pitiful version of how the world should be.  Give Allah or Jehovah one last glorious statement about how you planned things and how your compatriots are going to make us rue this day so we can get on with killing you too.  Maybe if your speech is good enough I won't call the demons who I used to hunt," he finished in Hebrew, staring at each of them.  "After all, they like tainted souls."  They both shuddered.  "Now, would you like to give someone a statement about your great plan?"

"It is the only way to bring down this evil nation of yours."

"Why?  Because we have showtime porn?" he asked dryly.  They both spit at him.  "You need work," he said, spitting on one's face.  "See?"  He stared down at him, walking closer.  The man whimpered, trying to move away from him.  "Now," he said, starting back into Hebrew again, "what did you have planned and why?  I will know before I send what little pure soul you have left to meet it's creator.  The rest I cannot promise the destination of."  The man swallowed.  "Well?  Tell me.  Confession is an honorable thing on your deathbed."

He babbled something that Xander didn't understand so he looked at the translator, who looked clueless, then his father.  "Was that Arabic?"  He nodded.  "Did you understand it?"  He got another nod.  "Good?"

"Very.  Thank you, son."  He gave him another hug.  "C'mon, let me check in with your mother and we'll have dinner."

"Okay.  I have to make one last stop so you do that while I talk to him."  He headed back to the elevator, going up to the psych ward.  "Hi, I wanted to see John Hagen.  Is he allowed visitors tonight?" he asked quietly.

"We've got him on pretty strict limitations.  What's your name, sir?"

"Xander Harris.  I'm the guy who stopped him.  I wanted to tell him why."

She smiled.  "That's a good reason.  Let me check."  She went to ask a senior person, coming back with a nod.  They let Xander into his room, letting him walk over and look down at him.

"Hey," Xander said quietly.

"I don't like you anymore."

"I couldn't let you, John.  Even if all you see is darkness, there's still some light left.  You were going to dim hers."  He pulled a chair over, touching his hand, getting a glare.  "John, think about this.  You called her the last pure thing in the universe.  You would have splotched her with blood.  You can't ruin that, man.  Even if all you can see is darkness, sometimes the world needs that view.  After all, the sunny and cheery people who only see the sunlit fields can't fight the dark that creeps under the flowers to get them.  The same as I lived in shadows for *years* I can't let you make her one of us, John."

John nodded.  "I understand, kid.  It wasn't fair to her."  Xander stroked over his hair.  "No girly stuff around me," he grumped.

Xander grinned.  "Someone's got to, your hair's all messed up.  You missed the terrorist coming for me today."  John glared at him again.  "I was slightly behind Speed so they got him in the shoulder.  He'll be fine.  He's down on three if you wanted to talk to him but he's pretty sedated and out of it right now."  He gave him another gentle pet.  "Even darkness isn't total darkness unless you're in a void, John, and you're not in a void as long as you've got someone who's there with you and who gives a damn.   Understand?"

He nodded.  "You okay?"

"Still sinking in.  This was the first time I shot anyone," he admitted.  "I got the driver and injured the shooter."

"Hell, kid.  Way to introduce it."

"One guy was a rookie.  Hadn't even seen blood before.  He froze behind me."  That got a sigh and a nod.  "He's getting help.  I asked politely even.  I even kept myself from making fun of Stetler at that interview."  John smiled at that.  "Okay?"

"I heard you lied about what happened."

"Not like you needed that spread around the station, John.  That would be unkind and mean of me.  I'm not that sort of mean.  Not to guys who still have some light left in their lives.  Besides, if you slip over totally, I'm bringing my ex Cordy down and letting her baby you."

"Now that's mean," he agreed with a small smile.  "Thanks, kid."

"Welcome.  Get better.  No one else will even listen to me talk about my sports anymore."

"That's because you traumatized Alexx, Xander."

"Sorry.  You know how my mind works."  He winked and stood up.  "Dad's down so I'm having dinner with him.  He got to handle the terrorists since they came for me.  Bring you anything tomorrow?  I'm brining Speed some different music.  Mine has country and stuff he'll hate."

"I could use a book on tape or two," he offered.  "Mysteries?"

"I can do that."  He grinned. "Get better."  He walked out, letting them relock the door.  "Thank you."

"It was good for him.  Books on tape or CD are allowed.  There's a player in his room that'll do either," she assured him.  He nodded, going to find his father down in the lobby so they could go eat.  "He's a very nice young man.  Clearly someone to look up to and mentor others."  She went to make notes on his chart about the conversation. She didn't understand some of it but the therapist would.


Horatio saw Xander coming in the next morning. "You're late."

"I dropped Speed some music he'd like more than my iPod's selection and John Hagen some books on tape."  He checked his watch then Horatio's watch.  "My battery must be dead.  Sorry, boss."  He went to log in and get sucked into ballistics again.  Horatio shook his head, walking back to check on everyone else.  "Hey, Calleigh," Xander called down the hallway.  "Is this pink envelope anything special?"

"Yes, leave it alone."

"Okay."  He went to do everything but that one, moving that one carefully out of the way when he broke into cleaning again.  She came back in and he pointed.  "I had to move it so it wouldn't get damp."

"That's fine.  Thank you for not snooping, Xander."

"I'm not like that," he complained.

"I know but some guys would."

Xander looked at her.  "Nor am I Eric."  She giggled and nodded.  "Sorry I was late.  My watch is dead.  I stopped to give Speed new music on his iPod.  Mine had country and stuff he'd hate.  I gave John a few books on tape."  She smiled at that.  "He's doing okay.  We talked last night before Dad took me to dinner."

"I saw him talking to the boss earlier."

"He's going to make people paranoid," he complained.  She sighed and nodded.  "I don't need it.  I won't go into the field for a while."

"I hope it's that simple."  She gave him a kiss on the cheek.  "Be a good boy."

"I try so hard," he said with a wicked grin.  "They said Speed could go home in four days but I promised to nag the nurses starting tomorrow."  She grinned and nodded.  "So if you want to spoil him, it should probably be soon.  I can whine a nurse to death.  That's how I got out of the hospital two days after they removed mine."

"You did?"

"I went into a battle two weeks later," he admitted.  She gaped in horror.  He nodded.  "It was necessary."

"Sure."  She stroked over his hair.  "You need a trim."

"Not you too," he complained.

"Yup, me too."  She grinned.  "Do that tonight."

"Yes, mom."

"Good.  Eat a good lunch too."  She pinched him on the arm.  "Go mop the firing pens."  He nodded, going to do that while she read the letter.  She put it in her purse then went to find Horatio.  "He's okay."

"Of course he is."  He looked at her.  "How are you?"

"I'm okay too.  He said he went to visit John."

"I've been a few times."

"I'm scared to."  He nodded, giving her an understanding look.  She sighed.  "I'm a big ol' coward."

"It's an emotional trigger right now, Calleigh.  When you're ready we'll go with you.  That way you can have some time alone but you're not totally stressed."

"Thank you."  She smiled.  "He wrote me a letter."

"I heard him dictating it to a nurse."  She blushed.  "I don't care what it said as long as you're okay."  She nodded, smiling at him.  "Now, we have the decision today on if it was a fair shoot or not."

"It can't be anything but!  They shot at Speed."

"Yes, but they'll try to say he shouldn't be in the field.  Stetler knows he only has one eye now."

"He's better with one than I am with two some days, Horatio.  He's an excellent tech and there's nothing that the puss sucker can say about it."  He chuckled and nodded.  "Can we go?"

"No, it's a closed meeting.  We'll be able to see him before and after."

"I want to be in there."

"I do as well."

"You're his supervisor."

"Which means I can force my way in," he agreed.  She smiled at his devious mind and left him alone to work out his strategy.  When it was time he went to gather Xander.  "Change shirts very quickly," he ordered.  Xander put on his overshirt, doing it up, earning a nod of approval. "No GSR?"

"No, I've been cleaning without gloves on.  I'm good."  He followed him down there, tapping gently on the office door.  "You summoned?" he asked.

"Just you, kid," Stetler said.

"He's my supervisor, he has the right to be here.  Besides, it's not like I hid anything from him, Stetler.  He knew about my past first."  That got a sigh and he was waved inside.  He stood at parade rest in front of him.  "I know my report was accurate via ballistics."

"The only anomaly we found was that the person you thought was the driver was a passenger.  It was british configured," he said at the confused look.

"In Miami?"

"Yes, in Miami," he agreed.  "I'm not sure where it came from.  Horatio?"

"Rental company.  They do fantasy cars.  Some people want to be James Bond."

Xander looked at him.  "My dad was a prototype for that."  Horatio snickered and nodded.  He looked at the IAB guy again.  "I know I'm not rated to carry for the department.  I'm just damn glad I had it on me that day."

"I have ruled it a good shoot, Xander."  He looked at him, leaning back some.  "Your combat history beside the point, you should not have been in that position in the first place."

"I am rated as a backup field tech, Stetler.  I always have been.  I graduated with it.  I've told each and every teacher and trainer I worked with that my eye was missing.  It's only made a difference once and that was because I was running a fever from an infection.  The only other thing it messes up is my depth perception and I have compensation for the rest of that.  Everything but taking crappy photos."

Stetler nodded.  "Which is good, but you're not supposed to be in the field."

"There is nothing in any statute in Miami or the US that says a disabled tech can't be in the field if they're competent to do the work.  I checked."  He got grimaced at.  "I did.  I can pull my own weight and it's rare occurrence that I get into the field, Stetler.  I'm on as a backup field tech.  If we have too big of a scene or if we've got too many scenes or if we've got someone on vacation and we get overloaded.  I'm not going to be in the field every day like Calleigh is.  I like the lab.  I'm a lab tech first with a skill that can take me into the field now and then."  That got a single nod.  "I'm sorry if you don't like that, but it's the truth.  I can do the exact same things I did before it got popped."

"I heard how it got popped, kid."  He turned off the tape recorder.  "I had a long talk with your father yesterday afternoon."

"I know.  He said so.  I suggested you talk to him.  All that was is prior training.  I had a year to get used to my eye in combat situations before I went to school then occasional combat after that to keep my skills sharp.  It's not like it's a new injury.  It was one I trained with.  The same as there's techs with only one hand and they trained themselves to still handle it in the field.  That's also something I told Horatio first thing.  Way back when it was still a casual acquaintance and I was feeling him out about switching over from NCIS at that stupid gala event.  It's not a handicap per se.  It's more an annoyance because now and then it itches."

"Still, you don't have the proper paperwork to clear you to work with that injury in Miami."

"I had one guy who suggested my life should be over with and I should shrivel up and apply for disability too," he pointed out.  "If you can find me a doctor who's not like that I'll get you the forms."

He handed over a card.  "He's the one who does a lot of PD physicals."  Xander nodded, tucking it into his pocket.  "I want to know within a week when your appointment is and I want the paperwork as soon as you step foot in this building, Harris."

"Yes, sir."

"Good.  Until then, Horatio...."

"He's a lab tech, as he stated.  Field work is a secondary minor for him.  A skill he needs to keep in touch with now and then."

"Good.  At least you're being reasonable."  He looked at Xander again.  "Have you ever had counseling?"

"I need it more for what the bitches did to my head," he said dryly.  He shrugged.   "I've made peace with my past, Stetler.  Even if I do freak people out when I talk about sports."  That got a shudder. "Sorry.  Which one did you hear?"

"The baby animals one, kid."  Xander shrugged again.  "Horatio, I'm going to make a note in his file that he does have combat history.  Unofficial combat history."

"That'll get him looked at oddly by everyone," he countered.

"Put it in as I have experience bodyguarding," Xander said quietly.  "That won't.  Doing that at my age and fitness level would be reasonable.  It would also account for my skills for the most part."

"That's a good idea," Stetler decided, looking at him.  "You did plan."

"Not like the girls could."  He gave him a look.  "Any other demands?   The shrink you made me see was sucking his thumb by the time I left."

"No.  It's clear you're beyond those means of support.  If you do break out into flashes or anything....."

"My first call is Horatio, my second is Gibbs, my third is my father."

"Good.  At least you're realistic."  He leaned forward.  "One last thing.  This club habit of yours?  It sounds an awful lot like prostitution.  I can't *prove* it."

"Hell, if I slept with them they'd probably leave me alone," Xander said dryly.  "I protest. You can ask Speed and Delko both.  You can ask Tony DiNozzo.  He went out with me many times to try to keep me from being taken again.  Sorry but if you can figure out how to stop it, please do.  I even tell Horatio about it and he keeps track of it.  It's nice, my rent's prepaid for the rest of my internship and I got the beamer fixed good as new."  He grinned.

"Speed and Eric taped one, Rick.  He threw fits with some of the women who gave him things.  Eric even tried to intervene as an officer and it made it worse by getting them both paid.  I know it distresses Xander."

"It does but I'm also being realistic at the moment.  That'll be what gets me through looking for an opening since there's no good ones open for ballistics and I'll be damned if I'm going to work in a compromised department with my credentials."  Horatio looked at him.  "Seriously!"

"I'm still waiting to hear about one locally, Xander."

"I checked, they said unless someone retired I was shit outta luck.  If not, I'd be in the non- felony lab with Sascha."

"We'll see.  Things have been known to happen."  He smiled at him.  "Keep it at the level of casual looking for now.  Most departments would expect that."  Xander nodded.

"I heard there's an opening in Texas," Stetler offered.

"My uncle lives there.  I'd hate to have to snap and kill his DUI living ass," Xander said flatly, looking at him.  "I don't want to be anywhere near my former family.  Speaking of, has anyone see Tanya?  I know she's down here but I couldn't get close enough to make a positive ID."  Horatio looked at him.  "We were in the mall, Horatio.  There's how many blonde strippers locally?"

"Good point."  He looked at Rick again.  "I haven't heard anything."

"Me either.  Ask your father?"

"He gave me permission to send her to Cleveland as long as I told the FBI at least two days after she got there."

"That is a bad idea, Xander," Horatio warned.

"I know.  I don't even want to think about that city."  He gave him a wry look.  "Did you like your tea with them?"

"It was very enjoyable," he admitted.

"Speed sent them a transcript of that discussion we had on sports with Alexx and a nice card thanking them for warping me."  He grinned.

Stetler shook his head.  "For right now, Harris, quit.  Follow those rules."  Xander nodded.  "Good.  Also, Horatio, have him cleared to carry."

"I don't have a badge.  I'm an intern, not a cop."

"We'll work that out later.  The Chief made a dispensation since you are licensed and there is a known threat to your life."  Xander nodded his thanks.  "Do it today."

"Of course.  Anything else?"  He shook his head.  "Then we'll both be seeing you after his appointment."  He walked Xander out, smiling at him.  "Breathe and relax."  Xander grinned at did that.  "Good boy.  Let's call from my office so you can capitulate with grace."  Xander pulled out the card to do that while they walked.  Horatio smirked at Eric and Calleigh, both of whom hugged him.  "He needs medical clearance for field work and we're going to classify him on the range, Calleigh."

"I can go."  She pinched Xander on the cheek.  "When you're done, go help Eric in Trace. I'm still clear."  He nodded, finishing up and writing down the date and time for Horatio then going to get sucked back in with Eric.  She smiled at him.  "Good job."

"I didn't have to push except for the field qualification."  He smiled.  "He had a long talk with Xander's father."

"He's a nice guy.  Needs a tighter leash though."  She went back to ballistics to go back over the letter John had sent her.


Xander looked at the people who were walking into ballistics almost a month after he got cleared for field work.  "Is there a crossover case?"  Tony nodded.  "Cool.  Is Kate still okay?"

"She's fine, Xander.  We ended up drawing him out and got him when he went after Kate," Gibbs said.  He gave him a look.  "I could have handled it."

"Why make yourself bigger targets?  There's plenty left.  Let Dad have some fun.  He had fun with the guys who came after us down here."  Horatio leaned in.  "Gibbs, Tony, I'm sure you remember Horatio.  They said there's a case?"

"There is and you can work with them," he agreed.  Gibbs gave him a horrified look.  "He is field trained," he reminded them.  "He's got very good instincts.  He's been an asset whenever we let him into the field.  Your appointment?"  Xander groaned, handing over the gun he had been working on.  "Go.  We'll brief you when you get back."  Xander nodded, hanging up his jacket and giving Tony a hug before leaving.  "We do appreciate him, Gibbs.  Thank you.  He's one of the best hires we've ever had.  I'm hoping we can keep him when he's done with his internship."  He nodded.  "Conference room?"

"Please," Gibbs agreed, following him.  "How is your man?"

"He's good.  He's at home going insane but he's good.   We're letting him do Xander's evaluations from at home.  He's spent a lot of time working with him to make sure he knew what he should know.  We spent about three days working with documents and paper trails that had been mangled or needed to be reconstructed.  He even throws pop quizzes at him."  He smiled at Calleigh.  "There's a crossover case."

"Are you stealing Xander from me?"  He nodded.  "Okay but Speed will pout."

"Speed is still not cleared for duty and Xander had his appointment to get his papers filled out."  She nodded.  "He was matching a set of bullets for you."  She smiled and waved then went to finish that.  "We spend a lot of time in the field.  Having Xander has lightened a lot of loads."  He opened the door, letting them inside.  "Here we are.  What sort of case?"  The other two trailed in from the hallway.

"It's up the kid's alley.  It's gun smuggling," Gibbs admitted.  "I don't like working with people who're new in the field, Caine."

"He's not new, Gibbs.  He's turned those hunting instincts into a concrete set of skills.  The only problem he has is he still can't take good pictures."  He smiled.  "He compensates well for everything else.  You can ask Speed and Eric yourself.  They've both worked a few cases with him in the field.  A probie he is not."

"I'll take it under advisement.  I'd rather have Calleigh."

"She's got a particularly nasty triple at the moment," he said quietly.  "We're searching for the man who assassinated the family traveling on the highway."

"That has to come first," Tony agreed.  "She'll be available if he gets stuck?"

"Of course and you'll have me with him, gentlemen, and Kate."  That got a smirk from Gibbs.  "I am more than an administrator, Gibbs.  Right now he's got to get papers to clear him for field work.  After the shooting IAB said so."

"I've jumped through that hoop a few times," Tony quipped.  "Is the doc going to be a problem?"

"Depends on which one he sees.  One will be horrified that he's got such a horrible disability and encourage him to go sulk in a dark corner wearing sack cloth and begging for food.  The other has a lot of family in the PD.  He'll be realistic and probably call one to make sure the boy can handle the field's responsibilities.  We did ask for the second."

"Let's hope he gets it," Gibbs agreed.  Horatio gave him a look.  "Where is Lee?  Amanda's been complaining."

"Shadowing his son trying to figure out what's going on when he goes into the clubs.  The same as Speed is," he admitted dryly.  "What sort of weapons smuggling?"  He sat down facing them.  "Are we talking guns, rifles, or artillery?"

"Mostly handguns and some smaller semi and fully automatic machine guns," Gibbs admitted.  "Mostly shipped back with other things.  Once drugs."  Tony slid over the file.  "That's the only spot we know that they come in on outside of homecoming events.  That is a domestic port that a lot of sailors come home through for visits instead of official homecoming with their ships."  Xander came back in.  "Problems?"

"Yup, the idiot was there.  I didn't know I was supposed to let Stetler be in my appointment."  He leaned down to whisper in Horatio's ear, getting a nod.  "He's all but cleared me but he wanted to talk to Speed and Frank.  I left my phone," he admitted, walking out again.  "Be back in twenty, boss."

"Sure, Xander."  He shook his head.  "Rick Stetler is getting very pushy.  Are we setting up a sting tonight or just monitoring tonight?  If we're doing real, hard surveillance, he'll be late tonight.  They want to clean his glass eye."  Tony shuddered.  "He doesn't like it either.  He refused to let Alexx near it."  He grimaced.  "It'll be fine."  He opened the folder, then he heard the screaming.  He got up, one hand already on his gun as he jogged out the door.  He saw the gunman.  He saw Calleigh knocked down with an injury. He pulled and fired on the guy.  The guy managed to duck just right, only getting a graze.

Xander stepped in and grabbed his gun arm, throwing him over his hip, pulling his gun and pointing it at him, foot in the middle of his chest.  "You're pissing me off," he noted quietly.  He heard something and turned, pointing his gun at the other guy with the gun.  "Badge?"  The man sneered.  "I've had enough.  Is this not clear?"  The man cocked his.  Xander shot the guy in the foot, then stomped on the guy on the floor's chest, making him scream in pain.  "Was I not clear?" he demanded.  They both whimpered and nodded.  "Get your asses on your knees right the fuck now!"  They both shifted slowly.  "Touch it, I dare you," he offered.  Other officers came running.  "Check Calleigh.  Do it now!" he snapped.  They did that, going to help her.

Horatio put his gun up, staring at him.  "Xander?"  He looked over.  "Thank you.  Can you go back to your exam now?"

"Sure."  He put his gun up.  "I got him in the foot," he told the officer handcuffing that guy.  "I stomped on the other guy's ribs and I may have dislocated his wrist when I threw him."  He walked off, going back to talk to the Captain and his brother the doctor.  "Sorry.  Calleigh's my mentor.  I get pissed when people touch what's mine to protect."

"I can tell, kid.  Good reflexes."

"I had to, Captain."  That got a nod.  "I'm supposing you heard?"  He nodded, looking a bit smug.  "Crap," he muttered.  "I still retired."

"I know.  It shows.  You're getting slow."  He gave him a look.  "Good instincts but not quite by the book."  He looked at Horatio.  "You froze?"

"He had it."

"Good point.  So, brother?"

"He's clear with me," he agreed, looking at Stetler.  "I can't complain."  The elevator dinged and everyone pointed their guns at it.  "Guys, I think he works here," he called.  He looked at Rick.  "Any other doubts?"

"No, not a one.  Harris, good work."

"Thank you, Sergeant.  If you'll excuse me, my former lab is down on a crossover case and Horatio said I could help."  He looked at Calleigh, hands now on his hips.  He was picking up Horatio's mannerisms he realized.  "Do I have to fuss over you too?"

"If you do I'll bite," she warned.  He came over and she backed away.  "Off!  Now!"  She weathered the pout and the sulk, even the kicked puppy looks.  "You can wait until I'm not in pain."

"Yes, Calleigh.  Meany.  I'm good at fussing over injuries."

"I don't care.  The ER gets me first."

He looked at the wound then at her.  "Got a pair of pliers?" he quipped.  She snorted and let them walk her off, no longer protesting that she was being drug.  "Hey, it did work," he said happily.  Horatio moaned and shook his head.  "She hates it when I fuss.  Therefore I  used some reverse psychology."  Tony burst out laughing.  "It worked!"

"It definitely did," Tony agreed, patting him on the back.  "You need our help?"

"Nope," Eric called, waving them off.  "Not much to clean up, guys.  I'll do it.  Someone take Xander's statement."  He made shooing motions.  "Go back to the case before I have to call Speed."  They all walked off, Gibbs shaking his head and muttering.

"Yes, I know I'm so cowboy I outdo John Wayne," Xander sighed, looking at him.  "It was necessary."

"It was, but it was still cowboy," Gibbs agreed.  He smacked him on the back of the head.  "You do *not* go after people with guns without your own unless you have to, kid.   You are not a comic book hero."

Xander gave him a look. "But I look so good in spandex," he teased.  Gibbs smacked him harder.  "Sorry, you set it up so well and I couldn't resist, Gibbs.   Shooting them would have led to a lot of paperwork and they wouldn't be able to beg for mercy.  We'd miss them begging for mercy for taking her on.  She would've missed it too.  This way they can kiss and lick her toes until she kicks them in the head.  Because those two, serious blow jobs of the moron signal tower."  Horatio coughed to smother a laugh. "They did!"

"Xander, calm down," Tony ordered. "I know you get bouncy after a crisis."  He sat him down.  "Sit, read the folder."

Xander took it to look over.  "Isn't this a commercial and travel port?"  Gibbs nodded.  "Are they shipping it back as cargo or sneaking it back as luggage?"

"Mostly as luggage.  One or two at a time because you'd expect a service member to have a sidearm," Tony offered.

Xander nodded.  "True, but not all types.  I wouldn't expect a sidearm to be an uzi."  He turned the page.  "Hmm.  That's a contact we know.  Horatio, isn't that the stupid bastards who've been giving Vice so much trouble?"

"He is."  He took it to look over.  "We've been paying a lot of attention to him recently.  He's been linked to the Argentinian drug lords."  He went to pull up their file on him.  "He's not linked to guns," he admitted.  "He's listed as doing drugs and a few prostitutes at a higher end club."

"Could he be fencing the guns there?" Xander suggested.

"It's in Model City, Xander.  All the pretty people and stars would not put up with such things in their clubs."

Gibbs looked at him.  "We've had one at a congressional country club."

Horatio looked at him.  "That's DC.  Down here they would complain and boycott.  They'd go out of business and be run out of town.  Our residents get vindictive when you take away their petty amusements."  He walked to the next lab, going to look something up.  He came back with a sheet.  "This is where we're seeing a lot of higher end weapons fenced.  The three in the purple font are near that area.  Before you ask, someone reset the fonts," he said, looking at Xander.

"I was only doing it for my own report," he defended.  "I can't figure out how I reset it for the whole lab.  Tech support couldn't figure it out when I walked them through what I had done.  They said it was freaky too."

"I'm sure it is," Horatio agreed.  "He was working late after the rest of us had left.  I got a very sheepish call from tech support at two in the morning asking what color I wanted the fonts.  Without any explanation beyond that.  I thought we had a drugged or drunk hacker."  He gave Xander a look.

"How many times has he went into overtime with your team?" Tony asked smugly.

Horatio gave him a look.  "Every week but one.  That week we weren't sure where he was for two days since they had him drugged and in their garage so they could talk him into providing semen for their nefarious breeding plans."

"That was their phrasing, not mine," Xander noted before Tony could laugh.  "I told them repeatedly I was snipped.  They didn't seem to care."

"Did you go out alone again?" Tony demanded.  Xander shook his head.  "You had people with you?"

"That's how we knew he was in a garage and drugged," Horatio said grimly.  "They took him and Speed both.  They decided to let Speed go first."

Tony shook his head.  "You poor thing."

"I've got my rent paid up to the end of the year," Xander said dryly.  "The beamer works better than when I bought it used."

"Good," Gibbs agreed.

"Very practical," Kate agreed.  She took the list of sites.  "Can we go in and look for a few?"

"Most of us are known and those sort are higher class," Horatio offered.  "They're going to expect weapons dealers."

"I'm great at undercovers," Tony assured him.  "Xander?"

"I can go."

"I doubt it," Gibbs said.  "That's an acting job.  They probably know you too."

"Only if they're Feds," Xander complained.  "Or they had access to get into my file, which they could do on anyone, even Tony.  And yes, Xander can play bored badass bitch of the block.  Did recently," he said with a renewed grin.  Horatio moaned.  "Sorry!"

"Never apologize, it's a sign of weakness," Gibbs reminded him patiently.

Horatio looked at him.  "Not in this case.  His father had him helping him," he said flatly.  Tony snickered.  "I see you've heard?"

"His brother Jamie works up the floor from us.  He walked over a note and walked off shaking his head muttering about his grandmother throwing fits.  Even your mother hid when Lee bragged how you had helped and it was just like seeing a younger him in action, Xander."

"Oops?" he said, then he burst out giggling.  "That was Dad's game plan, not mine.  I have more subtlety."

"Usually," Horatio agreed. "That day he came in wearing leather and a t-shirt that Calleigh said was going to get him stolen, again.  Even Speed was appreciative of his current look.  Messy hair and all."

"Dad had it done by someone.  Not my thing."  He flicked a hand.  "Can I have that back?"  Tony handed the folder back so he went over the list of guns.  He frowned at one.  "I've ran one of these recently."  He rolled over to the computer and pulled up the search engine, going through his saved reports.  He found it and printed it off. "Here, this case.   One of the Tech-9's."  Horatio looked it over then handed it on.  "Did Eric get his woman that time?"

"He did and we'll let them have access to her to see where she got it from," Horatio agreed.  "Anything else I need to arrange right now?"

"I smell aftershave," Tony said, nodding at the doorway.  Horatio looked then snorted. "Bosses?"

"Nightshift boss."  He opened the door.  "Yes, Gloria?"

"Can we keep Harris tonight?"

Xander leaned out.  "They've got a gun smuggling case and this is my former lab.  What did you need me for?"

"Field.  I've got two out."

Xander shrugged.  "I've been ordered to have someone clean out my eye.  I'm going to the doc's at five and I won't be done probably until seven.  I'll need some time to sleep off the light sedative he'll have to use.  If they don't need me tonight I'll process and hand over."

"That'll work.  Will you need him tonight, Horatio?"

"Gibbs?  Did you want to scout or watch tonight?"

"Let's question this person first, scout the other locations, see if we can find anyone who's already a suspect."  Xander took the list of fences and wrote down a few more places and addresses.  "Seen military personnel there?"

"Yup, and the last one's a hardcore club.  Gangster territory and you *will* need me to get in there."  He stood up and beamed.  "It pays to have gang tutors in chem and econ."  He nodded at Horatio.  "Let me go be tortured.  I'll call when I'm out and meet you wherever if you're not back here?  Gloria, want me on call?"

"I'm good with that.  Thank you, Xander.   I'll make sure the boss pays you overtime like a real tech."

"You do know Sascha's got field classes too?" he offered.

"Really?" she purred.  "Interesting."  She went to talk to her too.  She definitely needed to get another intern for her shift from UCLA if they were graduating folks like Xander and Sascha.

Xander grinned.  "She's been complaining about how many overtime perks I get.  Including break room couch sleeping rights.  Let me go be tortured, I'll call.  I'll think while I'm out.  Also, Dad's at the Raddison if you needed to pick his brain too."  He headed out, going to drive over to the doctor's office.

An officer outside stopped him.  "You're a CSI, right?"

"Intern."  He looked at him.  "Why?"

"You drive a beamer?"

"I drive an eight-year-old beamer and I got it used, dude.  I got a very good deal while I was in DC.  It's had to have some work done but it purrs along now."  That got an understanding nod.  "I paid, like, twenty for it total, including work.  It's a better car than the POS I could've gotten new."

"Sure.  Are your stipends that much?"

"No, it was a post graduation gift to myself.   I went through on grants and I worked through school.  Then again, I had been in construction and earning about twenty an hour until five years ago."  The man nodded at that.   "See, not a bad person."

"No, you're not.  Thanks, Harris."

"Welcome."  He got into his car, heading off.  Now he knew where the rumors about him being a dirty CSI had started.  It was his car and Stetler's constant attention. Maybe he'd ask Dad if he could let it slip that he was a Fed.  Or maybe not. That might cause more problems.  At least Horatio had done some damage management with some of the detectives.


Lee looked over as his hotel room opened. "Hey, kid.  What's up?"

"Gibbs and them been by?"

"Coming over in about an hour.   Hungry?"

"Eww, no.  Sedatives just now."  His father gave him an odd look.  "They wanted to clean the socket."

"I agree, that's gross.  Soda?"

"That I'll take."  Lee got him one and handed it over.  "So, anything on our case?"

"Which case?"

"Gun smuggling."

"Haven't heard a thing."  Xander sat across from him.  "Where?"

"A few ships and the local port.  Some sailors smuggling them back.  Mostly small arms, light machine guns and handguns.  We've found one and they were going to talk to the person who bought it.  The name they have linked was into the Argentinians."  He opened his drink and took a sip.  "Better," he sighed.  "Also I'm on call tonight for Gloria."

"You might wanna turn on your phone then."

Xander looked at it and held it up.  "It is on.  I got your message, that's why I'm here."

"Oh, sure."  He smiled. "Your mother's on her way down."

"Okay.  We can have dinner and stuff."

"You could move to a better place, son."

"I will if I get a spot down here.  I don't want to take an apartment for six months, Dad."

"I know.  Have you seen the inside of your motel room recently?"

"Yup and I took my gun back from the maid too.  I also changed the combination on my carryable safe.  She was not happy.   I don't care she wasn't happy and I pointed out I was going to arrest her ass if she did it again."  He took another sip.  "In front of the manager."  He got up to answer the door, smiling.  "Hi, Mom."

"Hi, son."  She gave him a hug.  "Are you okay?  You look pale."

"I had to let the doc clean my eye."  He looked in the hall, and waved at Horatio, who came that way.  "They're here."

"That's fine," Lee agreed.  "He's on call tonight, Amanda."

"After a medical procedure?"

"I'm fine, Mom, just a light sedative and I'm only on call."  He let the others in, sprawling in his usual chair again.  "Okay, what new things have we found out?"

"Not a whole lot.  She bought hers from a trunk of a car," Tony admitted.

"Any idea where?  We know most of those guys have their own areas.  We can use this as an excuse to bust them so I have more guns to play with."  Xander finished his soda and tossed out the can, looking at them.  "We can, right, boss?"

Horatio nodded. "That's how we usually do it, Xander.  Quit worrying.  It went all right?"

"Just fine.  He said I had crud.  Crud came out.  I napped through it thankfully."  He shrugged.  "I'm supposed to have it done every month but I'll stick to when necessary."  He looked at the others.  "What area?"

"Sola?" Tony asked.

"That..."  Horatio started.

"That's Rio's territory," Xander said, sitting up.  "Oooh, and he's got ties, bosses. " He smirked at Gibbs.  "He's a former Army guy, called himself an Army idiot once or twice.  Dishonorably discharged but we don't know why.  We've made a few careful buys from him to set him up."

"We who?" Lee asked.  "That hasn't been with the stuff I've let you help with."

"Let?" Amanda demanded, patting him on the head.  "No more begging the son, dear.  He's a CSI, not an agent.  He doesn't get paid to get shot at."  She looked at her son.  "I will pout."

"Yes, mom," he sighed.  Tony snickered.  "You try arguing with her!"

"No thanks.  I'll end up like your dad, slumping away from her."

"That was an interesting question, Xander.  We who?" Horatio asked.

He unconsciously shifted away from him.  "Um, Vice needed someone who knew guns and he knew Calleigh.  Sascha refused, claimed he wouldn't sell to her, he doesn't like women with guns, and it was a felony case anyway with what they were describing.  Her boss was jumping down her throat about her hours from what I heard."

"Hmm," Lee said.  "At least it wasn't Peterson asking.  He's a bit reckless."

"Isn't he ATF locally?" Kate asked.  "We checked to see who was down here that we might have to run over."

"There is a team leader with that name in ATF and there's also one in SWAT," Horatio said, staring at his intern.  "We will be discussing all this extra work you seem to have been doing, Xander."

"All the better to get a full-time job with?" he offered sheepishly.  "Sascha can go to New York, or Scotland Yard was scouting her.  I'll let her go."  He nodded.

Horatio sighed.  "You are an intern, you are to work thirty hours a week, Xander.  Not more than that.  Especially not more than Eric does."  Xander shrugged.  "It won't make it any harder on you to get a full time job down here."

"Yes it will.  The Chief said there's no openings.  I asked during one of his lunch breaks in the park, he said the budget wasn't going to stretch unless you wanted to give up all your interns and find another twenty grand a year."

"And I said we'd see, Xander.  Quit.  All your assignments are to go through me.  Everyone's, even your father's.  Am I clear?"

"Yes, sir," he sighed, looking down.


"Clear, Horatio."  He was hiding some mirth at this scene.  His son was just as stubborn as Lee had ever been and it was fun watching Horatio run over his son while making him promise to quit being so stubborn.

"Thank you.  Considering you got him grazed recently that's the best thing I've heard today."  Amanda slapped Lee, making him yelp and move away from her.  "Want the others' names?"

"I'm not that mean," Xander told him.  "Most of the time."  He looked at Tony.  "Files, anything?  Please?" he mouthed.  He grinned and handed it over.  "Hmm.  This I can do.  This I can definitely do.  Not tonight since I'm on call for Gloria, but we can do this tomorrow night?  Or can we not set up a sting that fast?"  He looked at Horatio, who nodded.  "Then we're a go for tomorrow night and a sting?" he asked Gibbs.   "We can monitor a few places tonight."

"That's a good use of time.  You're still a rookie."

"And I've been playing in their yard for the last few weeks, Gibbs.  They already know me."  He handed it back.  "Oh, Horatio, another guy asked me how I was driving a beamer.  I told him it was eight-years-old and it needed a lot of work, I got it for twenty."

"Because the half-demon selling it wanted to blow you," Tony reminded him.

Xander shrugged. "I still did."

"True.  Can't argue with that."

"I didn't mention the sales associate was very motivated to let me have it this time.  Told him it was my graduation present to myself."

"It basically was," Tony agreed.  He looked at Gibbs.  "Want me to go in with him?"  That got a nod.  "Can we work on that tonight, Xander?"

"Sure."  His phone went off.  "Harris," he answered.  "Hi, Gloria.  Need me?"  He stood up with a stretch.  "No, I'm fine.  Upset stomach, mild sedative.  They had to remove my eye and clean the hole, Gloria.  Yup, I'm there."  He hung up.  "Mom, late supper?"

"I'll bring some down and you can take a break.  You call when you get back to the office," she ordered, kissing him on the cheek.  He nodded, heading out.  "Wear your vest."

"Won't need it this time."  He hoped or she'd nag.

Horatio watched his intern walk out and shook his head.  "I'm going to be counting hours he's been working tomorrow.  Lee?"   Lee printed something and handed it over. "Thank you.  Any other agencies I should talk to?"


"I'll do that as well."   He looked at Gibbs.  "Want to get dinner, settle into your hotel, then we'll go scouting?"

"That's a plan," he agreed.  "Has Harris been in most of those spots?"  Lee nodded.  "Your case?"

"My case is hunting a spy that's gone to ground, but he thinks he's a playboy for young cute men.  Xander's been playing bait and saying he heard he's around, he wanted to meet someone so famous.  He's also been using my last name since it's one of our guys in hiding due to something he stumbled over.  We're hoping he'll make contact soon."  He looked at his wife.  "He does play act so well."

"Better than you do," she teased.  Kate snickered. "I take it you heard?"

"A lot.  Jamie told us."  She smirked.  "We'll see you guys tomorrow or so."  She tugged on McGee's arm, walking out with Tony and Gibbs behind them and Horatio following since he was half of them's ride.  "Night."

"Night," Lee called, taking his rightful kiss. "I haven't been putting him in danger, Amanda.  The graze was some jealous young man.  Xander had attracted his boyfriend and they were dancing together.  Xander also got him down and had someone call the cops.  He didn't break cover."  She smiled. "But I know you're right.  He's not agency material."  She shook her head.  "Yes, dear.  Can we have dinner first?  I'm starved."

"Sure," she agreed, taking his hand and leading him down to the restaurant in the hotel.  It was a nice one.


Xander got the page his mother was there, coming out of Trace and holding up a finger.  "Ten more minutes.  Give them passes, they're going to break room so I get dinner."  The receptionist nodded, letting them have that.  He jogged back into the lab, going back to his last two tests.  When he was done he typed a quick and sloppy report, he'd do the rest when he got done.  He flipped off his computer and walked out once his jacket was off.  He stretched.  "Gloria, going to dinner.  Find me about thirty after I get back," he called, knowing she was in fingerprints.

"Sure, Xander.  Happy food."  She watched him walk.  "I don't know how he can eat after earlier."

Xander walked into the break room.  "Sorry, you got here sooner than I thought."  He settled in with a hug for his mother. "How's Grandma?"

"Still ranting you won't even adopt."

"I'd mess the poor kid up," he said dryly.  He flopped down.  "Before you ask, kids."  That got a nod from both of them.  "So, food?  I haven't eaten since noon."  Amanda handed over a sub and a new soda.  "Oooh, food."  He kissed her on the cheek, making her laugh, but he did eat.  He finally relaxed and smiled at them.  "Better."  His phone rang.  "No," he moaned.  He looked at it then answered. "I'm still eating, Gloria.  Yeah.... I turned off the monitor.  No, they're not done yet.  They're in pre-report format.  You can wait until I get done eating.  That'll be the same time the autopsy results are finished.  Because I'm that good.  Yes, I promise.  Within thirty minutes of me finishing my dinner.  Thank you."  He hung up and shook his head, making sure his phone was hung up.  "She's got an emotional push this time.  None of us like cases with kids."  He leaned on the table. "So, how was your day?" he quipped.

"Better than yours," Lee offered with a smile.  "Are you using the same personality when you go to buy weapons?"

"Yup.  It's easier."  He grinned at his mother.  "I play swishy gay guy very well.  It's always a shock to the weapons dealers when they see me."

"What have you been working on?" she asked, looking confused.

"That for Vice and ATF, a joint campaign.  That's how we're doing it with Tony tomorrow night."  That got a nod.  "So," he sighed.  "Anything good happening up in DC?"

"Senator Ketchum tried to send her regards but I punched the woman," Amanda offered.  "Pointed out you were my son and no way was any senator worthy of you.  Said I'd rather have you date a serial killer first.  A male one.  She pouted."

"You know, I don't know if I have been with a male serial killer.  Just a female one," he admitted thoughtfully.  "I don't know, I might turn guys evil too.   Someday I'll have to figure that out."  He shook his head and looked at them.  "Sorry, Tanya's in town."

"Your ex?"

"Yeah, her.  She's somewhere down in South Beach.  I reported her to the Marshals going after her and to Horatio.  Or actually I wrote him an email.  He'll probably get it later tonight.  I've sent out a memo to both shifts about her behavior and what she went for and that she was escaped and was believed to be in the area.  Just in case.  Sascha sent back a sympathy e-card.  So we know it's not going to be a good week."  Lee nodded at that.  "I got a nibble last time we went out.  Did it pan out?"

"A bit.  We think he knows who you really are so he might come here."

"I'm here a lot," Xander said dryly.  "He's more than welcome to come here."  Lee nodded, sending a text message to that effect.  "Any other good news?  I could use some cheering up."

"Phillip's wife is trying to soothe your grandmother by having baby envy at the moment," Amanda offered.  "I don't know what's wrong with the woman.  She was never like this until a few years back."

"Usually that's a sign you've realized your mortality and you want to make sure something of you goes on into the future," Xander reminded her gently.  "Did she get sick?"

"It was right after she had that bout of bronchitis," Lee admitted, looking at his wife.  "That would fit too, Amanda."

"It would.  I'm sure she'll work it out, Xander."

"Oh, if you get a possible DNA warrant for a daughter, don't worry, it's not yours, son.  Someone took some of mine and used it in Russia.  They just immigrated and I know there's one in the system."  He nodded once at that.  "So you have a half-sister."

"Cool.  That works too.  Are we bringing her home?"

"That would make my mother scream," Amanda sighed. "For many weeks on end.  Then she'd love the child."  She looked at Lee.  "Meet with the mother?  It's entirely possible that she didn't volunteer with the way the Russian system used to go.  We know she was a secretary in the KGB."

"Point.  I wouldn't care to meet with her.  We'll have to move around the system to do that."  Gloria stomped in.  He checked his watch. "Sorry, filling him in on some new news.  Go back to work, kiddo.  I'll see you tomorrow night."  Xander grinned and nodded, heading back to finish his reports.  Gloria looked confused.  "Yes, we're his parents."

"I know you're a spy of some sort.  Homemaker?" she guessed about Amanda.

"No, I recruited her," Lee admitted.  "She's where Xander gets his trouble magnet nature from."  Amanda slapped him on the arm.  "Ow, woman!  You'll have to kiss that and make it better later.  No more abusing me in front of non-family."

"Fine, we'll go bother Gibbs and I'll abuse you in front of him."  She stood up, smiling at Gloria.  "Is our son a good field tech?  I haven't gotten to work with him in the field yet."

"He's not bad.  He's always accurate.  This time it's more important."

"I realize that," Lee assured her. "He said it was a kid."  She nodded.  "We hate cases like that too."  He shook her hand.  "When do you think you're going to let him go?  We've got an undercover tomorrow."

She whimpered. "He does?"

"For me," Lee admitted.  "We're hunting another spy."

"Charming."  She walked off shaking her head.  "I'll let him go home once Trace is clear."  She walked into Xander's lab, watching him finish reports.  "You really did all those?"

"There were only five individual swabs.  Two came out the same substance.  It'll all be covered."  She nodded, waiting there.  He looked back at her.  "Shoo.  Let me write."  She sighed and walked off while he finished his reports.  He finished those and handed them over with the resealed and boxed samples.  "There you go.  Seven samples that we found at the scene."

"I thought we found ten."

"One was a knife, it's in fingerprints.  One was computer and AV stuff.  One wasn't a sample.  It was part of the furniture so we've got it on camera.  I taped the scene with a video camera this time so I can pull stills."  She nodded at that, walking off.  He went down to the morgue, shaking his head at the night ME.  "Got anything else for me?  I'm only on call tonight until Trace is clear."

"She was stabbed," he said.

"We found the knife.  It's in fingerprints."  He motioned Xander over, letting him look at the two different sizes of injury.  "Uh-huh.  What do we think the other was?"  He saw Gloria looking down from the observation room and looked at the ME.  His bad shit radar was going off.  "Any idea?"

He nodded.  "Looks like a pocket knife, Xander.  Also, did you get the trace off her feet?"

"Two swabs, one from each side.  It came up sushi seaweed.  Still raw but very wet, like it had been soaking and fell and she stepped in it."  That got a nod.  "Anything else we know?"  The ME rolled the girl over, letting him look.  He squatted down to get closer.  "Tell me you took UV photos?"

"I did.  The bruises came up with lividity.  We got there fairly quickly after the call.  Lividity hadn't set in yet."  He looked at him.  "I don't know what causes that sort of mark."

"I do.  It's a hand pushing in the same spot for a long time.  Did you do a SART kit?"

"Negative and negative.  She wasn't touched.  Any orifice."  Xander relaxed and nodded.  "I did take the pre-bruising subdermal photos, the ones that'll catch the bruises while they're still under the skin."  He handed those over.  "I had them run specially."

"Crap.  I know that gun.  I fixed that gun," he hissed.  He looked at him.  "Thanks.  Anything new for me?"  He shook his head.  "Then I'm going to go back to Trace.  Write your report, it's my case."  He nodded.  "Thanks, man."  He clapped him on the arm and walked out with the photos he had taken.  Including of that bruise.  He ran into his step- boss on the way out.  "We found some minor bruising, it looks like a ring pattern so I'm going to run with that.  Then I'll head."  She nodded, smiling and walking off.  He went to his trace lab and shut the door, checking the hall.  He decided to go over to fingerprints.  "Hey, knife?"

"Done now.  She's been hovering, Xander.  It's annoying."  She let him see the screen and he nodded.  "You knew?"

"Yeah, there was a subdermal bruise from a gun.  Can you print that for me?"  She handed him a copy.  "Thanks."  He walked out, going to AV.  He leaned down to get closer to the tech's ear.  "I think this has to do with a federal case I'm working on.  Can I have a copy of the full tape on DVD?" he requested quietly.  He nodded, handing one over.  "Thanks.  Was it less blurry?"

"Much less blurry than normal," Tyler said, smiling at him.  "Thank you for doing that, Xander."

"Welcome."  Tyler looked at the form in his hand.  "You didn't see that."

"I worked on H's crew for years."

"That's where I'm going tonight," he said, glancing around.  "He promised to yell at me about my hours," he said in a more normal voice, shuffling reports.  "Thanks, Tyler."   He nodded.  "Speed'll appreciate me bringing him one he can do an eval on.  He ordered and you know we all jump when Speed complains."

Tyler laughed.  "Very often."  He smiled at Gloria when she came in.  "Speed said he wanted to see the scene DVD.  He's working on Xander's photo problem.  If that's all right?"

"It's within the lab.  That's fine."  She smiled at Xander.  "Done?"

"Nearly.  I went to gather this first."  She nodded so he went back to trace, sending a text to Speed with a 'tell H I need him, 911 night lab' text.  He sent it and erased it from his history.  Then he settled in to search the gun barrel print.  He found the make and model and he was sure it was the same gun.  Speed walked in himself, going right to trace. "You should be on the couch.  I was going to bring you the DVD so you could do the eval and see if that's a better way for me to take crime scene photos."

"I should but I'm bored.  My apartment's too familiar.  Hey, Gloria.  I decided to come in to do this eval."

"That's fine, Speed.  Xander, anything on the ring?"

"Not really, it's a bit blurry."  She nodded.  "So I'll head after he does my eval."

"That's fine, boys.  We don't need Trace unless we get another call."

"Marissa just cleared," Xander reminded her.  She smiled and went to congratulate her.  He shut the door and nodded at the stack of photos.  Speed found the report.  "I fixed her sight the other day," he said quietly.  "It's a visual match to the gun."

"That's something you need H to intervene on," he agreed.  "Good instincts."  He pressed on his earbud, smiling.  "Sure, H.  Yeah, it is.  Thanks."  He hung up and ran the scene DVD.  He looked at him.  "Anything else we do know?"  Xander pulled up the backup copy of his report since his original seemed to be missing, printing it off and handing it over.  "Where's the original?"

"Eaten."  He gave him a look.

"Crap."  He nodded.  "Who else knows?"  He tapped the fingerprints report.  "Anyone else?"

"Me thinks."

"They're good at that.  The green goop was sushi seaweed?"

"Yup.  I looked up common uses for it.  Did I hit all the evidence high points?"

"You did.  It's not even blurry.  I'm impressed."  He smiled at him.  "We may make you do this from now on."   Xander nodded that was fine with him.  "Okay.  What do you want to do?"

"Go to bed."

"Beyond that.  I know it's been a long day for you.  You were at the hospital at seven."

"I got up at four."

"It's nearly midnight now, Xander."  Xander nodded.  "Okay.  Definitely time for you to be in bed.  H called to complain to Calleigh and I about your hours."  He gave him a look.  "You can't work more than me.  You don't get overtime."

"It's my job."


"It means I've got the better shot of getting a job when it comes open, Speed."

"One'll come open, Xander."  He dialed a number on the room's phone.  "H, me.  We're here talking about Xander's hours."  He put him on speaker.

"Xander, who are you going undercover for?"

"A joint Vice/ATF project.  Plus luring that hiding spy out of hiding for Dad.  Why?"

"Xander," he said patiently.  He heard the door open.   "Hi, Gloria, going over Xander's hours."

"Can he come in late tomorrow?" Speed asked.

"No, we've got that crossover case with NCIS," Xander reminded him.  "I can go like this for at least a week, Speed.  There's been plenty of times when I had to pull thirty-six hour stuff in the past."

"We don't work like that, Xander," Horatio assured him. "Unless it's an emergency."

"Like a sniper or an air crash," Speed agreed.  He patted Xander on the back.  "I'll give you a ride home on the bike."

"Okay.  Never been on a bike before."

"We can fix that."

"If you crash and hurt you both I will kill you, Speed," Horatio noted.  "Gloria, is he done?"

"Yeah, it's just these two going over an evaluation of the scene tonight, Horatio.  I was coming in to check on him."

"That's fine.  Boys?  Speed, go ahead and come in tomorrow to do that.  Take the nice copies with you so you don't have to worry about hunting them down in the morning."  He nodded, gathering everything up and ejecting the DVD.  "Did the taping work?"

"It was surprisingly clear.  A bit shaky in spots but he zoomed in on all the evidence and took measuring shots too, H."

"Good.  Then we'll see if that's a workable compensation for his photo problem.  Have a good night, Gloria.  Speed, make sure the boys know not to touch his car."

"Yes, H."  He hung up on him.  "C'mon, kid."  He put everything in an evidence envelope.  "He's the best intern we've ever had, but he's doing ninety hour weeks and he doesn't get paid overtime," he quipped.  He walked Xander off, one hand on his back.  He looked at the guard.  "I'm giving Harris a ride home.  Leave his beamer alone tonight?"  That got a nod.  "Thanks.  He's exhausted.  He got up at four."  The guard checked his watch then shuddered.  "The life of a CSI, man."  He walked Xander out to his bike, pointing at the footrests. "You feet go on those.  Your arms go around me.  You lean where I lean.  Got it?"  Xander smiled and nodded, getting on once he had.  "No helmet but it'll work for tonight."  He put the envelope down his shirt so he couldn't lose it, noticing Gloria was watching them.  He waved as he started the bike.  Xander clutched him.  "Relax," he called back.

"It's like a big damn vibrator."

"That's why many men drive a bike, I do it for other reasons," he said patiently.  He walked the bike backward out of the spot and then took off, heading for Horatio's house.  It'd look natural to continue that conversation about his hours.  It was a nice drive and he felt Xander relaxing slowly behind him.  He checked in his mirror, the boy had this blissed out look on his face.  He sped up a little bit, making him squeak and hold on tighter but that was fine for now.  He took the long way to Horatio's, losing their tail, but did pull into his driveway eventually.  He turned off the engine and took off his helmet, making Xander wake up.  He smiled and nodded at Horatio to come get the boy.  "Knocked him out," he said quietly.

"It's good for that."  He helped get Xander unwound from Speed and it woke him up.  "Inside and onto the couch, Xander."  Xander shook his head, pouting some.  "We'll look that over in a minute.  Go sit down."  Xander nodded, trudging that way.  By the time they got inside the boy was crashed out with his head on Stetler's thigh, earning a very long dirty look.  "He fell asleep on the ride over."

"He called me a nice hippo and fell asleep on me."

"Abby has this stuffed, farting hippo she uses as a pillow now and then when she naps in the lab," Speed told him.  "Switch with me."  Stetler got up and Speed sat down.  Xander made snuffling noises.  "Rest on me, Xander."

"Nice kitty."  His head found the soft thigh and planted itself firmly on it, shifting to rub his cheek a few times.  "Scratchy."

"It's fine.  Quit nuzzling."  Xander quit and shifted to put an arm around his waist too.  "Good boy."  He petted his hair, looking at the amused older men.  "He got up at four so he could see John this morning before shift."

"No wonder he used me as a pillow.  What do we have?"    Speed pulled out the envelope, handing it over.  "DVD is?"

"We had him tape it to see if that came out better than his pictures," Horatio admitted.

"It's a bit shaky in spots but he hit all the spots he would have with the pictures," Speed offered.  "The others are his Trace report and fingerprints, plus pictures from the ME.  He did say he had fixed the sight on her weapon the other day and it was a visual match to that subdermal photo."

"Great."  He sat at the table to go over it.  "What do we need definitively?"

"911 tape?"  Horatio suggested.  "The fingerprint tech and who know?"

"He said the ME thinks it's hers.  He called him the 'me' though.  She was hovering like Calleigh when you're talking about her birthday."  That got a small smile and a nod of understanding.

"Birthdays bad," Xander grumbled.

"No, they're nice."

"Nope, bad.  Have clowns."

Speed looked down at him.  "I didn't figure you'd have a phobia, Xander."  He went back to petting him and he went deeper into sleep again.  "He does?"

"He did list a clown phobia that he's been working on," Horatio admitted.

"Clowns?" Stetler asked.

"He got traumatized by one when he was five at his birthday party."

"Oh.  No wonder he thinks birthdays are bad."  He went back over it.  "This is more than enough for me to dig underneath her, boys.  Thank you."

"Does this mean he can have a spot?" Speed asked dryly.

"Sure.  If the Chief says so," he shot back.  "How many hours does he work?"

"He's had seventy-two in the lab so far in the last week, plus however many he's had for Vice and with his father.  Since we pay him the usual stipend...."

"That sucks.  He's tripling his hours and doesn't get paid more," Stetler complained.

"He's trying to make sure if there's an open spot he gets it over Sascha," Speed pointed out.  "She's his only real competition."

"I do have a plan, Speed.  We need a new ballistics tech because Calleigh got one fired for incompetence."  Speed grinned at that.  "Doing some subtle shifting would make the position open in our lab instead of Non-Felony and Sascha said she wanted Scotland Yard.  If not, Vancouver.  Her parents are teaching in Great Britain at the moment."  That got a  brighter grin.  "So quit pushing and he can too."  He looked at Rick.  "Quietly without implicating Xander?"

"As much as possible."  Horatio nodded.  "Make him come in late tomorrow, Horatio.  You're not usually that much of a slave driver."

"He's been going behind our backs," Horatio said dryly.  "I know one of them he was cleaning guns when Calleigh left then decided to totally clean the lab and all the weapons, plus do the bookcases and evidence cases in there.  She came in to the monthly sorting already done. Including a few things moved that she had complained about."

Stetler shook his head.  "If all officers worked like him...."

"We'd all go insane too.  Hey, if I did, maybe I'll get hit on in the clubs like he does."

"Could rub off," Xander mumbled.  "Did to Cal and Tony."

"Ooh.  No wonder she was in a bad mood this morning."  Speed went back to petting him.  Xander snored and it was good for him.  "So?"

"We've got a briefing with Gibbs at ten.  Then we'll let him go this afternoon to prepare to take Tony out with him tonight.  That way they can coordinate and Tony can find clothes if he has to.  That also means he can have a real meal with his parents and hopefully fix the case for his father."  They nodded.  "Anything else, Rick?"

"No.  Let me get Yelina."  He went to wake her up and walked her out to the car.  She knew she had been a cover so they could talk about this new case.  She didn't care, she was tired.  As long as she got to sleep it was all good.

Horatio looked at them, seeing Speed nearly asleep too.  He got a blanket and covered Xander up, giving Speed a pillow.  Speed used it himself and shifted.  Xander pouted and ended up on Speed's chest, napping but sharing the covers.  Horatio took a picture and went upstairs to bed, smiling at the two dynamic and active young men finally sleeping.  Speed never slept enough.  He'd have to tell Speed Xander was picking up on both their mannerisms.


Speed woke up with his shoulder throbbing but someone was kneading it with the palm of their hand and it was easing the cramp.  He was clearly on a couch.  There was clearly a body on top of him.   He shifted and the body growled but snored once he was comfortable.  He looked down.  The blanket obscured everything but a few dark hairs and one hand.  He smiled at the care his shoulder was getting, but he had to lift up the blanket to look at his teddy bear.  "Comfy?" he asked.  Horatio took another picture.  "I will kill you."

"Have to do paperwork and I take your lab," Xander mumbled.

"That's a good reason not to," he decided, sighing a bit.  He looked at Horatio, who could only smirk.  "Did you tell Eric?"

"I sent him a copy of the picture from last night.  By the way, it's noon."  Speed blinked at him.  "I couldn't get you up.  Every time I tried Xander growled and tried to bite.  So......"

"It's odd but I'm not his, H."

"I know."  He gave him a gentle kiss and Xander made whimpering noises.  "We'll see, Xander."  Xander settled down.  "You rest."   He patted through the thick hair.  Xander yawned and blinked up at him.  "Good afternoon."

"It is?"

"It is.  We've talked with the people over in Vice to see how you usually go in.  They're giving us the prior tapes so we can see if any of the guns you found are on the list and so Tony can get used to your style.  You two are going out at eight tonight to find the one we're going after."  Xander nodded, yawning again.  "You are adorable on top of Speed."

Xander blinked at him a few more times.  "I'm always adorable."

"Quite often," he agreed, smiling at him.  "For now, let's get you back to your place so you can shower and change?  Come to the station at six and we'll wire you."  Xander nodded, getting up and stretching.  Then he turned and hugged Speed with a mumbled 'sorry' and fled.  "Usually he wakes up crankier than you do," he teased.  He took another kiss.  "I left you food in the microwave.  Take a shower and be in by six.  You can monitor tonight with McGee."  He nodded, getting up and stretching.  "How's your shoulder?"

"Fine.  He was kneading it."

"I saw."  He smiled and Speed headed for the food with a swat on the arm.  "Behave and I'll see you at six."

"Should I pick the boy up?"

"No, let him come in however he usually does.  He can say he was picking up something for someone if they ask."  Speed nodded but yawned.  "Have a good afternoon, Speed."  He walked out, taking the hummer back to the lab.  He smiled at Gibbs.  "They're up.  Xander's at his hotel getting himself ready.  Speed'll come in to monitor."

"Was it cute?" Calleigh teased.

"Very."  He showed them the picture from last night.  "He fell asleep on the ride over.  We had to peel him off Speed's back."  Eric's 'awww' was echoed by Kate and Tony.  He put it away and looked at the others.  "Did we find anything from the tapes?"

"Two guns on the list," Kate offered.

"I can easily handle his style," Tony agreed.  "We have people set up who'll give a verbal recommendation if I need them to.  Should I go in dressed like him or not, boss?"

"Ask Caine, it's his area."

"Go in dressed like a mafia thug," Eric offered.  "Nice, serious suit.  Gun.  It'd let you carry.  This guy isn't stupid.  He's paranoid and a tweaker."  Frank Tripp leaned in.  "What's wrong?"

"Xander said he'd look at my gun for me today."

"I can do that, Frank," Calleigh offered.  He smiled and handed it over.  "The spring?"

"I think so."  She took it apart to look at, nodding.  "How easy is it to fix?"

"Give me a few and I'll see if I've got a spare one lying around."  He grinned.  "Horatio, show him the picture."

Horatio sighed but let him see it.  "He fell asleep on the ride over, Speed fell asleep during the meeting."

"Awwww, they're like two dark little puppies.  They jump apart this morning?"

"Harris isn't one of those who's instantly awake," Tony told him with a bright grin.

"If he's half asleep and you're noisy he'll throw a knife at you too, and he's a good shot," Kate added.  Frank and Eric both gave her horrified looks.

Calleigh nodded.  "Cooper caught him taking a catnap for lunch a few weeks back, he threw a pencil at his chest like he was going to stake him," she admitted.

"So he really is like a puppy," Frank teased.

"Speed will growl and bite if you wake him up too soon," Eric offered.  "They're both like sleeping dogs.  Let them lie."

Horatio nodded.  "Xander bounced home after waking up enough to realize he was at my house."  He put the photo away.  "Calleigh, go fix his gun?"  She nodded, getting up to do that.  "Eric, go through the recent reports to see if those serial numbers have come up."

"Kate, go with him.  DiNozzo, did you pack anything?"

"Something close enough, boss.  You know I'm always prepared."

"Good.  Go do that."  Tony nodded, heading back to their room to get ready.  He had the surveillance gear in his bag anyway.  "McGee, help wherever you can."

"I can do the tapes again and the field reports from Vice, boss.  If I can have access to the system?" he asked Horatio.

"Use the one in here, McGee.  It's already logged in under my ID."  He rolled over to start his first search.  "Gibbs, feel free to use my office.  It'll keep me from doing some of the paperwork. I have to check on what he found last night and a few other cases we have going."  That got a nod.  "Don't make the coffee too strong.  They'll complain."  He walked out, going to find Stetler.  "Well?" he asked quietly.

"Your boy sewed it up tight.  Think he'd transfer?"

"He's still a lab tech, not a field CSI with a badge," Horatio said dryly.

"Pity."  He laid out what he had found.  "She got paid."


"I'm not sure yet.  I'm going to get her today.  At her place."

"Thank you for doing that quietly.  Is anyone else in her lab implicated?  If not, Marissa can take over since Deb's off."

"Whatever.  I don't handle that."  Horatio nodded, going to call both ladies to talk to them.   He moved to get his team together and go arrest the dirty CSI.  She had been doing this for a long time and they had a lot of cases to go through to see what else she had done.


To part 3: