Notes: some of the t-shirt slogans this time came from coolsig.com, while some came from members of the Imaginings list: Josette and Jenni Johnstone
A Bothered Boy
Xander looked up from his lunch as a shadow slowly grew over his seat. "What?" he asked, eating another bite of his burger.
The guy looked at him. Then around then back at him. "Yes or no, sir?"
"Yes," he said patiently. "You need to lighten up, dude."
"Not this time, sir." He sat across from him, handing over a file. "We need someone with your skills and...mannerisms to go into this situation for us, sir."
Xander flipped it open, scanning it. "Have we talked to Horatio yet?"
"We don't like your boss."
Xander looked at him. "He will be livid." He went back to reading it. "Why me and not Calleigh?"
"We need a male tech who can handle gay people and who can blend into their group. It'll hopefully take about three weekends. We'd have to keep you off work for those weeks so they couldn't trace you back here. There's a lot of artillery involved and you're known to know about that stuff as well."
"Okay, two problems," Xander told him. "I'm Horatio's tech. You have to clear using me with him first. Second, this guy? I used him in an ATF sting early last year," he said, showing him the name.
"He escaped from custody and there's a good warrant out for him. We can have him removed."
"That might help but for me to be off for three weeks you've still got to clear it with Horatio, plus all the details. Horatio told the local ATF guys that too. We thought they put around a memo or something."
"We seriously hate dealing with Caine, CSI Harris."
Xander smirked at him. "Flattery won't get you out of that requirement. Ask my father, he tried it." The man looked confused. "I'm adopted. My parents are in Homeland, covert in Homeland," he said quietly. The man whimpered. "So you *really* have to clear it with Horatio first. Dad did the same thing and pissed him off too."
"Can you call him to a meeting?"
"I can do that." He called Horatio. "It's Xander. I've got a Midwest ATF agent here asking me to help them with a three-week-long problem. Undercover. Gay people," he said dryly, staring at him. "No, I told him he had to clear it with you since I wouldn't be here and you said all undercovers that anyone wanted me for had to be cleared through you. Exactly." He listened to him. "It would mean I wouldn't be here for three weeks, Horatio." He frowned. "Do you need backup, boss? Because I can do that," he reminded him dryly. "Quietly even. Where are you?" He nodded, memorizing that address. "I'll be right there." He hung up and handed back the folder. "Bring it over tonight. There's a family issue in the way of the conference you wanted and I've got to attend." He finished his burger on the way to his car, getting in and heading off immediately. Horatio needed backup. He wasn't going to ask too many questions until it was over with.
By the time he got there, Horatio was ready to bust into the warehouse by himself but Xander walked up to him, vest on, gun in hand, handing Horatio a stick. "Snap it, throw it, wait thirty and it'll flash with a small concussion blast," he said quietly. "It's a tester from Dad." Horatio smiled, snapping it and glancing inside before throwing it. It landed and flashed, letting them head inside. Xander saw the reason for the family problem immediately, shooting two of the guys in the legs before anything else could happen. He saw another figure in the shadows and frowned, but he recognized him from Ray Junior's and Yelina's pictures on her desk. Horatio got Ray Junior out and Xander backed up to the door, nodding at the other person. "Hey," he said quietly.
"His ballistics and trace tech." He grinned a bit, nodding him out of the way so he could shoot the guy coming in the back door. Then he pulled something else out, rolling it off once he had compressed the button. It went off, releasing a low lying gas over those people on the ground. "Drag him over," he ordered calmly. "He's out of the cloud." Ray Senior did that and the guy was knocked out too. Xander looked over as Horatio came back. "Angel toys."
"That works for me, Xander. Thank you." He looked at him. "Not one word."
"If you need my contacts...."
"I'll ask," he promised, patting him on the arm. "Take Ray Junior back to your place. Please."
"Sure. I'm off, you can tell Calleigh the pretty lie." He walked out, finding Ray Junior was already in his car. He slid in and nodded at him. "Hey, Ray."
"Hey, Xander. Where are we heading?"
"My place. You can help me look at the petfinder spot for my new dog." He backed out of where he was parked, going home for a while. "Do you need medical or just a bathroom?"
"Bathroom would be good," he admitted.
"Ten more, Ray."
"I can hold it."
Xander grinned. "I puked on my first hostage taker. Angel was not happy." Ray let out a small, hysterical sounding giggle. "Go ahead and break, Ray. I did that too. It doesn't make you any less manly or adult. It's a natural reaction. The same as the nightmares are going to be." He turned a corner and pulled into his parking lot, finding his spot was filled. He grimaced but got the next one over. It was his visitor parking. He got out, guarding Ray inside. One of his neighbors gave him an odd look so he smiled and waved. "Just out of a bust, Miss Havendish. Nothing bad, just needed to get him changed. He's my ride-along today." She nodded, going back inside while Xander got Ray into his house. "Bathroom's across from the guest room, Ray." Ray walked that way, locking himself inside. Xander took off his vest, stretching for a bit. Then he got the kid some soda, leaving one outside the door. "I left you a soda, Ray. Stay in there as long as you want. He didn't say I needed to do any gathering so shower if you need to too."
He walked off again, going to sit on a windowsill so he could watch the parking lot. He heard the shower come on and nodded. It would be good for the boy. His phone rang so he grabbed it off the counter. "Xander." He listened then smirked. "Speed, Horatio told me to come home and to let my ride-along calm down. Shower. I wasn't told I'd have to run the routine but he's calming down in his own way. Sure, I'm here." He hung up and went back to watching the parking lot. He opened the window when he saw the person approaching the car in his spot, leaning out. "Dude, up here." He glared at him. "That's my spot. If she needs a spare spot, use my visitor's spot, not mine. I work really long hours sometimes and I drive by rote. That'll mean your car'll be smooshed."
"Who are you to demand that."
Xander pointed at his car. "Look on the dash, dude." The guy looked then whimpered. "Exactly, and I'm a ballistics tech. I work eighteen hour days sometimes. I won't notice your little car if I'm that tired. Park in my visitor's spot instead please. I'm being nice, I could've had you towed." That got a terse nod and the guy got in to drive off. "Thank you," he called, waving at him.
Ray came out. "That's not really hiding, Xander."
"No one here is going to care, Ray." He closed the window, smiling at him. "Besides, my neighbor is a high priced escort girl." Ray laughed. "It's not too much to ask that he use my visitor's spot instead of my regular spot. I'll point that out to her too." He grinned. "You good?"
"Better. This is going to be horrible. Things are going to change."
"It happens. Want a hug?"
"As long as your club thing doesn't rub off on me." He gave him a hug, relaxing against him. He looked outside. "That's Uncle H I think."
Xander looked then shook his head. "That's Speed." He nodded and Ray went to put on some of his clothes, getting comfortable. Speed came up, letting himself in. "Hey."
"Hey. How's Ray?"
"He's fine. He calmed down, had a shower, had a soda. He's getting into some of my clothes."
"That's fine. H isn't sure what's going to happen."
"Lots of plastic surgery?" Xander suggested. "Me calling in every favor and pouting at Mom and Dad until they help hide him?"
"He was thinking about that second one," Speed admitted. "Using his contacts not yours and him begging your parents." He smiled at Ray when he came out in a plain t-shirt and jeans. "Not going to try for a saying t-shirt?"
"I can't pull those off." He gave Speed a hug. "Am I going with you?"
"No, I'm here to check on you two."
"We're fine. One of my neighbors got curious. I told her he was my ride-along calming down after a thing."
"That'll work for now." He ruffled Ray's hair. "We're working on it, kiddo."
"Why did they take me?"
"Your father," Speed said honestly.
"Wonderful," he said, sounding bitter. "I don't want anything to do with his old life." He walked off, going to find something to watch on the tv. "Xander, pet finder site?"
"I need to look at one," he admitted, looking at Speed, "but the ATF came up to me today about doing an undercover for them that'll take three weeks of me being theirs and off work," he finished more quietly. "His ID said the Chicago office. That's when I called Horatio and found out he needed backup."
Speed nodded. "We're going to let that lie for a few more hours."
"I agree fully but if he's lurking."
"Good point. I'll talk to him if he's back at the office." Xander nodded. "You two be okay? Your fridge is chronically empty thanks to your inability to cook."
"I can order. I've got money around the house," Xander reminded him.
"That's good. We'll let this stand for now. Ray, I want you stay with Xander until Horatio straightens everything out, all right?"
"Sure. He's got not-ugly guest rooms," he quipped, waving a hand. "I can even cook if he's got food in the house."
Speed smiled. "Good kid." He came over to hug him around the head. "Behave, listen to Xander, let him protect you," he ordered quietly, getting a nod and a look. "Good." He nodded at Xander. "Call if you have issues." He left them alone, going back to the lab. He found the ATF agent hovering. "You're the guy who wanted Xander?" He nodded. "Horatio's having to deal with an issue that got his nephew kidnaped," he said quietly. The agent moaned. "Xander's helping him with that. It's going to be a few hours if you need to check in with the local office."
"No, that's fine. I'm good without that." He handed over the folder. "My card's in there. I'm at a motel for the night. When he calms down, have him read it over and call me please. The local office agreed that I can't borrow your gun tech without his permission or else I'll get beaten to death by the rest of them for it." Speed smirked and nodded. "When he's got a few, hopefully tonight or early tomorrow. We'll need to take him this weekend so I'll have to fly him out tomorrow night."
"I'll get with him by tonight. You'll hear something." He nodded, walking off. Speed went to Horatio's office, finding him hiding in there. "The local ATF agents told that one they had to get with you first or else they'd all beat him for us." Horatio gave him an unamused look. "How's things?"
"Have you called Lee?"
"I have. He's not sure how they can help. He suggested plastic surgery."
"Which could work but Ray Junior's not happy this had to do with his father's past."
"I'm not happy either," Horatio admitted. "What do they want him to do?" Speed handed over the folder, making him frown while he read it. The full plan was now typed out nicely in there for his acceptance. He sighed and pushed it aside. "I don't think we can do without Xander for three weeks. Or another tech because they don't have him with backup."
Speed took it to look over. "His backup would have to go in as his lover."
"Probably true," Horatio agreed, looking at him. "One crisis at a time, Speed."
"He said he needs to hear back by tomorrow morning so you've got time."
"Good. The only fast solution is to get them out of the city."
"Is that the good solution though?"
"No. I'd have to send them to a non-extradition country, like Brazil. Yelina would like that but Ray would be put back into the same sort of position with the drugs being around him down there. Ray Junior would be out of contact so there's no telling what would happen to him." He held his head. "I don't know what to do."
"Send just Ray?"
"That's not fair to his wife and son."
"She can join him and the nephew could stay up here for a few weeks until they knew if they could work it out. Even if she's happy there's going to be fighting in that house when she's off her emotional kick."
"Maybe," Horatio agreed tiredly, leaning back. "It would be safer."
"Not necessarily. Remember, he busted some of them too," Speed offered quietly.
Ryan leaned in. "There's an evil looking Fed stomping this way, guys. He does not look happy. He's got a folder with Xander's name on it and a big red 'classified' stamp on the front. Calleigh's stalling for a few minutes."
"Send him up. This is the day for feds," Speed offered, getting a nod. Ryan turned and whistled, nodding at the office. Speed waved at the guy. "What happened this time?"
"Do you know this man?" he asked, putting the folder down in front of Horatio. "He's wanted for bringing down a military unit."
"That was torturing others and had friends," Horatio told him. The man sneered. "There were no charges brought against him. There was an inquest after the four teenagers and a librarian had to do that to the military unit to save their friends. Why the interest now?"
"It was reopened."
Horatio called Lee back. "It's Horatio." He put him on speaker. "Someone is in my office saying that they're reopening the inquest into the Initiative."
"Really?" Lee said over the speaker. "Interesting. I was part of that inquest and I don't remember hearing about that."
"He's wanted now for a formal military tribunal. He attacked the government."
"He attacked agents and others using torture on native beings," Lee corrected. "They all did. I doubt you're going to do anything to them either."
"We are tracking the rest of them. We know one died and the others moved through LA to somewhere else."
"Have fun with that," Speed said, waving a hand. "Do you have a warrant?"
"I don't need one."
Lee coughed. "Young man, that boy is protected by a lot of people in Homeland Security. Yes, you do."
"Why?" he sneered. "He screwing them?"
"No, he's my son," Lee said. "By the way, I'm Stetson, in Covert Ops." The man sneered worse. "Horatio, hold on, I'll be there tonight with someone to fix this."
"Please do," Horatio agreed. He looked at the man. "You can wait that long."
"We will not."
"You will," Horatio promised. "Or you will be sorry."
"My people are already gathering the young man and the teenager with him."
Lee snickered. "I wondered why Xander just called Amanda and said he was going to go Zodiac on someone. They're very safe, Horatio. He's already hiding."
"My team leader...."
"Ended up eating a lot of carpet," Lee chortled. "My boy's been trained for years in self- defense. Wait on me, Horatio. I'm going to see if Willow can help." He hung up.
Speed called Ray Junior's cellphone. "It's me. Check in when you can." He hung up, looking at him. "It'll be fine. You know Xander."
"I do." He looked at the agent again. "Who reopened this?"
"That's none of your business."
"Yes, it is, he's my employee," Horatio told him.
"And we're the government, sir." He took the folder but Speed took it back and walked off with it. "Give that back or you'll join him!" he yelled, following him.
Horatio used another of the balls from Xander's gear on him, knocking him out. "We will see," he agreed. He called Xander's special number, getting him. "Are you two okay?" He smiled. "Be safe, stay safe, call me and keep me in the loop, Xander. I just knocked him out. Your father's on his way." He laughed. "That'll work." He hung up and walked over the body, closing his office door with him in there. He found Rick stomping up the hall. "Stetler."
"Who is he?"
"A federal agent who decided to reopen the inquest in that sealed file." He looked stunned. "So I used a gas bomb Xander was letting me examine on him. It won't harm him but it will give us enough time to figure out what is going on."
"You could be in deep for that."
"As could he, Rick. As could he. By the way, Xander has Ray Junior with him." Rick moaned, holding his head. "I'm sure you've found out why?"
"I did hear a small rumor, yes. What are we doing?"
"I was hoping Lee came up with something better than Rio." He walked off to get that file from Speed's hands. "Who authorized it?"
"I scanned it in and sent it to Jamie, who can send it to his parents," Speed said, handing it over. "Jamie was screaming and ranting. Gibbs came on to see what was going on since he heard Xander's name mentioned. Their director is part of that."
"Then she's got the life expectancy of a gnat," Horatio reminded him quietly. "If this gets out more widely, someone's going to laugh at them." Speed nodded at that. He called up there. "Gibbs, Horatio. Are you okay? They're hiding. Are you all right?" He smiled at the assertion that his team and Jamie were fine, that Lee was already at the Pentagon. That the people in charge were having a rude awakening since he released all the files. "Good. I gassed one in my office," he said quietly. "Actually, no it's been a very bad day. How deep of a background did you do before you gave us Xander?" Gibbs said something smart. "My brother, Gibbs." He got a quieter response. "Exactly. It's been that sort of day." Speed patted him on the arm. "Thank you, Speed. With an ATF agent down here to get Xander's help as well." He smiled. "That would work. That's an open option but I don't like it." He nodded at what he was saying. "That might be more reasonable. Thank you for the suggestion. Keep us informed if you hear anything please. Thank you." He hung up. "Lee's opening all the files for the people who reopened the investigation. They're not happy."
"I wasn't happy with what little I knew," Speed promised. "Where are the boys?"
"Safe." He smiled at him. "They went to a very Xanderish place." He patted him on the head then walked off, finding his door was sealed with crime tape. "Did you drag him off?"
"No. I left him in there," Stetler admitted. "He's not dead?"
"He shouldn't be." He looked. "He's breathing, Rick. He can't be dead yet." He looked at him again. "Thank you for being there to handle this from the start."
"You tell the Chief, Horatio. I'm not getting involved in this. I like my badge."
"His father's reopening all the files so they know what they're dealing with."
"Charming. Hopefully they puke too." He walked off shaking his head.
Horatio went in to walk around the cloud. Part of his desk wasn't covered yet and he did have a fan to push it away. Xander had said it wouldn't react outside the cloud so he'd be fine for a short email to his boss and a few others.
Lee stomped in later that night, nodding at Horatio and the agent handcuffed in his office. "Cease and desist orders," he said, handing them over. "Along with an arrest warrant for you trying to kill two civilians." He looked at Horatio. "It's taken care of. His whole team was recalled. Both boys are fine and coming in now. We're arresting him within the hour." Horatio nodded at that, relaxing some. "As for your other problem, Amanda suggested Witness Protection might work."
"His family?" he asked.
"I don't know, Horatio. I really don't know. That's going to be a hard situation on all sides." Both boys were walked in by Xander's older brother Phillip. "Thanks, Phillip." He smiled at his son. "Good work if I never mentioned it."
"Not my call. The only way," he said grimly. "Are we done with this idiocy this time, Dad?"
"We are. The people who wanted to reopen it got showed exactly why the old program got stopped. Your arrest warrant was cleared. So was theirs. All those hidden files were shown as well." Xander nodded at that. "How is Spike?"
"He died in the Hellmouth, came back, then died again when Angel did last week," he said quietly.
"I'm sorry. Did you need to go to the funerals?"
"No. I went back for Wes's." He patted Ray on the back. "Horatio, he was very good all day. He didn't play with any of the weapons. He made dinner out of the survival supplies I had stocked." Ray smirked at him. "He even made it taste pretty decent." Horatio smiled at that. "Dad, did the ATF guy get your pass-through too?"
"No, but it's sounding like a good idea, and it would get you out of public notice for a while," Lee offered. "There's some who still aren't thrilled that this happened but they understood why it did. Especially since we called the group out of the UN about it. They admitted what they had done and not even the Director at NCIS is that brutal. Though I do think Gibbs had a strong word with her before then. I'm not sure, Xander." He gave him a pat on the back. "I do know you'll need backup for this operation coming up if you go. They don't have you any planned and they want you on a loose leash."
"Um, no. I want backup. I like the tighter leash of having someone listening directly and ordering if I need it." Horatio nodded he agreed. "We'll work on that later. Can I help you drag him down to the car?"
"I can do that," Phillip said, grinning at his little brother. "You did very good hiding, Xander. We wouldn't have seen you." He punched him on the arm. "Did Grandma scream at you too?"
"She does every week because I'm not having kids," he admitted bitterly. "I'd like to have a grandma who didn't."
"She'll get off her kick soon," Phillip promised, winking at him. "Jamie's wife is fixing her new need." He gave his little brother a hug. "I'll see if we can pop around during this thing. Maybe have lunch or something." Xander beamed and nodded. "Good. What about your apartment?"
"They didn't break the door in, it was nice of them. I did call my complex manager and told her what they wanted me for. That it was a case of mistaken identity with an agent who had went rogue. She told me they didn't break it and it was fine, plus I could rent my spare parking space to my escort neighbor so she quit borrowing it." Horatio smiled. "She also suggested that I should put a better security system on the house."
"Might be a good idea," Lee agreed. "Especially with your weapons, son."
"They're still there?" Xander asked. Phillip nodded. "Good. Sit, Ray." Ray sat and so did he. "What can I do to help?"
"For right now, calm down, help Horatio think," Lee ordered. "He's got the harder decision to make."
Xander looked at his brother. "Plastic surgery?"
"Could help some but it can't change the bone structure of his face. It would be better used in tandem with hiding."
"Hiding is good," Xander agreed. "The problem is that sending him farther away to safety leads to other issues." He nodded at Ray Junior. "Including his."
"Point," Lee agreed. "We might be able to work out something in Witness Protection."
Lee smiled. "That might work too," he agreed.
"A lot less temptation," Phillip said quietly. Horatio nodded at that. "Plus no direct links to some of the same people like he would with Horatio's plan."
"She's from there," Horatio noted calmly.
"Hold on," Ray said, holding up a hand. "What's going on?"
Xander looked at him. "Your father's past."
"And?" he asked bitterly.
"He didn't die," Horatio said quietly. "We've just found out he left his assignment. The Federal government coopted him and made the death scene, Ray. I only found out today." Ray slumped. "Right now, we're trying to figure out where we're sending Ray."
"LA?" Xander quipped.
"Not funny," Horatio assured him.
"Sorry." He made Ray look at him. "We want you safe and we want him safe. He can't be safe here and we're not sure what's going to happen with you and your mom. That's why we're tossing around ideas. Do you have one?"
"Tell Mom, let her fix that?" Ray suggested.
"That idea did come to me earlier," Horatio admitted, smiling at his nephew. "As well as letting them go for a few weeks first to see if they could manage to hide with each other and not kill each other. Then they could ask for you to join them."
"Can I join a gang instead?" Ray asked.
"No," Horatio told him.
"Can I go to LA and learn how to be the next Xander instead?"
"Definitely not," Xander told him. "You'd have to be warped from a younger age by girls, Ray. Though.... Horatio, John?" Horatio looked clueless. "John's bodyguarding right now but he would know where the roots and ends of the distribution chain is. Plus he should probably know since Ray Senior was his partner. He and I talked about him recently. That op started his slide down too."
"Which would be reasonable. John could watch over them until something was figured out," Horatio agreed. "I'm not sure it'd be good for John, Xander. He went through a lot because of that."
"Then he definitely deserves the right to hit him because of it," Phillip pointed out. "Plus his current employers are good at making people disappear when necessary. They could help us set up new identities. Hagen could watch them while they're settling in, mediate the fights, and help Ray Junior if he went right off the bat."
"Someone's got to take the frying pan from Yelina," Xander agreed. He looked at Ray. "If we could set it up so you're still in the US, would that help?"
"It would," he admitted. "I'm not sure I can handle that, Xander."
"Ah, but you see, we could make it look like we're sending you off with John for your own protection for a few days," Xander offered with a wicked smirk. "If it doesn't work, he'll say you don't need protection anymore and bring you back to Horatio or whoever he sets up. If you stay, he can reappear saying that he set you up in a protection program."
"That would give them the time to see if they could work it out," Lee agreed. "I know I'd want to hit him, Ray," he offered. "I'm sure your momma's going to want to beat him too."
Ray nodded. "It'll be nice for the first few minutes but then it'll go to hell." He looked at his uncle. "Can we work on that and make it somewhere closer by?"
"It's have to be somewhere big enough for you three to get lost in," Phillip offered. "Maybe Hagen can get her on with his people for local jobs? Move them to Las Vegas? Lots and lots of people get lost there every year. I know his team has an office out there for high rollers. It's got such a mobile population because it's a tourist hole." He looked at his father.
"That could work," he agreed. "He could set up to stay home and hide, or work from home doing something. There's a bunch of computer places he could do secretarial work or something for. Decent schools. Plenty of work for a former cop and lots of them won't ask why she's being hidden if she tells them she is in hiding due to a problematic old case." He gave Xander a hug. "I like the way you think. You and Phillip both, kiddo." Xander beamed at him. "Think you could stand that, Ray? You could keep in constant email contact if you decide to stay out there and if not, you can still chat with your parents from Miami."
"It's pretty far away."
"Yes, but remember, people take vacations out there all the time," Xander told him. "It wouldn't be unreasonable for Horatio to go out to see you while taking a vacation."
"Point. Don't they have all sorts of conventions too?" Ray asked his uncle, who nodded. "Do you like this plan?"
"As long as it won't get any of you hurt," he said quietly. "I'd rather have you safe than close by."
"Ah, but the Las Vegas connections come out of LA," Xander reminded him. "We saw plenty of that at school. It's all Mexican and LA, which means the Asian groups. Some gang activity but not as bad as down here. None of the South American ones really, which would help since he didn't have to dabble in the Asian gangs before, right?"
"He didn't," Horatio agreed. He looked at Lee. "Is that doable?"
"Very easily doable. I can get Witness Protection into it even. Or John's company since they do some relocation services for abuse victims." Horatio nodded. "I'll call them...."
Xander pulled out his phone. "Hey, John, Xander. Where are you?" He smiled. "I thought you were getting back today. No, we need you in a confab in Horatio's office. Like right now right now." He nodded. "I know you can't get back in, but sneak or something. We *really* need you. Well.... Because some funerals were premature," he admitted, "and we need you to help Yelina and Ray Junior." He nodded. "That'll work. We're here. Thank you. See you soon." He hung up. "He got back from Paraguay this afternoon. He's very tired but he'll sneak in here, Horatio."
"That's fine." He looked at his nephew. "This will not stop us from talking."
Xander gave him a nudge. "Maybe you'll find a pretty showgirl," he teased. Ray grinned at that. "I'd even let John raid the survival stuff for you to make your own safety kit."
"Thanks, Xander." He gave him a hug. Then he got up to give his uncle one. "Thank you, Uncle H."
"You're welcome, Ray." He patted him on the back. "We don't want this to impact you at all, Ray. That's why I hadn't told either of you."
"We can ship stuff to Yelina," Lee agreed. He looked at their prisoner, calling someone. "Are we set?" He smiled. "I've got him here in cuffs. Come pick him up. Phillip can handle the stuff here while I go back with you. Thanks." He hung up. "Phillip?"
"I can hang with Xander," he agreed happily. Lee hugged both his boys before dragging off his prisoner. "Dinner, Xander?"
"After all this," he agreed, patting the spot beside him. Phillip sat down, smiling at John when he came in. "John, you know my brother Phillip by voice probably."
"Hey," he greeted with a nod. "What's going on?"
"Close the door," Xander told him. "It's going to piss you off." John walked in and shut the door, leaning against it.
Horatio dialed the phone on the desk. "It's me. We're working on your exit plans." He put him on speaker. "John Hagen's here."
"Hey, John," Ray Senior said.
John took a moment to take a deep breath, as he had been taught in therapy. "Kid?" he asked, looking at Xander, who shook his head. "Who?"
"Feds," Ray Senior said.
"We think we can get them set into Witness Protection," Phillip said quietly. "Especially if we can go through your people and ask them to shield Yelina. We were going to send him out of the area but only to Las Vegas for that. She's got plenty of employment opportunities there."
"You could go as guarding Ray Junior, who got kidnaped today," Xander said, standing up. "That way you could say whatever you needed to to his face," he said quietly, looking at John. "While making sure Ray Junior isn't arrested for homicide and he can handle it there."
John nodded. "That's a good plan. I know my company has helped abused spouses in the past. That's really him?" he asked Horatio.
"It's really him," Ray Junior said grimly. "Which is why I got kidnaped earlier. Then Xander's fanclub nearly got me arrested and sent to a secret prison because he helped take down the Initiative." His uncle patted him on the back. "Fortunately, he's good."
"Very," John agreed. "Okay, so you need me to do what?"
"I can set it up with your boss," Phillip promised. "You'd go out with Ray Junior."
"I'd introduce Yelina to my boss out there," John agreed. "That way we had a baseline. Ray, is your assignment done?"
"My cover got blown and I skipped, which ended the mission and everyone's being cleaned up," he admitted.
John grimaced, balling his fists up. Xander patted his arm so he calmed himself down. "Okay. The kid's right, we do need to talk, Ray. I can definitely guard your wife and kid for a while until we get you settled."
"I'm sorry, John."
"That's not going to cut it with me, Yelina, or your other family, Ray. You've got a *hell* of a lot of crawling in my case alone," he assured him. "Fortunately it's good for me to face these issues and beat the shit out of them."
"I welcome you trying," Ray agreed with a small sigh. "Yelina?"
"Haven't told her yet," Horatio admitted. "We were going to tell her at the airport, Ray."
"Let me get with his boss," Phillip offered. Horatio smiled at that. "Then you can talk to the ATF guy who wants Xander to be very gay for the gun dealers and straighten that mess out too." He got up, smiling and patting John on the arm. "Think about how much lighter you'll feel."
"Plus, you'll get front row when Mom takes a frying pan to his head," Ray Junior offered, making John smile and nod at that. "Want dinner? Xander and his big brother have plans but I need teenage food. I had to cook so Xander wouldn't poison us both."
"I could use dinner. I had peanuts on the plane from South America. C'mon, kid. I'll protect you while we get burgers and fries. Bring you back anything, Horatio?"
"Go to my house, John." He handed over his keys. "I'll be there soon."
"Sure thing." He walked Ray off, talking quietly to him. He smiled and winked at Calleigh, who smiled back. "Maybe you'll find a hot woman out there. After all, they like your uncle."
"True." He bopped him on the arm. "Xander knew it'd be hard, Uncle John, but he thought you might want to scream at him too," he said quietly.
"Oh, I very muchly want to beat him," he promised. "Fortunately that'll be my bonus on this assignment." Ray beamed at that. "C'mon. Which burger place are we hitting?"
"The good, greasy one by the school?"
"We can do that." He got him into his car and drove him off, taking him to safety. "Where is Xander's hidden spot?"
"I'm not sure. He blindfolded me once we got into this abandoned building. Then we did something and he drove me off. We got there ten minutes later. Maybe Phillip knows. Or you could ask him, he might share with you."
"Maybe." He nodded, taking the drive-thru option for their dinner. Ray handed over the money Xander had slipped him, earning a smile. "Gotta love Xander. He's always prepared."
"Usually over-prepared. Did you know what sort of weapons he's got at his hidden spot?"
"Doesn't shock me," John admitted, rolling down his window. "Hey, give me two number twos, no mustard."
Xander found the ATF agent waiting on him and Horatio where he had said. He and Phillip sat down, Horatio on Xander's free side. "Hey. Sorry, had a small crisis today."
"It's that resourcefulness that shows we were right in picking you, CSI Harris." He looked at Horatio. "I know you'll be struggling without him for three weeks."
"I could be," he agreed. "Where is this going down?"
"By my territory. We'd have him on a loose leash."
"I want a firmer leash or backup," Xander told him. "I work best with a firmer leash for information I didn't pick up. I need backup. I'm not omnipotent."
"It took me four months to make him see that," Horatio agreed. "I would insist on him having backup."
"Do you have someone else you can spare to go with him? We could plan it as the boyfriend ploy," the agent asked, looking at Phillip. "You'd do."
"He's my little brother." He grinned. "Dad sent me. Mom's throwing fits."
"Do I know you?"
"I'm Phillip. Amanda Stetson's son. So is Xander." The agent moaned. "It makes so much sense, doesn't it?"
"It does," he admitted. "He's a lot like your stepfather, Phillip."
"With a lot of his mother's problems," Horatio said, looking at Xander.
"What? Like I asked the woman to give me rubies?" Xander complained.
"Point." Horatio looked at the agent again. "I would insist on backup."
"I don't know who we could ask," he admitted. "Especially on short notice. I know it'd have to be a male. Someone who wasn't adverse to playing his boyfriend. Someone with some gun knowledge would be good."
"Who was your second choice?" Phillip asked.
"One of the techs out of New York. Taylor makes sure all his people are up to date."
Xander shrugged. "I could see that. If they can play. You know how I was trained and it's not always PD issue."
"I thought about asking Special Agent DiNozzo but he got injured recently and he's out."
"Yeah, someone beat him for information," Xander admitted. "We might be able to bring him, I'm not sure if he could play boytoy though." Phillip looked at him. "I'm not sure he can. I know he and I can be playful together."
"What about Taylor's team?" Horatio asked. "Who were you thinking?"
"Taylor himself? Then Xander would be the boyfriend."
Xander looked at him. Then at Horatio. "Can Mac pull it off? I've only met him at the two conventions."
"I'm not sure," Horatio admitted. "Can I bring him in?"
"Please. We need to get them there tomorrow night."
Horatio called Mac, smiling at the gruff voice that answered. "Mac, Horatio Caine. Miami's all right but we've got an ATF situation here. They want to borrow Xander and one of your boys to play his backup and boyfriend." He heard the spluttering. "Your name came up because your team is usually competent to handle anything that comes up but they'd be in the Midwest. No, they like Xander. Your team was second choice." He listened to him run down who he had. "Does it have to be a boyfriend?" he asked.
"Yeah, the head guy's gay. He'll only deal with gay dealers."
"Go gay right's movement," Xander said fondly, smirking at him. "Technically I'm probably bi. Still figuring that out, dude."
"That's fine, CSI Harris."
"Technically I'm a lab tech," he said gently. "I'm only backup in the field."
Horatio hummed then nodded. "That might work. Could he pull it off? They would have to appear to be a couple, Mac. I don't know how realistic they'd have to be."
"Please don't send me with Wolfe. I love the guy but he can't act," Xander moaned, holding his head. "Besides, I'm a bottom most likely." The agent looked at him. "Only happened twice. Once to get my car fixed faster and cheaper."
"Oh. Are you okay with that?" Xander nodded. "Good." He took the phone from Horatio. "Detective, ATF Agent Wilkins." He smiled. "It is that same assignment. We can coopt Mr. Harris but he has demanded that we give him backup instead of a loose leash. He said he works better that way." Phillip nodded. "His big brother agrees since he's done some work for them as well. Homeland."
"ATF locally, Vice locally, NCIS up there," Phillip said dryly. "Fornell and his fibbies."
"Don't remind me," Horatio warned. He looked at Xander. "Do you want to go on this?"
Xander shrugged. "If they need me that much I can't really say no, even if I would rather be back here tormenting Speed with new t-shirts, Horatio." That got a laugh from his brother. "I have the feeling I'm the only gay or bi ballistics tech in existence." Agent Wilkins nodded. "See?" Horatio smiled a bit at that. "I don't normally want to do these," he said quietly. "But with earlier, it'd be better if I was out of town for a while."
"It would be," Horatio agreed, patting him on the back. "We'll miss your special brand of sanity until you get back."
"Awww," Phillip teased. "Did he warp you too?"
"You have no idea how much seeing his t-shirts have made certain CSI calm down," Horatio admitted. "Or how much better it is on a very bad scene."
"I'm good at stress relief," Xander said happily. The agent nodded again, smirking at him. "Don't send me with someone without a sense of humor. They'll look too shocked when I crack bad jokes."
"If not, I might be able to spare Eric for the time," Horatio admitted. "He plays boyfriend very well."
"He's had a lot of practice," Xander joked. Horatio nodded. "Think he'd cuddle?"
"Hopefully not that much," Horatio said, looking at him, getting a shiteating grin back. "True, he would have to." The agent hung up with a quiet 'thanks' and handed the phone back. "Did he agree?"
"He said the three weeks was too long but he did have a suggestion in the form of one of their detectives. He'll ask him discreetly and call back in a few minutes. If not, could any of your boys go?"
"I'm not sure," Horatio admitted. "I know Speed and Xander are close as friends. Eric and Xander have a little brother relationship most of the time. The same as I do." He looked at Xander. "I would like to see your hidden spot." Xander looked at him and shook his head. "I would, Xander."
"No you don't. You'll yell." He sipped his water, grinning at the agent. "Should we suggest it to Tony before the team down here?"
"Maybe. They might know who he is," Agent Wilkins admitted. "Before I found out Lee was your father I almost suggested him."
"Eww," Xander said. "That's my dad."
"I know, kid. Sorry." He looked at Phillip. "Got any other ideas?"
"He and I don't babble in the right sort of geek and he'd freeze," Xander told him. "Please don't suggest Gibbs either."
"I wouldn't, kid," the agent promised. The phone rang.
"Horatio." He smiled. "Thank you for trying, Mac. That's fine. That is something to think about with the press he's gotten recently. Have a better week. No, today has been a bit hectic. I'll write you a long email later. Sure. Thank you." He hung up and looked at him. "How would they know DiNozzo?"
"They have an operative in DC. Otherwise we'd use our own people. This is an extraordinary situation. I'm not sure they don't know Xander, but he can be himself. Xander Harris of Sunnydale and LA," he said at the curious look. "Without the college. You had a rep then as being Angel's gear person and with him dead...."
"Most of his team went too," Xander pointed out. "All but Gunn and Connor." He looked at Horatio. "Who would be most comfortable?"
"If we hadn't sent John off earlier I might've suggested him."
"He would spanked me, Horatio."
"Point. How safe is he going to be?"
"Very. They don't know he went to college but I have heard someone mention his name. Not in a bad way but wanting to see if they should see what he had in his arsenal to see if he wanted to trade, sell, or if he had created anything."
"I have," Xander admitted. "And no, I don't do that." He frowned. "Horatio?"
"It would come down to Speed or I probably," he admitted. "Speed's not comfortable around guns. Eric could do the job but you two don't quite click on that level."
"He thinks I'm some goofy kid, still," Xander agreed. "Even when I pulled his ass out of danger last month." He finished his water.
Phillip coughed. "Horatio, Dad called on the way over and said that you might have some fallout from gassing the guy earlier," he said quietly. "That would let you go."
"That would," he agreed. "Plus I do have ballistics and bomb squad experience."
"We do very well on assault backups," Xander agreed. "Could you let me lead?"
"I can easily play the doting boyfriend, Xander," he said, giving him a look.
"Yeah but that would get me killed if they made us prove it."
"They would know before we went."
"That would still get me killed."
"I could explain it to whatever significant other you have, Lieutenant," Wilkins offered.
"I can do that. It would keep you undaamaged." He looked at Xander again. "The real question is could you *pretend*?"
"Yeah. I got over that, Horatio."
"Good." He patted him on the back. "Let me talk to my boss first."
"Of course, Horatio. Are we going to brief your whole team?" He nodded. "That's fine. I'll meet you at your place in two hours?"
"That would be acceptable," Horatio agreed. The agent walked off. "Thank you, Phillip."
"Welcome. I did some searching. This guy is shopping major weapons," he admitted. "They wouldn't have come if it wasn't important, Horatio." He patted him on the back. "Let me take Xander to dinner and then we'll meet you at your place?"
"That would be fine." He smiled at the boys as they walked off arguing about what to have for dinner. He got up and went to his boss's house, finding him not happy to see him. "There is more that you should hear."
"I was going to talk to you tomorrow, Horatio. When I didn't have a headache and wasn't pissed." He let him inside, taking him to his study. Horatio told him everything that had happened, including why they had come for Xander. He told him about the upcoming sting. His boss just moaned a few times. He got up to get a drink when Horatio was done, giving Horatio one as well. "Who do you want to go?"
"It was suggested it'd have to be one of us that's not Wolfe. They'll only deal with gay males."
"I've heard rumors," he admitted.
"I'm not going to confirm or deny, Chief. My relationship has nothing to do with the lab."
"Fine. I can agree to that. I'm going to have to suspend you for a week anyway, you know that. Attacking the agent was stupid."
"Technically I only gassed him."
"It's still an attack, Horatio." He took a drink. "Are you going to go?"
"If the others don't think they can. It has been noted that Xander and I do back each other up very well. He has said he wouldn't have a problem with the pretending but it would not come back later on."
"That's a hard promise to make."
"Not really." He finished his drink and put his glass down. "How would you like to do this?"
"I'm going to suggest you go. It would be safer for Harris if there's fallout. Where is the boy going?"
"John's taking him to Las Vegas. We have some connections out there. They can keep Ray Junior safe until we figure out where his parents are going to end up."
"That's reasonable. He can easily get lost out there and there's none of the gangs he was busting out there either. Hell of a commute for visitation though."
"It is a vacation capitol in the US, sir," he said with a small smirk.
"Good point." He sighed and drained his drink. "It would be for the best if you went. That way you could skip out on any fallout. As long as ...whoever doesn't mind."
"We're going to be telling them later and the whole team as well."
"Good idea. You don't want to hide this one. Can the boy handle it?" Horatio nodded. "You're sure?"
"I am. He has had limited exposure to that... area before. We had a long talk about it before we talked to Agent Wilkins. We think they know the one he would've normally called, Agent DiNozzo from NCIS. He and Xander worked very well together."
"Good. Well, hell. This is awkward. Go for it, Caine. With the day you've had you need some respite anyway. Consider this a very tense vacation. We'll put you both on paid administrative leave after your suspension is covered." Horatio nodded. "Thank you for telling me why you gassed a federal agent."
"I wouldn't have done it without good reason."
"Yes but it's still a bad thing to do, Caine." He gave him a look. "Never again, right?"
"Not unless it's necessary to save mine or someone's life," he assured him.
"That'll work. Go away. Let me get drunk in peace. I'll make sure Yelina has the paperwork as soon as I hear from her or someone out there." Horatio nodded, leaving him alone. "Damn it!" He got up to get another drink, going back to his family time. "Sorry, a federal matter that just came up."
"I saw Horatio. Is it a lab problem?" his wife asked.
"Sort of. A federal agency wants to borrow Horatio and his favorite ballistics tech for an op for three weeks. Plus Horatio's had a crappy day on top of it, including having to rescue his nephew from a kidnaping attempt." She cooed and gave him a hug. "It'll be fine. They worked it out. His team will run in his absence. We'll figure it out." He sat down to cuddle her, smiling at what she was watching.
Horatio looked at the gathered lab in his living room once they had all seen the file. "The only suggestion anyone has had is that Xander and I go on it," he told them. "Xander is due here in a while from dinner with his brother Phillip," he said at Eric's opening mouth. Speed leaned back, staring at him. "We do not know how deep we will have to go."
"Why you?" Speed asked.
"I'm suspended for a week anyway," he noted.
Speed nodded. "You and Xander could play that very well but he and I would do it better."
"We're talking major weapons," Calleigh pointed out. "You're not that comfortable with them, Speed."
"Eric was my first thought," Horatio offered. "Ryan, Xander did ask that it not be you because he doesn't think you could play the part necessary."
"No, I suck at the boyfriend stuff. That's why I'm not dating," he admitted. "Can you put up with his t-shirts for three weeks?"
Horatio smiled. "I'm hoping I can mitigate it some." Speed shook his head. "I'll try."
"He'll get us worse later if you do," Calleigh pointed out. "Ryan, help me make some coffee please?" He nodded, following her to the kitchen.
"Boys?" Horatio asked quietly.
Eric shrugged. "It sucks but he'll take good care of you, H," he offered.
"Even if it has to be proven?" Horatio said gently.
"Xander's not the sort to carry it over into the real world," Speed pointed out. "He hasn't even when he had the crush on you." Eric nodded at that. "I'm not sure you can put up with his bouncy nature for three weeks though."
"It should be fine," Horatio offered. "I can handle him if he gets too outrageous. We will be going on his pre-college reputation."
"Which would be better if you could keep him from self-destructing," Speed agreed. Horatio nodded. "Okay, do you think you can do this?"
"I don't want to create a fight."
"You're not," Eric assured him, grinning. "We think you'll come back and thank us for being normal after three weeks of close contact with Xander. I can't be jealous of assignment stuff, Horatio."
"Me either, unless you come back calling his name," Speed agreed. Horatio shook his head. "Then we're good. I'm certain Xander won't press the issue when he gets back."
"Good. I will be very careful while I'm gone."
"You had better be," Calleigh said as she rejoined them, winking at him. "Where is Xander?"
"He and Phillip went out for dinner," Horatio said, taking his cup. "Thank you, ma'am."
"Welcome, sir." She sat down next to Eric again, letting him drop his arm around her shoulders. "Where did John take Ray Junior?"
"His father was alive," Speed told her. She spluttered her coffee. "That's why the kid was kidnaped and Xander had to help H rescue and guard him before the idiots came down."
"We put them into protective custody and John is going with Ray Junior to make sure it'll be healthy for him," Horatio agreed quietly. "Plus to yell at Ray himself." He took a sip of coffee. "Xander suggested it."
"I'm sure he'll have a few choice words for him," Calleigh agreed. She took another sip. "What about the agent?"
"Phillip did a background for me." He handed it over. "He looks like a clean agent."
"Good. I would hate to make Eric help me feed him to some alligators," Speed said, taking it to read. Calleigh glared at him. "You couldn't help me lift him up. Sorry. It'd mean chopping him up and more blood evidence up front."
"I could drive."
"Of course you can," he agreed, grinning at her. "You can even hold the chickens to make them come up closer. That way we can't say which one took the fatal bite."
Ryan came out with the other cups of coffee. "We could always ask Xander's friends to help. I'm sure they'd know things about body dumping with what they used to do." He handed Speed and Eric theirs then sat down with his. "Do you want me to help Calleigh in ballistics while he's gone, boss?"
"Wherever you can, Ryan." That got a smile and a nod. He sipped his coffee, waiting on the others to get there. The agent was on time. He let him in, watching as Philip pulled in a few minutes later, leaning on his cartop. "Problems?" he called.
"Xander got another one." He walked around and let Xander out of the handcuffs, walking him up to the door. "I had to keep him from smacking the crap out of her. Mom would be proud." He handed him over and followed them inside. "Sorry we're a bit late. A woman wanted to adopt Xander as her kitten."
"Past life?" Speed asked. Xander shuddered but shook his head. "Good. What happened this time?"
"He's still pissed," Eric said. "Money?"
"Drugs," Phillip said, handing it over. "I had to have her arrested and I put Xander in handcuffs so he wouldn't beat her for it."
"Thank you, Phillip. Xander, go watch the water for a few minutes." He nodded, heading that way. He looked at the agent. "You're not counting on that gift, correct?"
"Nope. We hate it as much as you guys. You can be as tolerant or not as you want during it if it happens."
"That would be fine," Horatio agreed. "It will be he and I going."
"That'll work. You two have complimentary skills and all that." He handed over the full dossiers. "We did remove the one he noted he ran into back in his internship. I had someone local cross-reference his files for the other names earlier just in case." Xander came in wet. "Go for a swim?"
"It's raining." He went to the bathroom, coming out with a towel. "Sorry to bum, Horatio."
"Better that than dripping everywhere or getting sick, Xander." They went over all the dossiers, setting up methods of communication back to his team and lovers if they needed them and how the ATF was going to guard them during it.
Xander looked around the private plane then at Horatio. "Are you bored?"
"Very," he admitted. "I should have brought a thicker book."
Xander opened his bag. "Bomb manual?" Horatio looked at him. "I downloaded and printed some of the continuing education stuff."
"Thank you." He took one he didn't know yet, going over it while Xander did the same. "What did you bring?"
"Some of the hidden stuff. The email I got said to bring something pretty as a host's present." He gave him a look then grinned wickedly. "Ray thought it was pretty."
"My nephew has good taste," he agreed dryly, giving him a look. "I still want to see this hidden area of yours, Xander."
"Nope." He went back to reading.
"I think I should. Just in case something else happens. That way I can find you."
"Jamie helped me set it up."
"I see." He frowned. "I should still see it. Even if you do blindfold me like you did my nephew."
"Xander." Xander gave him a look over the edge of his manual. "Don't you know that one already?"
"There's a new variation on how the explosive is placed." He shifted seats so he could see. "Using the curve there means that you get a warped blast radius. They're hoping it means you can hide some of the signature that way."
"Who came up with that one?"
"Someone out of Detroit." He let him have that one and pulled out the one he was working on. "Sorry, I'm keeping my skills up to date."
"That's fine. The last time I knew you weren't rated for that one yet."
"I'm not. I'm taking my next vacation weekend up in DC to up my ratings." Horatio gave him a cautioning look. "Angel has contacts out there that'll test me to see where I stand. It's not like I can go to the LAPD or even the MDPD and ask them to test me. They tend to get a bit paranoid." He went back to his reading.
"I think them being paranoid is a good thing," Horatio told him, going back to his own manual.
"It might be but I'm more interested in ring and collar explosives at the moment. That way they can be applied to *big* things and solved faster." Horatio gave him an odd look. "Miami does get some out of the ocean. I asked Giles. He said one's due to come up within the decade down in the Keys. So when it does I'll head down there for the weekend with a good collar to get rid of it. That way we don't have to plan for a sudden gas main explosion like graduation, and maybe I'll find Callahan's down there. Make a toast to all the protectors who've died and a wish for new ones to be born since I'm not adding to the pool."
Horatio squeezed his wrist. "You could have it reversed, Xander," he said quietly.
Xander looked at him. "Do you know how warped that kid would be? With all the warping I got from Willow and Buffy?"
"Point," he agreed, smiling just a bit.
"Besides, I don't want to face the possibility that my daughter will be the next slayer called," he said quietly. "I don't want to give the world another me. Being me was horrible when I was younger, Michael." That was their cover name for him.
"I can understand that, Xander." Xander gave him a long look then shook his head. "I have figured out some of it."
"Yeah, what I let you see. I don't talk about most of it."
"You've been morose about Sunnydale again."
"It's the anniversary of Tara dying," he admitted, putting away the manual so he could look at him. "I miss her. She was one of the best things in my life, even back there."
"It's good to miss her but you can't dwell."
"Maybe if I do someone will bring her back as a white lighter or seer for the Powers," he offered. Horatio shook his head. "Why not? They did to Spike. Not like he was worthy."
"He had things they could make him atone for, things to hold over his head. From what you've told me about Tara she didn't."
"True." He slumped. "It still sucks! It wasn't even a battle, it was someone trying to shoot Buffy for ruining his evil plans! Billy Joel was right, only the good die young. That's why I'm going to be ancient."
"You are still very good, Xander. Even if some would think what you were called to do is wrong and murder, it's still doesn't taint you."
Xander looked at him. "You can't say that, Horatio. The same as you can't say that shooting someone in self-defense or on the job isn't the same."
"I can't," he agreed. "These are very heavy thoughts."
"I usually get them around this time of year. Graduation's anniversary is in a few weeks. Tara's death is this week." Horatio gave him a hug. "I'm sorry I'm bringing you down."
"You're not. You need to work through these things."
"John and I talked about them. He agreed with me."
Horatio let him go, covering the hands he was looking at. "We all have to make the decision to stand and fight or run sometime in our lives, Xander. You saved countless lives by doing what you did. The hunting and all of it. Do you know how many people the vampires you helped remove would've eaten?" Xander swallowed but nodded. Fred had worked that out one night. "Then think about the lives they can live now. Their families if they found one. The fact that you helped stopped a number of incidences that would have ended the world means that many of us owe you a great deal of thanks."
"Four times," Xander admitted quietly, looking at him. "And people wonder why I retired?" he said bitterly.
"You had eleven years of combat. I don't wonder, Xander. I think you should have retired back during college."
"We had to stop the world going dark then too," he admitted.
"Which I'm very thankful for."
"You couldn't wear your sunglasses in a dark world," he teased. He was trying to lighten the mood again.
"Very true. It would also make work harder." Xander smiled and nodded. "No matter how many ashes and how much blood you have on your hands it was for the right reasons. You protected others when they couldn't protect themselves. Many people have these thoughts. I still talk to someone about my mother's death," he admitted very quietly. "I can help you find someone."
Xander shook his head. "I don't like priests. They get freaky when you mention some of it. Even the ones who do the same work for the Church hate us and the Watchers." He looked at him. "Besides, religion never gave me the answers I wanted. It gave me preformed ones, like Hardees burgers. I like real hamburgers better."
"I can understand that," he agreed, giving the hands a pat. "Remember you can still talk to me, Frank, John, all of us."
"My past would freak Calleigh out, Horatio," he said softly. "Or Eric, or Speed. I started to talk to Speed and he shuddered. He had nightmares, you could tell the next day."
"I remember." He stroked his cheek. "It'll be fine. I promise it will be. You can still talk to me." Xander nodded. "Good boy. Now, part of retirement would be easing off on some of your emergency plans."
"No buts. I want to see this emergency area of yours. Just in case something happens so I can get to it or get to you in it." Xander sighed but nodded, pulling out some clean paper to draw him a map. "Isn't that underground?"
"I learned a lot from watching the demons work. It's one of their former areas too. Miami's demon population peaked about a century ago and then slowly left until about twenty years ago. Now you've got a very small one. We have mutual respect. I bought that off one for a workshop. They sealed it so no water could get in or anything natural."
"You should consider getting a house, Xander."
"Houses are *way* expensive down there. I'd have to sell the weapons to get one. I don't want to do that. I'm not ready for that step yet. Not without some sort of exchange."
"Good point." He smiled at the stewardess when she came back. "Can I have another water?" She nodded, going to get them both refills. He looked at Xander. "Are you ready for this?"
"Not really. My weapons are my babies." He shrugged, taking his new soda. "Thank you." She walked off and he looked at him. "I wonder if we can take the plane back to Miami."
"Hopefully we won't have to fly commercial," he offered, taking a drink. Their host had gotten them the flight and they knew that they were being watched by the stewardess. "How far are you really in the bomb gear?" Xander pulled out the one he was still struggling with. He looked at him. "That is much worse than we'd usually see."
"The DC contacts saw one at an event in the back of a truck from a terrorist," Xander admitted.
"Did they solve it?"
"Yeah, they had an inter-Korean situation. One of the operatives fixed it for him. The whole back of the truck had pretty plastique." Horatio shuddered. "Is there a way to chemically neutralize a fertilizer bomb? To null the solution?"
"I don't know." He flipped over the map, sketching out the most common form of fertilizer bomb, looking at it. "You can neutralize this solution," he said, pointing at the bleach/chlorine side. "Making it neutral might help. It's always easier to disarm it."
"Sometimes there's not time. Remember, I'm in the good but not fast disarming category."
"Point. I would like you to work on the speed issue."
"My hands shake and I make stupid mistakes."
"We'll see if we can work on that with you." Xander smiled at him and pointed at something. "I'm not sure how you'd do that, Xander."
"Isn't there something we could pour into them to neutralize the ammonia in the fertilizer or whatever chemical it is in there? I don't understand how those work, I only know how to put them together."
Horatio went over it with him, showing him step-by-step how they exploded and why. It was a very good question.
Xander walked into the small villa, nodding and shaking hands with their host. "You called?"
"I did, Mr. Harris. Or do you prefer Xander?"
"It depends on how much of an enemy I'm facing," he said patiently, "and why they call on me to help them. I learned that lesson with Wolfram and Hart."
"Good point." He smiled. "I know you said you had a host's gift?" Xander turned and got into their gear, putting a small sapphire studded bracelet on his wrist. "That is very pretty. Given to you in the clubs?"
"Yup, and then modified." Xander held up the small trigger, smirking evilly. "I bet you can't undo it. I won't set it off unless you piss me off."
"That's fair," he decided, letting his guard scan it. "Hmm, totally organic?" Xander nodded. "Very interesting."
Horatio came over to look at it then glared at Xander. "We will be talking."
"Why?" He grinned sweetly and gave him a hug. "I'm being good. He never said why he needed a conference about my babies."
"Behave, Xander." He looked at their host. "I didn't know he was going to threaten you or I would've made him give you something that was less deadly."
"That's fine. Do I know you?"
"You probably know my older brother."
"Hmm, works in the crime lab."
Horatio nodded, smiling a bit. "I'm Michael. His youngest brother."
"I thought Horatio only had the one former brother."
"I was very young when our mother died. I was raised by one our mother's cousins."
"Oh. That's understandable. Watching over him?"
"With the way Horatio gets into trouble?"
"Good point." He smiled and walked them off. His guard x-rayed his pretty new thing, finding the particulars for him. Their bomb techs got to work on it, getting it undone but not disarmed an hour later. "Very interesting, Xander." Xander tipped his head. "What I'd like is your mind. I know you have updated some of the weapons you worked with." Xander shrugged, getting comfortable in his seat. "We want you to take a look at some we've been offered to see if they're doable and will work."
"For who?" Xander asked. He leaned forward. "I'm not working for bad guys. You should know that if you did any research."
"I do. I can guarantee that none of these weapons are from terrorist groups and are not going to be sold to them from my people. I'm more interested in military applications."
"Any current US warzones?" Horatio asked. "I would have to protest."
"No. I don't like the Middle East. Too fickle and touchy if you're not of their faith and their brand of that faith." Xander nodded at that. "I tend to sell to the smaller governments who are trying to catch up to the superpowers. I wanted you to look over some of them to see if they could work."
Xander and Horatio looked at each other, then Xander looked at him. "In exchange for?"
"A good bit of money. I've heard you're retired, this would pad that account so you could live comfortably anywhere you chose. Even Miami with Michael." Xander tipped his head to the side, studying him. "A quarter of a million each weapon you can approve of."
Xander looked at Horatio again, getting a nod. "He says it's a good idea and I don't deal with the money stuff. Like the clubbing problem it drives me nuts." That got a few smiles in the room. "Are they here now or should we settle in for dinner?"
"Please, go settle in for dinner. The first batch is coming in tomorrow morning by helicopter. You can have them for as long as you need."
"That works. Where's our room so I can freshen up?" He stood up, hauling Horatio with him. "By the way, those are organic because they grow back. You'd be surprised how many demonic entities have regrowth properties." The guards went back to the bomb while one showed them to their room.
"Xander," Horatio sighed once they were alone. "No showing off."
"You will show me that design later?"
"Of course." He blew a kiss. "Shower?"
"Go ahead. I'll settle in." Xander turned on the water to mask their voices and they searched for bugs, tossing the few they found off the balcony in their room. Xander even smiled and waved at the guards, clinging to Horatio's arm before they closed the doors. Xander went to take a shower since it was nice and warm while Horatio checked everything else they had in the room. He came out ten minutes later and Horatio took his chance to shower, letting Xander settle in wearing his flannel boxers and a t-shirt he didn't like. _Cleverly disguised as an adult_ was not what he wanted to see on this operation. He'd rather Xander was a full adult. He came out in his sweats, towel around his neck so he could finish off his hair. "What are you doing?" he asked.
Xander looked up from his tinkering, holding out the small device. "Playing," he said with an innocent grin.
"Xander," he sighed, looking at their equipment so Agent Wilkins could monitor them. "Why are you tinkering with this?"
"Because it's giving me bursts of static again." He took it back and finished changing the frequency. That was better. No static when the guards walked past. Within ten minutes Wilkins had found their new frequency so it was all good. He changed Horatio's over too, handing it back to him. Then he pointed at the camera. "I think they're perverts, dear."
"That can happen," he agreed dryly, settling on the bed against the pillows while he finished doing his hair. "What else did you bring?" Xander got into the bags with a groan for bending over, hauling two onto the bed to unpack them so his body was blocking the shots. "Interesting options for the luggage." He held up something innocuous. "What does this do?"
Xander took it and shot it at the camera, making it explode a few seconds later. "That." He put it back with an evil grin. "I'm not into being a porn star," he called when the guard walked past their room. "That will piss me off, majorly." The guard hurried off. He put the weapons back, letting Horatio have the one he wanted. Xander put something on his wrist then put the bag back onto the floor. He grabbed some of his jeans, sliding into them with a moan of complaint. "I hate new clothes." He slid into his sneakers and walked out, going to find his host. "Why did we find bugs and cameras in our room?" he asked the guard he found.
"For security purposes, sir."
"Uh-huh. Someone wanted the cheap porn?" The guard blushed but looked away. "I don't perform for anyone but him. Tough, sorry. You can tell our host that and if he tries it again we'll commute in from the nearest hotel at his expense."
"I'll do that, sir. What did you do to it?"
"EMF radio pulse. A remote control that changed the frequency of the record head, which made it overheat quickly and go boom. A small boom but a pretty one. Most booms are pretty."
Horatio walked up behind Xander, turning him and walking him off. "Thank you for not giving him more toys to blow up. He's a bit bouncy today. Too much soda on the plane." He closed them back into their room. "Please behave?" Xander leaned against his chest, whispering something. Horatio moaned and nodded. Wilkins had thought someone else was watching these people. That guard had been wearing a wire, not like the others had. "Motel?"
"Motels are nice and allow you to take walks and strolls, and sometimes even swim. Swimming's nice."
"It is," Horatio agreed, staring at him. "No more watching James Bond movies, Xander."
"Shoot. Meany." He went back to bed, going to fuss in the other bag, pulling out their laptop so he could check his email account. He had set up one through an anonymous service online and it was nice. He had all sorts of messages from his mother warning him his grandmother was coming to see him. "I'm about to get a visit when we get home."
"From?" Horatio asked, coming over to look over his shoulder. "Oh, her. Is she going to nag you in person?"
"Yeah. Can I grab someone in front of her to make her quit nagging?"
"No, Xander. That's not nice. She's an older woman and she's concerned about her family's future."
"The others have kids."
"Yes, but you are the most unique among all of you," he said gently, stroking his back.
"Yeah but then the kid would have to be warped by me where I was warped by Buffy and Willow. Social services would not like that."
"No, they probably wouldn't," Horatio agreed, shaking his head with a small smile. He could see the kid's first day of school talking about sports like his father did.
"Besides, then I'd have to find a woman I wouldn't turn evil sleeping with. It'd have to be someone like Abby or her sister."
"Abby might let you," he offered.
"Abby likes older guys."
"Pity." He patted him again. "Finish up so I can check mine." Xander nodded, writing a note back to her reminding her what sort of warping the child would have to go through to be his kid. Then he got a new message and read it, smiling at him. "Tony said hi." He let him have it. Their guard was coming back. "Can we get some chocolate?"
"No, Xander. You'll bounce worse," Horatio said patiently. "We don't want to make them scared of you and you being that bouncy and hyper upsets many people."
"Fine. Can I have some tomorrow while I'm going over the weapons?"
"Only if you haven't had any at that point," he said patiently. He finished his email to Tony then logged out, getting into his email. He wrote a short one to Eric and Speed, then a longer one to Calleigh. She needed moral support. John wanted to talk to her when he got back. She was still prevaricating over trying to have a relationship with him again.
Xander looked over his shoulder. "Tell her to hop his bones to see if it's still good or if he still has caveman syndrome over her," he advised, reaching around to type that in. He swatted the hands so he couldn't. "She should."
"She's a gentle, nice girl, Xander. They don't do things like that." He finished his advice to her and added Xander's at the bottom. Then he sent it to her. He found one from Yelina saying she hadn't taken a frying pan to Ray yet but it was starting to look very tempting. He sent her advice too then logged off, letting Xander pack their laptop away again. "Better."
"Much. How is your nephew?"
"He's good. He hasn't acted out yet, he's staying at sullen and angry. She thinks it's cute."
"She would. She has no idea teenage boys can be like volcanos, right?" He shook his head. "I pity her hearing when he finally blows." He got back to his bomb manual, reading over it until someone tapped on the door. "We're dressed."
Their host walked in. "Told everyone you're fine?"
Xander looked at him. "Not like I'm not going to check in, dude. Do I look that uncautious?"
"No, not usually, Mr. Harris." He smiled at him. "We're having tuna for dinner." Xander shrugged. "That won't upset you?"
"Are they my school's former swim team?" Their host slowly shook his head. "Then I'm fine. Tuna and what?"
"Rice. A mixture of wild and Indian rice."
"Okay." He grinned, going back to his manual. "What am I going to be looking at tomorrow? I need to know if I need my glasses or not." He looked up at the lack of answer. "Guns, ammo, crossbows, thermonuclear warheads?"
"Um, most are in the artillery class. A few guided missiles and things."
"Cool," he breathed, beaming at him. "We can test fire, right?"
"You can. We have a small island out in the lake for you to work and test on. We'll drive you over in the morning after breakfast with a picnic for lunch and then bring you back for dinner if that's all right?" Xander shrugged. "Will you need a guard?"
"No, I'll go armed in case there's snakes," Horatio told him.
"That's fine. Do you do bombs as well?"
"I am learning them at Xander's hands. That way I understand part of what he's talking about."
"His swim team?"
"Back in high school someone was using some biological chemicals to turn the swim team faster and better. It turned them into something like the monster from the black lagoon and they mostly swam off. A few got caught later on because they came up to nibble on someone but otherwise they mostly left." Xander looked up again, grinning at him. "I got to figure out what was going on."
"Oh. A genetics experiment then. All right." He walked off, thinking about that. He had no idea people like that had been in Sunnydale.
Xander looked back at Horatio. "The coach was using mermaid stuff in the sauna." He went back to his reading, tracing the design with a finger. "Why would that work? It looks out of balance."
Horatio moved up to look at that one. "It does. What's the yield?" Xander flipped back to let him see. "Hmm. That does seem out of balance." He went over it with him, smiling when they found the later step that completed the circuit. "There's the balance."
"Oh." He nodded, looking it over. "So I'd have to separate the two halves and then diffuse the bottom, right?" Horatio nodded. "I can do that. I need new tools though. I bent one of the small screwdrivers recently working on my AK."
"What was wrong with it?"
"It's a refurbished one and it had a stuck magazine. I had to pry it out. That's how I bent the screwdriver." He shrugged. "Remind me next payday?"
"Sure." He patted him on the back, going back to his own manuals. Then he decided to get up and see what else Xander had packed. Just in case. Xander had some outrageous stuff at his house and you never knew. He pulled out one thing, hitting the button to expand it. Fortunately Xander ducked. "I didn't know you had a collapsible staff."
"Comes in handy and it hides very well." He took it so it could be put back, tossing it back into the bag. "That's my aluminum one. I've got a silver plated one at home in the sock drawer."
"Interesting. I think I should do more than go through your closet."
Xander beamed at him. "You hated the last time you went into my closet, dear."
"I know I did. Your t-shirts give me headaches, Xander."
Xander blew a kiss. "It's just the wacky guy I am, Michael." He went back to reading, letting Horatio moan and shake his head in peace. "Think he'll remember to give us soda and coffee tomorrow?"
"I think it's colder up here and you can drink coffee tomorrow," Horatio said firmly. He checked Xander's clothes, holding up a t-shirt. "Xander."
"What!" He looked then he grinned. "I'm sure I'll have one of those days. I packed it as an alternate."
"Uh-huh." He put it back, sitting down to go back to his reading. He found the tv and turned it on, smiling at the very nice cable they had. "That forensics show is on."
Xander put down his manual to watch, giggling at how they were handling things. "Man, she would be so pissed if she did that in real life. Someone would've swatted her by now."
"Probably. I almost thought they modeled that one off that one guy in New York."
"They may have. Do you think he growls that much?"
"Probably." He stroked Xander's back, letting him calm down again. He knew Mac did growl at the mere mention of this show. Grissom too. Xander yawned, curling up next to his side, head on his chest until he fell asleep. Then he shifted and slowly wound an arm and a leg around him, earning a fond look. "Comfy?" he asked quietly. Xander meowed. "Good kitten." He petted him again, watching the show. It was a double episode and it was angsty but giggle worthy if you knew your stuff. No wonder Speed kept throwing popcorn at the screen when it came on. The Trace expert was a lot like him, only with less talent. He must hate that.
Xander yawned as they got off the boat, taking the picnic basket from the guard. "Which way?" he asked.
"Follow the path, Mr. Harris. The work building is there. There's a range in the basement and you can test fire anything out in the open out here. As long as no planes are flying overheard it won't be a problem. Ooh, there's no cell reception or anything else out here."
"Good to know," Xander agreed. "We have coffee, right?"
"We do. I put two thermoses into the basket myself along with some candy for you." He waved and moved the boat away from the dock. "I'll be back around five." He headed back to the mainland.
Horatio took the basket, letting Xander lead the way to the work building. He saw a few smaller animals, squirrels and the like, but nothing larger or dangerous. The work building was a simple concrete block building. They walked in and found cases of weapons waiting on them. He scouted the building for surveillance gear, nodding when he found two. He left one up because they could easily get around it but the other got disabled with some spray that Xander had. "What is that?"
"Corrosive," he said proudly. He gave him a hug before bouncing over. "Ooooh, toys," he said reverently. He got the cases open, looking at everything. "Hmm, some of these have already been noted in the trade mags." He put those aside to give cursory test and make notes on. They had brought a PDA that could go to their laptop for that purpose. Well, and to send it back to Wilkins, but they'd have to figure that out. He checked on Horatio, who was checking their new cellphone. It was a satellite phone so maybe it would get a signal. He shook his head. Xander sighed and smiled. "I'm not worried." He got back to work, finding things he didn't know existed. "Hmm, granite cased explosive rings." He kept going, finding the biggest of them. "How am I supposed to test fire that without a launcher?" He looked it over. "It's not self-launching or guided it looks like." He frowned, tapping his fingers on it a few times, then he shrugged. "I learned how to improvise before. I can do it again." He got to work on the weapons he knew would work, taking his PDA down to the firing range Horatio had found so he could make all the notes he wanted and needed. Including serial numbers in case it came up. Then he brought them back up, taking the next rifle down. There was something wrong with that one. He broke it down and nodded, making notes about it. "Won't work without something," he said, handing it to Horatio. "Can you check its case?"
"Of course." He went to do that, seeing what he did. The spring was missing. There wasn't a spare in the case. "Can we improvise?"
Xander broke down another gun, looking at the spring it had. "Maybe." He took back the first one, inserting the spring and putting it back together so he could try it out. He came back shrugging. "It's got a crap range and this spring nearly snapped." He handed it back. "That's got to be a design flaw." He made that note and moved on to the artillery. "Hmm. Lets look at the nifty machine gun first." He carted it outside, using it to blast a few trees. He shrugged. "Wimpy range too." He took his PDA to make notes, then grinned at Horatio. He opened a file, showing it to him. "Go draw that figure in the dirt somewhere clear please." He nodded, going to do that for him while Xander went back to testing. He was sorting into things that he thought were worthy and crap but that was what he was being paid for. He came to the last thing, looking at it. "Hmm." He stared at it then shrugged. "Okay." He went to the figure Horatio had finished drawing, making a few symbols in it. A small creature appeared, getting whispered to. It growled. He glared. It whimpered. "Now please." It disappeared and came back with his launcher from home. "Thank you. Stay." He walked over, seeing if it would fit. It wasn't a *good* fit but it'd work this time. He set it up, launching it into the water, watching it go. "Why is he going for wimpy weapons?" He shook his head, making his notes, including the sort of launcher he had used. He handed it back to the demon, then the PDA once he had saved the test file down. "To the guy I put the amulet on please." The demon grumbled so he tapped a foot. "You do good, I'll let you go haunt Connor and try to drive him nuts again."
"Yes, Nighthawk." The demon disappeared.
"Nighthawk?" Horatio asked.
"Long, long time ago," Xander sighed, looking at him. "Picnic now or later?"
Horatio checked his watch. "It's only eleven. I suppose we could eat." The demon came back with the PDA, then disappeared again. "What is that?"
"Pretty harmless. They like to screw with your mind. Bang on your closets in the middle of the night, haunt you in the shower, make you feel like you're being watched. He and Connor have this agreement that Connor will kill him if he ever catches him but he can keep trying to annoy him until Connor catches him." He grinned and went to find the basket, bringing it back to that area. He found a notebook sitting there and looked through it, taking Horatio's pen to make some notes, then he sent it back. "Connor." He smudged a line and they settled in to eat, happily munching, saving some of the coffee for later purposes. After about an hour, Xander looked around at their playground. "I'm bored."
Horatio moaned. "I hate that phrase from you or Ryan, Xander."
"Sorry, boss, but I am." He got up, going to look at the weapons. Way too many wimpy weapons for his tastes. He sat down with the one really bad gun, breaking it down. Then he took another one and broke it down, using the parts to create a new gun. That one got fired off. It had a small bullet size but a longer barrel, yet it was compact enough to carry under a jacket or to be used in a civilian street environment. He let Horatio see it. "That's been theorized recently."
Horatio looked it over, humming quietly while he examined the clip. He took it down to the range to test it for himself, liking this option. It was like a compact sniper rifle. He brought it back up. "Can we show him this one?"
"Sure." Xander made notes on what they had done and got back to playing. By the time the guards had gotten there most of the wimpy weapons had been used for parts, but that was fine. He had his notes. The demon had come back to get the new notes too. They got back to the mainland and walked into the house. "You gave me wimpy weapons."
"It was a test, Mr. Harris. Did you enjoy launching the missile?"
Xander shrugged. "Limited range, no pop for the buck. Didn't come with a launcher either so I had to summon something to get one for me." He handed over his note file. "That's what I found when I tested and then when I played when I got bored. What's for dinner?"
The man blinked at him. "Bored?"
"He was done by noon," Horatio said. "Including lunch. He has that problem now and then when he's hyper." He patted Xander on the back. "Next time we'll remember to bring other stuff for you to read, Xander."
Xander beamed and hugged him. "Sure, I should've thought of that. Or the laptop so we could play solitaire or something." He looked at their host again. "Wimpy, seriously wimpy, weapons. But I had fun and made a few new, better ones." He grinned at him. "Dinner?"
"In about an hour if you wanted to shower or something," he said weakly, waving a hand at the hallway. "Let me go over your notes and we'll talk after dinner."
"Sure. Can I keep the stuff I upgraded?"
"If I can't find a use for them." Xander shrugged and bounced off. "Not enough or too much caffeine?"
"Sugar," Horatio said grimly. "The guard kindly left us a bag of certs." He followed his tech, shaking his head. Xander was going to drive everyone insane, not just him. Now he knew why Abby had warned him about him being bouncier than her sometimes. He found Xander bouncing and singing in the shower so he sat down to write an email to the family. That way they could track his sanity as it slowly dripped out his ears from the tone-deaf singing in the other room.
Calleigh looked up as Agent Wilkins walked into her lab shaking his head. "Did something happen?" she demanded. "Are they all right?"
"They're fine but your boss is going to go insane."
"Well, yeah.... He's trapped with Xander in a bouncy mood. He's always bouncy when he's in danger unless it's a crisis or an attack. No one told you that?" He shook his head slowly. "So, what did he find?"
"He put it into tech speak. I'm hoping you can translate it for me." He handed over the printed copy of the notes Xander had made. "He had it delivered by this little...thing. Looked like a blot of shadow with big eyes."
"I've seen him." She went over it, giggling at some things. "They gave him weak and wimpy weapons today according to him. She found the journals he had referenced, showing him the ones they knew about. "This is serial number. This is the journal if he's seen it. For these other ones he did a brief description and serial number. Ooh, the missile he had to pull a launcher. Not the right one but one that kinda fit it." Speed leaned in. "Xander's really bouncy and kinda bored. He took apart the testers to make better weapons."
Speed whimpered. "Poor H."
"Yup," she said, smiling at him. "Come see." He came over to look at the notes, frowning at some things. He even pointed at one line. "I don't know why he has a missile launcher, Speed. We'll figure that out when we get him back." She made her own notes for the poor confused agent, handing them over. "There you go, including what he created when he used the wimpy guns for parts. Also why that one wouldn't work because of the spring problem."
"Thank you, Miss Duquesne I'm sure it'll be fine." She photocopied the notes and handed him back the originals, earning a smile. "Let me know if any of those are going to be a problem."
"I will." He smiled and left so she smiled at Speed. "Xander played."
"I'm not sure if I should worry about H or not," he admitted quietly. "We have got to find the kid's hidden area."
"Areas," Eric called as he walked past. "Wolfe said so when I asked."
"Interesting," Calleigh said, looking back at her pitiful exemplar cabinet. Finding his areas meant she could have new guns. Then at Speed again. "Start with a property search or Ray Junior?"
"I'll call Ray, you try a property search." She nodded, moving to do that while he called his favorite goofing-off buddy. "Ray, me. Nope, not an issue that's going to make you scream. We were wondering about Xander's hidden stuff that you might know about. Sure, you can tell John as long as he tells us. Especially if he knows more than you do." He grinned. "That'll work too, buddy. How you holdin' up?" He beamed, then he snickered. "That's fine. We all know teenagers blow like volcanos. Have fun with that and tell John to come back safely. Write me tonight, man. Thanks." He hung up. "Ray's presently avoiding his parents while he nibbles lunch."
"Does he know where Xander had him stashed?"
"He said he asked. Xander bought it off some demon, it's underground, and it kinda stunk. He did say John Hagen knows them both."
"I'm proud he told someone. He probably wouldn't have before," she admitted.
"John's in the background saying he won't tell us and we'll have to ask the kid. That Xander showed him the secret handshake to get in and he's not going to betray that confidence so you can squeal 'toys' at the top of your lungs." She pouted. "He said Xander probably did the same and it was cute when either of you did it but you know what Xander would do if you took over his toys."
"Yeah, pout," she said, frowning. "Fine, we'll wait I guess."
"I know. I bet he's got nice things."
He gave her a hug. "If it was demonic it might need something magical to get in."
"Point." She went back to rereading the transcripts Xander had sent. "They sent him some really crappy weapons but he did figure out how to manipulate some parts to make better things."
"Of course he did. He's Xander." He looked over her shoulder. "Can you replicate?"
"Of course." She went to get the ones she had, coming back to look at his notes. She got two of the three connected and the other one was missing a part so she had to steal from the use pile she had in the drawers. That got it working too. "See?" she said finally, smiling at him. "It took five guns worth of parts but I got three going."
"I'm proud. Can we test them?" She nodded, bringing them in there to test fire the new weapons. She agreed with Xander, that compact sniper system was very nice.
Xander came in the next weekend to find a cake being brought out. "I deserve cake?" he asked, peering at it.
"It is your birthday, young man," their host reminded him.
Xander frowned, taking out his wallet and then his driver's license, which he showed. His birth certificate got handed to him. "Oh. I never celebrate it." He shrugged, handing it to Horatio. "There, you wanted to know too, Michael."
"I have. You never let me celebrate these things. Our friends would like to." His birth certificate was put in front of him. He looked at their host and shrugged. "He knows that."
Xander sat down at the table, nodding. "Of course I do. I needed someone to match my insane brilliance. Who else but him?" He shrugged. "I get to tease his tech all the time with things."
"Yes, she wants into your hidden spot too, Xander."
"Fat. Chance. She'll try to steal my toys."
Their host coughed, sitting down in his usual seat. "You knew he was a cop?"
"Like I said, someone has to understand me," Xander said dryly. "Just think, he's getting me into the labs too." The man shuddered. "I'm make one hell of a ballistics tech."
"I'm sure you would. That does leave us with a problem."
"He is an officer."
"If you're not selling to bad guys, why would it matter?" Xander countered. Their host frowned. "Really."
"The government does frown on it."
"That's because you don't pay taxes."
"Oh. You heard of me?" Xander nodded. "How?" Xander pointed at Horatio, trying to keep the rest of their cover intact. "He did a background?" Horatio nodded. "Interesting. Why?"
"For the same reason that I'm still very wary of Xander working for you," he said simply.
"Good point." He waved a hand and his cook brought out dinner for them, then retreated with the guards. "I can assure you that, while what I'm doing is illegal, I still don't sell to terrorists. They have a nasty habit of killing their suppliers. It's not good for my life expectancy."
Xander grinned. "Probably true. Then again, the demon underground is worse about that." He dished up dinner, handing Horatio what he wanted. Their host gave him an odd look. "What did you think I did back in Sunnydale and LA, dude?"
"Ghost hunting for profit?"
"Um, no." He got up and did something to the nearest mirror, bringing up Gunn. "Hi. Long time no check in. He thought we were doing ghost hunting for profit. Speaking of profit, the W&H stuff?"
"I've got yours in the safety deposit box, Xander, along with your crib notes from the lab stuff with Fred."
"Can I have Fred's notes?"
"You can," he agreed, smiling at him. "Who's the older guy?"
"The redhead is Horatio. He's mine." Gunn looked confused. "I'll write when I get home. I'm vetting weapons for someone."
"Oh! Sure. I can send the lab notes you and Fred worked out to your home address in Miami?"
"Okay." He grinned. "Can I have the purple solution? Or are we out?"
"No, we've got plenty. By the way, Connor said it was mean reminding the little mind- screwing demon that he existed." He handed it through the mirror. "Anything else?"
"Can I have Wes's weapons?" he asked.
"What we don't need," Connor said as he walked into view. "Huh."
Xander grinned. "You'd love Miami. It's bikinis all over half the town, Connor."
"I'd have to figure out what to do with a bikini," he complained. "No more sending the little mind-fucking demon, Xander."
"I needed my missile launcher. I'm vetting weapons."
"That's fine. Make him leave me alone."
"Send him to play in Cleveland then." He shrugged and grinned wickedly, closing the small portal. He poured the purple stuff on the floor, making the demon reform. "Hi." It gave him a pitiful look. "He wanted to know what I did in LA and Sunnydale. Can you brief him? If you do I might let someone add water to your potion."
"Fine," it complained, slinking over to talk to their host while Xander sat back down again. Horatio looked at him so he grinned. "That was Connor and Gunn. Connor came later. He's Angel's son."
Horatio shook his head. "I'll get the full story tonight, Xander. Eat. It's safe." Xander dug in, eating heartily. He glanced at the demon. "Are you in the unholy class?"
"Annoying," Xander told him. "It's a sex demon Fred and I captured and she accidentally changed it to goo form for a while."
"Interesting. Your lab experiments in LA....."
"You can see the notes," Xander agreed patiently, grinning at him. "You would've loved Fred. She was like a sweet and gentle version of Speed who babbles like Abby and I, but hell with a battle axe."
Horatio patted him on the back. "Tell me later, Xander." Their host choked so they both looked over. "What did you tell him?"
"Graduation." Xander beamed proudly. "That was one great battle plan, Nighthawk."
"Thank you," he said modestly. "Not like Buffy can or would. Giles' sucked monkey balls."
The demon nodded. "So we saw." He went back to filling him in, relishing the horrified look the guy kept getting. He finally looked at Horatio. "The Oracles have it saved down if you wanted to watch it."
"No thank you. I'll get the highlights from Xander."
"Sure. Just know that he'll downplay things."
"I've noticed that tendency. I'm trying very hard to make him brag more."
"Then Dad looks all proud because I'm more like him than mom," Xander pointed out gently, patting him on the hand. "I'm sorry I squeezed you so hard last night."
"It's fine, Xander." He ate another bite. He looked at the demon again. "Do your kind have any idea why he can't cook?"
"Something about the taint he carries." It shrugged. "Not a clue." He felt himself starting to go. "Can I have some water?" Xander held out his glass, letting it pour the water over it's body so it'd firm up. "Thanks, Nighthawk. Did you ever figure out what Fred did to me?"
"Yeah but I couldn't figure out how to reverse it. I could ask Abs."
"Please do." Xander nodded he'd write her tonight. He went back to telling the horrified host what Xander had done for Angel and his crew. Without busting the college stuff. He had caught that clue already. Even if it was cute how Xander's new boss had the hots for him.
Xander looked up as their host woke him up. "I'm not going to be happy in the morning," he noted quietly.
Their host looked at him. "I never wanted to believe in that life."
Xander shrugged. "Me either but they kept trying to eat me."
"I'll get that last shipment sent in tomorrow so you can fulfill the contract in the afternoon, Mr. Harris. Thank you for your time."
"Will be deposited in an account in your name and the information will be given to you before the plane takes you to Miami." He walked off, going back to his office to finish arranging the speeding up of the shipments. He didn't want such things in his house. He was going to church tomorrow. Right after he had someone come in to rip up the flooring in the dining room and take out all the furniture so it could all be replaced.
Xander laid back down, shrugging at the quiet voice in his ear. Jamie was highly amused by this turn of events and it would get Horatio back to his lovers sooner without him doing more than cuddling in some nights. Because Horatio was a good cuddle but he wasn't his and he didn't want him to be his. He'd take away his fun. He got up and walked out to the office, finding it pretty easily. "What about the ones I made?"
"I'll gladly pay you for those as well," he promised. "Please go back to bed?"
"Sure." He went back there, snuggling in under the blankets again. He felt Horatio shift and patted him. "Relax. We're going to the island again tomorrow," he said quietly. Horatio snuffled but nodded, drifting off again. Xander let himself drift off, smiling at his good work. This guy would *never* do anything like this again. His scary reputation would keep others from doing it around him. He was proud of himself.
Xander put his bags down inside the lab, letting Horatio pick his own spot. "I'm going out our first night back."
"I'm sure you'll have fun," Horatio offered. He looked at the cases. "They did send some impressing things this time."
Xander looked, humming. "Oooooh," he said at one, stroking it. "New version of the RPG. It's in military testing."
"You can't have one, Xander."
"Shoot." He got to work carrying things outside where he needed them to go, setting up some of the rocks as targets this time. Trees would be destroyed by a glancing blow. Rocks would be a better test. He heard a voice in his ear, frowning at it. "Hmm. Sure." He fired off the first one, leaving a clear smoke plume for their handler to find them. Horatio came out with the bags. "Are you sure I can't take that with me?"
"No, Xander. Only if you give it to Gibbs."
"Fine. Did you find how they all got here since we haven't heard any helicopters?"
"I found a bunker entrance," he admitted. "I sent it to Calleigh, who handed it over."
"Good." He grinned. "Are you *sure*, Horatio?"
"Very, Xander. I do not want you to have RPG's in Miami." He saw the guilty look. "How many do you have?" he moaned, holding his head.
"Two?" he offered hesitantly. Horatio glared at him. "I'll let you see," he sighed, pouting as he blew up the next set of rocks. They heard a helicopter and looked up, waving at Gibbs as he landed and got out with Tony behind him. "Hi. Come see the pretties." He grinned. "Horatio said I can't bum one."
"No, you can't, kid," he agreed, looking over it. "These are in testing. Where's this bunker, Caine?"
"This way." He led them down to the doorway. "It's sealed and I can't find how to open it."
Xander coughed and took off the locket he was wearing, opening it to take out the small ball of explosives and the little coil of wire from the other side. He attached it to his watch and moved back, making them move. He blew it and looked, then kicked it twice, making it fall in. "Open, boss," he said proudly. He beamed at him. "A universal key."
"It is," Gibbs agreed, shaking his head as he led the way down there.
Tony patted Xander on the shoulder. "I miss having you around. He gets frustrated without your fun."
"DiNozzo," Gibbs complained, smacking him on the head.
Horatio looked at Xander. "Warn me next time," he ordered quietly.
"Yes, Horatio." They walked down and Xander cooed, pointing. "See, there's plenty here."
"No!" Gibbs and Horatio said in unison.
Tony looked at Xander. "I'm impressed you're not wearing a slogan t-shirt."
"Horatio made me turn it inside out." He took it off and turned it rightside out, putting it back on. _You can kiss me, you can hold me, but if you touch my hair, I will KILL you_ made Gibbs groan too. "I like it. Especially when I get to play Sergio. I needed this one then but Frank found it for my actual birthday."
Horatio walked off shaking his head. "I'll talk with Frank later, Xander."
Tony grinned. "I like it and it did suit that character very well." He let Xander lead him over to other stuff. "Hey, boss, bombs," he called.
"I found his failsafe and I'm not this good," Xander agreed. Horatio came jogging over to see. "I want to yank this wire," he said, pointing at it. "But I'm not sure."
Horatio moved him out of the way, looking it over. He finally got it undone and disarmed shortly afterward, letting Xander help him up. "Thank you, Xander."
"Welcome." He grinned. "So, he created the lake on top of his bunker. That'd be a waste of weapons. Are others coming?"
"Wilkins and the ATF are raiding the house," Gibbs admitted. "Your stuff was put onto our copter by the pilot, guys. Can we find the other door?"
Xander nodded, following his instincts. "Oooh, water view." He closed the door on the viewing portal, then reopened it and frowned. "That's his fish tank in his office." He walked out, going to find another way in. He found it and whistled, bringing Tony jogging over. "I think this is it. I can hear Wilkins complaining that he can't find us." He opened the door, leaning out. "We found the failsafe and the bunker. Horatio disarmed the failsafe since I didn't have a clue about it." He heard the groan so he closed the door, heading back to their original opening. Tony kept him from taking anything with him, walking him out to the copter. They checked the testing lab. All their stuff was gone. All but Xander's PDA, it was on the table. He stuck that in his pocket on the way past, grabbing his jacket on the way too. The weapons that had been inside were now in a big crate. "They'll need more for the bunker."
Horatio and Gibbs came out talking quietly. Horatio shook his head firmly. Gibbs gave him a look and Horatio shook his head again. It sounded like Gibbs said 'fine' and they were ushered onto their ride home, heading back to the nearby base. Horatio got them stripped of their wires, handing them to Gibbs. Xander got taken off by one of the ATF agents to show how he had restructured some of the guns, having to order him around to get what he needed. Horatio watched, shaking his head at a few things Xander pouted at. "Xander," he ordered. Xander looked at him. "Be professional."
"I am. They're not giving me what I need. That's the '06, I need the '07." The guy huffed and walked off. Xander took them both to show him why. "The earlier one has a shorter barrel." He got that one broken down and made what he needed to, handing it over. Then he got to work on the others. He got to make all the ones from the first afternoon, letting them have them. "That last one still needs a firing pin. I didn't have a spare one."
"That's fine, I'm sure we can find one."
"From a .226," Xander ordered. That got a nod and he went to find one, letting Xander insert it then fire it at the target for him. "See?" He grinned. "I'm a good boy usually."
"Usually," Horatio agreed. "Anything else?" he asked the agent.
"No, sir. We have copies of all your reports already. We'll make sure you get to DC for that debrief." Horatio quirked up an eyebrow. "NCIS, sir. Since we had to involve them when one came up as stolen from a Marine testing base."
"Okay. I miss my Abby buddy," Xander said with a small grin. "I started my post-grad internship with her."
"I'm sure she enjoyed your bouncy nature, sir," he said tactfully. Xander patted him on the arm. "Do you, Lieutenant?"
"Most of the time," he admitted. "How are his parents?"
"They've helped now and then."
"Jamie was on the comm last night," Xander agreed. "He wanted to know if I needed a bedtime story after I got woken up. So, are you guys confiscating my fees too?" The agent nodded. "Pity. I could do a lot with that money." He shrugged and walked off, taking Horatio with him. He grinned at Tony. "We're being brought back with you."
"Yes you are," Tony agreed, grinning at him. "Abby's being impatient about it too." He looked at Gibbs. "Are we done?" That got a nod. "Their stuff on the plane with ours?"
"Yup. All of it, even his gun case." He held up something. Xander pointed it at the camera in the corner and made it explode. "Interesting. Overheated something?"
"Changed a polarity so it would overheat itself," he agreed, letting him have it back. "Fred designed it."
"Who's Fred?" Tony asked, looking confused.
"One of Angel's former team. She died a few years back," Horatio told him. "She was apparently a physics person. Babbled a lot like Xander, they worked together in the lab now and then, but she was very good with an axe."
"Oh. Okay." He nodded, walking them off. "Boss, going to the plane."
"Go for it. I'll clean up here," Gibbs agreed. He looked at the agent, who was staring at the camera. "She probably meant to use it to take down demons or something, Agent Hertz."
"I'm sure she did, sir." He looked at him. "Have fun with CSI Harris."
"I did when he was ours. He kept Abby happy." That got a laugh and Gibbs let him have the remote. "I want that back."
"As soon as we figure out how it does it, Special Agent Gibbs." He watched him go, then leaned against the wall in relief. He called his boss. "Wilkins, I survived Harris, Gibbs, and DiNozzo. They're headed back to DC and I've got a toy Harris had, plus all the toys he made for us. I have it all taped too." Pause. "Sure. I'm here at the base. Need me back there?" He grinned. "Even better, sir. Let me get some coffee and I'll get to work categorizing these new weapons. No, Harris said he had started his internship with Abby, sir. Exactly. They're already on their way and I survived without any new bite marks. Purple stuff? I don't know. He said his brother was on the comm last night, you might ask him." He hung up. "I don't do explosives, how would I know?" he muttered, going to get a coffee in celebration of surviving unscathed, then went back to his cataloging job. He would be transferring before he had to deal with Harris or Miami again. He vowed it to God that he would while he drank his coffee.
Xander snuck into Abby's lab, getting to work beside her since she was busy hacking something and concentrating very hard. He nodded at the assistant, who gave him a horrified look. "Hey, Chip. I'm Xander." He grinned sweetly and got back to work, handing her results and taking a sample from in front of her.
"Chip, I said sit down and don't move," she ordered, turning to look at him. She frowned when he was still sitting in the same spot. Then she looked over at Xander. "XANDER!" she squealed, hugging him. "You survived!" He hugged her back, letting her dance and bounce them around. "Are you okay?" She pulled back to look at him. "You look okay."
"He had good cooks. I got to prove the demonic did exist. He had no idea I did that stuff. He only knew that I was Angel's weapon guy." He shrugged. "Technically we're in for debriefing but Horatio and Gibbs are growling at each other. So I'm down here avoiding the alpha bitch fights." She giggled and hugged him again. "I missed you. Calleigh nags about my hidden stuff."
"I'm sure she just wants to play with the pretty toys." She let him get back to work. "Chip, this is what someone wanted you to be."
Xander looked back at him, grinning again. "CSI Harris out of Miami-Dade, dude. I came here on an internship."
"Ballistics with a minor in trace and field work, plus construction and demolitions." He swallowed. "By the way, why do you look guilty?" Abby spun around, glaring at him. "You might as well tell me. I'm not the nice one. Abby can tell you that. I beat Ari when he broke into the lab." Chip swallowed. "Hmm. Definitely guilty about something." He moved closer, handing Abby the swab he had been working with. "That needs a slide, Abs."
"Sure, Xander. You get him to talk."
"I think I can do that." Xander tipped his head to the side then stepped closer, making Chip stand up and back away. "Hmm. Are you trying to discredit the lab or an agent?" Chip shook his head quickly but he was trembling and sweating. "I'd say that's a yes." He took a step closer, catching him when he tried to move. He stared him down, then grinned a mean, evil grin. "Tell me or else I'm going to get someone truly evil to question you," he said quietly. "I'm sure Kate'll have *fun*." Chip whimpered. "Abby?"
"I don't let him do anything. She never did a background check on him."
"Do one," he suggested.
"I'm having Jamie do it."
Xander dialed up there with his free hand. "Big brother, what is Chip doing?" He listened, then laughed. "Really? That's charming. Tell the cranky one I'll be right up." He hung up. "Tony had him discredited in a court of law for *arranging* evidence."
"Oooooh," Abby said, shaking her head. "That's a bad thing, Chipster. Really, really bad. We like Tony."
"I do like Tight Ass," Xander agreed. Chip gave him a horrified look. He grinned. "I date guys now since I turn women into serial killers." He looked at Abby. "My grandmother still wants a baby from me. We figured out it'd have to come from you or someone like you that I couldn't warp so if you decide you want kids, tell her. I'll have to have the snippage reversed." He walked Chip up to the agent's cubicles. "Hi," he said happily.
"Jamie yelled over you were coming up," Tony admitted. "How do I know him?"
"Big brother, do you have it or should he do a search?"
"I'm printing it now, Xander." He brought it over a few minutes later, giving him a hug. "We've missed you. Mom went into baking overdrive because she was worried about you."
"He didn't even know what I did until yesterday. He thought I was a *normal* weapons guy." His brother snickered. "Yeah. Oh, there's something in Fred's stuff that I wanted to show Dad and brag that I helped make. When I get it I'll call and maybe you can come down too?"
"If at all possible." The director came down the stairs glaring. "Director, my little brother just got back from a joint ATF/NCIS investigation. He's here for a debrief."
"Why is he holding Abby's lab assistant?"
"Because he's been discredited among the forensic community and is presently trying to set someone up to get back at them," Xander told her, smiling slightly. "I didn't leave much before you got here, Madam Director. I'm Xander, Abby's former intern." She gave him a horrified look so he beamed and nodded. "Yuppers. Jamie's my big brother." He looked at Tony. "Is that enough to get into his apartment since he's clearly trying to implicate you in something?"
"McGee, get me a warrant," Tony said, handing it over. "Take him to an interrogation room while we search his place." Chip started to struggle but Xander casually did something to his arm, making him scream as the pressure point was hit. "Ow. I know that hurts when the accupressure person I go to hits that by accident." McGee walked him off. "Thanks." Xander hugged him too. "Get off," he complained, grinning at him. "I'm surprised it's not a worse t-shirt."
"You guys wouldn't let me change in the plane," Xander complained. He looked at Jamie, then at Gibbs. "Can we have dinner or do you need us right now?"
"I can do your debrief later tonight, Harris. Bertha, you need Jamie right now?" he called.
"No, let him take the gun freak out of the building, please," she called back.
"Just for that I should date you," Xander called back.
She joined them. "I will beg for you to never come near me again, Harris. You'll turn me like you did that stripper you made into a serial killer and NCIS will lose me."
"You could use those skills to track down others," Tony offered. "Just torture them before handing them in as long as we didn't know."
She glared at him. "I'm not that nice." She looked at Jamie again. "Go. Now. Please. Before he taints Abby and she turns evil."
Xander looked at Horatio. "Call when you're done with supper, Xander." He nodded, letting Jamie lead him off. "That hasn't happened in Miami."
Bertha looked at him. "Don't let him date?"
"No, but we did see his ex-girlfriend Cordelia before she died," he offered. She shuddered and walked off looking like she was going to cry. "Should we warn Amanda?"
"No. She's got her son's desk bugged," Gibbs admitted. "Bertha will tell his plant." Horatio smiled at that. "How did you stand being in close quarters with him for two weeks?"
"We did a lot of work on his demolitions knowledge."
"I can have him tested before he goes back," Gibbs promised. "DiNozzo?"
"Waiting on that warrant, boss." McGee brought it to him. "C'mon, Probie. Let's see what he was trying to get me for." That got a nod and they headed off. "Caine, if you ever get rid of him, I want him back. Especially if I lead my own team," he said as he walked off.
"He's Miami's now, Anthony, you can't have him back," Horatio said firmly, glaring at his smirk. He looked at Gibbs. "How is Abby?"
"Good. Probably bouncing around down there." He called down there. "Jamie took him home for dinner, Abs. Yeah, he'll be back later for his deposition and we've got Chip in a room. When you're done, call me. I'm taking Horatio to dinner." He hung up. "Ribs?"
"I don't care really. I need a beer." That got a nod and Gibbs grabbed his jacket, walking Horatio out. "Thank you for nurturing him until we could steal him, Director. Xander is one of our best hires to date."
She went back to her office to pull up his file, including the one with the 'do not touch' rating. Morrow's notes were very enlightening. So were Abby's evaluations. She got sent a file from Fornell and read it as well. That made her shudder in horror. He would not be coming back to NCIS anytime in the near future. Not even if DiNozzo got his own team. She didn't care how good the kid was. He was dangerous.
Horatio walked into his office and sat down in his chair, smiling and sighing in relief. "Home," he said quietly, patting his pile of paperwork. "I see no one subbed in for you guys." He sat up, taking off his suit jacket so he could get to work.
"XANDER!" Calleigh squealed as she pounced.
He smiled, shaking his head. "Her and Abby both." Eric leaned in, smirking at him. "We're fine. He cuddles very well but nothing else happened."
"Good." He came in to look at him. "Speed's pouting."
"Because Xander went to ballistics first?"
"Because you didn't come down there."
"He can come up, like you did. Right now I want to sit down. I'm tired." Eric nodded, giving him a pat on the head before leaving. He made sure his hair wasn't messed up, smiling a bit. Speed strolled in with a folder. "You welcome me back with work?"
"Yup, sure do." He put it down, giving him a gentle, satisfied smirk. "He cuddles?"
"He cuddles very well, but nothing else happened." Speed upped his smirk. "We made our host drink by exposing him to demons. He made the director of NCIS drink by being his happy self. He upped his demolitions ratings in the system earlier today." Speed nodded at that. "His parents had him over for dinner with his family. It went well."
"How many times did you want to spank him?"
"Only twice. I did learn a lot about him however. We did a lot of talking about his friends back in LA and what he did while there." That got a nod. "He's getting lab notes from someone named Winifred. He worked with her on Angel's team and in the lab when Angel got control of Wolfram and Hart."
"I've heard." Horatio gave him an inquisitive look. "I asked." He smoothed down a piece of flyaway hair. "How was DC?"
"Gibbs took me out for ribs and beers last night." Speed laughed at that. "He was very happy and excited to play with the weapons."
"Calleigh saw his notes. She wants into his hidden areas." Horatio shook his head. "No?"
"No, he said she'd steal some of them. I'm barely getting him to allow me into there."
"Pity." He stepped back when he heard footsteps. "He's back, Alexx."
"I got hugged by the bouncy ball of little boy." She came in and hugged him too. "You survived two weeks with Xander? I'm impressed, sugar."
"It wasn't too bad but I have seriously underestimated how intelligent Xander really is. I think we all have."
"He's got low self esteem. That doesn't surprise me," Alexx reminded him. "So, how was it?"
"Good enough. By the way, we celebrated his birthday then."
Alexx dialed ballistics. "Why did you not tell me your birthday was this last week?"
"Because it isn't, that's when the kidnaping parents remembered to file my birth certificate. On my school records she put a different date, Alexx. They put it in September."
"You were born in July," Horatio reminded him.
"Yeah and I was stolen within hours of my birth, boss. They filed for my certificate in November. She put September on all the forms for school and decided that was the real date. Don't ask me, ask the alchie pain in my ass." He hung up.
"Interesting," Speed said, making Alexx giggle. "What's on his driver's license?"
"The September one," Horatio admitted. That got a nod and Speed walked off shaking his head. He smiled at Alexx. "It went fine. Xander and I got to know each other a bit better."
"I'm glad. Now, can you help Calleigh get into his hidden stuff?"
"No. He doesn't want to let me in there, Alexx."
"Pity." She walked off, going to tell Calleigh the bad news, but found Xander already resisting her. "You could show her some of it."
"She's seen some of it when Dad brought it out from LA," he pointed out dryly, looking at his boss. "You know that."
"It's not fair that you have toys and won't share them."
"If we get a major insurgence or something I will. Until then, my toys. Buy your own."
"I could be really mean and make you give them to the department or confiscate them," she reminded him.
"Which is why I'm not letting you near my toys," he shot back with a confident grin. "Otherwise I won't have them when I need them." He saw Stetler lurking in the hall and walked out there. "Got a few? I think you should know something before you can jump my ass about it." Stetler gave him a light sneer. "You know my natural parents aren't in Sunnydale, we told you that, but did you know that they totally messed up my birthday?"
"No," he said calmly.
"Yeah, I was born in July. They filed for my birth certificate in November, but they put September on *everything* and since I had to go by my school records since I got my first license through driver's ed, they made me put September on everything."
Stetler shook his head. "So your birthday's wrong?"
"I didn't know it was in July until my post-grad internship," he admitted. "When I got told I was stolen."
"Fine. Do you want to change it?"
"No. I don't celebrate the thing." He shrugged. "Why would I? I got a card from the real family around the real time."
"You should change it before someone else finds out."
"Not my fault. Yell at the Sunnydale DMV people."
"I would if they were still alive," he said grimly. "I'll make a note. Any particular explanation you want?"
"Stupid, drunk parents?"
"That'll work. You're not the first." He walked off shaking his head. "How was DC?"
"Good. I made the director of NCIS drink by being happy." He beamed and went back to ballistics, listening to the others in the labs giggle. He hugged Speed when he came in. "We watched a marathon of that forensics show and giggled about how the trace expert would've been spanked by you now and then." He let him go and got back to work.
"Who fed you chocolate?" Speed asked.
"Remind me to write him later," he told Calleigh, who pouted at him. "Ask him, not me. It's not my storage areas."
"Nope. Because then she'd take them to play with and I wouldn't have anything left to play with. Or I'd have to find a new source of toys and then I'd probably get into trouble. So no, she can't have my toys. Sorry, Calleigh."
"Will you take me there if I don't confiscate anything?"
"Yes, he will," Horatio called as he walked past the doorway. "Both of us."
"Meany! For that I should have chocolate eggos again," he called after him.
Speed patted him on the back. "Remember, we said if you ever did that to us again we'd be tying you down and dropping you in the ocean so Eric would have something to dive after." He walked off, going back to work.
"I won't have syrup and cocoa with it this time," he pouted.
She gave him a hug. "No, Xander. That's cruel. We don't want you to be cruel to us, just to the bad guys."
He pulled back to look at her. "Does that mean I can do that and go down to the next gang meeting?"
"Definitely not. We don't need you injured. Now, get to work. Enough playing." She gave him a swat, making him wink and get back to work. She went to DNA to check on her pending results. "Anything yet?"
"Almost. I'm running it through CODIS now," Valera said. "Is Xander happy?"
"Very but he threatened to eat chocolate eggos again if Horatio made him take me and him to his hidden weapons areas."
Valera shuddered. "That poor boy." She shook her head. "We'll miss him terribly if he does that."
"We will," she sighed, shaking her head. "I love Xander like a little brother but he is very bad sometimes." Natalia came back from a bathroom break. "Find anything new?"
"Not yet," she admitted. "At least not today." She smiled at her. "How is Xander?"
"Good. Bouncy. His father fed him chocolate before putting him on the plane." Valera shuddered. "Yup. He's very bouncy but cuddly."
"So he's going clubbing tonight?" Natalia asked.
"Probably," Calleigh agreed. "We should send someone with him. Ryan?" He leaned in with a smile for the three women. "Xander's bouncy, happy, and cuddly."
"I've got a date tonight or I'd go out with him. I'll ask Cooper, see if he's free." He went to do that. "Hey, Cooper, maybe someone should take Xander out to have some fun tonight. His father fed him chocolate on the plane."
Cooper turned his chair to look at him. "Why would I want to date Xander? I'm straight, man."
"You know very well we don't let Xander go out on his own," Ryan said dryly.
"Point. Then again, he takes all the dangerous women away so I don't hook up with a psycho chick. I'll ask in a little while." He got back to work, shaking his head. "What are you doing?"
"Date." He walked off, going back to DNA. "Valera, do I have anything yet?"
"Yours is about to come out of the machine, Ryan."
"Okay. Call me. I'll try to calm down the wonderball boy." He went to do that, leaving them snickering. "Hey, Xander. If you're going out tonight, Cooper might not mind being your chaperone."
"I went out in DC with my brothers and nothing happened," he said proudly.
"How many times did they have to flash their badges or guns?" Ryan shot back. Xander frowned at him. "Really."
"Not that I know of." He texted that to Phillip, getting back a low number. "Phillip said only twice."
"Good! Then maybe you won't have any problems tonight." He came in further. "How were the toys?"
"He kept getting wimpy guns. But I did get to make better ones from the parts."
"That's good! Did the ATF guys like it?"
"Yeah, they made me do it over so they could tape it."
"Interesting. Anything else happen?"
Xander gave him a shiteating grin. "I got to expose our host to the demonic because he thought I only played with Angel's weapons. He had no idea what I used to do or why I like weapons." Ryan went pale. "We have this one in a bottle that's a sex demon Fred and I accidentally changed to goo form. I called out there and got him, letting him brag for me," he said proudly.
Ryan shuddered. "I don't want those details. I think it's bad enough those girls warped you the way you are. I don't need to wonder what else warped you." He gave him a pat on the shoulder. "When are you getting into the field again? I'll go with you if you want."
"I don't mind. I guess the next one I get sent on. Horatio never said anything. Hey, boss?" he called, leaning out the door. Horatio walked out of fingerprints. "Ryan said he'd go with me on my next field run."
"That's fine, Xander. Give yourself a few days to enjoy being home. Have fun tonight." Xander beamed and nodded, going back to work. "We'll go to see your hidden areas tomorrow after work." He smiled at the groan. He was not going to let him forget that. Horatio went to call John Hagen to let him know they were back. That way he could get an update on his nephew. "John, Horatio." He listened to him. "We are. Just got back an hour ago. Already in the lab. Why?" He hummed, leaning back. "I've told him he's to let myself and Calleigh see tomorrow. Even if he does blindfold us both to get there." He listened. "That's good. Is everyone still all right and living?" He laughed at the answer of 'mostly'. "Thank you for helping them, John. Yes, he's here. He could probably use lunch. His father gave him chocolate before we left DC. Of course."
He hung up and called down to ballistics. "Xander, John wants to have lunch with you." He hung up and got back to his stack of paperwork, sending an email to his boss that they were back and working today. His boss said he knew that, he had gotten a report from Agent Wilkins. Horatio almost asked him what he had said about Xander, but he knew. Wilkin's has said good things to him about Xander's conduct and how he had worked the operation. Hopefully he was just as pleasant in his report. A few minutes later he got forwarded a copy from the Chief's secretary, making him smile. It was much more glowing than he had been in person. That was good for both of them. He got back to work on his backlog of paperwork. Otherwise his homecoming celebration would have to wait for the next night and his boys would not like that.
Xander stomped in the next morning, frown already in place. His t-shirt made a few people scurry out of his way. Eric stopped him to read it. 'I like you best I think I'll kill you last' was not what he wanted to see. "Bad night in the clubs?"
"You have no idea," Xander complained. He walked into the locker room, finding Speed already frowning. "What?"
"Not you." He looked at his t-shirt, then at him. "Didn't get hit on, nearly got taken again, Cooper left you, or something more random?"
Xander let out a bitter snort. "No comment." He walked off, going to ballistics once he had his glasses and lab coat, closing the lab's door and locking it. He had a delivery chute, they could get guns to him. He got to work on the test fires he had to run, feeling a bit better.
Speed and Eric both stopped Cooper, who was grinning and happy. "What happened in the club last night?" Eric demanded. "Xander's wearing a threatening t-shirt."
Cooper frowned, then shrugged. "I don't know. It was okay. He only got hit on once. I got hit on more. You don't think he's jealous, right?"
"This is Xander we're talking about, DC," Speed pointed out. "Keep going."
"Um, I looked over and Xander was gone at one point, I thought he was off in the john or something. I found him about twenty later and told him I was heading home. He waved and finished his drink. He didn't look too happy then."
"So, either something bad happened or someone bad hit on him."
"Possibly. Like I said, I didn't see him." He shrugged. "I did see Stetler for *some* reason. Maybe he pissed him off."
"If he did I'm going to bite him this time," Speed said, going to ballistics. He found the door locked and could hear the firing going on. "Uh-huh." He pulled out his ID and opened the door, walking in and shutting it quietly. He went to watch Xander fire the gun. "How many times have you shot that one?" he asked between shots.
"Just one. I only need one." He looked at him. "What?"
"Stetler or someone else?"
"Someone else. He wasn't even the bearer of bad tidings. That was my grandmother."
"Did you call your parents?"
"No, she called."
"Call your mom and tell her to make your grandmother lay off."
"She'll be down tomorrow."
"Charming, and?" He moved closer. "You're scaring Eric, Xander. You don't usually go this bipolar over something this small."
Xander looked at him then dug out the note and handed it over. "That was slid into my pocket last night."
Speed looked at it then at him. "So someone knows."
"Right after I had to out certain things during the undercover."
"Oh. Well...." He looked at it again then at him. "It could be a lot worse."
"No, that was the message on my voicemail."
"Did you keep it?"
"Yeah, until I ran into Stetler. He caught me frowning and made a bad joke so I let him listen to the rant. I can only assume it's the same person."
"Interesting. Why does he like you?"
"He said I'm uncomplicated, like a little kid. I don't usually lie." He shrugged. "Horatio said he suggested I join his department once."
"You'd drive IAB nuts, Xander." He patted him on the shoulder. "Have you told H?"
"I transferred it to my computer last night and then sent it to him via email."
"Okay. Let me talk to him with this note. Anything else get up your ass this time?"
Xander nodded. "I ran into someone I didn't want to."
"Yuppers. Blew my happy mood up."
"One of the two brats?" Xander nodded. "Why?"
"Great." He nodded. "Let me talk with H. You hide in here."
"I tried to do that but you opened the door."
"I'll lock it on my way out." He gave him a look. "Let us handle this."
"Sure. As long as I don't have to kill again."
"Fine. We won't let you kill anyone." He walked out, locking the door before closing it. "Sorry, Calleigh, he needs a bit of privacy. He's wearing out a bad mood." She frowned so he held up the note. "One of a few things last night. DC, did you see the redhead or the blonde last night?" he asked since Eric was still interrogating him. Cooper frowned, shaking his head. He scowled back. "Neither one?"
"One brunette girl. Pretty, tiny, kinda thin. Looked a bit tired. I thought she might be an early stage junkie with how thin she was. Why?"
"One of his former friends. Oh, and his grandmother's coming down tomorrow." They all shuddered at that. "Exactly. Is H in yet?"
"On Wolfe's scene," Eric admitted.
"Great." He walked off, heading up to the office. He logged into Horatio's email, finding the message. He called him, putting him on speaker. "H, just listen to this one. It came off Xander's email." He hit play, letting the audio track run, having to rerun it and turn it up when he found it was really quiet. At the end he picked up the handset. "Xander got that while out clubbing last night and a note was given to him calling him an unholy murderer and a fag," he said quietly. "He said he ran into Stetler and let him listen but this is just the beginning of the bad. One of the brats is down. Also, his grandmother's coming tomorrow. Sure. Locked in ballistics. He's not coming out for a while. Thanks, man." He hung up, logging out of the computer and heading down. He found Stetler staring off with Eric. "He's wearing a threatening t-shirt for a reason."
"I know why. I got some transcripts sent to me by an ATF agent and the director at NCIS."
Xander came out of ballistics. "Excuse me?"
He handed them over. "You have hidden areas?"
"I'm used to fighting an underground menace that wants to destroy the world. Of course I do."
"I thought you retired," Stetler said.
Xander looked at him. "Old habits die hard." He went back to reading over them then smirked at him. "Did she complain that I'm bi or that I have weapons?"
"That you have hidden weapons. She thinks they might be part of the same ring."
"No, all my stuff is older. I think the most technological thing I have is some ring explosives." Stetler blinked at that. "In case we have another thing like the 'gator that came out of the ocean two years ago, Stetler. That's what I used to fight."
"I know. You want to make any other comments?"
"Horatio is pressuring me to take him there so he can see and get Calleigh new toys against my will? Or do you want to hear about Buffy or my grandmother coming down?"
"We can deal with your grandmother," Eric assured him. "We'll let Wolfe play boyfriend for a day or so." Xander grimaced. "He can do it for a few days. It'll be good practice for him." He looked at Stetler then at DC. "Brunette?"
"She let her hair dye regimen go," Xander admitted. He looked at Stetler again. "Am I in trouble for being a typical ballistics tech with a collection?"
"It depends, how much is illegal?"
"No comment," Xander said, handing them back. "I'm actually proficient in them."
"Can others get in?" Cooper asked.
"Not without the security system frying them." Xander looked at him. "I'm very possessive of what's mine. That's why I'm resisting giving Cal new toys." He looked at Stetler again. "What did the other one complain about?"
"Yay me. Not like I wanted to deal with them, they were epidemic in my former town. I had to so I survived this long. Am I in trouble for that?"
"No. The Chief did not like the birthday explanation I put into your file. I gave him your father's email in Homeland." Xander snickered, nodding. "He got it straightened out since I haven't heard anything. Is Buffy the brunette you used me to get away from?"
"Yeah, one of the ones who thought I was dryer lint."
"Charming. Okay. Where is Caine?"
"Wolfe's scene," Eric told him.
"I let him listen to the voicemail. Xan sent it over from his computer last night," Speed offered.
"Good. At least he's warned. Anything else?" Speed handed over the note. "Well, that's worse than money." Xander snorted and pulled the baggie out of his other pocket, handing it to him. "Ooh, that's cute. What is that?"
"I don't know and I'm not claiming that. It looks like candy coated intestine." Speed took it, walking off with it. "It's smooshed around a twenty you can have if you want it," he called after him. "Sorry I had to defend my area of expertise but he was trying to break our cover and I shot back at him in a way that made him go drink and leave us alone."
"That's reasonable in that situation. It wasn't Wilkins, it was someone else."
"Can I have them fired?"
"Probably not. It'd be really hard to have a director of a federal agency fired."
Xander looked at him. "Can I scare her then?"
"Probably not a good idea, Harris."
"Pity." He walked back into ballistics and slammed the door. "I'll be out for lunch."
"Sure," Eric agreed. He took the transcripts, looking them over. "Why would this bother anyone?"
"Because some people have very narrow viewpoints," Cooper said quietly. He nodded up the hallway at reception. "I recognize her from last night."
Eric groaned. "Tell Xander so he can hide in the morgue or something."
Stetler looked then smirked and walked that way. He didn't like how the kid had been warped, and if she had done some of that she should pay. He cleared his throat. "You are?"
"Buffy. I'm here to see Xander. I heard he works here."
"He does but he's working right now."
She pouted. "I only wanted to see him for a few minutes. Give him a hug, say hi, that stuff." She looked at him. "Did I see you last night?"
"Probably. He gets lunch at two, come back then." He saw Horatio coming off the elevator and gave him the transcripts. "From two sources in DC."
"Charming." He looked at Buffy, frowning. "Do I know you?"
"This is Miss Summers," the receptionist said helpfully. "She's here to see Xander?"
"He'll get lunch at two," Stetler repeated. "If he takes off to chat with you now I'll have to write him up. Then he'll be suspended."
"I only want a few minutes," she pouted.
"Buffy, I'm sorry, we can't let you into the lab. Non-personnel are not allowed back there. It's against federal protocol," Horatio explained.
"Then can he come out for ten minutes? I mean everyone gets a break sometime, right?"
"He's got a backlog of guns to examine today. He just got back from an assignment out of town," Horatio told her. "Come back at two and you can have him at lunch. Outside if he wants and it stays nice."
She shook her head. "I've got a manicure around then. I can't."
"Then he gets off at six tonight probably and you can hang around until then," Stetler offered.
"Did Xander screw up? Is that why you need him to be uber-good boy?"
"No," Horatio said patiently. "He's just gotten back from an assignment out of town and we need him to do his work so more people don't evade their due punishments." Ryan came off the elevator. "I'll let you give that to Xander and please tell him that Buffy's here?"
"I can do that." He smiled at her. "Hi, Ryan Wolfe. I work with Xander in the field."
"He gets to work with guns outside?" She gave them her 'adorably confused' look.
"He also gets to go to crime scenes to do the evaluations," Ryan explained.
Buffy slowly shook her head. "No, he can't do things like on that forensic show."
"Yeah, he can," Stetler assured her. "Second highest in his graduating class, Miss Summers. They depend on Xander to do many things." He heard a door open. "Wolfe, shouldn't that be logged in by now?"
"Going. Which one of us screwed up this time?" he complained as he walked off.
Horatio looked at Buffy again. "I promise he'll be here around two if you wanted to come back. Right now he's up to about thirty guns."
"But Xander only knows how to shoot them. Is he shooting them all at someone?"
Xander came out, leaning on the end of the reception desk. "No, I tell the other CSI who fired them and which target they hit, Buffy. That's my primary job. To log in, examine, and match bullets and guns. Just like on the forensics show. I do what the blonde lady does." She shook her head. He nodded. "That's what I do. All day, every day. Sometimes I even get to play in the trace lab and run tests in there. That was my minor." He looked at Horatio. "I have an officer's gun?"
"There was an officer-involved shooting last night," Stetler admitted. "I'm lurking for that reason really."
"Sure." He handed over that report. "I saw it and did it first in case. I know you make others nervous." He looked at Buffy. "I've got about twenty-five guns and about sixty bullets left to do before I go home tonight, Buffy. Why don't you come back for lunch?"
"Because I've got a manicure then."
"I'll probably be off at six or seven if you wanted to come back then." She shook her head, frowning. "Then I'm really sorry but I'm not getting fired for chatting. I've *got* to do this today. Otherwise murderers and rapists go free to do it again." She scowled at that. "Come back at two and I'll go outside with you for my half-hour lunch."
"You only get a half-hour?"
"Yeah. Then I have to come back, hand out reports, and go back to work."
"But... Normal people get breaks."
"Yeah but I can't drink in the lab, Buffy. This is my break. I'll see you at two." She stomped off and he groaned, putting his head down on the desk. "Shoot me," he muttered.
"Don't tempt some of the officers, Xander," Horatio warned. He patted him on the head. "Go back to work. It'll make you feel better." He nodded, going to do that. He looked at Rick. "Is that the only case?"
"At the moment. Though your boy did ask if threatening a federal agent was a good idea."
"I'll let his mother do it. She enjoys it." He walked off, going to his office.
The receptionist looked at Stetler. "Is she one of the ones who gave Xander those pet names for sports?" Stetler nodded. "Poor thing. Oh, there's a message for you." She handed it over. "There you go, Sergeant."
"Thank you." He walked off reading it, shaking his head. The boy's mother had already heard and was having a strong word with a certain director. So maybe one problem would be solved. Hopefully. He'd hate to see a ballistics tech so stressed that they snapped. Harris had access to too many weapons for him to feel comfortable with that idea.
Xander sat outside with Valera, smiling at her. "You sure?" he asked.
"I'm certain, Xander. Besides, it keeps Natalia off you."
"Thank you, Goddess, for that small mercy," he quipped, looking up. She kicked him under the table, smiling at him. "Really. Not my type, thanks. Though, the tit patrol? Seen better in college."
"I know. She's here." She smiled and waved Buffy over. "Xander's over here," she called. Buffy smiled and came over. "Hi, I'm Maxine Valera, I work with Xander, up the hall in another lab."
"Hi. Buffy." She punched Xander on the arm, making him hiss and wince. "No more guns?"
"Only about ten left, plus bullets," he admitted, still rubbing the sore spot. He handed her a diet soda. "Here, from our machine." He sipped his own, looking at her. "Why are you in Miami? It's not break time."
"I came down for a vacation. Cleveland's been hectic recently. Lots and lots of problems."
"Valera's heard me ranting at the stupidity of some demons before," he said dryly. "Most of my shift knows."
"Because they needed to know how I got into guns and things."
"Oh." She grimaced, looking at Valera. "Does he hit on you?"
"Xander? No, he's a perfect gentleman. He even stomps spiders for me if I ask. He's a lunch buddy and a break buddy but nothing else."
"Oh, good. Because you're kinda nice and we wouldn't want you to go evil too."
Valera shook her head with a smile. "He hasn't had that problem since he got down here. Maybe it's the lack of demons around here."
"Wow." She looked at Xander. "None?"
"Fifteen vampires. None of them have killed anyone that we've seen. We've got a heavy goth subculture so they can feed without killing," he explained at the odd looks. "A few sea demons now and then but nothing really *horrible* in residence. Now and then I'm told we'll get one coming up to eat sunbathers. I've got stuff for that."
"That's good." She hit him again. "You never write."
"Why would I? You treated me like crap, Buffy."
Yelina came over. "Xander, is this your girlfriend?" she asked, sitting next to Maxine. "Hi, I'm Detective Salas. I work with Xander when he's in the field."
"Hi, I'm Buffy. No, I'd never date the Xander. He's goofy but he turns women evil and I heard *way* too much about how he likes nasty kinky things from his ex Anya."
"Anya's only complaint was that I couldn't give her ten or twenty orgasms a night, Buffy," he said dryly, sipping his soda. He looked at Yelina. "Don't you think that's unreasonable?"
"I do and I believe you should date men, dear. You know that." He nodded at that, taking another drink.
"Eww," Buffy noted.
Xander looked at her. "Not really. I've met a few who kiss very well." She hit him again and shuddered. "Buffy, don't hit me again. I'll hit you back." She snorted. He glared at her. "Remember who used to spar with you, Buffy." She pipped down at that. "So, why else are you in Miami? I would've expected you to hit Disney."
"I just needed to get out of Cleveland and Willow suggested I come down here to see if I could find you and make you come home."
Xander snorted again, shaking his head. "Not with the way you two treated me, Buffy. See, down here they accept me for being me, one eye and all."
"You've only got one eye?" Yelina asked. "I never would have guessed that with all the times I've worked with you, Xander. You handled that gang drive-by very well for an experienced officer. I didn't see a side-weakness."
Xander looked at her. "The last battle of Sunnydale was about two weeks post eye-loss."
"Oh. Well it clearly doesn't hamper you. I'm sure Horatio knows?" He nodded. "Good. Then it's probably fine."
"It is. Stetler rides my ass about keeping up with my fitness paperwork just in case. He found out when Speed got shot by the terrorists."
"Terrorists?" Buffy asked.
"We do have a few down here now and then," Yelina admitted. "Mostly central and south american ones."
Buffy shook her head. "Xander needs to go back to Cleveland."
"I like Miami and I'm staying, Buffy. Nothing you or she could say would change that." She glared at him. "Really. I'm staying in Miami. I'm needed in Miami and they *like* me. Now, any happy news? I heard from Dawn recently." She got up and stomped off. He rubbed his arm again. "Thank you, Yelina."
"I want Alexx to look at that arm," she ordered quietly.
"I will if it doesn't quit hurting."
"Bullsnot," Valera told him. She called into her lab. "Natalia, is anyone hanging around or can you call Alexx for me? Buffy hit Xander three times on the arm and he's in pain. I think it's broken. We're outside. Thank you." She hung up, moving so he had to roll up his sleeve. "That's one hell of a bruise coming up," she said.
Xander looked. "Yeah, that's broken," he sighed. "I do not need this today." Yelina smoothed down his hair. "I'm fine. It's not the first injury, Yelina. Thanks for momming me though. When did you get back?"
"Earlier today. I had to come fill out some paperwork and then disappear after I put the house on the market." She smiled at him. "You are staying?" He nodded. "I wouldn't mind if someone nice bought it."
"I don't have enough saved for a down payment but ask Ryan. He's been looking to move into somewhere more permanent."
"I'll do that." Alexx and Horatio walked out. "I came over to stop her hitting him on the arm. I'm filling out forms," she told Horatio.
"I understand. Is it working?" She nodded, smiling at him. "Good. Are you putting the house up?" She nodded again. "I know Mr. Wolfe is looking to move somewhere larger with less mold than his present apartment."
"I'll suggest it later," she promised. She held Xander still while Alexx looked at the spot. "She hit him twice that I saw."
"Three times total, then she walked off when we said it was better if Xander was gay and he agreed. She wanted him back in Cleveland, boss."
"We'll work on it, Valera."
Xander frowned. "Horatio, send someone to my apartment? Please?" he asked quietly. "Willow had the address," he said at the funny looks he got. "Remember, she kicked the door in."
Horatio walked off to order someone to watch Xander's apartment for him while Alexx got Xander up and inside, taking him down to x-ray it in the morgue. Stetler walked in a few minutes later. "It's broken. That girl hit him a few times," Alexx told him. "I'm evaluating for him to go the ER or not."
"You going to file assault charges, kid?" he asked.
"She's needed out in public to save humanity," Xander said grimly. "If she trashes my house ask me then."
"I heard someone sent a patrol car over there." He looked at the bruise, wincing. "That's going to be a problem."
"No it won't. As long as the bone won't shift I'll be able to work." Xander looked at her. "Yes?"
"It's not a bad break but it is broken. They'll want to cast it, that means the one that goes over your shoulder."
"No it won't. I can't work like that." He slid off the table. "ER?" She nodded. "Can I have the film?"
"I'll have you driven over," Stetler offered.
"I've got my car here."
"You also drive a standard, kid, you can't drive it with only a right hand." He took the film and walked him out to where Horatio was waiting. "Have him taken to the ER. See if he'll press charges."
"I can do that. Come on, Xander. We'll talk about casts."
"No we won't. I'll be fine. Really. Air cast." He let Horatio walk him out to his hummer, being nice about not fussing. "Did you get to see the note and the transcripts?"
"Yes, and I emailed your mother. She had a wonderful lunch with the director, pointing out that you were our tech now and that we were jealously guarding one of the top ballistics and artillery techs in the US. That her narrow viewpoint meant that Miami-Dade didn't have to help NCIS if they came down for a case, but that you appreciated Gibbs' team enough to help them or your brother's team." He backed out, putting the hummer into drive and heading off. "She's toned down her complaints and your father got into your profile after she added to it, locking her out of it after changing it back." Xander smiled at that. "Feeling sick?"
"Not really. Headache. Was I really that desperate then?" Horatio nodded. "Wonderful," he said glumly. "Is the patrol car already there?"
"It is and I've asked them to call me personally if she comes anywhere near your apartment, Xander." He patted him on the knee. "Any other injuries?"
"I stubbed my toe earlier kicking a wall."
Horatio smiled. "That I can't help you with but I'll try to make them not give you the shoulder cast."
"Please." They pulled into the ER's parking lot, letting him get out first. He walked inside, holding his arm. He looked at the sign-in nurse, holding up the x-ray. "My female friend broke it for me. That was taken in the morgue."
"I'm a CSI. My boss is parking the hummer."
"Harris. Xander Harris." He let her have the x-ray and check his pulse in that arm. She also checked the bruise. "I know it's going to be a few minutes. All I want is an air cast."
She looked at him, shaking her head. "Not likely."
"I'm a ballistics tech. I can't work with one arm propped out at odd angles."
"Fat chance." She smiled at Horatio when he walked up behind him. "Yours?" He nodded. "It'll be a few minutes. I'll give the nurse this. Go ahead and have a seat, boys." She walked off to hand that to the nurse. "One of Lieutenant Caine's boys is here. He said he's a ballistics tech and can't have a normal cast or he can't work. He said his female friend broke his arm for him."
She looked at the x-ray. "Woods take this?" She shrugged. "The morgue?" She nodded. "Okay. We'll see. I see a prior break too. I'll get a doctor onto this." She went to find the attending, handing him the x-ray. "ME Woods took it for him. His female friend broke his arm. He's one of Caine's boys. Ballistics tech."
"Interesting." He looked at it, holding it up to the light. "I see a prior break, looks like it was rebroken once too. He in pain?"
"I haven't seen him yet. He's waiting. They said he can't have a normal cast."
"Probably would get in the way of firing guns," he agreed, frowning at it. "Okay, put him in a room and we'll see." She nodded, going to get them. By the time he got in there Xander was nearly done with his history form. "That long?"
Xander looked at him and nodded. "I was bodyguarding and things back in Sunnydale." The doctor slammed the door. Xander gave him a longer look. "Relax, dude, I'm retired. Buffy did it to my arm when she came down to talk me back to Cleveland."
"Pity." He came over to look at it. "Fully retired?"
"Yeah, except for some paranoid tendencies. Then again, I am a ballistics tech." Horatio frowned at him. "A lot of us are, boss."
The doctor looked at him. "You know?" He nodded. "Good." He looked at his arm again. "I do need to cast it, Xander. It's broken most of the way through. Any jarring could finish the break and make it slip."
"Can we do an elbow to armpit air cast? That way I can still shower and work and stuff."
"We'll see." He probed it more gently, then hummed. "I'd like to get another x-ray in case. From another angle." Xander gave him a pitiful look. "If it's fully through we don't want it to rebreak like the one lower down."
"It got rebroken years later."
"It shows as a weakness."
"Yippee," he said grimly. "I'm a CSI now. If I have to get into that sort of brawl I'm hoping for backup."
"Good," he agreed, smirking at him. "I can do a regular cast."
"That'll suck for showering. Which I do kinda need to do daily for work purposes."
"It's high enough up that I should give one of the propped shoulder casts, Xander."
"Yup." He stepped back. "Up to you. Real cast from your elbow up or not?"
"Above my elbow?" he asked. The doctor nodded. He looked at Horatio. "Can I work like that?"
"As long as you're not in too much pain. It shouldn't hinder movement too much, correct?"
"I wouldn't send him into the field but he should be fine for lab work."
Xander sighed then nodded. "I guess I can accept that. I'll get some fisting gloves or something for showers." The doctor blushed. "I finished up with Angel. I had to listen to him the night he got drunk and reminisced."
"You'll figure that part out," he agreed, going to get the things he needed for the cast. He came back. "Shirt off. The sleeve won't go over it."
Xander took off his shirt with some help from Horatio. "Thanks, boss."
"Welcome, Xander. Will he be fine for work?"
"Depends on how much pain he's in." Xander gave him a look. "I'm assuming you have a higher than average pain tolerance?" Xander nodded. "Good. Then you'll only itch and be driven nuts that way."
"No, if it bothers me that much I'll cut the thing off," Xander assured him dryly, staring him down. Horatio popped him on the head. "Ow. I didn't know you were Gibbs suddenly." He rubbed it with his good hand. "Meany. Can you go check on my poor apartment?" Horatio nodded, going to call the patrol officer to make sure she wasn't there yet. "Doc, is it *really* necessary?"
"Yes, Mr. Harris."
"So it heals properly and straight. Otherwise you'll have a bad ache there. How many hits did it take?" he asked, soaking the casting material.
"You're lucky she didn't hit you harder."
"I think she's starting to age out of her powers. She hit me as hard as she could."
"Age does come to those of us who're lucky," the doctor quipped.
"I definitely have been," he agreed. His phone buzzed. "Um..." The doctor handed it over. "Can I take that?"
"Make it short."
Xander opened it. "It's me, make it fast, I'm in the ER with a broken arm." He listened, the groaned. "There's supposed to be a patrol car watching for her. Is she there?" He nodded. "Please let the cop throw her out. I'll deal with the damage later. Thank you. Or my boss if he took off for there. Someone official. We'll handle that later. Thank you. Yeah, very soon. No, broken arm. Same source as the new damage. Thanks." He hung up hanging his head. "Horatio?" he called. He came back in. "She is there, she did kick my door off the hinges and did start to throw things around. She found one of my handguns and shot at the walls."
"The officer was a bit late getting there but she just pulled up. She'll arrest her, Xander." Xander nodded, hanging his head again. Horatio tipped it up. "You'll be pressing charges."
"Humanity still needs her."
"She can have probation if the DA is nice. They can move that back to Cleveland."
"We'll see. Have her arrested for now while I think?" Horatio gave him a look. "I wouldn't if it was a psycho ex. You know I'd have them arrested and laugh."
"I'll have her held." He walked out to call the patrol officer again, giving her that order. He came back. "She'll bring her right to Frank, Xander. He can keep her cuffed while you're getting casted." Xander nodded, looking down again. "It's not your fault."
"How?" he asked, looking at him.
"It was their fault they couldn't see how good you were, or how useful even. That's why they sent you away." Xander nodded. "That was their fault, not yours. They obviously weren't looking since I saw how good you were within minutes of meeting you and got bragged about how useful you were by everyone who knew you within a day later." Xander let out a soft smile at that. "I like you more than that now. Remember, we do see you as more than useful."
"You might want to warn Valera before she goes off on her and Frank has to save her."
"I've already warned Frank. Don't worry about it." Xander nodded. "Good." He watched the doctor work on the cast. "He'll have movement?"
"He will. I'm not covering the inside of his elbow. Give me another thirty and then drying time, Lieutenant."
"She can wait in handcuffs."
"She can break handcuffs, Horatio," Xander pointed out.
"Then Frank will put her in the special ones that we use on the really strong people, Xander. It'll be fine. Frank's very experienced."
"Okay but if he starts to call sports funny names it's not my fault."
"No, it's not," Horatio agreed, smiling at him. "By the way, your grandmother is here."
"Basically. Frank said Calleigh met her at reception and told her you're here and why."
"Double crap. She'll fuss."
"You'll survive, Xander. She's only one woman."
"She'll be shrieking and calling everyone back in DC. I'll get Mom fussing, Horatio."
Horatio smiled. "It'll be fine, Xander. Just think, if you have to move, they can help."
Xander grimaced. "Eww."
"Maybe you can move your paranoia arsenal there as well."
"Maybe." He shrugged, then winced. "Ow." He popped his shoulder. "Sorry, doc."
"Not a problem, Xander. It happens. A grabbing injury?"
"Yeah, they tried to do the pulling-me-apart-at-the-seams thing. The vamps weren't impressed when I wouldn't rip. It was years ago."
The doctor looked at him. "You really do need a full copy of all your injuries," he said quietly. "In case it becomes necessary."
"Are you precognitive?"
"No. Thankfully not. I hear visions hurt."
"Yeah, Cordy complained for ages about hers."
The doctor smiled. "About more than that from what I hear."
"You should've heard her when she came down," Horatio told him. "She got heard from the detective's squadroom."
"Yeah, that was foreplay when we were dating," Xander said grimly.
"Date more men, Xander. It's healthier for you," Horatio said, patting him on the head.
"Then I'll get more nasty notes."
"Not if they knew what you had dated in the past," Horatio assured him. Xander looked at him. "Seriously. Tanya is still out in the open."
"No, she's in the Keys. I can call her to tell her Buffy's up here if you want. She left me her phone number over vacation. I gave it to Frank's email when I got home."
"That is a bad idea. You know that."
"Sorry, now and then my mind goes to evil places." He winced and hissed when the doctor molded part of the cast over the broken part. "Ow."
"I know, but it'll feel better in a few weeks. Do I need to worry about pain killers?"
"Good boy." He finished up, smoothing the edges over. "There, let's let it dry. You can go in about a half-hour." He cleaned up his mess. "I'll be back after I see a few more people. Usually I'm a pediatrician."
"You're a better one than mine was," Xander said happily. "No needles."
The doctor smiled. "That's a benefit of being here. I don't have to give too many shots." He walked out, leaving them alone for now.
Xander looked at Horatio. "How much damage?"
"Enough. She broke the door and frame. She overturned your sofa. That's where she found the gun that she used on the walls and windows." He texted Calleigh getting back an 'she's here, grandma's complaining to her' message. He showed it to Xander, who whimpered. "It'll be fine. It's good that she's sticking up for you."
"Maybe." He laid down, his good arm over his head. "Can I hide here?"
"They'll have to plant an IV, Xander."
"Pity. Maybe I could stand needles."
"No, Xander." He made him sit up, looking at the cast. "That's not that bulky. Do you have shirts that'll fit over it?" Xander shrugged carefully. "What's in your locker?"
"My MDPD t-shirt right now. I took the rest home to do laundry before that assignment."
"We'll figure it out. Even if you do end up wearing a button up shirt now and then." He ruffled his hair. "You need a trim."
"I know. I was going to do that tonight after I got paid." The doctor came back to check his cast. "My grandmother's yelling at Buffy in the police station."
"Go ahead and sign out, Xander, but be very careful of the cast. It's still damp." Xander nodded, shaking his hand and sliding off the table, going to sign out and head out to the hummer. "You might warn him about making sure his insurance is up to date," the doctor told Horatio.
"It is. I made sure of it on the way over." He followed, letting Xander into the hummer. He got in to drive, heading back to the lab. By the time they got there having the windows down had dried the cast. He followed Xander inside and to the detective's side, finding Frank holding his grandmother away from Buffy. "Ma'am," he said firmly. "Less yelling please?"
She turned to glare at him, finding her grandson there. "They couldn't do it around your shirt?"
"The sleeve was too tight," he complained. He looked at Buffy. "You trashed my place?"
"Now you have to come back."
"No I don't. I have to *move* not move to Cleveland." He looked at Frank, then at Horatio. "Unusual circumstances?"
"Fat chance, kid. She's wanted in Cleveland for attacking her sister and her daughter."
"Dawn got pregnant," Buffy sneered.
"Most girls do that now and then. It's how humanity and the world survives," Xander agreed dryly. "So?" He looked at Frank, then at Horatio. "Probation?"
"We'll agree to extradite," Frank told him. "If they let her go we'll charge her with assaulting a member of the department and property damage with a lethal weapon."
"That'll work. Thank you. Grandma, can you get me a soda?"
"You should drink more water."
"I do drink plenty, I want caffeine," he complained, walking her off. "I'm going to the locker room to find a shirt," he told Horatio. "Then I'll hang in the break room for another thirty to make sure I'm fit for work?" Horatio nodded. "Thanks, boss. Grandma, this is Horatio."
She looked at him. "Amanda said you were cute." She pinched him on the cheek then smacked it before following her grandson. "Do you have another t-shirt?"
"My department one has looser sleeves. It might work. If not I've got to find more button-up shirts." Ryan saw him and glared. "Buffy," he said in explanation. "They're sending her back to Cleveland."
"You need to press charges."
"She's wanted for assault up there."
"You still need to press charges, Xander," Ryan told him. "Really. Or else she can do it again."
"Go talk to Frank and Horatio, Ryan. It's just a small break. I've had worse. Really." Ryan glared, arms crossing over his chest. "I'm fine! I promise! They've worked it out so she'll be charged if Cleveland lets her go." Ryan stomped off, going to bother Horatio and Frank. He looked at her. "Buddies."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, he's straight." He grimaced, going into the locker room. "I'm bare chested if that's going to upset anyone," he called. Natalia came out of the bathroom area. He pointed at his cast. "Buffy." He got into his locker, finding his t-shirt in his gym bag.
Natalia smiled at the older woman. "Hi, I'm Natalia, I work up the hall from Xander."
She smiled and shook her hand. "I'm Xander's grandmother, dear. Would you know who my grandson was dating?"
"As far as I know it's been casual dating, nothing serious."
"Pity. He could use a woman like you."
Xander looked back at her. "My last girlfriend turned into a serial killer. No I don't." He carefully pulled on his t-shirt, awkwardly but it went. "There, now I'm not half-naked and drawing attention. Tell Valera I'm fine, Natalia. Please?"
"Sure, I can do that. Alexx said it was a small break." He nodded, closing his locker. "Well, you two have a good talk." She walked off.
"She's cute. You date her?"
Xander made sure they were alone then shook his head. "Hell no. She reminds me Buffy."
"Oh. That's reasonable." She led him back to the breakroom she had seen, buying him a soda as requested. "Here you go. Should I call Amanda?"
"No, I'll be fine. It's not fully broken through, Grandma." She smiled and sat down next to him, leaning closer to share some family gossip, making him happier.
Speed came in a half-hour later, looking at him. "Calleigh said she's clear now and you're not coming into Trace with a cast, Xander."
"It's new and I'll have my coat over it."
"I can tell you from experience none of our jackets will fit over it. That means you'll be carrying contaminants from lab to lab. So stay in ballistics while you've got it on."
"I can get a new coat for Trace."
"If you can find one that won't hamper you moving around, but until then no."
"No it's not," his grandmother complained.
"Grandma, I have to fire guns. Gunshot residue would get on the cast if I can't cover it with a lab coat. I can't track that to Trace and contaminate other samples or they can't be used in court," he explained.
"Oh. How long do you have to have it on?"
She looked at him. "If you remove that I will have your mother spank you, grandson."
"It's not a full break, I'll be fine, Grandma." He kissed her on the cheek. "What does Horatio want me to do?"
"Find a better place to live." He patted him on the head. "And get a haircut." He walked out after getting a water, going to talk to Calleigh. "It's from above his elbow to just under his armpit."
She shrugged. "I'm still clear. Horatio?" He came in from up the hall. "I'm clear. We know lab coats won't go over casts. It's not like we can glove over it that high up. He can work in here without a coat, maybe, if we don't get busted for protocol violations, but we're under watch."
"He said he'd try to get a new coat that would go over it," Speed told him. "His grandmother protested until Xander explained why I won't let him in trace while he's got it."
Horatio nodded. "I've got forms for him to fill out today and so does his apartment complex." He walked off, going back to gathering the forms, handing them to Xander with two pens. "Here you go. Your injury report, your insurance claim forms, and your workman's comp forms. That way you can go on it if we need you to, Xander." Xander pouted. "It's not your fault." He smiled. "Also in there are forms from your apartment manager. She's went through the damage already and their insurance people are not happy."
"I'm not happy."
"Going on workman's comp would mean that you would have time to move," he offered.
"I can't afford to move this month, Horatio."
"Xander, we'll deal with that issue later. It's easier than you think. I'll have the boys and Ryan help you find somewhere."
"Did you remember to tell him Yelina was moving?"
"I have and he bounced over to talk to her about how much she wanted and then called his bank." He gave him another pat. "We'll see what happens." He walked off, going back to his office to make the official notes.
"I still need to get a dog," Xander told his grandmother, earning a hug. "I'm fine. I''m just pouting. I've had worse injuries and still worked construction and stuff. I've never filed for workman's comp. It's only a broken arm." Valera came in and hugged him. "Did you have to do the paperwork of doom too?"
"I had to do a statement for Detective Tripp. Hi, I'm Maxine Valera, I work in DNA up the hall from Xander."
"Natalia works in her lab," Xander told her.
"Oh. That's good." She shook her hand. "Do you know who my grandson's been dating?"
"Not a whole lot. The last time he went on a date it ended up in a hostage situation. The official department policy is that we'd rather have him be gay. It's safer for him and everyone else." That got a snicker from the older woman. "Really. His date before then was a blind date and she tried to stab him for not being able to cook even though they were at a restaurant."
Stetler stomped in. "She broke it?"
"Yup, it's officially casted," Xander said, pointing at his cast. "Horatio's thinking I should be on comp but I'm going to try to work." He handed over that form. "Tell the boss I said so and I am stubborn." He handed over the incident report too. "Here, for the official records I know you'll be looking over. Grandma, this is IAB Sergeant Stetler. He's the one that Dad had to talk to when I shot the terrorist."
"Charmed, young man. Do you like my grandson?"
"Not that much. I appreciate your grandson. He doesn't lie to me and he does what he feels is necessary but tries to stay reasonable." He shook her hand. "I'll hand these to Horatio. You pressed charges?"
"She's wanted back in Cleveland. Frank worked it out so we'll charge her for breaking my arm and shooting up my apartment if they let her go."
Stetler looked at him. "No. Sorry. She's here, we have possession, we get her first." He went to tell Tripp that. "She stays."
Frank looked at him. "They want her for assault with intent."
"We have her damaging a police officer and using a gun to cause mayhem and property destruction."
Frank stood up and walked him off. "Unfortunately with her job they need her able to save humanity," he explained quietly.
"There's others. Being like that doesn't excuse her bad conduct in Miami. Cleveland gets her after us. She injured a member of the department and threatened lives."
"The DA agreed, Stetler."
"I can fix that. She doesn't get a free ride to doing harm." He walked off, going to call the ADA over the case and let her know that there were others doing the same job. They could wait a year for her to be in jail down here.
Frank shook his head. "It's very strange watching him protect that kid." He went back to his desk, watching her sneer at the others. "That guy was Internal Affairs. He's trying to make it so you stay here."
"I'm needed in Cleveland."
"And?" he snorted. "As he pointed out, there's others doing your job now." She glared at him, starting to move. "Do I and I'll charge you with intent to harm another officer." She snorted and relaxed again. "Good idea." He sat down. "We'll wait on the DA's decision this time."
"Can I go to the bathroom?"
"No. Not unless I book you and put you into holding." She slunk down, getting quiet. "Thank you." Wolfe came back. "Stetler agreed with you."
"Good! It's only right we get to put her in our jails first. Then she can go to jail up there for trying to kill her sister and niece." He shrugged. "Xander?"
"Grandmother in the break room."
"Horatio's trying to get him to go on comp time but he's being stubborn," Stetler said from his borrowed desk.
"The boy's middle name is stubborn," Frank said with a small smirk.
"No, it's Lavelle, which is a stupid made-up name," Buffy told her.
Ryan looked at her. "Named after his grandfather on his adoptive mother's side, Buffy." She frowned, shaking her head. "You didn't know that his parents in Sunnydale stole him from his real parents? Who're in Homeland Security now?" She went pale. "Yeah, exactly." He walked off happier now that she was a bit more scared. It made him a happy boy. Happy enough he even bought Xander a candy bar. "Here, you need chocolate to soothe the ache."
"I told her you were adopted. She didn't know."
"I told Willow."
"Apparently she didn't listen then either." He walked off happier with the world, going to work in Trace with Speed. "I'll fill in for Xander if you want."
"I could appreciate that," he agreed.
Xander looked up from his writing and nibbling as the Chief of Detectives walked in. "Hi, boss. I'm fine. I can work tomorrow."
He looked at his arm. "Talked them into minimizing the cast?" Xander nodded, grinning a bit. "Fat chance, Harris. Not unless you can get a lab coat over it. You know protocol demands that you wear a coat and gloves in the lab."
Xander sighed, going to get his lab coat from Trace. He walked out, working his arm into it. "See? I can fit into it."
"Uh-huh. Can you fulfill all your normal duties?"
"I don't fire with that hand. Recoil won't bother me unless it's a shotgun."
The Chief looked at him, then shook his head. "Pain killers?"
"No, why would I need some?"
"Prior combat trauma and alcoholic adoptive parents," Xander said, starting to frown. "I can work tomorrow."
He checked his coat. "Horatio?" He came walking in. "Can he work with his coat like that?"
Horatio checked it then grimaced. "Maybe. It's going to limit his range of motion." Xander groaned, sitting down again, putting his head down on the table. "Then again I think he needs a bigger size most of the time," he admitted quietly. Xander looked over at him. "They can be a bit tight."
"Only two of the five."
"Is this one of the looser or tighter ones?" his grandmother asked.
"Looser," Speed said from the doorway. He handed over his ballistics one. "This is a tighter one." Xander was helped out of his jacket and into that one, wincing when it got stuck on the cast. "Nope, not a chance. You can't work in trace in a coat that's hindering movement." Xander pouted. "Rules, Xander. Remember, we've got Feds waiting to crawl up our asses."
"Point. Must I go on comp?" Everyone nodded. "But I'll go insane and they won't approve it for this. It happened outside."
"Insurance will cover it," Horatio assured him. "If workman's comp won't you'll get short term disability from the insurance, Xander. The incident report?"
"I gave it to Stetler before he threw a hissy about her being shipped back for the other assault charges."
"I'll get it from him then. Where are you staying tonight?"
"No, Xander. You have no door. You have fewer than five windows. You have a broken sink as well. Plus your microwave."
"How many times did she reload?"
"Oh." He grimaced. "I'll still need to pack stuff. Like the other weapons."
"Calleigh and I have talked. She'll take your weapons home with her tonight and then we'll both help you move things from your hidden areas back to your new place."
"Pushy," Xander said dryly, staring him down.
"I can't afford to move, Horatio. I won't get my security deposit back with that sort of damage. I don't have that much saved. You need a lot of money to move."
"Think about buying a condo," he suggested, sitting down across from him.
"You didn't build any back in Sunnydale?"
"No, we mostly did houses. A school."
"Condos are like buying an apartment. Some have fees for the community they're in but not all. Some are very nice. Some could use some work. You'll get to decorate however you want without checking with the landlord. You can have pets as long as they're legal by Miami codes."
"Are usually slightly bigger than condos."
"Oh. But they're still expensive."
"Yes, but the great thing about buying things is that you have time to pay for it, dear," his grandmother told him. "You can put down a few thousand as a down payment and then take out a mortgage for the rest to pay off over a few years. How are housing prices, Horatio?"
"Fairly steep for houses but the condo market has recently bottomed out and I know that there's a good selection open right now. Ryan was looking at some, Xander. He can show you the ones he liked."
"But credit stuff and ...."
Horatio covered his mouth. "Do you have any student loans?" Xander shook his head. "Paid off?" Xander nodded. "Early, right?" Xander nodded, smiling a bit because he was proud of himself. "Good. That'll look very good and we can help you. Plus the union can help you get a good mortgage. They offer a plan. I'll call the union rep to make sure it applies to lab techs but it should. You pay union dues." Xander nodded more slowly. He handed over his check. "Put most of that in the bank. Go to a motel tonight with your grandmother. After you pack most everything up."
"I can put it into one of the areas," he said from behind the hand.
Horatio removed his hand. "That could work as well. I doubt you're up to moving the furniture but you could move the electronics that way. Then tomorrow you go talk to a good realtor." He handed over a card. "I've bought some investment property through her over the years. Tell her what you're looking for. Bring in bank statements. Bring in your pay stub. Tell her why you're moving. Sometimes a good story will make the seller sell for less."
"You can do this and it'll mean more permanence, Xander. That you're not going to move for a long time."
Xander smiled. "I might like that. And then I can get a dog? I've been working too many hours to go to the pound."
"You can," he agreed happily. "Okay?" Xander nodded. "Good boy." He patted him on the good hand. "Take your grandmother to dinner tonight too. That way she doesn't have to fuss too much." He got up and left them alone, taking the others with him.
"Well, he certainly seems to be very forceful," she said.
He looked at her. "I trust Horatio's judgement and it would be nice to be able to paint."
"A condo's not inexpensive but not as bad as it could be," she admitted. "You might even end up paying less than you did for rent and utilities before."
"I had all utilities paid," he admitted. "Sometimes I forget that stuff."
She smiled. "You can put that on automatic payment, Xander. Through the bank, the same as you can the mortgage payments." She patted his hand again. "Finish up with the dreaded forms and we'll go pack up your things for the night." Xander nodded, going back to his filling out.
Abby opened up her email the next morning, frowning at it. "Why did someone shoot up Xander's house?" She clicked on that email. Then she stomped off, going to open it on Gibb's computer. "We have to do something about her!" she demanded, starting to pace once it was open. "She can't be allowed to break Xander's arm or to shoot up his place just because she's a selfish ...girl!" She stomped a foot. "Can't we charge her too, Gibbs? He was working for us on that assignment and before."
"It's not like diplomatic immunity," he said calmly. "It doesn't go from father to son, Abby." She scowled at him. "I'm sure Horatio took care of it. DiNozzo, look up where she's being charged," he ordered.
"Who?" he asked as he sat down.
"Buffy," Abby sneered. "She broke Xander's arm and shot up his place because he wouldn't go back to Cleveland with her."
"Okay." He typed that into the search database they had. "She's being extradited to Cleveland because she tried to kill her little sister and niece. Florida will have her after that if she gets off probably."
Gibbs waved a hand. "See, they've got it, Abby."
"Can't we do *something*, Gibbs? It's *Xander*!"
"I know it is and I'm sure he'll be fine, Abby. Probably moving but he'll be fine."
"No he won't! She broke his arm!" She stomped a foot again, giving the pouty look to McGee. "Buffy broke into Xander's place to trash it after she broke his arm."
McGee frowned. "Is she under arrest or running?"
"They're sending her back to Cleveland. She had repetitive idiocy syndrome." Abby frowned at him. "She did the same thing to her sister's place, only without the gun play," Tony explained.
"But he's with the department, Miami would be harder on her. I don't care if she is who she is, the world doesn't need her if she's going to be like that," Abby complained.
"Write Horatio, make sure Xander's really all right," Gibbs said quietly. "Make sure they're going to charge her if Cleveland doesn't." She pouted all the way back to her lab. He wrote the kid to warn him she was pouting on his behalf. Xander's answer a few minutes later made him laugh. "His grandmother's down there pouting on his behalf too and throwing fits. She nearly attacked Buffy while she was in cuffs. She's helping him look into the option of buying a townhouse or condo."
"It's a good investment right now," Tony agreed. "With the buyer's market I'm looking into it too. A very good investment. Plus he could have a bigger dog if he wanted."
"Are you really ready for a ten year or more mortgage?" McGee asked.
Tony looked over and nodded. "Yeah, and I can pay it off in five, Probie. They do offer that option as well." He got back to work. "Since the value will probably grow, I can easily get something cheaper and then fix it up a little bit here and there. Update a kitchen or a bathroom. It adds about twenty percent to the worth over ten years."
"That's assuming you live ten years, Tony," McGee pointed out. "With your history of being taken, beaten, and getting hurt...."
Tony looked at him. "Only the good die young. We'll sing sweet songs when you go, McGee."
"Boys," Gibbs said, glaring at them. "That was uncalled for, DiNozzo."
"Xander said the same thing to me once, boss."
"We'll watch over him from the afterlife and cheer on the insanity in his life," McGee agreed.
"Don't let mom hear you say that," Jamie called from the walkway by the windows. "She'll hit you too."
Tony looked at him. "Going home?"
"Not hardly. Just getting back from a scene in a field." He grinned. "And if she tries it I'm going to go bug Fornell." He walked off cackling.
"Hey, maybe Xander can come up to visit more often then," Tony said happily.
"I almost feel sorry for Fornell if he does," McGee offered.
Gibbs shook his head. "Enough. Work. Now."
"Where is Kate?" McGee asked.
"Doing girly things," Tony told him. "She's at a spa, Probie. Getting pampered, touched nicely in good ways, all that stuff. Then she'll come back and grump at us for being men who don't need manicures."
Gibbs looked at him. "I don't need to know that."
"Sure, boss. It's very relaxing though."
"I have a boat. It and bourbon are relaxation enough."
"I have Xander shopping when I get that stressed," Tony said with a wicked grin. "Because no one down there does."
"That might be a good thing," Gibbs noted impatiently. "Do we have anything new?"
"Yeah, boss, the victim's profile is now gone from the system. It ate it," Tony told him. "No matter where I look she's gone."
"I'm trying myself. It does say that it was removed by executive order, boss."
"I'll talk with her in a minute," he muttered.
"You know, if they have Xander on comp time," Tony started. "He could need some more shopping. Almost nothing will fit over a cast."
"Especially if he's got one of the braced shoulder ones," McGee agreed.
Gibbs shuddered. "If you do, I want to hide, DiNozzo."
"Sure, boss. But remember, the gala for those seeking funds is coming up too. Maybe Horatio will pimp his ballistics tech."
McGee shuddered. "Better him than me."
"That's what he said about me too. It wasn't *too* bad. Just really boring," Tony told him.
"Let me find out who removed that profile," Gibbs said, going to hunt down the director and ask her since she's the only one who could have done it as it was an agent who had gotten hurt. Tony and McGee shared a smile. The boss always had to go to those things and with the new director being such a suck up.....
Xander walked into the station two days later. "I hate moving," he told his boss. "It sucks, I can't find anything, and everything's way too expensive even though it does suck."
Horatio gave him a small smile. "You'll find something soon, Xander."
"No I won't! I'm not paying a hundred thousand for an apartment!"
"Look a few more miles out. There's some cheaper areas of the city about fifteen miles out."
"That is the cheaper area according to her."
"I'll talk with her, Xander. Did she say what was driving up the price?"
"Having a bathroom. Having more than two rooms." He sat down with a pout. "I hate moving."
"It'll be fine." His phone paged him. "We've got a domestic coming in."
"Can I help?"
"No. You can ask Ryan if he's got a better list for you."
"Damn." He went to find Ryan to ask him that. On the way back to see if Frank knew anyone who was selling somewhere cheaply he ran into the husband yelling at the wife that he was going to smoke her. "Are we talking like how you cure beef jerky or like how you cure bacon?" he asked from behind him, making the husband turn and sneer at him. "Do it, little boy. I make underdeveloped little boys like you piss themselves in fear and then I laugh as I piss on 'em. Now, sit your ass down and shut the fuck up before I have to treat you like you treat her." The man started to open his mouth. "Ah!" He held up a finger. "I'm a demolitions expert and a ballistics tech. That means I play with guns all day and the department pays my ass. Sit down!" The man sat, staring at him in horror. "Good! Now, shut up! Real men don't have to threaten those who're weaker. Though in this case I'll make an exception for teaching you better and having fun." The man slumped. "Thank you!" He looked at the woman. "And you! I don't care what he's yelling, you can walk away. There was no need to escalate that in the police station even if you did want him arrested. You can fill out the forms and we'll gladly help you, ma'am. That's what we're here for. Pissing us off by fighting means we can arrest you both, even if it is unfair. Understood?" She nodded, stomping off. "Do you want the forms?" he called after her.
"I have them. There's a restraining order."
"Then you call the next time he's in range to hear you scream. We'll be there." She nodded, leaving with her guiding officer. He glared at the man. "She needed one? Because that's just pitiful," he sneered. "Do I need to beat your ass to show you how you don't treat a woman?" The man started to stutter. "I can make you feel like one, not an issue. Really." He shook his head, looking away. "Good!" He walked off again, weathering the look from Eric. "Was he the victim?"
"Then he needed to hear it," he complained. "Frank, do you know anyone who's selling something to live in cheaply? I'll even take a tent as long as I can hook up a shower. I'm not spending a hundred grand on an apartment."
"Actually, I do. John's got some near him, kid. Have you talked to him?"
"No, I haven't. You think he'd mind?"
"It's not like you're going to be roomies. You can live in the same sector of the city and still not see him for weeks on end."
"Point, and it would be closer to some of my weapons. Thanks." He walked off again, happier now that he had gotten some of his stress out.
Horatio looked at Eric, who shrugged. "Don't look at me, H. They were fighting in the hallway. Xander walked up behind him and started on him."
"He's stressed over the move, Eric. That's all that was."
"He can't really turn me into a girl, can he?" the guy asked. Horatio nodded. "That's sick, man!"
"Yeah but some people find that fun. I'm sure his last girlfriend would like that. She's a serial killer now." The man whimpered and curled up on himself. "You are free to go. Remember to abide by the restraining order, sir."
"Not like I want to go near that harpy." He walked off pouting.
"Damn," Speed said as he came out of the room. Then he burst out laughing. "That was a pretty good show."
"It was," Frank agreed, grinning at him. "I bet the boy feels better now."
"Hopefully," Horatio agreed.
Xander let his realtor show him around this new block, frowning. "There's no bathtub?"
"Not yet but you could put one in," she offered.
Xander looked at her. "That takes a hell of a lot of work and I still have a broken arm."
"I was going to suggest a good plumber."
"I used to be a team leader on a construction crew. I know how much plumbers make, even in low rent areas. Which this definitely isn't. General contractors are always cheaper." She smiled at that. "It would still be a pain in the ass to take a shower with this cast on."
"Good point. Other than that, how about the general things? Size of the rooms, number of rooms, those things?"
"I still can't cook and I still poison people when I try so the huge kitchen is great, but I don't need that. Do you have anywhere dark and creepy but spacious? I can stand goth stuff. I worked with a vampire, it's all good and I see plenty of sun at work in the lab. Someone put in way too many windows there."
"Sure, I think I have something that's less bright and airy."
"And probably cheaper too," Xander pointed out. "Windows seem to equal higher cost around here."
"That is one thing that can drive a price up," she agreed. She adjusted that rating down, coming up with a lot more in his range. "Well, that brought up a whole new page of places, Xander."
"Any closer to the station but cheap?"
"No. Closer to the station is not going to be cheap, even in the dark and creepy price range." She led him back out to the car, taking him to the favorite she had on that list. She knew what he wanted. She could agree with him not having a big kitchen but his bathroom desires were going to drive her out of her mind. Then she got an idea. "There is one place but the owner is being selective on who she takes bids from."
"Like fairy Wiccan strange? Or like Voodoo Priestess strange? Or are we talking Barbie strange?"
"Barbie strange but the house is very ...difficult for most people to like. Plus she's got to like the new owners."
"Okay. Does she have a crystal ball and cats or just cats?"
"Four cats, no crystal balls but a few crystals in the windows."
"There is one." She pulled into the parking area and got out, nodding at him to follow. "Until she accepts you, you can't parking in her driveway."
"Oooh, a driveway?"
"Small one." She led him over to the house, ringing the bell. "Ma'am, I heard this house was up for sale?" she asked.
"Still. I haven't found one I liked yet." She looked at Xander. "Are you married?"
"Nope. Women are evil. My last one turned into a serial killer so I'll have dogs." She smiled and took his hand, leading him inside. The front room looked like a mausoleum. It was marble with marble columns and marble tiles on the walls and ceilings. "Strangely enough this reminds me of the Hyperion back in LA. I worked with the group who bought it." She gave him an odd look. "Sorry. My name's Xander. I'm from near LA and I ended up working in LA with an investigative group while I went to college. I work with the crime lab. I'm a ballistic's tech with a minor in trace."
"Nice to meet you, ma'am. If you don't mind me asking, why are you selling this house?"
"I'm moving in with my fiancee. As soon as I can get it sold we're getting married," she said happily.
"I wish you many happy returns and a long and happy marriage," he said, kissing her on the back of her hands. She smiled and patted him on the cheek, then looked at his arm. "My former female friend. She broke it because she's decided I'm worthless and she doesn't think I can do anything since I lost an eye about six years ago, but she wants me back. She hit me because I wouldn't go back with her."
"Oooh, you poor thing. What are you looking for in a house?"
"A large bathroom with a good bathtub so I can soak in bubbles after a long day. A nice view is good. A yard because I want a dog. I'm kinda lonely and my grandmother is nagging for grandkids. So I'll give her a furry one for now." Agatha smiled and nodded, leading him around. The bedroom looked like an ancient version of a Vegas honeymoon suite. "Would you mind if I painted over the pink? Thanks to that friend I have bad flashbacks to pink and shoe shopping."
"No, darling, you're a man. Even a gay man would paint over the pink in this room." She led him into the bathroom, letting him see the very nice return of the marble, this time in green and silver. She watched as he got down to look at things. "You know construction?"
"For three years before I lost my eye," he admitted, smiling at her. He got back to looking at the tub. "I'd need to reseal around the edges but I could do that while I waited for the tub to run some night." He ran an appreciative hand over the statue she had in there. "I love how you decorated. Who did that statue?"
"It came with the house." She led him off to see the kitchen but he balked. "You don't cook?"
"I'm kinda poisonous, literally."
She giggled and nodded. "I've seen many men with that problem. Perhaps you could learn?"
"No, I mean literally," Xander told her. "As in I've sent people to the hospital with cookies from a mix." That got a bigger laugh. "My boss said if I ever tried to cook again he was going to arrest me. Since he's Lieutenant Caine..." She hissed at that name. "You don't like Horatio?"
"He's a cold, cruel man."
"Really? He kept trying to make me take pain killers for my arm and told my grandmother to baby me."
She gave him an odd look. "Really?" He nodded. "Hmm. Which one are you?"
"I'm his ballistics tech. I work in Calleigh's lab when she's in the field. Or trace if we're clear on gun crimes. I occasionally get into the field myself but I keep it pretty rare. Right now, he made me go on comp time. That I will agree that he's mean about. I could be working but he wanted me to take time off. Suggested I *shop*," he said with a shudder.
"I like you." She led him around the rest of the house, finding all the little nooks and crannies she had in here. "I don't know who originally built it but apparently they had very earthy tastes." Xander nodded, patting another statue. "Another that came with the house but I'll be taking that one with me."
"Okay. I was thinking something bronzy for in here." She smiled at him, leading him into the small yard. "This is nice." She giggled and did a cartwheel. "One up on me, Agatha. I've never been able to do one of those." She led him back inside, letting him run an appreciative hand over more things. "How much did you want for it?" he asked quietly.
"What do you make a year, Xander?"
"Fifty-four before taxes. About forty after. So I can afford a good mortgage."
They ran into the real estate agent, Agatha taking her aside to talk to her. They came back. "Xander, she's asking about eighty-five for it. We have you cleared for up to one- sixty for a fifteen year mortgage or one-twenty for the ten year. That would mean your average payment would be about a thousand per month base at the ten year rate."
Xander looked around. "I won't need that much. Can we make it for a hundred, that way I have enough to get some new curtains and furniture?"
"Darling, I won't need it," Agatha told him, patting him on the cheek. "There's very few things I'm bringing with me."
"Are you leaving the bed? Because I can see a serious love nest going up in there."
She giggled and nodded. "I am and that's what it was meant for. It originally belonged to a mistress of a Count." He grinned at that.
"A hundred thousand would cover all the costs, plus hiring movers, getting some new sheers for the back doorway, and some new sheets," his realtor agreed. "We can sign the paperwork today."
"We should sign the paperwork today. I'm tired of the motel and I need to move my handguns from my coworker's house before she starts to covet them." Agatha gave him a hug. "Where are you moving?"
"Cotton row, darling." She walked them out, showing him the front of the house as well. "Now, you tell that big meany that I'm going to let you buy my house because he's a grump and should help you paint where I put up the pink in the bedroom for being such a grump."
"I can do that."
"Good boy." She stroked his cheek. "You'll have a wonderful family some year and many dogs I'm sure." She walked back inside, going to get the paperwork she had drawn up, writing in the price. The realtor looked it over, nodding and letting Xander sign it. Agatha signed it. Then they went to file it and get her paid. The bank was nice enough to process the loan application that day and with Xander pre-approved it went through nearly immediately.
Xander walked up to where Horatio and Frank were having lunch the next day, flopping down. "Agatha said that you're such a grump that you should be made to help paint over where she put pink in the bedroom."
"Agatha?" Frank asked.
"The woman I'm buying the house off of. She's a bit strange. The front room looks a lot like a mausoleum. The rest looks a lot like an ancient Vegas honeymoon suite but she said I could paint over the pink. She said Horatio's a grump too."
"Is she that freaky broad who buys up strange houses and then makes the realtor bring the people by so she can approve of them?" Frank asked Horatio, who nodded since his mouth was full. "Well, they're usually good houses but she's a flake, kid."
"I've lived in LA, Frank. During my training I got to work a scene at a cult to a camel where the camel had sat on and smothered a member." Frank choked at that, drinking his coffee to clear his throat while Xander patted him on the back. "A little strange is good for me. I felt right at home. We close on the house tomorrow and she's leaving most everything there so I don't have to move everything with me. So if you know someone who needs a few beds...."
"Ask Delko, I'm sure he's worn at least one out," Frank wheezed.
"I could use one for the guest room," Horatio admitted. He ate another bite. "Where are you moving?" Xander handed over the sheaf of papers from the realtor, letting him hunt for it. He looked at it then at him. "You weren't kidding. The front does look like a crypt. I've been in there before." Xander shrugged. "We'll make sure there's no bodies."
"Is she a black widow? She said she's going to Cotton Row to be with her future husband."
"Probably not," Frank told him. He looked at the address. "You're up the road from Hagen."
"It's cheaper," Horatio told him.
"She only wanted eighty-five for it," Xander agreed. "I'm taking out extra for new sheets, drapes, and those things."
"Paint?" Frank suggested.
"Only over the pink stuff." He grinned. "She's moving in four days. Want to help me steal my handguns back from the boss, Horatio?"
"I can do that, Xander. She's only coveting one that I know of."
"Yeah but it's my new Desert Eagle," he said with a small pout. "Mine."
"I'm sure she'll give it back," Horatio said. "How's your arm?"
"Itches. Can't I crack the cast yet?"
"No, Xander. It's only been a week and a half."
"You know, if you had an accent you could say that and sound like a frog," Frank teased.
Xander looked at him. "Don't tempt Willow. I ended up being a puppy once and a lizard another." Frank choked again. "Sorry, Frank." He looked at Horatio. "I need to move the practical stuff in then see about the furniture."
"You can hire people do that for you."
"I'd have to move the weapons anyway."
"Rent a u-haul," Frank wheezed.
Horatio handed over his water. "Here, Frank. You're out of coffee." He looked at Xander. "Plus you could move some of the other weapons too."
"Only if I put in a safe door."
"Which can be done relatively cheaply," Horatio pointed out. Xander nodded. "Which would save you money."
"It would," he agreed.
"With your salary it would be a reasonable expense and would probably save you some on house insurance costs."
"I guess. I'm going to have to get used to paying utilities." He grimaced. "Grandma said to put it on auto draft at the bank." Horatio nodded. "Anyway, we're closing tomorrow and I can start moving in four days. Think Eric's bored?"
"He might be," Horatio admitted with a small smile. "You did help him move the last time." Xander nodded, he had helped Eric move into Horatio's house when his lease ran out. "You could have him help us with the weapons and then hire someone to do the real furniture."
"I could," Xander agreed. "But I'd need the safe door up first. I'm not leaving the babies there without security."
"A good security system will also save you on house insurance," Frank said. "It did on ours."
"Mine as well," Horatio agreed. "Remember to check for flood and hurricane clauses."
"Horatio, half the house is marble. It's not going to blow away." Horatio smiled. "Can I come back after I move?"
"Once a doctor clears you, Xander."
Frank snickered. "It'll be soon, kid."
"Hopefully. I'm bored without my guns to clean." He looked at them. "So, I guess this means I've got to have another housewarming party?" They both smirked and nodded. "Okay, this time I'll make sure the deli trays don't have spam." He got up. "I'll see you guys in a few days." He walked off, taking the papers with him. He was starting to have scary adult feelings again but he could hopefully find something to take his mind off it. Or maybe someone. He wasn't against hiring a hooker for a few hours. As long as no one caught him. He'd never hear the end of it if Stetler caught him doing it.
to part 2: