Xander pulled his rental car into a spot on the visitor's lot, getting out and putting money in the meter. He saw Stetler and smiled. "Darling, I'm here to pick up something relating back to my accident a few months back," he lisped, his voice a bit higher with a slight accent. His dark green pants were *very* tight leather. His black t-shirt was nearly as tight, and he had a black leather trenchcoat on overtop of it but open. "Do you know where I should go?" He flicked a hand and gave him a smug look. Then he looked up and arranged a carefully gelled spike of hair.
Stetler stared for a minute. "Desk," he said finally, pointing. "The car?"
"Rental, darling. I was in an accident." He walked inside, winking at the receptionist. "I'm here to pick up something from my accident. A report or something that my insurance meanies want. I was to talk to a Lieutenant Caine?" he asked.
"He's upstairs, sir, let me sign you in?" She smiled and let him sign in. "Cute hair."
"Thank you. It does take some of us *ages* to get ready." He walked off, clipping his visitor's pass to his beltline. He ran into Frank at the elevator. "Hmm, a fine man that could be doing much for many people," he purred. Frank gave him a horrified look. "Going my way, sugar?"
"I hope not," he blurted, then he realized who it was. He opened his mouth and Xander winked, getting them onto the elevator. Frank pushed the button for the lab. "Are you ill?"
"Undercover for Vice and ATF, plus the new case."
He looked him over. "It took me a minute."
"You should've seen Stetler's startled look when I got out of the rental corvette." He walked off the elevator. "Ah, such fabulous people," he sighed, smiling at Eric. "And cute too," he added, pinching him on the cheek. Eric gave him this horrified, nearly ready to cry look.
"He's here to pick up reports from his accident," Frank said.
"I wondered what happened to him. Especially his hair."
"You don't like? Raul would be very upset if you did not like," he lisped, smiling at him. Eric shivered and walked off, letting Frank escort him where he needed to go. "Oh, you *fabulous* people," he said as he walked into the conference room. "Ooh, sweetie, wrong color shirt," he said, plucking at Kate's shirt. "You'll clash with the others and draw attention to yourself." He smiled at Gibbs, who nearly had his mouth hanging open and was almost making squeaky noises. Horatio had the same look. "You like? Raul spent *hours* working on my hair, darlings." He flicked a piece again. "That one will not stay. I'll have to spank the meany for not making it all beautiful."
"Shit," McGee said in awe. Calleigh swatted him. "I never knew he could do that," he defended.
"Less lisp, more sitting," Speed ordered dryly, shaking his head. "It's going to take forever to get that gel out of your hair, kid."
"No it won't. They make special cleaners for it," he said in his normal voice. "And after we're done tonight, I'm going out so anyone who wants to go with me can. After all, Dad's still working on finding that nice spy who went to ground." He looked at Horatio. "I'm wearing the stuff they usually send me with." He took off his jacket by letting it slide off his shoulders, then he stripped off his shirt, making sure it didn't mess up his hair. "Another thing the girls taught me." He let Horatio and McGee both check the transmitters on him.
"Video?" Tony asked.
Xander smiled. "Fake tooth. In the bling, baby."
"Nice." He flicked his own earring. "That's mine."
"Works for me. Wire? Isn't that one a bit big?" He handed over his spare. "That's the one Dad gave me to test. It's smaller."
"Thanks." He took off his usual one and put on that one. It was smaller and it was masquerading as a chain. "I like that. Not too stupid?" Everyone shook their heads. "Goes with the earring?" Everyone nodded. "Good." He came over to fuss one wire into place for Xander, making him yelp. "Bare?"
"Necessity. Skin colored patch goes over that spot and it pulls up the covering. It breaks the wire when it does that." He applied the patch and then two others. "Like the temp tats?"
"I do," Horatio admitted. "Much nicer than real ones." Yelina walked in and paused. "It's for a sting."
"I didn't think you'd be groping his chest in public, Horatio." She smiled and kissed Xander's cheek. "You are adorable."
"Thank you, sugar," he said, lapsing back into his lisp with an evil smirk for her. She shivered and backed off. "Aww, but a man like me used to do much for women like you," he teased. "Then I had one who had me and voila! It was a whole new world. Just like Jasmine."
She cackled, walking out shaking her head.
"You just had to ruin it with the Disney reference, didn't you?" Speed taunted. Xander nodded. "You're one strange guy, kid." They finished making sure both systems worked. "We on?"
"We've got an hour. Let's go over what we're doing," Gibbs ordered.
Xander put back on his shirt and jacket, having to undo his pants to tuck in his t-shirt. "I'm going to go in looking for a specific type of piece for a job. He's going to show me things. If there's a problem I'm sure you'll know." He looked at them. "Now, I'm in a rental 'vette. They all know I had an accident about six weeks ago. That's how we set up the cover. My former car had my stash." He smirked. "I'm going to get used to my car since I'm only supposed to be picking up reports from my accident today," he said, going back to his lisp and slight accent. "Antony, I will see you in one hour at the Fantasy Bubbles carwash?" He nodded. "Good boy." He stroked his cheek then left, heading back down to the lobby. He handed in his visitor's pass on his way out. He ran into Stetler again. "Yes, darling?"
"You are in so much trouble," he noted.
"It's a rental, sweetie. I had an *accident* six weeks ago. Someone slammed into me and I had to make the poor pouty person die." He patted him on the cheek, stunning him. "Now, let this nice, young, hot body go for now, okay?" He walked off, sashaying really, getting back into the corvette.
Stetler went upstairs. "They're really using him undercover?" he demanded. Horatio nodded. "Why was he here like that?"
"So we could check his gear," Gibbs told him. "Six weeks?"
"He had an accident in front of a known gang member's hangout," McGee admitted, looking at him. "Then he got out and he supposedly shot the person who had rearended him. Since he was driving a sports car and it was fiberglass it basically totatled the whole back end, boss. The team moved in to respond to the shooting and he had to leave with his supposed stash of guns in the car. He went to hide inside the bar and since he had just shot someone and sneered, then spit on him, they accepted him. He was lamenting his poor car. The gang members sneered at him because he was gay until he put two down on their backs on the floor and made another one pant and beg for him to put him onto his back. The cops came into the bar and he fled with that member. They think he's taken up residence, he's a contract assassin working the region, and his new friend set him up with people who could help him buy weapons. No one asked him if he was a cop according to their notes."
"That flaming and the department wouldn't hire them anyway," Stetler agreed. "Six weeks?"
"Three buys so far, two different dealers. He's going back to Rio for the second time tonight. He's even got a small notice in the system." He pulled it up. "That's the ID they made for him. I guess you're a friend of a friend, Tony?"
"Probably." He straightened out his tie. "Works for me. Fantasy Bubbles car wash?"
"It's a bikini carwash with gay men cleaning," Speed told him. He wrote down the address. "We had a case there about a month ago. A witness to a hit and run." He slid it over.
"That's also a good area to set up a surveillance post," Horatio admitted. "There's a number of empty parking lots and depending on where Rio meets him this time... That could definitely work. When is he getting the location?"
"His phone is set up to double text. Anything that goes into his phone is mirrored on the one on the table," McGee said. "Once he knows, we'll know. The area's good?"
"The area's excellent cover. Businesses. Some homeless so a van won't be that noticed. There's a few industrial clubs so there's a band or two who end up sleeping in their vans now and then. There's also a Vice sting planned in the area at one of those clubs tonight so we'll have near backup and they've been warned?" Kate nodded. "His ATF contact?"
"Begging us to not bust Rio tonight. I told them why and they gave me more names as long as I kept Gibbs out of their building. We agreed if they ran into him in the field or here that he was still fair game." She slid those over, earning a smile from Horatio and Tony.
"DiNozzo, head out, we'll tell you where you're going." He nodded, going to do that. He had rented a dark sedan from the airport just for today. "We on?" he asked Horatio.
"We are. Boys, stay in the van if possible," he ordered Speed and McGee. "McGee, he was recently shot. Unless it's about to explode I don't want to see him out and I'm making you *personally* responsible for my CSI's continued well being." He stared him down and got a swallow and a nod. "Good. Let's hit the van." They headed down, going to do that. Kate ended up with the boys in the back. He and Gibbs got the front. "You never said he was going to jump into every nook and cranny he could," he said quietly.
"We warned you he volunteered and jumped in to take things from Abby's hand. Should've made the jump, Caine," he taunted. He smirked at him, driving his usual style.
"Left, Gibbs." He nodded, going that way. "I went down to the head of Vice and apparently he had been warned. He had a lot of things for me from Xander's file, including how many hours he had worked. The chief was not amused."
"He going to pay him for some of it?"
"Not when he stays to clean the lab, but for the hours he was working with Vice and ATF, though they're going to be asked impolitely to do the same. I put him together with his mother earlier so the same request could be made. She only paused for a minute then the faxed statements came over about those hours. Did you know he was working with his father back in DC?"
"He spent a lot of time bored back in DC. It doesn't really surprise me any." He looked over when he heard the phone cheep. "That them?"
"Twenty minutes, Sola, car wash," McGee read.
"That's the bikini carwash. Rio must hate him being so gay." He sent that to Tony. "Head to The Sun Does Shine Carwash, Tony. It's on Sola about four blocks ahead of you. Xander's to meet him in twenty." He got an affirmative click from the system. "He's on and it's good. I can hear his radio playing in the sedan."
"That's how we usually test it too," McGee assured him.
Xander parked and got out. "Rio, darling, I brought an acquaintance who needs some of your special help as well," he said, going back into his voice.
"Is he vouched for?"
"By three contacts up north," he said, kissing him on the cheek. The guy wiped it off and he gave him a smug look. "Antony?" he called. He walked in, glancing around. "This is Antony. He's in the same field."
"Boss, I know him," one of the guards called. "He's a fed."
"Really?" Xander asked, strolling back over to look at Tony. "You are?"
"Hmm. Boys, put him into my car." Rio gave him an odd look. "I brought him and it's my job to fix him," he pointed out. "I always clean up my mistakes, Rio." He waved a hand. "Into the backseat well, boys. Don't worry about handcuffs. I've got a gas canister installed and I'll deal with him in a bit." They nodded, dragging him out there, not being too gentle either. Tony got stuffed behind the seats and they locked him in, setting off the switch for the gas, which was very mild laughing gas but Tony could pretend. "I'm sorry about that," he said.
Rio nodded. "Happens to the best of us, Sergio." He led him back to his car. "Dead and gone?"
"He'll be for the mean little fishies, like Nemo's older brothers," he said happily, flicking a hand. "I need something for a specific job. I need something to fit my hand but light and easy enough to carry concealed. It'll have to stay concealed for a while."
"That's a hard fit. Any particular brand?"
"No, I'm not going to be picky about brand. Once I get this one I'm tossing it down to the mean Nemos too," he admitted. That got a nod and they opened the trunk, letting Xander get down to look in the weak trunk light. "You really do need to up the bulb, Rio."
"What does your *real* voice sound like?" Xander looked at him. "I know your history, Sergio. I know that the lisp is affected."
Xander leaned closer to his ear and whispered in it, dropping his voice. "Back when I had many women, they loved it," he purred. "But now I find my man likes me better like this."
"You have one?"
"I do. I have. The first... well, it showed me the true path I wanted to be on. This one...." He shivered and moaned. "Let's just say he's better for me." He looked in the trunk. He picked up one to test it for size. "This one still has a serial number. Is it clean?" he asked, going back to his lisp. "I don't want to make someone else take credit for my work. It's not right for their reputations."
"It was sold to me."
Xander opened it. "It's dirty and has been used. Targets or not?"
"I didn't try it out," he admitted. "I bought it as is."
"You should clean them. They could be jammed," he said, dry firing it. "Hmm. Puny." He put it back and tried another one. This one had a serial number he wanted. "This one is nice. Think it could be concealed by a longer shirt?" He put it in his holster, letting his normal gun sit on the trunk. "Hmm."
"Looks good on you," one of the guards offered.
"Thank you, dear." He blew a kiss and smiled. "Think it'll go concealed?"
"It should. It's tiny enough."
Xander nodded, putting it on a table. He pulled out two more. "These two as well, Rio, and ooooh, is that a dagger?" He pulled it out to look at it. "This is beautiful work." Which it wasn't, it was a cheap re-creation piece with weak metal. "Very nice. Maybe I'll decorate with it." He put his usual gun back and put the knife on the table. "Those."
"I love working with you. Are you this picky when you go clothes shopping?"
"My man comes with me. If he doesn't drool, I don't buy." He winked at one guard, who swallowed. "We could use a toy now and then. Want to play, little one?"
"N...no. That's okay, Sergio. Not my thing," he said, starting to sweat.
"Pity. My man could do *much* for you. The same as he does for me. Then again, I could be...nice to a new toy," he admitted, walking closer to him. "Very, very nice if you begged."
"Sergio, please don't turn my boys out that way," Rio complained. "Ten each?"
Xander looked at him. "Ten?" He stroked the man's neck with his fingertips, running into a wire, like he thought. "Make it five and I'll take this with me. Show him how to truly guard a body."
"If you take my guard too, it'll be an extra five. Six for the guns. Two for the knife." He did not want to draw this out. He might want him too. Those gay assassins were often odd little boys. Xander pulled out an envelope, carefully counting the money in the open, taking the box he put the weapons in. Xander put down an extra five hundred with a wink and a wicked smirk, taking the guard with him. "I want him back in the morning, Sergio," he called after him. "Able to walk and all that!"
"I'd never *hurt* my *new* toys." He smiled at his toy, making him sweat worse. "Come, darling. Into the corvette so I can take care of this small problem we have." He walked out, leading him to the corvette. He got in and drove them off, glancing back at Tony. "Comfy?" he asked, dropping into his normal voice.
"Not really." He sat up. "Hi. ATF?"
"NCIS. How did that one guy spot me?"
"He's from DC, he probably saw you around," Xander admitted. He looked at him. "Miami-Dade and I'm helping the ATF. I'm a CSI intern, dude."
"Basically. Tony, tell them to meet us somewhere like a hotel. I took a room at the Grand."
"Hear that, boss?" He nodded. "They'll head there separately, Xan."
"Good." He grinned at the guard. "Sorry he turned you into a working girl."
"Not an issue. Did you find the other guy you took out that way?" Xander nodded. "How did you know?"
"I worked in NCIS's lab with Abby for a few months. Plus I had a Crypt who tutored me in Chem 1 and 3, and a Blood who did Econ for me." The man blinked at that. "I'm a hands-on person."
"You're Harris, right?" Xander smirked and nodded. "Well, at least you've got pedigree."
"And helping Dad at night. He's got a problem too." The guard shuddered. "We'll see what'll happen. I'm sure by now Gibbs has called your people too. By the way, your wire was sticking up just slightly in that shirt. It's a good thing he doesn't pay attention to you guys."
"Yeah, I guess." He got comfortable. "Sorry about that, DiNozzo."
"It's happened in the past. We might have to start borrowing Xander for undercovers." He had to remove the earpiece, wincing at the loud shouting that had brought. "Never mind." He put it back. "Can you stop through and get a burger or something, Xander? They're in traffic."
"Light laughing gas," Xander told him.
"Which does get used as a knockout gas," the other agent said. "Good work. Rental?"
"Of course. Not like I'm driving my used beamer here. Everyone at the station knows. Speaking of, I think we have a leak. I recognized someone when I came in earlier. That's why I stayed in persona when I was in the open."
"Any idea who?"
"I can pinpoint him from the cameras," Xander offered. He pulled into the parking garage. "They'd expect me to order room service." He got him out and left Tony in the car for now. He could sneak out once they were sure no one was watching. If anyone looked, he'd look knocked out. He walked into his room and found Fornell waiting on him. "Gee, I didn't know you were personally involved or I'd have brought you flowers," he quipped. "Tony's sneaking up from the car in a bit. The others are on their way. Is the blond guy your leak or ours?"
"ATF's," he said, looking at him. Tony slid in through the emergency exit. "You spotted?"
"No, the person he had following him looked in the car then left. Gibbs said he spotted them and they checked the garage first. They're on their way up slowly in groups." He flopped down. "Corvettes are not the most comfortable place to hide behind the seat of."
"Someone like Sergio would never drive a sedan," Xander reminded him. The others came in, most of Gibbs' team up the emergency exit to the suite and Horatio's people more openly. His Vice contact looked at him. "What?"
"Someone's going to ask sometime since I haven't been going out to pick up rent boys. Sergio would be a slut with how he talks."
"Good point. Blond guy?"
"Frank saw him. He was in the lobby."
Horatio called him. "Frank, blond guy in the lobby tonight when Xander came in?" He nodded. "Thank you." He hung up. "Phipps."
"We kept him out of this one. He's getting too well known and he's got burnout," the Vice commander admitted. He sat down. "You okay, DiNozzo?"
"Fine. A bit cramped but otherwise I'm good." He looked at his boss. "Box?"
"I have it," the guard offered, handing it over. "What are you guys working on?"
"Probably the same case you are," Tony admitted, looking at Fornell, who shook his head. "Arms smuggling?"
"Some, but ours is civilian based."
"Ours is Navy based," Gibbs admitted. They switched folders. "The local office?"
"Crappy," Horatio said simply. "Annoying." Fornell looked at him. "They are."
"Which is why I bite back," Horatio said plainly, staring him down.
Fornell snickered. "That's why I came down. I figured if I had to, I could borrow Harris for a few hours. Most of us knew that he was helping his dad now and then and when your boy got shot it proved it. He helped scare the crap out of them. Pigs's assholes?" he asked Xander.
"Pigs are unclean animals to them, those are unclean parts. They're very unclean."
"Worked at the time," Speed offered. He went to look at the door, opening it to the room service waiter, Lee. "Get in here." He let him in, checking the halls before closing the door. "Food?"
"I'm starved," Tony admitted, grabbing a burger off the tray. He handed one to Xander. "Thank you, Lee."
"Welcome, Tony. Least I could do to make sure my son eats." He gave him a look.
"I ate breakfast." He did eat anyway. He'd get complained at by his mother if he didn't. "Any signs of your guy?"
"Yup, saw him in a crowd earlier. He clearly let me. Be on guard for him to come to you at work."
Xander nodded. "Sure." He looked at Fornell. "Need me for more? If not, I was promised fun tonight."
"Keep on the wire, Xander. That way we know what happens tonight," Tony ordered.
"Sure." He took off the fake tooth and put it on his plate, handing it to Horatio, who handed it to the Vice captain. "Need me? Last chance." They shook their heads. "Then I'm escaping for a night of fun." He headed out, going to enjoy having a corvette at his disposal for a few more hours.
Gibbs shook his head. "He's good."
"He's very good," Lee assured him. He handed Horatio something. "Here, tapes of what I've had him doing. Amanda only sent over manpower reports."
Horatio looked at him. "He is only an intern, Lee."
"I know," he complained. "It's just so easy to get him sucked into the field. It is a family job."
"He's a CSI," Speed said firmly. "Not an agent."
"Fine." He sat down next to Tony, taking his own burger to eat. "I replaced you with a mask-wearing dummy. Looks like you're already dead."
"Thanks, Lee." He took another burger. "Anyone else hungry?" Speed took one when Horatio glared at him. Kate and McGee both had one. Gibbs took one too, grimacing. "Sorry, boss."
"I've had worse. You cook, Lee?"
"No, hotel kitchen. I don't know why he likes this place."
"The spa in the bathroom," Tony said dryly. He finished that burger and dusted himself off. "You said he did this to another undercover agent?"
"He was ATF working on a different case," the Vice commander offered. "Paid for him for the night and brought him back to the meeting spot. He threw a fit until he realized what was going on. The kid's got skills."
"He's still a CSI, not a cop," Speed said, staying firm. He ate another bite at Horatio's amused look. "He's not. He can't get into the academy with his eye."
"True, he's not a field agent." He glared at the people abusing his poor tech, making all but Gibbs flinch.
"Don't look at me. I don't like working with rookies in the field." He looked at Fornell. "How are we going to combine this one?"
"Let's put all the cards on the table, gentlemen. This is going through too many agencies," Horatio noted. They nodded, sitting down to arrange things. The agent had to be spanked so he walked properly in the morning but that was fine, he could take one for the good of the US.
Horatio knocked on a door the next morning, looking at the man in there through his sunglasses. "I'd like my CSI back please." The mayor gave him a heated look. "Now, sir. He is the son of someone in Homeland Security. It's me or him and he'll bring the FBI. Then we'll sit back and watch with the press."
"Fine," he muttered, going to release Xander from his hidden room and hand him over. "Here, he wouldn't play with me anyway."
"Thank you, Mayor." He walked Xander off. "Thank you for keeping on the wire," he said once they were in the hummer. "McGee brought it to me at six this morning when he reviewed it."
Xander gave him a look. "Welcome. Can we pick up the corvette?" Horatio nodded, taking him back to the club to do that. It was the second club. The first one hadn't been that good. He had been taken from the second to the third by someone. He got out and looked around before finding the keys and getting in. Xander flinched as the window was shot in, ducking down and pulling his spare gun out of the glove box. The mayor still had his last one. He grabbed two things and got out of there, heading back to the hummer. Horatio got them safely away, patrol coming in to fix this. He looked at his arm. "Small graze. Alexx can apply butterflies to that." He looked at him, handing him something. "Here. You'll need that and what's in the trunk. Then you can make Stetler choke."
Horatio looked at the baggies then at him. "Who did you get those from?"
"The mayor's wife. She's the one who took me from the second club to the third and then he came to bring me home."
"Interesting." He put both baggies in the backseat, turning to look at the injury. "You should have that cleaned."
"I've had worse." He shrugged him off. "I'm fine, Horatio. Thanks, boss." He grinned. "We've got to find a way to put the stuff in the trunk back into the proper owner's hands."
"I'll have it towed as part of the evidence." Xander nodded, sliding out. "Hospital."
"Office. I'm due in an hour ago." He headed off, going to catch a cab. Fortunately no one had taken the money out of his pockets from last night. He separated out a twenty. "Crime lab please." He nodded, heading that way. "So, dad."
"Skanky old guy who needed viagra and a good spanking. I wasn't going to give it to him. Sorry."
"That's okay. Drugs in the baggies?"
"Yup. From his wife's toys."
"I'll make sure Horatio knows that." He dropped him off. "Hope your next rental goes better, sir," he said with a smug look.
"Oh, you know how it goes." He trudged inside, looking around before taking off the trench coat. He clipped on his actual badge while he headed for the locker room. A few guys looked at him. "What! I was tied to a chair!" He put his jacket into the locker and changed shirts to something looser.
Gibbs came in and saw the t-shirt. "No, change."
"The others are tighter." He looked down at his highly insulting t-shirt. Then at his former boss. "It's not that bad."
"Yes it is. What else do you have?" Xander pulled out his other t-shirt. _No, no, no, NO! Spoons on the RIGHT, chainsaws on the LEFT_ did not give him hope either. "You never wore those in our lab."
"Yes I did and Abby laughed at most of them." He grinned at Horatio when he came in, seeing the look at his current t-shirt. "It's the loosest I have, Horatio."
"Wear your heaven and hell t-shirt, Xander." Xander put the one he was wearing and the one he was holding back. He pulled on the other one, tucking in the front portion only so his badge would show. Gibbs read it and moaned. _Heaven doesn't want me and Hell is afraid [knows] I'll take over!_ "It's true," Horatio said dryly, looking at his tech. "I took the opportunity to look in the trunk as suggested."
Xander shrugged. "You're asking the wrong person, dear." He closed his locker and headed to ballistics, finding his jacket and glasses along with Calleigh. "Hi, mom."
"Hi, Xander." She looked at his t-shirt then at him. "Change."
"Horatio said to wear this one instead of the insulting one or the chainsaw one."
"Change." She pointed. "Now."
He sighed. "The others are still tighter."
"Fine." He trudged that way, shaking his head. "Calleigh objected to your choice, Horatio."
"Speed, please let him borrow a shirt," Eric called. "He's wearing scary t-shirts again."
"Coming," Speed sighed, coming out of Trace. He was stuck in the lab for another three weeks but he could help the poor kid out. "She didn't like that one?"
"No, and Horatio told me to wear it."
"Sorry. I don't mean to."
"We'll get you unwarped yet, kid." He got him his spare shirt, watching as he put it on and tucked it the same way. "Are you advertising? Wear it loose." Xander untucked it and let him look. "Never mind, you'd wear it that way to the club to give hints about what you have. Tuck it back in in front." He walked off shaking his head. "Calleigh, he could've worn the last one," he complained.
"No he can't. Not in my lab."
He looked at her. "Need chocolate?" She batted at his good arm and huffed off. Xander came out of the locker room, heading for the break room to make his boss some tea, then handed it over and went to go to work. "Wash that and hand it back, Xander."
"Yes, Speed. Not like I'd hand it back dirty with GSR."
"Point." He went back to work. Horatio and Alexx both brought him the baggies and the stuff from the trunk. "Why am I getting tongues?"
"They're not human."
"They're from his wife's toys," Xander called from ballistics. "Not a clue what they were from originally."
"Goats or sheep by size," Alexx called back. Xander leaned out the door and she nodded.
"Eww. Do I want to know what she was doing with them?"
"Probably not," she agreed. "Shoo." He went back to work. "Where was he this time?"
"The mayor," Horatio sighed.
"Just think about how many sick, sad bastards he's helping us find, H," Speed said, patting him on the back. "What's the rest of this crap?"
"Apparently stuff someone left in his trunk. Xander?" He came over and peeked in. "The stuff in your trunk?"
"Someone was broken down on my way to the second club. I gave her a ride. She said she had to get that stuff to someone and then got out and forgot it."
"I see. Do you know who she is?"
"There's a camera in the car, Horatio. It's on the dash. It might've caught her."
"Thank you, Xander." He went to find it and download the stored information. It was a very nice camera, very small, almost unnoticeable. He checked the trunk, that's where it was recording to. He popped the tape and went to hand it to Cooper in AV. "From his car. We need to know who he gave the ride to. They left things in his trunk." Cooper nodded, sticking the tape in a deck to rewind it. He put that one on the monitor and ran it forward, letting him see. "Her? He said before the second club." He kept going, watching as it went black for a few seconds. "Hmm, shuts off with the engine. Good design." They watched as the boys and the agent got in. Then he kept going. It went black again.
Xander going out to club. Him getting out, coming back sweaty, driving with the windows down. Horatio shifted his stance some. The boy had some appeal. Quite a lot of appeal. He could see why people wanted to keep Xander. "There," he ordered and Cooper slowed it down. He froze it on a picture of the young woman. "Does it have sound?" Cooper nodded, turning that up. He rewound it to the point where Xander found her broken down. They listened and he sighed, going to call the bank she mentioned. "This is Lieutenant Caine. Yes I did. She broke down and one of my interns gave her a ride. She stored it in his trunk overnight. It's at the lab, yes. Thank you." He hung up and went to tell that to Xander. "The bank's coming."
"Did we get her in trouble?"
"No, I told him she stored it in your trunk overnight as a safety precaution."
Xander grinned. "Thanks. She was kinda flustered last night. Sheep?"
"Sheep," he agreed, smiling a bit. "It'll be fine, Xander. What are you doing?"
"Going through the 'done and handed in' versus 'still ongoing' stacks. Making sure everything's ready to be filed." That got a nod and he let him get back to it. Calleigh came in. "Housekeeping duties," he said before she could ask. "I'm not touching that gun, I was related to it last night when I helped bust."
"Okay. That's reasonable. Those go in the glass tubes once they've been through trial."
"I know. These are going into the 'handed over' bin, the place it goes before the little glass tubes."
"That's fine. Bring me a list to make sure." He nodded, getting back to work. "You really do a lot of work you don't have to, you know that right?"
"Someone's got to and that's the job description of interns," he quipped.
"The cleaning crew can mop, Xander."
"Yeah but not while we're in here. When they do they don't sanitize the floors so we've got to go back over it anyway. It's easier for me to do a sanitizing mop and get it all up at once. Especially with feds in the lab," he finished quietly. "Not that I think any of them would be that petty, but even one word..."
"I know," she agreed. "It's a good thought. I have noticed that you clean while you think."
"Yeah, it's better than a heavy bag. Cleaning guns is like meditation for me. Was I humming again?" She laughed and nodded. "Sorry. Did I get Disney songs stuck in your head too?" She nodded again, smirking this time. "Really sorry." He got back to work. "Who did this one?" She came over to look. "I didn't and it's got my initial on it."
"Hmm, that's not your handwriting," she agreed. "Find any others?" He went through, finding a few more. He handed them over. "Well, crap. That's going to trial. Horatio!" she called. He came in. She held up the envelope then one she knew he had done. He took them both to look over. "One's going to trial this week."
"Crap," he muttered.
"I've never seen two of those, Horatio. They're dated from before I got here."
"Let me check." He walked off, going to call up those reports. They were signed in Xander's name as well. He called his boss. "Get the DA, come to my office. I've found someone forging signatures." He hung up and looked over it again, calling Speed. "Someone used Xander's initials on bullets. Pull your 'done' file to check for me." He hung up and went back to it. His boss and the DA came in. He laid out the envelopes. "The one on the left I saw him do. I was using it as an evaluation sample." He dug out the report. "That's a sample of his reports. The one on the right has his initials and they signed it in his name. He wasn't even here yet. That was from the week before he got here." Speed brought up two more. "Thank you."
"Welcome." He looked. "That's not ... he wasn't even here then." He looked at the others. "Xander's great but he's not supernatural. He can't be in two places at once."
"Exactly." He looked at them. "One's going to trial this week."
"Can you have someone other than him rematch those and scan the reports?" He looked it over, frowning. "I had one of these last month." He looked at him. "No one else in the database with those initials?"
"Not who'd have access to ballistics and trace," Speed noted. He thought back. "There was an Adam Horowitz once. Wasn't he a fed tech that we sent packing a year ago?" Horatio looked him up and nodded. "Could've been him." The DA handed over the not- Xander's report, which was signed in Xander's name. "No, no way. Not his style. He hasn't changed his style since his school days, guys." They all sighed. "We can go over it, see wether there's more, but you need to stop that one." That got a nod and he went to have a quiet word with the judge. He looked at his boss. "This isn't the kid."
Xander walked in. "Two in fingerprints too," he said, holding them up. "I only gather and ferry reports from there." He handed them over. "Cooper said he hasn't had any. Valera in DNA said she hasn't either. Then again, no one processes but them in those labs. I've been in the garage, trace, and ballistics, plus field cases."
"Calm down, Xander," Horatio ordered.
"Someone's trying to discredit me! Hell no I'm not calming down! I'm going to fucking well have them eaten and then destroy what's left down to the molecular level. And yes, I'm pretty sure I can find a way to do that." Speed made him look at him. "If it was you you'd be throwing a massive fit."
"He'd tell me to calm down after I hit the wall too," he assured him.
The Chief coughed. "Figure it out and tell me, Horatio."
"Yes, sir. Hopefully by today. Xander, I want you to get onto the ballistics system and make me an index of every case your name appears on. Then do the same in trace."
"Yes, Horatio." He went to do that. "I found two in fingerprints," he told Calleigh, rolling his stool over to the computer to start the search string going. "Someone's going to die."
"It'll be okay. We'll figure it out," she soothed.
"Some of them were from before I was here. As Speed said, I'm good but not supernatural." He pulled up his list. "Huh?" He looked it over. "Horatio!" he called. He came in. "I've never worked in New York's lab."
"That's the dweeb you had fired, Calleigh," Speed said, suddenly getting it. She looked at him. "It's got to be. He knew the intern's name before he got here. He got into your email that time."
"Good point." She considered it. "He is that stupid and that vindictive. Didn't he try to do something to one of Sascha's testfires?" Xander nodded. "You weren't here."
"She warned me when she heard I was coming down." He looked at her. "He also tried to isolate her in the bathroom one night by following her in. Fortunately I ran the hand-to- hand lessons with the coach for the ladies in the program." She smiled at that. "If this was him, how do I get this cleared up? I don't know that he didn't mismatch something to discredit me. I won't have a rep like that."
"First, I call Mac Taylor since someone stupidly hired him up there and forced him into Mac's lab," Horatio said, stroking over his hair. "Then we talk to the system admins. They'll lock him out. They'll lock all your files until we can figure out what you did and did not do." Xander nodded, swallowing hard. "It's not your fault, Xander. He's jealous."
"I just barely started in the field. Why is he jealous of me?"
"Because he's a pretty bad tech and you're going to be one of the greater people in forensics," Calleigh said simply. "He's jealous and you're outside his control."
"Speaking of, we'll need someone to do it outside our team," Speed said quietly. "We need someone to quality control it, H."
"We do," he sighed. "I don't want to bring in the oversight people."
"The Chief told you to hire a tech, Horatio. I've got four months before you can hire me. Hire one," Xander told him. He looked stunned. "You need another full field tech. Speed won't be going out for a while. You guys are tired and if you're going to make me stick to my thirty hours a week you're shit outta luck with me in the field. Even with Speed back you'll need someone."
"True." He considered it, nodding. "We could even if we do add you as well." He called his boss. "Do you want me to call Oversight or do you want me to hire a new tech and then beg for Xander later?" he asked simply. "He's never worked in New York but he's got files up there too," he told him. "We think it's the tech Calleigh had fired. We know he tried to move against the other intern we have. Yes, Sascha. Thank you. Did it? Have them call me directly, please." He hung up. "No wonder she was crying," he muttered, going to his office. He called Mac first. "It's me. You have a tech up there logging bullets and samples under mine and Abby's former intern's name. Stop him, Mac."
"Because he's tampering with evidence. We think it's the one that someone forced on you after we fired him."
"Gladly. What name is he using?"
"Okay. I'll stop it and lock all those files personally. Has he ever been up here?"
"Not even on a tour that I know of, Mac."
"Thanks, Horatio. I'll let you know." He hung up and went walking up the halls. "Danny!" He came out of fingerprints. "I need QC for ballistics and possibly trace." Just in case because he remembered Abby's intern had done both.
"I can do that."
"Good. Come with me." He walked into the ballistics lab. "You." His tech looked over at him. "We're doing quality control of this lab. You're to sit in the break room until I come to see you."
"Because it's mandatory we do it now and then," Danny told him. "Last time it was trace. This time we're starting here. Happens before a federal audit." The guy looked a bit nervous. "Some reason you don't want it ta go on?" he demanded.
"Who're you to question me?" he demanded. "I've been a tech longer than you have."
"That doesn't matter. Don?" he called. He came walking in. "Take him to the break room, hold him there until I come in."
"Sure, Mac." He drug the struggling tech that way. "Don't make me pull cuffs, you won't like it." The guy broke free and started to run but Stella pulled her gun and pointed it at him. "Huh. Murder?"
"Using another tech's ID in the system. He's trying to discredit a few interns down in Miami. Calleigh called and said that he also tried sexually assaulting one but she got him instead."
"Good reason for cuffs." He pulled his out and cuffed the guy. "Come on, whichever one you are. How petty are you? Jealous of *interns*?" he sneered. "You're pathetic."
"He's trying to destroy their careers so they're like him. That's more than pathetic," Stella assured him, going to help Danny with the search.
Horatio looked at both interns later that night. Rick Stetler was on the couch with their files. "Sascha, we found out why you had such a mismatch problem for a few weeks. The tech who almost assaulted you was switching samples." She gave him a hopeful look. "I have told the people over in Scotland Yard what was going on and what steps were being taken. Calleigh and our new tech today did quality control. Calleigh did yours, the new one did Xander's." She slumped, nodding. "She found *one* mismatch and it was a very close mismatch." She nodded, swallowing. "We did tell them that and showed them the proof of how close it was."
"I snuck in to look, it was a ninety percent sort of match," Xander said quietly. "I needed my glasses but Calleigh about killed me for sneaking in," he said at her look. "I thought they were working on mine."
"It's okay, Xander. I know you're an overprotective boob who got warped by girls. You're trying to be helpful," she said, patting him on the hand. "Are they going to think about offering again?"
"They are. They're going to be over tomorrow to talk to you about what happened and why. I won't lie, they're going to be cautious but your evaluations are nearly perfect. You've only had the one problem. You should have told me that he tried to harm you."
"Then he would've had to go Fed," Xander said dryly. "There's some lesser labs that might've taken him," he said at Stetler's glare. "None of the *good* ones but some of the satellite labs."
"That's probably true," Horatio agreed. "Some of them aren't very picky."
"The new Director up at NCIS picked a new helper for Abby without doing a background check," he said dryly. "Totally without one. She's having him sit in the corner while she has one done. Mom found out and went *off* on the woman."
Horatio smiled. "From what I hear, that's a good thing." He gave his intern a long look. "So far you've had two that were iffy matches but your reports state that they weren't total and perfect matches and why you thought so. One of your trace ones wasn't a perfect match however." Xander sighed and nodded. "Looking at it, it does look a lot like machine error. You ran it as what you thought it was and the wrong test came up with an odd answer. You did put in your notes that you had referred it to a senior tech and that there should be a supplemental report on that. You're honest to a fault in those, Xander."
"Of course I am. If I try to make myself look better I'll end up being in trouble if I don't cover my ass. Which sample?"
"The apple scented lubricant."
"What was it?"
"It was an apple juice based gel, but not lube."
"Oops. Was I close?"
"Shower gel. Fairly close. Nearly a perfect match chemically but Speed found the difference."
"Which is what I put in my report since there were no other trace people around that day."
"True, next time I want you to hold off on writing that report and bring it to someone with more experience first. Instead of passing it on that way." Xander nodded, getting that. "Good. Rick, I know you talked with New York?"
"I did. I also talked with the Oversight board. I gave them the list you gave me. They've assigned someone to help with the quality control up in New York. The tech is looking at jail time. Right now he's waiting on bail." He looked at the interns. "You two are good. You'll be great." He stood up, handing over reports. "They'll be in next month to check over your shoulder as well. They said they're going to quality control both of them at that time." Horatio nodded. "Probably just of their current work. I noted Harris had worked in DC at that lab up there and they called his former lab mentor, who I believe someone ranted to?" Xander raised his hand. "She said she's covered on her end. They go into a different database than you use here, kids." They nodded at that. "We also found evidence he had tried to tamper with one of Duquesne's cases but she found out and stopped him." Xander relaxed. "You're both in the clear but you're both under watch."
"Yes, sir," Sascha agreed.
"They can do daily QC on me for all I care," Xander assured him. "I always admit when I make mistakes and go back to correct or reevaluate. I know I'm still an intern."
"Good." He looked at Horatio. "The other problem was fixed. I found out exactly how many cases she fixed. Plus who she fixed them for. It's being handled at the federal level due to the problems she caused and how a judge was involved. So expect some sort of suit to come in with a warrant."
"We'll happily comply," Horatio assured him. "Any other problems?"
"Not at the moment," he admitted. "Do you like that new kid? He's cocky."
"He's new. He's never had the teachers we had," Xander complained. "It's not like he got brought up as a tech. We got mentors and hand holders. Down here he got lecture classes."
"Point." Stetler walked out.
Xander waited until he was out of hearing before looking at his boss. "Why does he like me?" he asked quietly.
"He thinks some day you'll turn into him," he said dryly. "He suggested you become the IAB CSI, Xander." Xander shuddered. "Consider yourself lucky."
"I am, but it's odd."
Sascha nodded. "I was wondering if he was someone who was going to kidnap you in the club someday," she admitted, standing up. "Was my supervisor told?" He nodded. "Thank you, Lieutenant."
"I hate seeing talent go to waste, Sascha. Relax, pump yourself up for the meeting tomorrow. If you need us to, we'll be there with you. Calleigh has offered if you want."
She smiled. "Please. I think they'll like her more than they did me. They considered me brash and young." She smiled at his chuckle. She leaned closer. "You do know that there's rumors now?" she whispered in his ear, glancing at Xander then walking out.
"Let me guess, someone said something about me being made to borrow Speed's shirt?" Xander asked dryly. Horatio nodded. "Let Speed snark on them. He hasn't in a while." He stood up, giving his boss a careful hug. "Thank you, Horatio." He pulled back. "You're the bestest boss ever," he said happily. "Can I actually work tomorrow?"
"Yes, Xander. Tonight, go find more suitable shirts." He sighed and nodded, going to see if anyone wanted to go with him. Horatio smiled, shaking his head. He did call Speed. "It's me. Did you know there were rumors about you and Xander since he's borrowing a shirt?" He heard Eric yell and chuckled. "Is he okay?" He laughed. "I'll be home soon, boys." He hung up and settled his desk for the night, heading to play with his boys. It was a perk of the job to have them both being his.
Xander walked in the next morning in his usual jeans and a new t-shirt. He saw the odd look at his shirt from Yelina and held it so she could read it easier. _A corpse is a corpse, of course, of course, and no-one can talk to a corpse, of course. That is, of course, unless the corpse is the famous Mr. Dead!_ "Neat, huh?" he teased.
"Very strange, Xander." She walked off shaking her head to get it clear again. She ran into Frank. "Perhaps we should warn someone in the lab that Xander's got a new t- shirt?"
Frank moaned and called up there. "Delko, Tripp. It's new t-shirt day? Yelina walked in shaking her head to clear it. Fair warning." He hung up and went to lurk and watch how the others handled it. Xander spotted him and let him read it, making him shake his head too. "I hated the Mr. Ed show," he complained.
Eric saw Xander first, then blinked at him. "No. No, you can't wear that."
"Horatio said to buy new shirts, it's not offensive, doesn't have a popular or brand name slogan, and is well within the dress code rules as Speed explained them to me," he defended. But mentally he was grinning.
Eric looked at him. "It's not nice to torture your friends, Xander." He walked him into Valera's lab, making her burst out giggling when she read it. "I just got here, who's here?"
"Speed's somewhere with Alexx I think." She called the morgue for him. "Is Speed down there? New t-shirt day, Alexx. Sure." She hung up. "She said to bring her demented younger son down there."
"I sent pictures to my mom, she thought it was creative," Xander quipped. "She also thought Abby would love a copy so I got her one." Eric moaned, dragging him off by the wrist. "It's no wonder you can't keep a date if you treat them like this," he complained. He got free. "I need that hand." He looked at Cooper, who made 'let me see' motions while leaning back. Xander let him see his shirt, making his chair tip backwards all the way until he fell on the floor from laughing. "See, it's a happy making t-shirt." He walked into the morgue. "Eric's mean, Speed. He was dragging me around by the wrist. No wonder he can't keep a girl if he treats them like he does me."
"Last time I knew, you weren't that femme," Speed said. He made him turn so he could look at the t-shirt, bursting out laughing. "I like that one."
"I made DC fall on the floor," he said proudly. He grinned at Alexx, letting her see.
"Sugar, you're a bit warped. Do we need to talk about medicine maybe?"
"No, I like my voices. They give me good ideas," he quipped with a wicked smirk. "I need to go to work, guys. It's within dresscode, right?"
"It is," Speed agreed. He used her exam camera to take a picture of it, going to email it to Horatio's phone. He'd get it when he was out of court.
Alexx said a silent prayer for the boy. He clearly needed all the help God could give him. Plus a few guardian angels.
Horatio knocked on Xander's motel room door that night, giving him a look. "I missed you today," he said as he walked inside. He went to look in his closet, separating out things. "You can wear this side into the lab, Xander, and only the last six into the field," he noted, looking at him. "Am I clear?"
He gave the boy a shoulder squeeze. "It'll be all right. You and Speed both need clothing help."
"I hate shopping. I'm having Viccy's flashbacks." Horatio gave him an odd look. "Buffy and the others used to drag me shopping so I could be a pack mule and appreciation committee. I spent a lot of time answer the questions 'does my butt look big in this' and 'does this make my chest look bigger' in Victoria's Secret." He gave him a look. "I'm sorry. It's my sense of humor."
"I know. It's all right that you have shopping trauma. I'm proud that you can shop at all after that, Xander. But you need better taste. You did wonderfully when Calleigh needed a new dress. I wish you would show some of that in your own wardrobe."
"I'm clean and covered."
"I know that." He patted him on the cheek. "Would you go to where I shop?"
"I look like a dork in a suit. You can pull it off. I'm not you."
"Then how about where Eric shops?"
"Have you noticed he's wearing sweaters in Miami?" he asked.
"Point." He smiled. "We'll invite Tony down for a few days. He's good at impression management."
"He's still uptight. I called him Tight Ass for a reason, Horatio."
"Xander, someone needs to help you. It's them or Frank."
"Can I maybe take John?"
"You could and it might help him," he admitted. "We'll see if he's able to go out for things like that." Xander beamed and started to bounce. "I know you two are friends and he's been working your sports issues." He patted him on the cheek again. "Also, shave. You can't pull off scruffy."
"I was doing it to tease Calleigh today," he admitted.
"It added to the rumors that you and Speed are together, Xander." He smiled. "We'll see if John can help. If not, I'm calling Tony." He walked out, leaving him there.
Xander looked at the sorted out clothes. "I wonder if he realizes that's only half of what I have?" he muttered. Then again the Chief had seen him the day he had to wear leather to work and had put out a memo saying no leather was allowed at work. But the other clubbing clothes.... No, that might make a cop go bad, or Calleigh, or even Horatio. He wouldn't like that. He settled in with his ancient laptop, writing Tony an email about Horatio threatening to make him go shopping. Then he called the hospital. "Hi, it's Xander. Horatio said I have to shop to look a bit more professional. I wanted to know if John could go out on an outing. He could probably use some new stuff too," he pointed out. "Sure, thanks." He hung up and wrote an email to Horatio about that. Then he settled in to watch HBO. He liked this motel, it was included so he didn't have to pay extra.
Tony heard his email beep and looked over from where he was working on a physical puzzle. Someone had sent them clues as a puzzle. "Hey, boss, Xander said Horatio suggested the next time I got injured I should come down to help him shop for real clothes." He got back to work at the amused sounding snort. He reached over to forward it to Abby with a few mouse clicks. She came up a minute later wearing the shirt that had been delivered to the station by same-day mail. He looked and moaned. "No wonder," he sighed.
Gibbs looked and choked. "I remember the original show," he admitted while he coughed. McGee got him his coffee and moved out of the way. "Harris?"
"Yup! Isn't it so cool!" she squealed. "I *adore* this one!"
Kate walked off the elevator, looking at the t-shirt. "It suits you, Abby. Xander?" She beamed and bounced while nodding. "It fits." She came over to help Tony with the puzzle. "I found you glue." She handed it over. "The non-sniffable type."
Gibbs looked at her. "If you like it that much." She went back down to show Ducky. He moaned. "Yes, DiNozzo, the next time you're injured I'll expect you to be in Miami helping the boy shop before he traumatizes someone else." He finished his coffee and got up to get more. He found the director searching for the advil. "She and Harris were soulmates in a lot of ways. He found it for her," he said quietly.
"I hope you mean the shirt?"
"Remove it from the office."
He looked at her. "If she's comfortable enough to work in it it's not a problem to us. It's not like it's sexual, slang, gang logos, or other inappropriate graphics. It's not discriminatory or otherwise harmful."
"No one goes into her lab anyway," he snorted. "Not like they need to. She sends out information when she has it." He walked off with his new coffee. He gave Tony a look and Tony wrote Abby to warn her. Then they got back to work on their clue. Abby had too much other stuff to do so they could do this.
"Her assistant Chip could do that," the director said from behind them.
"No he can't," Tony told her. "She said he can't, he can't. He's not rated to touch any evidence, Director. By the way, she finished his background check. Did you know he was discredited for tampering with evidence?" She gaped. He looked back at her. "I testified at his trial. She found that out. We're not letting him touch evidence. Our victims deserve better than that." She stomped off. He got back to work. "I've got a half a body, anyone got the bottom half?"
"I think I do," McGee noted, handing his over. "It was loose, I couldn't fit it into the pattern over here."
Tony fit it and nodded, sealing it to it's mate. "That works. Okay, I've got feet missing." Kate handed it over. "Thank you to you as well. Gibbs, we're coming out in a collage of sorts."
He came over to look. "Looks like a person looking into a mirror maybe?"
"Multiple images in the mirror," Kate noted. "Like a looking glass self." She went to look up the image online. "Ah! It's a textbook illustration, Gibbs." He came over to look. "He's dealing with personality. Especially social creation of personality."
"As long as he hasn't modified the picture any," Tony reminded her. "Does that help us?"
"It could narrow down our focus for the abductor," Kate said. She got to work looking up types of careers that used that information. "Let me know if you find any alterations."
"Sure. If you send Xander an email about shirts he should be wearing."
"If I did that, he'd end up dressing like McGee," she said dryly.
"Which could be cute. He is a geek. He could do mega geek very well." He found the next piece and laid it in, then frowned and shifted it around, finding how it matched. "Think I found one. Unless her feet are supposed to either be very big or point sideways?" She came over to look. "We had some distortion in this area too," he noted. "A distortion frame?"
"Could be." She went back to add that into her beginning profile.
Xander looked up as Horatio came into ballistics. "Am I in trouble?"
"I don't know, Xander. You've been very quiet for the last few days. Not even clubbing."
"I've been tired. I'm tired of people too. I hate to deal with the crap that comes with clubbing."
"That's reasonable." He came in further. He even closed the door. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"I take these moods. They'll go away in about a week."
"If you're sure."
"I'm sure." He gave him a look then got back to the gun he was working on. "I'm fine, boss."
"Xander, why do you call me boss?"
"To give my poor mind some emotional distance." He gave him a look. "But I know you already caught that." Horatio nodded. "The same as I'm pretty sure you know I realize what you do after hours and I'm fine with it. I'm happy but a boy's gotta have some sort of dreams. In a few more months it'll go to someone else and I'll have naughty dreams about them." He grinned. "You think Taylor would mind?"
"Knowing Mac Taylor, yes. He's not very comfortable with the idea of sexuality as far as I know." He moved closer. "Xander...."
"Horatio, I worked with Buffy when I lusted after her. It changes *nothing* for me."
"If you're sure."
"Unless you want me to step up and take over protective bitch roles for your boys? Because they aren't."
Horatio cracked a smile. "You'd be surprised. Eric is every bit a jealous lover."
"Gee, I took that to be you, boss."
Horatio nodded. "You'd be right about that." He made the boy look at him. "I know it happens."
Xander shrugged and got away from him. "I nearly married Anya, Horatio. Not like I've got a good, realistic sense of what a good relationship is. That's why I'll date and sleep around like Eric supposedly does and have dogs. It's safer anyway with my taste in mates."
"You don't have bad taste." Xander snorted. "You don't. You were limited in your options before."
"Then how do you explain Tanya?"
"She took insult on your behalf when she learned how they had messed you up."
"Probably true. I hated psychology." He grimaced. "It changes nothing, boss. Even my one nap on Speed's chest changes nothing. That ruins careers and working relationships. I'm not like that."
"That's fine. I wanted to make sure it wasn't a problem. Are you and Speed still able to work together?"
"He said he's clear when I ask. Maybe you should ask him that, boss."
"I'm going there next." He stared at the boy. "Aren't you clear in here?"
"Yup, so I'm cleaning. I do that. Cleaning guns is like meditation."
"Why didn't you marry her?"
"Because one of her demonic friends showed me how miserable and like my adoptive father I'd end up." He gave him a look. "I looked terrible with a beer gut. I can't let myself look that horrible."
"You can talk to me, Xander."
"And we are, Horatio. I'd look really gross with a beer gut. Hence me not making her miserable by looking at it when she jumped me multiple times a day for sex that I would put up with for the good of our relationship."
Horatio nodded. "You don't know this...."
"You'd be surprised. One always recognizes another." He gave him a look. "I'm not trading stories. I'm the sort that would rather forget until I have to go kill someone for hurting their kids. That's the last trigger you have to worry about with me."
"That's good to know." He stared at him. "You can't dance out of this discussion, Xander."
"I'm not trying to. Think about it this way, you want to discuss funny dreams when funny dreams don't come into the real world. I can tell the difference between the two, Horatio. I've been able to since the incident when nightmares became reality for a day."
"As long as it won't affect things."
"It hasn't yet."
"Good point. Thank you."
"Welcome. I'd duck if you try to have this long of a discussion with Speed on this subject."
"I know. We had it last night. That's why he's in the bad mood." He walked out, leaving the door open. He saw the evil look Speed sent his way. "Just making sure he's feeling the same way."
"Of course he is, Horatio. Just...quit meddling and go do paperwork. You're being more girly than he is now and then." He walked off shaking his head. "Next field case is mine and Xander's," he announced.
"You're not cleared yet," Xander called back. "I'm not stitching you up, Speedle."
"Uh-huh. Suck it up."
Xander looked at him. "Not really my thing. I'm more the make me your pleasure salve sort. Thanks anyway." He went back to work, ignoring the shocked look, smirking just the tiniest bit.
Speed gave his back a look. "I'm sure someone will teach you better some day soon."
"Probably true, many have tried. Why do you think I keep getting kidnaped and tied to ugly, uncomfortable chairs?"
"Good point," he decided, leaving it there. He walked off, going to find something to do. They hadn't had a new case in two days. Even the new guy was bored with the cold cases he was working on. "You, me, Harris, in the field next call," he ordered as he walked past the room he was in.
"Okay," Ryan Wolfe said, shrugging a bit.
Xander leaned in. "I'll take video of the scene, you get camera duties. My lack of depth perception means I take crappy photos, Wolfe." He disappeared again. He yelped a minute later. "I hate this thing." He walked out. "Calleigh!" She came out of fingerprints. "Your gun bit me again, woman. Why does your gun have PMS like Buffy?"
"The slide sticks."
"I noticed that. Think you should change it out?"
"I put in for a new one, Xander." He stomped off, heading into the locker room. He came out with his other one, slapping it into her hand and walked off shaking his head. She looked it over. "This is nice."
"You can *borrow* it."
"Thank you. Can you figure out why my slide's sticking?"
"I thought I dried it off." She followed to look. "Ooh, that is. I didn't think to look there." She patted him on the back. "Thank you for the loaner."
"You're welcome. Clean it and make it pretty every week at the very least. It's used to such gentle care."
"Sure." She stuck it in her holster, looking down. "It won't stay latched." He sighed and changed holsters with her, putting her belt back on for her, then he walked off shaking his head again. She smiled. "Thank you, Xander."
"Welcome, Calleigh. Do not make me fuss over you in the hospital. You'll die of embarrassment."
"Yes, dear." She smiled at Horatio. "There's one spot I didn't think to check. He found rust. I need a new gun."
"I'll prod the person over that. Can you use his?"
"I can use any gun, Horatio."
"Fine." He looked, it looked huge on her waist. Xander did like larger weapons. He went back to his desk to make that call. He could not have her without her own weapon. He thought about it. "Wasn't Xander's locker gun in his kit?" he asked himself. Then he decided he didn't want to know. The kid was a gun lover. There was no telling what was in his locker at the moment. If he didn't know he wouldn't have to do anything about it unless it came into the open or became a problem. Speed walked past with his kit, Wolfe trotting to catch up. He checked. Xander must already be outside. He looked out the window. He was at the hummer checking his kit when the two boys walked out. "Good boy, Xander." Xander took the keys from Speed, giving him a shove to the passenger's side, making him laugh. "He's very overprotective of him."
Eric looked over his shoulder. "Did he just take the keys from Speed?"
"We'll get to calm him down later."
"He'll probably claim he's supposed to be watching and not working the case." He smiled at him. "He is very protective of all of us."
"I saw the gun switch just now," he said dryly. He glanced around. "Is he okay?"
"He's fine, Eric. He said it didn't matter to the work environment. Those two have been close the whole time."
"Speed won't leave to go to him."
"No, but the kid wants. You can watch him and see that."
"Yes, but he's scared of what a real relationship would do to him, Eric. He walked away from Anya at the altar."
"Oh." He didn't know that. "Why?"
"He claimed someone showed him what it would have been like."
"Pity. A good relationship can calm a guy down."
"Only the right one." He smiled at him. "It'll be fine. He's always been protective of Speed. Ever since he saved his life."
"True, and before then too. Speed lets him too."
Horatio gave him a gentler smile. "Speed likes to be fussed over. That's all that is."
"If you're sure."
"What about the nap?"
"Xander fled, Eric. He didn't push it and he did tell me he knew."
"Good." He relaxed and grinned fully. "What case do they have?"
"I don't know." He called dispatch to see. "College."
"Hmm. Probably an OD." He walked off, going back to sanitizing his lab. He and Calleigh got called out an hour later. It was good until someone tried to run them over.
Xander walked in with the box of evidence, Wolfe had both kits. "Watch out, evidence." They got out of the way. "Thanks. Including chemicals. She was mixing in her dorm room in a metal tub. Definitely a homicide."
"How can you be sure?" Eric called.
"Her head was in a toilet six-thousand-twelve feet from the body," he called back. "Using the stairs instead of the elevator for measurement."
"Yeah, that's a homicide," Eric agreed. Speed came in with the hazardous chemical containers in a box. "More?"
"Two more. Thanks, Eric." He went down to get them and lock the hummer back up again. He saw Calleigh icing her wrist. "What happened to you?"
"His gun's got a stronger recoil than I'm used to." Xander came in to look at her. "It does."
"I've got stronger wrists than you, Calleigh. It comes from lifting all day doing construction stuff and using a crossbow all the time." He looked at her wrist. "Warm soak, not ice pack." He kissed her on the head and went to trace once he had his glasses.
She smiled at his back. "Goofball," she called after him.
"You okay?" Speed asked. She nodded. "Good. He's probably right. He is the king of former injuries."
"I know. I'm alternating. I sprained my thumb joint with the kick." He nodded, leaving her alone about it. She went back to writing her report, flexing her thumb back and forth to keep it from stiffening up. She was going to be in pain later.
Speed walked in and found Xander setting up a fume hood. "Will we need that?"
"You wanted to open the containers without a containment chamber?" he asked, looking confused. "I'll do a lot for you but I'm not dying of inhalation."
"We have one of those."
He nodded, leading him to show him. "See, waldos and everything, Xander." He shrugged and went to get the containers, bringing them in there. They'd need them first, the rest of the stuff could be run afterward. They needed to see if any of it was street grade drugs or likely to be sold. Speed watched him. "Slower." Xander slowed his movements, being more precise. "We should probably tape this in case an accident happens."
"There's an autotaping feature and I turned it on."
"Good. That'll work. It had a tape?"
"I think it's digital."
"Let me see." Xander moved his body so he could check. "Yeah, that's digital." He stood up, watching what he was doing. "You need practice aiming."
"I'm used to more sensitive ones. The ones at Wolfram and Hart were more touchy."
"Why did they have some?"
"They're hell's lawyers. They had a biochem lab in the building to make biological weapons and other nasties. Angel still has control of their LA offices."
"Basically, but Fred liked it." He finally got the pip in the bottle so he could empty it and withdrew it, letting it go so he could screw on the cap. "Is it because I've got big hands?"
"Maybe." Speed took over once that one was capped. "No, they're stiff. We could probably WD-40 them once the samples are gone but it'll take a while to dry."
"Never mind. Use will loosen them."
"Hopefully." He called upstairs. "H, the waldos are stiff again." He hung up and moved to the other set of waldos to work with them. "These are even worse."
"Mine creaked when I started." He sighed and put down what he was doing, pulling out his cellphone. "Hey, Deadboy. You still in control of W&H?" He smiled. "Can we bum the waldo equipment? Magic-gram?" he suggested. "Please? Thanks." He hung up and took off the necklace he wore, putting it out of the way. Something thumped on top of it. "Thanks," he called quietly. He looked at Speed. "Close everything, let's change out a set." Speed nodded, making sure everything was sealed. They broke into the containment chamber, changing out the waldos with the ones he liked more. "Ahhh," he sighed as he slid into them. "Even Fred's set." He got back to work once it was all sealed it. "Much better."
Horatio walked in and saw the necklace, picking it up to put on Xander again. "Where did those come from?"
"They're loaners from Angel and them."
"Next time, warn me."
"Thank you, Xander. Are they working better?" Speed let him try his set, watching him grimace. "Those need worked on." He tried Xander's once he had things at a stage where he could put them down. "Where did they get theirs?"
"I don't know. You'd have to ask Angel or Fred. Get into my emergency contact stuff and write the email address. Hers is Fred at whatever."
"I'll do that." He went to do that. It was a good piece of equipment. He could ignore the connotations of the company they had come from. He got back an answer and smiled at the babbling flow of words. "He does like those who babble," he said fondly. He answered that it would be fine if Xander's friend Cordelia came out to visit him and bring another set for them to keep. She wasn't one of the two Xander had said he'd hide from.
Speed got paged to the desk the next day. "What's up?" he asked the receptionist.
"She's got a delivery for Xander?" she said, nodding at the young woman nearby.
"Hey, the new waldos," he said, smiling at her. "Thanks for this."
"Not a problem. Where is Xander?"
"Working. Give her a pass? I'll give him a break so they can chat. He's over hours for the week again." The receptionist signed her in and gave her a pass. He took the package to look inside of. "Thank you. Ours are creaky and stiff."
"Fred wanted to replace ours anyway," she said, flicking a hair through her streaked hair. "So, you do what with Xander?"
"Mostly, I mentor him and make sure he's got all the knowledge in the trace lab that he'll need. What did he tell you?"
"Nothing. The big dork doesn't write." He gave her a look. She snorted. "I'm Cordy, Speed." He went pale. She smirked and nodded. "Now, where is my ex?"
"I'll send him to the break room. He's working on a delicate chemical substance."
"You let him around *chemicals*! Are you insane!" she asked loudly. "Oh my god! That's worse than letting him play with guns! How stupid are you people! Xander's accident prone. He trips over his feet and he does stupid stuff."
Speed looked at her. "No wonder he broke up with you. You're an evil bitch."
She stared at him. "Excuse me?"
"No, I've dated worse," Xander called, coming out of the lab. "The other waldos?" Speed nodded, handing them over. "Thanks. Go lock her somewhere so we can fight in a few. Be right back, Cordy."
"What are you wearing?" she demanded.
He turned to glare at her. "Just because I used to screw you does not mean you can come in here and try to ruin me with my new friends and those who like me. They even put up with my dating problem, which I still say was your fault." She gasped. "Not like I had this problem before I started to make out with you, Cordy. Now, go get a soda. We'll talk in a few." He walked off shaking his head. Wolfe gave him a sympathetic look. "I dated worse than her. She was pretty tame compared to the one who turned serial killer and Anya. That's why I'll have dogs some day. Once I get a full-time, real, settled job." Of course if she ruined that for him the world was going to end for one woman. He'd have fun ruining her life before he killed her. He stopped and took a deep breath. "Evil thoughts are bad," he reminded himself quietly. "I should not have those thoughts about others. They'll try to give me drugs even if they knew her." He finally got himself calmed down and installed the other set of fake hands, then resealed the system and made sure it read as sealed. "There, better." He walked out, shaking his head at Calleigh's curious look. "Someone said Cordy could come out. She still can't believe I'm not sixteen." He walked into the break room and got a soda, standing across from her. "Did you come out to purposely try to ruin my career or was that a side-effect of your cheery existence?" He took a drink.
He glared. "I know it escaped you in the last six years but I haven't tripped over my feet since I got used to not having an eye. Nor am I as worthless as you seem to think. Also, if it weren't for me, there wouldn't have been any weapons way back when we needed them. Not like Buffy or Giles fixed theirs themselves." He took another drink. "For your information, since you and the others didn't care beyond Wes and Fred, I graduated second in my program, Cordelia Chase. Three points behind someone with ten years of experience doing the work." He stared her down. "If you're not proud of me, up yours. Am I perfectly clear?" he asked quietly. She shrank back, nodding. "Good. Now, apologize to the nice CSI for saying stupid shit before you're the reason I don't get a job and all those bad thoughts come back again."
"Fine, you're not as worthless as I used to think," she snorted. "You're still not supposed to play with this stuff!"
"It's my job, Cordy. What did you think I did?"
"I thought it was like being a cop."
"No, I'm a ballistics and trace tech. That means I get to play with guns and chemicals and they *pay* me for it." She gave him a horrified look. "By the way, the danger stuff runs in the family. Found out I was adopted before your mind goes there. My real parents are covert feds." He smirked and walked off. "If you want dinner tonight I'll be off at seven or so. I'm sure Angel gave you my cell number."
"Um, yeah," she admitted. She grabbed the woman walking past. "Was he possessed again?"
"No, you're just mean to him," Valera said dryly. "We all love Xander. You actually threw him over?"
"He cheated on me!"
"Yeah and you blamed him and not her," she said dryly. "I got an email from someone who told me that."
Xander came out of trace, looking at her. "Willow found me again?" She nodded. "When?"
"Three months ago."
"Pity. Also a pity because I know about the cheerleader code, Cordy." She went pale. "Turnabout and all that. At least mine was still clean." He walked off, going back to work. "I'm off at seven or so. Please quit annoying my coworkers, woman."
"Fine!" she spat. She turned and stomped off.
Valera looked in the lab he and Ryan were working in. "I'm sorry you dated that."
"It wasn't so much date as a sexual thing. Getting together in closets. We'd have fights like that and then go make out somewhere. She's probably missing the old days again." He gave her a look. "Remember, she was one of the nicer ones I dated." She shuddered. "Who invited her down with the prezzzies?"
"I think that was Horatio."
"Remind me to yell at him in a few," he told Wolfe.
"Sure, as long as I can hide."
"Lock him in a room with her," Valera suggested.
"Don't be mean to him. He'll pout," Speed ordered.
"I was talking about Horatio."
"So was I," Speed assured her. He looked down the hall then back at Xander. "Not even Eric would date that." Xander snickered at that. "He wouldn't!"
"We'd do that then go make out, Speed. I've called the harpy worse things."
"Harris!" Stetler yelled. Xander turned it over to Speed and came out to the hall. "Who was that?"
"One of the nicer women I used to date. You wondered why I turned to guys now and then?" Stetler looked flabbergasted. "She brought down a donation to the lab. Some new waldos. Before you ask, yes, I screwed that harridan. She's always thought of me like that and she's one of the reasons why I have low self esteem about my skills. I'll kill her for dinner later. Did you want me to try to hide it?"
"Um... maybe you should work late tonight," Calleigh suggested.
"She'll come back," Xander said flatly. "Right now she's screaming at someone else about me being possessed or something and she'll expect sex after dinner. That's *that* Cordy, Calleigh." She shuddered. He grinned sweetly. "She was the nicer one I dated. Really."
"I'm so sorry. I'll try to find you a nice man to date, Xander." She walked off whimpering.
Stetler looked at him. "Keep it out of the lab, Harris."
"I didn't invite her down," he said dryly. "Yell at the boss for that. He invited her down."
"I'll talk with him next. Next time, don't yell down the hall and close the door so you don't interrupt anyone else's work."
"If there's a next time, I'm letting her meet Alexx and Yelina." Stetler's eyes went wide. "Or Abby if I can get her down here in time. Good enough?"
"Cover up the homicide they'll commit." He walked off, going to find Horatio and complain to him. "You invited that screaming bitch down to cut into your prized intern and make him feel like shit?"
"He called her Cordy a few times?"
Horatio moaned. "I didn't know it was one of his exes, Rick."
"Apparently it was. They had a shouting match in the halls. She yelled so loud Tripp heard her from his desk." Horatio groaned. "Exactly. So I'd kiss ass with your staff, Horatio. Even Speed apologized to the kid for having dated her."
"I'll see what happened and see how I can fix it. Thank you for letting me know."
"As long as you fix it since they're having dinner tonight." Horatio walked off with a small moan. He smirked at his back. "Good, ruined your day too." He walked off, going back to his desk to make a note in case she did something stupid, like tried to take the boy from the station.
Horatio walked into the lab and Valera stopped him. "She was evil, Horatio. I'm not sure if Xander turned her that way or not but she asked me if he was possessed after he laid into her about her saying he shouldn't be around chemicals or guns because he was too inept and clumsy to deal with them. Can I kill this woman?"
"No, I'll do it since I didn't realize she was his ex." He smiled at her. "Let me handle it, Maxine."
"You'd better. Speed told Alexx." He walked off with a sigh. "He said if she came back he was introducing her to Alexx, Yelina, and Abby if he could get her down here fast enough."
"I'll handle it." He walked into the lab Xander was working in. "I'm sorry."
"Going to be," Xander said dryly. "I should tell her she can borrow your guest room. Should I hide the homicide?"
"Please." He moved closer. "Those are much better."
"It's almost worth seeing her again." He glanced at him then got back to work. "I'm fine. I'll spank her later."
"If I had known...."
"Cordy's not always that bad. In an emergency she'll do whatever she has to. It's the other stuff she sucks at doing. Especially being a friend or being a girlfriend since she had the cheerleader code going for the teams." He grimaced and fought the waldo. "Don't tell me you're possessed," he complained. It quit and he sighed, getting back to work. "No wonder Fred wanted to switch them out."
"We hardly ever use them, Xander. It'll do until we can get new ones." He patted him on the back. "Are you sure you want to go to dinner with her?"
"No but she'll storm in here and try to drag me out if I don't. At least she probably won't be able to drag me back to LA."
"No, she won't," Ryan assured him. "We can tail you guys."
"She'll think you're trying to protect her and she'll get you too," he said dryly. "I'll be fine, Ryan. She probably expected the old reflex to kick in and I'd end up liplocked with her. That's how it used to be."
"I knew a few nice guys if you want set up," he offered gently.
Xander grinned. "Thanks, Ryan. I'm not settling down. I know how bad it'll be for me. I'll sleep around and have dogs."
"Sure. I get that. With exes like that I'd have dogs or cats too. Maybe an iguana or ferrets. Or a turtle. They're a nice, easy going, non-stressful pet."
"You're babbling, Ryan," Xander warned. "Keep it up and soon you'll be me and have to switch fields."
"I like to clean my gun but not like you do, Xander," he quipped back. "Then again, I haven't dated in a while and if I started to date women like that I'd have myself fixed."
"Already snipped. That way I wouldn't have to rescue a baby Xander from a woman like that." He gave him a look and Ryan suddenly shuddered, able to picture it. "Exactly," he agreed. Horatio walked off moaning. "Good, you deserve it for inviting her down." He went back to work. The waldo acting up got slapped by the other one and it quit. "I'm so going to have to break into it and solder something," he muttered.
"Yeah, I learned running wire and doing bombs for construction stuff," he said, smirking at him. "That reminds me. I've got to register that down here."
Ryan leaned out, finding Horatio coming out of AV. "Did he forget to register his bomb making skills?"
"It's in the federal database. We knew."
"Sure." He came back to work. "He said they knew."
"I forgot he had me put in the federal system. Maybe after I've spanked manners into her I'll look into learning the spaghetti bombs." Ryan gave him an uneasy look. "I can do up to five wires and multiple output and explosives. I need to learn the multi-wire ones that look like masses of spaghetti. The ones that take the back of a truck instead of a suitcase."
"How did you learn those?"
"I worked construction one summer, Xander," he said quietly.
Xander looked at him. "Look up my old town, Ryan. I was on the protection patrol."
"I did. I saw the high death rate. I found video of graduation."
"That was mine," he admitted. "I was there."
"I saw." He stared at him. "You knew it then."
"I did. It was necessary."
"I saw. I'm not going to say anything, Xander."
"Thanks. Not my favorite memories of my former life. It's like reincarnation for me, Ryan."
"Sure. I get that." He went back to work, swatting one of his waldos. "I think this one's got a problem too."
Xander laid a hand on top of the machine and muttered something. Everything beeped and died, then restarted. The waldos were fine. "Fixed without soldering." He got back to work. He also checked the tape. "We can edit it if it has voice."
"Horatio will let us do that."
Horatio walked in. "I'll let you do what?"
"He asked a question about my graduation."
"Don't worry, Mr. Wolfe. I knew."
"I saw video."
"I saw the same." Xander gave him a look. "I went looking when Abby told me." He patted him on the back. "What did you do to the machine?"
"Killed all soul energy inside it. It shut it down for a minute," he said quietly. "Does it tape audio?"
"No. Only video of the interior."
"Good," he said, sounding more happy. "Then all I have to do is gird my loins for dealing with the bitch tonight. And hey, maybe I'll get laid."
"That's the wrong way to think about it," Horatio cautioned. "Think about changing her mind."
"Boss, she still sees me as the geeky seventeen-year-old she used to make out with. She'll never see me as anything else. Or else she wouldn't have accused me of tripping over my feet. Especially after I saved her life by not tripping. Multiple times." He gave him a look. "She's got blinders and all I want is to get her calmed down and sent back."
"I'm sorry I invited her, Xander."
"Not your fault. You didn't know." He shrugged. "It happens. Should I dress up?"
"Have fun, wear something that'll make her sorry she cheated on you," Ryan offered. "Go in looking so good she's got to complain about you going for men instead."
Xander grinned. "I like how you think, Wolfe. I've got stuff to make her drool and beg." He went back to work. "We're running through the last container now, boss."
"Thank you, Xander. Keep me informed."
"Speed's running the samples."
"That's fine." He patted him on the back again and walked out, going to find Speed. He found him braced on the table, head down. "He'll be fine," he said quietly. "He's going to have her eating out of his hand."
"That's not a good idea, H." He looked at him. "I've dated some selfish women. Eric's dated worse. Even Eric called her a bitch that should be put down. She was the *nicest*!" he hissed. "Gods, H!"
"I know, Speed. It'll be fine." He stroked his back. "We'll support him if he needs to talk about it." He nodded and sighed. "Now, how are we doing on the chemicals?"
"It looks like she was experimenting to make something new. She's got some standard ingredients. Pseudoephedrine, a few others. One has 'shrooms. She was failing so far. They're all fatal. I had Eric do a search for recently deceased or missing persons cases from the college." That got a nod. "How can you love someone, something like that? Or worse?"
"He was settling, Speed. When all you have around you are lions and you're a gazelle, you find companionship among the lions," he said quietly. He left him alone, going back to his covert watching of Xander. He knew the boy could tell but it was important he understood this. He was still confused. He had better taste now, he hoped. He wrote an email to Abby to get her opinion. Little did he know that she threw a jumping up and down and screaming fit about his dating habits. At least until Gibbs sent a terse email back to quit upsetting Abby.
Xander knocked on Horatio's door that night. "She's still living. I drove her to the airport. She decided LA was less strange than Miami and I'm still whole. She didn't make too many people cringe in public at the restaurant. They didn't ask us to leave after I reminded her she grew up with better manners than I did. I also told her how to get in touch with my grandmother so she'd never ask me for another grandkid again. Thought you should know." He turned but Horatio pulled him inside. "I don't want to interrupt your free time, guys."
"You're not, Xander. We were just finishing dinner. Did you actually eat?"
"Yeah, we had seafood."
"That's good." He sat him down. "How did it go?"
"I showed up in this outfit. Ryan was right, it was good to see the horrified look on her face. She started to complain again, I snapped at her about her manners. She complained louder and I glared. She slumped down and remembered she had grown up a rich girl. She went over where she thought this was wrong and I countered. We had dinner, she hinted that she might be hitting another mental growth spurt. She had one back in her senior year when she realized she hated the sheep that followed her around. Maybe that's what the mayor's wife was doing, killing the figurative sheep following her around?"
"Possibly," Eric agreed as he joined them. "Want some coffee?"
"He drug me in," he said with a nod. He looked at Horatio. "I made fun of some of her current issues with me. Including the fact that I had moved on, had good grades, was doing interesting work that was better for the world at large and I was still protecting people. I had given up on the hunting but I used the skills in new and interesting ways to save normal people who knew what I was doing. She thought I was doing it for the groupie factor. She was wrong and I pointed that out repeatedly. I had to hammer the fact into her head. Then I pointed out she was probably the nicest girl I ever dated and that's why I was now bi. She sniffled a bit but decided it was better for me since I had this habit of dating evil women, and she admitted she was one. And then suddenly it was better and she decided to be mature so I dropped her off at the airport so she could go back to the old lifestyle and her insanity in LA. Oh and she thinks she's pregnant by some demon spawn thingy with Angel's baby. Not sure how. Not sure I care how." He stood up. "With that I'm going to go back to my HBO and look at the bomb manual I need to learn. I'm still working on the too many wire bombs."
Horatio looked at him. "Did you realize you talked about it in the same manner, tone of voice and word style, that you use when you report on a scene?"
"Yup. That's about what it was. She created a scene, I ended the scene, end of scenario with her going home. I'm free, yay me. At least I'm not going to overreact and go get laid tonight." He left, going back to his car. He had gotten a rental so she wouldn't have his plate number or anything and it was good to just go for a drive for a change. It was nice to put the top down, let the wind flow, and let it go for a while. "Maybe tonight's my night for a beer." He stopped to find one on his way home, he wasn't about to have it in the car in case he had an accident. He would not make Horatio deal with that issue.
Speed walked out of the kitchen, looking at Horatio. "Is he staying?" Horatio nodded. "We're sure? Absolutely certain?"
"I'm certain. I've got his paperwork in my desk. He saved your life and Calleigh's. It didn't take much blackmail with the Chief." That got a smile. "Why?"
"He needs some stability. Let's get him the dog he wants."
"That could help." Horatio checked the date on his watch. "He's got another month."
"It's about the right time to sign him," Eric reminded him.
Horatio nodded, smiling at him. "That is true." He gave both his boys a hug. "I'm sure you two can help him find a decent place and help him move." They both nodded. "Good. Then we'll let Calleigh and Alexx fuss. I'm sure they'll be disappointed that she's gone."
"That's mean, H," Eric teased. He got in a mild pounce, making Horatio sit down to hold him. "We'll help him."
"Good. We'll plan it tomorrow."
Horatio pulled Xander into his office that Friday. There was Stetler, the Chief, and him. "Xander."
"Did I screw up?" he asked, looking worried.
"No, you didn't," Rick said. "Though your paperwork runs out in six months."
"I can get more." He looked at Horatio. "What's wrong? A big case you want me off of?"
"No, Xander. It's only a month left on your internship," he said patiently. He slid over an envelope. "That's the official offer." Xander gave him a stunned look. "You've more than proved your worth to the lab, we want you to stay." Xander squealed and pounced to hug him, kissing him on the cheek. He smiled. "Go over it with the Chief, Xander." He nodded, taking it over to sit next to him and go over each of the provisions.
"I'd hope we won't see a complaint of improper relationships?" Rick asked.
"Stetler, if I was going to start something with him, it wouldn't be him pouncing me. It'd be me pouncing him and it won't happen. He'd never put up with me bouncing around all the time or my future dog." He went back to it. "I make that much as a lab tech?"
"That's about average with the federal labs," Horatio agreed. "You'd be eligible for step raises after your first year depending on your evaluations. Valera makes about five thousand more than you and you know how long she's been here."
"Wow. I can afford a really nice place and a big dog." The chief laughed. "I can."
"Get something small that'll cuddle, kid," Stetler said grimly. "You need it. Is the heathen bitch gone?" The chief looked at him. "His ex, sir."
"Yeah, she's back in LA." He went back to it. He took Stetler's pen, signing it and handing it over. "Yours."
"Yes you are. I'll expect the same exemplary service for the rest of your tenure here, Xander." He nodded, shaking his hand. "Good boy." He smiled and patted him on the arm. "Horatio, I believe you have something for him?" Horatio stood up and walked over an envelope. "As signing bonuses go, it's not bad."
"You come to us, we pay you to do that," Stetler said, talking down to him. "Like in sports, kid."
"It's a bonus that's meant to pay for moving and setting up costs, Xander," Horatio told him, smiling down at him. "Use it to buy better shirts. That way there's no more t-shirt headaches?" Xander gave him a sheepish look.
"T-shirts?" the Chief asked. Xander took off his lab coat to show his current one. _Elephants wear tu-tus so they can hide in pine trees. Did you ever see an elephant in a pine tree? No? Well then, you know it works_ The Chief sucked air in through his teeth, then nodded. "I leave dress code in the lab up to Horatio. Horatio?"
He looked at the shirt and sighed. "Xander."
"I was wearing my lab coat. It's clean."
"Buy more, Xander. Normal shirts. Bring Tony down for the weekend and let him help you." He patted him on the head. "Keep that covered before someone has to go home."
Rick shook his head quickly. He walked out holding it. Calleigh was nice enough to hand him a package of tylenol. He whimpered. "Elephants."
She groaned, heading up there. "Xander!"
"I had it covered all day. It's all I had clean," he defended.
"We are taking you shopping."
"He got his signing bonus," Horatio told her. "We're going to help him find a real apartment, a dog, and do some shopping."
"Good! About time! Does this mean I can have Wednesday off after all?"
"No, I'm off that day," Xander reminded her. "I have to fly up for that trial in DC."
"Good, take Tony shopping," she ordered. He sighed and nodded. "Thank you." She kissed him on the cheek. "Welcome to the department. You get to tell Alexx. She's having a bad day."
Xander waved her out of the way. "I signed on permanently. You're all SOL if you don't like me being here!" He heard a few cheers. He grinned at her. "There, better?"
"Yes," she said happily. "Have Tony make you look geeky and cute." She walked out much happier. She heard Alexx squeal and got out of her way.
She rushed in and hugged Xander. "I'm so happy, baby! You're staying! Now we have to get you out of that horrible, cheap motel. That way the working girls leave you alone."
"They're my clothing approval committee. If they don't say I'm hot, I can wear it." She laughed and hugged him. "Boss, can you hold this check for me?"
"Of course, Xander." He put it into his top desk drawer. "Don't let me forget. Speed and Eric have both offered to help you look at apartments."
"I've got one in mind." He grinned at her. "I can even have a dog as long as it's under thirty pounds." She cooed and gave him another squeeze before leaving. He grinned at Horatio. "I'll try very hard not to carry in dog hair and you can whip me if I do." He shook the Chief's hand again. "Thank you, sir." He danced down, going down to ballistics. Then to trace.
"Lab coat!" Eric yelled after him. Xander went to get it and put it on as he came back down the stairs. He shook his head and went for tylenol.
DC looked at his shirt then frowned. "Xander, you're strange. Have I mentioned that recently?"
"Yup, but do you really doubt why?"
"Not after meeting your ex. I dare you to wear that to interrogation later."
"If they'll let me," he said happily. "I signed."
"I heard. Congrats. You buying lunch?"
"I take lunch?"
Cooper laughed. "Good answer. Where are you getting a dog?"
"The pound. They need me."
"Good man. Let us know what you get." He went back to work.
Xander was doing up his jacket when he walked into trace. "Hi."
"Hi. T-shirt?" Xander let him see and he squeezed his eyes shut, shaking his head. "I agree with him. We can arrange it so you help Frank Tripp question someone later." He patted him on the back. "When do you want to go apartment looking?"
"I've got a spot I've talked to."
"Where?" Xander handed over the clipping from his wallet then he put on gloves. "Xander, this is a swinger's condo," he said, looking at him.
"I know. It's got a nice gym, a pool, great spas. Nice bedroom area."
"It's a brothel without paying."
"And? I'll have a dog. I can pick and choose."
Speed sighed and shook his head. "No, Xander. You need somewhere good. With your luck you'll turn them all evil and then you'll have a bad problem with your minions."
Xander pouted. "But it's got great spas in the bathrooms. The three bedroom one is within my current paycheck and it's all utilities paid."
"No, Xander," he said patiently. "It's too far out for call-ins."
"Oh. I forgot about that." Speed gave him a look. "I did."
"We'll work on it. I've lived a few places in the city. Eric has too. We're both going to help you and help you move."
"I can fit everything in the car, Speed."
"Point. We'll still help. That way we can come over and hang out without worrying about lava lamps in the shape of naked women." Xander giggled. "Eric had one."
"That might be cute. I'll have to look in Spencer's for one." He got to work.
"Did that one."
"It's got a bottle out and it's not sealed."
"I'm waiting on the report." He handed Xander a sealed one and let him go.
Eric looked at Xander's list at the end of shift that night. "Where had you looked?" Speed slid over the clipping. "We busted a few pros there," he said happily. "Okay, what drew you here?"
"Utilities paid, spa in the bathroom, big rooms."
"Hmm." He looked through the paper. Then he found one. "That's not a bad idea," he said, calling them. "Hi, I'm a new tech in the crime lab. I noticed your ad in the paper, got referred by a coworker. When can I come look?" He made a note on the paper. "That'll work. Thank you." He hung up and nodded. "Let's go. You're driving, Xander. We can come back to pick up our things." They piled out, driving out there.
Xander smiled and shook the manager's hand. "Hi, Xander Harris, ballistics and trace tech with the lab."
"Those are diverse fields."
"I'm primarily a ballistics tech but trace is my minor. I just signed on with the lab."
"Congratulations, Mr. Harris. How many rooms were you thinking? I've got a one and a three bedroom open."
"It'll be me. Do you allow small dogs?"
"With an extra deposit. The one-bedroom is a small corner unit but the three bedroom is very nice. It'd give you a guest room and a home office." He led them to show them off. "How are your future paychecks looking?"
"Fifty-four thou a year," Xander admitted. That got an appreciative look. "With no loans to pay off." He grinned. "How's crime out here?"
"Not bad. A few vandals. A few idiot teenagers from up the road. There's no children allowed in this facility." Xander nodded at that. He let him look around the one bedroom, seeing the pout. "I know, it's small." He led them out and to the three bedroom. "This is more expensive but it's still all utilities paid and it's got a great view."
"How much is this one?"
"Eleven-fifty a month." Xander gave him a look. "It's the area and the view." He let him see the view of the city. "See?"
"I do. It's pretty. Is it within call-in radius, Eric?"
"It'll fudge it by about two minutes or so, depending on traffic," Eric admitted. "You drive like Gibbs."
"Yeah, I picked it up off him," he admitted dryly, grinning at him. "Tony hated it too." He looked around again. It was nice but bland. Boring. The bathroom wasn't that great either. "Let me think about it overnight?" That got a nod and he let them out. Xander looked at them once they were in the car. "Crappy, small bathroom. It looked industrial."
"So you want something older with character?" Speed suggested.
"Somewhere warm and less than blocky." He started the engine and led them out to look at his first choice. "I'm down to two choices," he said happily. "Can I show my buddies? They're helping me."
"Sure, Mr. Harris." They let him into the apartment, letting his friends look around with him. He was a nice young man with good prospects.
Eric whistled. "This is nicer," he admitted. There was a breakfast bar. The kitchen was roomy. The bedroom was great. It had a huge closet. It had a large bathroom that they'd kill for at Horatio's house. He looked at the manager. "Do you have somewhere this nice a bit closer? The problem is that he's outside of call-in radius at the moment."
She considered it. "We do have another facility. It's not a swinger's complex."
"He's going to be working a lot of hours," Speed pointed out. "If he wants it that bad, he can hold parties." She smiled and nodded, getting them a map. "One bedrooms or more?"
"I think we have a few different ones." She went to call the manager. "Hi, it's Bethany. I have a Mr. Harris out here. He's just signed on with the crime lab...." She looked at him. "You were an intern?"
"I was. I've been in a hotel because internships are only a year," Xander told her. "I've been in town for the last six months."
"Ah." She smiled and repeated that. "Yup, dark hair, young. Two of his coworkers are with him to look it over. Because we're just outside call-in radius. That's what they wanted to know. I don't know. I think he's looking for certain elements."
"That bathroom," Xander told her. "Something not a total box."
"He wants the Majestic one," she said with a giggle. "Sure. Sending him over now. It should be about twenty minutes." She hung up and wrote out the address. "Go here, boys. They've got some *great* places in that complex."
"Thank you," Eric said with a grin. "If I have to move, I'm going to keep you guys in mind." She giggled and let them out, locking the door behind them. He got in to drive. "That is a lot closer." He drove them over, liking Xander's car. They got there and it was a gated apartment complex. There was a smoking woman outside the office waiting on them. "Hi, this is Xander Harris. We're Delko and Speedle, his new coworkers."
"Charmed, boys." She shook their hands. "We've got about six open apartments right now, Mr. Harris. What specifically were you hoping for?"
"A great bathroom. I love my bubble baths after a long day. Something a bit less than industrial and boxy. Some room because I like to pace. Do you allow small dogs?"
"With an extra deposit. Nothing over forty pounds. That narrows it down to four of the six. Let's start looking." She led them off. "Do you mind gay people?"
"I'm bi with a stronger leaning toward women," he admitted. "I also know a lot of goth people. I'm a ballistics and trace tech." She smiled at that. "I'm a gun geek," he said with a happy grin.
"That'll definitely get you a lot of friends around here. Last month you had a scene out here with our first homicide in ten years. There's a few paranoid people still here."
"I remember. Her apartment was very nice. It's how I got the name of the other place." She smiled at that and let them into the first one. He moaned, walking around. "This is great."
"This is the smallest one. It's only seven hundred." She led them out to the others, finding the next-to-last one that nearly got the boy off. It had a view. It had a crappy kitchen but the boy said he couldn't cook. It had the biggest bathroom in the complex and it had four bedrooms, one fairly tiny. He decided right then that'd be his gun locker and closet. Which suited her as long as it was all legal or she didn't know otherwise. Then again, he did work with the police department. His friends were talking about furniture while he signed the paperwork and the application. He had done the one for out there so he only had to put in which apartment he wanted and sign it. It was her easiest sell of the year. He didn't seem to care about the usual Miami necessities, like the pool. He had air conditioning and he stated he was happy with that and a good bathroom. He signed his signing bonus over to them letting it pay for his deposit and the first few months' rent. She handed over the keys and they said they'd move him within the week. Xander gave his friends odd looks but they reminded him he'd need furniture in place when he moved in. Xander snorted and promised he could do that tonight, sleep in the tub, and he had the next day off. She was snickering behind the papers at the boys. They were so cute!
Speed walked into the house, looking at Horatio. "He's got one. He has tomorrow off?"
"He's flying out late tomorrow afternoon to go to DC for the trial. He'll be back within seven days they think."
"Forgot. Anyway, he's got everything moved over. He's encased in bubbles in his new tub. He said to give you his new address." He handed it over. "It's a great three and a half bedroom. One's a large closet and that's what he's using it for. He used his signing bonus to put down and he got his prepayment back from the motel already." Horatio smiled at that. "He really didn't have a whole lot, H."
"I didn't expect him to, Speed. He didn't want to be encumbered while he had to travel."
Eric walked in. "Xander said he's moving his artillery here with his father's help so just ignore Lee if he comes back for a few days when Xander comes back from DC." He closed the door. "He also said he'd let Tony show him how to dress so Calleigh quit having adverse reactions to his t-shirts when she had PMS. It's a great place. I want to move into one of those places." Horatio gave him a look. "Seriously." He let him have the pictures of Xander's new place. "He said he was thinking Rent a Center or a thrift store for a couch before he left. If it had to be delivered his manager assured him she'd let them in for him. We'll help him get a dog when he comes back."
Horatio smiled at the pictures. "It is a great place. How much?"
"Twelve hundred a month, all utilities included," Speed told him. "All he'll have to worry about is rent and cable, maybe internet."
"Good. It's good he settled in so quickly. We'll have to have a housewarming party when he's done settling in."
"Small kitchen," Speed warned. "Not that he cooks. I think he keeps the lunch truck in business some weeks." Horatio stifled a smile at that. "He is. Remember the suspect he offered a bite of his nachos to?" Horatio nodded then burst out laughing. "He said everything's like that. Did you see the suspect today when Frank was questioning him?"
"I did wonder why the man was looking so horrified. He and Frank had the same look on their faces for some reason."
"We arranged it so Xander had to go give Frank a report at that moment," Eric said with a smirk. "The suspect read his t-shirt. He got very, very confused."
"Calleigh ended up offering Rick tylenol," Horatio offered with an evil smirk. His boys cackled at that and pounced him to cuddle and take the memory of that t-shirt out of his head.
Xander walked up to Tony's desk after his first day of waiting around to testify, giving him a look. "The guards remember me fondly."
"They should. You made Abby happy and a happy Abby means she doesn't have to hogtie anyone with duct tape," he said dryly, looking at him. "Why are you up?"
"Trial. They said I had to be up all week in case they needed me sooner? That thing?"
"Oh yeah. I'm due in Wednesday they think." He shrugged. "You get used to it. How's Miami?"
"I signed on." Tony beamed at that. "I've found an apartment and I'm having the furniture delivered while I'm gone. Horatio all but demanded I monopolize your time for a few hours while I'm up here so I get real clothes again. For some reason they had a bad reaction to my t-shirt a few times."
"After that corpse one you sent Abby, I'm not really surprised," Gibbs said from his desk. "How much was your signing bonus?"
"I used it all to move." That got a knowing look. "It paid all the deposit stuff. It was good for that. I just signed it over to them." He looked at Tony again. "I've only got three hundred on me but can you show me what I should be wearing so Calleigh quits having PMS fits about my clothes?"
"I can do that," he agreed happily. "Boss, are we going all night tonight?"
"I hope not. I've got a date," Kate grumped. "Hi, Xander." He came over to give her a hug. "Get off."
"Cordy came to Miami. They're very sorry I ever dated," he said with a smirk.
"So are we, kid, don't even think about trying to hug me," Gibbs ordered. "DiNozzo, you done with that report?" An inelegant snort was his answer. "How much longer?"
"I'm going to my hotel. It's not necessary tonight, guys. Really."
"Yes it is," Tony assured him, looking over his current outfit. "No jury will ever take you seriously in those pants. Or that shirt. Is that Salvation Army?"
"I like thrift stores. They do good for the community and I can get a whole new outfit for thirty bucks."
"Yes, but for court you want to look smart, professional, like a know-it-all geek, Xander," Kate told him.
"I want to look like McGee when he's playing English professor?" McGee shot him a look but he grinned back. "You kinda do."
"Yes, you want to look just like me for court, Xander." He grinned. "Have fun with the ties."
"Horatio doesn't have to wear one," he complained.
"We'll work on it." Tony saved his report. "Boss?"
"Go. Make sure he makes it home alive and alone tonight, DiNozzo. We don't want Ketchum or someone to snatch him again. Prosecutors get mad at that."
"The last one who got me was a prosecutor," Xander quipped. "She was not happy when I said I had to go to work at the lab. She thought I was just cute, not smart." He waved and bounced out behind Tony, only going down to invite Abby to dinner in a few days and squeal over her new pictures. Then he let Tony have his wallet and his rental keys so they could go shopping. He hadn't been in DC long enough to know where everything was.
Xander walked back into work his first day back, dropping his jacket in his locker. Frank Tripp looked over, looking confused. "Tony made me get it."
"I know it's not your usual sort, kid." He looked him over. Dress pants were a change from the usual loose jeans. Loose, untucked shirt. He looked a lot like a cleaned up Speed. "You comfy?"
"I hate these pants. They ride too high in the crotch." He looked at him. "And I hate the shoes before you ask." He looked at himself and growled, grabbing something else out of the bag he had carried in, changing pants and into his older new loafers. They were broken in and comfortable. "Ah, better." He walked out after closing his locker up, going to find his boss. "I'm back, boss."
"I heard you come in, Xander." He looked him over. "I like that outfit."
"Tony got me another pair of pants that rode too high. They're in my locker. They definitely need some tailoring." He shrugged. "But I'm okay to work in this. I guess. I don't know. I was okay to sit around the courthouse waiting in this." He shrugged again. "I'm going to try to work but if the shirt annoys me it's going too." He went down there, grabbing his jacket and glasses, looking at Calleigh. "What?" he whined.
"Yup. Said these were work clothes. The other stuff we bought wasn't."
She looked him over. "Change at lunch, Xander."
"I can do that," he said proudly. "I'll leave these for court clothes."
She nodded. He went to see what was going on. "We have some overflow from non- felony."
"I hope Sascha's having fun in Vancouver." He got to work on those samples for her. "Did the disgraced one take a plea? Abby thought he had but I hadn't heard."
"He did. He apologized for discrediting his program and his labs. He claimed he was jealous and that's why he did it." Xander looked over. "No, he didn't want you." He sighed in relief. She smiled. "He did say he was jealous of your easy grace and skills. The judge asked. Apparently he'd heard about you, dear." He shuddered. "He didn't want you, he wanted to be you. So calm down." He nodded, getting back to work. "Have you seen John?"
"I did. I drove him home last night."
"Good. Thank you. Is he at the same place?" Xander nodded, glancing back at her. "We've talked a few times."
"He said you came to brighten his life." He grinned at her. "Should I plan on inviting him over to the new place?"
"Maybe. I'm not sure the others won't feel uncomfortable."
"I'll ask him first. See if he wants to come." He went back to his reporting on the gun in his hand. "This one's so solid it won't move. Did it fire?"
"According to the notes it jammed when the suspect tried to shoot at the officer chasing him."
"Um, yeah," he said, showing it to her. She hissed. The slide was back and jammed open but there was a bullet in it. "Bad gunmanship." He looked at her. "Permission to clean it?"
"Ask the CSI in charge." He went to call her, getting a few nods in on his end while she complained about the hour he called. He told her what was going on and she relented apparently so he got to clean the gun. He did a few test fires as soon as he got it unjammed in case all the crud inside made the rifling come out a bit different. "There's a general CSI convention coming up," she noted.
"I don't have leave time built up yet."
"We usually go as a whole team and it's in Vegas this year."
"Hmm. Interesting image of Eric losing his shirt on the slots." She laughed. "If we can work it out I'll go."
"Sure." She emailed that to Horatio, who had suggested it. Then she came over to help him. "Think we'll find more good techs out of your old program?"
"Kovalkes. He's good. Or at least he was when I was there. I'm not sure if he's graduating this year or not. Reed's a nice guy. I helped him in ballistics a few times my last semester. He loves guns but was confused so I showed him how I did it and took him along with his new identification manuals to the pawn shops." She looked at him. "That's how I got used to all the different styles. I took the big book of guns and walked my bible into many pawn shops. I explained, said I didn't care if they were hot or not. I needed to work on my identification. Most of them didn't mind and a few got very used to me. Even called me when they got in something they didn't think I'd seen yet."
"I noticed you used the other manual."
"It has better pictures and better information."
"It can," she agreed. "Mine's updated more often."
"I know how to use yours and mine has looseleaf pages from the gunshows and model sites." He grinned at her. "I wrote them all for catalogs since I'm a ballistics tech. In training at the time. They checked with the school too. That got them some new catalogs as well." He finished his notation and boxed up all the samples with that gun, moving to compare. "I'll be damned. The crud does change rifling." She came over to look. "You said you weren't sure a few months back."
"Apparently you were right, it can weaken the lines and maybe even shift one," she said, looking at the comparison samples. "Interesting. Note that in the report." He nodded, finding one that did match their reference sample.
Things were back to normal so she was all good with this. Even if he was humming the tune to Superman.
Speed looked around Xander's apartment then at him. "Who decorated?" There were candles and plants laid around. It looked like a magazine shoot.
"I did." He frowned at him. "Why? You don't like it?"
"I do like it." He smiled at him. "Just not what I expected from you."
"I don't have the swords out here yet or else I'd hang them up."
"Sure," he agreed, patting him on the back. He went back to walking around, glancing in the closet. "Xander?" He walked that way. "Did Tony really let you buy that shirt?"
He moaned. "No. Not right. He was trying to help your clubbing problem, not help your work wardrobe." He gave him another pat. "We'll let someone else help you." He looked over as John Hagen came out of the back room. "Hey, good to see you up and around."
"It's good to be up and around. No more paranoid nurses." He looked in the closet, then at Xander. "Do I want to know why most of your wardrobe is black, grey, and blue?"
"Skulking around cemeteries to hunt and defile formerly dead people who were walking around?" he reminded him.
"That reason. Okay, we're fixing that. Even if I do have to drag Horatio with us." He shook his head. "Nice job, kid. Even if you didn't touch the kitchen."
"I don't cook. I'm poisonous, John. I order." He led him them that way. "Tell Speed I can decorate with swords."
"I'm sure you can. It'd be more manly than the candle wreaths you've got set up." He patted him on the back with a smile. "I'll help, Xander."
"Thanks. I'm not fully comfortable with what Tony made me get."
Eric came out of the bedroom. "I'm loving that bathroom, Xander. I'm going to end up borrowing it now and then."
"Sure, Eric. As long as you clean it when you're done." He grinned at John again. "You could get the food out of the fridge."
"Thanks." He went to do that, letting the boys help him.
Horatio finally got there. "I hate budget meetings." Xander gave him a worried look. "He was picking on me about you and Wolfe, Xander. Don't worry about it." He patted him and looked around. "This was not what I expected."
"The swords aren't here yet," he said dryly. "Then they'll be going up on the walls."
"They can be pretty," he agreed. "Where is your father?"
"He had to stop in Texas to thump my former uncle. Oh, he found my father was alive so he kicked his ass too. He'll be here tonight with Mom." He nodded. "They're pulling out food trays."
"Good job." He smiled. "Now, let's work on this wardrobe situation of yours?"
"Tony made me get that shirt."
"I'll talk with Tony," he promised, patting him on the shoulder. He went to look around. It did have a good view. He could see why Eric wanted the bathroom, it was better in person than in the pictures. Xander had arranged his bed so he could see the view when he woke up. He went to look in the closet, pausing when he saw the really hideous shirt right in front on the rolling rack. He sighed and heard John laugh. "Hi, John." He walked in there and separated them out again. Xander peeked in. "Do not wear the ugly shirt."
"Tony said it looked good on me."
He pulled out his phone and looked up the number, calling it. "DiNozzo, I meant for you to help my poor tech, not make him look bad. No, him wearing that hideous green mottled leaf pattern shirt won't keep him from being hit on in the clubs. Thank you." He hung up. "He said it was to keep you from being taken again, Xander."
"Oops." He walked off. "It's not that comfortable either, Horatio."
"We can fix that."
John smiled at him. "I figured it'd take the both of us. Otherwise he'd start dressing like you too. He's already got the hands on hips thing going." He nodded at where Xander was frowning at his bookcases in that position. "Xander?" He looked over. "Heard anything more from the scary patrol?"
"Fortunately not but Valera said Willow wrote her a few months back. Poor woman, having to be infected by her." He heard the laughing. "Remember, I will run if they show up. I will give an Olympic performance."
Eric smirked at him, coming out to look over his book and movie collection. He saw a picture and looked then at him. "You were on your swim team?" Xander nodded. "You never told me that."
"You never asked."
"Good point." He went back to browsing titles, staring at a few in confusion. "Um....."
"In case it becomes critical in a world ending way, Eric."
"Oh, good. Comparative religions?"
"I know a bunch of wiccans and I lean that way myself. Only less Earth Mother and more Moon Goddess."
"As long as you don't start talking about the fairies who come out to help you do magic," Speed called. "Xander, why did you get the one with the meat no one can tell what it is?"
"I don't know. I ordered a meat tray for twelve people and they gave me that."
"We're going to find you a better grocery store too," Horatio quipped. He went to look. "Alexx will be fixing that."
"Good!" They came out shaking their heads.
That poor boy. Calleigh showed up next, blushing a bit when she saw John, but it was good. He helped by carrying food into the kitchen, loading it into the fridge for the poor guy. Alexx came in and had more so she and Calleigh arranged what could go into the freezer instead. Then Frank and his wife came. John gave him a sheepish look but Frank just punched him on the arm and gave him a look. Frank's wife gushed over how he had decorated. At least until Lee got there and Xander had to help carry in his weapons collection. Calleigh went to snoop. She got shooed out of the closet before she messed up Horatio's careful system. Horatio went to snoop and smacked Xander on the head for a few things. The boy just gave him this sheepish, 'I'm a good and innocent boy' look and it was dropped. Though he did decorate with the prettier swords and his battleaxe. His mother gave him an odd look for it but he shrugged and pointed at his bedroom so she went to snoop. Yelina came last and Xander beamed, letting her look around. She praised his artistic style of mixing the more manly phallic things with the girly touches. It was good. Even if no one would touch that meat tray with the spam.
The party was going well until someone kicked in the door. "Hi, Willow," Xander said dryly, waving from his spot next to his father. He was too comfortable to run so he settled on letting the others handle it for now.
"You're coming with me, Mister, and I do mean now!" she said firmly. "Enough of this playing around!" She advanced on him.
Xander stood up. "I feel the need to point out three points to you at this moment, Willow. All but one of us in this room carries a badge of some kind." John coughed. "Okay, all but two of us in this room at the moment carry a badge of some type. Sorry, John, I didn't think, you wouldn't be carrying it while on extended sick leave."
"I'm on suspension until a fitness board says otherwise, Xander."
"Have him talk to Stetler. For some reason he likes him," Speed offered.
"I even called him little dicked the first time we met," Xander told him dryly. "He's not intolerable and he always tries logic with me first." He shrugged. "He's not on my ass like he is Horatio's. I'm sure the first time I fuck up that badly he'll be on my ass that way." He gave her a look. "Second point to consider," he said, going back to her. "I don't want to be around you. You and she screwed me up for years. You especially screwed me up for years, Willow. John's still fighting your sports thing that you did to my mind and how you made it go odd."
"She's the source of the football equaling gay sex stuff?" Eric asked.
"She started it, her former girlfriend, who I adored let me tell you, sweetest girl, even when hanging around me. Couldn't turn her evil if I tried. She finished that." He looked at her. "Third point, have you met my real parents? I know Horatio came up to introduce himself to you. But have you met my real parents?" He pointed at them, and they both smiled and waved.
"They still gave you away," she sneered.
"No, I was stolen. The dirtbags stole me from the hospital." She gave him a horrified look. He nodded. "Mom was in a coma. She's a spy," he said with a goofy grin. Willow started to turn pale. "You know, it's probably a good thing Abby's not here." Speed and Eric snickered at that. "It is! She said I gave her mean thoughts. It's a good thing I came down here to turn Yelina and Calleigh evil. Abby's too nice to be so bad." He looked at her again. "There's also the fact that I don't care about you two anymore. You two fucked up my life, you guys screwed me over..."
"Language," Amanda complained.
"Sorry, mom. They did." He looked at Willow again. "If I remember right there was something about dryer lint in there...." She stomped a foot and advanced. "Keep coming, little girl. I will have you arrested and you are *so* paying to fix the door. Because I have a good job that has many hours." Someone tapped. "C'mon in, Cooper and Valera. This is Willow." He pointed at her. "Yes, Valera *that* Willow. Yes, Cooper, she's the one who broke my mind so I wear t-shirts like those."
"I like your t-shirts, they confuse suspects," Lee offered. "I need a few of those. Did he ever come into the open?"
"Yeah, he came to the station to take me to lunch last week," Xander admitted, grinning at him. "By the way, he said to tell you you're still a sick man, he's still not gay, and the fact that I can act so well that way means that he should have bombed Sunnydale years ago." He looked at Willow again. "There's not a person in this room who'll stick up for you, Willow. You burnt that bridge when you decided I was unworthy to help you fight. Gee, Angel didn't have that problem. They sure as hell don't have it down here either. They didn't have it in DC. Abby almost got me spandex. Which you know I look fantastic in since you stared during swim matches." She went even more pale. "Now, is there anything else before *you* fix my door or should I let them arrest you for me?" She shrieked and went for him. He put her on her back, staring down at her shocked look. "Yeah, sweetie, I trained for a *very* long time. Since about seventeen. Then again, it's girls like you and Cordy who made me gay." He kissed John then they both grinned at her, making her burst out crying and struggle to get away. Frank led her out and called someone. "Sorry, John, you were closest."
"It worked. The look on her face was priceless and she'll stop her crap."
Amanda glared at him. "I can soap your mouth too," she assured him.
"Sorry, Mom," he said with a bright grin. "Do I have your permission to coopt Horatio to help me fix his wardrobe?"
"Please," Lee agreed. "Oh, son, you left something when you came back after the trial. They sent it to Abby and she sent it to me." He pulled it out and tossed it over. "Also in there is the letter of apology you got sent from LA."
"Your ex, son. The one who came down and made an ass of herself." His wife swatted him. "Ow," he complained, giving her a look. "She did. It's the only polite way to put it."
"Did she actually write it herself or did Wes apologize for her?"
"She wrote it herself. I went to make sure you only had the one storage area. She handed it over after finishing it. Said it saved a stamp since I was dropping off your weapons anyway. The rest of that was in your storage space and left in your hotel room, plus the one envelope left for you at NCIS in DiNozzo's name." He grinned. "We consolidated it for you."
John plucked the envelope from Xander's fingers, looking at the check. "Yeah, we can get you real clothes for this." Xander moaned and sat down, cuddling up to hide behind Speed. He grinned as he passed it to Horatio. "Here. Make sure he deposits that."
Horatio looked and spluttered. "Xander!"
"I went out with Tony and Abby! We even went to a nice club, not my sort so I looked like a geek, all that," he complained from behind Speed.
"Twenty of that was in his storage area," Lee offered. "Sitting mostly loose. Some in an envelope. Someone built his weapons into a shrine to have him come back. They missed him. I even took pictures." He pulled them out and let Horatio see. Horatio moaned and handed them to Speed, who snickered and let Xander see. He whimpered and hid further behind him.
John took it to look at. "Uh-huh. Someone wanted you badly. Did they paste your head onto another body?"
"I spent six weeks working at a strip club when my car exploded," Xander moaned. "I only stripped four times. I sucked at it. That's from the second time." He shook his head against Speed's back. "Who was the rest from?"
"Senator Ketchum sent the one to NCIS. She said it was good to see you happy and playful. Especially playful in leather, son. The rest was probably from the club itself?" Xander glared at him. He just grinned back.
"Remind me to have a talk with her again," Amanda told him.
"Already did, honey." He grinned at her. "She's very sure she's going to leave him alone since he's now fully gay as far as she knows. She thinks he's having a long-distance thing with DiNozzo for some reason. I didn't mention him at all but she thought he came up to visit him. She jumped on that point during our nice, decent lunch."
"I'll warn Gibbs she might start to steal Tony." She sent that email from her phone. "Didn't some of that come from the new director?"
"It did. She called it a reward for helping capture such a well-known terrorist. When did you do that, son?"
Xander shrugged. "I was out with Abby and McGee when I saw Tony chasing someone. I stepped in to trip the guy. He nodded his thanks and cuffed him before dragging him off to Gibbs' car. McGee ran after him to make sure he wasn't needed. I have no idea who he was. He was a terrorist? He looked like a geeky little geek, like pale, pasty computer in the basement that he lives in front of geek."
"He was an artificial intelligence specialist. The other guy, the one that Abby said you needed spandex for."
"Xander?" Horatio asked. He even sounded patient to his own ears. He was proud of himself. Sometimes, dealing with Xander took all his patience away. Then Eric and Speed had to make him calm down.
"What? I was there! McGee broke his foot. I was between trial parts. We had a whole day of recess. They were looking for a kidnaped little boy. I offered to help since I had come to pick Abby up for lunch and she volunteered my skills hunting. I only got in the second floor window."
"Only?" Amanda asked. "Jamie's team was backing them up. Xander managed to get inside the house with the four terrorists threatening the little girl and little boy as it turned out. He managed to knock two out before signaling the teams to come in. He also managed to defeat their doomsday bomb and then catch the one who got away from Jamie's team leader. Who is an idiot," she admitted. Xander nodded. "Abby suggested he should have spandex for that alone."
"Then they went out that night because Gibbs ordered them to destress and have some fun. Jamie went to watch their backs," Lee added. "Who had DiNozzo anyway?"
"His director," Xander said dryly. He shrugged. "It was what was needed. I'm that sort of guy." He was still hiding behind Speed so Eric had to move him. "What?" he asked, looking so innocent.
"If H can't wear spandex under his suit, you can't wear some under your jeans," he said patiently. "Ever. If we get super suits, H gets his first since so many people shoot at him, then you can apply for yours once he makes sure they work well in the field."
"The ICPO is field testing new uniforms. They're climate controlled so you're not cold or too hot and they're kevlar impregnated. They're looking really handy. They even look like superhero clothes," he said with a grin.
"H gets his first," John reminded him, patting him on the back. Frank came back shaking his head. "She going to my old bed?"
"Definitely. The officer ended up having to shut her up. She was muttering something. Can we fix the door, Xander?"
"Sure." He walked over to look at it. Then he put it back in place and went to get his tools, putting the hinges back into the frame so they could be hitched down. "That should work. I'll make it prettier tomorrow." He smiled. "Tada!"
"Good job," Yelina said. She smiled at him. "I don't need help being evil, Xander."
"True, all you need is a shot of tequila," Frank teased.
"Do we have pictures of you in spandex?" Valera teased.
"Only from my swim team days and I was kinda skinny and geekly back then." She shrugged so he let her into the bedroom, letting her have the picture. She squeaked and blushed, bringing it out to show the others. "Told you I was skinny." He went to look in the closet. "Dad, didn't you bring the rest?"
"Son, I'm not walking artillery up here when there's officers in the house," his father called back. "Though I did steal something."
"That's fine. I'm sure I can replace it." He came out to see Speed staring at the picture. "What?" he defended. "It was my skinny phase. Then I bulked up with muscle." He took it back but Speed snatched it to look at it again. "I'm not that skinny anymore."
"No you're not, thankfully," Alexx said, looking at it again. "I can see why she stared. I would have too." Valera giggled and nodded.
Eric looked. "I looked like that when I swam competitively," he sighed. "Then I put on weight."
"Yeah," Speed snorted. "You weigh less now because you're always running around, Delko."
"Do not! Even my mother said I gained weight. She was nagging it meant I'd never give her grandchildren."
"Gee, that sounds familiar," Xander teased, swatting his mother's hair. "Did she stop?"
"She lost her voice. It'll be a few more days."
The others laughed. Calleigh looked at the picture when it got to her, blushing. "Now I can see why women pay you, Xander."
He looked at her. "I'm bulkier now, boss."
"Uh-huh." She patted him on the cheek. "Eat more food, Xander. That way we don't have to worry about you getting into spandex down here." Xander went to make himself a sandwich, letting the others pick on each other. She smiled at John. "I'd give you a hug but I might turn evil by transfer."
He snorted and kissed her. "I doubt it." He grinned at her. "Want to help us take Xander shopping?"
"I have bad flashbacks to taking women shopping, John. Buffy used to make me her bra approval committee for pushup bras." He came out nibbling on his sandwich. "Plus bathing suits. I can only stand so much. The eight hours trying to figure out which style of pushup bikini top made her look the best broke me. The four hours it took her to decide between three pairs of black pumps made it a permanent break." He ate another bite. "I'll gladly help her or Yelina shop if they want, as long as it's not panty, bra, or bathing suit shopping."
Yelina looked at Calleigh. "He did find me that dress you loved."
She nodded. "He found me that pale rose shirt." Xander just smirked and ate another bite. "So why can't you dress yourself?"
"I do fine. I'm perfectly comfortable."
Calleigh went into his closet, finding a t-shirt. She brought it out so he could see it. _I wouldn't mind the wombats nesting in my lingerie drawer, but they WILL insist on wearing my Wonderbra,_ "Then explain this headache inducing shirt?"
"I like funny t-shirts." He grinned sweetly. "Just think, some day you're going to get really messy at a scene and I'll be the only one with spare clothes." He finished his sandwich and turned on the stereo to play quietly, grinning at Cooper. "What?"
"Advil?" he asked.
"Bathroom. Through my bedroom."
"Nothing I shouldn't look at on the way?"
"Not like I bring people I have sex with home, Cooper. They might decide they own me." That got a nod and he went to find something for his headache, Valera following.
"For some reason, I have this mental image of Xander in a wonderbra," Alexx said, squeezing the bridge of her nose. Xander got another picture and handed it over. She squeaked and dropped it. "Xander!"
"Charity event in college, Alexx. It helped draw the sicko hurting trannies." He walked off smiling. "Remember, it was Calleigh who drug out my t-shirt."
John looked at the picture, picking it up to get a closer look. He handed it to Horatio. "Shopping tonight, buddy?"
"Definitely. Speed, you too." His lover gave him an odd look. "I saw you borrowed a t- shirt. I'm nipping that urge in the bud now." Someone knocked politely. Calleigh let him in. "Mr. Wolfe."
"Sorry I'm late. The Chief came looking for you, Horatio. I had to stall him while I pretended to call around tonight. Something about wanting you in the charity bachelor auction? I didn't think it was critical for tonight."
"Thank you. I'd rather not. Xander?"
Xander looked over. "Do you *really* want to risk that?" he asked bluntly.
"No," Eric decided, shaking his head. "Food's in the kitchen. Calleigh pulled out one of Xander's t-shirts. Cooper and Valera are hiding in Xander's bathroom for some reason."
Yelina laughed. "They're staring at the size of his tub."
"It gives a great surface for bubbles," Xander said with a sweet grin.
"You also missed his friend Willow showing up," Speed told him.
"No, I saw her when she got brought in. The guys were complaining about how she was the cause of Xander being so strange and femme now and then. I pointed out the guy who could handle the rocket launcher and stroked the one we confiscated wasn't that femme. He was amused." He looked at Xander. "I tried but that nasty habit you have of talking about sports is going to keep getting you."
John covered his mouth. "Horatio?"
"Agreed. We'll be back." He grabbed Speed while John walked Xander out, hand over his mouth. Lee handed over the envelope helpfully, getting a smile from John, who waved before shutting the door.
"I definitely missed the fun, huh?" Ryan asked.
"Hagen's been working on the girly stuff with Xander since the day he got here," Eric told him. "Calleigh pulled out a t-shirt. Tony DiNozzo got him an ugly one no woman would hit on him while he's wearing. Which was probably the intention," he realized. "That and the swim team picture and the one of him in drag for a charity thing back in college." He let him have both pictures, watching his face.
"Wow, he used to be skinnier than I was back in high school." Ryan only giggled at the second one. "Can we show this one to his friend? Use it to taunt her with?"
"Sure," Frank agreed happily. "I like how you think, kid." He grinned at Cooper and Valera as they were drug out of the bathroom. "Have fun?"
"Have you seen the size of his tub? He could definitely hold his sort of football matches in there."
Alexx swatted him. "Watch your mouth, young man. I will soap it."
"Sorry, Alexx," he said sheepishly. She walked off shaking her head. "He could," he told Eric.
"We saw. We helped him move his stuff from the motel in. Lee, I won't say a word as long as Xander keeps all his weapons to himself. Need help?"
"I could, yeah. Anyone mind if I bring up the rest of my son's weapons?"
Calleigh looked at him. "I won't say anything," she sighed. "I'll just arrange things." They smiled and piled down to the U-Haul to bring them up. Along with some shirts he had in storage. "I thought the t-shirts were bad," she complained, seeing the hawaiian shirts. "Xander is not Magnum!"
"No, he said he wanted to be Batman when he was younger," Ryan assured her with a grin.
"No, that suit's coming from DC," she said dryly. Amanda nodded. "They did?"
"Abby charmed someone in the ICPO Test Office to let him try one of the new suits. It'll be down in a few days. She had it sent to the station."
"Uh-huh," Frank said, shaking his head. "What is this thing?" he complained when they had to put it in the hall.
Calleigh flipped the latches and lifted the lid, then put the lid back down and resealed it. "I did not see that and we should hide it from Gibbs too."
"Don't look at me, guys. I took the rocket launcher because we needed one," Lee said. "Under his bed, Calleigh?"
"If it'll fit. It won't in here and should probably be stored flat." She had to move the two trunks already under it but it did fit, barely. She checked the trunks, holding up the pants that had to be skin tight. "He doesn't wear these, right?"
"Nope. Those were hunting clothes," Ryan told her as he brought in a lamp. "He told me about the two trunks." He put it on the dresser and walked out. They got the rest of the artillery in and arranged in his closet. It left enough room to walk and hid it behind the clothes.
"No wonder he's a ballistics tech," Valera said when she looked. "Are all those artillery pieces?"
"A few are, a few are bigger rifles and things," Calleigh offered. "I know one's a machine gun by the labeling on the box. He did do index labels."
"Now you know why I told the ATF to use him to bust the gun runners," Lee offered happily. His wife pinched him. "He had fun!"
"I'm sure he did. You're still in trouble." They settled in to hang out for a while, Valera going to fuss with one sword so it was more balanced against the floral piece underneath it. By the time Horatio and John drug the boys back in, everything was settled and Xander had a lot more clothes than he had hangers.
John looked in the closet. "The rest of his supplies?" Lee nodded. "Wonderful. He can hang it up later. No dog yet?"
"I'm getting her Sunday, John. Wanna come?"
"Sure. I'll keep you from bringing home ten or twelve dogs." He patted him on the back. "Now you look like a proper guy in the department, Xander. Remember that. No more calling football odd names." He looked at Speed. "You, no more looking like a slob either."
"Whine," Speed told him. Horatio gave him a look. "I'm comfortable."
"Speed," he warned quietly.
"What? You gonna spank me?" Valera squeaked and went bright pink. Xander looked at her then went to fuss the sword back into the spot he wanted, adding another one to the wall next to it so the points formed an arch. He moved the flower arrangement and kissed her on the cheek. "Don't decorate," Speed complained. "They might make you do the charity auction."
"Only if someone's going to be putting a GPS system on me and making sure I make it home," he said dryly. "I still have the tux the senator gave me while she kidnaped me." He shrugged and went to get a drink. John coughed, turning around to laugh into a wall.
"He's not kidding," Amanda said, reaching over to pat him on the arm. "I wish but he's not. She's even a gay rights activist. Isn't she from Florida?" Lee nodded. "So maybe you'll run into Senator Ketchum."
"Maybe she'll kidnap Tony so he can have a vacation down here while she kidnaps Xander," Eric offered with a grin.
"Don't suggest that out loud," Yelina complained. "She might! I like the woman's stance on things but she's apparently going wrong."
"All I did was dance with her assistant and another junior senator," Xander complained. "She's the one who brought me home and had her assistant tie me to a chair so she could use me like a Ken doll." He sipped his soda. "Did they finish the gun case, Dad?" He nodded, looking back at him. "Good. Then we won't have to bother Gibbs until the trial, which he'll growl at me for."
"We'll make sure he doesn't growl too long, Xander," Horatio said. "You will come in dressed tomorrow?"
"Do I usually come in naked? Because I heard that was a special holiday event in the labs."
Horatio coughed and Eric cackled. Speed looked at him. "Only when we have to take decontam showers, kid," he said smartly. Horatio smacked him on the arm. "Ow! Mean wench." Eric cackled louder. "Keep it up, buy your own lunch tomorrow."
"Behave, both of you," Yelina said, giving them looks. "Before Horatio has to spank you in front of the rest of us."
"Maybe he should get Xander too," Cooper teased.
"Sorry, not into spanking games," Xander shot back, smirking at him. "Though I did talk to your ex...."
"I will pay you to forget that, Xander," he begged.
"No, that's another t-shirt," Frank joked. Cooper looked clueless so he went to get it. _As I learn the innermost secrets of people around me, they reward me in many ways to keep quiet._
"Some of us would pay quite a lot," Calleigh said with a blush.
"Make me some rhubarb sauce and I'll forget yours for a year or so," Xander offered sweetly.
"Deal." She looked at Frank. "What about him?"
"I don't know that much on him. Dad?"
"Didn't do a check on him, son. Sorry. Ask Abby, I think she did." Frank gave him a look. "Really, I think she searched out everyone her favorite person would be working with. I have no idea what she found. She cackled at Eric's. She's using his picture as target practice at the moment."
"That's because I suggested she take down her pigtails for a day," Eric said blandly.
"My Abby-buddy's pigtails are cool," Xander said, frowning at him. "You don't like pigtails?"
"I can't stand women who dress up like little girls. It's an ex thing."
"I think we all have something like that," Ryan offered from his chair. "I know I have one," he defended at the odd looks he got.
"You date?" Speed asked.
"I have, I'm not at the moment. I'm not a monk, Speed."
"Could've fooled us," Eric taunted.
"Boys," Horatio warned and that special tone of voice let them know they were going to be spanked. He was even going to have fun doing it. They both settled down. "Ignore them, Ryan. You don't have to date like Eric did. I'm sure you can keep a girl for over a weekend." He looked at his lover.
"I had two that lasted over a month," Eric defended.
"Eric, you've dated the majority of women in the Greater Miami area," Calleigh reminded him. "Not great odds. Even worse than Xander."
"Don't look at me, I almost got married. Hell, I made it seven months with Cordy and over a year with Anya, sweetie." He sipped his soda.
"How?" Frank demanded. "Even I heard her screeching at you. I was at my desk!"
Xander looked at him. "We used to fight like that then make out in the closets. That was foreplay, Frank." He grinned at John. "Didn't you say you had one that bad?"
"Back in high school. I think she's on prozac now. Much more even." He sipped his own soda. Calleigh gave him an odd look. "She is."
"Does that mean Xander's going to turn into you some day?" she teased.
"Who doesn't want to turn into me deep down," John teased back, smirking at her.
"I don't think I'd make a good you."
"You'd be surprised. You do a mean impersonation, Calleigh." He tweaked her nose. "Go play with Wolfe before he pouts."
"I'm not pouting, I'm offering up prayers of thanks for only dating normal girls." Frank and Yelina both giggled at that, Valera joining in from the kitchen. "She was really the nicest?"
"The first one I truly went on a date with tried to kill me," Xander sighed. "I selflessly said if she was going to kill Buffy she'd have to kill me first." He shook his head. "Poor Ampata." Eric choked and spluttered. "You clean it up if you hurl on the rug, Eric."
"Ampata?" He looked at Xander. He whispered in his ear, getting a nod. "How!" he demanded.
"Sunnydale was like that. Noticed the seal?" He nodded slowly. "Noticed the seal had been fixed?" He nodded and whimpered. "We spent a while superglueing it together again. Remember that. Or you too can have former girlfriend stories like me."
Eric shuddered and whimpered. Speed gave him a special shoulder squeeze. "We'd put you out of your misery, Eric," he soothed. "I promise I'd have H put you down if you dated girls who wanted to kill you or who were like Cordy." Eric nodded, leaning against his side. He looked at Xander. "By the way, I translated that for him."
"I was sixteen. She was cute."
"We're going to start setting you up with nice men. You mind?"
"Will they turn evil too?" Xander asked, looking confused. He looked at his mom. "Mom?"
"Don't ask me, son. You don't get that from me. It's radiation from Sunnydale."
"Okay. Dad, got an opinion?"
"Date a nice boy, Xander. Your grandmother will quit complaining some year." He got pinched and kissed his wife. "Do it again," he encouraged. She blushed and settled in against his side. He smiled sweetly. "She misses the old days sometimes."
"Not hardly. I didn't like being shot at."
"None of us like that," Frank assured her. He smiled at Xander. "Unless they warped you there too?"
"No, I don't like being shot at. The last time Horatio fussed at me until I had Alexx check under the bandage." He shrugged. "I'm used to injuries though so what do I know." He finished his soda at the glare his mother sent his way. "You try doing what I did."
"I would've left, son. Never gone back after graduation."
"The thought had occurred to me," he admitted. "But they begged so well." He went to get another soda. "Anyone need a drink or something?"
"I can get my own," Ryan said, heaving himself up. "Did you not get a tv yet?"
"Next payday, Wolfe. Which is when for me, Horatio?"
"Four more weeks, Xander."
"Crap," he muttered. "Hold on, my last stipend payment?" Horatio handed it over with a look. "Thanks, boss." He grinned. "I knew I had one coming." He checked it and sighed. "I hate taxes."
"Then get someone to give you an island and set it up as a sovereign nation," Ryan quipped.
"I could do that and I'd still be better behaved than most diplomats," he said dryly. "Stupid brats who think they weigh a whole lot in DC." He saluted them with his glass.
"We get those down here," Speed admitted. "They do things like murder."
"Up there they tried to tell me I had to give them things during a tour. One did not like his stay inside the broom closet. The other did not like his stay inside the manhole to the sewer. I told them they needed to put the grate back inside so the rats couldn't come up. I'll be damned if they didn't listen after I shoved a Peruvian down it." He grinned sweetly at Horatio. "By the way, his daddy's in town for fashion week, whatever that is. He left Junior at home. His father was very nice and very polite and very understanding when they found his son in the sewer mewling for light and a ladder."
"His son got sent to a male finishing school so he can marry someone smarter," Lee offered. "His uncle was amused. Gibbs said you couldn't go to Peru in thanks for fixing the brat."
Horatio looked at him. "Those sort of incidences I will spank for," he said quietly, staring Xander down.
"If I have to shove another diplomat somewhere tiny and dark I'll call you so you can play good cop, H." He bounced out of the way and went to chat with Valera while the older folks all groaned.
"If you do, I want pictures," John told Horatio.
"Of me spanking him in front of the lab?"
"No of the diplomat. I'll get front row seats for the other one."
Horatio nodded. "You can do that." Speed and Eric both gave him a look that showed he was not getting cuddled that night. "He can have front row. One of you can hold him still for me."
"I heard Vegas works with a Dominatrix," Cooper offered. "Maybe you can borrow some of their gear, boss."
"He'd look scary in that sort of leather, Cooper. ADA West might even drool on him for being scary," Frank teased.
"Eww, bad mental pictures," Speed complained, rubbing his forehead.
Xander looked over. "Speed, if he needs them for an assignment I'm sure he can borrow some of my leather pants." He looked at Valera, who was snickering. "For an assignment of course. After all, sometimes you have to go in as someone else. It's how it goes."
She patted him on the cheek. "You're a bit too warped, Xander. Time for a nap?"
"But I'd turn you evil and then Horatio would have to replace you. Then what we do?" he pouted. She snickered and had to run to the bathroom. "Oops."
"Horatio, maybe you should cuddle the poor guy until he naps," John offered.
"No, that was Speed," Eric told him with a bright grin, getting out of Speed's slapping range.
"You will pay," Speed assured him.
John laughed again, shaking his head. "You two are insane."
"It's exposure to Horatio," Eric said happily. Horatio gave him that special look again and he grinned back. "It is. You calmed me down. The bad thoughts have to come out somehow." Xander got up and handed him a t-shirt - _Defect borg: Refutile is sistance. Your ass will be simulated._ Eric burst out snickering, nodding. "That does fit you, Xander."
"You're the one who needs the bad voices to go away," he quipped back. "Mine give me nice things, like smut at night."
"Maybe we should fix you up tomorrow night," Ryan quipped. He pulled out his phone book to look at. "Ah." He called someone. "Gary, Ryan Wolfe. Actually, I've got a nice guy I wanted you to get to know and introduce around to some of your single friends. Harris, yeah, how did you know?" He grinned at Xander. "He is very fun and very cute. Sure. Come down for lunch if we're in." He hung up. "He's the head of the gay officer's union, Xander. You should probably get to know him anyway."
Xander shrugged. "Okay, I'm all for setups." He shrugged and went to tease Speed and Eric some more. It was his favorite game. That and flustering Frank.
Horatio watched his boys play and could only shake his head. Some day he'd have to do something to keep Xander in line. But it would be fun when he did.
back to index: