Xander Goes Ballistic
(thanks to the list sib who gave the name)

Xander looked at the man across the desk from him, giving him a small grin.  "So, why are you interviewing?"

"I'm doing a secondary one," the young man said, giving him a long look.  "There's too much going on and Grissom doesn't do people very well so he delegated.  Usually it'd have been Catherine who did this but she's now on swing shift."  He shrugged.  "Besides, I was kinda in your place a few years back and it wasn't that bad.  Night shift's pretty friendly and decent to each other.  We're all a little odd around here, except for day shift, and they're just political."

"I hate politicians, they're always so slimy," Xander quipped, grinning at him.  "Besides, I like the night.  I've spent a lot of time doing night stuff."

"I can see that."  He looked at him. "Where do I know you from?"

Xander blushed a bit and shifted.  "Do you remember breaking down in Oxnard?"

"Um, yeah, I was in my first year of my Masters," Greg said, frowning a bit.  "You were that dancer, the guy who got broken down and had his car explode."

Xander nodded, grinning again.  "Yup, 'twas me.  I got to leave about a month after you got rescued.  Thankfully you didn't have to work beside me then."

"No, that wouldn't have been good.  I've got rhythm, but not like that," he admitted with a dry smirk.  "Hey!" he shouted as someone walked past the doorway.  The dark skinned man with short hair in the jeans and t-shirt stepped back and opened the door.  "Warrick, this is our ballistics intern wannabe, Xander.  Xander, this is Warrick Brown, he's one of our CSI-3's that does field work.  He's working with me.  He works on Catherine's shift."

"Hey," Xander said, stretching back to shake his hand.  "I've heard good things about this department."

"Welcome.  I hope you get the spot. I did one of the other interviews for Grissom and she wasn't very excited."

"Oh, I love guns," Xander said with a wicked grin.  "I always have.  There's nothing better than shooting off a land-to-air rocket and watching the damage, then going to piece things back together to see what it did."

Warrick blinked a few times.  "You did what?"

"Part of our training," he admitted with a grin.  "None of the other students could stand the recoil so I got to shoot it off and then the class got to put the small building back together again to check the damage coefficient."

"Wow," Greg said, grinning at them both.  "That's pretty exciting."

"Yeah, but not half as good as doing some other things.  I'm actually a very good shot and very knowledgeable about guns.  I like guns.  Guns good.  Bullets nice and shiny, and sometimes smooshed funny and delicate, but the puzzle is what draws me."

Warrick looked at him.  "You'll do well here," he decided.  "I've got to go, we're heading into the field.  Later, guys.  And welcome, Xander."  He shut the door and walked off, shaking his head.  His boss gave him a look so he shrugged.  "Greg's doing an interview with one of the new ballistic interns wannabe's.  This one shot off a rocket and then the class got to recreate.  He's a puzzle guy."

"Interesting," Catherine admitted. "Where's he from?"

"Sounds like LA without the slang."  He shrugged and walked on, going to get his partner and head out.  They had a shooting at a minimart.

She saw Greg come out with the young guy and walk him back toward the front desk, following discretely behind them.  At least she thought so but the guy turned around to grin at her.  "Sorry, being nosy."

"Xander, this is Catherine.  She runs swing shift."

"Hey," he said, shaking her hand. "Sorry about the sweaty palms, but Greg's one of the smartest people I know and they make me nervous."

"That's fine," she agreed, smiling at him.  "You're a charmer, aren't you?"

"Not really.  I don't date anymore.  Only evil people want to date or sleep with me so I gave it up."  He grinned and followed Greg back to the front desk, where he signed out and headed back to his hotel for the rest of the night.

"Evil people?" she asked when Greg came back.

"Yeah, his last girlfriend turned out to be a serial killer.  Apparently the one before her wasn't any better and the one before that was a snotty cheerleader sort.  His words," he admitted, going to tell Grissom what he had learned and give his evaluation.  He liked this guy a lot.  He leaned into the head office, tossing over the evaluation form. "I liked him."

"That's good," Grissom said absently.  "Is he qualified?"

"Very, he's a lover of puzzles.  He's a very good shot, knows a lot about weapons, got to fire a land-to-air rocket to blow up something and then his class got to recreate it."  Grissom looked up at that so he shrugged. "I don't know, that's what he said.  I think you'll like him.  He's got a sense of humor, but he's steady.  I actually met him in the past, when my car broke down.  He was dancing because his car had exploded during a post-high school road trip so he could leave.  He told some pretty good stories back then too.  Warrick seemed to like him.  I introduced him and Catherine introduced herself.  Got anything for me?"

"Yeah, Greg, I've got a minimart robbery."

"Nick and Warrick just went out on one of those.  Is it the same one?"

"I don't know," he admitted.  "Check with Catherine since she's still here."  He nodded and jogged off, going to do that.  "Well, that's very interesting," he admitted, looking at the evaluation form that had landed on top of his case files.  He read it over, nodding at Greg's observations.  "Very interesting," he decided, putting him aside to call him back the next night for a real interview.


Grissom looked at the young man sitting slouched across from him, giving him an odd look.  "Comfortable?"

"Yeah, my back hurts.  Sorry," he offered, sitting up straighter.  "Every now and then my back decides to go out on a date without telling me first, and then it'll come home drunk and limp and crashes, then it'll be fine with a hangover the next morning."

"Spasms?" Grissom guessed.

"Former construction worker," he offered in return, grinning at him.  "I'm not a bad guy, Mr. Grissom, but I'm not the staid, uptight, stick-up-the-butt person that did my very first interview.  I had a really hard time not laughing at him.  Seeing Greg after that shows I was right about the rest of you not being that uptight."

"I understand, every now and then I get the same feeling around Ecklie," he admitted, finding he liked this young man.  "So, Greg tells me you know a lot about guns?"

"Yes, sir.  I've used them a lot in the past and I'm actually pretty good with guessing ballistics sizes just from the bullet itself.  That's why I went this way instead of DNA, that and the science for DNA techs is a *lot* harder."

Grissom nodded.  "It is," he agreed.  "Greg's used to be ours."

"I kinda guessed that.  He's probably one of the smartest people I've ever met.  Including you, but he hides his behind the fun guy exterior."

"That's true," he admitted with a small grin.  He definitely could get to like this guy.  "I heard something about a rocket?"

"Yeah, as an Advanced Ballistics 2 class project, I got to fire a land-to-air rocket into a concrete and brick filled building to see the damage it caused, and then the class got to put it back together again with the Advanced Field Techniques class.  It was kinda a rush."  He beamed at him.  "The others couldn't handle the recoil and a few of them were deathly afraid of guns.  I'm not."

"I can tell.  I did the background check and I came up with a classified military file?"

"Um, you did?" he asked, looking a bit confused.  "Did it have a year on it?"  He nodded, handing over the report he had gotten.  Xander snorted.  "Stupid military wannabes. There was a group who kinda, um, tried to take over my town for experiments and the like," he offered, handing it back with a small wince as his back stretched.  "They didn't like me; I wasn't very compliant.  As a matter of fact, I and my friends were about enemy number one to them since we kinda, um, drove them outta our town."

"I see."  He made a note of that.  "Care to share details?"

"Not really.  Wanna hold my hand when I have nightmares about 'em?" he offered.  Grissom laughed at that.  "Not kidding.  But thanks."  He smiled, a true, bright smile of friendship.  "If all your crew are like you, I could easily get along with them.  That Warrick guy seemed pretty decent.  Greg seems like a great guy.  Catherine was kinda a hottie but I'd never hit on anyone I work with.  Only evil people want to date me."

Grissom shook his head.  "We're not all like Greg and Warrick.  We have a female CSI who does field work.  She's off tonight."

"Okay.  Not an issue.  I get along well with females.  I actually have more problems getting along with guys most of the time.  Most of my friends have always been girls."

"Don't call Sara a girl to her face," Warrick said from the doorway.  "She'll hit you.  Boss, needed out front.  Catherine's brakes were tampered with."

"Give me ten."

"I can come back," Xander offered.

"Two questions," Grissom countered.  "If you don't know an answer, will you ask?"

"No, first I'll try to guess based on what information I have and then ask someone more knowledgeable to check my answer to make sure I'm right or to justify what I thought so I can learn better.  I prefer an educated guess system then learning whether I'm right or not."

"I can accept that.  You don't plan on hitting on anyone you work with?  We've had some problems in the past."

"Are any of your people psychos, serial killers or rapists, murderers, or otherwise bad guys?"  Grissom slowly shook his head.  "Then they wouldn't like me anyway and I may flirt but I'm a tease.  I never follow through.  Then again, if you catch me dating, do a background check immediately," he offered with a small grin.  "It's usually necessary."

Grissom smothered a laugh at that but Warrick let his out.  "Well, you're original.  We don't mind flirting but watch it with Sarah."

"Sure, not an issue.  I can deal with limited amounts of stick-up-the-butt people but not be totally around them every day for the rest of my life."

"That's fine," Grissom said, standing up and shaking his hand.  "Let me introduce you to Bobby, he's our night shift ballistics guy.  I'll let him watch you tonight and do your final evaluation.  Then I'll make a decision between you and the other person who got this far."

"Great.  Do I need a lab coat?  I've got mine packed in my trunk in an airspace bag."

"Please," Grissom agreed.  He walked around the desk and walked out with Xander, stopping in the ballistics lab.  "Bobby?" he called.  The tech looked up from his microscope.  "This is Xander.  He's a candidate for our intern position.  Give him tonight."

"Sure," he agreed. "Got a lab coat?"

"In my trunk in an airtight bag.  Give me five minutes?"

"Sure, come right back here," he agreed.

Xander nodded, beaming as he followed the others out to where the Tahoe had crashed into the front of the building.  He whistled.  "Brake fluid leak back here, boss," he called, pointing at it as he walked past it.  "Way gushing too."

"Thank you, Xander.  Be careful tonight."

"Of course I will be."  He grabbed the airtight bag and walked back inside after closing his trunk, heading back to the lab, only getting lost once.  The woman he accidentally walked in on grinned at him and pointed next door.  He walked in and put the bag under the jacket rack, opening it and taking out his labcoat, his box of gloves, and his glasses.  "Hi again," he said cheerfully.  "Where am I going and what'm I doin' tonight?"

"First, let's go over some basics," he said, looking the boy over.  "No latex?"

"These are a bit thinner but better material so I have more sense of touch.  I used to work construction so I use these so I still have that."

"Interesting."  He took one of them to look over.  "These are nice.  Expensive?"

"A bit but I'm more than willing to buy my own or use the standard latex when it's not a touch-sensitive thing.  I did my minor in trace."

"Very interesting."  He walked him over to their cabinet of guns and watched as the boy's face lit up.  "Have a few of your own?"

"Yeah, I've got two nines, three revolvers, one thirty eight and the others are forty-fives, and a few pieces of artillery.  Plus I have some speed loaders for the revolvers and the stuff to pack my own bullets."

"That's cool.  What do you target with most?"

"One of my nines."  He put on his glasses and pulled one of the revolvers down to look it over.  "This baby is dusty.  Is it part of my stuff to clean 'em?"

"It will be if you get the job," he said dryly. "Artillery?"

"Yeah, um, claymores, a launcher with some small anti-tank rockets, and a LANS I bought in LA last year."  He grinned at him.  "None of which are in this state and I'll be putting them into storage when I come."

He looked at him.  "How did you get those?"

"It was kinda necessary in my last life.  I also have demolitions experience and I make a pretty bomb for the classes too."

Bobby stared at him for a minute.  "I think you might be overqualified for this job, Xander."

"Yeah, but I'm missing an eye so I'm not qualified to go into SWAT.  That was my first choice. I do really well with bombs.  Got the manuals at home."  He leaned closer.  "Before you ask, no I'm not from Montana, and yes, I do have a license which I'll be switching over."

"Good to know," he offered.  "Come over to the scope.  We're comparing ballistic samples from a test-fire and a round pulled out of a body.  Have you done an autopsy?"

"One of my buds at school was a pre-med and working in the cadaver lab. We used to have lunch in there all the time while he was putting things back together again. I'm hoping some of those surgeon wannabes learn a lot better because they made a gross mess of the bodies they were working on."  He blew the dust from that gun toward the firing pit tank so it wouldn't land anywhere delicate then put that gun back and went over to help him.  He looked then looked at him.  "They're different calibers."

"They are," he agreed, coming back.  "Can you tell why?"

"Well, the one on the left is a thirty-eight from a revolver.  Unless I'm mistaken it's a German brand but I can't remember the name of them.  The other is from an automatic and it's a nine mil.  Six to the right," he said, considering it.  "Smith and Wesson is usually five but I heard their newest prototype is a six.  Um, Luger is a six to the right, right?" he asked, looking at his soon-to-be mentor, who could only nod and grin at him.  "Sorry, I like to make educated guesses and then ask for confirmation.  And if I must to justify why I thought that.  If that's okay with you?"

"Sure," he agreed.  "I like you, Xander.  You don't pretend to know things.  That puts you ahead of the last kid I saw."  He looked around.  "Ever run a mass spectrometer to find out why that's not copper and not steel?"

"I have and I can tell you now it's copper inside, that's why it's so squishy, but the exterior was probably platinum or gold, which is still soft but effective, which means someone else was packing at home, probably melting down his bling."

Bobby grinned.  "Nice work, but we'll need official confirmation of that."

"Sure.  Can I do the test-fire to get a clean sample so you don't compromise this one?"

"Go ahead, we warn around here."

"Sure."  He picked up the gun and waved it and Bobby nodded, watching as he checked for ammo then walked over to the firing spot.  He put on earmuffs.

"Firing one," he shouted, then shot into the tube.  He ejected the empty clip then checked the chamber before putting the gun back beside the microscopes and pulling the bullet out with the magnetic tipped rod.  He sat down to look at it, then picked up a small vise clamp, getting it held tightly but not enough that it could be damaged, then a chisel and a hammer.  He split off the tip of the bullet and held it up for review, getting a nod.  Then he put it into a small sample bottle and walked over to the chemistry lab, smiling at the pretty lady in there.  "Hi, I'm a Xander intern.  I'm using the mass spec if you're not."

"Go ahead," she offered, watching as he put the sample bottle in and started the machine, smiling at his humming along with her music.  "You like jazz?"

"I'm not picky.  Usually I'm a rock or country boy, depending on my mood."  He beamed at her as his printout came out.  "Yes, I was right," he said happily, nodding to her.  "I'm hoping for the ballistics spot but I did a minor in trace if you need me.  I'm very accommodating and nice, but I don't date my coworkers so even if I flirt, I don't *flirt*," he offered. She laughed and shooed him off.  "Thanks, hope to see you again tomorrow night."  He took back his sample bottle and the print-out, walking past the older guy in the doorway.  "Hi," he said, smiling at him and heading back across the hall.  "Here you go, I was right, platinum outside, copper inside, and a bit of diamond dust in the platinum.  He's melting down his bling."  He presented the report with a flourish and a bow.  "What else may I do before I clean off the pitiful dust, sir?"

"Go ahead and clean.  We're waiting on our next sample," he admitted, grinning at him.  He saw Hodges hovering in the hall and nodded him in.  "Xander, this is Hodges, he runs trace."

"Hey," he said, waving at him.  "I'm a Xander person.  I did trace as my minor so if you need me to come hold corners of stuff, I can."

"No, I'm usually okay with that," he admitted, staring at him. "How old are you?"

"Twenty-seven."  He gave him a long look.  "I'm fun to fill the air with happiness so others can't be depressed around me.  Otherwise I might get depressed again and start to date more evil people.  My last was a serial killer."

"Oh."  He nodded once.  "Okay then."  He looked at Bobby, who was snickering.  "You like him?"

"He's fun, he's knowledgeable, and he's got artillery at home.  He makes educated guesses and then asks for verification if he's not sure.  He's got a sense of humor.  That alone makes him better than the last one."

"Fine," Hodges agreed.  "Just don't prank me."

"I don't prank others, Hodges.  I hated being the butt of them when I was a teenager."  He looked at him.  "I could have went security but I didn't think they'd want a one-eyed guy either."

"You only have one eye?"

"Yeah, the other got popped by a dirty fingernail of someone attacking me and my friends."  He straightened up to look at him.  "I can be serious and I am when it matters, but I will lighten the room up with a joke if possible.  I'm a nice guy, just give me a chance, okay?  I even occasionally treat for sodas."

"Fine," he agreed, heading back to his lab.  That was very interesting.

Xander walked over to Bobby.  "Is he one of the stick-up-the-butt political people?" he hissed.

Bobby looked at him and nodded.  "That describes him perfectly on the bad days," he offered.  "How well do you work with women and gay guys?"

"I don't have a problem, I look on occasion but not real often myself.  Most of my friends have been girls so I get along better with the female side of the gender divide than I do the male side most of the time.  I'm not exactly the sportiest of sporty guys."  He shrugged and went back to cleaning, finding the towels, the cleaning oil, and the rod quickly.  "These, right?"

"Yeah, those," he admitted, watching him work for a few minutes, then going to find the CSI who needed this report.  "The new guy's cleaning weapons," he told Nick.  "Hey, Gris?"  Grissom looked over. "I like him so far and Hodges can tolerate him."

"Then he's hired unless he screws up too badly," he offered.  He went back to his sample collecting.

"Sure."  He went back to watch the boy some more, finding him digging out another bullet.  "New case?  Or just playing?"

"Had a stuck round, I did a test-fire to see if I could unstick it after using a bit of gun oil around the edge of the chamber," he admitted, holding up the bullet and the casing, then the gun.  "Sorry, didn't mean to break protocol. I yelled first."

"That's fine. I hadn't remembered one being stuck in there."  He took the gun to look over.  "That's actually not a bad job, Xander.  No damage done."

"Thank you, sir."  He handed over the bullet and the shell casing then got back to his cleaning job.  "This is kinda my form of meditation so yell if I start to hum annoying stuff."

"Sure."  He sat down to mark the report about what Xander had to do to clean this gun then let him see it so he could fix it and then sign it.  Xander glanced it over, corrected one spelling mistake he had made then signed it and handed it back.  "Thank you."

"You're welcome."  He got back to cleaning, only humming a bit now and then and it was musical at least.

Greg came in a few minutes later, holding up the report.  "Platinum?"

"Someone melted their bling," Xander said absently, blowing down a barrel.  "This one's been scrubbed with wire.  It's got burrs.  Want me to mark that down?"

"Sure, please," Bobby agreed, looking at Greg.  "He even cracked the bullet very well to run the mass spec on it."

"Wonderful.  I knew he'd be good at this when Gris had me check him.  Has he done an autopsy?"

"One of my buds back at school was pre-med and working in the cadaver lab.  We used to have lunch while he put them back together again."

"Eww," Greg noted.  "Very eww."  He shook his head but he was grinning at Bobby.  "Like him better?" he asked quietly.

"Much, and Hodges seems to tolerate him."

"Damn, are you a saint?"

"Not that any demon has told me, but I could stand a cult in my esteemed image," Xander joked back.

Greg snickered at that. "I like you, kid.  You could fit in well here."  He went to tell Grissom what the kid had found and tell him what Bobby had said as well.  "The kid is cleaning the stored weapons and he's volunteered to make notes on anything he finds," he reported, handing over the report.  "Xander said someone was melting their bling for their bullets."

Catherine snickered.  "He's from where?"

"Sunnydale originally but he went to UCLA for his forensics."

"Sunnydale?" Grissom asked.  "Where do I know that name from?"

"Massive earthquake, wiped the town out," Warrick reminded him.  "We were watching it in the break room as rescue teams got there, found most everyone on a bus."  He looked at Greg.  "How's he doing?"

"He's cleaning the stored guns and offered to write a report about an irregularity."

"Hey, he does paperwork, I'm impressed," Nick admitted.  "He quirky and odd?"

"Sense of humor," Greg told him.  "Kinda like mine."  He accepted the bagged samples.  "Anything else I can run back there for you?"

"Get a sample of the brake fluid for him, Sarah," Grissom called.

"Sure, Gris."  She scooped some up and handed it to him.  "Thanks, Greg."

"Welcome."  He walked his burden back there, running into Xander in the hallway but the guy only took some of his bags and carried them after him.  "Thank you," he offered, taking them from him.

"I only touch bagged things," he quipped.  "I don't want to get anything else dirty."

Hodges looked at him.  "You look like you took a bath today."

"I did, about four of them."  He smirked and walked off, going to finish his hunt for a bottle of soda and go back to his cleaning.

Hodges looked at Greg. "Did you know he only has one eye?"

"I didn't, but it doesn't really matter in that field," he noted. "He said he didn't want to do field work when I asked him."

"That's smart of him, he won't get shot at."

Bobby came in.  "Xander?"

"Went to the break room," Greg told him.  "He helped me heft and tote."

"Sure.  Oh, did he say anything about a demolitions license?"

"No, but I didn't ask," Greg said with a small shrug.  "He does?"  He nodded.  "Wow.  That'll come in handy I guess."

"He does?" Hodges asked.

"I used to wanna be SWAT but I can't do that with a physical disability," Xander said from the hallway.  "Sorry, boss, but Greg looked like a beast of burden."

"That's fine," he agreed.  "Go ahead and start cleaning again, Xander."  He nodded, going back to it.  "He's pretty good.  He's got artillery at home."  He grinned and went back to watching the boy.  "Word of advice, Xander.  There's six people around here you can't be yourself around.  Ecklie, Hodges, Sarah, and the day shift DNA tech, fingerprint tech, and supervisor.  Got it?"  He glanced over and nodded.  "Good boy.  That'll keep you out of the most trouble.  Sarah's kinda uptight. She does only the job and doesn't really like to joke around.  Nick and Warrick have their moments, but they usually have that nasty stress stuff at that time."

"That's fine.  We've all had days like that," Xander agreed.  "I remember quite well having to deal with moments like that at home and biting someone's head off. I'll make allowances but I may pout if they get too mean.  I do a mean impersonation of a kicked puppy, or so I'm told."

Bobby laughed at that.  "I'm sure you do."


Xander presented Grissom with the sealed envelope Bobby had given him.  "Here you are, sir, and the three reports.  I was cleaning guns and found a few with some problems.  Bobby said I should give these to you as well."  He stepped back and stood at parade rest, hands behind his back.

Grissom opened the envelope and smiled at it, then looked at the three reports.  "We usually like these in plain english, Xander."

"Yes, sir, I would for anything going to court, but for inner-office stuff I thought I might be able to make it a little bit less dry and humorless. A Xander without humor is one who needs to be watched for sharp, pointy things."

Grissom snorted at that, looking up at him.  "Well, I think we'll take you.  There's one other person to interview, but Bobby liked you.  Greg, Catherine, and Warrick liked you."

"Hodges liked me, I had to come help him hold stuff because he ran out of double sided tape," he offered.  "He said I was at least not fidgeting, not rude, smelly, or brash, and I didn't try to prank him or make fun of him.  He did ask me if I was gay and I had to point out that I usually liked women but about one in every ten thousand men or so I could see myself with, but they had to give good backrubs.  He just gave me an odd look and told Sarah that her report was nearly done as she walked past.  She gave me an odd look as well, but I'm not quite sure why unless she was listening at the doors."

Grissom smiled at that.  "I'm glad. Like I said, I've got that one last interview to do.  If she doesn't make it past Bobby, you're it.  I know that you said you could start next month, but Bobby's going on vacation.  Can you start sooner?"

"Yeah, but it'll take me a few weeks to find a place to live and all that.  I've got to put my artillery into storage so I don't get busted for carrying it over state lines.  I've got to get my demolitions license switched over as well and my CPR card renewed.  I can do that when I get back however.  It'll probably take me a week or so to do the moving stuff and find a place at the least, two weeks at the most."

"Two weeks would be fine.  That makes it the third?" he offered.  Xander nodded that he could be there then.  That was actually two weeks and three days.  "Thank you, Xander.  I'll call you tomorrow night to let you know if you got it or not.  So far, you're it."

"Thanks, Mr. Grissom. I like you guys. You guys could appreciate me."  He snapped off a salute and a wink.  "I'm gonna go dancing now.  Have a good night and easy crimes."  He walked out, handing over his visitor's badge at the desk, sidestepping the detective walking his way.  "Sir."

He stopped to look at him.  "Who're you?  I saw you earlier."

"I'm Xander Harris," he said, shaking his hand.  "I wanna be the new ballistics intern."

"Oh.  That's fine then, just wondering.  I'm Detective Brass."

"Yes, sir, I heard someone muttering about you and your iron underwear of doom earlier," he offered with a grin.  "Do you spank hard when the time comes to whip someone?"

Brass stared, then burst out laughing. "I like you," he admitted, walking off shaking his head.  He ran into Bobby in the halls.  "I like that new kid."

"Grissom has one more interview," he said tolerantly. "I like him too. He's not afraid of paperwork, asking questions, and doesn't play stupid or helpless."

"Good," he agreed, going to talk to Grissom, handing him the file he was carrying. "I like that new kid.  He just told me someone was muttering about my iron underwear and asked if I spanked hard when I had to whip you guys."

Grissom groaned and shook his head.  "Xander is very unique," he offered.  "But he's good at what he does and he has a real love of guns.  Also a demolitions license."

"Ah, that's the kid.  SWAT's captain said he had talked to a kid coming out of a CSI tracked program about whether or not he could certify with them for disarming bombs even though he had a physical disability."

"He does?"

"He's missing an eye," Bobby said from the doorway.  "Grissom, I swear if you hire that bimbo over Xander, I'll quit."  He went back to work.

"I still have to interview her, she might not be so bad," Grissom said dryly, leaning back so he could read this new file.  "What's this?"



"I'm not real sure," he admitted.  "That's your job," he said fondly, leaving it in his capable hands.

"Sarah," Grissom called.  She stuck her head in the office and he waved the folder.  "Here, Cannibals."

"Gross," she said, but she took it.  "Who was that guy helping Hodges?"

"Xander?  He's the new ballistics intern unless I like this next person better.  Why?"

"He seemed kinda jokey and light," she said bitterly.  "He was even trying make Hodges laugh."

"Some people are like that, Sarah, you have to learn to get along with them," he said patiently.  "He's a nice guy with good qualifications and he pulls his own weight."

"Fine.  At least I won't have to deal with him every day."  She walked off, going to read the folder and start working on it.


Xander walked in his first night, taking his new, shiny badge from the receptionist and pinning it on his belt.  "Thank you," he said with a grin, handing her one of the chocolate flowers from his bunch.  "Sugar free," he offered as he walked off.  He ran into Hodges first and beamed at him, handing him one.  "Sugar free.  Just in case you're diabetic."  He kept one for himself and put the rest in the break room on the table, making the guy in there give him an odd look. "My first night, I thought I'd contribute to dinner.  They're sugar free so no one should have any problems with them.  Is Bobby in yet?"

"Probably in another half an hour.  Who're you?" Nick asked.

"Xander," he said, shaking his hand.  "The new ballistics intern."  He grinned.  "I'm a nice guy and I flirt, but I don't mean anything by it if it offends you.  Disclaimer in place, do I get a locker?"  Nick nodded.  "Cool.  Am I already assigned one?"

"Gris has it."

"Thanks. He in his office?"

"Yeah, but so's Ecklie."

"Eww.  Sure."  He went that way, taking one of the flowers with him.  He didn't hear yelling so he tapped gently, smiling at the man who opened the door.  "Sorry, didn't mean to intrude.  I didn't hear voices so I thought the meeting might have been done with.  I can wait," he offered.

"What's up, Xander?" Grissom asked.  He accepted the flower with an odd look.

"Sugar free chocolate.  I thought I'd contribute to dinner.  Do I get a locker?"

He searched his desk, coming up with the paper for the kid.  "Bring your own lock tomorrow."

"My bag's in my car with one," he promised.  "It's got a key so I'll give you the spare later."  He saluted.  "I'm off to do that and get changed.  I'll wait in ballistics for Bobby."  He nodded politely at Ecklie.  "There's some extras in the break room if you wanted one, sir."  He walked out, going to get his bag and then go back to his locker.  He ran into Greg and Warrick in there.  "Hey," he said happily.  "I brought chocolate roses for dinner."

"Cool," Greg agreed, grinning at him.  "Nick told us."  He looked at the locker, then at the one that was noted.  "That one's in use unless Sarah quit?" he asked Warrick.

He took the paper and nodded, leading him down the row.  "Here you go, Xander.  There's an extra one but it's faint.  Gris's pen is on the fritz again."

"Thanks."  He opened it and dusted it with his handkerchief, then set about putting his bag into it.  His extra labcoats and the plastic bag they were in got hung up.  His little bag of necessities, like soap and shampoo in case he had to pull a long shift went on the shelf.  A picture got put on the door.  His spare sneakers went into the bottom.  His spare outfit was folded on top.  His sets of scrubs in their airtight plastic bag were put on top of them, then he pulled out the lock and closed the door after grabbing a lab coat.  He locked his locker and pried off a key, putting it in his pocket and fixing the number on the slip of paper with the pen in his labcoat pocket.  He slid into his jacket and looked at Warrick, who was staring.  "Sorry, I might have overpacked, but I'd rather be prepared for longer shifts and things to happen."

"Not a problem.  Why scrubs?"

"Because back at school we had to work in some sterile environments sometimes.  We had one guy who was making his bullets out of uranium.  Those are sterile and packed in an airtight bag in case I need 'em or in case someone needs 'em and I'm here.  Besides, they come in handy when you get goo on you.  Or slime."  He shrugged and headed back to the lab, sliding the key under Grissom's door on the way past.  He got his soda and headed into the lab, running into his new boss.  "Hey."

"Hi again.  You look prepared.  That's good, we had a gang-banger event last night.  Lots and lots of nines."

"Sure, make my day," he said happily, settling in to catalog characteristics while Bobby did the test fires for comparison.  He even did the pictures for the files.  When he was done, each envelope had a paper stapled to it and an enlarged view of the bullet.  He looked at his boss, who only smiled and shook his head.  "Warrick was wondering why I had a set of scrubs in my locker."

"Why do you?  We don't usually get that dirty."

"Yeah, but we had a guy using uranium at school."

"Oooh," he said with a wince and a head shake.  "Contaminated?"

"Oh, yeah," he said dryly, waving a hand around.  "I learned how to scrub the proper way that day."  He got up and looked at the weapons.  "Need any more test fires?"

"No, we're good.  Come compare."

"Sure."  He came over with the stack, getting in to look at the bullet under the scope then do a preliminary sort, putting them in piles.  "That way we can check faster."

"Sure, kid.  Works for me.  Pictures are easier than bullets sometimes."  He watched him work, nodding at Grissom as he stuck his head in. "We're comparing."

"Sure.  Pictures?"

"Handier for mockups," Xander said absently, moving that bullet aside and selecting the next one.  Bobby put that bullet back into the sleeve and watched as Xander marked which gun this one was from on the pictures and the reports he had done already.  He got finished and presented the pile to his boss.  "There you go.  Two don't go with any weapon that I could see.  Unless I miscounted grooves.  One did have very faint grooves, but none of the test fires did, and the other had seven to the left, and none of the test fires did."

"Good job," he offered, checking a random few.  He nodded and put them aside.  "Very good job.  Gris, this case is Nick's?"  He nodded, going to tell Nick that they had a result for him.

Nick stuck his head in and looked at the piles.  "Whoa, that's a lot of paperwork."

"Enlarged photos to work from, reports on characteristics of each bullet and which gun it came from, all stapled to the sample's envelope and then retaped once I got done with them," Xander reported.  "Two aren't matches to anything so if they're from your case, it's a hiding and shy weapon."  He handed over the stack with a grin.  "Got any more for us?"

"Um, the doc has three coming out of a body," he offered.

"Sure."  He went that way, going to collect samples.  He knocked on the swinging door first.  "Doc, Nick said you might have samples for Bobby and I?" he offered quietly.

"I do, come on in.  Been to one of these before?"

"I had a friend in pre-med who was doing his workstudy in the cadaver lab putting parts back into the right spots," he said as he walked in, staying out of the way.  "We used to have lunch in there.  I've seen plenty of guts."  The doctors both looked at him and he grinned. "Yes, I'm odd and fun, but knowledgeable and cute."

The older doctor smirked at him.  "I can see that.  Here you go.  Two bullets."

"Nick thought three.  Should I wait?"

"The third's in tiny pieces," he offered, handing over a second tray.  "We separated those out."

"Sure.  Thank you, doc.  Yell and I'll come pick up if there's more."  He turned and walked out, nearly bouncing down the halls and grinning.  He walked into the lab, presenting them.  "Two full bullets and one little chunks of bullet."

"Go for it," Bobby said, waving a hand.  He watched as Xander carefully picked up the first one and used some saline solution from the cabinet to wash them off, then watched him hold it up to the light before putting it under the scope.  "Problems?"

"Unique scrunching pattern.  Never seen that before."

Bobby looked.  "Looks like it hit a thicker part of the skull."

"Yeah, I guess.  It's not as scrunched up as when they hit walls at least. That'd be one hard head."  He got back to work, humming quietly while he marked down notes.  "I'm thinking Smith and Wesson," he offered.  "Common groove pattern on the unsquished part, fairly standard automatic as well."  He got out of the way so he could be checked, moving to clean the second bullet and stared at it.  "No way.  This one went through something first," he said, putting it on the palm of his hand.  "There's no way unless that guy had armor plated skin that it could have done that in a body."

Bobby looked at it, then shrugged.  "Could be.  Compare and contrast, put that in your notes."  He sat back down. "You were right, that was a Smith and Wesson auto."

"Good me," he said happily, bending down to compare them. "Same swirly pattern of grooves.  That scrunching still bothers me.  That's not normal, right?"

"No, it's not," Bobby agreed.  "I'll ask to see who's case it is to see if there was body armor."  He stepped to the door and nearly ran into Greg.  "Who's case is under the knife?"

"Cat's.  Why?"

"Body armor?"

"Um, yeah, actually he was wearing chest armor. From what I heard, one through it, one to the head."

"Thanks."  He went to page Catherine to get particulars.  She came at a jog, so Xander held out the papers he had been making notes on.  "Body armor?"

"One shot to the head, one through the vest," she admitted.

"Between plates," Xander corrected.  "Minor scrunching from the kevlar fabric, but not enough to have hit a real plate and gone through.  Though, with the way the one in his head looked, he had a really hard skull or it was hitting something else first."  He got out of her way so she could look at them.  "Smith and Wesson automatic. Pretty standard, pretty cute, and pretty light for a man's gun.  Carries easily at the back, or in ankle holsters."  She gave him an odd look.  "You can't carry a bulky Eastern bloc gun under your armpit or on your ankle, they're too heavy and bulky.  These guys are designed for hidden carry and fairly light. They hide well under armpits or on ankles or thighs."

"Thank you, Xander.  Have one of these?"

He grinned. "No, I prefer blocky, bulky, Eastern bloc weapons.  They fit better in my hands and make me feel more manly."

She laughed at that and punched him on the arm.  "Thank you.  I'll check that second one.  What about the third?"

"Kibble," Xander said, pointing at the dish.  "I can try to recreate to make sure?"

"No, just clean 'em up and do your best.  Don't go to any heroics yet."  He nodded, going to get the saline again and rinse them off.  She looked at Bobby, who nodded and beamed at her.  "I like him."  She went to tell Nick what Xander had said, they had to find the gun and the guy.

"What about running it through the system?" Bobby asked.

"Too common.  No pin marks or casings.  You also can't pull a really clean picture of the grooves.  They're bent with the way they hit.  I'd say common ammo, cheap and easily available.  This guy seems to like cheap stuff.  They smelled like cheap cologne too."

"They did?"  He came to sniff a cleaned bullet.  "They do."  He carried it over to Hodges.  "There's a scent on the bullet.  Xander thinks it's cologne.  Can you run that for Catherine and Nick?"

"Sure," he said dryly, sniffing it.  "Aqua Velva I'm betting."  He went to run it through a computer system that could detect scents, coming back with a report and a nod.  "Aqua Velva."  He handed them both over.  "Nice catch on his part."

"Very.  Thanks, Hodges."  He headed to track down Catherine or Nick, finding him picking apart a chocolate flower.  "Where did those come from?"

"Your little lab monkey," he said with a grin.  "Something else?"

"Scented bullets."

"Cologne transfer?"

"Aqua Velva," he offered with a grimace.  "My little lab monkey found it.  Got any more?"  Nick tossed him the last flower and he grinned. "Thanks.  Have fun with this. He thinks the guy's pretty cheap and it's common ammo.  If you could bring me a casing, we could look for a pin impression."

"Thanks."  He went to find Catherine and tell her.  One of their suspects was drenched in Aqua Velva when they had questioned him.  "Xander found a good clue," he offered with a grin, letting her nibble a piece of his flower.  "There's cologne on them."  He handed over the report.

"I remember him," she said dryly.  "Stunk badly."  She stole another piece. "Those are fattening."

"Xander said they're sugar-free."

"Then he'll know to bring more next time," she said dryly, walking off with his flower.  Nick wasn't really a chocolate guy anyway.

"Hey," he complained.  "I needed that."  He went to rescue his poor chocolate before she ate it all, grinning at Brass as they passed by him.  "Gris is hiding in his office."

"I'm sure.  Who got the case I handed him?"

"Probably Sarah."  He stole the rest of his flower back and ate it before she could protest.  "I peeled the foil off.  You make more than me, you can buy yourself some."

"Do I wanna know?" Brass asked himself as he went to find Grissom.  "Probably not."  He looked in the lab, watching Xander do something with a rifling brush, shaking his head.  He definitely didn't need to know today.


The day before his first month was up, Xander and Greg were having breakfast.  Greg was checking on him, which was sweet, and had shown him their favorite place to go for pancakes and waffles.  "So," Greg said between bites.  "How's the lab?"

"Going well.  Bobby and I have a companionable working relationship.  He does a random check of my stuff about ever tenth case to make sure I'm not screwing up or anything."  He ate another bite slowly.  He liked real food other people cooked.  "We do pretty well but we can't agree on musical tastes.  I'm more a classic rock guy and he's not."  He shrugged one- sidedly and looked around at their fellow patrons, staring blatantly at one.  "Huh," he said quietly.

Greg looked then looked at him.  "It's just a costume from a show."

"Yeah, maybe," he said absently, getting up to go check.  "Hey," he said, grinning at the creature sitting at that table.  "Resident?"

"No, visiting," he said, looking up at the guy.  Then he swore, putting down his fork.  "I'm harmless."

"I know."  He sat across from him, staring at the human-looking face mask.  "SuperGlue?"  He got a nod.  "Hot water, man, soak it off."  He glanced back at Greg, then at him.  "How much trouble is there around here?"

"Almost none.  There's a resort for vacations.  There's a guy who keeps us all in line.  He's like the Godfather for the city."

"Even better."  Xander held out a hand.  "You don't worry me."  The demon shook it.  "You can warn them I'm in town and peacefully minded if you want."  He stood up and went back to his table but it was empty of all but his plate.  "Did he abandon me?" he asked the waitress.

"One of his coworkers came to grab him."

"Did he pay for my breakfast?"  She grinned but shook her head.  "Pity, it's the day before payday and he makes more."  He shrugged and sat down.  "Can I have more milk, please?" he asked in a little kid's voice.

"Sure, kid."  She went to get the pitcher and bring it out.  "You know about that stuff?"

"I'm from Sunnydale," he said quietly.  "I'm Xander."   She stared in open-mouthed horror.  He shrugged.  "I'm here on an internship.  I don't want trouble.  I'd love not to have to explain an apocalypse to anyone I'm working with," he offered quietly.  "I don't wanna go hunt or anything.  So unless there's trouble, I don't care."

"Thank you. My future baby thanks you too."

"I felt," he offered with a shy grin.  "Some day it'll wanna love me too because it's putting out bad guy vibes.  I'm guessing that's the sort of guy his daddy is."  She nodded, grinning at him.  "I'll expect to see you often when I get off shift.  I do tip too."  She smiled at that and walked off, leaving him to eat in peace.  That way he could worry in peace about something coming up to test him or kill him. He just hoped it wasn't at the station.  That could get really messy to explain.


Xander walked into the station that night and saw everyone staring at him.  "What?" he asked, looking down at himself.  "I had to do laundry," he said, looking at them again. "I know dress pants aren't mandatory but I didn't have anything else clean."

"That's okay, we like you anyway," Catherine assured him. "It's payday and you didn't call off?"

"No, I can get my check cashed tomorrow.  I'm not that desperate for money.  Yet.  I'm not that irresponsible. I used to run a construction crew, I know guys who did that."  He shrugged and went to get his coat and glasses from his locker.  He ran into the AV tech in there.  "Hey, Archie."

The AV tech, who was Asian but very fun and laughed at his jokes, looked him over and whistled.  "Well.  Hot date after work?"

"Nope, no clean clothes," he said dryly.  "Have to do laundry today."

Archie laughed and shut his locker. "I've been there myself, Xander.  Did you pick up your check yet?"

"No, not yet. I thought maybe they brought them around."

"Nope.  Go back to the front desk."

"Sure."  He put on his glasses and locked his locker again before heading that way, grinning at the very nice receptionist. "Do you have our paychecks?  My pitiful stipend should start this one."  He leaned on the desk while she looked.  "Harris."  She handed over an envelope and he grinned.  "Thank you, dear.  You have a nice night."

"You too, and Grissom is looking for you."

"Am I in trouble? Or was it just a general checking in to make sure I'm still alive?"

"I think the second.  He didn't look upset when he gave me that message."  She handed him another one as well.  "There you go."

"Thanks, dear."  He headed back toward Grissom's office, leaning in there after opening the door.  "You yelleth'd?"

"I did.  We have to do a first month evaluation."  Xander came in and sat across from him.  "How are you liking the lab?"

"I like it a lot.  Bobby checks on me about every tenth sample to make sure I'm not going wrong somehow.  He manages to do it without making me feel like an idiot or like he's sneaking behind my back to make sure I'm not an idiot."  Grissom smiled and nodded at that.  "I still like the work and it's not like it's too hard.  Even the days when you bring us thousands of bullets, it's not that hard.  Those are the days when I go back to the picture system however."

"I understand," he agreed.  "I saw that and it's helpful. It was also nice that you switched to normal paper and black and white for printing.  Thank you."

"Not an issue.  I know how expensive this stuff can be."

"Good.   Very good.  Xander, why did a young woman say your name on her call to 911 before she jumped to her death?"

Xander's mouth opened, then shut and he frowned.  "Who?  I don't know that many people here and almost no one knows I'm here.  My last ex is still hopefully in a psych ward."

"She is, I checked that first," Brass offered as he came in.  He handed over the photograph of the waitress.  "She jumped.  Her boyfriend said she jumped."

Xander looked at it, then up at him.  "She was pregnant."

"She was?" Grissom asked.  "I saw her the other day and she didn't look like she was showing."

"Some people don't show," Xander reminded him.  He shrugged.  "Could it be hormone related maybe?"  He stood up and stretched.  "As for why she called my name?  There's a small problem with what I used to do and she knew about that.  Her boyfriend has run against a few of my former friends in the past and we had a talk about how I'm here *peacefully* and I wished her the best of luck with the pregnancy.  I didn't think she was that far along yet."  He frowned again.  "I'm going to guess that the pregnancy probably wasn't normal, or that something was wrong.  She didn't seem to be too upset when Greg and I saw her yesterday."

"Did you leave when Greg did?" Brass asked.

"No I stayed to finish my breakfast and have some more milk because I don't have any food at the house.  Greg left while I went to check on someone I thought I knew.  Who wasn't who I thought," he offered, still frowning.  "I have no idea why she said my name.  Unless I was her biggest tip that day.  I tipped her five bucks.  I was pretty nice to her.  I respect waitresses."  He shrugged.  "Not a clue otherwise.  What did she say about me?"

"That guy, Xander, will save me," Brass read.  "It was in the background just before she hung up."

Xander grimaced, his face contorting while he thought.  "Maybe she thought I'd help her get away from her boyfriend."  He shrugged.  "I told her I was an intern and she knew where Greg worked."

"She's seen the whole unit a few times," Grissom told him.  "She knew that about all of us."

"Nick's my choice for white knight," Brass offered dryly.

Xander shook his head.  "Not really.  I have a reputation in many places as one for my ability to jump in and solve things."  He shook his head.  "Not a clue otherwise.  I never met her before yesterday. I'm guessing it had something to do with the baby."

"Fine," Brass agreed.  "I want you where I can find you, kid."

"Sure.  Need my home address?"

"Please."  Xander took a notepad and wrote it out, handing it over.  "Thank you," he said, looking at it.  "Readable even."

"I try now and then," he said dryly.  "Am I in trouble?"

"No, but we need to figure out why," Grissom reminded him.

"Hey, I'd like to know why too," he offered. "Man, I didn't even brag about what I used to do," he complained.

Brass looked at Grissom, who left them alone.  "Okay, kid, what the hell is in your past that you didn't admit to?"

Xander stopped moving for a second, took a deeper than average breath, and looked at him.  "I can tell you and you won't believe me.  I can show you and you might go on a drinking binge, or you can have nightmares.  Your choice, detective."

"How do you know I used to drink?"

"I didn't but that's the common reaction I seem to find." He rolled up a sleeve.  "What would you say that is?" he asked, pointing at the scar.

Brass looked.  "Teeth marks.  Human?"

"The ones below it?"

"Looks like canine bite."

"Same person," Xander said, rolling down his sleeves.  "Without prosthetics and no, those are fangs.  Well, were fangs."

"Fangs?" he asked, looking confused.  "Like kids playing dress up as vampires?"

Xander snorted and shook his head.  "No dress up needed, but he wasn't that old when he died.  What time is it?" he asked at the amused look.

"About eight. Why?"

"Is it dark yet?"

"Fairly so.  Again, why?"

"Then let's go.  You can bring Grissom if you want, but I can show you as long as you don't kick my ass for giving you nightmares."

"What are we talking about here?"

Xander shook his head and opened the door.  "Come on.  I'll show you since you didn't believe me."  Brass followed him out to his car and they headed for a spot Xander had already staked out when he had come in for his interviews.  "Technically I'm not allowed in there," he said, pointing at the bar.  "I think I can go in there and see if anyone knows anything as long as you're with me.  Do not reach for your gun, it won't do any good."  He got out, taking the keys with him.  "Come on.  You need to know."  Brass followed him, looking very confused.  The bouncers glared at him.  "Someone who was pregnant with a Frolanx demon's kid called my name on her call to 911 before she jumped.  I'm here for information and letting someone know, namely my boss, what the what is.  Get out of the way," he said calmly.  The bouncers didn't move and he sighed, pulling a stake and getting one in the chest.  "I said move," he told the other one.  "She called my name, that invokes me as her protector."  He shifted and Xander walked inside, heading to the bar, his stake back in the holder under his shirt.  "Hey."  The bartender went even more pale.  "A human working in a vamp club?"

"It's a job and I'm dating one," he defended.  "Why are *you* here, Knight?  You said you wanted peace."

"I do and I did even when someone called one me to protect her," he said dryly, sitting down at a suddenly open barstool.  "Frolanx momma-to-be jumped.  Called my name on the 911 tape.  This is my boss, he needs to know the lay of the land."

The bartender looked at the detective, then nodded.  "The waitress?"  Brass looked stunned.  "There's not many mother's who'd carry a Frolanx, detective.  They always die so the child can get out."

"I had forgotten about that," Xander admitted sheepishly.  He looked at Brass.  "He's a normal guy.  You can come closer.  Do not touch my boss," he warned the demon behind Brass.  It ran off.  He looked at the bartender again, then pulled out something and handed it over.  "When I'm needed, truly needed, to deal with something, give me some warning. I still want peace but she involved me."

"I understand, Knight.  What does the detective need?"

"Some information probably.  Proof definitely."

"Yo, Henry," the bartender called, waving someone over.

Xander looked at him.  "I didn't know your kind could be turned," he told the furry being.

"We can but it's not as much fun," he offered with a grin.  "You busy later?"

"Kinda, I'm on the clock at work, but someone invoked my protection.  This is my boss.  Can you kinda go grr for him?"

"Sure."  He vamped out and Brass moved, quickly, hand on his gun.  "Won't help you, sweetness, bullets don't kill us."  He went back to his normal face and danced off, taking his free drink as a reward.

"Like I said, fang marks," Xander said with a small smirk for him.  "Welcome to my life, Captain Brass."

He shuddered.  "You knew about this?"

"Not that Frolanx mothers always died.  It makes sense though.  They nestle in the intestines and then have to make their own opening out.  They don't go through labor."

"From what little I've heard, it was her time and she jumped.  He didn't tell her how it was getting out and I'm guessing that's why she made the call for help, before the baby took her over," the bartender offered.  "I can check to make sure."

"Please," Xander agreed.  "If her boyfriend gives you shit about it, tell him I wanna know."

"Sure thing, Knight.  Do we have bouncers?"

"One fewer."  He grinned. "I was restrained, he wouldn't get out of my way.  You guys know I'm not comin' in here for any reason short of an apocalypse or information."

"Thank you, Knight.  How long are you in town for?"

"That depends on whether or not my boss kicks me out of my internship."  He looked over as Nick and Greg walked in.  "They're my coworkers," he said dryly.  "Treat them nicely."

"The younger one's cute," he offered with a smirk for Greg as he came over.  "You turned, honey?"

"No," he said carefully.  "Nor do I want to."  He looked at Xander.  "You're who?"

"I'm the White Knight of Sunnydale and LA," he offered gently.  "Retired."

"Oh, good," Brass told him.  "So you did what?"

"Hunted," Xander and Greg said in unison.

He looked at Greg.  "How?"

"I dated this really nice girl named Faith there for a few weeks.  Kinky in the extreme."

"I knew her before she went bad," Xander sighed.  "Way back when I was in high school."  Greg nodded at that.  "Now you know why you should always do a background check of anyone who I'm dating."  Greg nodded harder, smirking more.  "The waitress died.  She invoked my protection on the 911 tape."

"Gris told us," he offered.  "Come on.  We'll go see the boyfriend."

"Sure," Brass agreed quickly, following them back to the kid's car.  "So, was this legal hunting?" he asked once Xander had them on their way.

"No but it saved lives.  See, in my former town, the guys like in that bar are...were driven to blood lust and stupidity.  Sunnydale had a thirty percent mortality rate yearly until my tenth grade year.  Then it dropped to twelve."

"That's still pretty high."

"Yeah, well, when you're drained dry by something and then used as a food source by others, it happens," he quipped. "We liked to save the world a lot and we hunted those things because it was necessary.  Then our town got sucked into hell as it was closing and I went to LA, where my reputation got overblown by someone who was very scared of me after I protected a girlfriend from them.  Then I went to UCLA with slaying on the side and retired the day I graduated."

"That classified military file?" he asked weakly.

"They came in to experiment on the town's demon population.  My group got upset and kicked their asses, destroying them and their made creature that was supposedly going to be the next super robot warrior."

"Oh, good," he said, sounding even more weak.  "That was real?"

"Yup, was," Xander said dryly.  "Like I said, most people go on a drinking binge for at least a day.  Some manage to convince themselves that it's not real.  Some don't."  He shrugged.  "You'll have nightmares.  We found the over-the-counter stuff works very well for this set you'll have.  Not too heavy and won't make it a habit right off, even if you need it for a week. I'm wondering how Greg really knew and if he knew I was me."

"You'd have to ask him that, kid.  Greg's mind is a bit off, like yours is," Brass offered.

Xander shot him a grin when he stopped for a red light.  "Love you too, detective.  Do you know how fun it is to steal military weapons to go fight stupid creatures who want to kill you?" he quipped.  He moved on once he saw the light was green, heading to where he knew the big guy lived.  He parked in front of the Tahoe and got out, heading after Greg.  The butler or whoever was answering the door went pale. "She invoked me when she called it in.  Let them in."

"Fine," he agreed, getting out of the way.  "Welcome to my house."  He looked at Xander.  "You wanted what?"

"Peace, but I got invoked.  I got invoked on a 911 tape.  I work with a CSI unit.  Think about that for a minute," he said dryly.  The demon shuddered.  "Baby?"

"This way, Knight," he offered quietly, leading him up the stairs.  He pointed at the little purple baby in the bassinet.  "There you go."

"Thank you."  He snuck over, moving the blankets a little bit.  "Ooh, you're adorable," he cooed, touching his chin.  "Yes you are, you're an adorable little demon. I'm sure your daddy is so proud and that your mommy is watching over you, yes she is," he cooed, looking at the ghostly form he could see.  "You invoked me," he said dryly.

"Sorry," she hissed.  "Wasn't planned. I panicked."

"I understand.  Fortunately I could take someone to show them proof.  He's adorable."  She smiled and nodded, hovering next to him.  "Just don't possess me," he said dryly when he felt her touch his back.

"I won't," she offered, moving off.

Xander looked at the father, who had been the one answering the door he guessed.  "My blessings on the child for his health, mental stability, and welfare."  The father beamed at him.  "Now you get to tell Captain Brass why she invoked me."

"Of course, Knight.  Thank you for not trying to kill him or me."

"I only hunt those who hurt others.  Remember that," he said dryly, staring him down.  "I don't wanna be upset with anyone and the bartender at Out of Focus has my new number."

"Very well.  If we need you, we'll call.  Only for the big things."

"Thanks.  I like being retired."  He grinned at Greg.  "Come see, he's an adorable baby."

Greg came over and sighed, grinning at it.  "You are very cute," he offered, patting him on the tummy.  The baby belched and made Greg chuckle.  "You're adorable."

"Thank you, officer."

"I'm a CSI," Greg told him.  "I dated Faith for a while."

"Ah. That explains that.  Are you a hunter?"  Greg shook his head.  "Then I respect your decision.  Thank you."

"Welcome.  So, what happened?"

"Our children do not come out like human ones do.  These have to come out on their own and usually end up killing the mother.  After she jumped, the baby made its way out of her stomach.  I'm sorry she caused so much trouble.  She panicked badly. I hadn't told her up to that point how the baby came out."

"I'd probably not tell them that either," Brass admitted.  He sounded normal but his face was still a bit expressionless.  "That's all this was?  A bad birth?"

"Yes, detective," he said respectably.  "I adored her.  I despaired for weeks when I found out I had accidentally forgotten the anti-conception spells and rites for that month.  I wanted to keep her for many more years.  I never wanted her to be hurt or die."

"I'm clueless here," Nick offered hesitantly.

"No, usually you find very good clues," Xander quipped, grinning at him.  "Just forget about it, Nick. Let it be Greg's scene and you're watching over his shoulder.  It was a jump but the baby made her do it because it wasn't coming out any other way."

"I can't do that, it's not right," Nick complained.

"We'll work on these reports together," Greg assured him.  "Where did she jump from?"  The demon pointed at an open window so he drug Nick that way, talking quietly to him, explaining what was going on.

"How do you know?"

"I dated someone else who hunted, who also knew Xander," Greg said quietly. "Xander, does Gris know about this?"

"I can't put demon slaying on a resume, Greg.  That's one of those things that would make someone on high put me on disability for life and give me pretty drugs."

"I think I want a few of those myself," Brass admitted dryly, glaring at the boy.  "Now I know, you're going to be called out now and then."

"Can I disarm bombs?  Please," he begged with a bright, goofy grin.  "I do them very well.  I'm not the fastest ever but I'm pretty good.  I've even been studying online."

"We'll see," Brass offered.  "I'll have a word with someone in SWAT.  Where's your weapons stash?"

"Mostly in LA.  I wasn't about to take artillery across state lines and have to have this talk with a Fed. They don't like me.  I have the feeling that one of them got into that sealed file and it said something like 'helped take down a pilot program that included mental reprogramming and behavior modification - not dangerous to humans but do not touch'."

"Does it?" the demon asked.

"Yeah, but in official-speak," Xander said bitterly.  "They thought I was just a goofy tag- along helper too," he said dryly, smirking at the demon.

"Well, the Initiative were military," he offered in return.  "Not a clue among them, Knight.  Did your slayer really date one of them?"

"She was at the stage where she was dreaming about the wedding and babies."

"Oooooh," he winced, shaking his head.  "I'm sorry."

"Yeah, but this was Buffy, dude.  She was like that with her dangerous guys.  It was better than when Rosenburg charmed her into nearly marrying Spike."

The demon burst out in giggles, ending up rolling around on the floor laughing.  "I want to see that!" he howled.  "Oh, Dark Lord, please!"

Xander smirked at Brass and gave him a little wink.  "My former life was hardly ever dull."

"I can tell.  You're going to have to tell Grissom about this, you know that right?"

"No, not really.  Must I shock and explode his world with this new information?"

"Probably," Nick called.  "He'll bug you until you do.  No pun intended."

Xander looked back at him.  "Nick, I don't do that anymore.  I'm retired.  Unless it's a world-ending emergency, or someone attacks me, it's not pertinent to anything in my current life or line of work.  Though I did learn a lot about guns and crossbows due to the job."  He looked at the demon.  "So we're cool?"

"We are, Knight, I will gladly work with the Faith-scented one.  It was not a murder and I can help him with that."

"Thanks," Brass offered, grabbing Xander by the arm.  "He is a cute kid.  Congrats."  He walked Xander back to his car.  "Yes, *you* have to explain this to Grissom.  And possibly the doc when he can't find out where she had the kid."

"That's easy.  I can find it and clamp it.  I'm still not supposed to be showing off or letting everyone in the free world know about these things.  It's like my secret identity."

"I can understand that and Greg will make Nick see that, but you still have to explain this to Grissom.  He'll keep on you until he knows and he won't be one who'll believe you just telling him."

"That's fine.  I call down to the bar later and warn them that Greg's bringing him in.  I don't wanna cause another panic."  He jingled his keys.  "Shall we?"

"We should," he agreed.  "The longer we wait, the worse it'll be."

"As always."  He got in to drive, heading back to the station.  Warrick was outside drinking some coffee, waiting on them.  "Grissom?"

"His office.  With Ecklie.  Again."

"Shit," Xander muttered.  "Where am I needed?"

"In the office with Ecklie," Warrick said dryly.  "What's going on?"

"In my former youth and stupidity I jumped into an urban warfare situation now and then.  Something from that just came back to haunt me."

"You, a ganger?"

"Hell no," Xander snorted, shaking his head as he walked.  "Not even close, man."  He walked into the lab first, getting his soda he had put in the fridge.  "Yes, I know what happened, no I can't talk about it, it's part of my former life," he told Bobby.  "It's nothing bad, but odd.  Greg knows.  Brass knows.  I'm off to see Grissom."

"Hit the autopsy lab first," Bobby ordered, looking at him.  "How odd?"

"Once upon a time I had to jump into an urban warfare situation."

"Oooh," he winced. "Understood.  Go talk to the doc first.  Then see Grissom, he said so."

"Sure.  Be right back," he quipped dryly, heading in that way.  He stuck his head in.  "Yeah, doc?"

"She wasn't pregnant, kid."

Xander walked in and put his soda carefully out of the way, then grabbed a set of clamps and looked in the hole, clamping something.  "Yeah, she was.  That's its exit hole."  He grabbed his soda, looking at him.  "I used to deal in the strange and unusual in an urban combat situation.  This ain't nothin'."  He shrugged and walked off, heading to the office.  He knocked and stuck his head in.  "I showed the doc, I'm back, Brass is safe, the guy who just lost his girl and gained a baby is cooperating with Greg, and I'm okay too."

"Get in here," Grissom said calmly.  "Close the door," he said when Xander hadn't.  "What's going on?" he asked once it was shut. "Fully."

Xander looked at him, then at Ecklie. "With all due respect, Director Ecklie, while it is in my power to admit to this, I'm not going to tell you.  I will tell my supervisor, Grissom, and I have told Brass.  They can write out the pretty reports."  Ecklie opened his mouth.  "I have a sealed military record," he said coolly.  "It pertains to that.  Do you really want them to visit *you* in the middle of the night?"  He shuddered and left after glaring at Grissom.  Then he locked the door and shrugged.  "I don't like him," he said quietly.  "It's within my power to tell you, show you, or let you forget about it."

"Tell me first.  I like proof but tell me first, Mr. Harris."

"My name is Xander Harris.  I'm also known as the White Knight of Sunnydale and later of LA.  I jumped in to help someone who dealt with paranormal situations when I was in tenth grade.  All those nasty things you used to be afraid of as a kid?  They're real and we hunted them," he finished.  "The demon who invoked my protection panicked.  She was pregnant, and with their kind, they can only come out one way.  They don't carry like normal humans in this case, they carry in the intestines.  That hole on her stomach was an exit hole.  I found the placenta for the ME so he could verify it however he wanted.  I'm not dangerous, anymore.  I retired the day I graduated. Unless the world is gonna end, to them I'm not here anymore."

"Okay.  You said you had proof?  That's a bit too extreme for me to wrap my mind around."

Xander untucked his shirt and took it off, letting him see the scars on his arms and chest.  "Yeah, I kinda do," he offered.  "A few claws, a few nibbles. A stab wound to the gut," he said, pointing at that scar.  "Greg knows where the local vampire bar is, and I've warned them he might be bringing you in tonight to show you more proof.  I've already caused a panic tonight and I'm not in the mood to cause more."  He looked at his boss as he stared at the marks.  "Needed to see any closer?"

"Those are bite marks."

"Yeah, they are.  My last girlfriend was using me as a food source.  She thought she was a vampire.  She found me hunting at a bar, tracking something that had recently attacked some kids."  He moved closer, letting him see them in the glow from his desk light.  "Now you know."

"I do," he admitted, looking at him.  "That sealed record?"

"The Initiative was a military project to use demons as foot soldiers.  It was basically a fun exercise in how to pull things apart painfully and how to cripple and maim effectively for the demons they targeted.  We kicked their asses, sir, and made them cry all the way back to the Pentagon.  They really don't like me and most Feds don't either."

Grissom watched as he put back on his shirt.  "You're carrying a stake."

"I grabbed it on the way into the bar.  I thought it might come in handy."

"Oh."  He sighed and looked at him.  "You should have put this on your application."

"As I told Nick and Greg, Grissom, I can't really put demon slaying on a resume.  Someone would see it and want me on pretty drugs and disability."

"Point," he admitted.  He stared at him.  "Your gun knowledge?"

"From that source," he agreed.  "It was an urban warfare situation and I did what I felt I had to do.  I'm not really sorry for most of it, but I do have some nightmares."

"Fine," Grissom agreed, waving a hand.  "What do you want me to tell Ecklie?"

"Do I care?" he snorted.  Grissom gave him a look.  "Tell him I got pulled into an urban combat situation and that I have a certain reputation from that.  The waitress heard about me when she met me and was in a panic so she invoked my protection by accident.  It'll probably mesh well with the reports, unless Nick talks about the new purple little baby with five arms."

"How does Greg know?"

"He briefly dated another hunter named Faith," he said dryly.  "She told him some but not all.  She did tell him about me but he hadn't made the connection."

"Fine.  Go back to work.  I'm assuming you told Bobby something?"  He nodded. "Fine.  Watch out for Ecklie and Hodges until I can explain this to Ecklie."

"I doubt Hodges'll make a big deal over me having to defend others.  If he does, well, maybe I'll go workout with the self-defense lessons."  He shrugged and went back to his lab, stopping in to look at Hodges.  "Someone thought you might have something to say about someone trying to get me to protect them?  If so, wanna go workout on the self- defense course?"

"No thanks," he offered, looking at him.  "What's going on?  All I heard was that you were a suspect in a homicide."

"She jumped and no, she wanted me to protect her.  She was in a bit of a panic."  He shrugged.  "In my youth I had to partake of some urban combat and some people remember that.  Some fondly and some not."

"Oh. That's all?  A former gang?"

"Not a gang, it would've been much easier if it were.  But basically," he finished with a grin.  "So, wanna be my workout buddy?"

"No," he snorted.  "Not my thing."

"Sure.  Gonna go back to work now.  Need help?"

"I'm good, Xander."

"Sure."  He headed into the ballistics lab and grinned at him.  "I'm back."

"Harris!" Ecklie yelled.

He stuck his head out the door.  "Talk to Grissom, sir," he called back.  He saw the Federal Agent shaped person and groaned.  "What?  It's not like I went around bragging, dude."

"We want you to come work for us," he said plainly.  "Your records are great."

"Dude, there's a sealed military file in my records.  Did you look at that?"  He shook his head.  "You should.  I'm listed as do not touch."  The agent gaped.  "I'm from Sunnydale.  If you have a clue, you'll know why."

"Oh, shit," he muttered.  "I heard about some sort of special program."

"That I and my friends canceled for you to stop the torture," he finished dryly for the agent.  "So yeah, I'm kinda listed as do not touch and I don't wanna be touched really.  We okay?"

"Fine, Mr.  Harris.  Thank you for your honesty.  Will you be staying here?"

"No, I'm looking for a smaller department, somewhere I can retire to and make safe in case I ever have kids."

"That's fine, sir.  Thank you."

"Welcome.  Have a nice night, Agent."  He pulled back in and shut the door, giving Bobby a look.  "Did you get that?" he asked quietly.  Bobby nodded.  "Wow.  I feel special."  He shook his head and got back to work, letting Brass, Grissom, and Greg deal with the spin for now.  He would be told if he were needed.


Grissom tapped on Xander's door the next day, giving him an odd look since he was in his boxer shorts and nothing else.  "Doing laundry finally?"

"Getting to the sorting," Xander admitted, letting him inside.  "Am I in trouble?"

"No. I told Ecklie I knew about the military file and you had given me enough to know you weren't dangerous.  He didn't really want to know beyond the fact that the agent told him you were correct, you're listed as 'do not touch'."  He looked at his young intern.  "So, I'm guessing this counts like military service."

"Not really.  Most militaries don't fight with stakes, crossbows, and swords now and then," he quipped, grinning at him.  "Then again, now and then we did get real weapons.  We looted the military a few times."  He nodded at the kitchen.  "You can get something to drink if you want.  I'll go find something to put on."  He headed into the bedroom area, coming out a few minutes later in pajama bottoms. He found Grissom looking at his coffee shelf.  "Sorry, old habits and all that," he said dryly, grabbing his favorite and starting a small pot for them.  Once it was perking along, he looked at his boss.  "I'm out of that life, Grissom, I promise.  Unless there's a true emergency, they're not gonna come near me.  I may not get much warning if it's one of those situations but I'm not young enough to hunt nightly anymore."

"I wasn't worried.  Will you get some warning?"

"Now and then.  Every once in a while it may be something like 'so-and-so conjured this demon, ain't it great and neat, and oh, look, it just ate a hotel'," he offered with a small grin.  "Those I probably won't get any warning on."

"Not an issue, Xander. I came so we could finish that evaluation," he said dryly, pulling out the form.  "Here, fill this out?"

"Sure."  He handed over the finished pot once he had taken out the grounds and settled in with his own cup to fill out the important form that would get him his next job.   He got done, having to answer one on the back, then handed it over. "Need milk or sugar?"

"No, this is good.  Greg brings in Blue Hawaiian."  He took a long drink.  "He uses a drip."

"I used to use a French Press but I cracked my last one," he explained, taking a sip.  "That's a bit stronger than I usually make, unless I'm pulling a study session."  He got himself some milk and poured a dab in, then put it away.  "Okay, next is the interview portion of our supposed talent contest?" he asked with a grin.  "Because we all know beauty contests are just so wrong when you're being paraded around in a bikini."

Grissom shook his head.  "You sound so much like Greg some days, Xander," he noted patiently.  "Let's do that next.  You can get comfortable if you want."

"Nah, I'd hate to flash you, boss.  I'm not usually that kinky.  I'm a doer, not a flasher."  Grissom let out a small chuckle at that and Xander led the way into his living room, but then had to get up to answer the door.  "Hey," he said, grinning at Greg.  "We're doing my interview for my first month eval.  Want some coffee?"

"Sure, I like good coffee," he admitted, walking inside and toward the kitchen he could see.  "Hey, Grissom."

"Is there a problem, Greg?"

"I was going to show Xander around the town if he wanted since we're both off today."

"Actually, most people think I'm a little off most of the time," Xander quipped, grinning at him.  "Milk's in the fridge.  I made it a bit stronger, like study strong."  He flopped onto the couch, arms behind his head, ankles crossed.  "Shoot me, boss, I'm a man, I can handle it."

Grissom gave him a long stare. "I'd never shoot you, Xander.  But handcuffs could come into play if you don't quit bouncing in Hodges's lab.  You upset him horribly when you used the whiteout this time."

"Sorry.  We ran out and I couldn't find any.  I'll replace his.  Just plain white?"

"Please.  No pink or anything."  He looked back at Greg, then at Xander again.  "We can do this tonight."

"With my luck, there'll be a mass shootout at a casino, and the cameras will be inconclusive."

"I so hope not," Greg said from the kitchen.  "Xander, why don't you have food in your apartment?"

"Haven't gone shopping yet. I was going to do that while I did laundry."  He looked over at him.  "Besides, it's not like I *cook*, Greg.  I'm good enough to boil stuff and fry stuff."

"That needs to change," Greg told him.  "Otherwise you'll get sick.  How did you do it in college?"

"I took the meal plan and took it home with me," he said dryly.  "That and Wolfram and Hart had a caff in the building for the other times and since I did security work...."  He smirked.  "It got real old real fast but it was survivable."

"You did security work?" Grissom asked.  "That's not on your application either."

Xander looked at him.  "It wasn't really *security* work, it was more like jack-of-all- trades when needed and defending the building when needed.  I did list them as an employer and under job title I put 'yes' and left it there."  Greg snickered at that, shaking his head as he sipped his cup of coffee.  He looked at it, then at Xander.  "I like it, get used to it."

"It's not too bad.  Perked?"

"Yeah.  I broke my french press."  He laid back down.  "I figured someone would ask about that some day.  No one seems to have caught it yet."

"What else did you do?"

"Plumbing, putting back up walls when they got knocked down by something, fixing the elevator a few times, painting, moving furniture, disarming the occasional bomb or device with biological chemicals attached, picking on the vampires, making my coworkers go mad now and then when they needed it.  Little things mostly."  He sat up to finish his coffee, then laid back down again.  "I was more than willing to explain it when asked but I didn't really have *a* job title."

"So I can tell."  Grissom shook his head. "All right.  How has your lab work been going?  I know Bobby said you don't ask many questions."

"Ballistics is pretty muchly an 'ABC' field.  A, you've got the gun manuals.  B, you've got bullets you can match to specific rifling patterns from the gun manual.  C, you get the small amounts of technology, like pin impressions and the databases.  Mostly you match, you collate, you do some occasional searching and filing.  It's not that hard of a field.  Fingerprinting is harder and it took me a while to get the hang in that class for my trace minor.  Trace was why I had so many stupid science classes that confused me.  Chem one was horrible.  I couldn't even get it with a tutor, had to take it twice, and the teacher sneered at me the whole time.  I almost told her I wanted to go into DNA to see her spit acid, but the others told her I was a gun guy.  I did manage to pull a decent grade the second time and then move on, fortunately away from her.  She had to leave," he said with a small smirk.  "She kept falling down and eating pavement.  That's when I found out how the chemistry labs were used to make PCP and acid."  Greg choked on that.  "It was her class's field project apparently.  She was testing it."

"I heard about that."  Grissom shifted.  "How did you get past it?"

"I figured out a way to translate it to a different subject I did understand.  Plus, my second tutor was working on a higher level of chemistry, and he related it back to gunpowder a lot."  He scratched his bare stomach.  "I passed and the others were much easier."

"It's not the hardest subject," Greg offered.  "Calc four was impossible for me."

"I only had to take Calc one," Xander gloated.  "And the teacher told me that if he saw me trying to sign up for two he'd tie me to the chalkboard and whip me bloodless.  We had a lot of engineering students and I kept moving it back to carpentry and buildings for them.  He was more a strings on a guitar and distant stars sort.  We did not get on well."

"I can imagine," Greg quipped, coming out to join them.  "Mine was all buildings and tension and things but I didn't get that so I struggled there until mine got into other fields.  How are you in robotics?"

"I took Robotics one and two," Xander admitted with a grin for his fellow geek.  "The teacher wasn't quite sure why, but he didn't protest too much.  I also took drafting as an easy elective to raise my GPA.  The teacher was amused when I created a round building that he said was impossible until I brought in detailed plans for one I'd seen close to my design online, but I had added some new elements.  I got an A for it and my Trace mentor said it was a cute work of art."  He looked at Grissom again.  "Sorry to ignore you."

"No, that's all right.  We were all deeply affected by our college years.  That's why I kept going back," he offered with a grin.  "Any ideas about advanced degrees, Xander?"

"Hell no," he said dryly and firmly.  "No more homework.  No more hundred and eighty dollar books, no more all night sleeping in the library because I just got done doing other stuff.  I'll keep up, I'll do continuing education, but no more degrees.  That's another bonus of looking at smaller departments.  It's not a mandatory."

"That's usually true, but there's also more people looking for departments like that," Grissom warned.

"Not really.  Not with my qualifications and my background in weapons," he said smugly.  "Plus, ya know, two for one deal with me and my minor."  He grinned at him then at Greg.  "So, how is the Blond Snape today?"

Greg choked.  "That so fits him," he gasped, coughing a bit.

"Who?" Grissom asked.

"Hodges," Greg gasped, shaking his head.  "He does act a lot like Snape."  He looked at Xander.  "You call him that to his face yet?"

"Yeah," Xander agreed smugly.  "He burst out in laughs and said it was probably appropriate and he would be that picky in his lab as well.  Though I could not brew potions in there."

"I still don't get it," Grissom said.

"One of the teachers from the Harry Potter books, Gris," Greg said, snickering now.  "Oh, I'm so going to tease him tonight."

"He's off tonight.  He had a doctor's appointment," Xander told him.  "Am I filling in for him tonight?"

"It's possible, or Nick can," Grissom offered.

"I don't mind," Xander said with a small shrug.  "That's why I took the minor and I might as well keep in practice.  This way I don't have to do a second internship."

"I'm surprised you didn't stay in LA. You'd have a lot more ballistics cases there and with more varied weapons," Grissom noted.

"No, I hate LA.  LA hates me and I hate that city.  All the people I worked with hated me for the most part.  I don't want to ever go back there.  I don't want to see it mentioned on TV.  The same as if certain people show up you'll see me doing my impersonation of a groundhog and ducking back into a deep hole at the sight of their shadows."  He suddenly had a bad feeling and groaned.  "Having said that, someone will probably be showing up soon.  If so, expect me to hide."

Grissom smirked at that.  "You'd hide?"

"Well, I'd try," he offered.  He shifted so he could stretch his back.  "So, boss, how am I doing now that my first month is over with?"

"You're doing well, Xander.  You do very well in ballistics and Bobby's reports are nothing but glowing so far.  Hodges had done a few on you as well and he was more cautious, but in his usual manner."

"So he got high praise in Hodges-lingo?" Greg taunted.

"Basically," Grissom agreed, standing up.  "One last question.  Do you want more hours in trace?"

"I probably should," he admitted.  "I've also been bugging Archie to see if I could learn off him.  I don't program worth a damn, even after my first few classes in it, but I am learning by watching him be brilliant.  Oh, I still need to get my demolitions license transferred over.  Who do I do that with?"  His phone rang and he grabbed it. "Yeah?"  He sat up.  "Captain Brass?  Is it a really big emergency or just an odd thing again?"  He grimaced, looking down at himself.  "Yeah, that' fine.  Let me toss on a shirt and shoes.  I'm in pajama bottoms so a t-shirt should be okay, right?  Sure, ten minutes."  He hung up and stood up.  "Hate to break up this party but there's a bomb and no one can find the usual guy.  I'm having a prophetic day."  He headed into the bedroom, pulling on the t-shirt he had been planning on wearing to the laundromat, then his sneakers.  He grabbed his keys, wallet, and pass on the way out, making it down to the street in time to see the cop car turn the corner.  "Hey, Greg, lock up for me," he called back, getting in when it stopped. "Hey, Brass sent you after me?"

"Yes, sir."  He sped off, lights and sirens going.  "Are you a member of SWAT?"

"No, I'm the new ballistics intern but I've got a demolitions license and a lot of experience," he admitted.  "Plus most of the manuals at the house."   They found the spot and he      hopped out, clipping his badge to the bottom of his t-shirt and tucking his wallet and keys into his single back pocket.  He walked forward, going to look at the monitor.  "That's nasty and dual layered at least," he said, frowning.  "Who's that guy?  The actual bomb tech?"

"No, he's on vacation and we can't find the other guy," Brass admitted, walking over to him.  "For obvious reasons, you'll be giving instructions."

"Sure.  I'm not the fastest but I do know what I'm doing."  He accepted the headset.  "Can you hear me, officer?"

"Yes, sir," he offered over the speaker.  "There's three minutes left."

"Crap.  Okay.  First, point the camera at the area just above and beside the display, I need to see the wires."  It was done.  "Good.  Clip the blue one leading from the battery, then the red one immediately after that.  You've got about ten seconds."  He did so and the timer stopped.  "Good.  Remove the plug from the bubble-gum colored mass.  That can make it spark off.  Yes, that one.  Good.  Got a screwdriver?"

"Yes, sir.  We had to strip it down to here."

"Wonderful.  Take off the display but turn it over *carefully* first.  I'm pretty sure this one has redundant explosives."  The guy did so.  "See that silver screw?  Loosen it slightly, then take off the display.  They're connected."  The guy did so, taking it halfway out then taking off the display.  That screw had been holding it from the back.  "Good job, officer.  Now, what's the display read on that gas canister?"

"Um, ten minutes."

"Even better."  He handed off the microphone and walked out there, taking the clippers and the bomb, sitting cross-legged on the ground with it.  "Okay, this is a multi-layer bomb," he instructed calmly.  "So if you get one to stop, the second one probably won't be because you don't expect it.  Screwdriver?"  It was handed over and Xander dismantled the gas canister.  "See, if it had went off, you'd have exploded this anyway, but it's got a secondary timer and a third set of explosives as well," he offered, finding that.  He tossed the gas canister aside and carefully moved down to the last level.  "TNT?  How cheesy are these idiots?" he muttered, pulling out the blasting cap and then the two sticks, cutting off the fuses and removing the wires stuck in the bottom.  He heard a click and winced, sighing.  He tossed over the dynamite and flipped it over, undoing that back panel.  He found a small blob of plastique and pulled it off, tossing it before the counter got below thirty.  Then he took out the battery and watched the capacitor discharge harmlessly.  He looked at the guy, who was sweating and fidgeting.  "No fidgeting on bombs.  It'll go off in your hands.  This is the only place you won't catch me bouncing," he offered.  He got back to work, dismantling the case, putting everything into separate bags, then inside safe boxes.  When he was done, he got up to gather the little ball of plastique, the two sticks of dynamite, and the gas canister, handing them to Brass.  "Here you go."  He grinned at the SWAT guys.  "The last time I saw one of those, it was the test the LA guys gave me."

"How did you know?" Brass asked, putting everything away.

"The canister was empty.  Most people who created it wouldn't have given that amount of time on the canister either.  Besides, the average mad bomber doesn't think past one backup usually.  There's exceptions but they've got OCD and want the really pretty bang."  He grinned at him.  "I realized I still had to transfer my demo license out here too."

One of the SWAT guys handed him the paperwork he'd need.  "You passed.  Where did you learn that?"

"Construction, necessity, some urban warfare," he offered with a grin.  "Practical experience.  Then I went in for my construction license and the guy thought I was a cop since I had one of my gun manuals with me to have something to read while I waited.  He gave me the full test and the books.  I'm kinda guessing when he figured it out he decided it'd be better to know what I can fully do, just in case."

Brass nodded.  "I can see why.  That was pretty impressive, but not really fast."

"Yeah, well, I'm not the fastest, I'm one of the best," he said smugly.  "Fast is nice but then my hands shake and I don't think.  I miss wires.  I'll never do that again."  Brass gave him a sideways look.  "One of the guys there caught it.  It was during a practice.  He wanted me to do it faster too."  He shrugged and grinned.  "Anything else today? I've got to do laundry, go to the range, and then head in tonight."

"Yeah, that's one thing," Brass offered.  "We need you to qualify on the range, kid.  All CSI's must if there's a chance they could end up in the field."

"Sure.  Any particular weapon?  Assault rifles?  Personal sidearm?  Revolver?  Rocket launcher?  Claymore?  Anti-tank gun?" he asked with a grin.

The SWAT guys around him chuckled and one patted him on the back.  "You're bragging now, kid."

"No, not really.  I've fired off all those and had a lot of fun.  I even got to do some of it for class," he bragged.  "I got to help with the artillery lecture for the ballistic techs.  We used part of my personal stash."  They all stared at him so he grinned.  "It's still back in LA.  I wasn't about to transport across state lines, guys.  I'm not that dumb."  He looked at Brass again.  "When and where?"

"We can go now then I'll take you home," he offered.  "Ecklie's about to jump through federal hoops and he wanted to know.  I got ordered.  Hence the bug I had Greg plant."

"Eh, not a problem, but if I have to come in rewearing clothes, then he's going to not be happy with the t-shirt I'm wearing."  He waved.  "Thanks, guys.  Call me anytime."  He followed Brass to his car and got in, heading back to the station with him.  "Okay, so what was the real reason?" he asked halfway back.

"The Feds wanted to know," he sighed.

"Wonderful.  I'm still not working for them."

"Good.  It'd probably eat you.  They cracked that military file."

"Did they sweat and puke?"

"Yup.  That's why they're scared.  Then Ecklie said you like to let out evil chuckles while working and Bobby said that you're a good guy but a little strange.  They're hoping you don't go psycho."

"Keep my former friends away from me and I'll be the most normal guy in the world, without liking sports," he quipped, leaning against the door.  "You can even point out that I'm good and wonderful, but I don't have the homicidal urges any longer.  I had enough of that in my youth."  They pulled into the station and he got out, waving at the CSI smoking out front.  "Hey.  Range?"  They pointed to the other end of the building.  "Fun.  So, what about my gun?" he asked Brass, following him inside.  He backtracked and saw a short redhead, then shook his head and walked off.  "Sorry, flashback."

"Not an issue.  You can use mine to qualify.  They figure if you're not bragging it won't matter."

"It shouldn't.  How does yours balance?"

"Fairly even.  Slight lean to the left because I do."

"Sure."  He pulled off his badge to wave it at the guy guarding the door to the range, getting admittance.  He accepted the glasses and the earmuffs.  "Technically I should be using my actual glasses," he noted, taking Brass's gun.  He accepted the bullets as well and positioned himself.  "Dead start with it on the shelf, or a draw?"

"Dead start is fine for a CSI," the range monitor noted, pulling out a new sheet.  He found his stopwatch.  "Unload."  Xander did so, even clearing the chamber and popping that bullet back into the clip.  "And go."  Xander reloaded, cocked it and went after the target.  "Hold!" he shouted a minute later.  Ten well placed shots out of a twelve clip.  "Not going for speed?"

"I go for accuracy.  If you want speed, I can do it," he offered.  "I'll need more bullets."  More were handed over and he reloaded the clip, then shook out his hands and centered his mind again.


Xander loaded, cocked, and fired, then calmly reloaded and fired again, getting both clips approximately center mass.  Most of them were in the center but a few were riding the lines and one was a head shot.  He looked back at the guys and grinned.  "Needed more?"

"No, that's fine," he offered.  "You're one of Grissom's guys?"

"I'm Harris, the new Ballistics intern," he said, shaking his hand.  He reloaded and handed the captain back his weapon properly, safety in place.  "I didn't chamber a round, Captain Brass."

"That's fine, kid.  Thank you.  Well done."

"I try," Xander offered with a grin.  He looked at the range guy.  "So, good enough?"

"More than.  I'll send the report up."

"Sure."  He walked out, letting Brass take him home.  He did slow down to look at the redhead again, then went back to check to see who it was.  It wasn't Oz, like he thought, so it was okay.  He walked out shaking his head.  "Thought he was a friend."

"Not a problem.  If your friends show up, I wanna know," he ordered.

"Sure.  I wanna know if they show up," he said dryly.  "They probably won't be looking for me."  Brass gave him a look.  "Slight falling out.  They thought I was helpless, stupid, and a piece of dryer lint.  I differed in that opinion."  He shrugged and got into the car.  "Home again?"

"Sure, kid.  Then what're your plans for the day?"

"Laundry.  I haven't done any in a month."

Brass snickered at that.  "I've had those months too, kid."  He pulled out, taking him home, and on the way back, stopped in to see Grissom at his house.  "SWAT cleared him to help disarm things.  They're filing the paperwork for his explosives license.  Ecklie ordered me to have him qualify on the range and he did.  Both the one minute accuracy, with ten perfect shots, and the speed at two clips.  He passed that one in under two minutes, which qualifies for a rookie cop."  Grissom nodded at that, smirking at him.  "You knew?"

"I called LA to get his scores from there since he did his during-school internship locally.   Ecklie could have just asked."

"That's too easy and you know it, Gil," he taunted dryly, smirking at him.  "He's pretty good.  How is he in Trace?"

"Well enough.  Hodges is still filling in some gaps in his practical education.  They get along well and Xander's always eager to help out him or Archie.  He said he's learning off Archie as well."  He paused at the satisfied smirk.  "What's gotten Ecklie onto him?  This time?"

"One of the Feds who wanted to recruit him looked at that file and thought he was borderline mental.  Apparently they're buddies so he warned Ecklie."

"The guys in LA thought he might be as well but then a later evaluation note said that he's not mentally damaged just emotionally damaged.  I can't see it but we all know that people skills aren't my thing."

"Yeah, the kid said to warn him if his former friends showed up," Brass offered.  "You want me to hand Ecklie a copy of those?"

"Sure.  They're on my desk.  I'll add his new qualifications to his chart later.  How did the bomb test go?"

"They did a multi-layer/backup thing with it.  The guy out there was sweating and shaking.  The kid went out after the first was fixed when he heard he had the time to do so, doing it himself.  He told the kid he couldn't bounce out there but sweating was fine.  Their trainee for bomb tech will probably be going over that tape later today.  He needs it.  The kid did toss the gas canister and the plastique away from where he was working but he noted later that the canister was empty feeling."  He shrugged.  "You'd have to ask them."

"Not very proper with the evidence, but I'm assuming he knew?"

"Yeah, he pointed out that most bombers wouldn't go past the first backup.  That they wanted the, and I quote, the really pretty bang."

"Usually true in my experience," Grissom agreed.  "Thanks, Jim."

"Not a problem.  I like this kid.  He's got some fun left in him but he's not pushy or hung up on things like Nick, but he's smart and hiding it, like Warrick can on occasion.  He wanted to know if the range included artillery or assault weapons."

"It probably wouldn't bother him if there were," Grissom joked.  "He likes his own sort of bang."

"Very true.  He promised to do laundry before he came in or Ecklie would be very upset with his t-shirt tonight."  He waved. "I'd better get back.  Have fun."

"You too.  I hope it's an easy day and remember, Hodges is off tonight and Bobby's got that surgery for his mother next week."

"Sure," he agreed, heading out to collect those new reports and hand them over.  Grissom would get in a 'you could have just asked' when he handed in his old ones later.


Xander walked into the station that night, and accepted his badge back.  "Thanks.  Must have fallen off my t-shirt this morning," he sighed, clipping it onto his beltloop.  "Am I in trouble?"

"No, you lost it in here," the receptionist said with a small grin.  "Not have a nice day, Xander?"

"Long day.  Some qualifications, some laundry, some dinner," he said, holding up the takeout bag.  "Now I'm going to work all night so I can nap."  He waved and headed back there, poking his head into the ballistics lab.  "Need me in here or am I temping for Hodges?"

"Temp for him, Xander.  I don't have anything yet."

"Sure.  I'll be next door."  He went to drop his jacket and dinner in there, startling Nick.  "It is my minor and Bobby said to temp in here tonight."

"Sure.  I could use some help.  There's a lot of fibers on this thing and I'm having trouble separating them out."

"Sure.  Let me scrub and glove."  He walked over to the sink to do that, then went back next door to get his special gloves, coming back to grab a pair of tweezers to help.  He started by putting out some open sticky pads off to the side of their work area, then got to work separating out strands of fiber to place them on there.  Anything that looked like hair got stuck into the dish Nick was working with. He found an odd one and held up the hair.  "This one's got a follicle base."

"Here," he said, holding up an envelope.  Xander took the envelope and carefully struggled to put the hair in there, finally getting it after a few tries.  "Need glasses?"

"I have some for delicate work, but that's more lack of depth perception.  That and my desire not to take another six science courses is why I took Trace as my minor," he noted dryly.

"What's wrong with your eyes?" Warrick asked from the doorway.

"Eye," Xander corrected.

"Eye?" Nick asked.

"As in I only have one."

"Oh," he said, shaking his head.  "You okay?"

"Yeah, it's been a few years.  The glass is pretty enough for most everyone," he said with a smirk.  "Most people don't realize, it just means I don't have depth perception."  He handed over the envelope.  "Let's hope it went in so it can be easily removed."

"I saw it go in," he promised, checking it.  "Yeah, it went in.  The tag's in there.  I'll go bring this to DNA.  Keep peeling stands please."

"Sure, I live to serve such generous masters," he taunted back, bending down to get back to work.  He ended up pulling a stool over and leaning over the shirt they were working on, getting more unique samples off.  Then he went back to get more of the same types. He looked up when someone grunted in displeasure, grinning at Hodges.  "I thought you had tonight off so I'm temping."

"I do have tonight off, but I forgot something.  That had better not be greasy food on top of my microwave either, Xander."

"It shouldn't be.  It's chicken and I did lay down paper towels.  If there's even a spot of condensation I'll clean it after I finish helping Nick part the fibers."

"Good.  You'd better."  He came in to get something out of his desk then looked at the shirt.  "You're going at it wrong."

"He wanted them separated," he said as he worked on the next one.  "I've isolated unique samples and now I'm adding the others like it to the same sheet.  That way it's easier to compare and contrast in case I'm wrong."

"Interesting.  Why couldn't he just tape it off?"

"Because he said he wanted them separated," he said with a mild shrug.  "Not a clue.  Have to ask Nick."

"Fine."  He watched him work.  "At least you're technically proficient in this area."

"And I qualified on the range and I did my disarming test earlier," he said smugly without looking up.  "In my jammies no less."

Hodges snorted.  "You should have made them give you time to dress."

"You can't always do that," Xander noted.  "I've fought naked in the past, I can do it again if I must."  He glanced up, then got back to work.  "You okay?  You look upset," he offered quietly.

"Yeah, I'm fine.  Perfectly fine."

"If you were perfectly fine, you wouldn't be pale and sweaty.  Remember, I'm a good sounding board.  I had two women babbling at me for years before I finally got fed up and walked away."

Hodges looked at him.  "Thanks, Xander."  He walked out, heading back to his car so he could see his doctor.   He'd have to watch that kid, almost no one liked him and he wanted to know why that kid did.

Grissom stuck his head into the lab.  "Did I just see Hodges?"

"He forgot something.  Is Nick coming back for these or should I continue to separate them out?"

"He wanted you to do what?"

"Separate out the mess," he said, glancing up at him.  "He took a hair over to DNA."  He shrugged and got back to work, getting up to put on a hairnet so he wouldn't shed onto the shirt himself.  Then he picked off the hair he had watched fall.  "Mine," he said, noting it down on the form and setting it aside.

"Good job, Xander.  Go ahead and fill in here tonight unless Bobby needs you."  He checked with Bobby, who only grinned, then went to hand Ecklie those prior reports.  "If you had asked, I would have given you the copies I got from LA," he said mildly.  "I asked for them when I decided to keep him."

"Fine.  Is he stable?"

"So far as any one of us can tell.  He gets on well with others and he's working on learning from Archie in AV.  He's temping in for Hodges tonight."

"He's not a Trace person."

"It was his minor," Catherine butted in.  "Xander's in trace?"  He nodded.  "Good.  I've got stuff for him."

"Nick has him separating hair samples from a shirt."

"Eww."  She sighed.  "It's probably the same case."  She walked back there, putting the brown paper bag on the edge of the worktable.  "Hodges let you bring in food?"

"I promised to clean up any condensation my very cold chicken sandwich might cause," he retorted.  "What's that?"


"Gonna be a while.  Especially if it needs this sort of treatment."

"It might.  It's not quite as bad.  Is that cat fur?"

Xander put a piece under the scope, then shook his head.  "Rabbit or short haired goat."  He went back to picking it off.

"How can you tell without an analysis?"

"Coarseness and length.  I'll run that in a few.  I'll do that once I finish picking off all the hairs."

"Sure.  Page me when you're done, Xander."

"It'll probably be near the end of shift," he warned.

"That's fine.  I'll be up."  She went to find Nick.  "You're having him isolate samples?"

"Yeah, it was a mess when I tried to tape sample it.  Why?"

"Just wondering.  He did say he thought one of them was a rabbit or a goat based on coarseness and length."

"Really?"  He grimaced.  "Where would you find a rabbit or a goat in Vegas?"

"I don't know.  He'll do the formal analysis before moving onto the blanket sample I just brought him."

"That's fine.  He found a hair with a tag.  I'm waiting on DNA."  He watched as Xander came out of the lab, looking confused.  "What's wrong?"

Xander looked at him, then shook his head.  "Do you smell smoke?"

"No."  He walked over to the lab, sniffing inside.  "I do in here.  Did you burn something?"

"No, I haven't turned anything on yet."  He walked back inside, going to check all the equipment.  He also unplugged anything non-essential, but left the computer alone just in case.  Nick was sniffing the vent when Xander got the bad feeling again.  "It's not there.  It's not floating down, it's wafting in."  He sniffed and walked next door.  "Bobby, can you not smell that?" he asked.

"Yeah, but I couldn't find the source in here.  I'm just finishing a report, just in case, before I go hunt it down."

Xander walked out, still sniffing.  "Catherine, we smell smoke in Hodges' and Bobby's labs," he reported formally.  "I checked all the equipment in Hodges' and unplugged everything but the computer and the technical equipment.  Bobby checked his."

"I can't smell it," she told him.

"I can," someone called from Fingerprints, Sarah coming out sniffing. "It's in here too, not in the vents."

"No, it's moving up, not down," he said, frowning a bit.  He looked at her.  "You're the supe."

"Point."  She went to the labs, sniffing at them.  "I can smell it.  Guys, let's check each room," she called.

Xander went to check on Archie, he was the next in line, and it was really strong in here.  "How can you not smell that?" he asked.

"Easy, cold," he offered, sounding stuffed up.  "What's wrong?"

"Smoke.  We smell smoke all along this line of labs."

Archie's eyes went wide and he frantically looked around, backing up the few things he was working on right then.  "It's not in here."

"Sure."  Xander walked out, shaking his head.  "It smells really strongly in there but he's got a cold."

"It's not in the next lab down," Catherine said, considering it.  "Someone page Grissom!"

"Already done, and Ecklie," Bobby yelled back. "Catherine, I can kinda see some smoke too."

"Okay.  It's on this side," Xander said, looking around.  "Do we have an old ventilation system that was floor-based?"  She shook her head.  "That's too low to be coming down.  Do we have a basement?"

"A storage area," Sarah told him. "I go down there sometimes to eat lunch in the quiet."  She headed for the door, opening it.  "Shit!  Smoke!"

Xander looked at Catherine, then at the smoke alarm.  "Yes?"

"No.  We've got to see first."

He looked at the level of smoke.  "Not like that we're not," he said firmly.  "That's dangerous."

"It couldn't be a fire.  We'd have more smoke and heat."

"So?  People die of smoke inhalation."

"Point.  Pull it."  He pulled the switch and everyone started out of the lab, Xander going back to get his lunch and put a protective plastic sheet over the evidence he was working on and the new paper bag.  "You should have done that first."

"I was more worried about the smoke," he complained.  He followed Bobby outside, going to sit and eat his lunch now.  Bobby gave him an odd look.  "I didn't get breakfast."

"Why not?"

"Laundry sucks."

"Ah."  He nodded.  "I can understand that.  Rent a washer."

"I basically live in a better class motel, Bobby.  There's no room for one."

"Fine. Is there one on-site?"  Xander shook his head.  "Why not?"

"Been broken for a year."

"Eeww," Greg noted, sitting down beside him.  "You okay?"

"Yeah, just tired.  It was qualification stuff."  He ate another bite and handed over the burger underneath.  "Here, you look like you could eat too."

"I could eat," he admitted.  "Thanks, Xander."

"Welcome."  He finished his sandwich, watching as the fire department pulled up and was told what was going on by Catherine, who led them to the stairwell.  "Well, it's not going to be a boring night."

"No, not tonight," Bobby agreed.  "Did you remember to cover?"

"With a large sheet of protective, thick plastic right after I pulled the lever," he agreed.  "I was more concerned with the smoke at first."

"Good job," Greg praised.  "Hodges is going to be pissed if this messes up his lab."

"It shouldn't.  It smelled the worst in Archie's lab."  Xander wiped off his mouth and handed over the extra napkins to Greg.  "There you go."

"Can I have one?" Archie called.

"Sure," Greg agreed, handing him all but one.  "You okay, man?"

"Cold.  It sucks.  I've taken medicine but it's making my nose run and making me cough."  He blew his nose and tucked the rest of the napkins into his pocket before going off to give a verbal report to Grissom and Ecklie.

"Xander!" Ecklie shouted.

"Yeah?"  He looked back there, getting the 'come here' motion.  "Be right back, hopefully."  He headed that way, looking calm.  "Yes, sir?  Grissom, I did remember to cover the evidence I was working on with plastic once the alarm was going off."

"Good work, Xander.  Did you pull the alarm?"

"After asking Catherine for permission and noting that no one should be going down into that smoke.  That's dangerous."

"Point," Ecklie agreed.  "They found something down there smoldering but not really burning.  Do you know anything about that?"

"I didn't even know we had a basement," he said with a small shrug.  "Sarah told me there was one when I asked.  I do know that the worst smell of smoke was in Archie's lab."

"Why didn't he complain?" Grissom asked.

"He's got a raging cold."

"Ah."  He nodded.  "I've had those."  He looked over as someone came running up toward their group.  "It's not an explosion, Hodges, just a small smoldering case downstairs."

"Minor smell of smoke but barely any made it upstairs," Xander offered.  "Smells the worst in Archie's lab."

"You're sure nothing's hurt?"

"I unplugged everything but the technical equipment and your computer," Xander told him.  "I did it while we were checking to see what was burning."

"Good," Hodges sighed.  "No damage?"

"Not this time," Grissom said, nodding at him and looking pleased.  "I'm glad you're checking, Hodges.  That does impress me."

"Thank you, Grissom."

Xander gave him a light nudge.  "Did you know your mega-scope had a loose plug?"

"No, I hadn't.  We'll check it later," he noted.  "Leave me a note, Xander."

"Sure."  He grinned at him.  "Everything else looked okay.  Not even a ring of sweat from my breakfast."

"Fine.  Just be careful about that in my lab."

"I always am."

"You had food in the lab?" Ecklie demanded.

"No, I had my breakfast in a bag on top of the microwave he had in there since I went directly in there when I got in," Xander retorted calmly.  "It was away from any work surfaces, no way to transfer any material off it since it was ice cold, and properly out of the way of the work path.  I'm not stupid, Ecklie, give me *some* credit," he snorted, walking off, going back to sit and chat with Greg.  "So, you were going to show me around today?" he asked.

"Yeah, I figured you hadn't had a lot of time to sightsee or figure out where things are.  I should start with a grocery store."

"Probably," Xander agreed dryly.  "But that means I'd have to learn how to cook.  I don't think I have time for that yet."

"You can't cook?" Warrick asked as he joined them.

"Not very well.  I can microwave and boil, maybe fry with a frier.  I lived off the caff in school."

"I was at his house today.  He had coffee, soda, chocolate, and Reeces Pieces," Greg said dryly.

"Sorry but my only friends used to be girls," Xander defended.  "They only made brownies and cookies."

Warrick shook his head.  "You'll get sick eating like that."

"Hasn't happened in twenty-six years, why would it start now?" Xander quipped, grinning at him.  "Neither of my parents cooked either.  I didn't even know what a stove was until Home Ec in eighth grade."

"How did you survive without a parent who cooked?" Greg asked.

"Take out.  Sandwiches.  Some minor cans of spaghetti-ohs now and then."  He shrugged.  "Your body learns and adapts beautifully."

"Did no one notice that you didn't eat properly?" Warrick asked.

"No, I got free lunch at school.  It probably would have been noted when I brought in takeout all the time, but no one really cared.  I wasn't starving so it wasn't that much of a problem.  The one time someone got onto my mother they told her to order more Chinese and quit ordering so much pizza."

"At least you'd get vegetables then," Greg said dryly.

"You can put veggies on pizza but I'd hate to see your future kid's trying to eat a burger."

Greg smirked.  "That's right, my kids will be vegetarians and love it."

"Only if you find someone and stay with them," Hodges said meanly as he joined them. "Can't we go in yet? I want to check my lab."

"No one's said anything," Xander offered.  "Go ask Catherine.  She's in charge."  He gave him a long look.  "I didn't mess up your lab, Hodges."

"I still want to check for myself.  We've had other accidents that destroyed stuff," he defended.

"Yeah, well, this time no one ended up being taken away to the hospital," Greg noted bitterly.  "No burns."

Xander gave him a hug.  "It's all right. You're better now."  Greg nodded, giving him a pat so he let him go.  "Sorry, my only friends were girls."

"Usually only gay guys say that," Greg teased, smirking at him.

"I might look at one out of every ten thousand men, but I can't see myself with one forever and ever," he noted dryly.  "Then again, most of the women I like are dangerous and evil so I'm probably going to end up having dogs instead."  Hodges stifled a snicker at that.

"I'll try to set you up with some nice girls who can cook," Warrick offered.

"Sure.  Are you doing the background checks or should I if they like me?"

"I only know normal women."

"Yeah, I thought I did too," he said dryly.  "I thought I had broken my last dry spell but then she turned out to be a serial killer.  I should have known, she was sweet, nice, and only wanted sex.  Just like my former fiance."

"You were engaged?"

"I ended up being shown what our life would have been like and left her at the altar so she could have a better life," Xander told Greg, whose mouth was just now flopping down.  "Can you say demonic?  That was my Anya before she died in the last day of Sunnydale."

"Shit," Greg said in awe.  "You're braver than I am."

"Yeah, but it would have been horrible.  I'd be doing nothing with my life.  She's have been doing nothing with hers.  I'd have a beer gut and be sweaty and nasty.  She'd be morose because she didn't want to be domestic and we weren't rich.  Her friends helped me see what it would have been like.  She probably never forgave them for it.  I know she never forgave me.  She wanted to punish my butt so badly it wasn't funny.  Fortunately her friends stopped her from doing it since it was their fault."  His buddy shook his head and moaned.  "So yeah, and she wasn't that nice beforehand either.  She liked to beat up on guys who cheated on their girls.  Repeatedly.  Used to tell me all the ways she tortured them and how she wanted to torture them.  Then she wanted sex right afterwards."

Warrick shook his head.  "I'll try to find you a nice girl who can at least bake," he promised, walking off to talk to Nick and Catherine since she was coming over.  "We've got to find Xander a girl to date.  He can't cook, eats only takeout most of the time, and says he only dates evil women."

"Evil women?" Catherine asked dryly.

"His last one was a serial killer," Grissom said as he joined them.  "Can we go back in yet?"

"Nope.  They're checking the other boxes down there to see if any others are smoldering.  That one's out back behind the garages so we can open it and see what's going on.  Nick, it was your case so you should."

"Sure, Cat.  Go around?"  She nodded, watching him walk off.  He smiled at the fireman trying to stop him.  "It's my case box that was smoldering. I was told to come open it."

"Fine.  Go around to the back entrance, sir."


Catherine looked over at Xander.  "How bad have you dated, kid?"

Xander looked at her.  "One serial killer.  One former fiance who liked to beat the snot out of guys who cheated on their girls, then told me about how she tortured them and how she wanted to torture them, right before demanding lots of sex.  The one before that was a snotty cheerleader sort.  The one before that tried to kill me and one of my friends.  The one before that only wanted to have sex and kill me, and so did the one before her."  She and Grissom both gaped.  "So, if we ever find me dating someone, do a background check.  Oh, if there's suddenly an influx of dead redheads and blondes, check on my last ex to make sure she's still safely in her little padded room.  She wanted to punish my former friends a lot."

"Ever think about switching to men?" Warrick taunted but he was smiling at him.

"Yeah, that's when I figured out I could appreciate about one out of every ten thousand but I still couldn't see it as more than a casual relationship.  That's when I decided I'd have dogs."

"We'll see if we can introduce you to nice girls," Catherine offered.

"Who can cook," Warrick promised.  "So you don't go broke on takeout."

"You can't cook?" she asked.  He shook his head.  "Why not?"

"No one in my family cooks.  I didn't even know what a stove was until eighth grade Home Ec," he said dryly.  She gave him a look. "Seriously.  I asked the teacher what that funny appliance that we had six of was.  I thought it was some sort of really old microwave.  My house didn't have one of those.  The fridge was for old takeout, soda, milk, cold coffee, water, and koolaid if I got around to making some for myself. We had a freezer for microwave stuff and a shelf for the rest."

"I'm surprised you're not malnourished," Catherine told him.  "Did you cover the stuff?"

"Found a heavy plastic sheet in a cabinet earlier, used it to cover the entire table," he reported.  "The cabinet was marked emergency supplies so I figured that's what it was for."  He looked at Hodges, who nodded.  "I did it after I pulled the alarm but it shouldn't have mattered with what I was doing."

"No, that's fine," she agreed.  "Good job, Xander."

"Should I roll over for belly scratches too?  Or just ear pets?" he quipped, smirking at her.

"I only scratch behind ears," she assured him smugly.  "Unless I have to smack you with a rolled up newspaper."

"Hey, I'm housetrained and I don't chew on shoes.  My only friends were girls, I learned to appreciate shoes."

"Did they like the girls you were dating?"

"Yup," Xander sighed. "For the most part.  Then again, they're former friends and if they show up, I'm leaving.  Or hiding, hiding is always an option with them.  Sometimes they're not that bright."

"I had friends like that but I left them back in college," Greg offered.

"I left mine to go to college after they told me I was stupid and couldn't possibly understand the intricacies of their lives.  You know, that thing I'd watched them deal with and lived beside them for almost eight years," he said bitterly.  "But that's okay.  I lost an eye due to them and I lost Anya for good due to them.  I'm sure I can stay mad at them for another few decades."

Greg patted him on the back.  "It'll be okay.  You'll make new ones who'll help you find good people to date.  I'll talk to one of my exes tonight, she likes to matchmake."

"Sure."  He shrugged.  "As long as it's not Faith."

"Um, no, but if she comes into town I'll expect a warning."

"Mutual on that," he agreed, shaking hands on that pact.  They looked toward the building and sighed.  "We need books."

"We do," Greg agreed. "Got any?"

"Yeah, a fantasy novel I planned on reading over lunch," he offered, looking over at his car.  "Maybe a magazine or something.  We can go hunt through my car."  Greg nodded, following him over there to hunt for something to read or do while they waited.

Catherine walked over to where one of the firemen was whistling for her, then came back.  "Okay, who in CSI smokes?" she called.  A few people raised their hands.  "Xander?"

"Can't inhale," he called from his car's hood.  "Tried a few times, makes me wanna puke."

"She meant normal cigarettes, Xander," Bobby called with a grin.

"So did I.  If I wanted pot, my neighbor smokes enough for a whole town's worth of people, I can get a contact buzz by sniffing my walls."

"We'll have to warn him when the drug sniffing dogs come in," Grissom noted dryly. "What happened?"

"Someone put their cigarette out on the edge of the box," she said grimly.

"There's been some footprints in the dustier parts when I go down there for lunch," Sarah offered. "It's always heading toward the 'twenty years or greater' section though."

"No, that's under the coroner's section," she pointed out.  "This was in the last year's case files.  Right under Archie's lab."

"It's a good thing Xander can smell better than I can," Archie said before blowing his nose again.  "Did we lose much?"

"Some things may have smoke damage but only one box was smoldering," Catherine told him. "It's Nick's case so I let him open it."  She looked around.  "We should be okay to go back in within an hour."  Everyone groaned.  "Sorry, people."  She noticed Hodges fidgeting.  "Did you get to go to see the doctor?"

"He canceled on me.  He had to go watch an emergency c-section.  His daughter's first one on her own."  He shrugged.  "Sorry."

"Not a problem," she offered.  "You don't have to stay."

"Yes I do.  I'm checking my lab."

"Fine," Grissom agreed.  "Let me know when you're rescheduling as soon as you can."

"Yes, sir."

The fingerprint tech walked back there, smirking at Xander.  "What do you have to read?"

"A Lackey, a Robin Cook, and Book Seven of Harry Potter," he noted, handing over the bag.  "I went to the bookstore on my way in so I'd have something to read in the tub later."

"Why do you read in the tub?"

He looked at her.  "I don't have an air conditioner and what else are you supposed to do when you soak in the tub?"

"Read and play with the bubbles," Greg agreed.

"You take bubble baths?" she asked.

"I have," he defended.

"Me too," Xander agreed.  "It make us smell better and it's easier to clean up when you're really messy and nasty if you soak in a bubble bath first."  She just gaped at them.  "You do the same thing to dishes.  Or so the commercials say."

"Point," she admitted, taking out the Robin Cook novel and going back to sit down among normal people.  "Greg and Xander take bubble baths," she told Catherine.  Who only shook her head and walked off.

Everyone ducked when they heard the gunshot/backfiring noise but only Xander yelped and held his shoulder.  Grissom walked over to look at him.  "Are you all right?"

"Mostly fine," he complained, pulling off his t-shirt to look.  "Stupid idiot with the pellet gun," he complained.  "Got a pair of tweezers?"

"Doc?" Greg called.  "Do you have a bag on you?  Someone just shot Xander and he said he only needs tweezes."

Both ME's looked over then came over to help.  It was obvious it wasn't serious, no one was screaming and running or on the ground, but Xander was growling and trying to force the bead out.  The older one, Doc Robins, looked at it and popped out the small pellet.  "Looks like bird shot."

"I'm not a bird," Xander complained, looking back as best he could.  "Just one?"

"Looks like two," he admitted, getting the other out after a moment's work.  They were handed to Grissom, who took a small baggie out of his pocket.  "It's been going on around here a lot recently. Sorry no one warned you."

"Ehh, I've had worse," Xander complained. "Pretty distant since it almost didn't sink in."  He took the baggie to look at.  "Useable range of fifty yards."

"He's still here," Greg called.  "Range of fifty yards."

"Going," Warrick agreed, heading off to look.  "Coming, Greg?"

"Yup, sure."  He put down his magazine and headed off with him, going to find out who was doing this to them again.

"I've got a clean shirt in my locker," Xander promised.  "But it's one of my slogan t-shirts that'll make Ecklie have a stroke."

Grissom gave him a look.  "Which one?"

"My bad mood shirt," he said with a grin.  "It says: I'm having a bad day and you're in my way; I'm having a bad day and I like guns and you're in my way; do you want to visit the coroner tonight?  Then get out of my way.  Now."

The younger ME chuckled at that.  "Makes a statement definitely."

"I used to wear it during finals.  Everyone at UCLA got out of my way for some reason," Xander noted dryly.  "The security guards laughed and one teacher told me she never wanted to have me for another class again and gave me the benefit of rounding up by a point so I got the higher grade.  I would have passed with a C but I got a B instead.  Fortunately that was more than good enough for Calc One."

"You're horrible, Xander," Grissom said.

"You know, most techs lose their sunny dispositions and fun natures after a few years on the job," David, the younger ME pointed out.  "It's nice to have someone with a sense of humor around here for a change."

"I didn't lose my sense of humor through an urban combat situation.  I'm not losing it because I have a good job doing things that I enjoy," Xander said dryly.  "I don't expect it to happen anytime in the near future."

"Urban combat situation?  Was that like military service?" the older doc asked as he put a bandage over the small wound.

"Um, not really.  More like stalking, hunting, and stopping the military there for a bit," Xander offered.  "They wanted to turn us into experiments and we didn't like that.  We drove them out.  That and the usual southern California daily commute and lifestyle."

"Really?  You don't look like you have tattoos," David offered.

"I had tattoos?  Since when?  No one told me."

"No gang affiliation?" David asked.

Xander snorted.  "No, honey, it's not that sort of hunting.  Ours was more...necessary.  More a matter of survival now and then.  Besides, there weren't enough of us to be considered a gang.  I wish there had been but there's not."

"I heard that your school blew up during one of the graduations," Grissom said plainly.

Xander looked at him.  "Yeah, it did.  It was during mine.  I'm still not saying a word about it either.   The Feds came to talk to all of us and we all kinda gave them blank looks like 'what are you and can we wipe you off our shoes when we hurt you'.  They didn't like that either.  Especially since one person asked if she could hurt them for waking her up so early."  Buffy had not been pleased with that he remembered.  Her 'why can't I hurt them, they're mean and they woke me up at ten, therefore they're evil' was a classic response.

The older ME looked at him.  "What happened?"

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," Xander said seriously, staring into his eyes.  "Let's just say it was necessary and leave it there, doc.  I don't wanna deal with the Feds today."

"Sure, kid."  He finished taping down the gauze pad.  "There.  That should be fine.  It didn't get that deep and you're barely bleeding."

"Thank you. You're much nicer than the last ER doc who saw me.  She stabbed me with a big needle and then made fun of me for yelping at the ten gauge thing."

He leaned closer.  "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, it's like reincarnation.  It's my former life," he said quietly.  "I'm no longer there and very few things will draw me back into it."

"Fine.  As long as you're fine," he said gently.

"Yeah, I'm good.  If you ever need my help though, just yell my way, doc.  I'm still in practice for urban combat maneuvers."

"Sure."  He bundled back up his things and closed his bag.  "He'll be fine to work tonight."

"Good," Grissom agreed.  "I'm sure there'll be something for him to do."  He glanced over at the news crews arriving.  "Usually they're earlier."

"Fuck," Xander muttered, getting down to sit on the other side of his car, out of sight.  "I'm not here, you don't know me, I'm invisible."

"Sure," everyone agreed, going back to their former spots so no one would notice them or Greg, who walked away reading when he came back.

Xander reached up to get his bag and his shirt, then went back to his hiding.


Brass walked down to the CSI unit long after midshift had come and went, tapping on the door to Trace.  "Xander, you have a visitor."

"They don't page him?" Hodges asked.  "Gee, are you special, Xander?"

"Yes, didn't you get the memo?" he quipped back.  "Should I run and hide now?"

"She's in interrogation room one," he offered. Hodges stared at him, then at Xander.  "Small, redhead, female."

"Oh, fuck me," he muttered, stomping off.  This was not good.  "I thought it was only paranoia and a flashback."  He stopped to look through the one-way mirror, then grimaced, walking inside.  "How did you know I was here?" he demanded.

Willow took a moment to look him over, reading his shirt too. "I saw you on the news," she said quietly, glancing around.  "Why are you here?  Are you in trouble?"

"I work here," he said patiently.  He crossed his arms over his chest.  "Well?"

"I'm hunting," she offered finally.  "Giles was turned.  He's here somewhere."

"There's a guy watching over the city."

"I asked there and at the bar I found.  No luck.  Then I heard there was a Knight, with a capitol letter, in town."  She looked him over again. "Since when?"

"Since always.  That's what you're called when you're a normal person and you do the work, Willow.  The same as I did in LA for a few years."  She gaped at that.  "Fix it and leave."

She stood up.  "I need you, Xander.  I can't track him, he's blocking me.  I need your help. You've got to know the city pretty well."

"I've been here for a month, Willow.  I haven't even found a grocery store yet."  Her face fell.  "I'll ask around for you," he relented to keep her from crying.

"I...I can't do it, Xander.  Not Giles."

He rolled his eyes.  "I'll think about it.  I've still got to work tonight."  He turned and walked out, slamming the door and stomping off.  He passed Ecklie, who glared at his shirt.  "It fits," he growled back.  He looked at Grissom and Greg, who were in the halls.  "I'm getting some air before I kill again."  He walked out the side door and to the deepest spot of shade he could find, blatantly hiding from her in case she tried to track him.  He looked over as Brass came out and lit up.  "That's bad for you."

"I know.  Still helps now and then."  He looked at him.  "She's crying."

"Yay.  She wants me to hunt one of my former friends."

"What?"  He walked over.  "Come again?"

"Remember the strange stuff?"  He nodded slowly.  "Well, strange stuff number two.  One of my friends was turned," he said quietly, looking grim.  "She's here hunting him.  She wants me to take over that duty and stake him."  He shook his head, then turned and walked off.  "I'm going around the building.  I'll be back in twenty."

"Sure, kid.  Go in through the garage."

"I'd get lost again."  He continued walking, eventually pulling out his cellphone and dialing the number he had been given while he was looking at the baby demon.  "It's me.  Fair warning, Rosenburg's in town hunting our former mentor, who's been turned."  He hung up.  Someone would get the message back to the guy who watched over the demons in town.  It was nice, he wasn't responsible anymore.  He paused, watching her leave, still crying of course, then went back inside.  One of the older cops glared at his shirt.  "I'm the ballistics tech, get out of my way," he said coolly.  "The crying woman was my former friend."  He walked past him and the cop tried to stop him, so he flipped him onto his back and looked down at him.  "You do not grab me," he said firmly.  "No one, and I do mean no one, grabs me.  Ever.  I don't give a damn if I'm gonna die, you don't grab me.  You never, ever grab a person who's a veteran of combat.  Real military service or not."  He stomped off, going back to work, gathering the lost badge yet again.  "Where was it this time?"

"Hallway floor."

"I need to stick this better," he complained as he walked, putting it back on his belt.  "I flipped the idiot who grabbed me," he yelled as he walked into the ballistics lab.  "Hey, need help yet?" he asked primly, mouth pressed together.

"No.  Not really.  Hodges could use some help."

"Yeah, but that's fussy work and I'm about to bounce myself into a wall to make my head quit hurting."

"Greg's trying to pound something into shape."

"Sure."  He headed to where he could hear banging, going to interrupt.  "Need help?"

"Yes!  I don't swing with enough force.  I need about two hundred psi to see if this dents."

Xander wiped his hands on his jeans, then took the sledge hammer, then gave it a dirty look.  "You're using this?"  He put it aside and got another hammer, this one heavier.  "The heavier the mallet, the more force, Greg."

"I know that, I can't lift that one."

"Fine.  Two hundred and only two hundred or at least two hundred?"

"Swing at the meter first," he ordered, pointing at dummy's chest.

Xander smirked at the chest-shaped meter pad.  "Gladly."  He took a swing and looked at Greg, who looked impressed.  "Good enough?"

"More than.  About half that actually.  Try it again?"  Xander eased off some and Greg nodded.  "Good.  Now hit the metal."  Xander got into position and swung, denting it slightly.  "Now do a full force one."  He watched as the boy swung again, wincing at the sound the new dent made.  "Wow.  Thanks, Xander.  Feel better?"

"Yeah, a bit."  He put his mallet back and went back to help Hodges now that he was more calm.  "Sorry, throwing a fit."

"It happens to the best of us.  What did she want?"

"Me to go back."

"Xander!" Grissom shouted.

"I warned first," he shouted back.  "Next time he won't grab me."

"Not that."  He walked into the lab and shut the door.  "Ecklie just got onto me about your shirt."

"Yay.  Remind him I got shot earlier and it's clean.  I could have taken the rest of the night off.  I probably should have because then my friend wouldn't have shown the hell up."  Grissom gave him a stern look.  "She wanted me to hunt down our former mentor who's now turned."

"Um, do I need to know this?" Hodges asked.

Xander looked at him.  "If you can promise me not to gossip, ever, about this, I don't care."  Hodges looked unsure.  "Seriously.  If others know, I'll be hunted.  They'll come here."  Hodges nodded and backed away.  "I used to live in Sunnydale, California."

"I know.  I checked the town, there was an earthquake."

Xander snorted. "Not even close, Snapette.  There was a Hellmouth.  A portal to hell.  Don't believe me, go down to Out of Focus tonight and ask.  I'll make sure you get the soul restoration spell after you're eaten."

"I've been by there," he said grimly, backing up a step further.  "I saw what was going on."

"Good.  I used to hunt those things.  Urban combat situations."  Hodges gaped.  So Xander shrugged once and nodded a few times.  "From tenth grade until I graduated.  When Sunnydale caved, I went to help in LA. I didn't want to move to Cleveland since my former friends, who used to hunt with me, didn't want me there anyway because they thought I was useless.  I'd only been doing this now for years and saved their lives, ya know, no big deal?"  Hodges swallowed.  "So, my friend who showed up earlier tonight told me that she's here hunting our former mentor, that he's been turned into one of those creatures I used to hunt, and pleaded for me to hunt him instead of her.  So I'm a bit pissed."

"Greg needed some help," Grissom offered.

"Already did, boss."  He looked at him. "I will be in tonight.  I refuse to go back.  It's like reincarnation for me.  It's not a world-ending emergency, I'm not helping unless I'm forced to.  But if Rupert Giles, a.k.a. Ripper, shows up, I'm not here."

"Aren't there people who are supposed to do that stuff?" Hodges demanded.

"Yeah, she's blonde, about five-five, and wears trashy clothes.  I helped her.  So did the friend who showed up tonight.  That earthquake was the portal to hell closing for good after we'd went inside and kicked ass.  That's where I lost Anya.  I lost my eye right before then."

"So when you say combat, you mean hunting, stalking, paramilitary style combat," Hodges said in awe.  Xander nodded.  "Anything else?"

"Yeah, if a Fed or anyone military *ever* asks you about me, you don't know me.  My friends and I took down a military special ops group who was working on the torture-is- educational mindset.  Again, necessary.  That's also how I learned about explosives," he noted dryly.

"Your high school?"

"Big, huge demon bastard trying to eat us.  It was the only way he died," Xander admitted.  "We won."

"Enough said," Hodges agreed.

Grissom nodded. "I agree.  You sure?  You could take tonight off."

"No, I told the guy who just had the baby.  He's over that in Vegas.  Including the ones here on vacation.  Either he'll hand Ripper over to her or he'll have her sent off and him sent off.  It brings too much attention."

"Fine," Grissom agreed.  "I want to know about this, Xander.  Just in case."

"Yes, sir.  Not an issue.  I'm coming in to work tonight and I'm probably going to go home and only sleep today.  It's been one of those long, strange, bad days today."

"I can see that," Grissom agreed.  "Need anything to help calm you down?"

"No, I'm good," he admitted.  "I'll even stay away from Ecklie, who's lurking outside."  Everyone looked at he frowned at them, opening the door.  "We're having a private discussion about the friend I sent away earlier.  Did you need to help with that, Director Ecklie?  I know I'm supposed to go to my supervisor when I have deep personal traumas."

"You assaulted an officer, Harris?"

"No, he grabbed me and I reacted on instinct.  Even after I identified myself as a ballistics tech.  Had he not grabbed me, I would have left him alone."

"Uh-huh.  What sort of military service did you have, Harris?"

"Classified," he said firmly.  "I've told my supervisor enough in case something odd should happen.  I'm not going any further up the chain and endangering any more lives with it."  Ecklie gaped at him.  "Director, with all due respect, go away.  I'm not in the mood to play with nice people today.  I got shot earlier.  I had to deal with a former friend coming to me for something she knew I wouldn't do.  I'm in a bad mood and the shirt is appropriate.  It's fair warning in my book.  Feel lucky I don't have to carry every day."

"On days like this when you do have a weapon, I want it," Grissom told him firmly.

Xander patted himself down and handed over his pocket knife.  "There you go," he quipped, grinning at him.  "Thank you for letting me rant."

"You're welcome, Xander.  You needed it.  Call me today if you have more problems."

"If I have more problems, there's gonna be a few piles of dust," he said dryly.  Grissom nodded at that.  He looked at Hodges.  "You okay?" he mouthed.  Hodges nodded and came back to work beside him.  "More samples?"

"Yes, more samples," he said sarcastically. "I still couldn't get Nick to tell me why he needed each and every hair taken off and cataloged."

"I still say that one's a rabbit."

"It could be.  We'll analyze in a few minutes.  Did you need anything else, Ecklie?"

"No," he said grimly.  "Do not ever wear that shirt in here again, Mr. Harris."

"Sure thing, boss.  I'll keep more changes of clothes in my locker to replace this one and I won't get shot here ever again."

"See that you do.  Um, don't."  He walked off, closing the door behind him.

"So, do I not get shot or do I not put more clothes in my locker?"

"I'd say don't get shot but that's a personal opinion," Hodges offered.  "It's gotta hurt."

"I've had worse when my eye popped."

"If you say so."

"It didn't go that deep either," he admitted.  "They popped out like a zit."

"Again, if you say so."  He pinched him. "I'm not a female Snape."

"Sorry, Hodges."

"Thank you."  They got back to work and he decided he'd write another report on Xander's temp job for him.  It couldn't hurt the boy's performance review and could help him find a good job elsewhere.  Far from where he would be bothered.


Xander walked in the next night, finding two officers in a stand-off with a suspect holding their receptionist hostage.  "Man, put a guard on the door," he complained, distracting the suspect.  One of the cops glanced at him but the other rushed the suspect and got his gun.  "Welcome," he noted, walking the receptionist back to their break room.  "Here, honey, you sit here and shake and cry," he soothed, patting her on the back when she broke out in tears.  "It'll be okay. You're not hurt are you?"  She shook her head, clinging to his stomach.  "Shh, it's all right.  He's in custody and he'll never do it again.  The nice cops got him and you'll be okay," he soothed, patting her on the back.  He looked over at the sound of footsteps, nodding at the cop standing there.  "She's breaking down."

"That's fine, sir.  Who are you?"

"I'm the ballistic tech who keeps losing my badge.  It keeps falling off."

"Ah.  The clips on one lot were bad.  You might try a neck chain or something similar, sir."

"Sure.  And I'm a Xander.  Don't sir me, kid."

"Yes, Xander."  He came in to sit with her, taking over soothing duties.  "Thank you."

"Not an issue. No one told me something was going on."  He went back to the lab, finding it locked.  He knocked.  "Are we kicking me out?" he called when no one answered.  "Or should I try to break it in?"  Still no answer.  He headed for Grissom's office.  "Ballistics is locked.  Am I in deep shit or just mild doo-doo?"

Grissom looked at him.  "Bobby had to rush home.  His mother's due for surgery next week but she just got worse.  I didn't know he had locked it, Xander.  Can you handle it on your own?"

"Sure.  Not a problem."  He shrugged. "I need to get a chain for my ID, I keep having it slip off."  One was pulled out and tossed over.  "Thanks, boss."  He went to get his ID from behind the desk and took it back.  It was stiff enough so he was able to break into the lab with it then put it on around his beltloop.  It got in the way otherwise.  He heard a noise and looked over, nodding at Greg.  "She's fine."

"I was wondering."

"Stand off.  The receptionist was being used as a hostage."

"Ah.  No wonder she's crying in the break room.  Where's Bobby?  I was gonna ask him about his mother."

"Apparently she's taken a turn for the worse and he had to leave unexpectedly.  So I'm it," he said dryly.  "You could probably call his phone and leave a voice mail."

"That's not a bad idea.  I'll email him too," Greg assured him.  "I'll tell him you're fine and you're here to cover."

"I'll do it later," Xander promised, grinning at him.  "So, no strange stuff today, I'm impressed with my life."

"Me too.  How's the shoulder?"

"Doesn't hurt a bit," he said with a grin.

"I've gotten word from a friend that Chicago's looking for a tech," Greg told him.

"It's pretty up there," he admitted.  "Ballistics or trace?"

"Ballistics.  They don't have a massive lab but they've got a decent one.  Good protocols according to her.  I'll forward it to you if you want."

"Please. All I've gotten is an offer from the State Troopers in Montana."

"Well, you wanted to live in the middle of nowhere and make it safe for your future dogs," Greg quipped, grinning and walking off.  "I'll do that in a few, Xander."

"Thanks, Greg."  He checked his inbox and there wasn't anything.  He walked to the door.  "I don't have anything to do," he called.

"I can fix that," Warrick called back, bringing him a few samples.  "Here you go.  I was going to do it later if you didn't come in."

"Why wouldn't I come in?" he asked as he took them.  "I had to break in, Bobby locked the lab when he left."

"Maintenance could have let you in."

"Why?  My ID worked well enough.  That would have taken time."  He poured out the first sample, looking it over.  "Where did you find this interesting piece of equipment?"

"Inside the stuffed rabbit you gave Catherine to show it was rabbit fur."

"Which was just lying in the office," he noted dryly.  "Going to waste."

"I'm sure it was someone's Easter present to Cat's daughter," Warrick offered. "What are those?"

Xander put the first one under the microscope, then grinned, waving him over.  "Presents."

Warrick looked and smiled.  "Happy Easter," he read off one.  "That's cute."

"It is."  He pulled out the next sample to look at.  "Hmm.  Should I clean it or has Trace and DNA gotten it already?"

"No, Trace hasn't.  Why?"

"Looks like there's something under some of the blood."  He put it back into the pouch and walked it next door.  "Hey, Hodges.  Warrick just gave me this and I think there's something under the blood but I can't tell," he offered.  "I need to run and get my glasses.  Can you take a quick look?"

"Sure, Xander."  He took the bullet to look at, then nodded.  "Yeah, there's stuff under the blood."  He went over to the chem/DNA lab to scrape off a sample and run it for him.  By the time Xander got back, Warrick had his results and Xander got the bullet back.  "There you go."

"Thanks, Hodges.  I'm running ballistics but we're not that busy if you need me to help you with stuff."  He went back to work on that new bullet, putting the pellets back into the envelope.  He'd look over the rest of them later, just to make sure they weren't problematic.  Grissom came in and put a key beside him while he was working.  "Thanks, boss.  I used my ID this morning.  Worked well enough."

"Fine, Xander.  I'll do random checks for you about every other day."

"Yup, that's fine.  Or Warrick can if you'd rather since he seems pretty good in here."  He looked at him.  Then down the hall.  "Warrick?"  He stuck his head in.  "Thirty-two auto, Smith and Wesson."

"I have one of those," he admitted.  "It's still being processed."

"That's fine, I'll do the comparison when you bring it to me."  He put it back into the envelope and marked it as Warrick's sample on a sticky pad, putting it in his inbox.  "Whenever you're ready."

Warrick beamed.  "Do the standard clean-down.  It'll be about an hour."

"Sure."  He waited until he was gone then looked at Grissom.  "Am I okay?"

"With everybody but Ecklie."

Xander leaned closer.  "If that ass-licker comes near me again and starts to leer at me, I will get ill," he said quietly.  "I may appreciate some men but he's not one."  Grissom choked on that, starting to laugh.  Xander patted him on the back with a grin.  "He did.  Didn't you see it yesterday?  Hodges had to point it out to me that he leered at my pants.  Just like in that commercial, it had to be the pants."

Grissom shook his head.  "You two are horrible."

"But we're fun," Xander said with a bright grin.  "You like me for that reason alone."

"I do.  That's why I liked Greg in the DNA lab too.  Even though he was frustrating at times, he always was fun and lively in there."  He left, going back to his office to make notes on the boy's chart.  He found an evaluation letter from Hodges and smiled at the praise in it, actual praise not just Hodges grumpy speak.

Someone down the hall screamed.

Everyone came out of their offices and labs.

Xander came out armed and sighed, tucking the weapon in the back of his beltline.  "Why me?" he asked Hodges.

"The world likes you."

"Yay."  He headed that way, lounging in the doorway, just in case so he could see.  He saw someone stomp their way with a shotgun and shook his head at the guy.  "No admittance."

"I'm a cop," he said, holding up his badge.

"Let him in," Nick ordered.

Xander let him in.  "Fine.  Don't cause trouble, officer."

"Who are you to give me orders?"

"Marksman class shooter," he said dryly.  "Ballistics tech."  Then he grinned.  "Bomb fixer and things like that."  The guy backed away so he beamed.  "I'm a nice guy most of the time."  He looked out as someone else came running their way.  "Brass has a uniform?"

"Yeah, we had a funeral earlier."  He opened the door.  "Sir!"

"Hey, Cap.  Good news, bad news?"

"Bad, bad news.  Someone just tried to kill two people up front," he said, looking at Xander.  "No one can stop him.  They can't get a shot into him.  He's very fast, I'd say inhumanly fast."

Xander went back to his locker, hurrying in.  He grabbed his crossbow and a few bolts, then slammed the door and locked it before heading back.  He put the gun carefully on the table, then covered it with some paper before heading out.  "Come on, let's go.  How fast?"

"Speedy, like PCP speedy and unfeeling."

"Wonderful."  He notched back an arrow as they walked, taking aim as soon as they came within range.  "Fuck," he muttered.  "Ripper."  The vampire turned and he shot it in the shoulder.  "Morning.  Not liking the sun today?"

"Xander," he sneered, coming forward.

"Stop or I'll have to shoot again," he ordered coldly.  "I don't know why you came here.  You know I will."  He loaded another one and pointed it.  "I mean it."

"You'll all blow and wind," he sneered.

"No, I'm not," he sighed, shooting again.  He watched as his dissolved then walked off, heading back to his lab and slamming the door shut, locking it.  There was a delivery chute for anything they'd need.  He wasn't coming out.  He broke down the gun he had loaded and put them away, making sure his fingerprints weren't on them and it was wiped clean, then got back to work on that bullet for Warrick.  He'd need more specific info and he still had to run it through the system to see if it had a match.   Someone knocked and he didn't answer, just kept searching.  He heard someone wiggle the door knob. "Put it through the slot."

"Xander?" Hodges called.

"I'm fine.  Just pissed.  Let me simmer for a few more hours and I'll go hit the building later."

"Captain Brass and one of the officers wants to talk to you," Greg called.

Xander got up and opened the door, looking at Brass.  "What?  Did you think there was another way?"  He shook his head.  "Want my mini-crossbow?  Which isn't illegal by the way, I checked."

"No, just checking on you."

"It's not the first," Xander said dryly.  "Nor probably the last."  He shut the door again, locking it and going back to work.  "I'll be out later."

"Fine.  Come see me if you need to talk."

"Yup, sure will."  He sat down and went back to typing in the search parameters.  "Gee, ten thousand matches.  Popular model."  He digitized the bullet's features and put them on there, getting just about half that.  "Really popular model."  He gave it up until he had the gun.  He could search the serial number or the pin impression to find any other matches.   He found an older case he wanted to match still and ran it, getting no matches, but that didn't make any sense.  The paperwork Bobby had left said it matched to six other cases.  He tried it again, this time by serial number and came up with zero.  "Grissom!" he yelled.  The door rattled and he opened it, finding Ecklie.  "You're not Grissom.  Grissom?"  He came out of DNA.  "That bullet Bobby was working on, didn't he say it had matches?  Six matches?"  He nodded.  "I did a check since there's no report on it in the outbox and it came up none, even by serial number."

"What?" he asked, coming in to check, shutting the door again.  "You okay?" he asked quietly.

"Yeah, not the first.  Or the last," he sighed.  He handed over everything.  "It's not there."

"Let me look, Xander."  He redid the search based on what was written down.  He got the same result and went to get the case file so they could look over the original, make sure it wasn't a copy error.  He typed it in from that source, still nothing.  He grimaced and checked another one he had on his desk, one that Xander had found and came up with nothing.  And a note from the administrator to see what he was doing.  He opened a chat session with him, noting particulars and that they now had cases missing.   What he got back made him stop then glare.  "Ecklie!" he shouted.  The door was opened by Xander, who went to find the director.

"Yo, Ecklie," he said when he found him.  "Grissom just bellowed loudly for you."  He looked at the captain.  "Did you have that one that Bobby found six matches on?"

"No, not me.  One of the others was working with Sarah.  Why?"

"It's not in the system," he said quietly.  Ecklie stared at him.  "Not my fault!  I don't have access to do that.  But Grissom did just *yell*."  They hurried back there, that wasn't like him.  Xander went to find Sarah and have a quiet word with her.  "Hey," he said, taking her by the arm and leading her into the hallway.  "I was just checking so I could do the report for Bobby on that bullet that had the six matches in the system."  She nodded, looking clueless. "It came up no matches and we're not sure why yet.  They're working with the database at the moment."

"Xander!" Grissom said, coming up to him.  "You can't erase records, right?"

"I can't even input records," he noted.  "I don't have access to do more than search.  You never got me a password to input."

"Damn," he muttered.  "The whole Vegas section of the system has been removed."

"Definitely not me," Xander defended. "I'm not that bad with computers."

"Who has that sort of access?" Sarah asked.

"An administrator, someone who has the privileges of one, or someone on the Fed level who has the same access," Xander told her. "Or a hacker."  He looked at Grissom.  "Okay, there's four ballistics techs here. Right?"  He nodded.  "Is it affecting any other system or is it focused on us?  Because, yes, I am paranoid."

"We can find out if someone did the rabbit virus on any of you," Sarah told him.  "Go through fingerprints."

"Not a bad idea, thanks, Sarah."  He hurried off, going to fingerprints.  He leaned in.  "Busy?" he asked plainly.

"Kinda.  Why?"

"Because our whole system is down," he said quietly, walking in.  "As in no ballistic cases in Vegas are listed in the database."  She stared at him in horror.  "Now, call me paranoid..."

"You are.  Why?"

"Sarah mentioned something called a rabbit virus?"

"Basically it removes everything associated with a person," she offered.  "All their files, all their fingerprints, everything, down a hole.  You're thinking one of the techs?"

"Possibly.  We can't delete uploaded records."

"I can check," she offered, typing it into her system.  "Let me get your print, Xander."

"Sure.  Any particular medium?"

"Just the standard will be fine."  He carefully inked a thumb and pressed it onto a clean notecard for her.  "Thank you."  She ran it and the one she had for Bobby.  "Neither of you are showing up," she said.  She tried to match Xander's again, getting one Federal match in the system, but it was listed as classified.  "Why do the Feds have your record?"

"Former life. Not military service.  Why?"  He looked over her shoulder and shrugged.  "Not a clue."  He looked at her.  "Want to check the others?"

"I am."  She typed in the day shift guy's name and it came up blank, no match to query. "Oh, shit."

"Grissom," Xander called patiently.  "New twist."  He came over.  "Sarah mentioned the rabbit virus thing.  I'm not in the system.  Bobby's not in the system."

"Day shift's not in the system either," she said.  "Unless I misspelled terribly and it's hard to do that with Cole."

"Let me check the administrative database," he offered, going to his office to do that.  He came back a few minutes later. "Ecklie, none of our ballistics people are listed in the Admin database."

"If I don't get paid, I'm gonna pout," Xander offered from the doorway.  "Should I call Bobby?"

"No, give it two days," Grissom told him. "They may come back.  They could have just hiccuped."

"Payday's next week," Xander pointed out.  "Can someone check payroll?  Even if we were fired, we'd still have one last paycheck."

"Good point," Ecklie admitted, picking up the phone and dialing.  "This is Director Ecklie of CSI.  I need to check on a few people's checks for the next batch."  He listened.  "What do you mean no CSI pay forms have come in?  We're on salary for the most part."  He grimaced.  "You're sure?  How about Xander Harris?  He's one of our interns.  No?  Greg Sanders?"  He groaned.  "Thank you.  Yes, there's a problem.  No, I'll get with the sheriff about it later.  Thank you." He hung up.  "None of us are listed in their system."

"I found myself when I searched my name in the Admin databank," Grissom offered. He looked at Xander.  "We'll figure it out.  For now, work without it."

"It's not a big part of my day, boss. But that case almost depended on it, didn't it?"  He nodded. "Should I go back and reverify the match to the gun?"

"No, that's still solid," Grissom pointed out.  "Just match guns and bullets for now, Xander.  Do what you can without this."  He nodded.  "I'm calling a staff meeting anyway.  Ecklie, one hour?"

"Yes, one hour, Gil," he promised, going to call the Sheriff and ask what was going on.  Hopefully this was the work of a hacker.  If so, he'd get to up his budget to protect against them.  If not, he was going to be lynched by all those people not getting their paychecks next week.  He paged him from the reception phone, putting in an emergency code, then headed for his office. His phone was ringing by the time he got the door open.  "Sheriff?" he answered. "No, we've got a problem," he said quietly.  "The whole Ballistics database from us is gone.  Wiped totally.  Payroll said there's no CSI paystubs that got filed with them.  None of the ballistic techs are in the system at all.  They did a fingerprint search and a name search, couldn't find a one of them in the system.  Yes, this is horrible.  We have that multiple that's based on bullet processing through the system.  Yes, we need you down here now.  I'm not going to be lynched for them not being in the system for payroll.  Please.  Gil said he's calling a meeting in an hour.  I'm about to.  I'll let you know when you make it down here."

He hung up and sat down to search out his people, not finding them in the system either.  He called Grissom.  "Call everyone in.  Even my shift."  He printed out a list of names based on the building they worked in.  "Harris?  Clean up detail?  Frank Harris?"  He shook his head.  He didn't know him.  He'd have to ask Xander if he did.  Not that he liked the boy but if that was him he wanted and needed to know. He called the ballistics lab.  "Harris, Ecklie.  There's another Harris listed as working here.  Frank?"  He listened to the boy tell him who that was.  "You're sure?"  He nodded.  "Thank you then."  He hung up with a sigh.  This was still bad. The kid's father was here and the kid didn't sound happy about that in the least.  At least the guy was listed as 'job abandoned'.


Grissom looked across the assembled CSI teams, then looked at Ecklie.  "You want to start?"

"Not really."

Grissom rolled his eyes and looked at them.  "Thank you for coming so quickly.  There's been a problem discovered within the computer system."  Everyone stared at him.  He wasn't an alarmist like Ecklie and the Sheriff were.  It had to be bad with him looking like that.  "We found out earlier that the ballistics database is gone.  It was wiped clean.  Along with some of the personnel records of the ballistic techs.  Based on that, we called a few other places, like payroll, which doesn't have any of you listed."

"It's got Warrick and Catherine listed," Ecklie corrected quietly.  He raised a hand at the shouts of anger.  "She's got a friend who locked her file years ago and he's got someone down there who did the same."

"Former girlfriend maybe," Warrick offered.  "What's this mean for the rest of us?"

"No national or state or city matches on ballistics," Xander told him.  He looked down the row at him.  "We don't even have access now to search the database.  We had that earlier."  He looked up there.  "How did they remove personnel records?  Aren't those sealed in a non-touchable system?"

"We thought so.  It's not the full personnel records of most of you though.  It's mostly payroll, and the administrative database that doesn't list most of you anymore.  Personnel records have been deleted only for the ballistic techs and CSI Saunders."  Greg muttered something at that.  "We're not sure why they chose him."

"It was probably still listed as being in transition and therefore vulnerable," Grissom pointed out.  "We don't want to panic anyone.  We are working on it.  We're working very hard on it.  CODIS is still up for DNA the last we knew.  The Trace database and search engine are still up.  Fingerprints are still up except for personnel records associated with this."

"So it's the rabbit virus," Sarah said.

Ecklie nodded.  "It looks like it.  Which means that it's either someone here who holds a grudge or someone Federal who holds a grudge."  He saw the looks at Xander.  "It's not only his record and others have more sealed records than he does."

"The people who had me sealed were covert but not this dumb.  They know they can't make a living person disappear that easily. Grissom, I'll need protocol for what to search to check for missing files when and if it comes back."

"I'll help you figure that out later, Xander.  You've probably got the easiest load right now so it's more reasonable you do it."

"Plus, you're on salary so they won't have to pay you overtime," Hodges said dryly.

"I'm also an intern so they expect me to be a packmule and superman's love child," he retorted, smirking at him.  Even Ecklie snickered a bit at that one.  "Speaking of paychecks?"

"We're working with the sheriff to put in for emergency checks, that'll put you back into the system so you can at least get something," Ecklie assured them all.

"Something?" Catherine asked.  "Some of us need more than *something*."

"We'll do what we can," Grissom reminded her.  "Right now, their system says you don't exist, never existed, and will never exist.  You may have your personnel records, but not in payroll."  She moaned, holding her head.  "We're working on it. With any luck, we can get all your checks on time or shortly thereafter.  I know I and Catherine both keep a copy of the payroll sheets we send to the sheriff for at least a year.  I unplugged my computer from the intranet we're using first thing."  Everyone nodded at that.

"I keep copies too but I've also got a backup from last month," he offered.  "I haven't been able to back up my system in a few weeks."  He let out a small yawn.  "We're working on it.  This was mostly an FYI session.  We don't want to deprive anyone of anything or make you work without pay or hindered by this, but we want to get to the bottom of this."

"If it was a rabbit virus, then it's got to be at the administrative or federal levels," the day shift AV person noted quietly, crossing her legs.  "There's no one else who had access."

"Yes, but why focus on ballistic techs?" Archie asked.  "Why mostly them?"

"Because we're about to break a case," Xander said simply, looking back at him.  "Unless they're specifically targeting one of us, then I'm hoping it's something about a case we're about to break.  If so, then I'll gladly help go hit this person into their early grave."  The others mumbled at that.  "But which case would it relate to?"

"We've got six cases going to trial this week," Grissom noted.  "At least on my shift.  They're all solid and this won't affect them unless we're given new evidence."  Everyone nodded at that.  "As for current cases?  It could be any of them, Xander."

"Not really.  The one with the match that let us know about the problem already relented and pled.  We've only had six cases through ballistics in the last week, Grissom, even on day shift because I was filing their notes and reports the other day."

"You got one out of order too," one of the day shift people noted.

"Sorry, I filed by the second last name instead of the first.  I figured that out and fixed it later."

"That's fine.  We all make mistakes.  Can you input cases?"

"Nope. I don't have any access.  All I could do was search."  He looked back at his day shift counterparts.  "Besides, we can't even search the national database now.  They cut us off after being asked why we couldn't access our records.  We're completely closed off from the system."  They glared at Ecklie.

Ecklie looked at them.  "Have any of your cases had that sort of connection?"  They shook their heads.  "Not friends in high places or anything?"

"No," the lead tech noted, shaking her head.  "Not a one."

"Then I'd say upcoming and federally related," the other one noted.

Xander nodded.  "That was my thought."

"Where's Bobby?" one of the people in the back, a field CSI, asked.

"With his mother, she got worse suddenly," Grissom offered. "Xander's more than capable."  The Sheriff walked in back in, he had wandered off to answer his cellphone.  "Any new news?"

"One thing.  The personnel system is back up and running for everyone but ballistics and Sanders.  Payroll's still down though.  I've got them working on it to see what can happen, I even forwarded the last statements I got from the shift supervisors."

"So there'll be paychecks?" Archie asked.  "I've got to make my house payment out of this one."

"If we can, we'll get it to you," the sheriff promised, looking at the crowd.  "Do we have any idea which case this is related back to?"

"We're thinking a future one," Ecklie offered.  "The three ballistic techs here are from both shifts and they don't think there's anything that sensitive coming in right now."

"Well, I can tell you that I have called the computer crimes division of the FBI and they'll be investigating this."  Half the people in the room snorted or made other scoffing noises at that.  "These people are better than the usual," he promised.

"They'd have to be from what I've heard about them in the past," Xander muttered.  "Anything else?"

"No, that's all we know so far," the sheriff offered.  "We are working on it.  Please, just have a bit of patience."  That got some more scoffing noises.  He looked at the three supervisors since Catherine was joining him.  "What do we have planned?"

"Well, ballistics can still match bullets to guns," Ecklie offered.

"Xander was right, we'll need to know how to search for any missing files in the system," Catherine offered.  "Any idea how?"

"Can't he just search by gun?"

"There's over seven million files under nine millimeter alone," Xander called as he walked out.  He turned.  "I'm good but I'm not God, people, even I need to rest now and then."  He let the door slam behind him, going back to work.  The other two followed since it was nearly their shift. "I'm wondering if we should call Bobby now or not?  Grissom said to give it a few days earlier."

"I'll call his cell," the day shift superior said, sitting down behind the desk to do that.  He watched as Xander checked the inbox, finding the three things he had put in there.  "There's something in the bucket."

"Yeah, I was having a pissed off day earlier," Xander admitted, going to grab that one.  "That's for Trace," he said, glancing inside. "Yeah, that's a fiber."  He walked it over, handing it to Hodges.  "Here, they dropped it in the wrong door."

"Thanks, just what I need, more work," he said dryly.

"Just think, someone will have to probably rebuild part of our database," Xander said dryly.  "At least you don't have to."

He shuddered.  "No, I'm very thankful for that," he admitted.  "You okay now?"

"Yeah, this kinda takes precedence over staking my former mentor," he said quietly, going back to his lab and shutting the door.  "Okay, let's work out a strategy here.  Bobby was still looking over my shoulder about every ten cases.  Do you guys want to take up that slack or should Grissom or Warrick?"

"We can," the female day shift person offered, grinning at him.  "From what I've seen you're meticulous and pretty decent about cleaning up after yourself."

"Everything but the coffee spill because Ecklie knocked it over and I haven't had time yet," he admitted, going to clean that up off the bottom of the desk.  He tossed away those paper towels and got more, sopping up the last and spraying the area with alcohol to disinfect it.  He sighed as he looked at them. "Those are my current three.  I'm waiting on a gun to finish going through trace because Warrick said it needed it.  Then I've got two more to match which I can't.  I was working on one of Bobby's matches to do his report for him, going to look up the matched case files so I could do that, when I found out we don't have a database."  He looked at the superior.  "I can easily fill in until Bobby gets back, that's not an issue.  Tell him to take as long as he needs.  We'll work out my supervision between us and Gris."

The superior nodded, adding that as well onto the end of his message.  He hung up and looked at them.  "Okay.  What don't we have?"

"Any database access," Xander offered, going over to check.  "We can't search the national, we don't have a regional anymore.  If we had a state, it'd be in with the national and we can't search it either.  We still have our database of lans and grooves with makers and models.  We still have the books and the old case files, and we still have the guns if we can ever find any more."  Someone tapped.  "Yeah, open."  Warrick came in with a cardboard box.  "Oooh, for me?"

"For you," he agreed dryly.  "You okay?  You've had one of those really bad days."

"Yeah, well, I'll get chinese on the way home and nibble before bed, then come back tonight.  It's what we do."   He took it and found the bullet, making sure it hadn't been switched around.  "Someone switched my sticky notes."

"Huh?" Warrick asked.  "Couldn't you have misplaced them?"

"I did them one at a time," Xander said firmly.  "With a good twenty minutes between the last two."  He looked at the preliminary notes he had stapled to them, finding Warrick's easily. "Someone didn't read the notes when they put them back."  He pulled out the gun, looking it over, then looked at Warrick.  "Did this fire earlier?"  He nodded.  Xander pointed at the slide.  "That's rubber cement."

"I know that now."

"It won't fire that way."  Warrick groaned.  "So we'll do a replacement.  We'll remove the barrel and put it into the same make and model gun, then do a test fire and replace it."  They all grinned at that.  "It'll still break some of the rubber cement."

"That's fine."

Xander nodded, working on getting the gun down to where he could pull out the barrel, then going to find another one so he could do a barrel swap and try it.  He finally got it all together.  "Firing one," he shouted before firing one round into the water pit.  He switched the barrels back before getting the bullet, looking at it in the light.  "Hmm, interesting."  He put it under the scope, then looked down the barrel.  "There's rubber cement in here too."

"That'll destroy evidence to clean it," the day shift superior said smugly.  "What's your call, Xander?"

"Ask the supervising CSI whether I should destroy evidence to get a match, as long as I make thorough note of it, or to leave it and let him try another pathway."

"Go ahead and clean the barrel out, Xander," Warrick offered.  Xander nodded.  "How long?"

"Oooh, tonight," he said dryly.  "It'll take about an hour for the solvent to dissolve that to work, then I'll have to clean it gently and thoroughly, then reoil it and fire it."

"Fine.  Thanks."  He went to tell that to Grissom, who only nodded that it was appropriate.

Xander got to work on his report of what he'd have to do to the evidence, making sure it was all noted down and that many pictures were taken, including an AV picture with a filament camera that Archie did for him to show the damage inside the barrel.  Always over-document was his motto and it saved him a lot of grief later.


Xander smiled as Grissom came back.  "We have access to search again," he said happily.  "Any better news?"

"The payroll records have been fixed for those who have files."

"Which isn't me or Bobby," he pointed out dryly.  "Still no local files but I'm supposing they'll be back sometime tonight.  How do we search for missing files?"

"Go back over your recent ones to make sure they're in there," he offered.  "Otherwise I'm not sure.  You can do a general number search, see if they're about the same."  He shrugged.  "I don't know how to do that, Xander.  We'll figure out if there was a backup and a master list.  I'm still worried this is something about your past."

"No, not mine," he promised.  "The covert ops idiots I dealt with aren't this stupid.  Why?  Is it a federal boo-boo?"

"Yes," he said, nodding.  "Computer Crimes tracked it back to one of their branches."

"Hmm, why would the FBI want to hide files?  Someone dirty?  Someone that's a target of an investigation and they think it'll help?  Someone undercover and they had to fix things?  Or someone in protective custody that's getting into trouble again?  Possibly someone being taken into protective custody," he offered. "Oh, here, I had to use heroic measures to get a bullet to match for Warrick."  He handed over the report with pictures.  "Rubber cement."

"You asked him first?"

"Yeah, me and the day shift people talked about it with him.  I only did the barrel and then we swapped it out to do a test fire for rifling. The rest is still a solid mess."

"That's fine, Xander.  You're doing very good.  Even if you are having a crappy week."  He gave him a small smile.  "What about your paycheck?  Are you going to be okay?"

"Hell no," Xander said dryly.  "My rent's due this time.  I called my landlord and told him that the intern paychecks are being held back by at least a week due to some federal snafu and that I'd be a bit late with my rent.  He's already chewed me a new one.  I may end up selling my car and bussing to work for a bit."

"I'll see what I can do, Xander.  Keep a watch for our files to reappear and then we'll see what we can figure out about searching for missing files."  He took the report back to look at it, then smiled at the happy conclusion on the front page.  He ran into Warrick and handed it to him.  "From Xander, the gun barrel he had to clean.  Complete with pictures in case you need them."

"Thanks, Gris.  Is it a match?"  He nodded. "He does good work."

"He does," he agreed.  "That's what I meant to tell him.  I just got asked if we could have him recruited while he was still here."  He went back to the lab.  "Xander?"  He glanced over.  "Chicago has offered to send someone to recruit you while you're still here.  Do you mind?"

"Not a bit, boss.  It's nice to be wanted for something good."

Grissom came in and shut the door.  "Xander, are you all right, I mean about that shooting?"

Xander sat down, looking over at him.  "Gris, to be honest, he's not the first of my friends I had to do that with.  My very first one was."  He winced.  "So, no, I'm not really but I managed to learn to cope years ago.  I'll go home and sulk to chinese food and sleep with some nightmares for the next few days."

"Damn it," Hodges yelled from next door.

"Are you all right?" he called.


Xander and Grissom both went to check on him.  Xander looked at the computer, which was smoking, then at him.  "Did you think it needed a last cigarette?"  Hodges gave him a dirty look.  "Sorry, couldn't resist with the day I've had, buddy.  Can you shut it down?"

"I already did," he admitted, slapping the side of the monitor.  "The whole system went 'pfftz' then smoked up and died, Grissom.  I need a new one."

"We should have one somewhere," he offered.  "I'll go pounce Ecklie for you, Hodges. What did you lose?"

"Two reports I was writing that are connected and two searches.  One of them on the database that we only had access to from in here."

"Maybe Archie can get the files off it," Grissom offered.  "We can replace it and you'll still be able to get on there."

"Thanks, Grissom."

"Let me call and check."  He went to do that, going to call Ecklie while he responded to the email.  Since he didn't really have a lot to do until they could figure out the problems he could be efficient tonight.  "Ecklie, Grissom.  Hodges' computer just smoked up and died with a fizzle of noise.  No, like it was smoking, Ecklie.  Yeah.  That's also the oldest we have in the lab.  Well, if he can't, we don't have a Trace department.  The database for samples was only allowed in there."  He smirked.  "I didn't think you'd like that.  Sure.  Yeah, he's basically stuck until then.  Because anyone bringing in the new computer could contaminate anything he was working on.  Yes, there's a reason to get it done quickly.  Thank you."  He hung up and smiled at the nice reply he got back from Chicago.  "Xander, expect them in about a month."

"Sure, boss, getting a soda and some tylenol."

"That's fine."

Xander walked back into his lab, then went to check on Hodges.  "After my present bullet and gun, I can help you if you need me to."

"Thanks.  I might need you to," he sighed, looking around.  "I'm getting backed up and this isn't helping."

Xander nodded.  "I understand.  All I have is an ancient refurbed laptop at home.  I doubt it'd help."

"No, probably not," he admitted.  He looked at him.  "You okay?"  Xander shrugged and took a drink.  "You sure?"

"I'll be fine.  It's not the first time.  Really."  He grimaced, looking at the monitor.  "If there's anything in there it's not mine."

"I know.  I saw that coffee spill today when Ecklie tipped his cup over and never cleaned it up.  You always clean up when you make a mess."  He frowned at his former computer.  "My day shift counterpart is ill and her medicine is making her sleepy a lot.  It's possible something of hers spilled.  We'll get a new one in and I'll be able to go back to work."

"Sure.  If I can help, ask me."  He went back to ballistics, taking the scope back from Nick by pushing the chair he was sitting on out of the way.  "I was coming back.  That's Greg's anyway."

"I'm helping him," he offered, watching him work.  "They look like they line up."

"They do but it's not a perfect match.  Toward the bottom they're a bit off."  He let him see again.  "I'm going to call it a 98 percent match due to that, probably due to the smaller diameter of the bullet.  We use different ammo in here and it's got a slightly wider tip."

"That brings in reasonable doubt," Nick pointed out.

Xander looked at him.  "If you could bring me the ammo he used, I could make an exact match but I'm not going to lie, Nick.  I was going to put in that the test ammo was bigger in diameter than the original bullet and that would account for the non-exact match on all levels, but that in my opinion it is a match."

"That's honest and how you're supposed to do it," Grissom said from the doorway.  "What's up?"

"We use slightly bigger diameter ammo than this guy did.  It means that the bullets won't match perfectly.  I'd say about a 98 percent."

Grissom came in and looked, nodding.  "Looks about right, especially there near the bottom," he offered.  He looked at Xander.  "Explaining that in the report would help mitigate doubt.  Can you find the original source of ammo, Nick?"

"We'll look, Gris.  If we can, can you redo the report?"

"I'll add on a second one," Xander promised.  "I'll point out we use cheap ammo and the ammo source is different by ... and put in the dimensions."

"Thanks.  That'll work."  He grinned and walked out.  "Page us when it's done."

"Sure."  He shook his head, looking at Grissom.  "Checking on me?"

"I probably should so the day shift doesn't get behind."

"Hodges is behind," he said quietly.  "When I don't have anything I'm going to duck over to help him get caught up."

"That's fine, Xander.  I figured you would.  Just leave a sign on your door about where you are."

"Sure."   He took another drink and set his soda aside.  "Is he getting a computer tonight?"

"Maybe.  If we're lucky."

Xander nodded, sitting down behind his to type out the report, which he had partially finished and put in his conclusions and statements about the different ammunition he used.  Then he spell checked it and grammar checked it before saving and printing.  He gathered it and stapled it together, taking his soda with him while Grissom checked over his shoulder.  "Hey, Hodges," he said, sticking his head in.  "Go ahead and use my computer for now for what you can.  I'm done with my last report."

"Sure.  Thanks, Xander."

"Not an issue, man."  He went in search of Greg, finding him staring at the candy machine.  "Slight issue," he said in greeting.  Greg groaned.  Xander pushed the button for a candy bar, handing it to him.  "You look like you need it."  Greg unwrapped it and took a bite, then took the report.  "We use slightly more hefty ammo. I can get a good match, make it reasonable why it's not perfect.  I need his own ammo to prove the perfect match."

"But this is good enough," he offered.  "It's reasonable. It's explained.  It couldn't be another gun, right?"

"Not unless he's got a stretched out barrel," he noted.  "The center aligns perfect it's just the bottom and top edge grooves that don't."

"Xander, did you do the Peterson case?" Grissom asked.

"Day shift did.  I finished the report when she left it on the desktop.  It only needed to have the detail analysis page put on and spell checked.  Why?  Problems?"

"To me it's not as exact as she thought," he offered.

Xander looked at him.  "Should I check?"

"No, it's okay.  I'll hold it for now and then go back over it tomorrow when she comes in.  Good work today.  Greg, can you get that original ammunition source?"

"I can try," he offered.  "We're still trying to get it linked back to the guy."

Xander smirked and pointed at the folder. "It's got a registered owner.  If that helps, I hope I did okay."

"Thanks, Xander."  He gave him a pat on the arm and took his candy bar with him.

Xander walked past Grissom, pinching him on the arm.  "No more stalking people around tonight.  You look like you haven't slept in days."

"I have just not a lot," he offered.  "You sleep today too.  I don't want you that tired tonight."  He headed for his office and Jim Brass's office after that while Xander went back to clean up his lab and help Hodges if he needed it.

Hodges looked up as Xander walked in.  "I closed the open gun box you had out."

"Thanks.  I meant to do that."  He got to work cleaning up, then settling in to check the system again.  "We have a few Vegas cases," he said grimly.  He ran the particulars of his last case through and it came up with a few others.  He ran the pin impression and the serial number, then smirked.  "Part of the system's back and I need Greg," he said happily, reaching over to page him.  Greg came jogging down the hall a few minutes later, letting Xander give him a happy grin, a wink, and a wave at the computer, which he was printing out fact sheets on each of the cases for him, just in case.  "Part of it's back up.  It's a long and well used gun."

"Really?"  He came in to look.  "Ooooh, many many uses."  He took the papers once they were all done and headed back to show Nick.  "Grissom, the system's partially back up.  Xander checked my gun and came up with many uses by serial number and pin impression."  He found Nick and handed over the papers.  "It's partially back up.  Xander searched and found these.  Including fact sheets in case we need them."

Nick looked through the list, nodding slowly, then he smirked at Greg.  "This is good."

"It is and it mitigates the 98 percent he gave it."  He smiled sweetly.  "Where's Captain Brass?"

"Down in his office," he said.  "Let's go."  He walked Greg out to help him present it.  Xander jogged up to them and handed over a few more papers, then jogged back to his lab.  "Some days he's a lot like you in the lab, Grego."

"Yeah, I know," he said proudly, grinning at him.  "I like him, he's a nice guy.  Even though he's having a crappy week."  He tapped on the office door.

"Come in, Gil."

Greg stuck his head in.  "Not Gil but I'm the bearer of happy news.  Part of the system's back up."  Brass smirked at him.  "Xander also shot out fact sheets for us."  He handed the papers over, then the initial report.  "We use lighter ammo here."

"Hmm," he said as he read.  He looked it over.  "By serial and pin impression?"  Nick nodded.  "Oh, we can use this," he said happily.  "Let's go talk to our boy again.  Shall we?"

"We should," Greg agreed gleefully, following him out.  "Did you hear, Hodges' computer blew," he said as they headed up the hall.

"Ow," Nick said.  "Is he okay?"

"Yeah, started to smoke and fizzle.  It's fully dead," Greg told him.  "He's doing reports on Xander's but he can't really do much else until they bring him a new one.  All the search engines were on there."

"I'll make sure one's found as a replacement until we can really replace it," Brass promised.  "We rely too much on that lab."


Xander walked in the next night to a screaming match between Ecklie and Hodges in the halls.

"Well, if you'd get me a computer that works, I could do my job and not have to rely on another computer!" Hodges shouted.  "That piece of junk won't even connect to the search engine and you expect me to do what with it!  It's so old the dinosaurs think it's ancient!"

"It's the best we can do, you'll have to make due," Ecklie said firmly.  "It'll take two weeks for a new system to be shipped."

"Then I guess you're not getting much for two weeks then!" Hodges sneered.  "If I can't connect to my search engines all I get to do is pull samples and scope them or mass spec them."  He went back into his lab and slammed the door.

Ecklie glared that way then turned to find Xander in the hallway.  "You needed something?"

"You're in the way of my lab door, director.  I didn't want to rudely push past you."  He got out of the way.  "Thank you. Have a nice night."  Ecklie growled and stomped off.  Xander pulled out his laptop and walked it next door, tapping before entering.  "Here, try to plug this in, see if it'll help.  We can always transfer files off when you get a new one and it's not like I do more than surf for porn and play solitaire."

Hodges looked at him.  "Don't be so nice, kid."

Xander smirked.  "Think about who you just said that to, Hodges."  He waved the laptop.  "At least I know it can connect to the internet.  It's not the fastest, but it's got a LAN card."

"Thanks," he grumbled, taking it to try it out.  He nodded as it connected.  "Power cord?"

"In my bag."  He went to get it, bringing it back and the external mouse.  "I can't stand the mouse pad.  Here."  He took them and plugged them in.  "Just don't erase my porn, okay?" he asked with a grin.

"Fine, Xander.  Thank you."  He looked up at him.  "Are you already busy tonight?"  He nodded.  "Can I borrow you later?"

"If I can clear my inbox, I'm yours.  I told you that."  He went back to change into his labcoat and plug in a CD.  It had occurred to him that Bobby wasn't here to protest his comedy CD this time.  He got down to work at the first strains came on.

About twenty minutes later, Nick stopped outside the ballistics door and listened, then shook his head.  "What is that?" he demanded.

"Dennis Leary," Xander said absently.  "After this, it's Redneck jokes, so sorry if they relate."

"Xander, that's mean," Warrick said from the doorway.

Xander looked at him. "I fully admit I have some in my family."

"Me too," Nick admitted.  "I kinda find that one fun, but the song about, um, assholes, probably isn't appropriate."

He just got a wicked grin in response and a report being held out.

About thirty minutes later, Ecklie had to stop by.  "Harris, that is not appropriate," he said firmly.

Xander looked over at him.  "He's stating an opinion about his personal behavior.  Aren't we allowed to call ourselves names?"  He walked over to restart that song.  "See, it's about himself, not others."  He looked behind him.  "Sarah, I almost have a result for you.  Want to wait for the report?"

She listened to the song, then shook her head. "No thanks. I'll come back when it's the Blue Collar tour again."  She walked in, smirking at how Ecklie was starting to fume.

"Turn it off, Harris."

"Yes, sir."  He went to change CD's, turning on the one Sarah had wanted.  "How's that, sir?"

The fingerprint tech stuck her head in.  "Can I borrow that last one, Xander?"

"As long as I get it back.  Someone made a copy for my last birthday," he said, handing it over.

"Sure, dear.  You okay in here all by yourself?"

"Yeah, I'm fine.  I won't go insane at all."

"Good.  Thanks for this."

"That's not appropriate for in the lab," Ecklie said firmly.  "I don't care about light music, but...."

"That's discrimination against those of us who don't listen to easy listening," Xander told him simply.  "If you try to take away all music but soft, light music then some of us will be napping on the job, director, plus some others will get really upset with you.  I could listen to country music if you preferred.  I've got some great stuff in my collection."

"Just don't play anything discriminatory," he ground out, walking off to complain to Grissom.

"Sure.  Even though I know people like that.  My drunken uncle was one."  He changed it and let her have that one too with a wink, putting in country music instead.  "Yee-haw."  He went back to finishing up his report for Sarah.

"You have better taste than that," Greg called from the hallway.  "I can't come in while you're polluting the air with stomp and dance and twirl your partner music, Xander."  Xander put it on pause and he stuck his head in.  "That guy pled.  He begged actually. Nice job.  Go back to your Nickish music."  He walked on, going back to smirking at the people wanting to pounce Xander for his taste in noise.  "Damn, I almost feel like finding a hat," he said as he walked past Ecklie.

"Xander, if you're going to listen to country, listen to classic country," Nick complained from the doorway.

"It's a compilation, Nick.  There's plenty of older and newer stuff."  He tossed him a report with a grin.  "There ya go, cowboy.  Now ride off."

Hodges walked in and turned off the stereo.  "No, Xander.  That's cruel.  Even Greg's anxiety attack music was better than that."

"Well, let's see what else I have," he offered, digging out his CD case to flip through it.  "We have GNR.  We have some other eighties metal.  We have some grunge, but not heavy grunge.  I like to sing along in my off-key way.  We have the disney songs which I still don't know where I got them from.  Hmm, we've got...ah," he said, handing one over.  "Change it for me?"

Hodges changed it and looked at it as it came on, then at Xander.  "That's even more evil.  I enjoy the hell out of you, Harris.  Hurry up, I need help."  He left, letting the disney songs play.

Nick shook his head.  "You're not right in the head, Xander," he said fondly.  He glanced down the hall, finding Ecklie storming this way.  "Thanks.  Good?"

"Wonderful.  Full match."  He nodded, going on.

Ecklie walked in and confiscated the stereo.  "That's not appropriate either."

"Disney can not offend anyone, Director.  It's happy songs about fantasy times when everyone's nice and sweet."  He took it back.  "Non discriminatory, just like you wanted.  No one can object to that."  He smiled sweetly.  "Besides, people want to smile and tap their foot to disney music."  He turned it to 'it's a small world' and let it play.  "It's either this, comedy albums that you didn't like, or music from the eighties hair bands that talk about sex a lot.  The country music unfortunately upset Hodges."

Ecklie's face turned purple and he grabbed his chest.  "Harris," he ground out.

"He's having a heart attack!" he yelled, helping him onto the floor and loosening his tie as others came in to help.  The paramedics gave him an odd look.  "He minded my comedy albums, he said it had to be something no one could complain about."

"No one can complain about disney music," he agreed.  They took Ecklie out in the ambulance, giving him oxygen and promising he'd be okay.

Brass looked at Xander, who was giving him a pitiful look.  "My wife had a puppy that looked the same way when he pissed on the carpet."

"Should I roll up a newspaper for you?" Xander offered pitifully.

"Just turn that shit off," Brass said.  "That's mean, Xander."

"Sorry."  He went to turn it off, putting in his Poison CD.  "Better?"

"Much.  Sex is always better than mental torture."  He closed the door on his way out.

Greg walked in a few minutes later and hugged him.  "I never managed that," he offered.  "I'm so proud!"  He walked out, closing the door behind him.

The sheriff came in a few minutes later, knocking politely.  Xander turned off the music and he came in.  "Mr. Harris.  Are you torturing director Ecklie?"

"No, he told me I had to listen to things that are non-discriminatory.  I was listening to Dennis Leary and then the Blue Collar comedy tour.  He hated those, made me turn them off.  I tried country but Hodges was bothered by it so I put in the most innocuous CD I had," he said honestly.  "Disney songs."

The sheriff looked at him.  "What did he do, kid?" he asked quietly.

"He hates me.  He always has.  I don't really do it on purpose.  Or at least I try very hard not to and I usually give Grissom fair warning if he's going to complain about me, like I did the day I got shot in the shoulder and had to change shirts."

"Fine, just try to make it nicer, Mr. Harris.  That was a bit obvious."

"He said...."

"I know.  Eighties metal music is better than some things.  I'd rather have people complain that you're listening to music that encourages sex than to have Disney songs all day long."  He left, going to talk to Grissom about making sure that boy was all right now.  "Gil.  That Harris boy. Is he all right?" he asked bluntly.  "I mean in the head."

"A bit stressed.  He's our intern, he's one of the ones that the payroll hasn't been fixed for.  He's got rent coming due.  I'm sure it was unintentional.  He did change it every time someone complained."

"I'm sure he did."  He smirked at him.  "How many in one day?"

"Six.  A new record.  Not even Greg's music getting too loud got that many complaints."

"Make sure the boy gets a day off and I'll try to get him his paycheck," he promised. "Ecklie should be fine but he'll probably need a few days off.  Can I count on you to keep the lab running smoothly?"

"Of course."

"Thank you, Gil."  He walked off, going to call the hospital to check on Ecklie and then call payroll.

Grissom stopped in the ballistics lab.  "Six in one day, a new record," he offered.  "No more disney music," he ordered.  Xander edged up the noise he was listening to.  "That's fine.  Sex is always better than disney."  He left, going to check on the other lab techs, one of which was blushing.  "I can have him change to another music CD," he offered.

"No, I'm good with that," she offered.  "Just a flashback to my anniversary, Grissom."  She smiled and held out a report.  "For you."


She cleared her throat and pushed those memories aside, getting back to work.

Catherine stopped in with a new gun.  She looked at the stereo, then at him and his angelic grin.  "No grunge?"

"Light grunge," he offered.  "I got told I couldn't listen to country, comedy, or disney."

"Disney?" she asked, staring at him.  "Why?"

Hodges cleared his throat from the doorway.  "Because Director Ecklie had a heart attack," he said, smirking meanly at her.  "As long as it's not country, I don't care what you play."

Catherine went over to fingerprints.  "Jean, do you care what Xander plays in his lab?"

"No, actually I was having flashbacks.  My first year anniversary was a Poison concert and then an orgy."  Xander let out a wicked chuckle.  "Basically, yeah.  I didn't mind his comedy CD's at all.  I've been playing them quietly in here.  Ecklie really did turn purple and collapse at disney songs.  He told Xander to play something non-discriminatory and something no one could complain about."

"Disney is that," Catherine admitted.  "He had a real heart attack?"  She nodded, smirking at her.  "Good!"  She went off to check with Grissom, getting a short note from Xander since it was stuck on his door.  "I knew that."

"Then you also know the spring is missing and the firing pin is broken," he called.  "Want me to do a replace and fire?"

"Please, just in case."


Catherine went up to the breakroom, where everyone else was.  "Disney made him have a heart attack?"

"He probably had bad memories of being scared by Chip and Dale as a kid," Greg snorted.  "He still doing fluffy metal?"

"Yup, still is.  We should send a card."  Nick pushed one down so she added her signature.  "Thanks.  Who's delivering it?"

"Sarah," everyone said.  She wasn't there.  She got volunteered.

"We vetoed Greg's idea to let Xander go so he could apologize," Warrick offered dryly, pushing down the container of chinese food.  "Where is wonder boy?"

"I just handed him a non-working gun," she said, sitting down to dig into her lunch.  "Xander?" she called after she heard the muted 'fuck'.  He was the only one who really swore.

He came out rubbing his chest.  "Ran into the doorway."  He handed over the report and picture.  "Match it and bring it to me."

"Sure.  Thank you, Xander. Did you retape it?"

"With the shot in there in an envelope and dated," he offered.  "Plus a note about what was wrong with the gun."  He flopped down, still rubbing his chest.  "There are days when I wish I still had two eyes.  I hate running into things."

"I'm betting Doc Robbins has that same feeling now and then," Warrick offered.

"Yeah, we got into one of those discussions the other day," he admitted.   "During that one guy who tried to cut his own foot off."  He slumped down some more.  "Are we done?  If so, I should help Hodges."

"No, he just went home," Catherine offered.  "He had a migraine."

"I'm hoping it wasn't the music."  Xander looked toward the trace and ballistics lab.  "I should go check and see if he's got anything done yet," he offered, getting up with a groan.

"He can do it, Xander," Nick assured him.

"He's backed up because of the loss of his computer," Xander retorted.  "He asked me to help but I got too backed up."  He shrugged and went back to the lab to look at what was left.  Mostly the easy stuff, which he was more than capable of doing.  Within three hours he had most everything cleared up and reports at least started giving the basic details and any chemical analysis he had done.  He saved everything down in a special folder named 'reports in progress' and then saved the system and shut it down.  He checked the tables, they were clear.  The desk was clear.  Everything was clear for when he came in.  He went to clock out and head home, tired beyond all belief now.  Maybe he could sleep without too many nightmares.


Hodges walked in and saw his lab was perfectly spotless.  "The day shift girl caught me up?" he asked, looking amazed.

"No, Xander caught you up," Greg said from behind him.  "You're blocking."  Hodges moved out of the way so Greg could put two bags and a box on his worktable.  "Not priority but needed to be done.  Thanks, Hodges."

"Your, um, welcome," he said, staring at everything.  He walked over to turn on the computer, finding that folder sitting on the desk top.  The reports were enough that he could fill in the spots and all the chemical analysis sheets were clearly marked, labeled, and in a folder under the samples Xander had done.  "Wow," he said, sitting down to work on the first few reports.  It was all organized so he could slip in easily and finish everything.  He even got to Greg's stuff within an hour and was finishing it when Grissom came in.  "Where's Xander?  I haven't heard the stereo going."

"He has tonight off," he reminded him.  "I told him to stay on-call in case we need him.  He's got a pager now."  He looked around.  "Are you caught up?"

"Xander subbed in last night."

"I knew that.  That wasn't what I asked."

"Mostly.  I have to double-check the reports he started and then check for spelling and grammar before I print them."

"That's fine.  Take as much time as you need until another big case comes in.  Whose laptop?"


"Good.  The boy earns his place very well.  I'm sure whichever department he ends up in will be thrilled with him."

"Can he stay?"

"We only need one night shift ballistics tech," Grissom reminded him.  "Unless Bobby has to stay home to help his mother, and the day shift double doesn't want it, no.  I wish, but no."

"Fine.  Let me be spoiled for a year by having help when I need it."  Grissom smirked at that and walked off.  Hodges went back to double-check those reports, knowing someone was going to get impatient and uppity with him soon.  They always were.  He heard running footsteps and grimaced, glancing down the halls to find the cops running for the front entrance.  "What now?  He's not even here tonight."  He looked at Nick as he came running.  "What's going on?"

"Domestic dispute between a cop and her husband.  She's beating the snot out of him."  He hurried off to help.  He knew her and could hopefully calm her down again.

Hodges shook his head.  "It's not going to be a boring week by any means."  He got back to work, finding Xander's methodology very calming and forthright.  It was perfectly notated and organized.  A few had some bad spelling mistakes but by then the guy must have been half asleep.  It had been dated ten am.  Well into his usual nap cycle.  He looked up at more running feet, this time the junior ME was running with a bag.  "Ooh, someone's going to lose her badge," he sighed.  "Glad I'm not in that."

Warrick stuck his head in.  "I'm working with Greg on that picnic rape case.  Do we think it'll be done by end of shift?"

"Probably," he offered.  "What am I looking for?"

"The usual.  Hair, fibers.  DNA already had a go with it thanks to Greg. The rest should be your stuff.  No Xander?"

"Grissom said he had tonight off."

"Poor guy probably needs it.  He was here when I left."  He went to check in and see if there was another case coming up.  Someone had to collect evidence when the ambulance took people away.  Nick was up there but that didn't mean he'd get to do it since he was involved.

Hodges shook his head. "They're all insane," he noted, going back to his work.  His phone rang about an hour later.  "Trace," he answered. He heard the tired voice.  "No, he has tonight off, Bobby.  How's your mom?"  He listened.  "No, he's been good.  He helped me when my computer blew and everything.  Made sure I got caught up again.  No, he got called to help stop a rampaging imbecile last night out front who was trying to hurt cops.  No, he's at home.  No answer, huh?  Hmm.  Well, maybe we'll swing by after shift.  Sure.  Hold on, everyone's out in the hall.  Grissom!" he yelled, putting the receiver against his chest.  He stuck his head in.  "Bobby."  He held it out.

Grissom came in to take it.  "How is she?"  He listened and smiled.  "That's good though, right?"  He nodded.  "No, he's doing fine.  I'm checking over his shoulder.  No, nothing too tragic."

"Only if you actually *like* Ecklie," Hodges said dryly.

"That's true, I had forgotten.  Ecklie had a small heart attack yesterday.  He didn't like Xander's music.  No, he's off tonight.  I don't know.  Want me to page him and have him call your cell?  He should be.  No, he's fine.  He pulled some overtime last night to help Hodges."  He listened.  "No, his own decision. I didn't demand," he said, not showing that Hodges's surprised look surprised him.  "I didn't even ask.  He just filled in.  Everyone else was having breakfast and he went back to work.  Sure.  No, he's good, Bobby.  Don't worry about it.  Come back when you can.  We can cover for you.  No, we've mostly got that fixed.  We think we found your personnel file.  The sheriff is.  Sure, I'll pass that on."  He took a pen and some clean paper off the desk, writing down the phone number.  "Sure.  I'll pass that on.  Thanks for letting us know, I'll pass around the good news.  Be safe."  He hung up.  "His mother is fine but it was cancerous so they're starting her on immediate treatments.  He might not be back for six months."  He went to call the sheriff to update him, letting him know and giving him Bobby's phone number down there so he could talk to him about the paycheck and file problem.

Hodges finished up and went to pump Greg for information.  "No one asked Xander to fill in for day shift?"

"No," he said, taking his report, giving him a little look.  "Xander said he promised you he'd help you catch up and he went in there to work for a few hours.  I think he got the one case from this morning started too, but it was in Chem the last I knew."

"Wow.  You don't see that much," he said, still looking confused.

"That's the sorta guy Xander is," Greg pointed out.  "He's one of those loyal guys, like I am."  He shrugged at the odd look he got.  "Need more help or did he catch you up?"

"No, I'm down to your case unless something else comes in.  I'm still running the last one through to check for odd fibers."

"Thanks, Hodges.  Let me know if I can help.  You helped me a lot when DNA blew up on me.  I can return the favor."  He walked off, heading to tell Warrick what they knew so far.  It wasn't much but it was a start.

Hodges went back to his lab, considering it.  He'd have to treat Xander to lunch some day soon.  As long as the kid didn't try to shove it back into his face or ask for favors.  Most of them would but for some reason he didn't think Xander would do it on purpose like Nick or Catherine would.  He settled in to work and think, making sure everything was going well.  Nick brought in samples from the fight and he pointed at a clear spot.  "There, you're next."

"That's fine.  By shift's end if possible.  Her badge is riding on it.  He tried to take her gun from her before she could use it on him so she grabbed Brass's gun."

"Ouch," Hodges winced, going back to what he had been doing.  "I'll do my best."

"Thanks, man."  He left, going to check in DNA, where he had left a few other things. Something was not right about this case and he wasn't sure what yet.


Xander woke up when someone pounded on his door, trudging out there to open it.  His landlord was standing there, waving the money order he had paid with.  "What?  They're always good."

"Maybe.  That's a bit low, Harris."

"Sorry.  At least I had some of it," he defended.  "It's not my fault there's a Federal problem tangling up the intern paychecks.  They've promised to try to pay us by next week instead."

"Fine.  Don't get behind."  He stomped off.

"Yes, sir," he sighed, slamming the door again.  Someone knocked and he opened it, finding Hodges and a small bag there.  "Hey, didn't see you."

"I was being invisible so I didn't get drawn in. Want lunch?"

"Sure."  He let him inside and went to get a soda.  "Want coffee?"

"No thanks.  Greg made some earlier and I'm maxed out on caffeine.  Water?"

"Pitcher's in the fridge," he offered.  "Glasses are the plastic things beside the fridge."

"Thanks."  He went to get himself some ice water then came back to dish out food.  "You didn't have to."

"I know.  I promised I'd help and I did.  You needed me and that's the kinda guy I am," he noted dryly.  "As the redhead who came to threaten my calm and peaceful life showed."

"Who was she?"

Xander pointed at the picture behind him.  "Her."

He got up to look at them.  "Willow?" he read off the frame.

"Yup.  Best friends since first day of school."  He grimaced.  "Even though she used me, hated me, made fun of me, and made my life all but worthless at times.  Again, the sorta guy I am," he said at the long look his buddy gave him.  "Thanks for this, man.  I'll treat when I actually get paid."

"Not an issue."  He sat down, looking at him.  "Why didn't you leave them?"

"Because I was working for the side of good and it needed me, even if those two and the guy I staked didn't want to see me helping them," he said simply.  "Besides, that was all I knew. That and how to build houses.  I started to move to Florida to work after one of the hurricanes but they decided I was being kidnaped and locked me in a basement for three days."

"Did you file charges?"

"With who?  The police didn't acknowledge we existed.  The group was behind the girls doing that to me.  They thought I was being controlled by something.  They didn't see the real Xander person.  They probably still don't see the real Xander person."  His pager went off and he looked at it, calling the station.  "Better be good," he said in greeting.  "No, I'm having lunch with Hodges.  Yay, Nick.  What?"  He listened.  "Sounds like a Luger.  Compact model, fits in the palm of your hand."  He frowned at Hodges when he moved.  "You, sit."  He listened again.  "They usually only come in black and silver, man.  Sure.  Leave it on the table and I'll get it tonight.  You know where my inbox is.  Nick, I do have a scheduled night off," he said patiently.  "Yeah, well, I haven't had one in the last four weeks, so therefore I'm not.  Leave it on my desk and I'll come in early to run it.  Then take it up with Gris, Nick. He said I could have the night off."  He hung up and looked at him.  "Do they do that to you?"

"No, they take me for granted.  Like I'm activated to life by them coming into my lab."

"Really?  You seem like you have a life to me."

"I do, not that they'd ever know.  Do you have any hobbies?"

"No time recently.  Range practice, rereading bomb manuals.  Getting into the field journals.  I'll grow one eventually.  Do you?"

"I do banzai trees at home.  It's very relaxing."

"Growing things make me nervous," Xander admitted.  "I tend to kill them.  I'll stay away from the pretty and delicate trees if I come over some day."

"They're pretty hearty," he assured him, smirking at him.

"Yeah, but I've got supernatural powers to kill trees."  He checked the line, making sure it was hung up, but the beeping continued.  "What is that?"

"Your cellphone.  You changed the ringtone the night my computer blew up."

"Crap."  He headed into the bedroom with his sandwich in his mouth.  He grunted as he answered.  "Yeah, Gris, I told him that.  Because you said I get a night off.  I told him what to look for."  He walked back out there, stretching out again.  "I'm sorry I was rude to him, Grissom, but I haven't had a night off in four weeks.  You promised I could have tonight off.  I even told him I'd come in early tomorrow if he found something after I told him what he was looking for.  Including relative size and model."  He listened.  "Fine, I'll apologize tomorrow," he sighed.  "I won't snap at him again."  He rolled his eyes.  "Sure.  Yeah, tomorrow.  Because tonight I'm probably going to go sell my car or a non-vital organ.  Later."  He hung up before he could respond and made sure that one was hung up.  "I'd turn them off but I'm on call in case SWAT gets another bomb and the bomb guy's out of touch."

"Not an issue.  We all have days like that. You do deserve a day off now and then.  We all do.  I had one recently.  Greg's the only one I know who didn't."

"Greg had off last Saturday.  He went home, turned off everything electronic, and slept.  They're running him like a dog."

"He volunteered and begged to go into the field," Hodges pointed out dryly.  "The rest of us lab people don't know why."

"It's his dream," he said with a one-sided shrug before taking another bite of his sandwich.  "You gotta live 'em while you're young," he philosophized once he had chewed and swallowed.  "Otherwise life is one big regret when you're too old to move and too slow to bungee jump."

"You're really selling your car?"

"Yeah, I'll kinda need to.  I've got rental on my storage place, I've got my rent here.  I've got utility payments."


"Yeah, here," he said dryly.

"You need to find a better place to live, Xander."

"I would but I'm not here past my internship," he pointed out.  "The rest of the places I looked at wanted multi-year leases.  Or they wanted me to be a college student or pay outrageously."

"That is true, rent is nasty around here," Hodges agreed bitterly.  "I pay nearly a grand for my two bedroom place, but I don't have to pay utilities."

"Most of the places I looked at were a grand to twelve hundred. Way beyond my stipend."

"Ask Greg, he just moved and he claimed he only pays about eight hundred," Hodges told him.  "Or look at other motels.  There's got to be something better for you.  Even if you end up at one of those cheesy motels on the strip for the rest of your time here."

"Yeah, maybe," he admitted. He stretched and looked at the clock.  "You're gonna get yelled at."

"Yay.  I'm done.  I even did Nick's rush job.  One of the cops and her husband got into it over their custody agreement in the entry. One of them got shot."

"Ooooh," Xander winced.  "Is that what Nick wanted?"

"No, he was out on a drive by."  They both looked at Xander's phone as it rang.  "You might as well."

Xander sighed but flipped it open.  "Yeah?  What? You wanted me to answer it 'Harris house of no sleep'?" he asked dryly.  "Greg," he mouthed, making Hodges nod.  "No, I'm okay, just tired.   Hey, do you know any cheap places to move to?  Hodges thinks I'm being cheated here.  No, a grand a month.  Plus electric and cable."  He winced.  "Really?  How bad is it?"  He nodded, writing that down.  "Thanks, man.  Sure. I'll invite you over and all that.  No, I told Nick, it's probably a Luger, which should fit in the palm of his hand.  They're almost always black or silver.  Yeah, one of those.  Yup, that sounds like it's it.  Sure.  Laters."  He hung up and looked at him.  "He did know some place."

"See, I told you so.  Greg seems to know an awful lot of people, especially that he's dated."

"Really?  When does he have time to date?"

"I don't know," Hodges admitted.  "He had more time as the DNA tech."  He shrugged.  "You need to sleep if you haven't."

"I'll do it soon," Xander promised.  "Let me call these guys and do that, then I'll see if I can sell my car after I move."  He stretched again.  "Then I'll nap."

"Fine.  As long as you don't crash and you do sleep, Xander.  You're going to get sick and then who'd I talk to for intelligent conversation?"

Xander sniffled.  "That's the nicest compliment I've gotten in about eight years," he admitted honestly.  He hugged him.  "Thank you."  He wandered off to his bedroom.  "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Sure," he agreed, watching him walk off.  "Someone needs to kill his friends.  Now I know why others go bad and want to hurt them for him."  He cleaned up their mess and left, heading back to work.  He walked into his lab and found Brass in there looking at a report.  "Yes, that's probably yours and Nick's."

"How's the kid?"

"Tired, being cheated at his current place since he's paying utilities and rent.   He claims he's moving and then selling his car.  I just had lunch with him."

"Grissom said you did.  He okay?  He no longer snapping at people?"

Hodges shut the door.  "Captain Brass, when was your last day off?"

"Last Sunday."

"His was the day before he started here.  He works more hours than Greg does and he's a lab tech.  No one demands that he does this, but he does.  He deserves the right to snap at people who deserve it."

"Good point," he agreed phlegmatically.  "It's still not very PC and it did hurt Nick's feelings."

"I just told him he had to keep from getting sick so I had someone intelligent to talk to.  He said that's the nicest thing anyone's said to him in eight years and he looked like he was being honest.  Nick can leap.  He's capable of looking for a gun."

"He is.  He'll still have to make nice."

"No, he doesn't.  He's a lab tech.  A ballistics lab tech who can do trace.  We don't push the rest of us to do those sort of hours.  Now, someone has to talk to Grissom to get him to start counting hours.  You want that or should I?"

"You're protective over the kid?"

"He's just a kid."

"He's not actually."

"Yeah, he is. He's got a Nemo pillow on his couch. For all that he's twenty-six and three- quarters, he's still a kid.  Nick knows what a gun looks like."

"Point," Brass admitted.  "So, why do you like the kid?"

"Because he's decent, he doesn't play politics, and he likes me."

"Fine, I'll leave it there but I will have a word with Gil about his hours.  You're right, he works too hard.  Tell him to check at that place where Mercury hangs out.  It's decent inside but a scummy neighborhood."

"Sure."  He let him out and handed him the report.  "You forgot it."

"Thanks."  He headed down the hall, tapping on the lab Grissom was working in.  "That kid has some pretty strong defenders."

"Why?" he asked absently.

"How many hours did you authorize for him a week?"  Grissom looked at him.  "Seriously."

"That's why I made him take the day off."

"Gil, he was here when *you* went home this morning."

"He was."  He looked at his watch.  Then he looked at him.  "He's getting in at normal time?"  Brass nodded.  "That means he pulled a fifteen hour shift."

"No, really?" Brass asked sarcastically.  "About his third this week."

"I'm checking his time card."

"Hodges pointed out something.  He's not a field tech intern, like Sanders, who works like a dog I might add.  He's a lab tech, Gil."

"He is and it's unfair that he's been doing so many hours."  He went to pull up the time cards, frowning at what he counted.  He pulled up a calculator to make sure, then called the boy.  "How did you work seventy hours in the last week, Xander?"  He heard the snort and then the phone was hung up.  He called back.  "Xander, that was impolite."  He heard the quiet words and sighed.  "I'm sorry, Xander.  No, we will be talking about your hours.  There's no reason...."  He shook his head.  "No. You're a lab tech, you're not supposed to work field hours.  I don't care.  Yes, and you still don't get overtime."  He groaned and held his head.  "I'll straighten him out.  You're an intern, not God.  Finish your nap and come in tomorrow.  Fine I'll do that for you.  Have a good rest."  He hung up and checked Greg's hours.  He found a few more and groaned, shaking his head.  He was doing more hours than he was.  Not good.  "I'll talk to him tomorrow.  We'll fix both their schedules."

To part 2